Serizawa doesn't have the leisure of drinking in the scene. It's shoved down his throat like poison, burning all the way down and scorching a hole in his stomach.
The room is filled with spirits. Screaming, convulsing spirits, blasts of black and white and every type of gray in between. The floors are cracked. The ceiling is blown full of gaping, gnawing holes opening up to a dark, smoke-filled sky.
In the middle of it stands Reigen, twisted around to face Serizawa. He's standing in a thick pool of acidic green, up to his ankles. It's on his hands, splayed in his palms, dripping like dark ink from the tips of his fingers. His eyes are wide and unseeing.
"Reigen, what happened?" His head spins with the world around him, voice barely above the screaming din of writhing spirits. "What happened? What's going on?"
"I thought they killed you," Reigen says, staring through his eyes instead of into them. His voice is steady, but it isn't the Reigen that Serizawa has come to know and love. "I thought... I thought they killed you, I..."
And now is when Serizawa realizes the ring of acidic green in Reigen's irises.
It's when he realizes the green is spreading.
It's when he realizes it isn't acid. There's power behind it. Energy. Scared. Unfamiliar. Psychic.
It's when he realizes the green isn't on Reigen.
It's from Reigen.
It happened easily enough, but it wasn’t the kind of thing that should happen whatsoever, at any point, at any time, at any magnitude, to any one.
Serizawa shouldn't have let Reigen go alone, but Reigen is more than capable of taking care of himself, and he'd proven that on more than one occasion, more times than Serizawa really wanted to think about. It isn’t as though he’s helpless. Not being a psychic doesn’t mean he isn't capable. And he’s probably the most capable person Serizawa had ever had the pleasure of knowing and the privilege of working under, not just as an employee, but as a friend.
But as a psychic, he shouldn't have let Reigen go on his own. He should have considered the bad outcomes, the things that could have gone wrong. The fact that being capable didn't necessarily translate to ‘capable of dealing with spirits.’
But of course, Serizawa hadn't thought about that. Neither of them had thought about that, until it was too late to think about anything at all.
Serizawa is in the middle of a long stretch of hallway, lined with lanterns and doors on all sides. It gives him an awful sense of claustrophobia, but also a sort of familiarity, like he's been here before. It reminds him of being alone in his room as a child, how constraining it'd been in comparison to the wonderful breath of freedom he has now that he's working under Reigen and is surrounded by so many wonderful, incredible people, who love him as much as he loves them.
It's another reason why he shouldn't have let Reigen go alone. Reigen would never leave Serizawa to go on his own if he thought there was anything dangerous afoot. At the very least, he'd offer to tag along, just in case the worst case scenario actually happened.
Serizawa guides the flashlight along the cracks in the ceiling, searching. A spider skitters across its web; a rat skurries across the floor and almost trips him in his start. He drops the flashlight, and when he picks it up, has to brush dust and dirt off of it. The place is a wreck; an old, abandoned, maze-like structure, but built entirely out of wood, with a ceiling to boot. Who designed this place, why it was designed this way, Serizawa can only guess. And his guesses don't amount to anything sensical.
He keeps walking. He isn't even thinking about Reigen now, as his footsteps leave soft echoes in the space behind him and the corridor gnaws ahead of him, gaping and dark. He clutches the flashlight tighter, just to have some sense of reassurance, but it doesn't help. There's spiritual activity here, he feels it. Not just in the thrum beneath his feet, but in the beat of his heart, in the marrow of his bones, in the blood of his veins. It's deep and leaves him with dread in his stomach, but at least he's sensing the spirit here. Now he thinks of Reigen, but only in the sense that he should call, that they should regroup, because now he knows where the spirit is.
He should have called a lot sooner.
He shouldn't have let them separate at all.
He's making his way down the hallway, shining the flashlight this way and that, when the entire building gives a lurch and a rattle. He staggers on uneven floorboards and his knees hit the ground, flashlight spiraling and whirling out of his grip and down the darkened hallway. He reaches for it, but can't get close before another shake rattles him to his bones, and he throws up his barrier just in time to block a panel of falling ceiling loosened in the tremble.
His first thought is earthquake. But that's only for a moment, in the space between being thrown to the ground and the dawning realization of a new presence, of a second spiritual something. Something he doesn't recognize. Something that hadn't been there before.
And he scrambles to his feet, hits the ground running, heart in his lungs. He doesn't bother with the flashlight; the faint, amethyst glow of his barrier gives him all the light he could ever hope for and then some. It lights the way ahead of him. Rats scurry in the opposite direction down the hallway from whence he'd come. The spiders are suddenly eerily still, right where they're at, as though frozen in time. Serizawa leaves common sense and reasoning behind him and lets his pounding heart take charge as he bursts down the hallway, footfall after footfall, unable to breathe.
It occurs to him now that he shouldn't have left Reigen to himself. Not when they didn't know what they were dealing with. It didn't matter how insistent Reigen had been, how hard he'd pushed it, he shouldn’t have let him go.
He runs faster.
"Reigen!" Shrill, loud, slamming into walls and bouncing back at him like a rebounding bullet. " Reigen! Reigen, where are you!? Answer me!"
Another shake, only this time, he realizes it isn't a rattle. It's an explosion.
He doesn't remember making it there. He doesn't remember the moment he made it to that room, slammed open the doors so hard that they banged the walls and snapped off their hinges, and came to a horrible standstill in the open air beneath a blown-out roof, before a scene that would embed itself a tattoo in his mind for whatever foreseeable future he has.
"Seri...?" Reigen's voice. It isn't his. That aura isn't his. It shouldn’t be. "I... I thought they killed you, Seri, I thought—"
His voice is so haunted, so shaky, so not him that it leaves Serizawa with a knife in his gut and another one twisted in between his ribs. And Reigen stumbles back, tripping in the entanglement of aura at his feet, twisted around his limbs like vipers. He doesn't try pulling away—Serizawa isn't sure he can —but his eyes stay wide, and he looks down at his green-splattered hands, wide-eyed, aghast. Trembling.
The spirits behind him are still screaming, still shrieking, and Serizawa is just about to exorcise them himself when they burst from the inside out in a firework of green. Remnants go flying, but vaporize before they make contact with anything or anyone. The smoke burns in the sky above them. Reigen's breaths come ragged, short, and rasped.
"Wh-What did I do?" Reigen chokes, and he shouldn't. He was never meant to sound like that, never meant to sound so scared, so unsure, so frightened. Least of all at himself. "S-Seri, I don't—y-you were dead, you were dead, I-I thought—you were dead, they killed you—"
He's babbling, as tears gather in the corners of his green-stained eyes, and Serizawa lets his heart lead once more. It carries him across the broken floorboards in long leaps and bounds, until he can capture Reigen in his arms and hold him tightly. His skin is hot to the touch. His forehead burns like a brand into Serizawa's collarbone. His aura—green, sickly, with the consistency of tree sap—clings to them, weak and frightened and desperate and Serizawa doesn't push it away. He doesn't try pulling Reigen off of him, or out of it. He knows it would do more hurt than good.
“It’s okay,” Serizawa promises, without knowing whether anything is, or will be again. "It's okay, Reigen, I'm okay. You're okay. We're okay.”
“B-But—what did I—”
“It's okay,” Serizawa reiterates, but can't quite keep the wreck out of his voice this time. “It's okay, I promise, I promise you, it's okay. We have to get you home, now, we can talk about it, we'll fix this, we can find a way to fix this—”
In his heart, he knows that there's no fixing this. There's nothing he can do now that will fix this present he's stumbled upon. This presence he had a hand in building.
Reigen's sob comes dryly, sounding more like a choked noise of a someone strangled than an actual cry. Serizawa squeezes him tighter, screwing his eyes shut and trying to keep his breathing steady. He doesn’t know how the spirit did it. How it tricked him, perceptive as he is. But Serizawa can’t trick Reigen. He has to be present. He can’t break down, not now.
"Reigen?" Serizawa opens his eyes, and Reigen becomes a heavier weight against him, heavier and heavier. "Reigen!?"
He slumps completely, the last thread of his consciousness leaving him in a desperate exhale, and Serizawa drags him up and into his arms, mangled aura and all. Reigen's eyes are closed, chest barely rising and falling, and it's all Serizawa can do to swing himself around, and run like hell.