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Arsene's Accomplice

Chapter Text

Akira didn’t know very much about his great-uncle Arsene other than the fact that he wore a really fancy hat.

The last time he’d seen him was at his fourth birthday party, when a really tall man brought a cake. Akira remembered that cake. He didn’t remember that man’s face.

Four years old was a simpler time.

---

Akira stood on the train platform, a tight grip on his suitcase. He exhaled, trying to calm his nerves. The platform was packed with people, old, young, and all strangers.

He felt utterly alone.

He checked his phone, again. His messaging app was open to the last text his dad had sent him, right before he’d boarded the train.

“Look for someone named Yusuke Kitagawa. He’s about your age. Works at your uncle’s cafe. He’ll help you get settled in. Call the number I gave you if you have any trouble.”

Akira sighed. Inhaled. Exhaled. Closed the messaging app. He fidgeted with his glasses, fingers tapping against the frame.

“You’ll be fine,” Jun had told him.

He’d already read that message, at least a million times by now. Probably had it memorized.

What the hell did this Yusuke kid even look like, anyway?

---

“We’ve discussed this, and we think this is the best option.”

“I’m sorry, Akira. But we’re worried about you. Staying here just isn’t a good idea.”

“It’ll only be for a few months. We’ll come to get you after that, I promise.”

Akira simply stood there, unable to speak. The words wouldn’t come. His throat felt tight, and it was like the world was falling away under his feet.

This was all her fault.

All her fault.

All her

---

Akira was about to call the number when a stranger grabbed his suitcase.

“H-hey, hold on!” Akira exclaimed, stumbling backward. A few curious glances in his direction. He righted himself and shot the guy a glare that could shatter glass. To his credit, the blue-haired boy didn’t even flinch.

“There is no need to worry.” The stranger smiled, Akira’s suitcase just out of reach. “I am Yusuke Kitagawa. Shall we go?”

Akira huffed angrily. “You couldn’t have said that before you grabbed my stuff?"

Yusuke blinked. Once, twice. “Is there a problem?”

“No, sir.”

---

Akira stood next to Yusuke, craning his neck in an attempt to see the top of the apartment building. It was eerie-looking, all wood and stone with a knocker on the front door in the shape of a crow. The fact that fog had set in wasn’t helping the image.

“Which floor does Uncle Arsene live on?” he asked tentatively.

“Hmm?” The odd boy seemed preoccupied with something on his belt. A key ring? Akira repeated his question.

“Oh, no. Master Lupin owned-- owns this whole building,” he answered quietly, something stiff and almost respectful entering his tone of voice.

Master? Akira thought, uneasy, as Yusuke finally unlocked the door. It swung open with a creak so loud he nearly jumped. He stepped inside…

...And was greeted by a warmly-lit interior. The space housed a few bookshelves. A fire roared in a fireplace, a soft-looking chair strategically positioned nearby. A book lay open on the chair…

“‘Art for Beginners’?” Akira read the cover aloud. That’s when Yusuke tensed up and snatched it away from him.

“I’m afraid it’s...not a particularly good read,” Yusuke said coldly, sliding the book back on its shelf. Akira couldn’t read his expression.

The boy led Akira up several flights of stairs before they finally stopped at a single wooden door, not unlike what you might find in an apartment building. The wood looked old and weathered, and Akira ran his hand across it out of curiosity while Yusuke looked for the right key.

It was a simple space, with a bed in the corner and a single desk. It, too, housed a bookshelf, though most of the books had been removed and never returned.

Yusuke turned to go, but then stopped himself. “Oh! I nearly forgot.”

He handed Akira a wooden figurine in the shape of a cat.

“A doll. You’re giving me a doll.”

Yusuke shook his head vigorously as if this talk was giving him a headache. “No, no. Not...not a doll. His name is Morgana.”

“O...kay?”

“And, there is one more thing Master told me to inform you of.”

“And that is?”

“You must be asleep by midnight. Bad things happen to those who stay up past midnight.”

And with that, he closed the door.

Chapter Text

“You see that kid? Stay away from him. He’s dangerous.”

Akira paused, hand brushing the doorknob as he strained to listen. The woman who had spoken held her daughter’s hand tightly, her anxious gaze sweeping over him as they passed.

He could still hear them. “H-huh? But why? He doesn’t look scary…”

“A lot of bad people look nice on the outside, sweetie. I don’t want you anywhere near him.”

Akira opened the door and stepped inside, breathing in the familiar soft scent of flowers and coffee. Cold sweat dripped down his back.

“I’m...home.”

When Akira woke up, he discovered that he had been crying.

---

The kitchen was a small room off to the side on the ground floor, with a sink that kept dripping and a countertop coated in a paper-thin layer of grease. A hot water urn spotted with rust dominated the corner, blocking off a cabinet. Akira spent the next couple of minutes clattering cupboards and hunting through the refrigerator in an effort to make himself some breakfast.

Several months ago, before...everything, a police officer by the name of Yu Narukami had taught Akira how to make curry. A quiet man who came from the city every so often for work, he was an exceptional cook and promised that one day Akira’s curry would surpass his own.

That day had never come. Akira had been practicing when the rumors started…

When...the rumors.

The rumors. They’d turned his quiet life upside down.

And he wasn’t sure if he’d ever get it back.

Lost in his own thoughts, Akira added spices and cooked on autopilot, mostly. It wasn’t until he felt a presence behind him that he turned around and found himself face-to-face with Yusuke.

“I was lost in my books when I smelled something delicious cooking...Forgive me, I do hope I’m not disturbing you.” Humming thoughtfully, he set something down on the counter and reached for the cabinet directly above Akira.

That was how Akira found himself trapped between the counter and Yusuke as the tall boy rifled obliviously through the cupboard, looking for something and muttering to himself about instant coffee.

A traitorous, awkward flush crept up onto Akira’s face. He coughed, trying to get Yusuke’s attention.

The pretty boy didn’t seem to hear him. He pulled out a half-empty bag of sugar and set it down on the counter, going back to his search and muttering something about forgetting to stop by the store on his way home.

Akira coughed louder, sweat trickling down his back. He was so damn close. Did this guy have no concept of personal space?

At last, Yusuke seemed to find what he was looking for. He set the container of instant coffee on the counter and stepped to the side, freeing Akira-- who immediately scurried toward the other end of the room, the tips of his ears pink.

“That’s unfortunate. It appears we are out of coffee. I will purchase some later tonight-- oh, and of course, some cold medicine too…”

“Cold medicine?”

“For your cough.” Oh.

---

Yusuke had excused himself rather hurriedly after that. Akira had lingered, finishing off his curry. As he savored the flavor, his eyes wandered toward the parcel that Yusuke had forgotten on the countertop. Wiping his hands on his shirt, he stood up and moved closer to inspect it.

The object appeared to be rectangular and wrapped in brown paper. The wrapping was torn on one end, almost invitingly. Heart hammering, Akira whispered an apology and slid the object out.

It was a book. An art book, not unlike the one he’d found the day before with Yusuke. He remembered Yusuke plucking it out of his hands and sliding it back on its shelf, his expression guarded.

Did he have an interest in art? And if so, what was he so ashamed of?

---

Arsene’s was only a fifteen-minute walk from the apartment, so Akira took his time getting there after changing and exiting the building. No use in getting his uniform dusty on the first day.

It was hot, for autumn. Akira squinted against the bright sunlight as he paused to check his GPS app. No use getting lost on the first day, either.

He arrived at the cafe shortly after, and stopped to get a good look at it. It was cute, he supposed. Tastefully decorated in beige and cream colors, it boasted a spacious outdoor eating area. A single wide window with the restaurant’s name scrawled across it in bold, bright letters afforded a glimpse of the inside. The roof was at a slight angle.

A bell tinkled as he pushed the front door open and stepped across the threshold. The interior was clean and well-lit, with several wooden tables strategically positioned around the space. A blackboard on the wall listed the menu, and the daily special was circled in the corner. Akira couldn’t help but notice that the handwriting was very neat and orderly, not like his own usual scrawl.

His eyes were drawn to the back of the room, where a pair of wooden shutters closed off the entrance of what he assumed to be the kitchen. Light bled through the gaps, and two raised voices could be heard; a male and a female.

The shutters flew open as a girl about Akira’s age stormed out. “Damn idiot,” she growled. Then she spotted Akira and her hands flew over her mouth as her eyes widened. “I didn’t-- I mean-- How can I help you?” she squeaked, eyes darting around the interior of the cafe as if searching for an escape route.

Her eyes finally settled on his uniform and she lowered her hands, mouth forming an “o” of recognition. “Wait. You’re the new guy, right? Akira Kurusu?”

He nodded, and she visibly relaxed. She had blonde hair styled into pigtails and was wearing a cream-colored waitress uniform with a blue bracelet that matched her eyes. She fiddled with it, nervously glancing back at the kitchen entranceway.

Akira followed her inside, shoes squeaking against the tiled floor. The kitchen was clean, cleaner than the one back at the apartment. He wondered who was responsible for making sure it stayed that way.

Yusuke was leaning against the wall, jotting stuff down in a small notebook. He paid Akira no attention. A blonde boy with a shit-eating grin sat on the counter, tossing an apple repeatedly into the air and then catching it.

“Yo, who’s the newbie?” Still grinning, the blonde guy tossed the apple to his other hand.

“Ryuji, I swear to god, if you don’t get out of my kitchen--”

Your kitchen? I thought it was Yusuke’s kitchen.”

“It is most certainly not my kitchen. I am certain it belongs to Master Arsene.”

Akira stood there, feeling extremely out of place as the girl and the stranger traded insults in an almost friendly manner. It felt like an eternity before the guy finally looked up at the clock on the wall and said that he’d best get going.

The girl exhaled loudly as the front door swung shut. She rubbed her eyes. “That was Ryuji Sakamoto. He goes to school nearby, and god, is he insufferable.” She fiddled with her bracelet, cheeks flushed.

Akira tilted his head, eyeing the door. “I don’t know. He seems nice.”

The girl laughed. “I expect you’ll be seeing a lot more of him soon. He stops by often when cutting class.”

Akira opened his mouth, then paused. “I still don’t know your name.”

The girl was all smiles as she extended a hand. “It’s Ann. Ann Takamaki. Welcome to Arsene’s.

Chapter Text

Akira and Yusuke walked back to the apartment. It only made sense, Akira supposed, as he took another step; the silence interrupted by the chirping of crickets and the occasional click of Yusuke’s boots on the sidewalk.

It was Yusuke who spoke, his words edged in a thin layer of curiosity. “Why did you come here?”

“Huh?”

He repeated himself, eyes trained on Akira; looking, possibly, for a reaction.

Akira shrugged. “It was nothing. I just wanted to visit my uncle, that’s all.” He swallowed, the lie not coming as easily as he had hoped.

Yusuke seemed to buy it, his eyes flicking back to the sidewalk ahead. “I see.” The boy’s voice wavered as he spoke.

Akira wondered why.

They walked the rest of the way in silence.

---

The apartment looked harsh and angular in the twilight. Akira’s skin crawled as the uneasiness from the day before returned, and he shivered as his companion fiddled with the keys. It felt like forever before the lock clicked. The feeling dissipated as the warm light of the interior spilled out across the front steps.

Yusuke excused himself as soon as they stepped inside, disappearing up the first flight of stairs. Akira remained behind and considered going to the kitchen and making himself a sandwich when something caught his eye.

He slid a copy of Art for Beginners off its shelf and stood there for a heartbeat, eyeing the cover. It was worn and the colors were fading. Someone, probably Yusuke, had slid a pencil in between the pages. Almost as if it were a bookmark.

He took the book with him.

---

Akira yawned as he pushed open the door to his room, hinges squeaking softly. He slid the book onto his bookshelf, then collapsed onto his bed. He lay like that for a while, staring up at the ceiling. His thoughts raced.

Rolling onto his side, he spotted something unfamiliar sitting on his nightstand. A bottle? Propping himself up with one arm, he picked it up and read the label. Cold medicine .

He almost laughed.

---

Akira was asleep when the clock struck midnight. He didn’t hear the lock on his door click shut. He didn’t feel the strangeness in the air; the distinct wrongness . He didn’t hear the whispers.

He didn’t see the Morgana doll open its eyes.

---

Akira awoke to early-morning sunlight streaming through his window, a curtain partially obscuring the glare. Crap . He’d overslept, hadn’t he?

Pushing himself up out of bed, he rubbed his eyes and staggered toward the desk, where his uniform lay clean and folded. Right where he’d left it the day before.

Akira nearly stumbled over a small, wooden object. He reached for the desk to steady himself, then knelt down and picked it up. It was that damned Morgana doll. He set it down next to his uniform. Perhaps he’d knocked it off the bookshelf by accident?

He changed quickly and hurried downstairs. He’d pack something and eat it later, there was no time for a proper meal.

He nearly collided with Yusuke on the stairs. Heart in his throat, he stepped to the side to let him pass-- and that’s when he noticed the dark circles under the boy’s eyes. There was a weary alertness in the way he glanced at Akira, as if he was running on one too many cups of coffee.

“What are you still doing here?”

No response. Yusuke stopped and looked away, mouth open as if he was about to say something but decided against it.

“You haven’t slept, have you?”

The boy shook his head mutely. He kept walking.

Akira lingered on the steps, torn between getting to work and making sure Yusuke was okay.

He decided he was late enough as it was, and left soon after-- but not before leaving an extra sandwich on the kitchen counter, wrapped in plastic. Just in case.

---

Akira, bag slung over one shoulder, arrived at Arsene's expecting to be chastised. He was greeted by Ann, who raised an eyebrow and tilted her head toward the kitchen. A question. Akira nodded, and slipped into the kitchen after her.

She took his bag from him and deposited it onto a chair in the corner. “I’d recommend coming in through the back if you’re late again. You’re lucky it’s a slow day.” She smiled, and Akira felt his anxiety slowly recede. “The back room’s a good place to store your stuff, too.” He nodded and absentmindedly grabbed a small notepad from the stack on the counter.

Ann handed him a pen. “Go get ‘em.”

Akira had worked temporarily at a small coffee shop back in his hometown. This wasn’t much different. There were fewer customers, and the smell of coffee wasn’t quite so strong, but apart from that, it was...

It brought back painful memories.

Akira gripped the pen tighter and swallowed the lump forming in his throat. He had a job to do.

With more force than necessary, Akira pushed open the kitchen shutters and stepped into the cafe.

The cafe was empty save for a lone customer sitting in the back. Akira moved toward their table with a practiced ease, clearing his throat. “May I take your--”

His words caught in his throat and his cheeks flushed. The stranger was a boy about Akira’s age, with shoulder-length brown hair tied up in a ponytail. He tapped a short, wooden pencil absently against the menu as he studied the first of several papers scattered across his table.

“--o-order.” Akira finished, painfully tripping over the first letter. The boy quit fidgeting with his pencil and looked up, a practiced smile materializing on his face. He had the warmest brown eyes Akira had ever seen.

“Just coffee, please.”

Akira nodded way too quickly and jotted it down on his notepad. His handwriting was shaky. It took all he could to avoid running back to the kitchen as fast as his legs could carry him.

Ann raised her eyebrows as he repeated the order back to her. “And you had to write that down, why?” Mentally, Akira kicked himself.

---

"You’re so awkward,” she laughed, playfully swatting Akira’s arm with a napkin. He laughed too. She somehow made everything funny.

It was

so

perfect

...

---

“Hey, Akira. Snap out of it.” Akira’s bittersweet reverie was interrupted by a glaring Ann. “We’re already shorthanded as it is. With Yusuke out and Shiho sick--” she sighed and massaged her temple with both hands. “I can’t wait all these tables myself and you know that.” They were standing in the kitchen, the sweet scent of strawberry turnovers wafting through the air.

He nodded, his heart sinking. “Right. Sorry…” He carefully arranged two turnovers on a plate and stepped out, the shutters swinging shut behind him. His mind was elsewhere as he served the newest customer, a young woman who wouldn’t stop chattering on her cell phone.

It was then that the door opened, and a middle-aged couple stepped in just as the wind picked up. Akira heard a gasp and the sound of papers fluttering, and turned around in time to see the long-haired boy scramble to pick up his papers, which now lay scattered across the floor.

Before he knew what he was doing, Akira was helping him. He reached for a document that had danced out of the boy’s reach and handed it to him. For a brief moment, he glimpsed a name on the sheet-- Lupin-- before the boy snatched it away and he wasn’t quite sure if it hadn’t been his imagination after all.

The stranger set his mug down atop his papers and gave Akira a polite smile. “Thank you for your help.” He hesitated, then extended his hand. “Goro Akechi.”

“Akira Kurusu.” His words came out harsher than he’d intended, and once again, he mentally kicked himself.

Goro blinked. His smile wavered. “Thank you for the coffee.”

He left soon after, a half-empty cup of coffee cooling on the table the only thing to show that he’d ever been there.

 

Chapter Text

Evening colored the sky by the time Akira started heading back. Despite the chirping of the crickets and the squeak of his sneakers on the sidewalk, he thought it felt a little too quiet.

His eyes followed the road. A car passed by, its headlights illuminating the sidewalk for a brief second before fading into nothingness.

He wondered if Yusuke was okay.

---

Akira knocked again, growling in frustration as he counted the minutes he’d been waiting. In his hurry to leave the house, he’d forgotten that Yusuke was the only one with a key.

Yusuke opened the door just as Akira raised his fist to knock once more. Hair messy and eyes drooping, he moved to close the door behind Akira.

They stood there for a long moment before Akira opened his mouth to say something.

“I’m fine.” Yusuke looked away, having spoken before Akira had had the chance to ask.

“You sure?” Akira fidgeted with his glasses.

“Of course.” Yusuke stood up straighter, his eyes flitting toward the staircase.

Akira moved to the side as Yusuke headed for the stairs, but rested a hand on his shoulder at the last moment.  “You look tired. At least let me make dinner.”

Yusuke’s eyes shifted toward Akira. He looked away.

He did not refuse.

---

“Master Lupin will...not be joining us for a while.” Yusuke used his spoon to shift the curry around as he stared down at his bowl. They were the first words he’d uttered since agreeing to let Akira cook.

“Why not?” Akira tilted his head slightly, trying to read his expression.

Yusuke hesitated. He pushed a strand of hair out of his eyes as he looked up, guilt written all over his face. Why?

“Master Lupin is...on a business trip, and his flight is late. He should be back in a few days.”

It was the worst lie Akira had ever heard.

---

I’m going to figure out what’s going on.

It was dark in the dusty hallway, and very, very empty. Akira’s hand hovered over the doorknob. Sweat beaded on his forehead, and he wiped his other hand on his shirt.

The door was plain, unassumingly bare. Akira ran his hand over it-- it was rough to the touch, and scratches decorated the frame. Had he not asked Yusuke which room was Arsene’s, he might have thought it to be empty, or just another guest room.

He groaned in disappointment when the doorknob stuck-- probably locked. No wonder Yusuke had so readily pointed it out.

It was then that he heard someone cough. Akira whirled around, heart pounding. Yusuke looked positively grim, a hand cupped around a small flashlight beam to keep it from shining too brightly. Lit from below, his features looked eerie. Like a ghost’s.

“It’s nearly 10 PM, Akira. You should be in bed.” Bad things happen to those who stay up past midnight.

Akira nodded and followed Yusuke out of the hallway, his palms sweaty. He glanced wistfully back at the door on his way out.

It wasn’t worth it.

Was it?

---

Goro Akechi yawned, one hand covering his mouth as he squinted down at the page.

It was way too late for this sort of thing. He knew that, of course. But if he didn’t piece it together, who would?

Who could ?

---

Yusuke lay awake as midnight passed and the energy in the air changed. Huddled beneath his blankets, all he could do was wait it out.

He sat up and reached for the sketchbook and pen that lay on his nightstand. He scribbled away as the hours passed. Tick, tock, tick-tick tock. The hours blurred together…He kept scribbling, art and nonsense melting and dripping together like honey and molasses until he wasn’t sure which was which.

He scribbled until he was able to ignore the scratching, horrid wrongness in the air; the very thing that haunted him every night.

There was no point to any of this.

Several rooms away, Akira dreamt of boys with blue hair and chocolate-colored eyes. He dreamt of men in tall hats, and art books. He dreamt of coffee, and curry, and his life before it all went to hell.

Akira slept well that night. Yusuke did not.

---

Akira got up early, showered, and dressed quickly, determined to make up for being late the other day. He shivered as he pulled on his shirt, hair still damp. His fingers felt stiff, and he fumbled with the buttons for a bit before finally securing them.

Heading back to his room, he noticed something odd. Some of the doors bore scratches on the frames, not unlike the ones he’d found on Lupin’s door. He picked a door at random and knelt before it, tracing the scratches with a finger. They weren’t too deep. What could have caused them?

There were no scratches on his door.

He was doing well on time. Glancing at his bookshelf, he noticed the copy of Art for Beginners he’d borrowed sitting there. If possible, it looked even dustier than it had before he’d taken it. Promising himself it’d only be for a minute or two, he walked over and carefully slid it off its shelf.

The cover fell open in his hands, as if the book was eager to be read. Cautiously, he turned toward the introduction.

A handwritten note was scrawled on the yellowed page in loopy handwriting. “For Yusuke. Happy birthday, love!”

Akira suddenly felt like he was intruding on something not meant for his eyes. Despite himself, he turned another page…

...and a photograph fell out. In it, a much younger Yusuke gripped a paint brush, splatters of color all over his face and hands. He was smiling. Behind him, Akira could see a blurry glimpse of what appeared to be a woman, hand on the boy’s shoulder. He couldn’t see her face.

...

Akira made sure to replace the book on its original shelf before leaving the house. Guilt sat like a stone in his stomach, at seeing something he probably shouldn’t have seen.

---

Akira arrived at Arsene’s . He opened the door…

...and was greeted by absolute chaos. Ryuji sat on one of the tables, swinging his legs and trying to look bored as Ann yelled at him. Yusuke was in turn yelling at Ann and gesturing furiously with his arms while a plate lay shattered on the floor. A dark-haired girl was fruitlessly trying to calm everyone down, and her exhausted demeanor suggested to Akira that she had been at it for quite some time.

He stood there, patiently taking it all in. The unfamiliar girl. The broken plate. Slowly, the noise died out as they realized he was watching.

“Alright, what’s going on here?”

He had scarcely finished saying this when Ann piped up. “It was Ryuji’s fault.”

“Was not!”

“Was too!”

“Both of you, please calm down…You too, Yusuke.” the dark-haired girl cautiously raised both hands in an effort to placate them, wincing as Ann opened her mouth to say something else before Yusuke interrupted.

“Shiho…” He muttered something under his breath, expression dark. “That was one of Master’s favorite plates .” It caught Akira by surprise. He hadn’t known Yusuke long, but he hadn’t thought he could be capable of such anger.

He remembered the art book and swallowed quickly, mouth dry. He didn’t have to know.

Shiho sighed. “Ryuji accidentally knocked over a plate.”

“Ann pushed me!”

She sighed again. “Ann accidentally nudged Ryuji, who in turn accidentally knocked over a plate.” She nudged the shards with her feet. “Yusuke is upset because, well…”

Yusuke had sagged against the wall, looking glum. “It’s not just that. You know how I am in Master’s care?”

Akira nodded, and Yusuke continued. “There used to be someone else in Master’s care, ten years ago. Before me. That plate...he crafted it for him, as a gift.”

Nobody knew what to do with themselves, so they stood around awkwardly as Ann apologized to Ryuji, who in turn apologized to Yusuke.

“Sorry, man...I had no idea.”

Yusuke looked away. “It’s fine.” But, judging from the expression on Yusuke’s face, it was not fine.

Akira helped Ann clean up the ceramic shards and deposited them in the trash.

None of it was salvageable.

---

“I feel bad,” Ann started, her voice hitching. She sounded like she might start crying.

“It wasn’t your fault--” Akira started. They were killing time in the back room before the cafe opened. Shiho was doing the dishes, and Yusuke was off taking inventory. Everyone knew it was only so they could get away from everyone else.

“Yeah. That’s ‘cause it’s mine.” Ryuji lifted his head, then dropped it again. He sat in the corner, dejected.

Ann sat down, slumped against the wall next to Ryuji. “I’d argue with you, but I don’t have the energy anymore.”

Silence. Akira opened his mouth to say something, but decided against it.

“You know…” Ann started. “Yusuke wasn’t always this angry. Or sad.” She took a deep breath. “Akira...you haven’t seen Mr. Lupin since you’ve arrived...have you?”

Akira shook his head. He sat down next to her. “Yusuke keeps changing the subject every time it’s brought up.” He let out a soft laugh. “Hell, I’m starting to wonder if he’s even around. It’s been days.”

Ann gave him a long look.

---

Work had ended hardly five minutes ago. Akira walked home alone, his thoughts racing.

According to Ann, Arsene Lupin was gone. Missing, she said, since around two months ago-- since she’d overheard Yusuke attempt to call the police.

It sounded like a bad horror story. Yusuke had gotten nothing but static-- no one had responded, and they didn’t have a police station within walking distance.

So Yusuke had gone on managing his missing guardian’s cafe, and he’d done it successfully for the past two months.

What the hell. No wonder he was so tired.

---

“Master Lupin owned-- owns this whole building.”

“Why did you come here?”

...

Akira himself had been suspicious. What exactly he suspected, however, hadn’t been clear until now.

Liar.

No, Yusuke hadn’t been lying to him.

Akira had been lying to himself. He’d seen it in Yusuke’s mannerisms, woven into his speech. And yet--

---

Akira buried his face in his hands, heart racing. He sat on his mattress, which suddenly felt unfamiliar and foreign.

He’d gotten home fine, and Yusuke, who’d left work early, had let him in. They’d hardly spoken.

What would he tell his parents? What could he tell his parents?

Akira held his phone in his hand, fingers twitching. He had to do this. Maybe he could go home early. Maybe, maybe, maybe

He called Tatsuya’s number. It connected after a few rings, and he inhaled, ready to say something, anything --

Static.

Chills raced down his spine. He ended the call, opened his messaging app, and typed out a quick text to his dad. Please.

He held his breath.

His phone buzzed. Unable to receive message.

Akira’s phone slipped out of his trembling fingers and landed on the mattress with a soft thud .

He was alone.