“Hey, boss.” Ryuji waves to Sojiro as he walks into Leblanc, smirking. Ann trails not far behind him, rattling her umbrella under the awning outside to clear the rain from it.
“Hey, kid. Thanks for coming.” Sojiro continues polishing the coffee cup he’s holding, nodding upstairs. “I haven’t heard a peep from him all day. Brought some curry up earlier, but he was asleep. If he hasn’t eaten, there’s leftovers from today in the fridge. Just don’t burn the place down, alright?” Ann steps in at last, closing the door and flipping the sign to Closed behind her.
“Got it. No fires.” Sojiro raises an eyebrow at Ryuji, then looks to Ann, who sighs.
“I’ll keep him away from the oven.”
Sojiro nods. “Thanks. You kids…take good care of him.” He sets down his cup, untying his apron and searching for his hat under the cabinets.
Upstairs, the room is an absolute disaster; magazines, clothes, bits of debris and garbage and infiltration tools are scattered everywhere; there’s a lockpick sticking out of a half-eaten tub of Jagariko, and a pile of smoke bombs shoved into the corner half-shrouded by one of Ryuji’s shirts. On the bed, Morgana sleeps at the foot of a mountain formed by a dozen hand-me-down, threadbare blankets, out of which a mop of curly black hair emerges. Akira’s staring straight ahead out of it, looking towards the stairway, but doesn’t acknowledge their presence.
“Holy crap, dude.” Ryuji starts picking up garbage as he walks through the room, bundling it into his arms. “It’s only been like...5 days.”
Ann keeps walking past him, sitting down on the edge of the bed and reaching out a hand to pat Akira’s hair. “Hey, babe, you in there?” The oil that’s built up in his hair clings to her hand, and she absentmindedly wipes it on the blanket. “Earth to Akira...C’mon, you’re not dead, talk to me.”
Akira groans in response, blinking slowly and shifting under the blanket. “Mhhhhhhh.”
“None of that. C’mon, time to get up. It’s…” She checks her phone, grimacing. “6 in the afternoon. C’mon, when was the last time you had a bath? Let’s go, up up up !” She pulls the top blanket off, casting it over the still-sleeping form of Morgana. “I’m just gonna keep taking em off until you freeze, you know.”
“C’mon, give the poor guy a minute, he just got his ass kicked, he probably still hurts like crazy.”
Ann rips off another layer of blankets with a flourish. “All the more reason to get up, the bath house next door is doing a special bath today for that kind of stuff!”
Akira groans, a hand emerging from the blankets to rub his face. “It’s Monday?”
Ryuji sits down next to Ann, the bundle of garbage he collected at his feet. “It’s Thursday, dude. Boss says you wouldn’t talk to him, just eat and lay in bed.” He sighs, running a hand through his hair. “I’m not sayin’ I got it as bad as you did in there, but...I know how bad it can be, getting worked over like that. Not to mention that fuck Akechi...Whatever. He’s not important. What’s important is you can’t let yourself stop just because of this. Y’gotta keep moving, you know?” He sniffs, then grimaces. “Also, you reek.”
Ann looks shocked at Ryuji’s little speech. “That...was surprisingly good advice, right up until the end. Good job, Ryuji.” He chuckles, looking away and blushing.
“C’mon, let’s just get him up and over to the bath.” They both stand, ripping the last of the blankets from the bed. Akira shivers and starts to get out of bed, and falters as he tries to stand, only to get caught by the both of them, throwing his arms over each of their shoulders. “Take it slow, we got you.”
Ryuji sighs, sinking into the medicated bath next to Akira. “Ohh, that’s the ticket.” Akira sinks lower, covering the lower half of his face with the water and stretching out his legs across the empty bath. Ryuji looks over at him and snorts, smiling. “You’re such a kid sometimes, man.” They both look to the door when it slides open, eyebrows going up when Ann walks in with a towel over her hair and wrapped around her body. “Hey hey hey, what the hell are you doing?!”
“Oh my god, calm down. I slipped the attendant a little something to close early, so we’re the only ones here.” She walks over, abandoning her towel and sliding into the water across from them. “We all know you’ve seen me naked already, too, I don’t know why you’re being so weird. And it’s not like that stupid cat-suit leaves much to the imagination, anyway.”
Akira starts blowing bubbles in the water as Ryuji sputters and looks away from Ann, blushing.“This is different! This is like...some weird manga bullshit, not us...uhh…” His blush intensifies as Akira emerges from the water, his arm snaking around Ryuji’s shoulders.
“Tell me about what you two were doing. Please.”
“Uhh, I--Well, y’see, it--”
Ann rolls her eyes, crossing her arms over her chest. “We made out at my place and he touched a boob, and now he can’t look me in the eye, soooo I’ve been antagonizing him alllllll day. It’s pretty fun, actually.”
“Wait, all that today was on purpose ? You said you tripping me and then falling on top of me was an accident, and the tongue stuff you kept doing was just a nervous tic!” He looks incredulously over at Akira when he hears his quiet laughter in his ear. “And what the hell are you doin’ touchin’ me, we’re in the bath!”
Akira leans closer, voice a dangerous purr that Ryuji usually only hears in the Metaverse, behind the Joker mask. “ You’re the one who sat down 6 inches from me in the bath, Ryuji. Is Ann not enough for you? Truly, the reach of Boner Squad knows no bounds...”
Ann bursts into laughter when Akira mentions Ryuji’s terrible team name idea from all those months ago. “Oh my god, Boner Squad, we really should have gone with that one.”
“S-shut up! I got put on the spot, and then--”
“You know, speaking of boners…” Ryuji looks away from Akira and finds Ann on the other side of him, smirking mischievously.
“We’ll just have to take care of that, won’t we, Ann?”
Ryuji groans, closing his eyes as his partners descend upon him. It’s gonna be a long night.