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Akira and Ryuji's home for sad crows

Chapter Text

As soon as he saw the steel walls rise in front of him, Akira began to panic. The Phantom Thieves did not leave others behind. The Phantom Thieves did not let their friends die, even if those friends had been fake team members that betrayed them in the past. A life was a life and even the Phantom Thieves didn’t pass the judgement over letting one go.
“We have to save him” Akira said.

“But how?! The walls are hecking huge we could never climb them!” Ryuji shouted but he would do anything his leader asked of him, even if it was the impossible.

Akira looked around. They solved problems. There was no place they couldn’t reach. They were the Phantom Thieves. In the corner of his eye he saw a vent they hadn’t noticed before in all the commotion fighting Goro Akechi. Now, they needed to get to him.

The two gunshots rang in the air, sending another wave of panic over the fearless leader. There was no time to hesitate now.

“Joker! His signals getting weaker you have to go now” Futaba shouted, gripping her goggles as if she could change what she saw in them.

“Skull, follow me. Everyone else wait here to provide backup” Akira said before ripping off the grates of the vents with fervor he never thought he would feel for the fair haired detective. Crawling through took no time and he was comforted to know his right hand man was right there behind him. Nothing could go wrong when Ryuji was on his team.

Emerging from the vent couldn’t happen fast enough and Akira had to take a moment to take in just exactly what he saw. There were two Akechis on the ground and there was so much blood everywhere. The shadows that were previously there had either run off or been defeated. Akira and Ryuji ran to the Akechi still dressed in his darkened armor and examined the boy to see just how badly things had gotten. There was a gunshot wound in the back of his head but somehow the boy had somehow missed enough to only graze his skull, although quite badly. Maybe there was some part of him hoping not to end himself right then and there. And Akira couldn’t have felt more grateful for it.

Akira casted a Diarahan as quickly as he could and even put on some medicine he got from Takemi on the wound for good measure. No member of the Phantom Thieves would die on his watch.

“What are we gonna do Joker? We can’t pull him through the vent.”

Akira looked up at the wall with a frown. How would they solve this problem.

“Wait! I think I’ve got something” said a voice from the other side. Of course Futaba could always be relied on for getting them out of the worst problems.
After a couple of beeps and a shout of victory, the wall sank back down into the ground and the rest of the Phantom Thieves were reunited with each other.

“Joker! Is he alive?” Makoto asked.

Ryuji had taken up the task of carrying the detective bridal style in his arms insisting that their leader should have his hands free to handle any leaderlike situations that may pop up in the rest of the palace.

“He is but he’s not in good shape. We should find the treasure quickly and get out of here” Akira said with a nod. His teammates all agreed and they ran out of the engine room of nightmares.

They travelled quickly to the designated hall, using all five letters they had collected to open the doors. Surprisingly, the room was empty and they were greeted only by a giant daruma staring them down.

“Are you sure this is the place?” Ann asked.

Morgana nodded with as much assurance a small cat creature could give. “I’m sure! All we have to do is send the calling card and the treasure will appear here.”

Akira took one last glance of the assembly hall before they all ran out. What kind of man had a heart like this, where he saw the world as an empty chamber awaiting his command. What kind of man sacrificed a teenager’s life for his own gains and murdered without hesitation. Just how bad could people become. He didn’t know the answer but the questioned plagued him.

When they dropped back into the real world in front of the Diet Building, Ryuji was the first to speak up.
“Uh hey guys, Akechi’s still bleedin’. We can’t just take him to a hospital, right? They’ll definitely ask a lotta questions and this guy can’t be seen by the public.” For once everyone seemed to agree with Ryuji’s deductions.

“Don’t worry, I know someone” Akira said.

He led the team to the back alley he had grown more and more familiar with throughout the year and Dr. Takemi didn’t look at all surprised to see him. She did, however, get very surprised when she saw the entourage that followed, an entourage that included the famous ace detective himself unconscious in the arms of a blond delinquent looking boy. Akira was a boy full of surprises.

“What in the world have you brought me now” she said, bemused.

“We need your help” Akira said. “Our friend’s been shot and we can’t take him to the hospital. Can you help us?”

She sighed. “Take him into the back. I make no promises.”

Takemi only ran a small clinic. She wasn’t sure what to do with something as serious as a bullet wound. She didn’t know what would happen if she told the kids they would have to go to a serious hospital.

It was a relief to her when they laid the boy down on the hospital bed in the back of her clinic and saw that it was mostly a superficial wound. There was damage to part of his ear and the outer part of his head but that was something the doctor could handle.

“It’s not as bad as it seems. Head wounds always have a lot of bleeding but some of it is starting to dry. I’m going to have to ask all of you to leave, however. This is far too many people for me to work effectively. Don’t go waiting around in my waiting room, my patients will get suspicious. I’ll tell this guy when everything’s done” Takemi said, motioning towards Akira.

There was little Akira could say to argue. Instead, he just motioned for the team to leave the doctor in peace. In terms of the ace detective, there was nothing else any of them could do. Allowing such serious things to fate made them feel uneasy. This wasn’t how palaces usually went. While they had only done a handful in their entire career as Phantom Thieves there was a certain way things went about. Some uncertainty was granted, but this much up in the air made each member feel like they were walking on glass plates set over a pit of acid.

The bell above the door in LeBlanc announced their entrance. It’s ringing was drowned out by the lull of the television in the background and the numerous footsteps coming from each teenager’s downtrodden steps.

Sojiro looked to see the mob of teenagers enter his shop and he figured the were there to meet, even if they had just met with each other hours before. He was anxious to find out how their little mission had gone. The expressions on their faces left him with more question than answers.

“You kids look like you need something more than coffee. I’ll close up shop for the night” Sojiro said, fully anticipating a story he would have a hard time understanding soon.

Chapter Text

Even though the teens looked reluctant to eat anything, Sojiro insisted upon serving them each a warm plate of curry. Even if it didn’t seem like much, Sojiro knew that on cold nights like this even the smallest thing like a warm bite of curry could provide the smallest inkling of comfort and these kids looked like they definitely needed it. He never understood how such young children could be so brave and strong. It was times like these he was worried just how strong his children actually were, and how grave the dangers were that faced them.

Akira was the first to tentatively take a bite, followed by Futaba who had eaten this curry all her life. It tasted warm and a little spicy and reminded her of evenings with her mother. Her mother, who was no longer because of the boy laying in the clinic just blocks away…

Little did she know this curry had the same comforting effect on almost everyone who ate it. All of the tensions of the day started to melt away and the teens found themselves relaxing if only a little bit. They were no longer tense sitting in the stools and booths of LeBlanc and slouched a little in their chairs, letting exhaustion slowly settle over them.

“So, what happened? You all look like you’ve had a rougher than usual day” Sojiro asked.

“We...we ran into Akechi in Shido’s palace. The real one” Akira said, looking down at his almost empty plate of curry.

Sojiro raised an eyebrow. “You guys gave him hell, right? Especially after everything he put you through. Someone's gotta bring that guy to justice.”

“He told us Shido was his father. But Shido didn’t know. His mom died. He wanted to bring Shido down by working for him on the inside” Akira explained. “He wanted to get revenge on Shido…”

“He tried to save us when the cognitive version of himself appeared in the palace and tried to kill us.” Ann added. “He tried to sacrifice himself to save us. He wouldn’t let us help him, he didn’t think he was a Phantom Thief” she shook her head.

Akira gave a heavy sigh, not missed by the blonde sitting next to him in the booth. Ryuji placed a hand on his leader’s shoulder and gave a small squeeze. Akira noticed then that there was still some blood on Ryuji’s sleeves that hadn’t been noticed before. They were mostly dried now and probably wouldn’t stain.

But he couldn’t help but remember when he thought that he had been shot in the head. The sight of himself dead and bloody on a table was absolutely terrifying. And he knew Akechi had seen it as well. Is that what Akechi had wanted? To become the spitting image of the boy he so despised? He just didn’t know.

“So what happened to him?” Sojiro asked, a little more demanding than before, worried he had something far more serious on his hands.

“We managed to save him thanks to Futaba’s handiwork” Yusuke said and held out his plate for a second helping of curry. Sojiro was already used to the boy’s routine and gladly filled up the plate for the starving art student.

“It was all my genius!” Futaba said, although with slightly less enthusiasm than would be expected from someone like her.

“He’s over with Dr. Takemi now. He didn’t get out scot free like we did” Akira said. Usually when the boy spoke there was a little spark of playfulness or mischievousness in his voice. That was all died down now.

Sojiro gave a small sigh. These kids would be the death of him one day. “You all are good people, not letting someone die like that. But I have to caution you to be careful with that detective” he said sternly.

Akira nodded. “We will.”

“Don’t worry, Boss. We have it all under control” Makoto said. Something about the authoritative air Makoto gave made it seem like things would always be okay.

He nodded, but was still wary. “You guys stay here as long as you need, just don’t forget to close up shop when you’re done. I’ll leave you all be for tonight.”

There was a murmuring of goodbyes from the team as Sojiro put on his hat and exited the shop for the night, leaving the teenagers to their own devices in his beloved shop. He didn’t want to intrude on anything further they would have to talk about. It looked like there was a lot they wanted to say.

There was a moment of silence where no one knew what to say first but was broken by Makoto, getting straight to the point.

“We need to discuss what we need to do next” she said.

“Yeah! We still gotta bring that bastard Shido to justice, especially after everything he did to Akechi and Akira here” Ryuji said, pumped up as ever.

“How will we do the calling card, though?” Yusuke asked. Beside him, Futaba gave a little snicker.

“We can’t just leave it on his desk” Makoto said and everyone nodded in agreeance. “It has to be something that will definitely catch his attention.”

“Don’t worry” Futaba said with a grin. “I’ve got it all figured out. Just leave it to me!”
Akira nodded and smiled back. “We’ll leave it up to you. It’ll be our grand reveal.” He would have to talk to her later about making sure she captured his best side without revealing his identity. He couldn’t have the face of the Phantom Thieves look anything less than sinisterly charming after all.

But then came the next point of action.

“What about Akechi? Shido’s going to be looking for him, right?” Ann asked.

“Well, LeBlanc seems to be the headquarters for teens assumed to be dead by the world but are secretly hiding. We could hide him in here for now” Akira said with a little smile.

“That’s not a bad idea. Then Boss or we could watch him most of the time” Ryuji agreed.

“We can also ask his input when he wakes up, but there’s no guarantee he’ll be cooperative.” Akira said.

“What will we do then?” Makoto asked.

“We could put him in jail!” Futaba said with far too much excitement.

“Akira does have a point” Morgana said with a serious face. “What do we do if Akechi decides to turn on us?”

Haru shook her head. It was the first time she had spoken all evening. “I don’t think he’ll do that. He’s got no one left. Shido was the only one sponsoring him and now he won’t be able to go back. Plus if we need, there are plenty of rooms in my home that lock from the outside we can keep him in until we figure out what to do with him” Haru said with a smile that sent a shiver through all her teammates. Her and Makoto could make a deadly duo.

“Then it’s decided” Akira said. “We deal with Shido first and handle Akechi as those problems come. Hopefully he’ll be willing to stay hiding in LeBlanc for the time being but if not we can keep him away by force.”

“Sounds good. We should all head home soon. The last trains will be leaving and we still have school tomorrow” she paused. “Well, most of us still have school tomorrow.”

Quietly in the background Akira could be heard saying “woot woot, no school for me” and being playfully punched by Ryuji in the process. Futaba gave Akira a high-five and snickered something about being a delinquent squad.

Everyone got up to leave Leblanc and as everyone started to file out, Akira reached out and grabbed Ryuji’s hand.
“Hm? Something wrong, man?” he asked.

“Would you mind staying the night” Akira asked. “I know it’s been a long day and you have school tomorrow but-”

“Of course man! You still got some pjs I could borrow” Ryuji said with a big grin and didn’t even wait for Akira before running up the stairs.

Futaba looked back before heading out the door with Yusuke and went to go pick up Morgana who yowled in disdain. “You two better behave yourselves” she said and made Morgana wave his paw goodbye much to his displeasure.

“No promises” Akira said and waved her off with the rest of the team. It was nice knowing she had someone to walk her home even if the house was only a few blocks away from the cafe.

Akira made it up the stairs to find Ryuji already laying on the futon, wearing some clothes he picked out of Akira’s box of belongings. It was lucky the two were close to the same size.

He picked up the uniform left crumpled on the floor and gave it a shake to get rid of any wrinkles before gently setting it on the chair in the corner.

“You gotta hang this up if you’re gonna wear it to school tomorrow” Akira said, scolding only teasingly.

“I’ll just wear your uniform instead” Ryuji said, waving his hand dismissively.

“Oh? And no one will wonder why you’re wearing my uniform when I’m supposed to be back in the country” Akira teased. “Rumors everywhere, Ryuji Sakamoto broke into his boyfriends attic just because he missed him so much and stole his uniform!”

He sat on the edge of the futon joining Ryuji, who slid over to make room.

“Okay, okay I’ll keep mine clean. Thanks for hanging it up for me. You gotta get in ur pjs though, you can’t sleep in jeans man” Ryuji said, even though Akira laid down straight on his midsection without any care in the world.

“Gah! Get off me man, you gotta get ready for bed!” Ryuji laughed.

“I’m tired!” Akira whined. The two paused for a second though.

“Do you remember when everyone didn’t know I was dead or not, and you told me about how worried everyone was. And how happy everyone was when I came back?” Akira asked.

“Yeah?”

“What would it be like to not have anyone worry about you. To know no one would care whether you lived or died. That no one was waiting for you to come home...How lonely would that be?” Akira asked quietly. “How long would it take for someone to notice him missing? If he missed work or public appearances people would just think he was busy. No one would really worry…”

“Yeah, I know what you mean” Ryuji said. “But we’re gonna change that! No one gets left behind when they’re with the Phantom Thieves. Even that cat Mona has people to care about him. We’re gonna help Akechi.”

Akira nodded and finally got up from the futon.

That night, Akira felt grateful he had someone to sleep next to and had someone to fend off the nightmares he inevitably had about gunshots and policemen and shadowy figures.

Chapter Text

Sometime late at night, Akira’s phone buzzed with a new incoming message. Ryuji looked over from the bed, hoping the other hadn’t woken up from the sound. He had just comforted him back to sleep from an undescribed nightmare. Luckily, Akira was still sleeping soundly. Ryuji was wondering where the irony was since only one of them had to be up for school the next day and it wasn’t the one currently asleep.
He picked up the phone and glanced at who was messaging Akira so late at night.

Takemi: Your friend should be fine. I can’t hold him here long though, it’s a small space. Does he have somewhere to stay? He should wake up by tomorrow and I’ll put him in your hands

Ryuji didn’t know how they were going to handle this tomorrow, or if Akira would think he could do it on his own. But he was far too tired to linger on it and found comfort in the warm blankets and the body next to him and quickly fell back to sleep.

Ryuji was awoken by the sunlight streaming through the dusty attic only a moment before an alarm made sure he would be awake on time no matter what. The bed was much colder than he expected it to be. The small spot next to him was empty and he decided to brave the cold air in search of the other boy who was supposed to be beside him.

There was noise coming from the cafe downstairs and Ryuji figured that would probably be the best place to look first. He was greeted by the sight of Akira in the back kitchen, wearing an apron and stirring a small pot he assumed was curry by the smell.

Akira noticed Ryuji come down the stairs and turned to smile at him with a full plate already materializing out of seemingly nowhere in his hands. “Breakfast?” he asked.
“How’d you get up so early, man” Ryuji groaned but took a seat at the bar anyway.

Akira shrugged. “I thought you’d wanna eat before having to go to school” he said as he placed the plate in front of his boyfriend and then retrieving another plate for himself.

“Yeah but, you don’t gotta get up today” Ryuji said but it wasn’t a complaint. He was forever grateful to have someone care for him so much. He hoped he adequately returned in kind.

Akira shrugged and took the seat next to Ryuji. “I saw the text from Takemi. I think I’ll head over to the clinic when you guys are in school and give you an update on what’s going on.”

“You think you can handle it on your own? We can all come with ya.”

Akira shrugged again. He always seemed so nonchalant, calm and collected. Slowly, the more he hung out with his friends, the more he became the Joker he always wanted to be.

“If I need some help I’ll ask Futaba and maybe even Sojiro.”

Ryuji eventually had to leave for class and Akira ushered him out the door, telling him he would be late. Sojiro had come to open the cafe shortly before Ryuji left and asked Akira if he would be helping out at the cafe that day or had anything else on his plans. He was a little wary when Akira told him he was planning on retrieving and dealing with Akechi on his own but had little choice other than to let him go. There was much about the adolescent’s life he still didn’t understand.

There was a slight bite in the air and Akira was grateful to be wearing his jacket. The walk to Takemi’s was short and he wasn’t sure whether he was happy or not about that. There was a lot to think about but he figured he would handle things as they came.

Takemi was waiting behind the sliding glass as usual but when she saw the raven haired boy she stood up. “He’s back here” she said.

Akira went back to the clinic room he had become quite familiar with throughout the year whether it be for some gruesome clinical test or to buy supplies for his team.

He hadn’t expected to see Akechi awake and sitting up in the clinic cot, staring blankly into space. For a moment, he looked like he could possibly the victim of a mental shutdown, blank and not looking at much or saying much. Akira was slightly relieved, however, when the detective looked up at him and had a deal of understanding behind his eyes. He couldn’t tell what exactly Akechi was thinking. He wished he could.

“Hey” Akira said simply.

Akechi looked back down into his lap, not acknowledging the other.

“He hasn’t said much. But physically he seems to be okay. I’ll pass him over to you as long as you can get him to go willingly” Takemi said with a bit of skepticism.

There was a thick deal of bandages wrapped around Akechi’s head, hiding where the bullet had scraped him badly. He was also dressed in nothing but a plain t-shirt and his boxers. It was odd to see the detective in such a disheveled state.

Akira went over to the bed and knelt so that he was closer to eye level with Akechi.

“Can you walk?” he asked.

Akechi looked at him, and moved his head ever so slightly in a nod. Akira was relieved to see that Akechi was somewhat cooperating.

He couldn’t bring him back to LeBlanc’s in the middle of the day when there were still customers, so he only had one other place of refuge left.

akira: hey futaba, can i bring akechi over and keep him there?

futaba: what!!! I dont want him near my things!!!

akira: i cant bring him to leblanc, i’ll buy you that new game you wanted

futaba: urghhhhhhh fineeeeeee

Akira took off his blazer and wrapped it around Akechi’s shoulders. It was certainly cold outside and Akechi was in barely anything more than his underwear.

“Thanks for all your help” he said to Takemi before leading the other boy out.

The walk to Sojiro’s house wasn’t very far and it was in the middle of the day when most people were at work or school so there were very little people out in the street. Akechi walked like a dead man, only being led by Akira’s hand on his shoulder. His eyes were cast downward and his steps were slow and heavy.

When they finally approached Sojiro’s house, Akira opened the door, finding it to be already unlocked. Once they entered the doorway there was a sound of thundering footsteps as Futaba ran down the stairs to greet the two boys, followed by a yowling Morgana.

“Stop it right there!” Futaba said as she got to the doorway.

 

“There are gonna be some rules if you’re gonna be loitering in my home! First off, my room is off limits, and no touching my ramen! You are to be within eyesight at all times, and ask before you do anything” she said exaggeratedly. “There is a bathroom upstairs but you need to have Akira escort you everytime, and you get a two minute limit. Oh and don’t even think about leaving without permission!”

Akira cracked a small smile but soon became worried at how Akechi would react. He had already felt so rejected by the Phantom Thieves and felt so alone. Would this further alienate him?

 

However, Akechi gave a small bow before hobbling off to the living room. He collapsed on the couch and laid there silently. Akira and Futaba were panicked for a moment and followed the detective. He didn’t seem to have any interest in going anywhere else or even getting up.

Futaba shrugged and Akira suggested they just leave him alone. It wasn’t easy to face everything so immediately after such trauma.

“So, what do we do now” Morgana said from the kitchen, where they were still in view of the living room but more sequestered off.

“We’ll try talking to him later. Maybe the rest of the thieves can help” Akira suggested.

“Oh! We can have a party, right? That’s what teenagers do” Futaba said, both anxious and excited. She had progressed so far in her goal to become more social and fun events with the phantom thieves almost never went wrong.

“I don’t know how much Akechi will be willing to have a party” Akira said, but thought for a moment. “But it might be a good way to show him he’s a part of the Phantom Thieves” Akira said with a small smile.

So it was agreed everyone would meet up at LeBlanc after hours and have a small celebration of Akechi surviving the palace, or at least that was the idea. It would also serve as a meeting and planning session as to what would happen next. There was still much to be done, after all but Akira knew they could handle those things one at a time.

“Do you think we can order sushi for the party?” Futaba asked.

“Oooh! I want fatty tuna” Morgana chimed in.

“I don’t think we have the money for that” Akira said, but still thought about it. Maybe a couple small trays wouldn’t be too bad.

Chapter Text

Haru and Makoto had some things after school to do and told the group that they would join later in the evening. Both Ann and Ryuji had come over straight after school and Yusuke joined the group shortly after. They all ended up situated in Sojiro’s living room, awkwardly trying to figure out what to do, what to say, and how to approach the silent detective.

“How are you doing, Akechi?” Ann asked, trying to break the ice.

He didn’t answer her, or even look at her. He was now sitting upright, which was the most movement he had exhibited the whole time since he had arrived from the clinic.

“Man, it must have been rough. I never knew you had it so hard” Ryuji said. Still, nothing. “I had a messed up dad too, you know. But at least I had my mom around. It must’ve sucked. But you know now you got us.”

He could have sworn he saw Akechi’s eyes flicker up if not just for a moment.

Futaba had yet to have anything else to say to Akechi. The entire time, she eyed him suspiciously from the other side of the living room. She wasn’t so ready to accept the detective into their group and certainly not into their home. She hoped this would only be a temporary arrangement. He had to have his own place, right? Why did he have to go in, taking hers. Wasn’t taking her mother already enough.

“Does anyone want anything to drink?” Akira asked and got up from his seat on the ground.

“Do you have coffee here? I don’t suppose you keep it all in the cafe” Ann asked.

Akira nodded. “We have some here, but not as much variety. I can still make you an iced coffee though.”

“Thanks!” Ann said.

“Would you like some assistance?” Yusuke asked, standing up as well.

The two boys left for the kitchen, leaving the other four in the living room on their own.

There was an awkward moment of silence where no one knew what to say. It was worrying, how unresponsive Akechi was being. The bandages on his head were also worrying. There was still so little they knew about the detective. There was also the worry about his father, and finishing his palace in time before everything fell apart.

“You don’t think he’s gonna have a mental shutdown, do you” Ryuji asked.
“Don’t say that!” Ann scolded.

“I’m…”

All heads turned to Akechi. The voice was soft, cracking and broken but it was coming from him.

“I’m...not something you should worry about” he said softly, looking up only for a moment before casting his eyes back downward.

“What are you saying Akechi, of course we’ll worry about you! You’re a part of the team” Ann insisted.

Ryuji furrowed his brows, watching the other detective. He wasn’t good at reading people. But he was good at knowing his friends and those he spent time with. Even though he didn’t like Akechi much, at least at first, he had spent a great deal of time with him and could tell there was something more Akechi wasn’t saying.

“Yeah man. Sometimes instead of family, you have friends who worry about you too” Ryuji said.

Akechi’s eyes widened at that. His hands shook ever so slightly in his lap and he tried to compose himself. Up until now, he had felt almost no energy, and completely exhausted. But now, his heart pounded with a feeling he wasn’t sure he could place. It was even more exhausting.

“Worry about Shido…” Akechi replied after a long moment.

“I think Shido should be worryin’ about us more!” Ryuji said, jokingly.

A soft set of pat pat pats came from down the hall before Morgana entered the living room, jumping to the back of the couch near Akechi’s head.

“Ryuji! You can’t just be so confident” the cat scolded.

“C’mon! Why not? We’ve beat every other bad guy so far. Yeah Shido’s a big bad guy but we can take him on” Ryuji said with a grin.

Part of it was a charade. He wanted Akechi to have confidence in them. Plus, he assumed that was what Akira would say. He was always so optimistic about their missions. It could raise anyone’s morale, maybe even Akechi’s.

Ann and Ryuji continuously tried to make conversation but it always seemed to end in sparked arguments or awkward silences.

They were in the middle of another awkward conversation when the front door creaked open and some familiar hellos rang in from the front.

Makoto and Haru stepped into view of the living room, their hair slightly damp from the apparent rain outside.

“Sorry for the intrusion!” Haru said politely as they began to set their stuff down in the room.

“How are you doing?” Makoto asked, looking at Akechi.

Still, there was no answer. It was now quite a lot of people in Sojiro’s house. It had never been so full before, Futaba noted.

It was surreal the amount of friends she had acquired in such a short amount of time. It started off with just her in her room, connected only to a fantasy world. She thought she would die before she was able to connect with anyone in the real world, before anyone became close enough to her to even be phased by her death. Yes, maybe Sojiro would have but she had always thought he took her in sheerly to get back at her for causing her mother's death.
But that wasn’t the case. Here she was, in her home with all of her beloved friends. And the boy that took away her first life.

“I’m going to bed” Futaba announced suddenly and trudged up the stairs to her room.

Everyone assumed she was simply tired with the constant string of events bombarding their everyday life. In truth she was starting to tire of the constant reminder of her mother’s murder.

The chatter continued on in the living room for awhile. Akechi continued to be silent, at the worry of everyone there.

Eventually, Akira came back to the living room with a tray of warm drinks, plus one iced glass of coffee and a glass of soda, and began passing them out for everyone. Surprisingly, there was even a drink for Makoto and Haru. Akira never failed to be prepared for anything.

He approached Akechi with a cup of coffee in his hands and leaned down to face Akechi at eye level.

“You like Blue Mountain, right?” he said and handed the warm cup to him. Akechi took it, hesitantly. “I tried a coarser grind this time and added some salt to the grounds to try and even out the bitterness” Akira continued.

“I’ll be the judge of that!” Ryuji said before taking the cup from Akechi’s hands. He took a sip and gave a pensive look, swishing the coffee dramatically in his mouth as the girls groaned in disgust.
“Still gross! But not as gross as normal coffee” Ryuji said, beaming and handed the cup back to Akechi. “Drink up! It's got the Akira and Ryuji seal of approval.”

A small smile almost twitched at the side of Akechi’s face, but it didn’t fully make it to his lips. Still, some of the weight in his heart lifted. He took a small sip of the coffee and found that it indeed was less bitter than he remembered. There was something smooth and subtly sweet about this cup of coffee, but not in the same way copious amounts of sugar would make a drink sweet. It was a pleasant feeling on his tongue that did its best to spread to the rest of him but there was too much heaviness in the way. Still, it was a start.

The rest of the night was rather uneventful. The third years left first, apologizing for spending so little time with everyone but it was understandable. So much responsibility laid on their shoulders. Ann left next, followed by Yusuke who took a moment to say goodbye to Futaba before leaving. She was uncharacteristically unresponsive to him.

In the evening it was just Ryuji and Akira. Akira insisted that the other boy go home to his mother before she worried, since he had already been out the night before. Ryuji reluctantly agreed but not before helping Akira move an extra futon to the attic of LeBlanc. Sojiro agreed to close the cafe early again so the boys could get this done without any unnecessary attention.

Finally, the two boys led Akechi to the attic of LeBlanc, a place the detective had been before but not in such an intimate manner. The attic seemed much safer than his apartment ever did. Ryuji said goodbye to the two of them before heading to catch the last train home.

“Welcome to the delinquents who don’t go to school clubhouse” Akira said with a grin as he readied himself for bed as well.

Akechi was on the floor on the spare futon, a few feet away from Akira’s bed. Morgana was missing but Akira assumed the cat was either at Sojiro’s or planning on coming back later that night.

Without a word, Akechi laid down for bed, facing away from Akira. Akira couldn’t tell if the other boy had fallen asleep or not but he suddenly realized how quiet the room was. Usually Morgana would be there with the occasional meows or purrs that he would adamantly deny. The silence stood out that night and every small sound seemed uproarious against it.

“Goodnight” Akira said before laying down.

“.... night” Akechi replied after a moment, ever so quietly.

Chapter Text

The air was silent and still the next morning when Akira awoke. He heard two seperate set of breaths in his room. One was the familiar soft inhales of Morgana who was asleep in the corner of his bed. The other was coming from the other side of his room. He was disoriented for a moment and panicked at the intruder in his room. If Morgana was here that meant Ryuji hadn’t stayed the night so who else could be up in the attic with him?

He was relieved when he saw the futon on the other side of the room, remembering that Akechi was now sharing the attic with him. Akira was surprised to find Akechi already awake.

The boy laid there, staring off into space with blank eyes.

“Akechi?” Akira asked, worried. There was a constant voice in the back of his mind, what if Akechi had suffered a mental breakdown and they were just waiting for the fatal outcome.

The other boy didn’t respond and continued to stare into space.

Akira got up from his bed to approach the boy but stopped when he saw Akechi suddenly flinch at the movement.

Akira felt a sudden pang of pity in his heart. He frowned and clenched his fists. He remembered Sojiro telling him how he had similar reactions when he first arrived at LeBlanc, flinching and tensing every time Sojiro came up the stairs. He remembered the feeling of hopelessness and that dreaded pit of despair in his stomach that hung around before he met Ryuji on that first fateful day. There were those long moments of fear that no matter what happened, it would never get better and nothing truly mattered.

He stood up straight and stretched with a sigh.

“Did you sleep okay?” he asked.

Akechi didn’t respond, just watched him with blank eyes before rolling over on the mattress, turning his back towards Akira.

____

“Why isn’t anyone doing anything?”

“Shido confessed, why does no one care?”

“I don’t get it! Shido’s as rotten as they come and they still don’t care! This sucks!!”

Though Akira looked calm, listening to his teammates’ frustrations, but his fists were clenched and his shoulders were stiff. He had to watch Ryuji almost die in an attempt to destroy Shido’s palace. He would never forget that moment his heart stopped when he couldn’t find Ryuji after the explosion. He couldn’t get rid of the feeling he had when they returned to the real world and for a moment, Ryuji was nowhere in sight. It was as if someone had tore out his heart and only a black hole with the density of a universe remained.

And here was all their joy and feeling of accomplishment, taken away from them yet again. Even when Shido confessed his wrongdoings on a screen for all of Japan to see, no one cared. They accepted as another evil of the world, and continued on with their lives.

But the Phantom Thieves couldn’t. They had risked their lives for this, only for the masses to ignore all of their work and continue to be rotten.

“It’s Mementos” Morgana said from his perch on Akira’s shoulder. They all looked at the black cat.
Akira nodded. “It’s everyone’s collective consciousness. They’re all in there, aren’t they. Everyone we’ve taken down so far. They’re in Mementos.”

“I bet the only way to get to the bottom of this is to take down Mementos once and for all” Makoto said.

Now, they were all determined. They all made plans to meet up the next day and take down Mementos once and for all.

As the team went to part ways, Akira went to grab Ryuji’s hand, again. He still couldn’t shake off that feeling from before.

“Hm? What’s up man?” Ryuji asked. It was moments like this when Akira would become quiet and unreadable that worried Ryuji the most. The boy was always so occupied with keeping the team going and putting his own feelings behind for the betterment of the team, Ryuji could never tell how much was stirring underneath the facade.

Akira had his head bowed and his hair cast a shadow over his face. Without a single word, a single tear fell down the side of Akira’s face, only to be followed by several more.

He stood in the midst of the crowded walkways of Tokyo. Everyone around them walked past them paying no mind. Sometimes, someone would give a sly glance their way. But it meant nothing to these strangers what was going on. The whole world surrounded them but Akira saw them only as passing shadows.

“H-hey, Akira…!” Ryuji was unsure of what to do and stepped closer to Akira, reaching out towards him.

Akira was there in a single moment, wrapping Ryuji in his arms in the chest crushing hug. Morgana had given a yelp and scrambled off somewhere, knowing that this was a moment meant between the other two and them only. Akira didn’t say anything, just buried his face into the crook of Ryuji’s neck. Ryuji smelled like sunshine and grass, like the a bright summer’s day. There was a moment Akira thought he would never experience that ever again.

“I thought I had lost you” Akira mumbled, stifled by tears and Ryuji’s own body.

“Nah man” Ryuji said, hugging the other boy back, just as tightly. “I’m your right hand man, I’ll always be by your side.”

 

Something was wrong when they entered Mementos. It wasn’t the same never ending subway system they always fought before. Something else was there. It was a malevolent force that glitched the world around them. While they were used to the dark atmosphere of Mementos, there was some odd white light that kept seeping through rips in their reality.

Akira approached the entrance to the next floor of Mementos, followed by his team, but found that he couldn’t walk forward. Every time he did, his steps would take him nowhere.

“What’s wrong?” Ann asked from behind.

“I can’t get through” Akira said, bewildered.

“What do you mean you can’t get through?” Ann asked and walked to Akira’s side, trying to walk forward herself. She found that like him, her steps were stopped.

“Oracle, can you see what’s going on?” Morgana asked.

A few beeps and glips came from the large UFO floating above them. “I see a large map right in front of us, I don’t get why we can’t go forward” Futaba said, frowning. It looked like any other palace they had been in. There were winding paths and tunnels and stairs that lead downwards but what was wrong?

There was one of those bright light rips coming from the top right of Akira’s view and without much thought, he reached for it. He was surprised to find that his fingers went into the light. There was something on the other side.

With a sharp tug, the scene before them ripped as if the reality before them was nothing but a painting on canvas. What greeted them behind the dark walls of Mementos was startling.

It was a sky that looked as if it was made of cotton candy, pastel pink and blue with highlights of yellow. There looked to be birds in the sky but they didn’t move, like a child’s drawing of birds in the corner of their paper.

Biggest of all was a large tent, taking over all of the space ahead of them and the source of the white light. It was decorated with red tassles and it sounded like music was coming from inside. There was something terribly wrong about the whole scene and the music sounded distorted. The tune and melody was right but the instruments playing it sounded like they were from another world. Probably an effect of Mementos.

“Is this what Mementos really looks like?” Ann asked.

“No! It can’t be. This is something else” Morgana said. “I’m sure of it. This looks like… it looks like it could be”

“A palace” Makoto finished.

It made the most sense. Every palace had a theme and this one was clearly a circus from the large tent, distorted music, and childlike design. They were used to encountering powerful and dark shadows in Mementos but never such a large distortion that it resembled a palace.

“But who’s could it be?” Morgana asked.

Always the leader, Akira spoke up. “Think about it. Who do we know that had a childlike appearance in Mementos and has the largest distortion.”

“Akechi…” Ryuji said, somewhat in disbelief.

“That’s right.” Morgana realized. “Persona users can’t have palaces because we have personas. But there’s no reason we can’t have a shadow in Mementos!”

“Akechi’s distortion must have been so strong it made him something like a palace here in Mementos. I wonder how he really sees the world” Makoto said.

Both Futaba and Haru remained silent.

“Perhaps if we take down his palace, Akechi will go back to normal. It would make sense, wouldn’t it?” Yusuke brought up.

Akira nodded. “We’ll have to defeat Akechi’s palace before getting on with the rest of Mementos” he said to his team. “We should be careful. We won’t know what it’s like to have a palace within Mementos and Akechi is a persona user. Who knows what form his distortion can take but we have to steal his heart. It’s our job as Phantom Thieves.”
Futaba gave a small nod from inside her spaceship but realized no one would be able to see her reaction. “Y-yeah. I can see the beginning of the palace you guys, it’s a big one so get ready.”

Regardless of how she felt, she was a Phantom Thief and this was their job. They stole hearts and made the world a better place. It was what they did. They made criminals confess their crimes. But what about when the criminal was someone only a year or so older than her and was someone her own brother was protecting so fiercely. She didn’t know.

“Let’s go” Akira said with a swish of his jacket, leading his bandit of thieves into the tent, ready to face whatever stood in their way.