akira had felt it in the final battle with yaldabaoth—it was clear, quite clear, when he summoned satanael. when they banished the false god for good.
his purpose is over.
the eerie sense of peace washing over him almost alarms him, but he writes it off easily. it’s over. of course he’d feel at ease.
it settles on him strangely, like the weight of the world was ripped from him and replaced with something foreign. something that seeps into his bones, chills him and imparts an odd feeling of emptiness. even uninjured, he feels as if he’s lost every ounce of blood in his body.
and he feels tired. maybe the exhaustion was finally setting in. palace after palace, part time jobs and school, friends and confidants—akira isn't sure the last time he got a good, long rest, morgana notwithstanding. all those late nights crafting more tools to use in palaces, of carefully planning out infiltrations until the sun peeked over the horizon paid off, sure. exhausting either way.
while the other thieves are riding an adrenaline high, shivering in the cold and the flecks of snow with smiles wider than ever, akira is calm. he’s cold, but he’s too tired to shiver. the pain slowly sinking into his joints, his bones, aching and agonizing—oddly enough, that's what keeps him from snoozing where he stands.
akira watches as the other thieves leave, one by one, and feels a nauseating unease creep into him as they go. it sits, just below his chest, festering with the residual fear from their battle and a new emotion he had yet to name. like the sting of a goodbye that imparts a sense of finality, it chews his insides despite how silly it seems.
niijima requesting he turn himself in didn’t even phase him—something he supposes he should analyze a bit beyond simply a passing thought, but can’t muster the energy to do so. he’s tired, and the aching in his body, the throbbing pain in his joints, compel him to sit. to sleep. to ignore his problems for once, just for a little while.
niijima gives him until morning, impatient yet understanding. he needs closure, and she knows that.
futaba is much the same when he returns to leblanc, badgering sojiro endlessly with enthusiasm akira envies. even after slaying a god, she has enough energy to mope and cheer in the same breath. and despite the mounting ache in his body, despite the weariness eating its way through his muscles, akira smiled. sojiro smiled too, but akira could sense his stare; it bored into him, worried in that fatherly way sojiro had grown into nicely. akira tried to straighten his posture, to appear animated in order to appease, but all that earned him was lightning hot pain shooting down his spine and an escalated exhaustion.
sojiro sent him to bed shortly after that, an anxious frown adding years onto his face. normally akira would feel guilty for worrying him so.
he doesn't. he just feels tired.
akira’s earned the right, he thinks—after all he’s been through, he feels being tired is entirely justified.
slipping under the covers, it settles on him weird. he hadn't noticed it before, didn't have a reason to, but his hands are shaking. slight little tremors, weak, pitifully rocking sallow looking skin. and akira watches them for a moment as his eyes grow heavy and his body slowly pumps a saccharin sodium thiopental like lead through his veins, slowing his trembling hands, slowing the way his chest rises and falls. slowing… everything. his head. his heart.
even though the muddy heaviness, akira’s brain manages to churn out one last thought before sleep washes over him.
it’s really over.
Sojiro wants to let the boy sleep. It feels only right, after everything those kids have been through—and he’s confident he doesn't even know the half of it. But the time Akira usually stumbles down in a drowsy haze has come and gone, and Sojiro knows he’s going to have to march right on upstairs and drag the boy down by his ear at this point. It’s Christmas, for god’s sake, and he knows it’s only a matter of time before one of Akira’s rowdy friends bursts through the door and demands to celebrate.
Not that Sojiro would stop them. They’ve earned it in spades.
All that was left was making sure Akira would be awake for it.
So, with that thought and a fresh brewed cup of coffee—with steamed milk and sugar, like Akira actually likes it, despite the black coffee drinking front he puts on—Sojiro climbs the stairs to the attic. He feels the creaks in the stairs as much as his joints, wincing as he reaches the top with a stern reminder he’s not as young as he used to be. Or young at all, much as he hated to admit it.
He misses those days; on quieter mornings he reflects, like any old bastard would, on the past. On missed opportunities and fleeting mistakes. They used to sting as old wounds would, aching and open with a stubborn perseverance that even the brightest days couldn't quite mask. It’s a part of growing old, he thinks. Regret coloring the lenses he uses to view the world.
Akira would probably call that wisdom. He’d probably say it comes with being old, and say it with that cheeky grin he gets when he knows he’s being insufferable.
Sojiro smiles a bit, seeing Akira snoozing peacefully in the attic. Honestly, he isn't sure he’s ever seen the kid look so relaxed before. There was always something on Akira’s mind, and very, very rarely did he ever share what. Usually he’d brush it off with promises he was fine, despite the way his eyes seemed sunken and exhaustion set in his skin. He’s a tough one to crack on the best of days; impossible on the worst.
“C’mon, kid. Can’t just waste the day away sleeping,” Sojiro tries, sidling closer to the bed as he speaks.
Nothing. The kid doesn't even flinch.
He frowns; he’d always figured Akira was a heavy sleeper, but this was ridiculous. Setting the cup of coffee on the nightstand, Sojiro moved to shake the kid’s shoulder this time. “All right, up and at ‘em. Your friends are probably coming soon—”
Sojiro pauses. He hadn't thought too hard about it at first, but it was pretty damn cold in the attic. Even Akira felt like ice beneath his fingertips.
Something sinks in his gut, curdling uncomfortably as his brain catches up to that thought.
He’s dialing that back alley doctor before he has time to think.
Tae doesn’t really want to believe what Sakura tells her on the phone—in a voice calmer than stone, he tells her Akira isn't breathing. That he’s cold.
He doesn't say it, but she’s a doctor. She's smart. She knows.
Seeing him in the attic, examining his—she refuses to say body, she refuses to think about it too long—only confirms that. He’d died somewhere in the night, long before Sakura had climbed the stairs to find him. She tells him as much, hoping to ease his guilt.
It seems to do the opposite, unfortunately. Sakura looks angrier than ever, mostly at himself.
“I knew there was something up with him,” he grinds out through the gravel in his throat. “He wasn't acting right.”
While that may be true, it wouldn't change anything. There’s nothing to be done about it now, aside from calling the medical examiner. And she tries so, so hard not to remember who it’s for. “There’s no sense beating yourself up about it.”
It’s not like he could have done anything about it, anyways. It had only been a surface level examination, but… she had the gnawing impression rational science wouldn't have helped someone steeped so heavily in mysticism and alternate realities. Something about this felt both natural and unnatural, all at once.
That was confirmed a few days later, when the results of the examination had arrived at her office. As a highschooler, one who was fit enough to be doing backflips and throw down her latest concoctions no sweat, his body had simply given out. As if he’d merely passed away from old age.
As a teenager.
She slipped the findings back into the envelope. How ironic.