“Come on, man! Tell me again why we gotta do this?”
Discordant footfalls scratched to a halt as outstretched arms threw themselves up in aggravation. A few mutters rang out from the others, the blond-haired teen stuffing his hands roughly into his pockets as he turned his head to his classmate. “Why’re you being so damn nice to Ace Defective?” The accusatory tone wasn’t lost on the other boy, turning his head the barest amount to peer at him from behind the messy tangle of curls.
“I’ve always been this way to him – if I change it now, then he’ll just end up figuring out that something’s changed, right?” As much as the other may have not liked it, he couldn’t come up with a rebuttal for the succinct words of his leader, trailing off with a disparaged sigh. The rest of them could only nod along, understanding the intentions and motives behind their leader’s words…
As much as none of them wanted to sit through an hour and a half segment that the aforementioned ally was partaking in.
“Why did you agree for all of us?!” Ryuji barked, running his hands roughly through his hair while they walked, watching the building rising up out of the urban sprawl around them. A small smirk had plastered itself onto the other’s face, causing a raised eyebrow or two from the rest of the members trailing behind them, still clad in striped plaid bottoms that marked them as Shujin students.
“I figured we could have some quality family time, y’know; a party bonding exercise.” Ryuji’s groan drowned out the scoffs and chuckles of the rest of the members. Even the tuxedoed tomcat rustling in his bag was frustrated at the prospect, already having to have been subject to the stuffy bag that he was swiftly finding to be his own little slice of Tantalus torture, stuck in the stuffy fabric, with freedom just beyond the zipper.
“If I have anymore ‘bonding time’, I think I’m gonna be permanently stuck to you all.” Morgana groaned, and the rest of the party shuddered, none of them having forgotten the nine-hour drive from Hell in Mementos following a spat between Ryuji and Ann. Akira, happily driving along and whistling the theme from the Big Bang Burger while the rest of the party skulked as the seats threatened to rub sores into their skin.
Hardly two weeks ago, the memory and the threat that it carried was still more than enough to remind them to be glad it was this over plundering the depths of Mementos and scouring over every single floor until the leader was satisfied with the growth in the Thieves’ relationships from when they had arrived.
Breaking from the cover of clustered buildings washed them aglow in a stray beam of sun glimpsed through the rolling cloud cover, the members savoring it for the moment it was there and missing it just as keenly when it was gone the next. Bright eyes picked out the familiar, sleek blue haircut of their final companion, picking their way through the throng of people filling the streets.
Akira bounced his finger from one person to the next, counting and checking off each person who said they were able (not so much willing), nodding his head when all were present and accounted for, flashing a smile to the group.
“Everyone ready to go?” He asked, fishing out the tickets that had been oh, so graciously pressed into his hands by the stricken detective. He would have given anything at that moment for his phone to be in his hand, rather than upstairs charging after an early day romp with the rest of the group. He wanted a recording of the brunet begging, almost pleading, with him to find people to fill up the seats, so at the very least there was someone there who didn’t seem wholly intent on finding a way to plunder the room at the studio.
“Where’s Futaba?” Yusuke asked, the light lilt of a yawn creeping up his voice, until his chest expunged it from his lungs. Akira could see the remnants of paint under the other’s nails, keeping the little comment to himself for the other’s sake.
“She’s not coming – doesn’t feel too comfortable being clustered together like that.” He was proud of the progress that she had been making, but he didn’t believe that that was the only reason. It was no secret that the girl hated him, keeping it together through their brief interactions with only thinly veiled snark sent in the other’s direction.
Lucky excuse, won’t be one for long.
The tickets spilled easily from his hands to the next, being waved in one after the other while fangirls pressed around, all assortments of gifts tucked in their arms. An elbow to his ribs sent Ryuji jumping, Ann’s grinning face at his side.
“Wish those presents were for you, don’t ya?” She teased, the croon in her voice making the slight dusting of a blush that more prevalent across his cheeks as he turned his nose up at the thought, crossing his arms as they passed under the jet of cool air beyond the doors.
“What?! No way! Like I’d want any of that crap; it’s… it’s just not fair though! How come we pick up the slack from these damn adults and we get spat on, but Space Detective over there gets to dance in the limelight, and have his own interviews…!” Ann rolled her eyes, a knowing smirk playing on her lips while Akira and the others couldn’t help but chuckle at the other proving her point.
“You so are jealous.”
“That’s a new one.”
Akira’s breathless comment and Ann’s chiming voice mixed together, the party mixing in their agreements on both. Ryuji gaped at Ann, pursing his lips and turning to Makoto.
“You get it right?! You wouldn’t want any of that would you?”
“Well…” Ryuji sulked, looking around at the entire group and let his shoulders sag, stuffing his hands into his pockets and grumbling.
“You guys are the worst.” Makoto’s hand came up, giving his shoulder a light pat in her attempt at placating the other, giving a small shrug as he looked up.
“I don’t know, I think appreciate and acknowledgement in any kind would be nice… But, I do agree. I think that… that,” And she motioned to the crowd outside, the cluster of girls trying to make their way inside the building to snag a seat, the din barely quelled by the glass between them. “Would just be downright distracting.” That seemed enough to pull the blond out of his pout, looking to the other two as his chest puffed out, jabbing a thumb at himself.
“See? Someone agrees with me!” Grey eyes glanced over to the girl, a smirk tugging at the corners of Akira’s mouth, coughing to try and rid himself of the smile.
“You don’t have to placate him, you know.” Gibber babbled from the gaping blond’s mouth at the offensive notion, the words tumbling over themselves in an effort to make themselves heard, while the rest watched on and enjoyed the antics typical of the group by this point.
“For someone with an impeccable poker face, you’re terrible at hiding your amusement, Joker.” The teasing tone forced the teen to turn, a smile gracing his face at the sight of his favorite subject to torment. He felt the jab at his skills as though the other had directly struck him in the side, despite never laying a finger on the other.
“Thanks for the compliment, Crow – you’ve got quite the fake stage smile. You breaking it out today too?” All delivered with the oozing charisma that bled into his tone, the tongue and cheek grin he offered the other being met with a half-hearted scoff.
“As always. I’m just glad I have a few less fans to deal with today.” He sighed, worrying the hem of his gloves with his other hand. “They’re bad enough already, as is. They’re practically trying to tear down the walls of this place.”
“We’re all well aware.” Yusuke chimed in, his gaze slipping over to the sight outside of the clamoring fans. Ann targeted Ryuji with another friendly jab, the boy taking it in stride and darting his fingers out in a playful pinch on the girl’s side, sending her squealing and rounding on the blond who took the opportunity to dart behind their leader for cover. The comment hung in the air, Akechi taking in the entire group and the aftereffects of their jaunt here from their school, until Akira stepped forward, hands stuffed into his pockets.
“Well, Mr. Detective, since you’re special enough to get your own makeup room, why don’t you treat your guests instead of letting it go unused?” The leader all but ignored the sharp look that was levied on him, his mask of passive amusement and the teasing glint almost hidden behind the curtain of his bangs met with an almost unasked disdain of his jeers.
“Of course, silly me.” Akechi almost seethed, wanting to rake his hair out at how easily the other seemed to get up under his skin, especially in the short banter that they exchanged. He turned about on his heel, setting a brisk pace as a casual punishment for the nonsense coming out of Akira’s mouth. Of course, the bespectacled teen caught up easily to the other, not bothering to hide the pleasure he took in grating the other’s nerves.
“You are a nightmare.” The mousey brunet hissed, side-eying the other who’s jaunty attitude and step hadn’t waned at all.
“Only for you.” Came the countering croon, tipping his head the barest amount to let the glasses slip just enough for the dusky grey to peek over the black rims. Akechi scoffed, brushing the other away from where he lingered close to his side, the dark-haired teen retreating a respectable distance while laughing the other away. Pressing his glasses up once more hid his true expression, the smile dipping from a broad grin to the barest quirk of amusement in a flash.
Why did I bother to invite him of all people?
The sour thought had an easy answer, but it was wrested down before the other could even think about it, grabbing the clipped card at his breast and tugging it to the door. Light flashing green, he tugged the handle open. The afterthought of shutting the door close on Akira rushing through his head, barely managing to stave off the temptation until he, and the others, followed in behind him.
The light inside was dazzling, even the detective squinted and covered his eyes for a moment as they adjusted to the luminescent bulbs that surrounded the mirror. Morgana finally slipped from the bag, hurtling himself to the solid ground of the floor with a pleased mreow, stretching languidly as his claws sank into the studio carpet. When the group had finally managed to adjust themselves to the contrasting light, a small whistle of surprise escaped Ann.
“I didn’t realize how nice the dressing rooms were here.” It took a moment for her and the others to settle, each of perching in the room. Most of them had flocked to the couch on the far wall of the room, Makoto scolding Ryuji when the bottom of his foot had planted itself against the side of the couch. Akira stood, glancing over the room once more before cocking an unseen bro. His long strides took him to the other end of the mirror, plucking a small gift bag from a sizeable pile, turning his questioning gaze onto the detective. Instead of an explanation, he got the sight of the other pinching the bridge of his nose, a sharp, short exhalation rattling in his throat.
“I just take them to… try and be nice.”
“Ah, so saving face.” The dour look was not lessened by the snide quip, Akira’s fingers daintily plucking the sticker off of the small baggie, delighted at the small cookies inside. He popped one into his mouth, only glancing up when the other sighed once more.
“You can go ahead and have them. I usually throw the food away.”
“What?!” Ryuji exclaimed, jumping up from the couch, his face the same flustered red it had been a few minutes prior. “All those cute girls made you sweets, and you’re gonna just throw ‘em away like that?!” Makoto frowned, nudging Ryuji and trying to quell the shouts from him, looking over to the detective.
“I do have to admit… doesn’t that just seem kind of cruel?” Haru nodded along, her fingers trailing the edge of her sweater.
“Yeah, Akechi – especially after they went through all the effort to make them for you.”
“What they don’t know won’t hurt them.” He said, shrugging noncommittally, picking up a few of the bags and tossing them to the couch-bound group. “I usually throw them out because I don’t know what’s been put in them.” At that, the group looked to the innocuous baggies with hesitation, pursing their lips as they debated with themselves on the worst things fans could possibly put into the baked goods.
Akira just popped another cookie into his mouth.
Akechi turned his head to lock eyes with the lazy stare that the boy had fixed on him, his brow twitching as the other teen popped another cookie in his mouth. His lips parted, and if the hint of a sneer on his face was any indication, Akira felt that the comment was probably an untoward once, but the sharp rapping of knuckles upon the door caught their attention.
“We need you on set! They’re going to be getting ready to start soon!” The shrill voice called from the other side, and the detective sighed, calling back.
“I’ll be right there.” He turned back to the group, flashing them a smile. “Alright – sorry, you’re all getting evicted.” He said, the group muttering to themselves as they stood up with the bags, Makoto having left hers on the cushion.
“We’ll go find our seats.” Makoto hummed, laying her hand against Akira’s shoulder for a moment, before slipping on by him with the rest of the group, leaving the two teenagers alone in the room. The crinkling of the empty bag jarred the brunet, watching as the other creased it down and slipped it into the garbage. His eyes sparkling with barely tempered mischief, his chin tilting up the barest amount in look that Akechi could only describe as infuriating.
He lingered by the door, smirking in the way that only he could, sweeping his arms towards the door, proffering for the other to go first.
“Such a gentleman,” No matter how abrasive he got, the smirk never disappeared from Akira’s face, even as he slipped on by him and out the door.
“Gentleman thief.” He corrected, pulling the handle shut behind him. He moved to clap Akechi on the back, none deterred at the way the other side-stepped the contact. “Have fun out there, knock ‘em dead, Space Detective.” If the other was surprised at the new version of his moniker, it didn’t show on his face, only rolling his eyes and turning on his heel with a sharp spitting tone.
“Shut it, attic trash.” He barked, but the words had lost their bite, evident to him by the chuckle that followed him down the hall, until the unsteady staccato of their footfalls were the only sound echoing off the halls. Akechi’s creased brow smoothed out, compulsively tugging on the edge of his gloves as he retraced the well-worn path from his room to the studio.
Space Detective… that’s a new one.