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Why Akira Wields a Knife

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Yosuke sat on the riverbank, letting the soft spring breeze shift through his hair. Chie and Yukiko stroll up and down the actual water, looking into the clear river and picking out stones they like. Kanji and Naoto aren’t fishing exactly, but both of them sit a little too close as they point out fish and name them all kinds of punny names. Teddie’s with Dojima today, falsifying documents to try and get Teddie enrolled in school eventually.

Yosuke would normally be sitting by his partner, Yu, and simply enjoying the sunday. But today was a special Sunday.

The first sunday that Yu wasn’t here.

Yosuke sat alone, sitting without his partner by his side, and appreciated that the Investigation Team had gotten together today and tried to fill the void. They all knew that each member would be seeking something today that wouldn’t be filled. Each found a comfort in each other as they still were trying to get back to normal, get back to the easy comfort they had before their team had been shaken up.

Yosuke needed to fiddle with something, needed to keep his hands occupied. It was easy to reach into his pocket and grab the pocket knife he started carrying around after Yukiko’s castle all those months ago. It was easy to start to fiddle with the knife like he did in the TV World, flips and folds and changing the direction the knife faced. Yosuke’s fingers were fast, quickly dancing across the handle and deftly keeping the blade away from skin.

It wasn’t hard to get lost in the movements, the soft sounds of his friends, his team, the perfect background noise as the shining metal blade in his hands twirls around.

It wasn’t a perfect day, Yu wasn’t here by his side to gently put a hand on Yosuke’s wrist and pull him out of the movements. The alert movements, the one that Yosuke only does when he’s in battle, focusing to hard one the enemy in front of him trying to deal with flaming magical attacks and giant swiping claws. It was nerves, the need to be distracted, the need to occupy his hands with something so he doesn't cry, scream, break. It wasn’t a bad day either, his team, his friends, were there as a silent support, being there without being overcrowding. It’s an easy kind of relationship, the kind that Yosuke wanted to have for a long time.

Yosuke continues to twirl his knife, wrapped up in his own world and worries, finally relaxing after a whole year of being wound up.

He doesn't even realize the small child who’s walking home, the child with messy black hair and ruddy red cheeks, look on in awe at the twirling spinning knife. The child holds onto his shopping bags from Junes and see’s the shimmering of the metal, see’s sharp gleam.

The child, who’s nine years old and living for the spring and summer alone because his parents have jobs overseas, gets a new goal.

--

“Can you teach me how to do that?” The child asks, looking up at Yosuke as Yosuke works at Junes in the electronics department.

“What?” Yosuke asks, blinking down at this curly haired kid.

“The thing you do with the knives, can you teach me how to do that?” The child’s looking up with big grey eyes through his curly bangs.

“Kid, I don’t even know who you are-”

“I’m Akira.”

“I don’t know how old you are-”

“I’m nine.”

“And.” Yosuke stresses over Akira’s interruptions, “I don’t know what your talking about.”

This gets the kid to quiet for a moment, face going a blank impasse that makes Yosuke think of his partner.

Akira pouts, his big grey eyes watery, and looks at Yosuke in the eye. “The knife tricks you do, with the pocketknife, by the river with your friends.”

Yosuke sighs, knowing this conversation’s going to be long. It’s not something he likes to talk about, to advertise he can do, because the adults around here already think he’s a delinquent with his dyed hair and his (very minor) arrest record. A little kid screaming he can also do various knife tricks in the same place he got arrested isn’t going to do very good things to his reputation, or may even get him arrested again knowing his luck.

“Oh, those tricks, yeah we can talk about them later.” Yosuke tells the kid, Akira, quietly. “I’m not agreeing to teach you, I’m agreeing to talk about it when I am not at work okay?”

Akira’s grey eyes light up, and god Yosuke’s just reminded of Yu everytime Akira smiles. They have the same eye color, the same kind of expression, the same air about them.

Fuck. This kid’s gonna be hard to say no to.

--

After work the kid’s waiting by the riverbed, sitting on a bench and swinging his little legs in waiting. Yosuke had told the kid he got off in an hour, to go home and put the groceries away and then meet him by the river on the street that runs parallel to Junes.

Yosuke sighs, and waves to get the little kids attention.

Akira looks excited, bouncing in the seat and swinging his little legs back and forth. “Yosuke-senpai!” Akira’s shouting.

Yosuke doesn't question how the kid knew his name, he’s kinda infamous in this town. That and the whispers of the midnight channel still run strong, everyone’s been looking at their group because of the snippets they saw on the TV late at night sometimes when the rain was strong.

“Hello.” Yosuke sits down beside Akira, leaning back and preparing to try and figure out how to let this kid down gently. How to tell Akira that no, Yosuke won’t teach him how to actually spin a knife around like a crazed delinquent. Yosuke won’t teach this nine year old how to use knives for defense, how to flip the knife perfectly across one’s knuckles to go from guarding against life ending swipes to slashing across weaknesses of the shadow across from you.

Yosuke opens his mouth to tell Akira no, it wouldn’t be right for a seventeen year old to teach a nine year old how to wield a goddamn knife.

But Yosuke stops his train of thought when he sees the kids fingertips has bandages, the knuckles on his small hands have bruises. Akira is small, his pale skin showing bruises like black smears across his hands.

Yosuke knows that if he says no, Akira will continue to practice all on his own. He’ll eventually get it right, but Yosuke remembers his own hands looking like that in the beginning. Having to write essays with bandaged fingers, trying to not get blood on his pens and pencils, having to write off smears of red on papers he handed in as nosebleeds.

Shit.

“I’ll help you.” Yosuke says.

Akira’s smile lights up his entire face.

“Under a few conditions.”

Akira’s smile doesn't falter.

“You don’t practice if I’m not around.” Yosuke starts, “Let your parents use the knives in the kitchen and that's it, okay?”

Now Akira’s bright expression falters for a moment, “If my parents … aren’t home?”

Yosuke sighs, and suddenly this just whole situation just twisted itself into a whole new nightmare. It wasn’t unusual for parents to leave their children to take care of themselves for a short while, even when the children were younger, but this is so similar to Yu that Yosuke feels his heart break. That wasn’t the sound of a kid who’s been left alone for only three or four days, this is the sound of a kid who’s been left alone for three or four months.

Yu hadn’t seen his own parents for nearly a year before he was sent out here to Inaba, and the effect it had on him was visible to the whole Investigation Team.

“Do you have someone helping you out in the kitchen?” Yosuke asked, and at Akira’s small shake of his head Yosuke curses.

A plan starts to form.

--

The days eventually go that Yosuke gets up, kicks Teddie awake so that both of them can get to school on time (Yosuke goes to Highschool, Teddie’s age is guessed at being young enough to be in his last year of middle school). Yosuke hangs out with his friends at school, pays attention in class so he can go to a good college in the city with Yu, after school he bikes to Junes and does a shift there.

On Monday after his shift he eats dinner with his family and Teddie, on Tuesday it’s making dinner for Akira at the kids rather empty house, simply being a person in the kids life so he’s not lonely. Wednesday is dinner with the Investigation Team, sometimes Nanako and Akira tagging along and talking together recalling their days at the elementary school. Thursday its dinner with Akira again, then Friday its with his family and Teddie. Saturday it’s with the investigation team again training in the TV world just to keep up something to do, and Sunday is family time again sometimes with a friend thrown in here and there.

He’s on the phone with Yu, getting a recipe to cook for Akira, when Teddie slams into him and demands to talk to senpai, the team’s in school and it’s lunchtime, but all the schools are so close to one another that Teddie simply ignores the entirely of the middle school he goes to and barges into the high school during lunch.

The days are softer now, without the threat of murders hanging over their heads. The town seems to settle, without the excitement of Persona’s Yosuke feels like a normal high schooler again.

Then Yu rejoins the team for Golden week, his bags barely hitting the floor of his old room in the Dojima’s residence before everything starts up again. The grand-prix, the not-Teddie Teddie, the Shadow Operatives. It’s a flurry of activity, one on one battles that Yosuke barely gets through with all his wits and strength. Thank god the lot of them still had kept up their training through the lazy days.

When the first one ends the second round begins, it’s only a moment before they get thrown into another fight, Adachi making a comeback for a few moments before that fight begins.

When that whole situation ends, Yosuke sits in his bathroom at three in the morning hurling into the toilet. Teddie’s in the room the two of them share, not sleeping but not really awake either. The team’s gonna meet up tomorrow, share the day together and try to not talk about the shit they just went through. They never talk about this, the aftermath of battles, the strain on their bodies. Using a persona drains you, badly enough that the first time using one makes your body scream in pain. Even after a year and some change of using persona’s the drain of them still’s present when the Team’s done using them.

Yosuke gets maybe three hours of sleep that night, Teddie gets none.

They meet up the next day, and true to Yosuke’s expectations they don’t talk about any of the darker things having a persona means, it’s just simply that silent kind of dependability. They each wrap the other up in their own way, each supplying that something that someone else needs. They each grounded the other in reality, kept each other from being lost in the world dicated by something outside of reality. When the shadow’s around you kept whispering harsh things into your ears you needed a support structure.

A persona was an inner self, a self that needed to be kept aware of at all times and never denied. As soon as a persona user denied a persona it would escape and become a shadow again, one to either fight or be accepted again.

But hey, Yosuke probably was one of the most mentally healthy kid in highschool now, considering that he fought his own psych on like the daily. It was an odd thing to have to do whenever he summoned a persona, evaluate how his mind was doing and make sure his mind was solid enough for the persona to bounce off of and use as a anchor.

It takes a hot minute, but after Golden Week Yosuke bids farewell to his partner, Yu.

They probably hug longer than bro code dictates, wrapped up in each other. Yosuke’s hand grips hard on Yu’s back, Yu’s head tucked into Yosuke’s shoulder. Yosuke doesn't want to let Yu leave again, Yu doesn’t want to leave.

--

“Why do I balance the knife on this finger?” Akira asks, carefully holding the dulled down knife that Yosuke took from his own collection all those months ago.

“So that its harder to get the knife out of your hand when you switch grips” Yosuke says as he rereads the instructions Yu had given him during golden week. Yu had given him a small cookbook with a small shy smile and an explanation that it would be easier to look at this then texting whole recipes back and forth to each other. Yu hadn’t blushed when he explained he had handwritten each recipe, made the whole book by himself.

“Why does the knife have to be facing that way when I go over my middle knuckle?” Akira asks, trying the trick again. The knife falters because the child does it just a little too slow, but he’s getting there slowly but surely. He’s been practicing for a while now, clearly his small fingers are beginning to strengthen into hands that’ll never drop the weapon.

“So when you grip the base at the end of the flourish it’s the right way around. Not facing towards you.” Yosuke turns to look at Akira, to check to make sure the child’s still doing the trick right.

Akira was, perfectly copying the movements like he saw Yosuke-senpai did.

“Yosuke-senpai, thank you for making me dinner.” Akira says, grey eyes wide and watery. “I really like when you cook, it's nice to eat dinner with Senpai.”

Yosuke freezes for a second, before easing into a smile. He understands the feeling, the feeling of sharing a meal with friends, with family. “I like eating dinner with you too Akira!”

Akira’s thin shoulders pull up, his watery eyes simply get all backed up with tears and he drops the blunted knife he was practicing with. Akira starts to cry in that hiccup-sob way that children do.

Yosuke works on instinct, copies what he’s seen Yu do to Nanako a dozen or so times.

Yosuke wraps Akira up in his arms, moves away from the counter and simply scoops up the little bit into his chest. Akira’s small for his age, so he fits easily into Yosuke’s embrace.

“-I’m sorry senpai! I’m sorry! I’m too big to cry!” Akira’s trying to stop his crying all while trying to dry his tears. “It’s just your so cool and you and your friends are so cool and you said you liked hanging out with me and-” The little boy continues to cry.

Yosuke sighs, but holds onto Akira a little tighter anyway.

--

After that it’s easy to call Akira ‘Little Bit’, and in turn Akira calls Yosuke ‘Bro-senpai’. Nanako and Akira hang out more, Yosuke studies with Yukiko and Chie, calling Yu for hours at a time to get his help studying as well.

Akira helps Nanako in school, He’s only a two grades ahead of her and they become fast friends. They’re wicked smart, both of them, and they constantly run circles around any adult that tries to interact with them. They both like Teddie, like his puns and his cheerful attitude, so when the older kids need to find the younger ones its normally Teddie they turn to.

Sometimes even Teddie loses track of them however, and after Teddie shakes off the momentary panic of losing Nanako (days at the hospital, holding onto this little girl's hand and trying not to just lose it) he goes to his team and the entire team goes around trying to find the little rascals.

Most of the time the two of them are off galavanting around the forest. At another friends house. Junes. School. The Shopping district.

Sometimes, however, Yosuke is picking up Akira at the police station. He and Nanako had been picked up several miles from town, ‘investigating’ a mystery. Nanako would get a talking to via Dadjima but Akira’s parents were out of the picture for now, all the way in the states and sending money back for their child to live on.

Yosuke sighs as Akira hangs on the back of the bike, silent as the grave as Yosuke biked to Akira’s home to drop him off. Akira was crying, but Yosuke wasn’t saying anything about the wet spot on his shirt, wasn’t saying anything about the shaking, the sniffles, the tight grip of a small hand.

Yosuke brings Akira to the Hanamura residence.

Bringing Akira to his empty home at this hour, with no dinner made and nothing to think about besides his mess up today would be worse than any kind of punishment.

Yosuke’s parents liked Akira, they cared about people just like their son did. Mr. and Mrs. Hanamura were good people, and when their son brought someone home with a “this person needs help” they sure as shit helped them.

Dinner was easy, spoken with low tones. The atmosphere wasn’t accusing, wasn’t pointed.

Akira was given Yosuke’s bed, and Yosuke slept on the couch in the living room. It wasn’t long before the morning though, Yosuke waking up to a kink in his back and a heavy weight at his side.

Akira had snuck in during the night, curled up against Yosuke’s side and fallen asleep like that. Yosuke simply took in the morning around him, the soft sound of birds outside, the clinking in the kitchen from his mother making breakfast, the thud of Teddie’s footsteps. The barely there light of morning, the smell of frying egg.

Akira wakes up after a moment or two, wiping the sleep from his eyes and getting up off of Yosuke.

“Bro-senpai, I think breakfast’s almost ready for us.” Akira shakes Yosuke’s shoulder.

Yosuke gets up and goes to help set the table.

--

The days pass again, Yu and Rise visit when they can, but it's mostly perfectly normal. They all grow older by a year, and time simply moves on.

Rise asks the Team to dance with her in her comeback show, and the Investigation team accepts. They arrive at the studio and shit of course hits the fan.

Yosuke’s not too bad of a dancer it turns out, it’s simple to move to a rhythm when he’s been doing it in the TV world for a while now. It’s a much quicker kind of movement than he’s used to, a heavier bass, but it's the same principle.

Yosuke also never really danced away his troubles before so literally, but there's a first time for everything. It’s a lot of avoiding the ribbon that lashed out onto the stage when one of them dances in the middle. The music is loud, the moves are exhausting in a way using a persona wasn’t, but it's fun in its own twisted odd way.

The people who went to the festival remember it as ‘the coolest show ever performed live’ and the people who worked at the festival remember it as ‘the nightmare show’. Apparently all of the persona stuff was just waved off as ‘special effects’ by everybody on the internet. The video looked really dope though, with all their persona’s coming up and absolutely shredding that song.

Nanako got an idol offer out of it, because the crowds loved her and she was truly adorable. She looked great in those idol dresses and her simple songs were catchy to listen to. Teddie was a huge hit with the audiences as well, his blue eyes and bubbly personality made people want more. He might have weaseled his way into a modeling contract or two.

Even Yosuke got asked to be in a few modeling shoots, discrete agents coming up and asking him, his parents, about smiling wide and putting his good side to the camera. His parents were hesitant, but Yosuke took the jobs. He hated working at Junes and it was simply easier to get out of work by having other, cooler, work.

There was more than one festival technician that had come up to them and begged to know how to do what they had did on stage, how did they get those effects to flow so smoothly?

Rise saved them with a wink and a twirl and some celebrity magic. She managed to make all the questions go away, directed towards someone else.

Goodbye’s this time were easier, with more and more things connecting them it should be harder to seperate but with all the things connecting them they know they’ll never be separated for long.

When Yosuke gets back to Inaba with everyone the entire school is buzzing white hot from their fifteen minutes of fame. Everybody wants to hear about their dance, wants to see it, wants to know how they did working with those awesome special effects, working with those idols! Everybody wants to be their friend.

It’s weird for Yosuke, who was the one they usually avoided like the plague, but not unwelcome.

Akira wanted to know how to dance to, wanted to know the rhythm Yosuke followed and wanted to dance with Nanako when she practiced. The kid was good at it to, easily hopping along to the steps and keeping pace with people who’ve practiced for far longer than he has. Akira and Nanako dance with each other often, Yosuke’s long outpaced by both of them.

The Investigation Team uses the high energy dancing when they fight shadows in the TV world, it's easy to get into a rhythm with each other now. They don’t need to fight the shadows anymore, not really, but it’s a good way to keep in shape and to get rid of stress. The team is strong enough to solo a few shadows at once, but they all agree to go in in sets of three or more.

Yosuke’s headphones are used to keep time cranked up to max volume, then a portable speaker when those become widely available. The pop music flows easily between each of them, intermingled with each persona users personal taste. The playlist is nearly three hundred songs long, Yosuke making most of it himself.

Yosuke won’t admit to anyone else, but sometimes in his own room he still practices some of the more complicated moves that Rise had taught them, the ones they can’t use in the TV world because it leaves everyone too open.

--

Time passes again, the third years of the Investigation Team graduate from Yasogami High. Yosuke’s parents take him out to eat in the city, a nice American restaurant that serves food so mouthwateringly delicious Yosuke has to tell Yu to brush up on American cooking. Chie and Yukiko congratulate Yosuke on his acceptance into the college in the city, both of them are taking on and off night classes at the community college around Inaba while working something else. Yukiko has her family’s inn, Chie’s enrolled herself into the police academy under the recommendation of Dojima.

Before Yosuke leaves Inaba they throw a party, a small one.

Chie and Yukiko aren’t allowed to touch the cooking food, but they do show up with a store bought cake and the shitty glasses that Teddie once had made for Yukiko all those years ago. Dojima brings Nanako and a graduation gift, something that Nanako apparently handmade for him and Yu to share at their dorm room. Teddie brings Akira, the boy’s parents are back in town and they refuse to let Little Bit roam around by himself.

His parents like Teddie, the adorable mascot of Junes and frequent babysitter of various kids around Inaba when he wasn’t modeling. Akira’s parents like Teddie a hell of a lot better than they like Yosuke at any rate.

The two youngest are inseparable, circling around Yosuke like lost puppies. They grab onto his jeans and Yosuke tries real hard not to trip as he walks around the room.

The party goes into the night, it’s easy to be loose and happy with friends, the pull of sleep felt by everyone in the room.

Yosuke’s leaving tomorrow, and he’ll be sad to leave everyone. Damn.

The party ends with no fanfare, people leaving one by one with tearful goodbyes and long lasting hugs.

When Akira goes to leave, holding onto Teddie’s fingers and swaying with sleep, Yosuke pushes a small package into his hands.

Akira looks up, a question on his face.

“Don’t open it until I’m gone okay?” Yosuke says. “Text me about it in college. You’ll like it, I promise.”

The next day, Yosuke is on a train riding into the city where Yu was waiting for him. His life is packed in three suitcases, his headphones play soft western music as the train rolls over the tracks.

His phone is blowing up with goodbyes, see-you-soons, it warmed Yosuke’s heart. This was different from when he came to Inaba, with a heavy heart and pent up rage. His phone had been silent then, dead with no messages from his old ‘friends’.

It takes a moment, but Akira’s text comes through after about an hour of travel.

“!!! Bro-senpai!” The text is accompanied with a shaky photo, a photo of one of Yosuke’s knives. It’s a sharp kunai, beautiful black and white blade that’s weighted just perfectly. The blade’s sharp enough to cut through whatever’s in its way, its been infused by various shadow parts, given to the Inaba blacksmith under the table and with an extra hundred yen to keep quiet about it. It’s never gotten dull, even though Yosuke’s used it on a fair share of items over the year he’s had it, and it also shines with a peculiar light that almost looks like the shine of eyes at night.

“Take good care of it.” Yosuke texts back. “It’s yours now.”

Akira promises to keep the blade in good condition, to make sure the blade’s not going to deteriorate. Thanks Yosuke over and over again and again.

Yosuke’s glad he gave the knife away to the kid, he has a feeling Akira will need it soon anyway.

--

It’s another few years down the road, Yu and Yosuke are living together in the city, their apartment filled with pictures of everyone and tiny plants. Yu’s graduated with a masters in communication, Yosuke has a forensics degree. The two of them like their jobs, like coming home to one another, and like to let their friends visit often.

Rise is now an actor, long outgrown her idol career and working in cinemas. She’s a great actor too, her chemistry with other actors amazing to watch on the big screen.

Teddie is a model still, working his way through college and studying psychology all the while. He’s still a huge dork, still trying to find love, and still just a little odd with the way he blends in with this world.

Kanji still works in textiles, taken over the shop from his mother. Yukiko has full control of her family’s inn, and her and Chie’s relationship is nearing its two year anniversary. Chie herself is a full time police officer, taking over Dojima’s position as he retires. Naoto is still a detective, she’s happy to see so many of the team in a police position. She’s like a proud mother hen when she hears their stories of helping others.

Yu and Yosuke aren’t in an official relationship, not really, just called each other partners and shared rent and space and love. They would sit on the couch, legs crossed in each others and reading silently together. Yosuke would take a light nap and Yu would watch TV, they simply existed together in their shared space.

When going back to Inaba on weekends they have time they usually visit their friends, Nanako whos hit it big into being an idol, Akira who’s studying hard to follow in the footsteps of his senpai and wants to go into detective work of some kind. The Hanamura’s are thinking about handing off their store to a younger generation, their getting up in years after all. Dojima is happy to be retired, still being called into consulting during hard cases.

They like this life, this existence, Teddie leaves a exit in everyone’s TV’s when they buy TV’s large enough for their homes. It’s a just in case kind of thing, simply there for when days get really bad and you needed to beat the shit out of shadows. They never go alone, that's the rule nowadays, to not step foot in the TV world without first sending a text in the Investigation Team’s group chat and going with your partner to erase some shadows from existence.

The easy days they have are only interrupted by their own paranoia.

Yu won’t go to bed before midnight on rainy days, staying up in the living room with the TV off simply waiting for midnight to roll around.

Yukiko and Chie check on one another pretty constantly on foggy days, their phones in their pocket with the text tone on.

Yosuke has his headphones and sometimes the world gets too loud. The disgusting sounds of something sometimes drives him into a panic because it simply sounds too similar to the shadows.

Naoto’s always too quick on the draw, still not really used to the non-violence of the daily grind of her job. Not every villain is Adachi, but it's easy to see him in people nowadays.

Kanji’s aggression got better, but his sense of scale is so warped it’s amazing he functions sometimes. Kanji’s tolerance of things is insane, always relating it back to a ‘this-isn’t-the-worst-thing-i’ve-dealt-with’ mentality. He’s walked away from more than one motorcycle accident.

Teddie can't be alone, he’s inconsolable when somebody leaves him accidentally. He’s lived a long time alone in that world without contact and know that he knows about a friendly touch he’s never going back.

--

It’s been a rough day already when Yosuke gets the message:

“I’ve been arrested.”

It’s from Akira, the kid’s just finishing his first year of highschool. The kid’s shot up like a weed and is dryly funny and keeps his grades good. He still dances like a dork with Nanako when she’s not on tour in the city and he still holds all of the stuffed animals Kanji makes him tight to his chest when Kanji gives them to him and fights back tears. He’s a huge loveable goof who’s been trying to live up to his senpai’s names and be a force of good in this world.

“Shit.” Yosuke curses, Yu peaks his head over the edge of the couch and makes a question sound. Yosuke holds up a finger and texts Akira back:

“Can you call?”

“Whats up?” Yu asks, attention fully on Yosuke and pulled away from his crossword puzzle.

“Little Bit’s gotten himself into trouble.” Yosuke says, biting his lip and turning off the stove. He had been planning to cook something quick for both of them but this might just put their plans for tonight on hold.

Yu’s eyes narrow, looking at the phone as Yosuke shows him the text message exchange.

The ringing of the phone pulls both men’s attention, and Yosuke answers.

Akira’s voice is wobbly on the other side, tinny through the speaker. He sounds so tired. “Bro-senpai?”

Yosuke feels his heart break a little bit, and judging by the look on Yu’s face he also feels terrible. “Hey Little Bit, you doing okay?”

Akira’s inhale is shaky, wobbling. “I think, I think I messed up real bad Bro-senpai.”

Yu’s hand interlaces in Yosuke’s, the silent support does wonders because Yosuke’s able to open his mouth and tell Akira, “I’m here, tell me everything.”

Akira does, spill everything that’s happened. The interference on the behalf of a poor woman, the accident, the police, the whirlwind arrest. The screaming man, the one who’s bullying this case to a conclusion fast and hard all the while keeping his hands clean of it all, demanded Akira be tried as an adult and not a minor, demanded Akira go to actual jail over this.

His parents are apparently ‘in awe that their son could do something like this’ but their not fighting his jail time, not fighting his arrest.

Yu’s already texting Dojima, already is asking Chie and Naoto for help in this. Dojima might not be an actual officer anymore but he has powerful friends, Chie won’t be swayed by anything but the actual law, and Naoto can get the details of what actually happened to the courts.

In the end, Akira gets a probation. He has to leave Inaba for a year. No jail time.

It’s not perfect, but it’s not the worst case either. Akira got really lucky this time.

Yosuke and Yu offer him a place at their apartment, but Akira’s parents are pissed. Mad that their son has devolved into a ‘criminal’ and they think it’s all in part thanks to his ‘terrible influences’ of ‘those two boys who aren’t fully right’. They refuse to let Akira near the Investigation Team, even Teddie and Nanako get the cold shoulder. Akira begs, asks his parents please, but they refuse the offer.

The last anyone hears from Akira is the day before he leaves Inaba. He texts everyone that he knows who he’ll be staying with for the year, nestled in the corners of Tokyo and at least he’ll get to visit Yu and Yosuke over this whole nightmare of a year right?

Then it’s all radio silence.

--

Yosuke and Teddie are headed to a concert that Nanako is holding in the city. She’s excited and has invited everyone she could reach out to. Teddie’s had to travel the farthest to get here, so he’s the last to arrive in the city. Yosuke’s agreed to meet him at the train station and get him to the apartment he and Yu share where the pre-festival party is happening. The concert is in two days, but the entire Investigation team has agreed to meet up beforehand and hang out for a while.

Teddie see’s Yosuke before Yosuke sees Teddie, with the scream of of “YOSUKE!” and a flying tackle. Teddie’s slim and shorter than Yosuke is, but he’s still heavy enough that Yosuke stumbles from the sudden catch.

“God! Teddie! Gettoff!” Yosuke tries to pry his adopted brother off of him but Teddie stays true and keeps his grip strong. Yosuke almost wishes for Teddie to be in that bearsuit of his, because at least in that Teddie weighs way less.

“Yosuke! I’ve missed you!” Teddie’s dramatics pull attention, but most people don’t linger for long. It’s a mixture of thinking Teddies foreign and weird. Which technically both are true.

Eventually Teddie does get back onto the floor, Yosuke threatening to drop Teddie’s ass onto the ground.

Teddie’s chatting about how fun it was to do shoots in Australia, even though he did manage to get burned as red as his bear clothes. Yosuke never needed to know that fact, ever. Teddie has some shots on his phone, mostly of the Australian outback but some solid shots of Teddie himself.

The two are almost out of the subway, Yosuke reaching for his metrocard when the shout causes them both to freeze for a moment.

“SHADOW!” A voice yowls, high pitched and having a strange undertone to it.

Teddie turns to look at were the voice is coming from when he gets a ball of furry fury to the face.

Teddie screams, the animal that's attacking him is also screaming, which is weird.

This does draw attention, the people around Teddie also shrieking in surprise and jumping away. Yosuke’s the only one who leaps towards his friend, grabbing the white and black cat that’s screaming -- screams that sound surprisingly like Japanese and suspiciously not like meowing-- and tossing the cat bodily away from Teddie.

Teddie’s bleeding, the cat’s claws gotten ahold of of his cheek and had dug deep, leaving bright red streaks. Yosuke immediately pulls Teddie back to him, protecting his adopted brother from another attack bodily.

The cat’s been caught by a girl with bright orange hair, the girl trying to hold the angry hissing cat still but being unsuccessful. The cat climbs onto her shoulders, and its still screaming.

“SHADOW!” The cat’s yowling. “HOW!? HOW ARE YOU HERE?! IN THIS WORLD!?”

The girl with orange hair is trying to shut the cat up, but the cat’s still an angry squirming mess.

Yosuke, in the back of his mind, thinks it’s been a long goddamn time since Teddie was just a ‘shadow’. Teddie might have started out as a shadow, but he’s been living in this world for a while now. Teddie was perfectly healthy, albeit sometimes he had funky imuno problems that came from not totally being exposed to society until eight years ago and everytime he went to the doctor they were frankly amazed at how he had (seemingly) no bones and or organs. Teddie’s human form was all his own, from his own formed psyche.

The angry cat leaps again, and a pulse echoes through the air, thick displacement for a moment causing Yosuke’s air in this throat to catch.

The world around them changes in an instant, within a blink the busy metro station morphed from the normal views of modern busy life to something pink red and pulsating. Black inky lines race up the walls, the whole place went from smelling like city and people to something rotting and left out past due date. The people around them melt away, the only people now are the orange haired girl and a few standing behind her.

The cat goes from a normal looking cat to something … more akin to Teddie actually.

The cat looks like a fucking mascot, actually.

The cat is still screaming.

“HOW DO YOU LOOK HUMAN!?” The cat screeches at pulls out a … holy shit thats a sword.

Yosuke pulls Teddie back from the attack, pulls Teddie back and down to avoid the swipe of a sword that gets alot closer to either of them then Yosuke would like. The cat jumps back, a short distance away near the people it knows. The group behind him are yelling at the cat, the meaning behind the jumble of voices gets lost.

Teddie and Yosuke jump apart, in line right beside each other like they had done a thousand times before. Yosuke reaches for his pocket knife, flicking the blade open and twirling it in front of him for defense. It’s a shorter blade, not one for battling but for daily utility use. Thank goodness it’s not the shortest, or even stupidest, thing Yosuke ever had to battle with.

Teddie has no weapon, just his duffle bag of things for a few days. He’s got clothes to change into, some makeup, and various electronics. Teddie’s not willing to just go down without a fight however, one doesn’t live in a place like the TV for as long as he did without picking up how to fight dirty. He’s survived for a bear-y long time all by himself in the realm of shadows, he wasn’t about to lose to a bunch of kids.

“Shut up!” A girl dressed in all leather says, her long scarf trailing behind her like a cape. “Everybody calm down! Mona! Stop the assault!”

The cat, Mona, halts another wind up for another rush. It’s too big eyes flicking back and forth between the girl who called out to him and Teddie.

“Mona! Wait for Joker to arrive!” A boy in a skull mask yells. “We need our leader!”

“He’s a shadow!” Mona points the sword at Teddie. “A shadow that was walking around in our world! The real world!”

“That is no excuse to warp us all to the Metaverse!” the girl with the scarf huffs. “Joker is running late and without him we shouldn’t battle! Halt all attacks!”

Yosuke and Teddie share a look with each other, this is a familiar enough situation for both of them to get a sense of deja-vu.

Teddie deescalates the situation though, just like he always does. He cocks his hip out to one side and pouts, throwing his head to the side enough to flip his hair. He lets out a dramatic sigh. Teddie a huge goober, but he always does try to keep the mood light when he can. “I can’t believe you ruined my beary-y good looks!” Teddie’s voice pitches high and silly, the voice he uses when he wants people to laugh.

It at the very least causes the group of weirdly dressed teenagers to pause. The cat still doesn't look too happy, but it’s not actively attacking anymore.

“I’ll have to wait a bear-y long time for this to heal! My face! My bear-tiful face-!”

“Stop making bear puns damn it!” The skull mask kid says, the look of confusion almost making Yosuke burst out into laughter.

“Why?” Teddie almost looks offended at the thought of not making really stupid puns. “I don’t think my wording is unbearable or anything.”

Yosuke does actually laugh at the pure confusion on the faces of the kids now, cackling so hard he needs to hold onto Teddie’s shoulder.

“Is? Was that another pun?” The skull kid demands, his face under the mask red.

“You sure catch on bear-y fast don't you?”

This causes actual laugher in the group of teenagers now, ranging from a girl in a red bodysuit to actually burst out laughing and a boy in a fox mask biting his lip to keep from laughing too hard.

Yosuke smacks Teddie upside the head, not hard enough to actually cause pain but just enough to ruffle the hair and make Teddie bust out the dramatic flailing.

“Ow! Yosuke!” Teddie pouts, turning slightly to face Yousuke.

Yosuke steps forward and gets down to business, he had thought he had left all this crazy shit back in highschool but apparently life just keeps on giving. Persona users probably never got to be normal, something in the stars just decides that whoever got magic powers also had a weird ass life. At this point, however, Yosuke’s real good at rolling with the punches that get thrown.

Apparently the group of kids were waiting on their ‘leader’ to arrive because he was running late from his job. Mona, the cat, was still high strung, glaring at Teddie. The names of everyone are revealed, all code names of some kind. It doesn’t take long for Yosuke to figure it out.

“You guys are the Phantom Thieves.” Yosuke says when the last one to introduce themselves finished.

The flash of panic through everyone, all of them looking around at one another trying to see if another would talk. It answers the statement well enough, the wash of guilt over the posture of every teen.

Teddie flashes a questioning look to Yosuke, but Yosuke shakes his head in a way that means ‘later’. Teddie accepts that, the two of them having had long talks before where Yosuke explains things Teddie didn't understand.

“What? Hahaha no way! Guys that’s so wild, us, being accused of being the Phantom Thieves!” Panther laughs awkwardly, enough that even Yosuke feels bad for how bad that acting is. Panther is the only one laughing too, which somehow makes it even worse? The rest of the Phantom Thieves just look really awkward too, and the fact that their whole team is acknowledging the terrible acting somehow just makes it all the more terrible.

“Panther, just … Stop.” Oracle sighs. “Joker’s on his way soon, he’s coming from the gates of Mementos. It’ll take him a while to get down to us. I’ll have to direct him to us.”

The Phantom Thieves get tense again, and finally the girl with the scarf steps forward looking incredibly embarrassed. “We need you two not to freak out.”

“I promise you.” Yosuke says, “That there is nothing you can do to make me freak out.”

They don’t look like that promise reassured them, like at all actually, and Oracle steps forward and shouts:

“PERSONA!”

--

Akira wasn’t having a good day, he had forgotten an umbrella, his phone didn’t charge during the night, he had trouble paying attention in class, and the rush at work was too long and made him late to the meeting. Morgana wasn’t even with him, Futaba taking him for the day because she had to go out in public and she needed the support of a friend with her.

He got a text from Futaba when he was still on the train, a ‘In metaverse, go to Mementos’.

That was weird, it was possible for the persona users to limitedly text each other while one was in the Metaverse and another wasn’t, but normally they wouldn’t even go into the Metaverse without him there.

He got to the station, and walked into Mementos with a stride. It was an easy change at this point, the switch between worlds so simple and familiar. The cloak of ‘Joker’ donned upon with ease. His persona’s thrumming under his skin whispering things so sweetly. Sweet enough almost to listen to, to give into the temptation that they offered.

Akira never gave in though, because that would be wrong to do. The simple things that the shadows wanted was something he couldn’t give because it would cause pain.

It wasn’t long before the sound of Futaba’s voice echoes in his head. “Joker! On Level one! I’m sending you the coordinates now.”

It’s easy to see the path laid out for him, and he follows it easily. The terrain is harder to navigate without the aid of Morgana, but it's easier to avoid shadows like this, he’s quicker to turn corners and dodge away from sight.

When he sees the group bunched up in a stowaway corner of Mementos he also instantly recognizes the two standing a little to the side, looking rather amused.

“Bro-senpai?!” Akira jerks back, his heel slipping on the slightly slimy floor of the warped subway. “Teddie-senpai?!”

There, standing casually, were his senpai’s from Inaba. Yosuke and Teddie looking so relaxed, Teddie seems to be looking around Mementos with a critical eye and Yosuke is looking at Necronomicon with a faintly impressed expression. Yosuke and Teddie look when their names are called however.

“Little bit?!” Yosuke exclaims, looking surprised and then ecstatic. “Oh my god! Little Bit!”

“Akira?” Teddie asks, looking between the two of them and smiling wide.

Yosuke and Teddie move forward, towards Akira. Yosuke opens his arms and Akira runs forward for a hug, his gloved hands gripping the back of Yosuke's jacket hard. Yosuke’s holding Akira so gently that suddenly he’s nine years old again, in the kitchen of his house and the smell of curry comes from the kitchen and it’s … it's a little overwhelming.

Akira lets go after a moment, and Teddie’s suddenly there. Teddie’s smell is familiar, but now since visiting the Metaverse its familiar in a whole new way. That’s something they’ll have to talk about later.

His team is there a moment later, and they all look a little confused and overwhelmed.

“You know these two?” Ryuji asks, his eyes behind his mask wide.

“Yeah.” Akira nods, “They’re my senpai’s, we all come from the same town, Inaba.”

“Holy shit, it’s Leader’s Senpai’s?!” Ryuji’s loud exclamation causes the whole Phantom Thieves to look at the two strangers in a whole new light.

Questions popped up, a lot of questions.

But Mementos isn’t made for safety when not hiding out in specific safe spots, and so in the pile of questions and people get surprised attacked.

It’s not a particularly strong shadow, but its quick and before Akira knew it the shadow was on them bringing two friends along. It’s claws dripped with poison, hooked wickedly, but Akira was only so quick at ripping off his mask. The shadow would get its claws into Teddie before Akira could do anything. The Phantom Thieves all were reacting, but it wouldn’t be quick enough.

It turns out, none of the Phantom Thieves were quick enough.

But Yosuke was.

--

The persona looked like it had a supernova as a halo of hair, carefully being contained simply by the power of the person wielding it. Yosuke had destroyed the shadow with a powerful gust, wind slicing the shadows away like nothing. Teddie hadn’t been phased with the hurricane force winds whipping around, simply turned and smiled.

“Kamui-Moshiri!” Teddie calls, happy as a blue card hovers in front of him. He destroys it with a swipe of his hands, and his own persona comes up in a beam of light. Ice freezes the very air, as he kills off the shadows for good. He’s much slower that Yosuke, but his persona hits a helluva lot harder.

The Phantom Thieves look on, Akira in blank disbelief, others in horror, others in amazement. The persona’s linger for a moment, as if they too are inspecting this strange place they had been summoned.

The blue cards shimmer for a moment again when the persona’s fade, but they too disappear.

“Yeah I figured as much.” Yosuke says, looking at Teddie. “They did know you were a shadow after all, that’s pretty exclusive to persona’s.”

“Well I don’t like it.” Teddie puts his hands on his hips, pouting again. “This world isn’t right, it’s kinda similar to the festival labyrinth world we went to that one time, with Zen and Rei.”

Yosuke considers it. “God, I’d forgotten all about that. Now that you mention it though …”

Teddie smiles wide, putting a hand to his chest and leaning back dramatically. “My nose is never wrong, I thought you’d have learn to trust my bear-ment by now.”

“Oh dude.” Yosuke snorts in that awkward half laughter one does when they’re not wanting to admit something funny. “That was just awful.”

“I can’t always come up with grizzly puns, some of them just plain put people into hibernation.” Teddie says, deadpan.

It’s this moment that breaks the revere of the Phantom Thieves.

“For real?! You guys have personas?!” Ryuji’s amazement shows through his yell, his whole body jerking back.

Yosuke felt like that question kind of answered itself, because yes clearly he has a persona he just called for it to kill a shadow. Teddie’s persona was really large too, super hard to miss, and colorful as sin.

“Adults can have personas?” Futaba asks more seriously, mouth slanted in a hard line.

It’s Morgana’s question that makes everyone else stop however, “Shadows … can have personas?”

Teddie nods, “Yes. It took me a long time to get one though. A bear-y long time, and the help of everyone else of course.”

Akira’s brow furrows, and he looks a little torn now. The name ‘shadow’ brings bad memories of sharp burns and even sharper magical attacks, holding in the pain and the screams as he screams at his team to continue to attack. The sight of Teddie, his smell his smile his voice, all bring back comfort and the warmth of home. Teddie’s soft embraces and silly stories, his comfort, his guidance.

Teddie? A shadow?

“Are,” Akira’s voice is unsure and wavering, “Are you really a shadow Teddie?”

“He looks human, and he didn’t change appearances at all.” Makoto tries to argue, ever the logical one. “I’m going to need more proof than your word that this … Mr. Teddie is a shadow.”

Teddie laughs as Yosuke groans, and Teddie seems much too happy when he says “Turn around!”

This makes the Phantom Thieves look at one another with distrust written all over their faces. They had seen too many shadows of people to really want to see another disgusting twisted version of the rather bubbly blond in front of them.

At their hesitance, Teddie pouts, and gestures with his hands to get the teens to spin. The Phantom Thieves turn around, one by one until it’s only Akira left looking. Teddie makes the motion again, and Akira turns.

Not even a full moment passes, the shift instantly occurring. It just takes a second for Teddie to change back into a bear. His form isn’t as solid in the realm outside of reality, easily flickering between whatever he wanted. Butler uniforms, school uniforms, his own Alice costume, an attire fit for dancing even. Teddie was a cognitive being, so whatever he imagined was what he was.

“Okay! I’m bear-tiful again!” Teddie’s voice pitches differently in the bear suit, higher with a rougher edge to it. His colorful appearance feels out of place in this oddly dark world, his soft fur and wide eyes out of touch with the harsh tone.

The Phantom Thieves turn, expecting something slimy and distorted and smiling like shadows did.

Not a bear.

Not a smiling happy bear, a bear that's rocking back and forth.

Akira starts to laugh.

Akira laughs so hard, he’s gripping his sides. The other Thieves have never seen their leader like this before.

It makes a whole helluva sense, in hindsight. Teddie had just ... shown up one day, after a moment of confusion Inaba had just accepted him. Inaba was good at simply accepting what happened after all.

--

A few months ago Ryuji and Akira had been talking about nothing of real value, it had been a hard day in Mementos and the two of them were simply sitting together in the attic.

“-I liked my town, don’t insult it, we had a lot of things to do.” Akira said.

“You had a supermarket.” Ryuji says, deadpan as he hangs off the bed.

“With a cool mascot?” Akira tries to make it seem a little better.

Ryuji makes a sound, looking unimpressed. “What mascot? Junes doesn’t have a mascot it has a jingle.”

Akira, who very distinctly remembers Teddie bear costume, scoffs. “Yeah it does, a bear. Red and Blue?”

Ryuji shakes his head. “No dude. I promise you. Junes does not have a mascot.”

The conversation turns into a friendly argument about the differences in their hometowns that involves the whole chat eventually. Makoto sends a screenshot of a googled question eventually, saying that it was too late and to shut up. Akira was laughing too hard to add Morgana’s yowl of ‘go to bed!’.

--

They had gotten out of the Metaverse easily. Yosuke and Teddie joined the party for a moment, taking the place of Panther and Yusuke. Teddie hit like a damn truck, a wicked strong punch that was slow to wind up. Yosuke’s persona was fast, faster than any one in the Phantom Thieves. His persona didn’t hit as hard, but it was quick enough to get in more than one hit pretty often. Yosuke’s persona also sped up the entire party, it wasn’t often that not one Phantom thief got a single injury in battle, but because of ‘Youthful Wind’ the evasion rate was astronomical.

There was comments made about how the older two summon their persona. The shining blue card appearing with a call and the persona being summoned when the card was destroyed. Yosuke destroyed his magician arcana with the swipe of his blade, Teddie crushed his in his hand because he had no official weapon.

When the world finally returned to normal, the Metaverse melting off them like snow, the outfits of each thief disappearing with a single step. Yosuke’s outfit hadn’t changed, but when the weight of the glasses disappears he realizes he had been wearing the orange frames. Teddie’s

Akira immediately reaches into his back pocket, fishing out his phone.

He shoves the phone into Yosuke’s hands, with the ask of “Can you remake your contact?”

“New phone?” Teddie asks, looking over the sleek grey electronic. “You had a red one before.”

“My parents took my old phone, along with all of my old contacts.” Akira actually sounds really broken up about it. “They took it the day I left, snatched it from my bag and gave me a new one.

Yosuke adds himself as a contact, Teddie adds his number too. They hand the phone back to Akira, who accepts the cell like he’s been given gold.

“We’ll get into contact,” Yosuke says when Akira’s test text goes through. “Promise.”

Akira nods, but his eyes cast to his new friends without his real conscious effort. His eyes always gave away what he was thinking, Yosuke had commented on it before, Yu also had made the note of it the first time he and Akira had ever met. That's why Akira wore the fake glasses after all, it was to hide the emotions he didn’t want anyone else to see.

Yosuke and Teddie share a look, and Yosuke’s already texting Nanako.

“I have a lot of questions for you!” the cat’s climbing up Akira’s long legs. Morgana’s sharp claws easily letting him maneuver onto his normal place on Akira’s shoulders. “Teddie, how did you … become you?”

Teddie laughs, waving off the awkwardness that just oozed from the cat. “It’s a really long story, but I’ll tell it to you if you want me too.”

Morgana’s heart swelled with hope, his fears wavering and crumbling under the shining example of exactly what he wanted to achieve. It was obtainable, it was something that, even if he was a shadow like he feared, he could become. “Yes! Yes please!”

Yosuke interrupts, showing his phone screen to the entire group of thieves. “The opportunity might come this weekend, if you want.”

It was a text from Nanako, the answer to the question “I found Akira, ran into him in Tokyo with his highschool friends. Do you happen to have seven extra seats available for your concert?”

“Yes!! Of course!! Tell him I’ve been so worried! I’ll arrange all those seats right now!”

Yosuke takes his phone back, “You’ve all been invited to Nana-chan’s concert this weekend, if you want to go of course. I’ve heard we’ve gotten some really nice VIP seats.”

It takes a moment, but eventually the Phantom Thieves exclaiming out:

“For real?! The idol Nana-chan?!”

“How are your friends so cool?!”

“VIP seats …?”

Akira laughs, and really is thankful that he has such wonderful friends.