“Ow, come on Goro-chan, come home with us! I promise I would take very good care of you~ I'd pamper you with presents and compliments eeevery day!”
Akechi, blushing and sweating a bit due to the other's intrusive proximity, wasn't even given the time to answer to that, since Hanamura promptly retorted “And how exactly would you pamper him, since you are living off my back, at the moment?!”, with an exasperated tone which equally matched his expression.
“Don't sweat the small stuff, Yosuke!” Teddie stuck his tongue out at him, still firmly clinging at Goro's arm, even rubbing up it with his cheek.
“Where would he even live, anyway? Do you think he would fit in Yosuke's closet as well?” asked Amagi, with not even the hint of a joke in her voice... Just what was wrong with these people, he wondered.
Satonaka scoffed, “There is no way he would, tall as he is” soon followed by Kujikawa's silly giggling, “Yeah, Akechi-senpai is veeery tall!”
After a few second though, she quickly composed herself and added: “Not as tall as Senpai, of course. Wait- maybe Dojima-san could host him as well? I'm sure Nanako-chan would love having another real detective around!”
Narukami had the nerve to look like he was seriously considering the possibility.
“Yeah, as much as Dojima would hate it” and there was Tatsumi, grumbling.
“Okay, that's quite enough you all, give him so space- and, Teddie will you please stop clinging to him? We are all very sorry to separate from our new friends, but you are being inappropriate” finally, Shirogane stepped in, acting as the group's voice of reason, as usual.
Seeing them so close to each other- and most of all so accepting and friendly towards him made his heart ache a bit.
Stubbornly ignoring the feeling, he shook his head and gave a cheerful laugh instead, “Don't worry Naoto, it's no bother at all!” he started, with a brief, nonchalant gesture of his free hand,“-But I'm afraid I must refuse your proposal, after all. I really need to get back to my timeline, there is still a lot I must accomplish... But thank you so much for your kindness.”
He concluded, addressing the others and offering them a somewhat sad smile, which held way too much honesty for his tastes. Well, if he had managed not to have the former Detective Prince see right through his recital, it meant that his mask was still holding up pretty well, at least.
The self-proclaimed Investigation Team seemed to be satisfied with that, since they all moved on to the rest of the large group to wish them goodbye... Everybody, except from Teddie. Who was still glued to his arm, pouting.
Goro sighed, thinking of a solution to this little, embarrassing (yet not completely unpleasant, he was forced to admit) problem. He gave a brief look to the others, who all seemed occupied and paying them no mind, “Teddie?” he then called, a soft inclination in his tone.
Slowly, the other looked up at him, and the childish sadness Goro could see in his big, sparlking eyes almost made his heart drop, but he was too busy internally cringing for what he was about to do to think about the implications of that.
“Listen-” he went on taking the other boy by a shoulder, with his free, gloved hand, causing him to finally, reluctantly let go, not without a slight noise of protest “-It's okay, you don't have to be sad. I'm sure we will meet in the future again!” he said, reassuringly and with his signature smile, almost as if he had to do with a little kid.
Apparently, his clichéd choice of words wasn't enough to placate him this time, since Teddie vigorously shook his head and exclaimed, almost whimpering: “I don't want to wait for years to see you again! What if we don't find each other?! I-I'm sure that as soon as we are done here, you'll forget about me, just like the others will after we catch the murderer!” and, to Goro's surprise, he actually started to cry, sniffing and trembling in the process.
Under normal circumstances, he would have to suppress the urge to slap him right in the face, or worse, suffocate him all together- he had never liked when other people cried, whether they were children from his days at the orphanage or Shadows of rotten adults asking for his mercy, but right now he just felt sad: sad because, for once, he had found people who seemed to genuinely like him (way more than the Phantom Thieves ever did and will, for obvious reasons), but of course he had to leave them behind and move on with his empty, straining life; sad, because he realized that Teddie's fears perfectly reflected what he himself had dreaded and was still trying to suppress deep inside his broken self, every single day for a very long time... A thought on which he really didn't want to dwell more than necessary.
Instead, he decided to act like a true hero of justice and do what nobody had ever even thought of doing for him- he just wasn't worth it, he knew that, but Teddie? Kind, silly, innocent and generous Teddie definitely deserved better: he would have given him hope. And maybe, who knows, they would have really met in the future... Possibly in the next few weeks, before the Elections.
…Possibly before the 20th.
Slowly, he took a handkerchief which, funnily enough, was embroidered with a small, elegant light-blue forget-me-not, from his pocket and delicately dried the other boy’s tears, gently placing his right hand at the base of his jaw.
“I can't say for your friends, even if they don't look like the kind of people who would leave a comrade, or better, a friend behind-” as he started speaking, he pressed the now-wet handkerchief against Teddie's hand, urging him to take it.
“-But rest assured, I promise I'll do my best not to forget all of this, not to forget you, okay?” And with that, he tenderly, quickly met the Teddie's lips, then distancing himself before the other could actually process what had just happened.
Taking a few steps back, he playfully smiled at the shorter's stupor and redness, as he concluded “I'd be very happy if you held onto that for me until we meet again” and he nodded in the hand squeezing the handkerchief's direction.
Satisfied by his flawless performance, which he confirmed had passed unseen by the others, he moved to join them, leaving the poor, flustered Teddie behind.
He had just finished speaking some last few words to the members of SEES, when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned, only to meet Narukami's face which, for once, held a smile rather than the usual poker-face:
“Can I get a goodbye kiss as well?”