No matter how many times Akira runs into Akechi at Le Blanc, he isn't sure he will ever get used to it.
And yet, there is something that seems perfectly natural about his-- is it waiting? for him?-- outside of the café. Perhaps it's the fact that he's-- just earlier today-- opened up about the fact that he knew of the Phantom Thieves' identities before proposing working together, but a part of Akira feels like Akechi already is part and parcel of the Phantom Thieves.
Like he was always meant to join them, to be on their side instead of working against them.
"I apologize for intruding on your space yet again... but after everything that happened today, I wished to make certain that I hadn't caused some manner of offense."
Akira shakes his head. Akechi's smile has always struck him as oddly disarming, even as pasted on as it looks to be.
"You didn't cause offense."
"In that case, might I trouble you for a cup of coffee?"
Akira's not sure he's really the best person to be serving anyone coffee, even after countless lessons from Sojiro on the topic, but-- something compels him to smile and nod regardless.
Maybe it's that disarming smile. He certainly feels disarmed.
He doesn't expect the storm that awaits them when he opens the door for Akechi, not in the least.
The air inside Le Blanc feels... oppressive. Thick enough to cut with a butter knife, dull and heavy like a weight on his soul. Sojiro is staring at the counter, and Akira mentally catalogues the myriad Phantom Thief paraphernalia that he could have left strewn out and about his room upstairs, but-- nothing comes to mind.
"I was cleaning up..." Sojiro starts, Akira's stomach doing somersaults as he swallows, hard, "and found this."
He was expecting the words, truly.
It's the item in Sojiro's prosecutorial hand, thrust out at him, that takes him by surprise-- and Akechi, as it were, who looks rather like he's been unexpectedly caught in the middle of a domestic against his will, uncomfortable and ready to flee.
"This is a condom, isn't it?"
There's silence, for a long while. Akira remembers when he got it-- something Chihaya threw in to sweeten the pot alongside one of the ridiculous ¥100,000 Holy Stones after her reading forecast sex in the foreseeable future, stowed away and promptly forgotten.
"You looked around upstairs?" It's not shock, not really. He knows this is Sojiro's place; that he could easily end up on the street if Akira fell out of his good graces.
So it's only natural for Sojiro to scoff. "I'm your guardian. So... what is this?"
There isn't a comfortable explanation here. Is he supposed to tell Sojiro that he happened to get one by chance from a Shinjuku-based fortune teller exploiting her customers? That he didn't actually have any intention of using it? Either way, he feels like he's in for A Conversation he doesn't particularly want to be having.
"Is it something to get flustered over?"
Akira doesn't say anything, but judging by Sojiro's comment, he must be looking flushed, if nothing else.
"I knew it. This isn't just for precaution."
He's about to open his mouth to tell Sojiro the ridiculous truth when Akechi suddenly grabs his hand.
Interlaces their fingers.
"No, it is. Though I don't believe we are quite yet at that point in our relationship."
It's Sojiro's turn to look flustered, not that Akira can really blame him, Akechi's words coming as as much of a surprise to him as they must to Sojiro, who clearly had no idea that he was harboring not only a delinquent, but a gay delinquent.
"I, ah... is this true, Akira?"
The moment of truth. Akechi offers him one of his winning smiles, bright and brilliant as the sun, and Akira's hold on his hand tightens somewhat as he nods.
"Yes. It is."
"Oh, well." If nothing else, the sureness of his answer did plenty to render Sojiro speechless, at least for a moment. It would seem that there's a silver lining to every cloud, after all. "In that case, I suppose I can't blame you for not telling me. Don't worry, I won't go... telling anyone about you two."
Then again, Akira's always been fond of rainy days.
"I appreciate that," Akira says, letting go of Akechi's hand only to pull on an apron to make him his coffee.
Oddly enough, he already finds himself missing the feeling of it.
The matter isn't discussed again for the rest of the night, and by the time he wakes up the next morning, a part of Akira is just about convinced he lived through some sort of fever dream in which he imagined all of this.
In which case, he has to admit, his dreams may be a bit more clued into his subconscious than he's strictly comfortable with.
Then again, with Akechi back at Le Blanc to meet with the group on the very next day, reality seems to be likewise echoing his daydreams, Akechi well on his way to becoming a Phantom Thief himself.
"You know... doesn't he remind you of us?" Ann asks, the thought wedging itself firmly in Akira's brain just as Sojiro steps back in-- unexpectedly early-- from his shopping excursion to get more meat for curry.
"Whole crew's here, huh?" Sojiro asks, chuckling as he steps behind the counter. "I see even Akira's boyfriend seems to have finally joined the fold."
The way everyone had stiffened at Sojiro's entrance is nothing when compared to the shock that now seem to reverberate through the whole group all at once.
Unsurprisingly, it's Ryuji that ends up piping up first, Akira feeling a cold sweat run through his form only to settle on existing as a rather sick, uncomfortable lump in his gut instead.
Akechi, meanwhile, doesn't even miss a beat.
"I don't suppose you've already told them, then?"
That brilliant, carefree smile is back on his face when he asks the question-- as though they were never even talking about Sae-san's safety, or the desperate need for Akechi to get revenge on someone that evidently deserves it.
"Oh, shoot," Sojiro mutters. "I just assumed they'd know sooner than I would." Even in spite of how utterly mortified he is, Akira still somehow manages to shake his head in answer to Sojiro, who at least has the decency to look and sound appropriately apologetic for unwittingly spreading this ridiculous lie all the further. "Well, this is certainly a first for me. Sorry about that. Didn't mean to out you to your friends."
"I don't mind," Akira answers, his throat seeming to work for him instead of against him for once.
"That's actually what this meeting was about," Akechi continues smoothly, the same delight from before still coloring his features. "So I dare say you've just made our job all the easier."
"Are you for real?!" Ryuji sounds near-hysterical, the shock on his face genuine enough for him to have forgotten the point of the earlier meeting altogether.
"Yes," Akira answers, taking Akechi's hand even as he tries not to think about how right it feels there. "Sojiro found out last night. It wasn't intentional; we meant to tell you guys first."
The look on Makoto's face speaks volumes-- that she doesn't believe a word of this. It's unsurprising from someone as sharp as her, of course, and yet the warning look on Akira's face is enough to stop her from going through with vocalizing her disbelief.
"It was to be expected, if you ask me," she says instead, letting her gaze drop as Akechi tightens his grip on Akira's hand. "We're not blind, Ryuji."
"Hey, don't look at me like I'm the only one that didn't see this coming!"
"There are some male forms that almost rival those of women in their grace and beauty, it's true," Yusuke adds, as though that was the most logical reason in the world to be dating their former rival.
Akira likes the thought of the word, letting it sit on his tongue as he casts a warm glance toward Akechi.
"I'd say you're officially part of the group now," Akira remarks, letting his gaze run over the rest of the crew.
"Thanks. I was worried there for a bit," Akechi says, and smiles, an expression that seems to be a strange mixture of equal parts genuine warmth and carefully constructed façade.
"No need for that," he says, and squeezes Akechi's hand.
He tells himself it's for Akechi's reassurance, but-- Akira knows it's self-serving. A measured attempt at memorizing the feeling of it.
This... farce... is fleeting at best, to say the least. A not insubstantial part of him feels a compulsion to make the most of it.
Makoto has to leave shortly after that, and you don't end up infiltrating Sae's palace that day. But with Akechi not yet added to the group chat, the questions that follow even after they leave are numerous.
Ryuji: ARE YOU FOR REAL????
Makoto: Is it really so outlandish a notion?
Ryuji: It's two dudes together, SO YEAH?
Ann: If Akira's happy, I say we should be happy for him!
Yusuke: Ann and Makoto are right. Is it truly so strange for someone to prefer their own sex over the one societally prescribed?
Ryuji: Dude. That's so not the point.
Makoto: More importantly, we should be focusing on establishing a plan for tomorrow, as we were unable to do so with Sojiro there today. I'll contact Akechi-kun and share your contact info with him, if that's all right with all of you?
He's equal parts grateful to Makoto for changing the subject as he finds himself wishing he'd been given the chance to actually tell Ryuji that he and Akechi are together, but avoiding the topic altogether is just as well.
He shouldn't get carried away, and he knows that.
At least, he does-- until Akechi ends up texting him, privately.
Nijima-san gave me everyone's numbers... I do hope I'm not disturbing you.
I wished to apologize for the… shall we call it the 'incident?' Regardless, the incident that I seem to have unwittingly brought upon you. I merely wished to help you, not to make your life that much more complicated and difficult.
I don't mind, honestly.
You stated as much before, if I recall correctly? If I may say so, that is quite the bold declaration on your part. No wonder they declared you their de facto leader.
But I suppose I should let you get to bed. We do, after all, have a big day ahead of us tomorrow.
He debates sending Akechi a 'good night' to bookend their conversation-- types it out, even-- but ultimately decides not to. After all, they're not actually a couple, and the last thing he wants is to push Akechi into a corner he never intended to find himself in. He's in plenty of those, as it is.
A singular instance of trying to help out a… well, not a friend as much as an acquaintance, perhaps, and suddenly he finds himself roped into a half-baked relationship.
He doesn't let himself hope. Not yet.
Akechi is right, of course. It is a big day, the first one where Akechi is joining them as an official member of the Phantom Thieves.
Futaba manages to cut through any perceived awkwardness easily enough, somehow managing to extract Akechi's phone from out of his hand to fawn over the model she evidently wanted. It makes for a strangely bonding moment for the group that Akira is grateful for-- at least until she hands the phone back to him.
"You've got a good personality and good looks? Talk about cheating!"
Yusuke tries to explain, but Akira barely even hears him as he glances over at Akechi. He's been doing his damnedest to avoid thinking about it, if only because they have so many more things on their plate to worry about-- not to mention the fact that this relationship is a sham-- but Futaba is right, and he's known it for a while. Akechi is a perfect package-- if only because he can't quite figure out what's inside. The outside is beautiful and shiny and flawless, but… a gamble, like any gift.
"You're so lucky, Akira," Futaba notes, throwing him a grin. "Anyone would be lucky to have a boyfriend this great."
"I know," Akira says, not an ounce of hesitation in his words, and revels in the flustered surprise that crosses over Akechi's features.
It's later, just as they're about to make their way into Sae's palace, when Ryuji walks up to him, pulling on his shirtsleeve to make them drag behind the rest of the group, if only by a few paces.
"Hey," he starts, his voice softer than usual and still several decibels above anyone else's idea of normal, "so, uh, are you and that Akechi dude together for real?"
Moment of truth, Akira supposes. Or-- not truth, maybe. Prolonged falsehood in the name of pining. It would be easier, no doubt, to justify it as a matter of convenience, but… he's not in the habit of lying to himself.
"Yeah," he says, the word coming out sounding oddly natural considering the way it was forced past the lump in his throat. "I really like him."
That part isn't a lie.
And just like that, Ryuji is back to his natural volume. "You should have fuckin' told me! Fuckin' hell, man. Not tellin' your best friend something big like that?"
"The others thought you didn't approve."
"That's not even-- ughhh. Just tell me stuff like that from now on! I just didn't think you trusted him enough to-- you know."
Akira catches Akechi's gaze over his shoulder, and smiles. "I trust him."
He thinks he'd do anything to see that flush color Akechi's cheeks some more, even if only in the name of a farce.
"That prolly didn't make much sense 'cause of all the fancy terms he was using."
Akira knows Ryuji means well after Yusuke tries to fill Akechi in on the finer points of the metaverse-- and what can be expected from infiltrating a palace. Sure, Ryuji might be enjoying the fact that he knows more than Akechi for once, but Akechi is quick to shut that down, too, leaving a warm sort of pride blooming in Akira's chest as he watches him pick up on all the finer points of what their job has been over the last several months.
He's capable, and astonishingly so, even considering how intelligent Akira already suspected him to be before this.
"Is this what you have to go through every time?" Akechi asks him, and Akira wonders how he manages to always make it feel as though they're the only people in the room.
"Hm. This is a first for me… I'm somewhat nervous."
The words draw forth unsolicited mental images that Akira had hoped to shelve until his next self-service session, and he's left hoping that sheer strength of will somehow manage to be sufficient to suppress the flush threatening to overcome his features.
Morgana says something about him not slowing them down-- as if he would-- and Akira offers Akechi a smile he can only pray conveys the fact that, even if the others don't, he believes in him.
They're running out of items. And while Akira knows that he should be using some of them to restore his own health, by the time he gets to healing himself, they're out, their SP rapidly dwindling right alongside. Ann and Makoto tend to heal him more than regularly enough in battle, at any rate-- he knows he has no real reason to complain. And, well, this is Akechi's first real fight-- and the last they'll have the chance to do together.
He's their leader, and he wants to do this right. Show Akechi that he's not just some half-baked high school vigilante with a big ego. That they've been working genuinely hard in the name of justice, even if he didn't agree with their cause before.
Of course, it's more complicated than that, and Akira knows it.
So when he hands his last Sikkenine over to Akechi to help patch him up after a particularly rough battle, he knows he's opening himself up to the possibility of a certain amount of risk.
He heals himself at the start of the next battle, but it does little to stave off the damage of a particularly grievous attack from a strong shadow. Futaba does her best to encourage the team and to boost their attack and defense, but it's not enough. He still comes out of it on the other end feeling bruised and broken at best.
"Do we need to head back?" Morgana asks as she catches up to where he is at the head of the pack, concentrating hard on staying both upright and keeping his breathing steady. "You're looking kind of rough, Joker."
He's quick to shake his head, the motion hurting more than he cares to admit. "I'm fine."
"Don't push yourself too hard. Everyone here would be lost without you, you know. Maybe there are some healing ite--"
If he had been more lucid-- less wounded, too, maybe-- he would have noticed the shadow earlier. Would have heard it around the corner and would have taken cover-- or turned around and approached from another angle.
Makoto yells for them to run, and Akira turns around faster than his damaged body ought to allow him to.
Akechi had been trailing behind the rest of the group earlier, and the split second of confusion upon seeing the rest of their party members turn tail and run as if for their lives is written clear across his face.
So Akira doesn't even hesitate.
He grabs Akechi's hand just as he passes by him, pulling him straight to the front alongside him as his feet keep moving for him.
And he doesn't let go.
He manages to get them into a safe room-- somehow-- before he finally relinquishes his hold on Akechi's hand, Akira aching and out of breath.
He hears the door close behind them, the pain in his side blooming magnificently-- not entirely unlike a cold that only makes itself known the second a school holiday hits. Lying dormant and in wait until the opportune time.
And yet, with Akechi in front of him, he can't afford to collapse here. Not yet. He'll… take a breather. Maybe search his things once more in the hopes of finding more healing items.
Akechi moves past him without a word, the door rattling behind him. He's about to tell Akechi that-- heaven help him-- he may need a minute before they can keep going, but… then he realizes that it's oddly quiet in the safe room, and turns around from where he'd been using the table at the center to support most of his weight.
They're the only two people in the room.
"The door is locked," Akechi remarks flatly, turning back to look at him. "I'm afraid in our haste to escape, we became separated from the rest of the group. I don't suppose this has ever to you happened before?"
Akira just shakes his head, the weight of his body practically dragging him down onto the floor. Slumping against the wall was one thing, but this…
"I'm… sorry, am I bothering you?"
Akechi's words become increasingly difficult to focus on as he feels the pain in his side blossom further still, Akira biting back a wince as he shakes his head.
"I can't imagine that you'd want to be stuck here with me, of all people."
There isn't anyone he can think of that he'd rather be stuck here with, honestly.
"It's fine," Akechi continues before Akira's brain has a chance to chase after the words that would be appropriately… diplomatic in this instance. "You don't have to lie to me."
His words do hurt, but Akira thinks that they might be hurting Akechi far more than they hurt him, and he does his best to focus on the pain in his side to retain any manner of lucidity as he swallows hard. There's blood seeping through his shirt beneath his jacket, and--
"If I might be so bold as to ask… for whom was the condom intended originally? Takamaki-san, I imagine? She is very obviously interested in you, not that I could really blame her. I do apologize for getting in the way of your wooing her, if that's the case."
"She's not--" the edges of his vision are starting to swim somewhat-- "interested in me. And-- no. I'm not interested in her, either."
It's odd how his body seems to be prioritizing things here. That all of his energy is suddenly being poured into reassuring Akechi that he's not-- what, not straight?
"There aren't that many girls in your group. I assume you're interested in one of them."
Somehow, Akira thinks, this is no longer about the matter of the inadvertently-acquired condom, at all.
"I like you."
For a moment, things go dead silent, Akira's gaze locked, painfully serious, on Akechi's.
Akechi’s fake smile vanishes almost instantly, to be replaced by what looks like-- anger? rage? an insecure combination of both in its refusal to believe Akira's words for truth?
"Do you think it's funny, treating me like a charity case? I don't need your pity."
"It isn't as though I haven't been paying attention-- and I can almost assure you that everyone else, too, has noticed by now that you've been paying far more attention to me ever since we entered Sae's palace, like you're just as convinced as they are that I'm bound to mess up sooner than later and need to be taken care of like I'm some kind of child."
"That's why you grabbed me earlier, isn't it? Convinced I wouldn't be able to defend myself or run fast enough for you? Or why you gave me more healing items than anyone else. Well, at any rate, I don't need you to add insult to injury by mocking my attempt at helping you-- rest assured, it will not happen again."
Things start to blur together after that, as though Akechi's voice had been the only thing still holding him together. Blood seeps further into the gray of his shirt as he realizes, vaguely, that he's sitting in a pool of it that's slowly expanding, his eyes fluttering half-shut as he tries to stay awake.
He sounds like he's being strangled, but at least it's enough to get Akechi's attention, who is by his side in an instant. "Wait--"
He feels his jacket get wrenched open. Out of the corner of his eyes, Akechi's fingers are trembling as he unzips his blood-drenched shirt.
"Jesus," Akechi mutters, his hair falling into his eyes by the time he finally catches sight of the worst of his wounds beneath his clothes. "Why-- why didn't you say anything? This whole time, you were healing me, and--"
He's about to pull off his jacket-- as though the possibility of turning the red accents of his princely garb into bandages had seemed most logical in the moment-- when Akira reaches out to stop him, shaking his head.
"Jacket pocket," he rasps, something he almost instantly regrets as he feels the wound at his side flood with new pain from the motion.
Akechi empties out their contents before finally coming across a bit of unused bandage, a relieved sigh escaping him as he starts to wrap it around Akira's torso. "This was reckless of you. We'll have to redress this wound when we get back to the real world, but-- I hope that this does for now… seeing as it's already bleeding through the bandages." He nods to Akira's shirt, stained a brilliant shade of red from the blood's bloom across the fabric. "You'll also want to keep your jacket closed should you wish to make sure the others don't find out how badly wounded you are… though I will strongly advise that the second the door opens, we really ought to head back. You can't keep fighting in this state. You've already pushed yourself more than far enough for my sake."
It's the complete antithesis of what he said earlier about putting him first in the name of pity, and Akira wonders what the truth of the matter really is-- how much of his words are pretend and posturing, and if it's his feelings on the matter that really changed… and if it wasn't simply the circumstances that forced his hand into lying for Akira's sake.
"I wasn't lying, earlier," he manages to get out as the bandage winds around behind his back, realizing in that moment that Akechi's face is astonishingly close to his.
Close enough to kiss.
Akechi just smiles. "You must be very tired. I'm sure leading an entire crew of vigilante teenagers is exhausting, especially in your current state."
"I wasn't lying."
The perma-smile leaves Akechi's face-- however briefly, before he composes himself once more, and lets out a soft chuckle.
"I'm sure you weren't."
He's not getting anywhere like this, not if Akechi doesn't want to address the issue, and thus far he's done nothing but avoid it. Deciding to change the subject, instead-- it's a miracle how well his care is doing in returning a certain amount of clarity to Akira's mind, slowly but surely-- he offers a brief nod to the door.
"Where are the others?"
It would be easy to read into Akechi's expressions the way he wants to. The brief moment of betrayal that flashes across his features could speak volumes if only Akira would let it, his mind screaming at him to interpret this for what he wants it to be-- jealousy in its rawest form.
But Akechi composes himself just as quickly as he lost his composure-- as though the emotion never ghosted its way over his face at all.
As though it's been rendered entirely immutable by the parade of hollow platitudes that he's had tossed at him throughout his life. People making empty promises, reassuring him of outcomes that will never come to be, no matter how desperately he may have wished for them, once.
"Most likely elsewhere saving their own hides. I wouldn't be surprised if they noticed the door was locked, themselves, and sought shelter in an alternate safe room. I'm sure they're fine. They are, after all, quite capable themselves."
"So I'm afraid it's just us here."
Akira knows he's in no shape to even sit up straight just yet, but he can't help it. He wants to kiss him, desperately. The pain would be worth it, if only for just a brief taste, he thinks, and the surprise that would follow in its wake.
Of course, that's when the door opens, Akechi drawing back as if stung as Akira swiftly pulls his clothes back together over the painstakingly-applied bandage around his midsection.
"Hey, you two-- the door wouldn't open from the outside after we got back from running from the shadow, so we let Futaba work her magic to fix it again. Took a while, so, sorry about that. Hope you guys weren't too bored in here all by yourselves!"
The surreptitious look that crosses between the two boys at Ann's words is telling enough in its own right. On the one hand, he's almost surprised that no one else had noticed a thing-- not only their proximity, but the blood now drying on the carpeted safe room floor. He's even glad that they're not in a position where they have to explain themselves yet again.
But it's not relief, not really. As much as he doesn't wish for the giggles and the questions he can't answer, there's a joy in them, too, if only in so far as they tend to lend a certain amount of legitimacy to this ridiculous game they're playing for… no real reason at all.
Not that it's a game for Akira.
"Let's head back," he says, and pulls a Goho-M out of his pocket as he manages to draw himself back up to standing. The smile he flashes Akechi is effortless, endlessly grateful.
He even manages to convince himself that the soft, subtle smile Akechi returns his way is genuine, if only just for a moment.
Akechi ends up insisting upon seeing him back to Le Blanc even after Akira assures him that he can redress his own bandages once he's home. That he's not that near to collapse just yet. And while he may have worked harder to stand firm on that fact with one of the other members of the Phantom Thieves, it's not as though he doesn't want Akechi's company.
He just doesn't want Akechi to force it against his will, Akira doing his best to provide him with any number of outs (even after Futaba insists on taking Mona back home with her).
Akechi simply doesn't take him up on any of them.
Instead, they make it all the way back to Le Blanc without issue only to be met, upon entry, with the sight of Sojiro behind the counter.
"We're clo-- oh, it's just you two. I'm just finishing up, so-- you can go on upstairs. I obviously don't mind if you stay the night, seeing as you're… ah..."
Akechi's hand wraps around his arm, his smile wide and brilliant enough to be made of veritable sunshine. "Thank you, I appreciate your trust in me regarding your charge greatly. I do promise I won't abuse the privilege."
"Wasn't worried about that," Sojiro chuckles, some of the earlier awkwardness having seemingly dissipated with Akechi's words. "I'll be headed out soon, so if you decide you're hungry later, you can always ask your boyfriend to heat up some of the curry we had leftover from today."
"I will do that; thank you again."
Only once they reach the stairs does Akechi let go of his arm, as though he'd been worried about Akira collapsing in front of Sojiro-- and while he is fairly certain that he wouldn't have collapsed in the least, he's nevertheless grateful for the railing to hold onto as they make their way upstairs, his body still angry with him for its earlier abuse.
He hesitates, once upstairs, Akira finding himself faltering as he turns to look at Akechi. "I'm sorry about this. You can just wait until he leaves, if you'd like."
"I didn't mean to intrude upon your space. I simply wished to see for myself that you would survive the night. Which-- I'm glad I stuck around. You looked fairly close to collapse earlier."
Akechi's words serve as a welcome reminder, and Akira takes several decisive steps over to his desk, grateful to finally have access to some health-restoring items he'd had stored there on backup.
"What are you doing, if I may ask?"
"I had some healing items left-over," he explains, finally pulling out an Adhesive Bandage. Not much, but--
Akechi's tone is clipped enough to draw Akira's attention, and he looks up to find perhaps the fakest smile he's ever seen pasted on his features. A complete antithesis of the genuine smile he was almost sure he received earlier.
"Then I suppose you won't be needing me anymore. Ah-- my help, that is."
Setting the bandage down, he straightens fully, Akira shaking his head as he blinks. "I don't want you to leave."
Not that his words do anything, it seems, to pull that sickening smile off of Akechi's features. "Right, of course. I don't suppose we can have Sojiro thinking we've had a lover's spat, after all. Don't worry, I will be certain to wait the requisite amount of time until he leaves before departing."
The sound of the door closing downstairs sounds miles away, even as the immediate repercussions of it creep close enough to touch.
He meant what he said, after all. He doesn't actually want Akechi to leave-- not by a long shot.
"Well then," Akechi starts, rotating his body just slightly toward the stairs-- as if intent on turning the rather simple matter of his leaving into a multi-step process, "I suppose it's about time that I make myself scarce."
Akira's hand shoots out to grab hold of Akechi's wrist-- to stop him-- all on its own, instinct driving him onward as he shakes his head, his gaze pleading.
"I was hoping you'd stay."
Akechi lets out a soft sigh, defeat creeping into his gaze, seemingly already coming up with an explanation for Akira's behavior that would serve to quell any hope that had threatened to surface at the touch between them. "... your... bandages, I presume?"
"I could never do it as well as you could." He doesn't know if it's a lie, but it feels like the right thing to say in the moment to reassure him.
To give him a few more precious moments with the detective.
"Perhaps." He's smiling again, but it's less forced, which comes as a considerable relief to Akira as he starts to take off his blazer, followed closely by the still-white button-down beneath, a stunning contrast to his blood-stiffened phantom thief costume. The bandages the process unveils are still soaked through here and there, but thankfully not so badly as to warrant doing laundry just yet.
Grabbing a fresh roll of bandages before moving to sit at the edge of the bed, he nods for Akechi to join him, his hands splayed out on the sheets behind him. More accessible, no doubt, than he'd been in the safe room of Sae's palace, and hopefully easier to patch up this time on account of it.
Akechi gets to work more quietly than Akira had expected-- or more so than he'd hoped, perhaps, having evidently grown accustomed enough to the comforting nature of his voice-- even in spite of the relatively short time they've spent together-- to miss it.
"You're being quiet."
The smile returns as surely as if it had never slipped away in the first place, Akechi continuing in his meticulous re-wrapping of Akira's chest. "Am I? I do apologize. It wasn't my intent to unsettle you."
"I like listening to you."
He wants to say a lot more than that, really. Wants to reiterate, again, that he meant what he said-- that he likes him. But how many times can a person be rejected before it's simply meant to sink in?
The only thing keeping him from losing hope on these ill-advised feelings of his is the vague memory of Akechi's behavior back in the safe room, the hints of jealousy he'd felt slipping through the cracks of his otherwise perfect veneer of self-control.
"You must be the only one that feels that way," Akechi says, and all Akira can think of is how desperately he wants to kiss that smile off his face.
"Would you care if I was?"
The bandaging ceases.
"You'll have to forgive me; I'm not certain I understand your meaning."
"You don't seem to care much about anyone other than me." He only ever seems to really talk to Akira. Not that he minds, granted. As guilty as it does make him feel, the part of him that wants to be selfish about this-- about him-- enjoys his fixation, in a way.
The moment of silence between them stretches on for a while, Akira keeping his gaze on Akechi's, even as the gesture goes unreturned.
"Ah, well... you are the one who has made me feel the most welcome. I suppose my interest is primarily focused on you, in that regard. I'm… grateful."
There's a beat then, during which Akira scarcely dares to breathe.
Finally, finally, he finds his tongue again.
"I wasn't lying," he whispers, his hand finding Akechi's on the bed. And then, before Akechi can refute him yet again, he leans in to kiss him.
For a moment, he's half-convinced Akechi is going to pull away from him… but he doesn't.
Instead, what leaves him is a needy little whine-- all the encouragement Akira needs to wrap his fingers around Akechi's tie to drag him in all the closer.
"I wasn't lying," he breathes against his lips before his tongue darts out to swipe over the seam of them, another soft little moan escaping from Akechi's throat.
This time, when Akira moves in to deepen the kiss, Akechi meets him in such a way that makes up for every ounce of his earlier reticence in spades, fingers finding the fabric of of his front to tangle in, desperation governing his every movement as though one simple kiss burst a dam of panic, jealousy, and wanting.
He knows, if only because Akechi's movements echo his own perfectly-- and beyond that, the yearning is self-evident, every breath punctuated with the softest, most delicious of noises.
When he does pull back, they're both panting and breathless, Akechi staring at him as though he's found salvation in the kiss of a single boy.
"I want this," Akechi tells him, long before he even has the chance to ask if what they're doing is fully consensual. "In case you were concerned about my willingness to engage in this, that is-- please know that you need not be."
There's more to it than that, and Akira knows that, but right now all he cares about his is reclaiming the feeling of his lips on Akechi's once more, easily pushing him down onto the bed even as does his best to ignore the pain radiating out from his side.
The taste of him is certainly worth it, his free hand already moving to loosen his tie as Akechi makes swift work of his buttons, evidently already eager to get undressed-- and as quickly as possible, too.
It would make for a flattering thought if he could focus on it long enough to consider the fact. As things stand, the only thing he can seem to focus on is the feeling of Akechi beneath him, of the kisses passing between them, the needy little whines that leave him with each new touch Akira graces him with.
They're distracting, but in the absolute best way, and Akira feels addicted to the taste of him already.
He can only hope Akechi feels the same way-- though, if his earlier words are any indication, he'd be surprised if he didn't.
Not to mention the positively lewd expression on his face as Akira pulls back from their kiss to get a better look at him, all bruise-kissed lips and the very picture of eroticism.
He presses an idle kiss upon Akechi's bare chest, and makes his way… lower, no holds barred as he lets his fingernails run teasingly along the path of his waistband, over the bit of exposed abdomen made available to him. Already, Akechi's erection seems to be begging for his attention, pleading with the fabric putting up resistance between their bodies, and Akira decides to take mercy on him, undoing his belt, the zip of his pants…
All of it tortuously slowly, his mercy still a matter dependent entirely on his whim and carefully-honed restraint.
He wants to enjoy this.
As though he's half-convinced that this will the only real chance he'll have to be with the detective prince, just once.
The button of his pants comes undone in the wake of Akira's movements, and Akechi moans all over again, as though the release alone from the restrictive confines of his pants was enough to evoke genuine relief.
It's almost difficult to free his length from the confines of the layers and layers of fabric guarding it, its hardness putting up resistance as he tugs it free from under the waistband of his boxer briefs
Beneath him, Akechi shudders.
He slips the waiting, weeping cock before him inside his mouth without hesitation, moving easily down to take the rest of his length into his throat as Akechi's head falls back from where it had been previously focused intently on Akira's actions between his legs. Now, in spite of the elbows supporting his weight on either side of him, it seems like even the most deep-seated of trust issues and insecurities aren't enough to restrain him from enjoying this properly, the moan that leaves him downright pornographic in its nature.
If he wasn't grateful before for Sojiro's understanding-- and his willingness to go home early if only to grant the two of them their privacy-- he is now, and endlessly so, his tongue lavishing attention upon the twitching head of Akechi's cock.
He pulls back and off of him solely to speak, but finds himself wishing, more than anything, to see his face. Reaching forward, Akira's fingertips find his chest to rake down it, a breathless Akechi looking down at him a moment later.
"I wanted to see you." It's an easy confession, similarly breathless as he is, Akira licking his lips as though they might have carried the faintest hint of the taste of him still left behind.
Instead, he finds them woefully lacking.
"Oh," Akechi says, a sharp intake of breath following Akira's gentle cupping of his balls.
"And I wanted to tell you how good you taste." Everywhere, his brain supplies, and he resists the urge to lick his lips yet again in a desperate desire to chase after the taste of him yet again.
"Oh," Akechi says again, but-- it's not an echo of his seeming earlier twin, not quite. If anything, he sounds all the more breathless at his exhale of the word, Akira deciding to test the edges of the playing field he's been granted.
"I know I've been an awful tease, but-- you've been so good, Akechi, you feel so good--"
"Goro," he chokes out, his dick twitching visibly at Akira's words.
"Goro," Akira nods, unable to stop himself from leaning in for another kiss, his hand palming Akechi's delicious cock, steady, self-confident strokes making the hips beneath him jerk up alongside every needy little whimper he had hoped, prayed to draw forth from his throat.
"I want to-- hear more of you," he admits, pulling back from their kiss solely to rest his forehead against Akechi's even as his hand keeps moving, rhythmic. "I think I could listen to the noises you make… forever."
"Forever," Akechi echoes, the word sounding uncertain enough in its footing to be a question. As though he's never heard the word before, let alone understood it.
"I'd never grow tired of them," Akira tells him, as if to clarify as he leans in to steal another kiss-- and then his head is back between Akechi's legs, his hand moving aside to allow him full access to deep-throat his cock.
"Ah," Akechi breathes, and though Akira doesn't know if it's meant to be an answer or a reaction, he finds that he doesn't particularly care, either way-- now with his focus entirely on the feeling of the stuttering hips in his grip, his body warring between self-control and the desperate need to push further into the hot, wet mouth currently wrapped around him.
"Akira, wait," he manages to get out, just barely, and Akira pulls back without so much as a moment's hesitation to look up at him in question. "Not that it wouldn't be an honor to--" the flush on his features deepens, "but I do believe I'd rather prefer not to come yet."
He supposes that makes sense. He'd hoped to taste him, to swallow him down properly, but-- that can wait, maybe.
"Maybe next time," he says, Akira feeling hope lodge itself firmly in his throat as he pulls back to sit on his haunches, the promise of another time, and another after that-- of this relationship coming to be something as real as he's itched for it to be-- hanging buoyant in the air.
"Yes," Akechi is quick to agree, shifting onto his knees only to scramble forward, his fingers already begging at the closure of Akira's pants. Unlike his usually impeccable hand-eye coordination, here, he fumbles briefly-- not that he can really be blamed in this instance.
With the button and zip undone, his pants slide down to his knees with astonishing ease, Akira hooking his thumbs into the waistband of his underwear before Akechi covers his hands with his own, his gaze more pleading than he thinks he's ever seen it before.
"Let me do this," he says, his voice soft but nevertheless somehow brimming with desperation. "Please."
He extracts his hands-- however reluctantly-- from beneath Akechi's, and offers him a nod of permission, one accepted all too gratefully as Akira watches him free his cock from its former confines, a sigh of sheer relief slipping past his lips before he can halt its escape.
The relief, however, doesn't last long-- not when it's so quickly overshadowed by the feeling of Akechi's lips around the head of his cock, his mouth accepting him whole until he feels himself sliding deeper, deeper, all the way into his throat--
"Fuck," he utters, and lets his fingers card into Akechi's hair. "You're so good at that--"
And he is, every one of Akira's sharp sighs and exhales well-earned. Not that, between the two of them, he seems to be the one making the vast majority of noises. All it seems to take is a bit of praise, a bit of acknowledgment, and Akechi falls apart, his hand wrapped around his cock as he keeps deepthroating the one before him.
"So good," Akira repeats again, just shaking his head half in awe. "Not sure if my hand will ever be good enough after this… maybe I'll manage by thinking about how gorgeous you looked like this, with my cock in your mouth…"
If he's honest, he's not sure he's ever seen anything quite so beautiful.
"And those noises," he whispers, another strangled whimper slipping free from Akechi's throat as he closes his eyes. "Look up at me," he tells him, Akechi's obedience immediate enough to be indicative of a trend. "Yes, just like that-- good job. I want to look at you. That's good. You're doing so, so well."
It's when Akechi sacrifices one of his hands-- the one that had been supporting his weight atop the bed-- to reach up to cup Akira's balls that the hand in his hair tightens, a soft grunt leaving him as he shakes his head.
"I'll--" A shaky exhale. "I'll come, if you don't stop. You're just way too good at that." Easing him off his cock, Akira groans at the loss of the feeling, of the warm, wet mouth that had been so good to him just moments before, doing his best to swallow down his regret as he pulls a still-breathless Akechi up and onto his knees, his forehead moving to lean against his. "Thank you."
There's nothing frenzied about their kiss this time around. Instead, every motion seems to be slow and measured, almost painfully intimate as Akira cups Akechi's cheek, his free hand moving to grasp hold of both their lengths. His strokes start off slow-- at least until the sensation seems to become so overwhelming that even kissing takes too much focus, the first moans slipping free from Akechi's throat. His forehead meets Akira's once more, his hands moving to seek purchase at his partner's sides for something to hold onto.
"You like that?" Akira mutters, his voice as soft as the noises passing between them, even as Akechi barely even manages to nod, too lost in the sensation, the closeness of them. "You deserve it. You deserve to feel this good, Goro."
"You're still hurt," Akechi mutters through the haze of lust that seems to have taken over his mind, pulling back long enough in the midst of shuddered gasps to run his fingertips over Akira's side, ghosting over the injury he sustained in Sae's palace. "I don't-- wish for you to exacerbate this--"
Knowing how worried Akechi is about him is enough to make him take additional care in his recline back onto the bed-- at least until he tugs him close again once he has rid himself of the rest of his pants, knees settling easily on either side of him, Akechi's weight a pleasant presence atop him. It's only natural that his hands would gravitate to the plackets of Akechi's still-parted shirt to pull him into another kiss, unable to stop himself from smiling against his lips.
"You already feel amazing," he mutters, his voice hushed and hot as he lets his tongue run over Akechi's bottom lip before catching his thoughts stalling out. He does feel amazing-- that part is not a lie. Already, Akira can think of little else but what it might feel like to fuck him-- even if a part of him worries that this would be rushing things.
But… all the same, it feels like they're running out of time, not that he can put his finger on why he feels that way. Not remotely.
"Is it too soon?" he finally asks, pulling back to look up at Akechi, little other than adoration… and a touch of fear written across his features.
That their forever could be cut short, for some reason or another, if they failed in their endeavor.
"No," Akechi whispers before shaking his head-- as though the motion is meant to double down on the statement. "I do wish to... give myself to you. If things don't go well stealing Sae-san's treasure tomorrow--"
Akira doesn't hesitate to cut him off with a kiss, not wanting to so much as entertain the thought-- if only, perhaps, because he can't help but feel worried himself, desperately eager to squash his own unease over the whole thing. "They will."
Akechi chuckles, his gaze momentarily averted as he smiles, faint and somewhat sad. "... and if they do not, I still wish to know what it's like, being with..."
When Akechi's words seem to fail him, Akira decides to take the initiative back into his own hands, rolling the two of them over on his futon as his lips find Akechi's once more.
If Akira knew what Akechi was about to say, he doesn't let it show. He doesn't want to know. Whether that's because he's afraid of what it couldn't be or what it could… he isn't sure. The implications are terrifying either way.
So he decides to swallow down his own feelings, shelving them in favor of the feeling of having Akechi like this, squirming beneath him as he palms both their cocks in his hand.
"You can still change your mind," he whispers, pulling back just far enough to keep the face before his blurry and out of focus.
"I would prefer not to." Akechi's fingers find his wound once more to ghost their touch over, seemingly eager to change the subject as Akira shudders. "Doesn't it hurt?"
"Not enough to keep me from doing this." Another stolen kiss finds Akira slowly making his way down Akechi's front, his breath's ghosting over the weeping cock before him evidently enough stimulation to draw a breathless objection from his partner.
"Shh," he starts, only barely restraining himself from taking Akechi's length back into his mouth for another taste. Instead, he settles for a kiss at the base, his hands moving to the insides of Akechi's thighs to part them a good bit further for him.
"You can tell me if you're not okay with me doing this," he continues, another kiss falling upon his thigh as Akira keeps his gaze leveled at him, "but I want this to feel good for you, too."
Recognition of what's about to transpire dawns on Akechi's face like a sunrise, and Akira mentally resolves to make him feel good enough-- to appreciate him hard enough-- to wipe away all the bad of his past and replace it with nothing but--
"I see," Akechi says, sounding as though his voice is catching on the seams of his sanity, barely held back from cracking.
"Would you rather I didn't do this?" Another kiss, delivered higher this time. "I'll stop if you want me to."
"I-- I don't. I don't… want you to stop."
"Then I want you to watch me. Just as you are now. Can you do that for me?"
Akechi barely even manages to nod from the look of him before Akira spreads his legs a bit further and moves in to kiss him there, first and foremost. It's his thumb that follows after that, teasing at Akechi's ass for only a moment before he allows his tongue to follow, not entirely unlike a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss.
Akechi, he notes vaguely, is mewling, panting loudly enough that, were they not alone, would likely have drawn suspicion from downstairs.
He pulls back and up only to press a finger slowly inside as he watches Akechi from between his legs-- the flush on his cheeks, the beautiful mess of his hair, the base of his palm pressed between his teeth in a desperate attempt to silence himself-- and finds himself utterly mesmerized.
"You're beautiful," he exhales, leaning down to steal another lick from where his finger is already making swift work of him. "You're doing so good… and you already feel perfect."
A whine leaves Akechi then, half-moan and half-sob, Akira watching in fascination at the way his cock twitches. He adds a second finger as he takes one of Akechi's balls into his mouth and is promptly rewarded with yet another soft whine.
"I'll-- I'll come if you keep doing that," he's quick to warn, and, this time, his voice does crack as Akira pushes his tongue between his knuckles, another sound bordering on a sob leaving Akechi.
"Does it feel good?" he asks when he resurfaces once more, briefly, and Akechi gasps his assent. "I'm glad. You're already so relaxed, I'm amazed-- do you think you're ready?"
"Please--" he rasps, Akira quick to comply as he withdraws his fingers to reach for the lube in his drawer.
It's Akechi that pulls him into another kiss, then, and Akira can't help but comply with his wishes. He knows the lube on his hands and now his cock will make a mess of his sheets, but he's not worried about that right now, not with a begging Akechi spread out and wanting beneath him.
"Tell me if I need to stop," he whispers against his lips, and Akechi nods, his fingers tightening their grip in Akira's hair.
"I won't want you to."
There's not an ounce of hesitation in his voice, at least not as far as Akira can tell.
"Still," he says, and kisses him again as he starts to press inside, almost painfully slowly, stopping with every hiss and hitched breath from Akechi to make sure he's okay. His brow is drawn tight, but the shudders leaving him are telling in their own right, and even as he grits his teeth, his fingers drawn tightly into his hair and about his arm, he doesn't once tell him to stop. Instead, every time that Akira does stop, Akechi makes certain to vocalize his displeasure, bucking his hips up toward him to drive his cock deeper-- and deeper. As if intent to punish himself for any perception of weakness in his features.
So Akira learns not to stop, and simply slows down.
It's like torture, if he's honest, teasing himself with the promise of what's to come with each and every millimeter he presses deeper--
Until he's home, Akira's relief cut short by the sight of Akechi gritting his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut.
"Shut up," he hisses, the sound escaping through his teeth. "It's-- I'm fine, Kurusu, just move--"
In the time that he hesitates, Akechi manages to open his eyes once more, the heels of his feet digging into his ass with a growl of half-hearted anger, less vitriol and more… panic, maybe.
If he's honest, Akechi's use of his last name still stings enough to distract him, but his body's desire to fuck the very warm, very wonderful form below him is winning out over that and the pain in his side wholeheartedly, Akira finally pulling out before pushing back into his ass with a groan, the buck of Akechi's hips meeting him enough to make him groan out loud.
"Fuck me--" Akechi rasps, his feet urging his hips on, eager to drive him ever-deeper. "Fuck me like I deserve--"
This time, there seems to be little left but vitriol for himself, Akira taking note of how glassy his eyes look, and how close he seems to crying.
Pushing as deeply inside of Akechi as possible-- and promptly being rewarded by a painfully loud moan-- Akira's hands move to his shoulders, pushing him down onto the futon beneath him.
"Stop it." For a second, it almost looks like Akechi will try to argue with him, Akira quick to cut him off as he shakes his head. "You're not using me to punish yourself. That's not what this should be, Goro."
Akechi scoffs, turning his head as though looking aside might stop him from being laid so painfully bare in front of his greatest rival.
"No," Akira breathes, leaning in close to his ear to lean his forehead against his temple, his words ghosting over the shell of Akechi's ear. "I want you to forgive yourself. Because I care about you."
"Like you care about the others, of course."
It's a strange contrast, Akechi's soft words almost loud opposite Akira's whisper, and he pulls back to shake his head again, turning his head to face him once more.
"No. Not like the others. I don't do this with them."
"What, you don't fuck them?"
The jealousy emanating from the question is practically palpable, ebbing off him in waves, not entirely unlike the feeling he got while half-dying on the floor of the safe room.
"No," he says, almost astonished at himself, at how easily the words slip free from his throat as he looks down at Akechi. "I'm not in love with them."
Akira draws his hips back before pushing inside of him once more, the gasp that follows captured in another kiss. He knows Akechi won't say it, even if he feels it.
Even if he's felt it for months.
So Akira contents himself with what he has. With holding him, like this, if only for now. With making him feel good and appreciated and loved just once.
And when Akechi's moans turn more feverish with each of Akira's thrusts, he doesn't hesitate to palm his cock, his free hand finding Akechi's to hold atop the futon, interlacing their fingers. It's an odd call-back to the way all of this got started in the first place-- and how right it felt to hold his hand even then.
But this is different, with him panting and looking sinfully lewd beneath him, tears still gathering at the corners of his eyes as his teeth keeps looking to the base of his palm for purchase for something, anything to hold onto that isn't Akira.
"Say it again," he finally manages to croak out of his throat, his voice as rough as the apparent struggle to restrain his unshed tears. "S-say it again--"
"I love you, Goro--"
Akira can feel Akechi's cock twitching in his hand long before he comes, his hand speeding up upon his length as he leans in to kiss him again, soft and reverent.
"I love you, Goro," he tells him again, one more time with their foreheads together, the words evidently sufficient to draw forth Akechi's release-- and his own, in turn, the clenching of his walls enough to make his hips stutter as he feels himself lose control.
He comes harder than he thinks he has in months, as though all the stress and relief building since his time on probation comes pouring out of him with it-- until he's left shuddering atop Akechi, his hand covered in his come even as the other tightens its hold on its partner.
It leaves a mess he expected when he pulls out, Akira slipping away only long enough to retrieve a towel for them both. For a moment, he notices Akechi's gaze darting to his discarded socks-- the mess of clothes they left behind in the wake of their distraction-- and wonders if he's leaving, after all.
So he stalls the thought at its inception, Akira moving back atop the bed as he reclaims Akechi's hand.
"Stay," he says-- begs, almost. "Please."
The way he lets his hair fall forward and into his face, Akira can only assume that Akechi doesn't want him to see his eyes. A way to block out the rest of the world-- and Akira.
The one person that's ever longed for access to his soul.
"Because I want you to."
Akechi chuckles, though there's no humor in the sound of it. "I'm only going to disappoint you in the end."
"You've never disappointed me."
The inhale that follows is shaky enough and damp enough to qualify as a sniffle, and Akira notes that Akechi is likely crying again.
So he moves to lie down, getting under the covers before holding them up for him to slip under alongside him.
"I won't look at you if you don't want me to, but-- just let me hold you."
The promise of being able to face away from him seems sufficient for the time being, if nothing else, Akira feeling the warm weight of Akechi settling under the blanket and into his arms, stiffening only briefly when arms not his own are wrapped around him.
"Is this… okay?"
Akechi nods, and Akira doesn't have to see him to know that he's crying.
So he takes his hand, kisses the back of his neck, and decides it's enough when Akechi is the one to interlace their fingers and squeeze back.