Actions

Work Header

People Like Us

Chapter Text

Akechi was on his usual trek through Mementos when he suddenly heard human voices and what sounded like a distant engine. He pulled himself back into a corner and waited, heart pounding. The only other people that should have been inside Mementos were the Phantom Thieves. But that didn’t explain the noises that sounded disturbingly like a vehicle. It wasn’t like the trains that frequently moved through the tracks in the safer areas. It was more like a car.

He was curious.

He didn’t have to wonder for long. From around a corner, he spotted something truly bizarre. A bus? It looked oddly like a cat, but it was clearly a vehicle. The gears in his head really started working in overtime when the Phantom Thieves themselves stepped out of the bus and it morphed into a smaller, but still very cat-like creature. Of all the things he had seen in the Metaverse, this was easily a contender for the strangest.

He heard the one in the skull mask complain loudly about their current target and the others made some equally concerned comments he couldn’t quite make out. Their leader sounded just as unsure, but they pressed onward into the small crevice where Akechi knew from experience that a humanoid Shadow would be waiting. He waited a few moments, then followed after them, sticking close to the wall. This was risky, but his curiosity was winning out.

What he saw inside was a scared boy. It was desperate and angry and terrified, like many weaker Shadows tended to be. Akechi expected a quick fight, but what he got was the other Phantom Thieves walking away and exiting the area to leave their leader alone with the Shadow. A one-on-one fight would be more fair, but he had assumed they fought as a team all this time. But instead of summoning a Persona, the two of them had a brief, mostly one-sided conversation.

The Shadow seemed more distressed than they usually were before a fight, saying things like “After all I’ve done for you”, and “Me of all people”, and becoming increasingly distraught. Normally, this sort of pleading came after a defeat. In the end, the Phantom Thief told it to change its own heart, and walked away to regroup with his teammates. The Shadow sunk to the floor on its knees.

Akechi stayed standing there for several minutes afterwards, processing what he had just seen. That conversation alone had given him plenty of new information. This was the Shadow of the boy running the infamous Phantom Thief Aficionado website. And he was right there at Akechi’s fingertips. All he had to do was unleash his Persona’s abilities and the Phansite would be at the mercy of a psychotic breakdown. It was a perfect opportunity.

But something was stopping him. Something about the Shadow’s desperate words had struck a chord in him, and he found himself unable to move. He decided he was simply overwhelmed from exhaustion, and chose to retreat back home for the time being. He could always come back after formulating a more exact plan.


Akechi checked the Phansite more often than he would have liked to admit after that. He didn't need to. He got plenty of Phantom Thief gossip through other channels, and it wasn't like there was much of interest on the forums, but he found himself drawn back there again and again. It was oddly captivating to see requests go up and come back completed, often with an anonymous thank you note. There used to be thank you notes from the admin too, but now…

The admin was still active. He was the one putting up polls and moderating comments. He put through requests and marked them complete. He linked relevant articles from local police regarding culprits taken into custody. But his usual comments were getting less frequent, and he never seemed to make announcements anymore. The Phansite was beginning to seem more sterile.

Ever since Akechi had happened upon the Phantom Thieves in Mementos, things had been strange. They hadn't enacted a change of heart. There had been no grand personal reformation, as far as Akechi could tell, but something had happened, subtle as it may have been.

The boy he identified as Yuuki Mishima seemed to have stepped away. The leader had a talk with him about using them for fame, about putting out personal hits for his own benefit, about riding on their coattails. Akechi could sense from that conversation alone exactly what emotions Mishima must have been feeling. He wanted recognition, he wanted someone to look at him and really see him, see what he was worth, see him as special. That had all felt all too familiar to him.

But things had done a 180, it seemed. Now instead of making things too personal, the Phansite didn't seem personal at all. It was simply a forum. It could have been run by a bot and no one would know any different.

Akechi considered returning to that spot in the depths of Mementos and finishing the job the Phantom Thieves had deemed as below them. What a blow he could deal to them by taking out their largest source of information, the one boy holding their image together. It would be easy. He didn't look like he would put up much of a fight. A few blows from Loki and he would shut down. A psychotic breakdown might work even more to his advantage. There was no way of knowing what kind of information would get leaked on the Phansite if he were to lose control of himself.

It was exciting to think about, but it wasn't something he could take lightly. He never pursued targets for his own benefit. That was simply work-related. He was a hitman, not a cold-blooded killer. And Mishima had little to do with work at the moment, at least the type of work that necessitated using his powers. Still, it was tempting…

It had been weeks since that initial run-in. He hadn't come across the Thieves in Mementos again, though he didn't venture in there that often. He had been mostly focused on work-- real work, detective work-- and his studies. There had been a lull in Shido-related matters and it left him with time to think. And much of his time thinking landed him back on the subject of the Phansite and its admin.

The idea of wrecking the reputation of those insufferable Phantom Thieves became too tantalizing. He decided to act. If he had these powers, why restrict himself? Why not deal a potentially fatal blow while he had the chance? He was only being efficient.

He was looking down at his phone on his way home for the day when he felt himself run right into something solid. Looking up revealed that this something solid was a person, who was now sprawled on the ground. Further investigation revealed that this person was none other than Yuuki Mishima himself--the real one, flesh and blood.

After a moment of initial shock, Akechi remembered his manners and scrambled to try and help him up. “Goodness, I'm so sorry, I wasn't looking where I was going. This is entirely my fault. Are you alright? You're not hurt, are you?”

Akechi offered a gloved hand and pulled Mishima up off the ground. He still looked out of it. Then his eyes widened and he started patting his pockets and looking around.

“Oh no, where's my phone…?” His distress grew by the second and Akechi began looking around as well.

He located the phone several feet away, knocked behind a trash can, and returned it to its owner. The screen was shattered.

“I… don't suppose it was already like this?” Akechi felt bad. Even if he had been on his way to ruin this boy's life, breaking his phone somehow sent more pangs of guilt through him than that idea ever had.

“No… no… Ugh, shit!” Mishima snatched the phone from him and held the power button to no avail. “Fuck! No, no, no…”

Akechi watched him helplessly. He couldn't find the correct moment to interject in Mishima's flurry of swearing and sighing. Finally, Mishima hung his head and dropped his hands to his side, useless phone clutched tightly.

“I'll replace it.” Akechi didn't know why he said that. Mishima was about to have much bigger problems than a broken phone.

“No, I can't… ask you to do that. I should've been more careful…” Mishima looked up at him and seemed to really see him for the first time. His eyes widened. “No, wait, you're-- You're that detective. Akechi. The one who's always on TV.”

“Yes, that would be me.” Akechi barely bowed. “Though I wouldn't say always. My appearances are few and far between these days. Might I ask your name? If you give me an address as well, I can have a new phone sent to you.”

Mishima's eyes narrowed again and he seemed wary. Akechi could practically see him weighing the options in his head. Take advantage of the wealth of a detective who he knew to be in direct opposition of his heroes, or stay humble and deal with his phone being broken himself? Decisions, decisions. After a pause, he sighed and averted his eyes.

“Mishima. I'm not giving you my address. But you can buy me a new phone. I'll just meet up with you for it. If that's okay.” He tacked on the last part in an attempt to maintain some modesty, and it made Akechi smile.

“I'm not in a position to be making demands. Name a phone model, time, and location and I will be there. You have my word.” Akechi stuck out a hand and Mishima glared at it for a few seconds before shaking it.


Akechi ended up going back to his apartment to sulk. After looking Mishima in the eyes, after feeling the guilt of breaking his phone, he hadn't had the willpower to go through with his plan. He was cursing himself for it. He had ruined many men's lives over the course of his time as Shido's errand boy, and it had just been work, but one look of despair from a boy his age and he went all soft.

The confusion he felt made him more angry than the incident itself. He could always try again another day... but could he really? He didn't know. He’d never had to face his targets in the real world before brawling with their Shadows. There had always been a separation between those glowing-eyed beacons of sin and their humanity. With Mishima, he had already knocked down that wall. It was too late. He blew it.

He sighed at his laptop's screen as he closed out of the order complete tab on the phone website and switched over to the Phansite. There was nothing new of note. A few notices of completed requests, but nothing he hadn't already caught wind of from the precinct. Boring. And Mishima-less as always. Part of him hoped that his phone being broken wasn't impacting his ability to work. He shooed that thought away.


Mishima was waiting in a booth when Akechi arrived at the diner. His eyes landed on him immediately from across the room and Akechi made his way over to his table. Mishima didn't say anything, just looked at him with those big, dark eyes of his.

“Good evening. I apologize for the delay, there was some sort of issue with the train schedule and I had some problems getting here from work. But, ah, here you are.” He sat his briefcase down on the table and opened it. The small box containing Mishima's new phone was nested inside between some case files and his own laptop. He handed it over and Mishima took it. He shut the case. “Just as promised.”

Mishima examined the box, then began opening it and putting things together. Akechi watched him work, then remembered his manners.

“I apologize, again, for the trouble… I do truly feel terrible about the whole thing. I hope it hasn't inconvenienced you too badly.”

Mishima looked up at him and barely smiled. “It's okay. You didn't have to buy me a new one and you still did, so… I'd say I can forgive you.”

Akechi chuckled. “Well, I suppose that's good news then.” He realized he was still hovering by the table and shifted his weight awkwardly. “Would you mind terribly if I stayed and had a coffee? I can buy you one as well. Or I can leave you be and sit at my own table, if you'd rather not indulge me.”

“Yeah, that's fine. Whatever.” Mishima was absorbed in the phone now, messing with settings and ensuring everything was functional.

Akechi slid into the booth across from him and flagged down a server. He ordered a coffee for himself and Mishima ordered a soda, declining Akechi's offer to buy him an entire meal. Akechi supposed he may have crossed a line with his reparations, and that was fine. He could leave it at a brand new phone and a soft drink.

Mishima wasn't looking at him or talking to him. He hadn't really expected him to. This was an odd situation and they didn't exactly know each other, though Akechi supposed he knew more about Mishima than Mishima was aware of. Seeing another person's deepest corruptions had that effect. Akechi wondered how much information Mishima had been able to dig up on him in return. Hopefully not much more than was readily available in the public sphere. Favorite food, birthday, surface-level hobbies. That sort of thing.

Akechi didn't know any of those things about Mishima.

Their drinks arrived and it gave Akechi an opportunity to break the tension.

“So,” Akechi began adding sugar to his coffee. “I realized that I recognized you from somewhere prior to our unfortunate collision the other day.”

“Hm?” Mishima glanced up, looking unimpressed.

“You were involved with the Kamoshida incident at Shujin, correct? You declined police questioning on the subject after his confession.”

“And I'm declining your questioning now.” Mishima directed his attention back down at his phone.

“And that's fine. I'm off duty right now, my questioning holds little weight. I just found it to be an odd coincidence.”

Akechi took in Mishima's face while he was being ignored. Any bruising from back then had healed up without any lasting effects. He had a faint scar at his hairline that could barely be made out in the dim diner lighting, but it was impossible for him to say whether it was related. He looked tired. Exhausted. There were dark bags under his eyes and his lips had been chewed raw in spots. If Akechi hadn't already known all was not well with Mishima, he would have been able to tell just from looking at him now.

“Stop staring at me.” Oops. “I'm not talking about that shit… if you want a statement, I already made one to a reporter. It's done. There's nothing else to say.”

“Right, my apologies. It wasn't my intention to stare, my mind was simply wandering elsewhere.” He let his eyes settle on his coffee. “I don't want a statement. I don't expect you to talk to a stranger about such personal experiences months after the fact. You deserve the right to your own healing process, be it private or otherwise.”

“Thanks for your blessing, Detective. I'll remember that in therapy.”

“Are you…? Getting therapy?”

Mishima laughed bitterly, then went quiet again. “No.”

Akechi stared into his mug and berated himself internally. What a thing to ask someone. Why had he even done that?

“That was quite invasive of me--”

“Your apologies, I know.” Mishima set the phone down and took a sip of his drink. “You apologize a lot.”

“Oh.” Akechi nervously tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. He hadn't realized that was a habit of his. Usually, he was quite perceptive, but sometimes he fell flat when it came to his own behavior. He found himself wanting to apologize again and pursed his lips.

“You wanted to do it again just now.” Mishima grinned, like he was trying not to laugh in his face.

“Yes, I suppose so.” He sipped at his coffee. He felt a bit irritated by how easily Mishima had read him. His facade was slipping.

“It's okay.” Mishima's expression softened into a smaller smile and he looked away, tracing a pattern in the condensation of his glass. “I do the same thing. People get mad at me for it, so… I try not to anymore, but… I mean, people barely talk to me anymore so I guess it's not as much of an issue.” He shrugged.

“I see.” This was more information than Akechi expected to be getting from him on a personal level, even if it was still just skimming the surface. He hadn't expected to be given something to relate to so readily.

“Is that all it takes to get you to be quiet? Point out a flaw? Next time they hold a press conference for you to smear the Phantom Thieves at, somebody in the audience just needs to tell you your tie is crooked or something.” Mishima leaned his cheek on his hand, low-lidded eyes on Akechi.

Akechi didn't know what to say anymore. He tried to gather his thoughts and just ended up flustered and agitated. He frowned down at the table.

“Now you're pouting.” Mishima laughed quietly. “Hey, I'm not trying to be mean. I'm just… you and I are sort of at odds, huh? The Phantom Thieves saved my life. And you're… y'know. You.”

“If nothing else, that I am.” Akechi forcibly calmed his expression back into one of complacency. “We don't have to be at odds though. I am simply trying to look at these incidents realistically. I cannot be faulted if the public takes issue with my refusal to be a blind optimist.”

“I'm no optimist, believe me.” Mishima's expression fell. He preoccupied himself with toying with a straw wrapper. “I just want to believe things will be okay. That there's someone out there fighting for people like me. I mean, they saved my life. I could've been…” He trailed off. “Things have been so dark for me, I just wanna believe that there's some sort of light too. I don't expect you to, like, get it, you weren't there. You weren't affected. But when you're in a place like that and someone drags you out of it… you want to believe in them.”

“I do understand where you're coming from. I just can't allow myself to be so hopeful, I suppose.” Akechi put on his best TV smile, neutral and non-threatening. “I can fully understand why someone might want to support such things, I just am not one of them. I don't oppose you. You have little to nothing to do with this situation, so there's no reason for us to be at odds. That's all.”

“Oh. Right. Yeah. I just got defensive, I guess. Sorry.” Mishima shifted in his seat uncomfortably.

“Now you're the one apologizing. No need for that. Your passion is actually quite compelling.” He took a few big sips of his coffee, draining the mug to almost empty. He hadn't meant to spend so much time here and it was starting to get cold.

Mishima made a choked noise somewhere between a laugh and annoyance. “I haven't heard that one before. Passion, I mean. I usually get obsession.

“Two sides of the same coin, and often the same thing entirely viewed through a slightly different lens.”

Mishima just hummed at that and appeared lost in thought for a few moments. Akechi downed the last of his coffee and pulled his briefcase towards him.

“I should be going. I enjoyed our chat though, and though it now pains me to say it, I do apologize again for your phone and any bodily harm I may have caused you due to my failure to pay attention to my surroundings.” He pulled a few bills from his wallet and placed them on the table, definitely more than enough to cover the drinks, but he wasn't counting. “Here you are. It was nice speaking with you. You've given me much to think about regarding the Phantom Thieves.”

He stood and Mishima gave him a half-assed wave and went back to looking at his phone.

Chapter Text

Mishima kept checking his phone for a notification he knew wasn’t coming. He had sent Ren a text an hour ago asking if they could meet up and discuss a new request that had come in on the forum. Ren used to text him back quickly, but nowadays he just tried not to get his hopes up. He couldn’t blame Ren for having better things to do than talk to someone like him, so he at least tried to keep their conversations on-topic instead of talking about his own feelings like he used to. It had taken him too long to realize Ren wasn’t interested in him beyond his usefulness as an admin, and he was done embarrassing himself.

At least, he told himself that. Then Ren would smile at him or imply he was even the tiniest bit grateful and Mishima would be in the palm of his hand again, eager to please as ever. It was a vicious cycle and being made aware of it hadn’t helped him escape it. Not yet.

Today he was in Shinjuku, investigating a request put through on the Phansite regarding a claim of drug trafficking involving high school girls and a bar owner. He had asked around his usual gossip channels and come up with a lot of information he wanted to pass on to Ren, if Ren would just answer his texts.

He tried again.

Ren

In Shinjuku still. Let me know soon if you can meet up. I have some important info for you about a request.

He waited another ten minutes, got nothing, and decided to call it quits. He made it half a block down the street before it started pouring all at once and he had to run to duck under the awning of a bar. Of course he hadn’t brought an umbrella. Did he even own an umbrella? He didn’t think he did. And now he was stranded and his shirt was soaked and his shoes weren’t faring much better. He winced and crossed his arms across his chest to try and keep from shivering.

“Mishima-kun!” He barely heard a voice over the downpour. He knew it wasn’t Ren, who never used an honorific to address him, and he couldn’t figure out who else would be calling out to him out here.

He didn’t have to wonder long, because Goro Akechi stepped under the awning next to him and closed his umbrella. Great. Just great.

“This is a strange place for a high school student to be hanging out. I hope you’re not doing anything questionable.” Akechi was giving him that fake smile of his and Mishima was not impressed by it. He stayed silent. “Though right now it just looks like you’re a bit trapped. Can I escort you to the station?”

“Uh, no. I’m alright.” Mishima wrapped his arms around himself tighter and looked away from him. A walk in the rain with Akechi was the last thing he wanted right now. Or ever.

“Are you certain? This umbrella is plenty large enough for two people and the forecast said this isn’t going to let up for the rest of the evening. You’re going to be stuck here for quite a while.”

“I’ll manage. Thanks.” Mishima hoped if he just kept standing here, eventually he would just drown and die.

Akechi stood next to him for another minute that seemed to drag on forever, then looked over at him with that fake smile again.

“I do have to be going. Are you absolutely sure you wouldn’t like to walk together?”

“Positive. Goodbye, Akechi.” Mishima pulled his phone out of his pocket, making sure it was shielded from the rain, and pretended to be busy.

Still no text from Ren.

Akechi gave him one last look, then opened his umbrella and left, leaving Mishima alone.


Akechi made it back to the station with time to spare, so he bought himself a hot tea from a vending machine and leaned back against the wall. He had managed to stay mostly dry, except for his shoes and the very bottoms of his pants. Still, he felt chilled just from the exposure to the wind and moisture in the air. He had already been having a bad day, and now he just wanted to go home and go to bed. Which he wouldn’t be able to do. He still had case files to look over as well as actual homework.

He hadn’t counted on ever really running into Mishima again, and he wasn’t sure why he had even stopped to offer him anything at all. He had just seen a familiar face and acted. Perhaps knowing what Mishima was going through had flipped some sort of empathy switch in him, as much as he hated to even consider it. He would have to think about that. Not that he expected to have to deal with him anymore.

But then he looked up and saw him, looking much like a drowned rat, soaked to the bone and visibly shivering, huddling into a corner and nearly disappearing. He observed him for a moment, contemplating, then sighed and decided that he might as well continue this odd pattern of behavior.

He walked up to him and offered him his unopened tea. “You look cold.”

Mishima startled and flinched away from him, then just stared at the tea and then at him.

“It’s warm. Take it.” Akechi nudged it towards him again.

“I don’t want it. Are you following me or something?” Mishima shuddered violently and grit his teeth. It was painful to watch.

“I assure you that I’m not. I told you when I saw you that I was going to the station and now here I am. And I could have walked you here so you wouldn’t have ended up like this.”

“I don’t n-need a-- a lecture. What do you want?”

“For you to take this tea and possibly my coat so that I won’t feel guilty when you contract pneumonia and pass on from this realm.”

Mishima continued shivering and, for a moment his look of agitation faded into misery, before he seemed to remember he was angry. “If I take it, will you leave me alone?”

“Yes.”

“Fine.” Mishima took the tea out of his hand finally and gripped it with both of his.

Akechi set down his umbrella and shrugged off his coat and tried to hand that over as well. Mishima eyed it warily.

“It’s just going to get wet.”

“It can be dried. But it’s quite warm and you look like you’re becoming hypothermic as we speak. Take it. Please.”

Another big shiver ran through Mishima but then he caved in and took the coat and pulled it around himself. It was big on his short frame. Slowly, he stopped shuddering quite so bad.

“It will have to be dry cleaned, I suppose.” Akechi glanced over to the tracks, making sure he wasn’t missing his train. “Perhaps we should exchange contact information so that I can retrieve it from you at a later date.”

“Was this an elaborate plot to get my number?” Mishima sounded like he was trying to make a joke, but he was so miserable-looking that it only came out flat.

“No, it was not.” Akechi answered just as flatly. “If I wanted that, I could have pre-programmed my number into that phone when I gave it to you and gotten yours just as easily. I only want a way to retrieve my coat when you’re finished with it. That’s all.” He took out his phone and looked at Mishima expectantly.

Mishima looked like he would rather be anywhere else, doing anything else. But he sighed and mumbled his number. Akechi put it into his phone and sent Mishima a quick text so they would have each other’s information. His train pulled up just then and he quickly bid Mishima a good evening and hurried off.


Akechi thought about killing Mishima again, but he wanted his coat back first. Coat first, then carefully orchestrated Metaverse murder. His priorities were in order, at least.

The Phansite remained dull. A few new requests went up and came back finished. The admin posted anonymous thank you notes. The forums were the same drivel of blind support, peppered occasionally by dissenting views that were no longer instantly deleted by Mishima.

Akechi went to work, then school, then work again, then work once more. His days were a cycle of journalists, classrooms, precinct gossip, and playing hitman. Then he would come home and do homework until he felt like his eyes were melting, go to sleep for a few hours, wake up, and do it all again. And now his favorite coat was in the hands of the Phantom Thieves’ number one Phan. He was tired. And cold. But mostly tired.

If Mishima didn’t return his coat, he really might go through with the murder after all. It would be a revenge killing.

After a week, he got a text.

Yuuki Mishima

I have your coat. I can meet tonight
Wonderful. Anywhere you would prefer?
The diner we met at before?
Very doable. I'm in a meeting this evening until around 6, but after that I can head straight there. It should take me around half an hour. Does 6:30 work for you?
Yeah
6:30 it is, then.

He was late. Again. He was never late, but he had managed to be running behind both times he had met up with Mishima. He had no positive reputation to speak of with him, so he supposed it didn’t really matter, but it still put a damper on his self-image. He would do better.

Mishima was sitting in the same booth as before, but he didn’t look up even as Akechi stood right next to his table. He was absorbed in something on his phone and he looked very unhappy. Akechi cleared his throat and Mishima jumped, phone clattering to the table with a thud.

“Oh. Sorry. I was trying to avoid that.” Akechi glanced at the phone to make sure it was unharmed, and then back to Mishima. “You startle easily, it seems.”

“Thanks. Getting the shit beat out of you regularly will do that.” His tone didn’t imply he was joking. He reached into his bag and pulled out Akechi’s coat, folded and dry. “Here. It’s clean.”

Akechi smiled and took it from him to hold it against his chest. He felt a wave of relief wash over him at being reunited with it, and then felt stupid instead for feeling such a thing over an article of clothing.

“You have my thanks. I hope you didn’t fall ill.”

“I did. That’s why it took me so long to get it back to you.” Now that he mentioned it, Mishima’s nose did look a little pink and his eyes were redder than normal, though it could just as easily have been from exhaustion.

“I see. I hope that your health has returned, then.”

“It has. I guess.” Mishima wasn’t looking at him, but he also hadn’t picked his phone back up after dropping it.

“I don’t suppose you’d let me buy you a coffee?” Why had he offered to do that? Why was he doing this? Mishima was not his friend. He didn’t owe him anything just because he knew what kind of pain he was in.

“I wouldn’t. You’re right.”

Well, that settled that.

“Very well. Good evening, then.”


Mishima hadn’t even bothered going out. He knew Ren wasn’t going to respond to his request to meet up, so what was the point? He stayed in his room in the dark and stared at his phone with one eye open and the other pressed against his pillow. He spent some time moderating the Phansite, but requests were slow to get passed on now, and he had little to do besides deleting spam. He wasn’t deleting negative comments or sending warning messages anymore, so that had freed up a lot of his time.

His phone vibrated, startling him. Ren had texted back, and it had only taken two hours this time. That had to be some sort of new record. The content was less promising.

Ren

busy tonight. just tell me in a text

That was the response he got most of the time now. Ren wouldn't meet with him anymore, not even long enough to just exchange some details in person. Mishima had deluded himself into believing they were friends, that Ren listened when he talked about his troubles because he really cared, because he was a Phantom Thief and that's what they did. But he had made a mistake.

All that talk about not being a zero anymore had been meaningless and his overenthusiasm about revenge had scared Ren off. He was back to square one, only now he had the burden of the Phansite to carry on his back. He owed a debt. His pathetic life for a website.

He didn't even want this life. He never had if he was being honest. He wasn't doing anything about it, but if a car was coming at him he couldn't promise he'd move. That probably made him more pathetic. A coward. What else was new?

He pulled himself out of his self-loathing long enough to text Ren back. He gave him the target name and the necessary information. Nothing else, no frills. No thank you, no words of encouragement. He was done.

Ren

thanks. appreciate you and your hard work as always

Oh goddammit.

He groaned and pressed his face into his pillow. No. No, no, no. No more of this. He was sick of this stupid cycle. Ren couldn't ignore him for weeks and then say something like that and get him invested again. It wasn't fair. He felt stupid and weak and… he felt wanted. He sighed and quickly gave in.

Ren

thanks. appreciate you and your hard work as always
Of course! I'm always rooting for you.

Fuck.

He hated himself. He wanted to throw himself in front of a train, anything to stop doing this. Ren didn't care about him and he knew it, but part of him wanted to believe he did, and that part was clinging on for dear life. He knew he was a tool to him. He knew if he dropped the Phansite, Ren would never acknowledge him again. He was disposable just like he always had been.

He shoved his phone under his pillow and stared at the wall in the dark instead.

Was this just? To treat someone like this? The Phantom Thieves were supposed to be saviors who changed corrupted people so they couldn't hurt those weaker than them anymore. They were supposed to protect people who couldn't protect themselves. So why was Ren treating him like this? It didn't add up.

He saw Ren laughing with Sakamoto and Takamaki at school. He knew he wasn't generally a cold person, or he wouldn't be doing the whole Phantom Thief thing. So, it must just be him… Just a personal failing on his part. A failure to be interesting or worth investing time in. He was simply a vehicle for their movement to continue.

He took a deep breath and willed himself not to cry. Luckily, his brain decided that complete numbness was a better route.

He stared at the wall until he passed out.


Goro Akechi was on TV the next day, answering questions about the Phantom Thieves as usual, as it seemed to be all anyone asked him about anymore. As if he wasn't working on any other cases. As if he wasn't extremely busy.

Mishima caught the tail end of the show over someone else's shoulder on the train. They had subtitles on and he was able to read along.

The show's host asked him if he truly believed there was no merit to the Phantom Thieves’ acts.

“I do understand that the acts of the Phantom Thieves hold great weight to some people. Many of their supporters have been in such dark places for so long that when someone like the Phantom Thieves shows them a light, they want to reach for it. They want to believe in something like that. It does make a great deal of sense, but I simply cannot overlook that something much greater seems to be at play here. Whether or not the Phantom Thieves appeal to others’ sense of hope or not, they are still implementing their own sense of justice outside that of the law, and should be handled accordingly. Vigilante justice is seldom truly just, and this case is no exception. Merit isn't the issue here.”

Mishima had to get off the train just as the broadcast cut away to an ad break.

Had Akechi been talking about him? He had almost directly paraphrased what Mishima had told him that day in the diner. It couldn't be a coincidence. Akechi had said he had given him a lot to think about, but Mishima hadn't thought he actually meant it.

He was… touched, to know that his words had gotten through to someone. It wasn't something he was used to.

Against his better judgement, he texted him.

Akechi

Cite your sources next time

Stupid. He shouldn't be talking to Akechi, not about the Phantom Thieves or anything else.

Just as he slid into his desk in homeroom, he felt his phone buzz.

Akechi

Cite your sources next time
I beg your pardon?
What you said on that talk show this morning
It seemed a little familiar
Yes, I admit that I was thinking of you at the time. I hope you weren't bothered by it. As I said before, your words did give me much to think about and I did some pondering on them. That was the conclusion that I arrived at.
Yeah i see
I still don't think I agree with you
You don't have to. If everyone agreed on everything, things would get quite boring. I'm content to hold a dissenting opinion on this.
You seem like you like a friendly debate
There is a time and a place for such a thing. A debate can be a great learning experience in the right situation.
How does anyone think you're cool
Excuse me?
You're a nerd
What have I done to deserve such harsh criticism?
Idk
Be a nerd
I'm wounded deeply.
I have to go to class now
As do I. It's been nice speaking with you, Mishima-kun. I'm glad you were able to see my appearance this morning. Best of luck with your studies today.
See ya

Akechi had been thinking about him. That thought stuck with him all day. People didn't think about him. He was out of sight, out of mind. Practically invisible. Sometimes, he thought he might be literally as well. But Akechi thought about his words long and hard, and had carried them with him.

What did that mean?


Akechi was in Mementos for a Shido-related matter, but once he had finished that, he found himself wandering closer to where he had first seen the Phantom Thieves confronting Mishima's Shadow. They hadn't fought it, so surely it was still there despite the minute changes that had overcome the real Mishima.

It was. Akechi caught sight of it, sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall, bright yellow eyes unfocused and staring at nothing in particular. It looked almost as tired as its real-life counterpart.

Akechi didn't approach it. Instead, he just knelt at the corner and observed.

Nothing happened. No stray Shadows wandered over. Mishima's Shadow stayed still and never noticed Akechi, even as he nearly lost his balance and had to grip the wall to stay steady.

He thought back on the scene he had seen here before. How could Mishima cling so blindly to someone who had come here with the intention of uprooting his psyche and rebuilding it? Someone who saw him as so inherently flawed as to get the same treatment as abusers, con artists, actual thieves? The Phantom Thieves had looked right past Mishima's pain and honed straight in on his mistakes instead. There was no help from them. And Akechi was here plotting murder.

A thought occurred to him. What if he could utilize this to his advantage? Dealing the Phantom Thieves a blow via Mishima didn't have to mean taking him out entirely. It could mean winning him over. It could mean utilizing the Phansite for his own gain and convincing Mishima that it would be for his as well.

He would have to think about it carefully. It would take extremely precise planning. But it could be done.

He crept out of Mementos undetected by Shadows and went home for the night. He was exhausted from all the walking. Not for the first time and not for the last, he found himself envious that the Phantom Thieves had been graced with a less labor-intensive means of transportation. His calves were killing him.

All he wanted was to go to bed, but instead he slumped over the table with an unfinished essay and a cup of coffee in front of him, preparing to work late into the night. His thoughts kept straying to Mishima.

The biggest hurdle would be convincing him that his saviors wouldn't save him. If what he had seen in Mementos was any indication, he knew he was right about that anyway. But Mishima's blind devotion was the issue. It would take some master manipulation, and that manipulation would require a great deal of trust. And it didn't seem like Mishima trusted easily without a grand show of heroics.

Well… he could probably manage that. He would do some probing first.

He went back to that spot in Mementos a few days later to find Mishima's Shadow sitting in the same spot, seemingly unmoved. Akechi wasn't sure what Shadows of actual people did when they weren't being confronted, but he was beginning to think the answer was absolutely nothing.

This time, he crept closer but stayed low to the ground. The Shadow's head snapped up and its eyes fixed on Akechi, but it made no move to get up or attack. Akechi continued moving slowly until he was crouching just in front of it. They stared at each other silently.

“What do you want?” The Shadow's voice was much less aggressive than it had been when Akechi had heard it before. It had lost that edge of desperation and now it just sounded defeated.

Akechi didn't answer. He settled onto his knees and sat comfortably like that, hands on his lap, watching.

The Shadow eyed him with what looked like fear, but it still didn't get up.

“What?” It kept eye contact, but seemed increasingly distressed by Akechi's presence.

“What do you want?” Akechi spoke gently. Why guess at a person's deepest desires when you could go straight to the source?

“What do I…” Its eyes darted around, face in anguish. “What do I want?”

“Yes. Your desires. Your needs.”

“I want…” It appeared to swallow. “I want to be wanted. I want someone to want me. I want to be-- to be needed by someone. I'm tired of being used and thrown away. I want to be loved.”

What a basic desire.

“That's all?”

“I want… Power. I want revenge on the people who threw me to the side when they were done with me. I want them to feel remorse, I want them to feel all the pain they caused me tenfold. I want to be the one pulling the strings, just for once. I'm tired of being everyone's plaything.”

Ah, there was that desperation. And the depth. Nobody just wanted love, there was always more.

Akechi slowly, slowly stood up, careful not to make any sudden movements. It was likely that Mishima's Shadow startled even easier than he did, and Akechi was trying to avoid a confrontation here or else he'd have to resort back to Plan A: murder.

The Shadow watched him, but stayed seated.

“You're going to leave me.” It was a statement. Not a question.

“Yes, I am. I have to. I have desires to fulfill, after all.”

Chapter Text

Mishima spent Sundays either cooped up in his bedroom alone or out gathering information for the Phansite. This Sunday it was the former. He had barely risen from bed to eat some excuse for a breakfast, and then gone right back to it for several hours. He did some housekeeping on the Phansite. He checked his texts with some vague hope that maybe he had missed something from Ren. Nope. His company was undesired and he shouldn't have expected anything less.

He fell asleep for a while. He dreamed he was somewhere dark and eerie with lots of dripping red. He woke up feeling unsettled and cold.

His phone buzzed by his pillow and forced him to truly wake up. He hoped it was Ren. It wasn't.

Akechi

I have some free time this evening. Would you like to meet up? I understand if you're busy or simply don't wish to see me. It won't hurt my feelings if you decline.

What did Akechi want with him? They should've been done when Mishima gave him his stupid coat back, but then he had to go and send him that text after the talk show appearance. Desperate for attention, as always… He couldn't just step away from people.

And now was no exception. What else did he have to do? A whole lot of nothing. He might as well go indulge the detective.

Akechi

I have some free time this evening. Would you like to meet up? I understand if you're busy or simply don't wish to see me. It won't hurt my feelings if you decline.
Sure
Oh, wonderful. Could I take you for dinner somewhere? I've been quite busy today and haven't had the time to sit down and eat much, so I'm rather hungry.
That's fine. You don't need to pay though
If you were implying you wanted to
I was, but I won't force you. You're welcome to pay for your own meal, of course.
Thanks
Is there anywhere in particular you'd like to go? If you're not attached to anywhere specific, there is a lovely cafe I frequent near Inokashira Park that has a wonderful selection of crepes.
That's fine
You haven't eaten all day and you're going to eat crepes?
That's not food
I think you'll find they're quite edible.
Do you actually have a sense of humor somewhere in there?
Perhaps.
Requires more thorough investigation
Investigate all you'd like. Shall I see you in an hour or so?
Perhaps

When Mishima arrived to the location, Akechi was already there and motioned him over to a booth by a window. The cafe was small and warmly lit. The word cozy came to mind readily. He set his bag down and sat in the seat across from Akechi. This felt… intimate. It was weird.

“Good evening. I hope calling on you like this wasn't an inconvenience. I understand we aren't exactly much more than strangers.” Akechi had been reading a book, but he set it down on the table to speak. He was smiling, the same smile he gave on TV, but this close up it just looked fake.

“Not an inconvenience, just kind of weird. I feel like you want something.” Mishima pulled a menu closer to himself and looked it over. He had expected this place to be pricier than it was. Maybe Akechi had picked somewhere cheaper for his sake.

“Just your company. I apologize if that's weird. I… don't have many friends, so I'm sometimes not sure what's commonplace and what isn't.”

“We have that in common then…” Mishima mumbled and hoped it was inaudible. “What's good here? You said crepes, but…”

“Oh! Yes, the crepes are wonderful, but if you'd like something more savory, they also have an excellent vegetable soup, and the fresh bread they make here is to die for.” Akechi had lit up the second Mishima mentioned food, and he was a little taken aback by it. Had he hit a button?

They both ended up ordering crepes. Akechi's was much more elaborate and sugary than Mishima's and just looking at it made him feel nauseous. So he focused on his own plate.

“It's good, isn't it?” Akechi looked at him with curious eyes. “I was surprised by this place the first time I stumbled upon it. It isn't very popular, so it's never crowded and service is always fast. I sometimes come here to relax or to work on homework if I don't want to travel back home before I go to work.”

“Oh. Huh. Yeah, it's good. You eat stuff like this a lot though? It's super sweet.” Mishima was taking small bites, overwhelmed by the amount of icing.

“Oh, I… Haha, my sweet tooth can be a bit out of control. It's somewhat embarrassing. I know I should avoid sweets and eat a more balanced diet, but it's just one thing I can't seem to help myself with.”

“Well, I mean… at least there's fruit in it?”

There were slices of strawberry and banana mixed in with the heaps and heaps of whipped icing and syrup covering Akechi's plate. Akechi covered his mouth to obscure what Mishima saw was a much more genuine looking smile than he had shown before. It was toothier and Mishima noticed his nose wrinkled when he smiled big like that. Interesting.

Akechi regained his composure quickly. “I suppose you're right. I'm getting at least two basic food groups.”

“Further investigation reveals you do have a sense of humor. Which begs the question of why you act like you have a stick up your ass so often.” Mishima forked a piece of crepe into his mouth and watched Akechi briefly lose his composure again. This could be fun.

“You-- you don't look like you should be so crass.”

“Looks can be deceiving. What do I look like?”

“Hmm. If I had never spoken to you, I think I would assume that you were very quiet. You keep to yourself most of the time and don't have any outstanding hobbies or pursuits. Your classmates have neither high nor low regard for you, but you're dependable and kind. Perhaps too kind sometimes. Am I close?”

Mishima just stared at him, half bewildered and half offended. Either way, he was almost entirely right.

Akechi chuckled. “That look tells me all I need to know. What about me? What do I look like?”

“You read a lot of books but none of them are interesting and none of them can be summarized in less than five minutes. You use lots of big words but you have to Google what they mean and sometimes you use them wrong but no one calls you on it. You try really hard to look cool but you're actually just a big nerd. You're nosey and a gossip but you pretend you're not.” He paused. “You're lonely but you just pretend you're alone all the time because you're so busy. How's that?”

Akechi pursed his lips for a brief second and then that fake smile was back. So, he had gotten something right if he was back to masking like that.

“Some yes, some no. Some debatable.” He went to take a bite and got some icing in his hair and made a small sound of annoyance while he tried to get it out.

Mishima reached across the table and got it out for him with a napkin. “Here.”

“Thank you.” Akechi barely laughed. “I should really get a haircut, I suppose.”

“So are you going to tell me which were the yes, no, and debatables?”

“I politely decline. You'll have to hone your detective skills.”

“I'm not that invested.” Mishima felt his phone buzz and pulled it out.

Ren

can we meet tonight? in shibuya

Why now? Ren never texted him anymore. Ever. He couldn't stop himself from sighing hard.

Akechi's eyes flickered from the phone to Mishima's annoyed expression. “Something the matter?”

“Sort of. Doesn't matter.” He put his phone back into his pocket without responding. Ren had left him on read more times than he could count. It was his turn.

“If you need to be going, I won't be offended.”

“I don't. It's fine.”

Mishima tried to finish his food, but Ren had made him lose his appetite and instead he just pushed around a pile of icing while Akechi quietly finished his.

Then they just sat in silence. Though Mishima's thoughts felt so loud he was almost certain Akechi could hear them.

“I understand if it's a personal matter, but I'm here and willing to listen if it's something you think you'd like to discuss.”

“I don't. Thanks. It's fine.” He rested his cheek on his hand.

Of course Ren would choose now to text him. The one time he went out with someone else. The one time he had plans at all that didn't have anything to do with the Phantom Thieves. He was just trying to be a normal person. But Ren had him so sucked into this cycle that he now felt guilty for not answering him. He felt guilty for being busy, for having some semblance of a life.

There was no way he knew, right? He couldn't know he was out with Akechi. They had met here and Ren was in Shibuya. They wouldn't have been able to see each other on the way. It had to be a terrible coincidence and not that Ren somehow knew he was with the guy publicly opposing him on national television. He felt sick.

“You don't look well… Perhaps we should wrap this up.” Apparently he looked sick too. “Here, let me go pay for you. You look a bit pale.”

Mishima nodded and fished his money out of his wallet and handed it to Akechi, who took it up to pay for their food. He couldn't handle the crushing guilt anymore and took his phone back out.

Ren

can we meet tonight? in shibuya
Out right now but will be back that way soon if you'll be around for a while

Fuck.

Ren

can we meet tonight? in shibuya
Out right now but will be back that way soon if you'll be around for a while yeah at big bang with ann
K see you soon!

Fuck!


Akechi felt drained the instant he parted from Mishima. Putting up that fake-friendly facade was always exhausting, but it was usually limited to work-related pleasantries, not one-on-one connection. Forging a friendship was going to prove to be harder work than he had assumed, even if he was making headway in having Mishima open up to him.

Making jokes and poking fun at him was a step above refusing to look at him at all and shooing him away, at least. Even if he had closed up again at the end there. That was likely no fault of his own and had something to do with the Phansite, by the looks of it. He kept a close eye on it for the rest of the evening, but nothing out of the ordinary ever came up.

He gave it a few hours and then sent Mishima a text.

Yuuki Mishima

I quite enjoyed our time together this evening. You make excellent company. I hope we can make a habit of seeing each other.

He didn’t get a response by the time he fell asleep, which agitated him, but he couldn’t expect Mishima to suddenly drop everything for him just like that. They were hardly acquaintances and he wasn’t owed a text back at all. He couldn’t grow impatient with this plan or he might blow it. All he could do was keep attempting to chip away at Mishima’s reservations and hope he could take his loyalty with it.


Mishima had gone to see Ren at Big Bang Burger like he said he would. Ren only wanted an update on the current requests, but Mishima was free to sit with him and Takamaki while they hung out. That would have been fine, but Ren kept taking subtle hits at Mishima with comments about his social life and his thinly veiled obsession with himself, and Takamaki kept laughing. He tried to smile along and be a good sport, but every time Ren smirked at him he felt himself spiraling deeper into despair. He had to excuse himself and leave.

He was really, really done this time. He wasn’t putting up with this anymore. He would run the Phansite and put through requests, but he was finished with Ren Amamiya and his smug, condescending attitude. Phantom Thief or not, he couldn’t do this anymore. He would rather go back to being alone than be Ren’s punching bag. It was his fault he was in this situation because he got his hopes up, but he could claw his way back out and into the dark again. Go back to hiding in the shadows. Being a nobody.

If he never texted Ren again, he could manage. He could send him requests and that was all. He’d cut all personal ties. He was sure this time.

He went home and sat in his dark bedroom. At one point, he got a text from Akechi, but he had no energy left to respond to anything and just went to sleep uncharacteristically early instead.

School the next day was more of the same. He spaced out in class and thought about anything else but being there. His mind wandered to Akechi and he remembered he hadn’t responded to his text. He decided to attend to that during lunch while Ren and Takamaki ignored him at the back of the class.

Akechi

I quite enjoyed our time together this evening. You make excellent company. I hope we can make a habit of seeing each other.
Yeah it was good seeing you too
Don't want to take up too much of your precious time

That was true. He imagined Akechi had much more pressing things to attend to than hanging out with someone like himself, especially with the Phantom Thieves case ongoing. Akechi always seemed to be doing something. Wasn’t he tired? Didn’t he want some time to himself? Mishima was tired and he wasn’t the one running around working two jobs and going to school. All he had was a stupid website and what might pass for low-level investigative work some of the time. Mostly, he just felt like he was waiting around.

Akechi texted him back towards the end of his lunch break.

Akechi

While I assure you that my time IS precious, I'm well-rehearsed in time management. No worries about taking up more than your allotted share.
What a relief lol
I hope you're feeling better than you were yesterday. You had me a bit worried.
I'm fine don't worry about me
If you insist.
I do
I can respect your privacy.

There was a pause in the conversation while the lunch break ended, but Mishima felt his phone buzz against his leg and pulled it out under his desk while Kawakami was distracted.

Akechi

I would still like to see you again sometime. I need advance notice most days to move things around my schedule, but if you have free time then I can make something work.

He couldn’t respond, as Kawakami turned back around and came and stood threateningly close to his desk, but he spent the rest of the day thinking about that.

Akechi seemed almost… desperate? To spend time with him. He was repeatedly asking after him, inquiring as to whether he was emotionally sound. He wasn’t used to this, but he thought maybe he could be if it kept up. But why Goro Akechi of all people? The Phantom Thieves’ number one dissenter had taken an interest in him, and why? He hadn’t made his association with the Phansite public, so it was unlikely that Akechi was trying to use him to get to the Phantom Thieves. It just seemed like a general interest in friendship. But Mishima didn’t know how to handle that. It was always a safer bet to assume any acts of kindness were born from hostility. Akechi had to want something. He just didn’t know what, and he would have to spend more time with him to figure that out.

He texted back once he was on the train after school.

Akechi

I would still like to see you again sometime. I need advance notice most days to move things around my schedule, but if you have free time then I can make something work. I'm free most of the time
I'm sure we can work something out, then. I often have downtime on Sundays after work in the evenings. Perhaps we could meet for dinner again then. Or coffee, if you prefer.
Sure yeah
Whatever
Such enthusiasm.
Sorry I'm just tired
It would be absolutely wonderful to see you for dinner and a riveting conversation, Akechi-kun
Being in your presence is such an intellectual treat
Now you're just being pompous.
That was my impression of you
I do not talk like that.
Hm I think you do actually
I think you talk JUST like that
I assure you I do not.
Hmmm
If you're done playing amateur impersonator, I have some work I need to attend to. I will be in touch about our plans. In the meantime, you should work on your character analysis skills. They leave much to be desired.
Everyone's a critic


Akechi’s week was more exhausting than usual. Shido had him pursuing two targets but he hadn’t bothered to give them to him on the same day, so that meant two separate trips down into the deeper parts of Mementos by foot in between papers being due and an exam to be studied for. He considered bringing his study materials into Mementos and examining them as he walked, but that would put him at risk of an ambush, and he didn’t need more piled onto his plate. He didn’t even feel like fighting, though it was usually decent stress relief. He just tried to creep through the levels undetected, hugging the walls where he could.

He took out target number two of the week and started his slow ascent back to the top. There had to be a better way to go about this. He wondered if he could bring his bike into the Metaverse with him. It probably wouldn’t materialize and if it did, he would probably have trouble navigating all the twists and turns without hurting himself in the process.

He made it about halfway up before he realized his muscle memory had led him to where Mishima’s Shadow rested. He poked his head into the little nook and observed him. He was still seated on the ground, knees pulled up to his chest, staring off at nothing. If he had moved since the last time Akechi had been here, it wasn’t obvious. He started to retreat, but was stopped.

“Akechi,” Mishima’s voice reached him, though it had more reverb than it should have.

How had he even been noticed? The Shadow hadn’t even turned its head towards him.

“Yes. Hello, Mishima-kun.” There was no use hiding. He had been spotted.

“What are you doing here? Why do you keep coming back if you’re not going to fight me?” It still gazed off in the opposite direction.

“Curiosity, I suppose.” He stepped into the area properly and approached it just as slowly as he had before. He crouched down in front of it. “You’ve captivated my interest.”

The shadow let out a laugh that felt too loud. It wasn’t a happy sound. “What do you want from me? What are you planning to use me for? Just tell me so we can avoid the pleasantries and get it over with. I’m tired.”

Akechi paused and chose his words carefully. He had no way of knowing how much information would transfer to the real Mishima. It was possible that nothing would, but it was just as likely that something would leak. He decided to be vague.

“I want revenge. Same as you.”

“You can’t possibly want the same as me. You have no idea how I feel.”

“You feel used. You feel like a tool for the Phantom Thieves to use and when you try to use your position to your advantage, they kick you back down into the dirt. Owning your skills and ambitions only gets you labeled an obsessive try-hard. People see you as strange or they don’t see you at all. You feel like you should be valued for your efforts and treated like an essential player in the game rather than something they can disregard when you’re not actively convenient. Am I correct?”

The shadow didn’t answer, just laughed that same harsh laugh again.

“We are quite similar, you know.” Akechi gave him his trademark fake smile.

Chapter Text

When Sunday rolled around, all Akechi wanted to do was sleep. He didn't get weekends or days off in general, and he hadn't in years. He dragged himself out of bed just after dawn and then continued to drag himself out for coffee and then across town to the prosecutor's office. He felt groggy. His mind was having trouble booting up properly, even with the caffeine boost. He trudged through his paperwork as best as he could before he was sent out to do some investigation in Shinjuku.

It was raining, just like it had been the last time he was there for work.

The investigation dragged. He couldn't get a solid statement from anyone, and he could tell his veneer of politeness was wearing thin by the end. He was cold and exhausted and he just wanted to go home and nap before he had to meet Mishima and then spend the rest of his night studying. He was praying Shido wouldn't call him with a last minute assignment. He really couldn't handle that right now.

After making virtually no progress in the investigation, he decided to just call it quits. If he couldn't get information, he was wasting his time. After texting his superior, he started to head back to the train and stopped cold in his tracks as he noticed a familiar face standing at the doorway to a club that wasn't yet open for the day, just barely shielded from the rain.

He sidled up to him and held the umbrella over them both.

“Oh. Hey. Well, this is embarrassing.” Mishima inched closer to him to get fully under cover of the umbrella.

“A bit, yes. You have a coat this time, but still no umbrella. Don't tell me this is some sort of strange hobby of yours?”

“I won't tell you then.” Mishima scanned the street in front of them, apparently looking for something.

“Keep your secrets. Can I escort you somewhere this time at least?” Akechi tried to follow his gaze.

Mishima seemed conflicted, but then sighed. “I-- yeah. Sure. I was supposed to meet someone, but… with the rain, they're probably not coming.”

“How inconsiderate.” Akechi motioned to the street. “Where to, then?”

“Just the station. I'll just go home. Unless you want to hang out now, but I assume if you're out here in this neighborhood you're probably not here for leisure.”

They started walking, huddled close together.

“Leisure is the last word I would use to describe my activities today. But I was just about to head home as well, so if you'd like to do a lunch rather than dinner, I wouldn't be opposed.”

“Not really hungry. Coffee maybe.”

“Coffee is good. There is a cafe in Yongen I've been wanting to try.” Akechi guided them around a group of girls standing huddled in the middle of the sidewalk under a too small umbrella and Mishima's shoulder got soaked as a result.

“Oh-- uh, no. I… I know a guy who works there. If it's the one I'm thinking. I'd rather not see him right now. Or like… ever, I guess.”

“Ah, I see. I'll have to go there alone sometime then.”

“Yeah, sorry. Anywhere else is fine.”

They walked in silence for a few minutes while Akechi thought things over. He knew exactly who worked at that cafe in Yongen, and he was surprised that Mishima hadn't leapt at the chance to go see him. Was there bad blood between them? When had that happened? Despite the conversation he overheard in Mementos and the knowledge he had gained on Ren's insistence on treating Mishima less than appropriately, he had assumed Mishima still viewed him in high regard. Apparently not.

Akechi finally spoke up again as they stepped into the station. “Are you opposed to the diner in Shibuya? We seem to end up there more often than not.” He closed his umbrella and shook it off just outside the entryway.

“No, that's fine.” Mishima tried to rub some water off his shoulder and examined where one cuff of his pants had gotten wet, looking annoyed. “We've only been there twice. And the second time we just met up and then left, so I guess it doesn't count.”

“I suppose. It's a convenient location for you, I gather?”

“Why do you gather that?” Mishima guided both of them deeper inside and then leaned against a wall to wait.

“You chose it as a meeting spot both times. It seemed familiar to you. A safe place maybe?” Akechi leaned against the wall beside him and suddenly noticed how much taller he was, especially with their differences in posture.

“I wouldn't call it safe. But yeah, convenient, I guess. It's near school, so.” He took his phone out and seemed to lose some interest in Akechi.

Akechi kept quiet and checked his own phone. He had a text from his superior, who seemed agitated, but allowed him to call it any early day anyway due to the lack of results. He hadn't expected any different. Shido hadn't contacted him so far and he hoped that would last at least for the next few days so he could focus on school. He was embarrassingly behind, for his standards anyway.

The train was packed and they ended up pressed together, too crowded in to really maintain a conversation. Mishima stayed focused on his phone. He seemed intent on maintaining posture that wouldn't allow Akechi to get even a glimpse of his screen, and kept glancing up at him to make sure he was minding his business.


Mishima's usual booth at the diner was taken, so he led Akechi to one near the back. They settled in and both ordered coffees. Akechi was saying something about rain and bikes, but Mishima wasn't really listening, because he caught someone else's eye over Akechi's shoulder across the room and instantly felt his blood run cold.

His phone buzzed in his hand twice.

Ren

hey
what exactly are you doing

He just stared at his phone and then sat it down on the table, trying to focus on Akechi instead. He was smiling in that polite way of his and seemed to be expecting a reply.

“Sorry, I kinda… I spaced out for a second, what'd you say? Sorry.” Mishima tried to keep his voice level. Ren was still staring over at him.

“I said would it be alright if I ordered something to eat? I know you declined my offer of lunch, but I feel it would be rude to eat in front of you without at least asking first.”

“Oh. Yeah. That's fine. I don't care.”

His phone buzzed again.

Ren

mishima i can see you looking at your phone what are you doing

He flipped his phone over on the table and ignored it.

“You’re quite popular today.” Akechi leaned his chin on his hand and smiled across the table at him.

“Ha. Yeah.” The phone buzzed again. “Most popular I’ve ever been anyway.”

A waiter came to the table and Akechi excused himself from the conversation to order something to eat. Mishima took the chance to look at his phone again.

Ren

are you serious right now
i know you know akechi isn't exactly our biggest fan and i know you're smarter than this
if this is some pr stunt you need to rethink it
stick to the phansite and let us handle everything else
again what are you even doing because from over here it looks like you're on a date with the guy who thinks we're criminals who belong in prison
mishima

This was the most attention Ren had given him in months. It was sort of nice to be able to hold this over him and see him get increasingly desperate for an answer. Ren could wait longer, then. He could squirm the way Mishima always did when Ren ignored his texts. He put his phone on silent and slipped it into his pocket just as Akechi finished speaking with the waiter.

“Are you certain you don’t want anything? I feel a bit out of place eating while you just sit there.” Akechi tucked some hair behind his ear and shifted to cross his legs under the table.

“No, I’m not hungry. You’re fine, I’m not gonna get mad because you’re eating food at a restaurant.”

“Well. When you put it that way, I feel silly for worrying. That’s a refreshingly different view of the situation. Thank you.”

“Uh, yeah? Sure?” Mishima gave a half smile and glanced over Akechi’s shoulder again. Ren wasn’t looking at him anymore, but he seemed to be talking angrily to Sakamoto, leaning across the table to get close to him so he wouldn’t be overheard. They must have been talking about him. Mishima felt his chest clench in that familiar anxiety and he looked back down at the table.

“I hope I don’t make you uncomfortable. The past two times we’ve seen each other, you’ve seemed a bit… put off. If your time with me is upsetting in any way, you’re under no obligation to indulge me.”

“Oh. No. It’s not you, it’s, uh… Just something else. Sorry.” He looked at Ren again and saw Sakamoto look over his shoulder and make eye contact. His eyes darted back down again. He lowered his voice. “There’s, um… There’s someone here right now who doesn’t exactly like me, and it’s making me kind of… anxious? He keeps looking at me. Don’t turn around and look.”

Akechi’s eyes wandered, but he didn’t turn his head. “Would you like to leave? I know all too well what it’s like to receive unwanted attention in public. I’m not exactly well-liked these days.”

“I don’t know. Maybe. You should at least get your food first though.” Mishima kept his eyes low now, not looking at Akechi or anyone else, just focusing on a spot on the table. His chest hurt and his head was starting to follow suit.

“We can take the food to go and go somewhere else if you’d like. The storm may not let up for a while, so I’m not certain where would be best. I could have you at my apartment, though I can’t offer much in the way of entertainment.”

“Maybe. Thanks.” He mumbled and hunched down lower.

“Are you in danger?”

“What?”

“Are you in danger from this person? A bully, maybe? Would this person have reason to harm you emotionally or physically due to seeing you here?” Akechi’s voice was low and steady. He didn’t sound like he was making fun of him, only like he truly was concerned. This was a foreign concept.

“I, um… Yeah. Probably. Emotionally, not-- not physically.”

Mishima had never thought of Ren as a bully before. He had up until very recently regarded him as a savior, a hero. The opposite of the guys who had called him names and shoved him around and mocked him for his entire life. But now that Akechi had said it like that, he realized how right he was. Maybe Ren was just too busy for him, but that didn’t excuse the way he would jab at him every time they saw each other or imply he was an annoyance at best. It had gotten to the point once where even Sakamoto was sort of half-heartedly standing up for him to Ren.

At first, he had always felt happy and excited when he thought of Ren, but he realized now that he hadn’t felt that way in a while. The emotions most readily partnered with Ren’s name were now anxiety, loneliness, and desperation. This wasn’t right. He was in danger of emotional harm. Ren’s texts to him were proof of that enough. Ren talked to him like he was incompetent, like he couldn’t possibly be trusted to lead his own life and do things on his own. He was the Phansite admin, and that was it. He wasn’t supposed to have connections with people. He was supposed to be on his phone or his laptop running a website alone in a room and texting Ren when he had information to share.

For the first time, he felt mad. Not at himself, but at Ren. And then there was the bite of guilt.

He crossed his arms on the table and lowered his head onto them, turned to the side to look at the wall. Akechi made a noise he couldn’t parse the emotion behind.

“We’ll leave, then. Is there anything I can do in the meantime?”

Mishima shook his head. “No, he’s just… gonna give me a talking to later, I’m sure. About trying to have some sort of normal life. And not just being at his beck and call.”

“I’m… sensing a much deeper issue here.”

“You could say that.” Mishima barely laughed and then buried his face in his arms for a few seconds. He barely lifted his head up again to talk. “This sucks. I’m sorry.”

“You haven’t done anything wrong. Other people’s inappropriate behavior is far from your fault.” Akechi was interrupted as their server set a plate down in front of him. Mishima hid his face again and heard him ask the waiter if he could have it as a to go order instead. The bill was paid and they left together quickly. Ren was glaring daggers at him as they walked out.

The rain hadn’t let up, so Akechi opened his umbrella to shield both of them. “If you’d like to just go home, I’ll escort you to the station.”

“I think that’s best, yeah. I’m sorry, again. This just really sucks. I wanted to have a good time with you, but it seems like that’s impossible.” Mishima huddled close to him as they walked.

“Well, we can always try again. Somewhere where you’re not likely to be targeted in such a way. Though, there’s always the chance that it will be me instead.” He chuckled to himself. “My reputation seems to have taken a bit of a nosedive recently.”

“Hadn’t noticed.”

“You flatter me.”


As soon as Mishima made it onto the train, he had his phone out. He couldn't handle the anxiety eating at him anymore and he felt like he was going to start hyperventilating out of fear. As angry as he felt with Ren, he still felt consumed by guilt for resenting someone who had quite literally saved his life.

Mishima was supposed to be obedient and easy to deal with and to take whatever his savior decided he deserved, but he couldn’t settle anymore for the thought that he owed Ren his entire existence over one good deed. It was making him feel sick.

He knew he would have several texts and he wasn't disappointed.

Ren

really?
you're putting us in DANGER
you need to explain yourself
tell me why you just left with mr ace detective the phantom thieves should be tried in a court of law goro akechi
fine i'll wait!
Ren you're really upsetting me
i'm upsetting YOU?
Yes!
you're out here jeopardizing our entire cause over coffee and you think you're the one upset
what is wrong with you
all this power and attention is going to your head you think you can just do whatever you want because you're running our pr shit
run the phansite that's all i ask of you and i didn't even actually ask you to do that you just took it upon yourself and ran with it and i don't have time to clean up the mess you seem to want to make right now
Then don't
can you think about something other than yourself
can you think for 2 seconds about what effect you hanging out with akechi might have on his investigation into us
you could get us all busted and that includes YOU because you're an accomplice
he's a detective he's going to see right through whatever act you're putting on for him and that's going to lead him right to us
i seriously can't believe you
Change my heart then if you think I'm such a huge problem!
i do not have time for this
you need to take a step back and think long and hard about what you're doing
I'm sorry
ok
your request is done btw if you even give a shit about that anymore
I said I'm sorry
Do you really think I don't care about this anymore?
i think you need to reevaluate why you're running that site cuz i haven't forgotten all that power crazy shit you said about how you're the only reason we're successful and how you tried to force us to go after some celebrity over nothing
and how much fun you said you were having seeing everyone's problems
how you were sending threats to people like you were going to sic us on them like your personal attack dogs
ring any bells
I apologized for ALL of that what else do you want me to do?
I told you I understand what I was doing was wrong and that I KNOW I messed up
stop messing up then
Ok I'm sorry
fine

He was crying silently by then, hunched over on a seat on the train and trying his best to hide it, but he knew the woman next to him was just pretending not to notice. He thought Ren had forgiven him for all the things he had said before, and finding out he still viewed him in that way was excruciatingly painful. He thought he had redeemed himself by working extra hard to get as many requests answered as possible. But maybe he was irredeemable. Forever doomed to be a pathetic loser. A zero. Nothing.

He had gotten another text while he was being berated by Ren, and once he had stopped crying, he switched over to it.

Akechi

I do hope you'll be alright. Try not to fret too terribly about today. I would rather avoid uncomfortable situations for either of us. Verbal abuse is as criminal an offense as physical. If things become unmanageable, I believe you know already that I possess police connections. A report can be filed any time if it would benefit you. Simply say the word.
You can be surprisingly kind
Thanks
I suppose I should take offense at "surprisingly", but given the circumstances I will let it slide.
Lol thanks
He's been texting me
Blocking his number is not an option?
No
It's extremely complicated
Situations like this often are. You have my sympathy, as well as an offer to lend an ear should you desire it.
I can't really talk about it but thanks
Funnily enough I think you're the only person who gives a shit
That isn't funny at all.
Maybe not
I'll talk to you later
'Til we meet again.


Days passed and Akechi didn't feel like he had stopped to breathe. With election season approaching, Shido was doing some intensive cleaning, and that made Akechi the one-man janitorial crew. He felt like he was in Mementos every day now, and he was falling behind on both his studies and his work at the courthouse.

Patient as he was, even he had a breaking point – one that was swiftly approaching. He could feel the stress aneurysm forming. He could feel the bags under his eyes and the way all the blood seemed to rush to his head too fast when he stood. He wasn't eating much or taking care of himself in any other conceivable way. Every day was just school, work, hours and hours of trekking into Mementos, what little schoolwork he could cram in before passing out, and repeat. He was having to ask for extensions on assignments and he was lucky his teachers were fond enough of him to allow it.

He had been neglecting Mishima too. He knew this would adversely affect his plan, but he just couldn't handle another round of fake niceties on top of everything else. So Mishima's few texts went without replies.

Shido was calling him in more often, berating him for not being fast enough, efficient enough. He had to grin and bear it and thank him for his time, waiting until he could go home and physically bleed all the anger out of himself into the bathroom sink just to get it out.

He was so, so tired of all of this.

He was tired of everything about his life, and he was beginning to doubt that this facade of the perfect, polite, charming boy he had set up had ever been worth it. If he gave in and just let Shido win, who would ever know he had been fighting to begin with? What was the point? The Detective Prince, Goro Akechi, disappears overnight and in time the public forgets he was ever there to begin with. It all sounded like a pleasant dream.

He pulled himself out of his fantasies, doctored his wounds, and steeled himself to tackle the three days’ worth of math assignments he had to finish. Welcome back to reality, Goro.

With four hours left to sleep, he crawled into bed and had just enough energy to check his phone. He had a few texts from Mishima, all spaced several days apart.

Yuuki Mishima

Hey thanks again for being so cool the other day I really do appreciate it a lot

Yuuki Mishima

Do you wanna try again sometime soon? I'm usually free so just let me know

Yuuki Mishima

I'm sorry if I did something wrong. I'll stop bothering you sorry

In his weakened, exhausted state, he managed a text back.

Yuuki Mishima

Hey thanks again for being so cool the other day I really do appreciate it a lot
Do you wanna try again sometime soon? I'm usually free so just let me know
I'm sorry if I did something wrong. I'll stop bothering you sorry
Not botherd. Jhst tired and very busy. Will t ext you soon. Take care Mishima-kun

He fell asleep with his phone in his hand.


Akechi had one more target in Mementos the next day, so he slogged his way down through the depths. He put up a half-assed fight with yet another nameless dissenter's Shadow, sustained what sure felt like a broken finger, and then turned around to leave.

He made it part-way up and needed to rest. His stamina had been drained down to almost nothing. He found himself near Mishima's Shadow again and, without being anywhere near as cautious as he should have been, plopped down on the ground right in front of it.

Its eyes went wide on him and it flinched farther back against the wall, arms raised like it expected to be hit, but it didn't get up or attack. Akechi didn't move either, just sat examining his injured finger.

The Shadow relaxed its posture bit by bit, but kept its arms and legs pulled up close. Its eyes didn't leave Akechi's face.

After several minutes of silence, it finally spoke up quietly. “You came back.”

“Yes. Here I am, once again. In this despicable place.” He made no attempt to mask his natural tone. It was too much. His voice came out low and raspy and bitter, the way it did when he wasn't trying to impress anyone.

“I thought you were done with me. Moved on to better things…” It pulled its knees closer to its chest and hugged them, resting its chin there.

“Not quite. I wouldn't call this better. Not by a long shot.” He tried to lean back on his hands, but the pain in his finger prevented it, so he settled for putting his hands in his lap. “I thought you wanted me to leave you alone anyway. Thought you were tired of being used. Can't be used if I'm not there to do the using, can you?”

“Yeah… you're right. Sorry. I just got my hopes up. Haha, I'm so stupid… You made me feel so wanted, I got caught up in it. Just like I always do. I don't learn. I'm an idiot.” Despite its harsh words, its tone felt completely devoid of all emotion. Hollow.

“Do I make you feel wanted?”

“Yes. You do.”

“And?”

It paused, like it was considering how much it should be sharing with him. “I'm scared. I know you're going to hurt me.”

“You're not doing anything about it.”

“I never do. That's just who I am. I thought I could become a person who stood up for himself, for other people, but I can't. I can't change myself. The only thing I can do is sit and take it, right? No one's going to change my faulty heart. They took one look at me and refused.” It was smiling now, though it still managed to look miserable.

“It's difficult to be an inherently broken person.”

“What would you know about that?” Its tone turned accusatory in an instant and it scowled.

“I told you before that we're similar.” He grinned. His real, twisted smile that showed too much teeth. “I know plenty.”


Yongen was far out of the way for Akechi, but it wasn't like he didn't often inconvenience himself for investigative work. And that's what this was. The first time he stopped in at the coffee shop he knew Amamiya worked at part time, it was under the guise of a coincidence. Of course there was no way he could have known the boy he just so happened to meet at the TV station would be there. Certainly not.

After a brief introduction, he sucked up to the owner and made himself friendly and non-threatening. He wanted Amamiya alone, but he could manage with Isshiki's daughter there too. She was just as suspicious anyway.

As soon as the owner was out of earshot, he started laying on what he knew Amamiya would want to see: A sad, lonely, orphaned detective who was simply seeking company and some sort of brief joy in his life. Amamiya saw himself as a savior. Having someone vulnerable placed in front of him as bait was a sure-fire way to get and hold his attention. It seemed to work. He could see Amamiya’s expression softening the longer he talked, until they were making eyes at each other across the bar while Isshiki’s daughter stared at the floor.

“Please forgive me if this is too sudden, but… When I speak with you, I feel as if there is some sort of connection between us.” Akechi sheepishly looked down at his coffee and tilted his head just a little to the side. He knew very well how to play innocent. “I’m a firm believer that fate brings people together.”

There was a pause and he let his gaze wander up to Amamiya’s face without lifting his head. Amamiya’s eyes had widened just barely, and there was the faintest hint of a flush on his cheeks.

“I think so too.” His expression softened again into a smile and Akechi returned it.

They made more exhausting small talk until Akechi had finished his coffee, and he excused himself. This could definitely be called a success on his part. A little more of that and he would have Amamiya eating out of the palm of his hand. If he hadn’t witnessed the effects firshand, he wouldn’t have believed that such a bleeding heart could be so cruel to someone like Mishima. Perhaps Mishima had just been weak enough for Amamiya to decide he wasn’t worth the energy to fawn over and protect.

It was just as likely that Amamiya saw Mishima as an asset to use rather than a vulnerable person seeking shelter.

Either way, he had both of them where he wanted them. Now he just had to keep at it.

Chapter Text

Sunday was as leisurely as it got for Akechi. He was able to sleep past sunrise, Shido had finally left him alone, and all he had to do was finish some short assignments. The rest of the day was his to catch up on sleep and food. He ordered delivery and sat in bed on his phone for the better part of the morning. A glance at his texts reminded him that he had unfinished business.

Yuuki Mishima

Hello, I'm terribly sorry about the lack of communication on my end recently. My life suddenly became quite hectic and I had virtually no time to anything but the most vital of endeavors. Today is the first day I have had time to sit and breathe in two weeks.
Oh hey
Are you ok?
I am excruciatingly exhausted, but I will live, I suppose. If I must.
We're in the same boat then
Has life been dreadful to you as well as of late?
Oh always
That's unfortunate to hear.
Life is unfortunate sometimes :p
I take back my previous statement about you being an optimist.
When did you say that?
The first time we met at the diner. I said I couldn't partake in blind optimism with regards to the Phantom Thieves and you informed me that you are no optimist. I believe you now.
Gee thanks
:p
Did you just :p me
Perhaps I did.
You get bodysnatched while you were living your crazy life?
Unfortunately not.
Right, that would be too easy
If you have some free time today, would you like to make another valiant attempt at enjoying some time together? I staunchly refuse to leave my apartment today, but if you'll excuse my unpracticed skills as a host, I would be glad to have you.
Akechi
You can really just say "hey do you wanna come over"
I could never.
Of course you couldn't
But are you sure? You just said this is the first day you've had to rest in weeks, I don't wanna over exert you or whatever
Give me a few hours and I will have recharged sufficiently.
I mean if you're sure yeah
I am, quite. I'll be in touch.
In normal person speech: ttyl


Mishima arrived at Akechi's apartment without incident, besides the extreme anxiety that hadn't stopped building in his chest the entire commute over. He lived closer than he thought, and the building looked nice from the outside. He hadn't thought to ask about parents or anything like that, and now he was concerned about making an impression. He couldn't stop his hands from shaking while he stood waiting for Akechi to open the door.

The door finally opened to reveal Akechi, dressed more casually than Mishima was used to seeing, but still looking pristine and perfect. He had on a blue sweater and black jeans, and his hair was tied back, bangs swept to the side. He looked so normal like this.

Mishima was immediately taken aback by how tiny the apartment was. It was only a small living room that opened to an even smaller kitchen area, with two doors connecting to what were presumably a bedroom and a bathroom. There was no way a family lived here.

“Do… you live alone?” Mishima's eyes wandered over the interior, perplexed.

“Ah, yes. I do. I sometimes forget that that's considered strange. Up until a year or so ago, I was essentially in the foster system, but since working as a detective, I've been able to support myself comfortably.” Akechi said this like it wasn't some mix of depressing and weird. “Sit, make yourself at home. Would you like tea? Coffee?”

“Coffee is good, yeah. Thanks.” He lowered himself onto the couch cautiously, and Akechi stepped away into the kitchen.

“You can turn the TV on if you'd like.” Akechi called from the other side of the half-wall separating the rooms.

Mishima decided to do that. The silence and being alone with Akechi was just too awkward. The TV switched on to a news channel and he left it there. It was all political drivel, something about some bald man and the elections.

Akechi returned, handed Mishima a mug, and sat some cream and sugar down on the table. “I wasn't sure how you'd like it, so I'll just let you do as you please. As I said, my host skills are unpracticed.” He glanced at the TV, barely frowned, and switched it to another channel, some nature documentary.

“Not a fan of the news?”

“I see and hear news all day every day. It gets repetitive after a point. I can only take so much.”

“Even Goro Akechi's patience runs thin.” Mishima sipped his coffee, then decided to add another dash of cream.

“Occasionally, yes.” He sighed into his mug. “This past week, especially.”

“Yeah, sounds like it. You look tired. You never look tired.”

“I'm not wearing makeup. Just for you.” He smirked and sipped his coffee again, eyes off to the side.

“I… didn't know you wore makeup…?” Mishima really looked at him now, eyes roving over his face. He really did look a little different. There were slight bags under his eyes, and a few tiny scars here and there. He had freckles.

“No need to stare. No one is picture perfect without aid. Television is simply makeup and Photoshop.” Mishima thought he saw Akechi blush if only slightly.

“Well, yeah, I know that, I just… never thought about you like that.”

“You thought I was naturally perfect. How sweet.”

“I never called you that.”

That got a small laugh out of Akechi. “You're so refreshing to be around. You're honest with me. I don't often get that treatment. It's all adults talking down to me or the networks putting me on a pedestal or knocking me down. But this is nice. Thank you.”

“Um. Yeah. No problem…” He smiled down at his mug. It felt so good to get this kind of attention and he knew he was just eating it up, and there would have to be some sort of dire consequence later, but for now someone was being nice to him and paying him compliments and he needed that so badly.

They were quiet as the TV showed a pack of lions bathing lazily in the sun. It cut to a commercial.

“You seem much more at ease today. Has your situation improved since last time? I've been concerned.” Akechi watched him with a neutral expression, but his tone was sincere.

“Oh. Uh. No, not… not really. Haha, it's, uh, it's worse. Probably.” He was trying to smile, but he felt like his face wasn't obeying him, so he just let his expression sink.

“As I said before, a police report for harassment can easily be filed.”

“No, it really can't. It really, really can't. I just… have to take it. Whatever he gives me, even if it's weeks of nothing and then out of nowhere a reminder of how much I burden him and how stupid I am when I'm not being useful, and… Shit, I'm sorry.” He set his mug on the table and put his head in his hands. “You have enough going on.”

“And then he gives you one teeny tiny little bit of the barest minimum of what could be considered praise and you think maybe, maybe this is worth it. And you hate yourself for thinking that, for giving him any inkling of positive attention, even in your head where he can't hear it, because you should hate him, and you do, but…” Akechi laughed, and it wasn't the usual, gentle laugh Mishima had heard before. There was an edge to it and it ended in a shaking wheeze. He stared, unfocused and so slightly off, at nothing, and then seemed to compose himself again. “My apologies.”

“A-are you-- okay…?” Mishima just stared at him, lips slightly parted and at a loss for what he had just seen and heard. That was not Akechi. Or it was, and what he'd been seeing this whole time wasn't.

Akechi took a deep breath and that pleasant smile returned to his face. “Yes, I simply lost my composure for a moment. It is unfortunate what you're dealing with--”

“No, no, no. You don't get to just-- act like that and then pretend it didn't happen. What are you dealing with? You talk about harassment reports, but what-- what about you?”

“It was purely hypothetical, I assure you.” That smile wouldn't leave his face, and after seeing that display, it looked even more plastered on and intentional now. Just what was Akechi hiding?

“It didn't sound like it… And I mean, you're right. Yeah. It is like that. This-- this cycle. Of 'I don't need you and I'm not going to put up with this,' and then 'You told me I did an okay job and that's enough praise to keep me in line because I'm pathetic and I deserve to be taken advantage of like this.' It's-- Akechi, if you can understand that, I wanna know, cuz that is so specific and I… you shouldn't deal with it alone.” He couldn't look at him anymore and just stared at the floor. “I'm being way too vulnerable here for you to act like you're making shit up.”

Akechi was silent and the quiet grew heavier by the second until he cleared his throat.

“Having no agency over your own life and instead being expected to be at someone else's beck and call lest you be in danger of verbal assault. You mentioned that before.” Akechi's voice was lower than usual. “Trying to run yourself ragged for some higher goal only to be unappreciated and ignored. Only important when you're being useful in just the right way. Your individual actions matter little in the grand scheme of things as long as you're being obedient.”

Mishima looked over at him and saw he was frowning and staring into space in the opposite direction, knuckles white on the mug in his trembling hands. “Akechi?”

He closed his eyes and sighed. “I hope you understand this conversation is strictly confidential.”

“I-- yeah. Who would I even talk to…? I'm not gonna go telling the media like… Akechi has real actual emotions and I saw them. What good would that do me?”

“There's that honesty again.” His expression softened considerably and his grip relaxed.

“Gotta be good for something. Even if it's just being kind of an asshole in a way you're not used to.”

“I wouldn't say it like that. You're too kind for that.”

“I'm really not. At all. I'm…” Mishima sighed. “Really messed up.”

Akechi just looked at him silently while he looked at the floor.

“I feel like I'm corrupted,” He continued. He knew Akechi was the last person he should be talking to, but who else would listen to him? “I've always been like that, just inherently wrong and everyone could see it, but it's gotten so much worse lately. I don't know what to do anymore. I don't like who I am, I never did, but…”

“Embrace that.” Akechi's voice had gone low again. “If you feel your inherent corruption cannot be changed, then embrace that your existence is unconventional. Pursue the things that make you that way. Live up to the brokenness that was thrust onto you from the day you were born.”

“You… sound like you’re talking from experience again.”

Akechi didn’t answer, but his expression hadn’t quite fixed itself.

“Do you feel like that…? Like you’re broken…?” Mishima kept his voice quiet and soft and finally let his eyes land on Akechi’s face.

“I believe I’ve said too much. You probably have as well.”

Mishima could see him revert back to his usual attitude, could see all of the minute adjustments to his posture and expression. This was weird. How much was Akechi faking on a day to day basis? How much was he hurting?

“I can say as much as I want. What makes you think I can’t?”

“Most people aren’t this vulnerable with someone they have known for such a short period of time. Especially one they haven’t been given any reason to trust with such things.” Akechi’s smile was back. Mishima decided he hated it.

“I think you saying all that stuff just now about feeling like you’re inherently broken was enough for me to feel like you’re at least someone who can understand what I’m saying. That’s more than I get from most people. From anyone, really.” He took a deep breath. “And honestly? I don’t feel like I have anything to lose. You use this against me somehow? I don’t really care anymore.”

“It seems you and I are destined to not enjoy our time together. Some invisible force is at work here to make us land in these situations.” Akechi finished his coffee and set the mug down. On the TV, an unidentifiable animal was being ripped to shreds.

“Maybe it’s not enjoyable, but it’s… cathartic. And I’ll take that over getting harassed in a diner or catching pneumonia.” Mishima set his still half-full mug down next to Akechi’s. “Thanks for commiserating with me.”


Akechi visited Leblanc for the second time a week after his first visit. He had run into Amamiya at the station the day before and been surprised to outright receive an invitation to come back. Maybe this plan was going more smoothly than he had hoped.

However, when he arrived he found that the owner and a few regular customers were the only people around. There was no sign of his so-called fated companion and he had to nervously smile and nod at the people glaring daggers into his back as he sat at the bar. He chatted with the owner for a while, but didn’t learn anything new. The man apparently wasn’t one for gossip and his gruff attitude made him difficult to converse with. He seemed to have better things to do than talk to a teenager and soon turned his attention to a regular who had wandered in.

He felt an actual sense of relief when Amamiya walked in the door and barely smiled at him. Never in his life did he think he would be that happy to see him, but the atmosphere was getting awkward and he’d take whatever escape he could get.

“Good evening,” Akechi flashed his best smile and Amamiya moved over to stand next to his seat, nodding. “I was beginning to think I’d missed you today. It’s nice to see you.”

“Yeah, I should’ve told you I’m usually not around until kind of late. Sorry about that.” He leaned on the bar and Akechi barely made out the eyes of that strange cat he kept around peering carefully out of the bag on his shoulder.

“No worries.” He put his own hands in his lap. “Thank you for the invitation yesterday regardless. This place feels so welcoming. It’s difficult for me to find somewhere I’m comfortable these days. Everywhere I go, it seems I receive a less than enthusiastic reception. It’s been like that ever since I made comments criticizing the Phantom Thieves…” He let his voice grow quieter and lowered his gaze to his lap.

“That must be hard.” Amamiya’s eyes stayed on his face, listening.

“It is quite difficult, yes… My superiors have been warning me to be more careful about what I say publicly, but that only feels like undue censorship. Detective work is all about uncovering the truth, and I can’t very well do that if I am prohibited from making dissenting remarks. My only other option seems to be outright silence, and I simply cannot abide by that.” He lifted his head and met Amamiya’s eyes.

Amamiya started to answer, but the owner got his attention from across the bar and he had to excuse himself. Akechi took that as his cue to leave. He had wasted enough time idly waiting just for this few minutes of conversation. He bid Amamiya farewell, thanked the shop owner for the, admittedly delicious, coffee and ducked out of the building to return home.

Chapter Text

Mishima had forgotten all about the school trip until the week they were slated to leave. He wished he could just fake sick and stay out of it, but he couldn’t handle the ramifications that would have on his already questionable academic record. So he was good, and he showed up, and he boarded the plane, and he felt sick the entire flight stuck next to Sakamoto and Ren while they mostly pretended he didn’t exist.

But the fun didn’t stop there. He really thought he was going to pass out when he got assigned a room with Ren. This could not be happening. He couldn’t handle this. He couldn’t even look at Ren anymore, let alone share a room.

Luckily, he didn’t have to for long. Ren dropped his things off, and then promptly left to go see his friends in another room, leaving Mishima alone with his anxiety attack. He just sat on the bed and held his head in his hands, trying desperately to think of a way out of this.

He couldn’t find one. He would just have to suffer through it all. Was this his punishment for getting so close to Akechi? Some sort of divine retribution for going against Ren’s wishes? It felt like it.

He curled onto his side and tried to fall asleep, but his heart wouldn’t stop pounding long enough to let him, so he just looked at his phone as a distraction. He did his usual Phansite maintenance, but there wasn’t much to be done while the Phantom Thieves were out of the country and unable to take any requests. It was all housekeeping. For a brief moment, he considered submitting himself anonymously as a target, but his self-control kicked in and he closed the tab.

He opened his texts instead out of muscle memory and looked at his conversation with Akechi. They hadn’t spoken in a few days, though things hadn’t been as weird as he thought they would be after their impromptu therapy session.

Akechi

This is the worst vacation ever and I just got here
Oh you're probably sleeping sorry I forgot about the time difference

He set his phone down and resigned himself to being alone. He could hear lots of people yelling out in the hall, presumably excited about being on the trip and already having fun.

His phone buzzed and drew him out of his half-lucid state.

Akechi

I just woke up, actually. Good morning. Your trip isn't going well?
Good morning
I got assigned a room with the guy who hates me
:)
Oh dear. You have my sympathies. Could you request a change of rooms?
No he'd just give me shit for it
Truly a terrible situation to be in. Time zones permitting, I am here to lend an ear should you need one.
I might
He left for right now but I have no idea what to even do on this trip
At least go see the beaches. Maybe find on that's less populated if you'd like some quiet time alone with the sound of the waves.
That sounds nice actually
Try to find some enjoyment in this, if only to prove to this aggressor that you don't require his presence or approval to have a decent time.
Yeah thanks
I'll be in touch as you say
:)

Mishima stayed in the room wallowing for a bit longer, then went out to explore the hotel and find something to eat. Technically, he was probably supposed to stay in a group or at least in a pair, but no chaperones had stopped him from going off on his own so far, and he preferred it that way.

He spent the afternoon wandering and returned to his room in the evening to find Ren already there, sitting on the couch looking half asleep and jet lagged.

“Hey,” Mishima raised a hand in greeting and stepped past him to sit on his bed. He had just wanted to come back and sleep early, but with Ren there he didn't want to just shut off the lights on him.

Ren barely looked at him and didn't return his greeting. The mood in the room was heavy.

He laid on his side and took out his phone.

Akechi

This is so awkward...
Hello again. I've been thinking of you today.
I'm flattered
Good thoughts I hope
Concern, mostly.
I went out for a while but I just came back and he's just sitting in here
I said hi to him and he ignored me and now we're just sitting in silence
How incredibly rude.
Ugh yeah

“Are you seriously working on the Phansite on the school trip? That really is all you do, huh?” Ren's voice broke him out of his concentration and he laughed nervously.

“No, I mean--” He stumbled over his words and then went quiet, defeated.

“Do you at least have good news?”

“Oh, um… Well, it's been really busy lately. The poll has been on fire and there's a lot more posts these days in general. I have to filter out a lot of requests. Obviously, I can't pass them all on, so I have to spend some time selecting the ones that seem most pressing…” He trailed off as he was hit with the realization that he wasn't being listened to.

“Keep up the good work, then.” Ren's tone was just flat enough that it seemed uncaring, and he went back to looking at his own phone, leaving Mishima in silence again.

“Oh. Thanks.”

He hated it when Ren did this. He got emotional whiplash from the back to back insults and hints of praise. Without fail, he'd end up beating himself up about how feeling like Ren hated him was just his anxiety because if Ren really did feel that way about him, he wouldn't bother saying things like that. Everything came back to being his fault. He was overreacting. He couldn't take playful teasing. He was too clingy and desperate.

He curled into himself tighter and ended up falling asleep.

The next day felt a little better. He parted with Ren when he woke up, got himself some breakfast, tried to fight off his insane jet lag, and then went out in search of a beach that wasn’t quite so busy. One good thing about being so invisible was that none of the teachers or other students seemed to notice him slipping far away from their designated area. He found a little alcove a mile or so away tucked between two larger beaches that looked to be empty. Perfect.

He settled down onto the sand, took off his shoes, and sat with his bare feet in the way of the tide so the waves washed over them each time they came in. The sun was pleasantly warm, not yet having reached its peak for the day, and there was a breeze. Faint noise came from the surrounding beaches, but it was otherwise quiet. He felt more at peace than he had in a while.

He took out his phone and took a picture of the ocean.

Akechi

[image]
Good morning
Took your advice

He sat there quietly for a while, leaning back on his hands, eyes shut, taking in the warmth and the sound of the waves. If he could just stay like this, he thought he might actually be happy. That felt like such a foreign concept to him. Happiness had felt so beyond his grasp for so long.

Nothing good could last, and his thoughts jerked him back into the reality of the situation. Should he really be texting Akechi vacation pictures like they were friends? As mad as he was at Ren, he had a point about getting close to the enemy. And Mishima had spilled his guts to him already as well. But Akechi had spilled his own in return. Mishima had seen a side of him he thought most people must not get to see. There had been a vast difference there, like Akechi had briefly taken off a mask. It felt like something he wasn’t supposed to have seen. But he felt closer to him for it.

His phone buzzed in the sand next to him.

Akechi

Good morning to you as well. How beautiful. I'm happy to see that you've found a way to enjoy yourself.
It beats wallowing alone in that hotel room all day
I'm trying to be happy for once
I hope that you succeed. The few moments I have seen where you seem to be genuinely smiling have been the brighter points in my life as of late, if you don't mind me saying such a thing.
I realize that may have been inappropriate and I apologize for that.

Mishima didn’t know what came over him. It was like his body was moving without him thinking about it. But it felt right. He switched on his front camera and took a selfie, smiling up at his phone, making sure the beach was visible in the background.

Akechi

[image]
How's this?

There was a long pause and in that time his brain had already convinced him that he had messed up, that it was stupid to send a boy a selfie of you on a beach, that Akechi hadn’t really meant that, he was just trying to be nice because he knew Mishima was having a hard time and--

Akechi

[image]
Forgive my sloppy appearance, it is still quite early here. But if you're making an attempt at happiness today, then I will as well.

Akechi had sent back a similar picture of himself smiling with tired eyes. The camera seemed to have applied a filter to smooth out his skin automatically, but Mishima could just barely make out the freckles across his cheeks if he looked closely. Being able to stare without the risk of being caught let him really take everything in. He realized that Akechi actually was good-looking. Just not in the way everyone else seemed to think. That Photoshopped, makeup-covered face with the placid smile he presented to everyone else was much less appealing than the Akechi Mishima was starting to see unfold. The smile in the photo looked more natural, like he wasn’t trying so hard, and his eyes were heavy-lidded and so much more human with that tint of exhaustion over them.

He considered saving it, but drew the line of creepiness there.

Akechi

Sloppy my ass
I know you know everyone thinks you're hot
Do they?
Uh yeah?
There's girls all over the internet talking about how cute you are and fawning over you. Don't tell me you've managed to avoid all that
Not avoid so much as choose to tune out.
I wish I had enough girls calling me cute that I had to choose to tune it out
I don't think anyone has called me cute in my life besides my mom when I was like 5
It's not as fun as it sounds. I would like to be able to go out without a meticulously maintained appearance without having my competency and worth scrutinized mercilessly. Being in the public eye can be and often is exhausting.
Well yeah
Sorry I didn't mean to imply you had it easy
I know you're dealing with a lot
But, for what it's worth, you do have a certain charm to you. You are not at all bad looking.
Oh
Thanks?
God that's so you. "You are not at all bad looking"
You can't be straightforward about anything can you? Even your idea of a compliment sounds like you're being forced against your will
I can be straightforward about many things.
Hmmm doubtful
You're quite cute.
Oh my god
You're just messing with me now
I have to get going now. Please enjoy the rest of your day, Mishima-kun.
:p


Mishima returned to his hotel room that evening in a good mood. He had spent the day by himself, eaten some very good food, and was now full and sleepy and still coasting on the compliment Akechi had paid him that morning. All he wanted was to go back to his room and lay in bed until he fell asleep.

But Ren had beat him there. Of course. He didn’t even look up this time, so Mishima didn’t bother greeting him, and just went to his bed. He had nearly dozed off when there was a knock at the door. Ren got up and opened it and Mishima heard Sakamoto’s distinctly loud voice yelling about how the guy he was staying with had some girl over and he got kicked out. He came in, barely nodded at Mishima, then sat on Ren’s bed and kept talking to him loudly. So much for sleeping.

He just stayed where he was and prepared to have to deal with this for the rest of the night. He refused to let this ruin his day.

There was another knock at the door and Ren once again rose to open it only for Takamaki to come in, complaining that she was also having roommate trouble and had managed to lock herself out of her room. She actually had some manners and greeted Mishima warmly before turning back to the other two and continuing their conversation.

Takamaki and Sakamoto decided they were staying the night. Mishima took in a deep breath and sighed quietly to himself. He knew he wasn’t wanted there. He knew they’d be so much happier if he was gone, but all he could do was stay still and quiet.

Sakamoto started complaining about sleeping arrangements and how there wasn’t enough room for four people. He got assigned the floor and whined even louder. If Mishima wasn’t there, he could have had the bed. If Mishima wasn’t there, everything would have been perfect.

He felt like he was going to be sick.

He clutched his phone and quickly got up and moved into the bathroom and locked the door behind him. He settled onto the floor against the wall and hugged his knees, hiding his face. His breathing got shaky and shallow and his head felt too heavy and too light all at once. The school trip should have been fun, but instead he was trapped in a room full of people who hated him. He knew Ren had probably complained to both Takamaki and Sakamoto about him. How annoying and clingy and obsessive he was. How he couldn’t take a hint. Sakamoto had been there when Ren had seen him with Akechi at the diner, so he definitely had a soured view of him.

He could hear all of them laughing and talking loudly outside the door. Then there was a lull and their voices lowered, but if he listened closely, he could still make out some words.

“How’s rooming with Mishima? Is it weird, or…” Sakamoto’s voice was louder than the others and easier to make out.

“He’s… Phansite all the time… one question and he won’t shut up… ” Ren’s voice was lower and harder to make out, so he only got bits and pieces. He laughed. “... Obsessed with me…”

“... crush on yooouuu~” He could barely make out Takamaki, but he did hear Sakamoto’s noise of disgust and Ren’s annoyed tone.

The conversation changed topics and he stopped listening. He hugged his knees tighter and sobbed into them weakly. He felt so trapped and pathetic and alone. And there was nothing he could do about it. All he could do was sit there and cry. He had been stupid to ever think Ren would be his friend, to ever think he was anything to any of them other than a tool. And now he wasn’t even any good at that. Talking about the Phansite, even when prompted, got him made fun of behind his back. There was nothing he could do right. He was useless, stupid, an easy target, better off dead than so, so broken.

Akechi had told him to embrace that brokenness, but he didn’t know how. He couldn’t stop running the Phansite. He couldn’t just drop it and move on. He had nothing to move on to. He still believed in the Phantom Thieves, but Ren Amamiya, their leader, had taken his heart into his hands and squeezed until it popped. There was no recovering from that. He still wanted to help people who had suffered like him, but how could he do that while experiencing that same hurt again and again from the exact people who were supposed to be helping?

He took out his phone and his hands were shaking so badly it was hard to type.

Akechi

I cant do thi sanymore fuck
I dont want to bother you but I don’t have anyone else I’m sorry
And I know oyu get it
I can’t handle hwo much he HATES ME
Good evening. You seem unwell.
Yeah I am pretty unwell :)
His friends all came by and I’m locked in the bathroom whule they all tlak shit about me becaus ethey think I can’t hear them
How disgusting... You have my very deepest condolences. This acquaintance of yours sounds like the worst of scum.
He's an asshole!
For so long I thought he was differne tthan everyone else but he’s not
I'm sorry it's really hard dto type right now
I can understand you just fine. Your meaning is getting across regardless of difficulties with typing.
I don't want to be here I just want to go home
I just want to drop off the planet
Nobody gives a shit about people like me it doesn't matter
I'll just go drown myself I'm surrounded by ocean
I'd prefer if you didn't, although I definitely understand the impulse.
I really think youre the only one who would notice
You're the enemy of the Phantom Thieves adn you're the only person who fuking even pretends to care about me
What does this have to do with the Phantom Thieves?
Nothing nvm
Alright.
Maybe you're right
I often am, you'll have to be more specific.
About them
Maybe they're not heroes of justice after all
I don't know anymore
My whole life feels like it's falling apart
I understand that feeling very well... We can talk about the Phantom Thieves another time, when you're feeling better. I'm interested to hear your thoughts, but your health should take priority.
Yeah
Who is this person who's giving you such a hard time? Just a classmate?
If I tell you stuff are you going to file a report behind my back
Certainly not. I know situations of abuse are quite complicated and intervention may make things worse if not done delicately.
His name is Amamiya
We used to sort of be friends or I thought we were but it turns out I'm just really fucking stupid and bad at taking a hint and he hates me and thinks I'm annoying
Ren Amamiya?
Why do you know that
We're acquainted, actually. I was aware he attended Shujin, but I didn't know that you two knew each other. We met during Shujin's trip to a studio I was making a TV appearance at, and we have run into each other on a few occasions since then.
Oh
Please don't say anything about me to him
Please
You have my word. I had no idea that he was such a cruel person. He has seemed cold and standoffish to me the few times we have met, but I chalked that up to us being relative strangers. To think he would behave this way to a classmate is revolting.
He doesn't seem to be this way with anyone else
It's just me that bothers him I guess
He can see that you are lonely and in need of compassion and that makes you someone easy to deprive of just that. Some people see weakness in others and, rather than defending those people, they strike where it will hurt most.
Haha
Ow
Have my words upset you?
No just the whole everything
I'm so tired
Not the sort of tired that a good night's rest will cure, I assume?
Definitely not
But I'm going to try to go to bed anyway
Thanks for listening to me and understanding
It's more than anyone else has done
Of course, it's no trouble.
I hope you're doing ok I know things have been really shitty for you too
Things are as they always are.
Which means awful
You may be correct.
Goodnight Akechi
Rest well.

By the time Mishima dragged himself out of the bathroom, everyone else had fallen asleep and he was able to rest fitfully.

The next day was more of the same. He wandered alone. He avoided Ren and his friends. He did his Phansite work from the small section of beach he had claimed as his own. He bided his time and tried to stay distracted.

The flight back home was uneventful and he slept through much of it. He was seated a few rows away from Ren and Sakamoto this time, so he was able to relax more. In a few hours, he would be home. Things could go back to normal.

Chapter Text

When Mishima had said that things being the same as they always were meant that things were awful, he had been onto something. Things may have even been worse than usual.

Akechi had been tasked with taking out Shujin's principal. He had stopped paying attention to the politics of Shido's choice in targets long ago, but now he did find himself wondering how this would affect Mishima's daily life. There was no way around this, no way to avoid this death, but that part of his mind kept perking up. Mishima didn't matter. He had never mattered. He was just a target of a different kind, and Akechi needed to remember that. Any inconvenience caused to him wasn't Akechi's concern.

And he thought this plan was going well. Mishima was opening up to him, divulging more and more personal information, trusting him with his deepest emotions. Not that Akechi didn't have access to that any time he wanted with one trip to Mementos. But to get it through hard work was much more rewarding. And it was hard. Having to smile and act interested and concerned was exhausting. The way Mishima seemed to be equally able to reach into him and drag out personal information was also exhausting. He had to put up even thicker walls to prevent it, and sometimes he still failed. But a little vulnerability only evened the playing field and established a sense of connection. If it meant Mishima would cling to him, he could handle being seen as a little crazy now and then.

Shido's team had hacked into the Phansite undetected and hijacked the current poll results, skyrocketing Okumura up to first place in some sort of two-in-one plot to take him out of the picture and gut the Phantom Thieves as well. And Akechi would of course be playing the role of assassin. As he always did.

This time it would mean infiltrating a Palace. It was less physically intensive than traveling dozens and dozens of floors down into Mementos, but the stealth and maneuvering he would have to do would make up for that easily. There were always so many safeguards in place in the form of locks and puzzles, and it took so much time just to get to the Shadow at the core of it all, that a Palace target was just so much worse. He couldn't say he was looking forward to it.

If he played his cards right, he might be able to follow the Phantom Thieves from a distance undetected and piggyback off their efforts. That would save him some energy, but then he risked being detected and blowing the entire plan and most likely, his whole life. He would have to weigh the options.

He emerged from Mementos with a craving for something very sweet and no energy to travel to get it. He texted Shido that the job was done and then decided to just go home and be miserable for a while.

He did just that for an hour, laying face down on his bed and wallowing, until he roused himself enough to at least look at his phone and pretend to be doing something useful.

He checked the Phansite. Okumura was still in the lead by far in the poll, but a few ranks down he saw his own name gaining popularity. He had to laugh. What a shitshow that would be. The Phantom Thieves stealing his heart and taking his life in the process. He had decided long ago that if he suspected he was succumbing to one of their tell-tale shutdowns prior to a change of heart, he would end it himself. He would rather die than confess all of his sins for everyone to see.

He scanned the site for posts from Mishima, saw nothing of interest, and switched over to actual work instead. He was supposed to be contributing to investigation into the string of psychotic breakdowns that had been happening, but that mostly involved talking in circles and pretending to come to conclusions. There wasn't much to be done there. He bookmarked some recent reports for later reading.

Shido had texted back berating him for taking so long with Kobayakawa and, like he did every other time, Akechi had to resist the urge to smash his phone against the wall in a sudden fit of rage. He squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his jaw and let himself seethe until it had mostly passed. Just a little longer, just a few more months, and he wouldn't have to deal with this anymore. He would finally have the revenge he desired so badly and Shido would have nothing left to stand on. He just had to keep being patient.

He pulled himself off of his bed and forced himself to make a bowl of rice and call it dinner. He ate while he did some reading for school. He went to bed before midnight for once and relished in being able to get more than five hours of sleep. Maybe things were okay. Just for right now.

He saw Mishima a few days later. He looked happy to see him, and Akechi tried to match that level of happiness, but he was just so tired. Mishima had already seen through his facade. There was no point in overexerting himself in the privacy of his own home anymore, so he let his expression stay mostly neutral and gave his face a break from his constant smiling.

They sat on his couch and watched some detective movie and made small talk. Mishima kept looking at his phone and biting his nails. Akechi glanced over and was able to catch him in an unguarded posture, Phansite clearly visible on his screen, open to a private message. He was so absorbed that he didn't notice Akechi watching him.

Finally, Mishima glanced up, saw Akechi looking, and quickly switched back to his home screen.

Akechi chuckled and turned his head back to the TV, but not before he saw Mishima's face go red.

“That's incredibly rude, you know.” He sounded more flustered than angry. “I could have been looking at something private.”

“Please forgive me.” Akechi couldn't keep the amusement out of his voice. “I'm sure the Phansite is very private.”

“That's not the point!”

“I apologize for disrespecting your privacy.”

“You don't sound like you mean it.”

“Mishima-kun, I sincerely apologise for looking at your phone screen, which you had out in plain view.” His tone was neutral, and so was his expression. He didn't have the energy for anything else.

“Can you just… stop?” Mishima set his phone down and pulled his knees up to his chest and rested his chin on them, a perfect emulation of his Shadow self minus the glowing eyes and air of desperation. “I'm dealing with too much right now, and you're being an asshole. So just stop.”

Akechi was quiet, eyes on the TV, then decided to make a very bold move. He needed this plan to push forward, and he felt Mishima's level of trust in him was at a point where this wouldn't end catastrophically. If it did… he could always resort back to Plan A.

“I know you're the admin.”

Mishima's eyes went wide and the color drained out of his face. Akechi thought he might have stopped breathing.

“You're not denying it.” Akechi watched him carefully. “You're not in trouble. I just don't see the point in continuing to play dumb with you while you're clearly struggling.”

Mishima blinked a few times and Akechi could see his brain starting to reboot. Some color came back to his cheeks, and he opened his mouth to speak but then pursed his lips. Then he tried again. “I'm not.”

“You're not struggling, or you're not the admin?”

“I'm not the admin.”

“Mishima-kun, the entire precinct knows you run the Phansite.” This was a lie, as far as Akechi knew, but he couldn't and wouldn't explain that he had overheard this in Mementos. “Your IP address was tracked on day one.”

Now Mishima looked like he might start crying. The panic was setting in. “Oh god.”

“As I said, you're not in any trouble. You haven't committed any crimes, you're only running a website. What the Phantom Thieves do with information on that site is not your responsibility. Mishima-kun, breathe. I do know CPR, but I would rather not have to utilize it today.”

“S-s-sorry– I just– oh no– oh my god–” Well, he was breathing now, but it was more like hyperventilating. “I'm sorry, I– I'm freaking out, I know, just– Fuck.” He seemed to be trying to get in deeper breaths and he managed a few. “Is this why you've been so nice to me? Cuz you wanna get close to me and get information? Cuz you knew about this? I can't help you, I– I'm going home.” He moved to get up and Akechi reached out and touched his arm.

“Sit. Listen.” Mishima flinched at his touch but stayed seated. “That's not the situation whatsoever. If I were in this for information, I would have brought this up long ago and been much more insistent on coaxing said information out of you. As I just said, I mentioned this because you seemed to be struggling. If this is out in the open, I can more readily be of assistance to you.”

Mishima swallowed hard and seemed to be taking all of this in. He finally nodded a few times. “Okay. Okay. Yeah. I'm sorry. For freaking out. God, please don't tell anyone. I can't get them in trouble. I know you're not on their side but if they go down I go down too, and–”

“I'm sworn to secrecy.” Akechi held eye contact as he spoke.

“I– Thanks. Thank you.”

“Now please breathe and try to relax.”

Mishima nodded and took some time to steady his breathing. When he looked sufficiently cooled off, Akechi spoke again.

“You told me when you were in Hawaii that you felt my assertions about the Phantom Thieves might be correct. I can see how this revelation might conflict with your duties.”

“Yeah… it… yeah, it is. I guess. If we're talking about this.” He pulled his knees up again. “I know one of them, like personally, and we don't get along. I thought he would be a good person because he's a Phantom Thief, and I wanted to trust him, but he's just the same as everyone else, and it's made me feel like I was wrong to assume they'd all be these heroes of justice. They're just… people. Playing a role.”

“Do you sense some sort of two-faced nature from this person? Like his identity as a Phantom Thief might be completely separate from his behavior in his daily life? With such public identities, it's often common for there to be a disconnect. It wouldn't surprise me if this were the case.”

Mishima squinted. “You're talking about you.”

“Pardon? I'm talking about your observation that this Phantom Thief is simply playing a role. Are you asserting that I am a Phantom Thief?”

“No. I know you're not.” Mishima turned his head away. “I'm saying you do that too. The you on TV and the you I met that first time are different than the you I saw when we talked about like… feeling used and shit. You said you just lost your composure, but ever since then I got the feeling that that's the real you and everything else is just… a front. So maybe you're the same as him, but… different.”

“It is necessary for me to appear a certain way during my public appearances.”

“That's not what I mean. Just… never mind. Forget it.” He frowned. “But yeah, it is like that for him. As a Phantom Thief, he's changing people's lives, protecting people, being a hero, and then he gets me alone and it's… awful. I feel terrible every time I talk to him now. It's like… am I really right for enabling this guy? Giving him a platform? I thought I was, but now…” He laughed. “I don't fucking know anymore.” He buried his face in his knees. “I'm saying too much.”

“I asked.”

“If they arrest me can you just make sure I get the death penalty?” Mishima's voice came out muffled, face still hidden.

“I am not a prosecutor or a judge, so I have no say in such things, but if you'd like I can simply hire a hitman.”

Mishima laughed into his legs. He was still, then lifted his head and turned it to look at Akechi with a smile. “Thanks.”

“Any time.” Akechi barely smiled. Mishima had no idea how true that was. One misstep on either of their parts and Mishima was likely to find himself victim to one specific hitman. “I hope you’re aware that you’re under no obligation to continue assisting this person. Your involvement in the Kamoshida incident does not indebt you to them for life. You can simply walk away if you feel your ideals no longer align.”

Mishima turned his head away and stared off in the opposite direction. Akechi noticed his nails were digging in, knuckles white, where he was holding his legs.

“You may want to get out from under this soon anyway.” That got his attention back. “This is a matter of confidentiality for the moment until it becomes public through more thorough investigation, but I have a very strong feeling that things are not as they seem when it comes to the Phantom Thieves. I cannot elaborate, but I have my reasons. And your experience with this two-faced nature backs up those reasons.”

“Akechi, I…” Mishima bit his lip, thinking. “I can’t walk away. You don’t understand. They expect me to keep doing this, if I just stop I just become a target. And I do still believe in them. I believe what they’re doing is right and I’ll back them up on that until I can’t anymore. They saved my life. Kamoshida was gonna– if he didn’t kill me first, I… I wouldn’t make it either way. I can’t just sit by and let other people go through that kind of thing without at least trying to help. I keep forgetting that’s why I started this stupid thing in the first place. So nobody else would have to suffer that way alone. You understand that, right?” He looked to Akechi with those big dark eyes of his and stared.

Akechi averted his own gaze. “Only partially. I suppose I’m more vindictive than you. You possess a kindness that my suffering has stripped from me.”

“You’re being kind right now. Listening.”

“I can appear kind when necessary.”

They both fell silent. Akechi caught himself pressing his fingers hard into healing wounds through his sleeve and stopped himself. All this talk of benevolence had only made him want to do more damage and his brain wasn’t separating himself from others in the process. He felt like he was spiraling.

“Are you okay?” Mishima’s quiet voice barely reached him.

“Are you?”

“I asked you first, so tell me. You look like you’re about to start freaking out. I’ve had enough panic attacks to know what that looks like.”

Akechi forced his TV smile back on his face and relaxed his posture. “I’m perfectly fine, I assure you. Simply concerned for your well-being and--”

“Stop doing that.” Mishima sounded slightly angry. Akechi’s smile faltered into a look of confusion. “This is exactly what I was talking about. Stop putting on your stupid fake personality around me. I’m being genuine with you. You could at least do the same.”

Akechi swallowed and then scowled down at the floor.

Mishima laughed. “There. I like you so much better like that. You look like a person and not some perfect doll.”

Akechi stayed silent, holding one of his own wrists and thumb pressing into the skin there until his vision started going white. He hadn’t counted on Mishima calling his bluff so thoroughly and Plan A was looking more and more likely.

“Are you mad cuz I called you out? I’m not trying to be mean, I just… Like you said, if it’s out in the open I can better assist you.”

“Do you think I need your assistance?” Akechi’s voice pitched into that lower, breathy register he usually took such care to control. “Appearing non-threatening and calm is how I get my job done, it isn’t some personal affront to you specifically that I choose not to go around glaring and snarling at people on a daily basis.”

“Do you want to?”

“What?”

“Go around glaring and snarling at people. Is that how you feel? On the inside? When you’re doing that stupid Perfect Boy smile, you’re angry.” Mishima rested his cheek on his knees and watched Akechi’s face. His neutral expression made Akechi feel sick.

“Stop trying to play therapist with me.” He couldn’t keep the aforementioned snarl out of his voice now.

Mishima seemed delighted. “I like this you so much better. Get mad. Stop acting like everything’s sunshine for you. I think we’d get along a lot better if you just let me in.”

“I can call that hitman any time, you know. Not just when you’re awaiting prosecution.” Akechi’s voice pitched up again, but it sounded fake even to his own ears now. It was a thinly veiled threat, but it sounded like a joke made by a crazy person. He was slipping.

“Okay. That’s fine, honestly.” Mishima was still smiling at him. “I’m not attached to living. A hitman might do me some good.”

Akechi stared at him in disbelief, then stood from the couch, grabbed the glasses off the table, and stormed into the kitchen. He tossed them into the sink too hard, narrowly avoiding breaking them, and then leaned over the sink, breathing hard. He felt totally out of control. He couldn’t reign his emotions back in and he was about to spill out all over Mishima and there was nothing he could do about it. And Mishima didn’t seem to even care. He even seemed to like it. Did he want Akechi to kill him? Because that was where this was headed.

He was clenching his jaw so hard it hurt, and he had a deathgrip with both hands on the counter. He felt his phone buzz and he pulled himself back just enough to look at it.

Shido again. Confirming that he’d be going after Okumura sometime in the next few weeks and that he better not mess it up or it would be lights out. Some vague threat about how he should know that even very public figures could disappear without a trace, and that if he thought his recent fame would save him, he was mistaken.

He let out a cry of agony and hurled his phone onto the counter hard. Maybe if it broke Shido would just leave him alone. No phone, no Metanav, no assassinations. He barely heard Mishima make a concerned noise and then approach the kitchen. Akechi crouched down on the floor, hands gripping hard at his hair and taking gasping, wheezing breaths. He couldn’t tell what was going on around him. Everything became a blur and all he could see was red. He felt a hand touch his arm and he lashed out, shoving. He stayed like that for what felt like a long time, until his senses started to finally come back and the throbbing of blood in his ears dulled.

Mishima was crouching in front of him, concerned eyes on him but keeping some distance between them after he had been pushed away. Akechi lifted his head just enough to see him, and then put his face in his arms again.

“Hey…” Mishima’s voice was soft, but it still made him want to deafen himself. “Do… you wanna talk, or… You’re hurting really bad, huh? Worse than I thought.”

Akechi barely laughed, muffled.

“Akechi… I think we understand each other. You don’t need to act like everything’s perfect for you.”

“Nothing. Has. Ever. Been perfect for me!” Akechi’s voice came out cracked and just as unstable as he felt. He laughed again. “None of this matters. You’re right. I fucked up with you and if you try to use it against me, I’ll just kill you. It’s fine.”

“Is that a promise?”

“I don’t make empty threats.” He was losing it.

“Okay. At least you’re being honest now.”

At least he was taking it well.


Ren

going after okumura next as per your poll
starting tomorrow
thanks for your work as always couldn't do it without you

Mishima woke up to those texts after promptly crashing into a nap after school, and he immediately shut his eyes again in frustration. He kept expecting himself to react differently, but every single time this happened, it was the same. He felt indebted and like he really mattered to Ren and he had been overreacting and everything was fine. Ren was his friend and he had a purpose and his life was worth living.

Ren

Of course! I'll always be here to help
thanks lol

He tossed his phone off his bed gently onto a pile of laundry on the floor so he couldn’t respond again and sabotage himself further. He knew Akechi was right. He knew that if he didn’t agree with Ren’s behavior, he needed to step away from him and everything else to do with the Phantom Thieves, but he couldn’t. He was stuck in a trap and he couldn’t get out. The Phantom Thieves were heroes. Their leader was a bully. He didn’t have solid evidence on the identities of any of the rest of them, so he couldn’t judge whether this was a universal truth about them, but it seemed likely. If Akechi could put on that fake personality for the public and so willingly turn it on and off, then nothing was stopping anyone else from doing the same.

At least he had seemed to be able to partially knock some of that wall down, even if it had gotten him threatened. But he didn’t really care about that. Death was welcome. Whenever.

The next few days were boring, just more of the same old shit. Some new requests came in on the Phansite and he passed them to Ren just like he always did. Only, apparently he had caught Ren in a bad mood, or he had done something to personally piss him off like always.

Ren

hey can you knock it off
stop texting me about this stuff you know we're in the middle of something
i can't go running your errands while i'm trying to take out a big target like this
My errands?
i'm not your errand boy lol i'm busy
Ren these aren't my errands, these are people who need help and are reaching out to you because they think you're the only one who can help them
it's going to have to wait
do you want okumura out or not
Why do you snap at me like this
i'm not snapping you're just pissing me off
I'm doing my job
do your job more quietly then
don't send me any more requests until i ask for them
You're such an asshole
seriously
you need to watch yourself
i can have alibaba kick you from the phansite any time if you don't cut the shit
don't text me until this is done
bye

He was livid. His vision felt blurry. This was really it. He was really done this time. He wasn’t being supportive to Ren anymore and he really meant it this time. No more going back.

He needed a distraction.

Akechi

How are you doing?
Absolutely horrible, thank you for asking!
Yeah me too
Can I come over
How bold of you to just try and invite yourself to my apartment.
I wasn't gonna come if you said no
You can come, but I am extremely busy and I may not be able to devote my full attention to you. You’re welcome to sit on my couch and watch TV while I attempt to do six days worth of work in eight hours.
Sounds fun
Poor detective prince behind on his schoolwork
If you value your life, you'll cease this conversation.
Good thing I don't then
Be over soon
Take care. Door will be unlocked. If you so wish to break in and murder me, now is your opportunity.
I'll keep it in mind

He let himself in to Akechi’s apartment and called out to him. “I’m here to kill you!”

“Oh, thank goodness. Finally.” Akechi was seated on the floor at his table, papers and books spread out in front of him.

“Brought you coffee.” He set the cup down on one of the few open spots on the table and sat down across from him with his own.

“Thank you. I hope it’s poisoned.” Akechi picked it up and took a sip, then grimaced. “Well, it might be.”

“One of them is, but I can’t remember whose. Guess we’ll just have to find out.” Mishima briefly raised his coffee as if in a toast. “Cheers. To the cold embrace of death.” He took a sip.

Akechi chuckled and looked genuinely happy for a brief second. It didn’t go unnoticed by Mishima, who smiled back.

“Would you mind terribly fetching me some sugar from the kitchen? I don’t want to pull myself away from this mid-problem, and I’m afraid this is far too bitter for me. It’s on the counter next to the tea.”

“Oh yeah, sure.” Mishima stood and wandered into the kitchen. It was spotless, just like every other part of the apartment that Mishima had seen. It didn’t look like it was even used often. There were no dishes in the sink besides one coffee mug, and the counters were scrubbed clean. He easily located the sugar and made his way back to the table.

“You have my thanks.” Akechi put what looked to Mishima like way too much sugar into his coffee, stirred it, and then seemed to be much more satisfied with the taste than he had been.

“You weren’t joking about the sweet tooth.”

“I certainly wasn’t. I seldom joke.” He looked back down at his papers.

“You do joke, it’s just usually teasing or sarcasm. You’re actually pretty funny.” Mishima leaned back and drank his coffee, watching Akechi regain his focus. He also hadn’t seemed to be joking about the six days of work. And it all looked very complicated to Mishima’s eyes. Lots of it was math.

Trying to avoid disturbing him, he slowly stood and moved over to the couch to get comfortable. He settled in with his legs pulled up and looked at his phone. He had no new messages, but he hadn't expected to. His eyes flicked over his conversation with Ren before he closed his messages and tried to focus on the Phansite instead, but that only made him more frustrated. What was the point? If Ren only saw Phansite requests as an appeasement to him, then why bother?

He had really been wrong all this time about Ren's feelings about the whole thing, and now he just felt sick when he thought about all these people reaching out to what they thought was a team of heroes. These people were suffering and needed justice and the Phantom Thieves were supposed to serve that. Instead, he was getting treated like a burden for trying to facilitate.

Maybe he really should just stop and step away. Ren had said Alibaba could easily replace him. Maybe that was for the best.

“Hey, Akechi…?” He kept his voice low. Akechi took a few seconds to finish writing something, but then looked up. “I think maybe… maybe you were right about just… dropping the Phansite. Stepping away from it all. I thought I was helping, but…”

“Don't stop doing it if it's enjoyable to you. I spoke hastily before. If this is something you feel is necessary in aiding those who need it, then continue on. But it does seem to cause you distress more often than not.” He looked back down at his work, but Mishima could tell he still had some of his attention.

“He called Phansite requests my errands today and told me to stop bugging him with them. That… really got to me. I haven't stopped thinking about it.”

“Cruel,” Akechi mumbled.

“He can be, yeah. Those people need the Phantom Thieves and he thinks I'm just… enjoying watching him run around. That's not it. I just care. If I could help them myself I would.”

“Are you aware of their methods?”

“No– Akechi, I'm not giving you intel.”

Akechi scoffed. “I'm not asking for intel, I'm asking if you know their methods. If you could do the work yourself by emulating them.”

“No. I don't. I can't. I'm useless, all I can do is run a website they don't even want half the time. They only care when I'm giving them exactly what they want exactly the way they want it.”

Akechi laughed, then sighed.

“What?” Mishima bit into a nail too hard and winced.

“Nothing at all. Let me at least finish this assignment and then I can give you a bit more attention since you seem to want to talk.”

“Yeah. Sorry. I'll be quiet.”

And he was. He curled up on the couch and scrolled through something vaguely distracting on his phone until he heard Akechi sigh and then felt him move up onto the couch next to him.

“Hey,” Mishima gave him a half smile. “Sorry for bugging you. You don't have to talk to me, you can work.”

“Sometimes even I need a break.” Akechi crossed his legs and leaned back, coffee in hand. The bags under his eyes looked worse than ever. Had he been sleeping at all?

“Should've dragged you to Hawaii with me.” Mishima pulled his legs closer to himself to get them out of Akechi's space.

“I fear that may have made my situation much worse, but the thought is appealing. What was it you said about being surrounded by ocean?” He had a sad smile on his face that he obscured with his coffee.

“We're both wrecks, huh? You okay?”

“No, but that's nothing new.” He furrowed his brow and set his coffee down.

“Well, yeah, but… I mean, I know what you mean. I'm not okay either! And I hate saying I am! I'm not. And I'm glad you're being honest with me now, cuz it's nice to know I'm not the only one whose life went to hell and never came back.”

“That's one way to put it, I suppose.” Akechi leaned his elbow on the arm rest and rested his cheek on his hand, shutting his eyes.

“Did you know you almost made it to the top of the Phansite poll? You were like two slots below Okumura.”

“Yes, I did know that.” He spoke without opening his eyes. “According to the public, I am currently in the same ranks as child abusers and the Mafia.” He breathed out something that barely passed as a laugh. “For not buying into the Phantom Thieves hype. Of all the things they could pin me for.”

“I… thought about submitting myself as a request target. Anonymously. I feel like they'd laugh in my face once they came to me though. I feel like he'd tell me I didn't deserve a change of heart.”

“Does anyone?” Akechi still had his eyes closed and he sounded half asleep.

“What?”

“Does anyone deserve a change of heart? We make mistakes. We don't choose our circumstances, but we choose our actions. Either own your corruption or start choosing better actions. Having someone else do the hard work of change for you, having someone forcibly rip your heart out and fix it, is not only invasive but also unfair.” He opened his eyes. “Have you ever thought about that? You're living your life the way you always have, and one day, suddenly, you're compelled to confess to everything. It's an uncontrollable urge. Your life and your free will is forfeit. At least that seems to be how it works. There's a pattern.”

“I… hadn't. Thought about it, I mean. But the people the Phantom Thieves are going after are criminals. They deserve to have their lives ruined for all the people whose lives they ruined.”

“So it’s about revenge for you, then. You believe in retribution. An eye for an eye.” Akechi smirked.

“I… No, it’s not like that… I just… know what it’s like to be the person getting their life ruined and I don’t want anyone else to go through it.”

“And you want the people ruining those lives to be punished.”

Mishima fell silent. Akechi was right and he knew it. Part of this had always been about revenge. On Kamoshida and on anyone like him. It was about wanting to see bad people get what they deserved. He had told himself that it was to protect people like himself, but that was only part of it.

“Take some time to process that. I’m not judging you for it. Wanting to see those who hurt you fall is part of human nature.” Akechi shut his eyes again and Mishima thought he might actually fall asleep.

Maybe Ren had been right when he had called him crazy over all the power going to his head for a while. He had since reevaluated his own motives, but apparently he hadn't been thorough enough or honest with himself about it after all. Deep down, he still wanted the attention, the power, the thrill of seeing bad people fall. He didn't have the energy to fight those thoughts right now, so he just stewed in them and let them sink in. He had no reason to try and put on a positive image anymore. Not if Ren didn't even consider what he had been doing to be helpful. No one else knew it was him, and the only people who did saw him as a burden.

He made a small noise in his throat and Akechi flinched and barely opened his eyes. “Were you asleep? Sorry.”

“Almost. I shouldn't be though.” He sat up straighter and picked up his coffee to resume drinking it.

“I tried talking about this once, actually… with the Phantom Thief I know. He told me all the attention I was getting from the Phansite was going to my head and that I was losing it. He started treating me differently after that. Or I just finally noticed it.” He sat up straighter as well and let his feet back down on the floor, elbows at his sides and hands clasped in his lap. “He acted so self-righteous about it, like I was wrong to want to take out bad people. That's exactly what they're doing anyway. Who gets to judge who's bad enough to deserve it?” There was a bite to his tone now, anger bubbling up.

Akechi laughed that cold laugh of his and smiled, though he didn't exactly look happy. “What have I been saying for months now about vigilante justice? That the Phantom Thieves do not have the authority as an anonymous group to dictate who is and is not deserving of their idea of punishment.”

“You… you're right. God. I've been so… stupid.” His voice shook and he noticed his hands were trembling too. “You are the only person in this world who seems to understand me and all this time I've been so far up their asses…”

Akechi was just looking at him now. There was something off about his expression, but Mishima couldn't pin it down to an emotion. His eyes looked wild, and he was barely smirking. This was the Akechi he wanted to see, not the one he showed everyone else. And he wanted to know what else was under there. He wanted to pry him open and see it all.

He realized they were both staring at each other, so he broke away first and started to apologize, but Akechi cut him off.

“If you can dedicate your time to their idea of justice for so long, then you can dedicate it just as easily to your own. Pursue what matters to you. If you want to put an end to their wild accusations and invasive lines of action, then do so. You're in a perfect position of trust. You have all the makings of a traitor. You're only missing the willpower.” Akechi's voice had dropped into that low, raspy tone Mishima had only heard bits of before. He realized his heart was racing. “And I'm happy to provide you with that.”

Mishima acted before he could think. He was up on his knees, leaning across the space between them, one hand balancing and the other grabbing at Akechi's hair to pull him into a hard, messy kiss. Akechi's hands went to Mishima's sides and clung to him, and his own hand moved from Akechi's hair to hold his jaw, kissing him hard and biting at his lip. Akechi laughed into his mouth and did the same in return, but harder. He felt himself whine in pain, but he didn't pull back until Akechi turned his head away, panting.

“Kissing the enemy?” He sounded breathless and his cheeks were flushed. “What would your Phantom Thief have to say about that?”

“I don't fucking care. Fuck him.” Mishima's voice came out just as breathless, but it was dripping with hatred.

Akechi laughed and they kissed again, though it wasn't as heated this time.

When they had enough, Akechi slumped back against his armrest, grinning, eyes low. “I'm afraid we've ruined your little poison experiment.”

“My… my what?” Mishima reverted back to his anxious position with his knees drawn up.

“The coffee. It won't matter whose was poisoned. You kissed me, so now we're both tainted.” He tilted his head.

Mishima started giggling, and then he couldn't stop. He was laughing so hard he was crying, face in his knees, sobbing. He knew he looked and sounded crazy, but he didn't care anymore. It didn't matter. When he finally calmed himself down into quiet wheezes, he realized Akechi was laughing at him, though much quieter.

“You… truly are something else.” His voice was back to the pleasant tones Mishima was used to, but it sounded genuine. “I believe I'm sufficiently awake now. I should return to my studies.”

Mishima nodded and Akechi lowered himself back down onto the floor. He sighed and then picked up his pen and resumed where he had left off.

Mishima lifted up the hem of his shirt and rubbed his eyes with it, then switched the TV on and laid back on his side. His emotional rollercoaster had exhausted him, and he found himself drifting. He considered that Akechi might kill him in his sleep, decided he didn't really care, and let himself crash.

When he woke up, Akechi had fallen asleep at the table, head down on a book. His hair was obscuring his face, but his breathing was even. He considered waking him, but thought he probably needed the sleep, even if it meant not getting some assignments done.

He carefully got up off the couch and made his way to the door and left. It was late now and he thought Akechi would understand him slipping out without a word.

An hour later, he got a text.

Akechi

I assume you made it home alright and haven't been stolen away into the night by home invaders.
No I'm being held hostage and the only way they'll release me is if you start taking better care of yourself so you don't fall asleep sitting up in front of your homework
Well, it's been pleasant knowing you.
AKECHI
I assure you that if I had time to sleep more, I would. When things are less busy, I sometimes even get a full six hours a night. Besides, you fell asleep as well.
I wasn't sitting up though
I was laying on your weirdly comfy couch and I had just had the life drained out of me via your lips like some sort of energy vampire
If that was how it worked, then I would not have fallen asleep.
You're right
Maybe the poison knocked us out
Maybe so.
Thanks for talking to me about stuff today
I feel like shit but I also feel like I'm not just living in the dark anymore, like stuff makes a little more sense now
So thanks
I meant everything I said. If you wish to utilize your platform to your advantage, I will back you up.
Thanks
Go to bed
I politely decline. But I will return to this essay. Goodnight, Mishima-kun.
Goodnight

Chapter Text

Akechi realized he could kill two birds with one stone. He would soon be interfering with Phantom Thief business directly by taking out their target. The next step would be framing them for it. That meant he should be taking every opportunity he could get to get in close with Amamiya to avoid being suspected. He also had a heaping pile of schoolwork. As always.

He settled into a booth at Leblanc this time and, after ordering coffee, started setting up to work through some reading assignments. It had never been a lie that the atmosphere in the shop was pleasant. It was relaxing enough for him to be able to get some work done before Amamiya came home for the evening.

Still, he was surprised at how much he got done. When Amamiya finally made an appearance, he had finished his reading and moved on to solving equations. The math always seemed to pile up the most. Amamiya stopped at his booth and greeted him as nonchalantly as ever, like he couldn’t care less that he was there. But his expression was just edging into a smile, and Akechi could read most people well enough to tell that this show of indifference was an act. Akechi was getting under his skin.

“Good evening, Amamiya-kun.” Akechi set down his pen and smiled up at him.

“Hey,” Amamiya eyed his empty mug and motioned to take it. “Want another coffee? On the house.”

“Oh! How generous. Are you sure it’s alright? I would hate to be even more of an intruder than I already am.” Akechi put on an expression of surprise and sat up straighter in the booth.

Amamiya set his bag, complete with strange cat, down in the seat across from him and took the mug. “You’re not intruding. You’re a customer. Sojiro’s just like that.” He gave Akechi a half-smile and left to fetch the promised coffee.

The cat poked its head out of the bag and looked at Akechi with more judgment than he felt should have been possible from an animal. It then stepped out, shook itself off, and leapt off the seat to go sit on the stairs and observe from afar, cleaning its face with its paws. Akechi knew the cat had to be the same one he had seen transform into a vehicle in Mementos, but he couldn’t understand why a cat had the ability to travel to the Metaverse in the first place. He had seen Shadows in the form of dogs inside Palaces, but never a real-world animal who presumably possessed the power to summon a Persona itself. If he had the time, he would have launched a full investigation into the matter.

His feline thoughts were interrupted by Amamiya coming back and setting down two mugs of coffee on the table.

"You have my thanks. I fear this may be a long night, as so many of mine are." He set to stirring sugar into his mug.

Amamiya hovered, shifting from one foot to the other anxiously, he noted. He wasn't sure what that was about.

"You mind if I sit?" Amamiya finally spoke up and placed a hand on the table.

"Who am I to deny you a seat in your own place of employment? Even if you say I'm no intruder, that doesn't make me the one in charge." He barely smiled up at him, then looked back to his work. He knew he wasn't going to be getting anything else done now.

"Well, yeah. Right." He slid into the seat and pulled the second mug over to himself. "Just didn't know if you wanted some peace."

"Peace is hard to come by." Akechi sipped his coffee, eyes down. "But it seems so is your company. You're quiet elusive. I catch glimpses of you sometimes at the station, but then you're gone. At first, I thought you might be avoiding me."

"Nah," He tore open a packet of sugar, spilled half of it, and dumped the other half into his coffee. "If I was avoiding you, you wouldn't see me at all. I'd be coming in the attic window, not the front door."

He swept up the spilled sugar into his hand, and deposited it into his mug with the rest. Akechi was perturbed. This was the person Mishima was so terrified of? Yes, he was a Phantom Thief, but he was also astoundingly unintimidating.

He didn't speak much, but when he did, he sounded far too laid back and distant. His words were often cold, and Akechi could see how Mishima got the idea he wasn't wanted. But it also seemed like that was just how he was. He had asked permission to sit here, yet he still spoke with a tone that said he'd rather be somewhere else. Well, that made two of them. But Akechi had bonds to build.

"You're proficient at avoiding people, then?" Akechi dropped his gaze and pretended to be focusing.

"Something like that?" He leaned his cheek on his hand and watched Akechi.

"You and I have that in common. Though it's not a skill I chose to hone. Before this Phantom Thieves mess, it was just to avoid fangirls keeping me from missing my trains, but now I find myself taking back streets just so no one throws their drinks at me or shoves a camera in my face for an interview on their terms. I've come close to being late to school a few times now, and that's not something I had ever dreamed of happening." He looked up and saw Amamiya's eyes still on him, then looked away with a small smile. "You're a good listener."

"I get told that a lot."

"Do you? I'm sure you hear your fair share of compliments. I can't say that I often feel that my words are truly being received by others for what they are. Most times, someone just wants to twist them to their own advantage. I don't get that feeling with you."

He knew he was laying the charm on thick, and he was choosing his words very carefully so as to not misstep and come on too strong, but Amamiya seemed to be receptive to this sort of treatment. His eyes looked tired and he still seemed like he was trying to be uncaring, but he was barely smiling. So, Akechi continued.

"My apologies for speaking so much. I simply feel like I'm free to do so when I'm around you." He gave an airy, flustered laugh. "There's something about you."

Amamiya laughed as well, and gave Akechi a genuine smile for his efforts. "Thanks."

"Oh!" Akechi pretended to have remembered something incredibly important. "I'm sure you've heard that the CEO of Okumura Foods has received a calling card… If the pattern in place repeats itself, he should experience a change of heart. This is getting quite interesting, isn't it? Taking on someone so prolific will surely be a feat. I've heard the allegations against their CEO, but that's a matter that should be taken on in a court of law..."

"He's ruined a lot of people's lives." He sounded tense now. Good.

"Yes, of course. The world is full of greedy adults ruining the lives of others for their own gain… If the allegations against him are true, then surely this is no different. It really is quite troubling to think about such cruelty…" Akechi let himself stare unfocused at a spot on the table for a few moments, then let his eyes widen in surprise. "My apologies. I got lost in thought for a moment. Things have been so hectic in my life lately. I have so much to be thinking about already, and yet this case continues on…"

"Do you do anything besides work on this Phantom Thieves case?" Amamiya tilted his head and popped his neck with a sigh. Akechi did his very best not to recoil.

"I do my best to set aside leisure time, but it doesn't always happen… Though, lately I've become, er, a bit involved with someone and it seems to be going well." He raised his mug to hide his sheepish smile. This was as good a time as ever to brag.

Amamiya raised an eyebrow. "Is that what you call this?"

Akechi nearly choked, truly taken aback by that assumption. He hadn't expected that at all. Perhaps he was doing too good of a job if Amamiya truly thought he was that special. And he was still grinning now.

"My apologies," He cleared his throat. "How embarrassing. Though I do truly enjoy your company, I was actually talking about someone else. I've been seeing this boy for some time now, and…" He covered his face with his hands and laughed, then lifted his head to rest his chin on his hand. "He kissed me last time I saw him."

Amamiya's mouth barely twitched into a frown before resetting itself to a disinterested smile. "That's great."

"It is! It really is. He's quite cute." He sighed. "He attends Shujin as well. Perhaps you know each other?"

"Maybe." Amamiya's expression faltered again and he didn't bother to smile this time.

"Amidst all this chaos, it is nice to have a few things to ground you, isn't it? This shop has become such a comfort to me, for example. Your company as well." He pulled out his phone and checked the time. "Oh, it's gotten so late. I need to head home. Thank you again for the coffee. And for listening to my rambling."

He gathered his things and left the shop feeling completely drained.

His phone buzzed while he was on the train home.

Yuuki Mishima

I'm willing to believe you had a good reason for this but why did you tell Amamiya I KISSED YOU?
Because he asked if I do anything but think about the Phantom Thieves and when I said I was becoming involved with someone, he had the audacity to imply it was him.
What?
Why did this even come up? I didn't realize you were so close...
Hardly. I have coffee at Leblanc sometimes. If he happens to be there, we talk.
I asked you not to talk to him about me
What else did you say :(
That you're quite cute and that things are going well between us.
You're lucky I'm easily flustered by compliments
I did not use your name. The mention of a cute boy from Shujin seems to have painted a clear enough picture of you.
He saw us at the diner that time, stop trying to be smooth :(
So he did. My apologies, then.
He's so mad at me
Do you think he likes you?
Perhaps.
Oh...
I assure you that the feeling is not mutual. I watched him spill sugar onto the coffee shop table, sweep it into his hand, and dump it into his coffee. It was revolting.
You're so weird
I am attempting to reassure you.
I know, weirdo
Thanks
He's just so much cooler than me
I'm not so sure about that assessment.
Now you're just sucking up to me
I certainly am not. Ren Amamiya lives in an attic, carries a cat in a bag everywhere he goes, and assumes everyone he speaks to thinks of him much more highly than they do, to the point he boldly assumed I was interested in "seeing" him. "Cool" is not the first word I would use to describe him.
What is?
Incompetent, perhaps.
Oh my god
I feel so much better now
Are you doing ok though? I know you've been super busy lately
I am busy. Doing ok is debatable.
I understand
Let me know if I can do anything to help you.... bring you a coffee at work or something
That's a kind offer. I'll keep it in mind. I do need to be going now. I have a long night ahead of me.
Good luck
I'm rooting for you
:)


A week later, the news of Okumura's death was plastered all over the news accompanied by the accusations that the Phantom Thieves were responsible. Mishima was scrambling to keep the Phansite under control, deleting death threats and the more insidious rumors from the forum. He had changed the poll question now that they had no current target, and the public's opinion had plummeted. He was doing everything he could, but he was at a loss. And he wasn't even sure if he should be doing anything at all.

Akechi wasn't answering his texts. He knew he was probably just extremely busy. He was investigating the Phantom Thieves, after all, and there had just been a massive spike in activity on that front, but Mishima was desperate for someone to talk to. And it wouldn't be Ren.

They hadn't spoken a word to each other since their last argument, and Mishima wasn't going to break the ice. He'd let Ren deal with this however he wanted to.

Part of Mishima believed that the Phantom Thieves really had killed Okumura, whether on purpose or by accident, and the thought made his stomach turn. That would mean the other mental shutdown cases were also likely tied to them, and what would that mean for him as their very vocal supporter? Ren had told him before that he'd go down as an accomplice. He was just as guilty.

He stayed home from school the day after the news broke. He just couldn't get out of bed. His insides felt twisted up and he couldn't manage to pull himself together enough to be coherent. He slept all day.

He woke up to a barrage of texts.

Ren

you better be doing some damage control
this is not looking good and i shouldn't have to remind you that our reputation is your reputation
the phansite looks like shit right now what are you even doing
mishima answer me i'm not in the mood for your passive aggressive ghosting shit
I was asleep
What do you want me to do?
actually do your job as pr manager and manage our public relations
How exactly do you want me to do that? I'm deleting comments, I put up a different poll, I'm banning repeat offenders
What else do you want
put up an announcement saying we didn't do it or something
actually be useful for once!
I'm not so certain you didn't
wow ok
Did you?
no!
what the fuck is wrong with you
What else am I supposed to think? You told me you were going after him and now he's dead
we did NOT kill him
we did the same thing we always do, nothing was different
How am I supposed to explain that?
"We did the same thing we always do" doesn't mean anything when no one knows your methods
figure it out you used to be good at this
but i guess helping people doesn't matter to you anymore if you're ready to quit now that everyone's not on your side
now that it's not FUN for you anymore
do i need to remind you you're an accomplice
I'm not QUITTING! You're just not giving me anything to work with
If YOU still want to help people maybe you should do those "errands" I give you
Maybe then people will believe in you again
is that the best you can do? we're wanted for murder and you want to sic us on smallfries like that's gonna change anything
Maybe it will if you don't decide to kill them too
i don't have time for this mishima
you're supposed to be our biggest supporter what the hell happened to you
fix this shit
I can't fix your mistakes Ren
What did you say before? I'm not your errand boy?
do you really think we'd kill someone
like do you really think that fits our objective here
I don't know what your objective is anymore!
i'm done with this conversation
bye

Mishima let out a frustrated sob and clutched his phone hard before dropping it onto his bed and pressing his face into his pillow. He knew there wasn't anything else he could do. Short of shutting off posts entirely, he couldn't keep the Phansite scrubbed clean. The last time he had tried to enact control over what did and didn't get posted, Ren had expressed disgust with him. Now he was demanding what was basically the same thing.

He wished Akechi was around. He always seemed to understand what Mishima was feeling. He'd know what to do.

Just in case, he sent him a text.

Akechi

I hate him so much

It took several minutes, but his phone lit up.

Akechi

Oh dear. Dare I ask who?
Mr self righteous Phantom Thief is blowing up my phone yelling at me because I need to fix this whole Okumura thing single handedly somehow
And how exactly does one do that?
Haha he wouldn't tell me that part
Told me to figure it out
Do you believe they're guilty?
I don't know
Do you?
That's not something I'm at liberty to discuss at this time due to ongoing investigation into the matter.
Oh yeah
I guess I don't WANT to believe they're guilty but what else am I supposed to think when there was a calling card and the poll
I've run out of downtime for now, so I'll have to cut this conversation short here. It's likely I won't be very available for some time. If I do not respond to your messages, it isn't personal, I am simply being pulled in too many directions at once.
I understand
Take care of yourself
I know you won't but I'm saying it anyway
Well, you do the same, then.


Amamiya was late returning home when Akechi stopped by Leblanc a few days after taking care of Okumura. He had been incredibly busy, as he knew he would be with election season swiftly approaching, but he had to make time to check in with his favorite Phantom Thief. Unfortunately, he almost missed him.

Just as Akechi was pushing his empty mug across the bar and beginning to gather his things, the door opened and Amamiya stepped in. He almost looked frazzled. It was the closest Akechi had ever seen him to it anyway.

“Oh, hey,” Amamiya moved past him to go behind the bar and to the fridge. The owner shooed him out of the kitchen and he circled back around. “Didn’t think you were going to come by anymore after the fool I made of myself last time.”

“Oh? I’m afraid I don’t recall?” Akechi stayed seated and tilted his head, looking perplexed. “My apologies. I have a lot on my mind at the moment.”

“Maybe that’s for the best, then.” Amamiya grinned and ran a hand through his own hair. Then his expression hardened again.

“I was just about to leave, but while I’m here, do you mind if I ask you something?” He lowered his voice despite there being no other customers in the shop. Amamiya shrugged. “There are rumors circulating that the Phantom Thieves are the ones behind the death of Okumura. I’m sure you’ve heard them by now. They’re plastered everywhere. I know you’re a supporter of theirs. I’d like to know your thoughts, if it isn’t too much trouble. Ah, I suppose that’s not a question… Let me rephrase. Do you think they’re responsible?”

Amamiya pursed his lips and looked away, then back to Akechi. “I don’t know. Could just be a big misunderstanding.”

“Do you think it is, though? You seem unsure.” Akechi leaned his elbow on the bar and propped his chin on his hand. “I don’t know how much attention you give to this Phantom Thief Aficionado website, but it seems to be connected to them in some official way. It’s become quite the topic of discussion to the people working on this case. Okumura came out on top of the poll for who their next victim should be. Of course, I was a contender for that spot as well…” He chuckled to himself. “The point being that this poll result in conjunction with the calling card points quite directly to the Phantom Thieves.”

Amamiya didn’t answer, just pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose and directed his gaze elsewhere.

“Though, it could be that you’re right. I have to admit that despite all the signs, something doesn’t feel quite right about this… I just can’t put my finger on what it is. Perhaps a difference in what I had presumed their goals were. If they truly want social reformation and changes in behavior from their targets, cold-blooded murder just doesn’t seem like it would be beneficial to them. I suppose I’ll have to think on it some more. I’m very grateful for your input.” He managed to catch Amamiya’s eyes and smiled at him sweetly.

Amamiya’s expression twitched into a similar expression before going flat again.

Akechi stood from his seat and brushed off the front of his uniform. “You look stressed. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. Your natural good looks can only take you so far if you don’t care for your body properly.”

“Yeah, thanks.” He barely laughed and stepped away to give Akechi space.

“I’ll see you around, Amamiya-kun. It’s been nice to speak with you, as always.”


It was only a few days after his visit to Leblanc that the Phantom Thieves surprised him. Akechi was invited to speak as a guest at Shujin's cultural festival by none other than Sae Niijima's younger sister. He was aware that this was supposed to be some sort of trap, but he had some tricks of his own up his sleeve and he wasn't concerned with falling prey to them.

Mishima saw Ren and his friends follow Akechi once he had left the stage, and he used his ever-useful powers of invisibility to sneak away after them. They all pulled Akechi into an empty room and Mishima stayed outside, straining to listen. He couldn't make out very much and it all sounded like nonsense. The only person he could fully understand was Sakamoto, who always seemed to be yelling.

Nothing he heard made any sense to him, but he was getting a sinking feeling in his stomach. If Akechi was working with them, what did it mean for him? Had he been manipulated this whole time? He had thought Akechi understood him, but what if this was just the situation with Ren all over again? He felt angry and sad and hurt and confused all at once, and he barely got away from the door in time when it opened.

Ren and his friends left first, and then Akechi stepped out, eyes on his phone. Mishima grabbed his arm, causing him to let out a very undignified yelp. Luckily, no one else was in the hall to hear it. Akechi instantly directed a glare at Mishima and shook him off.

“If I wasn't pissed right now, I'd be laughing. Come here.” Mishima grabbed his arm again and hauled him back into the room and shut the door.

“Is there something I can help you with? I'm supposed to be giving a speech right now, and if I'm gone much longer it isn't going to look very good. I can see you're upset. But give me a few minutes to finish some business.” Akechi put his hand on the door to leave.

“Promise me you'll come see me after. If you don't, I know where you live and that you never lock your door.” Mishima tried to sound threatening, but Akechi only laughed.

“You do. I will, though. Give me ten minutes and then you can scream at me.” He opened the door and left. At least he seemed to understand the situation.

Mishima went back to the auditorium and sat out the short remainder of Akechi's speech, watching him play the pretty-boy detective act and wanting to kiss that stupid forced smile off his face. Akechi exited the stage a final time and Mishima slunk off to the rooftop, avoiding Ren.

Akechi

On the roof
Not thinking of jumping, are you?
Very funny
Come up here
Door is unlocked, use the stairwell by the classrooms
Coming.

Mishima sat on top of a discarded desk and watched the many plants sway in the slight breeze. He wasn't sure who was growing plants up here, but they always looked well cared for. He wondered if this was against school policy, but guessed it didn't really concern him.

The door pushed open and Akechi stepped out onto the roof, shutting the door behind him.

“Here I am. At your beck and call.” He made his way over to where Mishima sat and hovered in front of him, giving him the good boy treatment.

“Stop that. You know I hate it. Sit.”

Akechi chuckled and sat on the desk next to his, one leg crossed over the other.

“You're working with the Phantom Thieves.” It was a statement, not a question.

“A bold assertion. Can I assume you have some sort of evidence for this wild claim?”

“Uh, you being in that room just now? It sure sounded like you were on familiar terms with them.”

“So you're asserting that those people I was just speaking to are the Phantom Thieves. Interesting.”

Stop playing stupid with me!” Mishima gently shoved at him and saw him wince harder than he probably should have. “I know you know this shit, so stop. I could hear your conversation.” Well, he hadn't been able to make out much, but it wasn't a complete lie.

Akechi didn't respond, but seemed to be thinking.

“All this time, you knew about Amamiya, and… you knew how it is with me and him, and you're just…”

“Do you realize that you just outed Ren Amamiya as a Phantom Thief to me? I could go to the police with this information right now. The Phantom Thieves are wanted for murder.” Akechi's voice dropped lower and Mishima shivered.

“Stop. Seriously. I know you know, so just drop it and tell me what's going on. You said all that stuff about them being criminals and wanting to help me get out from under them, and you're one of them? How long have you been stringing me along like this? You know how much he hurt me.” His voice broke at the end and he had to look away, focusing on the mysterious plants.

“Is it any consolation to know that they invited me here to try and trap me into giving them information? It was fortunate that I foresaw this and now I have them where I want them. I am not working with them so much as they are working with me. At least as of today. I assure you this is all a new development.”

“I'm going to throw you off this roof if you're lying to me.”

Akechi laughed. “Try it.”

Mishima just reached over and held his hand between them. He was surprised when Akechi curled his fingers around his. They sat quietly while Mishima tried to sort through his chaotic emotions.

“Let me help you.” Mishima looked up at him. “Please. I want to be a part of this. Whatever it is.”

“What exactly do you think you're going to do?”

“I don't know. I don't really even know what you're planning, but if you tell me, if you stop hiding shit from me, I want to do what I can. We want the same things. We feel the same way about all this, I… want to help you.” His voice went considerably quieter. “I want to be with you.” He gripped Akechi's hand tighter in his.

“Alright.”

“What— Really?”

“Yes. You know too much anyway. One misstep and I need not remind you what I've already said about a hitman. I was not joking. I will kill you, Mishima.” Akechi was looking him dead in the eyes, expression intense and focused. “So please, for your sake, keep your mouth shut.”

This wasn't the first time Akechi had threatened to have him killed, but it was the first time he had seemed so serious about it. Mishima should have been scared. Instead, he just felt excited. He was a part of Akechi's plan. Akechi was trusting him. Whatever attack he was planning on Ren and on everyone who followed him, Mishima would be there.

He nodded and smiled. “My lips are sealed. But for future reference, the death threats don't really work on me. You'll have to get more creative.” He leaned up and kissed Akechi's lips, one arm going around his neck to pull him closer.

Akechi didn't let it go on long before he pulled himself away, extracting his hand from Mishima's grip in the process. “You've gotten quite touchy. Does the idea of dying excite you that much? Not exactly a romantic topic.”

“No, I mean… You do. I guess.” He looked down at his legs. “If you don't want me to touch you though, I won't. Kissing too. You just seemed to like it last time.”

“It's alright. Though I'd prefer if we keep apart in that way publicly. I don't need more attention than I'm currently getting.” He tucked his hair behind his ear. “Things may end up looking up for me soon, though now that the Phantom Thieves are out of the public’s good graces. No more street harassment at least.”

“You’re getting harassed on the street…?”

“Just name-calling mostly. Someone threw a drink at me a few weeks ago. Most of them hide behind their screens, but sometimes there are a few bold ones.” He was smiling, looking off to the side. “Regardless, we need to establish something.” His tone became more serious again. “We’re not talking about this through texts. Ever. No calls either. In person or not at all.”

“Oh. Okay. Are you worried about the police tracing texts or something?” Mishima looked down at his hands in his lap, remembering what Akechi had said about the police tracking his own IP.

“Not the police, but yes. If we’re sharing information, we need to be extremely careful. Private locations only. No coded language in public, nothing.” Akechi uncrossed his legs and stood. He winced and shifted some weight off one leg. Mishima decided not to mention it.

“Are you going home?” Mishima stood too. “We could go walk around together.”

“I need to go home. Tired.” Mishima wasn’t being afforded any more unnecessary pleasantries, it seemed. “I have to start playing nice with our friends starting tomorrow, and I’m not exactly looking forward to it. I’m sure you’re aware, but this sort of game of pretend gets exhausting after a while.”

“I’m glad you’ve dropped it with me. Mostly. Seeing you up on the stage like that was weird. I was thinking about that while you were talking... I see you doing the Perfect Boy act and I feel like I don’t know that person.” Mishima leaned back against the desk, eyes on Akechi.

“You like it when I’m mean.”

“I like it when you’re honest.”

Akechi sighed through his nose and smiled, eyes averted to the ground.

“What?” Mishima stood straighter again, leaning up closer to him.

“Nothing.” He let his expression fade to neutrality and looked down at Mishima. He didn’t stop him from getting close. “You’re just peculiar.”

“That’s not very nice.” He put his arms loosely over Akechi’s shoulders and felt hands go to his waist so they were holding each other at arm's length.

“Oh, pardon me!” Akechi put on his Public Voice again, fully playing it up, expression of shocked disbelief to match. “I cannot apologize enough for my rudeness, I hope you can find it in yourself to forgive me for my inappropriate behavior, Mishima-kun! How very unlike me, to be so uncouth…”

“God, stop.” Mishima sounded annoyed, but he was laughing. “I hate that. Who are you?.”

Akechi’s expression relaxed and Mishima leaned up on his toes and kissed him softly. Akechi hummed and pulled him in closer.

Akechi looked exhausted when they pulled back. He blinked a few times and Mishima let go of him.

“Go home. Sleep.” Mishima stepped back.

“You know I don’t do that.” Akechi pulled out his phone briefly, then put it back in his pocket. “But I will return home. And I’ll be in touch.”

Chapter Text

Akechi settled into his role in the Phantom Thieves quickly. A little blackmail went a long way. The others were wary of him, especially Sakamoto, for some reason, but he hadn't expected any less. He smiled and spoke warmly and did what Ren asked of him for the most part. Anything to get this over with.

Mishima gave him space for a few days, letting him adjust, and then he was hounding him for information. Akechi didn't reply for a few more days while he settled some business, Metaverse-related and not, but then got back to him.

Yuuki Mishima

Gorooo
I know you're busy but :(
Text me back and I'll buy you a crepe
Hello. You are very clingy, aren't you?
Knew the crepes would work
The timing was purely coincidental.
Suuuure
Although, you can't take back what you've said, so I'll expect crepes next time we see each other. :)
Have I told you you're the worst?
A few times, yes. I haven't disagreed.
Where have you been?
Busy. Work, work, more work, school, work again.
You work too much
So you've said.
When can I see you for crepes?
Perhaps tomorrow evening? I will have to see how things fall tomorrow, but as of right now, my evening is open.
It's a date
It absolutely is not.
Aw :(
You're no fun
I'm aware. It's just terrible, isn't it?
Nah you're fun, just in your kinda crazy way
I have no idea what you're talking about.
:)
I will let you know about tomorrow. Goodnight.
Goodnight Goro

He had Mishima meet him at his apartment as soon as he finished up with the Phantom Thieves the next day and they got there around the same time. Akechi had only stepped inside, taken his shoes off, taken off his coat, and hung it up when Mishima knocked.

He was let inside and Akechi plopped onto the couch, groaning in exhaustion, slumped back into the corner between the back and armrest.

“Long day?” Mishima sat at the other end, setting a bag of styrofoam to-go boxes on the table.

“All of my days are excruciatingly long.” Akechi put an arm over his eyes and shut them. Without his coat, his arms were bare between the rolled up sleeves of his uniform shirt and his gloves. Various bruises and scars dotted his skin.

“You join a fight club?” Mishima tried to crack a joke, but he just got Akechi squinting at him out of one uncovered eye in return.

“What on Earth are you talking about?”

“You have, uh, your arms are really beat up. You… look like me, back when… you know.” He frowned.

“Ah. Well. Something like that.” Suddenly his arms felt naked.

“You know you have to tell me things, right? You agreed I could help you. I have to know what's going on to help.” Mishima stared at him intently.

“I… yes. I know that. I intend to, it's just been a very busy week and these idiots are trying my patience.” Akechi stretched his arms over his head, then leaned forward and rifled through the bag Mishima had brought.

“Yours is on top.”

He grabbed the top box and pulled it over onto his lap. He sighed and Mishima saw a smile flicker briefly across his face.

“The way to your heart is through sugary confections, isn't it? That's the happiest I've seen you in weeks.” Mishima grabbed his own box.

“Oh, my apologies then.” Akechi's expression soured and he glared at Mishima as he took a bite. Mishima just laughed and picked at his food.

“Okay, you have your sugar. Talk. Tell me how your infiltration plan is going.”

“You'll have to be more specific.”

“You know their methods now, right? How they change hearts?”

“I've known that for some time now, yes.”

Mishima nearly choked. “Since when?!

“A while. Before I met you, at least.” Akechi was talking like this wasn't a big deal.

“What…? How, then?”

“This is a matter of utmost secrecy and if you dare breathe even a word of this—”

“Yeah, okay. Hitman. I know.” Mishima cut him off.

“Fine.” Akechi took another bite, chewed slowly, and swallowed before speaking. “You're free to decide that I'm spouting bullshit. I'm not going to argue with you about it. You can either believe this or not. It doesn't matter to me. The Phantom Thieves perform their changes of heart by entering into a space called the Metaverse and fighting with the physical manifestation of a target's corruption. This causes the target to experience a change of heart, after which they subsequently confess their sins.”

Mishima just stared at him. He looked like he was trying and failing to process this. Akechi gave him a minute.

“Wait… So… Can you explain that more? I don't… What do you mean by a physical manifestation?” Mishima spoke slowly.

“Typically they are called Shadows, and they are a realistic but often exaggerated version of a person's corrupted views of themself. The worse the corruption, the more exaggerated it will be. Some just look like people.” He paused. “Yours just looks like you. But more quiet. Scared.”

“My— Me—? Sorry, I just don't understand. How do you see this stuff? Like you just look at people and see it?”

Akechi sighed and ran a hand through his hair, pushing it back from his face. “No. In order to encounter these Shadows, one must travel to the Metaverse, which is a sort of… hidden area inside the subconscious. If a person's corruption hasn't escalated past a certain point, their Shadow will materialize inside a sort of labyrinth area along with others. But if it is more severe, their minds can create an intricate space of their own, where only their Shadow and lesser non-human ones will be.”

Mishima looked even more confused.

“Okay.” Akechi sighed again. “The request targets you send Amamiya after? Their sins are lesser, so their Shadows appear in the labyrinth. The Phantom Thieves travel to this space, fight their Shadows, and they have a change of heart. Are you with me?”

Mishima hesitated, but then nodded. “I think so?”

“Big targets, like Kamoshida.” Mishima winced at the name and looked away. “Okumura. They're corrupted worse than your petty thief or controlling girlfriend, so their Shadows have created their own spaces separately. Infiltrating these spaces takes a longer time, and the Shadows are often stronger due to their resistance to change. Does this make sense?”

“I… guess? Sort of. I just didn't think it would be so… weird. I thought maybe they just cornered criminals and talked to them or something…” Mishima stared down at his mostly untouched food.

“Well, that's the gist of it. With some fantasy elements thrown in. And a lot more violence.” Akechi shoved more crepe into his mouth.

“So that is how you got those bruises… I noticed you were sort of limping the other day too. But that was before you joined with them…” Akechi could see the wheels turning. “You said you've known their methods for a long time. Why? Have you been working with them the whole time? You told me this was new.” Anger was creeping into his tone.

“Stop. It is. However, knowledge of and experience with the Metaverse is not.”

“What? Goro, just explain.

“The Phantom Thieves aren't the only ones with this power. But they are the only ones who wield it in such a way.” Akechi's voice was low and quiet, eyes on Mishima's face, making eye contact.

Mishima seemed to be thinking, and then it clicked and his eyes went wide. “Wait— Goro— Oh my God. Are you…? You're the one who…?” He looked distraught and he was biting his nails instead of eating, eyes on the couch.

Akechi finished off his food and set the empty box on the table.

“Okumura…” Mishima's eyes darted up to Akechi's face, wide in terror.

Akechi admitted to nothing, and simply crossed his legs and clasped his hands in his lap, waiting. If Mishima ran off with this information, it would be the end of the line for him. This was the moment of truth.

Finally, Mishima's expression changed into one of what appeared to be deep sadness. “All this time, they could have been killing these villains, and instead they…” He laughed sadly. “Where were you when Kamoshida was making my life a living hell?”

“What are you implying?” Akechi kept his tone calm and neutral.

“He should've died. For what he did to me and to Suzui and Takamaki… and everyone. He shouldn't have gotten some bullshit repentance. He shouldn't be allowed to live with all of that. He—” Mishima blinked a few times and some tears spilled onto his cheeks. He rubbed them away with his arm. “God, what the fuck is wrong with them? They just let these people go. Fuck.”

Now it was Akechi's turn to be shocked. He had expected Mishima to be disgusted by the lengths he had gone to, by the idea of murder. Instead he was despairing at the reality that the man whose corruption had kickstarted the Phantom Thieves’ career could have been assassinated and hadn't been.

Mishima was more vengeful than Akechi had given him credit for. Akechi felt a small, unwelcome pulse of warmth in his chest and immediately squashed it back down. This connection was what had gotten him into this in the first place. He didn't need a reminder.

Mishima was crying angry tears, clenching his jaw and digging his nails into his thigh. They were the same tears Akechi had cried so many times over Shido. The agonizing, burning rage that seeped into every bone and burrowed into your heart and soul. It felt so recognizable that he could nearly feel it himself.

Mishima rubbed at his eyes with his sleeves and glared at Akechi. “How do you do it? What makes it different? How did you kill Okumura and frame them if they already went after him? Ren didn't know what happened when he was yelling at me, so obviously you were sneaky.”

Akechi just eyed him for a moment. “My apologies that you were yelled at for my—”

Goro.

Akechi laughed. “Right. You're being very demanding.” He leaned his cheek on his hand and gave him a wild grin. “I'll keep some secrets. You don't need to know my exact methods. You know what we do now, and that's enough.”

“It's not. But fine. And yeah, I know. I'm not telling anyone. I don't care about that.” He gave up on his food and put it aside so he could pull his knees up.

“Your Shadow sits just like that. It's a defense mechanism, isn't it?” Akechi still had that look on his face.

“I'm anxious. And angry. Upset.” Mishima rested his cheek on his knees. “I don't need your psychoanalysis right now. Or ever.”

“This isn't how I thought you would react.”

“How, then? You think I'd call the police or something?”

“Ha. No. But thirst for blood wasn't at the top of my list, either. You've managed to surprise me.”

Mishima stared blankly at him. “Is it so surprising to wish someone who made your life so bad you still want to die every day was dead? I hate him. I think about how much I hate him every day. He's the reason I got so caught up in the Phantom Thieves, because I thought what they were doing was enough. Only it's not. It won't ever be. I have to live the rest of my life knowing he's out there living his. Experiencing things.” He pressed his face to his knees. “I feel sick. Sorry.”

“Take your time.” Akechi got up and got some water from the kitchen. He nudged Mishima's shoulder and handed the cup to him. “Drink.”

Mishima lifted his head and took the water with a shaking hand. “Thanks. I hope it's poisoned.” He drank some of it and set it down. “I want to do more.” He suddenly sounded determined. “If there's another option… if repentance through the Phantom Thieves isn't the only way…” He looked at Akechi with an intense look on his face. “Goro, help me with Phansite requests. Please.”

Akechi laughed, harder than he should have, but it was all too good. Mishima was going above and beyond his expectations. He had expected an ally at best, but what he had gotten was a budding criminal mastermind.

He managed to speak through his laughter. “Mishima, you are a bloodthirsty monster.” Mishima looked taken aback. “I like that.”

Mishima smiled sheepishly down at his legs. “That's the nicest thing you've ever said to me. Stop laughing at me. Will you do it or not?”

“I'll try to fit it into my extremely busy schedule, between work and school and being Amamiya's new best friend.” Akechi was still smiling. Mishima scooted over to him and touched his jaw to pull him into a kiss.

Mishima kept a hand on his jaw and put his own forehead on his shoulder. “You're the only person who understands me. He told me I was crazy. I let the power go to my head. Seeing bad people punished wasn't supposed to make you feel good.”

“It feels very good.” Akechi chuckled. “Seeing the high and mighty knocked off their pedestals… Let Amamiya have his false sense of righteousness.”

Mishima nodded against his shoulder, then sat up but stayed sitting close. “How can we pull this off?”

“Well, it was your idea. Don't tell me you don't have a plan.” Akechi's voice was just barely teasing. It made Mishima smile.

“I mean, no, I don't. I just… thought it would be a good idea. If I don't post the requests and just send you the target information, then it might be harder for people to connect the deaths to the Phantom Thieves. But if it happens a lot, people might start talking. Saying if you submit a request, someone dies… It won't look good for them.”

“All the better.” Akechi smirked down at him and his heart skipped a beat. “That keeps Amamiya and friends out of the loop, then. Until rumors reach them, at least. Then what will your defense be?”

“That I never received those requests. That I don't know what they're talking about. I can play innocent very well. You're not the only one who can act.” Mishima returned his smirk. “Let’s make them pay.”


Mishima had been invited over to Akechi's apartment a few hours after school under the assumption that Akechi had taken care of their first off-the-record request. He was anxious, but mostly excited.

He knocked on the door to the apartment, waited a minute, and knocked again. When he still got no response, he pushed the door open and entered. All of the lights were off in the kitchen and living room. He set their dinner and Akechi's coffee down on the table and called out for him, but there was still no response. Had Mishima beaten him there?

He went to the bedroom door and knocked. No answer. Cautiously, he pushed the door open and peeked inside. It was empty. He began to shut the door again and resign himself to sitting and waiting, but curiosity got the best of him.

He flipped the lights on in the bedroom and stepped inside to look around. It was clean, like the rest of the apartment. The bed was made up neatly, and if he didn't know better, he would think no one really lived there. The room was small, without much space left over from the presence of the bed, a dresser, a desk, and a bookshelf. Everything was remarkably… Boring.

But then he noticed something peculiar. Tucked in next to some very serious-looking legal texts on a shelf were a few figures of what looked like a superhero of some kind, dressed in dark clothes with a horned helmet. He couldn't help but smile and laugh to himself. Was Akechi a closet nerd? That was perfect.

Having seen what he wanted to see, he turned the lights back off and retreated back to the couch to sit and eat and wait. He was too hungry to bother waiting for Akechi, and he probably wouldn't be too long.


Akechi emerged from Mementos safely in his own living room. Being able to access the Metaverse from anywhere was extremely convenient, and made the Phantom Thieves’ habit of disappearing and reappearing in the middle of Shibuya on their trips even stupider. Why risk publicity when you could do the same thing from a remote location?

Mishima was waiting for him, and he shrieked when Akechi appeared, then started laughing.

“Good evening.” Akechi shrugged his coat off and hung it up.

“Hi! Oh my God, is it always like that? You just appear? That was crazy!” Mishima couldn’t stop smiling, leaning back slumped against the couch. He had coffee on the table and an unopened takeout box waiting for Akechi.

“Yes, just like that. And the Phantom Thieves do it in broad daylight because they are incompetent. How no one else has caught them yet, I have no idea.” He came and sat on the couch. “Is this for me?”

“Yeah, I thought you might be hungry. You said you have to walk a lot.” Mishima picked up the box and handed it to him.

“It wasn’t so bad today. The target wasn’t as deep as you might suspect.” Akechi dug into his food like he hadn’t eaten for days. He realized maybe he actually hadn’t.

“So it’s done? You did it?” Mishima looked absolutely delighted by the news that Akechi had just committed murder for him. It was shameful. But it was also endearing.

“It is done. Give it a day or so. It won’t be immediate.” His expression was dark in contrast to Mishima’s joy. “You seem to be enjoying yourself.”

“It’s— it’s exciting. I feel like I did back when I first started giving him these requests… Like I’m making a difference for someone. Then he stopped caring and I started feeling like a burden, but now…” He sighed and his smile softened. “Thanks.”

“Any time.” Akechi focused on inhaling the rest of his food while Mishima scrolled through things on his phone. He didn’t look particularly focused, just content and happy.

“I guess I still need to pass some requests to Amamiya so he doesn’t get suspicious. He hates it when I send them during a big target though… They’re going after someone right now, right?”

“Yes, but you aren’t supposed to know this. So send away.” Akechi set his box aside and relaxed down against the cushions, legs across the couch but bent so he wasn’t in Mishima’s space.

Mishima glanced over at him, not used to seeing him so relaxed, but then went back to his phone. “Who is it?”

“I cannot tell you that. It’s irrelevant anyway. A personal grudge.”

“Wait, for you or for them?”

“Maybe both. Not for Amamiya, but for someone else. For me, this is a necessary factor in accomplishing my current goals, so it works out. But it isn’t a public figure.” Akechi shut his eyes.

Mishima was quiet for a few minutes.

“Goro?”

“Hm?”

“If they try to come after me, will you stop them?” He sounded deeply troubled.

Akechi laughed. “What makes you think they’d come after you? Feeling guilty?”

“No.” He paused. “Feeling like I know what Ren’s wrath looks like.”

“I will, to the best of my abilities, shield you from his wrath. Though at the present, I believe he has much worse things to worry about than your secret proclivities for vengeance.”

“Ha. Yeah. What do I matter in the grand scheme of things? I’m not even a blip on his radar most of the time.” Mishima put his phone aside and turned so he was mimicking Akechi’s posture, their legs bent near each other’s, meeting halfway across the couch.

“Not what I meant. Don’t be so harsh on yourself.” Akechi nudged Mishima’s leg with his.

“I’ll keep that in mind, but I’m not making any promises.” Mishima nudged him back.

They both gave tired laughs, and then fell quiet. Akechi dozed off, and Mishima saw no reason not to do the same.

Akechi woke up first, disoriented and confused as to why he was in such a weird position. He tried to straighten his legs, barely bumped Mishima's, and then remembered. Right. He was doing this now. Falling asleep up against this boy he was plotting murders with.

Well, it could be worse.

Mishima wasn't as obnoxious as certain other people he was finding himself in close proximity with. And underneath everything, it turned out he was even more alike himself than Akechi had originally thought. Akechi had projected desperation for love, anger at being dismissed, a need to be acknowledged. He hadn't projected unchecked bloodlust.

He was surprised at how giddy Mishima was at the knowledge that someone had died as a direct result of his actions. The first time Akechi had been responsible for such a thing, he had been nowhere near as calm. He had been fourteen years old, and he cried until he vomited and very nearly caused as much harm to himself as he had to that man's Shadow. He had been a wreck for days, weeks, until the panic and disgust faded into numbness. The next time hadn't been as bad, and it got easier with every subsequent target Shido gave him. Now it was nothing. Just another job. There were billions of people on the planet, more dying every second. It shouldn't and didn't matter if he was the catalyst for a few.

Mishima might be even more fucked up than he was, if this didn't even bother him. But he wasn't the one pulling the trigger. He was sitting back and waiting and giving the orders.

Like Shido.

That thought made him feel violently ill. He pressed his face into the back of the couch and shut his eyes again. This wasn't like that. Mishima was not like that monster. Mishima hadn't wrecked his life from the moment he was born. Mishima was kind to him, too kind. Akechi was the monster in this situation. He was the one doing the manipulating. So what if Mishima got a rush from seeing bad people fall? It wasn't the same.

He took his phone out and read messages from the Phantom Thieves group chat. They had been discussing plans for tomorrow. Akechi scanned through their pointless banter until he could grasp the situation.

He sighed quietly and opened the Phansite instead. There was no trace of the request he had completed that afternoon, only a few others listed as open. He assumed they would be taking those on tomorrow as a group. Fine by him. He could play nice.

Mishima made a small noise in his sleep and rolled over, keeping his legs close to himself. Akechi watched him. He looked so peaceful like this.

Mishima slowly opened his eyes and blinked a few times, looking at Akechi. “You watching me sleep?” His voice was thick and clumsy. “Creep.” He shut his eyes again.

“I just killed a man and you're concerned about me watching you sleep. Shouldn't you be more concerned about falling asleep on a murderer's couch?”

Mishima giggled, eyes still shut. “I've done it before and nothing bad has happened yet.”

“You're either brave or careless.”

“Definitely careless." He turned onto his side. "I saw your nerd collection."

"Pardon me?"

"Your figures. I went to check your room when I got here because I couldn't find you and I thought maybe you fell asleep or something. I didn't know you were into that kind of thing." Mishima paused. "It's cute."

Akechi started to speak, but he was torn between irritation that Mishima had gone into his room without permission and embarrassment that the one corner of his apartment that he didn't keep devoid of personality had been seen. He could feel his face flushing.

Mishima opened his eyes and started laughing at him, so Akechi glared in return. "I'll thank you not to go snooping where you're not invited, Mishima-kun." He put on the tone he knew Mishima hated, but made sure there was an edge of anger to it.

"Scary, Akechi-kun…" He kept giggling. "You're so cute." He shut his eyes again and got more comfortable, obviously not intending to leave.

"I have hobbies beyond murder." Akechi pulled himself upright and began clearing the table.

"Of course. Like… eating sugar straight from the bag, and falling asleep sitting up, and teleportation." Mishima watched him with a smile. "And collecting figures?"

Akechi only sighed and went into the kitchen. He could only handle so much gentle teasing. And he was tired, despite the nap and the coffee.

When he came back, Mishima was standing and fixing his own hair from where it had been flattened into the couch. "I'm gonna head home, I think. I know you probably have stuff to do. You always have stuff to do."

“I do have stuff to do. Thank you for dinner.” Akechi moved over to the front door with him and held it open. “In the next few days, you should have results. We can decide where to go from there.”


Akechi's technique was growing sloppy. He had grown too comfortable in his fights against Shadows, and now going up against the ones on lower levels of Mementos was going less smoothly than it could have been. He was finding himself increasingly injured, and it was getting more and more difficult to drag himself back up to the top each time.

He was certain he had cracked a rib or two, and he had bruises spotting his arms and torso from sustaining blunt force attacks. Not to mention the minor burns and spots of frostbite strewn across his body. It was nothing some time and careful application of makeup couldn't hide in the case of those injuries that would show outside his clothing, but it hurt. Every breath ached and he couldn't just take time off and stay in bed to rest. He had to pretend everything was normal, as there was no reason he should have had these injuries to begin with.

Working alongside the Phantom Thieves to infiltrate Niijima’s Palace was making things even harder on him. Having to maneuver around at Ren’s discretion meant scaling walls, doing acrobatic leaps, and often taking very long routes in order to keep their large group undetected. He was used to only worrying about himself, and that had allowed him to simply stealth his way through things the way he wanted to. Now he was beaten to a pulp from his own forays into Mementos and still having to readjust his infiltration style to suit that of the Phantom Thieves.

His exhaustion wasn’t helping. It meant he lost focus more, stumbled more, sometimes right into a Shadow’s very sharp blades.

Akechi re-emerged from Mementos into his living room and immediately dropped onto the floor, panting and holding his side. There was a lot of blood seeping through his shirt and his vision was blurring out.

“Goro—! Shit!” Mishima was immediately at his side, holding onto him and pushing his shirt up to look at his wound.

Akechi hissed and tried to shove him off but didn't have the energy. “Get— off— of me.”

“No. You're hurt. Stop moving.” Mishima eased him down onto the floor properly, letting him lean back against the couch. He pushed his shirt up again and winced at the deep laceration on his ribs. “You have got to be more careful! You can't keep coming back like this. Stay here.”

Akechi couldn't get up if he wanted to. He let his head loll back against the couch and tried to stay conscious. He had been ambushed on his way back up, and he had been careless enough in fending the Shadows off that he’d taken a blow directly. He had barely crawled his way up and out through the blood loss and the pain.

Mishima came back with disinfectant, butterfly stitches, and bandages. Akechi cried out when he applied the disinfectant and tried to shove his hand away.

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry— I know it hurts, just— Goro, stay still.

Akechi was shuddering and sobbing weakly, clutching at Mishima's arm tightly while he worked. Mishima applied pressure with one hand and used his other hand first to touch Akechi's cheek and then to hold his hand tightly.

“It's okay… you're gonna be okay. Try to breathe. The bleeding's stopping.” Mishima squeezed his hand.

Akechi whined quietly. “Hurts— You're hurting me.”

“I have to put pressure on it to stop the bleeding. You need to be more careful. Please.”

“Do you think I'm doing this on purpose?” Akechi snarled and tried to shove him off again.

“Are you? Because I've seen those cuts on your arms and I know how that sort of thing goes...”

“Fuck you. Get off.” He shoved again and Mishima pushed him back against the couch.

“Stop! Calm down! Goro, I'm trying to help you, you need to cut the shit right now! You can't keep getting hurt like this. You're putting both of us in danger and I hate seeing you all beat up so bad you can't even move.”

Akechi started crying again.

“Hey. It's okay. It's okay. I know you're in pain and stressed out. You just worry me a lot. I'm gonna put the stitches on, okay? Can you hold it shut for me?” Akechi made a small noise of pain as he pulled the wound closed. Mishima applied several butterfly stitches along it and then put gauze over the whole thing. “Okay. Done. Don't move too much.”

Mishima got him to move enough to pull his shirt off for him, and Akechi sat in place, hugging his arms to his chest tightly over the restrictive fabric there, feeling cold and too vulnerable. He was shivering and digging his nails into his upper arms, still breathing heavy from exertion and pain. Mishima stepped away into the bedroom and came back with a clean sweater, then helped him put it on without a word. His shivering slowly subsided.

They sat next to each other on the floor and Akechi let his head fall onto Mishima's shoulder. Mishima put an arm around him and combed through his damp hair with his fingers.

“Maybe we should dial back on the requests.” Mishima's tone was softer now, entirely made up of concern. “I don't like seeing this.”

“It's fine.” Akechi mumbled. “I've done this a long time. I can take care of myself, thank you.”

“Except when you can't. We'll just take on less, okay? I'll send more to Amamiya or something.”

“You think he's more capable than me.” Akechi's voice was weak but still accusatory.

“What I think is that you've told me he's on a team of people who have healing abilities you don't have. You're very capable. But you're going to run yourself into the ground.”

“Maybe that's where I belong.”

“Maybe that's where we all belong, but you and me have a job to do right now, okay?” He rested his cheek on Akechi's head. “C'mon, you think you can make it to bed?”

“I have things to do.”

“You can do them from bed.” Mishima stood and gently pulled Akechi up to his feet. Akechi made a weak whimpering noise that didn't sound like it should have come from him and clung onto Mishima tightly. “Easy…” Mishima slowly led them both to the bedroom and helped Akechi onto his bed.

Once his pained expression subsided, Akechi seemed to be pouting. He wouldn't look at Mishima, instead glaring at a spot on the wall.

“What do you need? Computer? Files? Books?” Mishima went to his desk and looked to him for a response.

He didn't say anything, so Mishima just brought his briefcase over, set it next to the bed, and got comfortable next to him.

“I don't need you to babysit me. You can go home.” Akechi spat out the words.

“You invited me over.”

“Now I'm inviting you to leave.”

“I decline your invitation.”

Mishima.

“Drop it. Stop being an asshole. Your touchy grumpy shit doesn't work on me and it's not going to make me leave you here alone with a wound that could reopen any time you move. And no, I don't trust you to rest and not move. So shut up. I'm staying. Do you want your laptop or are we going to just sit here with you brooding?”

Akechi glared into the wall.

“Brooding it is, then. Let me know when you're done.” Mishima took his phone out of his pocket and sank down into a more comfortable position.

Akechi quickly fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Mishima’s days felt more fulfilled than they had since the initial rush he had felt when he had first started the Phansite. Back then, he had really felt like he was helping people. He felt like he had created a safe haven for people like him, who were hurt and beaten down by others. Since then, things had only gotten worse. He thought he had found a friend in Ren and had opened up to him about the abuse he had faced for years at the hands of fellow classmates on top of what had happened to Kamoshida, only to be treated like he was in the wrong for getting admittedly carried away with his feelings.

But since meeting Akechi and learning more about what was possible through utilizing the Metaverse, he was feeling that same sense of importance he had originally felt. And he was knocking Ren down a few pegs at the same time.

Rumors had started spreading already. Some hard listening around town through his usual gossip channels had yielded him the results he had wanted. It wasn’t definite, but someone knew someone who knew someone who had put in a request on the Phansite and had their request target come up dead instead of having a change of heart. This combined with the Okumura incident wasn’t painting a pretty picture for the Phantom Thieves. And Mishima was pleased.

He considered that maybe what he was doing was wrong. He thought about the ethical ramifications of turning to assassination in response to different types of abuses, but in the end the only conclusion he could reach was that if someone had offered to kill Kamoshida all those times he had him cornered and crying and begging, he would have taken it in a heartbeat. A man like that didn’t deserve to live. He was certain of that, at least. He figured a lot of people felt the same way about their tormentors. The world was better off without people like that hurting others. If someone didn’t want to fall victim to this treatment, they should watch how they treat others. It was that simple.

What was bothering him the most was having to continue to lean on and support Ren. Ren didn’t need his support. He never had. But Mishima was supposed to play the role of obedient, easy to walk on advocate. He had to keep up the appearance of the Phantom Thieves being the most important aspect of his life. And he knew he slipped up sometimes and he showed a wavering of his allegiance, especially when Ren was pushing him too hard, but he really was doing his best. And deep down, he still wanted Ren to like him. He still wanted Ren to be his friend. He was just slowly having to accept that it never had and never would happen.

That pain was dull most of the time. But sometimes at school, he would see Ren laughing with Sakamoto and Takamaki, all of them smiling and talking amongst themselves and getting along perfectly, and he would feel a stab to his heart. That could have been him. He had been a victim to Kamoshida too, just like Takamaki and Sakamoto had been. He had been present and willing to help. He had been close to Suzui, at least a little bit, and he had felt it worse than anyone when she had taken that leap. For the briefest moment, he had wished it had been him up on that building. It easily could have been. He could have done the same thing, climbed up to the rooftop and taken a dive and done a better job of it than she had, and he never would have had to wake up again.

But he hadn’t.

And he hadn’t been roped in with Takamaki and Sakamoto either. Ren hadn’t chosen him the way he seemed to have chosen them, so he had inserted himself in a desperate last-ditch effort to mean something, anything, to someone. And it had worked for a while. But now he was back where he started. Right on the fringes, observing. Never really an inherent part of anyone’s anything.

What he had wanted was to be a Phantom Thief. What he got was months of constantly tripping over himself to make sure he did every single thing possible to help, devoting every single waking second to their effort. He neglected sleep and food and homework and what little social activity he might have had, just to run this website that they didn’t ever bat an eye at him for. He could’ve disappeared right out from under everyone and no one would have noticed until the Phansite became overrun and there was no one to keep it under control.

But anyone could do that job.

Not for the first time, he considered really just disappearing. He could get up and get on a train and run away. His parents wouldn’t care. They’d be happier without the burden he had become to them. He didn’t have friends. His classmates didn’t like him. Ren had already told him the Phansite requests were merely errands for him to be bothered by. What would it matter?

A voice in the back of his head piped up and quietly insisted that Akechi would notice. Akechi would care. He was a detective. Noticing was his thing. Akechi didn’t like him though. Even Mishima could tell this was all a game to him. A serious game, but a game nonetheless. Sometimes it felt like a cheap approximation of what friendship might be like. They teased each other back and forth. Mishima had come into a position of caring for him. Bringing him food, cleaning his ever-increasing wounds, going over to sit together quietly just for company once they’d run out of news to share. But something was slightly off and he could tell.

He was stuck once again in wanting Akechi to like him, wanting him to be his friend. But he felt it was an impossibility. Mishima had never had friends, and he might never. But he could deal with an approximation for now. If Akechi was holding his hand and putting his head on his shoulder and taking naps with him and promising to protect him and keeping him close, an approximation was okay. It would have to be, because it was all he had. He didn’t have the guts to disappear, or he would have long ago.

Akechi texting him had become the highlight of his day, but it wasn’t in the way it had been with Ren. With Ren, he was always waiting on praise that didn’t come. He was waiting to be acknowledged and thanked and it left him constantly feeling on edge and empty when he didn’t get what he expected, or anything at all. When Akechi texted him, he was simply happy to be talking to him. It didn’t matter about what. He was never anticipating some grand show of gratitude. He could text Akechi about anything on his mind, and even if it sometimes took a day or two when he was especially busy, he could get a response with a light-hearted tease that he knew must be coming from a good, or at least not vitriolic, place. He felt like nothing Akechi said to him was intended to truly make fun of him the way Ren’s harsh words often had been.

Akechi understood being hurt, again and again and again, and having no way out. Ren would never get that. That was the difference in their bonds. Akechi tried to understand him. With Akechi, he felt like the words he spoke and the feelings he shared were reaching a real person rather than a wall. There wasn’t the push back he got with Ren where he felt everything he said had a high chance of being used against him as ammunition later. Akechi felt safe, ironically. Months ago, he wouldn’t have believed he would feel safest with the Phantom Thieves’ most vocal dissenter.

Mishima had been contemplating using the Phansite for personal reasons for a while. With Ren doing the work, it had felt wrong, and he had been shut down the one and only time he had tried to bring it up in any way. But with Akechi, did it really matter? He knew Akechi wouldn’t say no, but maybe he needed someone to tell him no directly in the first place. He would start typing a request form with Akiyama’s information in it, delete it, remember all the times Akiyama had made his life a living hell, and start typing it again. Repeat ad infinitum.

He needed to stop being a coward.

He swallowed down his fear and told himself he was really doing it this time. No going back. If he was taking out bad people, that should include people who had terrorized him. He thought about Akiyama shoving him into walls. Akiyama mercilessly tearing him down while all of his friends laughed. Akiyama tripping him in the hall so everyone would stare at him while he scrambled to grab all of his things before they were trampled. Akiyama telling him no matter what he did, he’d always be a zero. No more.

Now he was the one with power. He was not and never again would be a zero. He had connections Akiyama couldn't even dream of and he could easily utilize them. An eye for an eye, Akechi had said.

He decided to go right to the source.

He waited until he and Akechi were settled in at his apartment, Mishima wrapped in a blanket and sleepily watching shapes move on the TV, eyes unfocused. His hand wandered over and grasped Akechi’s, getting his attention. There was a pause, but Akechi moved his hand so he could reciprocate the gesture.

“Goro?” Mishima hated how small his voice sounded. Akechi raised an eyebrow. “I have a request for you.”

“Go ahead. Why the hesitation?”

“It’s, uh, it’s personal.” Mishima brought his free hand up to bite at his already destroyed nails. “If you don’t want to do it, it’s okay. Don’t worry about it, I just—”

“I’m surprised it took you this long.”

“What?”

“Isn’t this all about personal vengeance in the end? Why not use this as an opportunity to take out those who have most personally harmed you? I expected you to jump at the chance.”

“You overestimate me.” Mishima squeezed his hand. “You’ll do it though?”

“Yes. Of course. I can't have my ally suffering needlessly.” Akechi gave him a sweet smile and Mishima scooted over to hug his neck.

“Thank you… You have no idea how much this means to me…” He put his chin on Akechi's shoulder. Akechi put one arm around him to hold the small of his back and seemed to relax.

“I think I can guess.” Akechi spoke near his ear and pressed his cheek against the side of his head. He was being unusually affectionate. Mishima could handle that.

“Before I met Ren, he was… the one who was kicking me around. Typical bully stuff. Saying mean shit to me, pushing me… Ren saw how he treated me and acted put off when I tried to get him to change his heart… Like I was being selfish.” He pressed his face in closer to Akechi's neck. “So let's skip the change of heart and go right for the kill.”

He thought he felt Akechi shiver against him. He barely pressed his lips to his neck and definitely felt a shiver this time. He laughed into his skin.

“You're awfully intense sometimes.” Akechi returned his laugh quietly. “When you're plotting homicide, in particular.”

Mishima lifted his head up, moved a hand to hold Akechi's cheek and gave him a soft kiss. “Is that a compliment?”

“Merely an observation.”

Mishima kissed him again, then smiled. “You can compliment me. It won't kill you.”

“It very well might.”

Mishima laughed and pressed his forehead to Akechi's shoulder again. “Asshole…”


A few days later, Akechi texted Mishima to come over and he felt his heart pick up. He knew what this meant. He thought he would feel sick, but thinking about Akiyama cold and dead made him feel… excited. Never again would he treat Mishima like dirt to be walked on. If only Akiyama had known how dangerous Mishima would turn out to be, maybe he would have thought better of his actions. Now he would know how it felt to be a target.

He entered Akechi's apartment and didn't see him in the living room or kitchen, so he called out to him nervously.

Akechi poked his head out of the bedroom, hair damp. “Sorry, I didn't hear you come in. Give me a second.” He shut the door again and Mishima went into the kitchen to get himself some water, then sat on the couch.

He felt practically at home here now. He had joked about wanting a key to the place, but Akechi never locked the door anyway.

Akechi reemerged a few minutes later, in pajama pants and a loose long sleeved shirt. He winced as he sat down at the other end of the couch.

“The Great Detective Prince showers, just like us mortals. Wait 'til I break this to the media.” Mishima grinned over at him, wanting a reaction.

“I think you'll find that I'm extremely mortal.” He pulled at the collar of his shirt to expose a freshly bandaged wound just below his collarbone near his shoulder. A large one, judging from how much skin the dressings covered. “Though if you prefer I wait to clean off all the blood until after you arrive next time, I can make arrangements.”

“How bad is it…?” Mishima's tone immediately switched to a much more sympathetic one and he scooted over closer.

“Needed a few stitches. A little sterilized needle and thread and now it's only an extreme pain instead of an extreme pain and copious amounts of blood.” Akechi spoke like it was nothing, but Mishima could see he looked pale and that he wasn't sitting up as straight as he should be, using the couch for support.

“You gave yourself stitches?” Mishima reached out to try and move his shirt out of the way, but Akechi pushed him off.

“I've told you before that I can take care of myself. I've been doing this for years. You just never seem to understand what that means.” Akechi sighed and lifted his shirt up and twisted, showing Mishima his lower back. There were thick scars and smaller, lighter ones scattered across his skin. Some looked newer than others. “At least the ones on the front I can reach to make stitching possible.” He pulled his shirt back down and turned back around to face Mishima.

Mishima just sat, stunned, probably staring harder than he meant to. He finally blinked a few times and frowned. “I am begging you to take better care of yourself.”

“I stitched the wound shut with surgical grade, heavily sterilized supplies. Much care was taken, I assure you.” Akechi gave him a placid smile and he had to look away.

“Did Akiyama do that to you?” His voice grew quiet.

Akechi laughed, startling him. “Oh, no, hardly. There wasn’t much of a fight to be had there. Those who relentlessly bully others are often cowards when cornered themselves.” He winced as he shifted to lay back against the armrest, legs bent. “No, I had other business there as well. Bigger fish, as they say.” He shut his eyes.

“But you did it?” Mishima lifted his head and watched Akechi.

Akechi smiled, eyes still shut. “Yes. Give it a day or two, as always. But he won’t be bothering you anymore.”

Mishima took a deep breath and exhaled a laugh. “Thank you. Just… thanks. That’s such a relief, you have no idea… He deserved it so much sooner...”

“As always, your enthusiasm for revenge by homicide disturbs and enthralls me.”

“Mostly enthralls, I hope.”

“It’s about even.”

“I can live with that.”

Akechi laughed at him and turned onto his side with some effort, eyes half-open towards the turned off TV. He always looked exhausted, but somehow he looked worse than usual. Like he wasn’t trying at all to hide it. Like he didn’t care how much of himself Mishima saw anymore. He was touched by that, though he decided not to bring it up to save Akechi’s pride.

He reached for the remote on the table and handed it to Akechi wordlessly.

“Thank you.” He sounded half-asleep now, guard nonexistent.

Akechi switched the TV on and put on some superhero movie. It was far enough into the plot that Mishima was lost, but Akechi seemed invested. Sometimes he forgot he was actually a big nerd about these things. Mishima fought the urge to cuddle up to him and instead pulled his own legs up and got into a similar position on his end of the couch, paying more attention to his phone than the movie.

He kept taking glances at Akechi, finding it interesting to see him so into something. He was usually so wound up that seeing him relaxed was an odd treat.

Akechi caught him looking, and made eye contact. “What?”

“Nothing. You just look…” He wanted to say cute, but thought better of it. “You look like you’re enjoying yourself. It’s nice. I forgot you like stuff like this. You don’t seem like you’d be into superheroes, I guess.”

Akechi directed his gaze back to the screen. “I’m not. It’s the villains.”

“See, that makes more sense.” Mishima nudged Akechi’s leg with his foot gently.

“Villains are often written to be easy to empathize with. Heroes do the things they do just because they’re heroes, because they have some moralistic goal to reach. Villains get the tragedy, the pain that reminds us of our own. They’re often misfits, victims of traumatic events or abuse, and it becomes natural to project your own experiences onto them while also causing you to feel better about yourself for not having stooped to the same lows they have.” He glanced over at Mishima. “At least most people haven’t.”

“We’re not villains.” He frowned. “We’re helping. We’re getting rid of bad people. It’s not senseless killing or— or—”

“Relax.” Akechi nudged his leg, like he had just done a moment ago. “You don’t need to justify our actions to me.”

Mishima just furrowed his brows and bit at his nails, now bothered by the comparison, regardless of Akechi's intentions. They weren't the bad guys. They couldn't be. They were seeking revenge for those who had been trampled on, like they both had been.

Akechi nudged him again. "Hey, space cadet."

"Huh?"

"Don't look so upset. I wasn't talking about us. I was simply making a general statement." He settled his legs so they were pressed up against the backs of Mishima's thighs. "It's too late for ethical deliberation. You're in this."

"I know that. I'm not deliberating." He relaxed against Akechi's legs, taking in the weight of having someone else's body against his. Akechi had slowly become so casually physical with him, and it hadn't gone unnoticed or unappreciated. He decided to change the subject. "If you were a superhero or villain or whatever, what would your power be?"

"Based on my real life strengths, or ideally?" Akechi put his head back down, eyes on the screen again.

"Both, I guess." Mishima reached up to the back of the couch and grabbed the blanket there and started to wrap it around himself, but then spread it out so it covered the both of them.

Akechi was quiet as he adjusted and pulled the blanket closer around himself, thinking. "Based on real life, perhaps manipulation of the mind. Mind control, brainwashing, that sort of thing. Making others susceptible to suggestion through some sort of supernatural force. Which is basically what I do anyway."

"Oh, yeah. Huh." Mishima hadn't thought of it like that.

"Ideally…" He paused. "It's cliche, but… precognition. Or time travel. The ability to look into the future or alter the past. Time travel can quickly become very messy though, so maybe precognition is better…" He spoke like he was taking this very seriously. "Though to be able to see the future with no way to change or prevent outcomes might be worse than not knowing…"

"You are such a nerd." Mishima laughed and covered his face with the blanket briefly. "You've thought about this a lot."

"You asked. And yes, I have. Even I have fantasies."

"That's cute."

"What about you, then, if you think mine is so funny?" Akechi gave him an over exaggerated glare over the blanket.

"Oh, uh, well, unlike you, I haven't devoted all my time to thinking about—" Akechi kicked him gently. "Ow! Stop!"

"That could not have hurt you that badly."

"Leave me alone. Let me think about my superpowers in peace."

Akechi chuckled, but otherwise went quiet and watched the movie while Mishima thought.

"Okay," He finally spoke up. "Based on real life, definitely invisibility. For a while, I was kinda convinced I really was invisible, cuz people would just… ignore me all the time. In Hawaii I literally walked a kilometer by myself away from the hotel and none of the chaperones stopped me. So I think I've got that down." He saw Akechi nod thoughtfully. "Ideally… Maybe like… element manipulation? Like water and fire and stuff? Maybe it's not useful but it's cool."

"What a useless duo we'd be, then. Fortune telling and water magic." Akechi gave a tired laugh and shut his eyes.

"Invisibility and mind control isn't so bad. Which is good considering that's basically the reality of the situation anyway, huh? I can sleuth around undetected to find targets and you can take them out."

"You got it." Akechi was quickly sounding more and more asleep.

"Hey," Mishima nudged his legs with his own. Akechi made a small noise of acknowledgement. "Get up and go to bed. I'll leave."

"I'm awake." But he didn't open his eyes.

"Barely. Go." Nudge.

Akechi gave a very undignified whine and sent Mishima into a fit of laughter at how cute it was coming from him.

"Goro, go to bed or I'm going to carry you myself. I'll tuck you in and kiss your forehead and it'll embarrass you."

Akechi groaned, opened his eyes, and sat up with a hiss of breath through his teeth at the pain. "You couldn't carry me if you tried."

"You don't look like you weigh much and I have pretty good upper body strength from volleyball." Mishima sat up and scooted closer, arms out threateningly. "Don't test me."

"Stop. Fine. You're so annoying."

That word choice dug into Mishima's chest and he looked away, expression pained. "Oh. I'm… I'm sorry. I'll stop. Sorry."

Akechi watched him wordlessly, confused, then scooted closer to him with some effort and hesitantly put an arm around him. "I seem to have touched a nerve, and I apologize for that."

Mishima relaxed and leaned against him, head on his shoulder. "It's fine. Sometimes I deserve it. I'll go home and stop bugging you." He sat up again and pulled himself away.

"I'm not mad, Mishima. It was my intention to tease you back, not to make you feel that you were unwanted." Akechi tried to reach for him again, but he stood.

"Okay." He knew he didn't sound convincing. But he needed to get out of there before he had a full blown anxiety attack.

"Mishima," Akechi's voice was gentle without sounding forced. "Can you sit until you've calmed down?"

"I'm calm. I'm going home. Get some sleep, please." He moved to the door and slipped his shoes on, then left before Akechi could try harder to convince him otherwise.

He mostly held it together on the way home. He didn’t break down crying, at least. He just felt a hollow weight in the pit of his stomach that he couldn’t get rid of accompanied by a fear that history was repeating itself. He had thought he and Ren were friends, only to find out that Ren found him obsessive, clingy, annoying. Maybe Akechi felt the same way. Was he really so stupid to believe someone like Akechi could have felt otherwise? He was as fake as they came and Mishima had butted his head into his business and refused to leave. Of course he was annoyed with him. He found himself wishing Akechi would hurry up and kill him already. It would be doing him a favor.

He got home and crawled into bed to stare at the wall until his brain would turn off, but his phone buzzed by his pillow and, against his better judgement, he picked it up.

Goro

Are you alright?

He sighed and started to just put the phone down again, but while berating himself for being stupidly unendingly desperate for attention, he responded.

Goro

Yeah
Doubtful.
Clearly, I touched a nerve tonight. It wasn't my intention and I hope you'll be able to forgive me. After thinking about it, I can understand why my words had their effect on you and I will refrain from such comments in the future.
Don't refrain if that's how you feel
It isn't, so I will.
Why does this keep happening to me
Pardon?
I think someone likes me and I get my hopes up but I'm stupid and annoying and they actually hate me
Amamiya and now you
Let's just drop everything, I just don't wanna bother you anymore
Mishima, you do not bother me. You bother me much less than the average person, actually. There is a reason I keep such little company.
Ok
Believe me when I say that if you bothered me, I would not let you so close to me. Physically, or otherwise.
Do you like me?
I do not dislike you. I find your presence tolerable.
So in Goro Speak, you love me :)
Ridiculous. I'm glad that made you feel better.
I find your presence tolerable too
I'm sorry for freaking out, you're right
I know what kind of person you are, I know you don't really do the friends thing
I know you like me even if you won't say it
You just said that and it reminded me of Amamiya and it got too hard to deal with and it spiraled from there
I understand.
I'll be ok
Good.
Go to bed though
I intend to. I just wanted to make sure you were feeling alright first. Goodnight, Mishima.
Sweet dreams


The same week Akechi's job was completed, rumors started reaching Mishima. Some classmates he had gone to middle school with were talking in hushed, surprised voices, saying Did you hear about Akiyama-kun? Mishima wasn't surprised, but he was satisfied with the closure. Up until then, he had carried a tiny portion of doubt. Every request he had Akechi fulfill had come back completed, but he couldn't help but worry somehow this one would backfire. And now it couldn't.

His classmates seemed passively sad. They were the same classmates who had known what Akiyama was doing to him and stood by doing nothing, or worse. No one had been quite as insidious as Akiyama himself, but there had always been others egging him on.

Everyone had seemed to be content to turn a blind eye to Mishima's suffering at his hands. So Mishima would turn a blind eye to his sudden, unexpected death. It was karmic retribution as far as he was concerned.

Things went on normally. He felt unaffected besides some vague satisfaction that he wouldn't be messed with again. If he were any less perceptive, he wouldn't have noticed Ren shooting him tense looks during lunch and in the few moments before he left the classroom after school. It made him anxious, but he chose to just keep his head down and ignore it. Whatever Ren was mad about this time, he was sure he would find out soon.

And he did. A few days after he first heard the news of Akiyama's death, Ren texted him after school.

Ren

look i wasn't going to bring this up because i thought it was just stupid rumors but this is too much of a coincidence
you've heard the rumors right
people putting in phansite requests and their targets dying
Yeah I have but I never got any of the requests I heard about so I just thought it was gossip
and now this guy you had trouble with is dead
What are you trying to say?
that something weird is going on
that people are apparently dying because of the phansite except it's no one we've actually gone after because i had alibaba check up on that and they're all fine
so what's going on on your end
Nothing, I don't know :(
I send you requests just like always and you tell me when they're done and I mark them completed
this just looks really suspicious for you
i don't know how but if it's related to the phansite and it's not us then that leaves you
and you had a VERY clear motive to want this akiyama guy gone
Do you really think I would KILL someone?
no i really don't
if it was just this one thing i would just say it was coincidental but apparently people really are dying
alibaba was able to find names and they really are dead
That's so scary...
I really don't know, I'm sorry :(
I want the Phansite to be a place people can go for help. If people start thinking it's causing deaths then they're just going to be scared. I don't want that
I know it looks bad for you guys too
yeah
if you hear anything message me asap
this sucks
I will
thanks

He grinned into his pillow, proud of his deflection, and then picked his phone back up.

Goro

Hey how are you doing?
Tired.
Poor baby :(
If I didn't know better, I would assume you were messaging me just to be condescending about my energy levels.
:)
Hi Goro
Good evening. What can I do for you?
Can I see you tomorrow?
I'm afraid I'm incredibly busy for the rest of the week. My apologies. Next week sometime I will try to open up an evening for you, or perhaps a Sunday afternoon, work permitting. They have me running around a lot this week doing menial tasks I would rather not be doing. Honestly, I would rather spend that time with you if I were able.
Oh!
Wow that was almost a compliment?
Hush.
:)
Ok I'll see you next week then
Be good
I'm always well-behaved.
Right lol
:p

Chapter Text

Ren

mishima
Hey! What's up?
why are you still talking to akechi
What?
I haven't seen him since right before the stuff with Okumura
stop
alibaba put a bug on his phone she's seen the texts stop trying to lie your way out of this
just explain why you're talking to him
Because he's nice to me
He's my friend
from what alibaba told me it sounds like more than that
I know I'm not supposed to have friends, I'm just supposed to run the Phansite and just disappear the rest of the time
But Akechi is my friend
you have no idea what he's really like
No, YOU have no idea what he's really like
he is USING you
he's manipulating you
alibaba said he's acting very friendly to you and he doesn't DO that without an ulterior motive
he's an emotionless manipulative selfish person who doesn't care about anyone else and i'm telling you this because i'm worried
Is it so hard for you to imagine someone actually liking me?
akechi doesn't like people mishima
he acted like he liked me too
Am I not allowed to have friends? Is that the issue?
You just want me to do your bidding and that's it?
your friends don't need to be akechi
and obviously you know what you're doing is wrong because you lied to me about it
I lied to you about it because it's none of your business who I hang out with and I knew you'd try to punish me for trying to have a life
PUNISH you
Make me feel like shit on purpose
Like you're doing now
i'm trying to protect you
and us
he finds a way to probe info out of you and we're done for
Fine
Do you want me to be alone?
Do you want me to go back to just sitting in my room alone every day without a single friend? You have no idea what that's like Ren
you're not alone
we're friends
No we're not
I'll handle it just leave me alone for right now
do you really think we're not friends
When do you ever treat me like a friend?
what are you talking about
When was the last time we hung out or you texted me just to talk? You only text me when you're mad at me and every time I run into you somewhere you just shrug me off and act embarrassed to be seen with me
no i don't
One of your friends asked you if we were friends and if I remember correctly you said "not exactly"
i didn't mean it like that though
and i've been busy
i haven't been texting ANYONE just to talk
I'd believe you if you ever had in the first place but this isn't new
It doesn't matter, if you don't like me then you don't like me
I'll still do my job and I'll deal with Akechi but just leave me alone
ok
Thanks bye


Mishima made sure to show up at Akechi’s apartment the next day, unannounced so it wouldn’t raise suspicion with Ren. He knocked on the door for once, but got no answer, so he let himself in and called out for Akechi. Still no answer. He must have still been out. He didn’t have to wonder for long, because Akechi materialized in the middle of the living room, and they both let out little shrieks.

What are you doing?” Akechi clutched a hand over his own chest, eyes wide in shock. “You did not tell me you were coming over!” He practically threw his briefcase down and moved past Mishima to the front door to take his shoes off.

“I just got here. I have my reasons, I swear. It’s important. And I couldn’t tell you over a text.” Mishima gently touched Akechi’s arm to try and calm him, then went and sat on the couch and waited for him.

Akechi took his time, pouting while he got himself situated, taking his things into his bedroom, going into the kitchen for some reason, coming back empty handed, and then finally sitting.

“What could possibly be this important?” He looked annoyed, but not angry now.

“Don’t freak out.”

“I never freak out.

“Yes, you do. So don’t.” Mishima frowned at him. “The Phantom Thieves bugged your phone.”

“They wh—

“I said don’t… freak… out." He spoke slowly. "Listen. Amamiya texted me last night and he knows we’ve been seeing each other. One of the Phantom Thieves has been reading our texts and probably your other texts and I don’t know what else.” He saw Akechi’s face pale instantly, and could hear his breathing go quick and shaky. “Goro. Focus.”

“I— Shit. Shit.” He took out his phone and looked at it, then dropped it onto the couch. “When would they— Fuck.

“I’m going to text you that we’re breaking up, and then we’re going to smash your phone, okay? It’ll look like you got upset and broke your phone out of frustration.”

“That is the least of my concerns right now! They know who I’m working with— Not— not you, the—” He doubled over and hid his face in his hands, whining. “I’ll have to re-plan everything. They have to know by now. Why am I so stupid?!” He was yelling now, muffled by his hands.

“Goro!” Mishima put a hand on his arm. “Calm down. You’re smart, it’ll be okay. Whatever it is they know now, I know you’ll find a way around it. Breathe.” Akechi shoved his hand off roughly, so he leaned back and away.

“You have no idea how bad this is for me!” He fell silent again and took several deep, even breaths, then sat up, looking and sounding eerily composed. “It’s okay. It’s fine. I’ll just… have to speed things along faster and act before they do.”

Mishima blinked at him, shocked by the quick turnaround. He knew Akechi was good at seeming much more put together than he was, but he somehow hadn’t anticipated this. The calm look on his face was plastered on and his smile was faker than ever, but for once Mishima was grateful. It beat the screaming. His heart was still pounding from just the brief outburst.

"Who are you working for, anyway…?" Mishima spoke hesitantly now, afraid to set him off again.

"I'm not telling you that. It's not any of your business." Akechi stood up and paced around the small room. "It's not any of their business either."

Mishima nodded and admitted defeat. He took out his phone and opened up their conversation. "I'm going to send you a very dramatic breakup text. It'll win me literary awards." He forced himself to smile over to Akechi, still pacing. He didn't get one back.

"Knock yourself out." Akechi disappeared into the kitchen.

Goro

I know this is sudden, but I don't think we should see each other anymore. I really need someone who makes time for me and your schedule is just too full for me to fit in anywhere. It feels like I have to compete for your time and it's not fair to either of us.
I need to be with someone who understands me and wants to be around me and that's just not you.
I'm sorry. I wish this could have worked out. I really liked you.

He lifted his head up from typing and saw Akechi hadn't come back, so he picked up the bugged phone and took it into the kitchen. Akechi was staring into the fridge, mind somewhere else. He looked up when he noticed Mishima.

"Ready?" Mishima held up the phone, then started removing it from its case.

"Go ahead. I hope you didn't leave anything compromising as a parting gift for their surveillance program." Akechi shut the fridge and leaned back against it. Mishima handed his case over and he took it.

"No, just that I need someone who makes more time for me and understands me." Mishima smiled and looked away. "You know, like you."

Akechi coughed into his hand, but it might have been a laugh.

Mishima raised the phone up and hesitated. "Okay, here goes."

He brought the phone down hard on the edge of the counter, then again and again until the screen was in pieces. It felt cathartic to just… destroy something. He tried the phone's power button and got no response.

He noticed Akechi had sort of recoiled away and looked uncomfortable, so he set the phone down on the counter and leaned back against it to give him some space. He watched him slowly relax.

"Now we're even." Mishima smiled and crossed his arms.

"What?"

"The phones. You broke mine. I broke yours."

Akechi bitterly laughed. "We were even when I bought and overnight shipped you a brand new model. Or are you going to buy me a new phone too?" He didn't sound mad, just a bit exasperated and frustrated with the whole situation. He stood up from where he was leaning, and left the kitchen. Mishima followed.

Akechi sat on the couch and leaned his head back.

"Want me to get you anything? I can go get us dinner or something." Mishima hovered near him. His instinct to help took over, and he found himself frantically trying to find a way to be useful. Akechi shut his eyes and silently nodded. "Bring you something sweet?" Another nod. "Coffee?" Another.

Mishima leaned over and kissed his head, then went to the door and pulled his shoes on. He called out that he'd be back, then set off.

He stopped in at a small diner nearby and ordered Akechi some pancakes and himself a burger to go, with two coffees. He sat to wait and felt his phone buzz. Akechi couldn't be texting him, so it had to be Ren.

Ren

we lost the connection to akechi's phone
what's going on
Don't know
You should've seen that I broke it off with him if you're keeping such a close eye on him
yeah alibaba said that
sorry it has to be like that but it's for your own good
Whatever
:/
what's the problem
Seriously?
I just broke up with my boyfriend on YOUR command can I just be sad in peace please
yeah ok fine
i just wanted to know if you knew anything
I don't
ok
hope you feel better soon
Thanks

Mishima sighed to himself and was alerted by the staff that his order was ready, so he grabbed it and started back to Akechi's apartment.

Akechi hadn't moved much in the time he had been gone and didn't open his eyes when Mishima came in. "I'm a burglar!" Mishima set the bag down on the table.

"Take whatever." Akechi barely opened his eyes, then shut them again. "My life, even."

"Nah." Mishima sat down next to him and pulled the box of pancakes out of the bag and set it on his lap. "I already have one of those and I'm not impressed."

Akechi sighed and sat up straighter, eyes opening to take in what was placed on him. He gave Mishima a small smile, then began eating quickly.

"Goro, do you eat when I'm not feeding you?" Mishima watched him in awe. "You always eat like you're starving." He pulled his own food over to himself and nudged Akechi's coffee closer to him.

"I eat." Akechi frowned at him. "Though I don't always have time to eat enough. I apologize for what bothersome table manners I have." He stabbed into his pancakes as if to make a point.

"God, calm down. Maybe if you ate more you wouldn't be so grumpy."

Akechi grumbled at him, but just continued eating, slower now. They ate in silence for a while, then Mishima remembered what he needed to say.

"Amamiya texted me while I was out. Said they lost contact with your phone. He had the audacity to ask me what was wrong when I wasn't acting happy towards him. Like he didn't see me break up with you. Anyone would be miserable, at least a little."

"I feel I need to remind you that we are not in a relationship."

"I know that. But Amamiya thought we were. You know what I mean." Mishima felt his cheeks flush at being called out and looked down at his food. "You're the one who told him we kissed."

"So I did." Akechi's tone was flat. Maybe flatter than it should have been, like he was overcompensating. It made Mishima smile.

"You gonna go get a new phone tomorrow?" Mishima kept his voice gentle. The mood was much calmer now than it had been before he left and he wanted to keep it that way.

"I have no other choice. If my boss can't reach me, there will be consequences. Even being unreachable this evening may have more repercussions than I'd like…" He sighed hard through his nose and set his empty takeout box on the table in exchange for his coffee. He sipped it and looked pleasantly surprised. "You did well."

"Memorized your order by now. I got it right?" Just that small amount of praise had him all lit up and beaming. It would've been embarrassing if he stopped to worry about it. He did so few things right that something as small as a correct coffee order felt like coming in first place.

"You did. You pay more attention than I give you credit for, I suppose. You do have an eye for detail." Akechi took another sip and smiled. It was the most genuine show of happiness Mishima had seen from him that night.

"Thanks. I'm glad it's okay. Gotta be good for something."

Akechi looked him over silently for a moment. "You're good for several things."

"A compliment!" Mishima clasped his hands together in an exaggerated expression of delight. "It didn't even kill you."

"I'm long dead inside." Akechi scowled at him over his coffee.

"Yeah, yeah. Aren't we all." Mishima settled back on his side of the couch and continued eating quietly while watching Akechi stare at nothing between sips of coffee.

After some time, Akechi set his coffee down on the table and sighed. "I suppose I should thank you for the heads up. You could have kept that information to yourself and I would not have been any wiser."

"I mean, he only told me because he was mad at me for still talking to you." Mishima set his empty box on the table. "It kind of pissed me off, so… I figured I could use that to our advantage and get him off your ass at least." He grabbed his coffee and noticed Akechi giving him an odd look. "What?"

"So you only told me about the bug because he made you mad and you wanted revenge on him for his controlling behavior. Not because you feared I might be in danger." His tone was flat and non-accusatory, but Mishima could still sense some hostility.

"What— No, not just because of him. You should know by now that I care about you. I knew you'd be in trouble if he kept tabs on you like that, cuz you won't even tell me what's going on at work, so why does he need to know?" He smiled at the annoyed noise Akechi made at that. "You have a plan?"

"Yes, but it's none of your business."

"So nothing I can help with then, I guess? Metaverse shit?"

"Not quite. Still not your business." Akechi got up, gathered their trash off the table, and went into the kitchen to dispose of it.

Mishima stood from the couch and stretched.

"You don't need to be an asshole." He picked Akechi's now smashed phone up and examined it, trying the power button again just in case. Still nothing.

Akechi reappeared and leaned in the doorway to the kitchen. "Stop prying then."

"I'm not prying. I just wanna know what's going on so I can know you're gonna be okay. You acted really freaked out when I told you about the bug, like something horrible was going to happen, so… Just tell me it's not."

"It might. But I'll figure it out." Akechi stood up straighter and came back into the room properly, standing in front of Mishima.

Mishima realized how small he felt next to him.

"Want me to go?" Mishima had to tilt his head a bit to look up at his face like this.

"Yes. I didn't expect the interruption tonight and there are things I need to get done." Akechi managed a small smile despite his tone bordering on harsh. "Thank you for dinner."

"Of course… Text me when you get your phone sorted out, okay?" Mishima touched his arm, then turned away and moved over to the door to begin putting his shoes on.

“I will make an effort to. It may take some time, depending on how busy I am tomorrow.”

“Take your time, but just know if I don’t hear from you for a few days I’m just gonna show up unannounced again!” Mishima opened the door, but paused and smiled over at Akechi, who was frowning in return.

“I’ll call the police.” He sounded serious enough, but Mishima knew him will enough now to know he was being difficult on purpose.

“You could just lock your door if you really wanted to keep me out.”

Akechi sighed and his expression faded into a small smile. “Go home, Mishima.”

“Okay, yeah. Goodnight!” He stepped out and shut the door gently behind himself.


Akechi realized he hadn’t visited Mishima’s Shadow since they had begun truly working together, and he was out of the loop on Mishima’s psyche. He dropped in to that little nook it had taken up residency in and found it empty. He looked around a few times, knowing full well that Shadows did not hide, and was then faced with a very pressing issue.

There were two equally likely scenarios:

Scenario A: The Phantom Thieves had caught on to Mishima’s corruption and decided to finally enact a change of heart. This caused his Shadow to disappear, and he would soon be undergoing a temporary shutdown followed by a confession. This would not be good for either of them.

Scenario B: Mishima’s corruption had grown even stronger and manifested in the creation of a Palace. This wouldn’t be an issue as long as the Phantom Thieves did not find out about it.

Either way, he needed to act quickly. He hurried back out of Mementos and texted Mishima once he was settled at home.

Yuuki Mishima

Hello. How are you feeling today?
Hey!
I'm good :) Is something going on
No, you were simply on my mind and I thought to ask.
Who is this and where's Goro
Very funny.
That's sweet though thank you
Yeah I'm fine, same old same old
Would you like to come by?
Oh yeah sure
Are you sure YOU'RE ok? You're not usually this forward
Perfectly fine. Is it a crime to want to see you?
;__;
I'll be over sooooon
Take care.

When Mishima arrived, Akechi was in the kitchen, trying to throw together some sort of dinner. He heard the door open without a knock, and then Mishima yelling, “Police! Hands up!” but laughing through it, unable to keep a straight face.

Akechi peeked out of the kitchen. “You’ll never take me alive.” His voice was deadpan, and he had a kitchen knife in his hand, pointed out menacingly.

Mishima was unphased and came over to stand with him in the small kitchen. “Are you cooking? I didn’t know you could cook.” He peered over Akechi’s shoulder at the vegetables he was chopping.

“I can manage the basics. Otherwise I would spend all of my money on eating out.” He returned his attention to his food and Mishima lifted himself up to sit on a counter. Akechi immediately pointed the knife at him again and looked exasperated. “Get your ass off my counter!

Mishima cackled and made no attempt to get off. Akechi came over and nudged his thigh, but he stayed put, smirking down at him. He pulled Akechi closer to him and hugged his neck.

“Need I remind you that I am currently holding a very sharp knife?” He raised it as if to make a point.

“I love it when you sweet talk me.” Mishima took the knife out of his hand and set it on the counter next to him, then leaned down and kissed him. Akechi sighed, but moved in closer so he was standing between Mishima’s legs and put his arms around his waist.

Then, all at once, he lifted him up and off the counter and carried him into the living room.

Mishima shrieked and wrapped his legs around him to keep from falling. “Goro! Wh— Put me down, asshole! Why are you so strong?

Akechi set him down on the couch without much grace and put his hands on his hips, looking agitated. “Because I kill people for a living. Now keep your ass off my countertops.”

Mishima flopped onto his back on the couch, making himself at home, and Akechi returned to the kitchen. Well, the change of heart was out. He was laughing and being a nuisance and that meant he hadn’t been tampered with in that way. Akechi felt a wave of relief wash over him, and convinced himself that it was just because he wouldn’t be being sold out via forced confession. The thought of Mishima being unharmed went ignored. It wasn’t about that.

He heard the TV turn on and could hear Mishima flipping through channels. He had the brief thought that this felt extremely domestic, but shook his head to clear that away. He was just cooking dinner in his own home.

He sauteed some vegetables and threw them into some rice, then stuck his head out into the living room. “Are you hungry?”

Mishima was still in the same position on the couch, eyes on his phone and not whatever he had put the TV on. He didn’t look up at Akechi, just shook his head. Not a good sign for an impending shutdown, but it was more likely that he was just distracted. Akechi plated his own food and pushed Mishima’s feet out of the way to sit down. Mishima put his legs back across his lap as soon as he was seated.

“Do you mind? Do I look like furniture to you?” He pushed his legs away again.

“Sometimes you wear sweaters that sort of look like an ugly couch.” Mishima kept his knees bent this time and his feet to himself.

Akechi just made an annoyed sound and chose to ignore him, focusing instead on his food. They sat quietly while Akechi ate. When he was done, he looked over and saw Mishima biting his nails and looking distressed over whatever was on his phone.

He nudged his leg. “What's wrong?”

Mishima flinched at the touch and pulled his legs closer to himself, turning onto his side. “Oh. Um. Nothing.” Akechi raised an eyebrow. “Stop. I'm just… anxious, I guess. There's nothing really wrong. Nothing new happened.”

That was not a good sign given the current situation. Akechi tried to hide his concern and forced himself to smile instead.

“Would you like to talk about it? If you need such a thing, I can lend an ear.”

Mishima eyed him suspiciously. “What are you hiding?”

“What?”

“You're using your fake shit on me. What's up?” Mishima stretched out his legs and settled them into Akechi's lap again. Akechi snarled and shoved them off. “There you are.”

“I'm not hiding anything.” Akechi resigned himself to sounding snappy and annoyed, if that's what Mishima wanted.

“Bullshit. I know you hide shit from me all the time.”

Akechi scowled at the wall and put his chin in his hand. He had to consider how much he shared carefully. Too much and he put himself at risk, too little and Mishima wouldn't trust him. And he was finding himself increasingly attached to the concept of being trusted by him in particular, much to his distaste with himself for it. He shut his eyes and sighed.

“I… am concerned for your safety.” He spoke slowly, hating how the words felt.

Mishima just stared, waiting for him to continue.

“And I suspect that you may be in danger of falling victim to a change of heart. I am also a likely target. If one of us goes down, the other will too, due to the confessions we would each be forced to make.” He turned his head and looked at Mishima to gauge his reaction, but he still just looked mildly irritated. “You saying nothing happened but that you felt anxious seemed like a red flag to me. That's all.”

“Goro, I just have anxiety.” Mishima barely laughed. “Sometimes I just feel like the world's going to fall apart for no reason and then I get over it. It's fine… My heart's still as black as it ever was.”

Akechi shut his eyes again and tried to calm himself. Mishima was fine. Not brainwashed or rushing to confess all of their mutual sins. He was right here on this couch, pressing his feet to Akechi's hip. A solid presence.

Why did that matter?

“Goro?”

“Yes.”

“You okay? You look… not great. If you're worried about it, we can promise to keep an eye on each other for that sort of thing. We can have a plan. Normally, they'd send a calling card, but I guess maybe they wouldn't if they thought we'd be concerned about becoming targets."

"What plan is there to make? We kill each other at the first suspicion?" Akechi rested his chin on his hand and looked away. "That's not an issue for me, but you don't exactly possess the ability to do such a thing. You're too soft."

"I'm not soft. I just don't have your weird other world powers." Mishima nudged him and got his legs pushed away again.

"You can kill someone the old fashioned way. But I don't think you're capable." He glanced over at Mishima, who looked annoyed. "Stop looking at me like that. I'm not saying this to insult you, I'm saying this because from experience, killing is…" His expression shifted, but he looked away again before Mishima could read it. "The first time I killed someone, I was sick for weeks. And I was a jaded, neglected child who thought he had no human emotions to be concerned about. And that was utilizing the Metaverse. If I had been tasked with taking out a real person back then, I…"

"How long have you been doing this…?" Mishima sounded heartbroken.

"I was 14." Akechi spoke quietly, like he was telling a secret.

Mishima sighed hard through his nose and Akechi didn't dare check to see what expression was on his face. Pity, no doubt.

"I didn't know. I thought this was just… I thought maybe you started when they did, not… God…"

"Does it bother you to know I've been committing murders for nearly four years? That I didn't start doing this just to counteract the Phantom Thieves?" Akechi didn't raise his volume much.

"I… A little. Yeah. But just cuz… The guy you're working for, he probably made you do it, right?" Akechi didn't answer. "At 14, that's just… that's just a kid. A middle schooler. And he was fine with that—"

"I don't want to talk about this anymore. Please." Akechi masked his growing anger with over exaggerated politeness. He had done it out of habit without thinking about it and then braced himself for Mishima to snap at him for it, but Mishima just went quiet.

There was a pause for a minute while he tried to calm himself, eyes shut and breathing regulated. In, hold, out. Repeat.

"Do you want a hug…?" Mishima still sounded like someone had kicked him.

"No."

"Okay. Just checking." He paused, then his tone went much lighter. "I, um, thanks though. For worrying about me. And wanting to check on me. That's… Nobody's really ever done that before. So thanks."

Akechi made a small noise of acknowledgement.

"I'll keep an eye on you too. If you start being super nice to me I'll start sharpening the knives." Mishima grinned and he thought he heard Akechi barely laugh.

"Knives. Really? Not something more subtle? You're going to go with stabbing? Do you know how much mess that makes? At least choose something less labor intensive like poisoning."

"I bet you watch a lot of crime dramas."

"I used to, yes. I don't have much time anymore." Akechi finally looked back over at Mishima, feeling much calmer now. Mishima seemed to have that effect on him these days. "At one point, I probably could have laid out the plans for an intricate unsolvable murder, but I'm a bit rusty now."

"You'd probably like those visual novel games where you have to solve mysteries and collect clues. Ever tried one?" Mishima's eyes had gone a bit wide, interest piqued.

"I've never played video games really, no. I didn't have them as a child and then I thought they were just a waste of time."

"Oh! I really think you'd like this kind. It's like an interactive book. Maybe I can lend you one?"

Akechi glanced away. "Maybe."

Truly, he had no interest in things such as video games, but the honest expression of excitement Mishima was showing was interesting. Somehow, he didn't have the heart to outright turn him down. It wasn't like he had the time to spend on entertainment anyway, and Mishima knew that.

Mishima continued rambling on about the different types of video games he thought Akechi might like, and the words mostly blended together until he realized he was just listening to the sound of Mishima's voice. It was oddly soothing. He shut his eyes.

After a few more moments, there was a pause.

"Are you listening?"

"Yes."

"No you're not." Mishima sounded slightly annoyed. Akechi didn't open his eyes to confirm it on his face.

"I am. Go on."

"No. You're not listening to me." Akechi felt the couch shift as Mishima sat up and finally opened his eyes to see him pouting, chin on his knees.

"I was. I… am just rather tired. I apologize for not fully absorbing your words. I truly do value your input." He stifled a yawn into his arm. "Honestly, I was a bit lost in thought. Your voice is pleasant to listen to and I wasn't able to focus adequately on the meaning behind what you were saying."

Mishima looked away, still pouting, but then his expression softened. "Really…?"

Akechi shut his eyes again. "I apologize for seeming inattentive."

"You're so… ugh. So… fake smooth. Stop pushing my buttons, asshole." Mishima's words were harsh, but his tone of voice was affectionate. "You know I wanna hear you say nice things to me. That doesn't mean you get away with tuning me out."

Akechi felt him move over so they were sitting close together.

"I wasn't tuning you out, I was listening very intently to how cute your voice is." He couldn’t help but smirk as he spoke.

Akechi opened his eyes to see Mishima bury his face in his hands. He whined and his ears went pink. Akechi laughed and kept his eyes on him.

"Cut it out," Mishima's words were muffled. "I hate you..."

"You and everyone else."

Mishima leaned over so his head was resting on Akechi's arm, then lowered his own arms to his lap. "I'm just kidding. You know that, right?"

"I suppose."

"Hm?" Mishima grabbed Akechi's arm to put it around himself. "I like you."

"Yes, I've gathered as much." He let his arm be moved, but didn't tighten his grip.

"Good." Mishima snuggled up against his side, smiling.

Akechi began to feel odd. He pulled himself away and stood. "I have some work to do. I only called you over to check in with you, so you're free to go if you wish. I don't have any information for you otherwise."

"Oh, um, okay. I hope your work goes well." Mishima's face still looked a bit pink. He stood from the couch and fidgeted with one of his sleeves. "Thanks again for checking on me. I really do appreciate it. And I promise I'll keep an eye on you too."

"You do anyway. I can't seem to shake you." Akechi walked him over to the door.

"You don't really try very hard." Mishima touched the doorknob, smiling down at the floor. "I know what it feels like for someone to try to really get rid of you. And it's not this." He glanced up at Akechi, then turned and opened the door. "See you."

Chapter Text

Akechi had to spend a few days trying out codewords to get a hit for Mishima's Palace. It took reflecting back on every conversation he’d ever had with both the real Mishima and his Shadow to reach a conclusion.

The correct answer: Yuuki Mishima. All of Japan. Puppetshow.

Interesting.

He materialized outside what looked like a large, extravagantly constructed theater building. There were lines of people in formal attire outside, stretching far from the main entrance, but like most crowds in a Palace, they paid Akechi no mind, as if he didn’t even exist. He slipped away from the lines and began surveilling the outside of the building, looking for a more inconspicuous way inside.

Around back, he found a locked door. He cut through the metal on the lock with the heat from a laser and eased the heavy door open to slip inside. The area he came out in was a dark hallway dimly lit by floodlights on the floor along the walls. He stayed pressed back into the corner by the door and made sure there was no one else in the area. A quick look around revealed nothing but darkness. It wasn’t unusual for Palaces to be sparsely populated in the absence of an obvious threat. So long as he stayed undetected, security should stay lax.

He crept along the wall slowly until he found a ripple in the distortion and slipped into it. The room looked like a dressing room, much brighter than the hallway outside. The walls were lined with large mirrors, and Akechi stood for a moment, taking in the sight in front of him. He wasn’t often confronted with his own appearance inside the Metaverse. Mirrors were few and far between, and phone cameras were non-operational. He had his mask flipped up for the time being, as he usually did when he was trying to get his bearings. Having it down only limited his field of vision. It was useful as a precautionary measure during fights to keep claws and spells away from his eyes, but otherwise it was more of a hindrance.

He flipped it down to look it over in his reflection and decided his entire get-up was a bit silly. Ah well, nothing to be done about that. He pushed the mask back up and then left the room again to continue his search.

As he went deeper into the building, he saw posters along the walls, advertisements for shows, past and future. They were hung crooked and many of them featured the logo of the Phantom Thieves in bright red that shone even in the dim lighting. Each of those red posters were defaced in one way or another, either with thick black ink or by being ripped into pieces, some littering the floor. This was unsurprising. Mishima’s continually waning support of the Phantom Thieves and his anger towards their two-faced modus operandi had long since stopped being a secret to Akechi.

Then he started seeing posters of a different kind. The silhouettes on them were blurred beyond recognition, but there were prominent names printed above each of them, along with text along the bottom such as drug trafficking or domestic abuse. Akechi instantly recognized the names from Phansite requests. Victims.

Things were starting to click. Akechi had known that Mishima saw the Phansite as his one avenue of control over this entire situation, first through Amamiya and now through himself. The requests they jointly pulled off were seen by Mishima as shows of his own power, as retribution. He wanted the spotlight on his own actions while simultaneously remaining behind the scenes, running the show from the shadows of safety.

Akechi stilled behind a corner. Faintly, he could hear talking. And then a very distinctly recognizable laugh. So he was close.

Around the corner, he saw Shadows patrolling in the distance, dressed in the all-black attire of stagehands. They hadn’t noticed him yet, and he intended to keep it that way. He felt something under his feet and stooped down lower to investigate. Playbills.

Yuuki Mishima Presents: The (DOWNFALL OF THE) Phantom Thieves!

The extra text was added in by hand in the same black ink that had been on the Phantom Thieves posters he had seen before. Many of them were ripped up and some of the in-tact ones had words obscured. Nearly all of them had Amamiya’s smirking face scribbled out. Akechi found one that was mostly put together and flipped through it. There was praise for the Phantom Thieves, seemingly written by the Mishima who had originally started the Phansite.

He picked up another that was in worse shape, and found that there was handwritten text over the existing words. Details of their plans. Names of their targets. Anger directed at Amamiya.

And in the back, a pasted in photo of Akechi, smiling sinisterly, with co-producer scrawled above it. He almost laughed before he remembered he was supposed to be silent. So Mishima saw them as co-conspirators. Akechi was the second part of this two-man show of authority. He set the playbill back down and resumed his slow trek forward.

The hallway opened into a large room, an auditorium. The stage was visible from where he stood, but he could also see Shadows patrolling the back of the room by the main entrance. If he wanted to get closer to the stage, he would have to be extremely careful to stay undetected. He crouched down low and moved down the side of the seats, in the outer aisle. The interior in this room was overwhelmingly black with some splashes of the same red used by the Phantom Thieves and golden accents. Not for the first time, he was grateful that his clothes were so dark. It made stealth so much easier.

Finally, he got around to the side of the stage and pressed himself up against the wall to peer up and check his surroundings. Discarded just feet from him was a figure sitting in a crumpled pile. It was a puppet, with strings attached to something high above the stage. Looking up revealed that whatever was up there was much too dark and far away to see.

The figure was dressed in tattered black clothes with silver and red accents. Its outfit may have belonged to a prince many moons ago, but now it only looked filthy. Like the person wearing it had been through far too many fights it had no chance of winning. The puppet itself looked lifeless. It had messy black hair and its expression was empty. Its eyes had been scratched out.

He realized suddenly that this figure was Amamiya.

He jumped back into the shadows, afraid of being spotted, but the puppet only sat there, unmoving. Dead to me, was the phrase that readily came to mind. Amamiya and the others had the tables turned on them. Now Mishima saw them solely as his own puppets, to be called on when needed, and to sit unused and devoid of purpose when they weren’t.

Even if it was inanimate, Akechi still kept a hand on the pistol holstered at his hip as he pulled himself up onto the stage and crept carefully along the edge of it, back into the wings. Farther back, he could see more of the life-sized puppets in the same state as Amamiya’s. Without going closer to investigate, he was willing to bet that they resembled the rest of the Phantom Thieves.

He heard that laugh again, soft and pleasant to his ears even when coming from what he knew was a Shadow. It was louder now, and if he focused, he could hear a second voice, quieter and harder to make out. He very carefully pushed the curtain to the backstage area open and settled down between it and the wall, shrouded on all sides in black.

And there it was. Mishima’s Shadow, now dressed mostly in black formal attire. It had trailing coattails and a splash of red that Akechi could make out to be a wilting rose motif on the front over its heart. The petals trailed down the front of its suit, like dripping blood frozen in time. The desperation and fear he had seen on its face in Mementos was now gone, replaced by a satisfied smirk. And standing with it was… himself?

A cognition, no doubt, but not something he had ever encountered personally. It was him, but it wasn’t. Just like with the cognition of Amamiya, this pseudo Akechi had strings coming up off its body, but these were run directly to Mishima’s own hands. They stood close together, Mishima’s hands grasping at the cognition’s sides and keeping it close. They both looked happy, gazing into each other’s eyes and having a quiet conversation. Akechi couldn’t make out many words, even at such a close distance.

Akechi felt his stomach churn. He averted his gaze down to the floor, knuckles white where one hand gripped his knee. Was this how Mishima saw him? Just another puppet, no different from the Phantom Thieves he had so gladly turned on? Just something for him to use and control as he wanted? This wasn’t how things were supposed to go. He clenched his jaw and willed himself to relax and keep his breathing slow and quiet. He was not a tool. He was not the one at someone else’s mercy. Mishima was at his. Could he not understand the danger he was in? Did he not see the threat right in front of him? Akechi had been open and honest about his abilities when it came to taking another’s life. Mishima should have been well aware of what a danger that posed to himself, and yet he had the audacity to believe that he was the one in control.

There had to be more going on here that he just wasn’t seeing. He forced himself to look back up and focus.

He started with his own cognitive self. It was dressed in mostly white to contrast Mishima’s black, with the same red accents and shiny golden details. There was a similarly golden crown circling its head and a rapier at its hip. The overall theme seemed to be that of a prince, just like with Amamiya’s puppet. Its eyes flashed bright red, the freckles he usually took such care to cover on his own face were prominent, and its smile was just crooked enough to look slightly menacing.

And it was holding red strings in its hands, just like Mishima was.

It took some deciphering, but the strings traveled from its own hands, tangling with the ones the Shadow held in its own, and connected to Mishima’s Shadow in the same way. There was one bright string wrapped tightly around each of their necks. They had a grip on each other’s every limb.

And yet, neither of them looked distressed. They were smiling, laughing. Mishima’s Shadow had an excited spark in its eyes Akechi had seen many times before while discussing their plans together. It was the look he got when he was invested in something, when he thought he was a part of something important. The cognitive Akechi leaned down and kissed it, soft and deep, and the Shadow’s arms went up and around its neck to keep it close, coming up on its toes a bit.

Akechi’s eyes darted away again, feeling suddenly like he was intruding on a very private moment. As if someone else’s psyche wasn’t a very private thing altogether.

He tried harder to listen instead.

“— this goes south, you know you’ll be at my mercy. Don’t forget that.” The cognitive Akechi was grinning now, teeth bared and eyes wide down on Mishima’s Shadow.

The Shadow only laughed quietly and brought its hands up to grip its Cognition’s jaw on either side, tight. “By the time you find you have any reason to kill me, I’ll already have exposed you. I’ll take you down right beside me.” Its grip loosened and it thumbed over the Cognition’s cheek, a small gesture of affection. The Cognition’s eyes fluttered shut and its smile softened. “But I would never want to hurt you. And I know you would never really want to hurt me.”

Akechi couldn’t take any more of this. He had to get out of this. If this was how Mishima felt, that they were equals destined to drag each other down by the throat, he needed to end it here. He was no one’s tool, no one’s placid puppet, mutual nature or not. He unholstered his pistol and took aim at the Shadow’s head. He had faith in his ability to make the shot even at this distance. His finger barely pressed into the trigger.

The Shadow leaned up and kissed the cognition again, softer this time, then pulled it down to press their foreheads together. Akechi could barely make out his words. “Please be safe. I love you so much, Goro.”

He didn’t manage to stifle his gasp in time. Both sets of eyes snapped over to where he hid in the shadows. He flipped his mask down quickly to hide his face and began retreating while Mishima barked orders to his faithful puppets. Akechi could hear them mobilizing and was also greeted by a crowd of the stagehand Shadows as he leapt off the stage. A well-timed jump allowed him to maneuver around the horde waiting for him and into the rows of vacant audience seating. He ducked into a hallway and used the laser on his sword to bust open a lock on a door labeled Staff Only, which lead him through a maze of, thankfully empty, smaller rooms and then out into another hallway closer to where he had come in.

Mishima’s voice came in over an intercom system, announcing that there was an intruder who was to be caught and killed, or there would be consequences. Akechi didn’t intend to stick around and see what those consequences would be. An execution for his audience seemed likely.

He dodged out of the way of several shadows and managed to escape to the outside, heart pounding. There were Shadows out there too, but he slunk along in the shade until he was hidden behind a pillar and could catch his breath. He knelt down on the ground to try and calm himself. He hoped the real Mishima wouldn’t be waiting for him in his apartment when he got back. He came and went as he pleased sometimes, like a stray cat, and Akechi didn’t usually mind, but he didn’t think he could face him. Not after hearing that.

Shadows didn’t lie when they thought they had no one to be lying to. Alone with a cognition of his own making, Mishima’s Shadow would have no reason to say things like that unless it was a genuine expression of his own feelings. Akechi thought he might be sick. It was overwhelming. He leaned his head against the cool stone pillar and shut his eyes, willing himself to not vomit. Such expressions hadn’t been directed at him at any point in his memory. He hadn’t expected it to start now. Especially not like this.

He shouldn’t have been quite so blinded. Mishima had been physically affectionate with him now for some time. He had kissed him many times. They spent time together, almost like they were friends. They watched movies and ate meals together. Mishima held his hand and leaned his head on his shoulder and trusted him enough to fall asleep on the couch with him. Love should have been the natural next step. If Akechi had even considered such a thing.

He stood and took out his phone, activating the Metanav and phasing back into the real world.

He would deal with things. Somehow.


Akechi was ghosting him again. Well, Mishima supposed it wasn't really ghosting if he really was busy. And Akechi didn't owe him his time. Still, he was worried. The anxiety he had been feeling recently had only compounded the past few days and he was jumping at shadows and finding it harder than usual to interact with anyone. Not that many people demanded his attention anyway.

He felt paranoid, he just wasn't sure why. Nothing had changed. There was no immediate looming threat. Things were going well with Akechi's side of the Phansite. He had gotten Ren’s surveillance off of the two of them. Really, he should have been content. But there was a nagging feeling pulling at him, telling him he was in danger.

He sent another text to Akechi that went unanswered and curled up on his bed. He could feel the creeping cold and tightness of an oncoming anxiety attack and he squeezed his eyes shut. There was nothing wrong.

But his chest kept squeezing tighter and it became more difficult to get his breaths in. A quiet whimper forced its way out of him and he pressed his face down into his pillow, thoughts quickly careening out of control.

What if Akechi betrayed him?

What if Akechi's kindness had all been an act to gain his trust and report back to Ren?

What if it was all an elaborate scheme to make him suffer?

What if the actions of the Phantom Thieves were all pinned on the one person who had access to information about their requests?

What if he had been a lonely, desperate fool, just like always?

It was all too much and it weighed his entire body down until he thought he might collapse in on himself. His pillow felt wet under him and he realized he was taking shaky, shallow, open-mouthed breaths that did nothing to fill his lungs.

His mind was doing everything it could to convince him Akechi was a traitorous, manipulative person whose only goal was to hurt him, just like everyone else he had ever gotten close to. Just like Amamiya, with his rotating selection of harsh, cold words and lukewarm praise. Everything Mishima had ever been dealt in this life had been a cruel joke. He had been stupid to ever think this would be different.

As if on cue, he heard the front door slam open, followed immediately by his father's loud, angry voice. When he got no response, he yelled again and Mishima heard something slam against a wall. With no hesitation, he grabbed his phone, his shoes, and his bag and pulled his bedroom window open. It was a quick, practiced escape he that he managed with ease, even with shaking hands and vision blurred by tears.

He sped off to the station with no particular destination in mind beyond that. If all else failed, he could just ride the train around town until they shut down for the night and then sneak into a bar in the red light district. The owner knew him and would shelter him for a night as long as he stayed in the back and kept quiet. It wasn't like this was the first time he had to run away.

The thought of going to Akechi's ran through his mind, but it made him feel sick.

He bought a drink from a vending machine and settled down on the floor in a quiet corner inside the station to think. In his haste to get away from home, he had at least stopped crying and regained control of his breathing. His usual maintenance on the Phansite took up about half an hour of his time, and just as he was about to put his phone away and try to find somewhere to get dinner, it buzzed in his hand.

Goro

Do you normally spend your time sitting on dirty train station floors?

He looked up and scanned the area, confused. Obviously, Akechi was somewhere nearby, but he couldn't find him in the crowd.

Goro

No good at spot the hidden object games?
Apparently not
Where are you???
I am simply omniscient.
Ok
I just don't want you to approach me and risk us being caught together right now. But I can see you clearly from here. Gathering intel?
No
You seem like you don't want to talk.
Yeah
Sorry
Is everything alright?
No
How terrible. I'm on my way home. If you follow from a distance, you're welcome to join me.
No thanks
Alright. Enjoy your evening.
Oh, and my apologies for not responding to your messages sooner lately. Things have been a bit chaotic. When things settle down, I can be more available for you.
You don't have to
Well, no. But I'd like to. However, you're under no obligation to accept my availability. I will simply be an option on the table. Have a good evening, Mishima-kun.

Mishima put his phone away and got up to pursue his original plan of securing food. He ordered from a familiar stand a few blocks over and sat on a bench to eat. It was cold out and he hadn't grabbed a coat before leaving. He pulled the too-long sleeves down on his uniform shirt but it did little to help. At least his food was hot.

His thoughts wandered to Akechi and how he had given him his coat when he had gotten caught in a rainstorm in Shinjuku. At the time, he had seen it as an act of pity, but as they had gotten closer, he had wondered if it had really been a genuine show of concern. Akechi expressed himself in odd ways, like the concept of friendliness was foreign to him. And maybe it was.

Or maybe it wasn't friendliness at all, and Mishima had been mistaken once again in thinking someone could stomach his presence. Ren wasn't right about much, but maybe his analysis of Akechi as a cold-blooded villain had been correct. Especially if the two of them were actually working together. Akechi told him his meeting with the Phantom Thieves at the festival had been the first time, that it was a temporary alliance formed out of blackmail, but that was an easy lie to tell.

And Mishima had fallen right into the trap. He was so desperate for love of any kind that he had been blinded. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

He'd always be a stupid, useless person. Amounting to absolutely zero. Worthless, a burden, an annoyance.

He finished his dinner and sat, spaced out, until the cold became too much to bear. It was late, but he could still wander around the underground mall long enough to warm up. If he had the money, he would have just bought a new coat, but his wallet was wearing thin. Instead, he browsed through some books and tried to stay focused until the mall began closing down and he was shooed away. He felt like a stray.

He could probably sneak back in his window if he was quiet enough. If his parents had checked and seen he wasn't home, they probably wouldn't check again. But the thought of being caught was enough to make him dizzy. A train to Shinjuku was a safer bet, so that's where he wound up.

Maybe it was dangerous to wander around such an area at night, but it had never stopped him before. He stopped to look into storefronts and stepped into the handful of shops that were still open late at night to warm up. He ended up at a bookstore staring blankly at a line of capsule toy machines. Without thinking, he inserted a few coins into one on a whim and turned the crank.

He opened the plastic capsule to reveal a black-clothed figure with a horned helmet. He sighed hard through his nose and squeezed his eyes shut, then shoved it into his bag. Was this some sort of cruel joke the universe was playing on him? Or was it a sign?

He wandered the streets until he felt chilled to the bone again, then ducked into the bar he knew he would be safe at. The owner took one look at him from the bar, sighed, and nodded over her shoulder to the back room.

He ignored the stares he got from the much older patrons and went back into the employee break area to settle into one of the comfy armchairs he had taken many naps in. It reeked of cigarette smoke, beer, and perfume, but it was warm and he knew he wouldn't be bothered.

He pulled his knees up close to his chest and looked at his phone. No messages. An assortment of notifications from the Phansite that weren't terribly demanding. Without thinking about it, he opened his conversation with Akechi and found himself scrolling back up through it. Through playful teasing and invitations for meals and gentle apologies and Akechi's sparse but incredibly endearing use of emoticons.

It dawned on him that maybe he was being ridiculous.

Looking back, Akechi had opened up to him so much since their initial encounter. The Akechi he crashed into in Shibuya and the Akechi who told him about his secret daydreams about superpowers seemed like two different people. And Mishima was inclined to believe the one he had been seeing lately was the Akechi very few people ever got to see. Just like that, all of the fear he had been overtaken by seemed to lift off his shoulders. Now he only felt like crying from relief.

Of course Akechi was his friend. Of course Akechi cared about him.

Goro

Goro?
Are you still awake
Yes. What can I do for you?
Can I still come over
Yes. Will you be safe traveling this late?
Yeah it's fine
Be there soon
See you soon, then.

He pulled himself out of the chair and braced himself to confront the chill outside again. The bar owner gave him an even stranger look when he left again after only half an hour, but if he could sleep on Akechi's couch instead of an old chair, he would take it.

He was able to grab a seat on the train, huddled over and rubbing his arms to warm up. He couldn't wait to steal Akechi's blanket and refuse to emerge from under it until morning.

Now that he was calm, he couldn't remember what had set him off so badly or what had made him start doubting Akechi in the first place. Things were like they always were. Had he become agitated at the lack of responses he had been getting? Was he just having a moment of intense self-doubt? He couldn't be sure. He racked his brain the entire train ride, but couldn't find a root cause for his complete lack of sanity.

He let himself into Akechi's apartment, shivering hard just from his walk over.

"Do you not own a coat?" Akechi was immediately on him, pulling him farther inside and putting the blanket he so craved around his shoulders while forcing him down onto the couch. "You are the only person I have ever met who is this determined to get pneumonia."

Akechi's exasperation and knee-jerk show of concern made him smile and he pulled the blanket tighter around himself. So he had been a fool all day.

"Maybe I just want you to take care of me."

"If you catch pneumonia, or any other communicable ailments, you aren't coming anywhere near this apartment, so find a new plan." Akechi settled himself back down where he had been on the floor at the table before Mishima's entrance.

"Thanks," Mishima mumbled to himself. "Are you working on something?"

"Yes, but I'm almost finished. Give me some quiet, please." Akechi glanced up at him and then back to what he was doing.

Mishima moved so he was lying down on the couch, wrapped tightly in the blanket, and shut his eyes. Akechi's apartment sometimes felt more like home than his actual home. It was a comforting thought after the alarming episode he had just had.

They sat together in silence and he had almost fallen asleep when he heard Akechi sigh and stand up and wander into the kitchen. He came back with water for both of them, set Mishima's down on the table near the couch, and then sat down at the other end. Mishima pulled his legs up closer to himself to give him room.

"How are you feeling? When I saw you this evening you looked as if you had been crying." Akechi looked at him over the rim of his glass.

"Um… Yeah, I'm okay. I— I was just kinda freaking out about some stuff, but I feel better now. Thanks." Mishima managed a tiny smile, but Akechi just kept eyeing him. "What?"

"Nothing at all." Akechi took out his phone and busied himself with it.

"Are you still worried about me having a change of heart?" Akechi didn't answer, just pursed his lips. "Goro, I told you I'm fine. I'm just… struggling through some stuff right now."

"Which is what the build-up to a change of heart can look like."

"It's not… I've always been like this. Stuff's fine and then suddenly it's not, and then it's fine again. I get worried about everything all at once until it stops mattering again."

He heard Akechi sigh, then there was a long silence.

"I feel like I need to keep an eye on you." Akechi looked over at him again. "You may say that you're the same as always, but the timing of your sudden crash and reluctance to communicate with me is too suspicious. I invited you earlier because you seemed so unlike your usual self. You still do.”

“You were worried about me~” Mishima cooed and buried his face in the blanket. He heard Akechi grumble something. “That’s so sweet. I’m fine, I promise.”

“I rescind my previous comment about not acting like yourself. This kind of behavior is par for the course, isn’t it?” Akechi looked annoyed, but his tone remained even and calm.

“Me thinking it’s sweet when you actually let yourself express your feelings? Yeah.”

They fell silent again until Akechi stood from the couch and began gathering the papers and books on the table.

“I presume you’ll be sleeping here tonight?”

“Yeah, if that’s alright…” Mishima shifted in his seat anxiously, then abruptly sat up straighter. “Oh! I forgot! I have something for you.”

Akechi raised an eyebrow while he dug through his bag. “What could you possibly—”

Mishima pulled out the capsule he had won earlier and presented it. “A host gift.”

“A host g—” Akechi popped open the capsule and his eyes briefly widened, just for a fraction of a second before his expression turned cold again, with a tone to match. “Lovely. Thank you.”

“Aw, come on. That’s the guy you like, right?” Mishima was suddenly overcome by doubt. If he had been mistaken, this would just be embarrassing.

Akechi turned away, but not before Mishima caught the blush rising on his cheeks. He grinned to himself and pressed his face into his blanket-covered hands, resisting the urge to laugh.

“Yes, I suppose so. It’s getting quite late. I need to be getting to bed, but you’re welcome to help yourself to anything in the kitchen or to the shower. Goodnight, Mishima-kun.” He retreated to his bedroom and shut the door before Mishima could say anything else.

With Akechi gone, he was free to squeal into the blanket quietly. It had been so brief, but Akechi had looked truly caught off guard and happy, even if he tried so hard to hide it. Maybe fate really had dealt him a winning hand for once. If only for the sole purpose of making someone like Akechi really smile.

He readied himself for bed as best as he could and fell asleep feeling much better than he had been.

Chapter Text

Yuuki Mishima

Hello.
Hi!
Come over?
Of course but are you ok?
Terrible.
:(
Yeah I'll come over
Want me to bring anything?
No.
Ok I'm gonna eat then I'll leave
See you in a bit

Akechi heard the door open and he made no attempt to get up off the couch. He was dressed more casually than normal, completely overcome by fatigue and indifference to the point he hadn’t bothered to change out of pajamas or put on long sleeves or gloves to cover up the scars or healing wounds on his arms. He had let Mishima see him in less respectable light than this. It wasn’t likely to skew his opinion of him much more than anything else already had.

“Hey.” Mishima came over and plopped down with him. “Yeah, you don’t look good.”

Akechi scoffed. “Thank you so much!”

“I mean— You just look really… tired. Depressed. Not that you look ugly or whatever. Did you even get dressed today? You actually look normal..”

“I dress very normally.”

“You dress like a nerd.” Mishima made himself more comfortable, pulling his legs up onto the couch. “Sweater vests in the summer?”

“You aren’t exactly fashion-forward.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care. You do. And you still look nerdy.” Mishima leaned his cheek on the back of the couch, head turned sideways so he was facing Akechi. “You’re a cute nerd though.”

Akechi didn’t respond, just rolled his eyes. He got up and went into the kitchen and returned with a chilled bottle of wine. He held it up so Mishima could see, grinning.

“Is that— Is that wine?! How did— Where did you get that?” Mishima gaped at him.

Akechi came and sat back down at his end of the couch and wordlessly pried the loosened cork out. He drank straight from the bottle, then offered it over.

“I— Are you going to arrest me if I drink this? We’re underage.”

“I have zero authority to make arrests.”

“Well, yeah, but… Are you sure? I’ve never… had alcohol before. Where did you even get wine? You can’t buy it.” Mishima hesitantly took the bottle from him and sniffed at the rim.

“Gift basket at work for a retirement. Swiped it when no one was paying attention. You don’t have to drink it, but I’m going to.” Akechi motioned for the bottle back. Mishima eyed it warily, then took a small sip before handing it back. He grimaced at the taste and Akechi let out a sharp laugh.

“Don’t like it?” He took a long swig in comparison.

“It’s… weird? It’s not as gross as I thought it would be. It’s just weird juice that doesn’t taste good. Did you invite me over just to share your wine with me? That’s kind of romantic~”

Akechi made a disgusted noise and took another drink, then passed the bottle back. “Yes. I did.”

“Awww,” Mishima drank again, less nervously this time now that he knew what to expect. “Thanks. You wanna talk though? You said you felt terrible.”

Akechi laughed bitterly and leaned back further into the armrest, legs up on the couch and arm on top of the back of it. “God, when do I not feel fucking terrible these days? I can’t take much more of this shit.” He rested his cheek on his hand, looking at Mishima with a frown. “Amamiya is a piece of shit, in case you weren’t thoroughly aware of this by now.”

“I am. Have been for a while.”

“Did you know he lives in an attic? He lives in an attic over a coffee shop. His friends all kiss his ass constantly and treat him like God’s gift to man and he lives in an attic. They’re constantly following him around like stray cats, and it’s fucking nauseating.” He could hear his voice straying farther from his performative tones, but he knew Mishima preferred it that way. “He thinks he’s hot shit because he’s their leader, and they all just mindlessly follow everything he says and does, even when he makes stupid, inefficient decisions.”

Mishima just smiled at him with his cheek resting against the back of the couch again, listening. His patient smile made Akechi feel sick. He grit his teeth and looked away. Mishima offered up the bottle and he took it.

“Do you have stuff to do tonight?”

“I should.” Akechi handed the now half-empty bottle back. “But I’m not. Fuck it.”

“Good. You need rest. You should say fuck it more often.” He drank and passed. “I never would’ve imagined you talking like this when I met you, though. Not very Detective Prince-like.”

“It’s unbecoming.” He set the bottle on the table. “But you told me to drop my… What did you call it? My Perfect Boy act. So here I am.”

“Here you are…” Mishima sighed and smiled. “Much more tolerable... Oh. Uh, do you… wanna talk work or… Should we not tonight?”

“Please, no.” Akechi covered his face with his hands.

“Okay, yeah. That’s fine. So you really did just invite me over to drink stolen wine. You just wanted company?”

His tone wasn’t accusatory, but Akechi still reacted defensively. “You can leave if you’re just going to continually mock me. I don’t need this right now.”

“I’m not mocking you. I’m just touched that you just wanted to hang out. Calm down.” Mishima frowned.

“I’m calm.” But he wasn’t. He felt like he was going to lose it any second. Anything Mishima did wrong was going to cost him. He was one slip-up from a complete breakdown and Mishima would bear witness to it. Again. He took a deep breath and it came back out as a quiet wheeze.

“You’re about to have a panic attack, Goro—”

“Don’t.”

“Goro—”

“Shut up. Just.” He took another deep breath. “Stop talking. Stop looking at me.”

Mishima fell silent and looked down at the couch like he was told.

Akechi tried to calm his breathing. All of this was too much. The Phantom Thieves, Shido hounding him about Niijima, Mishima's confession inside his Palace, running around to all these interviews and investigation sites, running himself ragged in every single conceivable way, on top of all the injuries he was trying to work through, he was falling apart physically and mentally.

He realized he was shaking, so he clutched his hands to his hair to try and still them. He screwed his eyes shut.

The couch shifted and arms went around him loosely. He went rigid, but couldn’t bring himself to shove Mishima away, so he just let himself be held. He slowly relaxed and his breathing turned into small gasps instead of the deep, shaky, semi-controlled ones he had been managing before. Mishima pulled him against his chest and he let his head fall there with his eyes still shut. For the first time in his life, he let someone hold him through one of these attacks he’d been having for years. He didn’t know what he felt, or even if this was good or bad.

Mishima didn’t say anything, just kept his arms around Akechi securely and rested his head on top of his. Akechi didn’t know if it was the alcohol setting in or his emotional energy just finally being sapped dry, but his panic settled into numbness instead. He stayed where he was, eyes open but unfocused on a spot across the room.

Mishima sat up and he did the same, feeling too light.

“Better?” Mishima’s voice was low and quiet. Concerned, but not pitying. Akechi sighed and nodded. “Good. Payback for Hawaii.”

“For— What?” He felt like his voice came out too thick.

“I had a really bad panic attack in Hawaii. You talked me through it. This is me returning that favor.”

Akechi pulled himself out of Mishima's grasp and leaned back. “Oh, joy, freed of your debt.”

“Not what I meant.” Mishima grabbed the wine off the table and drank from it, then replaced it. “Just let me be nice to you.”

“No.”

“You want me to be mean to you?” Silence. “So you can lash out at me for it? You're an asshole.”

“You can leave.”

“Don't wanna. Maybe I want to sit here with you, asshole. Maybe I like you.”

“Maybe you're an idiot.” Akechi snarled.

Mishima covered his face with his hands and doubled over, laughing. Akechi only glared harder. What the fuck was so funny?

Mishima calmed himself, slowly. “Wanna tell me why you're so pissed? Like, really?”

“Life sucks.”

“Old news. Be more specific.”

My life, specifically, sucks.” Akechi let his cheek rest against the back of the couch like Mishima had been before.

“Also old news. What's going on?” Mishima grabbed one of Akechi's hands and laced their fingers together. Akechi realized how much smaller Mishima's hands were than his and stared at them. “Hey? You good?”

“You have small hands.”

“Thanks.”

“You're welcome.” Akechi continued staring at their hands, so Mishima lifted them up to press their palms together, showing the difference in size. Akechi had longer fingers, but their palms were about the same.

“You just have freaky fingers. Like a pianist.” He laced them together again and held them on top of the back of the couch, leaning his head the same way Akechi was so they could look at each other. “Tell me what's on your mind, freak.”

“I hate the Phantom Thieves. I hate my boss. I'm tired of everything. My whole body hurts and Amamiya laughs at me every time I stumble, and I'm fairly certain my ribs are cracked and cracking more every time he intentionally makes us scale a wall or do some acrobatic shit for no reason, and I'm fucking tired, Mishima.” He shut his eyes. He felt too warm.

“I know you're going to say you can't, but you need to take some downtime to heal.”

“I can't.” It almost came out as a whine.

“You're drunk.”

“I'm not.” He opened his eyes, but they felt heavy. Mishima was smiling.

“You are, your face is all red. Are you hot?” Mishima used his free hand to tuck Akechi's bangs behind his ear. Akechi went to nudge his hand away but he felt like he was moving through sludge. Mishima laughed at him, then leaned in and kissed him. He dropped his hand back down onto his lap and tried to focus on the kiss.

Why did he let him do this? Knowing Mishima’s true feelings should have repulsed him out of reciprocating such affections, but he found himself allowing it again and again. If he didn’t think about the implications, the sensations themselves were pleasant. He was more angry at himself for not hating it than he was mad at Mishima for kissing him so often. If Akechi wanted to push him away, he knew he could. He wasn’t ready to accept that maybe he didn’t want to.

Mishima pressed their foreheads together, and Akechi just stared at him, up too close to make out anything.

“I need to catch up with you, I guess.” Mishima pulled back and took a few sips from the bottle. Akechi reached for it and he handed it over for him to do the same. “If you keep drinking, I won't be able to.”

“It's my wine.” Akechi held it close to his chest, protecting it. Mishima reached out for it, and Akechi held it out of his reach, making him laugh.

“Goro—! You're such an asshole.” He gave up and sat back. “Fine. You can have it.”

Akechi smiled and handed it over.

“You're being cute.” Mishima finished off the bottle and set it down. “You have a really nice smile. Your real smile, not— not the—” Akechi's expression shifted into his public persona so fast Mishima shrieked. “Stop! That's so scary! I hate it when you just— just shapeshift like that!”

Akechi’s smile had softened into one of complacency rather than any true positive emotion, and his eyes didn’t crease at the corners the way they did when he was truly happy. It was a completely non-threatening display of submission.

Then Akechi cackled and covered his face with one hand, smiling behind it, partially obscured. Just like that, he was back.

“There you are. That's so freaky. You just… turn it off and on so fast.” Mishima pulled Akechi’s hand away from his face and held it like he had been.

“Practice makes perfect.” Akechi tried to sound put together, but his words were slurring together a little now. “Okumura’s daughter told me I have an… adorable laugh. What the fuck? What? These people are fucking crazy.

“What were you laughing at?”

“I don't— I don't know— Something stupid that wasn't remotely funny, but I have to act like everything they do is the best thing I've ever seen in my whole shitty life? This is why I work alone. This is why.”

“Oh yeah?” Mishima looked amused, just smiling and listening, eyes on his face.

“And! They have a whole team, right? A whole team of people, and— they go and they do the same shit I've been doing and— I do this alone. By myself. Why do they need a whole team, Mishima?”

“Efficiency?”

“I am... very efficient.”

“You are very drunk.”

“I'm. Very. Not.” He sounded the words out slowly. His head was swimming.

“I'm going to get you some water.” Mishima tried to stand, stumbled, and fell back onto the couch, eyes wide and arms out. Akechi burst into uncontrolled laughter. “Shut up.” He tried to stand again with more success this time, and went into the kitchen.

He came back with water for both of them and set both cups on the table. Akechi held a hand out, so Mishima picked one up and handed it to him. He drank some, then tried to hand it back instead of putting it on the table. Mishima indulged him and did it for him.

“Thank you.” Akechi let his head fall back against the back of the couch again. He thought he might fall asleep. He was grateful his emotions had at least toned down into something more bearable. He didn't want to jump out of his own skin anymore, at least. Mostly, he just wanted to look at Mishima and go to sleep. He couldn't do both of those things at the same time, so he settled for the first one.

He could admit Mishima was cute. He had called him cute more than once, and even if it had just been part of the plan to win him over, he easily could have meant it. He had big, dark, almost black eyes and a soft, round face. His smiles were nice to look at and even though his hands were small, they were warm. Akechi knew from brief experience that his hair was soft and smelled like citrus.

Akechi's rational brain finally caught up to the rest of it and snapped internally at him for thinking that way. Right. This wasn't a thing he did. He didn't see people like this. People were all evil and heartless and weak and it was every man for himself and depending on others only got you hurt and left behind. It didn’t matter how Mishima felt for him. Right.

Mishima was just staring back at him, lids low, and cheeks flushed. Akechi must have done something, because he suddenly smiled. “You back?”

“Back from where?” Akechi furrowed his brow.

“You were spacing out for a minute. What's going on in that head of yours?”

“None of your business.”

“Oh, snappy Goro is back.” He barely laughed. “You don't have to tell me.”

“I won't.” Akechi shut his eyes again, sleepy.

“Don't then.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes, then Mishima got up, grabbed the blanket off the back of the couch, threw it on the ground, and got down onto the floor, laying on his back on the blanket. Akechi watched, confused.

“C'mere. Get on the floor with me.” He patted the space next to him. “Please.”

“Why would I get on the floor?” He was taken aback by this. Why lay on the floor when they had a couch? What was Mishima planning?

“Sometimes you just need to be on the floor. C'mere.” He patted the space again. Akechi just stared. “Goro~” Mishima whined.

“Stop. Fine.” Akechi stood with some effort and stumbled over to the blanket and sat down next to him.

“Lay down.”

“No.”

“Goro!” Mishima whined again and clutched his arm, careful even in his drunken state to avoid bruises.

Akechi grumbled and lowered himself to lay on his back. “Happy?”

“Oh, never. But thank you.” Mishima found his hand between them and held it. Akechi squeezed. Mishima squeezed back. Akechi made a small, pained noise. “Oh— I'm sorry, is your hand hurt?”

“I need a full-body cast at this point. Just mummify me. Bury me with all of my earthly possessions, like a Pharaoh.” Akechi put his other arm over his eyes to block out the light.

“Poor baby. Wanna be buried with your figures?”

“Don't be condescending.”

“I'll think about it.”

They sat quietly. Akechi kept almost falling asleep, but the sensation of Mishima's hand in his was keeping him awake. It felt heavy and warm. It felt human. He suddenly was overcome with dread at that thought. He wrenched his hand away.

“You okay?” Mishima turned his head to look at him and Akechi turned his the other way to avoid just that. “Goro?”

“Stop. Give— give me a minute.”

Mishima was a human, a person. With blood and warmth and he was right here, a solid presence Akechi could feel against his own skin. That scared him. He wasn't entirely sure why. He thought of Mishima's Shadow, with all of its puppets, with its mutual grip on his cognition of Akechi, kissing him and laughing and saying I love you so much.

He thought about shooting it in the head.

He thought about Mishima's head blown wide open, dead on the ground.

He squeezed his eyes shut and couldn't keep a quiet whine from forcing its way out of him.

That had never bothered him before. He had taken out so many Shadows, indirectly killed so many people. Why was he thinking about this now? Why was it freaking him out so bad? He covered his face with both hands, short nails digging into his scalp and palms pressed against his eyes. The room was spinning. He felt too hot. He couldn't breathe.

Mishima wasn't saying anything, but he could hear his breathing, a reminder that he was there. He hated it.

“Goro…” Mishima's voice was so soft, he could barely hear it, but it still felt too harsh. He didn't respond. “Drink some water?” He shook his head. Mishima just hummed in defeat.

He didn't know how long he stayed like that, but it felt like a long time. Finally, he turned onto his side, facing away from Mishima, eyes still covered.

Slowly, he lowered his arms with a shaky sigh. He felt Mishima press up against his back and put an arm around him, settling his face against his hair. He didn't have the energy or really even the willpower to pull away. Mishima felt solid against him and he felt grounded again instead of mortified. It was unclear exactly what had changed.

“Are you okay…?” Mishima spoke hesitantly.

“Ha. No.” Akechi sniffled. “Not remotely, no.”

Mishima pulled him in closer and held him tighter. Akechi shut his eyes again.

“You're so clingy.” The words came out harsher than he meant them to.

“Sometimes you need clingy. You need someone to keep you from going at everything so hard you die from exhaustion.” Mishima found Akechi's hand and held it on his stomach. “If you want me to back off, tell me.”

Akechi said nothing. He just laid there in silence, Mishima's breathing against the back of his neck. He thought he might be comfortable. He thought he might feel safe.

He fell asleep.

When he woke up, Mishima was still holding him loosely, and his breathing had gone slow and even. Akechi tried to pull himself out of his grip, but Mishima opened his eyes and pulled his arms back on his own, freeing him easily.

“Hey… good morning.” Not for the first time, Akechi noted that Mishima's sleepy voice was oddly endearing.

“It's not morning.” Akechi turned over to face him, a sharp hiss of pain escaping as he settled onto his other side and pressed into a bruise.

“Hey, easy.” Mishima settled a hand on his side and held him loosely. Akechi shifted so his hand slipped down more, off his ribs and onto the dip of his waist. “Okay here?” Akechi nodded. “If I can't even put my hand on you, how bad is it…?”

“You’ve seen plenty. I’m not stripping for you to find out.” Akechi smirked at him, and Mishima just rolled his eyes in return, unphased by his clumsy attempt at… flirting?

“Don’t flatter yourself. I just mean if it’s not healing up and not feeling better, you need to get… I don’t know, pain meds or something. Stitches. Real stitches.”

“I've been dealing with this for a long time. It's fine. It'll heal just in time for me to get fucked up again, I'm sure.”

“If it gets the chance to heal at all…”

“If all goes well, my time with the Phantom Thieves comes to a close tomorrow. Then it's back to my old job. No more jumping across chandeliers or having to deal with fighting on a team. So maybe I'll stop getting the shit kicked out of me so often.”

“Oh, wow. Tomorrow. Already. That's… are you nervous…? I know you won't tell me exactly what the plan is, but…” Mishima stroked Akechi's hair back.

“No.” He lied. “Things will go perfectly. Regardless of my intervention, things are already set up to go in the right direction anyway. I was just planning on giving things another push.” He smirked, eyes on Mishima's expression. “Have some faith in me.”

“I do. Of course I do.” He brought his hand down to Akechi's jaw and held it, tilting his head up a little. “I thought we weren't talking work tonight.”

“My mistake then. Forget I said anything. Make like a psychotic breakdown victim.”

Mishima laughed at that, but then straightened up. “That's not funny.”

“You laughed.”

“I did. I'm drunk.” He was grinning again with eyes low on Akechi. “I like seeing you this close up. You have really pretty eyes. They're brown now, but in the sun they look red… it's cool.” He thumbed his jawline and Akechi sighed, seeming to enjoy that. “Find your spot?”

Akechi said nothing, so Mishima kept tracing his jaw, watching his expression relax. It was still so rare to see him so open. He was usually so wound up, either in formality or anger. He decided not to mention it and spoil the mood.

He moved his hand up and stroked his hair and Akechi's eyes fluttered shut. He traced his fingers down the side of his neck and then back up to his hair again.

“Do you like this?” Mishima kept his voice low and kept moving his fingers through his hair, brushing it back from his face. Akechi made a low humming noise without opening his eyes. It sounded neutral, but he didn't pull away. Mishima ran his fingers down his cheek one more time, then brought his hand back down to the blanket between them. “You’re like a cat.”

Akechi opened his eyes halfway at the loss of touch.

“You okay?” Mishima scooted closer and put his hand back on Akechi's waist where there was a gap in his injuries.

Akechi didn't answer, just leaned in and kissed him, nearly missing his mouth entirely. They recalibrated with some clumsy effort and kissed each other softly, one of Akechi's arms going up and around Mishima's neck. Mishima giggled at his near-miss and pulled him in closer by his side, causing him to gasp in pain and flinch away from his face.

“Sorry, God, I keep doing that tonight.” He rubbed lightly over Akechi’s side and down to his waist to leave his hand there instead. “Just wanted to kiss you, is that so much to ask?”

“Apparently so.” Akechi let his head rest on the blanket and kept his eyes on Mishima’s face, lids low, smiling. “I’m afraid I’m far too fragile for such activities.”

“Oh, shut up.” Mishima leaned over and kissed him again, just once. “Maybe I should get you a full-body cast. Then you’d have no choice but to sit there and rest until you felt better.” He leaned back, but resumed running his fingers over Akechi’s hair until his eyes shut again.

“You know that absolutely is not an option.” His voice grew quieter, sleepier, from the contact from Mishima’s hand. Mishima felt like he had found a snooze button and made a mental note of it. “My inability to work would also lead to trouble for you. Don’t forget that.”

“No, I’m not. I’m just joking. I just wish you’d be kinder to yourself.” He tucked some hair behind Akechi’s ear and barely made out a sigh. His heart fluttered. “Take a little vacation when this settles, okay? Even if it’s just sitting on the couch with junk food watching movies.”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Akechi’s voice was really trailing off now, like he was falling asleep.

“A date night, maybe?” Mishima fully intended to take advantage of this lack of alertness.

Akechi’s eyes barely opened, then shut again. “Sure.”

Mishima just grinned to himself and pressed a kiss to Akechi’s head. He wouldn’t push it any further than that. A positive answer was enough for him to coast on happily.

Akechi’s eyes opened again at the contact and he stared blankly at Mishima’s face. “I think I’d like to go to bed.”

“Oh. Okay. Yeah, it's late.” Mishima sat up next to him. “Do you want me to leave?”

“I'm indifferent.” Akechi stood, stumbled a bit, then got his bearings and gathered the empty wine bottle and glasses of water and took them into the kitchen.

Mishima took that as an okay to stay and took the blanket they had been on off of the floor and settled onto the couch with it wrapped around him. Akechi came back and just leaned on the doorway, looking at him. He looked totally drained.

“What?” Mishima pulled the blanket around himself tighter.

“I presume your parents won't file a missing persons report if you don't return home tonight? I don't need harboring a runaway on my record.”

“Oh. No.” Mishima looked down. “My parents don't really give a shit about me.”

“How funny. Neither do mine.” Akechi stood up straighter from the wall and walked to the door to his bedroom.

“I thought you said you were in the foster system?” Mishima looked over the back of the couch at him.

Akechi gave a half smile and shrugged. “Well, there you go. Goodnight.” He retreated into his bedroom and shut the door.


Akechi woke up at dawn the next morning as he always did, but this time with a dull headache and a vague urge to vomit. Drinking over half a bottle of wine by himself on a school night wasn't one of the best ideas he had ever had, but he was self aware enough to realize the recklessness of it and still do it anyway. He felt totally drained.

He wandered into the bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror, and decided he looked hideous. He had messy bedhead, the circles under his eyes were getting darker and more obvious every week, and he thought he might be starting to break out from the stress. He groaned in frustration and began taming his appearance down. Hair pulled back, face washed and scrubbed, makeup applied to his face and to any bruising peeking out over his collar, teeth brushed and flossed, hair let back down and made more acceptable. He made a mental note to get a haircut soon.

He went out into the living room and nearly had a heart attack when he saw a very human shape occupying his couch. He had become distracted enough to forget about his and Mishima's sleepover last night. He cursed under his breath and went into the kitchen, flipping the light on. Mishima rolled over on the couch at the sudden brightness and pressed his face into the back cushions.

Akechi wasn't really concerned about waking him up. He'd have to be up soon anyway, if he planned on making it home to change clothes before school.

Akechi made himself some shitty coffee, forgoing breakfast out of exhaustion, and decided at the last moment to make a second cup for his guest. He went into the living room and set the mug down on the table.

“Mishima,” He didn't want to reach out and touch him. That seemed weird. He wasn't in the business of having to wake people up, ever, and wasn't sure how to do it in an acceptable way.

Mishima made a small noise and barely lifted his head. “Wh'time izzit…”

Well, that was… cute. Akechi cut that thought down as fast as it rose up and hoped his blushing would subside before Mishima noticed it.

“Around 5.” Akechi nudged Mishima's legs out of the way and sat at the other end of the couch.

Mishima barely sat up, propped up on an elbow, and squinted at him. His hair was a mess and he rubbed some sleep out of an eye. “It's so early…”

“I've been up for an hour.” Akechi sipped his coffee.

“Yeah, well, you're a freak…” He noticed the mug sitting on the table and reached over and took it.

“I see you're not a morning person.” Akechi smiled over his mug at him.

Mishima just grumbled unintelligibly— probably some sort of insult— and drank his coffee from his half-sitting position. Akechi finished his and got up to clean up the kitchen, then went back into his room briefly, grabbed his things for school, and came back out.

“I'm heading out for the day. You should soon too, if you intend to make it on time. You aren't exactly in uniform right now.” He slipped his shoes on and stood at the door.

Mishima groaned but pulled himself upright completely and untangled himself from his blanket. “Have a good day, Goro.”

“I’ll be in touch tonight, regardless of quality. Most definitely with good news. Take care. Shut the door behind you.” He turned and left, leaving Mishima alone in his apartment.

Mishima dragged himself up off the couch, washed his mug in the kitchen, then dug through the room's contents for some sort of breakfast. He didn't think Akechi would mind, and if he did then he'd just have to get over it.

The pantry and fridge were both practically empty. He had seen Akechi cook before, so he knew he could, but he must have been putting off grocery shopping or something. The idea of Akechi shopping like a normal teenager was fun. He seemed so above it. There was some bread and a few apples, so he made himself toast and took an apple with him to eat on the way to the train station. It was better than nothing.

Before leaving, he stuck a note to the fridge: buy groceries!

Chapter Text

Akechi exited the courthouse and kept himself together just long enough to duck into an alleyway he knew to be empty, activate the Metanav to access Mementos, and then let himself slide down a wall at the entrance, gasping.

Ren Amamiya was dead.

Akechi had shot him in the head, right between the eyes, seen the life go out of him, after shooting and killing a guard stationed in the room as well. He had known what he was getting into, but he hadn't prepared for the emotional aftershocks. Nand now he was breaking down like it was his first kill all over again. Shooting a real person felt so much worse than pulling the trigger on countless Shadows, and he couldn't get a grip on himself. He didn't feel remorse or sadness this time, just deep fear of what he was capable of. He thought maybe he should have felt proud. He had just taken down the leader of the Phantom Thieves and, by extension, the entire team. And the police would cover it up for him perfectly. There was no risk of being caught. There was no undoing it.

And yet, he still felt sick. Thoughts of Mishima kept nudging at him — worry over how he would react, worry over breaking his hard-earned trust, worry over losing him altogether. He didn't have the energy to suppress those thoughts right now. He just wanted to fall asleep right there. He could, potentially. Shadows didn't come this far up, and it wasn't like the Phantom Thieves would be coming in anytime soon. He could just lay down on the hard, cold ground and go to sleep in the Metaverse and maybe, hopefully, not wake up again.

But he still had things to do. His plans didn't start or end with Ren Amamiya.

He dragged himself back up on his feet and phased back into the real world, into his apartment. He was hoping Mishima hadn't come over unexpectedly, and he was relieved to find the apartment dark and empty.

He didn't bother flipping on the lights, just kicked his shoes off and went into his bedroom to collapse into bed. He needed to talk to Mishima about what had happened, but he couldn't tell him over a text, and he couldn't handle being around someone else right now. It could wait. The news would break by morning, and that would do half the work for him.

He fell asleep still in his uniform and slept through the night.

He allowed himself to sleep in past his usual 4AM wake time, and when he finally roused himself enough to check his phone, the news had broken. He had texts and a missed call from Shido from the night before too. The texts started as a congratulations, but ended with Shido berating him for not being available every waking moment of the day to answer his phone. God forbid he ever rest.

Nothing from Mishima yet, but he was probably still sleeping a while longer. He decided to make the first move, even if he had to be subtle about it.

Yuuki Mishima

Good morning. Whatever challenges today places in front of you, try to remain calm. If you have the time, I'd like to see you after school. Take care.

He would no doubt have the media hounding him all day for a comment, but he could pass off his isolation as takingwanting time to gather the facts before commenting on the arrest and subsequent suicide of the leader of the Phantom Thieves. He could take a day to rest. He'd go to school and come right home, like a normal student.

His normal student day was interrupted at lunch time, when he got several texts from Mishima.

Yuuki Mishima

Goro
:(
Everything alright?
NO!
You know it's not!
Okay, yes. I do. Can I see you tonight?
Like I have any other choice.
Don't be like that.
I can't handle being at school right now
I'm leaving before lunch ends
Can I go to your place? It's closer
Yes.
Thanks
I'm just gonna sleep on your couch
Sweet dreams, then. See you in a few hours.

When he arrived home, the lights were off, and there was a Mishima-shaped lump on his couch, presumably asleep beneath a blanket. Akechi elected not to wake him, and instead went about his usual coming home routine: taking his coat off and hanging it up, taking his briefcase to his room and setting it on his desk, checking his phone for any important notifications he may have missed during school.

He sat on his bed and looked through the messages he had asking him to make TV appearances and to do interviews. He chose to ignore all of them for now. There would be time for that.

Mishima wandered into the room, still wrapped in the blanket, and just stood in front of Akechi. His expression was unreadable. Somewhere between anger and fear.

“Sleep well?” Akechi kept his voice quiet. He had no idea how this confrontation might go and he wanted to tread with caution until he could parse it.

Mishima didn't respond, just sat on the bed next to him and leaned his head on his shoulder. They sat quietly, neither of them saying anything or moving, for a long time.

Mishima broke the silence. “It wasn't a suicide, was it…? I don't know how, but it… it had to have been you.”

“It was not a suicide, no.”

“We didn't talk about this. You didn't tell me about this!” Mishima sat up, anger winning out in his expression and tone over the fear now.

“And what exactly would you have done if I had? Tried to talk me out of it?” Akechi was trying and failing to keep his voice level, but the rage was seeping in. “What happened to no repentance for the people who make your life a living hell? You asked me where I was when Kamoshida—”

Stop! Don't—” Mishima looked more furious than Akechi had ever seen him now. “I know. I know, I know, I— Was this about me? You killed him because I said that? Because of some shit I said when I was freaking out?

“Don't flatter yourself. This has little to do with you.” He successfully pulled all of the emotion out of his voice and was left sounding hollow.

“It should! You agreed to help me! Not— not this. Not this— Goro, what did you fucking do?” He was crying now and clenching his jaw, blanket held tight around his shoulders.

“I shot and killed the guard in his interrogation room, and then I shot Ren Amamiya in the head.” His own voice sounded far away, like it belonged to someone else. Everything was starting to feel oddly detached. All the anger and fear he had been feeling had mysteriously vanished and left him an empty shell. “I killed him.”

Next to him, he could barely hear Mishima sob hard, a noise of anguish, followed by a whine of his name. He couldn't really respond. He couldn't get the thoughts together. He just stared at the floor.

He was jolted out of his trance by Mishima leaning on him again, quietly sniffling and gasping. Without much thought, he put an arm around him and held his waist.

“You just… are you in danger? You didn't… you didn't use the Metaverse so… What's going to happen?” Mishima's voice was small and broken and he pressed himself in closer to Akechi's side.

That was what he was worried about? Even saddled with the anguish of Ren's death, he was concerned about Akechi's safety. What a strange thing to bother caring about.

He still couldn't find the words to answer. They bubbled up and vanished before he could get them out.

Mishima lifted his head up. “Goro…?” Akechi managed to turn his head to look at him, but it felt like moving through water. “Hey, you're scaring me… You look really… D'you wanna lay down?” Mishima seemed so concerned. Akechi couldn't fathom it.

But he managed to nod, and Mishima situated them both so they were pressed close together on the small bed, the blanket he had brought in spread over both of them. He brushed Akechi's hair back and touched his jaw, running his fingers along the edge there. It grounded him enough that he managed to sigh and shut his eyes. Enough feeling returned for him to notice his body going less rigid.

“I know you probably have your reasons. I know you probably won't explain… But I wish you would have told me, I… could've been more prepared. I could've known it was coming and adjusted to the idea of him being gone, instead of just…” His hand stilled on Akechi's cheek. Akechi opened his eyes. “I cared about him…”

Akechi managed to frown.

“I know… He was bad to me, he treated me like shit, he used me, but I… For a while, he was really important to me. He still saved my life.” Mishima blinked and some tears fell onto the pillow. “Just… give me some time to mourn, okay? And then I'll get over it and just… be angry again. I know you like me better like that, right?” His voice was breaking and he was starting to cry harder again. “Can you please say something? You're being so quiet… It's scaring me.”

“Sorry.” The word came out barely audible and not at all sounding like himself. He blinked a few times and tried harder to focus. His brain nagged at him that he needed to comfort Mishima, and that was enough to force him to get himself together at least a little.

“What's going on…? What are you thinking? This whole time you've looked so far away. Just be here with me, please. I… I need you right now, okay? I know that's stupid, I know we're not— I just need to not be alone.” Mishima rubbed at his eyes and tried to dry his cheeks with his sleeves.

“I am here, at least somewhat. As here as I can be.” His voice started to sound more normal to his ears, though his words came out slowly. “I apologize for snapping at you. I lost my composure.”

“Why do you still do this shit with me?” Mishima sounded angry and it caught Akechi off guard. “You're still doing this stupid fake shit. Stop.” Mishima's hand came up close to his cheek and he flinched hard, eyes squeezing shut with a gasp. He braced himself for an impact.

His mind conjured up a memory of Shido smacking him across the face hard on numerous occasions, yelling at him to stop whatever it was he had done that had been the breaking point that day. Being too full of himself, making stupid teenage boy mistakes, expecting praise for fulfilling his expectations, making a joke when he should have known he shouldn't have. His breathing came out in a shaky wheeze.

“Goro… Hey…” Mishima touched his cheek gently and Akechi wrenched his hand away, eyes still shut tightly. “I'm sorry. I shouldn't get mad at you right now. Obviously you're not doing super well either…”

“It won't happen again.” The words came out without him meaning to, in response to the Shido in his head. He barely opened his eyes.

“What…?” Mishima had stopped crying at least, but now all of his attention was on Akechi going to pieces. “What won't?”

“I… I'm sorry, I… got lost in thought, I think, and…” He realized he was holding tightly onto Mishima's wrist, so he let it go.

“Did you think I was going to hit you?” Mishima sounded terrified by the idea. Akechi didn't answer. “I'm not going to— I wouldn't hit you… I was just going to touch your cheek… You usually like that. I'm so sorry.”

The thoughts of Shido started to fade out as he focused on Mishima's voice. He found comfort in the familiarity and it tethered him back to reality. He lifted his gaze to look at his face, their eyes meeting. Mishima barely smiled.

“I'm having a bad day,” Akechi mumbled. “I shouldn't be. I should be proud of myself. We should be celebrating. The Phantom Thieves are done for. But I… don't feel anything.” His eyes stayed on Mishima's. He felt like his own were too wide open, too crazed, but he didn't want to shut them and lose sight of the only thing grounding him.

“I feel too much. Maybe if we put our feelings together we can both have a normal amount.” Mishima sort of laughed, but it sounded forced. “Can you at least tell me you're safe?” He raised his hand as if to touch Akechi's cheek again, then seemed to think better of it and put it on his waist instead.

“I am.” Akechi let his own arm go over Mishima's side similarly. “Everything's taken care of. The news has reported it as a suicide. I am in no danger, and neither are you.”

“Okay. That's… at least there's that. We can just fall apart together safely, then.”

Akechi kept his eyes on Mishima's face, taking in all the little details as something to focus on. He was realizing just how much Mishima's presence had become a staple in his day to day life, to the point that he now found his face and voice calming. Mishima's voice had pulled him back to Earth. His touch had soothed him. It was all so unusual. He would have laughed if he had the energy.

He had never spent this much time this physically close to another person before, and now he was finding himself touching and being touched almost daily. At this point, it was a comfort most of the time. He hadn't noticed himself giving up on fighting the instinct to seek out touch. But he had. And now he was laying in bed with his arm on another person's waist, faces inches apart, gazing at each other, sharing their feelings so openly.

He felt a wave of nausea and shut his eyes. Mishima gently rubbed his side, being careful of the spots he knew were painful. His body reacted predictably, by wanting more touch. His brain tried in vain to argue that it was counterproductive, self-sabotaging, but his body won out. He opened his eyes and leaned in and kissed Mishima.

Mishima turned his head away and gently nudged him off. “Not right now. Please.”

Akechi stammered an apology and tried to remove his hand from Mishima's waist, but Mishima grabbed his hand and held it on his side. He was getting signals that were too mixed for his exhausted, vulnerable brain to wrap around in its compromised state and that was making him upset. His face must have shown it.

“Hey, it's okay, I just… I'm too upset right now. I think you are too.” Mishima moved in closer and put his arms around Akechi's neck, resting his chin on top of his head. “Can we just rest…?”

Akechi tucked his face into the crook of Mishima's neck and nodded. Mishima's hand moved up to stroke his hair.

“I'll have to start doing media appearances soon… They've been hounding me all day, but I thought I should talk to you first. Don't be alarmed by whatever statements I make. Fake shit, as you put it.” He shut his eyes and pressed his face in closer to Mishima's skin, absorbing his warmth. He'd take what he could get right now.

“What are you going to say?” Mishima sounded tired now, having cried himself out.

“Nothing new, really. I haven't completely sorted it out yet. I've been… preoccupied. But, mainly that it's a pity that he took a coward's way out as soon as he became cornered.” He felt Mishima stiffen against him and his hand stilled. “Perhaps it would be best if you avoided the news for a while.”

He briefly wondered why he was trying to protect Mishima's feelings. It shouldn't matter. He didn't really even need him anymore. The Phantom Thieves were done with, and he had no use for the Phansite or its admin. But the thought of letting Mishima go was… unpleasant. Instinctively, his arms tightened around him.

“Yeah… okay.” Akechi felt Mishima's face press into his hair. “Goro?” He was muffled.

Akechi hummed.

“You don't need me anymore. If— if the Phantom Thieves are over, and… the Phansite is useless, are you… Are you going to come after me now?” His voice shook, clearly panicking at the idea, but he held onto Akechi even tighter.

Akechi didn't respond. He didn't really know what to say. Logically, yes, he should clean up any loose ends and that included taking out his accomplice. Emotionally — and he hated this part — he didn't think he could. He could hear Mishima's shaky breathing too well, feel his warmth under his hands. Shooting and killing a person he had been personally acquainted with had been excruciating and the thought of doing it again, to someone he wasn't at odds with, to someone he found comfort in, made him feel sick. Since when had he become so soft?

His silence was the wrong move and he could hear that Mishima was crying again, quietly.

Akechi barely lifted his head up away from his neck. “Yuuki.”

Mishima's breath caught and he pressed his face against Akechi's hair harder, clinging to his back.

Akechi spoke again, softer this time. “Do you want me to? You said many times that you didn't value your life. If you want a way out—”

Mishima took a few deep breaths. “No, I— I mean, I don't care if— Goro, I don't want you to go on suffering alone. You're so alone all the time, you don't talk to anybody, you just… I want to be here for you. I think I'm helping. You smile more and you joke with me and you… you used to not care when I touched you, but now you like it, at least most of the time, and I don't want to think about you alone and in pain… So, please just stay with me…”

Akechi was caught completely off-guard by all of that, and just stayed still and quiet, trying to process anything he had just heard. The two responses he had prepared for in his head were Mishima admitting to wanting to die, or Mishima begging for his life. Not this. This made things so much harder.

He was pulled away from his dilemma by his phone ringing. He pulled himself out of Mishima’s arms and glanced at it.

Shido.

He stood from the bed, excused himself, and went into the living room to take the call, shutting the bedroom door behind him.

Shido was in a good mood, at least. He gave Akechi something that might have possibly passed as praise and gave him orders to clean up after himself, including making preparations to get the remaining Phantom Thieves out of their way. Akechi wasn’t thrilled to hear that. He was hoping Shido wouldn’t concern himself with the Phansite admin or even bring that up, and so far he hadn’t. But even taking out Amamiya’s friends was too much for him to think about right now. They most likely wouldn’t be found in Mementos, which meant shooting more real people, and he was quickly learning that he couldn’t stomach this.

He sat on the couch with his head in his hands for a few minutes. Returning to Mishima meant having to talk about his feelings, and if sitting on his couch alone in the dark could buy him a few moments of peace, he would take it. His thoughts wandered for the millionth time to Mishima’s Shadow clinging onto the cognition of him. The way they had looked longingly at each other. The way they were so inextricably tangled in each other. Maybe Mishima had been right about all of that all along, and Akechi had just been slow to catch on.

He was certain he had a Palace himself, and he wondered what it would look like, if it would house his own cognition of Mishima. He was glad he was unable to see it, but he still wished for the clarity it would provide. At this point, his feelings towards Mishima had become so skewed that he didn’t know what he was feeling outside the isolated incidents of comfort, warmth, a desire for touch. Even those most basic emotions had felt so foreign to him until so recently. It was like it had all come at him at once. He knew it had been creeping up on him for some time, but he couldn’t pinpoint when he had let it overtake him so completely.

He realized he wanted a hug.

That desire disgusted him for a moment before his brain also reminded him that he could just get a hug, if he just went back in his bedroom. He wouldn’t even have to verbally ask. He knew that if he just got close enough to Mishima, if he just leaned against him, he would get what he wanted. Was that so bad?

The bedroom door opened and Mishima peeked out to make sure Akechi wasn’t still on the phone, then walked over to the couch. Akechi stood, moved up close to him, and leaned in to put his head on his shoulder. Just like he expected, Mishima brought his arms up and wrapped them around him tightly. Akechi kept his arms at his own sides.

“Bad phone call?” Mishima leaned his head against the side of Akechi’s.

“No. On the better side as far as that sort of thing goes… No screaming, at least. No reminding me that I can be disposed of at the slightest inconvenience.” Akechi pressed his face into Mishima’s neck.

“Oh.” Mishima made a sad noise. “Sorry, did you want some alone time out here…?” He tried to back out of the hug, but Akechi wrapped his arms around him to keep him there. “Oh. I guess not?”

Akechi made a noise against his skin and Mishima maneuvered them together to sit on the couch.

“Can I stay here tonight…?” Mishima spoke quietly and started stroking Akechi’s hair. Akechi nodded. “Are you sure? I understand if you need space…”

“Do I seem like I need space?” Akechi almost sounded annoyed, but he pressed closer to Mishima to make his point.

“No, I… I guess not. Which is somehow even more concerning… I mean, it's okay, but… It's just not like you.”

“And how well do you think you know what I'm like?”

“Better than you think I do. You're not as good at hiding things as you think you are. So, yeah, maybe this is like you, actually. To seek comfort now that you know you can actually have it.” Mishima kissed his head then resumed stroking fingers through his hair. “I think… I'm the same way. You get so used to being alone you just assume you have to do everything on your own, so when someone shows you that you can actually go to them, you… want to cling to them. Like this.”

He was right. Akechi knew he was right. He had always told himself that getting close to people got you hurt, that he didn't need anyone else. He could handle everything himself. But he had also never been given any other choice. And now that he was, would it be so bad to try? Mishima was here and holding onto him and being open and honest. Akechi had seen directly into his psyche. He knew that Mishima needed him. He knew that Mishima thought he needed him too.

Need was a strong word, but he could settle for want right now. He had to start admitting things to himself. He wanted to be held. He wanted to not be alone with his thoughts and his self-destruction right now. He wanted Mishima. And he had him.

He sighed against Mishima's neck and let himself relax there, tension going out of his body. He was so tired of fighting everything. Mishima kissed his head again and clung to him tighter with both arms.

“Goro,” Mishima sounded like he was going to start crying again, if he wasn't already. “I’m glad we have each other.”

Akechi hesitated, but barely nodded, and heard Mishima make a noise that he couldn't pin down to being a sob or a laugh.

He finally pulled himself away and was unsurprised to find Mishima's face covered in tears. Surely, his own hair was a mess from being cried into, and that annoyed him. He felt himself react facially, but then calmed himself into neutrality again. Mishima mumbled an apology and rubbed at his eyes with his sleeves, probably thinking his crying was the reason for Akechi's apparent change in mood.

“Was that bad for me to say?” Mishima's voice shook and he kept his sleeves pressed to his eyes. “I don't wanna push you away or make you mad…”

“No, it's… alright. I'm just. Feeling more now, I think.”

“It’s early, but maybe we should just go to bed… I think we’re both tired from today. And I’m being a mess.” He sniffled and rubbed his eyes again, then lowered his arms and his gaze to his lap.

“I have a few things I have to attend to before I retire for the night, but if you'd like to sleep, you may.” He kept his tone even without letting it truly pitch up into a place he knew would set Mishima off.

Mishima looked like he wanted to say something, but he just kept glancing at Akechi and then back down again.

Akechi frowned. “What?”

“I, um… Can I… sleep with you in your room…? I don't really wanna be alone right now, and I know you said you don't either… it's okay to say no. I can sleep out here, I just…” Mishima looked like he was tensing his whole body up.

“That's fine. I may ask you to leave later though. If it becomes too uncomfortable.”

“Yeah, of course…” Mishima barely smiled and held his arms up to give Akechi a hug, waiting to see if he'd pull away. When he didn't, he hugged his neck for a few moments, then sat back again. “Can I borrow some clothes and stuff…? I know I'm smaller than you, but it beats sleeping in my uniform…”


Akechi gave Mishima a tshirt and some pajama pants with a drawstring he could tighten, and then left back to the living room to finish up some already late homework. It was hard to get himself to focus, but he couldn't put this off anymore, regardless of how upset he was.

It took him twice as long as it should have, but once it was finished, he got ready for bed himself and returned to his bedroom, expecting Mishima to be asleep. Instead, he was awake, covers pulled up to his face and phone illuminating him. He looked up when Akechi entered and scooted back closer to the wall to make room for him.

Akechi hovered next to the bed in hesitation. He was unsure if this was the right move to be making, and he was fighting himself on sharing space during such a vulnerable activity as sleep, but he and Mishima had fallen asleep in the same room more than once now without anything tragic happening.

He gave in and pulled the covers back and slipped in next to him. Mishima put his phone down next to the pillows and focused on Akechi.

“Hey…” He sounded tired, still. “Did you finish your stuff?”

“Enough of it to avoid a failing grade, at least. I am fortunate that I've remained in the good graces of my teachers or else I'd be in much worse trouble than I am…” Akechi turned his head to look at Mishima in the dark.

“You work really hard… They must understand that.” Mishima reached over and pushed some hair out of Akechi's face, tucking it behind his ear.

“I suppose.”

“Can I… get closer? I know I'm being clingy…”

Akechi took a second, but then nodded silently, and Mishima moved over and put his head on his chest. Akechi put an arm around him and they both fell silent for several minutes.

“Yuuki…” Akechi's voice was devoid of emotion again, hollow and empty. His eyes stayed up on the ceiling and his hand stayed loosely holding Mishima's side.

Mishima lifted his head up from Akechi's chest to look at his face and found that it looked just as empty as he sounded. “Yeah?” He tried to smile for him, just a little.

“I was going to kill you.” Akechi's eyes landed on his face, but his expression didn't change.

“Yeah, I know. The hitman thing. We've been over this—”

“No.” Akechi looked away again. “On the day I broke your phone. I was on my way to kill you.”

“Oh.” Mishima lowered his head back down onto Akechi's chest and took a deep breath, then laughed sadly. “You… probably should have, actually.”

“I was going to kill your Shadow in Mementos. I overheard a conversation Amamiya had with it and I was going to ruin the Phansite and take you out, and I… For some reason, I got soft.” Akechi paused and looked at Mishima, then away again. “You kept showing concern for me. Wanting me to be genuine with you. You felt the same ways I did about the people who have hurt you. I didn't feel alone for the first time, and it scared me.”

Mishima sat up suddenly and looked at Akechi with wide, concerned eyes. “Goro.” He put his hand to his cheek and forced him to look at him. “Do you feel strangely remorseful, or— Do you feel like—” He bit his lip, obviously distraught.

“I’m not having a change of heart, no.” Akechi nudged Mishima’s hand off of his face and frowned to the side. “At least not that kind.”

“Why are you telling me this then? Why are you just… confessing to all of this now?” Mishima wasn’t comforted by Akechi’s claims and he grabbed his face again to force him to keep looking at him.

Akechi swatted his hand away and scowled. “Stop touching me.

That got him to smile. “There’s my Goro.” He kept his hands to himself for now, arms folded under his chest propping himself up on his elbows.

“Yours?” Akechi made an annoyed noise and turned his head the other way. “I’m not your anything. I’m beginning to regret saying anything about this.”

“Aw, c'mon… At least I know you're okay. Or you wouldn't be this touchy. That's all I meant.” Mishima settled himself down, chin resting on his crossed arms. “You can talk to me.”

Akechi sat quietly, head still turned the other way, then sighed. “You asked me if I was going to get rid of you now, and... I may have become… attached. To you. Somewhat.”

Mishima fought his very strong urge to laugh or make a big show out of how sterile Akechi was making his own feelings seem, but he just stayed quiet, smiling. He leaned over and pressed his face to Akechi's shoulder, hiding his grin, and felt Akechi's hand come up by his head. He thought he was going to get pushed off, but Akechi just settled his hand into his hair and held him there loosely.

“I may be attached to you too.” Mishima was muffled, but sounded happy.

“Even though I made an attempt on your life. I need you to understand that.” He experimentally ran his fingers through Mishima's short hair.

Mishima made a quiet, pleased noise. “I think we've both… changed since then. I feel like I have, at least. So you probably have too. Maybe we changed each other's hearts.”

Akechi laughed to himself and turned his head to look at Mishima. “How terribly cliche of us, then.”

He put a hand to Mishima's cheek and gently pulled him into a soft kiss. Mishima scooted himself closer to keep kissing him and settled his hand down on his chest. When Akechi turned his head away, Mishima settled his head down with his chin on top of Akechi's.

“Is it so strange for me to speak openly about my actions that you would immediately assume the worst?” The emotion had gone out of Akechi's voice again and he was staring at the wall, focused intensely on nothing.

“In this situation? Out of nowhere? Yeah.” Mishima shut his eyes and shifted a little so his cheek was against Akechi's hair instead. “But you're being a little bit of an asshole about it, so I think you're alright.”

Akechi made a barely audible noise of disgust. “I am agitated. At myself. Please forgive my mood.”

“Why? For having feelings?”

“In so little words, yes.”

Mishima made a sad little oh and kissed Akechi's head. His hand found one of Akechi's and he held it on his chest. “You're just a person, Goro… You're not some cold machine. You can feel things. I'm not gonna hold it against you, and if it bothers you for me to tease you about it, I won't do it. I'm glad you're being so open… I get worried one day you're just gonna explode from shoving everything down inside you so much. You bottle.”

Akechi made no answer, but after a pause, Mishima felt his thumb barely move over his own hand in a slow arc.

“Can I ask you something though?”

Akechi hummed, neither a yes or a no. Mishima took it as a yes anyway.

“Why did you… You said you were going to kill my Shadow to ruin the Phansite. Even if you decided not to, why keep me around? You were so insistent in the beginning about meeting up and stuff… It always seemed really suspicious.”

“If it seemed suspicious, you should've turned me down and turned the Phantom Thieves on me.”

“Answer the question.” Mishima squeezed his hand.

Akechi was silent, then struggled out of Mishima's grip entirely to roll onto his side, face hidden in the pillow. Mishima went to put a hand on his side and got nudged off, so he kept his hands to himself.

“Because when I saw your Shadow in Mementos for the first time, yelling about how you wanted to be noticed and acknowledged instead of being a tool for someone else, being thrown aside when you weren't useful, wanting someone to see you, I felt like I was looking in a mirror. And it occurred to me that perhaps you could be utilized alive if I could harness that anger I knew all too well.”

Mishima didn't know how to react. He just settled himself down against the pillow, as much space between himself and Akechi as he could manage, and waited.

Akechi continued. “I hadn't accounted for my own emotional attachment coming into play, and I was quickly overcome by it. A failure to prepare did me in, and now I find myself in a position of… vulnerability. And I don’t like it. You have seen entirely too much of myself, and if backed into a corner, I... ”

Some emotion was creeping back into his voice, and now he sounded genuinely terrified. Mishima heard him sigh quietly and could see his posture tense.

“Goro…” He kept his voice small, unobtrusive. “Can I touch you…?” He wanted to provide some form of comfort however he could.

“Don’t. Please.” Akechi choked out the words.

Mishima hummed sadly and did as he was asked, giving him space and time to calm down. After a few minutes, he spoke again.

“Inability to pursue a target has not been an option thus far for me. There would always be… repercussions. Fatally. You have criticized me for what you called my carelessness in sustaining injuries, but the fact of the matter has always been that putting my life on the line was of little concern if coming back without accomplishing my goal meant that I would find myself disposed of regardless. A few broken ribs pales in comparison to the threat of… something much more final.”

He barely laughed to himself, a sad sound.

“I took aim at your Shadow’s head, had my finger on the trigger, and couldn’t go through with it. Had you been a target assigned to me rather than a personal pursuit, I would not be here right now. And ever since then, the thought of you… harmed, hurt… dead, has disturbed me deeply. It’s not something I’ve concerned myself with before as a glorified hitman taking lives for a living, but… You... “ Mishima heard him take a shaky breath. “I couldn’t. I can’t. You made light of my use of the word attached, but I feel as if there is some force keeping us tied to each other, forcing myself to open up and latch on, and I… This isn’t a situation that I know how to deal with.”

He fell silent again. Mishima waited for him to continue, but he never did.

“Goro, you’re worrying me a lot…” He still kept his voice down and soft, not wanting to agitate him or prod him into a worse breakdown. To his surprise, Akechi blindly reached a hand back and motioned for him to move closer, so he scooted up against his back and put an arm around him. Akechi held his hand. “I know you said it’s not a change of heart, but how can you know? I don’t wanna lose you either. I know that’s what you’re trying to say.”

“This has been something that’s been on my mind for some time, I assure you. I am corrupted as ever. My desire for vengeance against… him could still swallow me whole if I chose to allow it. My apparent soft spot for you has had no impact on that. I’d still kill him with my own two hands right this moment if I could get away with it in a way that would be satisfactory.” His hand tensed.

“Who are you talking about when you say stuff like that…?” Mishima pressed his face into the space between the back of his neck and his shoulder.

Akechi took a long pause, as if considering his options, then just sighed and laughed. “Shit, what does it matter anymore? My father. Masayoshi Shido.” He spat the words out like they were toxic.

“Oh.” Mishima squeezed his hand with a sharp inhale, processing. “God, I didn’t realize he was— When you said you were in the foster system, I assumed he wasn’t in the picture.”

“He is, very.” Akechi pulled Mishima's arm around him tighter. “Hopefully, not for much longer.”

“You're going after him…?” Mishima muffled his voice against the back of Akechi's neck and felt him shiver. “Sorry.”

“Not in the way you're thinking. I want vengeance, not meaningless death. He needs to suffer before he's allowed to vanish.” Akechi's voice dipped low and breathless, grip tightening on Mishima's hand in his own. “He doesn't deserve the mercy of a swift death that can be explained away by heart failure or a simple accident. I want him to understand why his life has come to an end.”

He was surprised by Mishima laughing into his shoulder. “Let's get him. I'll help.”

Akechi paused, taken aback by that. “I… There isn’t much you can do, if anything. But… the offer is appreciated all the same. Your willingness to go to extremes for the sake of retribution always manages to surprise me. You don’t even know the entire situation, and yet…”

“I know what it’s like to have shitty parents. I know that when you get to the point where you feel that way about someone, it’s because they really, really hurt you. No one gets that way for fun.”

Akechi fell silent and Mishima just pressed his face into the back of his shoulder and held onto him, thumb tracing back and forth on his hand. He realized he was crying and he jerked his hand away abruptly to rub at his eyes, disgusted with himself. Mishima sat up a little at the sudden movement and made a concerned noise. Akechi hid his face in his own arms. He could feel his face burning hot from shame. He didn't want Mishima, or anyone else, to see him like this.

Mishima stayed quiet and waited for him to calm down, but he couldn't keep the tears from continuing to fall anyway, and being frustrated with himself was only making it worse. To have someone else acknowledge that what Shido had done had hurt him was something he had never anticipated. To have someone understand, even with minimal information, what sort of goals he had in mind in response and to not only support them, but to offer to help was…

Mishima was too much.

He let out an embarrassingly weak sob and heard Mishima mumble his name in concern.He didn’t push away the hand placed on his side, so Mishima hugged him from behind and pressed his face to his shoulder again and held him while he continued crying quietly.

The spell felt like it lasted forever, but it was most likely only a few minutes. He felt Mishima press a kiss to his shoulder and squeeze him gently.

"Let's go to sleep, okay…?" Mishima's voice was oddly soothing as always, and Akechi shut his eyes. He nodded.

He was exhausted. And tomorrow he would have to wake up before the sun, just like always. He'd have to begin arranging for interviews and to make plans with Shido to finish up any loose ends in the Metaverse. There would be no rest.

He resigned himself to getting whatever amount of sleep he could. He felt Mishima relax against him.

"I, um…" Mishima was barely audible, volume low and voice partially muffled. "I… I love you, Goro…"

Chapter Text

The next day, Mishima went straight to school from Akechi's apartment and considered going straight back after, but he thought he should probably give Akechi some space after their mutual breakdowns. Akechi had told him he would be busy for a while.

And that meant Mishima would be alone.

Takamaki didn't look as gloomy as he expected her to. She was quiet without Ren around to joke with her, but she just seemed focused, not as frantically distraught as she maybe should have been. But Mishima had kept his freakout private too. He had no idea how she might be coping at home.

He tried to give her a reassuring smile during lunch, but she didn't return it, so he turned back to his phone at his desk.

Goro

How are you holding up?

He didn't get a response from Akechi either, so he just put his head down on his desk for the rest of the break.

After school, he took a train across town to the park and sat by the water, not doing much of anything. He let his thoughts turn off and zoned out. When he came back to his senses, the sun was setting. He took his phone out and checked for an answer from Akechi, but found nothing but a mountain of Phansite notifications. He dismissed them and decided to keep ghosting the site. There was nothing to say that hadn't already been said on the news.

He got on the train and went back home to his dark house. His mom was home, but she was already locked away in her bedroom. Mishima grabbed an attempt at dinner from the fridge and did the same. He sat on his bed and checked his phone again. Still nothing. He knew he shouldn't be so hung up on this, but he was lonely. Every time Akechi disappeared, he was reminded of how completely isolated he was.

He decided to send another text. Akechi already thought he was clingy. This wouldn't hurt.

Goro

I know you're super busy but please try to take care of yourself. I know shit's really bad and I just want you to know you don't have to deal with it alone.

He finished up his dinner and watched videos on his phone until he fell asleep.


The next few days were the same. Wake up, go to school, sit numbly through Kawakami's lectures, sit alone during lunch, sit through the rest of the day equally bored.

He went straight home after school and stared at the wall until it went dark in his room. He was drifting in and out of sleep when his phone buzzed.

Goro

Good evening. Please take care of yourself as well. I know this is short notice, but could I take you out tomorrow?
On a dare or like an assassination?
Well, either can be arranged.
Hmm
I'll have to think about it
Think all you'd like, but I do need to know by tomorrow afternoon if I should block off some time. I'm quite busy, as you know.
Yeah yeah
Of course I'll go out with you!!!!
Is this like a date date?
I didn't say that.
You said you could arrange a date OR an assassination
So which one is it?
Who's to say?
GORO!!!
:p
;__;
No need for tears. It will be nice to not have to worry about being seen together. I have somewhere nice I'd like to take you, if you don't have a preference.
How nice? Should I dress up or something
No formal attire necessary, though you should probably change out of your uniform at least. "Nice" as in enjoyable. For both of us, I hope.
Oh yeah ok
Are you doing ok? I'm worried
Fine. Just busy. I have a TV appearance in the morning before school, and I have to go meet with my boss after school briefly about some other business. I'm not sure how long he will keep me, but I should be free in the evening between that and homework to be able to see you.
You know if you're that busy we can wait :(
I'm not sure when this will settle down.
Or you're just desperate to see me :p
It would be wise to stop putting words in my mouth, Mishima-kun.
Awwww Goro do you miss meeee?
I'm afraid I cannot comment on the matter at this time.
You're so cute...
I miss you too
I must be going now. I'll message you tomorrow when I finish up at work. Goodnight, Yuuki.
Goodnight Goro ;__;

He pressed his face to his pillow, grinning and squeezing his eyes shut. His chest was full of butterflies and his face felt too hot, but he was so happy. Just to see Akechi use his given name and to be even halfway open about his emotions was driving him insane in the best way. Every bad thing that had happened this week was worth it.

Well, maybe not Ren's death.

It hit him hard all over again, and his happiness drained out completely, leaving him hollow. He stared at his phone's dark screen, then plugged it in and decided to just sleep. He'd be seeing Akechi tomorrow. It would make him feel better. He could only hope, anyway.

He sat through school like normal, feeling somewhat anxious about his date with Akechi. He had never been on a date before. He supposed he could call the time they had gone for crepes together a date, but neither of them had meant it in that way. This was the first time he had intentionally done something like this and he was worried about messing it up.

He had spent more time alone with Akechi than he had with anyone else in his recent memory. They knew each other well, and they had become close enough that Akechi had let most, if not all, of his walls down for him, but he still had a nagging feeling of dread and worry tugging at his chest all through the day.

He went home,changed clothes, and kept an eye on his phone for any messages from Akechi. He was considering taking a nap, wondering why he was so tired lately, when his phone finally buzzed.

Goro

Sorry for the delay. Work took a bit longer than expected, but I will be free now for a few hours if you'd still like to see each other. Are you hungry?
Hey
I haven't had much of an appetite lately but I probably should be
Well, you don't have to eat if you don't want to. I can still buy you a coffee if that's what you'd prefer.
Where are we going?
A little gem of a patisserie I discovered a few years ago.
I don't even know what that word means
Can I assume it has something to do with sugar?
Well, yes.
I think I've seen you eat normal food like twice
Well, they do say stress can cause a craving for sweets.
Aw don't make it sad :(
Can I meet you somewhere?
I'll come to you. To the station near your home, anyway. We'll be going back out that way, so there's no sense in you traveling to me.
Ok! I'll head that way soon
I should arrive in about twenty minutes provided the trains are all running on time. See you soon.

Mishima got to the station early and leaned against the wall in a corner to wait, eyes on his phone. He finally made the decision to mute Phansite notifications. There had been a constant barrage since the news had broken, and it didn't seem to be slowing down. It was draining his phone battery and making him depressed to look at. It just made him think about Ren, and he—

"Hello—"

Akechi's voice and sudden appearance startled him and he nearly dropped his phone, juggling it between hands before it slipped out of his grasp entirely. Akechi lunged and grabbed it for him.

"I'm not buying you another one." Akechi held it out to him, smiling.

"Yeah, I… yeah. Thanks. You just scared me." Mishima laughed quietly and took his phone back. "Hi."

"Hi," Akechi returned his laugh. "Shall we be off?" He motioned to the platforms.

They walked together to wait for their train and Mishima had to fight the urge to lean into Akechi, fully displaying his affection for the public. He settled for gently resting their hands against each other's at their sides. Not holding, just minor skin on skin.

"Nothing more than this, please." Akechi mumbled to him without looking at him.

"I know. Your image and shit. At least I can press up against you on the train." Mishima smirked and bumped his hand against Akechi's.

He heard Akechi breathe out something that might have been a laugh, but it was hard to tell with how loud the station was.

They did end up pressed together on the train, and Mishima looped their fingers together with their hands hidden pressed between them. Akechi made no move to change positions or break the contact. Mishima kept glancing at his face, but he just looked tired and a bit spacey. He thought he could barely make out the beginnings of a bruise on his jaw, even under the makeup he was wearing. He would ask later.

He could hear some girls their age half-whispering to themselves about Akechi and how cute he was and it made his chest swell with pride knowing that Akechi was on a date with him. They would never know just how cute he really was. The way his nose crinkled when he smiled big or the way he laughed at Mishima's stupid jokes or the way he pulled his hair up when he was at home or the way his face lit up when he was presented with sweets he wasn’t expecting. Mishima knew all the little things about Akechi that no fangirl ever would. He felt lucky.

They arrived in a less crowded part of town, away from all the bustle of Shibuya, and Mishima immediately felt more at peace. The streets were quiet and sparsely populated, and the little shops lining them were dimly lit and cozy-looking inside. Mishima looked around, taking everything in.

"How do you find all these places? I don't think I've ever really been out here." He eyed the window of a shop full of little trinkets glinting in the street lights.

"It's… embarrassing, but it's a bit of a hobby. To find new and exciting places to eat and to have these little hidden gems only you know about. Of course, I keep up with the most trendy spots as well, and those are the places I highlight on my blog occasionally, but… there are places I keep to myself." Akechi wasn't looking at him, but he was smiling, and Mishima could see the faintest blush on his cheeks.

Akechi valued these places he went to. They were little gifts he gave himself, little treasures that he could pride himself on finding and keeping. And he was sharing them with Mishima, openly and willingly. Mishima was deeply touched. He felt his own cheeks heat up. He briefly touched their hands together.

"Thanks for bringing me." He didn't want to embarrass Akechi or prod at him by making it a big deal. He just wanted him to know he understood.

Akechi returned the touch, then pulled his hand away. "I hope you'll enjoy it. I'm acquainted with the staff, so they may try to pry into our affairs a bit, but just let me deal with it if they do. They're not the type to gossip, but they… Have known me for some time. So they feel some form of obligation to speak to me about my personal life."

"So you don't want me to tell them how much I like you?" Mishima looked up at him and grinned.

Akechi made an annoyed sound and scowled down at the sidewalk.

"I'm just kidding. It's okay. I'm not gonna spill your secrets to a waiter."

Akechi quietly thanked him and they walked the rest of the way to their destination in comfortable silence. Mishima was focused on their surroundings and Akechi was watching him with an amused smile.

They arrived at a small cafe with signs in a language Mishima assumed was French, and Akechi held the door open for him to enter first. The gesture made him blush and smile down at the floor, and he slipped past him and inside. Akechi followed close behind and was quickly greeted by staff. Mishima watched his personality abruptly shift into the one he didn't like, and he looked away.

Akechi led him over to a table in a corner and, after some small talk with the woman seating them, they were left alone to look over the menus. As expected, the bulk of it was desserts and sweet drinks. He resisted the urge to pick on Akechi once again for his sugar intake, and then realized he could barely read the menu. Some of it was in Japanese, but there was enough French thrown in to make it difficult.

He looked up and caught Akechi staring at him before jerking his head back down to look at his own menu, clearly caught off guard.

Mishima laughed. "You look like you got caught doing something bad." He leaned his chin on his hand and tried to catch his gaze.

"Just admiring the view." He was still in Public Mode, but Mishima was too enamored to care. "You looked puzzled."

"I'll let your attempt at flirtation slide if you help me make sense of literally any of this."

"Attempt." He scoffed. "Fine."

Akechi leaned in closer across the table and pointed out different sections on the menu, explaining. He seemed at ease pronouncing all these foreign words, and Mishima zoned out listening to him. He tuned back in when the waitress came back and brought them their coffees.

She hovered next to the table and resumed her talk with Akechi. It was playful banter, full of giggling and lightheartedness. She glanced at Mishima and asked Akechi if he was his boyfriend.

Mishima felt his breath catch.

"Just a friend, I'm afraid. I don't have the time for such things right now. My life is simply too hectic for me to be concerning myself with intimacy of any kind." He gave her his perfect, winning smile and she giggled and walked away. Mishima felt sick.

He tried to ignore the memories of Ren forcing themselves up and out. All the times Ren was embarrassed to be seen with him in public. The times he denied knowing Mishima as anything closer than a classmate. Mishima wasn't someone people wanted to be seen with. And he couldn't blame anyone for it. He clenched his shaking hands under the table. He didn't notice Akechi watching him again, this time out of concern.

"Yuuki…?" Akechi leaned closer to him again over the small table, and the sound of his given name spoken by Akechi's voice snapped him back to reality. Ren had never called him that, not once.

"Y-yeah. Sorry." He forced himself to smile. "What's up?"

"You just looked quite upset. Is something wrong?"

"Oh. No. I'm fine. I've just been spacey recently. Um… Can you order for me? I don't really know what I want." He picked up his coffee and sipped it. It was sweeter than he anticipated, but it was good.

"Yes, of course." Akechi gave him a real smile and he felt his heart settle down.

Akechi ordered for both of them, and they talked quietly while they waited. Akechi told him stories about the times he had been there before, about how he used to spend much of his time exploring the city alone by bike before he got so busy. He told him it was nice to be able to go out again, and with a companion this time.

Their food arrived, and they had to lean away from each other to make room.

Akechi was given a very fluffy-looking pancake topped with a drizzle of chocolate and caramel syrup, slices of strawberries, and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Mishima wasn't sure what to expect, but he was pleasantly surprised by what was set down in front of him. Akechi had ordered him two small croissants, one topped with sliced almonds and powdered sugar, and the other with a drop of whipped cream and a single strawberry.

"They aren't too sweet or heavy, so I hope it's to your liking." Akechi prodded at his own food, face lit up like it always did when he had pastries set down in front of him. His eyes went just a little wide and his smile was sort of crooked.

Mishima couldn't keep his thoughts to himself. "You look so cute right now." He kept his voice quiet so they wouldn't be overheard.

Akechi's expression immediately shifted into flustered annoyance and Mishima laughed.

"It's okay, calm down. Eat your food." Mishima dug into his own and found that the almond croissant was filled with a light cream. It just kept getting better.

They fell quiet as they both ate, and Mishima kept taking little looks at Akechi, basking in how lucky he was to be able to be there with him. Akechi laughed when he caught him staring.

"You're much less shameful about your gawking, aren't you? At least I had the decency to look away when I was caught."

"I'm not gawking. I just like looking at you." Mishima reached over and snatched a piece of strawberry off Akechi's plate, earning him an annoyed squawk. "You're eating fruit again! I'm so proud of you."

"I think you'll find my diet to be quite balanced." Akechi reached over and stole the last piece of croissant off Mishima's plate as revenge.

"Okay, I've seen you eat like a thousand ridiculous crepes, pancakes, some rice and vegetables which I will give you credit for, a bowl of ramen I bought you, and now whatever this is."

Akechi pretended to be offended. "You do not watch me eat all of my meals, Mishima-kun."

"I don't get to be Yuuki anymore?" He feigned offense as well.

"You've been demoted for criticism of my dietary habits. You'll have to earn your privilege back." Akechi couldn't stop smiling as he spoke, and Mishima caught his eyes and returned it.

He almost blurted out that he loved him, but he kept it to himself and looked back down to smile at his plate. "You'll always be Goro to me."

That got him to barely laugh.

They paid and Akechi talked with the waitress and another employee for a bit near the door while Mishima felt awkward and out of place, hovering and unwanted. He heard Akechi insist that they really were just friends again and he turned and ducked out of the restaurant to wait outside. He tried to keep his breathing steady until Akechi came out with him.

"Everything alright? You left so abruptly." Akechi stood closer to him than necessary and Mishima wanted to lean his head on his shoulder and be comforted, but he backed off to put more distance between them instead.

"Yeah, I just needed some air. Got anxious." He shrugged. "It's fine."

"If you insist." Akechi didn't look convinced, but he started walking away and Mishima followed.

Their trip back to the station was quiet, with Mishima's thoughts loudly barraging him with every self-defeating accusation they could manage. Akechi was embarrassed by him. Akechi didn't really like him. Akechi was going to throw him aside just like everyone else. Akechi took him all the way out here so no one close to him would see them together. Akechi was just lonely, he didn't like him.

He was shivering from a combination of the cool evening air and his own discomfort. He had been spacing out, staring at the ground of the platform, but he felt something warm and heavy placed around his shoulders. He put his hand up to touch, and realized Akechi had put his coat around him.

"Th-thanks…" He was upset enough to accept the gesture and pulled it tighter around his shoulders.

"Don't run off with it this time." Akechi looked neutral, but his voice was friendly enough to be slightly comforting. "Would you like to come back home with me? I have homework to do, but it will be nice to have company."

Mishima nodded.

The train was less crowded now, and there was no way to disguise some sort of physical contact, so they just stood close together, quiet.

When they got to the apartment, Mishima shrugged off Akechi's coat and hung it up for him, then just stood in the entryway, not knowing what to do. He felt so unwanted, even after being invited back here unprompted. He couldn't look at Akechi at all.

Akechi went farther in and turned on the lights. He disappeared into his room for a moment and came back with some papers and books and set them down on the table. Mishima stayed where he was.

Akechi realized he hadn't followed him and looked over. "Yuuki?"

Mishima forced himself to try and smile. "Did I… I earned my privilege back?"

"Have you become a vampire since your last visit? Do you require an invitation to make an entrance?" Akechi gestured to the couch and Mishima finally moved over and sat down, knees close together and hands in his lap.

Akechi settled down and began working, attention off of Mishima. It was a bit of a relief to not be looked at and he managed to relax a little, settling back properly and getting comfortable, knees pulled up loosely and feet tucked under himself. He busied himself with looking at his phone.

After some time, Akechi sighed, put his head down on the table, very gently banged his forehead there a few times, and then whined.

"You okay there?" Mishima almost laughed, but he held it in.

"Yes. Lovely. Thank you." Akechi was muffled but still managed to sound sarcastic.

"Wanna come sit?"

Akechi grumbled, but gave in and moved up onto the couch instead, bringing the book and a few papers with him. He sat at the other end of the couch and crossed his legs, book resting on his thighs, and tried to focus again.

"Can I, um… Can I sit closer? Or do you want some space while you work?" Mishima was desperate for comfort, but more than that, he didn't think he could take rejection at the moment.

Akechi nodded without looking up and patted the spot next to him. Mishima moved over so their thighs were touching and leaned his head on his shoulder. Akechi's free arm went around his waist. He looked on at what Akechi was writing, but shut his eyes when he realized he was peeping.

They sat silently until Akechi finished one assignment and then set his work aside, sighing and leaning his head back against the back of the couch with his eyes shut. Mishima lifted his head up to look at him.

"I suppose I could do this tomorrow instead of sleeping in. It's a bit hard to focus." Akechi sounded tired.

"Oh. Should I go home? I can go." He started to move away, but Akechi pulled him in close again.

"Stay, please." Akechi sounded a little sad, and his expression matched. Mishima settled back down and snuggled up to him closer than before, eyes on his face.

"Did you have a nice time?" Akechi shut his eyes again.

"Oh. Yeah. It was nice. This was the first time I've ever been on a date, so… Yeah, it was good. Thanks for taking me." Mishima put his head back down on his shoulder and Akechi rubbed his side. He was being so openly affectionate that it was almost suspicious.

They both got quiet again.

Mishima barely spoke up. "Do you like me?"

"We've had this conversation."

"Do you?"

"Mishima…" Akechi was annoyed now and not trying very hard to hide it.

Mishima pulled himself out of his grasp and moved away so they weren't touching. "Okay, so you don't."

"Mishima." Akechi opened his eyes and stared him down, frowning.

"You're just like him." Mishima couldn't keep his voice from shaking. "You don't like me, you just want to use me. You want me to hold you and be nice to you but you don't care that it's me, you—"

"Yuuki,” Akechi snapped. “I just took you on a date."

"It could've been anyone, it—"

"Well, it wasn't."

That got him to quiet down, and he resigned himself to just trying to be small and invisible, hunching in on himself. He took some shaky breaths and couldn't manage to look up at Akechi. He knew he must be mad. Mishima was annoying and clingy and he was demanding too much.

"I— I’m sorry.” Mishima sniffled and doubled over, arms crossed over his lap. “I’m sorry. I just. Amamiya would— Every time we’d see each other when he was out with someone he’d— he’d just act ashamed of me and deny he even knew me, but every time I got upset with him he’d insist he was my friend so I’d shut up, and you were talking to that waitress, and you said we were just friends, and now you want me to be all close to you, and— I’m sorry. Sorry. I’m stupid.”

“I have to keep my public image—"

“I know. I know. I’m just being stupid and greedy. I’m sorry…” He pressed his face into his arms and stayed hidden. “I just want someone to want me. I just want someone to tell me they like me and mean it and not— Not just throw me away cuz I’m boring and not useful or important enough. I just want you to like me.”

Akechi sat silently for what felt like a long time and the air in the room grew heavy. Mishima couldn’t help himself from sniffling and his breathing felt too loud. He just wanted to disappear completely.

He felt Akechi move over and hesitantly put an arm around him. He tensed, but then leaned into him, face still covered by his sleeves. He whimpered another apology and Akechi held him tighter.

“I… apologize. I don’t exactly know how to deal with this situation. Talking about or even experiencing such emotions has never been a particularly strong suit for me, but… I do… like you. Quite a lot more than I think I’ve ever liked anyone else, in any capacity.” Akechi spoke slowly, like he wasn’t sure he was using the right words. “I just need you to understand that, as things are right now, I can’t draw attention to myself. I can’t take more pressure. If the wrong person finds that there is such a connection between myself and one of the students involved in the breakout case of the Phantom Thieves, I… I can’t risk it. Not right now.”

Mishima nodded and pressed in closer to him. “Tell me you like me again.”

Akechi laughed, incredulous. “Absolutely not.”

“Goro…” Mishima whimpered pathetically and turned his head to press his face into Akechi’s shoulder.

Akechi sighed hard, like this was the worst thing he had ever done. “I like you, Yuuki.”

Mishima giggled, apparently content with that. “I like you too.” He paused, and then his tone had deflated. “I’m sorry. I’m just… It hurt. And I know why you did it, but… Can I… Just to myself, just in my head… Can I call you my… my boyfriend?” He squeaked out the final word and covered his face again.

He could feel Akechi stiffen at the question and he braced himself for the worst. But then he felt him relax again.

“I… Yes, I suppose that’s what this is, isn't it?" He sounded distant. Mishima lifted his head to look at him and found him staring into space. "Strange."

"What's strange?"

"That I would find myself in such a situation. Being… with someone else. I…" He trailed off, eyes unfocused on the wall, expression blank.

"It's okay. You don't have to think about it right now…" Mishima leaned up and kissed his cheek, and it seemed to ground him a bit.

Akechi barely smiled, and Mishima put his arms around him. They held onto each other tightly in silence and Akechi kissed his head, causing him to make a happy sound in response and press his face against him again.

“I’ve said it before, but I believe it bears repeating that you can be quite cute.”

Mishima laughed into him. “So can you, when you’re not being a pompous asshole.”

“I’m trying to be kind to you and you call me a pompous asshole.” Akechi gently shoved Mishima off, but he was smiling.

“You can be a pompous asshole.” Mishima put some space between them, but didn’t scoot away completely. “Mostly when you’re talking to cameras. You’re not usually a pompous asshole to me. Unless you’re doing it on purpose to get on my nerves.”

“I would never do such a thing!” Akechi looked taken aback, eyes wide.

Mishima leaned in and kissed him, mumbling for him to shut up. He put a hand to his jaw, and stroked over the darkening spot he’d noticed earlier there as he pulled back.

“You’re usually careful about your face…”

Akechi turned his head and pushed Mishima’s hand away. “I am.”

“A person or a Shadow?”

Akechi didn’t answer, just glanced at him and then away again, pursing his lips.

"Goro…" Mishima hugged his neck again, but got gently nudged away. "It's okay, I won't push. I just worry about you, that's all."

Akechi put his own hand to the bruise and felt over it, still looking away. "He slugged me for suggesting that it might be suspicious if several students from Shujin were to suddenly drop dead over a short time. Told me my job is to take orders." He smiled sadly. "He wants loose ends cleaned up quickly, but he's not thinking and he won't listen."

"Oh. He's… he wants you to… All of them? At once?" Mishima was caught off guard by the suggestion and he looked a bit scared.

"Not all at once. He wants them staggered, and wants it to look like accidents, but even over the course of a school year, that many students dropping dead is…” He sighed and looked at Mishima. “You’re upset.”

“I mean, I— Yeah? They haven’t really… done anything. It was just Amamiya bossing them around, you said that yourself when you were working together. That they just followed whatever he said. They might not even keep going.”

“He wouldn’t hear it. They pose a threat, so they have to be eliminated. Just like every other target he's ever sicced me on. Like I'm his attack dog." Akechi pressed fingers into the bruise and winced, then lowered his hand to his lap.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to… to kill the mood, or…” He realized the mood hadn’t been great to start with. “D’you wanna watch a movie or something…? If you’re done working on stuff? I'll let you tell me nerdy trivia about it.”

"Oh, thank you for your blessing." Akechi rolled his eyes, then stood from the couch and stretched. "But yes, a movie sounds lovely. That's a date activity, isn't it?" He looked at Mishima for confirmation.

"Oh, I didn't realize we were still…" He laughed and nodded. "Yeah, that's a date thing, I think. Wanna show me one you like? I'll show you one of mine next time."

"Implying there will be a second date." Akechi knelt down in front of the TV and started sorting through the few DVD cases there.

"You gonna dump me after one date? Has it been that bad?"

"Well, let's see." He pulled a case out, looked at it, then put it back. "So far, you've criticized my dietary habits, stolen food off my plate, implied that I do not care for you, and called me a pompous asshole."

Mishima felt his stomach drop and he looked down to his own hands in his lap. He had only been joking, but he couldn't read Akechi's tone, and suddenly he felt like he had ruined the entire night.

"Are you… really upset…?"

Akechi looked over his shoulder at him. "What? No." He turned back to the TV. "Yuuki, I was only teasing. Don't make me repeat myself a third time tonight, please. Your presence has been lovely. If I was having such a horrible time, I would have kicked you out already."

"Oh… Um… okay. Sorry." Mishima fidgeted and pulled his knees up to his chest. He pulled his now-claimed blanket down and wrapped it around himself tightly.

He had become so sensitive to perceived coldness since Akechi had begun showing him warmth, and now any indication that he wasn't wanted was sending him into spirals of despair. With Ren gone, he truly didn't have anyone else to even pretend to want him around, and he needed Akechi to be sincere. Poking fun at each other mutually was one thing, but having his worth questioned even as a joke was becoming too much.

Akechi inserted a disc and came back to the couch, staring for a second at Mishima's posture before sitting. "Have I touched a nerve?"

"No, I'm… okay. Sorry." He gave a weak smile. "You're having a nice time though?"

"This has been extremely rewarding after the week I've had." Akechi sighed and fumbled with the TV remote. He glanced around, got up and turned the light off, then settled back down again.

"Happy to give you a break from the chaos." Mishima stared at Akechi's face in the dark, wanting a sign that he could move closer again and that they were okay. But Akechi was focused on the screen.

In the dim lighting of the TV, he looked ethereally beautiful to Mishima. Another view of him no fangirl would ever see. He sighed and caught Akechi's attention.

"Gawking again," Akechi teased him with a smile, then looked back to the TV, starting the movie.

"You're just… really pretty. I know you hear that a lot, but…"

"Oh, stop. You should see what state my skin is in right now."

"That's not what I mean. You're cute and I like you."

"So you've said."

Mishima looked down and pulled the blanket tighter around his shoulders. "Sorry."

"I'm not upset. Come here if you're going to steal the entire blanket." Akechi motioned him to the spot next to him.

He moved over and maneuvered the blanket so it was covering both of them. He tried to keep a little space between them in case Akechi didn't want him on top of him, but he got pulled in until he was cuddled up to Akechi's side like before. He felt warm. His worries eased up until he just felt content to be held.

The movie was an action movie with a handful of heroes and villains. Akechi would mumble background information and trivia wherever applicable, and if Mishima hadn't been in love with him before, he certainly was now. Seeing Akechi get invested in something so simple was such a treat, and he relished every second of it. He spent just about as much time with his eyes on Akechi's face as he did on the screen.

Towards the end of the movie, Akechi got quieter, and Mishima noticed his eyes looking heavy, which just made him cuter. He woke up enough to watch the final scene of the character Mishima knew now as his favorite, and then he was back to stifling yawns and resting his head against Mishima's.

When the credits started, Mishima nudged him off and got a quiet sound of protest that made him laugh.

"Goro," He nudged him again. "Go to bed."

Another whine.

"You're such a baby when you're sleepy. C'mon." Mishima successfully got him to sit up and he pulled the blanket off of both of them and stood, offering his hand to pull Akechi up too.

Akechi just looked at his hand and then stood on his own instead. "Are you staying? It's a bit late."

"I dunno. Maybe you should ask me to stay." Mishima gathered the blanket off the couch and folded it.

"No." Akechi moved towards the bathroom.

"Goro!"

Akechi just cackled as he shut the door behind him.

Mishima tidied up the couch and then went into Akechi's bedroom to be nosey and wait for him. It was tidy as ever, without anything out of place, like no one really lived there. It was always so sterile.

Risking catching Akechi's wrath, he went to the dresser and pulled out the same clothes he'd borrowed last time and changed into them quickly. He wasn't so bold as to go digging through drawers, but the urge was there. Maybe another time.

But in the process of getting dressed, he did look over to the small collection of figures on the bookshelf, and noticed that it had grown by one since the last time he had checked it over. He felt his heart swell with warmth and sat on the bed, face in his hands, grinning hard. Just as he sat down, Akechi came into the room and eyed him.

He raised an eyebrow and went to his dresser to find clothes for himself. "I see you've made yourself very at home. It's a good thing we aren't the same size. I'm not going to share my wardrobe with you."

"Stop giving me your coat then." Mishima flopped back on the bed and stared at the ceiling.

"Stop making poor clothing choices based on the weather forecast and putting me into a position where I feel obligated to keep you warm." Akechi took his clothes and walked out of the room to go change.

"Aw, you do care," Mishima called after him. He heard him make some sort of noise in response and it made him smile.

Akechi came back looking comfy and checked over some papers at his desk. "Bathroom is yours. I was going to offer you the shower, but I hadn't anticipated you stealing my clothes in the short time I was gone."

"I'm the real Phantom Thief." Mishima sat up and stretched, then went into the bathroom. He washed his face, taking note of how fancy all of Akechi's skincare products looked, and then sighed in frustration when he realized he once again hadn't prepared to be here overnight and hadn't brought a toothbrush.

But there was one still in the package sitting on the counter. He snatched it up and peeked his head in the bedroom, holding the package up.

"You bought me a toothbrush?!" He knew he was practically yelling, but never had he been so touched by a gesture related to dental hygiene.

Akechi just blinked at him slowly. "I— Yes? You've stayed over a few times and I didn't anticipate you stopping anytime soon with how clingy you are."

Mishima's smile faded and he looked away. There was that cold sting again.

"What's wrong?" Akechi kept his eyes on him.

"Do you think I'm too clingy?"

"Yuuki…" He sounded like he was giving a warning, so Mishima retreated back into the bathroom.

He brushed his teeth and took the time to examine himself hard in the mirror. Akechi had said he was cute, but when he looked at himself all he saw was plain, boring. His face was too soft without the edges many of the guys at school had. No angular jawline or sharp cheekbones. No freckles like Akechi had, and his eyes were a boring almost-black and too big for his face. His hair had grown out considerably from the awkward cut he'd been forced to cope with after Kamoshida had repeatedly stuck gum into it, but it was still choppy and stuck up weird.

Akechi was handsome and publicly praised for it. He had those beautiful eyes that shone red under the right light and the dusting of freckles he tried so hard to hide. His smile was bright and just the tiniest bit off-center, and when he laughed, Mishima's whole body went warm. He was tall and strong and smart and funny and Mishima couldn't understand how he could possibly see anything in him.

He thought about just leaving without saying anything, just ghosting him for good, but he would be stuck walking around in Akechi's too-big pajamas, so he decided against it and just took a deep breath and went back into the bedroom.

Akechi was seated at his desk, typing something on his laptop that looked like an email. He didn't look up when Mishima entered, so he just went to the bed and laid down against the wall.

"Give me a moment… I forgot there were some emails I needed to respond to before morning. Requests for interviews and such…" Akechi sounded distracted, so Mishima just hummed in response and rolled over to face the wall.

He read through some social media, letting his thoughts numb out while he looked at a stream of things he didn't truly care about. He felt the bed shift and Akechi settled next to him with a sigh. He looked over his shoulder and their eyes met briefly before he turned away again.

"Hey," Akechi sounded even more exhausted than he had before. "I seem to keep getting on your bad side tonight. I apologize."

Mishima nodded, but didn't move or speak. He felt Akechi turn onto his side to face him.

"I'm picking up on a pattern, but I'm not certain what the appropriate way of dealing with it is… Much of our relationship has been founded on good-natured mutual teasing, so when you prod at me, I naturally respond by prodding back. But there seem to be certain… subjects, phrases that are setting you off—"

"Okay, Mr. Detective." Mishima barely laughed but still didn't move.

"I am trying to be considerate of your emotional state. You've criticized me in the past for not being genuine enough with you."

Mishima looked over his shoulder again, then turned over so they were facing each other. Akechi's face barely twitched into the faintest hint of a smile, then went flat again.

"Be genuine with me, then. Instead of refusing to tell me how you really feel about me so I have to guess." Mishima swallowed and averted his gaze to anywhere else.

"I told you earlier how I feel very explicitly."

"Tell me again." He could hear the desperation in his tone and he hated it. He braced himself for more refusal and shut his eyes, but there was just a long, heavy silence.

And then Akechi taking a deep breath, and starting to speak a few times before finding the words he wanted, slowly.

"Yuuki, I… I…" He took in another deep breath and exhaled hard through his nose, then seemed to start to zone out. He blinked repeatedly, slowly, like he couldn't focus. He looked confused, frustrated.

“Goro?” Mishima tried to catch his eyes, but they stayed unfocused on nothing. He didn’t seem to have heard.

Akechi’s hand on the sheets gripped tight like he was desperate for something to hold onto. Mishima spoke his name again, and his eyes snapped up and then darted around, like he was confused by his surroundings.

"I, ah… I apologize, I—" It sounded like he was trying to force out his Public Voice, but it shook too much to be passable. Mishima would let that slide, given the circumstances. He was beginning to realize that sometimes it was a defense mechanism. And it definitely was right now.

"It's okay." Mishima leaned in and kissed his head, then pulled him in close to his chest to hold him. "Is this okay?"

Akechi didn't answer, so Mishima let him go. The faraway look was back, so he tried to just give him space until he felt better. His instinct to look after others in spite of his own pain had taken over like it usually did, and despite how frustrated he was with Akechi’s reluctance to communicate honestly, he only wanted him to feel better. He was more worried about Akechi than himself. After a long silence, Akechi blinked hard a few times and let his eyes settle on Mishima's face.

Mishima gave him a reassuring smile. "Hey. Are you back?"

"Back…?" Akechi sounded as confused as he looked.

"Sometimes it's like you just… go somewhere else when you're upset. You don't respond." He raised a hand, making sure Akechi's eyes locked onto it before using it to stroke his hair back from his face gently. Akechi's eyes shut but he seemed content with the touch. "I just wish you'd tell me how you feel..."

"Tired."

Mishima laughed. "Not like that. But it's late. Let's go to sleep. We can talk in the morning."

Akechi nodded, and Mishima sat up to lean over him and switch off the lamp next to the bed, then settled back down with some space between them. Akechi rolled over to face away.

"Goodnight, Yuuki."

Chapter Text

Mishima had briefly woken up when Akechi crawled out of bed before the sun had come up, but he had just rolled over and gone back to sleep for several hours. It was a day off and if he didn’t need to be awake early, he wasn’t going to be. He took his time waking up, stretching, and basking in the warmth under the covers and the scent of Akechi’s shampoo on the pillows. He felt happy. Happier than he ever was waking up in his own bed.

Then he checked his phone and it all vanished, replaced with cold, icy fear.

Ren

hey don't freak out
but hey

He leapt out of bed and dashed into the living room, eyes wide. Akechi was nowhere to be found, so he called out for him, panicked. Still no answer. He decided to just text him.

Goro

Where are you?
I stepped out for a moment to check my mail. I'm on my way back now. Everything alright?

Mishima didn't answer, just sat down on the couch, head in his hands, trying to figure out what could possibly be going on. Ren should be dead. Akechi said he had shot him in the head. People didn’t survive gunshot wounds to the brain. Not even Phantom Thieves.

He could just ask. But he needed to play it cool and that’s what he was most worried about.

Ren

Ren?
that's me
I thought you were dead!!!!!
Asshole!
well i'm back lol
WHAT?
i can't really explain but what you need to know is that things are about to get really tough
and i just wanted you to know i'm ok
thanks for texting to check btw :/ you seemed real worried
Of course I was worried Ren... I've been a mess. I had to leave school when I found out because I couldn't take it
aw ok stop i'm fine
we can pick back up phansite requests if anyone even wants our help anymore
i saw the site is still in the gutter
but pass stuff on if you have it and we'll get to it when we can
Yeah of course
I'm so glad you're ok
thanks it's been rough
i'll ttyl

The door to the apartment opened and Akechi stepped in, holding a small armful of envelopes to his chest. He took one look at Mishima, pale and anxious and, quite frankly, not holding it all the way together, and frowned.

“What’s wrong?”

Mishima didn’t answer, just held his phone out for Akechi to take. Akechi stepped over, set his mail down on the table, and then took Mishima’s phone and sat next to him.

He just stared, eyes wide and lips parted in shock, not comprehending what he was reading. He slowly lowered the phone and turned his head to meet Mishima’s eyes silently.

“How? How?” Akechi finally spoke, searching Mishima’s face for an answer he knew he wouldn’t find. “He was dead. I saw him die. I watched him bleed out on the floor, I pulled the trigger myself. How is he alive?!” His voice kept getting louder, until he was screeching.

Mishima instinctively flinched away and hunched over, arms covering his head, waiting to be hit. "I don't know, I'm sorry, I'm sorry—"

Akechi got up from the couch and tossed Mishima's phone down on the cushion, then shut himself in the bedroom. Mishima could hear muffled screaming, like Akechi was pressing a pillow to his face. At least he had left the room to do it. He slowly uncovered his head and rubbed his eyes.

He could try to press Ren for information, but it would make him look suspicious. Knowing Ren was alive should be enough for him to work with if he wasn't prying. He didn't know how he would get anything else out of him without making things worse for all of them. He felt stuck and confused and scared.

A part of him felt real relief that Ren was okay. He tried to ignore it.

He sat in silence for a long while, trying and failing to think of what to do, and turning his phone over in his hands. He knew he at least had to get back to the Phansite. That would be a start.

Ren

Hey sorry to bother you again so soon, but should I post an announcement on the Phansite or something?
I didn't really know what to do so I just sort of ignore it lately... it was too depressing to look at and I thought it was all over...
yeah
you can say that we'll be making a comeback very soon
hype us up
you're always good at that
Lol thanks
Do you want me to post any details?
no one really needs to know anything except that we're not going anywhere
You sound like you have a plan
i do
but i have to be very careful about it
so sorry i gotta keep quiet for now
It's ok I'm just trying to figure out what to say to everyone
you'll figure it out
what do you always say
i'm rooting for you? lol
Aw...
I really am glad you're ok
takes more than an assassination attempt to take me out
stay away from akechi
I know, I am
Wait does he have something to do with this?
yeah
can't say exactly what but i told you he was dangerous for a reason
it'll be taken care of soon so don't worry
Oh
i gotta go now
get the phansite back in good shape
Yeah I will

That was a lot to take in. So Ren really had somehow survived Akechi's supposedly successful attempt on his life, and he knew Akechi had been behind it. That meant Akechi was probably in danger.

He realized his hands were trembling. He took a deep breath just as the bedroom door opened and Akechi came back out, looking more composed now. He still looked angry, but it was a more muted anger. He stood next to the couch, eyeing Mishima. Mishima barely smiled at him as well as he could. It probably wasn’t very convincing.

"I apologize for raising my voice." Akechi's own voice was now steady and polite, but genuine. "This has little to do with you and most certainly isn't your fault. It wasn't right of me to lose my temper with you."

Mishima nodded and clutched his phone harder, eyes down on his lap. "Do you, um, do you feel okay?" His voice was shaking just as bad as his hands.

Akechi looked baffled by that. "Well, no? I really don't.” He almost laughed. “Why are you asking me this?"

"You don't feel like…" Mishima swallowed hard and tried to gather his thoughts. "I think you might be their next target."

Akechi inhaled deeply and then exhaled hard. "Yes. It will either be me or my boss. I need to get to the bottom of this quickly. He has safeguards in place to protect himself in the aftermath of such an event, but I… I don't." He gave a breathy laugh and his gaze settled on Mishima. "Still think you can kill me?"

Mishima squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. "I can't. You're right, I can't, I… Oh God…"

"I have a strong feeling that it will be him. I am a threat to them directly, but he is a more widespread threat to their wishes and their end goal. They most likely see me as a nuisance and him as a real problem. They also have no reason to believe that I know that somehow Amamiya isn't dead." He sat down on the couch and Mishima leaned into him. "As long as you’ve kept your mouth shut about that."

"I… Yeah, of course…" Mishima unlocked his phone, opened his conversation with Ren, and handed it over.

Akechi was quiet while he read, then made an annoyed sound.

"Already back to bossing you around." He handed the phone back.

"He's not… I mean he's being pretty nice… for him." Mishima put his phone back in his pocket so he'd stop fidgeting with it. "The Phansite is my job, it's not weird for him to ask me to moderate it. Especially since I've just been ignoring it lately."

"I suppose." Akechi took his own phone out. "I need to make a call. There's coffee and breakfast for you in the kitchen."

Mishima looked to the kitchen, then back to Akechi, touched that he had thought of him at all. He started to get up, but then paused and touched Akechi's thigh gently to get his attention. He felt him barely startle at the contact.

"Oh, sorry, um… Can I… Can I have a hug…? I'm just. Kind of freaking out, and… I think it would help… It's okay if you don't want to touch right now, I know it's—"

"Stop." Akechi nudged his hand off, but set his phone down and opened his arms. Mishima leaned in and wrapped his arms around his neck and pressed his face into it. Akechi's arms went around his waist and held him close. He could hear him sigh through his nose. "Is this good?"

"Yeah… Thank you…" He squeezed Akechi. "I'm just scared."

"Understandably." Akechi released him and picked his phone up again. "I apologize, but this really can't wait."

Mishima nodded and got up and went into the kitchen to find the food and coffee promised to him. He could hear Akechi talking quietly in the other room while he warmed up both. He poked his head back into the living room and eyed Akechi, waiting for approval to come back in. He got eye contact and a nod, so he sat down at the table.

Akechi had fallen quiet and he could hear yelling on the other end of the line, but couldn't make out the words. His eyes were shut and Mishima could see his hands shaking, one balled into a tight fist against the couch cushion.

"Yes sir, I understand that." Akechi's voice was calm and pleasant, in contrast to how uncomfortable he looked. Mishima heard more sharp yelling. "I haven't been able to do much investigation into that. I only just found this inf—" More yelling. Akechi winced.

Mishima scooted over closer and reached a hand up onto the couch to hold Akechi's and was surprised when he held onto it tightly. He tried to give him a look of concern, but Akechi just shut his eyes again.

"I apologize, sir. You're right." A pause. "Yes, of course. I'll get right to it. You can rest easy. I understand that I have much to make amends for, and that your trust in me must have wavered tremendously, but I will not let you down again. This was a fl—"

Akechi clutched Mishima's hand tighter and there was louder yelling this time. Mishima could make out a few insults: worthless, stupid, brat. Akechi moved the phone away from his mouth to let out a shaky breath. Mishima rubbed his hand with his thumb.

"Yes, sir." The way his voice stayed so level was amazing, even with Mishima well aware of how rehearsed this sort of thing was for him. "I'll be in touch. Yes. Goodbye."

Akechi hung up the phone and dropped it down onto the couch next to him. He pulled his hand away from Mishima's and put his head in his hands, elbows resting on his thighs, hunched over on himself. His breaths came out harshly and he gripped his hair.

Mishima moved over closer and rested his head against Akechi's leg. "I'm here if you need me…"

"I'm okay." Akechi's voice shook unconvincingly. "I'm fine. It's fine." He took a deep breath in and his voice came out steadier. "This is disturbingly normal. But I'm sorry you had to bear witness to it." He lowered one hand to pet over Mishima's hair.

"It's okay. I'm just worried about you." Mishima tilted his head up to look at him. "Do you want me to go after I eat? It sounds like you have work to do…"

"I do need to go out and take care of some things, but I won't force you to leave." Akechi sat up straighter and sighed. "I have to trail our friends for a while. Try to keep an eye on them. But I don't know their plans exactly, so I have a feeling it will be a lot of camping out and waiting. Maybe I should take a book…" He got quieter at the end, like he was mostly talking to himself.

Mishima sat up and let him move away. He went back to his now cold food, while Akechi wandered around getting ready to go out.

A few minutes passed and Akechi moved over to the door and pulled his shoes on. Mishima got up and followed him over and put his arms loosely over his shoulders once he was standing back up. He got a small smile.

"Be safe, okay? I… I love you…" Mishima felt his cheeks flush.

He was pleasantly surprised by Akechi leaning down and kissing him just for a moment. Akechi looked just the tiniest bit flustered when he pulled away, but Mishima couldn't stop smiling. He released Akechi and stepped back to lean against the wall.

"I shouldn't have too much trouble today, but a stakeout can be quite boring… I'm going to stop by work first. He never likes to give much information over the phone, so… I suppose I'm left with no choice but to run around for his sake, like always." Akechi pulled on the same coat he had let Mishima borrow the night before. "Try not to burn the place down. Or do. Maybe I can pretend I died in the fire and start over somewhere else."

"I'll do my best. You do your best too. Message me if you need to. Or want to." Mishima kept a smile on his face.

"I'll be in touch at some point." He opened the door and left, leaving Mishima alone in the apartment.

He thought about just going back to bed. The amount of stress he had experienced in the past hour had been enough to exhaust him. But he thought better of it and decided he should probably stay busy, at least for a while.

He cleaned up the dishes from his own breakfast and what Akechi had left in the sink from his. He finished his coffee and washed that mug as well. He wandered back into the bedroom, realized he hadn't made the bed after getting up in such a rush, and tried to make it up the way he knew Akechi kept it.

After some sitting around quietly, he got himself back up and forced himself to shower. Being able to use Akechi's shampoo and keep the warm vanilla smell of his hair with him made him weirdly excited. He stood under the water just smelling all of Akechi's soaps for a while until he realized that this was probably kind of strange.

He brushed his teeth, amazed again at the fact that Akechi had actually gone out and bought a spare toothbrush just for him, and put the pajamas Akechi had lent him in with his other dirty laundry. He considered taking it all and doing it for him, but Akechi seemed like the type to be particular about that sort of thing, so he left it.

Eventually, he ran out of things to do and was left with the decision to either take a nap there or head home and do his homework and work on the Phansite. He chose the latter.

But not before leaving a note on the fridge: I love you! Take care of yourself!


Akechi stopped by Shido's office first and got the earful he expected to get, along with a backhand across the jaw as a reminder that he was one slip-up away from disposal. The physical strikes were getting more frequent lately. He supposed he was getting too bold. Or he had just forgotten how to watch his mouth.

Shido had ordered him to intercept the Phantom Thieves inside his Palace and to take care of them at all costs before they could enact a change of heart. Before this was all over and done, he would have another eight counts of murder on his hands. The thought was making his stomach churn.

He still wasn't sure at all how Amamiya had managed to survive a blow to the head. His only guess was that it had something to do with utilization of the Metaverse. He just couldn't figure out the details. He supposed it didn't really matter. The important thing was that he had somehow monumentally, colossally fucked up, and now he was going to pay the price.

He had let himself get too comfortable in the aftermath of his supposed success as well, thinking his life would go somewhat back to normal. He had chanced pursuing intimate relations when he should have been double and triple checking his work. When had he become so careless?

He would have plenty of time to ponder that and many other personal failings while he sat and waited for the Phantom Thieves to show up. He knew from his time working alongside them that they only operated during certain hours on school days. On holidays and Sundays, the rules would be a little different. Being uncertain of how quickly they would put their plan into action, he stepped into a bathroom inside the Diet Building and phased into the Metaverse.

There were no signs of the Phantom Thieves from the exterior, so he crept inside and took a look around. Still nothing. They didn't seem to have showed up yet. Well, that was fine. If they were anywhere in the vicinity, he knew he would hear Sakamoto before long. He found a high vantage point and settled comfortably into a corner to wait.

And he did wait, for hours, lost in his thoughts, until he was certain the time slot for their Metaverse activities had come to a close. Outside electronics didn't function inside the Metaverse, so there was no way to reliably tell time, but his internal clock had always been rather precise.

He phased out right from his hiding place and back to his apartment. It had grown dark out, just like he thought. The Phantom Thieves did not operate after dark, for whatever reason. Most likely because they had the student council president on their team and she found staying out late on school nights to be preposterous. It would have been funny if he had been in the mood to laugh.

Mishima seemed to have left. He felt a twinge of disappointment, then a bigger pang of annoyance at himself. He could accept that Mishima was dear to him, but he had no business being clingy.

The dishes from the morning had been done and any evidence of their time together had been made tidy. And there was a note on the fridge. He thought about removing and disposing of it, but… He would keep it there. For now.

He settled onto the couch to work on what he had decided must be a never-ending pile-up of homework at this point, but ended up checking the Phansite for the first time in a while. Mishima had posted a very spirited announcement urging others to not fall for the tricks being played by the news and insisting that the Phantom Thieves would be making a comeback very soon. Their justice had yet to be served, it said. Well, he’d have to see about that.

He put his phone on Do Not Disturb and worked until he had trouble keeping his head up. He managed to knock out almost all of his assignments, leaving only a few short essays he had been tasked with as extra credit. He kept promising himself he would get on top of things, only for his life to continually fall apart. This was about as good as it got.

Falling asleep right there on the couch un-showered and fully dressed was tempting, but he thought better of it and dragged himself upright and into the bathroom to be responsible. When he pulled himself into the bedroom and collapsed on the bed, he expected to have at least a few messages from his ever-doting… boyfriend (the word gave him mixed feelings), but he found nothing. That was just as well. He didn’t have the energy to reply anyway.


It took a few more days of stealthing around, but the Phantom Thieves finally showed up. Akechi followed them from a distance, watching them slowly fumble their way through. It was equal parts interesting and infuriating. He mostly kept his eyes locked on Amamiya. More than once, he considered shooting him in the head from his hidden vantage point, but the show-off was constantly in motion and he couldn't risk missing and alerting them to his presence. He would have to wait to corner them.

But the Phantom Thieves never did things quickly. It could be a week or more before they finally got to the dead end he wanted to lure them to. He couldn't tap out and skip a day in case they decided to switch things up, so he was stuck coming and going as they did. Some days they didn't show up at all and he wasted his time in hiding when he could have been being productive elsewhere.

He realized, during his spells of boredom, that he missed Mishima. He would have preferred sitting and waiting together, even in silence. But he knew he couldn't risk pulling him into the Metaverse. If a Shadow spotted them, he couldn't promise he could protect them both, and he couldn't stomach being responsible for him getting hurt. These were all still fairly new experiences for him, but they were easier to swallow now at least.

In between trips into the Metaverse, Shido was putting the pressure on him worse than ever. Every day held a slew of texts and phone calls reminding him that if he failed to take care of things here, he would be taken care of himself. If he failed, he wasn't coming back.

He believed in his own abilities, but he had also seen how the Phantom Thieves fought and he knew that eight on one was far from a fair fight.

He was scared. For the first time, he considered just abandoning his own mission and leaving town, forging a new identity somewhere else. Hiding. But he knew that wasn't a real option. He would see this through to the end, for better or for worse.


Goro

Goro Akechi!
Yuuki Mishima?
I'm coming over
I do not recall inviting you.
Don't be like that :(
I am not home. I'll be at work still for some time.
That's ok
Do you realize you do not pay rent and my apartment is not your place of residence?
Yeah but :(
Goro...
What?
Are you really mad?
No.
Ok
Can I come over?
I just want to get away from my parents for a while, I was just trying to keep the mood light...
Things aren't well at home?
Are they ever?
I'm going to guess not.
There's a lot of yelling going on. I heard some glass break
They're not usually both home at the same time, but on the rare occasion they are it's like this
I kind of wanted to get out of here before they find a reason to start coming at me instead of each other
I see. I won't be home for some time, but go ahead.
Thank you :(
<3
<3
Goro!!!!
I have some work to attend to now. See you in a bit if you're still around.
Knock em dead
Ha.

Mishima picked up something to eat on the way over, entered Akechi’s dark, empty apartment, stuck Akechi’s portion in the fridge, and settled in on the couch under his usual blanket to eat and do some reading for school.

He got through all his reading, checked his social media, and got bored, so he wandered into Akechi’s bedroom, grabbed a pillow, and took it back to the couch to take a nap. He realized he probably could have gotten away with just napping on Akechi’s bed, but he had grown attached to the couch and he wanted the TV on for background noise.

He easily dozed off.

When Akechi came back to the apartment, Mishima was still asleep and all of the lights were out except for what was coming from the TV. He took his coat and shoes off as quietly as he could and moved into the kitchen to try and get dinner together. He found Mishima’s offerings in the fridge and smiled. That was one thing out of the way for the night.

He took his food back into the living room to sit at the table, but Mishima stirred and sighed.

“Welc’m home…” Mishima mumbled, not opening his eyes.

Akechi moved over to the couch and brushed his hand over Mishima’s hair, making him giggle in response. Before he could talk himself out of it, he leaned down and kissed his forehead.

Mishima laughed harder and reached his arms up to hug Akechi’s neck briefly before letting him stand back up. He smiled up at him sweetly. “I love you.”

Akechi noticed a darkening spot on Mishima’s cheek during a flash from the TV and thumbed over it, concerned.

“Oh,” Mishima turned his head away from his touch. “Is it bruising?”

“It looks like it might. I can show you how to cover it with makeup if you’d like.” Akechi turned away and sat down to eat, hunger winning out over physical shows of concern for now.

“No, it’s okay… I went to school covered in bruises for a year and nobody gave a shit, I doubt anyone’s gonna care if I show up with just one.” He rolled onto his side so he could watch Akechi eat.

“Parents who hit their children are the lowest of the low.” He mumbled, tucking his hair behind his ear to keep it out of his food as he took a bite. He was trying to keep his anger in check, but seeing Mishima injured in any way was having more of an effect on him than he anticipated. He briefly considered targeting Mishima’s parents, but then remembered being an orphan wasn’t exactly fun.

“Oh, yeah, it’s the same for you, huh?” Mishima spoke quietly, then made an annoyed sound at himself. “Sorry, that sounds so bad. I just mean—”

“Yes,” Akechi cut him off. “It is. And, as you know, I would not hesitate to end my father's life, situation permitting. I have no tolerance for such things.” His tone sank into tense anger and he glared daggers down into the table. He was begging himself to keep his cool.

“You’re really mad.” Mishima reached a hand out to touch his shoulder, but couldn’t quite reach. Akechi didn’t move closer. “Goro, it’s okay. I’m okay. Are you worried or something…?”

Akechi didn’t answer. He couldn’t admit it out loud that the idea of Mishima being hurt in any way was making his blood boil. But Mishima was perceptive.

“You don’t need to worry. I’m fine.” Mishima pulled his arm back, seeing that Akechi wasn’t going to lean into it. “Eat your food. You’re grumpy.”

“I am not.” He grumbled, but stayed quiet to focus on finishing his dinner. It was the only real meal he’d had all day and he was realizing how badly he needed it. He did feel slightly better by the time he finished. Or at least he had cooled down some.

He looked over to Mishima and saw him just smiling at him, eyes half-open, expression tired but content. He barely returned the smile, then got up to put his dishes away. When he came back, Mishima hadn’t moved.

“Would you have been mad if I slept in your bed instead?” He sounded as tired as he looked.

“Perhaps a bit irritated. Though you’ve certainly made yourself at home there before.” Akechi came over to sit and Mishima pulled his feet out of the way, then rested them against Akechi’s hip comfortably.

“Not alone though. I know your boundaries are important. Even if you’re letting them down a lot for me. Which is… really sweet. Thanks.” He covered his mouth with the blanket, but even in the dim light, Akechi could see he was blushing.

“I hope you feel special.” Akechi rolled his eyes and leaned back against the couch.

“I know you’re just teasing me, but I do. Amamiya told me one time that I have no idea what you’re really like. I… think I probably do.” He sounded nervous now.

“Are you asking for reassurance or simply stating an opinion?” Akechi shut his eyes and his bangs fell into his face.

“Oh… Um, I dunno. I know I know you better than… most people. Anyone, maybe? I mean, I don’t know who else you talk to, so maybe there’s… There could be other people who you’re close to. I just never asked, I guess, and— Sorry. Yeah, I’m asking for reassurance. That we’re close and… That you like me, I guess. Sorry.” He covered more of his face with the blanket so only his eyes were visible above it.

Akechi wordlessly motioned for him to move over, so he sat up and came close, blanket still wrapped around him. Akechi put an arm around his waist and pulled him into his space completely. Mishima smiled and put his head on his shoulder and his arms around him loosely. He waited to see if Akechi would flinch from pain, and tightened his grip when he didn’t.

After a pause, Akechi leaned his head down to rest his cheek on top of Mishima’s hair. “I don’t have friends.”

“We’re friends.”

Akechi sighed, annoyed. “I don’t have other friends. The people I talk to are largely adults in the legal profession who treat me like an incompetent child or a prodigy, with no in-between. This may come as a surprise, but I am not well-liked by my peers. I’m often shunned as unapproachable and strange. I hear them talk, and I’ve chosen to ignore it. Until you and I started becoming… involved, I had no need for such things. You are… quite special.” He realized he sounded very flat, but it was a miracle he was getting the words out at all. He unclenched his fist against the couch with some effort.

“Hey…” Mishima nuzzled his head. “I know this is hard for you. You don't have to force yourself for me. I'm just happy you're trying.” He lifted his head up, making Akechi move as well, and leaned up and kissed him.

Akechi let himself be kissed a few times, then pulled away, and his gaze wandered off to the side, to nothing in particular. He swallowed. "I don't have family either. You are truly the only person that I have… casual, purposeless conversation with. Everything else is workplace banter, academics, taking orders, sucking up, playing a role for someone. With you, I…" He trailed off and fell silent.

Mishima laid his head down on Akechi's shoulder again and squeezed him gently. "You take off the mask." His voice was soft and Akechi felt warmth pooling in his chest as a result. For once, he didn't really try to fight it. He just let it sit there, comfortable.

He turned his head and pressed his face into Mishima's hair with a sigh and then silence. Somehow, all of his walls had come down around this one person and he knew it was dangerous, but at some point he had become too tired to care. He really had taken off the layers and layers of masks he wore daily until he was finding that the person he knew as himself might actually be quite different than the real thing. Up until recently, he never would have let himself believe he craved touch, affection, closeness, any of those things he got from Mishima, but he did.

He realized he had pulled him closer, tighter, and was clinging to his side. He loosened his grip at the realization but didn't let go.

"You okay?" Mishima's voice was still just as gentle and careful as it had been before. Akechi nodded against his hair. "Okay. I love you. The real you. So you don't need to pretend to be anything else when you're around me." Akechi nodded again and held onto him tighter. "It's okay…"

"I just owed you an explanation." Akechi's voice came out quieter than he meant for it to.

Mishima made a noise of confusion.

"You asked me to be more genuine with you and explain how I felt, and I… couldn't at the time. So I'm trying now. I hope it's a satisfactory explanation."

"Of course it is…" Mishima smiled and then pressed his face into Akechi's shoulder to hide it. "I was just upset the other night, that's all. I was overreacting to a lot of things all at once. It wasn't your fault."

"I was being cold to you."

“You were joking with me and I took it too personally. I’ve never been able to take a joke. It’s fine.” He kept his face pressed against Akechi’s shoulder.

“You’re unable to take a joke, or jabs disguised as jokes have been consistently made at your expense by others and it has made you rightfully sensitive to the words others use towards you?”

Mishima froze and felt his breath catch in his throat. With some effort, he forced it out and forced another breath back in. Of course, Akechi was right. He was sensitive, way too sensitive, and it was something classmates had picked up on for years. He mumbled an apology.

“It wasn’t criticism. No need to apologize.” Akechi paused, then pressed a kiss to Mishima’s head. “My point was that it makes sense that repeated exposure to such things would leave you feeling vulnerable. I was careless. I intend to do better.”

Mishima exhaled a shaky breath and nodded. “I… Thanks. I’m not used to anyone just… apologizing like that. But… Thank you. I just wanted to hear you say you cared. I mean, you show it all the time. You’re showing it right now, but—”

“I care for you.” Akechi pressed his face into Mishima’s hair again so he was muffled. “And I have grown to greatly enjoy your presence in my life.”

He heard Mishima sniffle, then felt him turn in his arms so he could press his face against his chest. Akechi paused, surprised, but then put his arms around him tighter to hold him. He could tell he was crying.

“I love you, Goro.” Mishima’s voice was quiet and muffled, and it shook. It sounded so different from that first secret confession Akechi had overheard inside his Palace. Different, but no less impactful. That impact was shifting each time he heard it from shock and disgust to something warmer. This time it settled in his chest comfortably and it made him laugh into Mishima’s hair. “What?”

“Nothing. My apologies. I’m not laughing at you, just… at myself. For my own incompetence.” Akechi released his grip on Mishima and leaned back. “You’re so open with your feelings. It sometimes surprises me.”

Mishima rubbed his eyes with his sleeves and leaned his cheek against the back of the couch. “I just want you to know.”

“I know.” Akechi leaned back in and touched his jaw to pull him into a kiss.

Chapter Text

Akechi was becoming increasingly impatient and anxious the longer it took the Phantom Thieves to reach the dead end he had prepared to ambush them at. At this rate, it would be days still until they got there and in the meantime he was stuck camping out every single day for hours like he had nothing better to be doing.

Every day, he got out of class, went straight into the Metaverse, and stayed there. If the Phantom Thieves showed up, he would trail them for a bit from afar or sit in waiting in the engine room. If they didn't, his entire afternoon and evening were wasted on nothing. He supposed he appreciated the break to recover his physical health. He was finally starting to be able to breathe deeply without pain.

He spent another evening watching the Phantom Thieves running around in circles trying to solve Shido's mental puzzles and he felt like his brain was going to melt out of his ears. It was infuriating. He thought with as large of a team as they had, someone should have been able to work these things out, and yet they were making little to no progress. At this rate, they wouldn't reach their goal before the election.

When he re-emerged into his apartment, he felt the familiar continuous buzz of his phone receiving a backlog of notifications now that it had regained service. He knew it was likely Shido wondering what the hold up was. He chose to take his time checking. He could only explain how incompetent the Phantom Thieves were so many times. Shido seemed to think he was simply slacking and letting them get away. He had been called lazy more than once in the past week.

He took his shoes and coat off, set his briefcase down in his room, and tried to find something to eat. Mishima's note still remained on his fridge and he smiled without meaning to upon seeing it. He kept considering trashing it, but he supposed it didn't really matter. It served as a brief reminder in his currently depressingly bland life that something mattered other than this unending camping trip.

He settled in on the couch with food and finally checked his phone. He was pleasantly surprised.

Yuuki Mishima

Hey!
I know we can't really go out for a second date but what if we just get some really good food delivered and watch some movies?
I have one I think you'll really like and I still want to see the sequel to the one we watched last time
Good evening. I'm unfortunately just extremely busy lately. As much as I would enjoy that, I don't know if it will be possible any time soon.
Oh :(
I'm truly sorry.
You can't take just one day off?
Things are complicated right now... I'm sorry, Yuuki.
I just miss you
I feel like I used to see you more even when you were busy because you'd have me over to eat or talk about stuff while you did homework...
I mean it doesn't have to be a date
If you just want to sit and do homework together that's ok too or I can just bring you coffee or something
Sorry I probably just sound really pathetic...
How does tomorrow sound for a date?
REALLY?
Yes, of course. All things considered, I probably do need a break. I chose what we ate and watched last time, so why don't you surprise me this time?
I'm so happy...
Are you sure it's ok though? I don't want to mess up your work
Yes, I think things will be alright. I'd like to see you.
Aww do you miss me?
Hmm...
u///u
What is that face?
Blushing!
Ah. I don't see it.
The u's are closed eyes and the slashes are the blush
You're such an old man
You teens and your technology. I'll never understand the youth of today.
I love you so much
u///u
Is that correct?
Oh my GOD
You are so cute T__T
Such excitement over an emoticon. Maybe I should try using them more often if it has such an effect on you. But perhaps that would lessen the impact. It may be best to keep your exposure limited so as to preserve the strong emotional response.
And there goes the cuteness
Nerd
I'll see you tomorrow, Yuuki.
See you :)

He sighed and dropped his phone onto the couch. He hoped he wasn't making a mistake. Judging by the current pace, taking a single afternoon off should have been fine. The Phantom Thieves weren't likely to reach the engine room over the next day. All Akechi would be missing was more infuriating backtracking. He could handle missing a day of that.

Being warm and comfortable on the couch with his boyfriend would be preferable.

That word still felt so foreign to him. He repeated it again silently to himself once he realized he had thought it and felt his cheeks heat up on their own. He allowed himself to smile at the thought and sighed again. Truly, his emotions had gotten away with him now. There was no denying it anymore. He was shirking his work responsibilities for time with another person and that was something he never would have imagined doing only a few months prior.

For now, he had homework. Like always. He set his food aside and tried his best to focus, but his thoughts kept wandering. He was going over the plan for trapping the Phantom Thieves in his head, assuring himself that they couldn't possibly reach his goal in one more day. He kept weighing the pros and cons and waffling back and forth on what would be best.

A day off meant seeing Mishima. It meant being held and laughing and relaxing as well as he knew how. It also might mean risking his own life if things went off schedule. He kept picking up his phone, starting to cancel his plans, and then stopping. It was too tempting to take an afternoon to rest. And Mishima would be disappointed. For the first time, he realized he cared deeply about that aspect. That was an issue for another time.


Akechi felt like a nervous wreck all day. He did go sit inside the Palace for an hour or two, but found no signs of the Phantom Thieves, so he gave in and went back to his own apartment to shower and take care of some emails before his guest arrived. Mishima had promised to surprise him with food and to bring movies over. He wished he could feel excited, but all he felt was dread and fear in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't shake the idea that he was messing up by allowing this.

Mishima barged in without knocking. He never knocked.

"Hey," Mishima kicked the door shut behind him and set down bags of food on the table and his own bag on the couch. "Honey, I'm home."

"Do you have any manners?" Akechi frowned up at him from where he was perched on the couch, phone in hand.

"What? Yeah?" Mishima plopped down at the other end. "I say my please and thank yous."

"You come in like you own the place. You never knock. You kicked my door." Akechi directed his attention back to his phone. He had been trying to distract himself with a stream of foodie posts on social media. It wasn't working. He still felt too tense.

"I practically live here!" Mishima sounded exasperated and he leaned over to lay mostly horizontal with his head against Akechi's arm. Akechi moved his shoulder, forcing Mishima to fall the rest of the way down, head against his hip now. He made no attempt to adjust, just laid there like a ragdoll. "Your door is fine and you usually know when I'm coming over, so why does it matter? Lock your door and I'll knock."

Akechi scoffed and looked back at his phone. Mishima finally adjusted himself so he could put his cheek on Akechi's thigh comfortably.

"What's wrong?" Mishima looked up at him with those big, dark eyes of his and Akechi had to look away to keep from smiling. "Talk to me."

"Nothing to talk about. Do I seem like something is wrong?" He put his phone aside and peered down at his companion. He realized he had never had someone's head so close to his lap before.

"You seem, like… Irritated? I know you're not actually mad about the door or about me not knocking, but you're mad about something. If you need to go to work instead, I understand…"

The way Mishima couldn't hide the hurt in his voice was enough to make Akechi sigh and place a hand on his side. There was no way he would be able to leave Mishima right now. Not while knowing how much it would hurt him. He had made a commitment and he needed to stick with it.

"I don't. It's alright." He rubbed Mishima's side slowly. "I'm feeling a bit anxious, that's all. My apologies for snapping."

"You sound like me. Always anxious." Mishima pulled his phone from his pocket and Akechi caught glimpses of the Phansite's black and red design on the screen. "I haven't heard from Amamiya, so I don't think anything is going to happen…"

Akechi hummed, unconvinced.

"Want me to read you Phansite comments about yourself to boost your ego?" Mishima glanced up at him with a smile.

"That's…" He couldn't help but laugh under his breath. "Do you keep tabs on that sort of thing?"

"No, but all I have to do is go into admin tools and type your name in the search bar." He paused while he typed. "There. Results!"

Akechi raised an eyebrow.

"That pretty boy Akechi is right, justice needs to be served and this ain't it. I'm sparing you the grammatical and spelling choices here for your own sake. Goro Akechi please steal my heart! Aww…" Mishima beamed up at him.

"I don't even do that."

"Yeah, yeah. You've stolen plenty of hearts." Mishima scrolled for a while, frowning. Presumably, he was filtering out the negatives. There seemed to be a lot of it to get through. "Oh! Akechi is very kind. When I was being hassled in Shibuya last week, he stepped in and defended me. I can't believe someone like that could be wrong about this. I fully back whatever he has to say. Goro! Are you out there helping damsels in distress?"

"I suppose so. It wasn't exactly like that and I don't understand how an assessment of my case was performed based on such brief contact, but I suppose I'll take what I can get." He nudged Mishima's shoulder. "Mind moving so I can eat?"

"Oh! Yeah! Yours is, uh—" Mishima sat up and began rifling through bags. "I got snacks too, for the movies… Oh, here." He handed a box over to Akechi. "I got you real food."

Akechi opened the box and examined the offerings. Various types of fish with rice and some sort of sauce. "I'll allow it."

"This place is really good. I got us some cake too, don't worry. I know the way to your heart by now." He pulled a box to himself and sat back comfortably. "Sugar and carbs. And superhero movies."

"How touching." Akechi took the chopsticks Mishima handed him and sat back with him. "Thank you for dinner."

"Wanna start your movie? We can do mine after. It's kinda sad, so…" Mishima put his untouched food aside and stood up to hunt through Akechi's movies by the TV.

"Trying to make me cry, Mishima-kun? How cruel." Akechi did his best to sound offended. "The one in the blue case. On the left."

Mishima put his hand on a case and Akechi made a noise of approval through a mouthful of rice. He put the disc in and came back to the couch to sit close together. "I don't even know how I'd make you cry. You're too good at faking your emotions."

"I'm highly fragile. Glass emotions." He spoke completely deadpan and got an elbow in the ribs that made him choke. "Highly fragile, I said!"

"Yeah, okay. Gimme the remote before you break your fragile fingers trying to work it." Mishima took it from him and switched the TV on.

They continued idly jabbing at each other through the menu screen, but fell quiet once Mishima hit play. Then they were focused on the screen and eating their meals.

Just like with its predecessor, Akechi quietly gave various bits of information throughout the film. Once he was done eating, Mishima began inching closer until he was leaning against Akechi's side, cheek on his collar and eyes ahead. Akechi put one arm around him tightly and kept his hand on his hip, a finger hooked into his belt loop for something to hold onto.

He kept taking glances at Mishima to ensure he was paying attention and was delighted to find his eyes fixed on the screen each time. It would be easy for him to doze off or otherwise space out during something he didn't personally care for, but he seemed enthralled. Mishima looked up and met his eyes during a slower scene and smiled, and Akechi felt his chest seize up and his heart flutter.

He quickly looked away and felt Mishima snuggle closer to him and nuzzle his shoulder. Just for a moment, he felt that giving up work for the day had been worth it. Nothing he would have accomplished inside the Metaverse would have felt as good as this.

When the movie ended, Mishima yawned and sat up a bit. "I think I liked the first one better. The romance subplot in this one was kind of weird."

"The third one is the best, in my opinion. The plot becomes a bit more complex, but the way things are tied off at the end gives a much-needed sense of closure for many characters. I have few complaints." Akechi's eyes fell on Mishima's face and he noticed he was grinning. "What?"

"It's just cute when you talk about stuff like that. I like hearing it." Mishima stretched, then got up and began gathering the trash from their dinners.

"I seldom get the chance. Politicians and officers of the law don't typically want to talk about movies. They think I'm enough of a child as it is." He sat forward and began sorting through the other bags Mishima had brought. He found chips, a small cake, and some assorted candies. "You certainly came prepared."

"Yeah!" Mishima called from the kitchen. "I thought you could use a treat." He came back out with some water for both of them. "You've been really isolated lately and working really hard, so… I just wanted to give you a nice night in, I guess?"

"You're kind." Akechi took his water and drank some.

The reminder that he was supposed to still be working hard settled like a weight on his chest and he frowned down at the table while Mishima went through his bag. The movie had been a nice distraction, but it hadn't entirely rid him of the nagging feeling that he was doing something wrong and—

Mishima was saying something.

He snapped his head up to attention, not having heard a word.

Mishima laughed. "You spacing out or something?"

"Or something." Akechi tucked his hair behind his ear and looked back down.

"You just looked really caught off guard." Mishima had pulled a DVD case from his bag and was standing with it clasped between both hands.

"What were you saying?"

"Um, nothing important. Just babbling." He shifted from one foot to the other. "Do you want a break between movies? I feel kind of antsy."

"I suppose so." Akechi sat up straighter and sighed. "We could get ready for bed if that will ease your restlessness."

Mishima nodded and Akechi motioned towards the bathroom to let him go first.

"I brought clothes this time!" Mishima proudly pulled a change of clothes from his bag and clutched them to his chest, grinning. "For once, I knew I was staying over."

"Congratulations." Akechi got up from the couch and went to the bedroom to see about clothes of his own and heard the bathroom door shut. He got changed and took a moment to himself to collect his thoughts.

Nothing bad had happened yet. Shido hadn't called him screaming about a calling card. Mishima hadn't received a text from Amamiya detailing any sort of plan. The Phantom Thieves had likely spent their afternoon stumbling around blindly in circles rather than making any headway. There were only a few more days until the election. There wasn't any reason he wouldn't be safe.

He zoned out, lost in thought, until he heard the bathroom door click open. Mishima appeared in the doorway to the bedroom in green pajama pants and a very soft-looking long sleeved shirt. It was odd seeing him in sleep clothes he wasn't swimming in.

"You okay…?" Mishima spoke softly and walked into the room to get closer to him. He hesitantly put his arms around Akechi's waist loosely and tilted his head up to look at him. He was adorably small.

"I'm… Yes. Do I look not okay?" Akechi put one hand on Mishima's side. He experimentally stood straighter and craned his head up to see how much he could make Mishima have to look directly up at him.

"You look worried." Mishima gave up on seeing his face and instead put his forehead against Akechi's chest. "Did you hear anything?"

"No," Akechi put his spare hand in Mishima's hair and ran his fingers through it. "I assume you haven't either."

"Mm…" Mishima pressed in closer to his chest and wrapped his arms around him fully. "Mm-mm."

"I suppose that should be good news."

"Is it not?" Mishima was muffled.

"It is." Akechi gently pried Mishima's arms from around his waist. "I'm just having some trouble accepting it. Something feels amiss."

Mishima backed off to an acceptable distance. “You’re just anxious. It’ll pass when you wake up tomorrow and go back to work and see everything’s okay.”

Akechi forced a half smile and ran a hand through his own hair. He could only hope their combined intuitions were right. If they weren’t…

“Hey, c’mon.” Mishima gently touched his arm and he flinched. “Oh. Sorry. Um. Let’s go distract you. You’re not gonna feel better just standing in here worrying.”

“I suppose not.”

Akechi conceded to following Mishima back into the living room and was gently pulled back down onto the couch while Mishima flitted about the small room. He watched him, marveling at how upbeat he seemed even in such a stressful situation. Of course, most of the stress was on Akechi.

Mishima pulled the DVD out of his bag again and crouched by the TV to insert it. “It’s, um… It’s animated, so… I hope that’s not too childish for you?” He looked back over his shoulder, then stood and came back over.

“I can’t recall the last time I watched something like that, so I can’t really say.”

Mishima pulled the blanket off the back of the couch, settled against Akechi’s side, and spread it over both of them. Akechi put an arm around him and pulled him closer against him. He was so warm.

“It’s okay if you don’t like it. It’s just one of my favorites and, um… The wizard really reminds me of you.” He covered his face with the blanket. “Sorry, that’s so weird.

“I… don’t think I’ve ever been told anything like that before?” Akechi fumbled for the remote under the blanket and started up the movie. “I’m not sure how to respond.”

“I dunno… He’s like… this handsome, troubled guy, and…” He covered his face again and laughed. “Never mind, just ignore me.”

“I refuse.” Akechi tugged the blanket away from his face and kissed his head. Mishima tilted his head up to catch his lips and kiss him properly.

Mishima giggled quietly to himself, snuggled closer, and rested his head on Akechi’s collar just like he had before. They both fell silent to focus on the movie.

It was unlike anything Akechi had seen in a long time. His film consumption had been totally consumed by crime dramas and superhero movies in the past several years with little deviation from those themes. He certainly hadn’t seen anything so imaginative and, he had to admit, charming.

Part-way through, the wizard in question was throwing a dramatic tantrum, crying out about how life wasn’t worth living if he couldn’t be beautiful, and Mishima tilted his head up to mumble “That’s you.”

Akechi laughed harshly and shoved at him. “No, it is not!

Mishima flopped back in against him and wrapped his arms around him tightly so he couldn’t be moved again, cackling with delight. “It is! You and your pretty boy image. I’ve seen your skincare lineup!”

Please forgive me for caring for my complexion.” Akechi slumped back and let Mishima cling happily to him. Once he was sure he wasn’t going to be shoved off, Mishima let him go and shifted his position back to comfortably leaning on him. He pulled Akechi’s arm back around him and held his hand on his stomach.

Mishima was much quieter than Akechi had been during his choice of films, but did occasionally speak up to tell Akechi that an upcoming scene was one he really enjoyed or to comment on some backstory or a discrepancy between the novel and movie. He held Akechi’s hand for the remainder and squeezed it briefly during tense or emotional moments.

By the end, Mishima was quietly sniffling and using his free hand to rub tears from his eyes with his sleeve. Akechi leaned his cheek on the top of his head and caressed his hand with his thumb.

“S-sorry. I cry every time, a little.” He laughed quietly through his tears and pulled his hand free from Akechi’s to use both sleeves to dry his eyes. “I don’t know why. It’s just… a really emotional moment, I guess.”

“Still no tears from me. Though I’ll admit it was touching.” He sat up properly. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah! Yeah, I’m fine. I’m good.” He laughed again, then sniffled. “It’s like a reflex. I’m happy, I promise. Did you like it?”

Akechi paused to think, staring off in another direction. “I think so. It was quite different from what I’m used to, but I can see clearly why it’s so dear to you.” He looked back to Mishima. “Thank you for sharing it with me.”

“Of course…” Mishima smiled and leaned over to kiss his cheek. “Good second date?”

“Lovely.” Akechi turned away to stifle a yawn into his hand. “Pardon me.”

“Aww, you’re sleepy. Wanna go to bed? It’s pretty late…” Mishima pulled the blanket off of them, stood, and folded it to throw it back over the back of the couch where it belonged.

Akechi just flopped over onto the space where he had been seated.

“C’mon,” Mishima ruffled his hair and got a whine. “Stop being a baby.” He turned and began cleaning up the table. “Oh, we didn’t even eat our cake…”

“Breakfast.” Akechi was half muffled against the couch cushion.

Mishima only laughed and left to stick their uneaten food in the fridge.

Akechi dragged himself up with some effort and wandered off to brush his teeth and wash his face. When he came back out, the living room was empty and Mishima was sitting on his bed looking at his phone. For a moment, Akechi’s heart stopped and he feared for the worst.

Mishima looked up, smiled, saw Akechi’s expression, and then frowned. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Did he…?”

“Huh?”

“Amamiya. He didn’t—”

“Oh! No! Everything’s fine. I’m just checking messages.” Mishima put his phone down on the bed and stood and stretched.

Akechi sat where Mishima had been and looked at his own phone while Mishima went into the bathroom. He double and triple checked his texts, emails, and voicemails to ensure he hadn’t missed anything, but found only a spam email trying to sell him kitchenware. He deleted it and opened the Phansite instead. There wasn’t anything interesting. There hadn’t been for some time now. Ever since the Okumura incident, things had been mostly the same. The Phansite had become a sea of hatred with the occasional raft of optimism thrown in. Akechi wasn’t sure who was more foolish.

Mishima came back and crawled into bed behind Akechi against the wall.

“All good on your end?” He sounded much more tired suddenly. “I don’t think they’d be working this late…”

Akechi put his phone aside and laid down on his back. “It’s much too past their curfew for them to be working, but I just…” He glanced over, secretly hoping for some reassurance.

Mishima seemed to have read his mind and gave him a sweet smile. “It’s okay. They’re all probably asleep by now. I know Amamiya goes to bed early, at least. I’m sure you didn’t miss anything. You’ll go in tomorrow and it’ll be—” He yawned into his arm. “Ugh. It’ll be fine.”

“You sound like you need some rest.” Akechi knew he did too, but now his heart was pounding too hard and he knew he wouldn’t be getting any anytime soon. Not if he couldn’t calm his nerves.

“Yeah… I’m sleepy…” Mishima trailed off and Akechi focused his attention on the ceiling.

Things were quiet for long enough that Akechi was certain Mishima had fallen asleep. He had stopped fidgeting long ago. Akechi reached over to switch the lamp off, but his movement caused Mishima to speak up.

"Hey… Was Akechi your mom's name…?" He sounded half asleep, and when Akechi turned his head to look at him, he looked it too.

"Yes," Akechi felt instantly defensive at the mention of his mother. This never went anywhere pleasant for him. "Why?"

Mishima shut his eyes and laughed to himself. "Goro Shido is a really stupid name."

"That's what you have to say about that?" He breathed out a quiet laugh and leaned over to ruffle Mishima's hair roughly.

"St-stop—! Stop!" Mishima laughed harder and shoved his hand off, turning onto his side to push him flat onto his back. "Asshole."

Akechi just smiled at him and ran his fingers through his hair again, fixing it this time. "My utmost apologies. Please forgive me."

"I'll think about it." Mishima pressed a kiss to his jaw, leaving his lips there for a few seconds before putting his head down on his shoulder. "Seriously though, I think you dodged a bullet. Goro Akechi suits you much better."

"Thank you for your approval, Yuuki Mishima." He let his hand rest on his head.

"You're welcome." Mishima's hand came up to Akechi's chest and fidgeted with a lock of his hair. "You need a haircut."

"Maybe after all of this blows over. I've neglected that sort of thing recently, I suppose." He looked down at Mishima's face. "Weren't you going to sleep?"

"Yeah, but… I dunno. I was just thinking about stuff. And I like talking to you. And then I realized you could've been named Goro Shido and I thought it was funny."

Akechi was silent for a long pause, thinking, considering the repercussions of the words he wanted to say. If there was anyone he could say them to, it was Mishima. He knew he should have nothing to worry about. Mishima had seen him shirtless and vulnerable before. He was perceptive enough to put together the pieces. But it was still nerve-wracking to actually touch on.

"It… wouldn't have been Goro anyway. I chose that name myself." He turned his head away and braced himself to have this hard conversation.

"Oh! Oh, right, yeah. That makes sense. I, uh, Yuuki is unisex, so…" Mishima pressed his face into Akechi's shoulder, ears pink. "I just never tried to change it."

"It's common, but it suits you." Akechi felt some weight lift off of him and be replaced with safe relief. “You have my approval as well.”

"Really? No one ever really uses it. Except you now, I guess…" He grinned and hid his face again. "It makes it feel special."

"Not your parents?" Akechi knew they weren't on good terms, but he also didn't exactly have any experience with having parents himself.

The guardians he had been passed around to as a child had frequently used his given name as a weapon, screamed at him when he stepped out of line or simply existed in a way they weren't fond of.

"No, um… Not really. They don't really call me anything. We don't really talk. At all."

Akechi resumed petting through his hair, hoping to impart some sense of comfort. Mishima's eyes shut.

"Everyone at school just calls me Mishima, and y'know… I don't have friends or anything, so… it's just you using it. And I like hearing it when it's from you. God that sounds so sappy, I'm sorry."

"Since when do you apologize for that?" That earned him a gentle tug on his hair. "Ow. What?"

"You're mean."

"Get up and leave then." He lifted his hand from Mishima's hair.

"No." Mishima grabbed Akechi's hand and pulled his arm tightly around himself so he was being held. "It's cold out there."

"Maybe if you owned a coat—"

"Maybe you should buy me one as a Christmas present if you're so worried about it. Then you can kick me out and not feel bad."

Mishima sounded like he was still joking, but it didn't sit well with Akechi. Not after the discussion about teasing and taking things too far and how sensitive Mishima had become to other people's jabs.

"Look at me." He loosened his grip on Mishima's side. "Yuuki."

"Hm?" Mishima lifted his head up so they could look at each other. He was still half smiling, but looked more confused than happy.

"I'm not kicking you out." He put a hand to Mishima's cheek. Mishima's eyes shut and he leaned into it, smiling more genuinely now. "I was only joking."

"What? Yeah, I know. And I was joking about you being mean. Mostly." He touched Akechi's wrist and held it to keep his hand on his face. "You're worrying too much."

"Forgive me for considering your emotions." He barely pinched Mishima's cheek.

Mishima yelped and smacked his hand away. "You're being so touchy tonight. First my hair, now this. You wanna fight or something? Get some of that pent up energy out?"

"You would lose." Akechi pulled his hands back to himself and smirked up at Mishima hovering next to him.

"No, I'd win. You're too scared to hurt me now." Mishima stuck out his tongue, then lowered his head down to rest on his crossed arms. "I'd just start crying and you'd back off."

Akechi laughed, incredulous. "Foul play!"

"No! You didn't say anything about any rules, so it's totally fair!"

"Well, now I know your strategy and that any tears shed will be mere crocodile tears intended to manipulate me. I maintain that you would lose." Akechi realized he was giving this too much serious thought and met Mishima's eyes with a tired smile.

Mishima broke into a fit of giggles and hid his face in his arms. Akechi was completely enamored. He watched him until he had calmed down.

Mishima lifted his head up, grinning with pink cheeks and tears in his eyes. "I love you so much. You're such a huge dork."

"You're incredibly cute." He got another round of giggles out of Mishima. "And it's incredibly late."

"Oh. Yeah, it is. Sorry." Mishima rolled onto his back and pulled the blanket up closer to his face. "You should go to sleep."

Akechi reached over and switched off the lamp next to his bed, then sunk down farther into the bed to get comfortable on his back, eyes up on the ceiling in the dark. There was some more rustling next to him as Mishima moved around, then silence.

Though they had done this several times now, it was still strange to share space with someone in the darkness. It took an enormous amount of trust, he thought, to be this vulnerable and defenseless around another person. That single thought may have summed up the entirety of his time spent with Mishima over the months. It had all been about trust and how eager Mishima was to give it despite Akechi's walls. Either one or both of them had been foolish. He wasn't sure which.

He kept waiting to hear Mishima's breathing slow next to him, a sign he had fallen asleep, but it never did. After a long several minutes of silence, he felt Mishima's hand find his under the covers and grasp it loosely. Akechi rubbed it with his thumb. He heard Mishima sigh.

"Goro…?" His voice sounded small and full of hesitation.

"Hm?"

"Did you... have a good time tonight?"

"Yes. Lovely." He turned his head to look at Mishima in the dark. He had his eyes shut. "Why?"

"Just wondering… I'm really happy…" His voice trailed off.

"Goodnight, my—" He caught himself abruptly stumbling over just the hint of a term of endearment. He wasn't even sure which one he had been about to spit out. Darling? Love? Sweetheart? He stared in silent disbelief at the object of his affections, terrified of his near slip-up, then blinked hard and tried again. "Goodnight, Yuuki."

He could tell from Mishima's breathing that he was trying not to laugh. His cheeks felt hot.

"Goodnight, Goro…"

Chapter Text

Akechi woke up feeling warmer than usual and, after some adjustment, realized it was because he had another person pressed up against him. Mishima had fallen asleep on his side with his arms tucked close to his body and his hands near his face. Akechi turned his head to just watch him in the dim light. He looked so at ease. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to Mishima’s forehead and smiled when he made a soft noise and shifted closer.

Akechi grabbed his phone and dimmed the brightness so as not to wake his companion. The time told him he had slept for several hours past his usual wake time, but it was a Sunday, so it didn’t particularly matter. What did matter was that he had a dozen missed calls from Shido and twice as many texts. He didn’t usually start in on him this early in the morning. Something had to be wrong.

He pulled himself upright and sat on the edge of the bed with his feet on the floor. He felt Mishima shift behind him and heard him mumble something. He murmured an apology for waking him, then fell dead silent as he skimmed through Shido’s texts.

No. No, no, no. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

While he was sleeping, bright and early, the Phantom Thieves had issued a nation-wide calling card. TV broadcasts had been hijacked. Everyone had seen it, including Shido. Akechi had failed. He had taken a day of leisure and missed his one and only opportunity to do what he was supposed to be doing. This monumental blunder for the sake of eating takeout on the couch.

But it wasn’t too late.

He tossed his phone onto the bed and swore under his breath while quickly changing clothes, not caring what Mishima saw right now. He had bigger problems than his boyfriend seeing him perform the world’s fastest costume change. He nearly tripped while getting his pants on and caught himself on the dresser.

“Trying to run away after a date doesn’t really work if you wake up at your own house…” Mishima turned onto his side to watch him, rubbing an eye and smiling.

“Not in the mood.” He got his shirt buttoned and pulled a sweater on over it, then ran a hand through his bed-head as well as he could.

“What’s going on? What’s wrong?” Mishima propped himself up on an elbow.

Akechi gestured to his phone on the bed while digging through a drawer for socks.

Mishima picked it up and was quiet while he read through Shido’s texts, then breathed out a weak “Oh, god…”

Akechi forced himself to laugh, wandered into the bathroom to assess the damage to his appearance, then came back with his hair brushed and face washed. He grabbed his phone from the bed, then moved over to his desk.

“Hey,” Mishima stood from the bed and came over to hold his arms out for a hug. Akechi just stared at him until he dropped them. “It’s gonna be okay. No matter what happens.”

Akechi laughed again and took a deep breath. “It very well might not be. If you don’t hear from me tonight, I…” He sighed hard through his nose. “That’s it.”

“No, don’t say that. C’mon…” Mishima grabbed his face with both hands.

Akechi pulled away. “I’m not saying it to be dramatic, I’m saying it because if I do not stop them from completing this change of heart, I will either be taken into police custody as an accomplice when he makes his confession, or I will die inside the Metaverse. I’m not coming back if I don’t see that success is guaranteed.” He paused. “I’m sorry.”

Mishima just stared at him, looking increasingly heartbroken by his words. Akechi couldn’t bear to see it and turned away.

“I have to go.”

“Goro…” Mishima put his arms around him tightly from behind and pressed his face into the back of his shoulder. “I love you. I know you’ll come back. I’ll stay here today, okay? I’ll see you tonight.”

Akechi knew he was wasting time letting Mishima hold onto him like this. He should have already been inside the Palace, racing to the Treasure to ensure he could formulate a plan to keep the Phantom Thieves away from it, but part of him knew he also needed the firm reassurance that Mishima’s embrace gave him. He put a hand over Mishima’s on his chest.

“I love you too.” He pulled his arms off of him. “Let go or you’ll get pulled in.”

Mishima wrapped his arms back around and squeezed him one more time, but then did as he was asked and took a few steps back to sit on the bed and waited. Even with his back turned, Akechi could tell from his breathing that he was crying. That was enough to motivate him to activate the Metanav.


When he arrived in the Palace, he didn’t notice any immediate signs that the Phantom Thieves were around. He didn’t hear them, anyway. He quickly, stealthily, made his way back into the deepest part of the ship, stopping in at the engine room just to be absolutely certain that his plan had failed. Sure enough, the Yakuza member stationed there was nowhere to be found. How had they made so much progress in one day? Had they somehow known he was tailing them and been intentionally going at a snail’s pace to throw him off? He had been too careful for that.

He perched just outside the chamber that he knew held Shido’s Treasure and waited, trying to organize his scrambled thoughts. He had to win this. He had to take them all out himself. There was no going back from here.

He sat waiting for a long time, becoming increasingly anxious but determined. If he could take out their leader, he had a strong feeling that the rest of them would fall like dominoes. It would just be getting to that point that might be difficult. He had studied all of them during their short time together and thought he had a grasp on their weaknesses, but Amamiya was sharp, always moving, always alert. Even getting a bullet to his head again would be near impossible.

He was jarred out of his thoughts by the sound of approaching footsteps and hushed conversation. He stepped out from the shadows and stood in their path, one hand on the gun at his hip.

“Crow!” Okumura’s daughter was the first one to speak up, though she sounded more angry than surprised. None of the others looked too shocked either. They just seemed focused and tense.

“Good afternoon.” He kept his tone light, pleasant. “I’m afraid I must ask you respectfully to leave.”

“Are you kidding me?” Sakamoto started to charge forward, but was stopped by Amamiya’s hand on his shoulder. He clenched his jaw and stayed put. “What the hell are you doin’ here?!”

“I’m simply doing my job. The same job you have been interfering with now for months.” He tilted his head and smiled. “Please don’t make this more difficult for me.”

“What are you talking about…? Why are you protecting Shido? Don’t you see what this Palace looks like? It’s sick.” Niijima’s sister stepped up closer to stand next to Amamiya.

“I’m not protecting anyone. But you would never understand that. And I’m in no position to explain it to you. You know enough, and you’ll take that knowledge with you to the grave.” He tensed the hand on his weapon and saw several of his opponents reach for theirs as well, body language shifting slightly to a more defensive stance. “Are you prepared to die for your cause, Joker?”

Amamiya said nothing, just scowled at him. Akechi saw his hand grip into Sakamoto’s shoulder tighter.

“Stop bluffin’. Just back down.” Sakamoto spoke evenly, like he was talking to an aggressive dog. “We already know all of your tricks.”

“I don’t think he’s bluffing.” Niijima glanced to Sakamoto, and then back to Akechi. “If he really is behind the mental shutdown cases, then we really don’t know what else he’s capable of.”

“Do you always talk about someone like this as if they aren’t in the same room as you? That’s not very polite, Queen.” He spat out her codename with a smirk. “But you’re correct. You have absolutely no idea just what I’m capable of.”

He wheezed out a laugh and, not wanting to waste any more time, summoned Loki with a shout of his name. He was momentarily consumed by a flash of red flame, and his princely costume was transformed into his preferred black attire. Finally, the Phantom Thieves collectively looked bowled over with shock at his sudden change.

He flipped down the visor on his helmet and smirked at them, eyes wide.

“A black mask… It’s— No!” Takamaki stumbled back a bit. “Just like Kaneshiro said. It was you?!

He cackled and pointed his gun steadily at Amamiya’s head. “Well, Joker?”

Amamiya remained silent, but stepped forward.

Say something!” Akechi waved his arm, emphasizing the gun at the end of it. “Do you not understand the severity of this situation? Do you not understand what kind of danger you’re in? Stop trying to rely on your stupid charisma!”

“I don’t want to fight you.” Amamiya kept stepping closer. “Not like this. Maybe I don’t understand why you’re working for Shido, but—”

Akechi pulled the trigger.

Amamiya barely dodged out of the way, throwing himself onto the floor and rolling. The others shrieked and scattered. Akechi heard Sakamoto summon his Persona and give an order and dodged out of the way just soon enough that the edge of his helmet buzzed against his skull with a zap of electricity.

There was more yelling, and he was suddenly in the midst of a flurry of spells aimed carefully to keep from mortally wounding him. He didn’t need this kind of pity. He couldn’t keep from laughing, knowing he sounded deranged. He didn’t care.

He commanded Loki and sent out a wave of energy that sent all but two of the Thieves flying into walls and knocking over decorations. He pointed his gun at Amamiya’s head again, shot, and missed. The bullet glanced off of one of Sakamoto’s metal accessories, and Kitagawa retaliated by knocking Akechi backwards into a pillar. He heard a crack somewhere in his body.

Another physical attack came at him from the side and hit his helmet at just the right angle to knock it off and send it flying across the floor.

He screamed in anger and aimed his gun again just as he felt something hard and cold come down on the back of his skull. There was a loud, hollow sound as his head hit the ground.

And then nothing.


When Akechi slowly regained consciousness, the first thing he realized was that it was quiet. There was none of the yelling or frantic energy that he had been experiencing what felt like mere moments before. Everything was still and silent save for the hum of a space heater. The second thing he noticed was that his entire body ached, especially his head.

Opening his eyes revealed that his vision was blurry and sent a sharp knife through his temple. He whined involuntarily and shut his eyes again. There was movement across the room and the sound of someone coming closer to him. Cracking open one eye revealed the blurry form of Amamiya standing over him. He groaned and squeezed his eyes shut again, hoping he would vanish.

“Good morning,” Amamiya knelt down next to him and, Akechi felt his hair being brushed back as something cool and wet was placed on his forehead.

He tried to rip it off and fling it at Amamiya, but all he managed was reaching up to touch it and leaving his own hand pressed there. The slight pressure and cold fabric did enough to soothe his pain that he could get his eyes open without as much trouble.

“Get’a’wy fr’me…” His speech came out slurred and not at all as aggressive as he wanted it to. He tried to glare instead, but couldn’t tell if it came across. Amamiya looked unphased.

“I just want to make sure you’re not going to die on my couch.” He stood back up and walked away to sit on the bed, but kept his eyes on Akechi. “When you think you can make it home, you’re free to leave. If you want to eat something, I’ll make you some curry. But you should probably just sleep tonight.”

He struggled hard to sit up, but couldn’t lift himself more than to prop himself up on an elbow weakly. Even that was exhausting. He collapsed back again, short of breath from the effort. He heard Amamiya scoff at him.

“You’re not going to force your way through it. Sleep.” He heard what sounded like Amamiya laying back on the bed.

He stayed still, at least, eyes on the ceiling. It was covered in glow in the dark star stickers. How childish.

He wished he had died more than anything. He should have been left inside the crumbling Palace if the Phantom Thieves had succeeded. So why was he alive, laying immobile on Ren Amamiya’s stupid attic couch and staring up at plastic stars? He hadn’t asked for this. He had intended to give his life if he failed, and clearly he hadn’t succeeded in either of his goals.

If he could just get back to the Metaverse in this state, he could put himself in front of a Shadow, and—

He fumbled for his phone in his pockets weakly, but couldn’t find it.

“It’s dead,” He heard Amamiya’s voice from across the room. “I don’t have a charger for it, and I dropped it trying to get you here, so it’s a little scuffed up now. Sorry.”

He gave a pathetic groan and resigned himself to just shutting his eyes. Anything to get Amamiya to stop talking.

He fell asleep.

He awoke again to light streaming in through the window and some sort of commotion downstairs. He was pleasantly surprised to find that, though it hurt, he could sit up with less effort than before, and the pain in his head had decreased to a dull throbbing. His vision was still a bit blurry and his body felt like it had been put through a wringer, but at least he could move.

“Morning,” He heard a voice that was definitely not Amamiya’s and looked around for the source. The weird cat — Morgana, he remembered — stood from the foot of the bed and stretched, then jumped down and padded over. “Feeling any better?”

Akechi’s eyes went wide for just a second before settling into a hard glare. He knew by now that the cat could talk, but it didn’t mean he had to like it.

“Don’t look at me like that. We could have left you to die, you know.” Morgana glared back. “I’m going to tell Ren you’re awake. We’ll get you breakfast.”

He disappeared down the stairs and left Akechi alone with his dazed thoughts.

He didn’t want to be here, or anywhere else. He could practically feel the end of his life approaching, and he didn’t intend for it to be taken from him by Shido of all people. He probably had a few days to disappear, to work out a final plan before the confession broke out. Shido supposedly had a plan himself in place to keep his confession confined to his inner circle in a worst case scenario, but Akechi knew better than to believe that he would be included in that protection himself. It was more likely that he would become a scapegoat for everything.

He needed to get home and start figuring things out.

He slowly got his feet on the floor and stood. He was wobbly, and it sent pain through his hips and his ribs, but it worked. Walking was difficult, but he managed to get across the room to grab his phone off the desk. The screen was cracked across the top and the case had been chipped away in two corners. Great. Just how many phones was he going to be purchasing this year? He tried the power button and was greeted by a low battery message before the screen shut off again. At least it still worked.

“I told you it’s dead. Didn’t believe me?” Amamiya spoke from the doorway where he stood holding a glass of water and a plate of curry.

He walked in and set both on the desk, then motioned for Akechi to sit in the chair. Akechi just glared at him.

“You don’t have to eat it. But you probably should.” He crossed his arms. “It looks like you can walk around okay, so you can go, but… We need to talk.”

“I don’t want to talk to you.” Akechi tried to move past him, but was easily pushed back in his weakened state.

“Too bad.” Amamiya held him by the shoulders and gently shoved him down into the chair. “I saved your life. The least you owe me is an explanation—”

“I didn’t ask you to do that!” Akechi had no control over his tone or volume. His voice came out harsh and loud. “You should have left me there. You didn’t save my life, you prolonged my suffering! Now, because of you, we get a grand confession and I—” He took a deep breath and felt one of his ribs pop. “It’s over. I hope you’re happy. I hope playing Phantom Thief was fun for you.”

“I— What— No. It wasn’t. It was never fun. Do you think this has all been a game to me? Do you even understand what kind of stress I’ve been under—”

Akechi barked out a laugh. “Do you want to talk about stress? You don’t know anything about stress, Amamiya. You have your little gang of puppets and your little game of pretend where you play the role of a savior and everyone falls all over themselves to love you.”

Amamiya just stared at him. He almost looked hurt, for once.

“Let me go home.” Akechi lowered his voice again and stared Amamiya in the eyes.

“I— Okay. Just answer a question for me.” He paused to let Akechi agree, but was only met with silence. “Oracle noticed you were tailing us inside the Palace. How did you know to come after us? You should have thought I was dead.”

Akechi gave him a long, hard stare, then looked down at his hands clasped in his lap. “You truly are clueless.”

Amamiya barely laughed.

“You have a terrible habit of attracting vulnerable, hurt people, but you don’t know how to treat them when they need more from you than just a way out. Reeling someone in close and then cutting the line is a good way to make enemies, one at which you’ve become quite proficient.” Akechi gave him a big, fake smile. “You’re not as smart, or as charming, as you think you are, and there are people who see right through that mask to the narcissistic, controlling person you are inside. You have a mountain of apologies to be making, and I’m not certain they would make an ounce of difference anymore.”

He could see the gears turning in Amamiya’s head, and he took the opportunity to stand.

“I’ll be going. Congratulations on your victory.”

Chapter Text

Ren

i know this is sudden but can you come to leblanc
it's urgent
please
Yeah
I'll be there soon

Mishima had waited at Akechi’s apartment all day and night. He spent most of the time crying, or pacing, or sleeping. At first, he felt certain that Akechi would come back to him, but with each passing hour, he could feel the hope draining out of him until he only felt completely empty inside. Akechi had said if Mishima didn’t hear from him that night, to assume the worst. And now this text from Ren...

He let himself cry hard for a few minutes before he steeled himself to make it to Leblanc without breaking down in public. He splashed some water on his face and avoided looking in the mirror.

He pulled on the coat Akechi had given him several times and hugged it around himself tight, willing himself to keep it together, then set out for Leblanc.

When he arrived, the shop was closed. He knocked on the door and stood shivering on the doorstep until Ren opened up and let him in. He looked exhausted.

“Coffee?” Ren hovered near the bar.

“I’m fine,” Mishima’s voice came out quiet and weak. He pulled the coat around himself tighter. “Thank you.”

Ren skipped the coffee for himself as well and sat at a booth, motioning for Mishima to join him. He did. They avoided looking at each other.

“You look like you know what this is about.” Ren spoke softly, more gentle than Mishima had heard him in months. “All of this—” He sighed. “I— I didn’t know you— Why did you do this? Just— Explain, because I don’t really understand.”

“Why did I…?” Mishima raised his gaze up from the table. “What?”

“Stop. We’re done lying, okay?” The usual harshness was back. “Let’s just be honest with each other. You were working with Akechi.”

Were. That word bit into him and he bit his lip hard, squeezing his eyes shut. So it was final. He nodded without opening them.

Why? You were supposed to be our PR manager, Mishima! You were supposed to help us! You said so many times you wanted to help, that you—”

Stop yelling at me!” Mishima put his head down on the table and covered it with his arms. “Stop, stop, stop— Please—” He was back to crying weakly, trying to hide himself.

Ren was quiet, and then surprised him with a very gentle “I'll stop.”

He nodded under his arms.

“I don’t want to yell. I’m just— A lot is happening. We’re both upset. I just want you to explain.”

They both sat quietly until Mishima could find it in him to speak. He didn’t lift his head.

“You hurt me. Over and over. Every time I tried to be open with you, you’d make fun of me or shoot me down or tell me I was being crazy, and I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to believe in you. I wanted to be friends, but you just kept taking shots at me, and it hurt, and he…” His voice cracked. “He treated me like a person. He loved me—”

Ren stayed silent while Mishima tried to get his bearings again. It was hard, and he couldn’t stop crying.

“When we were in Hawaii and you kept ignoring me, or you’d ask me questions and then just make fun of me when I answered, I couldn’t— I heard Takamaki-san say I had a crush on you and you sounded so disgusted, and— Ren, I just wanted to be friends with you. I just wanted to be your friend.

He heard Ren sniffle and he barely lifted his head up to see him covering his eyes with his hands under his glasses, elbows resting on the table.

“Shit…” His voice was still just as gentle, but now thick with the effort of trying not to go to pieces. “This is my fault! This is really, really my fault. I deserve all of this for being so… So stupid, so ignorant. I didn’t know. I should have. He called me clueless and he was right.”

Mishima took several deep breaths and sat up straighter. “I just wanted to help people. And it felt like you didn’t care anymore.”

Ren went still, and slowly lowered his hands to stare at Mishima, suddenly looking much more shocked than upset.

“The rumors about the Phansite— Was that— No. No, no.” He shook his head.

“I’m sorry—”

Mishima!

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry!” He hid his face again, arms shaking, taking gasping breaths. “I’m sorry, sorry, I’m sorry, Ren—”

“How could you do that? People died, Mishima!” Ren slammed a hand down on the table hard and Mishima whimpered in fear. “Fuck. You sabotaged us! You wanted to be friends? You betrayed me!”

Mishima lifted his head again and glared across the table. “You betrayed me, Ren! I thought I could trust you! I thought you cared about me and you took every single chance you could to keep me on your side while you treated me like I was disposable to you! You told me I could be replaced. You threatened me! You pushed me so hard I didn’t feel like I had a choice! I couldn’t just drop the Phansite and walk away or you’d come after me. I’d go back to being totally alone all the time, totally useless to everyone. I had to.”

"You did not have to!" Ren was really yelling now. He was angrier than Mishima had ever seen him. "You could have talked to me! Why would you ever think you had to kill people?"

"Because I wanted to help! I— When Goro told me you could just do that using the Metaverse— that you could just take criminals out, I— What was I supposed to do? Knowing you just let people like— l-like Kamoshida go, I—"

"You don't kill people!"

"You don't understand!"

They were both screaming at each other now.

"No, I don't! I don't understand why you thought making a hitlist and using your murderer boyfriend as an attack dog under our name was helpful."

Mishima fell silent and just stared at him, breathing hard and hands balled into shaking fists partially covered by the too-long sleeves of Akechi's coat on the table.

"You have never understood me. And I should have noticed it way sooner." He moved to get up.

"Stop," Ren’s voice softened. "C'mon. I crossed a line. I'll stop yelling if you do."

Mishima paused but then settled back down into the booth and pulled his knees up to hug them. He pressed his face into them. Ren sat quietly and didn't pry. They both needed time to calm down.

He got his breathing under control and spoke up weakly. "I went months thinking the best thing anyone could have done in that situation was make him confess and lock him up. I thought that was the only way I was ever going to get out. I thought you were my hero and you were going to save me and make things better."

He rubbed his eyes with a sleeve, then realized how mad Akechi would be if he got his coat dirty, then remembered he wasn't there to get mad and wiped away more tears at the thought.

"But you didn't want me around. I made the Phansite and I worked so hard and you still—" He sniffled. "You pushed me away. You laughed at me, made fun of me for always working on it and not taking breaks. You didn't understand. I wanted to be useful."

"You are… You have been, but—"

"Let me finish, please." He rubbed his eyes again. "Goro told me about everything. He told me about Okumura. And I… It made me so... mad. Suddenly, it was like— Like God, if someone had… If someone had killed him, before Suzui-san— I thought I was going to die. I thought so many times he was going to kill me or I was going to kill myself. He made my life hell every single day, I was so scared." His voice broke and he paused to breathe. "When I found out he could have been killed instead of being allowed to just go on living his life, even with the weight of what he'd done to us, I— I couldn't handle it."

He turned his head to rest his cheek on his knees and stared out into the cafe, towards the bar.

"That's why. I thought— if it were me, what would I want? If there were people going through what I went through, would they want that sense of vengeance? You don't get it. You haven't been there. But— Goro did, he understood me. More than anyone—" He covered his face with his hands and pressed his palms against his eyes, but he couldn't talk anymore.

Ren didn't seem to know what to say and they both sat together, silence punctuated by Mishima's sniffling and pathetic sobs.

"You're right. I don't get it." He kept his voice low. "I wouldn't want that. Ever. For anyone. Every time, we tried so hard to ensure no one would die as a result of our actions. And I can't understand you intentionally sabotaging that."

Mishima apologized quietly and tightened his posture, making himself smaller.

"I—" Ren sighed. "I don't want your apologies, Mishima. It's way too late for that. It's over. But you need to promise me you're done."

Mishima nodded, then shakily sobbed into his knees. "I can't anyway without him."

"Without Akechi?" He sounded puzzled.

Mishima nodded again.

"I wanted to tell him directly, but he didn't seem like he was in the mood for a friendly discussion. We can shelter him until this blows over. Keep him safe from Shido—"

"He's gone. Please just stop…" Mishima could barely sob out the words. This was cruel, even for Ren.

"What?"

"He told me yesterday if he didn't come back last night he—" He shivered hard, suddenly freezing. "Please don't do this, Ren, it's not funny. I can't handle it."

"He didn't go home because he was passed out on my couch with a concussion. He went home this morning." Ren spoke gently and pushed a napkin dispenser across the table.

Mishima lifted his head and took a few napkins to try to dry his face, but it was a lost cause. "I was at his apartment. Please stop."

"You probably missed him. I texted you right after he left. He told me I needed to apologize to you." He paused. "And that it probably wouldn't matter. But I thought you should hear it anyway."

Mishima fumbled with his phone with shaky, cold hands and did his best to type a message.

"His phone was dead when he left. It might still be. But I promise he was very alive."

"Tell me what happened. He told me he wasn't coming back if he couldn't stop you. And you're here, so… Why?"

"He tried to kill us to keep us from changing Shido's heart. We knocked him unconscious so he wouldn't do something drastic and then I dragged him out with us when the Pala— when the—"

"I know about the Metaverse. It's fine."

"Okay. Yeah. When the Palace collapsed, I grabbed him and we carried him out with us. Which was…" He sighed and laughed. "A huge ordeal, by the way. I thought I was doing him a favor."

"He feels trapped. I feel trapped. I think we're both going to die. If he didn't come back, I… I probably…"

"Hey. No. No, you're not. Neither of you are dying, okay? Enough people have died because of all of this." He gave Mishima a stern look. "We'll shelter him. We can board him somewhere secret until we figure out how this change of heart is going to go. He just has to agree to it. And… I figure if anyone can convince him, it might be you."

"I need to go." Mishima slid out of the booth and stood, rubbing his eyes with his sleeves one more time.

"Okay," Ren stood with him. Mishima felt like he was towering over him and backed off more towards the bar. "Hey, are we… are we good? You and me?"

Mishima gave him a look somewhere between disbelief and a smile. "No, we're not. I don't know if we ever will be." He looked down at the floor and fidgeted with his sleeves.

“Really?”

“What? Yes, really. Are you really asking me that? You really don’t understand how much you hurt me, do you?”

“I… just wish you would have talked to me. Before all of this got so…"

“I did. So many times, Ren—” He leaned back against the bar, feeling defeated.

“When?”

When? When I told you how sorry I was about the whole Akiyama thing and you told me I was crazy. When I told you you hurt my feelings about Goro. When you texted me yelling at me about Okumura and guilt tripped me for not understanding what you wanted from me. When I told you Goro cared about me and you told me I was just being used. So you could use me instead. When you told me we were friends and I told you you never treat me like one.” He was crying again and he hated it. “You just don’t listen.

“I didn’t realize it was such a big deal—”

“God, what’s wrong with you? I’m going home.” Mishima stood straighter and let himself out before Ren could stop him. He heard Ren say something as he shut the door, but he didn’t come out after him.

Chapter Text

Mishima pushed open the door to Akechi’s apartment and hesitantly stepped inside. He didn’t know what he would do if he found it empty, if Ren had been playing a sick joke on him, if it wasn’t a joke, but he was too late to stop Akechi from doing something to himself. The lights were still off like he had left them. He took his shoes off at the door and took a deep breath.

“Goro…? I’m back.”

No answer. He tried his hardest to stop from crying again just from the silence and moved into the living room.

Akechi was on the couch, on his stomach, fully dressed, unconscious.

Mishima rushed over and knelt down, failing to keep the tears back now. He gently touched Akechi’s arm and brushed his hair back out of his face. His eyes barely opened.

“H-hey,” Mishima tried to force himself to smile. “W-welcome h-h-home—” He couldn’t get the words out without falling apart completely, and he covered his face with his hands and doubled over, sobbing.

“Yuuki…” Akechi sounded so, so weak. He reached out a hand and touched Mishima’s hair.

“You didn’t come home!” He straightened up just enough to try and glare at him, then forced Akechi up to wrap his arms around him. There was a pause, but then he felt Akechi return the embrace and put his chin on his shoulder, pulling him closer.

“I know. I’m sorry. I was… being held hostage, so to speak.” He pressed his face into Mishima’s neck.

“Are you okay…? Are you hurt? Do you need me to do anything? I—” He sobbed and felt Akechi squeeze him tighter. “I was so scared. I’m so glad you’re here…”

“Stop crying. Please.” His voice sounded so deadpan and exhausted, like he had no energy left in him at all. Years of forcing himself through everything to keep going and he had finally run dry.

Mishima let him go and sat back on his knees, rubbing his eyes with his now ruined sleeves and gasping quietly to himself between apologies.

“Are you wearing my coat?” Some annoyance crept into his voice. Maybe he had some energy left after all.

Mishima was so caught off guard that he laughed, eyes still covered by his arms. “Yes! It was cold. Is that what you’re worried about right now?” He lowered his arms to his lap, smiling even through his tears.

“I’m a bit concussed at the moment. Please forgive me.” He rolled onto his back and shut his eyes. “Could you plug my phone in and see if it still functions? Amamiya was kind enough to shatter it while he was bending over backwards to circumvent my suicide.”

“Yeah. Okay.” Mishima stood from the floor and took the phone he was handed. “Do you want to move to bed?”

“I don’t want to move at all, no.” He put an arm over his eyes and Mishima took that as his cue to go plug in the phone in the bedroom.

He came back, hovered by the couch, then nudged Akechi over so they could lay together, embracing on their sides. He tucked his face into Akechi’s neck and shut his eyes, taking in his warmth and the faint smell of vanilla on his hair, listening to his breathing.

They stayed like that for a long time, silent and clinging to each other. Mishima tried to ignore the thought that this might be the last day they spent together, that he might be unable to get Akechi to take Ren’s deal. He wasn’t sure if he even wanted to take it himself. Did he deserve to go on living after everything he had done? He didn’t know. But no one was going to come punishing him. Shido’s change of heart wouldn’t involve him. Ren hadn’t mentioned anything about turning him in. He would be safe.

But Akechi wouldn’t, and he couldn’t bear that.

He took in a deep breath. “Goro?” Akechi hummed in response. “I, um, I talked to Amamiya. I thought… I thought you were— So we talked about… the Phansite stuff, and… I mean it was mostly just us screaming at each other, but…”

You screamed at him?

“I did. I stood up to him.” He laughed into Akechi’s neck. “I yelled at him, I told him how much he hurt me, I… told him I don’t think we’ll ever be okay. That I don’t think I can forgive him.”

Akechi breathed out half a laugh, then sighed and fell quiet again. He barely shifted and Mishima got pulled closer.

“He knows what we did… Are you mad?” He barely tilted his head up.

“I don’t have the energy to be mad. It’s going to be over for me soon, anyway. It doesn’t matter.”

“No,” Mishima pulled back to hold Akechi’s face in his hands. His eyes looked dead already. “It’s not.”

“It is. I plan on ending it myself soon. A Shadow won’t hesitate to plow through me if I get in its way. I just…” He averted his gaze. “Wanted to see you first.”

“Goro…” Mishima could feel tears welling up again. “No.”

“I’m sorry. You can’t change my mind—”

No.” He said it more firmly this time and gripped Akechi’s jaw harder. He saw him wince.

“You’re hurting me.”

He loosened his grip again, but didn’t let go. “You’re hurting me.” His voice broke. “I love you.

Akechi leaned in and kissed him, and he let him, keeping his hands on his jaw loosely. Mishima pulled back and Akechi leaned back in to press their foreheads together, eyes shut. Mishima stroked his jaw with his thumb and barely got him to smile.

“You’ve made me so brave.” Mishima spoke quietly. “I never could have stood up to him before like I did today. But you’ve given me so much courage to just… be happy and… feel like I can put myself first sometimes. You’re so special to me. I love you so, so much, Goro…”

Akechi’s eyes fluttered open briefly, then shut again and he hummed, but didn’t respond.

“You okay…?” Mishima tucked some hair behind his ear. Akechi nodded. “Wanna sleep some more…? You seem so tired.” Akechi nodded again. “Okay.”

Mishima shifted their positions so he could pull Akechi’s head to his chest. He stroked his fingers through his hair until he heard his breathing go slow and even, and then continued for his own sake. The thought of not being able to touch or feel him anymore made his chest ache. There was no way he could let Akechi’s plan come to fruition.

If he were smarter, he would have tried harder to stop him from leaving for Shido’s Palace in the first place knowing that he might not come back. One day convinced he would never see him again had been too much to bear. He couldn’t do it again with much more finality.

He would let him rest for now. Akechi couldn’t get up off the couch in this position without waking Mishima in the process, and that made Mishima feel safe. He pressed his face into Akechi’s hair and fell asleep.


Akechi roused himself from sleep for the third time that day with one arm asleep tucked under Mishima, feeling entirely too hot. He tried to untangle himself to get some air, causing Mishima to stir against him.

“G’morning.” Mishima lifted himself up enough for Akechi to free his arm. “Feeling any better?”

“It’s hot…” He pulled his sweater off with some clumsy effort, still regaining feeling in one of his limbs. He went to pull his hair back but realized he didn’t have anything to keep it up with and let it fall back down around his shoulders.

“Yeah, we’re a little overdressed.” Mishima got up off the couch and walked over to the door to hang up the coat, then came back. “I’ll get it dry cleaned again.”

Akechi sat up on the couch and suddenly realized just how nauseous he felt. He hadn’t eaten in nearly two days. Part of him reminded himself that it didn’t matter. The other part wanted more than anything to just share a meal with his boyfriend after the ordeal he was still going through.

“Would you like to get lunch?” Akechi unbuttoned his sleeves and began rolling them up.

“Oh, um, sure.” Mishima gave him a nervous smile and shifted his weight from one foot to the other. Anxious, Akechi knew.

“I don’t particularly want to have anything delivered right now, as I don’t know who will be looking for me, but I can pay if you’d like to go pick something up.” Akechi got up and went into the bathroom to grab a hair tie, and came back with it in his mouth, hands working through his tangled hair.

“Yeah, I can—” Mishima’s brow furrowed. “No.”

“Hm?” Akechi took the hair tie out of his mouth and tied his hair back. “No?”

“I’m not leaving you here alone right now! No!”

“No need to be so angry. Take my phone with you. I can’t access the Metaverse without it.” He sat back down on the couch, tried to cross one leg over the other, realized it was too painful, and just leaned back instead.

“You’ll just do something else.” Mishima crossed his arms.

“I won’t. I promise.”

Mishima stepped over closer and held out his fist, pinky extended, glaring.

“What are you doing?” Akechi looked to his hand, then back up to his face.

“Pinky swear.” Mishima didn’t back down and his expression showed no signs of softening. “Pinky swear or I’m not going.”

Akechi couldn’t stop himself from laughing, but reached his hand out and linked his pinky with Mishima’s. Mishima tightened his around it, held it there while making steady eye contact, then let go and dropped his hand to his side.

“Thanks,” Mishima gave him a tiny smile. “Your phone?”

“Still wherever you plugged it in. Was it working?” He watched Mishima walk to the bedroom.

“It was charging.” He spoke as he walked by, then called “It’s charged,” from the other room. He came back with it in his hand. “I’m not gonna turn it on, I just want to keep it with me.”

“Do whatever you’d like.” Akechi leaned his head back against the couch and shut his eyes. His head was still dully throbbing and he could feel a bruise forming on his forehead where he had hit the ground.

“What do you want to eat?” Mishima sat next to him but left some space between them. "A crepe?"

“Yes," Akechi sighed at the thought. He felt Mishima's hand wrap around his on his thigh."Is that alright with you?"

"I'll get something else, but I'll bring you a crepe. I should make you eat real food, but… I just want whatever's gonna make you happy right now." He gently squeezed his hand. "Coffee?"

"Please." Akechi opened his eyes enough to squint at Mishima, who had his own eyes down on his phone, placing an order with his free hand. "Wasn't that the first meal we had together?"

"Oh. Yeah, it was. Crepes and coffee, at that place by Inokashira. God, that feels like it was so long ago…" Mishima stilled, just staring down at his own lap. "You made me try and analyze your personality. I still think I was right."

"I don't remember what you said." He was having trouble remembering much in general. Ever since he woke up on Amamiya's couch, his head had been swimming.

"That you were lonely, mostly. I think I called you a nerd too." He leaned his head over on Akechi's shoulder.

"Debatable." Akechi kissed his head.

"That's what you said then too. But you didn't kiss me." He grinned up at him and the sight made Akechi's chest tighten. He was suddenly overcome with the urge to cry.

He pushed that urge back down and looked away. "I don't think either of us would have enjoyed that."

Mishima just giggled and went back to looking at his phone. He took a few minutes to finish placing the order for their food, then set his phone down and put his head on Akechi's shoulder again.

"Do you need anything else while I'm out? Ice pack for your head? Pain meds?"

Akechi shook his head. "I have both. Thank you. You're thoughtful as always."

"Of course…" Mishima squeezed his hand, then released it and sat up. He stretched his arms above his head with a groan, then just stared at Akechi like he wanted something.

"What?"

"Um…" He tried to smile, but just looked sad. "Can I have a hug before I go? I just… I'm scared. I know you promised. But…"

Akechi sat up and leaned over to wrap his arms around Mishima's neck and pull him into him. Mishima's arms went around his back and one hand clung to his shirt in a fist.

Akechi pressed a kiss to the side of his head above his ear. "I'll be here when you get back. I pinky swore, after all."

"Okay…" He could hear the smile in Mishima's voice. "You're so cute." He leaned back, confirming he was smiling, and Akechi returned it.

"Go." Akechi released him.

Mishima got up and pulled Akechi's coat back on. Akechi didn't have it in him to protest and just rolled his eyes when Mishima apologized and promised again to have it dry cleaned before dashing out the door.

He sighed hard and leaned back against the couch again. He truly had no intentions of pursuing anything while Mishima was gone. He had at least a few days until any sort of confession went public. Right now, all he really wanted was to sleep. His years of sleep deprivation felt like they had finally caught up to him all at once, weighing down on his chest like a bag of bricks.

He considered just laying down and napping until Mishima returned, but he decided he felt gross enough to warrant a shower and dragged himself to the bathroom. He hadn't sustained any deep, skin-breaking injuries during his final fight with the Phantom Thieves. He hadn't lasted long enough to, which was an issue all on its own that he was refusing to confront. Instead, he had small burns, both electrical and heat-based, all over his body and a plethora of painful bruises. Including the ones on his head.

He stayed under the hot water in the dark for a long time, not thinking anything in particular. He must have spaced out, because he heard the front door open and shut and Mishima calling his name, first in a pleasant tone and then much more frantically.

There was a knock at the door and another, more scared call of his name.

"Just showering. Give me a moment." He called out over the water and realized how strained his voice felt.

He heard Mishima say something back and then there was silence.

He was a bit annoyed that he was now without any sort of trust, but he knew he had done it to himself.

He finished cleaning himself up and shut off the water. The promise of food drew him out and through the effort of drying off and changing into comfortable clothes. When he exited the bathroom, Mishima was perched on the couch with a bowl of soup in his hands. He gave Akechi a big smile.

"You look happy." Akechi came and sat next to him with a pained groan.

"It's good soup." He laughed. "And I'm happy to see you."

"You just saw me." Akechi took his own food onto his lap and took no time to admire it before beginning to eat. He really was starving.

"I'm always happy to see you!" His smile softened and he looked down at his food. “I always will be.”

Akechi chuckled between mouthfuls of food and they both stayed silent while they ate. He wondered if Mishima had eaten since their last meal together. From how distraught he seemed, it was unlikely that he would have had the appetite. Akechi was surprised that he had one himself. The idea that this was his last meal popped into his head and he stared down at the last bite of his food dejectedly. He wasn’t sure how long he sat like that, but Mishima gently speaking his name snapped him out of it and he looked up at him.

“Hey, um…” He seemed more anxious than before. “I wasn’t going to say anything, because I… I didn’t know if I even…” He trailed off and took a deep breath. “If someone offered you protection, would you take it?”

“No one is going to offer Masayoshi Shido’s attack dog any sort of protection, Mishima.” Akechi continued staring at the remainder of his food, feeling increasingly helpless. Eating didn’t matter if he would be dead soon.

“Amamiya will—”

“No.”

“Goro—”

“I don’t want his help. Do you?” Akechi’s tone pitched into low anger without him meaning for it to and he found himself sneering at Mishima like he hadn’t in months.

“I— I don’t want to lose you? Please just consider it— He said he can shelter you somewhere and keep you safe and—” Mishima was becoming increasingly frantic.

“Exactly what point is there to me going on living? Everything I’ve worked for, for years, was snatched right out from under my feet by him, and now you want me to lie down and let him control what I do with my life? No. I’m not doing this.” He set his food aside and picked up his coffee. “There is no reason for me to keep going.”

He took a sip of his coffee.

It was perfect.

In such a short time together, Mishima had picked up on exactly the amount of cream and sugar, the exact flavor combinations, the same light roast that Akechi always ordered, and he made sure to get it right every time without Akechi ever outright detailing his preferences to him. The first time he had done it, he had smiled so hard. He had been so proud of himself.

Akechi looked at him now, shaking and barely crying over his lunch, eyes down and trying so hard to keep it together, being told the person he had professed love for so many times had no reason to live. And he felt like a monster.

He thought about Mishima’s smiles, his laughter, the way he clung to him when they were alone. The way he had accepted and embraced the things Akechi had always seen as huge, glaring flaws in himself. The enthusiastic empathy he had been greeted with when he had finally, for the first time in his life, come clean to someone about his intentions towards Shido.

“Is your coffee okay…?” Mishima spoke through tears, his voice sounding so small.

“It’s perfect. Thank you.” Akechi sounded just as weak. Mishima grinned at the praise even while rubbing tears out of his eyes and Akechi finally felt he had hit a breaking point.

He put his coffee aside and covered his face with his hands, sobbing weakly into them and shuddering hard. He had been keeping himself together so well on the outside, but Mishima lighting up at something as small as getting a coffee order right for him had broken him down entirely.

Of course he had a reason to live. It was right in front of him, and he was blinded by the past. If he could keep seeing Mishima smile, keep hearing his voice, keep spending evenings together making pointless conversation and teasing each other between kisses, he had a reason. Death meant an end to all of that, and he realized he wasn’t ready to give any of it up. Not for anything.

Mishima moved over and wrapped his arms around him tightly, and Akechi couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him alone. Not after all of this.

“I love you.” Akechi’s voice was thick with tears and cracked pathetically, but he got the words out. Mishima held onto him tighter and Akechi heard him whimper the same words back.

They sat clinging to each other and crying without saying a word until Akechi felt he had cried himself out. He sat up to wrap his arms around Mishima’s neck properly, face against his shoulder and one hand in his hair.

“I’m so foolish.” He laughed sadly. “To think I could walk away from this— From you, I… I can’t. I won’t. I won’t let Shido take this from me. He took everything else, for so long, he can’t take this too.”

“I love you so much.” Mishima pressed his face against Akechi’s neck and made a sound Akechi couldn’t differentiate between laughter and sobbing. “I want to be with you. Really, really be with you. No more secrets and plans, I just— Wanna be your boyfriend. I wanna go on dates and fall asleep with you and see you smile, and you—” He made that same sound again, and Akechi was sure now it was laughter. “You’ve changed since I met you. And you changed my life so much that I finally don’t want to disappear, and I just… I wanna keep going if it’s with you....”

Akechi nodded, and Mishima squeezed him tight. “I’ll go out fighting.”