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Post-Season Discussion - Part 1
PhoenixTalk
Streaming live on Dec 31, 2017

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Phoenix Talk.”

The young man sitting in front of the camera was smiling, a worn fleece blanket covered in a pattern of Featherman masks draped over his legs. His hair, as usual, was neatly combed, long bangs hanging over most of the right side of his face, while the rest was tucked behind his left ear. It was almost enough to hide the fact that his right eye was covered in a black eyepatch, and it was easy to mistake the wheelchair for a normal chair if you weren’t paying attention.

“Now that Christmas has passed and the new season has wrapped up, that means we’re finished with weekly episode reactions. Which… I know how much you all like my reactions, especially after the finale, but now it’s time for more analysis of the overall series.”

Very distantly over his shoulder, there was a dark-haired young man in an apron in the kitchen, engaged in what looked like a very heated argument with their cat. Goro paused to read the chat, then smiled. “Akira is fighting with Morgana, because Morgana wants sushi and we’ve already had sushi this week.”

The cat yowled in the background, but Goro paid him no mind, flipping through a set of colored notecards. “Anyway, discussions of my boyfriend and his cat aside, what I wanted to talk about today was the story structure laid out in the first season, especially with regards to characters. As always, a condensed version of the discussion will be posted as a regular Youcube video. ...yes, MoonRabbit99, I’m going to talk about Feather Toucan, don’t worry.

“The real strength of this season, I think, is the way that they introduced relevant characters before they became exceptionally significant to the story. By allowing the rangers to interact with the people around them beyond the standard monster-of-the-week format, we had a chance to grow familiar with them, so that we already had a degree of care for them before they became fellow rangers or victims of an attack. And because they treated all the side characters with relatively the same amount of development, it wasn’t immediately obvious who the additional team members were going to be.”

The chat clamored, throwing out bits of foreshadowing that they’d noticed, and Goro smiled. “Yes, I did see the gold necklace he was wearing in his introduction. Much more subtle than some prior seasons. But after rewatching the early episodes before the finale, did you also notice that in the future Feather Toucan and Feather Pheasant’s first episode, there was nothing immediately obvious about their outfits like in past seasons, but the umbrella they were using to take shelter from the catacyst was aqua and green striped?”

Someone almost immediately pulled up and posted a gif of the umbrella scene, and Goro nodded. “Yes, that one. The foreshadowing and storytelling have been much more nuanced, compared to incidents in early series where you could immediately tell someone was a ranger we hadn’t seen yet just because they showed up more than once. Or because they were always wearing something that color. That just leads to a waiting game for the inevitable conclusion, because at that time they didn’t attempt to pull as many twists for shock value. They were much more predictable. If this were Featherman R, Feather Crimson Robin would have been the princess’s long-lost sister, which, while not a bad plot, wouldn’t be a satisfying twist at this point.”

Goro spent about twenty more minutes discussing the character foreshadowing, then opened up the discussion to chat questions, as usual. People chimed in with headcanons, pointing out in particular the hanging plot threads centered around the remaining stones that had been recovered in the finale.

“You’re right. We haven’t gotten confirmation of a third season, but they also didn’t label this as a series finale, so there are certainly directions they could go. Especially if they were to look for an actual method to repair the broken stones.” Goro leaned in to squint at the chat, where a single message was repeating over and over despite other users all-caps yelling for it to stop. “Wow, someone really wants me to see their question…”

But then his face fell, and he sighed. “‘My headcanon is that you’ve got all that makeup and fake prosthetics so people will give you pity views.’ How incredibly original of you. It must have taken all three of your braincells to come up with that. You didn’t even spell ‘prosthetics’ correctly. Scherezade, if you would?”

The moderator account sent a thumbs-up in the chat, and the person spamming the question promptly disappeared from the list of chat participants.

Goro beamed. “Thank you. I know you’d rather block them before I notice them, but I like to insult them first. Anyway, on the subject of my arm, I actually did want to show it off a bit.” He pushed his sleeve up, revealing a cybernetic prosthetic that extended to just below his elbow. “Akira’s little sister, our helpful moderator there, installed new LEDs for me, so my wrist can show the transformation symbols for all the different series now.”

He cycled the lights through his favorite character from each series, and the chat filled with keysmashes of jealousy and prayer emojis. “She did get permission from the original techs first, so it won’t mess up anything. My arm is just more awesome now.”

He took a few more questions, then glanced over his shoulder to where Akira and Morgana had resolved their differences so that dinner could progress in peace. “I’m signing off early today because Akira is taking me to watch fireworks, so dinner is a bit early, but before I go, I have some very exciting news! I’ve been invited to attend Tokyo’s third annual comic-con on July 20th. I’ll be hosting a panel about the series lore in preparation for the thirtieth anniversary of Featherman, since it will be almost exactly a year away by then. So that’s over six months to make plans to attend, if you want to hear me speak in person.

“That’s all I have for today. Next weekend during the stream we'll continue looking at how the whole plot came together by analyzing individual character arcs. We’ll be starting with Feather Gold’s arc, because I’m biased and want to do my favorite character first. This has been Phoenix Talk. Until next time, everyone!”


Once the camera was off, he turned himself around properly to head for the kitchen. “What did you end up making?”

Akira smiled. “Udon with shredded chicken and green onions,” he said, leaning over to kiss Goro. “Did I hear someone giving you shit about your arm again?”

Goro shrugged. “It happens. But I’m thinking that maybe one of the uploads this week should be another one about my arm. It’s been...three months or so since I did the explanation video, and I got a ton of new subscribers after that finale reaction.” He glanced down at the LED array. “It’s surprising how few trolls I get, actually. People have been very...indifferent to my… …unusual appearance.”

“You’re beautiful,” Akira said. “But if you want to do another explanation video, that’s cool. Can I sneak up behind you and steal your arm?”

“I’ll think about it. That will probably be the third one this week; I want to do the countdown video about homages to prior seasons first.” Goro wheeled himself over to the table, dodging Akira’s second kiss with a smirk. “So, where are we going for fireworks?”

Akira stuck his tongue out at him and went back to stirring the noodles. “Ann and Shiho are going to meet us at Shibuya Station at nine, so we have time to find a good spot before the crowds start building up to unmanageable levels. There’s a whole concert happening beforehand, so we won’t just be standing around for three hours.”

“Thank you for setting all of this up,” Goro murmured.

“You said you’ve never been to the fireworks before,” Akira chimed. “So I wanted you to have a chance to see for yourself. Especially since we were...busy last year.”

“That’s one way to put it,” Goro huffed. But he was smiling, and when Akira brought over two bowls of soup and noodles, he asked, “Where did Morgana go?”

Akira laughed. “I gave him some of the salmon that was in the fridge, and he headed off to go take a nap. He’ll be back before we leave for the fireworks; he said he wanted to go, too.”

A year ago, Goro never would have been able to picture any of this: an apartment, a boyfriend, a home. Feeling like he had somewhere to belong. Hell, this time a year ago, he’d still been in a coma, teetering on the edge of death in another world. But now he had friends, family, a purpose… Even if that purpose was cementing his place as the Most Knowledgeable Featherman Fan on Earth.

A hundred and fifty thousand people thought so, anyway.

Chapter Text

Questions, Comments, Concerns
PhoenixTalk
Published on Jan 6, 2018

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Phoenix Talk. It’s come to my attention after the stream video went up on Tuesday that it has been several months since the last time I did an actual explanation of my condition, so today we will be doing the abridged version.”

Goro was sitting in his usual spot at their dining room table, the kitchen visible across the room behind him. He was frowning, in contrast to his usual upbeat demeanor when talking about the show. “There were a surprising number of comments on both sides of the discussion, but frankly I’m disappointed how many people seem to think that I’m faking at least part of my physical disabilities. Rarely does anyone think I’m faking all of it, thankfully, but everyone seems to pick at least one thing.”

Behind his head, Akira peered around the kitchen doorway, looking mischievous. Goro didn’t seem to notice him. “Overall, I was in an accident. I don’t talk about the specifics, because it was a very upsetting time in my life. Needless to say, I didn’t come out of it in one piece. I am not paraplegic; I can walk short distances. But it’s painful and tiring, so I don’t do it often when it’s not necessary.”

Akira slipped out of the kitchen, padding across the floor and wedging himself behind a potted plant. Goro, meanwhile, reached up and brushed his bangs behind his right ear, fully revealing his eyepatch and the burned side of his face. “I wear my hair long mostly so that people don’t have to look at my burn scars all the time. As for the eyepatch, I don’t take that off because no one wants to see my crusty eye socket, including me.”

He left his hair where it was, and rested his right arm on the table. He was wearing short-sleeves, fully showing off the elaborate prosthetic. “This was a stroke of luck. I met a very generous person that offered me the opportunity to have this fitted. I wouldn’t be nearly as capable without it. Even though Akira takes good care of me, I do try to maintain some independence. The way it works is convenient, however, because I can detach the arm from the actual port if it needs maintenance—”

Akira pounced, tripping the latches on either side of the arm and swiping it triumphantly. “It also means I can do this!” he chimed.

“...yes, and Akira can do that,” Goro said with an exasperated smile. He held up his arm, showing off the port still attached to the stump.

“Come on, you know it’s funny,” Akira giggled, and bopped him gently on the head with his own arm. “Stop hitting yourself~”

Goro grabbed the arm with his other hand, brandishing it like a weapon. “I’m going to hit you, and I can reach much farther like this.”

“Not with no legs you’re not.” Akira danced out of reach, and Goro put his arm in his lap and started to try to wheel after him with one hand, but then turned back to the camera at the last moment.

“As you can see, I am certainly not faking any of this. If you would like a more detailed explanation, the link to my original video will be in the description below. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hit my boyfriend with my robot arm. This has been Phoenix Talk. Until next time.”

Goro wheeled himself off-camera, yelling, “Get back here, Akira!” and the video faded to black.



Phoenix Talk Origin Story Compilation
Scherezade420
Published on Nov 22, 2017

“If you must know,” Goro said, shuffling his notecards, “Morgana ate my arm.”

There was an indignant meow, and the camera tipped over, a black and white tail flicking briefly into the frame.

“It was a joke, Morgana!”

*

“I was in a tragic washing machine accident. Akira suggested stomping the clothes down so he could fit more in, and the wash cycle cut on with my legs wedged inside. When Akira attempted to put me in the dryer afterwards, my arm fell off. I told him that I was hand-wash and line-dry only, but he didn’t listen.”

*

“...what happened to my arm and legs? Oh. Well, I’m not really allowed to talk about it. I had the privilege to visit a Featherman set. Just once. There were non-disclosure agreements involved. But I will say, Feather Pheasant takes his prop swords very seriously.”

*

“I saw someone asking what happened to my legs. If you must know, Akira fell asleep on me. The loss of circulation to my legs for that long meant they would never be the same.” Goro smiled angelically.

Off-camera, they could hear Akira’s suspicious voice. “...What are you implying, honey?”

Goro’s smile grew even brighter. “Certainly nothing about how your elbow was jabbed into my thigh for four hours.”

“You could have thrown me off!”

“...I would never.”

*

“I lost my eye because my clone shot me. It hit just my eye and not the rest of my head, so I’m fine.” Goro sat back, scanning chat with a grin. “Of course that’s what really happened. Why would I lie to you?”

*

“Okay. I’ll tell you,” Goro said solemnly. “I was on a cruise ship, and it exploded. They had to salvage me from the wreckage, and I was in a coma for six months.”

Akira leaned into the frame to kiss his forehead. “You were in a coma for two weeks, babe. Why must you exaggerate my suffering like this?”

“You weren’t the one in the coma.”

“No, I just had to watch you be in a coma.”

“...true.”

*

Goro watched the chat with a thoughtful expression. “Well, you all know how I mentioned that I wanted to be a cop? I was the youngest ever to go through bomb defusal training. I’m sure you can tell how well that went.”

*

“The crocodile that killed my parents stabbed me,” Goro said serenely. “In the eye.”

“...that doesn’t even make sense.” Akira paused his attempt to pose Goro’s Advent Featherman action figures and made a face. “Does that mean you’re Captain Hook? Because you’re missing a hand? And the crocodile?”

“I…” Goro hesitated. “You know what, nevermind. Chat, that one was a lie.”

Akira grinned. “Okay, but pirates.”

“No.”

*

Perched in Akira’s lap, Goro grinned at the camera. “I can’t tell you how I got injured. If I did, I’d have to track you all down and kill you.”

Akira nuzzled his cheek. “Honey. No.”

“Yes. The knowledge is top secret. I’d have no choice.”

“Goro.”

“Akira.”

“...I’m not helping you hide the bodies.”

“I’ll figure it out eventually.”

Akira squeezed him. “I love you, you bloodthirsty dork.”

“I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

Post-Season Discussion - Part 3
PhoenixTalk
Streaming live on Jan 14, 2018

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Phoenix Talk. Our special guest today is Morgana, who has decided that he’s occupying my lap for the time being.” Goro gestured to the black and white cat curled up in his lap, then scritched under his chin, earning a grumbling purr. “Last weekend, we discussed the way the individual character arcs played into the strength of the finale, as well as the foreshadowing that unfortunately seems to point towards Akira’s headcanon that Kiri Aizawa is going to end up as Feather Magenta Hummingbird, once they figure out how to fix the broken stones. This weekend, I want to talk about the character dynamics and how they relate to each other, because I would argue that these characters have some of the strongest relationships in the series. Except, of course, for Red Hawk and Black Condor. There is no greater ship to be had in any other series so far.” The LEDs on his wrist faded between Red and Black’s morpher symbols as he spoke, as if to back him up.

Morgana meowed, and Goro glanced down at him. “Of course I’m biased. I never said I wasn’t. But it’s miles better than shipping Gold Osprey and Crimson Robin. We never even saw Seiya and Kiri interact when they weren’t transformed.”

“Mreow.”

“I suppose that was a bit mean. I wouldn’t condemn someone that shipped them; I just don’t see any romantic chemistry there.” Goro shrugged. “Anyway, relationships. In my opinion, the strongest relationship in the series is Princess Luminaria and Ryxoru. It’s apparent from as soon as episode two that they have a strong bond, and it’s even more apparent when the secret base is broken into. She’s devastated when she thinks he might have been killed in Navy’s trap. And when she becomes Violet Cockatoo and can fight alongside him, it only makes their bond even stronger. Black and Violet is a solid color combination.”

He skimmed the chat, nodding as he took in the majority opinion. “No, Ryxoru’s relationship with Zen once he becomes Feather Red Duke is definitely good, but he and the princess just have something special. Zen’s strong bond is with Mayaru and Nakato. They were the first three rangers other than Ryx. Red, Pink, and Yellow are a classic trio.”

Morgana meowed loudly. Goro frowned. “Yes, I know that Akira ships Red and Gold, which honestly feels strange to say, but I guess it’s fine since they’re not Hawk and Condor. However, we’re talking about regular friendship, not romance.” He looked back at the chat, then laughed. “Yes, we do always talk to Morgana like he’s a person. Why would we not? He’s part of the family.”

Assorted members of chat almost immediately chimed in to point out that they talked to their own pets just as much. Goro and Morgana exchanged a look that seemed almost smug, and Morgana purred audibly before settling back into his lap contentedly. Goro grinned and pulled his keyboard closer. “Okay, since Morgana brought it up and I know all of you probably want to talk about shipping now… I hope you all saw the link I posted to the survey. I’ve got a pie chart I’m going to put up on the screen of the top five responses.” He clicked around a bit, and the graph appeared beside his head on the video. “Seventy-five percent of the answers were these five ships. The most popular are RedPink, RedViolet, RedGold, IndigoViolet, and RedYellow. I misjudged my time a little and didn’t have time to fully graph all the responses, but I’ll have a proper graph up for the Youcube video, right… here.” He held up his hands, gesturing to the opposite side of the screen. Nothing appeared on stream, and he laughed to himself. “I know that looks weird without the editing. Don’t troll me about it, please. In the meantime, I’d like to say that AquaGreen and YellowPink both had a chunk of votes, and shoutout to that one person who responded with IndigoGreen.”

The chat appeared skeptical, but a discussion slowly began to pick up steam as they compared Indigo and Green’s opposing personality types. Goro watched with amusement for a minute, letting them get their ideas out in the open, but before he could comment on any of them, the front door opened and the sound of slow, shuffling footsteps came from the entryway. Morgana jumped from Goro’s lap to investigate, and then meowed urgently.

“What?” Goro asked, turning to face him. Louder, he called, “Akira, is everything okay?”

The answer wasn’t audible onstream, but Goro pulled away from the table completely to head for the door, only to meet Akira just as he entered the dining room. “What’s wrong?”

Akira dropped the convenience store bag he was holding. Goro didn’t even hesitate, just scooted forward in his chair and pulled him down until he was on his knees and could lay his head on Goro’s lap. Goro frowned, running his good hand through his hair. “Hey. What happened?”

“...guy grabbed me,” Akira said. “By the arm. Thought I was someone else, from behind.” He sounded so flat. “It was a mistake, I… I shouldn’t be this freaked out… But he was in a suit, and he looked… I thought he was going to call the police...”

“Takemi-sensei did say it doesn’t just go away,” Goro said, soothing. He seemed to have completely forgotten that he’d left the stream running, and the chat was freaking out. But then Morgana hopped up onto the dining room table and peered at the screen. It almost looked like he was reading the comments. But then he sat down right in front of the camera and microphone, completely blocking the view of the rest of the room, and began to purr. Right next to the mic, it was enough to obscure the conversation still going on in the background, and the cat blinked lazily as the increasingly confused chat wondered if Morgana was doing it on purpose.

After about ten minutes of watching Morgana clean his paws and purr, Goro returned to the table and lifted the cat into his lap. “Thank you, Morgana.”

Morgana meowed. Goro nodded. “Yeah, I will. Go with Akira, I’ll be there in a second.” He shifted to let Morgana jump to the floor, then smiled at the camera. “My apologies,” he said, and it was the stiff, fake-friendly tone from his very first video, before he’d gotten properly settled. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to end the stream for today.”

The comments flew past, and Goro shook his head. “Akira is fine, don’t worry. I’m going to make sure he gets some rest and calms down. Thank you for your concern and understanding. Akira might not have robotic limbs or blatant scars, but...he didn’t come out of the accident completely unscathed either.” He smiled softly as the comments slowed down. “Thank you, all of you. I’ll tell him. Until next time.”


Akira was in bed when Goro wheeled into the room. Morgana was curled up beside his head, but he was just staring at the wall. Goro carefully pushed himself to his feet, climbing into bed behind him and wrapping an arm over him so he could be the big spoon.

“You didn’t have to stop streaming for me,” Akira mumbled.

“Of course I did,” Goro replied, pressing a kiss to the back of his neck. “You would have done the same for me. And the chat completely understood. They don’t know what’s wrong, but they said to tell you that they hope you’re okay.”

“I thought I was,” Akira said petulantly.

Morgana reached out to bat his nose with a paw. “You got grabbed by someone that reminded you of something awful that happened to you. Of course it scared you. You don’t have to be okay.”

Akira said nothing, and Goro slipped a hand under his shirt to press it over his heart. “Morgana’s right, Akira. You’ve spent so much of your time taking care of me. Let me take care of you once in a while,” he teased softly.

There was still no response, but then Akira rolled over and latched on, burying his face in Goro’s neck. He was still shivering, but Goro just kissed the top of his head, holding him tight. Just because his scars were more physical didn’t mean that their impossible year hadn’t left it’s mark on Akira, too. But they were getting through it, with support and love and safety. One day at a time.

Chapter Text

The True Origin Story
PhoenixTalk
Published on Oct 3, 2017

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Phoenix Talk. Today we will be doing something a little different. On stream on Sunday, I answered questions about my condition. For real, not silly stories. Rather than post the stream video as usual, I’ve decided to make one to address the major questions that were asked, to have a permanent, organized consolidation of the information.”

It was clearly a different sort of video than usual. Goro was on the couch, his Featherman blanket still draped over his legs, and Akira was perched on his left, holding his hand. Goro bumped their heads together affectionately, and added, “Akira is here, too, because there are a few gaps that only he can fill in. And...moral support, because this is rather hard to talk about.”

“Not doing it live will help, hon. We can edit the video,” Akira said, and Goro elbowed him.

“I know that. I just hate seeming...weak.” He took a deep breath, then looked back at the camera. “By far, the most common question that I get is ‘what happened to you?’, with varying degrees of rudeness. And I understand the curiosity, considering my physical appearance. For all that I make jokes about a tragic cat-related mishap, the truth is that I did receive all of my injuries at once. I was in an accident almost a year ago. The specifics are not important, but I was trapped under debris for a lengthy period of time. It left significant parts of my right side burned, took my right eye and arm, and mangled my legs almost beyond repair.”

Akira made a face, and Goro squeezed his hand. “Akira is the one that eventually found me and made sure that I made it to a hospital. Without him, I doubt I would have survived.”

“It was...a near thing,” Akira said quietly, and it was a huge contrast from his normal happy-go-lucky demeanor when he was allowed in the videos. “I was scared he still wasn’t going to make it. He was in a coma for two weeks, and I was there every day. And when he finally woke up, I kept getting in fights with the nurses because they wanted me to leave. But he wanted me there. So I stayed.”

“We joke about my legs being fake, but they’re still here. My right arm is my only prosthetic,” Goro explained, pushing up his sleeve to show off the cybernetic arm. “It was crushed beyond repair, forcing them to amputate it just below the elbow. Living without an arm was difficult, but then in June I was contacted by a group working with experimental cybernetic technology. I’m not allowed to name them, but they offered me an option to test one of their new prosthetic builds, and I took it. It gives me much more independence than I would have otherwise, and in return I just have to allow them to run maintenance checks every once in a while.”

He shifted on the couch, using Akira for support as he stuck one of his legs out. It was clearly heavily scarred, and Goro winced as he flexed it once and then tucked it back beneath the blanket. “The doctors were worried I’d have spinal damage, but I was lucky. I’m not paralyzed. I still have feeling in my legs, but walking is painful, even with crutches, so I can’t do it for long. And that’s why everyone gets to look at my awesome blanket instead. No one wants to see my screwed-up legs.”

Akira reached over to help him readjust the blanket. “They’re beautiful,” he said, batting his eyes up at Goro as a small smile curved his lips. “And sensitive~”

“Not now, Akira. I’m trying to be serious.”

“I am being serious.” Akira kissed him, and he groaned, but kissed back for a moment before pushing him off.

“Now I’m going to have to deal with a hundred comments squealing about how cute my boyfriend is.” Goro shuffled down against his side and pouted. “Ever since that stream where you walked by in the background with no shirt on, I’ve gotten thirsty comments asking about you.”

“I didn’t mean to! I forgot you were live.”

“I know. And it is pretty gratifying to know that I have you and other people don’t.” He was silent for a minute, then said quietly to the camera, “Akira was the first person that I saw when I woke up. I was so scared, since I couldn’t see, and most of my limbs were wrecked. But Akira stayed. Kept me calm. Didn’t sugarcoat the damage, even when everyone else was trying to. I don’t deserve how good he was to me.” Goro sighed, pushing his hair back behind his ear to reveal his face. “Anyway, getting back on topic, the scars aren’t quite as bad on my face because of the skin grafts, but my eye was also a lost cause. That’s not something I can show on-camera, because it’s...bad, frankly. I don’t like to look at my own eye, and despite his opinion on my legs, Akira doesn’t either.”

Akira, for once, didn’t interject, and Goro smiled. “It’s okay. It’s awful. Only one of our friends can really handle it for longer than a minute or two. But...yes. That’s what’s wrong with me. I’ve spent most of the past year doing physical therapy and learning how to exist again. And I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Akira. And Morgana. And all of you, honestly. This channel has been...the first thing that I’ve really done for myself, just because I like it. So all of your support means...everything.”

Akira wrapped an arm around him and kissed his temple, and Goro nuzzled him. “That’s where I’m going to stop for the day. It...was a lot to talk about. Thank you for listening. This has been Phoenix Talk. Until next time.”


Once Akira had leaned over and cut the camera off, he returned to his spot on the sofa and snuggled up against Goro. “I’m proud of you for talking about it.”

“Hopefully people stop asking now,” Goro huffed. “I know they won’t, but I can dream.”

“Well, if they do ask, I know you have several more stories saved up,” Akira said. “I know you haven’t used the one yet about losing your arm in a lightsaber duel with your father.”

“...you’re right, I haven’t.” Goro ran his normal hand through Akira’s hair with a soft smile. “Thank you for sitting with me. I know it was a hard time for you, too.”

“It was better once you were awake.” Akira shifted, moving them both bit by bit until he had Goro flat on the couch and could stretch out on top of him. “Then you could tell them not to call security when I stayed past visiting hours.”

Goro snorted. “Takemi-sensei informed me that they tried to carry you out several times. I think she said that one time you ended up on top of a cabinet? So you really are a cat.”

Akira sat up just enough to lean up and kiss him. “I didn’t want you to wake up alone,” he said softly.

Goro squeezed him. “...and I think that made all the difference.” His mental state had been as much a wreck as his body, back then. But knowing that they hadn’t just...left him there, that they were waiting to see that he was okay, that Akira wanted to be there… It had been a yank back from an edge that he’d been walking along for a long time.

They were quiet for a bit, Akira idly tracing the outlines of the masks on Goro’s blanket, and then he asked, “So what are you going to do for Thursday’s video this week?”

“I’ve been wanting to do a compare-and-contrast video for Navy Vulture and Black Condor…” Goro mused. “But it might be too soon for that. He’s only been around for seven episodes, so I might not have enough for an entire video. I suppose I could also compare Crimson Robin with the Priestess, now that we’ve seen her. And Lady Finale and her Knights definitely parallel Lord Zero and the Great Devil.” He poked Akira’s forehead. “Did you know that every overarching series villain since the original Featherman R has had an English word as their name? Lord Zero started it all, and I think Lady Finale is paying specific homage to that, because they’re both the head of an empire that are only referred to as ‘lord’ and ‘lady’, despite the fact that they would usually be addressed much more formally… I suppose lord and lady are easier for kids than emperor and empress, or ‘Her Imperial Highness’.”

“The kids have a point,” Akira said. “‘Emperor Zero’ doesn’t sound right at all.”

“And normally I would chalk that up to us just being more familiar with using ‘lord’, considering how old the show is,” Goro replied. “But! ‘Empress Finale’ doesn’t sound right either, and Lady Finale has only been mentioned by name twice at this point. We aren’t nearly as used to it. So it’s definitely strange...” He trailed off as he realized Akira was just staring at him with a dopey smile. “What?”

“I love watching you talk about Featherman,” Akira said dreamily. “It makes you so happy.”

Goro could feel himself blushing. “Stop that. You’re the worst. Now I’ve lost my train of thought.”

“We could always get on a different train.” Akira’s hand drifted towards his hip, and Goro sighed.

“You’re insatiable.”

“Yeah, well, it took months and months before you’d even let me kiss the burned side of your face, so… Now that I can? Kind of want to do that as much as possible.”

Goro hesitated, but not as much as he used to. “...maybe one or two kisses, I guess.”

“Just one or two?”

“I could be persuaded into more. But you have to carry me to our room.”

Akira’s smile was simultaneously devious and utterly smitten.

“I can do that.”

Chapter Text

Forbidden Lore
PhoenixTalk
Published on Feb 15, 2018

“Good day, Talon Tribe. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Ranger Chat.”

The look on Goro’s face was a complete shit-eating grin. He was wearing quite possibly the tackiest Talon Rangers t-shirt in existence, screaming electric blue with a huge version of the English logo and the five main rangers posing. Goro held the grin for a few seconds, then laughed.

“I know all of you watching are probably freaking out right now. However! This is a Featherman channel, yes, but to properly understand Featherman, you have to acknowledge its history, the good and the bad.” Goro folded his hands and leaned closer to the camera. “Eventually, I’d like to do analysis on all the different series of Featherman, but that means looking at their...interesting English counterparts as well. So today, I want to talk about Talon Rangers, and why the existence of it is the reason that we have Featherman today at all.”

Goro set a slightly battered Red Hawk action figure on the table in front of the camera. “Phoenix Ranger Featherman started with the R series when it began airing in 1989. As I’ve mentioned before, the thirtieth anniversary is next year, which is a very long time for a show that is supposed to be for children. But the huge gap between R premiering in 1989 and Neo in 2005 almost killed the series. The fact that it continued after that long is thanks to Talon Rangers.”

From off-camera, a banner with the six original ranger colors unfurled behind Goro, who was visibly trying not to laugh as one corner got stuck and Akira’s hands were visible untangling it. “In 1998, an American toy company obtained the rights to make an English version of the original Featherman R. As I’m sure you’re all aware, all the names were changed to English ones, except for Lord Zero, and all the footage where they aren’t transformed was re-shot with American actors. Plus, they changed all mention of demons and devils to just generic ‘beasts’.” He grinned deviously. “However, there is one particular change they made that backfired on them.”

There was typing and the faint sound of Akira snickering from off-camera, and two images appeared in the left and right corners of the video, depicting the original R cast and the Talon Rangers cast. “Do you see the issue?” Goro asked, gesturing to the Talon Rangers cast. “Now, I have nothing against making Red Hawk a girl, even if her being the stereotypical ‘tomboy’ one is a bit cheesy now. But the existence of ‘Kat’ in place of Katsuhira proves that the localization team didn’t watch the whole show before beginning their adaptation.

“The greatest writing mistake of both shows turned out to be the final episode, where Red Hawk and Blue Swan get married.”

Goro folded his hands, attempting to look serious, but clearly having too much fun. “The Japanese and English fanbases shared the very correct opinion that the wedding was a travesty, for two completely different reasons. The Japanese fanbase was incredibly upset that all of Red and Black’s chemistry went to waste, since Junichi pined through the entire wedding and left right before the reception. The English fanbase was aghast because the writers wrote themselves into a corner, since there was one last fight during the wedding, and they tried to claim it was a ‘friendship ceremony’ despite the blatant wedding decorations because ‘Kat’ and ‘Sarah’ getting married onscreen was unthinkable back then.”

Akira was definitely laughing from off-camera now, and Goro was having trouble keeping from giggling as well. “Anyway, tragic writing decisions aside, ‘Talon Rangers’ turned out to be very popular, which prompted Featherman to be re-shown on TV the following year here in Japan. With the resurgence of the fanbase, they decided to continue the series, and that is how we ended up with Neo, the From the Ashes light novel and manga adaptations, Victory, Advent, X, and several movies. Over ten years of new content, and it’s all thanks to Kat, Chris, Sarah, John, Amy, and Nick.”

He managed to hold his smile for a few seconds, then snorted. “I can’t. Those are such...nineties names. God. Thank goodness the English versions changed less and less as time went on. It’s going to be so interesting to compare versions eventually.” He took a deep breath, collecting himself, and then faced the camera again. “However, that truly is why we must acknowledge the role that the English adaptation played in assuring that the series we love is still continuing today.

“Next time… I’m not sure. I might start the Featherman R analysis from the beginning, if Akira wants to rewatch with me. We’ll see. And on stream this weekend I want to discuss an idea I’m considering for before Comic-Con. This has been Ranger Chat. Go go Talon Rangers~! Until next time!”


Empress-Of-Flowers 15 minutes ago
I didn’t know that they made Red Hawk a girl in English! Was making her a tomboy their excuse for her still wearing the male suit?

sungoddessfire 14 minutes ago
That makes me wonder if they learned their lesson for Neo. Blue Swan was a girl that wore the boys’ outfit in Japanese, and they made her a boy in English.

Scherezade420 12 minutes ago
Seems like it, because the reveal scene the first time she detransformed was re-filmed, so they were shocked that the kid was so young, instead of that it was a girl under the mask.

GunAboutKing 14 minutes ago
I remember looking up talon rangers and thinking it was so stupid. Nice to know it did at least one good thing.

MagicLoveline04 9 minutes ago
I love this channel so much! I watch every video when it comes out! It’s the best!

BallisticsGecko 9 minutes ago
wtf is this channel. why did my kid subscribe me to this.

JunSuou 8 minutes ago
I remember watching the original airing of Featherman R as a child… I hope you find joy in rewatching it.

MotorcycleNoises69 7 minutes ago
There are a lot of good memories in the original R. This channel is a nostalgia trip.

JusticeAndStrength 8 minutes ago
This channel is so cool. You should interview the cast!

ThiefofHearts 4 minutes ago
Sorry for messing up the banner, hon. Great video, as usual. <3

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Chapter Text

Episode 34 Discussion
PhoenixTalk
Streaming live on Sept 10, 2017

“Good morning, Featherfans! My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Phoenix Talk. I know the stream is a little early today. I tried to get the word out as soon as I got up, so we could start at noon sharp, but I’m sorry to anyone turning up late. I’m just too excited to wait, because I was right!

Goro was practically bouncing in his seat, giddy with enthusiasm. “Belated warning about spoilers for last night’s episode, of course, but I assume most of you watched last night’s video. Although, most of that one was just excited babbling, honestly. Anyway, if you’ve been watching my videos since I started with the first episode of this season, you’ll know that I’ve been calling Gold Osprey and Navy Vulture being the same person since...episode twenty-seven. There’s been something off about Navy’s powers from the very beginning. After they showed what a stone can do when improperly matched with a bearer in the first season’s midseason finale, it all clicked. His powers clearly weren’t as effortless as the other rangers. It's just like what happened when Iriya tried to use the magenta stone. Yes, it was cracked and that was why it went haywire, but even the parts where she was able to hold the transformation were taking actual effort, because she was in-tune with indigo instead.”

The chat went nuts, filling with gifs and screenshots, and Goro laughed. “Right, right. That bit there, that was episode...twenty-two. When they raided the secret base. That’s the first time it was made blatantly obvious that using his abilities was causing him pain. It’s also tricky to notice watching straight through, but in hindsight, we never saw Navy in the same place as Feather Gold. Every time Feather Gold was present for a fight, Crimson Robin was the one commanding the catacysts.”

He flipped through his notecards, fumbling them in his eagerness. As he collected the scattered cards that had fallen into his lap, Akira wandered by in the background, and the chat went ballistic.

Akira wasn’t wearing a shirt. He was rubbing his eyes, yawning, a mess of bedhead as he slouched by in star-print lounge pants. It was adorable. The chat was almost instantly a wall of comments all in the vein of ‘oh god, your boyfriend is HOT’, interspersed with desperate comments from the moderator begging them to stop drooling over her brother as he padded into the kitchen. They were ignored, and when Goro looked back up, he hesitated, confused by the flood of messages. They were scrolling almost too fast to read, but eventually he got a grasp on what was happening, and glanced over his shoulder. “Darling?”

Akira surfaced from behind the open fridge door, eyes wide at the tone. “Um...yes?”

Goro smiled pleasantly. “You’re making the chat thirsty. Please go put on a shirt.”

The chat wailed a silent, ignored objection, and Akira’s mouth fell open. “Oh fuck, are you streaming?”

“Please don’t curse on my stream.”

“HECK.” Akira darted out of view, and Goro raised his one eyebrow at the continuing stream of messages.

“No, I am not going to ask him to take his pants off. This is a family-friendly stream, you heathens,” he said pointedly.

Akira returned fully-clothed, pulling up his chair beside Goro and leaning in to kiss his cheek beneath the eyepatch. “I’m sorry, honey. I forgot you were starting earlier today. What were you talking about?”

“How I was right about Feather Gold and Feather Navy being the same person.”

“Oh! Can we talk about my headcanon for a second?” Akira asked, beaming.

Goro raised an eyebrow. “I still think you’re on the wrong track, but okay, sure.”

“I just want to hear chat’s opinion,” Akira said. He leaned towards the camera, very serious as he said, “Now that there are two stones broken, that’s even more reason for them to look for a way to fix the broken ones, because that means there’s supposed to be an actual Feather Navy out there somewhere. So what if they eventually free Feather Crimson, too, and she’s actually supposed to be Magenta Hummingbird?”

“You’re so determined to see someone be Magenta Hummingbird. I just don’t know if it’s going to happen.” Goro scanned the chat. “Half of them seem to agree with you, but someone just pointed out that Crimson doesn’t seem to have the same reaction to using her powers that Navy did. Plus, do you think there are enough episodes left to give her a proper arc at this point?”

“We can always cross our fingers for a third season,” Akira said brightly. “Who knows what they’ll do, then? Maybe she’s a character that’s been here the whole time, and the foreshadowing is so subtle that even you missed it?”

Goro stuck his tongue out at him. “Blasphemy. Leave my stream this instant.”

He bumped him gently with his elbow, and Akira slid from his chair like a noodle, whining, “Nooooo, not your robot arrrrrm…” on the way down.

“Now that Akira has been incapacitated, we can hopefully get back on the topic of my favorite character,” Goro said happily. There was a brief glimpse of Akira sneakily crawling through a doorway in the background, and then it was business as usual as discussion resumed about the no-longer villainous ranger.


Akira made homemade yakitori for a late lunch, bringing the plate of skewers to the table after the end of the stream. “Hey. I really am sorry that I disrupted your stream like that. I hope I didn’t cause too much of a problem.”

Goro laughed, shaking his head. “No, it was fine. Everything is very casual in general; it was no different than getting off-topic.” He took a bite of yakitori, then said thoughtfully, “Although, I think you’ve gained some fans of your own after that. Or at least, your abs have.”

“You weren’t kidding about the chat being thirsty?” Akira asked. “Oh god. As long as they don’t expect me to strip on-stream or anything.”

“I’d get demonetized,” Goro said immediately. “No nudity. Swearing is technically fine, I just try not to.”

“Try,” Akira parroted with a grin. “And sometimes fail. I distinctly remember sitting next to you last night listening to you muffling ‘oh fuck, oh fuck, oh fuck I was right’ into your hand.”

“I cut that part out of the reaction video,” Goro huffed. Then, more thoughtfully, “I’m going to keep that reaction to you in mind, though, if I ever need the chat to behave. I’ll just threaten them with your disappointment, since they like you so much.”

Akira laughed. “Sure thing, honey. Let me know if you need me to frown disapprovingly in the background.”

“I will need your help eventually,” Goro admitted. “I’m going to have to talk about my injuries soon. People keep asking, and Futaba has banned several people for starting fights about whether I’m faking it. I think I want to take half a stream and answer questions. Maybe.”

“Don’t let them pressure you into it,” Akira said. “It’s really none of their business.”

“I know.” Goro’s smile was melancholy. “But… I want to be able to talk about what happened to me. Without turning into a wreck in the process. Even if I can’t tell the whole truth about it.”

“Then I’ll be there,” Akira assured him, and Goro smiled.

“Thank you.”

Chapter Text

Important Announcement
PhoenixTalk
Published on Mar 31, 2018

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome back to Phoenix Talk. It’s going to be a short video today, because I mainly want to make an announcement and ask a question or two.”

Goro glanced down at the sheet he was holding. “Saturday, June 2nd is my birthday. I will be busy that day, as I’m sure you can imagine. So, instead of doing a video on Saturday and then my usual stream, I want to hold a twelve-hour charity stream that Sunday. I’ve been thinking about donation incentives and what to do for twelve hours, of course, and I have several ideas.

“I’m thinking we’ll discuss episodes 35 and 36 of Featherman R, for sure. Possibly stream the movie, since that was unconnected to the show’s story arc.” Goro skimmed the list. “Finding Featherman fangames to play onstream, having guests… Akira and Morgana suggested a few things, but some of it I would need to get permission for, and that’s...dependent on the generosity of my friends. One thing that I do know I want to do is dramatic readings of some fanfiction. So if any of you have suggestions for fic to read out loud, please leave links sometime between now and then. LO3 links will obviously be the easiest, but if there’s obscure fic on a fansite or something, don’t hesitate to send that in either.” He glanced back up at the camera, raising his eyebrow. “Akira and I are going to go through the submissions, and he’s already volunteered to read with me if it’s something that would work better with voices. However, if you send in smut, you will be named on stream and frowned at.”

As he looked back down at his notes, Akira’s arm appeared from the hallway, holding up a sign that said in blocky letters, I’M TRYING TO CONVINCE HIM TO SWITCH TO 17+ AT 11PM. By the time Goro looked back up, it had retreated again.

“Anyway, veering back to the more serious details… I haven’t quite determined which charities, yet. I want to do more research to ensure that the money goes to people who will put it to good use. But I want to see if I can find organizations that help with medical treatments or pro-bono therapy, and also give to orphanages, to help improve conditions.” Goro looked away from the camera, mouth twisting. From that angle, burned side of his face mostly hidden, anyone starting from that point could have assumed he looked like everyone else. “I don’t...talk about my past much. Before the accident. I grew up in foster care, and believe me, the conditions are...not the greatest. For my foreign viewers, I’m not exaggerating. Orphanages are overcrowded and underfunded and neglected.” He took a shaky breath. “Plus, I’ve been...incredibly lucky since then. My medical bills would have been astronomical without the generosity of my friends. At the time that I woke up, I had nothing to my name. This arm? Given to me, essentially, with the slimmest of strings attached. Therapy? I was referred to someone that helps people like me, for free. I got the scrapings of an inheritance from my good-for-nothing sperm-donor father, not enough to give back as much as I’d want. So I want...to do this. I want to raise money to help people like me. I want to do even a little to work towards making sure that no other child has to grow up the way I did, wondering what they did wrong to be treated so badly.” He looked back at the camera, offering a tentative smile. “So...send me fics, send me your suggestions, and please, help me make this a success.

“Tomorrow on stream, we’ll be discussing episode 13 and 14 of Featherman R, which… I’ve heard it claimed that 13 is a ‘god-tier’ episode, but we’ll see. That’s all for today. This has been Phoenix Talk. Until next time.”


ThiefofHearts 2 hours ago
Hi, guys. It’s Akira. I wanted to let you guys know that there won’t be a stream tomorrow. This video was recorded on Wednesday, and since then Goro’s come down with a bug. Doc says he’s fine, just needs bed rest, saltines, and ice chips til he stops throwing up. I don’t know how he’s going to handle videos next week, but there won’t be a video Tuesday, either, obviously. So that’s your update, thanks for your patience.

Empress-of-Flowers 2 hours ago
Tell Goro-kun to get well soon, and please don’t hesitate to ask if you need anything. ^_^

AngelHeart 2 hours ago
Feel better soon! Take good care of him, Akira-kun!

ForeverArgus 1 hour ago
Wishing you both well. Make sure you don’t get sick, too. Call me at some point, I want to help out with the stream.

JusticeAndStrength 1 hour ago
Get well soon, Goro-san!

Scherezade420 1 hour ago
Focus on getting better, nerd. Don’t worry about us. :P

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Vox 2 hours ago
https://libraryofourown.org/works/11855097/

MemeMasterEu 2 hours ago
God-tier fic

DreamChaser 2 hours ago
I don’t even really like Feather Gold and this is a good fic

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SmallPinkCat 2 hours ago
https://libraryofourown.org/works/14796048/

BlueBunny 2 hours ago
That’s such a long fic, though.

SmallPinkCat 2 hours ago
Maybe they’ll pick just one scene.

AgateDragon 1 hour ago
https://libraryofourown.org/works/17955830 :3c

NightfallRook 30 minutes ago
Thank you for doing this one and not the other one ^_^;;;

MousequeradeLia 1 hour ago
Can’t Akira-san do the stream instead?

ThiefofHearts 30 minutes ago
Nope. That’s Goro’s thing. I am unworthy and I don’t know nearly enough trivia. Besides, who’s going to bring him ice chips if I’m doing the stream? :3

SilverIdol82 1 hour ago
Aiyah, this brings back so many memories. I hope your charity stream is a success!

Satan 1 hour ago
https://libraryofourown.org/works/17805317/

ReachingForTruth 30 minutes ago
Someone recced Neo fic! 8D

PungeonMaster 15 minutes ago
god, you nerd

ReachingForTruth 10 minutes ago
You watch the show AND these videos with me! You’re just as much of a nerd.

SoManyTrains 1 hour ago
You should read YOUR fanfic! We know you have to have some somewhere!

72DifficultySettings 1 hour ago
All of this author’s are good, but this one, maybe?
https://libraryofourown.org/works/17152655/

unspokenenlightenment 30 minutes ago
https://libraryofourown.org/works/12323832/

EndlessPathos 30 minutes ago
Ooh!! The scene at the end of chapter 9. That one was really poetic.

MasterPsychic000 30 minutes ago
U should watch Steel Samurai after featherman

Cozmo 30 minutes ago
https://libraryofourown.org/works/17100806/

LadyPanther 20 minutes ago
oh my god what is this

Scherezade420 20 minutes ago
ART

LadyPanther 20 minutes ago
NO!!!

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superVillainy 30 minutes ago
This was the first fic I ever read in this fandom. https://libraryofourown.org/works/526002

Fool’sFortune 10 minutes ago
Advent fic… Everyone forgets Advent existed... Thank you...

Fortune’sFool♂ 10 minutes ago
Amazing

ElsewhereSoaring 15 minutes ago
https://libraryofourown.org/series/1172621 This author writes some good stuff. <3

Fortune’sFool♀ 10 minutes ago
Soft Red/Gold, hell yeah!!

Chapter Text

Third week of January, 2017

It had been Futaba’s idea to venture back into the metaverse.

“Nothing is ever completely destroyed, it just changes to a new form. That’s like, a law of the universe. So it’s still there somewhere. Ask your blue friends or something.”

Akira had been out of jail for less than a week when Futaba suggested visiting the Velvet Room. It had been less than a month since they’d killed a god in the middle of Tokyo. No one would have begrudged him for wanting to take a break to live a normal life for a while. But he had his own reasons for wanting to return to the metaverse if they could, so he went to Lavenza with his questions, and she confirmed that it still existed, even if it wasn’t a form they would be familiar with.

The rest of the Thieves were skeptical, but curious, so it wasn’t hard to get everyone together after school one day. And as Lavenza had said, the world they found wasn’t quite what they were expecting.

The ruins of Tokyo were being consumed by the sea. Familiar buildings lanced with the bony structures of Mementos crumbled into placid water, and the remnants of other Palaces washed up as piles of forgotten debris. The sky was dim, a perpetual twilight that would only get darker, with the faintest hint of stars far above. Navigating was difficult, but they found an abandoned lifeboat that had drifted free from the Ship, and set off to raid the cognitive sea like pirates.

And on the third day, Akira found what he was looking for when they located the lifeboat’s source.

“You really want to go back in there?” Ryuji asked, staring up at the wreck of Shido’s ship. “I dunno, dude, that seems dangerous. It’s practically standing up on its end.”

“When was the last time ‘dangerous’ stopped us?” Akira countered. “I just, I need to…”

Ann laid a hand on his shoulder. “You need to see,” she said, and Akira nodded. Ann had always been the most perceptive of how he was feeling, and now was apparently no different. She was right. If it was possible to reach it, he needed to see the engine room. He needed closure. Either a body was there, and he could make sure that Goro was respectfully taken care of in the end, or it wasn’t, and he could hopefully accept that Goro was gone, deleted from the world entirely save for the memories of the last people to see him alive.

It was a rough trip. As Ryuji had said, the ship was almost vertical, half-submerged beneath the unnatural sea. They had to search for a long time to even find a place where they could safely get inside, and it was awkward to maneuver when the half-familiar hallways had turned into climbs and drops that could be several stories tall. The strangest was the promenade, as they slid down the room like balls in a pachinko machine, using the planters and built-in benches as footholds where they could.

But eventually, with some careful climbing on the deck railings and more than a few close calls, they managed to get into the crumbled remnants of the engine room, thankfully unflooded despite how damaged it was. Akira swallowed hard at the sight of the bulkhead door, which had split under the force of the rubble that had fallen on it. Most of the debris was piled on that half of the room, and without waiting for anyone else, Akira started picking his way down towards the bottom.

“Joker,” Makoto called, admonishing, but he ignored her, carefully choosing his steps as he worked his way farther down. There was clear floor down there; he just needed to reach it.

He got stuck briefly at the edge of the torn metal, with no safe place for a foothold. But before the others could call him back, he summoned Arsène, taking advantage of his persona’s black-feathered wings to deliver him safely to the floor.

“What the heck!” Futaba shouted from somewhere above.

Akira glanced up at them. Futaba was already summoning Prometheus, and he turned to his persona. “Can you…?”

I will fetch them, little thief, Arsène assured him. Proceed without worry. There is a treasure yet to be stolen from this place.

He appreciated Arsène, really he did, but sometimes it was hard to tell whether he was being metaphorical or not. Akira’s peace of mind could be a treasure, he supposed. He watched the gentleman thief soar back upwards, bowing and offering a hand to Haru, and then turned away to make his way deeper into the destroyed engine room. The debris from the explosions had avalanched with the tilt of the Ship, destroying pipes and walkways in its wake and only adding to the mess that accumulated at the bottom of the room.

The others, once they reached the bottom, were a vague presence behind him as he explored. He was barely sure what he was really looking for. But then there was a muffled gasp from behind him.

“Oracle, what does that mean?” Yusuke asked.

“I can track vitals with this thing,” she replied.

“...but there are nine signals,” Haru said, very quietly, at the same moment that Akira spotted a familiar clawed gauntlet sticking out of a pile of rubble. He felt his breath catch and stumbled forward desperately, and as he got closer he could make out visible bits of striped fabric, and chestnut hair streaked with blood.

“That’s…” Ann whispered. Makoto wasn’t looking, hand over her mouth and eyes wide.

“If there are nine sets of vitals on Oracle’s scan…” Yusuke began.

Akira dropped to his knees, stomach in knots as he reached out to take the clawed hand in his own. Fingers traced the gauntlet down to where it disappeared beneath the striped sleeve, finding bare skin and pressing into the hollow just beneath the thumb. And it was there, slow, sluggish, but undeniably… “Holy shit…”

“Leader?”

“Guys… He has a pulse.” Akira had gone stark white, releasing the hand and beginning to claw at the rubble around it. “He’s… He’s still alive… He’s… Help me move this!”

Ann appeared at his side, catching his frantic hands. “Akira, slow down, slow down. He’s gotta be in really bad shape. If you move something wrong, the whole pile could shift and we might really lose him.”

Akira looked up at her. “Please,” he said, his voice small. “He can’t… We have to get him out of here…” He felt like everything outside of this room had stopped existing. There was only the frantic, desperate need to get Goro out from under this rubble. He couldn’t die, now that they’d found him. He couldn’t die before he’d gotten a chance to be happy.

“We will. As a team, remember?” Ann kissed his forehead, as the other Thieves came to join them next to the pile. “Queen, what do you think?”

Makoto looked over the debris critically. “We’d have to start closer to the other side. That pipe is bracing a lot of scrap metal; if we knock it loose, it could impale someone.”

Ryuji pumped his fist. “Let’s get moving, then! The sooner we clear the scrap, the sooner we can move some of this other shit.”

Together, piece by piece, they uncovered the battered, broken form. It was immediately obvious that his legs were in a terrible state, a mess of lacerations visible through the shredded outfit. It was a wonder he hadn’t bled to death. As they got further, though, the damage got worse. Burns spread over the right side of his body, all the way to his face, leaving singed hair and blackened skin in their wake. His helmet had shattered, and all that was left of his right eye was an empty socket, barely visible beneath the damaged lid.

Makoto turned away, a tinge of green to her face. “I can’t… I can’t look anymore.”

“It’s okay, Mako-chan, don’t worry.” Haru kept going, pushing forward beside Akira. “His arm is caught, there. Do you think we can move that piece of the walkway?”

“We’ve got it.” Yusuke and Ryuji picked their way around to lift it carefully, and Haru cleared away the rest of the debris. When his right arm came into view, Morgana and Ann recoiled. It could barely be identified as an arm, everything below his elbow crushed and mangled into a bloody mess. Akira choked on a wounded noise, already searching for a persona that knew healing.

“M-Mona, would diarahan…?”

“It won’t be enough to fix him. We’re sturdier in the metaverse, but that…” Morgana said shakily, but he stepped forward regardless, Zorro appearing behind him.

Akira shook his head, summoning High Pixie. “I just don’t want to get him out of here, only for him to die when we get back. He’s held on this long… We need to stabilize him.”

Together, they wove the healing magic that would hopefully keep Goro alive long enough to get him to a doctor. His injuries didn’t visibly get any better, but when Akira checked his pulse, it was a little more steady, and he took that as a good sign. Carefully they made their way back up the ruins of the ship, although once they were back above the water line, they gave up on climbing and just blasted a new opening that they could see the lifeboat from. It was much easier to get down from there, and Arsène carried Goro as they returned to the entrance point so he wouldn’t be jostled.

Goro seemed smaller when they shifted back to reality, a huddled mess of damaged limbs and shallow breathing, wrapped in Akira’s long winter coat to hide as much of it as they could. They didn’t want to alarm the public by carrying what looked like a dead body down the street before they could get him help. Akira held him gingerly, anxiously, terrified that after all of this, he was going to lose Goro a second time.

He wouldn’t be able to take it.

***

Akira Kurusu was a good kid. Quiet, polite, helpful, took care of his team, could dish out sass with the best of them when needed. But sometimes, Tae Takemi really, really hated him.

Like right now.

“Guinea pig,” she said with an astounding amount of calm, watching the crowd of teenagers in her waiting room as they all fidgeted awkwardly, “what is that?”

“Please,” Akira choked out. “Please, help him. I can pay, whatever you want, just please…”

She could already tell that whatever had happened to the person in that coat, it was bad. But she’d never heard Akira sound like that before, and it spurred her to get up and wave him into the exam room. “Come on, then. The rest of you, wait here.”

Together they got the limp form stretched out on the bed, and Takemi frowned. “I know you don’t want to hear this, but this is a tiny clinic in a backstreet. You have to take this kid to a hospital.”

“B-But…” Akira began.

“But what?”

“They’ll ask questions…”

“His legs are a wreck. He’s basically missing an arm and a huge chunk of his face is crispy. It’s a miracle that that much of his hair is left. I literally do not have the equipment here to handle this. He could go into shock, develop sepsis, or have some kind of seizure at any moment, and I might not be able to fix it," she said. Akira was silent, and her expression softened. “If you want him to live, he needs a hospital. And even if he does live he’s not going to be the same. I won't call an ambulance without your permission, but..."

“I…” Akira swallowed hard. “I don’t want him to die.”

Takemi usually tried to be aloof from her patients. But Akira had a bad habit of yanking her heart out from under her usual standoffishness. She patted his cheek and said, “We’ll go with him. I’ll request it as a transfer. They know me over at the hospital; I can stay as his doctor. But you need to make a decision.”

Akira tugged on his bangs fretfully. “Okay. Okay, call the ambulance. Promise you won’t leave, though.”

“...I won’t, guinea pig. You’re stuck with me.” She ruffled his hair and went to get the phone. “Send your friends on. They’ll have to make their own way to the hospital if they’re going.” She knew questions weren’t the only reason Akira didn’t want to go to the hospital, but at this point there was no choice. If they didn’t go, Goro Akechi was going to die, and she knew that none of those kids were going to be okay if that happened.

By the time the ambulance arrived, the other kids were gone, and Akira was a jittery wreck. Takemi stayed beside him, supportive even as she directed them to where Goro was lying and watched them transfer him to a stretcher. They tried to stop Akira from following them into the ambulance, but before he could fight, Takemi stepped in. “He’s riding along with me. I’m the patient's primary care doctor, and this is his boyfriend.”

Akira’s eyes widened. “I’m… Yeah…”

The paramedic frowned, uncertain. “We don’t usually allow…”

Takemi nudged Akira into the ambulance. “He has no other next of kin. There’s only us. We’re going.”

They caved under Takemi’s insistent, unrelenting forward momentum, pushing all of them back into the ambulance and getting them on their way to the hospital. She even went so far as to wrap Akira in a shock blanket, letting him sit beside the stretcher and hold Goro’s one undamaged hand.

Akira was deep in thought. His eyes were on Goro’s face, but he wasn’t really seeing. They’d known, in their own ways, that they had been drawn to each other. And there had been an unspoken agreement not to talk about it. Things were so complicated, then. They had unfortunately been on opposite sides, manipulated into playing a game for their lives, and acknowledging what they had felt would have added an even more painful angle to what they both knew was already happening.

He had thought they would finally have a chance after that confrontation in the engine room, when all of their masks finally fell away. Everything was getting better, and then that cognition had appeared, that door had gone up, and everything had gone to hell instead.

He wasn’t letting it go to hell a second time. Finding Goro was a miracle. And it was a miracle that Akira wasn’t going to waste.

Chapter Text

First week of February, 2017

Being dead shouldn’t be this uncomfortable.

He remembered the gunshots, a bullet tearing through his side at the same time that he’d blown the cognition’s head to pieces. It probably should have been unsettling to shoot something that looked just like him, but instead of discomfort or unease, he felt only satisfaction at blowing away his father’s disgusting idea of him.

Loki and Robin moved without being commanded, ripping through the remaining shadows that the cognition had summoned. They didn’t stop until every last one was gone, and their master was as safe as he could be. But the bulkhead remained closed, sealing him in, and exhaustion from multiple fights, wounds, and emotional turmoil set in. He sank to the floor, lightheaded, watching blood sluggishly darken the stripes of his suit.

He didn’t know how long he sat there, hazy and confused, his personas hovering protectively over him. But eventually, the ship began to rumble and quake, and from the other side of the bulkhead, an explosion ripped through the engine room and the whole ship began to tilt.

Princeling, you have to get up, Robin urged, deflecting a chunk of falling metal. Loki said nothing, but he continued to clear the floor of debris even as the tilt of the ship caused Goro to slide towards the end of the room. You at least must stay awake! Robin called. We cannot protect you if you pass out!

Goro tried and failed to dig his claws into the metal grates of the floor, landing in a heap as the room shuddered again. The effort left him delirious, confused. His only clear thought was that he would be the only person to know what happened to someone if a Palace disappeared while you were inside. And he would take the secret to his grave. It made him giggle a little, as his vision started going black around the edges.

You’ll never see the Trickster again if you give up and die, Loki hissed, grabbing a length of pipe and ramming it into a pile of debris to block a cascade of scrap metal from landing on Goro. You don’t want to die, or we wouldn’t be here!

He didn’t want to die. Not like this. But it was increasingly hard to see, and he couldn’t move at all, and the last thing he was aware of was a horrible screech as a metal beam ripped through the bulkhead. Loki filled his vision, shielding him with his body from the worst of the impact as rubble rained down, and then his persona shattered as his vision went black entirely, and he knew nothing else.

Until now.

He had to be dead. There was no way he had survived all of that. But somehow he was conscious, uncomfortable, and growing increasingly confused about what was happening.

When he pried his eyes open, he was met with plain white ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights. There was something over his right eye, some kind of bandage, and it ached to breathe. And then he tilted his head to the side, finding a tangle of hospital equipment and Akira Kurusu, fast asleep in a chair that was just a little too small.

Goro recoiled, and immediately his body protested with pain, spreading like fire all over him. His legs were in agony, he couldn’t feel his arm, his bandaged eye ached with a throb that didn’t feel right at all… And Akira was there.

What was happening? Where was he? What was going on? The machine monitoring his heartbeat beeped shrilly as he panicked, and every time he moved it just made the pain worse. He was barely aware of people rushing in, someone yelling. He tried to scream, but all that came out was a rough wheeze. And finally, a grounding pressure on his hand, fingers lacing with his own. He latched onto the sensation, squeezing as hard as he could. That, finally, felt familiar.

That, finally, made him freeze.

***

Akira hadn’t meant to doze off, but between staying at the hospital until they kicked him out each night and trying to keep up with his schoolwork, he’d worn himself to exhaustion. The heart monitor going ballistic dragged him from his sleep like the world’s worst alarm clock, but it took a second for his brain to wake up enough to realize the reason it was going ballistic. And then it clicked.

“Goro!”

Goro was awake. Goro was awake, and freaking out, and thrashing around, and probably hurting himself. Akira shot to his feet, but before he could get to the side of the bed, a bunch of nurses rushed in, trying to hold Goro down.

“We’re going to have to sedate him,” one of the nurses said, and another broke away to fumble for a syringe and a vial of medicine. Akira caught a glimpse of Goro’s face, fearful and panicked, mouth open in a soundless scream, and reacted without thinking. He lunged for the nearest nurse, shoving them aside to get to Goro.

“Kurusu-kun, you need to back off,” someone ordered.

“Don’t hurt him! He’s just scared!” Akira shouted. Surrounded by people, at least one of whom had a needle… Someone tried to grab his wrist to pull him away from the bed, and he acted on autopilot, shoving the nurse back. He stepped back to catch Goro’s free hand with his own and link their fingers together. Physical contact that wasn’t trying to restrain him might help.

Goro froze, clearly processing, and then squeezed his hand so hard he swore he felt his bones creak. But he didn’t pull away, facing the increasingly-annoyed nurses that he’d pushed away and the security guard that had shown up because of the shouting.

And then Takemi walked in, sharp eyes flickering between the terrified, panicked boy in the bed and the frantic guinea pig between him and everyone else. Their hands were white-knuckled where they were holding onto each other, and she stepped forward, making sure to tread directly on the security guard’s foot with her heels. “Hey, stop it. Leave them alone.”

“His vitals were going haywire,” one of the nurses said, and Takemi shook her head.

“He’s scared half to death, which, considering how close he was to being dead, isn’t surprising. Give him a minute to calm down. And leave Kurusu-kun here; that will help significantly.”

“But…”

“I’ll watch them,” Takemi said. “He’s my patient. All of you get out before you send him back into a coma.” She ushered them from the room, nodding just once to Akira before drawing the curtain around the bed and giving them a tiny bit of privacy while she checked Goro’s chart.

Akira barely noticed. As soon as the danger of someone dragging him out of the room was gone, his full attention returned to Goro, who was holding very still, his pulse beating rabbit-quick as he held Akira’s hand like a lifeline.

“Goro,” Akira said gently. “It’s okay. It’s okay. You’re safe. You’re in the hospital. I’m here, I’m not going anywhere if you don’t want me to. Breathe. We’re going to get you some painkillers, it’s okay.” He could hear Takemi moving around behind the curtain, adjusting the IV, adding the drugs that would ease the pain Goro had to be in. He held Goro’s hand in both of his, and as the medicine kicked in, gradually his grip relaxed, gradually his breathing got less shaky, and the emotion in his eyes looked less like a cornered animal and more like confusion. He stared up at Akira with his one good eye, but when he tried to speak, it was just a dry rasp, and Akira hushed him. “Sensei?” he called. “Can we get some water?”

There was an affirmative noise from the other side of the curtain, and then Akira squeezed Goro’s hand softly. “Don’t move, okay?” he murmured. “You’re hurt really bad. Just breathe.”

Takemi appeared through the curtain with a large jug of water with a straw. She handed it to Akira, then said, “I’m going to step out for a few minutes. I’ll be back to do some basic tests, but nothing complicated. So just relax. I’m glad to see you awake, birdie.”

Goro didn’t respond, but accepted the straw when Akira offered. Once they heard the door close and he’d drank his fill, Goro looked up at Akira, wary and anxious. “How?” he whispered. “How am I alive?”

“I don’t know, Goro,” Akira said. “We were exploring in the ruins of the metaverse, and when we went into the wrecked ship, we just found you, buried in a pile of rubble. You… You were almost dead.”

Goro frowned, then winced as it hurt his face. “The ruins of the… What…?”

Akira bit his lip. “There’s...a lot that you missed,” he said with a weak laugh. “I don’t think I have time to explain before Takemi-sensei comes back.”

“I remember...there was an explosion,” Goro mumbled. “I couldn’t get out. The barrier was still up…”

Akira shushed him, squeezing his hand. “Hey, don’t worry about it right now. Let Takemi-sensei run her tests, and then I’ll explain everything. Please.”

Goro twitched, like he’d wanted to move and thought better of it. “I know something is wrong. I can’t feel my arm, my legs hurt if I even think about moving, my eye doesn’t feel right, and I am trying very, very hard not to have another panic attack. Just tell me.”

“After she makes sure you’re okay,” Akira insisted.

There was silence for a moment, and then Goro said, “Fine. I can wait. But don’t you dare leave without telling me. I’ll…” He trailed off, thinking, then concluded tiredly, “I’ll send someone to kick your ass, I suppose.”

Akira choked. “I’ve been spending the past two weeks fighting to not be thrown out. I’m not going anywhere,” he said, reaching up to brush the knuckles of his free hand against Goro’s cheek. “I promise.”

***

Takemi returned to do a few basic tests, checking his blood pressure, his good eye, his basic coherence and focus. Once she’d successfully concluded that the coma hadn’t left him with any obvious brain damage, she checked his bandages, adjusted the IV, and gave Akira a handwritten, signed note that gave him permission to stay past visiting hours if he and Goro wanted it. More in-depth assessments would follow tomorrow, but for tonight, they just wanted him to rest and work on figuring out what kind of pain he was in so that they could learn how best to manage it. With one final order to Akira to text her if they needed anything, she headed out, and Akira pulled his chair over to the bed and sat down.

“I’m going to start from the beginning,” he said. “But I’m going to stop if you get too upset, because Takemi-sensei said that you shouldn’t be under too much stress.”

“Not knowing is stressing me out already, Akira,” Goro huffed, but there wasn’t much bite behind it when he was tucked into bed, looking for all the world like he was ready for a bedtime story instead of the tale of how he’d ended up in the hospital.

So Akira told him. All about defeating Shido, the public’s apathy in the wake of his confession, the impossible fight against a god that had ended with summoning a demon in the skies of Tokyo… And then, after a few weeks in jail, exploring the ruins of Cognitive Tokyo until they found the wounded Goro. He’d been in a coma for the two weeks since they found him, and now he was here.

“As much as I’d like to believe you’re exaggerating, fighting a god doesn’t seem beyond you,” Goro sighed. “And… Shido is paying for his crimes. Thank you. But what about my injuries?”

Akira reached into his pocket and pulled out a compact mirror. “Takemi gave me this. The other nurses don’t want you to see yet, but I know you’re going to hate it if I sugarcoat things, so…” He opened the mirror and pressed it into Goro’s undamaged hand, but didn’t let go yet. “Your legs are a wreck. Some of the cuts went down to the bone. You don’t have any spinal damage, according to the doctors, but you might never be able to walk without some kind of support again. You’ve got burns all down your right side. No one is sure how the burns weren’t a lot worse, but they said they can do skin grafts for the ones on your face, so they don’t look as rough. Your...right eye is gone. It couldn’t be salvaged. Neither could your right arm. That’s the worst of it. I told them as much as I could about how I found you, and they said it was a miracle you’d survived at all.”

He let go of Goro’s hand, and Goro shakily lifted the mirror to look at his face. His hair on the right side, once so neat and silky, was burned away in uneven clumps, doing nothing to hide the meticulously-applied bandages over what he now realized was an empty eye socket. He forced himself to keep breathing, not wanting to panic in front of Akira any more than he already had, and tried to move his other arm. It ended in a lump of wrapped bandage just below his elbow, and he crushed back the scream that wanted to erupt from his chest.

“Loki,” he mumbled instead. When Akira made a questioning noise, he repeated, “Loki. That’s probably why the burns aren’t so bad. He was trying to shield me. They both were. I’d have died if they hadn’t blocked as much of the debris as they did.”

Deep in his heart he felt the familiar curl of his personas, but they stayed quiet, weak just as their master was.

“That… That makes sense,” Akira said softly.

Goro shut his eyes. “...thank you for telling me.”

“You needed to know. The nurses were going to downplay it, tell you that you were going to be ‘just fine’. I know you would have hated that.” Akira looked down at his lap. “The other thing is...no one in the public remembers you. Not your fans, or the police… Just us, Sojiro, Sae-san… People who knew you personally. Which… I guess it could be a good thing? Y-You can start fresh. No pressure.”

Goro realized he was tearing up, which not only made his eye sting, but was mortifying. He didn’t want to cry in front of Akira, but it was too much at once. “Hilarious,” he choked. “I’ve failed at literally everything. I couldn’t even die properly. I’m still alive, and I’ve ended up in Hell anyway.”

“Goro…”

“Don’t give me your stupid fucking platitudes now.” He sounded more tired than angry. “I’ve lost everything. All that time building up my reputation, gone. My schooling. My job. My face, my limbs. I have nothing. And I don’t need your pointless reassurance that everything will be okay.”

“It might not,” Akira agreed. “But we’ll figure it out. All of us. For now, though, is there anything I can do?”

Goro thought about it, of two minds regarding Akira Kurusu, as always. He wanted him to leave, so he could cry and break down in peace. He wanted him to stay, because he didn’t want to be alone in this hospital, crippled by the fear that Akira might not come back. “I’m fine,” he said eventually, letting the hand holding the mirror drop limply to the blankets.

Akira moved the mirror to the side table. “I can tell you’re lying. But that’s not what I asked,” he pointed out with a tiny smile. “I asked if there was anything I can do. You can be fine and still want a hug.”

“Is that allowed?” Goro asked automatically, but immediately he followed it with, “I’d...like that, I think.”

It took some careful maneuvering to not bump Goro’s legs, but gradually Akira made his way into the hospital bed beside him. It was wide enough that they both had enough space, and inclined enough that Goro could lean into him and Akira could slip an arm around his shoulders. Goro settled with a heavy exhale, tears still welling without permission. Akira pretended not to notice as his shoulder grew damp, just made sure a tissue box was within reach and kept quiet.

Eventually, Goro’s sniffles subsided, and in the dimming light as it grew later, Akira said softly, “The others are glad you’re awake. I texted them while Takemi-sensei was doing the tests earlier. Sae-san wants to come see you.”

“I presume you told her what happened on the Ship?” Goro said, barely a whisper. “She has to know about the metaverse, considering the trick you pulled…”

“Yeah.” Akira pulled the blanket up over his own legs, clearly not intending to move from the bed anytime soon. “She was...really upset when she found out you hadn’t made it out.”

“I suppose she can visit. I can tell her what you told me, that her sister puked when she saw my ruined arm.” He sounded more and more drowsy as he spoke, and Akira laughed quietly.

“Whatever you want, Goro,” he murmured, and as the other boy nodded off against his shoulder, he added, “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Chapter Text

Second week of March, 2017

Skin grafts, observation, surgery, physical therapy… All of it took weeks. Goro tolerated it, mostly, in-between visits from the Thieves, Sae, and Sojiro. He hadn’t expected forgiveness from the cafe owner or Futaba, considering his part in Wakaba Isshiki’s death. But for some reason, Sojiro was more upset by the fact that a fifteen-year-old had been coerced into murder, and Futaba had bowed her head and said sincerely that she was glad he was alive.

He didn’t understand. Akira said he didn’t have to, that he could just accept it, but that wasn’t quite good enough.

His apartment had been paid for by Shido and was seized in the assorted investigations. Sae had tried to salvage some of his personal things, but the rest was gone, and he had nowhere to go. So when they finally deemed him healed enough to be released from the hospital, he found himself at the Sakura household, where a room on the first floor had been made up for him and Akira.

“You don’t need to do this. I wouldn’t want to impose,” he attempted.

“It was this or Leblanc,” Sojiro said wryly. “And you can’t exactly do the stairs right now.”

“Unless you let me carry you,” Akira chimed in, and Goro made a face. Being allowed to get out of bed seemed like a boon at first, but he’d quickly realized that it wasn’t any better. The wheelchair was nearly impossible to maneuver with one arm, and it hurt so much to stand that he couldn’t manage the crutches for longer than a minute or two. It was enough that he could make it to the restroom on his own, thank god, but for anything else, he needed someone’s help. And he hated it. Akira was on a break before the new school year started and was ridiculously attentive. Goro just wanted some semblance of independence back. Going from relying entirely on himself for most of his life to not being able to put pants on without help was infuriating. It left him irritable and snappish as the days went on, and since he was trying to be polite to Sojiro and Futaba, Akira took the brunt of it.

“Okay,” Akira said, helping Goro get the wheelchair into position at the kitchen table. “I made soba and vegetable tempura. Not the microwave kind, so I dunno if Futaba’s coming down for lunch today, but the tempura turned out a lot better this time. I got it crisped up properly!”

Goro poked lethargically at his food. “Eggplant and purple sweet potato?”

“And green onion, and yellow peppers,” Akira said proudly. “I’m getting so much better at things that aren’t curry.”

With a noncommittal hum, Goro started eating, and there was silence for a while. But then Akira started chatting, trying to make conversation.

“I want to get to the point where I can try to make sushi. I know you like sushi, and being able to make it from scratch seems like fun if we can’t make it to a restaurant.”

“Because of me,” Goro muttered.

“No, because people are busy,” Akira countered. “It’s not because of you.”

“Of course it is. Don’t patronize me. I know you’ve been giving things up to help me,” Goro hissed. “When was the last time you went to any of your part-time jobs, other than wherever you run off to on Sundays?”

“Hanasaki-san and Lala-chan understand…” Akira said, but he looked notably less certain of himself.

Goro snarled. “Don’t pretend I’m not a burden, Kurusu.” He knew the switch back to family names stung, because Akira flinched, but it didn’t stop him. “I’m taking up a room in the house of a man whose loved one was murdered by me. The people that I tried to kill are wasting their time because they feel some obligation to visit me. And you… You can’t just keep fucking taking care of me like nothing is wrong! Like I didn’t almost destroy your life! And you’re still letting me take and take from you! Why were you even in that ship? Why would you go back in there? Were you just looking for my corpse to salvage?!”

“I went because I was mourning you, you asshole!” Akira cried. “I needed closure! I needed to accept that you weren’t there anymore! And if we found your body, I wanted to make sure you got a proper burial, because you saved our lives!”

“‘Closure’? You shouldn’t have given a damn about me after what I did! I deserved to die!”

“I would rather have you alive!” Akira insisted. “I never wanted you to die!”

“YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST LEFT ME THERE! IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER FOR EVERYONE!” Goro roared, and silence fell in the wake of his words. It was broken only by a soft whimper from the doorway, and both boys looked over to see Futaba holding onto the doorframe, her face pale. Akira got up from the table, breathing hard, and went over to make her up a bowl of soba noodles and veggies.

“I’m sorry, Futaba, we didn’t mean to bother you,” he said, handing her the bowl.

She took it, her hands shaking a little. “It’s okay…” But then her gaze flickered to Goro. “Nothing can get better if you’re dead,” she said, so quietly they could barely hear her. And then she was gone, fleeing back to her room with her lunch.

“Nothing is getting better because I’m alive, either,” Goro muttered.

“Can we...not do this right now?” Akira asked. “Please.”

It was just like before. They’d both known something was wrong, dancing around the awkward truth of raw emotion. But now it was coming to a head, and Akira wasn’t prepared to handle it.

Goro looked down at his half-finished lunch, then pushed it away. “Sorry… Can I just… I want to finish my book.” Futaba had given him one of her old tablets so that he could read ebooks, since it was easier to swipe the screen with one hand than hold a physical book and turn pages.

“Yeah…” Akira wheeled him back to their room without another word. They were going to have to deal with this at some point. But it was painful, and even though Goro felt bad for hurting Akira, and even though Akira wanted to argue, both of them stayed quiet.

***

When Goro stirred that night, at first he wasn’t sure what had woken him up. Usually if he was conscious this late, it was because his legs ached, or the itch of an arm that wasn’t there had disturbed him. But tonight, he laid there for a moment, until he finally realized that the strange noise he was hearing was Akira.

As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he could just make out the other boy, wrapped in a worn blanket patterned with Featherman masks that they’d found in a closet. He was trying to be quiet, but it was obvious he was crying. Goro shut his eyes again, guilt creeping over him. Akira was unhappy because of him. If he wasn’t here, if he’d died, things would be different. Better.

He didn’t realize he’d said it out loud until Akira’s sniffles ceased with a choked noise. “Y-You don’t mean that…” he said weakly.

“I do.” It was too late. He’d said it, now he had to own it. “You wouldn’t have to worry about me. The others wouldn’t have to waste time visiting. You could push that stupid chair down the stairs with me in it and everything would improve.”

“Goro,” Akira said, shifting to face him.

“Stop. Don’t do that. I can hear the pity. It’s disgusting.” He struggled to push himself up with one arm, and when he succeeded, he growled, “You won’t let me go and move on with your life. I can barely move. I can barely do anything on my own, and I hate it! My entire life has been nothing but failure! And now that I’m helpless, you think you can fix me!

Akira’s eyes widened. “No… No, that’s not… I just think you deserve to be happy!”

“Well, I’m not!” Goro shouted. “How can I be happy like this? I have nothing! My only purpose in life is gone! I have nowhere to go! What’s left for me now?!”

“I don’t know!” Akira yelled back. “I don’t know, but I want to help you. You don’t deserve this; nothing that happened to you was fair. I don’t even care that you tried to kill me, or that you probably still want to. I just want something to go right for you for once!”

Goro really, really didn’t want to cry, but he couldn’t stop himself as he burst out, “Of course I don’t want to kill you, you fucking moron! I… I just want everything to stop hurting so much…” He tried to wipe at his eye, but it didn’t help stem the tears any.

“That’s all I want, too,” Akira said, his voice cracking.

Somehow they ended up in a heap between their futons, holding onto each other and sobbing. Goro shoved his face into Akira’s shoulder, feeling Akira’s fingers twisting into the back of his pajamas. “I don’t deserve this… I don’t deserve any of you taking care of me like this…” He didn’t want to die. He didn’t want to live like this, either. But a pitiful, selfish part of him was glad that someone actually cared.

“I want to,” Akira said, muffled. “I know you think you shouldn’t be here, but I’m just glad every single day that you’re still alive.”

“You shouldn’t be.” Goro’s voice was thick with tears. “All I’ve ever been is a burden.”

Akira hiccuped. “Not to me. And things will get better. The doctors said that the pain will be less the longer you do the physical therapy, and things will get easier. You won’t have to keep taking meds. And we’re not going anywhere, Goro. I promise.”

Fear that he hadn’t been able to name crystallized into something recognizable and sharp. That they would get tired of helping, if he didn’t recover sufficiently, or quickly enough. That eventually they would decide he was too much trouble. And the realization that he’d subconsciously been encouraging that with his attitude, hoping they would just move on and stop bothering with him sooner rather than later, so it would hurt less.

And as always, Akira managed to assuage that fear without even knowing what it was.

“You’re the worst. I’m sorry for screaming at you,” Goro said, clinging tighter, and what he meant was, Don’t let go.

“I know. It’s okay.” I won’t.

***

Outside the door, Sojiro listened for a bit longer, until it was clear from the silence that they weren’t going to fight anymore. Honestly, those two, waking up the whole house. He’d had to grab both Futaba and Morgana to keep them from bursting in. They couldn’t have had their screaming match during the day?

He was glad Goro had finally gotten it out of his system, though. That boy had a bad habit of bottling up all of his frustration. Not that Akira was much better. Now, though… Now, hopefully they could start moving forward.

With less screaming.

***

When Goro woke up again the next morning, he was more sore than usual. They’d both passed out on Akira’s futon in an awkward sprawl, which his legs were unhappy about. His eyes felt raw, swollen, and he really needed to wash his face. But his hand was tucked into Akira’s, and the other boy was smiling in his sleep.

He still felt unworthy of the care they’d shown him. But, if Akira was going to be there...maybe he would be okay after all.

Chapter Text

Third week of April, 2017

A month and a half passed after they’d screamed at each other and cried themselves to sleep, and things, thankfully, improved from there. Weekly physical therapy appointments grew easier and easier to complete, and with the Thieves helping with the exercises he had to do at home, Goro was visibly getting stronger.

Ryuji had made it a challenge, which had incensed Goro enough to make it all the way through the entire hour-long appointment for the first time. Makoto brought him a set of weights for his good arm, promising him a one-handed push-up competition once he’d gotten some of his strength back. Futaba kept them in a steady supply of movies to watch while stretching, though some were more questionable than others.

Haru, busy with college, stopped in less often, but she always brought a treat along, a new recipe she was working on for her cafe in her spare time. Yusuke showed up for dinner some nights, and sometimes he and Goro sketched together. Morgana was around, as always.

And Ann brought her usual cheer, multiple hair-care products, and Shiho with her when she could.

Shiho had been through the whole physical therapy merry-go-round the previous spring and summer after her injuries had left her laid-up in the hospital for over a month. It had been a slow process back to normal, but eventually she was right as rain, and armed to the teeth with first-hand knowledge. Goro had been a little wary at first, considering this was a completely new person to deal with, but after Ann informed him that she knew all about the phantom thieves, Shiho had become a welcome visitor, helping him through some of the more complicated exercises and assuring Akira that yes, it was fine to bend your leg like that if you were flexible enough.

“You’ll be okay with Shiho while I’m out?” Akira asked, tying his shoes while Goro clicked through something on his laptop.

“No, I will waste away,” Goro replied immediately. “It would be different if you went out every Sunday and I was used to it, but I think Shiho will find me laying pathetic and abandoned on the floor.”

“Asshole,” Akira said fondly, and went to get the door when the doorbell rang. Futaba was crashing her way down the stairs somewhere in the background, ready to accompany Akira on his outing, and then Ann and Shiho were piling into the living room with a chorus of “Hi, Goro!”

Goro raised an eyebrow. “Hello, both of you. Ann, you came too?”

She beamed. “I was going to meet up with Akira anyway, so I figured I’d just come with Shiho and we could all go together.”

“I see. Efficient, really,” Goro said, but it was strange. Akira and Futaba going out once a week was a constant, but Ann joining them was new to him. It caused a nagging feeling that something was going on, something he wasn’t being told. He wasn’t going to ask them now, as they said a round of goodbyes and headed out, but Shiho was still here and probably knew at least a little.

He waited until they were in the middle of the warmup stretches before he asked casually, “Does Ann always go out with them on Sundays?”

Shiho nodded. “Seems like it, unless she has a photoshoot. All of them meet up.” It was clear what she meant by ‘all of them’. “I think they’re exploring. They’re not stealing things anymore, according to Ann, anyway.”

“That makes sense.” It did. Of course finding him wouldn’t have just ceased their attempts to explore what was left of the metaverse. Their original goal was exploration, not a rescue mission. But it was still irritating that Akira hadn’t mentioned it. It felt like he was trying to keep it a secret. Why? To spare Goro’s feelings, since he obviously couldn’t accompany them? That idiot. How unnecessary.

But none of that was Shiho’s fault, so when she sat up and said, “Okay, ready to work on the knee bends?” he just nodded.

“I don’t think I say it enough, but thank you for coming over to help me with this,” he said. “I really do appreciate it. Akira’s great, but he’s too afraid of hurting me.”

“Ryuji and I have been through this before,” Shiho said, smiling at him as he rearranged himself on his back. “We know how to tell when something is too far or not. But I can tell you’re getting stronger. Soon you’ll be ready for stairs!”

Stairs seemed like a very distant obstacle, but her enthusiasm was infectious, and Goro found himself smiling, too. “If you say so. Let’s go, then!”

***

Shiho stayed for a while after his exercises were done, chatting and raiding the kitchen for Akira’s snacks. Halfway through splitting a box of Akira’s favorite mushroom-shaped chocolates, Shiho looked over at Goro and said casually, “So, are you going to tell Akira that it bothers you that he didn’t tell you about going off to do thief stuff?”

Goro paused with a mushroom halfway to his mouth. “What?”

“Not ‘what’,” Shiho said. “You clearly didn’t know where he was going. I recognized that look when you found out. The ‘I’m upset but I’m not going to say anything and make it worse’ look. Ann made that face a lot while everything was happening with Kamoshida.”

It was still surprising how perceptive Shiho was for someone that had only known him for a few weeks. Goro sighed, eating his mushrooms while mulling it over. “I should, I suppose,” he said eventually. “But what am I supposed to say? They can’t take me with them. I would just be a burden like this.”

Shiho frowned at him. “They still should have told you. It’s something you were involved in, too.”

“He probably didn’t want me to feel bad that I couldn’t go.” Goro paused. Every time he noticed that he wasn’t automatically assuming the worst anymore, it surprised him all over again. “I… You’re right. I’ll talk to him. Tomorrow, though. He’ll be tired tonight.”

“That’s fair. Ann’s fallen asleep on voice-chat a few times on Sunday nights. It’s kind of cute.” Shiho held out the box and tipped a few more chocolates into Goro’s hand, then hummed. “Oops, we’ve almost finished this box. I guess I owe Akira more sweets.”

“His name wasn’t on them,” Goro pointed out lightly, and Shiho giggled.

“Very true.”

***

It made sense now why Akira went to bed earlier than usual on Sundays. Goro knew just as well as the rest of them that even with the increased resilience of the metaverse, it still left you tired when you returned to reality. And in this case, Akira sleeping so deeply was going to be beneficial.

It took a while, but Goro was able to slowly retrieve his crutches and Akira’s phone without waking his roommate. A quick check of the home screen showed him nothing noteworthy, but swiping to the second screen of apps revealed the meta-nav, camouflaged among other colorful game icons. With one last backwards glance at Akira, Goro made his way out of the room as quietly as he could, biting his lip against the soreness in his legs. Hobbling was less than ideal, but the chair would make too much noise, and it was only across the house. Just enough to get Akira out of range.

He’d been to the metaverse so many times by now that the transition no longer bothered him, but this time, his stomach was twisted up in knots. He found himself choked with anxiety, not knowing what he was going to find or what was going to happen. When his vision cleared, he found himself standing on top of a short skyscraper, looking out over the flooded remnants of Cognitive Tokyo. Somehow it was less ominous than it had been in his father’s Palace, and the twilight sky glimmered with just-visible stars.

The next thing that caught his attention was his outfit. He still had Black Mask’s muted, striped color scheme, but it wasn’t restricting and tight against his skin anymore. It was more of a tunic, with looser pants that wouldn’t chafe his still-tender scars and a belt around his waist. The rest of the belts had moved to his left arm, three spaced down the length, and the ragged cape and pointed helmet had become a hooded cloak that draped over his right shoulder, hiding what was left of his right arm from view.

He reached up and pulled off his mask to examine it. It wasn’t the pointed, intimidating one anymore, or the bright red. Instead it was just simple and black, like a pair of wings spread wide, with only one eyehole. Crushing it in his fist dissolved it in blue fire, and both Robin and Loki appeared before him.

Princeling, Robin said, kneeling. Loki didn’t say anything, but bowed mockingly with his usual unnerving grin.

Goro took a step forward, reaching out to Robin, but then stopped as he finally noticed the final thing that was different.

He was standing.

Without his crutches.

Without pain.

His eyes widened, and he kept walking forward, marvelling at being able to move without a struggle. He touched Robin Hood’s arm, looking back and forth between him and Loki incredulously. “I can… I can move…”

Cognition, Robin supplied.

You know what your legs are supposed to do, Loki added.

“Right…” He glanced down at his missing arm, frowning. Cognition couldn’t fix everything. But eliminating pain for limbs that were still there…? He wasn’t going to ask too many questions. This was already a gift. This meant that he could go with the Thieves. He could be part of the group again. He could help.

Loki reached out and flicked his hood off so he could ruffle his hair. You look much more like a thief now, the trickster persona said, something surprisingly fond in his voice, and Goro smiled.

“I do, huh?”

He didn’t return to reality right away, taking advantage of his newfound mobility to run and jump around the rooftop for just a few minutes. It felt good to not be hobbled by his injuries, but eventually he knew he needed to go home and sleep, especially if he was going to confront Akira. Once he was back in the Sakura household, crutches right where he’d left them, the soreness set in, but even then, it wasn’t as bad as it had been just a month before. His muscles were recovering, slowly, and knowing that was enough to keep him from being too upset about the pain. When he settled back into his futon, he was content.

***

“You’ve been going to the metaverse without me.”

Akira, who hadn’t even been home for two minutes, blinked owlishly from the doorway of their room. “What?”

Goro regretted that having only one proper arm meant that he couldn’t adequately fold them disapprovingly. So instead he tried to be as stern as possible. “Don’t play dumb, Akira. Shiho said that you were all off ‘exploring’ on weekends. I saw the app on your phone. I was a detective, you know.”

“We’ve just been looking around,” Akira said, setting his bag down. Morgana hopped out, meowing in agreement.

“That’s right!” he said. “It’s just the ruins, and they’re getting more ruined by the day. There’s a lot less than there were when we found you.”

“That’s not the point,” Goro said. Was he being a little sharp? Probably. “The point is that you didn’t tell me. You just let me think you were going to Akihabara or something, meanwhile you were running around the metaverse without me.”

Akira flopped down on his futon. “You’re still not back to full-strength. It wouldn’t have been safe to take you with us.”

“That’s still not the point. I had no idea where you were really going. What if something had happened, and none of you had come back? What was I supposed to think?” Goro huffed. “I’m not angry that you didn’t take me, just that you didn’t tell me where you were going. But it’s a moot point. I can stand in the metaverse.”

“You went into the metaverse alone?!” Morgana yowled.

Goro nodded. “I took the phone. Last night.”

Akira was quiet, processing the rest of what he had said. “...you can stand in the metaverse? Because… Because your cognition of your legs is that they’re okay? Is that how it works?” He looked between Goro and Morgana, his eyes going wide. “That’s amazing! Goro!”

It made Goro feel warm to see how excited Akira was. “I walked around for a little while, jumped up and down, ran back and forth a few times… It didn’t seem to be a fluke. And I still have Robin and Loki.”

“That means you can come with us!” Akira said happily, and being included, willingly and automatically, soothed a nagging insecurity that Goro had been doing his best to ignore as unreasonable. And now he knew for sure that it was. They wanted him there.

“My outfit is different,” he murmured, and Akira looked even more shocked.

“Wait, really? I want to see. We could just shift over really quick…”

“Or you can wait for next Sunday,” Goro said smugly. But then he smiled. “Besides, we still have to tell the others.”

“They’ll be happy to hear it,” Morgana said, and he hopped up to Goro’s lap.

Goro scritched behind his ears fondly. “I know they will.”

Chapter Text

Early June, 2017

“It’s peaceful here,” Ann commented, staring up at the sky. The last rays of the sun were barely visible over the horizon, blanketing everything in a deep blue hue. The sun had been descending slowly ever since January, and the lower it got, the more stars were visible, a vast expanse reflected in the water all around them.

The ruins of Cognitive Tokyo were nearly gone. Buildings still jutted from the water in places, but only the ones that had been the tallest originally. There were far fewer piles of debris, and the water had gone from constantly-moving like a real ocean to flat and smooth as glass. The day that Yusuke had fallen out of the boat and realized that they could walk on the surface was one of the weirdest ones so far. So now they explored on foot, and it was helpful to not have to deal with the lifeboat anymore.

Currently, all of them were sprawled out on top of one of the remaining buildings, taking a rest. Goro got tired a little more quickly than the rest of them, but Akira always made sure to call a halt when he needed it, refusing to let him strain himself.

“So do you think eventually this’ll all just be water?” Ryuji asked. “Everything just keeps sinking; eventually there’s gonna be nothing left.”

“Just an endless, empty sea…” Haru murmured.

The building they were on was nearly flush with the surface, and Goro was sitting on the edge, tapping his feet against the water and watching the ripples flow outwards. “That’s a good thing,” he said. “Mementos was a distortion. It wasn’t supposed to be there. Presumably, this ocean is what the metaverse is supposed to look like.”

“That means people really are recovering,” Makoto said wonderingly. “The more the city sinks…”

“The better things are,” Akira concluded.

Futaba beamed. “It’s really neat to actually see the healing process like this. Mom would have loved it.”

Morgana had wandered over to where Goro was sitting, but before he could flop down beside him, he spotted something out of place out in the watery expanse. “Hey, what’s that?” He pointed, and Goro frowned, trying to see.

“There’s something moving out there.”

“That can’t be right,” Makoto objected, as they all crowded around to look. There hadn’t been a single shadow since Christmas. The sea was empty. But now there were clearly figures moving around out there; four of them, human-shaped, picking their way over a heap of junk from the Casino. As the Thieves watched, one of the figures stopped and pointed right at them, and Akira stood up to his full height.

“We outnumber them,” he said firmly, slipping back into place as ‘Joker’ as easily as breathing. “But be on your guard. We don’t know what they are.”

The Thieves took up a defensive stance as the figures changed direction towards them. But as they got closer, it became apparent that these were people. They weren’t in masks, but they were wearing appropriate clothes for exploring and carrying weapons. And finally, Haru stepped up behind Akira and said quietly, “I know who that is. That’s Mitsuru Kirijo.”

“Ain’t she some kinda CEO or something?” Ryuji hissed. “What the hell is someone like her doing here?”

Mitsuru was flanked by a blonde girl in some kind of armor, another girl with a braid who wasn’t carrying any weapons, and a girl with an auburn ponytail and a vicious-looking naginata. The girl with the ponytail stopped walking first, pointing at them wildly. “Holy shit, it’s the Phantom Thieves!

That briefly confused all of them. She sounded so excited, none of them knew what to say. But then Akira took a deep breath and stepped forward. “We are. But who are you? And how did you get here?”

Mitsuru spoke then. “My name is Mitsuru Kirijo. These are my associates: Fuuka Yamagishi, Hamuko Arisato, and Aigis.” She studied Akira curiously. “We’ve been exploring the Sea since we regained access. It’s actually fortunate that we ran into you. We’re with an organization called the Shadow Operatives that deal with disruptions in meta-space. I have questions about what happened last Christmas.”

“Shadow Operatives?” Futaba said. “That sounds sketchy as heck.”

“...I wouldn’t phrase it like that, but I agree.” Akira leaned his hand on his hip. “I’m going to need some more info than that before we just start talking.”

“It’s a long story,” Fuuka said. “But we have time, since there are no hostile shadows here.”

“You’re the Wild Card, aren’t you?” Hamuko asked Akira with a grin. “I can tell. We’re persona-users, too.”

Being persona-users alone wasn’t enough to gain any trust; Goro, after all, had been a persona-user and an enemy, at first. But ‘Wild Card’ was a term that meant they had some familiarity with the Velvet Room, which made it a little more likely that they were on the same side. Akira rocked back on his heels, thinking it over. “All right,” he said eventually. “We’ll tell you ours if you tell us yours. Fair’s fair, yeah?”

“Fair enough,” Mitsuru agreed. She and the other Shadow Operatives made their way up onto the Thieves’ building, and everyone found a seat, watching each other attentively. “For general purposes, things began in 2009…”

Mitsuru took them through a summarized version of the formation of the Shadow Operatives: the Dark Hour and the Goddess of Death, the fog of illusions and the bitter murderer, the blood-colored moon and the re-formation of the Great Seal... It was the sort of bizarre tale that would only come from someone that was telling the truth. So the Thieves offered their truth in return, of Palaces and conspiracy and the false god trying to take over both reality and the Velvet Room. The talk filled in many blanks on both sides, and by the end, Mitsuru was nodding.

“It must have been an incredibly stressful year for you.” Her eyes drifted around the group, before landing on Goro. They hadn’t mentioned his part in the conspiracy. Just that he was their teammate. She regarded him searchingly for a moment, then said, “Your arm, and your eye… Lost during a fight?”

Goro recoiled a bit, resisting the urge to pull his cloak tighter around his arm. “I was trapped in a collapsing Palace.”

“We might be able to help with that,” Mitsuru said. “The Kirijo group has been working with experimental cybernetic prosthetics based on the original technology used in the anti-shadow suppression weapons, like Aigis—”

“You can give Crow a robot arm?!” Futaba blurted out.

“...essentially, yes.”

“They function almost identically to flesh and bone arms,” Aigis said. “Except for being made of metal. But they possess a full range of motor control.”

The Thieves looked at Goro, who was frowning suspiciously. “Why would you do that for me?” he said. “You don’t even know me, and you would just give me something like that?”

“You’re like us,” Fuuka said simply. “You went through a lot.”

“And we might not have been able to help while things were happening, but we can make damn sure we support the new team in the aftermath,” Hamuko chimed in.

Goro chewed his lip. “I...would need time to think about it. How do I know that you won’t call in some kind of debt later?”

Mitsuru shook her head. “You’ve been through quite enough already. But it is an open offer. Take all the time you need. I’ll leave my contact information with you for when you make your decision.”

***

When the Thieves left the metaverse and returned to Leblanc, they were quiet for so long that Sojiro started getting concerned.

“Did...something happen?” he asked, bringing over a round of coffees and Ryuji’s soda.

Yusuke took a sip of his drink. “We met another team in the metaverse. Adults, with powers like us.”

“They’re from some kinda organization,” Ryuji added.

“Mitsuru Kirijo leads them, apparently.” Makoto was frowning.

Sojiro looked around at them all. “Okay… So, are these people a threat? Do I need to be worried that you all won’t come home one day?”

Akira shook his head. “I don’t think so… She wanted to know what happened at Christmas, and she was asking about the Palaces, and what happened to Goro. She said they could get him some kind of fancy robot prosthetic.”

“It sounded like something similar to a myoelectric prosthesis,” Futaba said, holding up her phone. “That’s the kind connected to your existing muscles. And there’s even more advanced ones than that. I dunno what kind of tech comes from an ‘anti-shadow suppression weapon’, but we’re talking about prosthetics that would cost between a million and six-hundred million yen. And she wants to just give it to Goro, apparently.”

Goro said nothing, staring down into his coffee. It was too good to be true. The Thieves’ kindness he could understand, but total strangers? No. There was no way they would do that without wanting something in return, and he wasn’t sure he would be willing to offer whatever they expected. But before he could speak, Haru set her mug down with a thump and declared, “I think you should do it, Goro-kun.”

“Eh?” Caught off-guard that Haru, of all of them, was advocating for him, he fumbled for a second. “You do?”

Haru nodded. “They’re offering this to you and haven’t mentioned any conditions. Obviously you would need to get more information, but there’s no harm in expressing your interest and learning what would happen. If they never bring up any kind of condition or debt to be repaid, they wouldn’t be able to demand that of you afterwards.” She looked over at Sojiro. “Right, Boss?”

“As long as you don’t sign anything,” Sojiro shrugged. “That wouldn’t be legal anyway; you’re not an adult yet. But I don’t know how I feel about you agreeing to some sort of experimental surgery. You don’t know these people.”

“We wouldn’t let them just carry him off and experiment on him,” Akira said sharply. “They’ve got to prove they’re trustworthy, first. But…” His expression twisted anxiously. “I do think… Goro, if this can give you your other hand back… It would be worth it, wouldn’t it?”

Goro hesitated, and Ann chimed in quickly, “We wouldn’t let them hurt you.”

“Or take you away,” Morgana said, almost talking over her, and the other Thieves were quick to reassure him as well. It helped, in a way that he wasn’t expecting it to, and he sighed.

“I’ll hear them out,” he said, and Ryuji slung an arm around his shoulders.

“And we’ll be right here!”

Even Sojiro looked happy for him, despite his clear misgivings about the Shadow Operatives. Hope wasn’t something that Goro allowed himself a lot of, even though he lived with Morgana, but just this once he wanted to believe that this was going to work out. That he might actually have two functioning arms again. It would be worth whatever procedure it took.

***

It almost wasn’t worth it.

The Shadow Operatives were a lot more forthcoming with information than the Thieves had been expecting. Everything was frank and up-front. Mitsuru showed up at Leblanc with an entire binder full of information, and had even tolerated Futaba pawing through it and Sojiro’s protective questions.

They didn’t want any money. Technically the prosthetic was a prototype, so this was going to be more like a field test. All they were asking for was an appointment to assess how well it was working every two months or so. There were no forms to sign, nothing tying them together, and Mitsuru was very clear that she didn’t expect the Thieves to have any part of the Shadow Operatives in an official capacity unless they wanted to.

The procedure would be done in the morning, and ideally Goro would be home for dinner. It would likely take practice to train the new nerve connections, but that would hardly be different from the physical therapy he still did once a week for his legs. The only drawback was that because of the nature of the nerve connections, they couldn’t put him under general anesthesia, only local. So it was going to hurt, and he was going to be awake for it.

Goro’s response had been, “I can handle pain.”

Goro nearly broke Akira’s hand mid-procedure and was hoarse afterwards from yelling.

“I am sorry,” he said that evening, sitting on the couch beside Akira and eyeing the bag of ice on Akira’s hand with shame.

Akira laughed. “If the worst thing that happened was me ending up with a sore hand, I consider that a win. I hadn’t realized how buff your left arm has gotten.” In the background, Futaba was setting up the big TV for a Featherman marathon, but Akira’s attention was entirely on him. “What do you think? Any finger movement yet?”

Goro glanced down at the new arm, metallic and unfamiliar and a weight he was no longer used to. It was going to be bizarre, getting used to having an arm again. Despite his best efforts, he couldn’t get his fingers to do more than twitch a little, but he wasn’t worried. They had told him that it would take time to learn how to move, training all of the new nerve connections. Like riding a bike, he had to learn how the muscles moved until it became instinctual. “I’ve only been home for a few hours, Akira. I’ll get there.”

“Yeah, he’ll get there, so shut up so we can watch Featherman,” Futaba chimed in. “We’ve got less than a month before the new season starts and some people are behind!”

Akira rolled his eyes. “We were saving the world. I didn’t have time to watch every episode.”

“We did,” Futaba and Goro said in unison.

“I’m sorry that I was too busy providing for the Phantom Thieves instead of watching Featherman on Saturdays.”

“Shut up so we can watch!” Futaba said, launching herself onto the couch on Akira’s other side.

They made it through the first few episodes, and Futaba and Goro gleefully pointed out several possible candidates for Feather Gold Osprey from background characters. But when they reached episode 6, they ran into a point of conflict during the explanation of the Feather Stones.

“I’m just saying that having fourteen potential rangers is too many,” Futaba said. “That’s like...twice as many as any other season. Why do that if you’re not even going to show them all?”

“It’s a sequel hook. They announced Feather Gold as the next ranger, but that doesn’t mean the others won’t make an appearance in season 2,” Goro countered. “Neo and Advent both had eight rangers, and honestly, even if Gold joins as their ninth, it’s possible that the other two will end up as villains like Navy and Crimson.”

“Other three,” Futaba said.

“Other two. The magenta stone is broken, remember?” Goro replied. “And for all we know, so are Bronze and Amber.”

Akira was looking back and forth between them as they discussed from either side of him. It was like watching a tennis match while perched on the net. “Have they ever had a team of evil rangers before?”

Goro shook his head. “Not actual rangers. There have been a few episodes with some form of doppelganger or brainwashing, and there was a team of cyborg rangers during Neo for a while that were villains, but this is the first time it has explicitly been people with the same powers.”

Futaba almost dropped the remote as she gestured. “Yeah, this is totally new territory! This is like in the last arc of Soldier Luna where the villains all have soldier transformations, too. Instead of protecting their planets, they turned evil!”

“We still don’t know if Navy and Crimson have been brainwashed or if they’re actually evil, though,” Goro pointed out.

Akira laughed nervously. “I still haven’t even seen Crimson. We’re only on episode six, guys.”

“......oops.”

“But, Goro…” he continued. “Jeeze, I didn’t know you knew so much about Featherman. I bet there’s a wiki somewhere crying for attention.”

“I have been known to edit the wiki occasionally. People have a bad habit of mistaking fanon for reality,” Goro huffed. “There was a point where I considered writing up episode analysis for the new series, but I never had the time for something like that before.”

“You should, when the new episodes start again,” Akira said. “I bet they’d be great. And you always sound so happy when you talk about Featherman.”

“Vlog, vlog, vlog!” Futaba began to chant, and Goro’s eyes widened.

“Why not a regular blog?” he asked.

“Because obviously a vlog gives it a more personal touch!” Futaba said. “Besides, you have a nice voice. Why do you think people wanted to interview you all the time?”

“Because I was a celebrity?” Goro said, baffled. But then he conceded, “I’ll...think about it. It’s just...my face.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your face.” Akira wrapped an arm around him, pulling him in, and Futaba laughed.

“Besides, you know Yukari Takeba now, you can interview her for a video~”

“I don’t think that… She came to see me in the hospital, but…” That had been the weirdest part of his day. After the surgery, several of the Shadow Operatives they hadn’t seen before had checked in, curious to see two of the notorious Phantom Thieves. One of them, to Goro’s great astonishment, had been the current co-writer of X and former Feather Pink Argus, Yukari Takeba. He’d made an absolute fool of himself trying to talk, but thankfully he’d been able to blame most of it on pain meds. And when Sojiro and Futaba had come to pick them up from the hospital, Futaba had practically screamed when she found out that she’d missed it.

“Guys, we’re not going to make it to the mid-season finale before bed if we don’t keep going! We’re wasting the golden opportunity of Morgana spending the night at Haru’s,” Akira whined, and Goro pounced on the chance to go back to the show instead of continuing the discussion.

“That’s right, come on, there’s six more episodes, let’s go,” he urged, and Futaba gave in.

In the end, all three of them dozed off on the couch in the middle of episode eleven, with Goro and Futaba using Akira as a pillow. Sojiro found them like that just after midnight when he came down for a glass of water, and shook his head with exasperation. He made sure that none of them were going to wake up with strained muscles, cut off the TV, then threw some extra blankets on them and went to bed.

He’d make them a good breakfast in the morning.

Chapter Text

“I’m just...not sure.”

“It’s okay. Here. Comb your hair like this, and it hides most of the eyepatch.”

“...thank you for letting me borrow this shirt. It hides the prosthetic better.”

“It’s no problem, really. And hey, if anything goes wrong, we take the videos down, and they’re gone. You don’t have to keep doing this if you don’t like it. That’s the point, we’re seeing if this is something you like to do.”

“Something I like to do…”

“Yeah. Don’t worry, you’ll do great. You already filmed the intro video, that was the hard part. Now you just get to talk about your favorite show when the episode is over. It’s fun.”

“...okay. Okay! I can do this. It’s just like those interviews.”

“...not really. We’re supposed to be having fun. C’mon, Goro.”

“...right…”


Welcome to Phoenix Talk
PhoenixTalk
Published on July 9, 2017

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is...Goro Kurusu, and welcome to Phoenix Talk.”

The young man sitting in front of the camera was clearly uncomfortable. The smile on his face was too cheerful for his stiff posture, like a newscaster trying to get through a story they knew wasn’t good. He shifted awkwardly, conspicuously keeping one hand out of sight below the table he was sitting at, though it didn’t change the fact that his face was clearly marked with some kind of scars.

“This is just a short introductory video, to give you an idea of what this channel will be about. I have been watching Featherman since I was a child, ever since the second airing of Featherman R. I’m a big fan, and I wanted an opportunity to share my knowledge of lore with other fans, and provide points of discussion to help get the fandom even more involved with the story and the show as a whole.”

It was hard to see, but as he shifted, it became evident that there was a blanket covering his legs, and crutches leaned against the wall in the background. “I hope to do videos looking at each episode, but also about interesting lore and lesser-known facts about the different series. I hope that all of you enjoy my content; the first video should be posted soon. Thank you for watching. Until next time~!”

With one last too-bright smile and a wave, the video faded to black.


Featherman X - Episode 25 Discussion
PhoenixTalk
Published on July 9, 2017

“Good day, Featherfans, my name is Goro Kurusu...and welcome to Phoenix Talk.”

Goro was still smiling his interview smile, sitting up straight and formal against the backdrop of the attic space. “Episode 25 of Featherman X premiered tonight, bringing with it the much-anticipated first appearance of Feather Gold Osprey, who was first teased during a creator interview back in December. But before we get to that, and the possibilities for the identity of our new teammate, I want to talk about the first half of the episode and how builds on the themes from the rest of the season so far.”

He looked down at his notecards, then hesitantly lifted his free hand from his lap so he could use both to flip to the next one. The newly-revealed hand looked clumsy and metallic, but he didn’t acknowledge it, just continued, “This episode almost directly parallels episode one, which highlights how far the characters have come since then. It opens with a scene at the diner, but instead of the three main characters that we opened the season with, we now have an entire team, laughing and joking together. Even ‘Ritsu’ and ‘Aria’ are present, showing that they’re strengthening their new bonds and growing used to being on Earth. The destruction of the secret base might actually be a positive thing, because they won’t be able to close themselves off anymore. They have friends now, who can help them grieve their planet and fight with them, together.” His voice grew a touch wistful as he said, “They did their best to keep the others at arm’s length for a long time, but in the end, the best thing for them really seems to be embracing the new family they’re building for themselves on Earth.”

Taking a deep breath, he flipped to the next card. “Anyway, the episode continues to parallel the first, as several of the rangers find themselves in a battle that they are ill-equipped to handle due to being caught off-guard. I really hope we see more of the Knights this season, since they mostly served as background antagonists during season one. We didn’t even know Crimson and Navy were acting specifically as Karragald’s subordinates until after Crimson’s introduction. But, let’s get to the important part. Just like the original trio stepped in to help Feather Black Rockhopper in episode one, the embattled rangers are helped by the appearance of a new ally: Feather Gold!”

The more he talked, the more he was starting to relax. It was obvious that his initial stiffness had been nerves, because his enthusiasm was coming through more and more with every passing moment. “It’s hard to pinpoint who might be beneath the mask at this point, because there are plenty of recurring side characters in town, and the slight distortion effect they use when they have the helmets on makes it difficult to tell. I’d say at the moment our strongest candidates are Rin, Seiya, and Tomoda, but we’ll have to see more to take a better guess.”

The video went on for a little longer, as Goro discussed theories about where the season was going to go from there. And then, as he wound down, he seemed to catch himself, realizing how unrestrained he’d been while he was talking. “S-So… Next week, we’ll see the result of the cliffhanger, and hopefully get to see what Feather Gold’s weapon and special attack are.” The slightly stiff smile had returned, but less so than when he started. “There will be a new video next Saturday. Feel free to leave comments with any speculation you have or things you’ve noticed. This has been Phoenix Talk. Thank you for watching; until next time.”


Once the videos were uploaded, Akira tugged Goro away from the table and over to the sofa he’d moved in front of the TV. He’d finally gotten a better one at Futaba’s insistence, so the picture no longer occasionally flickered or ended up tinted pink.

“You did great,” he said, helping him get comfortable. “Kurusu, though, really?”

Goro looked away. “I don’t want to take a chance that using my real name triggers any kind of memory in anyone. It’s...better, not to be remembered like that.”

“That’s true. I don’t mind, it was just a surprise to hear it.” Akira waved the DVD case, as if trying to distract from the slight pink on his cheeks. “And now, we’re not going to stress, we’re going to watch a movie that isn’t Featherman, and we’ll see what the numbers look like tomorrow.”

Goro looked reluctant, but settled into the couch with a sigh. “You won’t let me look no matter what, so I might as well give in. What are we watching?”

Akira flopped down beside him with the remote, smiling fondly. “You said you’ve never seen Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ann and Yusuke both said that was a crime against art and anime. So I got it from the rental place.”

“All right.” Goro tried to relax. Akira was right; it wasn’t worth worrying about the numbers until there were enough to see a trend. So gradually he settled against Akira’s side, subtly burrowing in closer as the movie unfolded.

Akira just curled an arm around him, cheek resting against his hair. They’d moved back to Leblanc only a week ago, with Goro finally deemed well enough to handle the stairs. Sojiro had replaced the crates-and-mattress combination with a proper bed, and the old booth seat with a real couch. So Goro had been sleeping in the bed while Akira took the couch, rather than bothering to unroll the spare futon on the floor. Akira liked being back; Leblanc was home, and Goro had settled in easily to the cozy space. They’d briefly discussed looking at apartments, but it wasn’t an urgent task.

Onscreen, the wizard was trying to reassure the heroine that he wasn’t going anywhere, but that their found family was going to be okay even if something happened to him. Goro felt Akira’s arm tighten around him, and in a moment of impulse, looked up and kissed his cheek.

Akira froze, wide eyes still focused on the movie, but it was clear he’d short-circuited a little. He took a single, slow breath, then looked down at Goro. “Hi?”

“Don’t talk during the movie,” Goro replied, laying his head back on Akira’s shoulder with a small smile.

“Wh—” Akira started to say something else, but caught himself. Instead, he just pulled the blanket closer around them and kissed the top of Goro’s head. Fine, if that was how he wanted to play it.

When the movie was over, he asked casually, “Do you want to go out to dinner tomorrow? I know being out in public is still weird for you, but we were fine getting crepes last week.”

“That sounds nice. Are you picking the restaurant?”

“Haru mentioned a very nice Italian place that just opened in Ginza, if you feel like Western food. Or we can do sushi.” Akira pulled away at last to change into his pajamas, and Goro did the same. It was so much easier to put pants on with two functioning arms, even if the crutches were still a challenge sometimes.

“Italian sounds nice.” Goro hesitated next to the bed, glancing from it to the small AC unit Sojiro had let them put in the window. “...you should come here. It’s cold.”

Akira felt a smile creeping onto his face. “Cold? It’s July.”

“So? I’m cold. Just come here.”

“We could just cut the AC off.”

“Akira.”

“All right, all right, jeeze. Demanding.” But the teasing didn’t stop Goro from pulling him into bed and curling up beside him, head on his shoulder. Akira wondered, briefly, if Sojiro had purposefully picked a bed just wide enough to fit two people comfortably, but in the end it was a moot point. The fact that it did was the most important thing.

And it was a comfortable realization, to know that for the first time, they didn’t have to talk about something. There didn’t need to be any grand declarations or ridiculous gestures. They had simply acknowledged what they were, what they had been for a long time now, if both of them were being honest. Uncountable small gestures and tiny steps, as gradual and instinctual as breathing, until any kind of verbal confirmation would have felt like pointing out the obvious.

That didn’t make it any less nice to hear when Goro mumbled against his shoulder, “Goodnight, Akira. I love you.”

“I love you too. See you in the morning.”

Chapter Text

Featherfans Unite! 12-hour Charity Livestream
PhoenixTalk
Streaming live Jun 3, 2018


3:00pm - ¥0 raised


“Good day, Featherfans! My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome to a very special Phoenix Talk! Today is our twelve-hour charity livestream, and before we get started, I want to explain a few rules and a couple of things about what’s going on today.”

The camera was set up in the living room, giving a good angle of Goro sitting beside the coffee table, as well as Akira stretched out on the couch with Morgana on his stomach, and a redheaded girl perched into one of the armchairs. Goro gestured to them. “You know Akira and Morgana already, but this is Akira’s little sister, Futaba. You know her as Scherezade, our helpful moderator. She’s here today because she did some very complicated tech stuff to make some of our later events work properly.”

Futaba lifted a hand in a wave. “‘Sup, nerds. Now I can ban you live if you get out of hand.”

Goro chuckled. “Yes, you can. Anyway, we have several events that will be going today, and a few corresponding donation incentives, which will be going up...there.” He tapped a button on his laptop, and the list popped up on the left side of the screen.

- ¥500 Donation Q&A
- Vote for which route of the Unofficial Featherman R Visual Novel (G endings)
- ¥50,000 - Sing the Talon Rangers theme song
- ¥100,000 - Featherman cosplay
- ¥500,000 - Unlock Goro’s fanfic
- ¥1 million - Unlock secret interview
- ¥2 million - Akira takes his shirt off

Goro continued, “Most of these are fairly self-explanatory. The donation link is in the stream description, along with a description of the charities the money will be going to. For the Q&A, please keep the questions PG-13. Inappropriate questions will be ignored. The voting for the visual novel ending will conclude when we reach the end of the common route, and it will be the gen romance ending of whichever route wins. If we reach 500,000 yen, I will read an excerpt of one of my own fics during the fanfic reading portion of the stream. And yes, if we reach two million, Akira will take his shirt off, so you all can calm down, you thirsty lunatics.” He was grinning, so it was clear he wasn’t upset by any of their shenanigans and begging.

Akira waved from the couch. “Also!” he said brightly. “At midnight, we’re switching over to After-Dark mode. 17+ only, and we’ve got some extra incentives. You can vote for which H-ending of the visual novel you want to see, and if we get to one and a half million yen, we’re going to read some smutty fanfic, because some of you went ahead and submitted that anyway even though we said we’d shame you on stream.” He laughed. “I guess we won’t, now, since we decided to do the reading after midnight.”

“All right, all right, enough rules, let’s get on with it!” Futaba cheered, and Goro nodded.

“Right. Up first, we’re going to get our regular stream stuff out of the way, which means episode 33 and 34 of Featherman R!”


3:35pm - ¥37,700 raised


“—and that brings us to episode 34, which… Honestly, Red Hawk suffers quite a bit from circumstance in this show. He keeps ending up in comedic and unfortunate situations through no fault of his own.” Goro took a sip of his drink. “This episode, he spends significant time with a girl, including missing a fight because he’s out with her and unaware of what’s going on. So the team logically comes to the conclusion that the girl is a shadow sent by the Great Demon, trying to keep him distracted.”

“Perfectly sound logic,” Akira chimed in.

“Definitely. And of course the solution is to stalk them everywhere and try to prove she’s a shadow, leading to a multitude of shenanigans.” Goro laughed to himself, leaning his cheek on his robot arm. “In the end, of course, it turns out that the girl was just a perfectly ordinary person, who by the end of the episode wants nothing to do with Katsuhira or any of his ‘crazy friends’.”

Futaba waved from her chair. “We’ve got another 500 yen donation with a question. MotorcycleNoises69 says, Wasn’t this episode good shipping fuel? Blue and Black seemed awfully insistent about the shadow thing.

Absolutely,” Goro said emphatically. “Those two were the most convinced that Red was being corrupted by some sort of shadow, rather than accept the notion that he was showing interest in anyone other than one of them.”

“Black Condor has died and come back to life by this point and still hasn’t told Red that he likes him,” Akira huffed. “He’s allowed to be paranoid.”

Goro snorted. “Chat says you sound like you’re in denial.”

“Shut up, you might all be lying to me about the wedding. That goodbye in episode 18 was nothing if not an expression of love!”

“We’re turning him into a proper shipper,” Futaba said smugly. “Also, you guys have another question. This one’s for both of you, from MoonRabbit99. Are you going to wear couples’ cosplay when you go to Comic-Con?

Akira groaned dramatically. “As much as I want to, we aren’t.”

Morgana meowed loudly, and Goro reached over to pet Akira’s hair. “There was a long discussion about it,” he told the camera. “Ultimately, we decided that since this is the first big, public event that I’m going to since my accident, it’s probably better to not go with the costume all day on top of that. But I do have a costume, which I will wear around the house for the stream if we hit the donation goal, and the rest of my friends are going as the rest of the Featherman X team and are coming to the panel as moral support.”

The chat sounded very excited about the prospect of group cosplay, but also disappointed that Goro’s wouldn’t be making a Comic-Con appearance. Donations continued to roll in, and Goro glanced at the totals. “So, right now, Feather Pink’s route actually has the most contributions towards it, so if you want to see something different, and if you want to hear some questionable singing, keep those donations coming. For now, let’s finish up with episode 34 so we can actually start the common route.”


4:57pm - ¥98,017 raised


“...you all did this on purpose. I never should have told you that I’d never played this ending,” Goro said flatly. On-screen, there was a beautiful CG of Red Hawk and White Swallow engaged in a loving kiss, helmets discarded at their feet. “Like, I know Swallow’s girlfriend is in the hospital in canon, but I didn’t realize the romance route in this was hurt/comfort because his girlfriend died. Holy shit, guys.”

“Futaba, why didn’t you warn us?” Akira asked, as the credits started to roll. Futaba just stuck her tongue out at them and went back to whatever she was doing on her computer. With a huff, Akira frowned at the camera. “In all seriousness, guys, can we pick a different character for the H-route? Because I don’t know if I can handle a sex scene on this one.”

Goro cut the stream from the laptop, leaving just the video feed to fill the window. “All right, so we reached the incentive for the Talon Rangers theme song, which I am regretting making an incentive right now. So give me a minute to pull up the karaoke versi—”

“Wait, wait!” Futaba interrupted. “CoffeeBoss just donated ¥50,000, with the message, It’s for charity, yeah? That puts us over a hundred thousand, so you have to go put on Featherman cosplay to sing!” She smiled. “Thanks, dad.”

Akira blinked, dumbfounded, then said, “Wow, yeah, thanks, dad. You didn’t have to do that.” It was hard to tell whether he was being genuinely grateful for the donation, or sarcastically grateful for the costumed singing.

“It’s for charity!” Futaba said. “Now, go put on your outfits while I finish hooking everything up for the game tournament!”

Akira and Goro grumbled, but eventually made it off-camera. Futaba, meanwhile, kept working, and said over her shoulder, “So what I’m doing is making a custom server so we can play Ultra Phoenix Fighters with you guys with as little lag as possible. The way we’re gonna run this thing, you play until you lose or hit fifty consecutive wins. Once someone loses or hits that cap, the next person in the queue takes their place. If there’s a tie for most wins somehow, we’ll have a mini single-elimination tournament to decide who gets the prize, which is some awesome Featherman merch signed by Yukari Takeba.”

Onscreen, the top half of the split screen came back on to show the Ultra Phoenix Fighters title screen. Futaba flipped back around to face the camera, giving a thumbs-up. “So it’s gonna be five hundred yen to get put in the queue, since this is for charity, and we’re gonna cut the queue off at some point so we can get through everyone in a reasonable time. But I’ll give a warning before we just cut it off. This took a lot of finagling to get the code to work, so you guys better appreciate me!”

Morgana came over, bracing his paws on her leg and meowing loudly. Futaba glanced at him. “You can’t play, Mona. The controls are too complex.”

An indignant meow filled the room. Futaba groaned. “I know you’re good at Punch Ouch, but that has totally different controls!”

She leaned over to check on the chat, ignoring Morgana’s continued complaining. The chat was a wall of ‘Let him play!’, and she sighed. “Look, the Playstation controller has too many buttons for someone that doesn’t have thumbs. Morgana hasn’t achieved the necessary dex stat for this.”

“Mreow!”

“Mona, you’re not a high enough level, I’m sorry. You need more practice.” Futaba kept reading the chat, where people were advocating on Morgana’s behalf, and finally she sighed again. “Okay, look. Here’s what I’ll do. I know this is Goro’s stream, but I’ll add a donation incentive. If we get a ¥25,000 donation, I’ll hook up the Famicom after the tournament and you guys can watch Mona speedrun Punch Ouch. Sound good?”

The chat was scattered for a moment, but then seemed to agree that it was acceptable. Futaba clapped her hands and added it to the incentives list. “Excellent. Now the nerds just have to get back from changing clothes.”

“We’re here, we’re here!” Akira’s voice chimed from off-camera. “Thank goodness the bluetooth mics fit inside the helmets, or no one would be able to hear us. Can you start the music and be our camera-person so we don’t have to shuffle on-screen and then strike the pose?”

Futaba giggled, delighted. “Okay! I can do that!” She disappeared for a moment, then the camera lifted up from where it had been sitting. “All right, I’m going to count you down. 3… 2… 1… Goooo~!”

As the music started, the camera panned over, revealing Akira and Goro in near-perfect cosplays of Feather Red Duke and Feather Gold Osprey. Careful examination would reveal Goro leaning on one of his crutches, arm positioned strategically behind Akira to try to hide it as they struck a heroic pose. As the music started, Akira was clearly more into the singing than Goro despite it being in English, but Goro found his stride the more they sang.

There’s a light in the distance,
You can see it coming closer.
A power for the ages,
Destinies combined!

Protectors of the right,
Defenders for the fight!

Talon Rangers rise,
Fearless through the skies!
Protecting us from evil forces!
Victory is ours forever more!

Talon Rangers win!
Power from within!
Victory is ours forever more!

Go go Talon Rangers~!

Once they were done, Akira gave up trying to keep it together and laughed, pulling his helmet off before helping Goro back to the couch. “Oh jeeze. I know it probably sounds less cheesy than ours because it’s in a foreign language, but still.”

“It’s still cheesy.” Goro pulled his helmet off. “Is all the setup done for the— Futaba. Why do we have eight ¥25,000 donations? What the hell happened?”

“People really wanna see Mona speedrun Punch Ouch,” Futaba said happily. “After the tournament, though. Let’s go!”


6:22pm - ¥445,052 raised


“And so, congratulations to TwinPharaoh for winning the bundle of signed merch!” Goro said brightly. He and Akira had put up a good fight as well, but ultimately one player had come out on top with an impressive 28 wins total. “We’ll be in touch over DMs to talk about how to get you your prize, but for now, I think Futaba is about finished setting up the Famicom, since you all wanted to see Morgana do a speedrun.”

Akira, who was manning the chat while they dealt with that, said, “We’ve got another question. PhantomScientist777 asks, Goro, are you making sure you take a break at some point? He included a ¥30,000 donation, too!”

“Yes, Carl, I’m taking a break!” Goro huffed. After a moment, he explained, “That’s my physical therapist. He’s...been really great, actually. We still talk sometimes even though my appointments are done. And he makes a good point. After Punch Ouch, we’re going to stream the Featherman Forever Red special so Akira, Futaba, and I can take a break and eat dinner. I know my limits, don’t worry. I wouldn’t plan a 12-hour stream without building in a little downtime.”

Futaba gave him a thumbs-up from beside the TV, and Goro beckoned to Morgana. “All right, looks like everything is set up. Ready to go, Morgana?”

Morgana meowed affirmatively and hopped up onto the table where they’d set up the controller, braced so that it wouldn’t move while he was pushing the buttons. There were three views on-screen: the game itself, a wide-angle view of the room showing that Morgana was, in fact, using the controller connected to the TV, and a close-up view focused on his paws.

“For the record,” Goro said, “the world record for Punch Ouch is ten minutes and 47 seconds. The fastest I’ve seen Morgana do it is about 22 minutes, which puts him somewhere in the top fifty fastest.”

The chat was skeptical, but was quickly filled with all-caps screaming as Morgana proved that he could, in fact, not only play Punch Ouch, but play very well. He was done in just under 25 minutes, and the chat was freaking out. Once time was called, Akira scooped him up to ruffle his ears, and Goro beamed. “That was a good choice for a donation incentive, Futaba. Now, it’s time for the Forever Red special, and we’re going to take a short break and eat dinner while that’s on. Keep the donations coming, because we’re currently just under halfway to the secret interview, and we’ve got a long way to go if you want Akira to take his shirt off, so let’s get some more money for charity~ When we come back, we’ll start the fanfic reading, so be ready for that!”

And as the chat continued trying to figure out how they taught the cat to do that, the video feed changed over, and Goro cut the mics off and flopped into Akira’s lap.

“What are we having for dinner?” he asked.

Akira petted his hair. “I ordered takeout noodle bowls. They should be here in the next ten minutes or so. We also have microwave stuff if you’re hungry right this second.”

“No, I can wait…” Goro nuzzled his hand. “It’s...going well, isn’t it?”

“I’d say so, considering we’re a few hundred yen away from 500,000,” Akira said. “Which means you get to read your fanfic, too.”

“Don’t remind me,” Goro muttered, glancing at the slightly-yellowed notebook sitting on the dining room table. “I’m glad we did this, though. I’m having fun.”

Akira hummed. “That’s the most important thing. Charity is good too, but if this is too much, we can stop at any time.”

“Not at all. I can’t wait to read the snippets you picked out.” Goro pulled him down for a kiss, and Futaba groaned.

“I’m going to microwave some yakisoba. Call me when the actual food is here,” she said, shuffling towards the kitchen and pointedly ignoring them.


7:55pm - ¥717,122 raised


“Okay,” Goro said, once they’d returned from dinner and the special was over. “I know that the fic reading is probably why half of you are here in the first place, but first I want to thank a few of the people that have donated. Thank you Empress-of-Flowers for the ¥90,000 donation, thank you ForeverArgus for ¥50,000, thank you sungoddessfire for ¥50,000, thank you TrappedInTheTVAisle for ¥10,000, thank you NightfallRook and SunsetBishop for ¥5,000 each, and thank you everyone else for any of the smaller amounts donated. It means a great deal that you would do this to help such a good cause. And now…” He sighed heavily, and Akira passed him a tablet. “We’re going to read some fanfic.

“After I read a snippet, Futaba is going to post the link to the whole fic in the chat, so please support these authors. We’re not making fun of anyone here, because I didn’t ask permission for this. And Akira picked some of these, so I’m going to go in blind on those. And yes, we hit the donation threshold a while ago, so I will be reading my fic afterwards. Everybody calm down.”

He flicked through the tablet, opening up the saved snippets and their accompanying information. “All right, first up we have...Advent fic, actually, so I can think of at least a few people in the chat that will be happy about this one.”

Goro started reading. He’d been anxious at first about trying to do someone else’s work justice, but it felt surprisingly natural after a few minutes. He couldn’t look at the chat to see what they thought of all of it, but he hoped it was going over well.

“Good job, guys! That was one hell of a fight and we can stand proud!”

Pink Argus was already back on her feet. Silver Peregrin silently admired how strong and assertive she was, how she always led her troupe to victory. Had Silver had a heart, it may have hurt at knowing that they would never be allowed to be a part of this all.

But Silver was not like them.

After all, Silver was here for only one reason, a reason that was standing right beside Pink.

Red Eagle.

Silver wished to know why they were drawn to Red like this. Why did Red feel so important, when Pink was obviously the leader? Red Eagle was silent, efficient, he didn’t discuss orders, always went straight to the point.

Red Eagle was deadly.

Had Silver had any hair, they’d be standing only by feeling the aura that emanated from him. And that aura was why Silver had made it their mission to check on this specific ranger at all cost.

“Thank you for the help, Silver. We’re glad we had you. Will you join us?”

Silver Peregrin had a hard time processing the question. The answer was obvious: of course not, but the warm tone of Pink’s voice made it harder to transmit.

“With such strength, you would be a valuable addition to our team, Silver Peregrin. We would be honoured to have you join us. Please consider it.”

Goro lowered the tablet, humming thoughtfully. “An interesting take on Silver Peregrin’s first encounter with the team… It seems like this is happening a little earlier than it does in canon. It’s a good introspection on Silver’s inner conflict, considering their circumstances. Good rec, guys.”

“Man, can you imagine if the reveal had actually happened that early? Things might have gone so different,” Futaba chimed in.

“There certainly could have been less suspicion,” Goro agreed. Flipping to the next snippet, he looked it over. “All right, so this one is… R fic! Nice. And it’s a oneshot, so I think I can read the whole thing.” He started reading, giving a dramatic tone to the battle scene that the rangers found themselves in the middle of. Until...

"Hawk!"

They were too late.

They could only watch from a distance as the enemy charged himself, sucking in the air, before shouting in cartoonishly high voice.

"KETCHUP CANNON!!!"

A stream of highly concentrated ketchup shot forward. Hawk tried to evade it, but got hit straight in the chest. As the attack sprayed, they momentarily lost sight of their leader in the red haze.

When it cleared they found him lying on the ground, motionless. The red liquid spilling on the ground was not only ketchup.

On that day they witnessed their leader fall to his archenemy, The—

Goro had been trying to keep it together, but choked on a laugh. “Th-The Big Bad Burger,” he spluttered. “I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at this person’s writing, I’m just…”

“He sounds like a challenge,” Akira quipped, and Goro snorted.

“No, no, the… The worst part is that this is the… It’s the first oneshot of a six-part series about his teammates’ individual reactions to his death. I’ve read part of it! They’re great character studies! I feel bad for laughing! But that villain name!”

Futaba was giggling too, and Morgana was making a rumbling purr noise that might have been amusement. Akira was doing his absolute best to keep a straight face, but was failing from watching Goro laugh. It took them a few minutes to get themselves together, even with effort.

“Okay, okay, no, we have to… We have to go to the next one…” Still giggling, Goro pulled up the next snippet, skimming for a moment. “Okay, so this one is… Ooh. This one. As a preface, this one is dated as being posted before the big reveal. So this person totally called it early-on. Akira, I think we can do voices, too. Especially since we’re still in costume. See, this bit from the middle...”

“Wait, wait, I’ll do the narration!” Futaba yelled, running around to fling herself over the back of the sofa so she could see the screen.

"...you found me," said Gold, voice dry but strained. The other boy looked to be in great pain – he winced occasionally, his hand squeezing around his arm with such force that Red found himself drawing closer, if only to get him to stop.

Red reached out as he approached, "Hey, are you—"

"Get back!"

Gold's shout stopped him in his tracks, and he was frozen in place as the other boy doubled over and clutched at his chest. Dark streaks bloomed under his hand and fought against the gold of his suit, threatening to swallow it whole. The two colours clashed and fought until they reached a stalemate, leaving a gold and navy striped haphazardly all over his entire body.

Gold raised his head to meet Red's eyes, his eyes filled with a fear that Red had never seen before. The intensity of the moonlight seemed to grow brighter as it framed the other boy in its glow, revealing the true colour that tried to take him over.

Navy.

Goro waved the tablet. “Look at this! Posted a full month before the episode where Red and Gold actually work together, and before we learn Gold is Navy! It’s great!”

“Honestly, the fact that somebody called it doesn’t surprise me, but they got really close,” Futaba agreed. “I’m sure there’s a thousand ID-reveal fics for Feather Gold, but the number of them that also pinged that he’s Navy is probably miniscule.”

“Every series has that one specific fic plot,” Goro said. “It’s like how every RedBlack R shipper wrote a version of Black crashing Red and Blue’s wedding.”

They read a few more snippets, including one of very questionable quality featuring ‘Feather Rainbow Quetzal’ that Goro was sure was a joke, and then Goro addressed the camera. “Okay, one more, and then I’ll read mine. Everybody good?”

The chat was a mix of disappointment that the reading was almost over, and enthusiasm for getting to see Goro’s fic. Goro pulled up the final snippet on the tablet, and started to read.

Ah yes, here he was – Seiya Takeno. Completely unrelated to the group, but somehow constantly passing by them from time to time, greeting them awkwardly. The others started speculating he was jealous of them all being so tightly-knit and wanted to be their friend. Zen suspected he might have had some kind of an ulterior motive, maybe like how Iriya used to very obviously tail them suspiciously before determining they were the Rangers. But there was no way to tell as of yet.

Seiya Takeno was currently present at the scene of the other Rangers trying to decide who was brave enough to take the Rus—

Goro stopped reading.

He set the tablet down very slowly.

“Which of you did this?”

“What’s wrong?” Akira asked. Futaba was just grinning like a demon.

Goro turned on the redheaded gremlin. “Futaba, no. I am not reading this on stream.”

“Awww,” she said. “Why not?”

“Because you are this close to a Deadly Sin, you little monster.”

Akira, meanwhile, picked up the tablet, skimming the story and starting to laugh. “Oh, come on, it’s not that bad.” On light feet, he moved until the couch was between him and Goro, then began to read.

Seiya Takeno was currently present at the scene of the other Rangers trying to decide who was brave enough to take the Russian Takoyaki challenge. Zen himself was about to volunteer just for the sake of standing out and being extra, as always. And because he suspected the 'special one' – which was obviously redder than his Red Duke suit -was too spicy to handle, and wanted to spare the others from suffering.

But Seiya Takeno was there, and Zen suddenly had... a curious, sadistic urge.

Before anyone could stop him, he offered the other boy the plate of takoyaki, making sure the 'special one' stood out. Takeno's face lit up at the offer, and he thanked Zen gingerly before picking... yes! That was it! He took the red one! – and stuffing the entire thing into his mouth.

"Hmm... it's quite deli—"

He was still smiling like a ray of sunshine, savouring the taste, before he froze like a statue. A deep, animalistic growl escaped his mouth and he bent over, his face turning red from his throat most likely being on fire, then blue from his lungs probably losing all air in them, then purple from a mix of both. His eyes watered and his muscles clenched, his otherwise well-composed body overtaken with tremor.

It was quite the delightful sight, Zen thought to himself, and tried hard to not burst into mocking laughter.

Mayaru straightened up in her seat and offered Takeno water, but the other boy politely declined, claiming he liked spicy stuff – dumbest lie in the entire world – and faking the most high-pitched, gagged laughter Zen probably ever heard. He liked the sound of that laughter, and he hoped he would have the chance to hear it again.

Obviously unable to take it any longer, Takeno excused himself and stumbled away from the group, still sounding like his throat was crumbling.

Zen smirked victoriously to himself, making a note to never forget this iconic moment, so he'll be sure to forever taunt the other boy with the memory on every possible occasion. Poor Takeno, doomed to never escape the shame for the rest of his life.

At some point during the reading, Goro had given up and laid down on the couch. “I don’t know if you deserve to hear any of my fic after that,” he said morosely.

“Aw, come on, no one would even know something was wrong if you hadn’t stopped reading,” Futaba said. “I pick on you because you’re basically my brother-in-law and I love you.”

“You are a nightmare.” Goro glanced over at the chat as a donation ping went off, and groaned. “Lovely. We have a ¥500 donation from BelieveItOrDon’t with the question, Did you cry when you ate the spicy takoyaki? and a sadistic winking emoji. The answer is yes. I hate all of you.”

Akira retrieved the notebook from the dining room table and set it on Goro’s stomach. “C’mon, honey. We’ve raised so much money.”

There was an even louder ping from the donation tracker, and Futaba’s mouth dropped open. “Holy shit, you guys, we just got a one million yen donation from JoJoPhoenixRangers with the message, Wanted to make sure we unlocked the secret interview. Good luck with the rest of the stream! I’m… Damn it, this is a throwaway account, there’s no actual name associated with it. Thank you, whoever you are!”

Goro and Akira stared at each other, and then Goro sat up and picked up the notebook. “I guess I have to read after that. Also that means we’re less than ¥200,000 away from Akira taking his shirt off, so good job, you thirsty lunatics?”

He flipped through the notebook, taking his time before finally settling on a page with a heavy sigh. “Here we go.”

Black broke the kiss, letting go of the other ranger and walking toward the window before stopping and looking back. He held out his hand, asking quietly, "Do you trust me?" He wanted this to be Red's choice. Yes, Red had walked away from his wedding, but if this wasn’t what he wanted, Black was going to let him be.

Red stared between his face and his outstretched hand for a long moment. Finally, he breathed softly, "Yes. I do." He took the last few steps forward, placing his hand in Black's. "I always have."

Black curled his fingers around Red's offered hand, pulling the dark-haired man forward until he was close enough to fold into a gentle embrace. Red didn't resist, reaching up to wrap his arms around Black's neck. Black gazed into his eyes for a moment, seeing his reflection in wide chocolate pools, then leaned down and kissed him. His tongue coaxed the other's mouth open, drawing soft sounds of pleasure from Red. He relished the sweet flavor that only Red had, something better than any dessert Black had ever come across.

“Dude, did you write BlackRed smut?” Futaba gasped from her chair, and Goro slammed the notebook shut.

“No!” he said. “I was fourteen! ...they made out for a while and then went to sleep.”

“That’s adorable,” Akira beamed, nuzzling in for a kiss and trying to sneakily take the notebook. But Goro held fast to it and smacked him over the head with it.

“No.”

“I just want to see if you ever did write smut!”

“No.”

After a brief scuffle that Akira ended up surrendering, Goro smiled at the camera. “All right. I’ll be taking a short break now and letting Akira run the stream. When I come back, we’ve more than exceeded the secret interview donation incentive, so I’ve texted our guest to let them know to come on over. So look forward to that! The final donation incentive is at two million, but at this rate, we might have to think of something else. We’ll see.”


9:15pm - ¥2,003,534 raised


A few minutes later, Akira returned, rotating the camera around so it faced the empty floorspace of the living room instead of the couch. He’d changed out of his Feather Duke cosplay back into a loose t-shirt and some comfortable lounge pants.

“So,” he explained, “Goro’s gone to take a nap so we can actually get to 3am without passing out on the couch. That means you get me until it’s time for the interview~” He waved at Futaba, who was no longer visible on-camera, and added, “And also, we passed the two million mark thanks to some very generous donations, so that means I’m going to take my shirt off. And Goro’s not here to stop me from being ridiculous.”

Some unnecessarily pornographic saxophone music cut on. The chat filled with screeching and eyes emojis as Akira took his sweet time pulling the shirt higher a little at a time, swaying his hips to the music until finally lifting it over his head and tossing it aside. He struck a pose, showing off his abs, then came over to sit down in front of the camera. “Oh, wow, guys, that’s a lot of screaming.”

“There’s like fifty hundred-yen donations, so uh, I think they’re metaphorically making it rain. And also more questions, if you wanna look,” Futaba’s voice said from off-camera.

Akira laughed. “Okay.” He peered at the donation comments curiously. “Have I ever considered becoming a stripper? No, but I work at a drag bar sometimes. Has anyone ever asked to lick my abs? Pretty sure someone did that the one time I walked by shirtless by accident. Hm… Definitely can’t answer that one before midnight, sorry guys.”

Morgana padded over, sitting down to peer at the chat as well. “Meooow?”

“Yeah, well…”

“Mrew.”

Akira rolled his eyes. “Okay, yeah, fine. Don’t tell Goro, but I kind of forgot to plan anything specific for this time chunk, so I might just hang out here and talk to you guys. With no shirt, now.”

Another donation ping sounded, and Akira raised an eyebrow at it. “Do I have any long-lost Featherman fanfic? No.” He watched the chat speed up, and waved his hands defensively, “Wait, stop posting ‘doubt’ emojis, I don’t! The truth is, until like...a month before last season premiered, I’d only watched a few episodes. My parents didn’t like me to watch too much TV, and my first year in Tokyo, I didn’t have time. Goro’s the one who made me binge season one so I’d be ready to watch this past season with him.”

Whatever the next question was made him frown a little, and he hesitated before answering. “What did Goro do to end up with someone like me? ...Not sure I like the implication there. What hasn’t Goro done to end up with me? Flirted, taste-tested my original terrible attempts at artisan coffee, tried to assassinate me, went on bike dates, played chess with me, killed his clone to protect me, had conversations about philosophy, and, of course, got me into Featherman.”

The chat watched as somehow the cat rolled its eyes, as Futaba could be heard snickering in the background. Akira sighed, waving a hand carelessly. “How did I get lucky enough to have him is probably a better question, considering I almost lost him twice. But let’s not ask things like that, okay? If you guys wanna just do shirtless Q&A for half an hour or so, that’s fine, but I’d rather not have to ban anyone for uncomfortable questions.”

Another ping. “Why does Goro use my last name if we’re not married? Not that that’s any of your business, but he prefers it to his own, that’s all.”

Ping. “Why does my name sound familiar? I have no idea.”

Ping. “......hm. Let’s not ask about that, or I might have to steal your heart.” Akira winked, but his voice was serious.


12:36am - ¥3,527,000 raised


“...I don’t… What’s even happening anymore?” Goro asked no one in particular, clicking through the dialogue with a steady hand. After he’d come back from his nap, they’d revealed the secret interview - a very enthusiastic Yukari Takeba - and settled in for the actual interview and a short Q&A session. The chat had been incredibly polite, and while Yukari shared stories from her time on-set and talked about the different challenges that came with being a writer instead of an actress, they managed to keep all the questions respectful.

Goro hadn’t realized how much she pulled from her own experiences for the show itself. She’d been a script consultant for Advent and had drawn a lot of inspiration from her work as part of both SEES and the Shadow Operatives. Not that they brought any of that up on-stream, but when she talked about the creative process behind the scripts, it clicked in his mind at last how similar several of the plot points were to things he knew about the Shadow Operatives, especially Silver Peregrin’s unique situation as an android learning to live among friends.

After the interview was over, Goro had pulled up a selection of odd fangames gathered from all over the internet. Yukari had even stuck around for the first few, taking her turn at pixel-y platforming games, odd puzzle games, and something that may or may not have been a farming simulator with all the sprites replaced by Featherman characters. But after she left, chat had rallied for them to play what appeared to be a fan RPG, and Goro had agreed. The game was downloaded, a walkthrough was obtained so they could see as much of it as possible, and now, fast-approaching two hours later, no one was paying attention to what time it was because everyone was riveted to the drama onscreen.

“Have you even had control in the last half-hour or has it all been cutscene?” Akira asked incredulously, wandering back in with a drink.

“I…” Goro stopped to think for a minute. “I had control once. I left the safe room and walked down to the front hallway to look out the window.”

“How long ago was the attic?”

“...an hour. And I’m not completely sure what’s happening now, but Neo Blue Swan and Neo Black Falcon went to the basement and one of those things was about to ambush them. Neo Red Hawk is in a coma, and the others are trying to figure out how to help the Advent and Victory teams from inside the mansion,” Goro said. “Victory Yellow Owl might have died; it cut away before we could see. But we’ve been watching this flashback for like twenty minutes now, and honestly, chat, I’m angry with you, because no one told me this game was coming for my emotions like this. ‘Oh, it’s just a short Featherman horror RPG!’ You are all liars, what the hell.”

Onscreen, the comatose Neo Red Hawk was wandering through a mental landscape of fog and poppies, following a mysterious voice. The game suddenly faded to a CG of him facing two figures, and as the mist cleared, Goro’s mouth fell open. “Wait, that’s R Red Hawk and Black Condor! Is this implying that the R team already died in this mansion?? What’s happening?

The CG shifted to a new picture reading ‘End of Chapter 10’. Slowly, beneath the words, ‘To Be Continued’ faded in, and Akira yelped. “Wait, what? Continued?”

Credits began to roll. Goro stared at the screen, dumbfounded. “This thing isn’t even finished?! How dare you get me emotionally invested and then do this to me?!”

Half the chat was freaking out as the other half cackled with glee. Goro watched the credits play out, then closed the game, pouting. “You’re all terrible. I don’t even feel bad that we ran past midnight. But, on that note, it’s time to start the after-dark portion of the stream, so if you’re under seventeen, thank you for coming, but you’ll need to leave now. I think we’re going to need to discuss this game during next Sunday’s stream. Have a very good night, and I’ll see you next time.”

Futaba gave him a thumbs-up, and with a few clicks, a chunk of the viewers vanished, including several that were flagrantly lying about their ages in their profiles. Never think you can sneak into a 17+ stream when the mod is a hacker.

“All right,” Goro said. “We met the donation incentive for smut fic ages ago, so that’s a go. Feather Black’s route has won the vote for which H-route we’re doing, which really isn’t a surprise at all, and as of now, the price to ask questions has gone up to a thousand yen, but you can ask more risque stuff if you want to. We still reserve the right to refuse to answer, though.”

As he turned away to set the visual novel back up, several donation pings sounded off all at once, and Futaba snickered. “So, okay, that’s five different people all asking what the donation incentive is for Akira to take his pants off.”

“What? Oh my god. No. We’re going to get banned from Youcube,” Goro huffed.

As the game was loading, more pings came through, and Futaba laughed. “Not only is the chat rioting, they’re donating just to beg. Your audience is thirsty as fuck, Goro. I’ve got one here that says, You won’t get banned as long as he’s not naked. That’s what the TOS says.

Goro glanced at Akira, who shrugged, and then sighed heavily. “Fine. Fine. You all win, you absolute heathens. If we get to 6.9 million yen total, Akira will take his pants off. Are you happy?”

The chat was briefly full of celebratory emojis, people spamming ‘nice’, and triumph, before they realized that was almost twice as much as they’d already raised, with less than half the time it had taken to get that far remaining. Then there was a cry of despair, followed by a burst of determination. They had a goal! They would succeed!

Goro watched the chat scroll for a minute, then glanced over at Akira. “Last chance to back out. They seem pretty determined. You might actually have to strip.”

Akira shrugged again. “It’s for charity.” He leaned over to mumble something in Goro’s ear, and Goro laughed.

“Suit yourself, then.” Goro connected the laptop to the main screen, so the visual novel filled half. “All right. Starting with the branch that puts us on Feather Black’s route. Everybody ready?”


1:45am - ¥4,670,000 raised


Thankfully, Morgana had opted to go to bed sometime in the middle of the RPG, because lascivious moaning was filling the living room, and Goro and Akira were realizing that playing with an audience might not have been the best idea.

“I’m still totally impressed by the quality of this game, since it’s not official. Like, the fact that they have voice-acting, good voice acting, is amazing,” Akira pointed out, as in-game, Red desperately gasped Black’s name, begging for more. “I mean, it’s not just finding voice actors. It’s finding voice actors willing to stick with the project and do things like this…”

Goro was chewing on his lip. “Mh-hm.”

Futaba kicked her feet in the background. “The chat thinks at least one of you has a boner. But it’s not an official donation question, so you don’t have to admit it.”

“Futaba. Please.”

Akira made a face and crawled off-camera before getting up. “I’m gonna...go get the tablet with the fic snippets while you run through the last scene.”

Goro groaned, but kept clicking through the epilogue. “Hurry back, because the post-sex scene isn’t very long.”

Akira fled, pursued by Futaba’s giggling, and Goro glanced at the chat. “Apparently Blue Swan’s route is really good too, so I do admire that they took the time to flesh out each route as opposed to showing bias to a particular ship.” The chat scrolled faster, and Goro sighed. “Yes, I have the version with the uncensored CGs. No, we’re not playing that one, because we will get banned.”

He cut off the credits as Akira returned with the tablet. “Okay. Are we ready for the end of this? You promised to read some of these too.”

“Of course! There’s only three of these, actually, and the first one is just a sentence or two, so after that we can just hang out with the chat and answer sexy questions til three,” Akira replied grinning. He was about to flop onto the couch when Futaba made a strangled noise from her chair.

“What is it?” Goro asked. “What’s wrong?”

“Uh……” Futaba said. “Empress-of-Flowers just donated ¥2,230,000, which is...exactly as much as we need for that last donation incentive.”

Akira and Goro stared at each other.

“You...don’t have to,” Goro said. “I set that incentive with the notion that we wouldn’t get that high.”

“I wouldn’t want to disappoint the chat,” Akira said. “They donated so much money. Although, really, Empress, I’ve got some questions for you later. Goro, are you gonna put on the shirt?”

“I guess I have to.” Goro pushed himself up so he could get into his wheelchair, heading back towards their room. While he was gone, Akira ran through a few more of the questions that had been donated for.

“What’s sex like with a robot arm? I’m not having sex with his arm, or I could tell you, probably. Which of us is louder in bed? Definitely Goro. Is Goro’s… What the fuck, no. How does… I am not answering that, jeeze. Kinks? Bondage, no contest.”

Futaba groaned. “I’m gonna go mod from the guest room. I’m not sure I wanna stick around for this in-person.”

She gathered up her laptop and prepared to vanish as well. Goro returned, changed into lounge pants of his own, and a crimson t-shirt that said, 'You are not immune to propaganda.' Futaba bumped into him on her way out and practically dissolved into hysterics when she saw it, and Akira grinned, stepping up and turning his back to the camera. With none of the ceremony from earlier, he pushed his lounge pants down his hips and let them pool at his feet so he could kick them away. Underneath, he was wearing crimson boxer-briefs, with the word “propaganda” printed right across his ass, and he struck a pose, making sure to jut his hip out.

Goro wheeled over to the laptop to see the chat. “We’re getting a flood of hundred-yen donations that all say, We are not immune. Clearly getting you to strip for charity is the most lucrative option.” He moved back to the couch, swiping up the tablet, and Akira draped himself across the rest of the couch beside him.

“All right, snippet one… Akira.”

Akira stretched languidly. “You never said how long the snippets had to be.”

“I hate you.” Goro looked back down at the tablet. In the most dead voice he could manage, he began to read.

“Hey wanna see my cock?” Red asked.

“AGAIN,” Black protested, “you’ve already shown us your pet chicken like. Three times man”

Akira smiled. “Art.”

“No.” Goro shoved the tablet at him. “You read the next one.”

That turned out to be a mistake, because actual explicit fic read in Akira’s unnecessarily smooth voice made Goro very glad that he still had his Featherman blanket. By the time Akira stopped, the chat was a solid wall of smiley faces with their tongues out, and Goro was pretty sure he was blushing.

“All right, you last!” Akira said, sounding completely unfazed, and Goro took the tablet, thankful that the last one seemed to be more thirst than porn.

“Fine. One last fic.”

“Come on, Gold! You’re a part of us now, you have to do it!”

Seiya had rarely seen Tsurumaki without her armor, but he knew she was quite a shy and guarded teenager beneath her helmet. When she was Green, though, she was bubbly, and way too enthusiastic.

Seiya would have sulked, but he was still too baffled at the whole situation.

Did this team have any sense of self preservation? Were there any limits to their forgiveness?

The rangers had saved his life once, and to thank them, he had tried to kill them.

So what if he had been possessed by the Navy stone? It had taught him to hate them, had given him the rush of power that was necessary to destroy them… and yet they had won, and instead of just leaving him for dead, they had saved his life again, and extended an offer to join the team?

And now… this? Whatever this was.

“IKU ZE! FUSHIJO SENTAI FEATHERMAN RED!”

Muramoto’s voice echoed through the hangar as he tapped the ground, his black hair bouncing before his face, then swiftly kicked the air with his (incredibly slender and eye-catching, damn, Seiya, focus) right leg before unfolding his arms in a series of complex motions that ended with him pushing the stone on his wrist and a blinding ray of light enveloping him as his armor covered his (incredibly well-built and inviting in this outfi… Seiya, damn it) body, turning him into the charismatic Red Duke.

“Wow, that is some blatant thirst,” Akira commented. He swiped the tablet, picking a spot further down and reading a bit of his own.

“Your turn, Seiya! You must have a heroic transformation move!”

Seiya could hear the smile from beneath Red’s helmet. He was clearly having the time of his life. Heroic transformation move? Was he even fitted to be a hero? He had fallen, he had betrayed them, he wasn’t...

“Come on, Gold, we want to see you, just let your body do the talking!”, Green encouraged.

Oh no, he sure as hell wouldn’t let his body do the talking, not when Red was two meters away from him.

“Iku ze!”, Seiya began, enthusiasm clearly lacking.

“WE CAN’T HEAR YOU, DUDE!” Yellow yelled, and Seiya pinched his nose before taking a deep breath. All right. Maybe that was their way to make him pay for dealing with the Knights of the Cataclysm. He could do it.

“IKU ZE! FUSHIJO SENTAI FEATHERMAN GOLD!”

Trying to find whatever would be both intimidating and as charismatic as Red, Seiya straightened his body, kicking the air with his leg, then using the propulsion to do a tiny flip and spreading his arm after promptly activating his own stone, the familiar blinding light covering him as the Gold outfit took its place.

“...nice.” Red smirked behind his helmet, and how could this guy have such audible smirks?

Akira set the tablet aside with a grin and lounged back across Goro’s lap, making sure to show off his abs for the camera. “I like that one.”

“Of course you do, you smug asshole.” Goro ruffled his hair affectionately. “So... Half-hour of Q&A and then finish up?”

“Mhm.” Akira shifted enough to see the donation questions. “Ooh. Have we ever had roleplay sex? Yes.”

“Wh— Okay, fine, yes, we have,” Goro admitted. But then he tugged Akira’s hair gently and added, “He’s Red, and I top.”

“Oh, it’s like that, honey?” Akira immediately started skimming for another question, and for the next half an hour they traded off providing risque and silly answers. But eventually Akira, who hadn’t gotten a nap in, started to doze off, and when 3:00am hit he was asleep in Goro’s lap with the blanket draped over him.

Goro smiled at the camera, one hand buried in Akira’s curls and petting softly. “And with that, we’re done for the night,” he said. “I want to thank all of you for your generosity. We raised ¥6,921,000 total, which is...three times as much as I was expecting, really. And this was a lot of fun.” He watched the chat for a moment, then continued, “This week’s videos will be compilations from the stream, for the people that weren’t here the whole time, and next weekend, we’ll talk about the next episodes of Featherman R, along with that game you made me play.” He laughed. “This has been Phoenix Talk. Until next time, everyone.”

With a last wave, the stream went offline.

Chapter Text

July 20th, 2018

It was about an hour and a half train ride from their apartment in Yongen-Jaya to the International Exhibit Halls where Tokyo Comic-Con was being held, so Akira and Goro timed it to avoid the morning rush, but still have plenty of time to explore the con before and after Goro’s panel. The others were planning to meet them there, and everyone but Goro was wearing their custom Featherman X cosplays. Including Morgana, riding in Goro’s bag in his miniature Black Rockhopper costume.

It got them a few weird looks on the train, the young man in the wheelchair being escorted by a very official-looking Feather Red Duke. But no one said anything, even when Akira was hamming it up and striking a pose for a couple of staring children.

And despite their concerns, getting around the convention halls proved to be no trouble at all. They got their badges and a special tag for Morgana registering him as a support animal, and from there it was smooth sailing.

“So where are the others?” Goro asked when they finally met up with Haru.

She hummed thoughtfully. “Futaba dragged Ann and Mako-chan to a panel about magical girl anime. Yusuke is somewhere in Artist Alley. And Ryuji went to investigate the video game hall.” She scooped Morgana out of his bag, cuddling him against her chest. “We’ll all be at your panel later. It’s at one, right?”

“That’s right,” Goro said. “I was hoping to just look around until then, since I’ve never been to one of these before.”

“Neither have I!” Haru said brightly. “It’s a brand new experience~”

She and Akira stayed with him, wearing their helmets. Haru carried Morgana for most of the time so he wouldn’t accidentally get stepped on in a crowd, and Akira instinctively stayed on Goro’s right, covering his blind spot. It was a habit that had developed as he left the apartment more frequently, especially in crowded places like this. But Goro was all-smiles, no anxiety at all, and as they wandered around the Dealer’s Room looking at everything, it was clear he was having a fantastic time.

There were other Featherman cosplayers, of course, and a few even asked for pictures with Akira and Haru. Most cooed over Morgana’s matching costume, too. But while Haru was contemplating some very nice replica jewelry, Goro noticed two cosplayers across the aisle, pointing and arguing in hushed voices.

“It has to be them! They have the cat!”

“Okay, but it’s going to be really embarrassing if you’re wrong.”

“I just want to ask, come on. If I’m wrong, we just won’t ask for his autograph.”

The two of them eventually approached, and Goro pretended he hadn’t noticed them debating beforehand. They were wearing clearly-homemade Featherman outfits of characters Goro didn’t recognize, carrying their helmets under their arms. The girl, dressed in purple, ducked her head politely before blurting, “Are you Kurusu-san? The one that hosts the Phoenix Talk channel?”

That caught Akira’s attention, and he looked over as Goro smiled. “I am. Nice costumes.”

The girl elbowed the boy, and they struck a pose. “We’re Feather White Crow and Feather Purple Raven!” she said brightly. “Will you sign my art, please?”

“...mine too?” the boy asked, now that it was clear Goro was the person they thought he was.

They were both holding prints that looked like they’d come from Artist’s Alley, and after a moment, Goro said, “Sure, if you can tell me what table you got those from so I can send Akira to get me one.”

The two were delighted, and after they moved off to the side and found a sharpie, Goro had fun writing out the elegant signature that he hadn’t used since his time as the Detective Prince. Albeit, with the slight alteration that was a different family name. Even though he’d been using Akira’s last name for almost a year, it still made him surprisingly happy to see it written down. It made it look more official.

***

Outside of the Dealer’s Room, they bumped into Futaba and Ann on their way to get lunch. The two were transfixed, staring in equal parts fascination and horror at two extremely buff guys dressed as Jack Frost and Pyro Jack. Their costumes were basically paper-mache heads and a lot of body paint, and Akira finally grabbed Ann and Futaba and dragged them away before their jaws hit the floor.

Only one or two more people stopped to speak to Goro in the halls. Whether they didn’t realize who he was or just didn’t want to bother him was anyone’s guess, but it made Goro a little bit anxious about how the panel was going to go. Maybe people weren’t as interested as he’d thought.

But when the time finally came for the panel to begin, there was a packed house. A solid third of the crowd was Featherman cosplayers of all flavors of canon and OC, and in the very front row, in seven reserved seats, his friends all sat together forming the perfect Featherman X team. They had their helmets on, so he couldn’t see their faces, but he knew they were proud of him.

And then all that was left was to address the room.

“Good day, Featherfans. My name is Goro Kurusu, and welcome to a very special live version of Phoenix Talk.”

He was immediately forced to stop as there was a massive burst of applause. It was so different from recording videos or speaking on-stream. Or even being asked questions for an interview. People were here because they wanted to hear what he had to say. Not because of his pretty face, or because the media had hyped up his importance. He’d done this all on his own. He’d earned this.

“It’s amazing to see so many of you out there. Whether you’re a long time watcher or someone who just wandered in to see what’s going on, I’m glad you’re here.” Goro sat up proudly, his hair tucked behind his ears and his arm clearly visible due to his Feather Gold t-shirt. “We’re here to get ready for the thirtieth anniversary of Featherman, so if you’ve seen every episode, get ready for a nostalgia trip, and if you’ve never seen an episode, this is a good place to start. We’re doing all the series, we’re doing Talon Rangers, we’re doing the light novels, so let’s get going!”

The more he talked, the more a live audience felt almost as comfortable as the stream chat. He stopped after each show and its corresponding Talon Rangers counterpart for questions, and people were good about not being disruptive during the program. Everything was candid and real, unscripted beyond the bullet points on the slideshow being projected behind him, and it was the best he’d felt in front of a crowd in...well, ever, if he was being honest with himself.

“Yes, you, in the Red Hawk hoodie,” he called, pointing into the audience.

The girl got up. “Why is it called ‘Talon Rangers: Advent Ascent’?” she asked. “What does ‘Advent Ascent’ mean?”

Goro shrugged. “I don’t think it means anything, personally. I think they just slapped together two words with the same letter that sounded ‘cool’. Which, the Japanese version already picks words they think sound cool, so obviously the English version needs a second word to multiply that.” The crowd giggled, and he pointed at another person with their hand up. “You, with the purple hair?”

The boy waved from his seat. “Why do you think they left out Pink Argus’s story arc from the English version? They changed it to something completely different!”

“Well…” Goro began. “For one thing, in the English version, they cast a new actress for Advent. So because it was an entirely new character, they couldn’t stick with the story of the former Feather Pink, and had to essentially come up with her character arc from scratch.” He folded his hands on the tabletop. “I will give them credit. They did a good job reframing certain scenes to work with the new storyline. And this one wasn’t their fault. The actress that played Pink in Victory Rush didn’t want to come back. They had no control over that. I admire them for writing in a new storyline instead of trying to convince their audience that a clearly-different actress was actually the same one.”

They spent a little less time on X, considering it was the season that had just finished and people were more likely to be familiar with it, and briefly mentioned ‘Talon Rangers X’, which had just started airing in English. Once that was over with, Goro opened up the room to general questions, and hands flew into the air.

“Okay, we probably won’t get to everyone, but… All right, you. In the Dragoncube Y shirt.”

A young man got up, his friend next to him clawing at his arm and trying to get him to sit back down. But the guy ignored him, and asked, “So, uh, what happened to your arm?”

Without missing a beat, Goro said, “Aliens cut it off to experiment on and gave me this cool replacement. No more questions about that, please.”

The guy’s friend groaned loud enough that the whole room heard him. “I told you not to ask!”

Goro laughed. “You tried. Did you have a question, as well? And, if I may ask, what ranger are you dressed as?”

The guy looked a bit wide-eyed at being called out, but he got up, holding out his arms to show off his green outfit. “I’m, uh, Feather Emerald Mockingbird,” he said. “And I guess my question is… what do you think of OCs?”

The room mumbled among themselves, knowing that was a loaded question, but Goro just hummed thoughtfully. “I think that there’s nothing wrong with OCs, as long as you take the time to ensure that they are fleshed out and fit into the world they live in. You can’t expect everyone to care about your original characters the same way that you do, but they can bring just as much to a story as any other character. Although…” He grinned. “I’m going to be a little suspicious if your OC is Feather Phoenix. Naming someone after the whole team is a very daring choice.”

“What about weird colors?” someone yelled from the back, and Goro shrugged.

“Make your OC your favorite color,” he said. “But if your favorite color is puce, or razzmatazz, or cosmic latte, you might get some funny looks. Just be prepared for that.”

There were all kinds of questions, about the show, about fanfiction, about how Goro was enjoying his first convention. He answered all of them, happy to get to talk so much about a thing he loved. And then he called on a girl in an elaborate Soldier Luna uniform, who asked boldly, “You use your boyfriend’s family name, but when are you getting married?”

“Soon,” Goro said, as if it was the easiest question in the world. In the front row of the audience, the Featherman X team all turned to look at their Red Duke, because that was news to them. Goro grinned, looking right at him. “Hey, darling, want to get married?”

Akira pulled his helmet off. “I hate you, honey. What the heck. You just cut the knees out from under all of my dramatic proposal plans.”

Goro got up, grabbing his crutches and heading for the stairs of the small stage. He was a lot more stable than he used to be, but it was still obvious that it took some effort to get around. Akira abandoned his seat, ready to come support him, but Goro just shot him a withering look. “If you try to help me, I’m taking back the question.”

Thankfully his microphone was still on, or there was no way anyone would have heard him over the audience shrieking with glee. Ryuji pulled off his helmet and laughed. “Man, this is the sort of ridiculous thing I’d expect from you, not him.”

“Shut up, Ryuji.”

“...dude, are you crying?”

“No.” Yes, he was. His dumbass boyfriend had just proposed in front of an entire con panel and was now hobbling offstage towards him. What was even happening.

Goro stopped in front of him, now looking more shy than cocky. “I know I’m supposed to get on one knee, but I think you’ll have a breakdown if I try that, so I’ll skip it,” he said, leaning on one crutch to fish around in his pocket. He pulled out a small box, and Akira made a strangled noise as he opened it to show him a hammered silver wedding band, with a single, tiny heart pressed into the metal.

“Have you just been carrying that around?”

“Waiting for the right moment.”

“And the right moment was in front of your entire panel?”

“I had an opening and I took it.” He leaned in to kiss Akira, ignoring the renewed screaming of the audience, then was forced to drop his crutches as Akira picked him up and headed back up onstage.

“You can finish the panel sitting in my lap, yeah?” Akira asked, though it definitely wasn’t a question as he sat down in Goro’s chair without waiting for the answer. “And for the record, yes, I will marry you. Put the ring on.”

Their friends were all cheering in the front row. Futaba had been filming the whole panel to eventually be put up on Youcube, but now Ann had her phone out as well. Yusuke had nudged the abandoned crutches close enough to their chairs that no one would step on them. Haru was texting something frantically, a huge smile on her face as she showed Morgana whatever it was. Makoto was shaking her head, an exasperated smile on her face. And Ryuji was still laughing at how dumbfounded Akira had been by the question in the first place.

“I think we have time for a few more questions,” Goro said, the pink on his cheeks the only indication that sitting on Akira’s lap was affecting him at all. “Back there in the… I don’t know what that is, but that’s a lot of sequins.”

The girl laughed. “How did you two meet?” she asked, glittering like a disco ball every time she moved.

That, at least, was an easy question. “School trip,” said Akira, resting his chin on Goro’s shoulder. “Our eyes met across a crowded room and it was love at first sight.”

“Akira,” Goro groaned. He wasn’t necessarily wrong, but hearing it simplified that much was insane.

“Oh, fine. I embarrassed him in front of the whole class,” Akira amended, and Goro swatted him to the tune of laughter from the audience.

“Only a little,” Goro acquiesced. “Frankly I’m surprised he spoke up at all, considering how quiet he was back then.”

“Only in school.” Akira nuzzled him.

They answered a few more questions, most of which were miraculously about Featherman and not their relationship, and then Goro waved them all quiet.

“This has been an incredible experience, but unfortunately, we’re about to run over time, and the next panel needs the room,” he said, and there was disappointed grumbling. “As much as I’d like to keep rambling about Featherman with all of you, those are the rules. Thank you, all of you, for coming. This has been Phoenix Talk. Until next time!”

Convention staff helped get everyone out of the room, while the Thieves stayed behind to gush over Goro, and also to stand guard when he tried to leave so no one rushed him. For a little while after the panel was done, he hung around, answering a few more questions and signing things for a few people. Lots of them wanted to see Akira’s ring, which he was wearing over his gloves, but after a while he took the glove off and hid it away underneath, just to make sure it wasn’t going anywhere. And finally they all excused themselves to explore the convention some more. There were still a multitude of things to see before the end of the day.

***

When they all met up again to discuss where to go for dinner, Makoto was trying to restrain Ann, who was about to burst from giggles.

“We found those Jack bros cosplayers again!” Ann said, barely able to talk. “I got their picture. Do you know what their costumes were?”

“Were those the ones wandering around mostly naked?” Yusuke asked. “That is what I extrapolated from what Futaba told me.”

Ann nodded eagerly. “They’re Jacked Frost and Pyro Jacked,” she almost wheezed. “It’s fantastic!”

“Oh my god,” Goro and Ryuji said simultaneously.

“Can we not talk about people more buff than I’ll ever be, and worry about dinner?” Akira asked. “Every restaurant around here is going to be packed.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Haru said. “I texted a few people, and we have reservations at the castle restaurant in Destinyland for...basically whenever we get there. Since it’s on the way home. And we need to celebrate your engagement!” She clapped her hands, delighted, and the rest of the Thieves stared at her. Every once in a while, they all forgot how powerful Haru was.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Goro said softly, but he was smiling. “Especially since it wasn’t planned. But, thank you.”

“We’re happy for you, dude,” Ryuji said, patting Akira’s shoulder. “You really did stop this guy from doing something big and dramatic, though.”

“We’d been taking bets on which of you was going to bring up marriage first,” Makoto admitted.

Akira shoved Ryuji good-naturedly. “I mean, a wedding is probably a while off…” he said. “That’s a lot to plan. And I’m not twenty yet.”

“Yeah, but you’re basically married already, so it was pretty obvious one of you was going to propose,” Futaba huffed. “I think it’s me and Ann that called it happening at the con, so that’s five-thousand yen each from the rest of you.”

There was some good-natured bickering about the amounts and whether or not it had been a serious bet, but ultimately they all ended up on the train to Maihama, already making plans for returning to the con the next day to see more. And while a few people stared at the guy in the Featherman t-shirt being escorted by a full team of rangers, it was okay. Things were okay.

Goro was running on sheer happiness, and it was something he’d never been able to imagine before. But this past year, he’d had more happy days than not, and that was something he couldn’t say about any year before it.

It was incredible.

Chapter Text

Appendix

Featherman Notes

Here is my notes document that I’ve been keeping through this whole thing. Feel free to use this as a reference if you end up doing anything Featherman related. I should have it set up to allow comments, so also feel free to yell ideas for character names or episodes or whatever. I’ll probably add more to it gradually, especially as I work on other things.


Screennames

ThiefofHearts - Akira, obviously

Scherezade420 - Futaba
- Scheherazade is the correct spelling of the name of the character telling the stories of the 1001 Nights, one of which is the tale of Alibaba. Blaze it!

LadyPanther - Ann

Empress-of-Flowers - Haru

CoffeeBoss - Sojiro

MoonRabbit99 - Mishima
- He’s the Moon and he’s kind of timid like a rabbit? No I don’t know the logic of why he’d have picked that for himself.

GunAboutKing - Shinya

BallisticsGecko - Iwai

ReachingForTruth - Yu

PungeonMaster - Sho

EndlessPathos - Marie

TrappedInTheTVAisle - Yosuke

sungoddessfire - Yukiko
- No I don’t know why this is the only one in all lowercase

MagicLoveline04 - Nanako

Fortune’sFool - Minato and Hamuko, with different symbols on the end

Fool’sFortune - Ryoji

BelieveItOrDon’t - Junpei

JusticeandStrength - Ken (and Koromaru)

ForeverArgus - Yukari

JunSuou - …...well. XD

MotorcycleNoises69 - Tatsuya

SilverIdol82 - Lisa

TwinPharaoh - Naoya
- In manga-canon he’s a twin, his ultimate is Amon-Ra (an Egyptian god tied to the pharaohs), and his shadow is literally introduced playing an arcade game, so he won the prize

JoJoPhoenixRangers - Mitsuru and Kei
- Throwaway account named as a joke. Because KiriJO and NanJO. Mitsuru just wants to see Yukari’s interview. Kei wants to give to charity. Neither want to admit to watching a Featherman livestream.

MasterPsychic000 - Maya Fey, because nothing like an Ace Attorney reference ;)

PhantomScientist777 - Carl [last name redacted]
- A Persona OC usually found doing science-y stuff of some kind, in this case being Goro’s physical therapist. He was heartlessly stolen by Atlus and made into a guidance counselor, and it remains to be seen if their characters will be merged together or if Takuto will be rejected as an inferior knock-off.

AngelHeart, MemeMasterEu, DreamChaser, MousequeradeLia, SoManyTrains - Discord friends! I wish I’d had room to include more.

Anyone with a “libraryofourown” link was a play on their AO3 handle except for BlueBunny and Satan, who were a play on their Discord names instead.

NightfallRook and SunsetBishop were both me, because I am nothing without my chess motifs. XD


Other Stuff

Feather Gold Osprey and Feather Navy Vulture were picked half because of the obvious parallels to Crow and Black Mask (because Goro should have gotten a Featherman DLC outfit, damn it), and half because there weren’t any other gold “sixth rangers” yet, and I wanted something unique, which is why he isn’t Feather White like I originally planned. And yes, I know, he could have been Crow, but I wanted him to have something new for himself. He deserved to be a raptor bird like Red.

Feather Crimson Robin is technically Kasumi’s hypothetical outfit, named because she’s stealing Joker’s red and Crow’s...well, Robin. Magenta Hummingbird, on the other hand, is because hummingbirds are light and speedy like gymnasts, and magenta isn’t real. I think I’m funny. ^_^

The “short Featherman horror RPG” was an extremely condensed version of my experience spending 3 nights playing Hetaoni and yelling a liveblog at my friend about it. Which involved moments such as, “I’ve never been this emotionally invested in Hetalia except for the Revolutionary War sequence” and “OH GOD WHAT EVEN IS THAT IT’S COVERED IN EYES” and “I HAVEN’T HAD CONTROL IN AN HOUR.”