All things considered, it was a good thing they had ditched the idea of renting one of those small, transparent karaoke booths or going to a karaoke bar and accepted Haru’s suggestion that they’d just book a private karaoke room for a few hours instead.
Surely people would have been more than a little baffled at the sight of a cat enthusiastically yowling over the background music of Whitney Houston’s most well-known song.
Morgana was definitely struggling to keep the mic between his real-world paws. Akira ended up putting him out of his misery by grabbing it and holding it for him. Morgana didn’t even scowl or accused him to be patronising, he wasn’t a cat and his lack of thumbs in this world didn’t mean he couldn’t do anything without help, thank you , too engrossed that he was in the song, dropping the occasional glance to Ann to check whether she had fallen to his charm yet.
Two seats away from him, Futaba snickered, holding her phone to record the show.
“That’s worth thousands of views on Youcube, I swear.”
“You don’t even know what he would sound like to someone else, Futaba.”
“I already know what he sounds like to me and that is going to be my go-to video for gloomy nights. Trust me, the Internet people will love it.”
Yusuke merely nodded at her words.
“The Internet people truly have a fondness for unusual cat videos. I don’t doubt this one will be quite the hit.”
“See, even Inari agrees for once!”
“That doesn’t mean I approve of ridiculing one of our teammates by posting a video of his performance on the Internet. You’d better not do this with my songs, or things will end up badly.”
“Ooooh, is that a threat ?”
Haru chuckled as Morgana finally ended his song on a painfully high-pitched “youuuu” that sounded almost like a plaintive meow, and Makoto let out a discreet breath of relief. Akira promptly threw the microphone in Ryuji’s direction.
“Hell yeah, my turn! It’s time to ROCK!”
A strong riff started, followed by an upbeat violin line and Ryuji jumped on his feet, microphone tightly held in his right hand and his head already going up and down with the rhythm.
Ann tilted her head a little in confusion.
“What is that?”
“Pirate metal, dude! It’s like that music was written for me!”
And Ryuji started to sing in a mangled English over the video of a pirate crew crashing through a mundane dinner, Goro narrowed his eyes.
“This wasn’t on the song listing, was it.”
Futaba had the decency to look sheepish--in a very Futaba way, so she couldn’t keep the huge grin from popping on her face for long.
“Weeeeell… This place’s connection has a rather low-level security and he really, really wanted to sing this song…”
“So now we endure a whole song of Ryuji trying to sing in Scottish English.”
“...it’s not so bad?”
Ryuji was fully headbanging now as the pirates went partying with the mundane ladies and more booze got involved on screen.
Akira looked amused, Haru had joined the headbanging, Morgana did his best to cover his ears with his paws, and Ann was just wincing at Ryuji’s attempts to articulate “steal your rum at a point of a gun”.
Futaba always had an interesting view on “not so bad.”
“Drink, drink, drink, drink!”
Ryuji completed his song with a cheerful final jump, raising a horn-hand above his head.
Makoto sent him a dubious look.
“Ryuji, you don’t even drink alcohol.”
“I know what the video shows, but I never really checked what the lyrics meant. No need when I can feel the true pirate feelings! This song rocks .”
Makoto merely nodded, neither clearly agreeing nor disagreeing, then held her hand out for Ryuji to drop the microphone in it.
“Talking about songs that rock, it’s my turn.”
“What are you going to---oh.”
Before Ryuji had the time to complete his question, the screen switched to another video, and a new loud guitar riff filled the karaoke room, though of a very different nature from the previous one.
Makoto got up, tapping her foot on the ground in rhythm, and a sly, dangerous grin appeared on her face as she let her lips follow the words on the screen.
It started easy enough, if a bit fast…
“Towa ni utsu kono ichi PEEJI…”
Then it went faster, and Makoto’s voice didn’t sound human anymore. Goro froze, Haru cheered, Akira chuckled, and Ann and Morgana winced. Futaba just beamed, clearly recognizing the song. It was familiar, the kind that blasted from TVs a few years before.
“Who let Makoto put on some Maximum The Hormone ?”
Ryuji shrugged, half-careless, half-awestruck.
“It’s Makoto, dude. You let her do what she wants.”
After a particularly brutal break, Haru jumped on her feet in turn, grabbing the second microphone that was still laying on the small table that carried their drinks, and joined Makoto in her growl, helping her with the back and forth of clean and saturated voice until the end of the song.
“Tomerarenai unmei sa rensa REESU!”
Akira and Ann loudly cheered. Goro looked at them as if they’d grown a second head. Akira tilted his head in amusement.
“Unexpected talents, right?”
“The girls in this team are terrifying.”
Futaba snickered, while Ann muttered something that sounded like “you weren’t here to see even half of it.”
Haru put her microphone back on the table while Makoto held hers in the air.
“Alright, whose turn?”
Akira was fast on his feet and grabbed the microphone in a flourish.
“Mine. Enough rock for now, gotta change the atmosphere for a while.”
The first notes of the song bounced on the walls of the room and a groan echoed--Ryuji hadn’t even tried to cover it. It only seemed to boost Akira’s pride, who mouthed out a low “It’s showtime” in a hushed voice before launching himself in the actual song.
“You try to run me through--hold on--think again--don't you know what you're starting?”
Goro’s red eyes trailed on Akira’s way too confident body language. The metaverse may have disappeared for good, but Joker was still among them.
The others didn’t sound too pleased. Makoto grunted. Morgana yawned. Ann just glared.
“Do you… have troubles with this song?”, Goro asked in a low voice, uncertain of what brought such a gloomy mood
“Seriously man, you never noticed?”
“Akira sang this stupid song at every ambush . God, after three hours of training into Mementos I would have it stuck in my head for days.”
“Dude, I was ready to send Captain Kidd after him.”
Haru tried to brighten up the atmosphere.
“It always got him into the fight, though. And look at him now. He’s really, really into it.”
Goro turned back to Akira who, indeed, was really into it. He didn’t even need to watch the screen: clearly he had all the lyrics memorized. Then deep red eyes met steel grey ones, and Goro could have sworn Akira glimmered with proud defiance when he caught him watching as he articulated the bridge.
“Better think about your game, are you sure the next move’s the right one for you? Are you sure you won’t get outmaneuvered again and again, my friend ?”
Akira trailed way too much on the last words. Goro stifled a curse. Damn, not only was the boy blatantly mocking him, his singing was flawless, too. Was there even something Akira couldn’t do? Was he really such a…
“What is that you’re mumbling, Akechi-kun ? Got something to say?”
Of course Goro’s voice had to break through the final “oooo”s of the song, and of course Akira had to pick them up.
Goro merely smiled a smile that didn’t quite get to his eyes.
“...I was just noticing you’ve got a surprisingly nice singing voice, Leader.”
Ryuji threw his fist in the former detective’s shoulder.
“Dump the damn pleasant facade, dude, for real. You’re giving me the creeps when you do that. We’ve been over this before, you’re one of us now, no need to lie. We all agree on the fact that Akira’s a fucking show-off.”
The others vaguely muttered and Akira grinned a very satisfied grin while holding out his hand to give Goro the microphone.
“Have you chosen your song yet, Goro-kun?” Haru inquired in a way too sweet voice.
The karaoke party, after all, was meant to be the celebration of Goro’s joining the team for real. Not that there was a team to speak of anymore, since everything was over, the world was saved, the Phantom Thieves had uncovered the ugliness of the depths of Mementos and a very chained Goro in a cell down under. He hadn’t been able to tell them how or why he had ended up there, only remembering the final bullet shot at him by a shadow wearing his own face, but they had got him out, then proceeded in killing a god and saving Tokyo under the cheers of a crowd who promptly forgot everything about what happened.
Your regular Christmas Eve.
Long conversations had ensued among the team, followed with Goro turning himself in, only to get released due to lack of actual evidence of his involvement. Enough circumstances to incriminate and convict Shido, not enough to incarcerate Goro.
The Phantom Thieves had taken the news way too well and decided to throw a party instead of deciding to let this whole ordeal behind them.
Which led them to the current situation, where they were all calling him by his first name, inviting him in their merry band of former thieves, and trying to make him sing to celebrate the fact that he had to find new reasons to move forward.
Goro hadn’t chosen his song yet, obviously.
“You know the rules, Goro,” Akira said with a dangerous grin. “If you don’t pick, we pick for you.”
“And you’ve seen what they’ve made Yusuke sing, dude.”
“Totally worth it, though! Inari floored it!”
Yusuke had, indeed, given them quite the surprise when in an obvious attempt to troll their ice user, Futaba had jumped at the chance to select the most fitting song she could find. Goro could have felt his heart stop when the first notes of piano had echoed through the room--not that song, not that song, it was everywhere it was enough , but Yusuke had merely sighed and taken it in stride, to Futaba’s greatest dismay.
Yusuke’s deep voice had been surprisingly fitting for a song like Let It Go. Goro hadn’t expected such a range from the artist, but then again, when had he ever been right in what to expect from the Phantom Thieves?
The song had ended in all of them yelling the final chorus at the top of their lungs, Yusuke ending with a very dramatic “the cold never bothered me anyway”, and laughter echoing through the room. Ryuji had congratulated Yusuke with a punch in the shoulder that had made him wince, and Goro had to concede in an annoyed tone that maybe Let It Go had some kind of cathartic value when sung at the top of your lungs.
But Let It Go was over and Goro was not about to request for it again.
“It’s alright, Goro, we’ll give you one more chance and I’ll sing while you pick.”
She quickly tapped on the screen, took the microphone and stood, eagerly waiting for the start of the song.
Notes of flute echoed through the room and Morgana watched, star-eyed.
“Every night in my dreams, I see you, I feel you…”
Leave it to Ann to choose a cheesy occidental song to allow him to stall. Better an overdone romantic trope than her terrible acting. Akira chuckled, stood and spread his arms behind her before lowering his head in the crook of her neck to cheekily quote in a low, mock-epic voice:
“I’m the king of the world!”
The whole action provided a welcome distraction from Ann’s struggling with the chorus. When the key changed, the whole group barely hid their wince. Even Morgana’s eyes seemed a bit less starry and a bit duller.
“Youuuu’re, heeeeeere, there’s nothing I fear!”
Scratch that thought earlier: the cheesy song was more painful than her acting. When he finally decided on what he would sing, Goro consoled himself with the fact that at least his singing couldn’t be worse than Ann’s.
“And my heart will, go on, and on…”
So maybe they all let out a breath of relief when the song came to its end, despite the tragic image of Jack’s body being engulfed in cold waters. They clapped politely and Ann beamed when she held the microphone to Goro.
“There, I hope you made your choice or I’ll decide for you!”
“I’ve chosen one, but don’t come complain about my choice or my singing.”
The video on screen shifted and Goro didn’t miss Akira’s sharp intake of breath when he saw the title of the song.
“Is this the real life, is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality...”
“Wow, dude, way to ruin the mood.”
Goro kept on, unfazed. His voice, well-practised to be pleasant and polite for interviews, had no training in singing, but he made sure to nail the notes and remain in tune and rhythm. So far, so good.
“I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy.”
“Why are you such a self-deprecating creep,” Futaba deadpanned.
Goro shrugged and smiled an innocent smile while the piano played its part.
“Mama, just killed a man.”
Goro expected more scowls and less disappointment in their eyes. At least he made them react--a very petty way to get his revenge on being forced to sing.
“It is a good karaoke song, though.” Akira pondered, and Goro was not surprised at all that, out of all of them, Akira would be the one finding excuses for his dismaying choice. “There’s always someone to sing it in every karaoke night.”
“A good point. We may even accompany him; I feel like we all know this song.”
The fact that Yusuke came to his defense was more of a surprise, but it seemed to have its impact. They, indeed, all knew the song: by the third verse, they were all singing, answering each other in turns. Haru held the second microphone, very much into a prosecutor stance, pointing to him.
“Bismillah, no! We will not let you go!”
“Let me go!”
“Bismillah, no! We will not let you go!”
“Let me go!”
By the fourth verse, Ryuji was up and headbanging with an arm slung over Goro’s shoulder while Makoto cheerfully screamed along the lyrics.
“Just gotta get out, just gotta get right outta here!”
In a rush of adrenaline, Goro let out a sharp “yeah!” that had nothing to do with the song. Akira air-guitared beside them. Futaba had Morgana on her lap, making him mock-clap in rhythm. Ann clapped along. Both the song and the room were just a chaotic mess at this stage.
Then everything quieted down and, as if respecting Goro’s choice in the end, everyone sat back and let him complete the song peacefully. And if Goro’s voice cracked a little in the end, no one commented.
“Any way the wind blows…”
When the final note rang, Futaba was quick on her feet.
“Don’t sit back, creep. You gotta atone for all these bad feelings! Keep the mic, we’re doing this one together.”
She quickly grabbed the second microphone Haru had placed back on the table and didn’t give him time to realise what was coming as she struck a pose and yelled:
The music was way too familiar and nostalgic. Goro didn’t even need to look at the lyrics, amazed to realise that they were still carved in his mind even after all these years. The rest of the group watched, dumbstruck, as he went back and forth through the lyrics with Futaba, who knew them probably even more by heart than he did.
“Toki wo”, Futaba started, “Koete”, Goro answered.
“Asu wo”, Futaba went on, “Tomo ni”, Goro completed, before they concluded with a strong “Tamashii no o takemiru!” that led them to the chorus.
“Iku ze! Bokura no FEATHERMAN --Kirameku utsukushii kono hou shiyou! YES YES LET’S GO FEATHERMAN”
Then Futaba struck a new sentai pose and Goro felt his arms move despite himself as he sang along the final line of the chorus.
“Fushichou sentai, FEATHERMAN!”
They made the iconic motions of the Phoenix Rangers on the three final beats of the song, and maintained the pose as the room exploded in claps and cheers.
“Such energy! That was refreshing.”
Futaba beamed. Goro just lowered his head, a bit ashamed at the grin he couldn’t repress. He hadn’t expected the song to bring such...energy, as Yusuke had put it. He quickly set the microphone on the table and sat back sheepishly. Futaba laughed and turned to him, but before she could comment, Akira interrupted.
“Alright! Now that everyone sang once, I think we have enough time left so we can start over again. My turn!”
With a sly grin, he picked up the microphone from Futaba’s hand and let the song start.
Two notes in, Makoto groaned.
“So we’re really doing all the terrible karaoke clichés tonight?”
Akira merely turned to wink at her and answered with the first words of the song, the grin evident in his deep, low voice:
“Mah mah mah mah...”
Then the beat really started--and so did their leader. Goro almost had to catch his jaw.
It wasn’t enough that Akira could sing well: he could dance too.
Was this another superpower he had been granted? Something else he had learnt from a superior power?
He didn’t even need his two arms to make it look amazing. Every time he sang the words “poker face”, his hand would gracefully circle his own face while he let his hips swagger.
Ann giggled and sang along the--modified to fit the situation--words.
“He’s got me like nobody.”
During the second verse, Goro felt his blood freeze when Akira turned and pointed his fingers like a gun towards him.
“Russian roulette is not the same without a gun, and baby when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun.”
Had Akira just winked ?
“Dude, you’re way too extra.”
Akira didn’t care and smoothly went on with the monologue part, always moving along the rhythm of the song.
“Ohohoh, I’ll get him hot, show him what I’ve got.”
Goro felt hot indeed, and he was not the only one, judging by the way everyone around watched Akira as if in a trance--save for Ryuji and Morgana who just looked unimpressed.
“...total show off”, the mutter came from their side of the room.
Yusuke was specifically entranced, his mouth slightly open, his eyes firmly set on the video that no one watched anymore.
Both his voice and the end of the song (“can’t read my Joker face”, Akira sang, way too proud of himself, holding his final pose, the hand with the microphone up in the air, his other hand on his wiggled hip) broke the trance and Makoto turned to Yusuke in disbelief.
“Are you serious?”
“Of course I am! Have you seen how deep this video goes into the use of accessories and clothing? How put-together everything was to make the song work? Makoto, this was a true work of art! I need to see more! Show me more!”
Before anyone managed to stop him, Yusuke had launched himself on the selection screen and slammed the button to play the next song for the same artist.
A heavy silence fell upon the group as the screen started the new song.
A woman voice-over echoed through the speakers.
“I know that we are young, And I know that you may love me, But I just can't be with you like this anymore, Alejandro.”
Everyone remained dumbstruck for a while. Akira, who was still standing microphone in hand, narrowed his eyes and studied the motions on screen, already mouthing “You know that I love you boy, hot like Mexico…”
“No, dude. Seriously, don’t.”
Futaba merely grinned.
“Show’em your sick moves, bro.”
Akira nodded and put the microphone back on the table. He then straightened up, brought his legs together in a confident stance, lowered his head, and started swinging his hips again, grabbing the lower hem of his tee-shirt to pull it up slowly and get in the same state of half-nakedness as the dancers on screen.
Haru and Ann giggled.
“Okay, shit’s getting gay way too fast. I’m out if you don’t stop now, I am NOT watching this.”
Ryuji scrambled to reach the selection screen. Yusuke stopped him by catching his arm.
“Dude, you don’t even know the song!”
“I need to see more, Ryuji. Don’t you understand? This is a new field of art I’ve never dived in! I need more, more!”
As Akira was almost done sensually removing his shirt (Makoto was hiding her face in her hands; Futaba was shaking 100-yen bills in her hand, her eyes filled with indecent glee; Goro felt like the thermostat had broken), Haru got on her feet and crossed the room in decisive steps to tap on the selection screen.
“Alright, enough. Yusuke, let’s cut it and if you want more pop artist aesthetics, I’ll give you some. But I feel like we’ve got to teach Akira some manners first.”
The song abruptly stopped and Akira let his tee-shirt fall back in place, his laughter barely contained.
“Hit me with your best shot, Noir.”
“Oh, you know I will.”
Akira smirked, but Goro noticed Haru’s smile was dangerous .
Haru was a constant surprise. Earlier, she had regaled them with a French bubbly pop song that had her jumping while singing “Lo-li-ta” while no one understood anything of what she said. (“It’s okay,” she’d said, “the lyrics don’t really mean much any way, I just like how light-hearted it is”, to which Ann had excitedly clapped, claiming that she had indeed enjoyed the cheerful tune.) Then, she had come to help Makoto with heavy, barely human growls. Then she’d been almost lyrical when pointing an accusing finger to Goro’s choice of a song.
All of this taken into account, none of them knew what to expect from her anymore, but they all watched in expectation as Akira sat and Haru picked the microphone.
The music started and Haru twisted her legs in rhythm, before turning to Akira, giving him a dangerous wink and starting along with the lyrics.
“Superstar--where you from, how’s it going?”
Akira’s jaw dropped. Yusuke’s eyes remained stuck on the screen, fascinated. Ryuji’s eyes too, actually, but for a very different reason--that video was risqué .
“Womanizer, woman-womanizer, you’re a womanizer, oh…”
Haru poked Akira in the chest at every iteration of the word and Akira just remained stuck in awe on the couch.
Morgana merely groaned. “And you don’t know the half of it. I swear this guy is a true Whomeverizer. I’d bet even his plant worships him.”
Haru ignored the comment and went on.
“Daddy-O, you’ve got the swagger of a champion…”
Haru started swinging her hips, mirroring Akira’s moves from earlier in a very openly mocking way. Futaba erupted in laughter. Makoto bit her lip, trying not to burst as well. Ann yelled “I’M SO IN” and grabbed the second microphone to help complete the song.
Soon enough all the girls were standing in front of the boys pointing and repeating the chorus over and over again, roasting all of them in very easy words.
“Boy don't try to front, oh, I know just, just, what you are--Womanizer, woman-womanizer, you're a womanizer, oh, womanizer, oh you're a womanizer, baby!”
Many things happened with the last word of the song. Futaba pinched Yusuke’s hip, which made the artist snap out of his trance and had him grumbling that this was very unnecessary, he hadn’t even listened to the lyrics, and had she even seen the artistic choices of this video . Makoto, in the meantime, poked Akira in the chest once more. He merely shrugged, muttering a simple “guess I deserved this one.” Haru pointed her dangerous finger at Goro, who looked at her in disbelief.
“Haru. I’m pretty sure you’ve all figured I’m gay.”
“Of course we did. That never prevented you from breaking women’s hearts, Detective Prince.”
Goro winced, but he didn’t have any time to consider, because on the final “baby”, Ann had punched Ryuji’s shoulder and the wannabe-pirate had started complaining loudly.
“Ann, what the hell ? I never--I--damn you know how I am with women--”
“Oh, I do know alright, and I saw you were drooling in front of the video. You should be ashamed.”
“Poor Ryuji, he tried so hard, got so far, but in the end… he never became a womanizer.”
She then grinned, grabbed a microphone from Ann and said:
“Which makes a very nice transition for our next song. Inari, up, I’m going to need you on this one. You want weird aesthetics, I’m going to give you weird 2000 aesthetics.”
Haru handed her the second microphone, which she threw in Yusuke’s direction. The boys’s still sell-honed reflexes allowed him to catch it while getting up. He joined Futaba.
The speakers emitted some static, and an entrancing set of muted notes played by keyboards echoed through the room.
Futaba nodded proudly, not even trying to hide her satisfaction when Yusuke winced at the screen.
“Yeah, I know, special effects. Give it a chance, Inari, you’re going to love it. Now watch me and follow, we’re doing the second verse together. It starts with...”
Then, as a dry land was shown on screen, Futaba’s words picked on speed and soon enough, she was rapping and all of them were watching her in surprise.
Yusuke merely nodded and when they reached the chorus, he joined her.
“I tried so hard, and got so far, but in the end…”
“...it doesn’t even maaaatter!”
Following Futaba’s instructions, Yusuke once more took a song in stride, rapping in turn as Futaba held sung notes and Akira felt his chest constrict at the pride he felt at seeing both of them interact in such a carefree way.
“I’ve put my trust in you, pushed as far as I can go...”
Both Futaba and Yusuke’s voices were raw with emotions; the others just kept watching them in awe. Goro swallowed. For a minute, he wondered… He turned to the selection screen.
Akira just waited for the song to end, and at the final piano note, jumped to his feet and hugged Futaba and Yusuke.
“Ugh, bro, ugh, personal space!”
Yusuke merely chuckled.
“That was surprisingly cathartic. Thank you, Futaba. I believe I will nonetheless stick to the former song’s aesthetics. I’m… not convinced by this one.”
Futaba muttered “yeah, of course you’re not. Your loss” and flopped back on the couch, where Goro was still browsing the selection screen with his eyes narrowed. The song he wanted wasn’t on the song listing.
While the rest of the group was busy praising Yusuke’s unexpected rapping talent, he turned to Futaba.
“Futaba? Would you agree to use the same trick as before for Ryuji...”
The girl threw Goro a dubious look.
“That motivated by a song that isn’t on the list, uh? Which one?”
He muttered his song title. Futaba looked at him in disbelief.
“After that show you put on earlier? You really want to wreck this party this much, uh?”
Goro pinched his nose.
“Coming from someone who just sang In The End. Will you do it or not?”
“...Alright, point taken. Consider it my repayment for singing Featherman with me. But don’t hold me accountable for any of their reaction.”
“Thank you, Futaba.”
Goro turned back and waited for Futaba to tweak something on the screen.
In the meantime, the others had sat back on the couch. Haru turned to Futaba.
“Futaba-chan, why would you choose such a depressing song?”
“First, because as Inari said, it’s awesome to sing.”
“I said it was cathartic.”
“And I said it was awesome. Second, because I knew Inari would rock it, and he did, obviously. And third... just wait until you see what’s coming before talking about depressing.”
As if on cue, the first guitar notes filled the room and Goro stiffened.
“C’mon, emoboy. You asked for it. Time to take responsibility.”
Goro took a deep breath, stood, picked up the microphone and dived in.
“When you were here before, couldn't look you in the eye…”
Goro did feel the others’ gazes on his back, but true to the words of the song, he couldn’t find the strength in himself to face them.
He knew the lyrics, he didn’t need to read them, but the words anchored him to the room.
Ryuji broke the atmosphere before he reached the chorus, though.
“Are you FOR REAL, DUDE? You already pulled the mood down once.”
Ann scowled in a low tone, trying to shush the loud-mouthed boy. Goro sacrificed the second part of the verse to put on his best self-deprecating smile and turn to him.
“Well you did say I was a creep earlier.”
“My point exactly.”
Goro turned back to the screen. A strong riff of guitar echoed through the room and the song picked up. Akira’s thoughtful gaze lingered on him, as if he were seeing someone totally different.
“But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo--What the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”
Ryuji muttered “damn it”. The others remained silent, just watching as Goro waved his hand along the lyrics, before forming a fist with it and clutching.
“I don't care if it hurts, I want to have control, I want a perfect body, I want a perfect soul, I want you to notice when I'm not around...”
Goro swallowed, and okay, this time his voice cracked and there was nothing he could do to hide it. He had made the choice to bare himself to them for real for the first time, and if he had to cry for that he would.
“You're so fuckin' special, I wish I was special.”
The other former thieves shuffled awkwardly. Akira silently stood and picked up the microphone while Goro kept on baring his feelings with the chorus.
“I don’t belong here, oho…”
Discarding the lyrics completely, Akira intervened in the most strained falsetto voice he could muster to try and cover Goro’s words.
“Stop running out again, Stop running out, stop, stop…”
Goro looked at him, struck, then tried to overtake the song with his own high-pitched notes.
The final verse went into a back and forth between the two boys, beneath the concerned eyes of the rest of the group who had decided to let them deal with… whatever was happening. Morgana was pointing on the selection screen, Ann and Futaba helping him.
“Whatever makes you happy, whatever you want...” Akira sang.
“I wish I was special,” Goro answered.
“You're so very special,” Akira asserted, and his hand found Goro’s.
Haru dared a smile. Makoto mirrored it and let her head fall on the other girl’s shoulder. Ryuji winced, but his shiny eyes betrayed him. Yusuke watched them in awe, framing them with his finger.
The room wasn’t hot. It wasn’t aggressive either. Goro didn’t want to wreck the party at all, he just wanted to get rid of the cold feeling, and if it had to be through a song, he would do so.
He went on with the chorus, looking straight into Akira’s eyes, trying to send the message.
“But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.”
But Akira wouldn’t be deterred. And they were not even singing anymore, and the final lines were all wrong, and Akira just spoke the last words, extinguishing the song the same way he wanted to put off all of Goro’s doubts.
“You do belong here…”
And Goro was crying alright, and the others were all too very busy with other things to pay attention, and Goro felt Akira squeeze his hand. The former thief picked both microphones, put them back on the table, and led Goro to a side of the room, a bit further from the others.
Goro let himself fall back along Akira on the couch, and the boy put his arm around his shoulders.
Nobody commented, focusing rather on Morgana’s new selection of a song. Once more, Ann was holding the microphone, while Futaba was very thoroughly filming the new show.
Goro allowed himself to get lost in the unfamiliar, but not unwelcome sensation of warmth that spread through him as Akira’s hand went up his neck and his fingers carded through his hair.
“You belong, Goro.” He said in a deep, muted voice, almost more for himself than anyone else. “You’re so special.”
Goro felt like his very core was filled with the warmth of the low voice, and he let the weight of his thoughts fall at the same time as his head on Akira’s shoulder, surrendering to the sensation, almost deaf to Morgana’s tedious attempt to render a cheesy Disney song that ironically fitted the situation all too well. When the final note came, he clapped along the others, and burrowed further against Akira’s warmth--and Akira’s hand brought him even closer.
Then Makoto and Ann sang a last duet (something about a cabaret musical?), and Ryuji loudly cheered while Noir giggled at the lyrics, and they called it a night.
The next day, Youcube user Scherezade420’s newly dropped video “CANYAAA FEEL THE LOVE TONYAAT” reached over 100k hits in a mere hour.
Meanwhile, all the members of the group chat save one were appalled to see they’d been flooded during the night with about a hundred messages, all regarding music videos of various American pop artists who were, quote unquote, an overlooked source of inspiration born from songs, a true revolution in the world of visual art, an explosion of vibrant colours and body position that gave life to the notes they carried. True to himself, Yusuke was nothing but passionate.
Goro let the hand that was holding his phone fall back on the mattress. His fingers met soft black curls and he found himself slightly disoriented.
Was this his new life? Being part of a group chat where teenagers--friends--shared their feelings, no matter how stupid? In a bed with his former-rival holding him tight against him, as if afraid that he would disappear after the totally-not-a-confession-and-night-of-cuddling they had just had.
Goro closed his hand and let himself get lost in the warmth of a new dawn.
I do belong here.