If there is one thing that Akira Kurusu quickly learns in his life, it's that he always has to get it . No matter what.
When his mother and his father start to get into their everyday shouting matches, be it about promotion, about ambition, about new places to live in…. at first he asks questions. He doesn’t like the shouting, so he wants to understand, he tries to have them lower their voices and speak to each other---instead of throwing things at each other, Mom, won't that break the walls?
His mother always replies "you'll get it later", before shunning him to his room and--yeah, he eventually gets it, alright.
It’s fairly simple, actually, getting it: he just has to make himself small in his own room and remain silent, to allow them to forget that he exists.
If the screaming matches last long enough he can't really go and grab dinner, so he learns to keep a stack of easy snacks in his room just in case.
He gets it alright.
Stay out of the way, smile when you're asked, be polite, don't be a trouble child, get your best grades. Keep your face straight and your back straighter.
It’s easy enough to get it at school too. Akira is not a genius child, but he is resourceful enough to make it to the top of his class. It doesn't take him long to get that, somehow, being attentive in class is enough for the lessons to stick in his mind and allows him to keep his grades better than decent.
It takes him an even shorter time to get that he can blend in all the more by joining clubs.
"Alright team, we've got it !"
They always high five each other before getting to the match. Akira gets the bouncing of the ball, the motions of his opponent, his eyes surprisingly good at spotting what is to come. His uncommon tall size for a teen his age prevents him from going as unnoticed as he’d wish, so he learns to walk with a small slump that makes him look shorter, more forgettable, but during the matches, it gives him a clear advantage when he slams dunk.
"Congrats dude! You got'em so bad! They never saw it coming!"
(No one in Tokyo knows he's even played basketball in his past life. Akira is happy about it; he doesn't need them to know, because he doesn't need to join clubs anymore. His schedule is busy enough as it is, and that is one thing less he has to prove that he got alright.)
It is a good thing that he seems to be born under a lucky star, because he always, always ends up getting it somehow.
No matter when in his life, it’s like it follows him. The orientation teacher tells him: "you got it kid, I'm not afraid for your future, it's bright ahead of you". His homeroom teacher faithfully nods and assures: "you can get anything you set your mind on".
He always, always gets it. He is a bother for no one: his classmates are happy with his silent personality, his parents don’t have to pay attention to him, his teachers are proud to have such a good student in their class, his teammates rely on him to make them win all the matches, his boss finds him perfectly suited to deal with customer services: it’s like he gets what his customers want even before they open their mouth.
Honestly, he’s just very observant.
He’s got it all so well that no one even seems to be jealous. He’s just the perfectly forgettable blend-in element.
And then, somehow, in the blink of an eye, it all snaps.
He’s just going home after his shift at the local grocery store that fateful night he witnesses the aggression.
He’s so, so confident that he gets the situation--he knows what he has seen and what he has to do. When something is wrong, you should speak up, right? This is what he has been taught. For once, he stops staying silent, but steps up and protect, in a surge of righteousness that…
...that makes it so that suddenly he doesn't get anything at all anymore.
In a few minutes, the time for the police to handcuff him, he realises that he indeed got it all--but wrong.
That every social construct he has is wrong. The “just world” theory is just this--a theory. There is no justice, and he hasn’t got anything of the situation, anything of how the world works.
And suddenly he hasn't got a school anymore.
And he hasn't got a basketball team anymore.
And he hasn't got any friends anymore.
And he hasn't got the support of anyone anymore, especially not his family.
But he quickly gets back on his feet, he quickly gets it, that the screaming matches between his parents are now about him, and that soon enough he will not have got a home anymore either.
The only things he really, really gets out of this ordeal are--well. A shiny new criminal record, a nicely delivered probation, and a new, strong understanding that commonly accepted social rules are bullshit.
That, he gets too well.
And then he gets shipped to Tokyo and he gets that he is going to be on his own and that everything he has managed to build back in his hometown he will have to work twice as hard to get back again in the city.
"You'll get it, kid" Sojiro says on his first day, as if in a moment of pity, after he’s done cleaning the attic.
And he eventually gets it alright. He tidies the place, makes the room his, he finds his way to school.
When his newly found friend ( does it count if you've known each other for an hour and you've just experienced the weirdness of what might be a nightmare? ) almost gets killed, it's like suddenly Akira gets it all back .
The voice in his head is loud and clear, and it speaks of how much he's got and how far he's gone and was it all for nothing.
No, Akira thinks, it wasn't for nothing. I didn't get it wrong. They got it wrong.
When the chuckle echoes in his mind and he feels the pull, he gets the name he has to call, it’s like he’s opening new eyes he didn't even know he had before that weird near-death experience. It's so fulfilling that he almost collapses. Thankfully the rush of adrenaline allows him to keep standing.
"Dude, woah. I am not sure what happened, but you really got it."
Akira shrugs, and with that, he’s got a friend--then two, then three, then he’s got a whole team at his beck and calls.
Soon enough, he’s even got a whole web of confidents all over the city, and they all seem to agree on one point.
"You've got it, inmate!", the twins claim in a chirpy voice after he makes them fuse a particularly powerful persona.
"Seems like you're slowly getting it", Sojiro mumbles as his coffee becomes better at every attempt.
"You've got it, noob", Shinya praises when he finally beats him at Gun About.
"You've got it, kid", Iwai grunts after he's demonstrated enough knowledge in the goods the man was selling.
"Ah, Akira-kun… you almost got me this time !", Hifumi consoles him after he loses once more against her.
(And he's got it alright, because Hifumi thinks he's a good shogi player despite never having played shogi before meeting her.)
He's finding his footing again, only slightly, never reaching the same level of confidence in his skills he used to have back in his hometown.
And for a reason: as soon as he lets his guard down, allows himself to just relax and enjoy under the sun of Hawaii, he realises he actually didn't get anything because he failed again at reading situations, at reading the others.
Morgana runs away.
They find him back, they mend the group up, a new ally joins them.
Just when they think they're finally getting on the right path, Haru's father dies.
He knows that not all of these are his crosses to bear--he does so anyway. For the sake of his others, because he's not sure how well he can do for his own sake.
At least he can hold onto their faith in him.
At least he's got this, the whole shapeshifting to stick to their expectations, he's mastered the trick.
But sometimes, the mask fall. Sometimes there are moments when Akira gets nothing at all anymore.
It's unexpected--it's a headache in the middle of the day, the sharp reminder of--something ?--a voice, a sound, someone falling at his feet, a flash of light in the dark that blinds him...
It's mere minutes, just a blank in his mind, white noise as if he were floating, and the uneasiness of being here without being here.
Sometimes he just stares into the void and wonder what is real.
And suddenly his mind clears and gets back in his body, and he’s back in the street, among a group of teenagers like any others, hanging out, and he doesn't get where this sudden sensation of drowning within himself came from--it’s gone already. He shakes his head, mumbles an apology.
"It's alright, Akira. We get it. We all have moments when we lose focus!"
They don't really get it, because losing focus would be so much easier, but he doesn't say anything because he gets that they wouldn't be able to get it.
It's so weird, like his body doesn't belong to him anymore, it's just a vessel someone steals from him to throw it back to another place, another time.
He goes on with it. It's alright. What else could he do? One gets used to anything, eventually.
At least he can proudly admit one thing. That trick Akechi pulled on them?--he saw it coming this time.
It brings some confidence back in his abilities to get a situation, especially since none of the others expected the detective to be this bold, this aggressive, this dangerous. None of the others realised how dark his plan was.
But it's okay. It's alright. Akira's got it.
He was... prepared, somehow. He doesn't break when they discuss it. Their plan will work against Akechi's. He knows the boy. He knows him enough to get the dimmed light in his eyes, the same light he sometimes sees when he looks into the mirror--the reflection an empty face with so many masks that he's not sure which one is the true one--or maybe the sad truth is, none of them is, there is no truth, just emptiness. An empty face.
In the moments of calm they share in Leblanc, Akira gets that Akechi is the same. It shows in the way his eyebrows shift and his smile tightens, and in the way his eyes get glassy, as if they became screens for memories Akira couldn’t watch along.
Sometimes Akechi does crosswords and Akira steals a glance and sees his eyes unexpectedly focused. Akira wonders if Akechi feels it, the rush of satisfaction when he gets it right, when the words fit in the boxes and everything falls into place. Akira wonders if Akechi also uses the paper game as a way to cope, a way to escape, and if he bargains a little when he starts doing them, “if I get 10 more words then I get what I want”.
Akira sure does feel this way. No one has to know, no one has to see his eyes darken when he really, really want to get his words, even if Morgana sometimes wonders why he’s so engrossed in silly crosswords.
Seeing how dark his eyes are right now, Akira feels like Akechi would get it.
This time, it seems like the puzzle the detective is doing is in English, as if Japanese wasn’t challenging enough because he has to really occupy his mind, take it out of the train of thought it might follow, or as if the stakes were higher than usual.
“Nine letters, the cry of the raven, second letter E… I don’t get it. Don’t raven just caw? That’s three letters…”
Akira raises his head at the frustrated mumbles and watches the detective struggles for a while. Then he just drops the answer, because it's obvious, he's got this one, and it tumbles from his lips before he can catch it back to avoid bruising the detective's ego.
Akechi raises his head, his pleasant mask back in place as he sends Akira a confused look.
“The raven’s cry. It’s Nevermore.”
“Neverm… Oh… oh . I get it.”
But Akira got it before him this time.
Akechi nods and fills the boxes.
“You’re always so full of surprises, Kurusu. I didn’t deem you a reader of Edgar Allan Poe. With a persona like Arsene, I’d have thought you’d enjoy flamboyant French literature more?”
Akira rubs his neck. He has a hard time fixing a good mask for Akechi, so he just lets the words flow without thinking about them too much. It’s probably risky, but he does it anyway. It’s not like anything he says could get him in more trouble with the detective than he actually is. There’s no more ammunition to give.
“Ah… no. Not at all. It’s like everyone in the team thinks I do, so they’re all giving me books about gentlemen thieves and detectives and French authors, but… I kind of read everything?”
“Oh. That’s surprising. Don’t you favour a specific style or author?”
Akira almost flushes, because he does, and it’s a little awkward to admit to morbid fascination to the person he knows is trying to kill him.
“I know it’s cheesy, but… I kind of like gothic aesthetic? Poe’s Tales are really amazing... They’re so well-built and give an amazing atmosphere. Reading The Mask of the Red Death was like walking through Mementos, expecting the Reaper to appear anytime.”
Akechi’s eyes trail upon him, burning a thoughtful path without really seeing him and--Akira knows that look. He sees the eyes darken. He almost watches the train of thoughts set on its trails when the detective starts reciting:
“I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?”
Akechi gives him a pleasant smile, confesses to enjoying Poe’s poetry, then pays and takes his leave.
The words hangs around the cafe long after he’s gone, and remain longer even in Akira’s mind.
Akira gives a word to fill in a box--and Akechi gives a whole poem to fill in his thoughts.
This time again, the detective wins. The poem makes a mess in his head more than any bullet would.
Nights fall earlier in November and Akira usually likes the night, it’s a moment of quiet when it’s easier to hide, and he asks Morgana if tonight he can maybe remain alone.
To keep a clear mind, to prepare.
The cat looks concerned, but eventually agrees.
"Don't forget to go to sleep early. You need to be in your best shape tomorrow."
"Yeah, yeah. Don’t worry. I've got it ."
And with this, Morgana goes, and he’s alone with his thoughts again in the cafe where Akechi’s forlorn recited words still hang even days later.
Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream?
Akira doesn’t get it, but it feels like in a world where a parallel, cognitive universe exists, it should make more sense.
Akira feels like he’s the same as the narrator of the poem, grasping at the grains of sand without being able to hold them.
He makes a cup of coffee, and maybe it takes him longer than usual, because his moves are cautious, he’s paying more attention than ever to the machine. He’s got it now, how it all works, he’s got the details that will make the coffee sweeter or more bitter, he knows the intricacies.
He sits at the counter and takes Leblanc in, and despite himself, he wonders. His mind leaves his body, and suddenly he sees everything from above, from afar--as if already not here anymore. So much has happened in so little time and it’s a lot to take in, a lot to process.
Maybe it’s the last time he sits in Leblanc.
It’s a hard thing to get.
He feels empty, a lost heart locked in a cage of bones, cold when he looks around and sees it through a blank eye. He’s already far away from the place, somewhere no one will follow, he’s gone, he’s late--the late Akira Kurusu.
It’s too late to get it now.
The words start to make no more sense in his mind as they all blend in--
--Chained down to my core--
--A mask beneath another mask--
--And the beating of a hideous heart--
--And Darkness and Decay--
--But a dream within a dream--
He gasps at the noise in his head, and above the inner fight that sounds awfully like his own voice, other voices come in uninvited, the words they said before they left him to face his fate, the words they said so trustfully--
"There's nothing we can't do. We've got it, right ?"
"More like there's nothing our Leader can't do."
"You bet he got it ! We believe in you, Akira"
And suddenly it's too much. The coffee on his tongue tastes almost as bitter as all these time when he had no choice but to get it like they expected him to do , except this time the voices are too loud and the expectations are so heavy and it’s too late to realise that
" Fuck. "
He doesn’t recognize his own voice when the word drops from his lips.
His mind is blank again, a white page filled with noise, and it's too much, he's losing his standing, he doesn't know where he is anymore...
His head falls in his hands and he grips and pulls, his hands tightening on strands of hair, almost tearing it from his scalp, panic finally settling in his mind.
The conscious part of him wonders if Futaba is still up or if Morgana bullied her to sleep, too. He wonders, slightly hiccuping, if she's still got LeBlanc bugged, and surely she has, surely she'll be there as soon as she hears them, the hiccups turning to sobs, the sobs turning to his fists hammering the counter, the hammering turning to his head meeting the hardwood abruptly and he wails, wails, because he knows that he never really got anything, he always was a great pretender, and yet it was a whole new level of not getting it, a level of life-or-death getting it.
And the bell over the door jingles and there she is, surely it is Futaba who heard him breaking down--so unlike him, maybe he’s just been a stranger all along--and rushed, but instead of crowding him she's staring dumbfounded because she thought he'd got it but actually he's melting, everything around him is turning black, and--
"Ah… my apologies, it's quite late but the sign said it was open and… Kurusu?"
--and it’s not Futaba’s voice, and it’s even worse, his skin crawls and there’s a huge alarm going off in his head, and suddenly everything is white and he can’t breathe because this voice, this voice--
"Kurusu, answer me."
--this voice is dangerous but it's also laced with concern, a concern that he doesn't get, that he doesn't get to claim, and the noise is louder in his mind and he feels like he's drowning and--
"Ku...Akira. Please. Take deep breaths."
--and arms suddenly circle him and that's it, he's dead, he's dead, he won't have to get anything anymore, but something in him still struggles and he thrashes and the arms tighten and he's dead, the voice is going to say so, and his own voice says so, he's dead-dead-dead-dead--
"Akira, you're not dead, you're here, you're in Leblanc, you're alive and in Leblanc, please focus, please get out of your mind, please breathe with me..."
--and the arms are still here but a bit looser, and something, someone is behind him, he can feel the body on his back, and he can feel the warmth and the loud intakes of air, inhale, exhale, and he copies them and slowly, his noisy mind becomes foggy, his sobs quiet, the fog clears, and the voice is not menacing at all, it's warm, it's concerned, it's grounding, it's something he shouldn't be allowed to get but it's here, a low and warm breath, in his ear--
"It's alright Akira, I've got you, it's alright."
And maybe Akira's now softly sobbing in a very dangerous boy's arms, but the irony of the situation isn't lost on him, because of course of all the people around him it would be Goro Akechi who would get him for real in the end.
He feels a strong, hysterical urge to laugh, but the realisation of his current place is too much of a punch in the gut and he turns back in Akechi's arms, circles him with his own arms and cries louder, sobbing his eyes out on the shoulder of the mock-detective that will kill him in a day.
And he breathes. In, out, in out, inoutinoutin… The words tumble from his mouth before he can get them back.
"I--I'm glad that you've got me. Because I--I sure as hell--don't get myself."
And Akechi should be awkward, it's weird that Akechi isn't awkward, it's like he knows what he should do, because he lets him breathe, he looks at him, almost asking for his consent before tightening his arms around him again.
"I never got it. They all think I do--I learnt--but I never…"
And there must be something in his eyes, or in his words, something that makes "too late" not too late.
"Akira, you don't have to… shoulder everything"
Akira's sobbing breaks into a wet chuckle.
"Look at who's saying it. Pot, meet kettle."
Akechi winces. His hands are in Akira's hair, now, petting it, carding through it, grounding him.
"You get it. You get it, right? I know you do. If we had… I wish we'd met sooner."
"I… wish we had too."
And Akechi lets go, so their eyes can meet, and Akira is stunned at the look on his face.
Akechi is not wearing a mask anymore.
There is something beneath the mask, it’s not an empty face. There is something that pulls at the strings of Akira’s heart and he wonders if his face is like this too, without a mask.
"Akira, please… call out the heist."
"No, we… we'll get it. We always do."
Akechi shakes his head.
"Call out the heist. Sae-san doesn't need her heart stolen. She can manage by herself. Trust me. Please. Please. "
And the voice is pleading alright, and Akira suddenly realises that he’s out of breath, and he inhales, exhales, and he gets it.
Akira calls out the heist.
Makoto is terrified, but the very next day she goes and openly confronts her sister, and somehow, somehow--Sae gets it.
Akira is grateful he's not the one who has to do it, for once.
In the Metaverse, the palace crumbles, the casino disappears, the situation is solved, and Akira is alive.
The Thieves are angry, but they hide it. They don’t get it, they don’t know what to do anymore, they would need Akechi to figure out what happened, but they don't see Akechi again.
He disappears from their sight, probably having to cover his failure, or avoiding them so as not to give explanations.
The detective is not aware that Futaba knows where he is, that she follows his every move, his every call from the hotel room he seems to be hiding in.
"Ah--Shido-san. I'm afraid the Thieves--they called out their heist. I don't get why either. We have to find a new plan."
And with this, they have a name. Shido Masayoshi.
A name, a palace, and a face.
How ironic that it all goes back to this man. Akira thinks he gets it, that it's some kind of twisted game of fate, because that's way too many coincidences.
And it's been weeks since he last saw Akechi, but Akira can say that when they meet again, on that disgusting cruiser, that finally he's got it--what he’s meant to.
Crow is fighting against his own self, and the others don’t know how to deal with the situation, but Joker knows what it is to constantly fight against your own self in the mirror--this one is just a mask like the others. But Crow doesn’t seem to get the situation well, because he refuses that the Thieves help him. He knows how to make a heart change now, and he has to do it alone, he deserves it, he gets what he has to do.
And somehow it’s comforting, for Joker, to see that someone so similar to him can get some situations wrong too, because Crow’s eyes widen when he falls from exhaustion and Joker jumps into the battle without the rest of the team, forces his way through the fight to make sure no one gets killed.
Crow doesn’t get it but Joker does. It’s clearer than ever.
He's more confident than he's ever been in his life.
The others--well, they don't get it--but it's fine. They will. In time. For once, he won’t be the one shouldering it. They will be the ones coming to terms, they will have to try and take a dive in his heart, to see what they didn’t see before, the noise, the darkness, the despair when grasping at falling grains of sand and the despairing hope at saving one, just one, from the pitiless waves.
Joker’s voice is deep and assertive. But most of all, it’s warm, when he holds out his hand to the boy whose dark mask can’t hide the honesty on his face--the same look as the one during that fateful night in Leblanc.
"Come on, Crow. We've got it. Let's take this asshole down--together."
And Crow, a far cry away from his usual princely white get up, all black and blue and stripes and belts and dangerous pointy get-up, just raises his clawed hand, open the visor of his helmet, and watches him in disbelief.
"I promise you'll be the one shoving everything he's done down his face. We'll just back you up. We've got it."
What he means is,
I got it.
I got you .
Akechi takes his offered hand.
You and me, we will get it together.