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i sit right behind you dude

Chapter Text

“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think you should be giving Kurusu-san the credit for this.” You were surprised at how casual you sounded, despite knowing how hard your heart was beating. Of course, it was pounding for a very, very good reason, like who in their right mind was going to challenge Ushimaru? Which begged the question: what the fuck were you doing?

Mr Ushimaru, bull-headed and not amused at your outburst, turned to face you completely, briefly ignoring Kurusu’s collection of items that definitely weren’t school-related. You’d know that they weren’t school-related because bombs weren’t covered in the curriculum as far as you knew. Listen to yourself; bombs? He was making bombs! Why the hell were you covering for him?

“Then tell me,” Ushimaru sneered at him, “who should be receiving ‘the credit’ of Kurusu-san’s slacking? Go on, enlighten me

No going back now.

“Obviously me, sir.”

. . .

After the first week of sitting behind the new transfer, you had adopted a singular golden rule: whatever Kurusu was doing at his desk, you would ignore him. You wouldn’t care that he had a cat with him, you wouldn’t see the literal weapons he was making; what you couldn’t see (didn’t see), couldn’t hurt you.

This wasn’t particularly the worst thing you’ve seen though – you’ve accidentally cut the webbing of your fingers with garden shears when you were eleven and that was a lot of blood – but it wasn’t everyday that you’d see bombs be made in class. No, sometimes it would be little balls, or things you weren’t even sure what they were. Sometimes, praise the lord, he would just sleep. You were sometimes tempted to say hello to the cat when he slept, but that would be breaking the one rule you had.

The fact that Kurusu was adamant in tinkering away at his desk whenever he could was fine, but normally, this was only fine in Ms Kawakami’s class. That was, until she had to step out for a half-day, and Ushimaru covered for her.

He was much stricter with the ‘free study’ period than most teachers – which you were confident that even Kurusu knew – but it seemed like his entrance to classroom was unheeded by the class’ local bomb-maker.

When Ushimaru descended on the transfer, it was like watching a documentary – the hawk Ushimaru would now try to dive in for the kill; poor rabbit Kurusu. It was slightly painful to watch.

“Kurusu. This doesn’t seem like study, does it?” Ushimaru had the sort of voice that would be in a video-game; the voice of your typical grumpy teacher. “Care to explain what you’re doing?”

It was as if time stood to a halt. Everyone was suddenly quiet and staring right at you, or rather the scene that was developing right in front of you: a showdown between the silent transfer student whose reputation precedes himself, and a hawk-eyed teacher that would love nothing more than to catch him in the act of doing something wrong.

And you, the observer who knew about it all and kept quiet.

Come on, transfer, you mentally shouted at him, just make something up!

You may have had a golden rule to never interfere, but by god, a student winning against Ushimaru was the cohort winning against Ushimaru, in your opinion.

But, when Kurusu did nothing in response, you were shocked. Before, you only really knew the rumours surrounded him – the assault charge, his supposed delinquent tendencies – and of course the fact he’d make bombs in his spare time (as if that wasn’t a red flag), but the aloofness and uncaring nature towards authority was made apparent at his defiance at that shitty Kamoshida. This wasn’t a kid that would back down just because you had some power.

“Well? I haven’t all day to write why I’m giving you a detention, Kurusu-san. What are you doing?”

The black-haired student looked towards his desk – probably at the cat that Ushimaru had yet to see – and then back at the teacher. Still saying nothing. Did he not know what to say to this? Did he suddenly become mute, which it wasn’t really time to time to be pulling a prank??

For some reason, you felt some pressure inside of you like you couldn’t just let this happen. Maybe that was why you were compelled enough to stand up from your desk, surprising everyone in the room.

“Sir, with all due respect, I don’t think you should be giving Kurusu-san the credit for this.” And that’s when you ‘admitted’ that you were responsible for the mess on Kurusu’s desk, somehow.

It seemed like Ushimaru was close to laughing when you told him that you would take the credit on Kurusu’s behalf, as if this was some game show that he had been watching. Even you had to admit though, this sort of stuff could've been in a drama or something. OK, it wasn't that dramatic but Ushimaru was definitely enjoying the show.

“I am to believe that? I hardly think you know what the things on Kurusu-san’s desk are.”

You didn’t know half of them, that definitely was true, but the cylindrical shape on Kurusu’s desk didn’t look like the other things that he had made, and looked more like something you were a little familiar with – a smokebomb. Thank god for that passing interest in photography.

If you weren’t in theatre after this, then you weren’t doing your school-life right. “Of course I know what’s on his desk, Mr Ushimaru.” You shrugged and threw out a smirk. You hoped you weren’t shaking. “The reason why it’s there is because of me – I needed it.”

Kurusu was intently looking in your direction, which made your focus a lot harder to control. Why was he making this a lot harder to do, goddammit? And, what kind of excuse was ‘I needed it’? Your head was reeling with different half-lies that you could come up with because you dug this grave and by hell, you’re going to lie in it.

It seemed that Ushimaru was closer to believing you, but you really couldn’t tell considering that you don’t think the man’s ever smiled out of compassion or kindness before. “Fine, I’ll confiscate your mess, where you can collect it after-school, if you could give some proof it’s yours.” Oh, fuck. You couldn’t— “Explain what it is, and I’ll accept your explanation and a week of your afternoons – in detention.”

You don’t know where you found your sense of false bravado but you nodded – thinking about how you were going to do this – and went around to Kurusu’s desk.

“Excuse me, Kurusu-san.” You gave an apologetic smile, and grabbed hopefully-a-smokebomb. You had only a brief moment to confirm your suspicions (or your lie would be massively exposed) but thankfully there was a little wire on the side – you remember that some of these things were wire-pulled. Hopefully, that was the case for Kurusu’s.

You turned towards Ushimaru and nodded. “It’s a smoke-bomb. I can show you?”

He gave the gesture of ‘go right ahead’, not believing your words. You hesitated for a second, before deciding that rational thought had been thrown out the window since you started this who farce for who knows why. You pulled the wire.

There was a moment when you thought that you had accidentally triggered a bomb but when a measly amount of green smoke came out of the cylinder, making you extremely thankful. You held up the thing almost triumphantly.

“See, sir? It’s mine.” You nodded. “Wouldn’t want Kurusu to take what’s mine. Uh, because I need it. Yes.” Your mask was slipping.

Still, Ushimaru just collected the bomb and issued you a week’s worth of detentions under the comment ‘constructing hobby items in class’ which was damning but a casually high-school offence – meaning no one would give a shit. Your parents would yell at you for one afternoon, maybe tell you that it wasn't worth it, and they'd forget about it. Easy.

You left the Teacher’s offices cranky, though. You had planned to hit the arcade and try to get better on the dance machine – it was a good form of exercise that actually was interesting, compared to baseball or volleyball – but you guessed that Ushimaru was all that awaited you for after school.

At least it was only for a week.

The demon that is Ushimaru at least had the courtesy to give you this afternoon off, stating something about you being an ‘unexpected’ wrench in his plans. Diabolical bastard, you thought to yourself. You palmed the now-empty smoke-bomb in your hand – another parting gift from Satan – with the realization that you were definitely going to give this back.

You figured you’d give it to Kurusu in class tomorrow.

Kurusu figured he’d come and find it today.

You hadn’t expected him to find you at the school gates, since the technical term was that he waited for you, and all he had to give you was a wave. You sighed heavily as he came towards you. You noticed that despite both of you being boys and the same age, he was far more attractive than you. It was unfair, really. He was smart in class, he was ballsy, and attractive. And also made smoke-bombs in class, which wasn’t the craziest thing he’s done, you reckon. How could such an attractive student be so weird was beyond you.

You held out the cylinder. “Here you go, Kurusu-san. Now, will this convince you not to make bombs in your spare time?” God, you sounded tired, but it made sense. Kawakami had yelled at you as well for the incident, as if Lucifer wasn’t enough.

What you said seemed to surprise him. “You know about that?”

“I sit behind you. I just choose to ignore whatever you do.” You eyed his bag. That’s probably where he transported the cat. “Also, that cat probably doesn’t like being shoved into your desk – do you know that there’s barely any space there?” You reminded yourself when you were a first year and one of your classmates had brought a hamster to school. A week later... well, at least it received a funeral.

“For someone who seems to just ignore what I do, you’re sorta bad it at.” The stupid pretty boy smirked at you. “What happened to the whole ‘ignore what I do’ thing this morning?”

That caught you off-guard. Yeah, what did happen this morning? Yeah, that’s right, you saved his sorry ass. You laughed dryly. “How could I forget? I helped you out. You owe me a week’s worth of afternoons, Kurusu, now that stupid Ushimaru’s got mine.”

“What do you mean?”

You might as well ask for his time. Aside from the golden rule – which apparently you had no trouble breaking – you did think that he was an interesting person. You couldn’t deny that he had a certain charm around him, for someone who just sat in front of you, and he seemed to make friends pretty easily. As the loner of your grade, who knew everyone but didn’t have too close friends, it was a little enviable. Might as well monopolize him for a week, learn some tips of the trade.

“I mean,” You gave him a crooked smile. “Give me five of your afternoons, Kurusu-san, for the five that grouchy ass took from me.”

At first, you were worried that he was just going to say no and that would be the end of that. It certainly wasn’t something that he had to do, regardless of whether or not he was responsible for your detentions. Technically, you were the reason that you didn’t have those afternoons. You suddenly felt a bit guilty asking, but what was done was done.

You saw the cat poke its head as Kurusu leaned an ear its direction. It was an elaborate thinking pose, but seeing the cat made you sorta smile. You liked animals, so you could forgive the detentions somewhat – if Ushimaru had fully exposed Kurusu, what would happen to the cat?

After a moment, the student nodded. “Ok. Sounds fair.” He cocked his head at you. “When do we start? Now?”

“No, definitely not,” You shook your head. You had to explain to your parents why you had detention after school for a week, which wasn’t exactly a conversation you wanted to have but you had to. Instead, you figured you’d grab his contact details – you had to make sure you had some way to contact him. You pulled out your phone. “Let’s swap contacts, keep in touch. First afternoon can be after the week is done.”

He nodded. “Alright. I’ll be there.”

You laughed and smiled towards him. For some reason, there was a nice flutter in your chest. “You better.”

Chapter Text

You and Kurusu were on decent terms in class though, which was half surprising and half not. You had class together, and he had just promised several afternoons with you – afternoons he could be spending with his actual friends, Takamaki or Sakamoto. Then again, you reasoned that he probably wanted to know more about you, since you two never had really spoken before.

For the week that you had detention, Akira Kurusu would spend his free time talking to you, figuring out what you liked and what you didn’t, and talking about hobbies and other stuff. He mentioned the Phantom Thieves briefly to you, but you told them that there really wasn’t much to say; Kamoshida was an abusive asshole who preyed on high-school girls, like the predator he was. Needless to say, you told him, they wouldn’t find any competition from you.

Detention after detention, day after day, Kurusu talked to you and you found that you were surprised in his earnest attempt to try to get to know you. He had let you pet Morgana, the cat that he’d bring to class and he seemed to laugh every single time the cat purred before meowing in resignation. It was cute. Morgana was a human-like cat; it felt like sometimes he’d respond to you, but you waved it off. That was too weird to consider.

You had found out a little more about him as well; he used to live in the countryside, somewhere in Inaba he said, and he’s pretty average all round. He did quite a lot outside of school; he had a couple of part-time jobs, and organised study meets with his friends quite often. That’s probably why he had good grades, you figured.

So, when you finished your week of detentions, you were giddy to actually start the whole deal you made. Getting to know Kurusu even a little made you look forward to the five afternoons you had with him.

The two of you met at the school gates after class had ended for the day, where you saw that there were already people waiting with him – Takamaki Ann and Sakamoto Ryuji were faces you recognised, but there was a blue-haired student with them as well. The school uniform, messily worn, was from Kosei, so you figured that Kurusu met this student from one of his jobs or whatever. Not that you in particular cared; Kurusu owed you afternoons. You’ll get out of his way after they were done.

You raised a hand in greetings. “Hey. I’m not interrupting anything, am I?” They greeted you candidly, and Kurusu shook his head.

“Nah, they’re just catching me up with stuff.” He did his classic stance – hands in pocket, hunching forward. “You got a place in mind?”

The arcade was something you were planning to do since the day you got the stupid detentions, might as well head over there. You nod.

“Yep. Dance Dance Rebellion B is what we’re doing today.” You puffed your chest out, a little proud. “I’m definitely not a master but I’ll have you know that I can survive the first 30 seconds of Endymion– on extreme.”

Sakamoto blinked confusedly at you. “You gonna explain what the hell that is, dude?”

You deflated a bit. “Oh, yeah it’s – uh, I’ve pretty much mastered the first third of the hardest –” What were you doing explaining? You felt like you were going to make a fool out of yourself. “Eh, don’t worry about it, Sakamoto-san.”

Kurusu nodded and looked at you. You never noticed that his eyes looked lively, despite the dull colour they were. “Alright, are we going to head off or what?” He smiled. “You don’t wanna reclaim your afternoons?”

“Keen to get rid of me, Kurusu-san?” You laughed. “I’m not so easily put off. Come on.”

The two of you waved off the others and decided to head to the arcade. It was only a short train ride from Shujin – thank god – and when you arrived, the dance machines were unoccupied.

You had expected that the place would be fuller since it was the afternoon and there were, like, three major schools in this area, but it didn’t matter. You had roughly 4 hours, and DDR was not going to take that long.

“Ok, country boy, you got anything you want to try out first?”

It wasn’t too shocking to learn that Kurusu was a fan of the shooter games, but it was shocking to learn that he was really good at them. The way that he didn’t hesitate at the targets and could actually aim much better than you – not that you were particularly fantastic at it – was interesting to know.

Since the two of you had decided to go on a strict ‘I pay for one machine, you pay for the next’, you both would decide on which machine to go on next in order to a) split the pay relatively equally, and b) get to all the machines before you guys parted. You both had agreed that the fighting games were off limits – people were too competitive about them, in which neither of you wanted to compete.

During this, you found out that Kurusu was a lot more talkative than you thought he would be – you two managed to talk quite a lot about how difficult figures and models were to maintain. You knew because you used to work in a hobby-shop, maintaining the displays, and Kurusu mentioned that he handled them a lot. Regardless, the two of you shared some similarities that you didn’t realise you had, and it made you feel closer to him. It was nice.

You two had finally landed on one of the last claw machines with thirty minutes left to spare. You put a couple yen in the slot and started up the machine. The prizes weren’t exactly the best – they were keychains in little gacha capsules. They were of random animals that were badly printed into acrylic, but they were from an arcade – you didn’t expect much.

Both of you went in turns, and you were the last one on the machine – Kurusu had run out of spare change. You offered to pay for his turn, but he politely refused.

Your focus was honed onto a gacha ball that you had your eyes on; a small rabbit. You figured that you could hoard it with the other prizes the two of you had won today, since you had already won another keychain – a little school of fish. Everything was perfectly lined up, this was your last chance, and as you were about to line up that last little bit—

“Do you believe that I assaulted someone?”

You had lurched the joystick forward in shock but – thankfully – you had pressed the button before the sudden question. You turned towards Kurusu, who wore the same blank face he had when he had introduced himself to class the first time. There was a dejected look in his eye as if you had spoken.

Did you think that Kurusu did the crime?

No. From what you could gather when you talked with him, from the people around him, how he behaved in class; no, you didn’t believe that he would do something like that. This was coming from you, the guy who saw him make literal bombs on his desk.

You obviously didn’t know how the charge worked or if it was exactly official, but you doubted that someone like Akira Kurusu would do such a thing.

“You’re not the type to do something like that, Kurusu.” You shook your head. You heard the gacha ball drop down the machine, confirming your win.

He gave you an almost wry smile. “Anyone is capable of hurting someone else.”

“Yeah, I thought that on the first day of you being at Shujin.” You scoffed. “Now, I think the whole thing is bull. You were fresh into Shujin and already hated Kamoshida. For what he did, which you only got from Sakamoto’s fucked up leg and the abuse of the volleyball kids. You could’ve chosen to cover your neck, considering the sort of circumstances you’re in, but you didn’t. If you ask me, Kurusu, anyone who’s scared of you for something that seems unlikely have the wrong priorities.”

You reached into the machine and pulled out your prize – the rabbit was typical; white and badly printed. You admired it briefly, humming in approval. Kurusu’s eyes widened when you shoved it into his hands with a smile.

“I like the fish better, Akira-san.” You smirked at how he seemed to react to the change in how you addressed him. “So, suck it up with the rabbit, alright?”

“Yeah.” He still looked like a fish out of water, like he was the one caught off-guard. Then again, you figured that his chance of a fresh start in Tokyo was ruined from the beginning, especially with that nasty rumour over his head. You’d feel pretty shitty if the same happened to you especially if you were innocent. Well, it wasn’t confirmed but like you said; you didn’t think Akira did it – which meant he was innocent in your eyes.

You tentatively put a hand on his shoulder which weirdly felt more intimate than you thought it would be and nodded. “Now, let’s split the loot. Big items first?”

He was the type to recover relatively quickly, you noticed, because with a couple seconds of you saying that, an amused smile graced his face. “I call dibs the teddy bear.”

“H-hey! We haven’t even started yet!”

. . .

With your respective bags of loot (and yes, he snatched the teddy bear), the two of you exchanged goodbyes and headed off in your respective directions. He lived the opposite way from you, so your walk home was on your lonesome. You readjusted your bag of loot to rest better on your shoulder.

That was more fun than you had really expected, to be honest.

Akira really didn’t seem to mind the fact that was chilling with a complete stranger such as yourself; in fact, it didn’t feel like that was the mood between the both of you at all. It was that charm of his, you deduced, that was how he did it.

He acted like he was already your friend, but you couldn’t exactly say that was completely unfounded. Afterall, you both had been spending more time together during school during the past week, even texting each other for short, sweet conversations. You had to appreciate that because of what you knew of him, he was one busy dude.

As you reached your house, you felt your phone buzz.

19:43 - bomb boy: hey, I wanted to say thanks for today. It was nice :)

It was nice. You were glad that he enjoyed it, truly.

19:43 - pencilcase-kun: don’t enjoy them too much, ya know youre paying me back

19:43 - pencilcase-kun: but I’m glad that it wasn’t totally shit

19:44 - bomb boy: arcade was a good choice on your part, hard to fuck up.

19:44 - bomb boy: besides, it was worth beating you in the hoops games

19:44 - pencilcase-kun: games with hand-eye coordination are my weaknesses ok?????????? rude mr “I frequent the arcade”… my forte is the ddr as you well know

19:44 - bomb boy: haha yeah ok fair

19:45 - pencilcase-kun: you can’t win an argument with me pretty boy

19:45 - pencilcase-kun: my braincells may be few but their power is almighty

19:45 - bomb boy: I’ll keep that in mind

You hummed in approval. You pulled out your house keys, noticing the keychain you had won earlier that day with Akira. The other boy had insisted that since they might as well use the loot they got, cocking a smile at you as he attached the rabbit onto his own pair of keys. The rabbit stood out as being the only additional chain on the boy’s keys, which made you sorta fuzzy on the inside. For someone who wasn't as expressive as you were, Akira was quite forthcoming with his emotions, even if it was a bit harder to see what they really were, but you could tell that he really appreciated what you said to him in the arcade.

Words can mean a lot to people and you were just beginning to see how much they meant to him. You supposed that you actually began to understand the concept the moment you covered for him, but you guessed it only really mattered once you started to apply it to him; that it meant a lot to Akira Kurusu.

What the hell, you thought to yourself, saying that you believe in someone's character would elevate anyone's mood. Which was true. Maybe you were overthinking this, and perhaps it was just the nervousness concerning the looming exams or- yeah, no, the exams were making you all jittery.

You took one more look at the fishes on your keychain that gleamed in the dim light of your front door’s light and, nervousness or not, you smiled.

Chapter Text

As well as that first afternoon went, you found that in the month that passed, Akira simply had little to no time to his own. As devastated as you were to the news, it was for the best; both of you needed to focus on other things, and it wasn’t as if you hadn’t been out of contact. School-time and texts still counted as interaction in your books, even if you would have preferred to hang out with him.

This surplus of time that you had – since you couldn’t really call yourself a diligent student nor a kid who worked a lot, meaning you were ‘the kid with a lot of time on his hands’ – obviously made you bored, which was why you were kind of grateful that your parents had asked you to head out to the shops and buy some things.

“Rice paper, mince, spring onion….” You mumbled the list to yourself. “Still need some eggs.”

You weren’t sure what was being made for dinner, but you figured that it didn’t really matter so long as it wasn’t any of the foods you disliked.

You had to readjust your grip on the ‘reusable’ bags you were carrying since they were more of a family heirloom than a useable product; the fabric handles were not only fraying but they were barely holding at the seams. You sighed. Maybe you should buy some new bags while you were out.

There was a little notification ping from your phone. It was Akira responding to your message from this morning.

15:34 - bomb boy: hey sorry for the late response, but I can’t actually head out this afternoon with you

15:34 - bomb boy: I’ve promised to investigate something and it’s important :(

15:35 - bomb boy: that being said, I’m not about to take without offering :) im free after school on tuesday, if you wanna claim an afternoon then ;)

So, he wasn’t able to come. You weren’t exactly surprised, but you still felt guilty that you felt ignored. You had to keep reiterating in your head that you two weren’t close friends; more like casual acquaintances that actually only hung out once after school. In lieu of that train of thought, you weren’t even real friends, but more like… school buds? Whatever the term was? Whatever. It was something that was, like, not-friends.

You shot back a quick text about how Tuesday sounded good and that Akira could choose the venue, if he had one in mind. It was only fair that since you chose last time, he’d choose this time. Also, he mentioned that he knew some nice hang-out places during free time last week, so you were curious as to where he’d go if given the choice.

After finishing up the last of your list, you had started to head towards the train station, content with a day completed, before you noticed something.

Someone was following you.

It was probably no one, you shook your head as if disagreeing with your seemingly hasty assessment. Dude was most likely heading to the station, like you were. You wondered since when you’ve been paranoid enough to think some random guy would be following you of all people. You were literally an unknown high school student who lived in a middle-income family, with satisfactory grades (in your opinion) and with virtually no enemies. Then again, you weren’t exactly hoping to star in a real-life kidnapping case.

You obviously didn’t want to take the train if maybe-stalker was on your tail, so you stopped in front of what seemed like a gacha store – you could see from the window that there were machines lined up inside, with big signs stating there was a sale on at the moment. Half off the first five rolls. Huh, you might actually look at them later.

Someone must’ve polished those windows recently because you could clearly see that maybe-stalker was walking towards you.

“Ah, Yodai-san, I didn’t expect to see you in the area. You haven’t been answering our calls.” You turned around. Eugh, the stranger’s slimy voice matched his slimy appearance, however, you weren’t Yodai. Wasn’t that your classmate? What was this rejected-villain wanting from a high-schooler?

On instinct, you shook your head. “I’m, uh, not Yodai-san. Sorry.”

Slime-ball smiled to what seemed to be as close as he could get to apologetic. “Oh, that’s quite alright – you kids all look similar, anyway.”

That sort of pissed you off: you didn’t look that generic, did you? Sure, you hadn’t done anything totally wild to your hair, but it’s not like you needed a face tattoo and thirty piercings or something to look ‘different’.

“Ok, well yeah, see you then.” You went to leave the conversation, but the man stopped you.

“Hold on a minute,” His grip on your shoulders was firm. You felt a chill go down your spine. “I understand that high-schoolers are typically in need of money; how would you like to do a job? I realise you’re not the person I was originally after, but, I wouldn’t want you to pass up on this generous offer.”

You glanced behind the man and at his eyes. Boy, they were soulless. You gulped, trying to peel free from him. “Look, I’m flattered, uh, really, but –“

He shoved a postage envelope in your hands, causing you to nearly drop your grocery bags. You felt the grip on your shoulder tighten and you couldn’t help but feel scared. What the fuck, what the fuck was going on?! The envelope was completely in your hands as he chuckled and put on that terrifying bastard smile of his.

“The address is on the back of this envelope. Deliver it and I’ll leave you alone. How about that, uh—” he paused. “What’s your name, kiddo?”

You just looked him dead in the eye. You weren’t sure if it were boldness or terror that stopped you from giving out anything about yourself. You hoped that he wouldn’t do something to you for not responding.

He laughed. “Whatever, all in good time.” he let go of you completely and messed up your hair like he was your friendly uncle or whatever. “Now, off you go. You better deliver it today, kid; if you don’t, well, we’ll know.”

It’s been a while since you could hear your heartbeat thump around all over the place. What was he going to do to you if you failed to deliver this thing? What were they going to do to you if you didn’t deliver this package?

The anxiety that you were feeling didn’t go away from the air around you even as he walked away from you, and it didn’t go away as you tried grabbing your half-forgotten grocery bags and your hands couldn’t stop shaking.

You always liked to boast that if you were faced with a stranger forcing you to do something, you’d laugh and fight them off. In your daydreams, you imagined confidentially telling your mugger to piss off, or pushing aside someone who was harassing you. You could’ve guessed that the real-life versions of those situations would’ve turned out much differently, but you didn’t think that you’d be this scared or that you’d go through it at all.

You needed to calm down.

Slowly and surely, you took deep breaths, focussing on the passing noise of the trains and the bustling of the people around you. This wasn’t the end of the world, and you needed to figure out how to get out of the mess you put yourself in. That got you thinking; did this man approach random teenagers and why? He seemed to be very into threatening you, even if you weren’t the person he was looking for. And imagine if you were Yodai? What then? Did slime-ball do the same thing to him and, if so, why was he still after him? Didn’t he say that he’d leave you alone after delivering the envelope? This whole situation fishy and right now that stink was on you.

There was only one conclusion you could draw from this; there was no way that slime-ball would leave you alone. Whoever he was working for were probably waiting for him at the address and waiting to see if you delivered the package. You glanced at it.

The address was neatly printed on the back and you could see that it was supposed to be dropped off to a house in Yongen-Jaya, which wasn’t too far from where you were, but… were you seriously going to do this? You considered your options: this man followed you, this man threatened you, and you had a feeling that whatever or whoever was his boss could follow through with any threat made, whether those were in-between the lines or direct.

You weren’t sure how far these people were willing to go in order to get this package delivered.

When you saw Yodai next, you were going to politely incite a fight and sock him in the jaw. Maybe sneak into his house and dye his hair something ridiculous so there’d be a difference between the two of you. Maybe add a couple of sharpie marks on his face as well for good measure.

As you grabbed the grocery bags in order to catch the next train to Yongen-Jaya, the seams waved their final goodbyes to the rest of the bag, causing your groceries to roll out. You groaned.

Your afternoon was officially ruined, by the way.

Hopping onto the train proved simple and easy (and you purchased some new tote-bags that were definitely sturdier), and you filled your head with scenarios and over-thought consequences. Your favourite one at the moment was being forced to herd goats in the countryside to make expensive cheese and sell it to foreigners with a 70% cut – self-explanatory in who gets the 70% and who gets the 30% (hint: you get the short stick). You didn’t think you were really ready for that event, to be honest.

You sighed, glancing up from your hands, locking eyes with Akira Kurusu who was amusedly staring at you.

“Took you a while to notice me.” He smirked at you. “I thought I had more presence, frankly.”

It took all your effort not to jump. He was dressed in simple clothes, so you assumed that he was out doing that investigating of his. When he said ‘investigating’ you thought he was going undercover somewhere, for some reason. Maybe you were hoping to see him in some sort of uniform.

A laugh bubbled out of you, surprising you. It came out in a mix of happiness and pure relief, as if seeing Akira of all people would comfort you. Maybe it did, you mused.

“What can I say, Akira; you’re stealthy.” You sighed. “I hope your investigation is going well – want to elaborate on it, or nah?”

That earnt you a shrug, and he sat down next to you. “Can’t. How was your afternoon? I see you went shopping.”

Instead of responding, you simply handed him the envelope. You didn’t want to involve him, but someone had to know why you went missing, if you did. “It was dandy. I can’t think of what I’d like to put on my gravestone at the moment, so if you have any cool ideas, I’m open to suggestions.” You leaned back in the chair. “I was terrified of this maybe an hour ago, but now I’m sorta accepting maybe moving.”

He cocked his head. “What is this? A package?”

You took the liberty to explain what happened at the train-station and how the envelope was practically forced on you, which was why you were heading to Yongen-Jaya in the first place, despite living in the opposite direction. You went to even explain that it seems that a classmate of both of yours was involved as well, but you didn’t mention his name. It wasn’t exactly your story to share.

He was silent for the most part, which you expected. You noticed that Akira always carefully considered what you were trying to say, and always would think about how to respond. You’d go as far as to call him mindful of what others are feeling. It was nice to see that your words were treated with weight and care, at the very least.

It was a bit before he spoke up. “Did you want some help?”

You sputtered. “No, this is hardly your issue, Akira; I’m not going to ask you to ‘take care of it’ for me. Don’t even think about it, Kurusu, gimme back that envelope!”

You swiped for the envelope, now desperate to get it back before this idiot boy decided to adopt your problems, but he was much quicker than you. You probably should’ve figured that from how good his reflexes were at the arcade. Dammit.

It looked like he wanted to be amused, but his eyes were deadly serious. “I want to help; please? All you need to do is trust me.”

That caused you to pause. Trust was a weighty word to throw around, especially for you. He was asking for something that friends gave each other, which totally decimated your whole angsty-ness about being not-friends or whatever it was that you came up in your head earlier. That stupid flutter in your chest erupted again. He wanted you to trust him, rely on him. It made you feel good, but again, this wasn’t his damn issue to solve.

“Akira—”

“Think of it as payback.”

“You’re already—”

“I trusted you with Ushimaru, now trust me with this.”

“This is totally different, I – !”

He grabbed your hands and met your eyes, causing your brain to lose all coherent thoughts, besides ‘he’s too close’. Holy shit, why were you like this?? You had an argument to win which not only your honour of winning every argument depended on, but that regardless of whether or not you couldn’t solve this issue, you didn’t want to involve him.

You were stupid enough to even let him have the envelope, you thought, of course he was going to try and help with his personality!

He gave you a lopsided grin, which gave you an adrenaline rush. “What if I begged? Would you trust me then?”

That was an unwelcome image in your head. Your mind definitely wandered to some filthier places in your brain and by god, what the hell were you thinking?!

Oh god, oh GOD, why are you like this?!

Your face went red and you had to stop looking at him. “Oh my GOD, fine, fine!” You snatched your hands from his warm ones. “Do whatever, just— just don’t say that! Beg? To me? What kind of— you— argh!”

He made you want to tear your hair out, but you weren’t sure if it were out of frustration or embarrassment, hell, or both! What kind of disease was Akira Kurusu because he was making you more bothered than you’d ever care to admit, let alone in front of him.

What really got you was that genuine smile that graced his features when you agreed, as if he was purely happy that you were relying on him. You rationalised it as him just feeling good that you accepted his help. Everyone feels good to be relied on, you reasoned, but your traitorous heart had designs of something far more personal.

You glanced tentatively at the passing scenery. “Just..” You weren’t sure what facial expression you were making. “Just be safe, Akira. Please.”

Because your eyes weren’t on him, you missed the soft expression on his face and the smile that he had reserved for you. You missed the way that he glanced at the package with new-found determination and an eagerness to stop a particular man that saw the entirety of Shibuya as his personal ATM. You missed his confident nod.

“Promise.”

Chapter Text

The train ride home from Yongen-Jaya was peaceful, contrary to how to how you came.

After he had delivered the envelope in your stead, Akira had invited you into Leblanc – a café in the area that he was working in, you assumed – but you had to refuse. Part of you wanted to accept his offer, but you were convinced because of two things: one, it was way too late for coffee, and two, there was something you had to think about, something you definitely couldn’t do when he was around. So, yeah, you decided that heading home would be better, for now.

You had avoided mentally breaching the topic while you were on the way home, since you were mainly trying to figure out how you were going to explain coming home this late in the afternoon – who were you kidding, it was night by the time you headed home – and you’d try to convince your parents not to ground you or anything equally as devastating to your free-time.

Another sigh escaped your lips. It seemed like sighs came naturally to you today. There was too much going on, wasn’t there? Personally, you reckon that wasn’t the half of it considering the state of things these days. What a cluster-fuck of a world that has masterminds as criminals and the Phantom Thieves as their vigilante heroes. Not that you were really complaining, but it just made you acutely aware of how weird society felt nowadays.

When you came home, you parents weren’t as pissed as you thought they’d be, though they definitely wanted an explanation as to what happened with their ‘precious’ shopping bags ( you told them truthfully that they fell apart) and you were let off with a couple days of being grounded.

If it were any other time, it would’ve been alright, but now you begrudgingly couldn’t hang out with Akira. You felt like the universe was loudly telling you that it hated your guts and that there was a personal vendetta involved in its schemes. You vs the World wasn’t something you’d like to challenge, but you definitely felt like knocking on some celestial or meta-physical or whatever thing’s door and giving it a piece of your mind.

Silently, you made your way to your room, the fatigue from today finally catching up to you. There were matters of the heart you had to sort out, but perhaps a nap would be better first.

Slowly and surely, as you closed your eyes, you drifted off.

There was a point where you lost some sort of consciousness, only to feel stirred to awake by soft lights and some smell which you could only guess was coffee. When you opened your eyes again, you were inside LeBlanc, a warm coffee in hand. Akira was looking at you endearingly and his mouth curled up into a smile.

“Sleeping in the middle of a conversation is bad manners, you know.” He was peering at you through his glasses.

You blinked. He was right, yeah. A sheepish look was on your face as you glanced down into the warm beverage in your hands. “I didn’t mean to, sorry. I think I’ve been tired lately.”

The café around you was almost soft and dream-like, but the majority of your focus was on Akira. He was wearing casual-wear, different from whatever else you had seen him in. You liked it – it’s like he put in special thought in what he was wearing today. It was a constant thought that he should explore wearing nicer, something that would compliment his dark hair and eyes.

His hand was on yours, and you saw concerned eyes gaze into your face. “Not sleeping well? You alright?”

Were you? You couldn’t remember if you didn’t sleep well or not. You certainly didn’t feel tired, but if you were dozing off in the middle of a conversation, you must’ve been exhausted one way or another. That was what you were trying to rationalise to yourself, anyway; why else would you fall asleep during something that was incredibly important to you?

Something important to you? What was?

The frown on your face must’ve told Akira something because he took it as a prompt to lean over the table – making you wonder where your mug went – and placed a hand gingerly on your forehead.

“You’re not sick are you…I’d happily…” The raven-head mumbled, partly to himself.

Even if you were feeling a little dazed, you felt blood rush to your cheeks. He was too close. You had only really felt this way with girls you –

Your eyes widened as you felt the vague feeling of his lips brush your forehead and you were almost afraid that it was burning, if not for that fact that it was his lips on your forehead. This was a fluttery, familiar experience.You had only really felt this way with girls you had liked. You crushed on, you fancied; whatever you wanted to call it, you had to come to the realization by now that you had a crush on Akira “I make bombs in class” Kurusu.

When he sat down next to you, your face still red, he was smirking at you like a cat who caught the cream. You were in a love-hate relationship with how he seemed amused by your reaction. You revelation about liking him only made you more embarrassed.

You squirmed a little away from him, stuttering a little. “if you start— if you start to do that with me in front of everybody, Akira,” There was nobody in the café, but for some reason you felt like there could have been people, “I might get the wrong idea.”

The sorry bastard only seemed to know what exactly to say to every circumstance, because he leaned towards you, unreadable expression in his eyes. In fact, his eyes weren’t even looking at yours. Your lips on the other hand, well, they seemed to be quite interesting. You felt like your throat was tight with anticipation of what his next words would be, whether damming or not.

“What if it’s not the wrong idea?”

Holy shit. Holy shit.

There have been times where you thought Akira was attractive, that he had charm. There had been other boys during your lifetime which you told yourself that you had admired them – they were handsome, they were intelligent, they had qualities that made you like them – but you never really entertained the thought of liking them in this way. With Akira, well, you had spent more time with him so naturally you had a chance to think about what it would be like to know him better, platonically. Romantically was… well, romance with Akira Kurusu was… different.

It wasn’t something you entertained because you never had felt this way before. You had nothing against boys liking boys, girls like girls, or whatever was in-between but… this was new to you and you couldn’t help but feel… weird about it. What if you were wrong? What if Akira thought something different of you?

You looked at him. There was an ethereal look to him now: you could see him in excruciating detail, painful only to how hard you thought you had fallen for him. The weird, tingly feeling in your chest was like a star that was beginning to burst, like your ribcage would give out.

Scooting closer to him, you tentatively reached a hand out to cup his face. It was like your fingers were numb – you couldn’t really feel him. It was like you were touching a memory of him, rather than the reality. He seemed to not mind the attention and your heart leapt when he seemed to lean into your touch.

You were definitely in some sort of love with him and in this moment, he seemed to be too.

This was foreign to you, but… it wasn’t bad, you thought. It was going to be a leap to explore this but you would have Akira, from the looks of it.

It was as if he read your mind, because you felt his hand snake to the back of your neck and vaguely felt fingers mesh into the hair there. It felt like electricity was in your veins as the two of you leaned in and—

“—If you ignore me one more time,” You heard muffled shouts from your parents come from the kitchen, “You’re not eating dinner tonight!”

“Huh?”

You groggily looked around you.

No café, no Akira; just you, your bed, and the fact you were still in the clothes you had gone out shopping in. There was a couple moments where you weren’t sure what was going on, but after a couple of beats you realised that the café scene you had with Akira – which made you flush thinking about it – was a dream.

No wonder it cut off the moment you guys were --- oh, god, when you guys were about to kiss.

You slammed your head into your pillow, finally noticing how hard your heart was racing in your chest and how flush your face was. Holy shit. You couldn’t stop thinking about how obvious it was a dream; the vanishing mug, the fact that the café was fuzzy (because you’d never even been inside before!), the fact that Akira looked like he liked you back.

There was a harsh shout from your parents and you quickly rose, obviously not thinking too straight at the moment.

You liked Akira. Like, you like-liked him. The judge, jury, and executioner in your mind had decreed you were in ‘kahoots’ with him and sentenced you to be absolutely smitten with him.

Your mind wandered back to the dream.

‘What if it’s not the wrong idea?’ You were back at your bed, staring at the ceiling, dream-Akira’s words hanging in your mind. They were obviously things you wanted him to say, with your imagination making him say it in your dreams, but crap, they were so…

You put your head into your hands.

It was embarrassing! You wanted him to say such cheesy shit, and you had literally no grounds to deny it; you literally dreamt it up! How were you meant to look into his eyes after this, without remembering all that happened during your nap? You could barely let him know that you thought of him as a friend and now you wanted to tell him to be your boyfriend?

The word caught you of guard, causing your pool of embarrassment to grow deeper.

You wanted him to be your boyfriend. You knew what that meant: you wanted to hold hands with him, to cuddle, to kiss, to go on dates…! There were now different intentions involved with the afternoons that you had asked of him. Of course, they were just hangouts, but now you liked him in that way.

Would you act normal? Could you? Maybe his friend’s will figure out and tell him, and he’ll never want to talk to you again? Dream him and real him are different, after all.

Oh my god, what if Takamaki-san found out, of all people? She had a sharp eye when it came to these things, and she was in the same class as you and Akira. Of course, she sat right in front of him, but you had no doubt that she’d notice something different in your demeanour towards the raven-head. Damn her for being emotionally aware.

While you were busy figuring out the best route to avoid confronting your feelings to Takamaki-san at the very least, your phone’s ringtone went off, breaking you out of concentration. You reached out towards the phone and your stomach filled with a mix of happiness, embarrassment and dread at the caller ID.

bomb boy is calling…

Arghhhhh! Damn him and his timing!

You weren’t going to ignore him, but you definitely weren’t prepared mentally to have a conversation with him right now. You clicked accept.

“H—hey, dude,” you winced. Did you just call him dude? Oh god, “what’s up?”

He laughed at your nervousness, or at least that how it felt. He didn’t see through you, right? “Nothing. I just wanted to let you know that, concerning your little parcel problem, it’s going to be solved.” There was a little bit of silence. “I also wanted to hear your voi—I mean, I wanted to make sure you… were alright. You seemed to be a bit shaken up at first.”

Oh. Oh, wow, that was nice. That felt nice. He cared. The butterflies in your stomach began to flutter again and it felt like they were threatening to spill out of your throat. Now that you had an idea of how smitten you were with this boy, it seemed like your reactions were ten times as potent.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. I was shaken up at the beginning but that slime-ball probably just had that sort of effect on people.” The both of you chuckled a bit. “But, yeah, I – thanks for checking up on me. I’m sorry that you ended up with my problem –“

“I told you, I wanted to help.” He paused. “You helped me out more by letting me take that envelope.”

“But—“

“I mean it. Thank you.”

You were still uncomfortable about the idea of Akira being in danger, but he had to have some faith in him. You sighed in defeat. “Well, if you’re ever in trouble, let me know. It wouldn’t sit well with me if suddenly you’re in a sticky situation and I didn’t know about it, or that I didn’t help when I could’ve.”

You wondered if that silence over the phone meant that he was upset with you, for some reason, but your heart sighed lovingly at his next words.

“You’re… too good to me. I’ll be sure to let you know, alright?” You could hear his smile over the phone. “I… thanks. I… really appreciate you, you know that?”

“Over a couple of afternoons, Kurusu?” The use of his last name made it clear that you were being light-hearted, but you quickly returned to being sincere. “I mean, I can’t say much either, to be fair, but…”

“But what?”

“Well, I’m your friend, aren’t I? So, I guess I’m saying the feeling is mutual.”

There, you said it. You evolved your relationship on your own accord and you weren’t afraid to say it. Look at you go. This is what many people would have referred to as ‘character development’ which in your personal opinion, you were somewhat proud of.

Akira took a moment and his laugh almost sounded like it was out of relief. “You’re right, that’s – yeah, we’re friends.” He stopped for a bit and you heard a meow over the phone. Morgana was probably making a fuss before bed. When he addressed you, you could only really think about how you really liked how he said your name. “Morgana’s being a bit rowdy, so we can talk later. See you Tuesday?”

Oh, you had forgot to tell him. “Oh, right, I can’t do Tuesday; I’ve been grounded.” You could hear the wince in your voice.

The two of you tried to organise a new date, but it seemed like Morgana was getting really upset, so Akira told you that he’d just text you at a later time for a date. You didn’t mind either way but your opinion on the cat had definitely changed.

You decided that it was a decent time to head to bed yourself. As you got changed, you decided to come to terms to what happened today – not the creepy and dodgy envelope part, but mainly how you felt about the boy that you once thought to keep your distance from.

How funny it was, you mused, that the one rule you had was to remain ignorant of him.

How funny it was now that you couldn’t stop thinking about him at all.

Chapter Text

You were not someone who normally watched TV in the mornings, as you preferred to do other things before school like eat and get ready, but today was the exception; this morning’s recap of yesterday’s confession was of particular interest.

“… It seems that they were using high-schoolers to in order to complete drug runs for their organisation, and then would proceed to blackmail them through images taken…” The anchorman was detailing the news found yesterday, when crime lord and local scumbag Junya Kaneshiro confessed to multiple crimes across the city.

You looked closely at the news, slowly taking it in. Taking pictures of the teenagers who were delivering letters, packages, maybe even out of the kindness of their hearts, and then using those photos to implicate them in the distribution of drugs. That was fucked up.

“It’s terrible,” the banter between some of the hosts caught your ear. “That Mr Kaneshiro was able to generate wealth from teenagers, who most often do not and did not have the funds to keep up with his extortion.”

You nodded. Yup, targeting kids was just a crappy thing to do. Ruining their lives financially and, on top of that, potentially giving them a criminal record associated with drugs. Your cereal was starting to taste bitter, thinking about Kaneshiro. Something in you wanted to poke out his beady little eyes.

Another host nodded. “Exactly. However, it is a good thing that the Phantom Thieves were involved then.” You narrowed your eyes. “Mr Kaneshiro was notorious for being highly elusive and practically untouchable due to the wealth he’d accumulated. After the Thieves were involved, however…”

With a simple action on the remote, you turned off the TV, and a cry of protest came from your parents. You slid the remote over to them on the counter and proceeded to get ready for school.

You were 98% sure that Akira was a part of the Phantom Thieves.

There wasn’t much doubt on your part (as evidenced by the 2%) but you couldn’t be completely sure because… well, there wasn’t really any concrete proof that you could refer to. The most you had was circumstantial but a lot of those clues pointed to one thing: Akira was a member of the Phantom Thieves.

First clue: Sakamoto was not very subtle.

Perhaps it was an inside joke that you obviously wouldn’t be aware of, but you were pretty sure that at least Sakamoto fully believed he was a Phantom Thief, and whilst he wasn’t a genius, he wasn’t dumb enough to mistake himself for a person he’s not. He was the type of person who had a solid idea of who he was, you hoped.

Also, he literally said ‘being a Phantom Thief is great’ in passing once. You weren’t even sure how he could refute that if that was heard by someone else – you were decent enough to not care about it at the time but it would have eventually become ammo in the “Akira is a Phantom Thief” bazooka.

On the basis that Sakamoto and Akira were friends, in that they spent quite a lot of time together in and outside of school, you could infer that they could potentially partake in a little friendly, oh you don’t know; stealing the hearts of criminals and getting them to confess their crimes before the police bust them?

Second clue: the package you were made to take.

That was obviously Kaneshiro, in light of his confession, which meant that you were going to be unwittingly a victim in this scenario should you have kept it out of Akira’s eyes. You knew something was fishy with the parcel the moment it was suggested to you, which was why you were all the more grateful that the matter was resolved.

But that was only after Akira offered to help out and solve it for you. He didn’t beat around the bush, he didn’t dance around the topic; he asked you if you wanted his help with it. It was sweet, but he could only have offered to get rid of the problem if he had the ability to, in your opinion.

Furthermore, he had mentioned that you giving him the package helped with his investigation earlier that day, and if you followed that logic to its natural conclusion that confirmed he was investigating Kaneshiro. The very same one that confessed about his crimes, after the Phantom Thieves sent out a calling card and stole his heart.

At the very least, he may have not been a Thief himself, however he definitely was supporting them in some way, maybe by scouting for the next asshole in Shibuya or even picking who to hit from the Phansite (yes, you went on the Phansite and saw the forums, and boy, there were no shortages of assholes).

The third, most important and obvious clue: he was making infiltration tools in front of you for the better part of this year!

He was literally making smoke-bombs and other things that you could use theoretically for breaking and entering! You were the sole witness to these acts; how could you not have noticed until now? The only reason the two of you had even some sort of relationship was because of that stupid smoke-bomb!

These clues, these signs, agreed with you and shook hands with your opinion; Akira was a member of the Phantom Thieves.

But in full consideration of this, what would you even do with the knowledge? You certainly weren’t going to turn him into the police or expose his identity.

With a quick glance at your watch, you began to make your way to Shujin.

You could just keep quiet about it. After all, it’s none of your business – as much as you’d like it to be – and really had nothing to do with you. You weren’t sure if Akira would appreciate you confronting him about it, but you knew that he probably would end up being alright with you knowing. Still… that’s an additional person that would know of his supposed-to-be-secret identity. You could also be wrong, but you were confident in your chances.

There was a part of you that entertained the thought of letting him know that you’d help him, but you knew there wasn’t really anything constructive you could offer him. You didn’t have amazing, practically applicable skills that would help out in the sort of stuff they were doing. Hell, you didn’t even know how they changed hearts.

What kind of task was ‘changing’ someone’s heart anyway?

You had heard from conspiracy MeTubers and forums about what the police had speculated – drugs, brainwash, even threatening and kidnapping (all very unrealistic for teenagers, you thought) – but it all sounded a bit outlandish to you.

So, the conclusion was simple: it was probably best to just keep your mouth shut, for now.

. . .

 

Keeping quiet was proving to be a lot more difficult than you originally planned: a Phantom Thief was sitting right in front of you, after all. Maybe even two, if you considered Takamaki – after all, she and Akira were really close friends, and maybe she was part of the Thieves as well. Maybe she was their support? Or was Akira?

Still, your conclusions made it difficult to focus in class and it became even more so when Akira kept texting you.

12:21 - bomb boy: hey

12:21 - bomb boy: ive got smth straight afterschool but

12:21 - bomb boy: wanna hang out after

You managed to quickly glance at the texts while avoiding Ushimaru’s watchful demon eyes. You weren’t going to give him anymore of your time than you already have, and that was a deal with the devil that you’d be willing to sign.

While looking for an opening to text back, you caught Morgana’s attention. He was looking at you intelligently and cutely – he was an adorable cat. You gave him a smile and cooed at him a little bit, but the cat gave you an annoyed huff in response. It’ll learn to love the affection, you know it.

While Ushimaru had his back turned, you quickly shot back a response.

12:23 - pencilcase-kun: suirw

12:23 - pencilcase-kun: srue

12:23 - pencilcase-kun: SURE

God, why was typing incognito so hard? At least it made Akira laugh a little – you could tell by the small laugh he let out in front of you. Your heart melted a little bit; why did he have to be so stupidly cute all the time? What was more distracting than Akira being a Phantom Thief was Akira himself but that was a given at this point – he was really, really hot. Like, ‘oh no I dropped some sugar on you and it’s now caramel aha’ sort of hot. Ok, ok, calm down horny-meister 3000; that was an image you shouldn’t be thinking about at school, dammit.

But still, you should’ve seen this crush coming. A cute classmate who is earnest in spending time with you and has a smile that could power Tokyo for thirty years? How the hell did you think that you guys wouldn’t even be proper friends? On top of that, he just happened to be very kind, very sweet, and very caring.

For all that it was worth, you were happy to get those detentions. You definitely weren’t going to thank Ushimaru but you begrudgingly acknowledged his little but crucial involvement in your relationship.

And he was about to become relevant again, as he shot a piece of chalk straight at your forehead.

Before you could even process what had happened, Ushimaru chuckled at your lack of reflexes. “I would have assumed that you were tired of spending your time with me after school.” He huffed. “I catch you one more time and I’ll accommodate you for another week.”

“Yeah, yes, sir.” You rubbed your forehead. You’ve seen Akira dodge a couple of Ushimaru’s snipes before, but you never really realised that they were definitely worth dodging.

As the teacher left, Akira turned and gave you a concerned look, pointing at your forehead. You gave him a thumbs-up and a smile. For some reason, the other boy still looked concerned but you chalked it up to your imagination. After all, it wouldn’t even bruise – why bother?

Finally it was time for school to end, and you decided that you’d just wait in an empty club room while Akira had to do his thing – it’s not as if you had anything better to do. You were packing up your things to leave, green pencil-case and all, and Akira came up to you. You noticed Morgana’s head poking out a bit so obviously you reached out and let the cat nuzzle your palm.

You rubbed his head. “What’s up? Thought we were going to meet after your thingo?”

“How’s the forehead?” That confused you; he was still concerned?

You shrugged. “It stopped hurting ages ago. You’d think Ushimaru used to do head hunting or something.” Your answer didn’t seem to satisfy him, because his face remained completely neutral. You chuckled a little, turning your head to face him. “I mean, you can always check it if you’re so worried.”

Obviously, you didn’t think he’d go for it, but then again, you did give him the opportunity.

The moment you felt his hands on your head, you became infinitely aware of his proximity and golly gee! Oh wow!! Your eyes locked with his and he was too. Damned. Close! And this time, it definitely wasn’t a dream because you were one hundred percent sure of where you were and a hundred percent confident that this was reality.

His thumb brushed over the place the chalk had hit. It was a small, red mark that didn’t look painful at all, so you don’t know why he was so concerned. More importantly, did he have to be literal inches away from your face?

“You’re, uh, really close, haha,” you nervously chuckled, causing Akira to look at you dead on. Now, instead of him closely looking at your forehead, you guys were close enough to kiss. …..Why did you think that? Better yet, why did you respond like this; “Are you this close because you want to kiss it better, or?”

You froze, nervous smile on your face, realising what you just said. Oh my god. It was that stupid dream! You could swear up and down that ever since that nap you had, you were going to say or do something that crossed from friendship into the realm of flirting and God! Why did it have to be now?

You seemed to manage to faze him as well, because his eyes widened. The way he reacted was as if he was only just seeing you, like this was the first time he’s really seen your face. Quickly, he stepped back and coughed into his hand, turning his face away from you.

“R-right. I was close – too close, yeah, uh, sorry.” He nodded slowly and gulped. “I, uh, I’ll see you after school. Yeah. I’m glad you’re not hurt still. See you.”

…Did Akira always walk so fast? The moment he said that, he practically ran out of the classroom. That’s what you wanted to do, why was he stealing your cue?

You scratched the back of your neck, face still red. Thank god there was only one other person in the class. Takamaki was always good with keeping secrets—

You locked eyes with her and your own thoughts flooded into your brain in that second.’What if Takamaki-san found out, of all people?’ You had thought to yourself, Oh I hope Takamaki-san doesn’t find out because she’s emotionally aware, oh GOD. Was it normal to sweat this fast?

Any hope to not be interrogated by Akira’s other friends was obliterated.

You tried to escape, but at that point you had already been locked down and hunted. Takamaki was at your desk in seconds, like some sort of crush bloodhound.

“Hey!” She smiled sweetly, “How’s it going?”

You gulped, still completely flushed. “Uh, yeah — good, yeah, yeah, good. Just, uh, packing my things. Aha, uh, yeah. How… about you?”

The one person that would have naturally found out about this would have Takamaki, but surely not after she witnessed you being completely awkward around Akira! Akira being a Phantom Thief was now the least of your concerns.

She chuckled conversationally. “Well, I’m sorta curious – you like Akira, hey? You guys would be cute together.”

You laughed awkwardly, grabbing your things and lankily putting them into your bag. You needed to evacuate the premises immediately. There wasn’t any real problem with Takamaki-san knowing, but it was the concept that someone else knew, and it wasn’t Akira.

But, she said the two of you would’ve looked cute together. Cute. Together.

If you weren’t completely red already, now you definitely were. Regardless of your normal demeanour, Takamaki had managed to catch you.

The almost triumphant smile on her face was enough for you to figure out that you practically just confirmed the fact that you were smitten for her friend. The cool that came to you when you defended Akira all those months ago seemed to be on an early vacation and you were mentally begging for it to come back. You felt as if you were making yourself into a complete fool.

You opened your mouth to defend yourself but you reasoned there wasn’t really any excuse why to do that, and also you couldn’t really refute anything she might’ve said.

You sighed. “I’m not very subtle, am I?”

“To be fair,” she chuckled, “I did catch you red-handed – red-faced, more like it.”

“Hah, yeah.”

Takamaki looked like she was thinking for a second and got a notification from her phone. While you zipped up your bag, ready to leave, she shot you a friendly smile.

“Sorry for pouncing on you out of the blue,” Her bag was slung onto her shoulder. “I wanted to talk to you for a bit but I kept missing you, so I guess I was a little assertive this time.”

“It’s totally alright, Takamaki-san. But, uh, why did you want to talk to me?”

You hadn’t noticed that she wanted to talk to you. Typically you were pretty aware of those sorts of things – namely because people rarely singled you out. Though, to be fair, you typically weren’t infatuated with the boy who sat in front of you.

In light of knowing Takamaki wanted something from you, you figured that asking about it was the least you could do.

She cocked her head to the right. “About Akira. He looks really happy when he talks about you, so I wanted to see the person in question. I’ve never seen him get so animated, you know?”

That was surprising. Your heart, which only managed to settle down a little, began to rev up again. There was the point that of course he would talk to his other friends about things that he couldn’t talk about with you, but you were a topic in these conversations?

“He …talks about me?”

You were given an apologetic smile. “I’d love to elaborate but Ryuji’s waiting for me! Hopefully, we get to see you more often.”

And she left.

She left you alone with newfound knowledge that Akira not only talked about you with his closest buddies, but that he was happy while doing it.

Did that mean what you thought it meant? Did he… like you back?

Adrenaline seemed to race through your heart at that thought. No, no, you were trying to rationalise all this: he might’ve just really enjoyed your company, and that of course would explain why he seemed happy. He might’ve been excited to have a new friend or whatever, but you’re pretty sure Takamaki just said 'happy' and she’s one of his best friends – she’d know what was up with him.

Ugh, this would’ve been much easier for you if – well, no, nothing made this easier!

Well, you could always confess but that was hardly something you had the courage for at the moment.

You shook your head, as if trying to shake off any further thoughts about the topic. You needed to head to one of the unused clubrooms and wait for Akira there. You’d spend the afternoon with him, go home, go to bed, and dream. There we go, that was your day planned.

All you had to do was wait.

. . .

Waiting was hard. Where is he?

You check your watch again for the time. 17:35. Have you seriously been waiting for over two hours? You swear that Akira said he’d only be held up for an hour, though you weren’t exactly sure of what he was doing.

He could’ve been held up, but you had a feeling that he would’ve found a way to text you if that were the case.

Maybe he was in trouble?

You picked up your bag, phone on ringtone and in hand. You weren’t going to leave the school until you found him, at the very least.

Your advanced technique of calling and waiting to hear a ring actually wasn’t as advanced as you thought it would be, solely because you had no idea whether or not Akira’s phone was on. It was still worth a try in your opinion, even if Akira gets, like, 30 missed calls from you.

You were pretty sure that he hadn’t gone too far, considering that the only after school clubs/events remained solely on the Shujin campus, which included sports, media, and instrumental commitments.

One by one, you went through every place you thought he’d be in, including the library, rooftop (you had to sneak in but that wasn’t too difficult), the faculty offie and pretty much all the classrooms. He hadn’t picked up any of your calls, but you were 100% sure that he was somewhere nearby.

You had a lot of percentages going through your head today.

After a half-hour of looking (you were surprisingly fast looking through the classrooms), you decided to check behind the buildings. It was worth looking through every nook and cranny, right?

Going behind each building was tedious, and you seemed to have no clue where else Akira could be. You were at the Faculty building ready to finally just wait at the gates and hopefully catch him leaving or whatever. He’d have to give you a good excuse once you see him. He usually wasn’t the type that would ditch out of the blue, so you knew that he’d at least have a decent reason as to why he couldn’t let you know why he got held up.

As you were leaving, the sounds of sobbing stopped you in tracks. The sound was something you hated hearing, partly because you felt like there wasn’t really anything that you could do; your practically invisible presence in the classroom and in social circles gave you nothing to work with – in that you typically didn’t get to know people well enough to be able to help them in a way that mattered, you felt.

You gulped. Still, no matter who, you wouldn’t leave someone crying on their own.

Cautiously you moved towards the student and – oh.

It was Akira.

His glasses were off on the grass next to him, and his head was buried into his hands. You could tell who that curly, dark hair belonged to from a mile away, though now it was a ragged mess rather than a cute bedhead.

Worry spiked up in your heart, alongside panic. What happened? Did someone do something to him? You didn’t know what course of action would have been best. You didn’t want to spend too long flitting through millions of ideas, but you remembered some advice from when you were smaller.

Water, you thought. You can’t cry when you’re drinking something. Luckily, you still had your water bottle from the day, still full because you were busy ogling instead of drinking.

You didn’t want to invade his solitude, neither did you want to embarrass him, but you weren’t going to feel ashamed by helping out someone you considered a dear friend of yours, regardless of whether or not you were in love with them.

Quietly, you took a seat next to him and poured him some water, holding out the filled bottle-cap to him.

“Here,” you softly spoke.

At your voice, Akira looked up at you, shocked and surprised. You saw the familiar glint of shame in his eyes as he realised who you were and what you were doing, but you shook your head. Instead of speaking, you put the water in his field of vision and nodded towards it.

“It’s water. It’ll help a little” You hoped it would help. “We can talk later about it, if you want, but, I’m happy to stay here in silence, or I can leave—“

You didn’t get a chance to finish your sentence before he crashed into you, burying his head into your shoulder.

You didn’t care that he’d knocked the water on top of the both of you, or that your water-bottle was knocked onto its side, drenching your leg.

As if it was natural, you placed a hand on the back of his head, with the other rubbing circles on his shoulder. You couldn’t tell if it was because of the water or from something else, but you noticed the trembling of the other boy and felt him grab your shirt from behind.

“G-god, I’m so sorry,” He began to say, still in your shoulder. “I just – it’s been –“

“Don’t apologise, Akira, you’ve done nothing wrong.” The hands around you tightened. “I’m on your side – on your team.”

You said nothing more as he remained silent.

Whatever he was going through was something that he had to process on his own terms, and you were only there to help him out. You remained on the solid stance that you would do no more than what had been asked or prompted of you – invading his personal boundaries was the worst thing you could’ve done right now.

It got you thinking; if he were a Phantom Thief, there was a lot going on for him. He had to care about school, about his friends, on top of battling criticism from the media and public, and taking care of the scum in the area. You weren’t sure what went into it all, but it can’t have been easy to bear, even if he had teammates.

From what you knew of Akira, in the time you were friends with him, he was the type of person that would drop everything in order to help someone, regardless of the personal consequence, and yet would keep quiet about his own misfortunes and feelings. He was forthright with most of his emotions and thoughts, but if he felt that they were burdensome, he wouldn’t share them.

He felt comfortable asking you whether or not you believed he assaulted someone, but he wouldn’t tell you how he felt about your answer. It was like that.

You regretted not knowing him earlier, in this regard. How many times has he just found a quiet spot to cry? Did Takamaki and Sakamoto know about this? They obviously didn’t, otherwise Takamaki wouldn’t have talked to him – she’d have gone straight to find where Akira went. Sakamoto would probably charge headfirst into every classroom to find him. You were glad that he had such good friends.

You felt Akira peel away but he still remained within arm’s length of you, as if he was making sure that you weren’t going to leave. You wouldn’t.

The two of you stayed silent like that for a bit before Akira spoke up. “I guess… I owe you explanation, huh?” His voice was hoarse from the crying and his eyes were red and swollen from the tears. His fringe was all over the place and you impulsively brushed it aside, tucking some of it behind his ear.

You weren’t sure what facial expression you were making, but at this point, when it came to this boy, you were never sure. “You don’t have to explain anything to me, Akira. Don’t feel obligated to if you’re not ready.”

He seemed to have returned to his normal, neutral face. You could tell that he shot a quick glance at his bag but looked as if he had just remembered something. Maybe he made Morgana go home before whatever he was doing. Patiently, you waited for his response.

“I went to see Dr. Maruki. He’s the new school councillor.” You nodded. You hadn’t been there to see Maruki yourself, but you knew he existed at the very least. “Since I’m on probation here, I have to see him, and, well… talking to him brought up some things I don’t really like to talk about.

“It wasn’t that he was pushing for anything in particular, but large dosages of things I try to ignore is really hard to deal with instantly. I guess I didn’t know how much I could take before I felt… before I felt like utter shit, to be honest with you. He called me ‘overwhelmed’ with everything that’s going on; things like the charge, school… my parents never visiting; that sort of stuff.”

His parents never visited him? Not once? They send their kid off to a whole another area, alone, and don’t bother to come spend any time with him? You felt a little angry on his behalf, but that really wasn’t the time for that.

You nodded along, listening to what he had to say. It was mainly venting, something you expected to hear from him and by the time he had finished, the two of you were shoulder to shoulder, talking. No one had come to tell the both of you off yet, but with the glance of your watch, it was only a matter of time before they did.

“It’s late.” Akira stated. “… Sorry I wasted this afternoon.”

You laughed. “It’s not over yet, country boy.” You got up to your feet and held out your hand to him. “I know a spot we can chill at, ok? Don’t be sorry.”

Contrary to the last time you offered something to him, he smiled gratefully and grabbed your hand.

The place you decided to take him to wasn’t far from Shujin; it was part of a small, local park in the area that was tucked away and quiet. When you were younger, you used to take the train here to absorb the atmosphere and the environment. The hill itself was surrounded with a bunch of trees and shrubbery, and you could tell that there used to be a garden bench installed, though it had long since been removed.

It was the perfect time to visit too; the sun had begun to set.

Akira was trailing behind you silently as you led him towards the top of the hill, and when the both you managed to settle down, the two of you had the brilliant view of seeing the sun melt into the horizon.

There wasn’t much in Tokyo that would offer the same sort of peaceful scenery, and you were thankful for that fact. Too many people couldn’t appreciate the tranquillity of the scene and you figured you wouldn’t like it as much as you did if it was a more common occurrence.

You smiled at the sun. “I used to come here when I was feeling pretty shit – it’s a pretty view without the hassle of people.”

You heard a shift from the boy next to you. “You didn’t have anyone to talk to?”

“Not really. I had felt embarrassed that I would get upset about stupid things.” You laughed. “Then I learnt that I wasn’t being stupid, that my frustrations are serious and I was allowed to treat them like that, you know?”

“…Did you get upset often?”

“Nah, I tried not to be. But, I guess… well, you can’t really control that. No one can ask you to stop feeling; you just gotta learn how to deal with it in a way that’s truly beneficial to you.”

That got you a laugh out of Akira. “You sound like Maruki. ‘Truly beneficial’; how do you know if something’s ‘truly’ beneficial?”

“It’s obvious, dumbass; you change for the better.” You huffed. “I can spout out as many gems of wisdom I want, but I can’t tell you what’s best for you. You need to decide that.”

The sun was nearly gone now. That last part of burning yellow-gold was dipping into the city-scape, which was a massive perk of being in the city – the blend of mankind and nature was sometimes a real sight to see. You felt removed of whatever the hell was happening in society these days, and you hoped that Akira felt the same, sitting here.

The brilliant star had finally completely disappeared into the horizon, leaving the two of you enveloped by the night sky. The left over purples near the horizon trailed upwards, where you could see the tiny spots of stars decorate the sky.

Despite all that had happened this afternoon, you thought that perhaps it was the best one. The one where you could drink in not only this scenery that admittedly you missed, but also Akira’s presence, without expectation of commitment or conversation.

Just two boys underneath the night sky.

Your eyes drifted over to Akira’s, who seemed to be more interested in you than whatever Tokyo’s sky wanted to offer you. You wanted to say that his gaze was unreadable but deep down you knew you’d be lying.

It was as if he found the moon in your face instead, and, as if in reverence, was turning to them like a lost traveller in need of its light. He looked at you as if he searching for some pale god in your eyes, in your lips, in you, and as if he had already found it. He looked at you, in this moment, like he would worship you, if given the chance.

“Thank you,” he said, “For being by my side.”

It was as if a vow was sealed, and your heart lurched. You felt that now, no matter how many times you saw or remembered this boy in front of you, this moment would be your favourite.

With the moon and stars acting as your witnesses now, the two of you just looked at each other.

There was something unfathomable in the unknown but the promise, even the concept, that it would be the two of you in it... well, it made you giddy. Maybe your heart was in overdrive, maybe you were finally going insane, but in all honesty? If it was madness that waited for you in loving Akira, then maybe you wouldn't mind it.

There was a new feeling in your heart now and you fully embraced it this time, letting it glow on your face. You never felt so satisfied in being happy before, and you smiled with all the warmth that came with your emotions.

You were not an individual of promises – that much was certain. Whether it was the feeling of inadequacy or a lack of trust associated with your character, you had felt that making a promise as dangerous as an ‘always’ was something out of your reach. Having the impulse was not of you, but nonetheless, the way you felt embraced by it now, embraced by the feeling of ‘without exception’ was thrilling and powerful.

“Forever, Akira. You’ve got me forever.”

Chapter Text

You knew that Akira was the affectionate type of person, given to how he interacted with his growing friend group at Shujin. You were aware that he liked the platonic intimacy, especially physical, since you periodically saw his rest his head on Sakamoto’s or Takamaki’s shoulders, or hug his friends in greetings. That wasn’t weird, no, it was just you didn’t realise how nice it felt to have your crush feel relaxed against you.

It definitely was a signal to you that your bond had deepened; your relationship with him had been redefined after the heart-to-heart that the two of you had, which made sense. It was a big thing to be vulnerable to someone, especially coming from a person who typically didn’t like to share his burdens.

In further news, you and Takamaki grew a little closer. Akira must’ve told her about what happened because she sometimes acted as if she regarded you in a new, different light than before. You weren’t sure what kind, but you knew it was a good one. Sakamoto was candidly casual towards you, not that you minded; he was that type of guy. Though he was sometimes loud, you could tell he was an easy-going sort of guy.

From what you could see with everyone’s interactions though, you could tell that everyone was a little… tense. Akira – and by extension, his other friends – had been sitting with you during lunch for the past couple of weeks, so you had an idea of how they normally acted. Today, there seemed to be some sort of tension in the air, like they were mulling over something.

“I wonder…” You mumbled to yourself.

Was it something to do with the Phantom Thieves?

That would be the biggest contender for ‘what is worrying this group of people of whom I suspect to be the elusive criminals everyone is talking about?’, since there wasn’t much else you could really think of. There might’ve been other things, but you were pretty much sold on you main theory.

It was a little worrisome, actually, considering that if it was that, then there wasn’t really anything you could do. You were painfully normal in this scenario. Useless. You felt Akira’s soft hair on your cheek as you leaned onto his head. Was there seriously nothing you could do?

You hummed in thought. You brought out your phone and checked your calendar; you were free today and tomorrow, but you had something on the 19th – your folks organised something for some November-exclusive Ice event, even though it was barely cold enough to be considered Autumn. It was definitely chilling up, but it surely wasn’t that cold, was it?

Maybe all of you could go somewhere after school? You’d still tick it off as one of the promised afternoons – not that you really cared too much about them anyway, but novelty is novelty – and you could try to lift everyone’s spirits.

You still were sort of stuck about the whole Phantom Thieves thing; you needed to talk to Akira about it, at the very least. You felt like keeping your thoughts to yourself at this stage felt like holding something under wraps, but you really just didn’t have many stages to say something about it. It wasn’t like you wanted to be right, no, you just wanted to let them know that you wanted to help if you could.

Maybe you’ll privately ask Akira about it. That seemed like the best option for now, though for more immediate matters; Operation: Lighten Up Kids needed to come into effect.

“I was thinking we should all hang out, today after school.” That caught everyone’s attention. “There’s this thing I want to go to but its, uh, a group thing. We are a group?”

A+ for acting. You’re a natural. In truth, there wasn’t anything you personally wanted to go to as a group, but you could totally think of something; you lived close to the city, after all.

“Good idea, dude.” Sakamoto stroked his chin. “What place?”

You would shrug but Akira was still resting on your shoulder. “Laser Tag? I think it closes next week and I was thinking we could check it out?”

“It’s closed.” Akira mumbled from his spot. He paused to hear Morgana meow and nodded. “We could go to Leblanc, yeah. How about that?”

That sounded decent to you. You wanted to check out that café since Akira had invited you to you, but, granted, you always forgot to stop by. To be fair, you lived in the opposite direction so it wasn’t the top thing on your to-do list.

“It’s that café you work at sometimes, yeah? I’ve wanted to go since you mentioned it.”

In response, you heard him hum. “It’ll be nice to have you.”

“Oh, is that an invitation to find your other jobs and visit you? It won’t be nice then, you know.” You smiled.

“You visiting me,” Akira breathed in and sighed, leaving you a bit tingly in the neck, “would always be nice.”

You felt yourself go a little flush at that. He was unintentionally, incredibly sweet sometimes you had to admit. Your adoration of him bubbled into laughter, as you hummed in approval over his response.

Leblanc it was, then. You scanned over and noticed that Ann hadn’t really said anything. In fact, she seemed to glancing at Akira and you. You shot her a questioning look. Was everything alright?

She caught your eye and nodded, giving you an ‘ok’ signal. You nodded.

You were about to switch the topic to some random thing you saw on the TV at midnight – some weird show was playing; a murder mystery or something? – but Ann had ideas all ready to go.

“Ryuji, didn’t you remember we were gonna go binge Studio Hibli?" Ann smiled sweetly.

He scratched his head. "Uh, I thought that was next week -"

"Nope." She turned to the both of you. "Sorry, but we can't make it this afternoon."

That sucked. You didn't realise that they had made plans already, otherwise you wouldn't have mentioned anything. Maybe you could organise something next time you were free or whatever? It wasn't a massive deal.

"That's alright -"

"Then it can just be the two of us."

Akira had sat up and yawned, stroking Morgana's head as he jumped into his lap. You noticed that the cat liked to be more and more these days.

Wait, wait, wait, wait. The two of you? The two of you, as in, the two of you alone? In a café?

Of course, in a café, yes, yes. After all, Leblanc was a café, and it would just be the two of you, yep. You know what’s funny about that? That dream you had. In a café. With the two of you. Alone.

You couldn’t help but think about that dream again – even though it happened so long ago – and it’s details; the two of you, sitting in a booth together, and Akira kissing your forehead among other details! There was some comedic effect found in the circumstance; if you and Akira really did end up like that (oh, you hoped your face wasn’t flushed right then) then you’d would’ve known about it since practically June, July.

You had to calm down – it wasn’t as if you were a prophet, or had some sort of clairvoyance.

It was pure coincidence.

Yes.

An extremely beneficial coincidental coincidence.

You were glad that it seemed that your reaction wasn’t as much of a giveaway to your thoughts since no one seemed to really react to you. Yeah, because they were waiting for your response, actually.

“Oh, right,” You nodded and laughed, shaking off your nervousness. “That’s all good. We’ll chalk it off to another afternoon, yeah?”

The raven-haired boy smiled at you. “Yup. I still owe you some, don’t I?”

“That’s right, country boy. One more after this one.”

Ann spoke up. “You know, he’s mentioned these ‘afternoons’ before; what actually happened? I’m sorta curious.”

You went to explain the whole situation with Ushimaru, emphasizing the fact that you largely were worried that you’d be caught out and make the situation worse than it was. It honestly felt like it happened so long ago, like a distant memory that you would fondly look over; the brave you, defending the transfer student from Lucifer’s rage.

The day carried on as usual, though you were significantly more excited for the day to end than you were when you first came to school, that much was certain. Time did manage to slow down the more you were looking forward to hanging out, but you knew how the saying went: pain was temporary.

The two of you had collaborated during the school day and came to the conclusion that it would be a sleepover; you’d stay at his from the afternoon, stay for the evening, and then in the morning head to your place. He was insistent on staying the night, despite him having a big day afterwards, but it wasn’t as if you minded. It was a hassle to catch a late night train or bus, and you weren’t keen on walking in the streets either.

Finally, school was over. Takamaki dragged Sakamoto out of the school with her so it was just you and Akira travelling to Leblanc first. Luckily enough, the two of you managed to grab the earlier train towards Yongen-Jaga, so you got to the café relatively quickly.

You read the sign hanging above the door.

“Coffee and curry doesn’t sound like a decent mix.” You whistled. “I bet you get that a lot though, working here?”

Akira pushed the door open. “It’s better than you’d think. You can give it a go if you want?”

“Why not?” You mused.

Once you passed through the threshold of the café, the smell of coffee hit you. You noticed it was the same sort of coffee that Akira often smelt of, so you figured that he must’ve worked here quite often. To clarify, you weren’t just, you know, smelling him constantly; it was like a perfume around him, a coffee-scented perfume.

The interior of the café was roomy and warmer than what the autumn air had offered you outside, which you were extremely grateful for. You were the type that would cold easily, regardless of your weather preferences. Another thing you liked was the general atmosphere of the place – causal and inviting. Akira really knew how to pick these places.

“You’re back early. And you’ve brought a friend too, huh?”

You looked towards the voice to see an older man looking at the two of you from behind the counter. Akira’s employer?

He nodded. “Yup. He’s staying the night too. When did you want me to close?”

“You’re going to scare the regulars away anyway if you’ve got guests.” The older man huffed and put down the cloth he was using to clean. “I’ll head out now, so close after I leave.”

“Whatever you say, Boss.”

As he left the counter – to get changed probably – you decided to take a seat on one of the taller chairs near the counter. It wasn’t as if you were avoiding the booth chairs because of some stupid and nice dream, alright?

Akira had decided to pop to the other side of the counter, slinging a green apron onto himself. Green somewhat suited him, though it clashed terribly with the Shujin uniform, as to be expected with red vs. green, specifically red plaid.

Shortly afterwards, ‘Boss’ was fully dressed to go out, giving a sullen look at Akira before scoffing. “What did I say about the uniform, kid? Change into something, will you?” He walked to the door and turned back to the both of you. You straightened up out of instinct. “Make sure you behave, alright? I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

The older man silently held the door open for Morgana, who seemed to want to go out (you figured that he was more of an outdoor cat than an indoors one), and it was just you and Akira in Leblanc.

You coughed into your hand. “So he’s your boss? Seems… nice?”

“Sojiro Sakura. He’s my guardian while I’m on probation here,” Akira placed his apron on the counter as he went to grab his things. “You probably guessed as well, but this is his café too – he lets me sleep in the attic, and I help out sometimes.”

“You sleep here? Like, you live here?”

A nod. “Yeah. It’s small, but it’s comfortable.”

You would have never guessed that he lived here, but then again, Akira’s transfer was probably sudden – in that, it would’ve been a struggle to find him a place to call his own so quickly. Still, he must miss being in his own room.

“As long as you’re comfortable, I guess.” You shrugged. “So, what’s the plan?”

He thought for a moment. “Get changed, make you some dinner, then probably play Super Brawlin’ Brothers and some other games. Then we feast on snacks, pillow fights, maybe even rob a bank. Typical sleepover stuff.”

You managed to chuckle at that, but it ultimately reminded you on what you wanted to talk about with him – his involvement with the recent changes of heart. You did say that you wanted to wait until you could have a private conversation, and having an entire café to yourselves was about as private as it could get, right? It wasn’t like you were going to interrogate him either – no, it was a simple ‘I want to make sure you’re ok’ sort of thing.

It would have been pretty exciting to know a Phantom Thief too, though.

As Akira excused himself to go change in his room – which you were informed was up the stairs further in the store – you thought about your plan of attack. This wasn’t something you could casually say ‘hey, so robbing hearts, huh? What a champ’; for all you knew, it could be a very sensitive topic!

No, you were just overthinking it now. You shook your head and gently placed it on the counter.

Just approach it like a normal individual. Be yourself, because that has always worked out for you before. Your mental sarcasm was duly noted, but you had to agree partially with your thoughts; this was Akira, not some stranger that you don’t know.

Whatever the two of you had, it wasn’t going to be shaken because you asked him a question— that was for sure.

Akira finally came downstairs wearing a comfortable looking hoodie and some nice tracksuit pants. He seemed to be a bit nervous, in your opinion, but that could’ve just been you projecting.

“Uh, so,” He began. “I realised that you didn’t have a change of clothes, so I figured that you might want to borrow some of mine? There’s a bunch of spare clothes upstairs if mine don’t fit, to let you know. If you want to, that is.”

You blinked and then looked down at your clothes. Right, you were still wearing a uniform.

“I don’t mind at all.” You got up and headed towards his room.

You had to admit, Akira had done up his room quite nicely; he seemed to put a lot of effort in making this his own space, something you had to admire. He had set up a console on a smallish TV – not as though that was an issue – on a wall where you can see three bean-bags tucked away next to it. You noticed that he had training mats on the side of the entrance to his room – which of course, he worked out – and a wardrobe further in.

The walls were a little more barren, with only a calendar and clock, but you figured that Akira was the type of person that didn’t like putting up posters.

You were guided to the wardrobe, where there was a selection of clothes to choose from, but you settled for a faded yellow hoodie with some sort of cordial mascot on it, worn over your Shujin top, and some loose-fitting, pyjama pants.

Once changed, Akira looked over you.

You, of course, posed. “Don’t take too many pictures, Akira; I don’t want the press to find out about this.”

That got you a chuckle and he posed with an imaginary camera. “Believe me, these are heading straight to my personal collection. I’ll get you to sign them too.”

“Well, then,” You bowed deeply and extravagantly, “I’m always happy to help my number one fan.”

“I’m pretty sure I’m your only fan,” he adjusted his glasses, smirking at you.

You punched him lightly in the arm. “You little shit – I’m well loved!”

After that, Akira lead you down and made you curry and coffee – although it was a bit late, you didn’t really mind – and now you were helping him wash the dishes. You didn’t get your own apron (go figure) but no harm done.

Your casual banter had ended a little bit ago, but the silence between the two of you wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The two of you were just relishing in each other’s company – there was no need for a conversation.

This was your chance, however, and you would take it.

As he handed you a dish to dry you began to speak. “Can I ask you a question? Like, a serious one?”

He stopped to look at you. “What’s up?

“Now, you don’t have to answer or whatever, ‘cos I’m mainly asking to make sure that you’re ok but,” You placed the dish down on the counter and took a breath. “Are you a Phantom Thief?”

He kept looking at you for a little while, until you felt a little embarrassed, your face heating up under the attention. You opened your mouth to ask him not to worry about it and that it was just an honest mistake, thinking he was a Thief, but he spoke before you could.

“How’d you know about that?”

There was a feeling of déjà vu with his words which caused your nervousness unwind in your heart. You ran a hand through your hair and left you palm on your forehead. “I sit right behind you, remember?”

The response caught him a bit off-guard, but he smiled. “You do.”

“Yup, and,” You chuckled. “I also noticed that Sakamoto said he’s a Phantom Thief multiple times, and, well, a couple of days after taking that package I got a while ago, Kaneshiro got caught. His story of exploitation aligned with what happened to me and, well, you offered to fix it; which you did. Thanks for that, actually.”

“I wouldn’t have wanted you, or anyone, to remain in that position, but,” For the first time, you actually heard a click of disapproval come from Akira. “Ryuji… “

You laughed. “Leave him be, man.”

Akira could only shake his head at that, but ultimately the two of you moved on from the topic. You still wanted to talk to him about it, in all honesty, but you had the feeling that he didn’t want to keep his mind on the topic today. That was fine by you.

Once done with cleaning up, the two of headed upstairs and started to play on the console, starting with Super Brawlin’ Brothers.

By now, you were comfortable with the casual displays of affection that Akira would show, which led to the both of you leaning into each other. He had opted to lay his head on your shoulder and his legs were against yours. You were content with beating his ass with one of the newer DLC characters, this Flame Symbol character named Lybeth. Akira had opted for another one of the DLC named Trickster, but you had no idea what franchise it came from.

Both of you were competitive, as you found out, but it was obvious that Akira was winning. Unfortunately, his sharper reflexes and understanding of the map far outweighed your own, leading him to win at a solid 30 – 29.

After accepting your devastating loss and crushing defeat, the two of you ended up laying on the beanbags, just talking about whatever had come to mind. There was a period of silence as the two of you just lay there, which Akira broke.

He had positioned himself to rest his head on your chest, and you had begun to play with his hair absentmindedly.

“What would you do if I was gone tomorrow?”

Your heart stopped. “…Gone?”

You slowly got up and looked at him in worry. He returned your gaze with the same neutral look he would always give when gauging a reaction. It made you more worried.

“Disappear. Leave. Vanish.”

In all honesty, you had no clue what you would do. You liked to think that you would be graceful and restrained but you never really gave much thought to what you'd be like in grief. If Akira...

It felt like there was a shard of glass in your throat.

You tried to smile – as if this was some joke – refusing to look in his direction now. “…I don’t know, Akira. And I don’t know if I could even stop it.”

He just continued to stare at you and you felt a little frustrated, although you knew it was coming from a place of anxiety and concern.

What did he mean gone? Did he mean death? Was he thinking that he was going to die anytime soon? No, no, you were just being paranoid. Surely there was a reason he was asking this of you, a reason why he’d worry you like this.

“Did I upset you?” His voice came out quiet.

There was turmoil inside you now, because you couldn’t understand all the emotions that were being muddled inside you now. You felt like you were about to cry with tears, that all the little chemicals in your brain that made your emotions were causing a riot-like potion; mixing, colliding and hurting.

You looked to him now, trying your best to show that you were concerned, not upset. “I’m scared for you Akira. I’m terrified for you right now.”

He seemed to be processing what you were saying, which you took as you cue to continue.

“The thought that you would casually bring up your existence ‘vanishing’ or whatever is not something that would bring me comfort – far from it! You, you’re important to me. You’re a big person in my life that I prioritise and care about,” You rambled. “I don’t know if – I can’t – It’s… A world without you is bleak, ok? Just… please, don’t go anywhere I can’t follow.”

You didn’t realise that you had gently grabbed his hand during those last couple of sentences. You didn’t realise that a couple of tears had already fallen from your eyes. You didn’t realise how close you two were.

He held a hand to your cheek, gently wiping away your tears.

You leaned into his hand, sighing into it almost. He was still here, that was certain. This was a hypothetical at best, a warning at worst. Akira Kurusu would not disappear on you.

“Thank you for caring about me.” He whispered. “Thank you for being here.”

“Like I said, Akira: you’ve got me forever.”

You don’t know how you went from crying to kissing the boy you liked, but to be fair you weren’t exactly complaining.

To clarify, you had no experience with relationships; regardless of your relationships, you had never actually smack bang kissed someone before. Now that it was established that you had no clue how to kiss, you were more than happy to let Akira take the lead in this situation.

One of the first things you noticed was that his lips were a lot softer than you had expected them to be, as cliché as that sounded. Lips were weird but it felt right to have them against his. It wasn’t that difficult to follow the pattern that he was creating, in fact, it felt as natural as breathing, given how comfortably you placed your hands on the back of his neck.

You were a bit startled to feel his tongue though, and backed off slightly. Concern flashed across his face.

“Is this alright?”

Your eyes widened and nodded. “This – no, this is perfect, I’m just—“Your heart was drumming in your ears. “I’ve, uh, never kissed before.”

It was more embarrassing to say it out loud, that was for sure, and you could tell that your excitement went through the roof when you saw Akira smile at you with a dangerous glint in his eye. What was he thinking?

“… That was your first?”

You nodded.

He took his glasses, exposing you to the full, unadulterated attractiveness that was him – which was very, very successful in making you catch your breath – and he gently ran a thumb over your lips, leaving a tingling sensation at his touch. You gulp, noticing how his eyes drifted down your face, focusing on your reddening lips. It was like he was admiring his handwork so far, granted that the two of you hadn’t been kissing for too long.

You liked the look he was giving you. It was definitely different from whatever you imagined, but it was a facet of Akira that you were definitely appreciative of. You liked how gentle he was, how his thumb was light enough to make you want more, but had enough presence to feel it.

“Well, then.” His voice brought you back to attention, and you could feel his breath on your skin. “It would be my absolute pleasure to teach you.”

You started off slow. All his body language pointed to the fact that he was guiding you. He had a hand on the small of your back, another on the side of your face and while he seemed to like you where you were, you could tell that he was enjoying your exploration; tentatively, with your clear want to try a different angle or position, he would reciprocate your efforts by further deepening the kiss.

It was a two-way street; whenever you did something good, something that felt nice, Akira would let you know. Affirmative little hums egged you on, and whilst you sometimes were a bit too ambitious, you were fully encouraged to keep trying. To keep engaging.

You stopped for some air and you were beginning to very much adore the Akira’s flushed look – half-lidded eyes with the expression of wanting more, a blanket of pink on his cheeks. You couldn’t but admire this moment and that you had the potential to cause this sort of effect on him. You couldn’t deny that he affected you too; you were shaky from the adrenaline this caused and you could only imagine what Akira saw and thought of you right now.

His gaze softened as you met his eyes, and he tucked some hair behind your ear, leaving his hand on your cheek. You knew what that look was, because you had caught yourself looking like that at him before; it was a look of complete adoration.

God, how much you loved this boy.

You dipped your head into his chest, hugging him, and laughed. “It’s funny.”

“What is?” He began to play with your hair. His voice was hoarse, though you could guess why that was.

“That your stupid smokebomb was the reason for all this.” You snuggled up to his neck. “That me asking for payback, for your time, lead to this.”

The way he was stroking your hair felt nice. “I’m glad for it.” He laughed a little. “Thank you, Ushimaru.”

Your face contorted into disgust as you pushed yourself off to look at him. “I mean, sure, but are you going to seriously give that demon some credit right now?”

“Why? Are you thinking about Ushimaru now that I mentioned him?”

You laughed as you went back to hug him, to which he guided you both to lay down and cuddle. “Shut the fuck up, Akira.”

Tonight was good. No matter what happened from this point onward, no matter what sort of hardship awaited you, you felt like none of that would matter, because it certainly didn’t matter right now. You felt loved, you felt ecstatic, and you certainly hoped that Akira felt the same.

You closed your eyes, confident that this wasn’t a dream of yours, and decided that whatever would come, would not compare to the happiness that you felt right now.

Akira, on the other hand, was definitely happy but now he felt guiltier than he would have; tomorrow, he would be captured.

That tomorrow, he worried, he would not be able to explain to you why he was in custody, nor why he may not come out of it.

That tomorrow, he wished, would never come.

Chapter Text

Waking up tangled with Akira was possibly the nicest feeling you’ve ever felt – feeling his chest rise and fall from under your cheek, and hearing his heart beat echoing your own was something you could only leave undefined.

You were startled with he shifted to wrap an arm around you but quickly you eased into it. Akira was fond of contact, using it as a language to convey familiarity, trust, and love. You responded by snuggling closer to him, ignoring the fact that your phone had started to buzz with what you guessed was your 6:30am alarm.

Should you bother getting up? That was the main question that popped up in your sluggish mind, but the more reasonable side of you gave a reminder of the fact that you couldn’t remain for longer; unlike you, Akira had large commitments that required his time. Still… nothing really compelled you to not sleep in.

Except for maybe Akira himself.

He was a lot more sensitive to alarms than you – or he had a more consistent sleep schedule – and he lazily opened his eyes.

“Mmm… time to get up.” He mumbled into your forehead. He huffed out a small laugh at your groan. “Come on.”

You wanted to say that your attempts to remain in bed were firm and certain, however they were half-hearted. You sloppily rose from the make-shift bed that the two of slept on for the night (the Frankenstein mattress of spare quilts and pillows was surprisingly comfortable) and got ready to leave.

At Akira behest you kept the clothes he had lent to you the night prior, probably for the sake of making a joke about how it was a ‘souvenir’ of sorts. You were tempted to say something about how it doesn’t count as a souvenir because then he’d have to give everyone a piece of clothing, but you were distracted by the fact that he looked distracted. You couldn’t but feel that something about today was stressing Akira out.

You decided that you’d chuck on some deodorant and keep wearing the hoodie over your Shujin shirt, and wearing your school pants – it was a better outfit than wearing your full school uniform on a weekend, you had to say.

Before you left, he stopped you at the door.

“What’s up?” You asked.

“I – well…”

He seemed conflicted. He hadn’t put on his glasses yet, so you were able to see his expressions just a bit better. His hair was a mess still, simply because he let you hog his bathroom first, and he had thrown on some casual clothes that you knew he picked up from whatever was closest to him – he probably was going to change into something more presentable for his thing.

After all, he looked like he was ready to run away more than he was ready to have a busy day.

What would you do if I was gone tomorrow? Last night’s conversation boiled at the back your throat – whatever was happening today, Akira was frightened of it. Your feelings about it remained the same, however. …I don’t know, Akira. And I don’t know if I could even stop it.

You were less of an outsider to this than you wanted to thing, less of a stranger to whatever was going on today that you were – you were personally invested in the wellbeing of the boy in front of you, and would have an extremely emotional response to any threat to that wellbeing. You were glad for it, but also terrified. It meant that you no longer had as much control over yourself as you once did.

You smiled internally. The unknown brought with it unknown circumstances – there was no guessing what would happen, but this was him; you’d brave anything for him even if it meant relinquishing your control. In any case, it seemed like Akira was the one braving anything today.

“Tell me about it when you get back.” You grabbed his hand gently. You weren’t sure what kind of smile you were showing him, but hopefully a good one. “Once you’ve rested a bit, let’s hang out and you can tell me all about it.”

He gave your hand a little squeeze and a smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Alright. Prepare for a long conversation.”

“I’ll bring snacks and drinks then.”

“Yeah, and don’t forget a change of clothes. I doubt you’d want to be in uniform all the time.”

You chuckled. “I’m staying the night, am I?”

His expression was lightly as he gave you a mischievous look. “Oh, definitely.”

“Ok, ok.” Another laugh bubbled out of your throat. “I’ll see you at school, right?”

“Of course.”

And you left. How stupid you were, reflecting back onto this moment. You had left him at the door of his home, thinking about how you’d greet him at school. Your first proper relationship, you imagined to yourself. This was your first experience with a boy romantically; Akira, you hoped, was going to be a lot of your firsts, and you were excited to explore those with him.

With this optimism for more and nothing to show for otherwise, how could you realise that would be the last time you saw him?

You would come to know that there was no such thing as divine interference in the lives of modern teenagers, and no such thing as ethereal protection for grand ideas such as love. There would be no oracle to forewarn you, there were no weird sisters who’d inform you of the future. There was just you.

“The leader of the rising criminal organisation, the Phantom Thieves has committed suicide in custody.”

There was just you, and unfortunately so, you were not magical nor divine or ethereal – you were human and you were powerless.

. . .

Normalcy was going to be difficult to grasp, that much was certain – on the train ride to school, you noticed how painfully normal everything was; people were minding their own business, students like yourself were heading to school, and only you felt jarringly out of place.

You glanced at your phone for the nth time in the last ten minutes. When you first heard the news of his arrest, you instantly went to call him. Of course, you should’ve reasoned that the police might’ve taken his phone, but you weren’t given the opportunity to think straight.

Once you established that Akira couldn’t be reached, you contacted Takamaki. That was a conversation that highlighted your panic – Akira was arrested as the leader of the Phantom Thieves, so if Takamaki (who confirmed she was a Thief too) didn’t know what was going on, then surely this meant that there was trouble.

You struggled to find some footing in the changing landscape of your psyche. Your thoughts were knotted string and every attempt to smooth them out led to a bigger mess. It didn’t help that you were torn between wanting to feel absolutely nothing to wanting to vehemently deny everything again. You unfortunately had the weekend to rock back and forth between those states, so you hoped that the weekday would offer some peace.

School, you decided, would be your effort to regain some sanity.

As you entered the classroom, you made a deliberate beeline to your desk, not wanting to notice how Takamaki guiltily looked over in your direction or how it was obvious that neither of you had slept.

That made sense to you; she had seen someone jump before, someone who was incredibly close to her. Darkly, you pondered in your mind which of the two of you was better off in this situation, but you shook your head. That was unfair, unworthy to the both of you.

Class hadn’t started yet but you made no move to unpack your bag. There were too many things that you changed for today – new pencil-case, new water bottle; anything that would’ve lulled you into overlapping the present and past.

You explicitly avoided looking underneath his desk, in order to avoid the glare of a bright, blue-eyed cat that wasn’t there.

You didn’t notice when Kamakawi walked in but her voice pulled you out of your thoughts.

“Before we begin,” Her face fell a little. “We at Shujin are aware of the… circumstances regarding one of our students. We’d… like to ask you to remain vigilant and hopeful in times such as these. I… We appreciate your cooperation.”

How rigidly formal it was. Like the school cared more about their students rather than their appearance. It didn’t matter that they were on edge, it didn’t matter if their reputation could’ve been in shambles. Who cared about all that?

It was obscene how this was being handled; you thought that when Shiho jumped, you thought that when the principal passed, and you thought that now. How stupidly disgusting this all was.

Calmness by damned, you thought, eyes seeing red. Why should you wait for anything to pass when it should’ve been clear to you that school would offer nothing except for platitudes it didn’t know how or when to use. You had far more dire things to focus on, rather than this place where your memories of him were fresh and repeated, like strokes in a Gogh painting.

You didn’t want to wait for Kamakawi to care about your departure as you left the classroom. You didn’t bother closing the door, nor bother to look back or offer explanation to the panicked teacher.

If Takamaki didn’t know, then Sakamoto wouldn’t. For such a charismatic and bright person, Akira was only open when he wanted to, otherwise he’d show you a facet of pure neutrality. There was one person that you knew he opened up to, other than yourself.

Maruki was new in the school, and was mandatorily in Akira’s life as a councillor. He’d explained before that the councillor was someone that he had to see because of the assault charge, and because he was a minor. If anyone was to confirm to you anything about Akira, it would be him.

He wasn’t in his office, as the admin lady told you, so you knew that he was probably walking around. You guessed that he was probably filling in the time between appointments with students, which meant you had a window of opportunity before he had to leave.

If you could find him, that was.

After running around for a little, you noticed Maruki crossing past the gardens, causing you to leapt over railing to catch up to him. There was no way that you would let him go.

His surprised eyes met yours.

“Ah, I don’t believe we’ve met—“

“Please,” You looked at him, half demanding half pleading. “Tell me if Akira wasn’t someone to do this. I know he was talking to you; please, tell me that this is a mistake.”

He seemed to come to a realisation and gave you a sympathetic face. It irked you more than you wanted it to. “I see. I’m sorry for your loss… He was a good person and I understand it would be difficult to come to terms with this situation. This is a truly unfortunate event, and I feel your loss.”

“This – this isn’t just some ‘event’!” You were growing more and more upset. “He can’t be – he –“

“The grief you’re feeling is completely natural.” He paused. “…Would you like to talk about it in my office?”

Your throat was clenching up. Whatever emotion you were feeling was beyond fury and sadness, but more importantly, beyond words. You had no idea how to translate this into something more coherent and meaningful than grief.

Maruki noticed your distress. If the rational part of you was still working, you would’ve taken up of his offer to talk, or you would’ve at least realised that there was nothing that neither of you could do on your own.

“There… it’s a long process to accept death.” He gave you a look you didn’t recognise. “I’m sorry.”

That wasn't- he-

Why couldn't you breathe? Where was all the oxygen in the world when you felt like there was a star inside you, folding you inside out and back again? Please, please, you pleaded with the void although you weren't sure what you were asking. Your nerves felt like they were hardening inside your hands and now you couldn't tell if you were furious - with heat was rising into your temples, lava coursing your veins - or just terribly sad.

But before you could really process all the emotions, you felt empty. News of a bleak reality finally washed over you.

Akira Kurusu was dead, and there was nothing you could do about it.

In the absence of it all came anger. This was ridiculous; you weren’t some side character that had to endure this news because it was secondary to you – this was real! This was meaningful! Your blank face gave rise to fury. Maruki didn’t deserve your hatred nor your anger, so you gave him a rigid bow and went to excuse yourself.

He gave you another look. There was a bit of a pause before he spoke, but there was a certain darkness in his eyes as he said his next words.

“If I could help you, would you want it? My help, that is.” He gestured to you. “If there was a way to stop your pain, would you want it?”

“Frankly,” You narrowed your eyes, “I don’t need or want anything from you, councillor.”

You would not grab the hand that was reached out to you now, lest you bit it.

You left rather abruptly, something that you figured you would go regret a little later. If you had to comb through every little place in Shibuya to find the truth, to find Akira, you would. If you had no reason to believe that he was dead, then you had the responsibility to prove it to yourself.

Shibuya was much busier than you thought it would be, but you had never really come here during active school hours. Your uniform made you stand out but not in a way that really hindered you. Everyone would mind their own business, as they did on the train, and you would mind yours.

You invested the entire day in investigating the city, desperate to find any glimpse of curly raven hair and fake glasses. You figured that for Akira to be well, he’d have to on the run from the police and the authorities – he’d be a wanted man so he’d probably be hiding his face. You kept your eyes out for hoodies and face masks.

There were a few people who matched, leading to awkward explanations and running off, but ultimately after the entire day of searching, there was nothing. This was a long day with no reward, nothing that would make it better. With those thoughts in mind, you made your way to hill that the two of you had sat on a while ago.

It had felt like years since the two of you first actually spoke to each other. The feeling that the two of you had nurtured felt like the result of years of work, despite it being only the result of nine-ish months.

You let yourself slump on the grass until you were laying down on the wet grass. It had rained a couple hours ago, but you decided that you didn’t mind the moistness of the dirt.

It was probably a conditioned effect to feel comforted by the hillside, by the trees that rustled with the wind. You told Akira that this was a place that you used to go to when you felt sad, where you felt wronged. What you didn’t tell Akira was since he went there with you, it became a place you cherished more because he was there once.

The sun had set a long time ago, but the stars were just as brilliant, albeit you didn’t want to appreciate them right now.

Tear began to form in your eyes.

What were you meant to do now? He was nowhere you could think of, and everyone seemed to content to live and let live. You felt like you were being selfish – you couldn’t imagine the sort of pain that his family would have, even if they didn’t even bother to visit him.

You felt so alone in your lackluster grief, so alone on this hill that you felt sheltered two.

You buried your face into your legs and cried.

You weren’t an individual of promises because they were so fragile, so easily broken. There was disappointment destined for either side, which you hated. You had promised him forever but could only give him months. That was by no fault of your own, but the pain was still there.

You had always thought that there would be a point in your life where you would cry like they did in movies; where you would feel an unshakable sorrow for someone or something. You had expected it to be something you’d do in the far future, however, not while you were in school, of all things. You were lost now and didn’t have experience to guide you through it.

So, you let yourself be carried by the feeling.

Nothing could explain to you how to continue from this point on, nor could anything govern you in what to do. If there was something that you could understand, it would be that humanity might be stubborn and might be hopeful, however there are just some things that don’t bend.

You knew this, and yet, you said to yourself that you would attempt to defy fate for a little longer. Pushing back the inevitable was a man-made curse and one that you were willing to embrace for a while.

The air was crisp and cold at this time of the night. In company of the stars and the moon, you wondered whether or not Akira was looking at the same sky, or, better yet, whether or not he really cared to look at the moment.

You sighed and closed your eyes, your face warming up with the tears that flowed.

The final afternoon was finished, you thought, it was done.

Chapter Text

He didn’t realise that he was standing outside your house until Morgana brought it up.

Just beforehand, he had been talking with the rest of the Phantom Thieves about their plans for the next month or so regarding Shido. Naturally, there wasn’t much that the Thieves could do at the moment except use their advantage of his incognito un-death. Everyone had their jobs, and his was to lay low for the time being, but still, he couldn’t help but think of you.

The first person to respond negatively to the plan in regards to you was Morgana, surprisingly. The cat-human had really warmed up to you in the past months, and was particularly vocal about your lack of knowledge.

It was undeniable that the position they all had put you in was bad, and an unfair one too. There were much better ways to protect you, and Akira just really hadn’t thought of it, probably because of how drug-addled and terrified he was when he made that decision.

So, he felt the same as Morgana, but there was something that really stopped him; if you knew, that meant you were in more danger from Shido. It was a flimsy excuse, and he sure as hell knew it, but it was an excuse nonetheless.

There were better ways, but he needed something to justify the one he chose, even if it was barely.

He focused his gaze to your family name labelled on the mailbox.

It wasn’t hard to imagine how the last couple of days had been for you – Ann had texted him about how the last couple of days have been for you, and the pit of guilt that had already been brewing in his stomach since his capture had steadily grown larger at her words.

He, in particular, felt worse hearing that you demanded answers from Maruki.

That was really something he’d expected you to do, but to actually hear it happen made him feel a lot worse than what he originally planned to.

He would fail regardless, in that part, because the original plan was that he wouldn’t feel bad at all.

He was only human, he bitterly chuckled.

“This is still a terrible idea.” Morgana huffed. He noticed that he was still upset. “I don’t know what you’re thinking, but you’re not doing him right if you decide to keep him out of the loop like this.”

Finding his voice was harder than he thought it was. Using his excuse felt even harder. “I don’t want Shido to find out.”

“That would be understandable if Akechi knew about him and reported him to that ass, but you already confirmed he knew nothing about him; doing this is just… overkill”

He had nothing to say to that. He wanted to protect you – that much was proven with his actions— but it didn’t sit right with him if he had to hurt you as well. Morgana was right in that there was no harm in you knowing, even if a part of him just wanted to keep you away from all the Phantom Thieves-related danger.

Silence was easy to lose your thoughts to, and he resonated the same ideas in his mind for a bit. Everyone in your house was sleeping, even if part of him wished you were awake so the two of you could talk. He knew that he wouldn’t be able to work up the courage for another visit, and he felt it would be creepy if he did. That didn’t matter much, he realised, because he was already here and you were already asleep.

He didn’t have a chance to begin with.

“Lady Ann is truly worried about him, you know.” Morgana broke the silence. “She said it was difficult pretending when she knows you’re alive, but she can’t tell him that.”

“That sounds like her.”

He knew that she felt split over his decision; on one hand, she understood the need for secrecy (as she always had), but she also saw that you genuinely felt grief here. As both a Phantom Thief and your friend, she was put between a rock and a hard place.

It felt like everyone was compromised these days, more so with the added flavour of your grief. He was glad that this had remained mainly with him, Ann, and Ryuji. Yusuke probably wouldn’t be pleased if he knew, and Futaba was probably keeping quiet for his sake. Haru was… well, Haru was in the same basket as Yusuke, he felt.

“I’m sure that this is fine for a little while.” He sounded unsure, even to himself. “It’s not forever.”

"Well, if you let him believe in your death for long enough, the more he's going to despise you. His feelings of grief are real, even if your death isn't."

That would be a natural course of action, wouldn’t it? Not really his desired route, that much was obvious, and he would hate to lose you. You were an undeniably personal connection to him, and this went beyond the arcana that assigned themselves to his other relationships. He wouldn’t have imagined that a single incident would have led to him standing outside your house in the dead of the night.

He faked a suicide to be here. His friendship with Akechi, although nice, was built on half-lies and loaded questions, especially after the detective revealed his pure and unbelievable hatred for him. Akira received his glove with as much adrenaline as he had when the same detective pointed a gun at his forehead. The tip of the suppressor was cold, unwelcome, and overpowering in the interrogation room.

Granted, it was difficult to concentrate on a lot of things due to the drugs they had him take. He wasn’t sure if he could ever forget the sort of terror that came with the experience, nor did he want to. It was healthy to fear those sort of things; fear bred caution.

He tried not to think about how his death would be real if he hadn’t convinced Sae, however.

The recollection of being vulnerable took him back to that one afternoon, when he was having a particularly bad session with Maruki. It wasn’t exactly the councillor’s fault; the session itself was fine, however the topics discussed were… touchy, at best.

He didn’t need a reminder that his parents didn’t want to visit him, neither did he want to dissect his relationship with them under Maruki’s eye. On top of the pressure he had felt with the Phantom Thieves business, it all sort of collapsed on him.

There was a god after all, however, confirmed by your presence. He remembered hugging you after seeing you – part of him was embarrassed, but the relief he felt was much more overpowering.

Despite it all, however, he fell in love with you when you promised forever, and fell in love with the way you looked at him like he was your sun, your everything.

Who was he kidding?

He pulled out his set of keys, the slightly scratched bunny key-chain still hanging there. He smiled fondly at it. He had loved you when you believed in him, despite the authorities, despite the rumours and the charge. There was part of him that regretted not befriending you earlier, as to have more memories with you.

You had become important to him, as much as he had become important to you; Morgana was right in saying that you didn’t deserve this.

He had heard the cat sigh. “I won’t stop you if you want to keep him in the dark – just don’t expect to be forgiven when he finds out.”

Losing you, after everything he had done, was something he didn’t want to live with.

The gate made a slight creak as he entered through it. He wasn’t sure what exactly he was planning to do at your house, but he figured he could just wait here for a little while, and leave before the sun came up.

He was a coward for only being able to make this far, he told himself.

Luckily, fate tended to have different plans for him and for you.

“Akira…?”

He glanced up. He hadn’t even noticed you open your front door.

The first thing he noticed was that you looked like shit.

Your hair was messy and unwashed, making it look like you had literally been sleeping for the last year or so. It seemed like you had quickly run outside, by the way you were outside with no shoes on, and you had quickly chucked on a coat.

Morgana had ran off somewhere, he noticed, leaving both of you alone.

He tried speaking first, but was stopped by your angry steps. You grabbed him by the collar of his pullover and pushed him against the wall the surrounded your house.

You were beyond furious. You had woken up because you heard your gate creak – your parents always nag to you make sure it’s locked, so you had figured that you forgot to close it.

Lo and behold, a supposed dead man stood in front of your house instead.

At first, you were in bewilderment (after all, he was dead), but the moment of fascination you had passed as soon as his name passed your lips.

The lava from before filled you up as you stormed across to him.

“So, you were going to tell me that you were alive this whole time, huh?” You growled at him. “Or were you just going to let me be miserable, huh?”

You noticed that he looked like he wasn’t well at all. He had left the glasses at home, you thought, and it had made his eye bags a lot more noticeable. You were tempted to worry for him, but you remembered your own state of being, and your own anger that came with it.

“Well?” You urged.

He seemed to be struggling to get his words out, as if he had no clue what to say or how to say it. He normally knew the perfect sentence that would elicit the perfect response, but now, words were failing him.

You took this as an opportunity to continue. “Do you know how hurt I was? To watch the news on TV the day after? Everything was about the ‘Local kid fucking dies’; I couldn’t even escape the news!”

“I’m sorry—“

“—you’re sorry?” You barked back. “Akira, I thought you died. I thought you were dead. And what? You’ve actually been parading around, alive and well, and you just decided not telling me was a fantastic idea?”

He looked away. “We had a plan and—“

“A plan you couldn’t tell me about? A plan that you’d rather make me think you were dead than for me to know?”

“The person we’re fighting is really powerful and… I was worried about you.” He looked into your eyes. “In hindsight, it wasn’t a great idea, and I’m sorry. I really didn’t know what else to do.”

There was a silence between the two of you for a bit, before you let go of his shirt. You fell into his chest, putting your arms around his waist.

Never do that again.” You said into his shirt. “I was right when I told you I’d have no clue what to do if you’d disappear, and that I wouldn’t know if I could stop. Just… please, if you have to disappear, I’ll come with you! Just—just don’t leave me alone.”

You felt his hands tentatively stroke your back, uncertainty in his warmth. He was gauging your reaction, you figured, or contemplating to himself if he was allowed to do it.

Stupid, stupid, stupid boy. You squeezed a little tighter, only for him to wince in pain.

“What’s wrong?”

“Oh, I—“He froze and put his hands on your upper arms. “Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing.”

You glared at him. “Akira…”

He gulped. “It’s – well, when I was waiting for interrogation, I didn’t exactly receive a warm welcome.” You felt your fingers grab his pullover a little tighter. “… Do you mind if we talk about this later? I just don’t feel like now is a good time.”

You gritted your teeth, holding in your words. They did something to him. Something happened to him in that police station, and you felt your anger towards these faceless perpetrators rise—

—but that was probably something he wanted to avoid right now.

You sighed and hugged him, albeit it gentler this time. “Alright. I’ll wait then. But, you need to tell me, ok?”

“Ok. I promise”

“You better.”

You felt his fingers in your head, making your scalp tingle with his tongue. God, you missed him.

Gently, you moved out of the hug, and lent your face into his. His hands pulled up to your face and you felt a burst of affection wave through you, as you kissed. For what’s said and done, it felt immensely better to know that he was alive than to think he was dead.

“I—“you said between kisses. “—am so glad you’re alive.”

He laughed. “So am I.”

. . .

The Phantom Thieves won out in the end. They had exposed Shido, and demolished society’s heart.

After the ordeal, Akira had taken to actually letting you know what the hell had gone on throughout the year, and how exactly the Thieves actually ‘stole’ hearts.

You still were confused about the idea of personas and the Mementos, but apparently that was destroyed, so you didn’t need to worry about it too much.

You put your head on Akira’s shoulder and looked down at your interlocking fingers, giving him a small squeeze. He gave one back, making you smile a bit.

“You know,” He smiled. “I remember a really troublesome kid in my class this year.”

“Is that right?”

He chuckled. “Yeah. He had a bright green pencil case. He used to watch me make bombs in class, and didn’t say anything about it.”

“Yeah, well,” You smirked. “I remember watching some stupid transfer student make bombs in class, and then when he nearly got caught in class, I covered his ass.”

“Was it a good ass at least?”

You laughed, burying your head in his shoulder. What an absolutely, loveable dickhead. “It was a very nice ass, yeah.” You chuckled. “And, I’d know because I sat behind him.”