It was a cold winter evening in Tokyo, and in any other situation, Goro Akechi would be at his cheap apartment snuggled with a blanket to keep himself warm. However, the world did not always work out as he expected it to, and the evidence for that was the human space heater laying next to him.
Yes, he had been through one too many near-death experiences with a certain Akira Kurusu, and yes, maybe he had gotten a little too complacent recently and forgotten to take the suppressants Takemi had supplied him - but not even an ace detective could have expected this outcome. Anger was expected; hell, even fear was expected if Goro ever revealed this side of him to anyone. He didn’t expect the other to find out and begin… purring?
Taking in a deep breath, he decided to think over the events that had occurred that strange December day.
He woke up like normal in the apartment his fellow Phantom Thieves helped him buy. After finding Kurusu at Leblanc by some miracle, the thieves knew he had no place to live safely since Shido was incarcerated and his lackeys were hunting him down as they spoke. Takamaki and Okumura did most of the apartment searching and even acquired one fairly close to Leblanc, which Goro was secretly grateful for. They knew how much he loved Sakura-san’s coffee, but they most likely had a hunch that he would want to be close to Kurusu’s second home.
Goro only forgot to take his suppressants because Sakamoto and Kitagawa dragged him out of his house before he could. They let him dress himself, but he could hardly straighten his messy hair before Sakamoto grabbed him and carried him like a sack of potatoes outside. Futaba had told him that the others would try to ‘bond’ with him if they found the chance, and of course, Kitagawa’s idea of bonding that day was deciding to paint him.
“Akechi-kun, you are the perfect model for this painting!” Goro had wanted to turn around and lock himself in his apartment at those words. Takamaki had informed him one day of their first meeting, and he had no interest in becoming a nude model anytime soon.
“I’ll pass,” he said with a faux smile, but Sakamoto gave him no chance to argue. That must have been the reason Kitagawa invited him along, as Sakamoto had been working out so much recently and was clearly stronger than any of the other thieves - other than Okumura, maybe. He lifted Goro over his shoulder and, kicking and beating against the body carrying him, Goro was coerced into modeling - fully clothed - for Kitagawa’s art piece.
Kitagawa was almost scary when he went into what Sakamoto, weirdly affectionately, called ‘art mode’. Goro had to pose for a short period of time, but after that, Kitagawa kept him in place until well after lunch to “get your colors right.” He thankfully kept them all fed, and as much as Goro wanted to ask where he had gotten the money from, he had a sneaking suspicion that it was someone else who bought food that day.
Finally free and wanting to return to his apartment as quickly as possible, Goro had begun his trek to the station. Of course, the world hated him, and his phone rang with an irritatingly catchy tune that the caller had put as his own special ringtone.
He sighed, but he found that he wasn’t truly bothered to speak with the other. “Yes, Kurusu?”
“Can you come over?”
Kurusu was back at Leblanc for the winter, and by the sound of it, he was calling while working - the sound of running water was coming through clearly and he could hear a TV playing Featherman repeats.
“Why?” Goro asked, but he knew why. On slow days, Kurusu often called him over to simply talk while he cleaned dishes.
Kurusu hummed. “Hmm, you’ll know if you come over.”
“...I’ll be there shortly.”
“See you then, dear,” Kurusu said, and he could almost hear the shit-eating smirk the other had on his face. Goro decided to hang up before he said anything he’d regret later.
Thankfully, the train to Yongen-Jaya was boarding and he was able to make it to Leblanc fairly quickly. Not bothering to stop by his own home to make himself more presentable, - really, Goro, you should have, - he entered the small café that he himself almost considered a secondary home.
Goro locked eyes with the man behind the counter and hid a smile that dared to creep onto his face. “Welcome, good sir, may I take your order?” Kurusu asked with a grin, and to that, Goro couldn’t help but return it.
“Usual,” he said as he slipped into his bar seat. Kurusu once joked that he should ask Kitagawa to make a plaque for the chair with ‘CROW’ on it, and it would honestly be fitting, seeing as he was the only customer who regularly sat there.
Kurusu promptly began making his coffee. Goro shivered, finally feeling the December chill set in. He thought to himself that he should have brought a heavier coat.
The other behind the counter began humming the dumb tune he placed as his ringtone on his phone. Something about a… trickster or something? When Goro had asked, Kurusu’s answer was that it was from an idol, which honestly answered nothing and brought more questions. Was Kurusu into idols? Do you think he has a fan account you don’t know of? Kurusu knew about his food blog, so surely he would tell Goro if he had started his own idol fan blog.
Slowly relaxing in the soothing atmosphere of his closest… rival, you could say, Goro began to let down his facades. He had long since given up the detective prince, but his shield of annoyance and arrogance was too often utilized. Cracks had begun to form in it, and the only healer he knew for it stood nearby. He could let it down for just one night, he thought.
He was wrong.
As Kurusu turned and walked behind the shelf of beans, Goro felt something in his body release. He instantly froze. He had not felt that feeling in a very, very long time, and it was not a good feeling.
Fuck, was the only word in his head as he saw his reflection in the glass jar across from him. His ears were already fully formed on his head, flopped to the sides against his hair and almost blending in, and he could feel his fluffy tail begin to drop between his legs in fear.
Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.
“Kurusu, I need to use the restroom. I’ll be back,” he said, hoping his voice didn’t sound as shaky as he felt.
“Gotcha,” the other responded, still seemingly concentrating on whatever he was doing out of sight.
Goro thanked whatever god decided to take pity on him that moment and half-ran into Leblanc’s bathroom. He shut the door with a little too much force and locked the door, leaning against it and trying to steady himself. The mirror nearby mocked him, though, showing his dog-like appearance in all of its horrifying glory.
Goro had always been deeply ashamed of this form. So many… creatures like him, whether they were doglike, catlike, or even birdlike, were persecuted and sold as objects. In his mother’s case, she became a sex worker. His bastard of a father took advantage of her and produced his disgusting self, which was a sad fate for many people like him. Many were abandoned, and while some were lucky enough to be born into accepting families, others like Goro were left to the hands of fate.
Goro could not let anyone know his secret. His mother told him that from the moment he could remember her words. Nobody would accept him, nobody would love him, and absolutely no one would protect him if they knew.
Of course, some people liked monstrosities like himself, which was why his mother became a sex worker - and while Goro had nothing against that way of life, he refused to be reduced to that and have to give himself up for disgusting creatures like Shido.
Goro wasn’t aware that tears had begun to fall down his face until he looked back up at his reflection. He truly looked pitiful, and it almost made him laugh with how pathetic he had become in only a few minutes. Truly worthless. His ears had drooped and his tail was wrapped around his leg, as if trying to cling to his body and become smaller.
“Uh, Akechi? Are you okay?” A knock sounded behind him, making Goro jump and almost let out a whine. God, he truly was pathetic in this state. Kurusu absolutely could not see him.
“Are you on bathroom duty now? I’m almost done,” he said with a bite. He had to rebuild his facade now, or he might not be able to form a plan to escape the hell Leblanc had become.
The worst part of his form, Goro decided, was the heightened sense of smell. Fucking pheromones. How does Morgana deal with this? He could almost feel how worried Kurusu was with how deeply it was surrounding him. It almost made him want to open the door and tell him the truth. Almost.
Goro pulled out his phone and tried to think about his next move. Thank god Kurusu isn’t like me, he thought to himself. If he was, his fear would have been enveloping him by now. The café would be a contaminated zone and anyone like him nearby would likely be crippled. Goro felt his emotions strongly after suppressing them for so long, and he had not felt this level of fear since he woke up that summer day after fighting that Persona with no recollection on how he ended up in an alleyway.
He heard a loud thunk against the bathroom door. “Akechi, open the door.”
Goro could have sworn he felt something calming, almost soothing, pushing against him. “I have no reason to.”
“If you don’t open it yourself, I’ll do it,” Kurusu argued, sounding like he was gritting his teeth.
“I refuse. Leave me alone.”
It was then that he heard the lock being picked. Of course he hadn’t thrown those away after the last palace. Shit.
Goro began to panic. “Kurusu, stop. I don’t know why you’re doing this. I’m fine.”
“No,” was the only response he got before the door was being pushed open.
Goro promptly dropped his phone to the floor and the combination of a calming scent and extreme distress forced his knees to fall with it. As much as he wanted to fight, his body refused to listen. He bristled himself and tried to force himself to look threatening to the man in front of him.
Goro refused to meet the other’s eyes or look anywhere near his face. He could not bring himself to face that rejection and disgust head-on, instead choosing to focus on the shoes facing him. He waited for the other’s next move; he didn’t know if he’d rather him call the police or the thieves, since both sounded equally mortifying.
Instead of a scream of fear or any kind of alarm to others, though, he heard purring.
Kurusu dropped to his own knees and pulled Goro’s body to his, nuzzling into his neck and pushing out the most relaxing scent Goro had ever smelt. As much as he tried to stay on guard and ready to defend himself, the combination of Kurusu’s scent and the fact that Akira Kurusu, his only true friend and someone irreplaceable to him, was sitting in front of him and comforting the monster that he had become overpowered his will.
Goro clung to his body in return, not even registering the feeling of another tail wrapping around him. The only thing he could hear was Kurusu’s soft muttering of, “You’re okay, you’re safe, I’m here…”
He wasn’t sure when he passed out.
Goro woke up to a hand carding through his hair and rubbing against his ears. The smell of coffee and old books surrounded him like a blanket, and someone nearby was humming.
He jolted up, the covers on him thrown off in the movement. The boy next to him had his hands up in surrender, but more startling than the sight of Kurusu trying to placate him was the sight of cat ears on his head.
“Is this a cruel joke.” It wasn’t a question.
Kurusu’s eyebrows raised, but he seemed to realize quickly what he meant. “No, no! They’re… they’re real. Do you want to…?”
With a scowl, Goro reached over to Kurusu’s head. He pulled on his ear, earning him a yelp of pain, but they were definitely real.
What the fuck.
Goro looked away. He wouldn’t admit to himself that it was in shame.
“I’m not going to judge you, Akechi. You’re safe here,” Kurusu said as calmly as possible. It truly felt like he was trying to soothe a rabid dog. He didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.
“Hm,” was all he could force out. Knowing that Kurusu was… weird like him was comforting, he couldn’t deny that.
“I got it from my dad,” he said after a beat of silence. “He did it from my mom until they were married.”
Goro glanced at him for a split second. “Hm.” I didn’t ask. You don’t have to share this to comfort me, he wanted to say.
“Mom was freaked out for a bit. Apparently, she ran to the sink and dunked her head in the water since she thought she was dreaming.” Kurusu laughed at his own words as if he found his own story amusing. Goro could see the possible humor in it, but if Kurusu had done that to him, he might have vomited.
Kurusu gave him a smile. “I suppose. She didn’t mind, obviously, since I exist.”
Goro closed his eyes and sighed. “I’m assuming you want to know if Shido was one, right.”
“No, no!” He shook his head vehemently with his words. “I thought… I thought you’d feel more comfortable if I told you my story. I’m sorry.”
“He wasn’t. It was my mother,” Goro said anyway. Kurusu wasn’t lying and his apology was genuine, seeing as his ears drooped like a cat that had been yelled at - though that might not be that far off from what happened, he supposed.
“I won’t make you share what you don’t want to, Akechi,” Kurusu said gently, resting his hand on Goro’s shoulder. “You don’t need to tell me anything.”
Something in Goro’s heart tore at that, and he had to resist from letting out a whimper. Why was Kurusu so kind to him? He deserved nothing that he was being given right now.
Kurusu tentatively reached out to the other’s head again, and when Goro hesitantly nodded, he resumed petting his ears and hair. “They’re soft.”
“Do you want to touch mine?”
Goro turned to Kurusu at that. “Pardon?”
“I said,” he started, moving from the café chair he had pulled up next to the mattress and onto the bed next to Goro, “do you want to touch mine?”
Goro glanced up at the other’s ears. They looked like Morgana’s in a way, black with white fur on the insides. They matched his pitch-black hair perfectly.
He reached out and touched them, turning his body to sit with his legs crossed in front of Kurusu. “Soft,” he said, and Kurusu’s ears twitched. Does that mean he’s happy, or…?
“I’m glad,” Kurusu smiled. Yes, happy then.
They continued rubbing one another’s ears until Goro’s back began to ache, at which they laid down side by side on the small mattress.
“What,” Goro responded, his eyes long since closed but not asleep.
“You can call me Akira, you know,” he said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world to say at that moment.
Goro felt his own tail wag at that, and he wanted to scream. “Sure.”
Akira smiled. “Can I call you Goro, then?”
His tail wagged harder. Akira snorted.
Goro decided to pull his ear again.
“I-I’m sorry, it’s just,” he laughed, not even registering the pain, “I’ve always had to decipher your words. It’s strange seeing such a clear response.”
Goro hid his face in Akira’s chest at those words. He could practically feel the heat coming from his face. How could he be so careless with his own body? Had it really been that long since he’d trained himself to stop those reactions? Yes, dumbass, he thought, but pushed it away.
Akira rubbed his back and pressed his face into Goro’s hair, pressing a kiss against it. “It’s okay, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I liked it.”
Goro blushed harder at that and kicked against the other’s legs.
Akira couldn’t help but laugh more. “You know, the color of your hair is really beautiful.”
“Is it now,” he said bluntly, forcing his tail to curl around his leg and not wag. He had had enough of that for one night.
Akira twirled a strand of Goro’s hair around his finger. “It is. You’re beautiful.”
How many cheesy things can one man say? He clutched onto Akira’s chest even tighter. “You don’t need to stroke my ego.”
“I’m just stating the truth, Goro,” he said, grabbing one of the hands on his chest and intertwining their fingers. “I’ve always thought you were, honestly. No wonder you were always so popular.”
“And no wonder you were unpopular,” Goro grumbled.
“I know you’re lying. I’ve seen the look you gave me in the Metaverse sometimes. I guess you never saw mine.”
He tightened his grip on the other’s hand and ignored the final statement he made. He could dwell on the fact that they had been blind idiots for over a year another time.
“...Maybe I am.” Goro couldn’t admit it right then and there. That would mean defeat. Akira would have to wait until another day to hear his true thoughts.
They laid in silence for a while, Akira gently rubbing his thumb over Goro’s and using his other hand to stroke his hair. “You can sleep, you know. I won’t leave you. Ever.”
“I know,” he responded, and he meant it. He knew that Akira would never let him leave again. Not after the engine room, not after the laboratory’s fall, and certainly not now. In all honesty, it was irrational to ever fear Akira coming to know about his true form. They had been through too much to have something like this separate them, and Akira had never been one to be prejudiced.
“Goro, can I tell you something?” Akira asked gently.
Goro leaned back and pushed himself up so that they were eye-to-eye. “Of course.”
“I love you.”
Goro punched his arm and hid his face in Akira’s neck.
“That was corny. Never do that again.”
Akira laughed, pressed a kiss to his cheek, and hugged Goro tighter.
As Akira’s breathing began to even out, his body slowly relaxing, he heard a soft phrase uttered beside him.
“I love you, too.”
They both fell asleep with smiles on their face, and if Sakura-san found them in the morning cuddled together and wrapped like an unending puzzle, he never mentioned it.