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Goro’s accommodation for the foreseeable future is on the edge of Shibuya, nestled between neighbouring houses like a satisfied hermit crab. It looks cozy, to put it nicely, but completely ordinary—which is exactly why the Kurusu family purchased it for their son. That same Kurusu son walks forward in an unenthusiastic manner. Nothing to suggest he’s eager to return home, or that he sees it as his home at all, Goro thinks. He can sympathise with that much.

Kurusu, who’d introduced himself with a mumbled ‘Akira’ and left it at that, has been silent for the past 10 minutes. Goro can’t think of anything to say, but maybe that’s for the best. He’s being paid to protect Kurusu, and that’s all. If he just focuses on his work there’ll be no need to force a conversation.

Then Kurusu reaches the front door, rummages through his pockets, and swears quietly. A bad sign.

“Kurusu? Did something happen?”

Kurusu seems reluctant to respond. He rubs at the back of his neck as he faces Goro.

“I... I think I lost my key.”

Oh. Well then.

Goro commends himself for keeping his smile intact. Unfortunately, there's no saving his opinion of Kurusu, which has taken a considerable nosedive. They say first impressions are important. Goro’s impression of Kurusu is now 'unreliable' or simply 'a fool.' How the absolute hell could Kurusu lose his key in such a dire situation? Goro read those documents: Kurusu has already had attempts made on his life, and even now they’re essentially in hiding. Does he have no sense?

"That's quite an issue," says Goro. "Do you have any idea where it is? If not we might need to call a locksmith."

"Don't worry, I’ve got this." Kurusu pulls a pin from his pants pocket and kneels beside the lock. In less than a minute the door swings open, and Kurusu stands up tall as if Goro is supposed to be impressed. And he is, just a little bit. You don’t expect lock-picking from a rich kid.

"Didn’t you break in too easily?” Goro strides past Kurusu and the open door which, on closer inspection, looks pretty flimsy. A good kick or two would snap it from the rusting hinges. “Losing your key aside, I can’t say this house feels very secure.”

“...Sorry.”

“It’s fine. That’s why I’m here.”

The hallway is bare, a little dusty, betraying its lack of occupants until recently. When Goro puts his shoes away, he notices the cupboard only contains one other pair: Kurusu’s, probably.

“I’m surprised you live alone,” says Goro, looking up, “Considering your situation. Wouldn’t you feel safer with more people? Friends, maybe?”

Kurusu jerks his head to the side, clearly avoiding Goro’s gaze.

A delicate subject, Goro decides.

“By the way, unless you know exactly where your key is, you should get the locks changed.”

“Oh. Right.” Whether Kurusu is bothered by this at all doesn’t show on his face. He simply puts his shoes away and rests his hands in his pockets. “I’ll call someone in the morning.”

Goro gives him a plastic smile. “You don’t seem to understand how big a security breach this is, Kurusu. Call them now.”

With that out the way, Goro begins his exploration. The bottom floor is simple: a table, some floor cushions and a sofa, a simple kitchen against the other side of the room. Each window is locked and has a security alarm fitted: smart move, but will probably be hell in summer.

Upstairs there are three different rooms: the bathroom, and two storage rooms. At least, Goro assumed they were storage rooms, until he peeked in one and saw a bed and various knick-knacks spread around in some semblance of decoration. Apparently it doubles as Kurusu’s bedroom, suggesting that the other storage room will be Goro’s to claim. But couldn’t Kurusu have at least tidied away the boxes? The clutter is horribly distracting; Goro has to fight the urge to clean, harshly reminding himself he’s a bodyguard, not a maid.

He did however start moving stuff around, pushing the boxes into the wardrobe at the end of his room. It didn’t contain any clothes and was already a decent size, so stuffing the boxes inside turned out to be easy. This room faced the front of the house and could be a good place to watch for suspicious activity. Akira’s room seems to face the opposite side, looming over a lower part of the roof.

“I called them. They’ll replace the locks tomorrow.” It’s Akira. Goro hadn’t heard him walk up the stairs; even his footsteps were quiet, apparently. If he didn’t look so listless, perhaps Akira would have had a promising career in espionage, a thought that makes Goro smirk just a little.

“I suppose we’ll need to be extra vigilant for tonight.” Goro tries to step closer, but stops when Akira tenses slightly. He opts to stay where he is instead, smiling and gesturing to the dusty boxes. “You only moved here recently, right? I’m surprised you have so many things.”

“Oh. This stuff isn’t mine,” says Akira. “My parents bought this place from their friends. They said I could use whatever got left behind.”

“How kind of them.”

“I guess. It’s mostly junk, though…” Akira mutters this last part. Goro decides not to comment on it and looks around in exaggerated interest.

“Does anything here belong to you?”

“The futon. Those books. That can of soda. And, um, the cat.”

“Cat—? Ah!” As if responding to Akira, something black and furry darts out from behind a box, nearly colliding with Goro’s ankles, and flees through the door.

“That’s Mona,” says Akira. “He’s… a little shy around strangers.”

Goro adjusts his collar, pretending he wasn’t startled by a cat of all things. It’s not as if he dislikes cats, but he doesn’t particularly like them either. As long as this ‘Mona’ doesn’t bother him, they should get along fine.

Akira looks at him. His eyes are surprisingly intense for such a quiet man. “I’m guessing you’ve got some things here, too.”

Indeed, Goro had some outfits and essential equipment (mostly weapons) sent to the house in advance. Aside from that, he’s always been one to travel light. He disposed of his phone and laptop, preventing anyone from his old life tracking him down for favours or grudges. Goro wasn’t particularly attached to those items, but he wouldn’t mind replacing them soon: a simple task considering the sizable advance the Kurusu family provided him.

This job is a fresh start, to put it simply. Perhaps too optimistic a thought, but it shakes some of the dust from Goro’s heart regardless. Not that he has any reason to say this to Akira.

“A few things, yes. Not a lot.”

“That’s for the best,” Akira says. “We won’t have much space here for long. My family’s already claimed this place as a glorified storage unit.” He smiles dryly. “It’s perfect for hiding things they don’t want anymore.”


Adapting to a new routine is simple enough. At 6am, Goro has a quick breakfast, usually toast, then dresses in the plainest outfit he can find. He inspects the house thoroughly, checking for any signs of an attempted or successful break-in, as well as vandalism. Once that is taken care of, Goro watches over the neighbourhood with his room as a vantage point, making sure to memorise the ‘normal’ sights and identify the ‘abnormal’ ones.

At about midday, Akira crawls out of bed, cat at his heels. His routine is far more chaotic to a worrying degree. Akira’s breakfast is usually the first thing he grabs from the fridge, too tired to even look. Then he does whatever the hell he wants, and Goro has no idea what that might be even a week after their cohabitation began. Akira Kurusu haunts the halls of the house, occasionally saying ‘hi,’ occasionally staring at him, occasionally offering a soda from the fridge (Goro always answers no). Such an insignificant amount of conversation passes between them that even now, a month since their cohabitation began, Goro can’t name any real details about Akira.

And really, what does Goro need to know about him? Akira Kurusu, 21, middle son of a nouveau riche family, dropped out of university after multiple attempts on his life. The attackers’ identities are unknown. Beyond that, what else is necessary?

But humans are sociable by nature. Even the most introverted person will grow lonely, craving conversation and warmth. Even though they occupy the same living space, Akira says so little to Goro that he might as well be invisible. The house is only small. There’s no avoiding each other. They do laundry together. They eat cheap dinners together, as a formality. They go to the supermarket together (well, Akira does the shopping, and Goro keeps him in his sights). All of this is with the barest minimum of conversation, oceans of silence in between. Akira’s face is so sullen-looking the entire time, Goro can only wonder if his presence offends him somehow.

Goro understands. Really, he does. Akira doesn’t want to live with a complete stranger—that’s normal. But couldn’t he at least try to be a little friendly?

Tonight, he’s finished checking the security: the motion sensors by the windows, the doors are locked, the cameras are active. With nothing left, he wanders the house’s garden, ears straining for suspicious noises, eyes struggling in the darkness. The most exciting part of his night so far is Mona jumping onto the fence to judge him. The cat doesn’t leave him. Maybe that’s why Goro finds himself talking.

“Is Kurusu always like this?” Mona only blinks at him. It’s not a rejection, so Goro keeps going. “He sounds perfectly friendly when he’s on the phone. And I’ve seen the way he plays with you. Am I the problem here?”

“Meowwww,” says Mona from his perch.

"When I come back from patrolling, he doesn’t even say anything. If he’s not going to start a conversation, couldn’t he just smile or say welcome back? I’ve met corpses happier to see me.”

"Mrraaaoow.”

"And we don't have to get along!” Goro’s raising his voice now, frustrations spilling into the night. “I'm not here to be liked.”
He’s accustomed to thankless, unpleasant jobs. But he’d hoped, naively perhaps, to begin adjusting to a normal life. If Akira, the only one he sees on a daily basis, gives him the same stone faced treatment as his old employers, then why did he even leave?

He’s being dramatic. He knows he is. And yet, he can’t stop that old, childish desire to be wanted from wrapping its hands around his throat.

"Maaaoow,” says Mona.

"Why should I be the one to make an effort?” Goro asks no one. “Doesn’t he care that I’m living in the same space as him simply to keep him alive? I could be doing anything else with my time!”

A lie. Goro Akechi hasn’t had a purpose in a very long time.

"Meewww.”

Goro’s shoulders slump. "I was always good at talking to older people. Now I’m faced with someone who’s only a year younger than me, and I don’t know what to say.” He lets out a lifeless chuckle. “Look at me. I’m communicating with a cat far better."

A strange noise comes from above him, like something scraping against a hard surface. Goro’s head snaps up just in time to see a silhouette duck behind the other side of the roof.

“Shit,” Goro breathes, then charges inside the house.

He only has one explanation for the stranger on the roof: an intruder. Perhaps a burglar, perhaps a hitman. The specifics aren’t important right now. Without pausing for breath upon reaching the second floor, Goro throws open Akira’s bedroom door. It hits the wall hard enough to leave a mark.

"Kurusu!" he shouts. Stood near the window is Akira, eyes wide. His outfit is… strange—a long black coat, bright red gloves—but that doesn’t matter right now.

“Uh—”

“Move. Someone’s on the roof.” Goro yanks the window open (unlocked, he notes) and cranes his neck to inspect the roof. The window is large and faces a lower section of the roof, so one could climb out fairly easily.

“I-I don’t think anyone’s actually up there,” Akira says. Goro ignores him in favour of jumping out the window in one almost graceful movement. He thinks he hears Akira whistle lowly.

The roof is empty. No sign of anyone hiding, nor evidence that someone had been there. Still, Goro searches and searches, even when he hears Akira call out, “If the neighbours see you up there, they might complain.”

“Then I’ll apologise to them tomorrow,” Goro snaps. Still unable to find anything, he grumbles to himself and descends from the roof, making sure the window is locked after climbing inside.

“Welcome back,” says Akira, eyebrows raised. “Are you sure you’re not being a little paranoid?”

Goro stares at him.

"Age: 19. Akira Kurusu was walking home when several men tried to drag him into an unmarked van. Received threatening letters over the following weeks. The family reported stalkers and broken windows until they relocated.”

He sees Akira blink, waiting for him to continue.

Age: 20. Several reports of strangers approaching Akira Kurusu and pulling out weapons in public. Fell violently ill at a restaurant at one point due to poisoned food.”

“Okay, I get the point—”

Goro doesn’t stop. “Age: 21. A man was told his debts would be paid off if he killed you. He pulled a knife on you, but he struck your guardian instead. Kurusu, don’t you understand? You're not paranoid enough."

“You, um…” Akira tugs at his hair awkwardly. “You did your research, huh?”

Goro smirks as if to say ‘you expected otherwise?’ He looks him up and down.

"By the way, what the hell are you wearing?"


The next day, Akira approaches Goro and asks, “What kind of food do you like?”

Goro, in the middle of a 10 minute break after scrutinizing the neighbourhood until his eyes hurt, looks up from a dusty box on the floor. He’d found an old chessboard among broken knickknacks and engrossed himself in searching for the missing chess pieces. The last two stubbornly elude him.

“Why do you ask?”

“Isn’t that obvious?” Akira sounds a little exasperated. “I’m going to cook tonight. I wanted to know if there’s anything you’re hungry for.”

Huh. Goro had been perfectly fine with quick and easy meals, preferring to save time rather than make anything complicated (though his less than stellar culinary abilities were also a factor). But Akira, it seems, is already tired of instant food.

...Goro doesn’t know how good a chef Akira might be. However, even he appreciates eating a proper meal.

“There’s nothing in particular,” Goro tells him. He indulged in all kinds of expensive restaurant food as a teenager to converse with Shido’s social circle. Now Goro’s older and has significantly less life in his eyes, and his only concern regarding food is whether or not it's edible.

“Do you mind if I make curry?” Akira’s quiet voice gains a hint of pride when he adds, “It’s my signature dish.”

Goro chuckles just a little. “Well, now you’ve raised my expectations. I’ll be disappointed if this curry is anything less than spectacular.” He wonders, then, if he’s overstepped a boundary. They’re not friends, not the type of people who can joke around. But Akira's face lights up at the challenge.

“Then it’ll be spectacular.”

By the time Goro finds the remaining pieces, an enticing smell lures him to the kitchen area. Akira is stirring a bubbling pot on the stove, occasionally tasting the curry with a pleased noise. Goro hides his interest by taking a seat at the table to set down the chessboard—which he now claims for himself, previous owners be damned.

The chess pieces could use some polishing. The board itself is still fairly dusty. But it’s a small treasure to Goro, and in his life treasures are few and far between.

Lost in his task of putting each chess piece in their proper places, the scent of curry in the air, Goro relaxes to the point he begins humming. The first song that comes to mind is an old Featherman song that he listened to over and over again as a kid. He sometimes wishes he could scold his younger self for burning the lyrics into his brain. Even now, he can’t help but murmur the words when he reaches the chorus. It’s embarrassing as all hell, but he still feels the hint of a smile. He completely forgets that Akira is in the same room.

When he looks up, Akira is staring at him, steam from the curry fogging up his glasses.

“What?” Goro asks, defensive. “Is my voice really that abhorrent?”

“That’s a Featherman song.”

Goro doesn’t react at first, taking a moment to process such a point blank statement. He’s been caught. He tries to think of an excuse.

“Um,” he says.

“Not just any Featherman song,” Akira continues, far more animated than Goro has ever seen. “That was the opening to that old spinoff show about Feather Pigeon, which only aired for like 3 months before it got pulled for low ratings. The DVDs are practically collector’s items.”

“I watched it once or twice as a child. Is that really an issue?” Goro bristles, clearly embarrassed despite his arguments. He can see Akira grinning.

“Once or twice? Really? It sounded like you knew the lyrics pretty well.”

“You recognised it, too!”

“Because one of my best friends went through a phase of blasting that song whenever she had a spare moment. I couldn’t forget it if I tried,” Akira says, eyes full of laughter. “I can’t believe my bodyguard’s a Featherman nerd.”

"And I can't believe you're heckling said bodyguard," Goro grumbles. The Kurusu family already pays him an exuberant amount, but Goro's starting to think it's not enough. "Get back to your curry before it burns."

Akira is unusually compliant in this instance, still smiling like a kid on his birthday. He returns with two plates of curry with rice, steam delicately rising to the ceiling. One is set in front of Goro, while the other goes to the empty seat that Akira then claims. He stares at Goro expectantly.

The food smells wonderful, though Goro keeps that fact to himself. He lifts a spoonful of curry and tries to savour the taste of a home cooked meal.

Bad choice.

Akira, it seems, achieved the remarkable feat of condensing an active volcano into a single plate of curry. Hell itself slithers down Goro’s throat. He gasps, coughing into his hand.

“You okay?” Akira tilts his head, completely unaffected as he swallows spoonful after spoonful.

Goro gulps down his water and hisses, “I’m perfectly fine.”

“Hmm.” It’s slight, but Akira is smirking at Goro’s undoubtedly bright red face. "Hey, Mr. Bodyguard? Is this really all it takes to put you out of commission? Should I be worried?"

Oh wow. Fuck Akira Kurusu and everything he stands for. And fuck Goro Akechi for taking his spoon and dipping it into the infernal curry once again.

“Like I said: I’m perfectly fine. Still, no matter how much you dislike me, there’s no reason to pull such a petty prank,” Goro mutters.

Akira blinks at him midbite. He chews and swallows.

“I don’t dislike you. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could trust you, but…”

This is the first Goro’s hearing of it. “That suggests you trust me now. Did I do something to change your mind?”

“It’s more like you didn’t do anything.” Akira's eyes are… not exactly mocking. Fond, perhaps? It's a gaze that Goro can't say he's used to. “I figured if you were another hitman here to murder me you’d have tried something by now.”

“And yet, you still fed me this.” Goro gestures to the hell pit on a plate. “Indirectly attacking your bodyguard is not recommended. Is this the sort of behaviour that attracted so many assassination attempts?”

Akira hums and leans back in his chair. “Well… You’re not far off. I figured my parents would’ve told you everything.”

“They kept the details sparse. Maybe they were worried about your privacy?”

“I doubt that.” Akira smiles wryly. “Here’s the thing. I’m really good at pissing people off. It’s a talent, I guess you could say.”

Goro laughs. “Oh, that was easy to deduce.”

“No, you really don’t get it. When I was about 16, I tried to help a woman being harassed by some drunk guy. He got injured and sued me,” Akira rests his face in his hand, as if he’s only recounting an embarrassing incident from school. “Since then, it’s just been one big snowball of pissing people off. It started with a teacher, and then celebrities, CEOs, politicians, online threads… I even got in a fistfight with my school’s guidance counsellor.

“My most recent adventure in pissing people off was a yakuza clan,” Akira continues. “The yakuza are particularly murdery, by the way. I’m 60% sure they’re the reason for all the assassins who tried to stab me in my sleep or poison me, but I’m willing to stay open minded.”

“...Only 60%?” Goro asks, because he’s well aware of just how ‘murdery’ the yakuza can be.

“Well, I’m 20% convinced it could be one of those CEOs or politicians. I don’t think they ever learnt my identity, but if they did they’d totally kill me.”

Goro looks at Akira: such an unassuming young man, easy to overlook, but somehow the cause of so much trouble. “What did you do to warrant this, exactly?”

Akira smiles. “That’s classified. Anyway, I’ve got a theory I’m 15% sure about: my parents are the ones trying to get rid of me.”

Goro waits for Akira to laugh. He waits a little longer.

“Why would your parents do that?”

“When I first got my criminal record, they were… upset.” Akira plays with his hair, looking towards the ceiling. “They couldn’t stand everyone knowing what I did and even moved to a different neighbourhood. Now they’ve got money, and they’re more obsessed with their reputation than ever. I’ve been thinking this for a while, but it wouldn’t be unusual if they wanted to get rid of their no-good son…”

“They hired me to protect you.”

“Yes,” says Akira, staring into Goro’s eyes. “They did.”

Goro’s starting to understand why Akira struggled to trust him in the beginning.

“Like I said, I’m just keeping an open mind,” Akira adds. “I know it’s unlikely.”

“So, what’s the final 5%?”

Akira glances around the room, leans forward, and whispers, “Mona. I started buying cheaper cat food, and he’s had it in for me ever since.”

Goro doesn’t stop himself from smiling. He notices Akira returning the grin—it’s the type of positive and normal interaction that’s bizarre for Goro, but not unwelcome.

They both laugh this time.


Goro's biggest mistake was thinking something good could happen to him.

A few nights after the curry incident, Goro knocks on Kurusu’s bedroom door. Their interactions had been more positive lately: less silence, more chatter, more sharing interests. The chessboard is all set up downstairs; Goro has just finished rehearsing his completely organic way of asking Kurusu to play a match with him. He'd never been one for friends, never hung out or gone on dates, so there's something intimidating about asking for a simple chess match. If Akira says he doesn’t know the rules, well, Goro could offer to teach him. It might be fun.

But there's no answer. Foreboding claws at Goro's gut. He throws open the door.

Goro Akechi prides himself on efficiency. He’d wasted no time in memorising Akira’s routines and hobbies, all for the sake of knowing where he is at all times. Akira Kurusu should be in his bedroom. Goro knows he’s in his bedroom. The only one there, however, is the cat, sitting on Akira’s futon and yawning lazily.

Frozen in place, Goro delves through his memories, searching for anything he could have overlooked. At no point did he hear alarms, or yells, or sounds of a struggle. The bedroom is a mess, but it’s the usual amount of mess. The only inconsistency is the lack of Akira.

This is either the work of the world’s most talented kidnapper, or Akira left under his own power.

Logic interrupts his train of thought. Surely, his brain argues, a man with a target on his back would know better than to sneak out in the dead of night. Even a child would know not to leave without telling their bodyguard. No one could be that stupid.

He remembers Akira’s smirking face.

No one except for Akira Kurusu.

Goro goes to inspect the most obvious escape route: the window. It’s unlocked, open ever so slightly. Not only that, but the batteries in the motion sensor are gone. The only conclusion Goro can come to is that, wherever Akira has vanished to, he plans to return. This fact makes the tension fall from Goro’s shoulders.

It doesn’t take long for his relief to be swallowed by pure, seething rage.

How absolutely fucking dare he.

He wants nothing more than to hunt Akira down and demand answers. Unfortunately, Akira is slippery. If Goro confronts him later, Akira might evade his questions or pretend he was home the entire time. Perhaps he would even insinuate Goro didn’t do his job properly. The thought makes his blood boil.

Yes, Goro needs evidence. And what better evidence than catching Akira in the act?

His plan is simple, if a little hasty. He retrieves the thread from his emergency sewing kit (for mending tears in clothing, but doesn’t see much use beyond that), then fishes two empty cans from the garbage. After unspooling a generous amount, he ties a can to both ends of the thread and places it underneath the window, stretched until the string is taut, hiding the cans among the boxes. It’s an amateurish trap, but it should do the job.

Now all he can do is wait.

It’s about 2am when Goro hears a clatter and a yelp. He rises from his hiding place. Akira is sprawled on the floor, leg wrapped in string. He’s wearing that strange outfit from the other night.

“A-Akechi? What—I mean, um, hey, but also, what?"

“That should be my question.” Arms folded, Goro hopes dearly that Akira can feel the boiling volcano beneath his words. He stares down at him with the coldest gaze he can manage. “What are you playing at, Kurusu?”

Akira has the decency to look sheepish. He climbs to his feet, the cans rattling against his leg.

Will Akira tell him the truth? Or will he just lie? A part of Goro clings to the innocent notion that their time together meant something, at least enough to warrant a bit of honesty.

“I just… needed some fresh air. Went for a walk.”

A lie, then. Unfortunately for him, Goro is well experienced in lies, and this one is flimsier than most.

“Ah, I see. You went for a nice evening stroll out the goddamn window?!”

“Well, you know—” Akira visibly panics for an entire second, then puts his expression under full control. Impressive. “You wouldn’t have let me outside by myself, right? The window seemed like the best bet. I just wanted to be alone for a while.”

Goro grits his teeth. It’s absolute bullshit. He knows it is. But Akira’s stubborn, and prying answers from him will be difficult if he’s determined to stay silent. If Akira’s being evasive, then prying answers from him will be difficult. Goro doesn’t want to resort to torture.

He takes in a deep breath, searches his soul for scraps of calmness, and exhales.

“Kurusu, don’t you understand your position?” he says, staring at Akira who meets his gaze straight on. “People are trying to kill you. I’m your bodyguard, but how am I supposed to protect you like this?”

Akira shoves his hands in his pocket. Though he’s clearly trying to play it cool, there are some traces of guilt in his eyes.

“I can take care of myself,” he mutters.

“Oh, really? From what I’ve seen, I have no reason to believe that.”

They glower at each other for several long seconds.

“Go to bed, Kurusu,” says Goro. “If you feel a little more talkative in the morning, I’d be happy to listen.”

“I was planning on going to bed anyway,” Akira shoots back. “And not because you told me to.”

Goro fights the urge to slam the door as he leaves.


Communication is key in any relationship, even a business one.

Unfortunately, Goro and Akira haven’t said a word to each other in a week. Goro’s waiting for Akira to apologise and explain himself, certain he would see reason soon. Certainty turned to ‘probably,’ then doubt. Akira Kurusu, it turns out, is talented in the art of stubborn silence.

Goro still does his job perfectly; his pride won’t allow failure even in the midst of a disagreement. He watches over Akira more intently than ever, just in case he plans to pull another vanishing act. Still, the silence between them is a problem. If the two of them ended up injured just because of a miscommunication… Well, that’d just be stupid.

(And maybe, just maybe, a part of him misses speaking with Akira. It’d felt like the two of them were truly bonding. Wouldn’t it be a shame to throw that away?)

As a teenager, Goro may have refused to speak with Akira until the end of time. Now he’s older, and he knows that adults have to do unpleasant things like apologise or hide corpses. Sooner or later, Goro will have to be the bigger person and find a way to settle this disagreement (even though it wasn’t his fault).

But then Akira approaches him.

“Listen, I miss talking to you,” Akira admits, and Goro tries very hard not to feel pleased by this. “Can we put this behind us?” He reveals that a friend gifted him two tickets to a museum exhibit centered on the works of Madarame, and that he really wants Goro to go with him.

It’s a trick of some sorts. It has to be. Akira just wants to distract Goro.

“This is a bribe, isn’t it?” Goro says outright.

“Can’t we call it a date instead?”

Of course, Goro answers ‘no’ to that. Unfortunately, as Akira’s bodyguard he’s obligated to accompany him to the museum regardless. The next Saturday, Goro tries not to think too much about what he wears and chooses some muted colours. He sees Akira wearing a hoodie to hide his hair, one of his more recognisable features.

The museum is an impressively large building with an impressively large crowd waiting to get inside. Thanks to Akira’s tickets, they’re able to bypass the crowd and go right through the doors. It’s been a long time since Goro’s visited a museum—just a school trip, never with friends—and, for some reason, he feels a little more nervous about it today. He focuses on watching for any suspicious individuals, hoping that will kill the butterflies in his stomach.

Paintings line the walls. Despite the varying styles, the descriptions proudly declare each art piece as the work of Madarame. Goro glances over each one, portraying the interested patron while scrutinising anyone who wanders too near Akira. He studied the locations of every exit in the building beforehand, and he has an escape route planned out in case of emergencies.

Regardless of his nerves, it’s a little freeing that he’s exploring a museum without the mask he wore as a teenager. Less plastic smiles, less glitter, more natural. Just a frowning man standing by another, calmer man. It brings to mind the image of moss reclaiming concrete.

Goro glances at Akira, and sees him making an odd expression. He’s staring very intently at a painting, almost glowering.

“Are you okay?”

And then Akira’s face is back to normal instantly.

“Yeah, I’m good,” he says. He smiles like nothing’s wrong; the fact that it’s a lie makes Goro want to yell.

By the time they leave together, the sun’s sinking behind some trees, gusts of wind leaving a chill in the air. Akira walks a little ahead of him, practically bouncing on his feet.

“That was fun,” Akira says. Goro can hear the grin in his voice. “Where do you want to go for our next date? An amusement park? Oh, maybe an aquarium?”

"Tell me what's going on, Kurusu."

Akira stops, turns to face him. The shadows are striking; it’s impossible to see his expression. Is he smirking? Frowning? Glaring? Goro hates not knowing.

"You don’t need to worry about it."

"So, you admit there is something,” says Goro, scowling. What can he do? Logic doesn’t work on Akira.

In that case, why not appeal to emotion?

“I thought you said you trusted me. Was that a lie?”

The oversentimentality tastes like bile in his mouth. He’s twisting the truth now, he knows he is, but it’s his only strategy. Trust is such a fickle thing, and yet, Akira seems like the type to put stock in it.

“Akechi, I…” Akira’s voice falters.

I’ve got him now, Goro thinks.

Then Akira runs up to him and takes his hand. The gesture is so sudden that Goro is momentarily overwhelmed, blinking rapidly as Akira looks him in the eye.

“Tomorrow night, okay?” Akira murmurs, squeezing Goro’s hand. “We’ll talk.”

Goro, like the utter fool he is, nods his head.


From the moment he wakes, Goro makes sure Akira knows he’s keeping an eye on him.

“Whenever you’re ready, Kurusu,” Goro says, smiling when the two of them enter the kitchen. Akira makes an unhappy face.

“I said tomorrow night. It’s not night yet.”

Goro clicks his teeth. “Does that really matter?”

“To me, yeah,” says Akira.

“Well then!” Goro chimes, smiling again. “I suppose I’ll be holding you to that. Make sure you don’t forget, okay?”

The hours tick by. Goro’s eyes remain fixed on Akira, daring him to even try running away. If this bothers Akira, he doesn’t let it show, simply turning on a movie and inviting Goro to watch it with him.

“The sun’s setting,” Goro says as the sky bleeds red. “The perfect backdrop to confess something, don’t you think?”

Akira bats his eyes. “A love confession?”

“You know exactly what I mean, Kurusu.” Goro’s face goes cold. He stares at Akira with the intensity of a tiger stalking a gazelle. “Start talking. That was the deal.”

“It’s not completely night yet. I’ve still got some time,” Akira says, standing from the sofa with a grunt. Goro watches him.

“Kurusu—”

“Hey, do you want some coffee? And I mean real coffee, not the instant stuff.” Akira grins at Goro, gesturing to the kitchen and the unused coffee grinder. “You know I lived in a cafe, right? My guardian taught me well. It’ll be the best coffee you ever tasted, I promise.”

Goro stays silent, then sighs and leans into the sofa.

“Very well. I suppose you’ve caught my interest.”

“Great!” Akira claps his hands together. “Stay there. I’ll bring it to you.”

Over the following minutes, the whole room fills with the admittedly pleasant scent of coffee. A vague interest turns to anticipation, and by the time Akira’s returned with a hot cup of coffee Goro’s actually excited.

“I hope you enjoy it,” says Akira.

“It smells delicious.” Goro holds the cup to his lips, as if to savour the taste. He doesn’t drink it. “Though, of course, I’d have been offended if you presented me with anything less.”

“You’re a bit of a hard taskmaster, huh?” Akira laughs. “I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

Goro mimes drinking for a minute or two, then releases the softest yawn he can manage and closes his eyes. Pretending to sleep isn’t difficult, considering the near constant exhaustion that’s followed him for years. After about five minutes, he hears Akira leave the room and climb the stairs.

After another five minutes, Goro opens his eyes and follows after him silently.

He finds Akira near the open window, dressed in that ridiculous outfit once again.

“Going somewhere?”

Akira spins around, eyes wide.

“How—?”

“I’m honestly impressed,” Goro says, arms folded. “You actually tried to drug me.”

“You… You figured me out,” says Akira.

“You were obviously planning something. Did you really think I wouldn’t notice?”
Despite everything, Akira laughs. “Well, this is awkward,” he says, scratching the back of his head. “I was hoping I’d be back before you woke up.”

Goro presses his lips into a thin line. “Mind telling me where you’re going this time?”

“I’m just meeting some friends.”

“I find that hard to believe, Kurusu.” He regards Akira coldly. “I’m trying to do my job, you know. We’re supposed to keep a low profile so no one finds us. Somehow, climbing out of windows and jumping around on roofs seems more than a little conspicuous.” Goro shows a tight smile. “But who knows? Maybe that’s just me.”

“No one’s going to see me,” Akira insists.

“That’s not the issue here. What if you get hurt. What if the wrong person finds you?” It’s so difficult staying calm. Goro reminds himself to keep his voice level. “You won’t even tell me where you’re going. You could be walking straight into the lion’s den, and I’d have no way of knowing if you got hurt. Kurusu, think this through.”

“Look, it’s fine. Really.” Akira stands up straight. “I know what I’m doing,” he says with a surprising amount of authority. "Besides, technically I’m your employer, so really—”

“My employers are Koichi Kurusu and Ayane Kurusu,” Goro cuts in. “They had some very clear instructions, including ‘make sure our reckless son doesn’t do something dangerous.’ Their exact words, might I add.”

Akira flashes a bright grin. “And how are you going to stop me?”

It’s a shame it had to come to this.

Goro takes his gun from his holster and aims it at Akira. He sees the way Akira freezes, grin slipping from his face.

“...Akechi?” he asks in a suddenly quiet voice.

“I’m not going to kill you.” Goro smiles sweetly, finger on the trigger. “But injuries don’t necessarily lead to death. All I need to do is aim for your leg, and you’ll be incapacitated.”

Akira clenches his jaw, unclenches it, eyes darting from the gun to Goro’s face.

“You’re… you’re bluffing.”

“Oh? You think so? That’s adorable.”

The two of them are locked in position for far too long, neither moving an inch.

Then, Akira slumps his shoulders.

“Fine,” he murmurs. “I get it.”

“Good. I’m glad you understand.” And Goro lowers the gun.

Akira darts at him, kicking his leg up high and striking Goro’s hand. The gun slips from his fingers as Goro grunts in pain, and it clatters and slides across the floor. With no other obstacles in his way, Akira all but dives through the open window.

“Fucking hell, Kurusu!”

Goro retrieves his gun and sprints to the window. Akira is running and leaping across neighbouring roofs, a blur of black and red as he moves with a confident level of precision.

Growling, Goro raises the gun again. He can stop him right now, then drag him back to the house kicking and screaming. But Akira’s has too much distance now. At this range, it would be far too easy for Goro to miss—worse, he might hit Akira somewhere lethal.

"Shit." Thoroughly bested, Goro drops the gun.


The following hours are all of Earth’s stresses compressed into one Goro Akechi. He grinds his teeth at the fact Akira got away from him so easily. Searching for him is pointless when Goro doesn’t know his destination. And during all this, Goro keeps getting horrible mental images of Akira hurt, perhaps even slipping from a roof and breaking his neck out of sheer stupidity. The worry makes his chest hurt. This can’t be good for him.

Close to midnight, the doorbell rings. Goro yanks the door open to find Akira there, holding a large thin case under his arm and looking nervous.

“What? You didn’t want to use the window this time?” Goro scoffs in barely hidden contempt.

“Haha, well, you know,” says Akira. He flinches, sways a little, and the rage boiling throughout Goro’s body lessens slightly.

“What happened?”

“It’s fine, it’s fine, I’m just—” Akira’s interrupted by Goro closing any distance between them. He finds a large, dark stain against Akira’s shoulder. Blood.

“You’ve been shot,” Goro says, numb.

“It’s just my shoulder. Well, maybe my leg, too, but—”

“Inside. Now.” Without waiting for an answer, Goro drags Akira through the door by his uninjured arm. “You were shot. You were actually fucking shot. Why do you even have a bodyguard if you’re going to do stupid shit like this?”

“You were gonna shoot me, too,” Akira points out, remarkably calm.

“Non-lethally!” Goro throws his arms up.

“Yeah, well, this isn’t lethal either. I’ve just gotta… stop bleeding, I guess.”

Shaking his head, Goro tries to stop himself from panicking. “I’m calling the hospital,” he says.

“Wait, no, no no, don’t do that!” To Goro’s shock, Akira grabs him with far more strength than a normal bleeding man. “Look, the guys who shot me will be looking for a suspicious guy with a bullet in his shoulder. If I go to the hospital, I’ll get caught. Possibly killed. Definitely hurt. Depends how they’re feeling.”

“Maybe you should have thought of that before!” Goro runs his hands through his hair, frustrated, and stressed, and worried. “Okay, okay, fine. Sit down: I know first aid. Let me treat the wound at the very least.”

Akira stares at him, frozen in place.

Now, Kurusu!”

Goro snatches a well-stocked medical kit from the cupboard and returns to Akira, who is obediently sitting on the floor near the kitchen. “This might hurt. I’m sorry,” Goro mutters, then peels away Akira’s bloodstained shirt. He’s clearly grimacing but manages not to yell.

“You idiot,” Goro says without venom. “You could have been killed. You could still die if this wound gets infected.”

“It’s fine,” says Akira, though his face is ashen. He watches as Goro pulls out gauze and antiseptics from the kit. “You… really know what you’re doing, huh?”

“I am your bodyguard, even if you make my job difficult,” Goro says. “Although, I will admit this is a little strange for me. I’ve taken far more lives than I’ve saved, after all.”

Akira frowns at that. “You’ve killed people?”

“Yes.” Goro looks into Akira’s eyes and smirks. “Does that frighten you?”

He sees Akira think, then shake his head.

“You think I’d be scared of someone who watches Featherman?”


Akira looks sweaty and pale in the morning light, but he’s still alive, thank goodness. Though his wounds are minor, Goro couldn’t stop himself from worrying all night, waiting for anything to go wrong. He’s at Akira’s side the moment he’s awake.

“Oh… Good morning,” Akira says, far too casual. He tries to sit up, but Goro puts a hand on his shoulder.

“No. No moving,” Goro orders. “You were shot last night, remember?”

“Don’t worry. They didn’t hit me anywhere important.” Despite his words, Akira can only hiss through his teeth when he attempts to move again. He forces himself into a sitting position, fueled by determination alone, swearing the entire time.

“See?” Akira gasps. “I’m fine.”

Even when injured, Akira remains a stubborn fool. Goro can only shake his head.

“Just stay in bed for today, okay? I’ll get some water and painkillers for you.” He leaves the room, ignoring the way Akira pouts at him.

The kitchen is the same as he left it the night before: dishes in the sink, dots of Akira's blood on the floor. Lying on the table is that strange case Akira brought home. He'd clung to it so tightly even while injured. Curious Goro plays with the simple clasps and pulls it open.

At first, Goro doesn't register what he's looking at. It's a painting. A pretty famous one at that. Forgeries were often in circulation on the black market. Of course, Goro was never fooled by those fakes. Telling a counterfeit from the genuine article is simple enough—

...Oh shit.

Goro thunders up the stairs.

"Kurusu!" he yells, making Akira jump as he marches into the room. "Is that the Sayuri? The real Sayuri?""

Akira scratches the back of his neck. "You, um, recognise it?"

"Of course I fucking recognise it!" Goro explodes. "I want to know why it's here!”

Akira seems to droop a little, clearly exhausted. “I guess it’s time for that explanation, huh?”

“That would be wonderful,” Goro hisses. “Please, go ahead.”

The tiredness doesn’t leave Akira’s face, but something changes in his eyes.

“Have you ever heard of the Phantom Thieves?”

“Yes,” Goro says, which is the short answer, because he remembers some of his previous ‘employers’ tearing their hair out over the Phantom Thieves. They were famous for stealing incriminating information, using it to blackmail corrupt figures into confessing. If those people refused to confess, they simply made the information in its entirety public. The police had little luck in tracking the thieves down. “Are you saying you’re involved with them?”

“Uh, well…” Akira’s grinning again. “I’m the leader, and one of the founders.”

From there, he goes over the thieves’ most recent mission: acquiring the Sayuri, Ichiryusai Madarame’s most famous painting. Except that’s a lie. The real artist died right in front of him—Madarame used the opportunity to claim the work for himself. He fabricated a story about it being stolen to create more intrigue, and he’s had it stowed away in his shack ever since. Apparently, this mission is a personal request from one Yusuke Kitagawa, Akira’s friend and the son of the Sayuri’s true artist.

“Every time I snuck out the house,” Akira tells him, “I was meeting up with the others and doing recon of Madarame’s place. We finally executed the mission last night, and things were going well, but…” He gestures down to himself. “His security found me. I got away with the painting, but their aim was better than I expected.”

“So, what now?” Goro says, folding his arms. “If I recall correctly, the Phantom Thieves always boasted about justice and other nonsense. I can’t imagine you mean to sell the Sayuri.”

“Of course not!” Akira sits up too quickly and flinches at his wounds. “Y… You know that museum? The one where we had our, um, date?” He waits for Goro to nod. “We’re going to break in and put the Sayuri on display for everyone to see, alongside plenty of documents exposing everything he’s done.”

A strange fear settles deep in Goro’s bones. Akira Kurusu, injured, bleeding, has a fire in his eyes that burns stronger and stronger by the second. It’s the type of gaze exclusive to idealistic fools, right before they get themselves killed.

“Kurusu… When do you plan to carry out this little mission of yours?”

Akira must have noticed his apprehension. His voice is steady, already refusing arguments.

“We set the date a while ago. We’re finishing this tomorrow night.”

Tomorrow?!

“You can’t be serious,” Goro snaps. “You’re hurt! Those injuries aren’t going to heal overnight.”

“The exhibit ends tomorrow,” Akira says coolly. “We’ve reached our deadline. Yeah, I didn’t plan on getting shot, but I can still do this.”

“You said you had a team, didn’t you? Have someone else carry out your mission.”

Akira’s eyes flash. “I’m not letting anyone get hurt. If anyone has to be out in the open, it’s going to be me.”

“Kurusu, I swear…!” Goro snarls, hands clenched at his sides. “Do you honestly think I’m going to stand by and let you do this?”

They stare at each other for about five seconds. Then, Akira’s on his feet before Goro has a chance to move. He bolts for the door.

This time, however, Goro has the advantage. He grabs the injured Akira easily and twists his arm behind his back, pinning him to the floor.

"Ow! Let go!" Akira struggles, makes a good effort of it, too, but can only flop angrily.

"You still don't seem to understand," says Goro, refusing to budge. "Think about how easily I caught up to you this time. Do you really think you’re in any state for a mission?”

Biting his lip hard enough to draw blood, Akira tries to throw him off. Goro tightens his grip.

“Right now, this 'heist' is suicide,” Goro says. “You'll die, Kurusu."

"I don't care!"

It’s an almost primal yell that catches Goro off guard. Akira, however, seems shocked as well, as if he’d never expected those words or that voice to leave his throat. He goes still.

"I…” Akira murmurs against the floor. "I can't mess this up. Not now. Not now…”

Goro leans down, closer to Akira’s ear. "Since you clearly have no sense of self preservation,” he says, “Let me say this instead: if you're killed tomorrow, that precious painting of yours could easily be lost or destroyed. Worse, Madarame could pay off the museum to make sure the painting doesn't go public, and then it'll be his once again.” Letting those words settle around them, Goro lets go of Akira’s arm. “Is that what you want, Kurusu?"

Akira stares up at him. He doesn’t have a chance to say anything: the cellphone at Akira’s bedside begins ringing. Goro stands, sending him a “don’t you dare move” look.

"Akira! Why haven't you called?" demands a girl's voice. "Ryuji said he heard gunshots. Are you okay? Did you get hurt?"

"He did get hurt, actually,” Goro says, nonchalant. Akira climbs to unsteady feet, but doesn’t try to run this time. "You can thank me for keeping him alive."

The line goes silent.

"Wh-who's this?" The girl tries to sound tough and fails spectacularly.

"His bodyguard,” Goro responds. “While we’re talking, there’s something I need to say: delay the mission. It’s not a request.”

“H-hang on, you can't just—"

Akira snatches the phone from him.

"Futaba…” Akira says, his voice pained. “He’s right. We… we need to reschedule this. I’m sorry.”

Goro can't hear what this Futaba says in response. He sees the way Akira's face relaxes, the way his shoulders fall after he hangs up.

“Happy now, Mr Bodyguard?” Akira sounds close to laughing or maybe crying.

“I’ll be happy when you get some bedrest.”

Akira sags against Goro, the sudden weight nearly knocking him over.


Keeping a bedridden Akira entertained is difficult, but not impossible. Like a cat, he simply needs stimulation to make use of that restless energy. And since he has nowhere else to be, why not spend some time teaching Akira the rules of chess?

Akira picks things up quickly. Though their first few matches end in seconds, after only a few days playing Akira’s able to hold his own for nearly 5 minutes.

Of course, he won’t beat Goro any time soon.

Goro scarcely has time to feel proud of his latest victory when the lights go out, the darkness flooding the kitchen.

"A blackout?" Akira jolts in his seat, looking around. "...Weird. Do you think—"

Goro presses his hand over Akira's mouth and shushes him.

"Follow me," he mouths. "We can't make any noise. Understand?"

Akira blinks wildly but nods. They rise from their seats and head for the stairs.

One of the outdoor motion sensors begins blaring as they reach the second floor. It's silenced far too quickly to be natural. Goro takes Akira’s arm and ushers him into his bedroom, then towards the wardrobe which he slides open. Akira looks like he wants to say something.

The sound of shattering glass.

There’s no time for debates. Akira crawls into the wardrobe first, followed by Goro who shifts to the face the door as he pulls it shut. The wardrobe isn’t big: Akira is pressed right against his back. But it’s fine, Goro thinks. They can deal with a bit of discomfort if it’s going to save their lives.

Someone’s downstairs. They’re walking about with heavy, purposeful footsteps.

It's okay. Goro wants to kick himself, but he has to acknowledge that there was always a risk of being found no matter what they did. His gun is strapped to his side. Even in the worst case scenario, Goro can protect Akira.

Someone’s climbing the stairs.

Akira tugs at Goro’s shirt. His breathing is shaky.

“Akechi,” he whispers. “Akechi, they want me. Just get away, okay? I’ll be fine.”

Goro has to stop himself from laughing. He shakes his head instead.

Someone’s walking down the hall.

Goro can feel every breath Akira makes, hears it every time he swallows. His heartbeat is thumping against Goro's spine. Too fast. Too fragile.

It would take so little for him to die.

Someone opens the bedroom door.

You won't hurt him, Goro tells the intruder, the darkness, the world. I'll die before I let you touch him. No, if you get anywhere near him, I will kill you. Understand? He belongs to me.

The thought is unexpected, a little terrifying in its intensity, but it's a mantra he repeats over and over. Akira Kurusu is his. No one is allowed to take him.

Someone closes the bedroom door, then opens the other bedroom instead. Goro feels Akira relax, just a little bit.

It may have been 10 minutes, it may have been an hour, but after an agonising amount of time, the intruder goes down the stairs.

Silence.

Goro waits. He waits, and waits, and waits. He hears nothing else. He breathes in deeply and slides the wardrobe open, legs aching as he climbs out.

"They might come back. We're leaving," Goro says, quiet. "Pack a bag—necessities only."

Akira’s head jerks up and down. His face is pale and clammy. Every so often he takes in a shallow breath.

"Kurusu, listen to me." Without thinking, Goro takes Akira's face in his hands, only remembering at the last moment to make it a gentle motion. "I won't let them hurt you, okay?"

Akira tries to speak, but his teeth seem glued together.

"I..." Goro swallows. He planned to say something insincere yet reassuring, but it feels like the words were ripped straight from his heart. "I'll protect you. I promise."

"That— That's not—" Akira shakes his head, choking on air and nerves. "Akechi, please—"

A car drives past the house. It's an ordinary sound, but in the dead of night, tension running high, it might as well be a gunshot.

“We don’t have time to sit around and chat,” Goro tells him. Though Akira clearly wants to speak, he gives Goro a more resolute look and nods.


Any light from the moon is obscured by cloud cover. It’s a blessing, really, an extra shroud as they hurry down the street. Goro looks over at Akira, whose bag is slung over his shoulders, and sighs.

“I said necessities only.”

Akira’s holding the case containing that accursed painting. Even in his distressed state, he gives Goro a defiant stare.

“I’m not leaving the Sayuri behind.”

Goro considers his options, thinks how arguing will only waste precious time.

“Fine,” Goro sighs. “What about the cat?”

“Um, couldn’t find him,” says Akira, looking elsewhere. Something inside his bag begins purring. Goro pretends not to notice.

An hour or more past midnight, the two of them barge into a cheap hotel. Thankfully, there’s a spare room, though it turns out to be somewhat dilapidated and cold, a double bed pressed against the cracked wall. Akira releases Mona, who is confused by his new surroundings but quickly curls up in the corner to sleep.

“Would you be okay with sharing the bed?” Goro asks.

“Why not?” Akira cracks a smile. “I mean, we’ve already shared a wardrobe.”


Goro can’t sleep. Of course he can’t. His head is packed with stress and nothing else. All he can do is stare at the ceiling, waiting for morning to come, or another assassin.

He’s still not used to this situation—having to put someone else’s life before his own. His old life was nothing but hunting people down, taking lives or hurting them until they begged for death. And yet, Akira Kurusu is alive. That means Goro did his job.

More than that, Goro was able to protect something precious to him.

Goro thought he took the bodyguard job as an easy escape. But now, nestled next to Akira, he wonders if a part of him wanted to atone.
Saving one person doesn’t change his past. It’s a start, though.

He feels Akira roll over.
“Still awake?” Goro asks.

Akira takes a moment to respond.

“...Hey, Akechi? Do you remember what I told you a while ago? About how I… couldn’t trust you,” he says, his voice rough. “To be honest, I think a part of me was still waiting for you to stab me in the back.”

That confession hurts a bit. Goro manages a chuckle and says, “I suppose I can’t fault you for that. I did pull a gun on you at one point.”

“Back there, when we were hiding… You were actually going to protect me, weren’t you?”

“Yes,” says Goro. He can’t muster the energy to lie or deflect. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

"No." Akira's voice cracks. "If the people I love are going to get hurt to keep me safe, then I'd rather just die."

Goro thinks about taking Akira’s hand. He stops himself.

"...You should sleep, Kurusu. You’re not thinking clearly.”

“Maybe. I don’t think I can, though.” A bit of that familiar shine returns to Akira’s eyes. “Why not tell me a bedtime story? I’m sure you’d make it boring enough to knock me right out.”

“Honestly you’re so…” Goro smiles faintly. “Fine. I have a good story for you. It’s the tale of an utter fool.”

And so, Goro tells the story of an angry boy whose mother died and who hated his father more than anything. He dreamt only of revenge, and ended up working for that awful, awful man as a means of getting close to him.

“The boy wanted his father to depend on him,” Goro explains. “He wanted to be above his father, who saw him and his mother as worthless. He wanted to see his face twist in agony. Those thoughts were the only thing keeping him alive, even when his father ordered him to kill people. The boy told himself it would all be worth it in the end. He was... so stupid.”

Goro can feel Akira’s eyes on him. He keeps his gaze fixed on the ceiling.

“And then,” Goro says, voice wavering, “His father did the most unforgivable thing of all: he died.”

“...Was he—?”

"He wasn’t murdered, if that’s what you think. He... he choked on some bread and suffocated. Isn’t that funny?” Goro tries to laugh, but his throat constricts. “He ruined so many lives, and after all that he died in such an insignificant way. Everything the boy had been working towards was gone. He never achieved his revenge—the only thing he accomplished was pointlessly staining his hands.”

“Akechi…” Akira reaches out and grasps his hand.

"I wanted to die," Goro admits, because there’s no point in pretending anymore. "At least, I think I did. It's not like I had anything else to live for. I started working for dangerous people, waiting for the day someone would put a bullet in my head.” He looks at Akira. “And now I’m here.”

“And now you’re here.” Akira squeezes his hand tight. “I’m glad you’re alive, Akechi.”

“You’re probably the first. But… thank you.” Goro glides his thumb against the underside of Akira’s wrist. “Tell me something: will you continue to work as a phantom thief, even after all this?”

“Wait, you’re bringing this up now?”

“Just answer the question.”

Akira sets his jaw and says, “...Yeah. I said we’d delay the mission, not that we’d abandon it completely.”

“Of course.” Goro nods. This is the answer he expected. “And I suppose there’s no way I can dissuade you?”

“There isn’t.” Akira sighs, looking away. “I’m sorry, Akechi.”

“In that case,” says Goro, “Take me with you.”

It takes a moment for Akira to respond.

“Um. Huh. Sorry, it sounded like you said something weird. I think I must’ve fallen asleep for a moment. What did you just say?”

“Next time you meet with your Phantom Thief buddies,” Goro says, slowly, “Take me with you. I can’t prevent you from going. You’re too much of a stubborn fool to listen. But if I’m at your side during these missions of yours, I can protect you properly.”

Akira seems bewildered. He searches Goro’s face. “...I guess I didn’t mishear you. “Are… are you sure about this? Is this just because you’re my bodyguard? You don’t have to—”

Goro leans forward and very gently brushes his lips against Akira’s.

“I’m afraid my motivations are a little more personal than that,” Goro murmurs. “Will that be a problem?”

“Hmmm…” Akira smiles at him widely. Tension falls from Goro’s body. “I think the only problem is whether or not you can keep up with me.”

“I’ll keep up better than you could ever imagine.”

Hands still intertwined, the two of them sleep peacefully for the rest of the night.