“Skull’s down!”, Morgana shrieked as Ryuji collapsed. Mamudo had hit them all, but only managed to take him out.
“You don’t say,” Akira muttered under his breath. They needed to take this shadow out, but his eyes kept darting over to his unconscious friend. His breathing was shallow, but he was definitely still breathing. Didn’t mean it wasn’t disturbing to see your best friend drop like that, though.
It was cold in there, though. Ryuji must have been cold lying on the floor like that. He was about to take his jacket off and drape it over him, but was interrupted before he could even get a sleeve out. “Joker! We need to finish this!”
He turned to Ann and nodded. “Right. Um…” The shadow was on the ropes, and he had a few bullets left. Firing quickly, he managed to knock the shadow off its feet.
It just glared at them as they approached it, so it seemed pointless to try talking. An all out attack seemed more apt, and even just with the three of them, managed to do the trick. The shadow fell and the bully started pleading with them before vanishing, leaving a little treasure.
Ann grabbed the treasure before looking over to Ryuji. “He looks pretty bad,” she muttered.
“Even more than usual!”, Morgana chimed in. “But, he should be fine! We’re heading out anyways, so as long as we don’t run into any nasty shadows on the way back to the real world, there’s nothing to worry about!”
“Oh? Thank goodness,” Yusuke remarked. “I’m afraid I haven’t quite gotten the hang of this yet. So injuries here won’t have a lasting effect on us in the real world?”
Akira tried to think. “I… hadn’t thought about it much, really. But, I don’t really remember feeling bad any time after I passed out in here.”
“Yeah, he’ll be fine,” Morgana assured him. “Joker, see if he’s conscious enough to stand up.”
He knelt down to where Ryuji was laying. “Skull, you alright?”, he asked softly, putting a hand on his shoulder.
Ryuji just snored a bit. “Joker just… shake him awake,” Ann instructed.
“What if I hurt him?”
Ann marched back over and prodded Ryuji with her foot. “Hey. Skull. Wake up.”
A sleepy grunt came from him. “Hngh, five more minutes?”
“Mona said if we stay in one place too long we’ll get murdered by a super powerful monster,” Ann protested. “Do we need to carry you into the car? Because I’m sure Joker would, but I’m sure as hell not gonna.”
He pushed himself up. “F-fine, fine, I’m getting up…” His face looked pale as he struggled to his feet. Akira lent him a hand and tried to steady him.
“Can you walk?”, Akira asked him. “Lean against me if you need to.” Ryuji’s response was slinging an arm around him and shifting his weight.
Morgana gave an indignant huff. “Why weren’t you like this when I got knocked out?” he rather pointedly asked, transforming into the Catbus at the entrance to that pocket of the Metaverse. “I don’t think Skull is the delicate one here.”
“Yeah, because when you got knocked out, we still had Revival Beads left,” Akira explained, helping Ryuji into the Catbus. “But we used our last one when we were fighting Madarame, so I don’t know how he’ll fare like this.”
Yusuke nodded gravely. “I apologize for using up the last one. Perhaps that healing magic you used in that battle would help?”
“Healing magic… oh, like Dia and Media?” Akira grabbed at the Pixie mask and put it on. He sat down beside Ryuji and started casting Dia. “There… how does that feel?”
Ryuji smiled weakly. “Yeah, that helps… Man, everything’s so sore! Head hurts like crazy… Damn, I didn’t realize how nice those Revival Beads were…”
“I truly am sorry,” Yusuke reiterated. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Well, stop apologizing for one,” Ryuji replied. “We weren’t about to let you be unconscious while we kicked the old bastard’s sorry ass! But like, maybe I can lay down back here? Mona, can you make more seats so I can?”
The vehicle bobbed up and down in a way that probably was supposed to indicate a shrug. “Maybe?” Morgana’s voice echoed. “But not on short notice like this! And I don’t know if the Reaper can get us in here, so we shouldn’t wait around for me to find out.”
“Eh, that’s fine, I’ll just lay in someone’s lap!” Ryuji exclaimed. “Panther, you can come back here-”
“Ha! As if! My lap is reserved for people with class.”
Ryuji laughed. “I was just jokin’ with ya! I wouldn’t want to take Shiho’s spot.”
Ann squeaked. “W-well I’m sure you’d rather Joker do it anyways!” she countered, smirking back from the passenger seat Ryuji usually sat in.
Akira cast a glare at Ann, who just winked. Why was she teasing him about this? But, whatever, Ryuji seemed comfortable so he wouldn’t object. “If you want to, go ahead. Fox, can you drive?”
“Pardon?” Yusuke stared at the wheel. “I mean, I took a class on it in school… I could certainly try.”
Ryuji looked between the three of them. “Are you for real? Joker, like, you’re not embarrassed or anything?”
“Why would I be?” he lied, thankful the mask and strange lighting covered up most of the redness of his face. “It would help if you laid down, I mean. I just hope I’m a good enough pillow for you.”
A half laugh escaped his friend’s mouth and he nestled himself against his shoulder, leaning almost entirely on him. “Well, I don’t really wanna like, lay in your lap, but this seems good enough!”
Part of Akira was relieved but another part of him, one that surprised him a bit, was disappointed. He’d been kind of looking forward to playing with Ryuji’s hair. Well, he could probably still do it like this, right?
“Alright. So, should we head out now?”, Yusuke questioned. Morgana started up and reversed out of the pocket of Metaverse and back into the main dungeon, promptly bumping into a wall.
“Ah!” Ryuji’s eyes shot open from being half closed. “Hey! Watch where you’re going!”
“Sorry! It seems cats don’t have interior rear view mirrors,” Yusuke explained. “I- I can do this!” Morgana shifted gears and turned back onto the path where they’d come from.
A cacophony of voices rose up in objection to Yusuke’s driving:
“Not so fast!”
“Slow down, will ya?”
“I- I can’t run this fast!”
And the artist gulped. “I- I am sorry. How do I slow it down?”
“Stop the car,” Ann demanded. “Just slam on the breaks and-”
The car came to a stop alright, in that they crashed straight into a wall. Akira stuck his arm in front of Ryuji to shield him, though from what he wasn’t really sure. Luckily, unlike car crashes in the real world, the passengers were just jostled a bit rather than being really at all harmed. Unluckily, judging from the screech Morgana gave, it was not so gentle for the vehicle.
“Yusuke, you’re never driving me again!”, Morgana shouted. “Lady Ann, you try!”
Ann huffed. “Exactly what I was planning on doing. Yusuke, trade seats with me.”
The two of them switched seats, and Ann began driving rather slowly, stopping at every intersection.
“Hey, uh, maybe we should go a bit faster?”, Ryuji questioned. “Isn’t there that monster thing?”
“The exit isn’t far,” Ann stated, not going any faster whatsoever. “And as someone with no experience driving, I’m not about to send my friends careening into a wall!”
Yusuke sunk into his seat in silent shame. Akira glanced down at the map on his phone. “Are you sure?” he asked. “I remember it being kind of far…”
“It’s right up there!” Ann insisted. “See? Locked doors always mean we’re near stairs!”
“Stairs down,” Akira corrected. “Ann. You’re going towards the next floor.”
“Oh. Shit. Uh…” She turned around and took a deep breath. “I can do this.”
She kept driving forward, referencing her own map a bit more. Ryuji settled back against Akita’s arm. “Okay. Now that that’s over… uh, Joker, you got like, any food?”
He pulled a can of juice out of his bag and offered it to him. “Here, all I’ve really got right now is Second Aid. Will that help?”
Ryuji downed it in one gulp. “Yep! Definitely. Thanks, man! You’re always looking out for me.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed that as well,” Yusuke mused. “You always seem most responsive to Skull in battles, and whenever we’re discussing things outside of it.”
Akira gulped. “Uh, well, someone has to make up for Mona insulting him.”
“Yeah! That’s just what bros do!” Ryuji exclaimed. He put his arm around Akira, who noticed the color had returned to his face. “We gotta take care of each other, right bro?”
Morgana and Ann both laughed, shaking the whole car. “Maybe if you say bro enough times you’ll-”
A distant noise drew Akira’s attention away from the teasing. It sounded familiar, like what he’d hear in the Velvet Room when trying to move. “Do you hear something?”, he asked.
“I hear wedding bells,” Ann trilled.
“N-no! I’m being serious!” Akira objected. “There’s a noise coming towards us! It sounds like chains clinking!”
“Oh please! You’re just trying to scare us,” Ann countered.
The car shook a bit. “I’m sorry to contradict you, Panther, but I hear it too,” Morgana groaned. “Do you think you could step on the gas?”
Morgana’s wheels shrieked loudly as they started rushing towards the exit. The clanking of chains got louder. But, they barreled into the exit quickly, and Morgana turned back into a cat, leaving them all barreling out.
“Alright, we should be able to make it from here!”, Morgana exclaimed. “Now, hurry!”
“W-wait!”, Ryuji objected. “I, uh-”
Without a second thought Akira scooped him up. He hadn’t expected his friend to be quite so… holdable? To curl up into his arms in a way that didn’t feel strenuous but rather comforting.
“A-Akira!” Ryuji exclaimed as they ran towards the safe zone one floor up. “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean what am I doing? I’m helping you!”
“I- I’m feeling better, dude! I just was gonna say I might lag behind a bit ‘cause of my leg!”
“O-oh! Do you want me to put you down?”
Ryuji just grabbed onto him tighter. “I mean, you’re already doing it. Damn, you really have been working out; you’re strong!”
“Oh, you don’t say? And who’s been dragging me to train with him every day?”
“I meant upper body too-”
“Would you two be quiet?” Morgana interrupted them when they got to the safe zone. “We need to get out of here quick! Unless you feel up for more fighting, Skull...”
“Uh, not really, no. Joker, don’t you have that one thing? Like, an escape rope.”
“Escape rope? I think Mona has the rope- oh! You mean the Goho-M!” He pulled it out of his bag. “Yeah, this should get us out right away. Everyone ready?”
The others nodded and crowded around him as he set off the item. They were transported back to the entrance of Mementos instantly. Yusuke let out a relieved sigh. “Well, that was an ordeal.”
“Sorry your first trip to Mementos was so hectic!” said Morgana, bouncing up. “I swear, it’s normally more organized!”
“Normally is a strong word for a thing we’d only done twice before,” Ann mused. “Anyways, hopefully it’ll go better next time!”
“I think I’ll head home,” Yusuke stated. “I hope you feel better, Ryuji.”
“Yeah, I should be going too,” Ann added. “I told Shiho to call tonight so I’m gonna make sure I’m not late for that! See you guys tomorrow!”
They both warped off, leaving just Morgana and Ryuji with Akira. “Ryuji, are you feeling any better?” Akira asked.
“I’m not feeling bad at all, actually!” Ryuji exclaimed. “But, uh, I could really use a break from all this fighting stuff.”
“Don’t worry, we shouldn’t have a reason to go here for a while.”
Ryuji shook his head. “I mean like, we’ve been working hard lately! We should just like, blow stuff off, see a movie or something. You seen The Cake Knight Rises yet?”
Akira had actually, but he shook his head. “I’d love to see it with you.”
“Awesome! I’ll get tickets for the matinee showing tomorrow!”
Morgana frowned. “Matinee? Don’t you two have school tomorrow?”
“I just said we needed a blow off day,” Ryuji repeated. “So, you wanna play hookie tomorrow, Akira?”
Normally he’d say no; he had a record to keep clear. But, he hadn’t missed school for ages, and wasn’t it weirder for a high school student not to miss class every once in a while? “Sounds like a plan.”
Though Morgana groaned, Ryuji beamed. “Awesome! Sounds like a date! See ya tomorrow!”
Ryuji left Mementos, leaving Akira alone with Morgana. “Did… he say it was a date?” he questioned. “Or am I just hearing things.”
The cat laughed. “Way to go, tiger!”
Morgana made a fake roaring sound that made Akira die a bit inside. “I wanna go to bed,” he mumbled. “Let’s just go home.”
“Aye aye, captain!”