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the light that was there right from the start

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Dying was something to be expected, from being a phantom thief who travels the depths of humanity's darkest desires to fight off distorted monsters that could only come from hell itself, it's not a surprise that it is. Dying was considered a norm, easily brushed off with a cast of recarm or a revival bead, nothing compared to the horrors confined within an interrogation room.

That's the thing. People who have died can come back. Akechi is proof of that. Ryuji surviving that shipwreck was proof of that.

Frankly, maybe Akira just didn't think that he would die by his underclassman's own two hands, with only Akechi by his side and none of the others to expect to bring them back.

He should've been more careful, is the last thing that runs through his mind as he braces himself for the inevitable, with no other way to go. He can take it. Probably. Akechi yells out a warning but they both stand their ground. Funny. For a detective and a wanted criminal, they were both pretty stupid.

The familiar sound of rushed footsteps in the far distance falls on deaf ears as the persona starts to strike, and then-

Someone was yelling. Wait.

The persona attacks, a rush of black and yellow- no, blonde, runs past them and blocks it. Nullifies it with no damage in turn for any of the party. And Akira looks up, eyes widening and his whole stance stiffening as he finds-

Ryuji.

He's here. Ryuji's here.

Mona's voice rings out not far from behind, and he can count on the fact that his friends are following along but all he's focusing on right now is his best friend.

Ryuji Ryuji Ryuji Ryuji.

There's a swell of pride and unabashed warmth that radiates from deep within his soul as he looks at the person who's been by his side right from the start. God, he can't stop staring.

He realizes with a frown that him and the other thieves being here means that they've broken out of their dreams themselves, from their false reality of happiness.

He remembers Ryuji with his track team, laughing along and smiling so wide that he just couldn't bring himself to snatch him away from that any further. The way he watched and looked on as the blond walks away with his teammates, the ones who beat him up, as guilt and that annoying sense of bitterness creeps up and latches onto him like a fog. They don't deserve him. With a curious line of thinking, something comes up across his mind, was this how Ryuji felt whenever he had to blow him off for the sake of other already made plans, time and time again?

But that's another thing to worry about for another day. As of right now their focus is on this palace and on Kasumi-no, shit, what was it again- and to get the hell out of here after they defeat her.

And that's just about what Akira plans to do, and to do it soon and now with his friends by his side.

« x »

They decide to regroup the next day.

He takes it upon himself to bring her home safe and sound as everyone walks off one by one. But then Ryuji is turning his back and he's leaving and Akira just can't have that so soon yet again no matter how desperately petty it sounds.

So he just-

"Ryuji."

The blond stops, turns around, and cocks his head back at him, all cool and casual. Completely nothing as he feels right now.

His mouth tastes like sand, hands beginning to tremble both from the weight on his shoulders and the pressure from his mind screaming, but if he could just get the words out-

".....Can you help me? My arms are getting tired." he says with a flash of teeth in a form of a smile. Something passes across the other's features in a second, a raised brow and a squint in the corner of his eyes, not quite believing him, or sensing that something is wrong. Because there is and that's exactly why he's asking this.

Either way, Ryuji flexes his left arm as to stretch while walking towards him. A quick "Sure, dude." passing off his lips as he comes up to help him with carrying Sumire.

The walk from sending the girl home and back is completely quiet, neither one of them wanting to strike a conversation into the heavy air first and it's so different, so unlike the usual comfortable silence between them and it's just so wrong.

He stops in his tracks, eyes downcast. The other footsteps stop too. The low light of the sun setting in the far distance shining against the white sneakers in his field of vision.

There's nothing wrong. The thieves are back and Akechi is alive and Sumire is saved and everything's supposed to be fine and they should get to the next mission and make plans to prepare but, it's so much.

So Akira doesn't stop to think on his actions when he comes forward, when his arms snake around the blond's waist and crushes himself into his chest and onto his shoulder with a hug he hopes he couldn't escape. The reaction is instant. Immediately Ryuji gathers him into a warm, bone-crushing hug with no questions asked. And it just feels so nice that he feels tears streaming down his cheeks, tears that he didn't even realize that were falling until his vision started to blur.

He buries his face into Ryuji’s neck even further, throwing out any reservations of worry about their change in dynamic out the window completely.

"Fuck, Ryuji I - fuck."

A hand comes up to the small of his back, running up and down in a soothing manner as he heaves for breath.

"It's okay, Akira. I've got you."

God, he doesn't deserve Ryuji. No one does. But he doesn't take this for granted. His sobbing grows louder and he tries to muffle it with a bite to his tongue. Ryuji's hand comes up to brush his hair up and off his forehead, wiping at the tears building up at the corner of his eyes away. It's a little awkward, standing in the middle of an empty street as the skies dim out with him bawling his eyes out, but he wouldn't trade it for the world.

"Tell me what you're thinkin'," Ryuji says with a voice as soft as velvet. It calms him down little by little.

"It's-hic-it's dumb."

"Don't care. Tell me anyway."

His hands grip tight on the back of Ryuji's jacket as he gasps it out, looking up to the blond's eyes as he does, "It's- I just. I just missed you so much."

In light of the recent events, of the days passing by in a dizzying blur, of constantly having to talk everyone out of their delusions by saying cold harsh truths and climbing up the palace, Akira is so tired. And he's not even sure if he's not living in a lie himself either.

The quiet is worse most of the time. Too much thinking and worries and what ifs, and as grateful as he is to have Akechi and Sumire by his side, it's too quiet. How he wishes he could have them all together, how they would mix and match and coordinate in battles and talks effortlessly. All of them together and side by side.

And especially Ryuji. His best friend, his righthand man, and practically his light. The one who's been by his side right from the very beginning, the one who risked his life and almost got blown off by the side of Shido's ship to bits. God, he could have lost him too.

There's a hand tugging at his hair to make him look up again and then, oh. Ryuji is smiling so warmly.

"I missed you too, Akira."

And it's at that moment that Akira snaps out of it, a very distinguishable shade of scarlet quickly coming up from his neck right up to his entire face. He hides himself back into the comfort of Ryuji's neck, but the tension on his shoulders drops. The tears stop falling.

"Don't.... Don't say things like that, dumb dumb."

He doesn't try to look but he feels Ryuji tipping his head back to laugh loudly, a music always welcome to his ears. He feels his head being ruffled with a soft gentle touch, and Akira practically melts.

There's still too much going on. With Morgana likely waiting in his room by the time he comes back and the whole gang to meet up and plan with the following day. But for now Akira allows himself to get lost in the comfort of Ryuji's embrace because at the moment, there's only one thing that matters.

Ryuji.