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8:16 to 10:36

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What Does the Fox Say?

8:16 A.M.

Ryuji it has come to my attention that Akira is rather attractive. I mean this as both an artistic subject and as a subject of my own affections. It seems that I have garnered feelings for our leader and I am unsure of how to act upon these new emotions. I was hoping that you would be able to assist me in this issue.

8:18 A.M.

Ryuji I realized that my previous text may have been a tad too long. In short, I think I am gay for Akira.

8:19 A.M.

Ryuji? Are you awake? I said that I think I’m gay for Akira.

My Other Car is My Cat

8:20 A.M.

RYUJI MY GLASSES ARE BROKEN WHEN THE FUCK DID YUSUKE GET HOT?

These are the texts that Ryuji has the joy of waking up to. It’s bad enough that he fell asleep during a boss rush on his game (he’ll have to start the whole damn thing over again. Fucking slime bastards. Maybe he could ask Futaba for a cheat later?) but waking up to not one but both of his guy friends having a panicked gay awakening is not how he imagined his Sunday going. He groans, rubbing the disgusting eye gunk out of his vision and considers screenshotting the messages and sending them to (their team mom) Makoto (“Mom-koto” Ryuji sometimes calls her.) She would be better at understanding this stuff, not him.

 

Wait, maybe not.

 

Makoto is hella smart and clever at, well, literally everything in life, but she was a fucking clueless disaster when it came to love and dating. Ryuji remembers all too well her crying after the first time she read shoujo manga. It was quite an experience being in charge of a sobbing Makoto in a public bookstore, and one that he does not want to even relive in a flashback. It wasn’t even a good shoujo manga, just a random one Ryuji thrusted into her hands after she said that she “Never got the chance to read one when she was a child.” Ryuji of course had felt incredibly guilty and had spent the next few days searching for shoujo manga with a happier ending. Just his luck that the manga he chose for her, the one with an innocent enough looking cover, would be about a boy trying to come to terms with the passing of his girlfriend who died in a plane explosion.

Right. Not Makoto. Makoto wouldn’t be that much help this time. Not to mention, Ryuji realizes, that the texts didn’t exactly sound like either Akira or Yusuke had discussed this issue with anybody else. Just Ryuji.

Okay, he could do this. He just needs to play Cupid. He can do that, right?

Fuck, he’s going to have to play Cupid! This just spells disaster with a capital “D”!

No, deep breaths. Don’t panic. They don’t even know he’s up yet. Ryuji still has time before they all met up at the hideout to figure out how the fuck he’s going to fix this situation. First things first, he’s going to wash his damn face and scrub away his morning breath.

 

Ryuji’s phone suddenly vibrates.

 

My Other Car is My Cat

8:24 A.M.

RYUJI I CAN SEE THAT YOU LEFT ME ON READ! I KNOW YOU’RE UP!

Well….shit. Fuck Akira and his amazing detective detecting skills. Goro Akechi? Who’s that? The only amazing, sleuthing, can’t-mind-his-own-goddamn-business, teen wonder that Ryuji can see is fucking Akira and his trusty sidekick, his cellphone.

 

It’s way too early for this.

 

Ryuji’s phone bursts into song and he looks at it, horrified, seeing that yes, Akira is calling him at 8:25 A.M. on a Sunday and yes, he will not wait for Ryuji to send him a text back. Ryuji considers not picking up the phone but then remembers the last time he did that- Akira had made him a curry bento, which in itself wasn’t bad per se (it was actually pretty tasty) but he had kept making them because he was worried that he made Ryuji mad somehow.

His best friend and team leader is an idiot. A goofball, awesome Persona summoning, heart of gold, idiot.

So, rather than subject Akira to the dark spiral that could be his own mind, Ryuji picks up the phone, bracing himself for the hellstorm to come.

“Morning-”

 

“My glasses are broken.”

 

Contrary to the loud, all capitalized texts he liked to send, Akira’s actual voice is soft, quiet, and husky sounding. It was like the teen had never yelled or screamed in his entire life (which Ryuji knows is a total lie. He’ll never forget the way Akira had screamed out the words “FUCK YOU!” when they were fighting Kamoshida. If it wasn’t for the high stakes they were up against at the time, Ryuji would’ve laughed.)

(Or maybe not. Akira did look terrifying as he yelled out those words. Looking back on it, laughter was probably a big no-no.)

Still Ryuji suspects that Akira is masking his panic behind his seemingly expressionless exterior.

“Okay calm down,” Ryuji says into the receiver, cupping the phone to his ear. “First of all, good morning, how are you? Did you feed Mona?”

“Mona’s at Haru’s,” Akira says quickly. Ryuji sighs. Of course the cat is. The one time Akira needs the emotional support from their team’s “adorable mascot” (Ryuji hopes that Mona never finds out he used those words to describe the “not” cat) Mona decided to spend the night gossiping with Haru. No wonder Akira texted Ryuji so early. Hell, Akira must’ve been up all night worrying about this.

Shit, that means that Yusuke was definitely up all night thinking about this. If Yusuke forgot to eat and sleep because of how dedicated he was to his art, Ryuji can’t even imagine what the teen might’ve done when he realized that he saw Akira in a “I-want-to-date-you-not-paint-you” kind of way. He glances at his digital alarm clock. Eight fucking thirty A.M. Today is going to be a long day.

“Right,” he says to Akira. “Well, how are you then?”

“My glasses are broken,” Akira says, using his “You’re-going-to-have-to-pry-the-truth-out-of-my-dead-cold-hands” voice.

Oh god fuck this day. Ryuji can feel a migraine speeding towards him like a provoked Shadow.

Right,” he says. Might as well take this as slowly as possible, “Akira, bro, our fearless leader- Why do you think your glasses are broken?”

A pause from the opposite end then Ryuji hears Akira sigh. “They made Yusuke hot and....You’re going to laugh at me,” he says, his voice growling at the end. He’s agitated. That’s not a good sign.

“I won’t. I promise,” Ryuji swears. “Just…. start from the beginning? Tell me when and how this happened?” Ryuji asks as calmly as he can. If Akira was going to be the frustrated one, Ryuji might as well be the voice of reason.

He can hear Akira sigh again. “The beginning? What even is the ‘beginning’ Ryuji? What are we but wandering souls all searching for our ‘beginning’, only to find that we passed it and are on our way to the ‘end’?”

Yup and there’s the migraine. Ryuji should’ve expected Akira to process his question through an “Akira-scanner.”

“The beginning of when your glasses, in your words, ‘got broken’,” Ryuji says. “Not the beginning of the fucking world.

“Do you think there were Palaces at the beginning of the world? Did cavemen have Palaces?”

“Stop avoiding the question! Just tell me when Yusuke got hot!”

Akira lets out a low groan and Ryuji massages his temples. His clock mockingly says fucking eight forty-three.

No. Calm down. Don’t get annoyed. This is Akira coming to Ryuji with a problem that he can’t solve. A problem that has nothing to do with Personas, Shadows, Palaces, stealing, lock-picking, breaking and entering, conning, making tools of mass destruction, shooting, punching, slashing….. Holy shit Akira is a badass.

A badass who apparently struggles with understanding how the human emotion of liking someone works.

 

Ryuji takes a deep breath.

 

“Sorry,” Akira suddenly says, sounding almost insecure. “I didn’t mean to bother you like this. I can hang up.”

“No no! You’re good bro! Don’t hang up!” Ryuji replies quickly. After everything Akira’s been through, making  Akira feel like he has one more reason for the world to be against him is something that Ryuji swore he would never let his friend face again. No matter if the reason was big or small. “I’m just still kinda half asleep. Don’t worry, I’m not mad.” Ryuji goes for a smile even though Akira can’t see him. Hopefully, he could hear the smile in his voice. “You can tell me Akira. Like I said, I promise I won’t laugh.”

Akira is silent again, as if he’s weighing his options on whether to tell Ryuji or not. Ryuji crosses his fingers and hopes that Akira trusts him enough to tell him.

 

He gets his answer soon after.

 

“Yesterday,” Akira finally says, “I was with Yusuke….”

“Uh huh,” Ryuji says in his best “Please-continue-I-am-not-mad” voice.

“And we were at the bookstore-”

The bookstore?!

“Shit you didn’t show him shoujo manga did you?” Ryuji suddenly asks, his voice rising in panic. “Please tell me you didn’t show him the one with that girl and boy sitting back to back on the cover!”

 

“What-?”

 

“Because that cover is a fucking lie and that story is not happy at all! It made Makoto cry! Hell, I watched the movie it was based off of and it made me cry!” Double shit. “Did Yusuke cry yesterday?!”

Silence. A long pause from Akira. Ryuji is half vibrating with his utter hate for that shoujo manga that caused way too much crying and half worried that Yusuke broke down in tears of artistic passion for the star-crossed lovers in that manga at the bookstore.

“Ryuji,” Akira says slowly, “I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about,” Ryuji breathes a sigh of relief, “But after I figure out what’s wrong with my glasses I want to read this manga.”

 

What?! Oh triple shit! Abort! Abort!

 

“No you don’t want to do that bro!” Ryuji practically shouts before remembering that it’s probably too early for the whole neighborhood to hear his screaming. More quietly, he continues, “It’s a sad story about a sad boy and a sad girl and it’s all just too damn sad and I don’t want to subject you to that kind of emotional pain!”

More silence from Akira. Then, in the most deadpan voice Ryuji thinks he ever heard him use, Akira says,

 

“My hero.”

 

Well, at least he’s not calling out Ryuji for crying over a shoujo manga based movie. But damn that movie was sad. And the ending? His eyes were puffy for hours after.

Ryuji slumps and slides a hand down his face. He’s getting off topic. He’s moving Akira off topic. Hell, if anyone’s watching them they’d be yelling at Ryuji for how off topic he’s getting. Looks like it’s time to steer this story back onto its metaphorical track.

 

“So you were at the bookstore not reading sad shoujo manga with Yusuke,” Ryuji says, “What then?”

There’s a soft grunt from Akira and Ryuji can mentally picture the teen grasping his chin in his hands as he always did when he was thinking of the right words to say. “Take your time,” Ryuji says kindly. He hopes Akira isn’t drilling a “thinking a hole” through the center of his brain.

 

“He glowed,” Akira mutters.

 

What?

 

“What?” Ryuji asks, “Hold up, what do you mean by he ‘glowed’?”

 

“I mean,” Akira’s voice somehow gets even quieter and Ryuji has to rapidly click the “Up” volume button on his phone to the max setting just so he could hear him. “I mean we were talking and I was telling him how much I enjoyed one of the books he recommended me and then he just started…. glowing.

 

Huh. Glowing.

 

Ryuji’s heard of the “Love at first sight” trope and from what he remembers about it, the two characters (real or fictional depending on the situation) often later claimed that their partner seemed to “glow” in their eyes. Well, maybe not exactly glow glow, but there was something there that separated their love interest from the rest of the world.

But he’s never heard of the “Know a guy for months and spend time defeating shadows and baddies with him then find him attractive in a bookstore” trope. That would be a new one to add to the Wiki page. (Hopefully Futuba could help him edit said future page later.)

 

“How exactly did this….‘glowing’ happen?” he asks. Another long pause from Akira.

 

“He…. I remembered he smiled at me,” Akira recalls, “And he said he was pleased that he had someone to share his... unique tastes in literature with him,” Ryuji grimaces and makes a mental note to try to include some of Yusuke’s choice of novels onto his “To Do” list. “Then he laughed because I told him I liked what he read and….this is where I think my glasses got broken by the way...then he said that he’ll have to make sure to always keep me entertained. That’s when he began…. glowing.”

Huh…..this was going to be hard to name a trope after. Should Ryuji call it “Two bros standing in a bookstore five feet away cause they’re gay” or “Hey I didn’t just meet you, but I think I’m crazy, you have my number, so call me baby”?

Trope names aside, it seems that Akira had finally realized that he has feelings for Yusuke who, for the first time in his life, acted like a smooth-talking bastard. So smooth that it caught Akira off guard with the smoothness of it.

Wait, did that mean that Akira swooned over people directly flirting with him? No that can’t be right, Akira’s as clueless as Makoto when it came to relationships. So then why….?

Double wait. There was another trope for this wasn’t there? The all coveted Friends-to-Lovers trope.

Ryuji frowns. But wasn’t Yusuke technically their enemy first? He was rather aggressive when they’d first met him. And he didn’t seem like he liked any of them (with exception of Ann’s outward appearance). Did that mean…?

 

Ryuji’s eyes widen. Oh. My. God. That’s what it was.

 

“Enemies to friends to lovers,” he breathes. That’s what it was! Akira had seen Yusuke at his worst and most threatening and now, seeing him at his best and seeing him for him and not for how others had tried to corrupt him, Akira got hit by a megaton bus load of overwhelming emotions all at once.

This is more than a gay awakening. This is a full blown “I realize that I have romantic feelings in general” awakening. Someone summon Arsene so that they could replace those wings of rebellion with wings of youthful love.

 

“Enemies to friends to...what?” Akira slowly asks. “Ryuji what the hell are you talking about? Is this another shoujo manga? Do you…. need more sleep?”

 

“No! I mean well, kinda yes. But also no!” Ryuji quickly says. “And I‘m not tired anymore!” he adds. No point in worrying Akira anymore than he already was.

 

“Oooo-kay?” Akira says, unsure. “So...Yeah… that’s what happened and that’s why my glasses are broken. They’re making Yusuke glow and look hot and….I don’t understand why.”

 

And this all happened yesterday while Ryuji was at home trying to beat a boss rush. He didn’t know whether to feel relieved or whether to let feelings of FOMO romp through his body.

But first things first, he should probably make it very clear to mister “I-once-set-a-Shadow-on-fire-and-grinned-while-it-burned” that Yusuke had stolen his heart and that Akira has feelings for Yusuke.

 

“Bro,” Ryuji says, “Your glasses aren’t broken.”

 

Silence from Akira, as if he’s letting Ryuji’s words absorb into him.

 

“How do you know?” he then asks, a tinge of unsureness in his voice.

 

“I mean, have you seen anyone else ‘glowing’ or becoming more...uh… attractive since yesterday?”

 

Another long pause, as if Akira is running through all the faces he passed by after he parted ways with Yusuke (Ryuji wouldn’t be surprised if this really is what Akira is doing. Hell, he practically has a photographic memory for phantom thief related stuff so remembering every single person he passed by from the bookstore to LeBlanc must be a walk in the park for his brain.)

“No,” Akira says in a surprised tone of voice, as if he had just realized this little tidbit of information. “Everyone else looked….normal.”

 

“Uh-huh,” Ryuji says, speaking slowly, “And what do you think that means?”

 

Another long pause from Akira, as if he’s thinking really, really hard about this answer.

 

“The bookstore was broken,” Akira finally states and Ryuji wants to bang his head against the wall.

 

“The bookstore was not broken Akira!” he says, trying not to sound frustrated. “Try again.”

 

“The….sun was broken?”

 

Geez, is this really the guy who fired warning shots (and actual shots) at the faces of Shadows?

 

“No Akira…” Ryuji moans, “Nothing is broken. The only thing that is different is you.

 

Silence. Then,

 

“I’m….broken?” Akira asks and it utterly destroys Ryuji’s heart when he hears Akira’s voice slightly quiver at the end.

 

Oh shit, Ryuji really screwed that one up.

 

“No!” he yells. “You’re definitely not broken Akira! You just….just….”

 

“Just what?” Akira asks, his voice still wavering towards the end, “If nothing is broken, if I’m not broken, then what the hell is wrong with me?

 

Ryuji gulps.

 

Welp, looks like he’s going to have to tear the metaphoric bandage off of this one. He makes a silent apology to Yusuke as there is no way he’s going to be able to juggle helping Akira realize he has feelings of “dating affections” without pushing the artist even further into the spotlight.

“You just have feelings for Yusuke,” he finally says. More confidently, he says, “You like him Akira.”

There’s a long, long, long silence from the opposite end of the call.

 

“Oh.”

 

That’s all Ryuji hears before there’s a sharp intake of breath, a swearing curse, and a crashing noise, followed by thundering footsteps that echo away.

Did Akira just….?

Did he….?

Did he…. Drop his phone and….?

Did he ….run out of his house? Without his phone? Was he still wearing his pajamas?

“Uh….you there bro?” Ryuji hesitantly asks. No response. “Bro?”

 

Silence.

 

Ryuji pulls the phone away from his ear and hits the “End Call” button. He has no idea what Akira’s going to do, but hopefully it wouldn’t be anything too drastic or too...explosive.

(He also hopes that it doesn’t involve stealing something. He definitely hopes it doesn’t involve stealing something. Or breaking in somewhere. Or forging documents. Or hacking a system.)

Before he could lock his phone (and finally go scrub off the “morningness” from his face) Ryuji’s eyes catch the messenger app.

50+ new messages.

 

Holy shit.

 

He quickly taps open the app and stares, for the second time that day, in horror at the large influx of messages all from Yusuke. Shit, Yusuke must’ve been non-stop texting Ryuji while he was talking to Akira.

This isn’t going to go well. Fuck there goes the rest of his Sunday.

As if sensing it’s being looked at, the messenger app lights up his phone with a ding. Another new message from Yusuke. Make that 50+ plus 1 new messages. As much as Ryuji doesn’t want to subject himself to this nightmare of unchecked texts, he’s willing to do it if it’s for his friend’s sake.

Hesitantly, bracing himself for the worst, he taps on Yusuke’s icon. His eyes widen. His jaw drops and pretty much hits the ground.

There, staring at him in the attachment, is a picture of Akira literally smooching Yusuke on the cheek in a selfie taken at LeBlanc at ten fucking two in the morning.

How the fuck did Akira do that so quickly?


 

What Does the Fox Say?

9:38 A.M.

Ryuji, I apologize for my excessive texting over this past hour and a half. I realize that you are either probably still asleep or that you have returned to sleeping after reading my first few messages. Please ignore the insults I sent you at 8:23 A.M.  as it was uncouth of me to type such heinous words about you. I was merely panicking over my new feelings and I took it out on you. I am sorry.

9:40 A.M.

Ryuji, it seems that my feet have taken me to LeBlanc. In case you haven’t read the text I sent you at 8:39 A.M. , I was adrift on the subway and unfortunately gotten off at an unknown location. I have been lost ever since, yet it seems even in my confused state I have found my way to where the person of my affections resides. This truly is a remarkable phenomenon. Perhaps I should enter now and confess these emotions I have?

9:42 A.M.

Ryuji, it seems that LeBlanc does not open until  10 on Sundays.

9:57 A.M.

Ryuji I seem to have fallen asleep right outside LeBlanc. As fate would have it though, I have awoken just in the nick of time. Perhaps my luck today is turning around.

My Other Car is My Cat

10:30 A.M.

(<image.jpg>)

YEAH WE’RE GAY, KEEP SCROLLING

Pirates in my Persona? More Likely Than You Think

10:31 A.M.

Akira this is so unnecessary. Yusuke sent this pic to me 20 times in the last 30 minutes and each had a subtly “different” angle. I get it. You two are making out. You dont need to keep me updated.

My Other Car is My Cat

10:32 A.M.

IMMA PIN THIS TO THE GROUP CHAT

Pirates in my Persona? More Likely Than You Think

10:33A.M.

DONT YOU EFFIN DARE! We are literally all going to be there at 11! Just wait and tell everyone in person!

My Other Car is My Cat

10:35 A.M.

CAN’T STOP THE LOVE MAN

Pirates in my Persona? More Likely Than You Think

10:36 A.M.

You are the strangest guy ive ever met in my entire life

Bro, dont ever change.