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The Ace Pair

Chapter Text

Akira blinked at the cafe visitor. Akechi Goro was sitting at the counter, glancing up at him as he came in. He seemed to be confused over who he was before it clicked.

"Oh, hello again. Kurusu, was it?." Akechi said, smiling. "Do you come here for the coffee too?"

"No, he's staying here." Sojiro cut in.

"Oh, how interesting. Well, I won't stay too long after."

"Did you need help today, by the way?" Akira asked.

"Hmph, sure. Wash your hands."

Arsene shifted a bit, confused by Akechi. Akira decided to just move on with it, putting his bag upstairs before coming down to help. Akechi watched him fiddle with the coffee machine, fascinated. It made him a bit nervous, since most of the other customers tend to ignore him. It was unusual their regulars sat at the counter, even the one who comes in alone.

"Oh, am I bothering you by watching you?" He asked.

"A bit, yeah." Akira admitted.

"Kid, manners." Sojiro said. 

"Sorry boss." Akira mumbled. 

"Ah, sorry. It's not often I see those types of brewers. "

Akira served him the cup, Akechi smiling and thanking him. Akira carefully watched him out of the corner of his eye as he went about doing other chores.

"Something on your mind?" Sojiro asked Akechi as he had a bit of a frown.

"Ah, just a lot on my plate. I am a high school detective after all." Akechi waved his concern away to flash him a smile. "Reminds me that I do have work to catch up on. I'll leave what I owe here. Thank you for the coffee."

"Anytime, kid." Sojiro said to Akechi's back.

Akira went upstairs afterwards, Morgana sitting up.

"That was weird." Akira muttered.

"I mean. I wasn't expecting him here either." Morgana commented, scratching at his ear.

"Well, yeah, but…" Akira paused. "Nevermind."

"Hm? But what?"

"It almost seemed like he had trouble remembering who I was for a second."

"I mean, he just met you weeks ago, right? Probably meets a lot of people everyday to remember them all."

"I mean I guess."

Akira took his time in the bathhouse, sinking into the water. 

"You felt it too, right?" Arsene asked.

It definitely felt like I've never met him before. 

He wasn't sure if that was just the stress of his double life starting to get to him.

 

The next day, Ann hummed in thought after he told her about it during lunch.

"I mean, Morgana is right though. Guy's a big time celebrity. He must meet a lot of people."

"Yeah, I guess."

Akira decided to drop it for the time being. Maybe it was just him being overcautious again. Besides, they had other things to worry about, like their next big target.

 

It was strange every time Akechi came in for coffee. On some days, he would watch him intently make coffee, asking Sojiro a question or two about it. Other days he would be going through his phone and some papers, only looking up when his coffee was placed in front of him.

Akira chalked it up to different moods and maybe some sort of celebrity quirk on top of it. He can't really be one to judge. He's sure people have seen him having full blown conversations with what they see as a regular cat.

-

Akechi walked up the stairs to the apartment, carefully balancing everything in his hands. He hated that the apartment was so high up and that the elevator refused to work half the time. Not like he had any faith in elevators to begin with. He struggled to hold it all in one hand as he dug out his key, hoping the cake he got to go didn't fall in his efforts.

Once the door was unlocked, he managed to get in, dropping it all on the little kitchen table. He went back to shut and lock the door. He sighed in relief, relaxing a little bit. He dug through the bags for the antacid tablets and ginger ale. He grabbed the desert box and balanced his items on top of it.

"I'm home." He called out.

He carefully opened one of the bedroom doors, his twin brother sprawled out on his own bed. The trash can was mercifully empty.

"Feeling any better, Goro?"

"Koji, what took you so long?" He grumbled in response.

Koji put everything within his reach.

"Sorry. Went to grab you that shortcake you like so much. There was a line practically out the door. Owner says thanks for the extra business from your blog, by the way."

Goro sighed, Koji leaving a moment to grab him a fork from the kitchen. Goro was sitting up, drinking the ginger ale.

"Eat anything yet?"

"No. Not feeling up to it."

Koji sighed, knowing he won't try eating until he was better.

"You're lucky we look identical, you know. I think your fan girls at school would riot if you didn't show up for a day."

"Mhm. Thank you, Koji." Goro mumbled.

"Wow, you must be really sick, then."

"Shut up." Goro rolled his eyes at him. "Do anything else today?"

"Went to that little cafe you like. Leblanc. Saw Kurusu there."

"I see."

Koji recounted everything that happened that day, Goro nodding along. 

"Need anything else for your night job?"

"No, not right now, I think. You can feel free to work on that thing you were so excited about the other day."

"Okay. Don't get me sick, now." Koji said, getting up. "I won't forgive you."

"Oh shut up. I know you will. You love me."

Enough to do all this for you, even if I don't have powers like you.

"Mhm. And you love me. Good night."

"Going to bed already?"

"Yeah. I'm tired."

"Good night."

Koji shut the door behind him, sighing. He felt his brother was different, somehow, but he can never explain why. Especially since he still cared about him just as much as he did when they were kids. 

I can see why Kurusu intrigues him, though.

He changed as fast as he could and got ready for bed. They've been pretty much working way too much anyway, especially with all these talk shows on top of everything. Some sleep would be great. 

I'm not as good at talking as Goro is anyway.

Koji woke up way too early, cursing under his breath. He got up knowing he wasn't going to fall asleep now. His desk still had pieces everywhere as he turned on the little desk light, intent on working on his pet project.

This will be great when it's finished.

Time passed until he heard a knock on his door. He still wasn't any closer to where he wanted it to be.

"Koji?"

"What?"

"School, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah."

Koji hurried to get dressed, making sure he was all set for the day. He brushed out his wig a bit before putting it on.

"You good to go?" Koji asked as he stepped out of his room, dressed.

"Yeah. Feel better now." 

Goro took a handful of saltines as he was brushing out his hair almost obsessively.

"C'mon, beauty queen. We'll be late if you keep this up."

"Alright, alright."

Koji opened the door and walked out, moving quickly so it would look like he didn't come from the same room. Of course, they couldn't help but share the same class, but at least they were on opposite sides of the room.

-

The next time Akira saw him, Akechi was waiting for the same train. He didn't feel any different this time. There were a few other students in similar uniforms as him, all waiting. One Akira could swear looked familiar, but this one's hair was black and tied up in a ponytail. He had a sharper jaw as well. Akira shrugged it off as seeing someone like that on his way here.

"Oh, good morning. Didn't realize we took the same line." Akechi smiled at him, way too cheerful.

"They finally let you go to school?" Akira asked.

"Oh, yeah. I miss too much school because of work. Oh, there's my train. May we meet again."

"Lucky you." Akira muttered as he boarded. 

The other students were gone too, checking the time. The train was only about a minute behind, so he wouldn't be late.

"Can't believe we could even run into him here." Morgana complained.

"Yeah."

And I'm still finding him cute. Ugh, I sound like one of his fangirls.

Akira shook his head to clear his thoughts. He had to think about what needed to happen for their Mementos trip after school today. Including what supplies they needed.

Chapter Text

Akira watched Akechi carefully every time he came in. Now that the Phantom Thieves were more popular now with the fall of Madarame and Kaneshiro, Akechi seemed to be starting to get attacked more and more by their most vocal fans. Sometimes he seemed a bit fidgety than normal, but only in brief moments where he thinks no one sees him.

"Hey, Makoto, you know Akechi, right?" Akira asked while they were going over some new targets.

"Hm? Oh, I mean, in passing. He works with my sister a lot, but I don't really talk to him. Why?"

"No, just curious."

"I mean, he does hang out around Leblanc a lot." Morgana added.

"Really? Damn, that sucks dude." Ryuji said.

"The detective that doesn't like us, yes? Hm." Yusuke muttered.

"Is this about the thing the other day?" Ann asked. "The forgetfulness thing?"

"No. Well, sort of? He's just kinda hard to figure out, you know?"

Ann just unhelpfully shrugged at him. 

"Again, he's a celebrity. He's bound to be kind of strange."

"Akechi? He just seems like he's just as much of a workaholic as my sis."

Akira exhaled slowly. What his friends were saying made sense. Maybe he just needed to be better about examining someone like Akechi.

-

Koji leaned against their door with a sigh of relief. Covering for Goro was never easy. Especially when he was gone for a whole day doing who knows what with some supposedly important people. The interviews and talk shows tended to be so draining.

He dropped the briefcase onto the table, immediately loosening the tie and falling onto his bed.

"I hope you make it up to me when you get back." He grumbled to himself.

Though going to Leblanc felt comforting. No one seemed to care who he was. It felt like the only place he could really relax, even if it was only for a few minutes after his coffee was finished. Neither of the baristas made any attempts to pry into his life, which was a relief when everywhere else was like a surprise interview waiting to happen. 

He always felt himself a little disappointed when Kurusu wasn't there sometimes, but he chalked that up to their casual acquaintance with each other more than anything else.

-

Goro sighed, trying to lock their door behind him as quietly as possible. 

Though, knowing Koji, he would be up working on his little projects anyway.

Goro slipped the wig he borrowed off, leaving it on the table for now. He patted his hair to make sure it was fine before he knocked on Koji's door.

"Nn?"

"Hey, I'm back. You still up?"

He heard footsteps approaching and the door opened to a tired Koji. 

"You're finally home?" 

"Mhm. Miss me that much?"

"I miss not having to be you."

"Sorry, Koji. Working on your pet project?"

"Mmph, yeah." Koji mumbled. "Was just gonna go to bed."

Koji gently bumped foreheads with him. Goro smiled at his affection.

"Gonna tell me what you were doing all this time?"

"I can't, Koji. Sorry."

"Can't or won't?"

"Koji."

Koji snorted and rolled his eyes. 

The less Koji knows, the better he's protected.

"Fine. Good night."

"Good n-"

Koji shut the door in his face. Goro sighed and went to get ready for bed. He knows he owed Koji big time for this.

-

Akira eyed the detective, wondering which mood would surface today. He didn't seem to pay any attention to him.

"Take a picture, it'd last longer." Akechi said, making eye contact.

"I'm sure you're sick of pictures." Akira replied.

Sojiro gave him a warning glare. Akechi simply shrugged.

"Well, I figured a photo was easier to keep than an autograph."

I wouldn't mind having a picture of you.

"And if I want both?"

"Maybe as thanks when you finally get my coffee perfect, Kurusu."

That little smirk of his was so unfortunately addictive. Hard to get one out of him, too.

"You drive a hard bargain, Mr. Prince."

Akira made the coffee, making a slight adjustment from last time. Sojiro was a good teacher, even if he judged his coffee rather harshly. He can't blame the man though, since it's his specialty. He watched Akechi take a sip after he served it.

"Hmm. A bit too sweet for my taste, but you've definitely improved since the last time."

"Guess I won't be getting that autograph and photo, then." Akira teased.

"Better luck next time, Kurusu."

-

"Is that part of your doing?" Koji asked, eyes glued to the tv.

Goro looked over to see the rerun of the special about Medjed and their threats to the Phantom Thieves.

"You're the one that's good with technology."

"Did you set this up?"

"How could I possibly know how to hack, Koji?"

"Stop avoiding my question."

"It's nothing for you to worry about."

"Tch, it never is." Koji muttered before retreating to his own room.

Oh Koji, can't you understand that I'm trying to protect you from Shido's wrath?

-

When they finally got through Futaba's palace and she recovered to take down Medjed, it wasn't long until fans became even more vocal of their support and their annoyance with Akechi. Akira almost felt bad for the guy. And wandering around Akihabara gave him an idea. Since he seemed interested in Sojiro's coffee brewer, maybe he'd be interested in tech. Akira ended up buying the little robot vacuum and bringing it back home.

He waited until he caught Akechi in one of his examine-the-coffee-maker moods before handing him the robot. He seemed surprised.

"Oh. This is kinda expensive, isn't it?"

Akira smiled at the momentary drop in his formal speech pattern.

"It is."

"And you're giving this to me? Kurusu, are you sure?" Akechi asked, trying to give it back.

Akira pushed it back into his hands, refusing to take it. 

"Keep it. I gave it to you because I want you to have it. I figured it'd help keep your place clean since you're so busy. You seem to be everywhere, after all."

"Oh. Alright. Thank you, then. I don't have anything to give you."

"Your honest opinion of my coffee is enough. Don't worry about it."

Akechi smiled the first genuine smile Akira has ever seen on him.

"You're very strange, Kurusu. But thank you, again. This is very thoughtful of you."

"You're very welcome."

Akira watched as he opened his briefcase, rearrange things and put the robot in there before he left.

-

The minute Koji got home, he opened the case and grabbed the little robot, tearing it out of the packaging. He was absolutely giddy that someone would give him such a thing, carrying it into his room. He plopped the thing down on his little workspace after clearing it a bit. He got to work disassembling it, forgetting about anything else.

This is the nicest thing anyone has ever given me.

It was a real struggle to keep his act up once Kurusu handed him the robot and insisted he kept it. Koji saw how happy he looked when he showed thanks for it, and maybe it was just Kurusu teasing him for it, but he felt his cheeks heat up at the thought of him. Of course he's practically studied his face every time he uses Leblanc's special coffee brewer, because how else would he figure out what it looked like when the machine was working. Someone had to use it properly, and Koji knew he was getting better every time. Koji paused, screwdriver hovering over the last screw holding the cover on the robot.

"Oh fuck." He whispered.

I have a crush on him.

He couldn't admit it to his crush. Especially since Kurusu only knew him as Goro. And he couldn't approach Kurusu at all in his other guise, since it would just read that he was the object of affection for a weirdly obsessed stranger. He also couldn't admit it to his brother, because that would probably mess up any interactions with Kurusu.

This is bad.

He could only hope it wasn't obvious to Kurusu. That would he his only saving grace. He had gotten pretty good at assuming Goro's identity almost flawlessly by now. So he's just going to work harder to make sure he was the same Goro as always.

"Koji? What the hell is this all over the floor?"

Oh shit.

Koji got up and moved to the door, before mumbling an apology and gathering up the trash he left behind. Goro had a box from some bakery in his hands.

"That doesn't answer my question."

"Kurusu gave me a robot vacuum."

Goro stared at him to see if he was lying. Koji just held up the part of the box with the picture of the robot on it.

"Why?"

"I don't know. Something about being too busy. He wouldn't take it back."

"I assume you already started to take it apart?"

Koji nodded, causing Goro to sigh.

"Koji…"

"It's not like I was given a receipt to return it."

Goro pinched the bridge of his nose. Koji tucked some hair behind his ear, not looking him in the eyes.

"Anyway, I actually have some good news for you."

"What?"

"You don't have to be me at all for a while."

"Huh?"

"You get to be Kubota for a while now. No need to fill in for me until further notice."

"Oh, okay. Nice. And what's in your hands?"

Goro opened the box to show a bunch of different pastries.

"For you."

Koji grabbed a cream puff and shoved it in his mouth. Goro smiled at him before closing the box and putting it on the counter for now. Koji hugged him from behind.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome. Now come on, what else happened today."

They moved to the little couch as Koji went over everything for the day, leaving out the part where he realized he had a crush on Kurusu. Goro nodded along, shifting a little as Koji put his head on his shoulder when he was done.

"What's the plan now?"

"It's still being made."

Koji sighed. He figured Goro still wouldn't tell him.

-

Akira found himself a little disappointed as Akechi dropped his little quirk of examining him working the coffee machine. He didn't seem to do it anymore.

Must be a lot on his mind.

Akechi seemed to not be very popular after their surprising victory over Medjed. 

"How's the little robot?" Akira asked as he served his coffee.

"Oh, I haven't actually been able to set it up yet."

"Too busy?"

"Not a moment to myself, I'm afraid. Rather try to get my rest then figure out how to set up a robot cleaner. Sorry to disappoint you." 

"I'm not. I understand you're very busy."

Akechi smiled at him, plastic and fake. It wasn't too long until he left. Even faked, Akira liked his smiles. He truly wished he was able to see more of his genuine grins, though. Those were very special.

-

Goro came home to Koji asleep at his desk, the robot half taken apart. He shook his head, putting the sandwiches and briefcase in his hands down before going to shake his brother wake.

"Ngh?" Koji grunted, looking up at him confused.

"Hey sleepyhead, dinner. Make any good progress on that robot?"

"Sort of." Koji rubbed his eye before standing up. "What's the plan? You need anything from me?"

"No, unless you want me to test something out for you."

"I don't really have anything new yet."

Koji and Goro mostly ate in silence.

"Hey, Kurusu asked about his gift."

"Oh. What did you say?"

"Haven't had a chance to set it up."

Koji kinda crumpled his napkin into a ball to toss into the trash, missing. He got up to pick it up and throw it away.

"Hey, are you doing okay, Goro?" 

"If you're talking about the anonymous insults, I don't care about those."

"Well, yeah that too, but I meant about work. Any closer to catching those Thieves?"

"You'll see." 

Koji gave him an annoyed look, crossing his arms.

"Great. Good talk." 

"Look, I just can't talk ab-"

"I know. You keep saying that." Koji interrupted him. "Just… stay safe, okay?"

"Okay."

Goro saw the door close, Koji saying nothing else.

-

Koji couldn't tell Goro he was rooting for the Phantom Thieves' continued success. He often scrolled through the Phansite, talking to others, hidden by his relatively bland name, a variation on a popular idol's name and his forged initials. He could see how even though the most talked about of their stunts was the big names, he felt it was nice that they looked after little requests as well. Many people thanked the Thieves for this and that, and it kinda gave a clearer picture of who the Thieves were trying to be.

The popularity ranking is kinda iffy, though.

Number one often changed by the minute. He didn't want to participate in it, thinking it ultimately pointless. Many fans were spreading many nasty rumors about each person that managed the number one spot in an attempt to win others over to their side. 

Justice shouldn't be dished out based on popularity.

Koji kept his low profile at school, finding it sort of boring. However, not having to fill in meant he had lots of time for both working on his projects. On the flip side, he missed visiting Leblanc.

 

Koji looked on, horrified, as Okumura died in such a horrible way on live television. He ran to the bathroom, certain he might start throwing up at the thought. 

The Phantom Thieves killed someone??

Koji had to take a moment or two to breathe. He reminded himself that they didn't kill. He sat down on the bathroom floor, going to the Phansite. So much cheering about his death. And others starting the wave of heavy handed criticism of the Thieves. 

Does Goro know?

He probably heard about it by now. Koji's dreading asking him.

Probably wouldn't even tell me anyway.

 

Koji didn't talk much over the next few days. He spent more time working on his project, often skipping eating dinner with Goro.

"Hey, are you really gonna do that talk at Shujin?" Koji asked, finally breaking his silence.

"Yeah. It'd be good. My popularity is at an all time high."

Is that all you can care about?

"Coming out of media withdrawal so soon, huh?"

"It's so the Thieves lower their guard."

Koji sighed.

"Of course it is. Just be careful, okay?"

"I will."

-

Akira's expression soured. Akechi had played them, and now was blackmailing them into working together. He waited and watched as his friends walked out with him, until it was Morgana and him left.

"He's lying to us." Morgana said.

"I know. We should tell the others about this."

Morgana nodded, jumping back into his bag. Akira rejoined his friends, most of them grumbling and cussing out Akechi under their breaths. 

"He used Makoto's plan against us, that bastard." Ryuji growled.

What else are you hiding, Akechi?

Chapter Text

Goro couldn't be more pleased with himself. Everything was going according to plan. They've made decent progress on Sae's Palace, and now they were primed to fall into their trap.

It's been a pleasure, Joker. But your life is forfeit.

Now he just had to keep it up until they sent her the calling card. He just remembered something he had to do, deciding to text the group.

Sorry everyone. I'm going to be a little late due to some work obligations. Meet at the entrance?

There was a bit of discussion before Kurusu responded.

Kurusu: sounds good to me

-

"Man, where the hell is he?" Ryuji muttered.

They were all standing around waiting for Akechi to arrive. They spotted Akechi on his way somewhere else, Makoto running over to him.

"Oh, there you are Akechi. You're late." Makoto said, grabbing Akechi's arm to pull him over to them.

"Huh? Niijima-san? Where are we going?" He stuttered as he got dragged.

Akira gave him a confused look before hitting the MetaNav to go into Sae's Palace. Everyone else but him changed, Akechi startled.

"What just happened?" He jumped as he saw Morgana. "And what is that?!"

"There you guys are! You're late, I thought we agreed to meet her-" 

Everyone paused, looking from Akechi, in full thief outfit, back to the other Akechi that they just dragged in here.

"Koji?! What are you doing here??" Crow squawked at his double. 

"Goro?! What's with the clothes??"

"Wait. What?!" Ann shouted as they did a double take.

"Wait... don't tell me..." Morgana started, eyes wide at Goro. "You have an identical twin?!"

The two stared at each other for a minute before Goro looked down at his feet. Koji looked around at all of them again, thoroughly confused.

"My... twin brother, Koji. Koji, these are the Phantom Thieves." Goro introduced quickly.

"What's going on? And where did this casino come from?" He asked.

"So uh... what now?" Goro asked.

"Well, he has the app now. He would just need to awaken to a persona. At some point, at least." Morgana said, still confused at the both of them.

Akira saw the twins exchange a quick glance before Koji was staring at them all.

"I'm sorry, but can someone explain where are we?" Koji asked. "Where's the courthouse? It's supposed to be right here."

"Why don't we get to a safe room and we can all explain what's going on here?" Makoto suggested with a pointed look at Goro.

Goro sheepishly nodded. Everyone started to infiltrate the Palace again, Koji standing there confused. Goro grabbed his hand and pulled him along. Koji pulled his hand back and followed, in awe of the casino interior as they stood above it all.

"Koji, stay close to me, alright?" Goro said.

"Okay." 

Akira could see Goro checking on his twin every so often as they made their way down to the floor. They made their way into the safe room by the elevator, and that was when the awkward silence was broken.

"What do you mean you have a twin brother ??" Makoto yelled immediately.

Koji sat in a chair, hands folded in his lap and lips pressed together, head down. Goro was caught off guard for a moment. 

"We're identical twins. I don't know how to be more specific than that." Goro said, before he cleared his throat and frowned. "And you were the ones who dragged him in here without bothering to check in the Metaverse first."

"You said meet at the entrance."

"Of the palace! It'd be suspicious to be waiting outside for too long!"

"Guys…" Koji finally spoke up. "Can't we just stop yelling?"

"And what were you doing, Koji?" Goro turned to him.

"I… you forgot to turn in a report this morning and I saw it on the counter, so I thought I'd just do that for you. Guess it's gonna have to wait until tomorrow, haha."

"I did? Shoot." Goro muttered.

"Wait, hold on. Goro didn't turn something in, so you decided to impersonate him just to run an errand?" Ann asked.

"Yeah? It would be weird if the report was turned in by someone else?"

"Whoa whoa whoa, back up. You're saying that there was a fifty-fifty chance that we were talking to you?" Ryuji said.

The twins exchanged a look, Koji fidgeting with his gloves.

"Well, I wouldn't say fifty-fifty. I usually only fill in if he's horribly sick or needs to have extra study time for an exam." Koji admitted.

"I really don't ask him any other time." Goro added.

"So the tv station for our social trip?" Ryuji started.

"That was me." Goro said.

"Then who did I give the robot?" Akira asked.

"Me." Koji spoke up. 

The Thieves exchange a look with each other.

"Look, I'd- we would really appreciate it if this was kept a secret." Goro said.

Koji was practically silently begging all of them,  Goro giving Koji a worried glance when he wasn't looking. They whispered among themselves for a minute, unsure what to say.

"I mean… who the hell would believe us?" Ryuji said.

"Thank you." Goro said, smiling.

Koji sighed in relief.

"So... can someone explain to me what's going on now? Where are we? Why are your clothes like that?"

"Okay, so to start off, we're in the Metaverse." Morgana started. "Basically, a cognitive world of sorts. Right now, we're in what we call a Palace, a place of deeply distorted desires, which belongs to Sae Niijima."

"Sae-san is a criminal?" 

"Well, not exactly. But anyways, we look like this because we've awakened to a persona, and our costumes reflect what we subconsciously think a thief looks like."

"Oh, I think I get it. Sort of." Koji shifted, a hand to his chin. "But you mentioned an app earlier?"

"Oh, after our first trip to the Metaverse, each of our phones had an app install called the MetaNav. It's what we use to go between here and the real world." Haru explained.

"Huh. Okay…" 

Koji seemed more confused than before. The twins exchanged another look, this one unreadable. They explained a little more and also introduced themselves individually to him so there wasn't any confusion.

"Anyways, we should continue infiltrating." Makoto said, before turning to Koji. "But, uh…"

"Are you worried he might slow us down?" Yusuke asked.

"I mean, it's dangerous without a persona. He's susceptible to cognition changes." Morgana hummed. "But on the other hand, we can't just leave him here. The shadows would get him for sure."

"I'll just stay out of your way and be quiet, then." Koji said.

"Alright. Where to now?" Ann asked.

"Well, we can't go forward without a member's card, so we have to search for one of those first." Goro commented.

"I think I saw the way to some backrooms, so let's head there first." Akira said.

 

It was slow progress, Goro constantly looking over to Koji to make sure he was fine after every fight. 

Well, at least he cares about someone. Akira thought.

-

Koji was doing his best to both keep up with the others and staying out of their way. He thought he was doing a good job. At least until some shadows ambushed them in such a way that they all got separated. Koji was backed up against a wall, two large creatures staring him down.

"Oracle where is he?" Goro was high key panicking.

"Looks like he's been pinned."

"We- I have to get over there!" Goro shouted.

"Aww, look at you. Such a cute little damsel in distress." One of the creatures taunted.

"I hope you give us a real good scream as we tear you apart." The other added, getting real close to his face.

"Get away from me." Koji growled, punching one of them in the face.

The shadows laughed at him, not even flinching.

"Koji! Just hold on!" Goro shouted over the chaos.

"How pathetic."

"Just be good and die for us."

"I'm not going to lie down and die just because you ask me to!" Koji shouted. "Not you or anybody else, no matter who they are!"

Koji was hit by an intense migraine, groaning and falling to a knee. 

"Finally. Do you know how long I've had to wait before you came to a decision? How long have you willingly let others decide what's good for you? Let them decide what you should do?" A voice said.

"Whoa, what's going on? An awakening?" He heard Futaba exclaim.

Koji slid down farther, clutching his head as the voice rose in intensity.

"You have always put your convictions aside for others' convenience. All for the sake of shadowing others while they take all the credit for your contributions to their role. Have you finally decided enough was enough? Then let's make a contract. I art thou, thou art I, it's time to step out of the shadows and take control once more. There we go, that's it. Let's darken the stage and steal the whole damn show!"

Koji started standing up, sliding his hands to the edge of the mask that's appeared on his face. He yanked hard until it came off, power surging through him as blood poured down his face. His shadow gained a form of its own, a fiery black shape with sharp claws, and eyes, a mouth, a cravat and a chain with a fancy cross on it that were all blue in color. It was devilish looking, it's form barely defined.

"I'm through holding back. Time to show them what we're made of, Flambeau." Koji snarled.

With a wave of his hand, he released a strong blast of dark red magic, destroying the shadows that were pinning him down. He ran forward towards the others, determined to help out and reunite with them. He knocked down a few more shadows before he got there, helping to turn the fight around. 

After the fight was over, he felt exhausted, starting to collapse. Goro caught him and lowered him to the floor, hugging tightly.

"Koji? Are you okay?"

"Hard… to move...." He whispered, clutching onto him. 

"C'mon, we can't stay here." Morgana said, barely audible.

Koji felt exhaustion overtake him, blacking out.

-

"Shit, Koji." Goro hissed, pulling him up with him.

Koji groaned, seeming to come to, his eyes fluttering. Koji was now clad in a dark grey robe, a small hooded shoulder piece pulled over his face to match the fabric, a silver bird like mask, a rope belt with a silver cross-shaped clasp over his right hip, light grey gloves, and thigh high dark leather boots.

"When did my clothes change...?" Koji asked. 

"Let's go. Staying here would leave us vulnerable to attack." Makoto ordered.

"Right, c'mon, let's get out of here for now." Akira said, waving everyone to come with. 

Goro carried Koji out, Koji leaning on him the whole way. They take a moment as the world changes around them, their clothes going to normal. Koji stood up, still kind of shaky, but seemingly okay.

"Uh…" Ann said, staring at the twins. 

"Don't worry about it, I'm prepared." Koji said, putting his leather bag down and opening it.

He pulled out a hoodie and threw it on, pushing his hair all the way under it and hunching over. He handed the bag to Goro, shoving his hands in his pockets afterwards.

"Yeah, for now. How is this gonna work when you two look the same? You're gonna have to come to the hideout too." Ryuji said.

"Well, you'll see. Goodbye." Koji said, walking off.

"Don't worry, I'll make sure he has everyone's contacts." Goro said.

"Right. Bye, then." Akira said.

Goro nodded and walked away after his brother. Everyone decided to head back to the hideout for now to discuss.

"It's freaking me out that he has a twin brother." Morgana said.

"You too?" Ann asked. "God, it's so hard to believe."

"Right?" Ryuji said.

"How much do you think he knows of his brother's plan?" Yusuke asked. 

"That's a good question." Morgana said. "We already know he's filled in for Ak-, er, Crow, a few times. But how often is still up to debate."

"Anything odd with his awakening?" Haru asked Futaba.

"Nope. Not at all. So that was real, as was his surprise of Morgana and our clothes. And it seemed Crow was actually surprised at his appearance too."

"So all that was real too." Yusuke hummed thoughtfully, putting a hand to his mouth. "Strange."

"And it did seem like he really did care for his brother." Haru commented.

"I think to be safe, we don't quite trust him either." Makoto suggested.

"Yeah, who knows how deep he's in with Crow's plan." Ann added.

"Regardless, we have one more to our group for now. We've gotten really big." Morgana commented.

"Hey, should I track Koji's phone too?" Futaba asked.

"I think Goro would get suspicious of what you did to his phone." Akira said. "Better not."

"Hmm, okay. Makes sense."

This was quite the day. Akira thought to himself as his friends dispersed for the time being.

-

Goro locked the door behind him, Koji grinning ear to ear.

"I have powers like you! I-"

Koji's face dropped as Goro gave him a stern look.

"Goro?"

"That's nice, Koji."

"Is it? Because something's bothering you."

"Of course something's bothering me! You nearly got horribly hurt and you passed out for a moment there. How could I not be worried?"

"Well, I didn't get hurt. I am just as capable of taking care of myself, you know." Koji huffed, crossing his arms over his chest. "Why can't you be excited with me?"

"Just- Look, don't trust the Thieves, okay? That's all I ask."

"Why shouldn't I? They do their best to help people in need. Unless there is something you know that nobody else does?"

"Koji."

"I'm done letting other people decide what I can and can't do, and that includes you, Goro."

"You're going to get yourself killed, you idiot."

"By them? The Thieves don't kill. And you know that."

From our shitty father, you idiot.

"I am just trying to protect you! Please, Koji."

Koji deeply sighed, upset and hurt.

"You've changed, Goro."

"Koji, wait, I-"

Koji slammed his door on him, Goro surprised. He decided to leave him alone for a while.

-

Koji slid down against his door, trying not to cry. He could feel Flambeau reach out for his hands, feeling warm there.

Hey.

"Are you alright?"

I don't know.

Koji lifted his head up so it was also resting against the door.

I know he's trying to protect me, but I don't need to be told who to trust.

"He'll come to understand that you're just as capable of handling things on your own as he is."

I hope so. 

Koji slowly exhaled as he heard a knock.

"What do you want?"

"I'm sorry for not being excited with you."

He didn't respond, closing his eyes.

"Koji, look, I didn't mean to tell you what to do, alright? I'm just worried about you."

Koji didn't want to hear such a half-assed apology right now. Koji huffed, pulling his head forward.

"Where are we all meeting tomorrow?"

"Huh? Oh, Leblanc. I can give you everyone's contacts."

"I'll just handle that myself when I get there. I'm tired, and I'm going to bed now. Goodnight."

Goro didn't respond for a few moments. He could hear Goro sigh deeply before he spoke.

"Goodnight, then."

What happened to my brother? He was never like this.

Flambeau hummed in sympathy, tracing up along his arms before hugging around the shoulders. Koji got up to change and crawl into bed. Flambeau retreated into his heart for now as he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Akira was waiting for everyone to show up to the hideout. Futaba was already there, as was Ann and Haru. Ryuji joined them soon after, bringing some more snacks with him. Makoto and Yusuke came soon after. Once Goro and Koji got there, they would be going upstairs to talk about their infiltration route and most likely explain more to Koji. 

The bell rang as someone came in, and they looked up to see someone their age. He had long black hair pulled back into a ponytail, a sharp jaw, and a mole under his left eye. He was slouching, hands in his jeans pockets, wearing a dark green tank top over it. They all sat up, confused.

"Oh, welcome to Leblanc. My name is Sojiro Sakura, but you may call me Boss." Sojiro perked up, looking the kid over. "And you are?"

"Oh, my name is Koji Kubota. Nice to meet you."

"Wait, Koji??" Morgana whispered.

They all were surprised, watching Koji carefully.

"Ah, do people call you KK?" Sojiro asked, smiling.

"Oh, uh, some do, yes." Koji stammered, smiling awkwardly.

"Hey, we were waiting for you, Koji." Akira said, getting up.

Koji looked over and smiled at him.

"Oh, one of your friends? You sure are making a lot of them." Sojiro commented. "Well, make yourself at home."

They all moved upstairs, Koji sitting on the edge of the bed.

"So this is how you two managed to avoid being found as twins." Makoto stated.

"Man, you're like a totally different person." Ryuji added.

"You mean when I don't have to be so stiff and formal and boring?" Koji teased, then had a brief moment of panic. "Uhh, don't tell my brother I said that about him, please."

"While I mean, it's true." Futaba said.

"Futaba." Ann scolded gently. 

"Hey, where is he anyway?" Haru asked.

"He's coming. He had to run some errands this morning." 

Koji did not look very happy about that. He spotted the workbench, standing up and look closer at it. 

"Oh, wow. I love your workspace. What kind of stuff do you build?"

"This guy usually builds lockpicks and other such things." Morgana said.

Watching him made Akira realize something.

"I figured something was up when Goro stopped being interested in the coffee machines. So, that was you that first time I saw you in the cafe. While you were watching me work the coffee machine."

Koji's eyes widened before he gave an awkward smile.

"You're very observant. Most people never notice that difference." There was a note of sadness in his voice before he perked up again. "I was trying to take it apart in my head and put it back together. I'm sure Boss would kill me if I took it apart and couldn't put it back together for real."

"So what happened to that robot I gave you?" Akira asked.

"Uh… truth be told, I've started taking it apart." Koji admitted, cheeks burning.

"Dude…" Ryuji and Akira said at the same time.

"I just like knowing how things work. And the best way to find out is to dismantle it. I'm going to put it back together, I swear!"

"Hey… you change your appearance using makeup too, right?" Ann asked. "It's really impressive work."

"Mostly, yes." Koji nodded, subconsciously touching under his mole as he answered. "Thank you."

He pulled out his phone after remembering.

"Actually, I should get everyone's contacts before I forget to, again."

They all dug out their phones to exchange chat ids and such, Akira adding him to the group chat. Koji sat back down, seeming to be a bit awkward before Akira started talking to him about the sorts of things he makes. He even pulled him over to the workbench to show him. Koji seemed excited, talking about minor improvements Akira could make to some of the tools he makes. 

"Hello everyone." Goro said as he came up the stairs. 

Akira noticed Koji seemed to stiffen a little when he arrived, not looking at Goro. They all gathered around so they could discuss their plan of attack for today. They made sure to go a bit more in depth when Koji asked questions. 

"Alright, everyone ready?" Morgana asked.

They agreed and all got up to leave for Sae's palace.

-

They stopped at the entrance, turning to face Koji. Koji tilted his head, confused.

"Hold on, we need a codename for you." Morgana said.

"Oh? Well, what do you all call each other?" He asked.

One by one they went over their code names for themselves, Akira last. 

"Well, I'm never good at these sorts of things. I'll leave it up to you guys."

"Hmmm, you know the clothes remind me of some sort of priest." Yusuke said. "Perhaps Monk could be your codename?"

"Don't make me sound old." Koji said.

"Well, how about Cross? For that buckle on you?" Ann suggested.

"I don't like that either."

"Well, what do you think, Joker?" Goro asked.

"What, you don't have a good name for me, bro?" Koji teased him.

"Annoying." Goro deadpanned.

"Hey!" Koji objected, smacking his arm as Goro grinned. "Jerk."

"How about we call you Raven?" Akira asked. "For your mask and clothes."

"Oh. I like that actually." Koji said, feeling his cheeks get warm. "Call me that."

Oh, I have it bad for this boy.

Koji was thankful his face was mostly covered so they couldn't see. 

Once inside, Akira decided who came with him in the first group, picking him and Goro along with Ann. 

"I wanna see what else you can do, Raven." Akira said.

"I'll do my best, Joker."

Koji discovered he could also use some healing magic, much to his delight. He got knocked down a few times when shadows hit his weakness, but he would just get back up again. And after looking at his persona's face and Arsene's for a while, he realized they looked similar.

"Is something wrong?"

You just look a lot like Joker's persona, especially the face.

Flambeau chuckled, changing his form to also imitate Arsene's wings.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery after all." He teased.

Koji panicked for a moment, seeing his brother and Akira busy breaking into a chest together.

Please don't! I don't want either of them to find out!

"Either of-?" Flambeau looked over to Goro and understood, changing back to his normal form. "Sorry, darling. I didn't mean to upset you so."

Koji breathed a sigh of relief. Flambeau offered a hug, Koji leaning into his arms gently to accept it. They broke apart as Goro and Akira came back over, Koji feeling a bit better now.

"Hey, you okay Raven?" Akira asked.

"Guess this is all still a bit overwhelming for me. I'm okay now."

"You can take a break if you need to, you know." Goro said gently.

"I can keep going." Koji reassured, giving him a pointed look.

That was too close.

-

Koji eventually admitted to getting tired, so Akira switched him out for Haru for now. Koji happily accepted it, hanging back for the time being while they got through the palace. Koji seemed to be more open and willing to befriend them, which had Akira wondering how much he really knew again. Koji seemed to be in awe of everything, and though it was hard work, still cracked some jokes here and there. Like he was eager to make friends with them.

"Stare at him too much and he'll get the wrong idea." Arsene reminded gently.

Akira shifted to look at the wall, going through his inventory mentally. There was something else about Koji that Akira couldn't quite figure out, but he didn't feel it was a bad thing, whatever it was.

You're right. I'd feel bad. 

But why, Akira couldn't figure it out. Goro was more prickly in his eyes, always distancing himself, even from his own brother. Especially since they know of what Goro intends to do to him. But Koji couldn't be more different from his brother. Akira knew that he can't really trust Koji either.

 

They managed to get to a locked cognition, realizing they needed to attend a trial that Sae was at in order to pass through. They went home for the day, Akira deciding to go to the bathouse to relax a little before bed. 

Arsene, do you think it'd be leading him on to tell him I enjoy his company?

"Who? Raven?"

Yeah, I- oh.

It dawned on him that it was hard to separate his romantic feelings for Goro from Koji, knowing that Koji could've been acting as Goro at any point before the last palace. And he seemed genuinely happy when he was given that robot, confirming that when they saw him today. Akira found Koji cute in his own way, especially when making things and when talking tech with Futaba during a longer rest in the palace. But he wasn't sure if that was real feelings for Koji himself or just a hold over from when Koji was pretending to be Goro. Akira sighed and sank into the water.

Why are emotions such a mess, Arsene?

"The human heart is a mystery."

Akira snorted and rolled his eyes. He'll just have to sort it out later.

It just got harder as they did Mementos requests together, Akira finding Koji's little quips endearing. He couldn't help but second guess Koji's intentions when his brother had the worst in store for him, but Koji seemed unaware of what was going to happen. 

It'll be obvious what he knows when the day comes.

For now, he just had to pass the time until they could send the calling card.

 

Akira watched Koji freak out after the fight with Sae's shadow, realizing he had no idea this was coming. Akira watched Ryuji and Makoto return with the briefcase, volunteering to be the distraction.

"Joker, are you sure?" Koji asked.

Oh, he's actually concerned about me.

"Leave it man. Once he makes up his mind, you can't convince him otherwise." Ryuji said.

"Come on, we have to go, now!" Futaba shouted.

"Let's split up so we don't get caught." Goro said.

Everyone split up, Akira leading the police on a wild chase as he tried to get out of there. It was inevitable he got caught, but he wasn't as worried as he should have been. It was all going according to plan. Now he just had to convince Sae to help him out.

-

Koji dropped the remote, barely hearing it clatter away.

"Urgent report: the suspect believed to be the leader of the Phantom Thieves has commited suicide while in custody."

Koji couldn't believe that Akira would kill himself. Akira didn't seem like the type. Goro was out, and he couldn't do anything else but stay exactly where he was.

"No…"

"Something is wrong here." Flambeau said immediately.

Wrong…?

Koji thought back to the last thing Goro had said to him when he asked. He was trying to lower the Phantom Thieves' guard, but wouldn't say anything else in regards to what his plan was. And while talking to the others, he said he was chasing after a true culprit, the one who really killed Okumura. 

Why would he work with the Thieves if his whole plan has been to catch them? Goro is more than capable of catching the culprit himself with his powers.

Koji thought about it, coming to a horrible conclusion. It physically repulsed him to think of his brother doing that, turning off the tv. He went to his room, staring at himself in the mirror. Koji closed his eyes, angry.

"Let's go find him." Koji hissed.

He quickly threw on his wig and ran out of the apartment, barely remembering to lock it.

-

Goro felt a tight grip on his upper arm as he was pulled away from the train stop towards the stairs.

"Can I talk to you for a minute?" A voice in his ear growled.

Goro looked over to see Koji was the one marching him down the steps, phone in his hand. He pressed it to bring them into Mementos before he could protest, Koji throwing him forward as their clothes changed.

"What did you do?" Koji snarled.

Flambeau was flared up behind him, just as angry. Goro stood up to face him.

"I didn't do anything."

"You're a goddamn liar." Koji spat. "I know Akira, and he is not the type to kill himself so easily. And I know you know that. So what. Did. You do?"

"You have to understand, Koji, that I had to in order to get closer to him . So that we can get our justice."

" Our justice? Our ? You-" Koji seemed to stumble on his words out of anger. "You killed our friend , you stupid dumbfuck asshole! For him , of all people??"

"I will do whatever it takes to protect you ! Do you understand? This is all for your fucking safety!"

Goro grunted as he was hit with a strong curse attack, getting knocked to the floor.

"Fuck you. You don't care about me at all anymore. I never want to talk to you ever again!" Koji screamed.

Goro watched as he turned on his heel and ran away from him.

-

Koji didn't stop running until he got home. He barred his door with his chair, panting heavily. He collapsed onto his bed, the reality of the situation catching up to him.

"How could he…?"

Koji looked at his phone, realizing that he couldn't reach out to the others for help without them being wary of him. He could feel the telltale sting in his eyes, not having the energy to stop himself.

He's really gone.

Flambeau did his best to provide comfort while his heart shattered into a million pieces.

 

Koji didn't bother to get up the next day, thankful that it was a Sunday and he didn't have to call himself out. He could hear Goro getting ready for his day, not moving or responding until he left. Koji opened the MetaNav, hesitating. 

"Akechi Goro." He whispered.

"No match found." The app chirped back at him.

"Akechi Goro, Mementos."

"No match found."

Figures.

Koji scrolled listlessly through his phone until he ended up on the Phansite. It was depressing to read through all the messages that said that Akira deserved his death, that demanded the others were hunted down and killed as well.

"You know they see what you post here. Why not leave them some coded messages?" Flambeau suggested gently.

What's the point?

"So they can see that you were not part of your brother's scheme."

They don't care to separate us in their heads.

"Try to reach out to them. Please, dear. You don't know unless you try."

Koji sighed, but started typing out what he wanted to say. He had to be careful about it. He couldn't tip himself off to the whole world about who he is or who he's reaching out to. 

-

Akira got a few texts the day before making sure he really didn't die. He confirmed that for them, finally breathing a sigh of relief. He was really hurt, it was hard to sit or lie down without aching horribly. But he was thankful he was alive. His phone buzzed again as he was waiting for school to get out, checking it.

Mishima: hey, know its not like a request like usual but theres a bizarre string of seemingly coded messages? I think it mentioned you guys?

Huh?

Mi: it reads like a weirdly personal request post like the kind that used to be really popular when you guys were famous and well liked. Hold on ill send it to you in a min

Mi: but i asked if they needed the Phantom Thieves to help them and they said it wasn't going to be possible? Idk the main ones seem awkward to read but i swear it makes sense somehow!

maybe theyre using ur site to vent

Mi: it sure doesnt seem like its just venting

Mishima quickly sent some screenshots of said messages.

"Oh, whoa, he wasn't kidding when he said they were weird." Morgana said. 

Akira was struggling to make heads or tails of it. Morgana wasn't much help either. 

"Why don't we send these over to Futaba to help figure these out?" Akira asked, forwarding the images anyway.

Futaba: ?

F: what the hell is this

sorry. Mishima said these might be coded messages and we cant figure this out

F: is this all? Tell him to send everything and a link to wherever these are

On it

Akira switched over to Mishima's chat.

can u send me a link to these and maybe any other messages by this person?

Mishima immediately responded with a link and the rest of the conversation he had with the person.

Mi: i actually couldnt find anymore messages by them but theyve been registered for a while according to the site logs

Akira sent the information along to Futaba.

F: ill crack these soon enough and share them with everyone when we get to the hangout. i could even tell u whos sending these as well?

lets wait on that for now. thanks for volunteering to decode these

Akira knows Futaba will do it anyway, no matter what he said. 

Chapter Text

Futaba came over early, her laptop quickly set up.

"Almost done."

Morgana moved to sit next to her while Akira pulled over some chairs. School was getting out soon, and everyone promised they'd come right over to discuss their next target immediately.

"Imagine how ecstatic that person would be when we figure out who needs a heart changed and do it for them?" Morgana mused. "They'd be so over the moon."

Futaba wasn't paying attention to what he was saying, concentrating.

"They did tell Mishima it wasn't going to be possible." Akira reminded him.

"Pfft! Sounds like they're just doubting our skills! We can take anyone's heart!" Morgana chirped. "They just don't know who they're talking to!'

Akira shrugged, making some coffees to pass the time. The bell rang, turning to see everyone make their way inside the cafe. 

"Hey guys." Akira said as he came back around the counter.

"Futaba's really going at it, isn't she?" Ryuji commented.

"Is she looking into those weird messages you mentioned earlier?" Makoto asked.

"She sure is." Morgana said.

"Here, I'll send them to you all." Akira said as he pulled out his phone.

Everyone checked their phones, surprised by the messages.

"Whoa. These are weird. But they sorta feel like they make sense, you know?" Ann said.

"No, it's all utter nonsense." Yusuke said. "All these words separately make sense. But here there's no purpose to any of them."

"Who the hell left these on the Phansite?" Ryuji muttered. "Are they even real? How do we know it's not some bot?"

"Aaand, got it!" Futaba exclaimed. "Now if I just…"

"That fast?" Haru asked.

"She's been working on it most of the day." Akira explained.

They waited for a few more minutes, sitting down and making themselves comfortable for their inevitable meeting.

"Okay. Done." Futaba looked up from her laptop to see everyone staring at her. "It's gonna take a little more time to trace it back to the sender, but I can share what those posts actually say right now."

Everyone sat up at attention, Akira motioning her to continue. Futaba looked down at her laptop and began to read it off.

"To the Phantom Thieves, I'm not sure if you're going to read this but this is my one and only shot at contacting any of you again. I honestly had no idea what he was planning, and I'm truly, deeply sorry. Going on without him will be difficult, and I am mourning with you. I know you have no way to tell if I'm telling the truth, and I know you probably won't give me the benefit of the doubt."

They all exchange a glance before Futaba continued.

"But I am no longer talking to him. Not that will undo what he has done to all of you, but I wanted to let you know because I no longer feel safer around him. And I feel guilty that I could not have stopped him. If I had known, I would've tried to stop him at all costs. I'm sorry. This isn't a request. I know it isn't possible to change his heart."

Futaba glanced at something else on her screen, eyes widening. She kept reading though, determined to finish.

"But I can't leave here, because doing so would put you all in danger, and I cannot do that to you. Contacting me directly would also put you in the same danger, so this was the only safe way to get a message out to you. The man responsible for his death, M.S., is dangerous, and he will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone he sees as a threat. Typing this out has already put me in more danger than you could imagine. So this is goodbye permanently."

It was silent for a few moments after Futaba stopped.  She was staring sadly at the screen as everyone stared at each other.

"It's written like we have any idea who this person is." Ryuji huffed. 

"Is this person just looking for attention?" Ann asked.

"Hey, is something wrong?" Haru asked Futaba.

"...All those messages, the account… it's all from Koji's phone…" 

They all froze.

"For real??" Ryuji blurted out.

"So he really did have no idea what his brother was planning…" Morgana started. 

"He really was freaking out over the police being there." Ann continued.

"And he figures that we would most likely not trust him anyway because of how close he is to Goro." Makoto finished.

It was quiet as they all processed that revelation, Akira picking at his shirt out of a small bit of guilt.

"No wonder he told Mishima it was impossible, because he already knew that persona users can't have palaces of their own." Makoto reasoned out slowly. "But he must've tried it out anyway just to confirm."

Another few moments of silence passed.

"I'm worried about him." Akira admitted quietly.

It sounds like he's depressed .

They all murmured in agreement.

"But hey, he confirmed it's the right guy, yeah? M.S. cannot be referring to anyone else but Shido." Ryuji asked.

"Right. But… if Koji's really feeling he's in danger from just typing out his initials, I have a feeling his palace will be nothing like the ones we've done before." Morgana said. "But this is why we have to change his heart."

Everyone agreed.

"So why don't we head on over to the Diet Building to figure out that last keyword?" Akira said, starting to get up.

They tried guessing words until the security was looking at them and whispering into a walkie talkie, deciding to call it quits for the day. 

"This is going to be harder than I thought." Morgana said as they settled down for the night.

-

Goro was growing increasingly worried over Koji by the day. He wasn't eating much, if he ate at all, and any attempts at conversation would end in a cold stare. Koji was hellbent on ignoring and avoiding him and he was doing it well. 

"Forget him. He's never going to understand because he doesn't want to." Loki hissed after his umpteenth failed attempt at talking to Koji.

But he's not eating at all. 

"Goro, he's miserable living like this." Robin said, stern. "He's never going to be happy if this continues."

He could feel Loki roll his eyes at Robin. Goro could see his point, though. 

"He'll live. We're so close to enacting justice. And then you'll both be free." Loki retorted.

Goro exhaled slowly. 

Just a little longer. 

-

Koji couldn't bear to even touch the robot at all. He barely got it pushed aside so that he could have space to work on his other project. He was almost done, but he knew it needed testing to make sure. The rods needed for it to function were still a mystery if they would actually work, given how different the three he had were at the moment. Koji stood up and brought his project with him, keys in his hand. 

"Are you sure it's a good idea to go like this?" Flambeau asked him.

I'll be okay. I don't plan on doing a lot of fighting.

Flambeau still was worried, but didn't say anything. Koji left as quietly as he could since Goro's back was turned to him at the table, doing work.

He didn't relax until he got into Mementos, sighing heavily.

"Alright, first let's find a safe room that's fairly deep."

He loaded the first rod into his device before heading down.

The first one he tried sent him six floors above the safe room he deemed to be good for testing. He sat down for a while to catch his breath, having to run around a lot to avoid some of the stronger shadows. He took out his little notebook to note it down which rod it was. 

That just leaves two more to try.

-

They needed a bit of time to plan how to tackle Shido's Palace, doing some Mementos requests they hadn't gotten to yet. Morgana came to a stop suddenly, a shape ahead of them.

"Whoa, wait. That's not a shadow." Morgana whispered.

Akira stared, inching them forward a bit. 

"It's Raven. Queen, drive." Akira said, climbing into the back.

Makoto climbed into the front seat, Akira sinking down low and hiding.

"Dude, what are you doing?"

"We have to figure out how much he actually knows about our next target. But we just need to figure out where his loyalties lie first. So I can't reveal myself to be alive yet."

"And his reaction to us will be all the proof we need, right? Let's go." Futaba nodded.

They slowly made their way over, watching Raven. He twisted something in his hands, and a bright flash appeared where he just was. When they could all see again he was gone.

"What the hell?" Ryuji asked.

"Oracle, do you know where he is?" Makoto asked.

Futaba was typing away quickly.

"He's below us, that much I can tell."

"Right, let's go after him." Akira ordered.

-

"Koji. Stop." Flambeau flared up a little, blocking the door frame of the safe room. "You need to sit and rest."

Koji had just written the results down of the last rod, having placed him only a floor below the safe room this time. He was so close, and he just had to go home and make some minor adjustments.

"Please move so we can go home, Flambeau."

"Not until you rest a little. You've been running around too much."

"Flambeau, please. I'd rather rest at home, in bed."

"I know you won't. You'd want to push yourself to get this done and won't rest."

Koji sighed, giving in. He sat down on one of the seats, leaning back a bit. Flambeau was relieved, jumping back into his heart. 

-

Koji glanced over to them and jumped out of his seat. Akira had stayed behind to hide, watching his reaction, listening in via Futaba.

"Raven!" Morgana called out as they started running towards him.

Koji panicked, whipping around and heading for the other escalators. 

"Wait! Raven!"

He didn't get very far as he tripped, sliding down the first few steps with a hiss. Ryuji got to him first, pulling him up and supporting him. Koji stiffened, panic clear on his face.

"Shit, you alright?" Ryuji asked.

"What are you doing here?" Koji's voice cracked.

"We were gonna ask you the same thing." Futaba retorted. 

Koji huffed.

"I told you to never contact me again." He said bluntly.

"You think we're just going to ignore someone in danger?" Haru asked sharply.

Koji's eyes widened, before looking away from them.

"I don't want the rest of you to get killed. Just please do as I say. It's not a danger you can fix." 

"Says who? We're the Phantom Thieves, we can save anyone." Morgana said.

Koji pushed Ryuji away, upset.

"Yeah?! And look what happened to Joker! Are you all insane?! I don't want you to get hurt!" He snapped.

Koji was shaky. The group glanced at each other.

"According to your messages, you already put us in danger by even receiving them. We want to help people, and that includes you." Futaba retorted.

"Don't bother, I'm a lost cause. I can't do that to you. I don't want to put you in more danger, please …" Koji begged.

Tears were welling up in his eyes as he swayed on his feet. Ryuji caught him as he started falling.

"Dude, you okay? Have you been sleeping or eating at all?"

Koji didn't answer. Ryuji brought him back over to the seating area, sitting down with him. They all sat around the two, Koji's eyes darting around at them all.

"What are you going to do with me now? I won't fight any of you, and even if I wanted to I can't win."

"We didn't come here to fight or threaten you at all. We just want to talk." Yusuke reassured him.

Koji sighed deeply.

"Why? I told you what you need to know, right? As much as I safely could, anyway."

"You are no longer are talking to him, right?" Ryuji asked.

Koji crossed his arms over his chest.

"I never want to talk to him again." He hissed, then sighed. "Besides, I think he stopped caring about me at some point. Haha. He… didn't use to be like this."

Koji sniffled, removing his mask to wipe away some tears. Ryuji gently moved his hand to his back.

"Are you able to tell us any more?" Futaba asked.

Koji shook his head.

"Not without putting the two of us in serious danger. Sorry…"

"That's okay. Your safety is important to us too, you know." Ann reassured him.

"You still seem to care about him." Morgana pressed.

"He's really the only family I have left. I… want to help him to change for the better, even if that takes forever for him to do it. I just can't stomach talking to him right now."

Makoto gave him a sympathetic nod, patting his shoulder. Koji exhaled slowly, rubbing at his eyes again.

"I was just so excited that maybe I could have friends again I didn't see what he was doing."

They were all surprised, glancing at each other.

"It's fine if you laugh at me or whatever. I was asking for a bit too much anyway."

Koji shifted so he was hugging his knees, hiding his face for a moment. They all nodded at each other before turning back to him.

"Can you keep a secret from him?" Makoto asked.

"Of course I can. Especially for you guys."

Ann whistled, Akira moving in front of him. Koji jumped up in surprise. 

"You're alive?!" Koji shouted.

"Surprise."

Koji grabbed his arm to make sure before letting go and plopping back down. He was stunned. They quickly explained to him what happened.

"So they didn't even check the morgue for your body. Idiots." Koji commented. "I'll make sure no one else knows."

"Actually, I wanted to ask you to rejoin us." Akira said.

"Huh?"

"We're tackling his Palace right now, the one whose initials you sent us, and we could really use someone who knows more about him so we can be better prepared." Morgana explained quickly.

Koji's face fell.

"Ooh, that… I'm not sure I really know that much more than you guys in that department."

"I can guarantee it's more than us." Yusuke said.

Koji hummed in thought, frowning.

"I really wouldn't be able to join you guys as often. My brother would feel something was up if I was gone too many days in a row after school."

"We would just have to push harder when you're with us, then." Ann said.

Koji seemed unsure.

"How about tomorrow?" Haru asked.

"...Yeah, I think I could do that. Anyways, I should get going."

Koji went to stand up and immediately started swaying. Akira carefully sat him back down.

"You haven't been eating much, have you?" Akira frowned, going through stuff to find some curry.

"I haven't had much of an appetite lately." Koji admitted, embarrassed.

Akira gave him the curry. Koji picked at it a bit before finally eating it all.

"You're all too kind." Koji mumbled.

"Let us give you a ride back too." Morgana said. "It's a long way up and you look tired."

"Uh… okay."

They walked upstairs, getting into the bus once Morgana transformed. Akira stayed still as Koji fell asleep on his shoulder, brushing some hair back from his face.

Cute.

"He must not be sleeping well at home either." Haru mentioned.

Akira nodded, everyone in the car staying relatively quiet so Koji could sleep. 

Akira gently shook him awake when they were back at the entrance, Koji staring at him for a minute before quickly getting up. He mumbled an apology as he got out.

"Where am I meeting you all tomorrow?" Koji asked.

"In front of the Diet building. Just meet us there after school." Makoto said.

"Right. See you there."

"Hey, Koji. Are you sure you'll be okay at home?" Haru asked.

Koji stiffened.

"... I just no longer feel safe there. But my brother won't hurt me. That much I can count on. Anyway, I should get going before he starts looking for me."

"Hey, how do we contact you?" Akira asked.

"It's too dangerous any other way besides physically going here. Look, I don't know. Maybe I can leave some messages on the Phansite on whether or not I can come? I assume you're friends with the Admin on there." 

"We'll work something out around that, then. See you tomorrow." Futaba said.

"See ya."

Koji left, leaving them all behind. 

"Alright, we should go back and complete those requests." Morgana said.

Everyone nodded and went back down for the day.

-

Goro looked up as the apartment door was opened and locked, seeing Koji had come back. 

"Hey, welcome home." 

Koji sighed, turning around with tired eyes. He just went to his room, seeming to be frustrated with something. 

"Koji, wait a minute."

Koji stopped.

"Just reminding you I'll be gone most of the day tomorrow and won't come back until pretty late, okay?"

Koji didn't even turn to glare at him, just stepped inside his room and shut his door.

Well, he was less hostile today. So that's some progress.

Robin Hood simply sighed inside him. He could hear Koji drop something on his desk before getting into bed. 

He must be tired.

Chapter Text

Koji was rather nervous. They were meeting out in broad daylight in front of the most dangerous building in Tokyo? It made him shiver.

But they're beside me, so I can do this.

Koji saw them approach, stepping out to meet them.

"Feeling any better, Koji?" Haru asked.

"I got some rest, if that's what you mean."

Koji said nothing else as Akira fished out his phone to take them to the Palace. He felt that now familiar shift, stunned at the size of the Palace. He was looking all around, his nervousness worsening.

"Whoa…" 

"Hey, what happened? You only partly changed clothes." Morgana asked behind him.

Koji looked down at himself and patted his head, noticing the wig was no longer there.

"Ah… I suspect it's because he knows who I am." Koji mused, turning back to look at them all in their thief clothes. "I wonder how long this will last, since he doesn't know I have powers yet."

"Huh. Weird." Ryuji muttered.

He followed them inside after they briefed him what they needed to do, letting them take the lead.

-

They made their way to the restaurant, Koji's clothes still staying the same. The membership card let them in, looking around at all the tables.

"There. That table with the blue flowers must be where the politician sits. A couple of us should go sit by his table and wait." Makoto said. "I'll go. Who else is coming with me?"

Koji cut Ryuji off as he was about to speak.

"I better be the one to go. I look just like my brother, and I know none of these five know I exist."

"You sure? Because I could-" Ryuji started.

"No, that makes sense. Let's go then."

Ryuji frowned a bit, but the pair went off anyway. They waited until the politician made an appearance, Makoto standing up. Koji remained seated, shifting only slightly.

"Ugh, who let these brats near my table? It's going to ruin the atmosphere."

"Are you the politician Ooe, by any chance?"

"I am. And who let a witless child like you in here?"

"Is that any way to talk to a love interest of mine, Ooe?" Koji asked sharply.

The politician froze at the sight of Koji sitting at the table, glaring at him. He got nervous as Koji continued to stare.

"W-well! I would think our beloved Detective Prince would choose one much more well behaved than this one! You have your reputation to think about."

"And why is who I choose to romance any of your business? Don't you have any idea who I am?" Koji continued, voice level and cold. "It'd be a shame if a certain someone heard of our little disagreement, wouldn't it? He much liked your loyalty, but I'm sure he'll understand if you've lost faith in him lately."

Ooe's eyes widened at the implication.

"Please accept my deepest apologies, Detective. I had no idea you were trying to impress such a wonderful young lady."

"I suppose I can overlook such a simple mistake, but only if I could have a letter of recommendation for my dear sweetheart here."

"Why, of course, of course! As long as you continue to keep your word and remain reliable as ever!" 

"Of course. Didn't you see how cleanly I took care of the leader of the Phantom Thieves?"

"That's what I like to hear. You're really going places Detective. I cannot thank you enough for that little job I had you do back in April."

Makoto's eyes widened. Koji blinked after hearing that, his expression not changing in the slightest. 

"It was not a problem at all, sir." Koji replied.

Ooe handed over the letter to Koji, who gave him a plastic smile. Ooe fled immediately, Koji keeping the facade until they were both back with the group.

"You know, it's kinda terrifying how quickly you can impersonate him." Ann admitted.

Koji frowned and looked off to the side. He seemed to be troubled by something.

"We got what we need, let's get going." Akira said.

They headed to the elevator that led to the pool deck, noticing Koji was finally in his thief clothes.  

"Guess I must be a threat to him now." Koji muttered.

"Hey, you okay dude?" Ryuji asked.

"...I just have a really bad feeling." Koji mumbled. "Let's just keep going, yeah?"

Akira nodded, leading them onwards.

They pushed all the way through to the tv executive, having had to fight the two cognitive VIPs in succession. They trudged back to the casino safe room, all of them sitting down somewhere for a bit.

"Hey, why don't we call it a day? Leave the other two for another day?" Akira suggested.

"Yeah, we made good progress today." Morgana chirped. "When can you join us again, Raven?"

"The day after tomorrow my brother is sitting down for a tv special about his latest case, so why don't we go then? Give us some time to prepare for whatever is gonna get thrown at us next by the next two guys." Koji replied.

"Right, then we'll do that. Good thinking. Let's head out." Futaba nodded.

They made their way back to the entrance, leaving the Metaverse. Koji said a said goodbye before heading back. They too went home, all tired from the hard push in gaining a lot of ground in his Palace.

"Good thing he was a big help in getting that first letter. Koji's an incredible actor, don't you think?" Morgana said.

"Yeah, he is."

-

Goro heard the shower going when he got home, locking the door behind him. He was immensely relieved Koji was still here.

Guess I'll have to wait until he's done to take mine.

Goro moved to his room, changing into his pajamas for the time being before going to sit on the couch with a sigh. It was a long day, and that phone call from Shido was making his mind work overtime.

"If you know what's good for you, you wouldn't question me again. You have a brother to take care of, after all." Shido had snarled at him for questioning why he wanted to cut off all his inner circle so soon.

The implied threat to his brother pissed him off and worried him.

I can't let anything happen to Koji. I need to ruin him first.

Koji emerged rubbing his whole head with a towel to dry his hair before draping it around his shoulders. They stared at each other for a minute before Koji rolled his eyes at him and left the bathroom. Goro got up to use the shower.

 

Goro would have been annoyed at the person who left their phone on while on set so it went off during his interview, but it set his mind racing. He brushed off the interruption playfully, the show continuing on despite it. He sat in the guest dressing room for a minute, thinking hard. An idea came to him, rushing himself out the door.

Damn that attic trash.

Shido's manifestation was still as impressive as ever, Goro hurrying inside it. He was immediately a threat once he got inside the door, his clothes changing to his white one. He'd just have to keep it to deal with the Thieves himself. 

I will kill them all for sure this time.

The restaurant was easy to get through, the cognition recognizing him and waving him through without a membership. There he saw the cognitive Ooe, who looked confused at his approach.

"Back again, Detective? And what's with the getup this time around?" 

That stopped Goro in his tracks.

"Making the rounds and wanted to blend in. My work is never finished, after all." 

"So devoted, Detective. I admire that about you."

"Thank you, sir. Now I have to get back to work."

Goro hurried to the elevator, finding the straightest path already unlocked. But he couldn't stop worrying about what the cognition was implying.

Did Koji come here on his own? 

-

The cleaner was a difficult fight, but they managed to beat him. Akira quickly did his best to heal everyone up before they got out of there. With their last letter in hand, they started to head back out of the boiler room.

"What is the meaning of this, Raven?" A voice snarled, making them turn around.

Goro stepped out of the shadows, furious. 

"I was so worried that you came here alone, but here I find you siding with criminals? I'm so disappointed in you."

"You're disappointed in me? You're one to talk! What exactly have you been doing for him?" Koji questioned sharply.

"The only thing you need to know is that I've done everything in my power to protect you. And here you are, willingly endangering yourself for nothing."

"You would never have been able to protect me from our father's wrath, no matter how strong you are."

"Wait-?!" Ryuji started questioning.

Koji continued talking over him, ignoring the obvious question.

"All it would take is for you to be gone from the house long enough and I would end up taken against my will, as his hostage. Just so he could make sure you wouldn't betray him! Why can't you see that?!"

"I wouldn't let that happen! I have looked out for you all this time, brother. When did you become so ungrateful?"

"Ungrateful?! Ungrateful?? What should I be grateful for? That you put us in danger in the first place?"

"To get close to him so I could bring about his ruin. To enact our justice, remember? Now come along now. I don't want to hurt you. I just have some attic trash to take care of first. " 

"I never asked to be a part of your crazy revenge scheme! You expect me to be on your side when you've never confided in me for any of this?! You're insane. I won't let you hurt them!"

Goro let out a growl.

"You fucking traitor." 

Goro was glaring at them all, but directed his gaze at Koji and Akira the most.

"How am I the traitor? I never asked for any of this! I just went along with it because I was worried about you! But now I see you need to be stopped, for your own good."

"Oh, you too, huh? What's wrong with you? Don't you care about her? About mom? You said it yourself that her death never sat right! You know why we're doing this! Why I need to do this!"

"Please, Crow. I want you safe. Shido is just using you! This is too dangerous! It always has been!"

"Tch, you've always been a gutless coward, Raven." 

Koji looked like he'd just been slapped. He took a step back, tensing in anger. Goro took a step forward, threatening.

"I'm sorry I've made the mistake of thinking you could be part of my plan. Now for the last time, get out of my way!"

"If I have to knock some goddamn sense into you with my own fists then I will!" Koji snapped.

Goro moved as two shadows appeared. Something moved behind him as he twirled his hand and stepped back to let the shadows attack.

"What was that??" Makoto blurted out.

Akira glanced at Koji, whose focus was on Goro himself. He also seemed confused but quickly brushed it off. The shadows seemed to have gone berserk, attacking recklessly. They quickly disposed of them, Goro stepping up to fight them. Goro seemed to be holding back a little every time he squared off against Koji. Koji was not holding back at all, landing the final hit on Goro to take him down.

"What? How could I lose…?" Goro muttered. 

"Will you finally stop now, Crow?" Ryuji huffed.

"Crow. Please listen to me." Koji started, getting closer to him. "If we help steal his heart, then we don't have to live like this anymore."

"Hahaha… I can't believe I let my own brother get in my way." Goro hissed.

"Crow?"

"I shouldn't have relied on you. I didn't need you in the Metaverse, I didn't need anyone!" 

"Stop. We beat you once. Please stop." 

"Beaten by some criminal trash living in an attic." Goro started getting back up. "All because Joker turned you against me!"

"He didn't turn me at all." Koji protested. "That was all you!"

"Would you have come here if it wasn't for him?" Goro hissed at him. 

"Something had to be done. I'm tired of living in fear!"

"Knowing you? Don't make me laugh. You were a coward then, you are a coward now. I wish you never got your powers, you are so useless without me. They were wasted on you!"

Koji took several steps backwards, deeply wounded by his words. Akira stepped partly in front of him, glaring at Goro.

"How dare you talk about your own brother that way!" Ann snapped at him.

"We didn't force him at all! You were the one to push him away!" Haru snarled.

"Liars. You and your childish ideas of justice tempted him away. But fine, I'm not holding back. I'll show you who I really am!"

A wave of energy washed over him, the same as the ones that washed over the shadows over as he maniacally laughed. His costume changed to blue and black stripes, a full helmet on his head.

"Come, Loki!"

They watched a large horned persona emerge, all confusing white and black stripes and perched on a large red sword.

"Two of them?? He has two personas?!" Morgana yelled.

They all turned to look at Koji's reaction, watching his stunned silence.

"He turned himself berserk?!" Futaba exclaimed.

"Wait… a black mask?!" Haru pointed out.

"It was you! You were the one causing the psychotic breakdown incidents!" Makoto accused.

"What?? No! No…" Koji stammered, backing away in horror.

"None of that was just or right!" Yusuke snarled at Goro.

"Justice? Righteous? Keep that shit to yourselves! I'm going to kill every last one of you!"

Koji suddenly stepped in front of Akira, pushing him back. That made Goro pause for a second, a slight expression of worry.

"Brother dear, this is your last chance. I advise you to get out of my way! Now!"

"I can't let you kill our friends!"

Goro looked at him with disgust.

"Then die with them!" Goro snarled as he lunged forward.

Koji put his arms up to defend himself, yelping as he was knocked hard to the floor. The rest of them jumped into action, thrust into another fight. Yusuke helped Koji up, Koji looking conflicted. The two were soon pulled into the fight as well as Goro aimed a powerful attack right at Koji. 

-

Goro was furious that no matter what he did to gain the upper hand, the shitty Phantom Thieves were always on par with him. No matter what he did to try and kill Joker fast, he seemed to guess when he would attack him. Not to mention anything of his traitorous brother, who was reluctant at first but was starting to no longer hold back again. Of course, Loki was not affected by curse magic, so Koji sort of relegated himself to annoyingly fast medic.

I will not lose to these pieces of shit !

Loki hummed in agreement, the two preparing some devastating attacks to unleash on them.

-

Finally, finally they knock Goro back down. He was breathing hard, and Koji started to move towards him. Akira caught his arm, holding him back.

"Wait a minute."

"How could I lose to all of you…? Am I not special?" Goro mused, bitter and jealous.

"You can control two personas, dude. That's pretty special." Ryuji said.

"It took all of us together to beat you anyway." Makoto said.

"Crow, you always were special to me. I used to look up to you all the time growing up." Koji quietly admitted.

"Raven… I…" Goro started, not sure what to say 

They all freeze as two cognitive versions of the twins walked forward, in their usual uniforms. They walk up to Goro, Goro badly hurt after their fight.

"Are those Shido's cognitions of-?" Morgana started.

"What's this? Infighting, between the two of us? Impossible. Our captain wouldn't be pleased." Cognitive Goro said.

"You've had your last chance to kill them. We'll just do it ourselves. And to think the captain was going to so mercifully spare you." Cognitive Koji mused.

"Crow, hurry over to us." Koji begged. 

Akira noticed he had dug something out of his pockets, his knuckles white around it.

"You two are quite the pair. One so desperate for affection and approval, the other, well..." Cognitive Goro paused, smirking at Koji. "All it took was a little physical reprimand to put you right back in line, didn't it?"

"Physical...?!" Goro started, turning to look at Koji.

Koji was hiding his face in his hood, but the way he reached up for his cheek was all the answer Goro needed.

"It's unfortunate the two of you have outlived your usefulness." Cognitive Koji said, aiming the gun at Koji. "You're first."

"No!" Goro hissed.

"Fine. Then prove yourself to our captain. Kill him." 

Both the cognitions' guns were aimed at Goro. Goro slowly straightened up, aiming the gun at Koji.

"Don't, please. I'm your brother... Please."

"I know. I'm sorry." Goro said. "But don't think you two have the upper hand."

Goro whipped around and smashed the gun over one of their faces, the other getting shot before he also shot the one he left. Another gunshot, Goro getting hit. He turned to shoot the emergency button. 

"Crow, catch!" 

Koji pressed something on the object, whipping what was in his hand at him, Goro catching it in one hand before the door closed.

"Oh god oh god oh god." Koji breathed. "Did that w-"

More fighting came from the other side, before silence.

"His signal isn't here anymore. Just the weaklings." Futaba said.

"Is he anywhere? Oracle? Please!" Koji begged.

"I can't find him anywhere in the Palace."

"No... it should've worked... I..."

"Raven, it's-" Haru started, reaching for him.

Koji backed away, staring at them all before turning around and running up the stairs behind him.

"Raven, wait!" Morgana shouted.

"Come on, we need to catch up to him before he does something rash." Akira said, racing up the stairs.

They all followed him, Akira hoping against hope that they'd catch up to him soon.

 

They dropped into several safe rooms on their way back, both checking if Koji was hiding in one and to catch their breath for a bit. They managed to make it back to the central passageway after several minutes, poking their head into that safe room. Koji was lying down on one of the beds, mask on the floor, staring blankly at the ceiling.

"Raven! Thank god you're safe!" Makoto said, leading everyone into the room.

He didn't respond.

"Hey, a few of us should stay here with him for now. We need to secure a path to the Treasure." Akira ordered.

He wanted to try and comfort Koji. But he wasn't sure if there were going to be any last minute surprises. 

"I'll stay. Makoto said.

"As will I." Yusuke nodded. "We trust the rest of you can handle it."

"Right." 

Akira left them to it, walking to the main door. Once they put the letters in the slots, the doors opened to the chamber inside. They walked in to take a look, confirming this is where the Treasure would appear. They get back to the safe room, seeing Koji hadn't moved at all. Makoto had his mask in her hand, trying to comfort him.

"Look, I can try to find him again." Futaba offered, plopping down on the other bed.

That got Koji to sit up at least, his face obscured by his hood. She started typing away, frowning. She shook her head, looking up to apologize.

"Don't." Koji snapped at her.

Koji grabbed his mask out of Makoto's hand before rushing out of the room, knocking Akira aside. They chased him out of the Palace, seeing him running off towards the station. Akira was about to go after him when Ann grabbed his arm.

"Let's... give him some time." Ann said.

-

What if he's home already? What if-

Koji ignored the weird looks he got as he sprinted up the stairs to the apartment. He fumbled with his keys before bursting inside. He looked everywhere, finding no one was there.

It didn't work.

Koji stood there for a few minutes before willing himself to move. He locked the door, then ended up pushing the couch against the door for extra security. He wasn't going to be able to sleep, he knew. But he felt a little better about staying there.

Chapter Text

"What should we do? He's not responding to anyone's texts." Makoto murmured.

They were discussing how to go forward, not exactly wanting to leave Koji out of changing Shido's heart, but knowing they didn't have a lot of time to wait around. The Thieves turned around as Koji entered Leblanc, all stunned that he looked exactly like Goro at the moment. Sae and Sojiro immediately tensed, Sae furiously stepping in between him and the Thieves.

"You have some damn nerve." Sojiro snapped at him.

Koji was shocked, tensing up and starting to tremble.

"How dare you show your face around here!" She snarled.

Koji took several steps back, Akira jumping up before Sae could tear into him.

"Koji?"

Sojiro and Sae looked at Akira in confusion, before a cracked voice got their attention.

"I'm sorry for not responding earlier. But I'm going to tell you guys everything I know." 

Tears were starting to roll down his face. Akira pushed past a confused Sae to guide Koji to a seat. Koji looked over to the two confused adults.

"Um, hello, Sae-san. Sakura-san. I know you both know me as Goro Akechi and Koji Kubota respectively, but I need to introduce myself again. My real name is Koji Akechi. I'm sorry to have deceived you earlier."

"Koji… Akechi?" Sojiro sounded out, looking at the others for confirmation.

Sae was equally confused, staring at him.

"Koji, why are you dressed like Goro now?" Haru asked, concerned.

"Well, if there's no Koji to kidnap, then he can't threaten Goro by holding me hostage, and that gives me some time to act freely before Shido realizes he can't get a hold of Goro. He's going to figure out it's me and not my… brother… that's running around." 

"Dude…" Ryuji muttered.

"Look, I… I know. But I can't be waiting around to be saved by someone who... isn't around anymore…" Koji's mood worsened as he said it, gripping his arm tight.

"Are you really going to tell us everything?" Makoto asked, carefully trying to dance around the subject. "I mean, some of it seemed… recent…"

"Well, I'd feel better if someone knew the truth instead of it dying with me." Koji muttered.

"Okay. Then tell us when you're ready." Akira said, scooting a bit closer to reassure him.

Koji took several slow breaths before he started.

"Two years ago, after being bounced around a bunch of foster homes and orphanages, we ended up staying at one for longer than we'd ever been because we were chosen for some… government experiments."

Sojiro immediately tensed up, recognizing where this was going.

"We went together, but we were always tested separately for control purposes. Goro was the one to go first, and I guess he… passed. I never saw what happened, just overheard them talking how he achieved his potential as he was pretty much not responsive on the floor.  Was surprised that they even let me hold him after. He was so shaky afterwards, I started worrying what was going to happen to me."

Koji straightened up as Futaba and Sojiro exchanged knowing glances.

"I was tested several times, thrown into the Metaverse with no guidance on where or what I was supposed to do. But I… couldn't do it. They started talking about how I was wrong. But I was just scared, I didn't know what I even wanted back then. So I couldn't awaken to my power, my persona. And after I got really hurt after one test they stopped altogether, writing me off as a false positive. Goro was very upset I was put in danger so often. I wanted to stay near for Goro, to be emotional support after the tests."

Koji slipped a glove off to wipe his tears away as he collected himself again. Some of the makeup came off, showing the dark circles under his eyes.

"After that, Goro was acting a bit differently. More confident, more sure of himself. But he also would leave for a little while before coming back, doing detective work, getting us a decent apartment. He never told me much about his work. And after a few months of that, he wanted me to come with him to do something, so I agreed. He never explained, just brought me to introduce me to Shido personally. I didn't have a good feeling about him, especially as he explained Goro worked for him personally. But I… offered to take Goro's place when he needed it, because I got really good at imitating him and no one really knew who I was. Not many really notice a difference, anyway."

"What? No, that isn't possible." Sae asserted, staring at Koji in disbelief.

"I have in fact talked to you many times, Sae-san. Even worked alongside some of your cases. Though this is your first time actually meeting me, technically."

Sae stared at him, calculating over his response. 

"Prove it."

"The other day you came to me as I was leaving to apologize for accusing me of tampering with your laptop, and offered to buy me dinner to formally make up for it. I asked for a raincheck and gently reminded you that I was on my way to an interview at the tv station right at five-thirty that I couldn't be late for." 

Sae went through several emotions after his explanation before settling on a stunned acceptance.

"That was you? I… wow. Heh. I told Akira several times that the most unbelievable part of his story was the identical twin taking the place of his brother with no one noticing, yet here you are."

"Yeah. Here I am." Koji mumbled, tucking some of his hair behind his ear.

Akira thought that was cute before shifting to pay attention more.

"Well, anyway, he told me Shido was our father right after we left. I didn't know what to say to that, and it seemed Goro had an idea of what he was doing, so I didn't tell him I had a bad feeling about him. Not when he seemed so sure he was able to protect me from any fallout, that he had a plan in place. Promised he'd make it up to me every time I had to pretend to be him, because I never really was that good at talking to people like he was. And then I… Shido… uh..."

Koji's eyes got this glassy look as he slumped forward a bit. They all grew concerned.

"This is about that physical reprimand the cognition was talking about, isn't it?" Haru asked.

"Yes. It's…" 

Koji fell quiet. He was shaking again, more tears rolling down his face.

"You don't have to go into detail at all. We can assume what he did." Makoto reassured him.

"Was looking somewhere I wasn't s'posed to. Wasn't careful enough. I… he said to not tell Goro or the punishment would be more severe."

"That bastard!" Ryuji growled, smacking the table.

Akira wrapped an arm around his shoulder, trying to calm him. Koji tensed up before he leaned into him, trying to breathe slowly.

"Besides, who would believe me? Hahaha…" 

Akira moved to full on sidewards hug, Koji not really responding to it. Koji looked down at his lap, hiding behind his hair.

"And we had you meet us at the Diet Building? If we had known…" Ann started.

"It's… okay. You were there with me, so it wasn't as bad."

"Shit… no wonder why you were hesitating to join us again." Ryuji muttered.

"I was more worried he'd figure out I was helping you guys and…" 

Koji fell silent again. Akira could feel how hard he was shaking.

"It's okay. We're here." Akira soothed. "We're here for you, okay?"

When Koji calmed down and looked up again, his face was soaked from tears. He leaned more on Akira as he started talking again.

"Goro never said a word of what he was doing, no matter how many times I asked. I confronted him about killing Akira, I was so angry for all of you. He said it was to protect me. That he'd do anything to protect me. I… don't know if he's ever threatened my safety to Goro. But… I'm tired of living like this, I don't want to fear for my life anymore. So this is why I want to steal his heart, for both of us. Even if Goro said some nasty things about me. I know it isn't exactly what he wanted in terms of revenge, but... Please take me with you. I want to help."

"Why would we leave you behind when you're one of us?" Ryuji asked.

Koji seemed surprised at that. 

"We actually wanted to wait for you as long as we could before we were forced to steal his heart." Akira said.

Koji took a second to process that before breaking out into a nervous smile. He slid off the other glove to wipe away more of his tears, more makeup coming off. 

"Your makeup…" Ann said.

"It's fine. I brought more with me. So, how are we doing this calling card?" Koji asked. "He won't read anything we send him, he'd just have it thrown out."

They discussed a little before Futaba brought up her idea.

"Right, let's do it." Akira said.

It didn't take long for it to be broadcast thanks to Futaba's expertise, and it was exciting to show themselves in full costume for once. Koji seemed fine doing it, but once they stepped back out he was shaking. Futaba had scooped up Morgana as she left, leaving the two alone.

"Hey… uh… Could I…?" Koji started asking him as the others left. "Ah, nevermind."

"What is it?" Akira asked gently.

"I was wondering if I could stay here for tonight? It's not any trouble if I can't." 

Akira looked over how nervous he was. 

"Stay. You won't be any trouble to me."

Koji was immediately relieved, following him back inside Leblanc. 

"Thank you so much, Akira." 

Akira led the way upstairs, looking through the attic for an extra blanket and a pillow.

"Ooo, it's freezing up here." Koji mumbled.

"Take the bed. I can sleep on the couch." 

"No. It's alright. I can manage on the couch just fine."

But with the way he was looking at the stairs, Akira could feel him worry.

"You seem nervous about being near the stairs."

Koji squeezed his upper arm gently, biting his lip.

"It's a startling lack of privacy, but it's safer here."

Safer. But still not safe.

Koji kept insisting no matter how much he pressed, so he left it be for now. They eventually settled down, Koji having brought a change of clothes to sleep in.

Akira got woken up as he heard the stairs creak. He sat up, seeing Koji was missing from the couch. He quietly moved downstairs, seeing Koji sitting at the bottom of the steps, shaking. 

"Koji?"

He turned to look up at him, tears running down his face. He turned away again, sniffling loudly.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you up, Akira."

Akira moved to sit next to him, concerned. 

"Are you okay?"

"No." Koji said, rubbing at his eyes. "I wish Goro never found out who our father was."

Akira held out his hand for him, Koji regarding it. He slowly grabbed it, a moment of silence before he broke down again.

"How am I supposed to live without him? Knowing I couldn't manage to save him? It's always been the two of us and after you supposedly died I couldn't turn to anyone else after we argued that day. I'm so scared of being alone. And not to mention I'm going to be facing Shido tomorrow. And I know Shido will figure it out and probably have me killed, or worse, but I..."

"We won't let that happen." Akira said.

"Says a dead man to another." Koji choked. 

Another break as he sobbed deeply, Akira unsure how to help.

"My life is a waking nightmare right now. Between finding out who my brother was, my father, and my stupid crush on you I don't know who I can trust anymore because clearly my gut feelings don't work very well."

Akira slung an arm around his shoulders and held him close. Koji didn't look at him.

"Koji-"

"I know it's pointless to admit my crush on you now, at all times, but you deserve to know."

Akira gently lifted his face up to look him in the eye. Koji struggled to avoid eye contact with him.

"I have a crush on you too." Akira admitted.

Koji shook his head.

"You're just saying that..."

That felt like a punch in the gut. Akira tightened his hold on his hand, pressing closer to his face. Koji moved until he was pressed against the wall of the stairwell to put some space between them. Akira stayed where he was.

"It's because I look like him, right? You couldn't like me for me..."

Akira pulled back, seeing his discomfort.

"Koji, I like you for you. I know that doesn't sound believable but I need you to trust that I'm telling you the truth."

"Akira..."

Akira let go and moved away, waiting for him to process it. Koji slowly wiped his tears away. 

"Okay…" He mumbled. "Okay. This feels so stupid and unreal."

He gave a short laugh in disbelief. They sat there until he finally stopped crying, both saying nothing. Koji started shivering.

"God, it's freezing down here. Sorry."

"We can share the bed, it'd be a lot warmer. If you're comfortable with that, that is. I don't want to force you into anything."

"Heh. That sounds nice…"

Koji got up, Akira following suit and going back upstairs. Koji grabbed the blanket and pillow from the couch and moved it to the bed. He hesitated for a moment before Akira nudged him gently. Koji climbed in and pressed his back against the wall. Akira climbed in after him face to face, pulling the blankets over both of them.

"...this feels weird." He mumbled.

"It is more comfortable than the couch though, right?"

Koji smiled.

"Only a little. It is a lot warmer too."

Akira reached out to brush hair out of his face, feeling his face get warm fast. 

"Uh… would it be okay if I got closer?" Koji asked quietly.

"Of course."

Koji moved over, draping an arm over his body. Akira felt himself blush as they stared at each other. Koji gently headbutted him with a soft smile on his face.

"Goodnight." He murmured.

"Goodnight."

Akira stayed up until he was sure Koji actually fell asleep, snoring softly. He smiled before finally closing his eyes himself.

 

Futaba was so damn smug when she came over, Akira having gotten up and dressed silently so as not to disturb Koji.

"Akira and Koji, sitting in a tree." Futaba sang at him.

"Shut it." 

"Where's your beautiful boy, Joker?"

"Futaba." Akira grumbled at her before sighing. "He's sleeping. I didn't wanna wake him up so soon, he needs the rest."

Akira made coffee for the two of them, Sojiro having closed the cafe for the day so they could meet up and prepare. He was standing behind the counter taking inventory to pass the time.

"So he stayed here, then?" Sojiro asked.

"After what he told us yesterday, I didn't think it was a good idea to make him go back to his apartment alone."

"Hmm." 

Sojiro didn't comment any further, concentrating on counting.

Once it got closer to when school was supposed to he getting out, Akira went upstairs to see if Koji was awake yet. He paused, finding Morgana had curled up next to him, the two sleeping peacefully.

"Hmph, he's really dead to the world." Akira mumbled, grinning.

He watched for a moment or two before going over to gently shake him awake.

"Koji, wake up. You wanna get ready before the others come, don't you?"

Koji stirred, rolling over. Morgana got up and stretched, wordlessly going downstairs.

"Mmn, five more minutes." He muttered.

"Koji, come on. We have a heart to steal."

That seemed to finally get Koji moving, yawning as he got out of bed.

"Is the bathroom free downstairs?" He asked as he dug out a makeup bag from his briefcase.

"Should be. Oh, Futaba's-"

But he was already moving downstairs. Akira followed him down. Morgana was sitting in Futaba's lap, Futaba still grinning wildly.

"There's the other lovebird." Futaba teased.

Koji glanced around the mostly empty cafe before looking her in the eye.

"I'm going to find your little bug and personally dismantle it, Oracle."

Futaba's face fell, gasping.

"You wouldn't!"

"Try me." Koji teased before ducking into the bathroom.

Akira went to look for some leftover curry for him as Futaba grumbled.

"Seems like he got rest, at least." Morgana commented.

Koji finished and sat down, watching Akira and Sojiro work.

"How you feeling, kid?" Sojiro asked, turning to look at Koji.

"Better than I was yesterday."

"Good to hear." Sojiro said, smiling at him.

Kojo fidgeted with his shirt sleeve a bit before Akira came back with heated up curry and a cup of coffee. He sat across from Koji, making Futaba scoot over.

"Oh, thank you. I could pay w-"

"Don't worry about it." Akira interrupted gently. 

Koji glanced over at Sojiro, who nodded and smiled at him again.

"Go on kid, eat."

The five of them talked as Koji ate, going over what they needed to do. Once he was done, he slipped back into the bathroom, this time leaving the door open.

"What are you doing?" Morgana asked, jumping on the back of the booth closest to the bathroom to look.

"Makeup?"

"Don't you wanna get dressed first?"

"You're supposed to put on makeup before getting dressed." 

Morgana, Futaba, and Akira exchanged confused looks. They all quietly agreed to ask Ann to confirm later. It didn't take long for Koji to finish, going back up to get dressed. They waited for him to come back downstairs, sitting down.

"Wait, shouldn't you have gone to school?" Futaba asked.

"Oh, that. Since there is a missing person in my class, I got permission from my school to take a few days off to do investigative work."

"Huh? Whose missing?" Akira asked.

Koji looked embarrassed.

"....I am. Uh, more specifically, Koji Kubota is missing." 

"Wouldn't someone get suspicious of that?" Sojiro asked.

"Well, no one besides those in the know. I haven't really existed for the past two years now."

"Damn." Futaba said.

"Futaba…" Sojiro started.

Koji smoothed over his jacket, frowning. Akira reached over to take his other hand, Koji letting him.

"It'll be fine. You're with us, after all!" Morgana said.

"You're so arrogant, Mona." Koji replied flatly.

"Hey! We're pretty good at this!"

Koji mouthed something before rolling his eyes at Morgana, sinking down in the booth. They quietly talked, Koji occasionally squeezing his hand every so often, as if to reassure himself. Once everyone got there, they quickly discussed the goal and headed out. 

-

Koji stood there for a moment after they went to Shido's Palace, trying to get himself moving after everyone else. They stopped when they realized he wasn't with them, turning around.

"Raven, you good?" Ryuji asked.

Koji found himself unable to talk, just nodding in response. He started following them, breezing past the front hall and stairs and into the central passageway. Akira stood outside the door, checking in with everyone.

"Alright, so this is gonna be one tough fight. We should be prepared for anything. Let's do this."

Koji adjusted his gloves before stepping in, trying not to let his nerves get the best of him. He ran up to the podium alongside the rest of them, swallowing thickly as he saw Shido's shadow. Shido turned around, displeased.

"So, you've finally come, you little rats." Shido spat, locking eyes with him after sweeping over the group. 

Koji felt his heart trying to leap out of his chest. Flambeau hummed soothingly, reminding him he wasn't alone.

"Oh? So you have powers too, like your brother? Traitor." Shido snarled, his voice rising in anger. "Not only withholding information from me, but you dare try to defy me? Was your punishment the first time not enough? So much for protecting your brother, wherever that lazy brat is at the moment."

"He's…" Koji started, the words dying in his throat as Shido loomed over him.

"Gone? Hmph, a shame. He was a good tool. Unless you're willing to take his place in that aspect as well? It'd be a damn shame to lose your potential."

"No."

"No?"

Flambeau wordlessly encouraged him, reigniting and reminding him of his anger and desires. 

"I… I'm not going to work for you anymore! I want to be free of you! And I'm going to take you down for him too, father."

Shido seemed surprised for a moment before he scoffed.

"Oh, I knew it. I had a feeling about you two. You both look too much like that stupid woman!" Shido growled, before smirking at him. "It's a damn shame she couldn't keep her mouth shut."

Koji's eyes widened as he stumbled backwards. Ryuji and Haru stepped in front of him, protecting him from Shido's gaze.

"How fucking dare you!" Ryuji snarled at him.

"Your crimes end here and now, Shido!" Morgana snapped at him.

"You think you're going to win against the will of the people, you little wastes of space? I was chosen by God to lead this country, and none of you are going to stop me."

The ground started to shake as Shido stepped back, everyone following Yusuke up the unfolding panels. Koji was thinking of every way this could go wrong, intensified by the way Shido was glaring at him under the helmet as the fight started. The beast he was riding was massive.

"I am here, Koji. You and I are not alone. They will not abandon you, the bonds you have forged with them unbreakable."

Koji's fear was washed away with Flambeau's reassurance, giving way to his outrage. 

Let's stop him here. For Mom. For Goro.

"The only good thing about you growing a spine now, is that it will be satisfying to break it!" Shido taunted him.

"Fuck you! I am going to make you pay for what you did to us!" Koji snapped at him, hitting him with a strong curse attack. "I'm going to take back the future you stole from me!"

The Thieves- his friends - were cheering him on, just as fired up as he was. The fight was long and hard, the beast falling only giving way to another layer of the fight. Akira's reveal of who he was made Shido even angrier. But despite the danger they were in, Koji had to admit it felt good to stab him a few times as he tried to conserve some energy to heal his friends. 

 

It felt like an eternity before Shido's Shadow fell, Koji being held back by Haru before he did something rash. Akira coldly told him to atone for his crimes, turning back to the group.

"C'mon, let's grab the Treasure and get out of here." Ryuji said.

The Palace suddenly started shaking violently to their surprise. 

"We didn't even take the Treasure yet!"

"Something must've happened to the real Shido. We have to get out of here!" Morgana shouted.

They ran out of there as fast as they could, water flooding in on all sides. Ryuji volunteered to release the lifeboat, running fast. An explosion went out right where Ryuji was, all of them panicking about him. They dropped back into reality, sad that Ryuji didn't make it out. Ryuji turned right around the corner, prompting the girls to all tackle and hug him at once out of relief. Koji didn't move until they all started heading back. His thoughts were running away, dredging up the anxieties he buried to face Shido.

"Koji, you can stay with me until you feel it's safe to go back, okay?" Akira said as they got on the train.

"Thank you." Koji mumbled weakly. 

-

He paused in his preparations to be visited, sensing something entering the upper levels of His home. Not entered the usual way, through the turnstiles, but thrown haphazardly into His domain. It was unusual for a human to enter that way.

He shifted slightly, focusing, sending His focus higher up until He could pick up a familiar thread. One that narrowly avoided being cut. 

"Interesting." He muttered to Himself.

He came back to Himself, getting back to his preparations. It wasn't worthy of His attention at the moment.

Chapter Text

Koji didn't say anything else, simply following Futaba and Akira back to the cafe. They entered to find stuff thrown everywhere, Sojiro nowhere to be found.

"Huh?! What happened?" Morgana said.

"Sojiro?!" Futaba called, rushing around the cafe to look.

Koji immediately felt paranoid, getting close to Akira, who backed up right into him. Koji was caught up in his own thoughts again, feeling guilty.

Is this my fault?

Sojiro thankfully walked in a few minutes later, Koji not really registering what was being said. They all helped clean up the place, Koji doing his best to sweep. Futaba and Sojiro left when they were done, leaving the three of them there. Akira tapped his shoulder, Koji snapping his head up to look at him.

"C'mon, let's go to bed." He murmured, gently tugging him upstairs.

Koji barely got changed before burying himself under the blankets, sitting up and staring at the wall. Morgana curled up by his legs as Akira got in beside him, worry on his face.

"Hey, a-"

Koji clung tightly to him and broke down sobbing. He felt Akira hug back, holding him silently. He didn't know what time it was when he finally couldn't cry anymore, letting Akira lay down with him in his arms. 

He kept drifting in and out of sleep, every little noise waking him and setting him on edge. 

-

Goro had to wonder where he was aching the least on his body, struggling to open his eyes. The stale air of Mementos was unmistakable, something dropping onto the ground. 

"Rise and shine." Loki murmured, shifting along his spine and making him shiver.

When he opened his eyes, he was staring out the glass towards the constantly running trains, feeling disconnected from his own body. Slowly he got himself to sit up, grumbling as the aches intensified. 

"What the hell happened?" 

He ran his hand over his side, coming away with some blood. He put pressure there in an effort to slow the bleeding.

"You were lucky your brother cared enough to get you out of there." Robin replied.

Goro felt something against his foot, looking down to see what it was. A plastic ball like object start rolling under the seats. He picked it up to inspect it, turning it around in his hands. There was a button on top, and the object itself was two halves put together. He twisted it open, a bunch of plastic shards and some sort of black sand falling out of it, seeing that whatever was inside was broken. He slowly put it back together, realizing what it was.

Koji's project. Koji…

What he said all came rushing back to him. Koji's face was seared into his mind, guilt prickling at his skin as he realized how badly he hurt Koji back there.

"We were so damn close!" Loki muttered in annoyance. "If he hadn't sided with them, then-"

"You left him behind. You made him miserable and caused him suffering." Robin corrected, giving them both a hard stare. "You failed him. He had no choice."

It twisted the knife in his heart to hear that he couldn't protect Koji. That he failed him at least once, if Shido’s cognition of him was to be believed. The accusation of never going to be able to protect him made sense now, because he already failed to.

I couldn't protect him.

Goro stayed there, his exhaustion and guilt making him unable to move. He had no idea how close he was to the entrance of Mementos, and didn't want to risk it right away.

-

Akira brushed Koji's hair out of his face, concerned. Koji had barely moved at all since last night. He had rolled off of him at some point, but Morgana complained this morning of Koji not settling down, constantly shifting. Koji stopped moving when Akira got up, Akira coming back with a water bottle for him. Koji was staring blankly at him now, barely acknowledging him.

"Hey, Koji. Do you wanna eat something?"

Koji shut his eyes with a long sigh and a slight shake of his head. 

"Okay. I'm here if you need me." 

Akira moved to the couch, playing a video game quietly while Koji rested. Morgana found his way back upstairs, seeing Koji hadn't really moved since.

"Seriously?! Hey, get up!" Morgana huffed, jumping up on the bed. "You're burning daylight!"

Koji whined and pulled the blankets over his head, turning his back to him.

"Morgana, leave him alone!" Akira scolded, picking him up off the bed. "What's wrong with you?"

Morgana made vague whiny noises as Akira held him in one arm and played games with the other. He eventually wiggled out and ran off downstairs, muttering about hanging out with Futaba. Akira continued playing, having not much to do until school got out anyway. His phone buzzed, pausing his game to answer.

Makoto: Has Koji said anything at all, Akira?

morgana was complainin abt him rolling around last night. he hasnt moved much since i got up either. I dont think he slept at all

Ann: i cant blame him the past 2 days was a lot

Ryuji: probably feels the world hates him at this point 

There was a pause in the texts before another was sent.

Haru: hey… can you ask him what he threw at his brother? Its been on my mind that he said whatever it was "didn't work", but maybe…

ill try askin but idk if hed respond

R: we could always drop by to see how hes doing! 

sure

Akira put his phone down to continue his game, concentrating on beating his high score. After about an hour, he heard the bed creak before a pressure against his back. He paused and glanced behind him to see Koji wrapped in a blanket, curled up and leaning against him. Akira decided to not say anything for a few minutes.

"Hey, everyone wants to come by to see you. They're worried about you. Would that be okay?"

He felt Koji shift, putting his chin on his shoulder, giving a little hum. Akira didn't want to move and accidentally hurt him. In the reflection of the tv, he could see Koji had drawn the blanket back over his head, like a cloak of some sort. 

"It's okay if you don't want to see anyone else right now, but just let me know, okay?"

It was silent for a while, Koji watching him play. He eventually sat up, rubbing his eyes. He felt him lean against him again, eyes closed. Akira paused his game, shifting carefully so Koji was leaning against his shoulder and side instead.

"Would you like some water?"

Koji tugged the blanket down over his eyes, not looking at him. Akira threw an arm around his shoulder, putting the controller down. 

"He'll talk when he's ready." Arsene said gently.

Akira pressed against him, considering calling off the group from coming over.

-

His chest felt constricted as he sat there with Akira. Koji wanted to say something, anything at all, but he knew talking about any of it would break him again. 

 

"You don't have to talk about it right now. He understands. They understand." Flambeau reminded him.

 

I still feel bad for imposing on him like this. For doing this and being close when our relationship hasn't been defined.

"He likes you the same way you like him." 

"Am I being too clingy? Too weird?" Koji muttered, voice kinda raspy.

His throat was very dry.

"No. You went through so much so fast."

"Mm…"

They fell quiet again, Akira brushing hair out of his face. Koji blushed, closing his eyes.

"They're gonna be here soon. Our friends."

"I'm sorry…"

"Sorry?"

"I feel like I'm putting you and Sojiro in danger by being here."

"Koji, it's not your fault. They know who I am. It's not you."

Akira was wiping away his tears again, Koji feeling more guilty. He pulled away from his touch, Akira dropping his hands. Akira was worried. Koji gripped the blanket tighter, not looking him in the eyes.

"Sorry. I… what is our relationship? Friends? More? I…"

"We are friends until you are ready for a romantic relationship."

Koji felt his heart skip a beat. He took a few minutes to wrestle and detangle his feelings. 

Once they find me, I won't be able to see you anymore.

"Can I kiss you?" Koji asked. "I… sorry, I've never done it, and I don't know if we'll get another chance…"

"You can."

Koji moved closer to him, hesitating. Akira thankfully took the lead from there, gently pressing their lips together. When they pulled away Koji felt his face heat up, Akira rubbing the back of his neck with a shy smile.

"Thank you." Koji mumbled.

Koji went back to leaning against him, feeling Akira move to brush his fingers through his hair. 

 

It wasn't long before everyone else showed up, Koji barely looking up at them as they came in. Akira had dozed off, Koji sitting up slowly.

"Hey dude." Ryuji said, plopping a bag full of sodas and snacks on the table. "How ya feeling?"

Akira snapped awake when he heard the bag, rubbing his eyes. Koji shrugged, sighing loudly.

"Are my thoughts supposed to be coherent or sane? Because I don't think I could manage them if they were." Koji said half-jokingly.

He reached for the closest soda, opening it slowly. The others started pulling chairs over, Ann making the two of them scoot over on the couch so she could sit down.

"Well, we weren't expecting you to bounce back immediately, that's for sure." Makoto said. 

Koji chugged half the bottle once he realized how thirsty he was.

"I'm guessing you didn't find the water bottle I left for you?" Akira teased.

Koji smiled before he frowned, deep in thought. The rest finally settled down, sharing things they've heard on the way to and from school about the election.

"Hey, can we ask you something, Koji?" Haru spoke up once there was a lull in the conversation.

"Hm?"

"What was that thing you threw at your brother?" 

"Oh… I mean…" Koji struggled to find the words. "It doesn't really matter now, does it? It didn't work."

"Just tell us what it did. I mean, it couldn't hurt, right?" Futaba pressed.

Koji crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. He didn't really want to think about his failed experiment.

"It was the same thing I was testing in Mementos the day you guys found me again. It's… supposed to bring a person to the last safe room when activated. But I never tested the delay timer on it before. I had no time."

"What do you mean by last safe room?" Akira asked.

"Hm? You know, like the last safe room used? But y'know, didn't really work with the timer. I barely got it to get into a safe room normally. Closest that day you saw me was a floor below it."

"Like, you used, or the person touching it used?" Makoto asked.

Koji knitted his eyebrows together in thought.

"I… I don't know…"

"So there might be a chance he's alive. Just… in Mementos, somewhere." Makoto concluded.

Koji leaned back as the others discussed. Flambeau noticed his silence, gently moving up to his shoulders to comfort him. 

"Well, shouldn't we go rescue him? He was injured." Yusuke said.

"Koji, you okay? You haven't said anything." Ann was staring at him.

"Go on without me."

"Koji?" Akira asked.

"Look, I… I feel disgusted by him. I know that sounds horrible but I don't want to see him." 

"Koji-"

"Don't! Don't lecture me." Tears stung his eyes as he continued. "If he's alive, then go rescue him. Just do it without me."

Koji could see Akira reaching for him, immediately getting up and going back to bed. He had his back turned to them, not wanting to face them. They quietly discussed further until he could hear them getting up and leaving.

"Okay. We won't say anything about you. I'll… see you later, Koji." Akira said.

"See you."

As soon as they left, Koji broke down again, muffling his sobs.

-

Was three flat energy drinks too much in one sitting? Probably, but Goro needed some energy somehow if he had any hope of withstanding a fight or two. He decided to finally move to get to the entrance of Mementos, and if that meant he made the trek alone and run away from any shadows they came across, he would. 

I have to apologize to him.

Loki snorted, but another stern look from Robin Hood made him keep his mouth shut. It was unusually silent, considering his two personas often bickered constantly over the smallest thing at any opportunity. 

It was a long path back up along Mementos's twisting passages and confusing layout. He really wished he had something like Mona's bus form. He stopped when he heard something else moving around, something that didn't sound like whispers, humid wind, or the shadows shifting about. He started to move towards the sound, knowing he could always run before he gets spotted. 

Turning the corner, he ended up being blinded by headlights, throwing an arm over his eyes instinctively. 

"Crow!"

Kurusu.

Goro peeked out from under his arm as Akira hung out the window of the Mona bus, just as surprised as he was. The Thieves exit and all of them come rushing over to him. Well, not all of them.

"Are you o-" Akira asked.

"Where is he?" Goro cut him off, words slurring together. 

He gripped the project in his hands tighter as his heartbeat got faster. The Thieves exchange a glance among themselves before Akira answered. 

"He's fine. He didn't feel up to come with us."

Goro breathed a sigh of relief.

"C'mon, let's go back. We're down pretty far." Mona said, transforming.

It wasn't very comfortable as Haru and Yusuke held their weapons to his neck, seated on either side of him, but it was understandable. He did try to kill them, after all. He took some comfort in rubbing his thumb over Koji's project.

Will he even forgive me?

"After what you've done?" Robin retorted.

Goro couldn't say anything to that. He just hoped Koji was as fine as they said he was. 

"What day is it? How much time has passed?" He asked.

"It's been three days since we last saw you." Makoto answered.

Three days?

Goro blinked in disbelief and surprise. No wonder he felt disconnected when he woke up again. They quietly explained that they stole Shido's heart, and were waiting for his confession.

-

Sojiro had seen the kids leave without Koji, and seeing as the cafe was empty anyway, went up to check on him. Koji rolled over onto his side to see who came up, sitting up in surprise. He looked like he'd just been crying. Sojiro sat down on the edge of the bed, concerned. He was clutching something to his chest tightly.

"Hey kid." Sojiro said softly. "How are you holding up?"

Koji gave a short bitter laugh.

"It'd be easier if I just disappeared. Never to be seen again." 

"Would it?" Sojiro asked.

Koji sniffed, curling in on himself.

"Maybe a few months ago it would have been. When I didn't have any friends." 

"Yeah, it complicates things, doesn't it?" He joked lightly.

This kid has had a rough life.

Koji didn't say anything, but Sojiro got a small twitch of a smile. 

"Why did they leave without you?"

"...They think maybe I didn't fail completely. So they went to go look for my brother. I don't want to see him."

Sojiro gave a short, understanding hum. 

"Horrible, aren't I? But after what he said to me… After what he's done…"

"You're not horrible for wanting better. And well, I should apologize for snapping at you the other day. I didn't realize he had a brother." 

"It's okay, not many people do. I just wasn't expecting it when I walked in."

"You shouldn't be expecting it at all. You deserve decency and kindness at the bare minimum. Sheesh, what the hell have they done to you?"

He watched Koji shift to sit next to him, shaking. He was wiping away some stray tears from his face.

"I hate being a celebrity." He muttered.

Sojiro patted his back, Koji leaning into it.

"Are you hungry?"

"Not really."

"Well, if you are, you can come downstairs and have some curry."

"Thank you." Koji mumbled. "...Sorry."

"What are you sorry for?"

"Being here. Putting you in danger."

Sojiro shook his head.

"The police were already harassing me. And it isn't your fault they decided to take me to question where Akira was."

Koji exhaled, putting what he was holding in his lap. As he brushed his fingers through his hair, Sojiro glanced at it. A frame with a photo of two boys, who looked a lot like the freckled brunette woman in the picture. Koji stood up to put the photo into the case he carried here, seemingly calm. 

"I didn't want anything to happen to it while I was gone." He explained.

Sojiro stood up, Koji letting Sojiro guide him downstairs into a booth. He put a plate of curry in front of him, Koji simply staring at it. He picked at it after a few minutes, Sojiro relieved he was eating something. He left Koji in peace, watching whatever was on the tv in silence.

Chapter Text

Once they got out of Mementos, Goro felt dizzy, somewhat sick to his stomach. 

I have to go home and see him.

He didn't say goodbye to them, getting on the next train back to their apartment, adjusting his gloves nervously. Once inside the building, he rushed upstairs, and froze once he got close to his door. 

The apartment door was left open a crack.

"Koji." He breathed.

Goro opened the door, seeing the apartment had been tossed around in his absence. His stomach twisted, dropping Koji's project on the floor. 

"Koji?" He called out, searching the entire apartment.

In Koji's room, the little robot Akira had given him had been thrown to the floor haphazardly, the plastic covering cracked. His whole room was a mess, just like the rest of their place. Even their only picture of their mother was gone, taken from the little shrine they had set up. The only thing he could do was call his phone and hope that Koji picked up.

"Come on… come on… please, Koji…" He whispered as the phone kept ringing.

It finally picked up, and Goro held his breath.

"What?" Koji snarled at him.

"Thank god you're okay." Goro said. "Our whole apartment is trashed, they even took her picture. You… are okay, right?"

"I'm safe, and that's all you need to know about where I am right now. And… I have the picture, so don't worry about it."

Goro was relieved.

"Koji, look, I'm-"

"Don't bother." He snapped. "I don't want to hear your excuses. Besides, you only have two days for your missing persons case before you have to go back to school."

"What? Who's missing?"

"Kubota. Goodbye." 

Koji hung up the phone on him, Goro stunned. 

Kubota is missing. But…

Goro had to admire Koji's thinking. They would be less likely to kidnap him because he would be immediately be talked about by his fans, and it was more public. Koji wouldn't have been noticed beyond the school officials, and they could just be paid off. 

But would he just stay gone? And where is he right now?

Goro had to take some time to decompress and think. He also needed to talk to Koji in person, to truly apologize, to actually show him he was sorry.

-

Koji exhaled, feeling them all stare at him. He turned to look at the Phantom Thieves, all hovering around him concerned and a bit lost on what to say.

"Well, I guess we don't have to tell you now." Ryuji commented.

Koji rolled his eyes, leaning forward on the table, his curry mostly untouched. 

"You can't skip school forever, you know." Makoto said. 

Koji pressed his lips together. He couldn't tell her he didn't care about school anymore. Besides, he wouldn't be able to concentrate anymore, not with Goro attending the same class as him.

"Look, you can't avoid him forever, it's not healthy." Ann said.

"It seems our relationship never was." He shot back. "It's not like it matters, he's going to figure out I'm staying here. He's going to solve another case and get even more popular."

He doesn't care what I think.

Akira sat down next to him, putting an arm around his shoulders. Koji sighed, closing his eyes.

"Well, Sis wants to come and talk to all of us tomorrow. So we should meet back here." Makoto said.

Everyone else said their goodbyes, Koji leaned against Akira. After a few moments he took his hand too, holding it.

"Is there somewhere where I can get clean and do laundry?"

"There's a laundromat and a bath house across the street. Do you want to go take a bath together?"

"Yeah…" 

They got up and moved to go do that, Koji feeling himself blush as they got inside. Koji let Akira lead the way, both getting into the bath separately. It was just the two of them so far, and Koji stayed close to Akira. 

"Why did you take the picture?" Akira asked quietly.

"It's our only picture of the three of us together before she… y'know. Mom… Mom never liked taking many pictures of herself, so that one was special. I didn't want them to ruin it or, or..."

Koji moved to wipe his tears away, leaning his head on the edge of the bath. They didn't say much, an older man coming into the bath a little later, fiddling with the faucet.

"Understandable, I guess." Akira finally muttered.

"You guess?"

"... My parents aren't great. They sent me here, and they haven't even called to check on me once. If I call them, they let it go to voicemail."

"Oh."

Koji didn't know what to say, instead searching for Akira's hand. He interlaced their fingers, and Akira responded by squeezing gently.

"Is this too forward?" Koji asked softly.

Akira shook his head and moved closer, putting his head on Koji's shoulder.

This is nice.

They stayed for a little while longer before heading back. As they settled under the blankets, Koji took initiative and kissed Akira gently. Akira smiled against his lips, staying close as they pulled away. 

"Good night." Koji mumbled.

"Good night." Akira replied.

I'll miss this.

-

"Right, so, everyone is here." Sae said.

Akira had just got Koji to come downstairs when she came in, sitting down. Koji said nothing and went to sit at the counter, lost in thought. He was fiddling with his loose ponytail, strands of hair trailing down the sides of his face.

He's pretty like that. Akira thought.

"I'm going to get as many charges stuck against Shido as I can, once he has his change of heart." Sae started. "And I will be busy trying to put together a case, so I might not be able to update you all as-"

The bell rang, and they all turned to see Goro standing there. Koji stood up, his face blank, his body tense.

"So, this is where you've been." Goro said, starting to move towards Koji. "Look, I just want to s-"

Goro yelped as Koji punched him right across the face. He landed on his back, more stunned than anything, reaching up for his nose.

"Whoa!" Sojiro shouted, moving to grab Koji and hold him back. "Do not kill each other."

"What the fuck was that back there, you asshole?!" Koji snarled.

Sae immediately stepped in between the twins, confused.

"...Okay, yeah, I deserved that." Goro muttered, sitting up.

"Why the hell are you here anyway?" 

"I came to apologize to you, Koji. And give this back."

Goro dug the round project from his coat and held it out to him. Koji didn't move, glaring at him.

"...I don't wanna hear it." 

"Koji-"

"I'm not in the mood to hear something half-assed." Koji inhaled sharply, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Besides, what the hell would it change? You haven't cared what I've thought in years, right? And on top of that, it's not gonna change what you did to those people."

"I want to fix this. And I do care."

"That's news to me. You're such a liar." Koji spat at him. "You haven't bothered to ask me what I wanted once since you got your powers. Why the hell would you care now?"

Goro pressed his lips together and looked down. Koji pressed a hand to his eyes, exhaling slowly to try to calm himself down. Sae stepped back, seeing it was being handled.

"It's always been about you. You don't care about anything. You let him..."

Akira stood up, Sojiro waving him off as he shifted to hug Koji. Koji froze for a second, shaking. Goro stood up and reached for him, Koji leaning back into Sojiro with another glare towards him. Goro pulled his hand away.

"Tell me how to fix this, then."

"Figure it out yourself, detective." 

Akira felt Haru scoot closer to him as Goro looked over at her and Futaba before back to Koji. He put the project back in his jacket with a sigh. Sojiro let go of Koji and stepped back, keeping an eye on them.

"Then what did you want to do about Shido?" Goro asked, clearly a little annoyed. "After what he did to us?"

"I didn't want to know who our father was!" Koji huffed.

Goro looked surprised.

"He was dead to me the moment we learned he abandoned Mom. I didn't want to know, I didn't care to know. I just wanted a normal life, but seems the two of you were hellbent on not letting that happen either. I thought-, god, you're such a jerk and I can't believe I didn't see that earlier."

"Two of us?"

Koji bit his lip and looked down.

"His shadow mentioned… taunted me that he had her killed over not keeping her mouth shut. She must've threatened to leak he…"

Sae, Sojiro and Goro were shocked. Koji mumbled an excuse and ran back upstairs, Akira moving to sit on the stairs to block the staircase, Ryuji following suit. Goro went through a lot of emotions before getting to furious for a few minutes, and then depressed.

"Right… I'll… just go, now. Sorry." He muttered before he booked it out of the cafe before anyone could stop him.

"Good lord..." Sojiro said.

"Before you ask, we don't really have any evidence for that. And I'm guessing it won't be easy to dig up what really happened, much like trying to find Mom's research." Futaba said, pushing her glasses up.

"In any case… I'll do my best to gather as much as I can to take him to court. Leave it to me." Sae said, before gesturing to the ceiling. "And I will do my best to protect him from as much fallout and retribution as I can."

"Thank you, Sis. We're trusting you."

Akira went upstairs as soon as Sae left to go check on Koji. They both stopped mid-step as they nearly ran into each other on the stairs.

"Oh. I… was just gonna ask if we could go into Mementos. I need to take my mind off things." Koji mumbled.

"Tomorrow, we can. You seem tired."

Koji nodded before sitting down on the couch. Akira slipped down to talk with his friends before they left for the day.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Akira asked as he came upstairs.

Koji shook his head.

"Do you at least want to walk around with me?"

"Yeah, that'd be nice."

Akira waited as he threw on a hoodie before they both left to walk around the city, Koji seeming to enjoy himself. He felt his hand being touched before Koji withdrew, nervous. Akira grabbed his hand and smiled at him, Koji brightening up.

-

Koji felt so free as they fought and explored, being relieved no one asked any questions. Flambeau shifted and looked at him with worry, Koji ignoring him as best he could. He didn't want to think about it. He didn't want to think about a lot of things.

"Alright, let's get going to find that target." Akira said, all of them starting to get up.

Koji turned to find Flambeau standing in the doorway, stern.

"Flambeau…"

"You're running away again." He stated.

The others stopped to stare at him, Koji looking down.

"I'm not. I just-"

"Trying to avoid this, to take the easy way out. Don't give me excuses." Flambeau scolded gently.

Koji sighed deeply before glaring up at Flambeau. Flambeau remained where he was.

"Raven?" Ann asked.

"What am I supposed to do? I've already confronted him." Koji huffed at him. 

"For all you were happy for him finding a reason to in the first few years, you certainly give up living easily."

Koji's eyes widened.

"Flambeau!"

"I am done hiding. And so should you." Flambeau shifted form to look like Loki, leaning close to him as Koji took a step back. "And you're running from this? We've faced down worse demons than Loki already."

"None of the others I have to live with." Koji shot back. "What do you want me to do after everything he's done? He's not gonna change."

"What you are doing now is not living. It's easier to hide and not want anything, but it's not living." Flambeau changed back and knelt down in front of him to cradle his face. "You made the choice once already. Are you so afraid of getting hurt? Afraid of disappointing him? He set unfair expectations on you and wanted you to conform to his strict image of you. Giving up control and hiding isn't the answer."

Koji grabbed his wrist, glancing to see the others had backed up to give them some privacy. 

"I want to see the good in him, I want to believe it's still there, but… I know him. He's stubborn, he won't change, he often doesn't see he's wrong."

"And you will not help him if you go back to how it was before. I know it's hard. But you aren't alone anymore. Maybe it's time to let go of him for now, and let him discover what he missed by driving you away." Flambeau's voice got softer as he spoke.

Koji pressed his palms on top of his hands, leaning forward a bit. 

"But then I'd feel as if I'm no different to leave him. I don't want to abandon him as everyone else has done to us."

"You cannot help someone who doesn’t want it. He made his choice, and it will only hurt you worse to stay by his side now. There's no hiding on the stage, dear. You need to grow, and whether he's there for you or not is on him, not you."

Flambeau leaned forward to press his mouth to his forehead in imitation of a kiss, before looking at his face. Koji mulled it over, closing his eyes.

“I'm scared that I'm no different than him.” He whispered.

"I know. But you are not, I assure you. You went through the same circumstances as he did, and while both of you had found a sense of justice, it is very different. His justice is fueled entirely by anger, and though it started out with compassion and as a way to protect you, he let hate twist it until it was not recognizable. You let the compassion you had for him and learned how to extend that to others. And even if a portion of your life was spent on surviving your situation, no one will hold you at fault for not doing more. As long as you do what you can now."

Another pause as he thought it through more.

"I think I understand what you're trying to tell me. I should be fighting for what I believe in. For my justice. And if he doesn't want to understand, then it's not my problem. I still want to talk to him and let him know how and what I feel, at some point, but I can’t be weighed down by him." 

Flambeau smiled.

"Together?"

"Together." 

Koji exhaled slowly as Flambeau jumped back into his heart, overjoyed. He felt much more at peace now. He turned to the others, patiently waiting for him.

"Come on, let's go." Koji said.

They left and as they climbed back into the Monacar, Koji rubbed at his eyes under his mask.

"We never asked about your justice." Makoto stated, turning to him. "So, care to tell us?"

"I just… don't want others to end up where I was for a time. I hope it was only me and Crow who were his bastard kids, but… if there's others, I want them to know they aren't alone. I want to help people, first and foremost."

Flambeau hummed in approval, Koji smiling. They got to talking about lighter topics, Koji trying to think how he's going to handle living with Goro again once this blows over.

Chapter Text

They hung outside Leblanc, just chatting and talking over how they thought the election might go. Akira quietly grabbed Koji's hand, Koji squeezing gently.

"Hasn't Goro tried to explain the Metaverse to you at all?" Makoto asked.

"Once or twice. I don't really get it when people talk at me. I have to do the stuff for myself before I get it." Koji admitted, slightly embarrassed.

"Yeah, same. It's hard to concentrate when it's just talking." Ann agreed.

"Geez, don't you listen at all?" Morgana muttered.

“Hey, at least we’re trying.” Koji grumbled at him.

They soon said their goodbyes and went home, Akira tugging Koji up the stairs with him. They let go to grab clothes for themselves.

"I'm going to go back soon. I just need a good excuse for school and figure out how to… y'know, live with Goro again."

"I have a doctor I can trust to make up a good excuse for you." Akira offered.

"Yeah, she's pretty good." Morgana added.

Koji looked skeptical.

"I can take you to see her tomorrow." 

"Alrighty then. I guess we can go see her."

Akira went to change, coming back to Koji waiting for him. Akira laid down, Koji hugging him and putting his head on his chest. Akira hugged him back, Morgana rolling his eyes and settling down with his back to them.

"I owe you a lot for letting me stay here." He muttered.

"Don't worry about it." Akira said.

It was quiet for a moment, both of them shifting a little to get more comfortable. Morgana was snoring, the two giggling a bit at the sound.

"You don't have to humor me with all of this touching. If you're uncomfortable, just tell me." Koji said.

"No, it's fine. Really. It's nice being close like this."

I want you to be happy.

Akira brushed fingers through his hair to reassure him. Koji hummed gently before kissing his cheek. Eventually they fell asleep, faces close together.

-

Goro did his best to clean up the apartment. He couldn't stand leaving it a mess, and it helped to take his mind off most of his stress of the past few days. His body still ached, but he pushed through it. Koji's room he left pretty much alone besides putting the robot on the desk, deciding the bare minimum of tidying was enough. He spotted the open closet and mess of stuff on the floor.

Ah, shoot. I can’t leave all that on the floor.

He started picking things up and tossing them in the box that was tipped over, not really caring to organize it. He stopped as he grabbed something soft, looking at it. The stuffed crocodile in his hand smiled back at him, Goro pushing the box back into the closet and standing up. 

He still has Cinnamon? Sheesh, it’s been forever since he’s even mentioned her. 

Goro, spur of the moment, decided to tuck the crocodile in Koji’s bed, knowing he’d at least appreciate it. He stepped out to finish cleaning the rest of the apartment.

It was late when he finally finished. He plopped down on the couch with a sigh. He checked his messages to see Koji had read them, but refused to answer them.

Now what? Koji still isn't answering me.

On top of that, he had to come up with a good, solid reason why Koji was gone, since it sounded like he'd be going back to school again soon. 

"Give him time." Robin said.

"He had plenty, and all he's done is hide." Loki grumbled.

"What else could he do?" Goro muttered.

Shido's connections were everywhere, and until his heart truly changes, there wasn't anything either of them could do. The second he goes to work, he's most likely to be cornered.

"Hell, what the fuck am I going to do?" Goro muttered.

He got up to look through his paperwork, trying to piece together a solid cover story for his brother's disappearance.

-

Koji saw Flambeau really meant that he wasn't hiding anymore. In the midst of Mementos requests when he had a moment, Flambeau would grab Arsene's hand, or slip him a flirty compliment, or, rarely, slip an arm around Arsene's waist. Of course, it didn't help that Arsene would respond in kind, going so far as to wrap a wing around Flambeau when they were standing near each other while everyone figured out what to tackle next. Koji felt his face heat up as Carmen gave him a sly look and giggled knowingly, choking a bit on the sports drink he brought along.

"You okay there, Raven?" Ryuji asked.

"Mhm, fine, went down the wrong way for a sec." Koji quickly waved away, hiding in his hood.

"Hey, are you really thinking of living with your brother again?" Haru asked. 

"I do have to go back. I've been thinking it over, of what I want to do about it. I was thinking tomorrow, once my excuse for missing is sorted out."

"Are you gonna be okay?"

Koji opened his mouth, but then closed it again.

I can't really be sure he won't hurt me anymore.

"It… sounded like he felt guilty. I don't know. But I can't stay with Joker forever, as much as I would like to."

"Well, if he tries anything, he'll have us to deal with." Haru snarled.

Koji nodded.

"Yeah, talk to us. It should be okay to add you back to the chat again." Futaba said.

Once they finished for the day, they all went their separate ways. Morgana went to stay with Futaba so Akira and Koji could be alone. Koji laid down with his head on Akira's chest, quietly enjoying each other's company.

"Koji, can I talk to you about your brother?"

Koji tensed, not lifting his head off Akira's chest. Akira was still holding him close, but Koji couldn't help but think of the worst case scenario.

"What is it?" 

"Look, I'm poly, and I've had a crush on your brother for some time too. That doesn't mean I like you any less, but I know you have your own feelings about Goro, so I don't want to do anything you're uncomfortable with. But I do want to admit my feelings to him at some point, and I kinda wanna date him too, alongside you. Is that okay with you?"

It was quiet as Koji processed that for a minute.

"What if I'm selfish and want you all to myself?" Koji asked as lightly as he could, squeezing tighter.

His question left a tang of bitter jealousy in his mouth, and he's sure Akira heard it too. 

"Is that what you want?" 

Who cares what I want?

Koji bit back a bitter retort, letting go of him slowly. He got up and started heading for the stairs. 

"Koji?"

"I need some alone time to think. I'm going to the bathhouse."

He didn't look back. Koji was still tense and teary eyed as he got into the bath. 

"Of course he likes him." He muttered quietly.

Flambeau wrapped around his shoulders, letting him exhale finally. 

"He was honest with his feelings, dear."

I know. It doesn't make it hurt any less.

"Joker does care about you. He wants you to be happy too."

I'm always supposed to put Goro first. Always. Nothing for myself, always second choice. I know he didn't mean it that way, but it's always been that way.

"Let him know you feel that way. We can work this out. He promised he's willing to listen to you."

Koji dunked his whole head under the water for a moment before surfacing and running a hand through his hair. 

I don't know. Can't you and Arsene just talk this out for us?

"As much as I would love to, you need to do this on your own. If it's impossible to talk through this otherwise, then maybe. But you need to try first."

Ah, you're very mean.

"I'm you. I have to push you a little so you can do this without me. I won't be around forever, you know."

Alright, fine.

Koji got out with a sigh, figuring he might as well get it over with. He walked back into the attic to Akira sitting on the edge of the bed.

"Hey." Akira said.

"Hey. You... certainly have a type, don't you?" Koji joked flatly.

"...I know."

Koji sighed and sat down next to him.

"I should've known you'd like him too, with the way you were staring at "him" when it was me."

Akira's eyes widened a little before he looked to the side, silent.

"Look, I'm not going to prevent you from seeing him or anything stupid like that. I just..." Koji inhaled sharply and tugged on his shirt. "Just... worry, that you'll forget about me and just focus on my brother. I know it sounds dumb, and I don't really know how I can explain this to you to have you truly understand, but... it's always been Goro first for most of my whole life. I'm a bit jealous of him, I guess, because everyone seems to like him better, no matter what."

"I won't forget about you, Koji."

"I know that. I know you don't mean it that way but..." Koji fell onto his back with a huff. "Arrgh, how do I explain this? I know it's not unfair and I know I can trust you but it still feels unfair to me, but that's just because I really do want something to myself for once. And I can't ask that of you and I know he'd probably try to go for you anyway so it's a moot point, really."

Akira blinked down at him, Koji flushing in embarrassment.

"Would he?"

"With the way he talks about you? I don't doubt it. But uh, I'm not sure if he's aware of it himself yet."

I'm fucking this up.

"Keep going."

"Akira, I think you should think about it. He did try to kill you twice. But, uh, I guess I'll think about this too, because I don't want to lose you either. I won't say anything to him, so you can figure out the whole feelings thing with him on your own."

Akira simply stared at him. Koji shifted uncomfortably, feeling like he insulted him in some way.

"Oh, so it's not me, it's Goro, isn't it?" 

"I mean, yeah. Sort of. I'm happy you trust me enough to come out to me but I just… I don't know. There's a lot in the air when it comes to Goro right now. I have to figure out how I'm going to live with him for a while. Thinking about sharing him with you is a lot."

"Oh, yeah… sorry. I can wait. It's not an immediate thing anyway, I… sorry, shouldn't have dropped this on you."

"It's okay. Just more to think about now. Maybe it'll help distract me from whatever happens next."

"Still worried about Shido?"

"Yeah. Only a couple of days left. He has a lot of allies and supporters. Who knows what's gonna happen when he finally confesses everything."

Akira held his hand, Koji glancing down at it. He covered it with his other hand, sighing quietly.

"Well, you have me. And the rest of us to back you up. It'll be okay."

Koji nodded, closing his eyes.

I really want to believe you. But this is Shido, and he's dangerous.

-

Goro jumped as he heard the door open, pausing as Koji came in and shut it behind him. He turned, both of them staring at each other in silence. Koji was soaking wet, the briefcase he was carrying dripping water onto the floor. 

"Uh, hey." Goro's voice cracked a little.

"Hey." Koji said. "We need to talk."

Goro gestured to the kitchen table, both sitting at it as Koji dropped his briefcase. He pulled back his hood, looking miserable. He rifled through the briefcase for a moment, dropping a folder in front of him.

"Here's my excuse for being missing. You can say you tracked me down to a back alley clinic. I can say I finally got over a sudden case of flu. I'll even wear a face mask for the first few days back to make it convincing."

Goro took the folder and went through it, seeing medical documentation and patient information for him. 

Tae Takemi? Why does that sound familiar?

"Look, I'm not that happy to be back, but I know I can't stay gone forever, so I have to set boundaries, okay?"

"Boundaries?"

"I don't want to be touched by you. I also want you to respect my privacy and not question where I'm going or who I'm with. I want to be able to make friends again, and join clubs, and just be a normal high schooler as much as I can, alright?"

Koji got a bit huffy at the end there, and Goro could tell he was still furious with him. 

"You've missed a lot of school already. And join clubs? Now?"

"Only if I want to join. What's it to you anyway? It's not like we're switching places anymore."

"You know the risk in-"

"I know Shido still has people out there. But I'm tired of being controlled. I want my life back, Goro, and this is how I want it to be right now."

Goro gave him a hard stare, and Koji scowled at him. Goro broke and sighed, leaning back in the chair.

"Alright, fine. Are we still switching off for who gets or makes dinner?"

"For all intents and purposes, I'm basically just your roommate now. So I'll do my part to help out and such, but roommates is all we are now."

"I see... Alright then. I'll figure out how to write a convincing enough paperwork the school will excuse your absence."

"Good. Now, if you'll excuse me."

Koji got up and ducked into his room, slamming the door. Goro went to grab some of his own paperwork to figure out what exactly he needed to fill out for this particular case of absence.

"There. Progress. Now all you have to do is keep the boundaries he's set." Robin murmured.

Loki snorted and rolled his eyes in the back of his mind.

"Oh, shit. The robot." He heard Koji mutter in the other room.

He could hear Koji going through his stuff now, probably wondering if anything was missing.

"Well, it'd be worth it to have him back." Goro whispered to himself.

-

His first order of business was getting out of his wet clothes. His room seemed to be okay, going over to inspect his workspace.

"Tch, can't believe it cracked so easily. Hopefully nothing else is broken." Koji muttered as he poked at the robot vacuum.

"Looks fixable, at least. Besides, you were taking it apart anyway."

"Oh, I know, it's just-" Koji paused as he turned to look at his bed. 

He could see a stuffed crocodile had been tucked under the covers, glancing over to his open closet. A box had items hastily thrown into it, Koji figuring the box had been knocked over when the rest of the apartment was being tossed around. Goro must've found her on the floor.

"Hey, Cinnamon. Long time no see." He mumbled, picking the crocodile up.

I wonder if she's okay, somewhere. She'll be happy I'm still taking care of Cinnamon for her.

Flambeau shifted, feeling his sadness. Koji hugs Cinnamon to his chest, sitting down on his bed with her in his lap. 

"She seems important to you. Why didn't you have her out?"

Reminded me how lonely I was, before the Phantom Thieves. It got hard to look at her.

Koji was touched Goro not only picked her up, but tucked her in as well. He pinched her foot as memories resurfaced.

"How nice of him."

Mhm. But I still can't let my guard down, not yet. I need my boundaries.

Flambeau nodded, wrapping around his waist to comfort him. Koji glanced at the door, silently thanking him. He waited until he heard Goro go to his own room to leave his. He opened the briefcase, pulling out the picture and putting it back where it was.

"Sorry, Mom." He whispered. "But you're back with both of us now."

Koji stood there for another minute before heading to bed, keeping Cinnamon close. Sleep wasn't going to come to him, but he was gonna try.

-

Goro leaned back on the couch as the news announced the winner of the election. Shido was up there and talking, and he could see Koji with his back to him at the table, shaking. He was listening, even if he was on his phone.

"Hey, how about a trip to the Metaverse?" Goro suggested.

"With you? Why?"

"Because it looks like you need a distraction, and we can't change the election results." He said, turning off the tv.

Koji said nothing for a few moments, rapidly typing something.

"Fine. Let's go then. You better not try anything."

 

Goro was not sure how long this tense peace would last, especially back in the Metaverse together now, just the two of them. Koji barely reacted when Loki got close and towered over him, his body slightly tensing. Flambeau glared up at Loki's smug face, unamused.

"Not even a little nervous?" Loki teased.

"I'm not scared of you, Stripey." Flambeau spat.

Loki tilted his head in surprise before huffing and stepping back. Koji rolled his eyes and started heading down.

"Let's just get this over with." 

"Long as you pull your own weight, Sparky. Dead weight ain't useful to us." Loki spat in their direction.

"Loki." Goro warned.

"What?"

Goro sighed, going down the stairs, hearing Koji close behind him.

 

Goro was grateful to have him around. Flambeau's healing powers were a lot more extensive than Robin's own. Despite how often Loki and him bickered, it was nice being with his brother again. They stopped at a safe room, Koji going through some of the small treasures they managed to find and see if any of it was worth keeping for his own use. Flambeau was glaring at them from across the way, the tense silence after his and Loki's last fight hanging over them. Loki stared right back, before humming thoughtfully and leaning against the wall.

"So, do you love him?" Loki asked.

Flambeau flinched in surprise, Koji tensing.

"What are you talking about?" Flambeau huffed.

"Ooh, called it." Loki said, snickering. "But him? Really?"

"Answer my question, you bastard!" Flambeau yelled, standing up.

Koji stared at Loki, dumbfounded. Loki rolled his eyes and pointed at him.

"Don't look at me like that, we've known you forever, even before Sparky here came along. We know what that looks like on you."

Goro looked up at Loki, and then back at Flambeau and Koji, who were huffy and slightly panicked respectively.

"Why? Jealous?" Flambeau growled at Loki.

"Of what?" Loki retorted. "Your horrible taste in love interests? I could do better blindfolded."

But who? The only one he knows the longest is- oh.

"You like Joker?" Goro asked.

"What's it to you?" Koji snapped at him. 

No wonder why he was so depressed.

Robin Hood shifted a bit. Loki was smug. His own feelings were confusing after learning that.

"It's nothing. Forget it." Goro said.

-

Koji: ok, safe

Akira breathed a sigh of relief after he saw the message. He was nervous all day after Koji told them he was going into Mementos with his brother. The others were asking Koji questions about Goro, seeing if he tried anything. He got a seperate text from him, opening it.

K: loki figured out i have a crush on you. they know now

Akira sighed. He knew Koji wasn't sure how his brother would react to them.

u ok?

K: ya i dont think they know about us yet. just knows i have a crush

well thats good

Akira switched to the other chat.

Makoto: We should meet up to discuss our next steps.

K: usual place?

M: Yes.

K: k

Ryuji: u sure ur brother wont follow u?

K: he seemed to accept the boundaries i set up so

K: in any case ill just head there after school

got it. see u tmmrw then

Chapter Text

Since he just got back to school with finals right around the corner, Akira had to waste no time in studying for it, at Makoto's insistence. She even got Koji to join them in studying, despite not even going to the same school. Koji complained about it until she pointed out he missed a lot of school as well.

"Yeah, sorry Akira. We forgot to tell you." Ann said.

They were doing their best to help him go over what he missed in his absence. Akira glanced over to Koji, who was dozing off with his face in his hand. He left a scribble on his work, pencil still held as if he was going to write something.

"Koji, hey. Wake up."

"Mmn? I'm awake, I'm awake." He mumbled, opening his eyes.

"No you aren't." Makoto said, sighing. "Maybe we should take a break."

"Why did I agree to studying with you guys? We don't even go to the same school."

"You wanted to see your lovely boyfriend." Futaba piped up.

"Shuddup." He huffed at her, blushing.

Futaba stuck her tongue out at him and he rolled his eyes at her.

"Hey, how 'bout I make you all coffee, yeah?" Sojiro offered. "Looks like you could all use it."

"Oh, thank you so much." Haru nodded.

"Hey, any word from Sae how her case is going?" Futaba asked Makoto.

Makoto shook her head.

"Sorry. She's still arranging a time to meet with him and is still gathering stuff. She's been too busy to really update me more than that."

"...This whole case building thing is moving way too slow, no offense to your sister." Koji grumbled.

"You can't expect her to jump in unprepared, Koji. She wants to make it as big as possible to get something to stick. As many as he can be convicted for would be for the best."

"I mean I guess…" Koji muttered, looking away.

Akira got up to help with the coffee, sliding back into the booth with his own cup when they were done. It was quiet as they sipped their drinks, everyone thinking of what was next.

"Hey Koji, are you doing okay?" Ann asked.

Koji stared into his cup, shifting nervously.

"I don't know how honestly you want me to answer that." He muttered.

"Has he tried anything yet?" Ryuji asked.

Koji sighed, tensing up.

"No. Which I'm thankful for, but how long that will last is up in the air. Goro's not really the type to admit he's wrong. But… it's just been kinda… I dunno..."

Koji sighed and shifted again, frowning in thought.

"Weird?" Ryuji suggested.

"I guess you could say that." Koji muttered, leaning back. "Sometimes it feels like he’s trying to pretend nothing ever happened. It's just… hard to adjust, I guess."

Koji looked upset, Akira moving to hold his hand. Koji took his hand away, glancing at him.

"You could live with one of us, you know." Haru said.

"That won't really solve anything. He'd probably just… ugh, nevermind. I don't know how to explain."

"He'd probably just what?"

Koji avoided eye contact with them.

"He'd probably just think I was abandoning him." He mumbled, putting his face in his hands.

"Why the hell would he think that?" Ryuji asked.

He got an annoyed look.

"I don't wanna talk about it."

"Okay, jeez." Ryuji muttered. "No need to get snippy."

Koji looked away quickly, almost like he was embarrassed. Koji stared into his coffee after he put some more sugar in it.

"We should probably get right back into studying. Our finals start tomorrow, after all." Makoto said.

Koji idly stirred his coffee, listening to them talk, silent. He didn't touch his notes or book at all.

"Hey, Koji. You wanna come help me pick up some groceries?" Sojiro asked.

"Huh, me?" Koji perked right up, unsure. "Um… wouldn't you want-"

"I'm askin' you, kid. Come on."

"Oh, okay."

Akira got up so he could slide out, Sojiro gesturing for him to leave the cafe first.

"The rest of you, be good."

"We will!" Ann chirped.

Akira blinked in confusion.

What does Sojiro want with him?

-

Koji was staring ahead of them, letting Sojiro take the lead to the grocery store.

"You doing okay, kid?"

"Um…" Koji blinked, rubbing the back of his neck. "I dunno."

"Seems like you're not even there with your friends."

Oh, is he worried about me?

"I mean, it's just been a long day of studying."

"Looked like more than just study problems to me, but alright then."

Sojiro shrugged, Koji following him around the store with the basket he was handed. Koji worked up the nerve in the back corner of the store while he was busy comparing peppers to each other.

"Sojiro-san, I… don't know how to relate to the others that well. Sharing feelings and stuff. I’m not used to doing that, especially with such a large group. And I… I just can't talk about that. Not with them. They won't understand."

Sojiro hummed as he put some peppers in the basket.

“You seemed more annoyed than sad with them back there.”

Koji sighed.

“...No matter what, I’m always compared to my brother. It just gets tiring after awhile, y’know? It’s kinda always about him in the end.”

"You don't think he gets compared to you?"

"I know he does. But it's usually framed as pointing out how much better he's doing, not the other way around. I used to think he noticed the difference in how people treated us when they bothered to separate us from each other in their heads, but now I'm not sure."

"Hmm." Sojiro straightened up and turned around. "You know the other kids are trying to help you, right? They want to know you so they can support you better."

"It's weird to have so many people who care about me at once. I'm not used to having a lot of friends."

"Just you and him, huh?"

"I had one friend, but I lost contact with her and haven't seen her since we were kids. So yeah, it's mostly been just the two of us. Having a lot of friends is kinda confusing."

"Confusing?"

"I don't know how to act around them."

"Like yourself, kid. Unless you think the real you is unlikable."

"Well-"

"Which isn't true, by the way, and whoever put that into your head is horrible."

Koji pressed his lips together, silently following him as he went up to pay. As they exited with bags in hand, Sojiro stopped him for a moment.

"Look, I don't know your whole situation, and you don't have to tell me. Just do your best to be yourself with them, and if that takes a long time, then take the time you need. Trust me, I know those kids are good, and even if they don't understand everything, they certainly try to."

Koji exhaled slowly.

"Okay."

-

"Hey, you good?" Futaba asked as they walked back in.

Koji blinked at her before turning as Sojiro took the bag from him.

"Yeah, I'm alright. I think I should start heading back, I don't think I can study anymore today."

"Okay. Good luck on your stuff." Akira smiled at him.

He got up to let Koji grab his stuff and put it in his bag, grinning as Koji bumped foreheads with him when he stood back up.

"Yeah, you guys too. See you around."

“Koji, wait a minute.” Akira said, following him out the door.

Koji turned around confused as Akira quickly gave him a kiss. Koji turned his face away, flustered. He turned back to smile at him, shaking his head with affection.

“If anything pops up, let me know. I’ll come running.”

“We will.”

Akira waved as Koji headed towards the station before heading back inside.

"Hey, is Koji okay?" Ann asked as he got back in the booth. "He seems kinda moody."

Akira thought about it. Koji hasn't quite been talkative with him as of late, and notably a lot less affectionate.

Probably that's my fault.

"You were honest with him about your feelings, and he accepted that." Arsene gently reminded him. "Perhaps he's like Oracle and isn't used to a lot of people at once."

"Yeah, he's been a bit quieter the past few days. He might be having a hard time getting used to all of us." Akira admitted.

"I mean, that makes sense. It was just him and Goro by themselves for a while. It's probably weird for him." Makoto nodded. "I'm sure he'll come around. Now, let's get back to studying."

 

Finals just seemed to fly by, Akira doing his best based on what they could cover with him. Morgana watched as he tried to figure out the correct answer, humming in thought.

Meeting up with everyone was a relief afterwards. Not that he was all that worried, Akira simply felt like he was going to do worse this time around. Koji didn't come along to, in his own words, get some extra rest after school drained him. Futaba was scrolling through her phone as usual.

"So, now what? Shido did step down, right?" Ann asked.

"He's still pretty damn popular. He's all I hear people talk about." Ryuji grumbled.

"Huh?! The Phantom Thieves don't exist??" Futaba exclaimed. "Just unrelated incidents that an anonymous group used to gain fame?"

Everyone turned to her in surprise.

"What?! That's bullshit!" Ryuji growled.

"It's being said by a famous researcher. People are starting to believe we don't exist…"

Everyone else checked online, seeing what Futaba was saying.

"What the hell??" Ann huffed.

Akira quickly texted Koji to let him know what was going on. It wasn't long before he responded.

Koji: wish i could say im surprised
K: shido kept a lot of useful ppl around him even if he never trusted them

"Is that Koji you're texting?" Haru asked.

"Yup. He says he isn't surprised by this. Shido kept a lot of people around him apparently."

Akira glanced down as his phone went off again.

K: we meetin somewhere?

yea leblanc tomorrow

"We should all get together and figure out what to do about this." Akira suggested to everyone else.

"Yeah, we should. Meet up tomorrow?" Ryuji asked.

Akira nodded, everyone going back to discussing this quietly.

-

"Well, you're off in a hurry." Goro said, not looking up from his paperwork.

Koji paused, debating if it was worth it. He turned slightly so he could see Goro's face out of the corner of his eye.

"Oh, you know. Shido's minions have declared us nonexistent. You know how it is. Same old Shido bullshit."

Goro blinked, scrunching up his face in confusion. He grabbed his phone for answers. Koji sighed quietly, deciding that was good enough.

"Anyways, see ya."

"Yea, see you." Goro replied, before looking up quickly. "Wait-"

Koji had already closed the door and began the trek down to the first floor.

Anything he wants to know he can look up for himself.

"Hey!" Goro shouted after him.

Koji froze.

What the hell is he doing?

"Stay safe, okay?"

Koji didn't answer, hurrying down the hall to the stairs.

 

He didn't really relax until he got inside Leblanc, seeing everyone else there. He grabbed the closest open seat, nodding to Sae as he passed her. She looked confused until Akira put an arm around his shoulders, realizing who he was.

"Great to see everyone." Morgana said, jumping onto the table.

"What's the deal with your case, sis?"

"Sorry guys. I've been trying, but they won't even let me see him." Sae sighed, crossing her arms over her chest. "I can't move forward right now."

"So, now what?" Ann asked.

They looked at Koji. Koji leaned forward with a hum.

"Not much. Shido and his followers have the public wrapped around a finger. They don't want to lose that. Nothing we do will make that big an impact, and we can't get all of them. That would take too much time."

"Right. So what else can we do?"

"The public is acting really weird about this too." Yusuke muttered. "They should be more wary of Shido, not praising him like this."

"That's it! That's what we have to do!" Morgana said.

"Huh? What?"

"We steal the heart of the public. Mementos. We have to reach the bottom of Mementos. But…"

"But…?" Akira prompted.

"That would mean the end of the Metaverse."

"So… we won't have our powers anymore? We'd have to leave it up to the adults?" Ryuji asked.

"Don't worry, I'm sure there's more like us out there. We'll do our best." Sae said. "Leave it to us."

"Our last true job as Phantom Thieves. It's almost poetic." Yusuke smiled.

"Yeah, let's go." Akira said, getting up.

Koji adjusted his gloves nervously as they started heading down the tunnels of Mementos.

Leave everything to the adults?

Koji stayed quiet on the ride down, not joining in with the others' conversations.

-

They weren't expecting to find such a huge prison at the bottom. Akira helped to guide his team down the prison levels, on high alert to their surroundings.

"Why is everyone imprisoned? Why are the shadows keeping them in here?" Ryuji muttered.

"Someone's gotta be running the prison right?" Makoto asked. "Otherwise why all the guards?"

Akira glanced at Koji to make sure he was doing okay. He hadn't said anything since they've entered Mementos. Koji caught him looking and reached for his hand, squeezing it.

"I'm alright, Joker. It's just bigger than the other Palaces we've been to, we'll get used to it." He smiled reassuringly.

Akira nodded, both of them letting go. The farther they went, the more depressing it got to see everyone so accepting of how they were.

"How can they just be fine with this?!" Ryuji huffed.

Koji's face was blank as they heard another person gladly accepting the end of the world. Akira wondered if he was really doing okay.

"Hey, seems there's another empty section up ahead." Futaba announced.

"Alright, let's be cautious." Makoto said.

They walked in, preparing for anything.

"Whoa, look at that door." Ryuji said, pointing out the heavy metal door unlike anything they had seen before.

“Wonder what’s behind there...” Ann commented.

“That one holds the most dangerous prisoner of all.” A familiar voice said.

They all turned to see Kamoshida. In the same cell with him were all of the Palace rulers they had defeated.

“Why are you all in here?”

“It’s easier. Don’t have to worry about deciding anything.”

Haru looked around for her father inside the cell, trying to pick him apart from all the people.

“Sorry dear, there’s nothing to be done for the dead.”

Koji stiffened as he heard Shido's voice, turning to walk away.

"Koji, wait." Shido called out. "I'm sorry. I truly am."

"So what?" Koji growled. "You think I'll forgive you?"

"Raven-" Akira started.

"For what you did to my mother, my brother, me. I will never forgive you. I never want to see you ever again once this is all over. I don't care what you try to do to make it up. I won't forgive you. Nothing you do will ever make you deserve it. I want you out of my life. Forever."

Koji started to run, bumping into a shadow and falling backwards. He quickly got up and backed up towards the others as they got surrounded.

"Don't make a move. You're going back in your cages."

"Like hell we are!" Ryuji snapped at them.

Akira glanced back, feeling bad as Koji had to face towards Shido the whole time they were fighting. After the fight, Koji refused to put his gun away, eyeing Shido. Futaba pulled his arm down and Haru grabbed under his arms and dragged him away before he could shoot him.

"Let go of me." Koji whispered, his voice raising the further he was dragged away. "He- he's a monster! Just let me! Please!"

"Raven, don't. You'd just end up like Crow. Trust Queen's sister to do her part, please." Haru said. "Please think about this."

Koji stopped struggling as soon as they were out of the room and several feet away. Haru let go once he started to stand up, keeping an eye on him. Koji turned to look at what was ahead of them.

"Raven? Are you okay?" Akira asked.

"Fine. Let's just go."

Koji was brought up to the vanguard since they weren't sure if he'd try to go back if he was behind, everyone keeping an eye on him. Koji seemed to be okay, as if the situation never happened. As soon as they stepped into a safe room, however, Koji immediately collapsed to his knees, hyperventilating and clutching his chest.

"Shit." Ryuji hissed, pulling him up. "C'mon, let's go sit down."

Koji let him drag him over, taking his mask off once he was sat down. He brought his knees up, put his hands on his head and curled up into a ball. Akira quietly sat down on his other side as Ryuji got a water for Koji. They heard him start sobbing, Koji moving to muffle himself quickly.

"Hey. Hey, hey, it's alright. It's okay." Ryuji started soothing, rubbing his back.

"Sorry, sorry, I can't..." Koji sobbed, going back to muffling himself again.

Akira gently looped his arms around Koji's shoulders so he wasn't in Ryuji's way. They waited until he calmed down enough to lift his head up to look at them.

"Do you not trust my sister?" Makoto asked.

"He's already gotten away with so much. If we go through all that and he still gets away free…" Koji whispered. "I don't think I could…"

Akira could understand the fear. The legal system had been rigged before against him. Akira exchanged a look with Makoto. Koji sniffled, rubbing at his eyes.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have even thought about killing him. But…"

Koji hid his face again, ashamed.

"If we can steal the public's heart, I'm sure it will change in a way that it won't happen." Morgana said.

Koji leaned against Akira silently.

The twins are very similar. He's just better at hiding it.

"Why should he trust the same system that's screwed over innocent lives under Shido's influence? You don't trust it either." Arsene pointed out. "Besides, he's told you Shido controlled a huge portion of his life up til this point. Why wouldn't he share that same anger?"

"Sorry. Thanks for stopping me, again." Koji muttered.

Akira felt an arm around his waist, Koji sighing. He thanked Ryuji for the water before drinking it, seeming to be fine now.

Akira made sure to confirm he was actually fine to keep going, Akira leading them out of the safe room. Koji seemed to be deep in thought the whole way down.

"The Treasure is there. In that temple looking thing." Morgana said.

They made their way to the building, seeing cells all facing each other making up the entire building, the floor barely visible.

"That's creepy…" Koji muttered.

"We've made it this far. Let's go finish this." Akira said.

 

The Grail was impossible to defeat. It sent them back out into the world, Shibuya busy as ever. Akira watched all his friends disappear in front of his eyes one by one, in pain and scared.

"Is this my fault? Did I really kill us?" Morgana whimpered before he disappeared.

We failed. I failed them.

His vision faded away as he rolled onto his back.

Chapter Text

Koji sat up, the world around him a cold white. He patted himself down, fine after they all painfully disappeared. But no one else was around that he could see. He carefully stood up, wondering where they all were.

"Hello?" He called out.

He could hear a faint echo, deciding to head towards it, just to see if there was something, anything. 

"My, my, all alone, are you?" A deep voice hummed in his ear.

Koji yelped as cold hands held him in place, struggling to get out.

"Hey, hey, hey. I am not your enemy. I was just curious about you."

"Me?" Koji stammered.

The owner of the voice moved around him, Koji staring at the long nosed man in front of him. He let go, putting a hand to His chin.

"I thought maybe we could make a little deal, just between you and I." He crooned.

"Where's everyone? Where's Flambeau? What did you do to them?"

"Now, now, let's not get too hasty, here." The man held up His hands. "They are all safe and sound. Waiting on you, in fact."

"Waiting… on me?" 

"Are you willing to listen?"

Koji felt something was off, but he nodded anyway.

"You surprised me, other Justice, to be quite honest. I didn't expect the sudden burst of growth you had gotten. No doubt in part due to the Trickster you call Joker."

"Other Justice…?" Koji mumbled as the man rattled on.

"You certainly have a good deal of potential,  even if no one else sees it. Why, I'd say at the very least, just as much as your brother, if not even more. Don't you want a better way to protect others than you do currently?"

More than my brother? But he has two personas...

"What do you mean by better?"

The man clasped His hands together for a moment as if catching a bug, then unfolded them. A beautiful pink light was inside His cupped hands, swirling and inviting. Looking closely, Koji could see himself, running around and switching some masks like he's seen Akira and Goro do.

"You feel alone, even among them, right?" The man whispered. "Like something is missing, like you suspect they might be lying to you even now, right?"

"They aren't lying to me."

The man looked sad, shaking His head in sympathy.

"They've done it before. Have you forgotten so quickly how they cut you out of their lives after your brother betrayed them? And what else can be said of your brother that you don't already know? I can give you the love you deserve. The kindness, the respect, the recognition of who you are that you crave. No comparisons to your brother either. Just knowing and loving you for who you are."

Koji bit his lip, thinking about it. The man extended His hand out, smiling. 

"What do you get in return?"

"A child of my own. I've always wanted one, and we would be perfect for each other."

I get more powers and an actual parent, and that's it? That's all He wants?

Koji started to take His hand, but stopped, pulling it to his chest. He narrowed his eyes at the man.

"Wait… how do you know me? Why do you want me?"

"I've watched over you for a very long time. You and your brother. And like I said, I think we're a perfect fit for each other."

"What would happen to the others?"

"Nothing. Nothing at all. Like I said before, they're waiting for you."

"If you were watching over us, and you thought I would be a perfect child for you, why only now? Why not back then? Is it because I wasn't ready? Or is it because you didn't expect me to have powers like the others and want me to submit to you?"

"Don't you want to be adopted? Why reject that now after years of being rejected by others? Why suspect me when I'm offering something you've always wanted?"

"My brother and I come together, or not at all. And seeing as he isn't here, I refuse to be separated from him."

"He was already mine." The man snarled. "And you are the one willingly separating yourself from him. That was the point wasn't it? That you're your own person, as is he?"

"Then where is he? Where is my brother?"

"I believe you said before, that you didn't care for him. That the two of you wouldn't recover from what you found out. So why the sudden change? Do you approve of his actions now?"

"You said was. That he was yours." Koji started backing away from Him. "So he did something you didn't like, and got rid of him. I don't want your deal."

"I offer you freedom from all the pain you are feeling, and you'd choose to be suffering?"

"I'd rather die than take your deal." Koji hissed.

"How disappointing, they've gotten to you too." The man muttered as He snapped His fingers. "Then die."

Koji yelped as the same pain from earlier dropped him to his knees, watching himself fade. The man turned and started walking back into the whiteness.

Koji gasped and groaned as he snapped his head back and hit a wall, hunching forward. He opened his eyes to be met with freezing blue stone and a simple cot. He looked around, seeing bars and a wall on the other side of those bars. The room was very narrow, barely fitting him.

I'm in a cell?

He grabbed them and started trying to open them to no avail, sighing and giving up. He couldn't see anyone else, but the man was gone, and he was thankful for that. Koji reached out to Flambeau, but got no response.

I guess I'm all alone now. For real.

Koji laid down on his side and curled up with his back to the bars, wondering if anyone would be able to find him. 

-

"I won't take your deal." Akira growled at the fake Igor.

Lavenza prepared to fight beside him, glaring at the Holy Grail.

"Then you have chosen to die." The Grail snarled at them before He disappeared.

They were startled as a loud bang went off next to them, seeing a desk with another Igor on it, laying down.

"Master!" Lavenza shouted, running over to check on him.

"Ow… hello, Lavenza. And ah, hello, my name is Igor. Welcome to the Velvet Room."

"Don't worry, this is my real master."

"Can you two explain what's going on?" Akira asked.

"Well, first, I'm going to have to ask you to gather everyone here. It'd be easier to explain all at once."

Lavenza gestured to the now open cell door behind him that led further in, Akira looking back and nodding.

 

He came to the end, the hallway much longer than the other two before it, glancing at the cell. Koji had his back pressed against the bars, curled up on the floor.

"Hey." 

Koji slowly sat up, confused to see him.

"Akira?"

"Are you okay?"

"I don't know… hey, where even are we? We're not dead, right?"

"No, this is the Velvet Room. We're alive."

"Oh. Well, that's nice. I thought maybe I'd rot here slowly for rejecting that man."

"Man? What man?"

Koji shifted to hug his knees.

"I saw a man with a long nose and a deep voice, and He offered me a deal. But uh, I might have the same power as Goro? That's what He told me. I don't know, it was unclear."

"Well, we can discuss it more when you get out of there. I have someone who can tell better than me."

Koji sighed softly, leaning back.

"Am I useful to you guys? Helpful?"

"You are our friend, Koji. We want you around because we like you. Hell, not only do I like you, you're my boyfriend. Why are you doubting yourself now?"

"I… I just don't feel like I do anything to help. I'm just there, y'know? Like I'm just selfish. I guess that fight was really too tough for us, huh? Maybe we are too late to change anything."

"You really believe that? What happened to the feeling nothing was gonna stop you?"

"I'm just like my brother, right? That's what you guys were thinking after that outburst earlier. You think I'd feel bad if Shido died? That I would think I did something wrong if I killed him?"

"Koji. We have to have him convicted. Is it not enough for him to confess?"

"The justice system is fucked up, and you know it. Why do you trust it? It didn't protect you against him, it sure as hell didn't protect me and Goro against any retaliation from him. They didn't give my mother any justice. I can't trust it. I can't."

"Look, I know how you feel. But you have to trust Sa-"

"He abused me, Akira! He abused and manipulated my brother too. I only took Goro's identity after he disappeared for a bit because I know, I know he would've gone further if I was trapped where he had constant access to me. He got away with murder, he got away with so much using the justice system. I really don’t want to go through all that and take that risk because it’s so skewed against us! Do you know how many people would be relieved, be safer if he was dead? If my brother only went after Shido, I wouldn't have been mad at him. Why aren't you on our side for this?" 

Akira really wished he was able to reach through the bars and comfort him. Koji shifted further away. 

“And if I had killed him, I’m sure you would all drop me just as fast as my brother, because I sure as hell wouldn’t have felt guilty about it, or felt I needed to confess or turn myself in.”

He pondered it for a long time, wondering if that’s what they had done instead of trying to reach out to Goro. It was hard to tell since Koji punching Goro was the last they saw of him. 

“I would give both of you another chance. Because it really is our little group against the world. And the two you got the worst of it. I want to help, even if I don’t understand exactly how the world has wronged you. Just please talk to me. To us. We can work this out."

"You should understand since Shido fucked you over too." Koji growled. "There's no place for me anywhere else besides next to my brother, and the justice you believe in will take him away from me. I don't belong anywhere. There's nowhere to go."

"Yes there is. You belong as our friend, and as my boyfriend, and there's a place for you in Leblanc. If you really believed you were just like your brother, you wouldn't have talked to Shido's shadow as if he was going to live."

Koji said nothing, staring straight ahead.

"Why else would you say that if you were actually going to kill him?"

"I only said that because you guys were there, and you would be so disappointed otherwise. And I've seen what happens if I don't follow your ideals. You'll abandon me again."

"We weren't sure if we could trust you. We didn't know how much you knew. We needed to keep ourselves safe."

Koji looked at him with disgust before turning away again. 

"Because I'm the same as Goro to you. To everyone. I don't know why I expected anything different. Rejoining you was a mistake."

"If you weren't there, Goro would've died, Koji. So then what, if that happened?"

"I want to be sure you could figure it out, but you're really dense, Kurusu. It's not worth saying." 

Koji grumbled something to himself. Akira hummed, thinking of what to say next.

"You're worth being heard, Koji. I want to hear what you have to say. Because you're my friend, and you're important to me. We were worried about you, even if we couldn't contact you before. And we're important to you in some way, since you risked yourself to tell us even that little bit about Shido."

Koji stood up slowly, exhaling. 

"Only because you meant something to me, and I thought you were dead."

"That was brave of you, knowing Shido. And you faced him down, and kept going despite that. But I need your help to see this through. We need to kill that Grail or nothing will change, and he will get away with it. Please Koji."

Koji thought about it, crossing his arms over his chest.

"I'll do it for Mom. And Goro. I want to see him punished for their sake, and if that means killing that thing, I'm in."

Akira stepped aside as the bars disappeared and Koji came out, outfit back on. 

"What did the man offer? What did He say?" 

Koji reached out to take his hand.

"...Something I wanted to hear." He muttered.

Akira led him back to the middle, feeling Koji stumble back seeing Igor. 

"No, no, it's okay. He's a friend…"

Koji looked at him with doubt. Akira gently pressed his forehead against his, Koji closing his eyes.

"Okay. I trust you."

Akira turned to ask, Lavenza shaking her head.

"You're still missing someone." She said.

Akira knitted his brows together, letting go of Koji's hand. 

"Alright, I'll be back then."

Morgana is somewhere, then.

Akira went back to the farthest hallway, turning and going down the other way. At the end was another cell, Goro standing and leaning against the wall, eyes closed.

"Goro?" 

Goro opened his eyes and looked at him, just as surprised. He sighed and pressed a hand against his face, annoyed.

"Oh, great. What do you want?"

"I'm here to get you out."

"Sure you are." 

"I'm not going to leave you behind. And I'm not going to kill you either. You're here because I like our friendship, and I want to give you a second chance."

"Look, Joker, I appreciate the sentiment but I belong here. I don't even care where we are, I just know it's better than the real world."

"And leave your brother to be alone?"

"Oh, fuck off, Kurusu. You don't know anything about us. And besides, I know he's really upset. He won't forgive me. He barely talks to me now."

Akira sighed, leaning his head against the wall next to the bars.

"You're really going to push away the only family you have left?"

"What the hell is it to you?!" Goro snarled, slamming his fist against the bars.

Akira jumped, the sound right next to his ear.

"Must you shove your way into fucking everything that doesn't concern you? I thought I told you to fuck off already."

"Just because I can." Akira huffed at him sarcastically. "Look, Koji still sees some good in you. He doesn't want you to be taken from him. And… I'm here for you too, okay?"

"What the hell is wrong with you. I tried to kill you twice. I tried to kill my own brother. What's wrong with you?"

"I want you to have another chance. I forgive you. You're just like me. Just the timing for us was off. If we had met earlier-"

"Shut up. Shut up." Goro growled at him. "I'm too fucked up. Don't you fucking get it? I dragged my brother into a hell I couldn't protect him from, and you're sitting here talking about forgiveness? Okumura and Sakura want to kill me, and here you are expecting me to work alongside you all? You should've killed me back there. You should've let me die in there."

"I'm glad you're alive. Your brother was so relieved you were alive."

"Stop. Lying. To me." Goro pushed off the bars and kicked the cot. "Fuck. I should've killed Shido when I had the chance. That son of a bitch. That fucking bastard hurt him and I did nothing about it."

"...Your brother was convinced he killed you when we couldn't find you in Shido's Palace. He barely moved or talked to any of us. He was so upset. And you're right. I don't know a lot about either of you. Just whatever he's told us. But you want to make it up to him, right?"

Goro didn't respond.

"That's why you came to Leblanc right? To apologize to him?"

He shifted to hide his face.

"Goro-"

"Why do you care so much?"

"Because you're my friend and my rival. And because I'm sure your brother would be horribly upset if I didn't save you when I had a chance. Please, I can help you make amends. I want to see my friends happy, and that includes you."

Goro pressed his hands against his face and loudly sighed.

"You're an idiot for continuing to have trust and faith in me after everything."

"Koji sees something in you to be so desperate to stay by your side. I want to bring Shido to justice just as much as the two of you. And I don't want to leave you alone when you're in need of someone."

"Well, you already did leave me alone, didn't you? You need to run along back to your friends. They need you more than I do."

"Look, I'm sorry I stopped reaching out to you. I didn't know what to do for you. But I can't go forward without you. And besides, you're no different than us. So what d'ya say?"

Goro sighed again, standing up straight. 

"You're being sincere, right? This isn't some elaborate lie?" 

"I have no reason to lie to you."

It got very quiet between them.

"You're ridiculous.”

“You always say that about me.”

Goro stood deep in thought.

“Very well, then. I'll play along and help."

Goro stepped forward as his black outfit appeared and the bars disappeared. Akira walked him back towards the middle, the two of them silent.

-

Koji waited along with everyone else, quietly discussing who could be the last person. Morgana was still missing, so they assumed that was who Akira was getting. Haru turned to look at the door, tensing up.

"No…" 

They all turned to see the unmistakable shape of Goro's black suit side by side with Akira.

"What are you doing here?" Koji growled at him as soon as he got to the center with Akira.

"Look, I'm just as surprised as you are about this. I don't know why I'm here either." Goro retorted.

"Guys…" Akira said, sighing.

Koji turned his head away so he wasn't looking at him directly. Igor, Morgana and Lavenza explained what was going on, before Lavenza turned to him.

"By your reaction seeing my master earlier, I have reason to suspect you saw the imposter."

"Yeah. It offered me a deal."

He could see Goro tense up.

"You were offered a deal?" Igor asked.

"He said that I had a potential like my brother, perhaps greater, but I'm not sure. I really wouldn't know for myself."

Igor and Lavenza looked at each other before turning back to him.

"I'm sorry dear… but He was lying to you. I'm afraid you don't have the power of a wildcard as well. He was only planning for one wildcard of His own, after all." Igor broke the news gently.

"I see. Then, it's nothing, really. I didn't take the deal."

"If you did, you wouldn't be here." Lavenza pointed out.

"...I would've been completely under His control, wouldn't I?"

"Yes. I'm sure He would've given what He promised, which was power similar to your wildcards, but it wouldn't be under your free will."

Koji went silent, hiding in his hood. Akira patted his shoulder gently.

"C'mon, we should get going." He said. 

Koji followed everyone as they walked out of the Velvet Room, seeing they reemerged inside the prison, only now there was a pathway up. Shadows met them every few steps, trying to prevent them from escaping still. Koji glared at Goro's back while they took a small break, Flambeau huffing beside him.

"What do they have that we don't?"

Flambeau shifted to have horns, then Robin's hat, then a mix of both.

Flambeau, don't. Loki will make fun of you for it if he sees you.

Flambeau shifted back to his usual self right as Loki and Goro turned to look at them.

"What?" Loki huffed at them.

"It's nothing Stripes. Go away."

"You wish I would Sparky, but I'm here to stay. Get used to it." 

"Loki, be nice." Goro said quietly..

Loki glanced down at him and rolled his eyes.

"Hey, let's get going." Akira called, not turning around.

-

One thing Akira wasn't expecting with the twins back together was the constant bickering between Flambeau and Loki. The two went at it practically every second, arguing with and insulting each other over the tiniest things. The only relief they got was when Goro switched to Robin Hood for long periods of time. Flambeau and Robin seemed to just give each other the silent treatment. 

"This gonna happen ev'rytime?" Kidd asked them, annoyed.

"Robin is the only smart one of the three of them." Flambeau huffed.

"Don't be rude." Robin muttered.

Goro and Koji exchanged glares with each other. Everyone dreaded when Goro switched to Loki, because they knew Flambeau would pick a fight with him.

"There, easy. They weren't a match for me." Loki bragged a bit.

"Sheesh, do you ever hear yourself talk, Stripes?" Flambeau huffed. 

"Care to tell me why, short stack?"

"You're so damn annoying." 

"How 'bout I set you straight, you little shitheel? If you're up to backing up your stupid petty insults."

Loki snagged Flambeau's cravat before he could get away, snarling at each other. The twins were stiff and glaring at each other. Arsene forcibly yanked them apart and stood in between them, staring down Loki.

"Lupin-"

"Enough. You two are getting ridiculous. And as everyone here is my witness, I will not let you lay a finger on him, Loki." 

Loki growled low and took a step forward. Arsene moved to stop him again, Milady getting up making Loki pause. Loki squinted at Arsene, tilting his head.

"Ah. I see. So that's how it is." Loki murmured with a pointed glance towards Flambeau. "Interesting."

Koji whipped his head up, Flambeau also surprised. Goro glanced between Koji and Akira rapidly. Koji was flushed under his hood, pulling it down more over his face. Goro was unreadable as he turned his head away, the mask obscuring his expression. 

"Can we please just get going?" Akira asked them sharply.