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i never dreamed it'd take this long

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The palace is caving in around them.

“Shit! This way!” Yusuke is directing them to the best of his abilities, but paths are being closed off around them, forcing Ryuji to think on the fly. They reach an opening in the side of the ship, where it’s clear that something blasted it open, and Akira points to a lone lifeboat hanging above them.

“Look! Where’s the drop lever?” Yusuke starts to scan while Ryuji’s eyes are drawn to it high above them on the bow of the ship.

“There.” Ryuji points to it. “Shit, how are we going to get to it?”

Ryuji feels someone come up on his right and take his hand.

He looks.

It’s Goro.

“Can you get everyone out of here if we have the boat?” Ryuji nods, fear creeping up his spine at the determined look on Goro’s face. “Ryuji,” Goro doesn’t look at him, but he knows that he has Ryuji’s full attention. “I love you.”

Ryuji’s been waiting a long time to hear those words, but he didn’t want to hear them like this.

He knows exactly what Goro is planning to do.

“Goro, wait…” There’s one last squeeze of his hand and then Goro is gone, running like the wind is propelling him forward. There’s explosions happening all around the ship, but Goro never falters, and Ryuji never takes his eyes off of him. He and Akira are both leaning forward, with matching looks of panic on their face as Goro launches himself up the bow of the ship towards the lever, while the bow tilts further and further up.

“Come on Goro, come on.” Akira’s pleading reaches Ryuji’s ears and it’s the same as the internal pleading in his own brain. Goro makes one last leap and his hands find the lever, and he pulls. “YES! HE DID IT!” The lifeboat drops in front of them, and Ryuji and Akira start to move the team into the boat. Ryuji takes a second to look back at Goro, who flashes him a grin and a thumbs up, but it still doesn’t soothe Ryuji’s worries.

He wants Goro on this boat and in his arms, where Ryuji knows that he’ll be safe.

Once they’re all in the boat, Ryuji takes up at the engine and sends them towards Goro, while Akira yells for him to hold on. They’re almost to him, Ryuji is about to yell for him to drop down and they’ll grab him, when the explosion happens.

It rocks the boat, makes everyone shield their faces, and when they’re able to look again, Goro is no longer holding onto the lever.

Ryuji loses it.

“GORO!” He pulls away from the engine and is about to launch himself into the water to find him, if he could just get this stupid fucking jacket off. Only he doesn’t throw himself into the water, because Akira’s got a death grip on his waist and Ann is trying to help hold him back, and he’s screaming Goro’s name like he’s gone mad.

“Ryuji, you can’t!” Ryuji doesn’t see that Morgana has taken control of the engine and is directing them away from the wreckage, he’s too busy trying to fight Akira and Ann, but he’s losing that fight by the second, while Akira tries to talk him down. “Ryuji, please. We can’t lose you either.”

“Goro, he-” Ryuji isn’t sure when he started to cry, but he’s aware of it when the metaverse shifts around them and dumps them back into reality in front of the Diet. Akira is still holding onto him and Ryuji buries his face into his friend’s chest and sobs. “He’s gone, he’s, oh god!” Akira doesn’t say anything, he just holds onto Ryuji, with tears in his own eyes as they unite in their grief over their loss.

Around them stand the rest of the Thieves, in varying levels of shock over what just happened.

Futaba breaks the silence first.

“Is he? Is Goro really?” She looks around, hoping to see him, but there’s nothing. Even Haru seems stunned at what’s happened.

“What are we going to tell his mom?” Yusuke looks at the rest of the Thieves, who all look so incredibly guilty as they think about how they’re going to try to explain this to Akechi-san.

“Ow, shit, my fucking head.” The voice comes from a bit of distance, but it’s unmistakably Goro. Everyone minus Akira and Ryuji turns to look as Goro walks up to them, sporting a hell of gash on his face and rubbing at his head like it’s going to help his mounting headache. Goro stops in front of Ann and finally realizes that he’s being stared at like he’s a ghost. “Uh, is everyone ok?”

“No! Everyone is not ok!” Haru yells at him. “You made Ryuji cry!” It’s at the sound of his name, that Ryuji finally looks up and around and sees Goro standing there, confusion on his face.

“Goro!” Ryuji stumbles to his feet and launches himself at Goro. “You’re alive!” Ryuji buries his face into Goro’s neck, and his arms wrap around him, holding Goro close to him. “You’re alive.” 

“Yes? Did you think-?”

“Yes, we thought you were dead.” Akira says. He’s standing now, with his arms crossed over his chest and glaring at Goro, even though the obvious relief that his friend is alive is showing through. “He almost threw himself off the lifeboat to come and find you.” Goro finally notices that Ryuji is shaking.

“Ryuji…” Goro’s arms come up around Ryuji’s back, holding him somehow even closer than he already was. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“I thought I lost you. You told me you loved me and then you just left!” Goro can feel wetness on his neck.

“I know, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Goro rubbed his hands up and down Ryuji’s back, trying to help him calm down.

“Did you mean it?” Ryuji pulls his face back, so he can take Goro’s in his hands and look him right in the eye. “Do you really love me?”

Goro nods.

“I do. I have for a while now.” A thumb strokes along Goro’s jaw.

“Why didn’t you say anything?” Goro chuckles, but it’s not a happy sound.

“Because why would you want me when you could have someone who isn’t the world’s most colossal fuck up?” Ryuji leans forward, so that his forehead is resting on Goro’s.

“You idiot. Why wouldn’t I want you?” Goro blinks and Ryuji takes the chance to finally, finally, press his lips to Goro’s. He’s delighted when Goro’s fingers dig in deeply around his hips and Goro starts to kiss him back. From behind them, he can hear the rest of the team shouting in joy and Akira just going, “fucking finally”.

“I love you too.” Ryuji says when the kiss ends. “In case you couldn’t tell.” Goro chuckles again, but it’s a much happier one that a few moments ago, as he presses a kiss to Ryuji’s cheek.

“And I’m so damn lucky that you do.”