When Akechi had gone to the Red Light District, he had expected to be in and out in minutes without any issue.
Except he was sat on the floor, desperately trying to calm Ryuji down. Ryuji was sobbing, his breathing choppy and uncontrolled, nails digging into his arms so hard they were leaving marks. His whole body trembled as he choked on his words.
“I-I’m ok, jus-just leave me alone for-for a bit…” Ryuji managed to force out, struggling to breathe.
“Ryuji, I’m not leaving you like this.” Akechi gently touched Ryuji on the shoulder, making sure he was fine with the contact before sliding an arm around him gently. “Focus on my breathing and try and follow, ok?”
“Its fine-this shit happens sometimes and I deal with it by just being alone, you can leave me alone and I’ll be fine-why are you still here, I’m fine-”
“Ryuji, focus on my breathing.” While taking deep breaths and making sure Ryuji was following, Akechi wondered how many times Ryuji had dealt with this kind of thing alone. Akechi knew what it was like to have a panic attack, but he had professional help and never felt the need to hide it. How many times had Ryuji sobbed and struggled to breathe without anyone to help? And why hadn’t he told anyone?
After Ryuji had taken control over his breathing, Akechi decided to move. It wasn’t good for either of them to stay in the Red Light District any longer, and he needed to get Ryuji somewhere safer. He decided on his apartment, which was close and Ryuji didn’t seem like he was in a state to remember his address. Akechi just needed to get him somewhere comfortable. Carefully, he guided Ryuji up, reminding him to just think about his breathing. “I’ll guide you, so just breathe, ok?” His hand clasped Ryuji’s and he led them out of the blaring lights of Shinjuku, giving Ryuji a small smile.
“He left you? With them?” Akechi exclaimed, handing Ryuji hot chocolate. He remembered that Ryuji liked sweet things and sugar would provide Ryuji’s body with some energy.
“They started to touch me…I ran away but I got too scared and then…” Ryuji looked wrecked, but he took the hot chocolate with a shadow of a smile, nothing like the usual grin he wore.
Akechi frowned, anger simmering in his stomach. He expected more of Akira, Ryuji’s supposed best friend. “Have you told your friends about your panic attacks?” Akechi already knew the answer, but still asked anyway, heart sinking even more when Ryuji shook his head gently.
“They would make fun of me,” Ryuji answered. Akechi clenched his fists. The Phantom Thieves, so focused on justice and doing the right thing, couldn’t even help their friend, made fun of him and bullied him? Akechi wasn’t blind. Although his surveillance on the Phantom Thieves had been limited, he wasn’t oblivious to the constant, barely-hidden bullying Ryuji endured-especially from that idiotic cat. Every time he listened to a Phantom Thieves conversation, he ended up wanting to punch something. Ryuji hadn’t even done anything wrong! Out of the group, he was the one who tried the hardest to be good, and it warmed Akechi’s heart to see Ryuji’s bright grin. It made Akechi’s heart melt seeing Ryuji and hearing his voice.
“They’re not good friends if you feel like that.” Akechi settled down onto the couch next to him, struggling to not march down to Leblanc and smack Akira’s face. And the cat’s face. And Ann’s. And Yusuke’s.
“But they’re my best friends…” Ryuji sighed. “They’re my only friends.”
“I’ll be your friend. I won’t bully you like they do.” Akechi smiled at him, a genuine smile, and got a small smile in return. Internally he cursed Akira and his inability to be a good friend for wiping Ryuji’s sunshine grin off his face.
“That sounds good.”
Akechi shuffled closer to Ryuji and they sat in silence, comforted by each other’s presence. And if Akechi’s heart skipped a beat while his brain yelled at him that this would ruin his mission, well, that wasn’t anyone’s business.