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AKIRA/THE FOOL

I.
The unassuming student at the TV station looks nothing like the masked guy he spied on in Madarame's palace. How can he be the leader? And he's got some nerves, defying Goro in public. No matter. Goro has hundreds of fans who will tear down Kurusu's online reputation for this little stunt.

II.
Their paths cross every morning at Shibuya's station. Kurusu's eyes are hard to read behind the glasses, but he smiles in a way that makes his blood boil. Who does this guy think he is, acting like his existence isn't threatening everything Goro built for himself?

III.
Kurusu's invitation for coffee is both a blessing and a curse. He now knows where to find him easily, but jealousy burns like acid in his guts as he observes the shop's owner teach some coffee-making technique to Kurusu and grudgingly pat him on the back with a look full of paternal pride.

IV.
There's something strange going on between the Thieves, in their interactions with each other. He can't quite put his finger on it, and Kurusu smiles knowingly, but never gives away any hint. Instead, he sets up a game of chess, and Goro is far too interested by it to notice the distraction for what it is.

V.
Like the rest of his team, Kurusu spends an inordinate amount of time befriending him, and Goro enjoys the attention more than he probably should. The guy is always there, at the corners of his eyes, and in the back of his mind, like some obsession he can't shake off. He can't let this dangerous madness continue. He can't.

VI.
Shido makes his displeasure known when Goro fails to kill Okumura. He wants to hate the Thieves, for stealing the man's heart ahead of time. But when he gets to Leblanc, Akira is waiting for him with a gentle smile and his favorite blend, as if he knew what a bad day Goro just had. Their fingers brush over the cup. It feels nice.

VII.
The Thieves are always watching him with fond looks in their eyes. They took the whole blackmailing thing pretty well, too well. He doesn't know what to make of it. Akira soothes his worries and sits close to him, and Goro can't get enough of that scent of coffee and leather that seems to surround him.

VIII.
Akira invites him to join them, one evening. At first, Goro is confused and laughs. And then, his mind registers the other teen's low lidded stare, the closeness of his body, the deeper quality of his voice and - oh. He gives a flimsy excuse, and flees, because he's too much of a coward to even contemplate their offer.

IX.
...he can't stop thinking about their offer. About Akira. About his voice, his eyes, his hands, everything about him. He wants to devour him, to be consumed by him, until Akira is his, until Goro becomes his everything. The invitation is a forbidden fruit, a constant temptation.

X.
He has no choice. Killing Akira is the only way forward, no matter how painful it will be to snap the thread of fate that binds them together. But more than anything, Goro dreads the moment when Akira's eyes, so warm and full of affection for him, will turn cold and lifeless from the betrayal.


MORGANA/THE MAGICIAN

I.
Kurusu's cat can speak. What the fuck? Is it the same cat monster he saw in the palace? He needs to be careful not to react to its comments. But why does it have to talk like some annoying brat?

II.
He tries to ignore the strange creature, but it's always dragging Kurusu's attention to itself, and no, Goro doesn't feel jealous. He knows more about the Metaverse anyway, has been navigating it for more than two years. Why would some dumb cat know things he doesn't?

III.
They meet, officially, as Goro is induced into the Phantom Thieves. He feigns surprise at hearing the cat speak, but at least, he can now quip and retort at the little comments it makes about him and the rest of the Thieves. Too bad the cat knows it can be heard now, though. Goro liked its honesty.

IV.
He was tired, and he petted it, and it was a reflex, OK? Not like he wanted to do it consciously. But the cat didn't protest, just stayed quiet and watched him, and he feels like maybe he should be ashamed of doing this without asking permission? But why should he? It's just a cat.

V.
Akira is at work, and his cat stayed at Leblanc, so Goro sits with it in a booth. Morgana curls beside him, and they talk in low voices for a long time. It's no so bad. He's the first person Goro can share his theories on the Metaverse with.

VI.
Their discussions become a routine. He's not sure when Morgana became a he instead of an it. When he became a companion instead of just Akira's cat. Morgana climbs to sit in his lap now, and Goro's hands spend hours in his dark fur. It's okay to do it now.

VII.
Morgana says that he feels like a stranger in this world. He's different from everyone else, unique but alone, with no roots and no place he belongs to. A buoy lost at sea, always floating but with no anchor. Goro clenches his teeth and does not tell him he understands.

VIII.
Goro doesn't spend much time in cars. He mostly uses the trains, his bike, his feet. But he's almost certain real engines don't purr as much as the Mona-bus does. As they speed through Mementos, he softly scratches the upholstery under him and holds back a smile as the vehicle shivers in answer.

IX.
His apartment is cold. He curls into a ball under the covers, buries his face in his pillow, and thinks of Morgana, imagining soft warm fur against his face, a comforting purr and a small nose brushing over his brow, and his lips move for a gentle kiss before he remembers himself.

X.
"You know," Morgana says quietly, "whatever happens after the palace, you'll always have a place by our side." He knows those are empty words, a promise soon to be crushed under the heel of his betrayal. But still, a hopeful part of Goro wants to ask Morgana: "Really? You really mean it?"


RYUJI/THE CHARIOT

I.
Sakamoto is too loud, thickheaded, and not very bright. Not really subtle in his criticizing of Goro's work too... Why does Kurusu spend time with a guy like him? Surely, there are better choices than him at Shujin.

II.
He's obnoxious as hell, and Goro has a hard time holding back his anger. His politeness erodes a bit more each time Sakamoto opens his mouth, and he replies in sharp retorts and barely polite digs at his intelligence. And whenever Goro loses his cool, the guy smiles like he's won a fucking prize.

III.
Sakamoto's not always stupid. Sometimes, he can be serious and... There's some hidden depths to his mind, something more than the dumb teenager Goro thought him to be. Although he can't understand why the other boy would hide that part of himself and act like a moron instead.

IV.
Well, turns out they both have some shitty dads. He's not sure how they come to talk about it, but Sakamoto confides in him about his father, and they have a surprisingly deep conversation about family around a bowl of ramen. He's not so bad, when he's quieter.

V.
One thing is certain: he's tactile. It's quite disconcerting at first, but now Goro has become used to Sakamoto wrapping an arm around his shoulders and ruffling his hair (bothersome, but the demonstration of companionship feels... nice, nonetheless?)

VI.
Ryuji's laugh is the clear and sharp kind, like the bark of a dog. People turn his way and send him offended stares, but he doesn't seem to care, only replies with a cocky "What, got a problem?" to the haughtiest looks. Goro raises a hand in front of his mouth and hides a smirk of his own.

VII.
Ryuji took the blows for his mom and still continues to do so for his friends. A while ago, Goro would have sneered and mocked him in his own head. Now, he's torn between envy at Ryuji's courage and shame at his own cowardliness. For the first time, he cringes at the idea of sacrificing others for his own sake.

VIII.
His roar of victory is drowned out by Ryuji's, and the girls cheer from the seashore as Yusuke and Akira finally collapse under their assault. "Best team ever!" Ryuji boasts, and Goro, perched atop his shoulders, hoists his water-gun and accepts Ryuji's upside-down high-five with a smug expression.

IX.
Why can't he get him out of his head, with his stupid grin, and those hands, all bony and strong and long-fingered, and the overwhelming energy that surrounds him, and the loud laughter and teasing words that make him want to kiss him until he's too breathless to talk, and - oh fuck.

X.
"Got your back, man…" Ryuji's fist bumps lightly against his own after they help each other back on their feet. Goro is still dizzy from the first spell, but more importantly, he can't get his mind around what just happened. Ryuji took the blow for him. For Goro. Just like he does with his friends.


ANN/THE LOVERS

I.
The girl counterpart to Sakamoto. Blond, dumb, loud, and why does Kurusu have so many annoying sidekicks? She keeps talking like she and Goro are friends, and either tries to hold his hand or hangs onto his arm each time they cross each other's path. At least she's pretty enough to look at.

II.
She so bad at acting it's painful to watch. That's why Goro intervenes and flatters and "Really, officer, what kind of detective would I be if I let my friends skip school?" He's not sure why she and the other Thieves are out there at this hour, but he still gets a kiss on the cheek for his help.

III.
Takamaki gifts him with a small cactus. He's utterly baffled. People give him books, sweets, coffee mugs, plushies, not prickly plants. He asks her why. She laughs, says it reminded her of him. He considers throwing it away, but decides to keep it anyway.

IV.
Her warm smile falters when she speaks of her parents, how they're not around much, if at all. "At least you have some", he wants to snap, but maybe having absent parents is not much better than dead (or soon to be) ones, so he stays quiet.

V.
The hand-holdings become hugs whenever they meet. Always fast and quick, and he never has the time to protest. So he accepts them grudgingly, and her arms linger around his shoulders for a bit longer after that, but he doesn't mind so much.

VI.
"Nice moves, Crow!" He wants to melt in shame, but Ann doesn't seem to mock him. Instead, she tries to imitate the little dance steps that Goro just pulled after their first all-out attack. When even Ryuji joins them, Goro lets himself relax and accepts to show them how it's done. They have fun.

VII.
She shares a cake with him and Haru. The charlotte looks delicious, and he has his lips wrapped around her proffered spoon before he thinks better of it. He licks his lips afterwards and imagines he can taste her under the raspberry filling.

VIII.
Ann is more than the pretty shape perfected for the public's gaze. She has hidden secrets, flaws and ambitions, just like him, and as he watches her shed her public image with the Thieves, some part of him wonders if maybe they would accept the Goro Akechi under the mask too.

IX.
He wakes in the middle of the night, desperately hard, and at first, he thinks of red latex and high boots and zippers, but it soon turns to caresses in his hair, lingering hugs, and warm smiles, and he spills with her name on his lips like a soft prayer.

X.
She introduces him to her best friend Shiho. "Takamaki talks a lot about you," he says, and smiles candidly, knowing how much this girl is important to Ann. "So does she about you," Shiho replies with a knowing smile. Goro has a hard time focusing on the rest of the discussion.


YUSUKE/THE EMPEROR

I.
...what the hell is wrong with this guy? Did he seriously ask Goro to pose naked? He's kidding... right?

II.
Goro doesn't care for art. He finds it boring as fuck. But still, he pretends to listen and smiles while Kitagawa raves on and on about impressionism and surrealism and other shit Goro has no interest in. Well, at least the guy is passionate. That's almost admirable.

III.
That painting in Leblanc... Goro wants to tear it apart. Kitagawa doesn't deserve having a mother who smiles at him like he's her whole world, like he's not some terrible burden to her, like he doesn't have to be left alone with the cold body and the silence and the "please-wake-up-mom"...

IV.
Of course Kitagawa would see the bruise left by Shido's fist, despite the concealer. Skin tones not matching or whatever bullshit. When he asks, Goro smiles and wonders aloud if Kitagawa ever worried about Madarame's other pupils too. A low blow, but at least the other boy backs away.

V.
They're loners, the both of them. Kitagawa often stands at the edge of the group meetings, rarely speaks, and goes back to his own dormitory in his own school by himself, and Goro doesn't feel as bitter and alone as usual when he goes back to his own silent apartment.

VI.
Did Yusuke just compare him to a lobster? Goro should feel offended, but with the other teen's effusive admiration of the crustaceans... maybe it's a compliment? A very twisted one, but a compliment, nonetheless. Damn, he's blushing now, and Yusuke smiles even more.

VII.
He stumbles, and Goro grabs at him with a worried frown. "Sorry," Yusuke says. "I seem to have forgotten to eat today." A silence, and as Goro stares, the other teen adds with reluctance. "...again..." Goro sighs and gives him the apple he was keeping for lunch. Yusuke obviously needs it more than he does.

VIII.
The Sayuri's smile still hurts, but Goro's gaze keeps steering towards her every time he sits at Leblanc's counter. "What do you see?", Yusuke asks. "Regrets. Bitterness." Goro answers. Then, after a moment: "...Loneliness." Yusuke hums softly.

IX.
Yusuke takes one look at his latest bruises and drags him back despite his protests to his dormitory in Kosei. Goro spends the night there, face covered in healing salve, watching the boy sleeping in the other futon, and yearns for his slender hands on him again, on every part of his body this time.

X.
Yusuke slams into the shadow that downed Goro like an avenging god. He doesn't see much of the fight, too preoccupied with the gaping wound in his chest, but Yusuke's mouth is a tight line when he approaches later, and only relaxes when he's made sure that Goro is going to be okay.


MAKOTO/THE PRIESTESS

I.
Sae's sister is a bootlicker little miss-perfect, just like he thought. She's infuriating. Always perfectly polite, always answering every question asked, as if she's smarter than anyone, as if she knows better than him. Goro is worth hundreds of her.

II.
It's no wonder her father was killed. That's what you get when you put your nose into powerful people's affairs. But did she learn the lesson? No. She decided to go and provoke Kaneshiro with her friends. Shido is pissed off, now. That's as good as a death sentence for her group...

III.
"94? That's a nice score. Congratulations on your exams." She's polite, but he can feel the smug tone under her voice, and it makes him boil with fury. This is the last time he accepts interviews instead of studying full-time before the exams. Next time, he's going to trounce her.

IV.
Of course she would be upset, after seeing her friends almost mauled by the things conjured by her sister's mind. "How does it feel to see the ugliness of your last relative's soul?" He almost asks bitterly. "Do you want to annihilate every last part of her too?"

V.
It shouldn't be so easy to obey her orders. She's a general in the Metaverse, and while Akira leads the battles, she's the one managing their progression through the palace. But she's good at it. Now, when working alone in Mementos, the lack of directions makes him restless and anxious.

VI.
Makoto is crying. He hadn't realized the stress she was in until this very moment. It feels like a kick to his guts, seeing her crumple like this. She's supposed to be always strong, always in control, always proud and perfect and wonderful. Damn Sae for doing this to her.

VII.
She smiles at him during a baton pass. "You did good." Of course he did good. He's better than any of them. But still, he can't contain the pride her words awaken inside him. She hasn't seen anything yet. He'll show her what he's capable of, just to see the admiration in her eyes again.

VIII.
His hair is getting too long, and she offers to cut it for him. He accepts and sits with her in Akira's room, immobile and quiet despite the sharp instrument moving so close to his throat, and she doesn't seem to realize how much trust she's holding in her hands right now.

IX.
Her eyes are on him, and his heart is beating faster than ever. She tells him to kneel, and he's down before he even processes the words, and reaching for her, desperately, until his eyes blink open. Goro curses, and has to miserably drag himself out of bed and into a cold shower.

X.
Makoto is in need of a pen, and he eagerly scrambles through his suitcase to lend her the nicer one he owns. He tells himself it's because he must continue to play the role of the helpful teammate, not because of his desperate yearning for any crumbs of her approval.


FUTABA/THE HERMIT

I.
Is this Wakaba Isshiki's daughter? Shit, the situation couldn't get worse. Now he has to play nice with a girl who would have every reason to tear out his eyes if she ever learned the truth about him.

II.
She's staring at him. She can't know, can she? Of course not. He was careful. But god, he tries his best, but he can't hold her gaze for more than a few seconds. She looks too much like her mother. And. She. Keeps. Fucking. Staring.

III.
He avoids her like the plague, but she always seems to know when he's coming to Leblanc, because she's either already there or shows up not a minute later. She asks questions, lots of them, and he has no idea what her pensive hums and evil cackles mean when he answers.

IV.
He makes a mistake during a meeting, puts a hand on her shoulder in a friendly pat, and a second later, her teeth are embedded in his hand like a vicious bear trap. She stammers and apologizes, and berates him for startling her, but he feels he deserved it. Her apology didn't sound like a real one anyway.

V.
Seeing her interact with Sakura-san is both painful and touching. He's… somewhat relieved she's doing okay. He remembers all too well the trauma of losing his own mother. Isshiki wasn't supposed to die, but it's not like this knowledge will do her any good. Still, he wishes things had been different.

VI.
Futaba's face when some trivia about Featherman escapes his mouth is worth the humiliation of it. She's squealing in excitement and asking him about his favorite characters in the same breath, and then drags him to her room to show off her impressive collection of figurines.

VII.
"I miss my mom," she says, and he flinches, hard. "...I'm sorry about her," he replies, and finds that he means it, so very much. She assesses him for a moment and shrugs. "You're alright." She pauses, then pats him twice on the head before leaving, and he doesn't know what to make of the gesture nor the words.

VIII.
He finds himself roped into an expedition to Akihabara, and ends up giving her a piggyback ride. "You have something stuck to your back," Akira deadpans when he finds them. "I know," Goro replies, still dumbfounded. "She won't let go of me…" But she's light. And she's warm. He kinda likes it.

IX.
He traces the scabs of her bite mark over and over, imagines her teeth digging in his ear, in his lips, in his tongue, and has to suppress a guilty shiver at the thought. He shouldn't. It's bad. She's two years younger than him. He killed her mom. He plans to betray them. He shouldn't...

X.
He doesn't hesitate for one second when he sees the shadow charging at Futaba. It fucking hurts, but the pain is worth it when he sees her unharmed and safe. She's safe. She's safe...


HARU/THE EMPRESS

I.
He smiles charmingly at her, and she frowns and backs away immediately. It's the first time a girl does that in front of him. He falters and doesn't know what to make of it. He tries to forget about it in the following days, but the memory keeps pestering him.

II.
She keeps avoiding him, never meets his eyes, and her strained voice sounds so forced when she talks to him... He almost feels vexed. OK, not almost. He's absolutely pissed off. What the fuck is wrong with her?

III.
He's going to kill that father of hers, without remorse. How can she passively accept being bartered around like a fucking piece of meat? Does she have no pride whatsoever?! Why would she let him dictate her very existence? It's not like he did shit for her, except ruin her life, right?!

IV.
Of course, she could never do such a thing herself; she's too gentle, but surely she'd understand? He would pull the trigger, and she would forgive him, someday, for freeing her while absolving her of the guilt of doing it herself. Of course she would... of course...

V.
All the Thieves are there with her for the funeral. He's not sure why he was invited, and feels guilty even if he wasn't the one to end Okumura's life. But when he shows up, Haru greets him just like the others. She smiles at him for the first time, a sad and bittersweet smile that almost feels like forgiveness.

VI.
"He wasn't a good father," she confesses to him one evening, while they sit together in a quiet corner of Leblanc. "But still, he was the one who raised me and made me the person I am today. I owe him a lot." He disagrees with her, she doesn't owe him anything, but... he thinks he can understand her, somewhat.

VII.
They cross paths in Ueno's park and walk together for a moment. She speaks with a gardener there and comes back with her hands full of small green sprouts and a wide smile on her face. The sun looks nice in her hair. He accompanies her the rest of the way to Shujin, and arrives late at work for the first time ever.

VIII.
Shido has become more aggressive with him ever since he failed to kill Okumura. Still, when Haru softly brushes her fingers against his and laughs gently with him, his heart thumps violently in his chest, and he thinks the bruises are worth it, so very worth it.

IX.
His mind wanders when thinking about her, to what it would be like, to hold her in his arms, to drag his hands under her sweater and along her neck, to kiss the moans from her lips and feel her body tremble underneath his. He has a hard time chasing the thoughts from his head.

X.
He sends her the folder he compiled in an anonymous letter. There's not much linking the man in the photos to the poison used on Okumura, but he knows enough of Shido's cohorts to be certain he has the right guy. For the rest, she has lawyers, and maybe it will be enough to bring her some closure.