Ryuji used to like Akira. A lot. He was touch starved and so hopelessly hungry for love that he wasn’t surprised when he caught feelings. Akira was the first person who had shown him any affection, even if it was muted and barely there, subtle smiles over ramen and small gestures.
Then he changed.
Invitations to hang out were refused with an apology at first, then a ‘no’ and then a roll of his eyes. So Ryuji stopped asking, his heart twisting whenever he saw Akira out with other people, ignoring Ryuji’s wave. It wasn’t like the other people were any better. Ann’s shrill laugh pierced his ears on multiple occasions every time they walked past together, her eyes turning to gloat at him.
Look, she seemed to say with her eyes. Look at how I’m hanging out with him, not you. No one cares about you.
Ryuji just accepted what he was given, laughing as best as he could at the jokes aimed at him, clenching his fists as every word shot an arrow into his heart, twisting and spilling blood everywhere. It hurt when Akira smiled too, bigger than he had ever done with Ryuji. The only way Ryuji could make Akira laugh was when he was the butt of a joke. As more people joined, it got worse. The cat had started it all-he had some hatred for Ryuji that he couldn’t understand. Ann was supposed to be his middle school friend, but she joined in, eyes glinting with malice. Yusuke was one of the nicer ones, and even then he was cruel, eyes going through Ryuji, ignoring him simply because he was ‘crude’ and ‘incapable of being a work of art as the others’. Everything hurt. He let it happen though because friends were like that, weren’t they? They made jokes. They didn’t mean to hurt him, right?
Then Akechi walked into his life.
The Phantom Thieves hated Akechi, even more than they hated Ryuji. He never could quite understand why they hated him so much, watching the news with confusion. Akechi was handsome, Ryuji had concluded from that news watch session, as the rest complained incessantly about Akechi. Maybe even prettier than Akira. Akechi’s voice was nicer anyway. And Akira didn’t seem as appealing anymore, not after he had laughed with the rest about him.
Ryuji’s feelings for Akira had disappeared in seconds after he left Ryuji with men who clearly had bad intentions, let them drag Ryuji away and only responded with a ‘see you later’ when Ryuji yelled for help.
It was Akechi who had sat with him in the alleyway, had gently comforted him, taken him to a safe place, talked without poking fun at him and accepted Ryuji, panic attacks and all. Akechi took him out to different places where they had fun without needing to make jokes about Ryuji. They had fun together. They were comfortable together. The familiar warm feeling had come back, but ten times stronger, twisting and unfurling into a crush. He had fallen hard. He didn’t mind it, taking moments like when Akechi smiled at him all sweet and storing it into his mind. He cuddled the Shiba Inu plush Akechi had given him all the time.
When Ryuji first heard about the ‘black mask’, he had reacted like everyone else: disgusted that anyone would kill. But, as hatred for the Phantom Thieves and how they treated him began to appear, he began to consider the idea carefully. The people killed must’ve deserved the killings, like the people he changed the hearts of. Killing Kamoshida (which they should’ve done) wouldn’t’ve hurt anyone, and would’ve got rid of the one person Ryuji hated the most. Madarame was a fraud and Kaneshiro was a murderer. Scum of the earth. No one would’ve cared.
Ryuji’s brain wasn’t stupid, and when clues about the murderer started to appear, he slowly pieced things together. Akechi. To his surprise, Ryuji’s heart didn’t sink, and he didn’t feel betrayed.
He wanted to join Akechi, slaying anyone that got in their way. The idea consumed him, daydreams about leaving the Phantom Thieves for Akechi flooding his mind.
“Let me join.”