Sae’s palace was difficult, of course, nothing he didn’t expect. Akechi knew that Sae was a smart woman, who consistently hid every single problem she had. Of course, her palace would be riddled with stupid puzzles and things they had to do.
One thing that Akechi didn’t expect was how exhausting being with the Phantom Thieves was.
They were constantly underprepared, going after every single shadow with not enough items, even if skipping the shadow would be beneficial for all of them. And they did not take a break. They barely caught their breath in a safe room before Akira commanded them to leave.
That also unnerved him. How everyone just listened to Akira without question, like puppets pulled along by a string.
Akechi constantly felt like falling asleep but he didn’t show any of his weakness, just put on a smile and clenched his fists. How Ryuji survived going on missions with the Thieves and go on missions with Akechi was beyond him. It just made Akechi appreciate him that bit more, tight cuddles and hot chocolate after going into the palace. It was a shame they couldn’t show any affection to each other during missions, not explicitly anyway. Ryuji always stood closer to him than with anyone else, fingers almost grazing, never touching. He always had to join in on the jokes that the Thieves subtly aimed at Akechi, but Akechi was only grateful that they seemed to stop making fun of Ryuji. It was like they constantly had to bully someone.
It was a normal mission (as normal as gambling in a giant cognitive casino could get) when suddenly the Thieves turned their bullying back onto Ryuji. They had all walked into a place called ‘The House of Darkness’, and the shadow claimed it was only slightly dark, a simple maze that they had to find their way around.
Akechi instantly noticed that at the word ‘darkness’, Ryuji tensed up, muscles immediately locking up and freezing him. Sending a questioning glance his way, Akechi walked with the Thieves, glancing back to Ryuji who was lagging behind. Ann laughed, pointing at Ryuji with a manicured finger. “I forgot, he’s scared of the dark,” he changed her voice to something that you would speak to babies with, her eyes glinting evilly. “What’re you gonna do, cry?”
The Thieves laughed, even the ever-stoic Akira smiled. Ryuji coughed awkwardly, hiding his hands behind his back. “No.” His voice wavered ever-so-slightly, something that only Akechi seemed to notice. As they walked into the maze, the door slammed shut behind them, the darkness enveloping them in its cold, suffocating embrace. The Thieves cried out, but Akechi could only think of one person.
Hands scrabbling around, he desperately felt around for him, eyes taking time to adjust to the darkness-even when they did he could barely see, shadows moving weirdly in tiniest light provided by lamps far, far away.
His hand clutched onto leather, and Akechi pulled Ryuji close. The good thing about the dark was that the Thieves couldn’t see them. He could hear them though, bumping into each other and the walls, loudly exclaiming about how they couldn’t see. He would’ve rolled his eyes and muttered something scathing under his breath, but he had something more important to focus on. Gently stroking Ryuji’s hair, Akechi whispered to him. “Remember what I said, focus on my breathing. I’m here,” he repeated the words until Ryuji stopped shaking like a leaf. The Thieves were still fumbling around, so Akechi felt safe enough to take a small risk.
Leaning down, Akechi kissed Ryuji, hands slipping around his waist and squeezing as if to remind him that Akechi was still there. It was a comfort when Ryuji returned the kiss, arms shakily moving up to wrap around his neck. Even when they pulled away, they remained in that position, Ryuji’s head resting on his chest and Akechi pressing soft kisses to his head.
“Crow? Skull?” Futaba called out, and they immediately jumped away from each other, trying not to look like they had just kissed and hugged. With a sigh of relief, Akechi noticed that Ryuji seemed better, not as pale and managing to stand on his own two feet. They gave each other a smile.
“What have you two been doing?” Akira walked in, holding a lamp that he had presumably stolen from a wall. It bathed them in yellow light, flickering and morphing shadows around them. Akira’s eyes flicked back and forth between them, resting on Ryuji for several seconds at a time.
“I-we-I-shit!” Ryuji stammered, taking a step forward and crashing to the floor. Clearly, everything had shaken him up a bit too much. Akira made a ‘tch’ sound, giving Akechi a glare. Akechi frowned. No one had given him such an obvious hint that they hated him before. The whole plan the Thieves had was to make Akechi feel like he was part of the group, and yet their leader was glaring at him? Akira reached forward and hoisted Ryuji up, clinging onto his arm and dragging him away. “The group is over there. Follow us next time.”
Akechi watched the exchange with a small smirk. Something had clicked in his brain, something that would make his and Ryuji’s plan a lot more interesting.
Akira would hate Akechi a lot more if he knew what they were really doing.