A/N: I've been in a funk due to everything that's going on in the world and this has been hanging around my mind since I finished Royal, so I'm writing it to try and get out of my funk. It's short and sweet, enjoy!
Disclaimer: I don't own Persona.
A New Beginning
I frowned in confusion as Akira's friends asked where he was. The kid was in juvie, had been since after Christmas, when he had turned himself in. So why did they think that he would be here? As I explained to them where Akira was, I felt a flash of something in my chest. An image flashed before me, had he been here recently? My frown deepened and I felt a something, a pull. He had been to Juvie, hadn't he? Of course he had, then why did I feel as though something was wrong, had something changed? I shook my head, no, everything was as it should be...
...I missed the kid though.
After explaining to his friends what had happened, though why I had to bothered me, I took my leave, giving them time to process everything... and myself. I missed the kid, he had become something of a fixture in the cafe. Seeing the distress on his friends' faces had added to my already growing feelings on the matter. If there was a way to get the kid out of prison, I would. Not only to bring a smile back to Futaba's face, but for my own sense of relief as well.
It would be a lie to say that I wasn't excited when Nijima had come to me with a way for me to help get the kid out of prison. I had done everything could, had said as much I could and omitted quite a bit- anything to help. In the end, with the help of so many others- the kid had made so many friends during his time here. Not that that surprised me, the kid had grown on myself as well- he was the only male number I kept on my phone, after all.
Things were tense while we waited for Nijima to sort out getting Akira out, apparently my stress had affecting my coffee as well, at least that's what I'd been told- I hated the idea that my culinary skills were struggling because of the kid, he was going to have to make it up to me when he got out.
When I finally got news of his release, I'll admit that I had nearly, nearly, cried. Okay, I had shed a few manly tears when Futaba had hugged me with excitement before running off to get the return party ready. Then the cat had come up to me for a cuddle, and more manly tears had rolled from my eyes- I missed the kid, okay?
When he had come back, the kids friends had set up a wonderful party for him. The smile on Akira's face had been made everything worth it. I had been so happy to see him again, and it had been great to see him so happy. I had stepped back, preferring to watch from behind the counter- I was old, and the kids hadn't seen each other in so long. Akira lived here, I could see him whenever I wanted.
When the party had finished, it was late, his friends had left and I was tidying when I heard the sound of clinking plates, I turned to see Akira stacking plates.
"Hey Kid," I called out. "You just got out of prison, rest up I'll do this."
Akira had smiled and continued collecting the bowls- I always liked that about Akira, how helpful he was. "I may be out of prison, but that doesn't mean that I can't still help you." he carried the bowls and plates over to the sink. "You did so much for me, I want to thank you, for everything."
I smiled, warmth filling in my chest. "Hey don't get all sappy on me kid." I stepped away from the kitchen area. "If you want to clean, have at it." I crossed my arms and grinned as he blanched.
"Hey! I said I'll help, not do it all!"
I had laughed at that, I had missed the kid. As the days went by though, I noticed that something was off with the kid. He seemed... depressed? At first I thought that it was him adjusting to life out of juvie, but something felt off. Kid had no appetite, barely ate his curry! I tried to act as normal as I could, to try to let him ease back into it all, and I feel that it helped, but I could still tell that something was wrong. He was working through something.
It would be valentines when I would find out what, or at least one of, the things affecting him was.
When Valentines came along I watched as Akira sat with his two guy friends, moping about not having a girl to spend the day with- well Ryuji was moping, Akira and Yuske seemed to be simply enjoying the company. If I was honest, I was surprised that Akira didn't have a girlfriend. He knew so many pretty girls, especially that Ann girl- she seemed to be always caring for the kid.
I suppose, it wasn't much of my business, if the boy didn't want a girl, he didn't want a girl... that being said, perhaps it was time for me to give the kid some romance advice.
I listened to Ryuji moan something about being lonely again and I resisted the urge to rub at my temples. Perhaps I should take them out for something to eat? If only so that they have something to do instead of sitting in the cafe booth moping. It was then I heard Ryuji complain about something and I let out a sigh. I felt sorry for him, I really did but he wasn't wooing anyone with that attitude. So, after giving them some dating advice, I took them out.
When I caught Ryuji giving Akira some chocolate, a thought occurred to me, I wonder if perhaps there was a reason Akira didn't have a girlfriend...
...but why Ryuji?
The thought bothered me while we had dinner. Ryuji was a nice boy, a good person, but was he what Akira needed? I watched the way Ryuji would smile at Akira through the evening, but Akira did not seem to notice, and when he did the smile he gave was a friendly one, not a romantic one. It made me feel a little sad, clearly it was one sided.
I sympathised with the kid. Hell, I had felt similar years ago, so I knew how the kid would feel as time went by... then again, perhaps I was wrong, perhaps Ryuji didn't feel that way... I doubted it, you don't deal with as many women as I had to not know how people were when they were in love.
Either way, it was none of my business, Akira was a big boy, he could look after himself.
When we had finished our meal, and after taking the other two boys home, I drove us back to the cafe. It was late, but when I got there, I took him inside and went about making some coffee for us. While making the drink, I looked over at the kid who was sitting in one of the booths, staring down at the table. He seemed, oddly quiet, quieter than usual. Something was bothering the kid, he had been quite during the meal as well.
I prepared our mugs before looking up at the teen. Perhaps I should ask him? We had gotten close during his time here and while I may not be much help with his phantom thief business, I could certainly offer advice in a myriad of other topics.
Hopefully it was relationship problems, that was something I had experience with. As I opened my mouth to ask him what was going on, he adjusted his coat and pulled out a... a glove? A nice black leather glove. I felt my brow crease in confusion. It wasn't that cold in here was it? No it couldn't be, at my age- not that I'm old!- you feel the cold easier, and I wasn't feeling cold at all. Maybe Akira was more sensitive to the cold than I thought? Guilt twisted in my gut, poor kid was sensitive to the cold and I had made him sleep in the attic where it was probably freezing, what kind of guardian was I?
As I prepared the hot drinks- hopefully it would warm Akira up- I took occasional glance at the boy and I was surprised to see that Akira had not put the glove on, or even pulled out its partner. I quietly filled the mugs and while I did, I damn near dropped the one I was holding. Akira had lifted the mug to his nose and inhaled. His eyes closing in bliss before scrunching in pain. He then placed the glove to his forehead briefly then hastily hid it back in his coat.
I frowned. For some reason I felt as though I had seen something that I should not have. Something sacred, intimate. I lifted the mugs and walked over to the kid. "Here kid." I said as I passed the mug to him. He said a thanks and went about drinking. I continued to study him as I drank mine. Now that I thought about it, had I seen the glove before? I felt as though I had, but where?
Flashes of a boy shined in my mind. A boy with brown hair and black gloves.
My eyes widened. That's right, from what I remembered the boy had died saving them in 'Shido's Palace'- at least that was my understanding, I tried not to think too much about those palace things... back to the topic, if that was Akechi's glove that Akira had been holding, then...
I held back a sad sigh. Apparently the kid and I had something in common.
Akechi was Akira's Wakaba.
I had to wonder though, hadn't that Akechi kid been the one to 'kill' Akira? I remember seeing the kid here a few times and Akira had hung out with him a few times before he had been 'killed' by the detective. Had there been more to their relationship? Or had this been one sided on Akira's side, or perhaps their relationship was something that couldn't be named, it simply was- that would certainly explain their actions, or at least my understanding of their actions.
Either way, it didn't really matter. If the kid was upset over Akechi's death, there wasn't much I could say or do to make him feel better. The most I could do would be to be there when he needed me.
"You know kid..." I said, catching the kid's attention. "Even though you're leaving soon, you need anything, anything, you let me know."
The boy blinked, then smiled warmly.
A month after the kid left, I found another reason to add to my ever growing list of reasons that I wish that the kid had stayed.
...and, no, it wasn't just that he was good at keeping the attic clean.
...that was one of the reasons though.
It had been late in the afternoon and I was getting ready to close when I heard the shop door open. Sighing inwardly, I turned to face the customer. "We're closing, sorry-" I froze. The person who stood before me was dead. They couldn't possibly be standing there. Perhaps I was having some sort of stroke? Perhaps Futaba was right and I really did need that holiday. Because there was no way that Goro Akechi was standing in my shop.
He looked at me with unease, which was odd because I don't remember the punk being that easy to read. Perhaps this was a stroke?
"Good day Sakura-san..." he fiddled with the cuff of his jacket, and I noticed his gloves. I went to say something, but he beat me to it. "I was wondering if... if Akira was around?"
An emotion that I couldn't name swirled in my stomach. Flashes of Akira being sad, mourning, this kid flashed through me. While he might not have shown it, Akira had been devastated at the loss. He had never said it, but he hadn't needed to, I had seen him clutching that damned glove enough times when he thought that no one was looking. I had seen his 'hidden' pain. And while Akira suffered, this kid was alive? What the hell was he doing?
"He went home." I said, terser than I had intended- I shouldn't be wasting my anger on this kid.
His eyes widened. "Home, he... oh..." Akechi went silent and seemed to be mulling over my words.
I watched him as he did. He ran one of his gloved hands through his hair and as he did I caught sight of a scar on his forehead. A nasty looking one. I frowned. Hadn't he been shot? I remember someone, possibly Futaba, telling me about how the boy had 'died'. Perhaps the boy hadn't died at all? Perhaps he had been in hospital or receiving some sort of care for that nasty head wound? Though even I had to think that surviving a shot to the head was pretty incredible... but no unheard of.
"Would you like to see him?" I said suddenly, surprising him as well as I.
He eyed me suspiciously and in that moment he reminded me of his old self. "I thought he was at home?"
I shrugged. "He's planning a visit for a week soon, we're still working out the details." I crossed my arms and sent him my best raised brow expression. "If you leave your number I could let you know when he's here? So long as you don't plan to do anything to him." I let my tone tell him that I knew what he had done in the interrogation room.
He seemed to flinch briefly at me but that could have been my imagination- the boy detective I knew, even if that was barely, wasn't the type to be frightened by an old man. I watched as he thought over my words. He stared off into the distance, and I could tell that his mind was somewhere else, far, far, away from me.
"Yes..." he said softly. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a card, he must have planned for something like this, unless he walked around with business cards everywhere? Perhaps he did, he was an odd kid. He placed the card on the bench before focusing his eyes back on me. "Thank you, Sakura-san."
I nodded at him and watched him as he took his leave. As he walked to the door, I noticed a slight limp in his step- it wasn't something that anyone else may have caught, but someone like me, whose job had once been to notice these things, noticed it straight away. What had happened to the kid? I picked up the card and slipped it in my pocket, at the same time my phone buzzed. I pulled it out and opened the message. It was from Futaba.
Tell him when Akira gets here.
I really needed to find where she placed the bugs in the shop...
When Akira had come back for a visit it had been a huge celebration. There had been so many people in the shop that I hadn't known who was who or where I could stand to breathe. The kid was pretty popular and obviously missed more than he probably thought he would be. It was nice that his friends had been able to all come down from their new places for the visit. Even though it hadn't been that long, apparently they had all needed each other.
Akira had been back for two days now- enough time to pry his friends from him, even thought they were having lunch tomorrow- and I was now standing behind the counter of my cafe while Akira wolfed down the curry, and Mona ate some sushi. Watching the way the pair were eating, it was hard to believe that they were being fed back in the county... well I hope they were being fed. I frowned.
"Slow down kid, you'll get sick, they feeding you at home?"
He paused his devouring and swallowed. "Yes, but no curry." his words were short and quick before he went back to eating.
I rolled my eyes and checked the time.
Any time now...
As if my thoughts were some sort of magic spell, the door opened. I watched as Akechi walked in, then froze, as though he had seen a ghost. I remained silent and Akira continued eating his food, but apparently Mona had noticed our guest as the cat let out a sound. I couldn't understand the cat, not the way that the kids did, but I understood that sound, I understood all too well.
At Mona's sound, Akira frowned and turned his head. His eyes widened and his mouth hung open, showing his half chewed food. A moment of silence passed before Akechi made a sound and clenched his fists.
"Really Kurusu, don't you know how to chew your food?"
I almost laughed. Months of not seeing each other, one thinking that the other was dead, and that was the first sentence spoken between them. I watched as Akira hastily swallowed his food and shakily pulled himself up from the stool. His face, his eyes expressing so much. It made an old man like me sad to look at him, to see the raw emotions etched upon his face. I looked over at Akechi and noticed that he wasn't faring much better, a similar expression on his face.
Akira took a step towards the other, and I could feel something shift. There seemed to be a crackle of static electricity feel the air. As much as it sounds like something from an old romance novel, I could feel the energy crackling from the two.
I shouldn't be here for this.
I cleared my throat. "I'm going to go to the shops, watch the cafe for a bit, okay?" I didn't wait for a response, I doubted that I was going to get one anyway. As I opened the door to leave, the cat slipped past my feet. As I closed the door behind me, I felt something in the air change, it felt lighter. I was glad that I had pushed aside my doubts, glad that Futaba had convinced me to call the Akechi kid. For what I had just witnessed was something, something new was happening and I had just witnessed the beginning of it.
...a new beginning for both of them, I wished them all the luck...
The kid deserved it, Akechi too.
A/N: I hope you guys liked it!