A Different Mask
Hi this is bad but I’m posting it anyway
The world of the Phantom Thieves was a hilly one. There were challenges and calm, dangers and warm moments. But all the Phantom Thieves had one thing in common: they went through their pain together. They had been there for each other when nobody else possibly could be. When one Thief couldn’t be there, there was always another to help with whatever pain one had. They were, as they say, thick as thieves. All the Phantom Thieves had reached one unconscious conclusion, as well: none of them had been through as much as their leader. They all agreed on it, even if they didn’t know it.
Akira Kurusu deserved the world.
The group would always be there for each other. Akira knew that fully well. Yet he never leaned on them when things got rough in his head. They all relied on each other, but Akira couldn’t bring himself to put his problems on their shoulders. Whenever his confidence wavered in a Palace, the team was always hyping him up. But that’s all they saw.
They didn’t see his emotions outside the Metaverse. Those were his only secret. They didn’t know about his nightmares. They didn’t know the reason he listened to all of their problems was so they didn’t end up like him. He wanted them to have someone to turn to. So he locked his feelings away to be the cool and collected leader he was. Supposedly.
He kept his trauma inside. He kept the anger he felt when his friends were taunted and teased contained. He tried to make the comments from the kids at Shujin go in one ear and out the other. Whenever someone looked at him with that look of disapproval, he oh so tried to shake it off. But it all made him have days where everything just felt… numb. Like nothing he did mattered. These days were the days he thought about betrayal. Where he thought about his friends leaving him behind. Abandoning him.
Akira Kurusu was scared.
Today was a day where his feelings slipped themselves into every crack of his thoughts they could find. They partially distracted him at school, made his comments to his friends sound half-hearted when he truly meant them, kept his responses to Sojiro short, and made him reluctantly obey Morgana when he told him to sleep.
“Hey, Akira, what’d you get on the third question of the test? I put B, but I’m not very confident in my answers,” Ann sighed, resting her head on her hand. She had her mouth in a pout with her genuine look of unconfidence.
“I got B, too,” Akira responded. He sounded uninterested, but he really wanted to boost Ann’s spirits.
“Oh, great!” Ann said with a smile. “That makes me feel better.”
She spun back around when the next teacher walked in the room. He didn’t miss her look of slight concern while she turned.
“Welcome back. How was school?” Sojiro asked when the bell rang above the door to LeBlanc.
“Good, as always,” Akira responded, it didn’t come out as he intended it to.
Sojiro just laughed softly, “An answer I’d expect from you.”
He frowned as Akira moved towards the stairs, absentmindedly wiping away at a glass.
“So, you ready to go to bed?” Morgana asked later.
“Yep,” Akira replied, sliding under the covers. “I’m tired.”
“For once,” Morgana said sarcastically. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight,” Akira turned on his side and shut his eyes.
He didn’t see Morgana jump on the bed and give him a worried look. He just felt him curl up next to him and release a sigh.
Akira had a nightmare. He was back in Okumura’s Palace. A crowd of worker robots surrounded him and his friends. They had nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. They fought and they fought to no avail. Akira had to watch as his friends fell around him, one by one.
Ann was bleeding from a wound on her head. Makoto’s arm was broken at the elbow, told by it’s odd angle. Yusuke was so beaten he couldn’t stand. Futaba was trapped outside the circle, not hurt but in danger. Morgana was struggling to stay conscious. Ryuji’s leg had given out on him due to the stress. Haru was standing mostly uninjured, but her father’s shadow was pestering her with “Okumura Daughter” duties. Akira was helpless he couldn’t do anything. He was exhausted. He fell to his knees.
“This is what brats like you get for meddling in the wrong business,” Okumura walked to Akira. “You get beat.”
There was a gun shot, but Akira missed it. He woke with a start. He was shaking. He felt lightheaded. He couldn’t focus. He pulled his knees to his chest and squeezed them tight. He didn’t notice Morgana stir next to him.
Morgana didn’t move. He didn’t want to move. He didn’t want to risk Akira’s panic getting worse. Instead he just pretended to shift in his sleep.
Akira’s shaky hand reached for the windowsill. He grabbed his phone and checked the group chat. Nobody had said anything since their final goodnights. He wanted to talk with someone, anyone. But who would be awake at this time of night? He gave in.
Akira: Is anyone awake?
Haru: I am.
Makoto: So we’re all awake at this ungodly hour?
Ryuji: i couldnt sleep
Ann: Me neither
Ann: I keep falling asleep and waking up again
Haru: I get how you feel, I was just thinking of texting you all myself.
Yusuke: I am only awake because Futaba is keeping me up with her constant messaging.
Futaba: this is important stuff im sending you!
Yusuke: You are sending me pictures of foxes in costumes.
Makoto: So in one way or another… We all are having a struggle with sleeping.
Ryuji: thats what it looks like
Ryuji: aww man i wish we could meet up
Ryuji: im not even sure if i feel tired anymore
Ann: I mean, it’s almost 5, we could meet up anyways?
Makoto: When did everyone go to bed?
Haru: Nine ‘o clock.
Futaba: ive taken naps throughout the day so im not really tired
Makoto: I see.
Makoto: Well, I guess we all got reasonable hours of sleep.
Makoto: I will permit this once, and only because we are all in the same boat here.
Ryuji: all right!
Ann: Yes! I’ve always dreamed of doing something like this!
Yusuke: Where should we meet?
Ryuji: how about Akira’s place? is that ok? the place doesn’t open until 8, right?
Akira: Yeah, it should be fine.
Haru: What about Mona? Is he awake?
Akira poked the cat with his finger. His hand still felt slightly shaky, but he was calming. Morgana meowed in reply, but rolled onto his side to look up at Akira.
Akira: He’s up.
Futaba: Great! See you all there!
Akira sat his phone screen down on his bed. Morgana now laid on his stomach, his tail swishing around.
“What’s up?” he asked drowsily.
“Everyone’s coming over. No one could sleep except you,” Akira replied, semi-sarcastic.
“Ok, might wanna fix that bedhead of yours a bit, though,” Morgana replied.
Futaba was quick to hop onto Akira’s bed, sitting criss-cross for once. Ryuji sat on one end of the couch and Ann on the other, stretching her legs out across Ryuji’s lap. Makoto and Haru sat on the floor by the sofa. Yusuke simply took a chair.
“Man, I’m glad to be outta my house. There was no chance of me sleepin’ anymore,” Ryuji groaned.
“Every time I shut my eyes, they just wanted to open again,” Ann complained through a partial yawn.
“I would fall asleep for an hour at a time. It’s rare I sleep like that,” Haru shook her head.
“Do we all have something on our mind that’s keeping us up?” Makoto questioned why this was happening.
“Umm… not that I can think of,” Ann answered.
“There’s nothing that would keep me up at night except Futaba,” Yusuke commented.
“Shut it, Inari,” Futaba responded.
Akira fumbled for words. He ran a hand through his hair in thought. While the others maintained a steady conversation on sleep habits, Akira was lost in his thoughts. He wanted to tell them. He didn’t want to keep his emotions a secret anymore, they deserved to know. They cared about him and should know when he’s feeling down. But how could he start? He didn’t have to.
“Akira? You ok?” Morgana asked, tail swishing. “You look kind of out of it.”
“Now that he mentions it, ya do, dude. What’s up?” Ryuji is quick to follow up.
Akira hesitates, “There… There’s something I need to tell you all.”
Akira talked the most he had ever talked at once then. He told them about his nightmares of losing them and everything he’s ever known. He told them about his emotions building up and how he felt like crap on those certain days. He poured his heart out in a matter of minutes because he wanted to stop hiding this. He wanted to stop being scared. He talked about the trial and being sent to Tokyo by his parents and how it made him feel so… abandoned. Betrayed.
“Akira… You know you can talk to us, man,” Ryuji was frowning though he was definitely concerned.
“Yes, you will always be one of us,” Yusuke spoke, sitting on the edge of his seat.
“Mhm, text me whenever and I’ll be sure to respond!” Futaba nodded encouragingly.
“We will always be there for you, Akira,” Makoto had slid closer and placed a hand on his knee. “Wherever we may be, we will always be willing to talk.”
Akira felt his hands get shaky again. But there was no fear or panic this time, just relief. They still saw him as Joker, their leader. Their tactician. Their friend.
“I never would have known this affected you so much if you hadn’t told us,” Ann frowned guiltily.
“Yeah, I feel bad,” Ryuji looked sad. He faced Akira seriously. “Just worry about yourself, man, before you worry about what others say.”
“They don’t know you like we do, anyways,” Futaba added.
Akira nodded. His face was hot. He was struggling to keep his shaky hands under control. He felt tears welling behind his eyes. Why was he still trying to keep his emotions in?
“I’m glad you told us about this,” Haru smiled at him warmly.
“You can surely rely on us as much as we have relied on you, leader,” Yusuke says assuringly.
Futaba quickly hugged Akira’s arm when he began to cry. It ended up with all of the Phantom Thieves on or around his bed. Ann was on his other side, head on his shoulder. Ryuji sat on the other side of Futaba, his hand lingering close to Akira. Makoto was kneeling in front of him, clasping a hand in both of hers. Yusuke and Haru sat in chairs on either side of her, leaning in close to fill the circle.
Akira’s free hand was on his face, wiping away tears that kept being replaced. Morgana squeezed in and curled up in his lap, nudging him with his nose.
“We’re a team, Akira. Teammates never leave another behind,” he said, closing his eyes.
The Phantom Thieves of Hearts had always had one thing in common: they shared their pain together. And they all awakened to one more thing; Akira Kurusu deserved the world.