Author: thundercow PM
Akihiko and Mitsuru and why they call each other by their first names. — Akihiko, Mitsuru.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship - Akihiko S. & Mitsuru K. - Words: 4,847 - Reviews: 14 - Favs: 47 - Follows: 2 - Published: 03-31-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6860852
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
notes – I adore the Akihiko-Mitsuru dynamic. And while I like seeing them involved on a romantic level, I am completely in love with the idea that they are the closest, most platonic friends ever. But eh, some parts in this piece seem rather romantic, so… tell me what you think?
Akihiko tries to turn the doorknob and enter the dormitory, but it's locked.
He stands on the normal-looking stoop in front of the fancy but otherwise normal-looking door, on a normal-looking street with one lumpy shoulder bag in his hands. He doesn't have many things in his possession, never really did, so all he packs are his clothes and his toothbrush and some books he reads when no one is around.
He hears boots clinking against pavement and turns around to see a girl with her red hair tied up in elaborate curls striding up the street to the porch of their new home. She's physically his age, but mentally far beyond. Then everything becomes abnormal, because seeing her reminds him of last week when the moon drowned in yellow and the city was all splattered in green. It reminds him of the empty gun hiding in his bag and the sleepless nights he's had since then.
"Good morning, Sanada," she says as she walks up the stairs with one suitcase. Behind her, a polished limousine pulls away from the driveway in the most discreet manner it can manage.
"Kirijo," he replies to accommodate her. Even her name is grand and affluent; everything seems to fall into place for her, from the pretty colour of her hair to the spelling of her name, everything about her is aligned just so that she becomes this amazing, elegant person.
He shifts aside to let her slot the key into the lock. The heels of her boots raise her so that she's barely taller than him, and it makes him unsettled. She makes him jealous of many things, but he doesn't say it because she's given him a gun and a place to stay and a brand new school uniform for the high school they're going to.
And as she opens the door and leads them into their dorm, he wonders if this is all they will ever be – two kids with supernatural powers in a dorm, stuck on formalities and maintaining a distance of two feet between each other.
When he steps out of the dorm, he sees Mitsuru getting into the same limousine from the day before.
"Would you like a lift?" she asks him when she spots him standing still on the sidewalk.
Akihiko shakes his head and bows in a tense motion before turning around and slinging his schoolbag over his shoulder.
One night a Shadow rises out from the dark side of the street and rears over both of them. It looks demented, with eyes fluorescent bright and a large mouth lined with toxic teeth. Its claws are larger than its misshapen body, and it looms over them and manages to block out the moon with its sheer size. The girl next to him freezes, the gun in her hand doesn't move to her forehead and he's shouting "Kirijo! Kirijo!" but she won't respond because she's having a flashback or an inner crisis of some sort. The Shadow leers at her paralysis and starts to target her, and he's desperate to do something but the gun shivers against the side of his head and he can't concentrate enough to pull Polydeceus out of him –
"Mitsuru!" he yells, and it snaps her out of it.
She shoots herself in one clean motion, and the air around them starts to freeze.
"I apologise for my behaviour."
They are walking back to the dorm as the Dark Hour leaks away, her hands hugging her arms.
He doesn't speak. If anything, he's both worried and disappointed by her performance. Mitsuru watches him from the corner of her eyes before she begins to talk.
"I was the only Persona user of the Kirijo family," the words sound uncertain, lacking in the confident quality he associates to her. He nods, and the girl exhales a breath before continuing. She recounts nights in a sanitized laboratory, with wires poked into her and the constancy of sharp pricks on the back of her skull. She shudders when she tells him about the haunting image of masked doctors with their large gloved hands and the bright lights of the room.
He doesn't know what to do, he's only known this girl for over a month – but he just says the clearest words in his mind; "I'll protect you if that ever happens again."
She looks startled, but then she eases into a more relaxed stance and her shoulders drop, and there's a slight smile of endearment spreading across her face.
"Thank you for listening, Sanada," she says.
"Call me Akihiko," he tells her, "I mean, since I prefer calling you Mitsuru." It tones down her intimidating glamour, makes her seem more down-to-earth and natural.
She gives him a puzzled look, like she can't process his words.
"I've never addressed a friend by their first name," she admits while stepping over a puddle of water.
As much of a paradox it is, Akihiko sort of understands the reason behind those words. He gives her a light touch on the shoulder to get her attention before saying: "I don't mind."
"Aren't there formalities to this? Doesn't it need to be with someone you're extremely intimate with?" Mitsuru chews her lip, utterly perplexed.
"Not that I can think of," he replies, words calm.
Mitsuru is flustered by the revelation, but she ends up forgoing his last name after a bout of persuasion. His name wobbles in her throat in the beginning, but by the next week she becomes familiar enough to greet him in the morning without stuttering or finding it unusual.
And it takes her just a month before she starts using it liberally. She turns his first name into a lethal reprimand with the tone she uses and the way she crosses her arms. Akihiko doesn't mind, though he doesn't know why.
Maybe it's because it seems that she's comfortable like this – on first-name basis and scouring the streets every alternate midnight. Akihiko ponders for a bit, and decides that he's comfortable with it too.
He takes back the assumption that she was 'mentally far beyond' him, because, really, she's just as unsure and confused being a teenager and life in general as much as he is. Akihiko wakes up early one morning because he intends to include an extra kilometer in his jogging route, and catches someone fumbling around in the kitchen at five-am. At first he thinks it's a clumsy robber of some sort, tightening his fist – but then he realizes that it's Mitsuru.
He has to stare for a while though, just to make sure. Her hair is in a complicated tangle and curled up at the ends, her eyes half-open and her white nightgown crumpled over her like a ghost's body. She's holding an innocent mug of water in her hands, and doesn't seem to notice he's standing and gawking just there at the shady corner of the lounge. Akihiko quietly steps away and out the door.
He runs for two more kilometers that day.
When he returns, Mitsuru is back to normal, in her cuffs and clean boots, her bag all packed and waiting on the table. She's examining the nutrition labels on the jars of spread he'd bought last week at the store.
"Which one do you prefer?" she asks as he walks by.
"Peanut butter," he says, grabbing a bottle of cold water out of the fridge.
"Isn't it unhealthy in comparison to the jam?" Mitsuru wraps her mind around the idea.
"But it tastes nice," Akihiko explains. It's odd that he's defending peanut butter of all things – but then again, life had taken a turn for the bizarre ever since he started talking to Mitsuru.
When they first approach Tartarus, just the two of them and a great deal of courage and curiosity, Mitsuru's pace is slower than it should be. He turns to her and asks her if she's fine.
"I was always afraid to come here." Her hands twist the material of her belt and her fencing lance wobbles with doubt. "This was where I realized my Potential, where my father nearly got killed by a Shadow," she says.
"But this is where all the answers lie, Mitsuru!" Akihiko tugs her along by the wrist.
"This isn't a game, Akihiko!" she bites down on the words. It's the first time she's raised her voice at him, the first time she loses her cool and betrays the anger he's always noticed flitting about in her eyes. He stops walking and she halts behind him, he can feel her standing close to his back, just barely a step away from burying into his vest and hiding from the sight of Tartarus.
"You can't let fear stop you, you have to keep moving." He looks over his shoulder. They are standing before the grand, towering doors of the midnight castle.
"We're in this together, just like you said," he reminds her, just as she steps out from behind him and levels herself with the closed entrance. She chuckles like she's trying to say 'silly me, I forgot'. She rests her hands on the surface of the doors. He positions his old leather gloves next to her symmetrical red fingernails.
Then – one-two-three- push.
He dashes through the lounge, wearing his shoes in a hurry while opening the front door. They'd had a long night from the spike in Shadow activity around the town, which resulted in him oversleeping. Behind him, Mitsuru is scrambling down the stairs, everything tucked into place, but otherwise just as frantic as him. He notices that she's let her hair down today, and it suits her.
She slips on her boots while he holds the door open, and they're suddenly grinning at each other like two crazy teenagers with an agenda.
"Would you like a lift today?" she asks, her chest still heaving from rushing through the morning.
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
He slides into the limousine with her and slams the door shut.
Akihiko realizes that he's never considered the fact that they could get seriously injured from running around courting fights with Shadows. And when it does happen, he feels the blood draining from his face and pooling into the fabric of Mitsuru's shirt.
The girl winces, but the wound is remedied by Polydeuces and Penthesilea's combined healing magic. They wrap up the SEES activity for the night after Akihiko lands the finishing punch on the Shadow in question, and Mitsuru, at first glance, seems completely fine.
She limps a little on the way, and he moves to grab her elbow to support her, but she holds up a hand to tell him that she's alright. He puts his hand on her arm anyway, and helps her along until they're back at the dorm.
When he's in his room preparing to sleep, he hears a crash through the thin ceiling and he's already halfway up the stairs to the girls' quarters. There's only ever her and him and sometimes Ikutsuki, so there really isn't anything stopping him apart from moral restraint, but Akihiko's engaged with more important matters.
He's never been to the third floor, and he finds Mitsuru's room on the second door. She's getting up from her position on the carpeted floor of her room, which is twice the size of his, holding a roll of bandages in her hands. He hurries to her side and helps her back onto the seat of the white cushioned couch. Her shirt is rolled up and it lets him see that even after using Dia, there's a thin line on her waist and he can spot the pinkness of the flesh if he squints hard enough.
Wordlessly, he takes the bandages from her and gives her a look. She hesitates, before putting her hands on her shirt, lifting it a centimeter more to give him better access. He is careful as much as he is skillful, this is the first time he's patching up someone other than himself.
He takes in all the little details from the wrinkles of her shirt to the faint scars on her hands and legs where the pale skin shows. It amazes him that he hadn't noticed them before. But even the blemishes look intricate and refined on her skin.
"You're a tough one," he comments as he winds the bandages around her slim waist.
The corner of her lip lifts and she whispers 'thank you', and there's just a hint of emotion in her words that tell him that maybe she's more than just some rich heiress with perfect hair.
Their first year blends into their second year in high school underneath their notice.
He senses that the waters between Mitsuru and him are shifting, that he's starting to understand her more than he thought he ever could. But with the closeness, there comes downsides. Mitsuru has a suffocating, mothering side to her that rears its head every time he receives a bruise from his boxing matches. It pins him down with a fierce glare when he forgets pseudo-important details like the time he'd told her he would be back by or his promise to clean up after his meals in the kitchen.
Akihiko doesn't think much of her temper until one day, he slips up. It's not entirely his fault – growing up in the orphanage, there never was an outright rule that prevented the kids from running in and out of each other's rooms. Shinjiro had moved in with them too. Akihiko made it a routine to barge into his room anytime he'd wanted to see what Shinji was up to, prompting them to head out for a bowl of steaming ramen.
One night, he chooses to talk to Mitsuru instead because Shinji is out roaming the streets. Except, he finds out that Mitsuru's not accustomed to his culture at all. She doesn't take well to his mellow disregard for privacy, not at all.
He just opens her door and walks in, spotting her sitting at her study desk completing her homework. Before he can speak, Mitsuru's slammed the pen in her hand onto the table, and her brows knot and her eyes narrow, and she's suddenly transformed into this furious-looking lady. "What are you doing, Akihiko?" she demands, and his name sounds like a swear word.
"What? What's the big deal? I just came to ask you i– "
"How dare you barge into a woman's room without even knocking? I cannot believe this ungentlemanly behavior of yours!"
Akihiko thinks he should be confused, but he feels more terrified by the tone of her voice than anything else.
"Ungentlemanly? You don't understand, Mitsuru, I just thought I'd ask if you wanted to grab a bite to eat since the fridge is empty an–"
"I don't want to hear your excuses. It's simply disrespectful to intrude into a woman's private space!" Mitsuru adopts a stance in front of him, the one she adopts when they're out during the Dark Hour.
"What did I do wrong? It's not like you were changing or anything… like… that…" Akihiko's voice falters and diminishes as he watches her lift her Evoker to her temple. Then, all ideas of filling his empty stomach are replaced by fleeing, but it's far too late.
Some things never change though. Shinjiro leaves as quickly as he moves in, unable to forgive himself for what happened. Akihiko thinks that they are merely sixteen and still so ignorant and so inexperienced and that he should just come back already. Mitsuru can't bring herself to help persuade him to return; every day is filled with countless responsibilities to balance – and Akihiko likes this. It makes him feel so alive.
The rain pours down over the dorms. He can hear the tap-dancing of the droplets as they bounce off the roof of the building. It's a peaceful sort of evening and he likes the calm normalcy of the lounge room, it's a respite from the noisy school hallways and the constant company of people. He finds Mitsuru sitting on the sofa with a laptop on the coffee table and a textbook cradled in one arm.
"Test tomorrow?" he asks, pouring a cup of cocoa from the flask on the dining table.
"And a meeting," she adds. One hand flips the pages of the book, the other types furiously on the laptop. She is always busy with something, always on the move and on a job. Akihiko doesn't know enough sixteen-year old girls to give good judgment, but he's pretty sure there isn't any other girl quite like Mitsuru in the city. Maybe in the world, but he isn't willing to think of her so highly, not now, not yet.
"You doing okay handling so much stuff?" The question just comes out of his mouth; he isn't really thinking when he talks.
"Yes," she tells him though the answer feels stiff.
Akihiko doesn't really know how to feel about her at times like these. He thinks she can be strong with all this pretense and perfect posh behaviour, and she might be the strongest person he's ever met, apart from Shinji. But then he thinks again and he supposes that she's probably the saddest person he's ever met, apart from Shinji. She does her homework and examines flickering stocks and patrols the twilight city with her own cultivated responsibility. She's always on top of everything, but it feels like she's only forcing herself to be alert, like it's her duty as the Kirijo heir to stand straight and personify flawlessness.
He stares at her for too long, and she catches him looking at her, tossing and turning his thoughts while scrutinizing her – her hands stop turning pages and typing words.
Mitsuru looks out of the windows, polka-dotted with rain. He thinks he hears her sigh, but he can't tell for sure. Mitsuru is a master at hiding the unsightly parts about being human, he thinks it's both a talent and a shame.
"Do you like me, Akihiko?" she asks like the words made of glass.
"Yes," he says without hesitation.
Mitsuru chuckles, it sounds painful coming out of her. Like she can't bring herself to understand him, or she can't believe that someone could come to like her in a genuine way. She's brutal towards herself sometimes, when no one is looking hard, she gives herself the chance to break a little.
He stands there until she nods her head and puts on a quaint picturesque smile. Then he leaves his cup of cocoa near her and goes up to his room to study.
When his ribs are broken, she gets him to lie on the couch and doesn't allow him to move. And he doesn't, because courting her patented form of execution would be a horrible decision to make at a time like this.
She's already calling the hospital with the dorm's phone, and pouring a cup of water for him to drink.
"Thanks," he tells her after she is done scolding him and reminding him for the umpteenth how he shouldn't treat everything like a game and throwing him concerned but otherwise frustrated glances. He puts a hand on her shoulder and squeezes so that she knows that he means what he says.
Mitsuru seems to soften for just a moment, and she feels warmer than before.
The dorm is filled with more and more threads of voices and embarrassing habits (Yukari leaves her books on the dining table and Fuuka likes to forget where the television remote is, Junpei throws his clothes everywhere and Minato's music plays faintly in the background.) and Akihiko can't help but feel like they're opening a daycare centre of some sort.
He notices Mitsuru smiling just a little more often and sleeping earlier at night though. So he tries talking to the juniors more; he was never quite socially-skilled, but they don't seem to mind. They are polite and oddly funny in all the nonsensical things they like to talk about. They make Akihiko wonder if he's been hanging around Mitsuru for too long, because he can't fully understand what's so funny about that particular joke or what's so interesting about those two classmates holding hands.
In the end, late some nights, he finds Mitsuru in the lounge with her books and her computer, and he joins her for just a while. The two of them sit in their element, enjoying the atmosphere of a boy and a girl with issues that might never be solved and terrible conversational skills and no one else around to notice and intrude, just like old times.
He loses a part of himself when Shinji dies.
Not in front of the juniors though, he manages to bottle up the anguish of reality until they close their doors for the night. Then he cries in his room before he can even shut the door behind himself. He lets the tears blur his vision and soak into his gloves so that he'll always remember this moment whenever he puts them on and steps into the ring.
There is a knock on his door, which already eliminates Junpei because he would never knock. The knock is calm and loud, and he knows who's outside but he can't bring himself to open the door.
Mitsuru's seen him with a terribly black eye and a bloody lip and tears raking his skin, but this is the most vulnerable he'll ever be – and a small voice at the bottom of his heart confesses that she's probably the only person he could show this side to, without being judged.
The door creaks open and she slips into his room anyway; it surprises him because the Mitsuru he knew back then, professional and business-like, would have never done something like this. She stands awkwardly in the middle of his room with her wealthy perfume and ironed skirt as he sits himself on the edge of his bed, wiping away the remaining tears.
She neatens the clutter of papers and textbooks on his desk, it's been so long since he's last studied – so long since he last had a breather. She aligns the books in order of priority and leaves the table tidy, and it's something only a girl like Mitsuru could do, really.
"I don't remember you having this many things when we moved in," she comments, her voice light and testing. She gazes at the medals and trophies lining the shelves of his room, and this makes him turn to all the gold and silvers too. He hasn't really looked at them before – had just thrown them onto an empty space every time he won a competition.
Now he sees how much he's accomplished in the last few years, and how he can't stop here – Shinji would be throwing a big fit if he ever saw him now, slouching on his bed and being comforted by a female.
But this female is different, she's strong and patient and she tries too hard to be the best at times, but she is his closest companion aside from Shinji, all the same.
"I did nothing." She smiles when she sees his face, and it seems to light up the room.
When Mitsuru's father passes on, she lets her walls tumble down for once, and lets him come into her room without knocking. He crouches next to the armchair she's propped herself against and stares at the blankness of her face, the soreness of her eyes. He doesn't say anything, only sheds the leather of his gloves and reaches out to hold her hand.
Her fingers clench around his.
Minato's funeral is a humble affair, silent but meaningful, just as he was.
They take turns to stand in front of the door of his room and say their prayers and wishes for him to come back soon. Yukari and Junpei are up on the third floor for an hour, Ken and Koromaru are much faster, but as they walk back down to the lounge, Ken's eyes are wet and all Koromaru wants to do is to curl up in his favourite corner. Fuuka accompanies Aegis and comes back down alone. When Aegis finally descends from the staircase it is well into the evening.
Then, it's their turn to go.
They stand in front of the old worn door, him in a black shirt and pants, her in her best dress and satin gloves. They close their eyes and it's only her breathing in time with his, the feeling of Artemisia and Caesar hanging over them with their hands over their hearts, watching.
"Do you still like me, Akihiko? After all of this?" this time the words are hard, cool and controlled.
"Do you really have to ask?"
Mitsuru blinks, tilting her chin to see him half-grinning, half-scowling. For a head of a multinational corporation, she has a knack for posing the most rhetorical questions he's ever heard.
A small smile graces her face and she shakes her head, vexed by her earlier question. "No, I don't. I apologise." Her shoulder touches his arm, and it reminds him of the time when she was still just a slight bit taller than him. He thinks she might start crying with all that's happened so far.
But she doesn't.
The airport is sparse; only a few people have flights at three in the morning.
They are shaking hands at the departure gates.
He's seeing her off on her business trip before heading back to the dorms to pack up the remainder of his belongings. There are two trunks worth of memories he has to arrange and he's only managed to sort through half. They'll meet again in university, but Akihiko realizes that this will be the first time in five years he won't see her for over a month.
"You mean a lot to me, Akihiko," she says, confident as always. The way she says his name is different from all the past nights of standing over him and lecturing on and on about his 'habits', and the times he'd nearly lost his head to the moments where they connected, as much as a boxer and a rich girl could.
"Same here," he agrees, as always.
Their hands can't stop churning up and down, because this is Mitsuru – perfect, imperfect, beautiful Mitsuru. The thought of her leaving, even if for a while, leaves a gap of uncertainty in his mind. Mitsuru's presence was always so reassuring, so dependable. Her fingers are firm, and it's funny because it seems that she can't quite let go too.
Then he's yanking her and she's leaning in and they're hugging and everything becomes just that bit more certain with her hands around his back and his arms on her shoulders. They should have done this a long time ago.
When they break away, Mitsuru tucks a strand of red behind her ear, looks around, before leaning up to press her lips on his right cheek. He jumps a little just as she pulls backs, and smoothes the skirt of her black dress with her hands. The kiss had been fleeting, but Akihiko can still feel the texture of something soft and icy hot on his cheek. He rubs the spot with two fingers to check if there's a lipstick mark, and the casual gesture earns a laugh out of Mitsuru.
"Friends?" he asks, after five years and two hundred and sixty-three floors.
"Always," she replies, after blood and tears and nights dancing on empty pavements.
And he thinks just then that, maybe, she was the first girl he had a crush on.