Bitter & Sweet

Bitter & Sweet

Happy birthday, Goro!



Just as with every morning, the alarm started it symphony of high-pitched beeping at exactly 5:25.  Unlike every morning, a hand reached out from under the thin blanket and slammed down on the snooze button.  

It then slid back under the blanket cocoon, pulling it ever tighter around the occupant.

Fuck today.  And fuck his agent for booking him on a morning news program today.  If Goro Akechi thought the detective prince’s reputation could survive the break in character, he would gladly bail on the whole thing.  

The best thing to do with today was ignore the whole damned world.

Goro curled up all the tighter.  He liked playing the detective prince.  He liked solving puzzles, and he adored being the center of attention.  Unfortunately, center of attention also meant putting up with idiots and their repetitive asinine questions every fucking day.  

Worse, a magazine profile including his birthday, which he had never divulged, but had instead been “leaked” by his cretinous agent, had just hit the stands last week.  Nowhere near enough time for people to forget about it.

The alarm’s irksome beeps sounded once more.

One swipe of his arm sent the clock halfway across his apartment.  The resulting crash as it hit his clothes rack sounded louder than the original beeps.

Guess that meant it was time to crawl out of bed.  He’d feel better if he had time for a run anyway.

Goro growled, wiggling his way free of the thin blanket.

Even nestled back in a quiet neighborhood, he had to get in character before heading out.  Presentable and cleaned up, but with a little bit of bedhead remaining so it didn’t look like he worked on it too hard.  If someone recognized him, he had to be exactly who they expected.

Goro had long since mastered adapting his voice to sound like a sweetie, but it had taken him a long time to get his phone set up perfectly too, allowing him to switch between things he actually enjoyed and things he was supposed to enjoy.

For instance, whenever asked what he listened to during workouts, he always answered with something energetic and popular with the girls.  Given his own preferences though, he preferred to listen to audiobooks, both fictional and nonfiction. Most of the nonfiction was in Japanese, but he listened to quite a few novels in English.  He liked being able to read and listen to them in their own language when he could, and held top ranks in his English assessments, well above a typical high schooler.

He set his phone to play a reading of “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”.  It felt appropriate today, one of a small handful of gifts from throughout his life.

For a moment, Goro stood still.  The kid who had given it to him, who had silently listened to it beside him and accepted him into his space, had died before graduating high school.

He’d snuck on a train to attend the funeral.  There he’d seen the loner’s grave, surrounded by newfound friends.  

Goro’s hands tensed.  That was when he had decided that living in an institution simply wasn’t worth it, no matter the alternative.  

He jabbed his phone to set it so he could quickly switch to boring pop music if need be.  He then rushed out the door, wanting to run until it made sense why his chest hurt.




Ren Amamiya rolled the spoon around his mouth, making sure to savor every bit of curry.  Sojiro hadn’t come into Leblanc yet, so Ren had just grabbed some leftovers from the fridge.  

On the plus side, it meant Morgana could sit on a stool next to him.  

“We should watch the news for any info on Madarame,” the not-cat suggested.  

Ren silently switched on the television, grabbing another spoonful of curry in the process.  Good thing he liked curry or he would have starved already.

“Oh, it’s that detective.”

Ren looked up from his delicious curry to see the detective who had come into Leblanc shortly after the Kamoshida incident sitting across from a morning news host.  

Maybe it was just make-up and lights, but Goro Akechi looked really different to him.  The smile which had seemed so easy in Leblanc now felt forced.

Did interviews make him nervous?

“Now, Akechi-kun, talking about your work as a detective and how you balance that with school is always fascinating, but I think we both know what the audience really wants today.”

“I’m afraid I haven’t had the time to properly interview them all yet,” Akechi answered, beaming a bright smile out at the crowd.

More than one audience member screamed out his name.

“He’s not so great,” Morgana grumbled.  

Ren clamped his mouth around his spoon.  He recognized that they had spoken all of once, but he felt a definite draw to the young detective.  He certainly wanted to speak to him again at least.

“Come now, Akechi-kun.  Are so busy you forgot your own birthday?”

It happened so fast, Ren wasn’t entirely sure he had seen it, but he felt he saw Akechi twitch, right side of his mouth attempting something beside a smile before the young man reeled it into the expected elation.  

“Is it?  I’m afraid these things do sometimes pass me by.”  He moved his hand behind his head and chuckled in apparent bashfulness, but not before Ren noticed how tense it had gotten.  

“You saw it too, right?  Our star detective has a crack.”

“Imagine that?  A genius detective forgetting his own birthday.”

“I suppose it’s a good thing I have all of you helping me keep track then.”

More squealing girls.

“Well, I thought we could take this questions to ask some birthday themed questions.”

“Go right ahead.”

“Yeah,” Ren muttered.  The response felt off, and in an unpleasant way.  He clearly didn’t want to talk about this.

“Alright, we’ll start with a classic then.  What’s the best birthday gift you’ve ever gotten?”

“I have to say it’s the opportunity to talk to all of you.”

“Now, now, you’re the gift to us.”

“Thank you, very much, but truly, the opportunities I have right now…they’re a truly amazing gift.”

“Wow, how do we follow that one up?”

“You don’t,” Ren muttered, “that’s the point.”  He knew deflection when he heard it.

“How about as a kid?  Any toy or book you remember fondly?  Maybe a family trip?”

Akechi opened his mouth slightly, but then simply shook his head.  “Not particularly.”

Ren stared at the television.  This time, he definitely saw irritation overlaid with sadness.  

It seemed the interviewer caught it too.

“My apologies.  I didn’t realize this was a sensitive topic.”

“Oh no, it’s quite fine.  I simply don’t think back that far very often.  High school and detective work are both rather all consuming.”

“Once more too busy, huh?”


“Hmm, it’s not much to go on, but it’s still solid intel if we have to deal with him.”

“Morgana,” Ren chided.  

“Phantom thieves must always prepare to face off against the detective.”

Ren nodded slightly, returning his attention to the TV just in time to catch Akechi bow out.

The sound of a key rattling in a lock turned his attention to the door.  Morgana dove into his school bag just in time for Sojiro to walk in.



Goro stood outside of the small cafe, wondering if he should really go in.  It looked rather empty, and the owner had rushed out just a moment ago, supposedly to go grab something.  

Or check in on his shut-in adopted daughter.  He didn’t know the full details on that, but her name, “Futaba” constantly nagged at the back of his head.

Now wasn’t the time to dwell on that.  

The cafe did say it was open.  And nearly empty suited him. He had come here for a quiet place to sit after all.  

Goro walked in, bell above the door jingling softly.  Not surprisingly no one greeted him at first, but he heard the sound of someone washing dishes.  

“Sorry for the intrusion,” he called out.  

The black haired kid he’d met before walked out from the small kitchen in the back.  “Sorry about that.” He then stopped, still hands paused in the act of wiping water off his hands.

“Is something the matter?”

He shook his head.  “Have a seat.”

“Thank you.”  Goro took his seat at the bar, the black haired kid moving behind it.

“I’m not as good as Sojiro, but would you like some coffee?”

“That would be lovely.”  Whatever. He did legitimately like the coffee here, but just the two of them felt nice.  Maybe it was because this kid was about his own age.

“My name’s Ren Amamiya.”

Heh?  Why had he suddenly introduced himself like that?

The other boy, Ren, carefully watched the water boil.  Not much for exposition, was he? Unsure what else to do, Goro pulled out his book.  

“New book.”

Goro looked up.  Ren eyed the mugs on the wall.  

“You were reading something with Arsne Lupin last time.”

Ah.  “Ah, yes.  I finished that and have moved on to The A.B.C. Murders by Agatha Christie.”

“Is it good?”

“So far, quite a lot.  It’s very intriguing the way she plays with perspective.”

When was the last time someone had actually asked about what he was reading?  Goro took great pride in his ability to absorb information from books, not to mention reading complicated novels in English.  

Ren pulled down a rather large mug, certainly larger than the servings usually came in.  

“Have you ever read a Christie novel?”

“No, but I thought the Lupin one you were reading last time seemed interesting.”  

Ren moved back to the small kitchen area.  What was he doing? Goro could hear a fridge door open and close.  A little bit later, Ren brought out the mug again.

He checked on the coffee.  “I was hoping you’d come in today.”

“And why is that?”

Ren placed the coffee filter over the mug.  “I saw your interview this morning.”

Shit.  The last thing Goro wanted to talk about was his abhorrent interview.

Ren poured out the hot water.  Then, without saying a word, he pulled out a small candle from his apron.

What the hell?

He then lit it and set it…in the coffee?  The top of it stood out of the cup, flickering gently.

Ren carefully laid it on the counter.  Peering in, Goro could see why the candle stuck up.  Ren had embedded it in a large scoop of vanilla ice cream.  

“Happy birthday.”

What the hell?  Goro stared at the flickering candle, worried that if he moved something would show on his face.

This didn’t make any sense.

Goro slowly turned his head up to look at Ren.  Seeing the other teen quietly watching him, no judgment and no expectation on his face and just waiting for whatever came next, forced his curiosity.

“Why?”  He tried to keep his voice neutral, just a bit of curiosity, but he felt it crack a little.  He couldn’t quite tell if it was only the confusion or a bit of something else.

Ren shrugged.  “Just seemed right.”

Right?  But…

“You seemed upset on the interview.  Thought, ice cream and coffee might help.  Should probably blow out the candle before too much wax melts though.”

Yeah.  Goro leaned over it slightly.

“Make a wish.”

He only really had one wish.  Right now though, a different wish felt appropriate.  Silently, he wished to get to know Ren Amamiya better, simply for the sake of it.  

A quick puff extinguished the small flame.  Goro gingerly pulled the candle out. He held it across the counter.  

Ren took it back with a smile.  “Make a good wish?”

Goro placed a finger over his lips.  “It’s a secret.”

“You’re smiling.”

“Well, next time they ask about my favorite gift,” he raised the coffee mug in a toast, “I’ll have an answer.”

He took a sip.  Ren was right, his coffee wasn’t as good as the owner’s, but it was still above average and he had clearly bought fairly high quality ice cream too.  

“How’d it come out?”

Maybe it wasn’t the best coffee or the best ice cream but, “It’s perfect.  Thank you.”

“Good.  Boss would kick me out if I served bad coffee.”

“Heh.  How much do I owe?”

Ren shook his head.  “A gift, remember?”

A good opportunity to pry more into why he was doing this.  “Didn’t take you for a fan.”

“I’m not.”

Goro stared at him.

“That interview is the first time I saw you on television,” Ren explained.

Not helpful.  Perhaps this individual required a more direct approach.  “Then why?”

“I told you.”

Because he seemed upset?  That didn’t make sense. You didn’t do something just because someone…

Goro buried his face in his hand.  He needed time to think. This didn’t make any bloody sense.  You didn’t just… No one had ever… And this guy didn’t even know him, either the real him or the celebrity.  He saw movement out the corner of his eyes; Ren cleaning up the coffee grains.

His left hand clenched the mug.  Who was this guy to get him so riled up over something so trivial?  

More movement.

Ren sat down on the stool beside him.  “Mind if I taste my own handiwork?”

His voice jolted Goro out of it.  “No. Of course.”

Ren reached out for the mug.  His hand touched Goro’s arm, the dangers of a of a lefty and a righty sitting next to each other.  The sudden contact caused Goro to recoil.

Ren took a sip.  “Good. I worried you were just being polite.”  He handed the mug back. Goro took it with both hands this time.  

He then took a nice long drink, letting them both sit in silence.  

The door jingled.

“What are you doing?”

Ah, the owner.  

“Helping a customer,” Ren replied.  

Goro put down his mug.  “He might even get better than you one day.”

That seemed to take the man aback.  Good. At least someone here responded like a normal person.  

“That will take a while,” Ren joked, moving back behind the counter.

Goro let them work while he finished his drink.  He didn’t feel like talking too much with Sojiro around.  Besides, he had come for quite, not conversation.

A few more pages of his book and he had the drink done.  He slid it forward, making sure Ren saw it first. “Thank you for the drink.”

He stood up to go.  He wanted to talk to Ren more.  To figure out what was going on inside the other teen’s head, but he wasn’t quite sure how to continue.

Hadn’t he said the Arsene book looked interesting?  Perhaps that would make a good in.


Ren looked up.

“Would you like to borrow my Arsene Lupin books?”

“You have multiple?”

“I have all of the ones published in Japanese,” Goro confirmed.  

Ren smiled.  

“What is it?”

“Just surprised you’d read about phantom thieves.”

“I like mysteries, in all their forms.  From the genre itself to detective stories and the criminals they face.”

“You must read a lot.”

“There is no shortage.”  And yes, he did read a lot.  It was cheap, yet seen as dignified, and something you could do on your own.  The perfect entertainment, really.

“I’d like that.”

“I’ll bring a book by next time then.”

“I look forward to it.”  

Goro smiled, waved goodbye, and headed out of the cafe.  His smile even stayed on after he was out of sight. For once, he actually felt content.  

Something about Ren reminded him of the teen who had given him the audiobook for The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood all those years ago.  He felt like someone he could just sit in a room with and do his own thing. Someone he could spend time with in quiet companionship.

It didn’t hurt that he was cute either.

Goro brought his book close to his chest.  It seemed too much to hope for and yet his own delusional nature kept such a wish on his mind the whole way home.    


First Laughter

First Laughter

Author’s Note: This is a sequel to Mistletoe, seeking to further explore the relationship between Akira and Akechi as they go into the New Year.  Happy New Year!

If you have not read Mistletoe before reading this, it goes into how Akira found Goro.  This story is post-game and thus Akechi spoiler land by default.



“White,” the young man muttered, peering out of the small apartment window.  A sudden influx of tourists, not too surprising really, had forced him to delay a trip to Tokyo and stay in Sapparo for the New Year.  Looking at the unfamiliar world of freshly fallen snow it felt appropriate.  He had died in Tokyo.

Not the place to usher in a new year.

It was here, in this world of white, where he’d been found.

Arms wrapped around his waist, pulling him back into bed.

“Ughkira,” he grunted.

A disgruntled mreow, and a cat leapt past him to settle on the desk.  “What are you doing?”

“Snuggling,” came the muffled reply.

“And I had just gotten comfy,” the cat grumbled.  He licked a paw to wash his face.

“I’m not going anywhere,” promised the young man.  He stroked Akira’s hair, reaching around awkwardly to get at it.

The arms reached higher, embracing him in a tight hug.

The young man, Goro, patted Akira’s hands.  “It’s a new year.”


“We should spend the day together.”

Grumble again.

“It’s been a long time since I spent New Year’s with someone.”

The hug grew tighter.

“Do you know how to get to Hokkaido Shrine?”


“Why don’t we make a visit?  It’s still early enough.  We can visit the shrine and get to the cafe with plenty of time.”

The same influx of tourists which had filled up the trains had convinced the cafe owner where Akira, and now Goro, worked to open on New Years.  After all, what could be better on a snowy day than a fresh cup of coffee or tea?

Akira moved his chin up to rest on Goro’s shoulder.  “You want to?”

“With you,” Goro clarified.

The cat, Morgana, began coughing.

Both young men looked at him.

“Sorry, though I’d hack a furrball.”

“Maybe we should get you some medication for that,” Akira offered.

Catching on, Goro added, “You do seem to cough a lot.  Perhaps a trip to the vet is even in order.”

“It’s recent too,” continued Akira. “I think he’s really gotten sick.”

“Hey, hey, hey!  I am not sick, and I certainly don’t need a vet.”  Morgana looked away.  “Just a bit much sugar,” he muttered.

Akira rubbed his cheek against Goro’s.  “Just enough,” he corrected.

Morgana hopped onto the window.  He and Akira had lived in this apartment long enough that they’d figured out a way for the cat to open the window from the inside.  Knowledge he now fully intended to use.

“Going out?” inquired Goro.  Morgana had barely given the two a moment alone in the slightly over a week he’d been there.

“I’ll meet you two at the cafe.”  The black and white cat opened up the window.

“Your scarf,” Akira reminded him.

“No need,” huffed the cat, hopping outside.

Goro freed himself to close the window.  “He’s going to follow me.”

“Probably,” Akira admitted.  He rolled out of bed.  “Guess we should bring his scarf for when he gets cold.”  He moved over to his small dresser.  Hanging on the side were three scarves.  One small yellow scarf with red hearts, and a full sized red scarf with yellow hearts hung together.  Haru had made them for him and Morgana when he’d told her they were moving to Hokkaido for college.

A red and black scarf, thicker than the homemade pair,  hung on a separate hook.  Akira had gotten it shortly after rescuing Goro from the cognitive world.

On a similar note, two coats vied for space on the tiny rack by the door.

Akira had succeeded in explaing to his landlord that he simply had a guest for the holidays, but the apartment was definitely meant for one.  He’d already managed to talk his landlord into letting him keep Morgana without charging more than a base deposit and didn’t exactly have a ton more goodwill to work off of either.

Life would have been a lot harder if he weren’t so darned debonair.

Akira looked at the small mirror on his dresser, a grain playing across his face.

“Reveling in narcissism again?”

“Is it narcissism if you’re really that good?”

Goro leaned over his shoulder.  “You needn’t remind yourself of your excellence.  I’m quite capable of completing that mission myself.”  His lips curled into a thin smile.

Akira still hadn’t gotten used to the sight of smiles reaching Goro’s eyes.  They seemed so much brighter than he remembered them.  He’d seen signs of it while living in Tokyo, a glint in the back of his eyes, or a warm pride, but never had Goro Akechi truly opened up to him before now.

Never before had a mischievous side caused them to sparkle.  And they had certainly never appeared quite so warm.

They had both seen each other’s dark sides now.  Nothing more to hide.

“Suddenly I don’t feel so hasty,” Goro admitted.

“Do I have to play villain who pulls us outside now?”

Goro backed off.  “Hardly.  You’re just blocking the dresser.”

Akira flung open the small wardrobe beside the dresser.  “All your clothes are hung in there, remember?”

“And yet I still find myself requiring access to the dresser.”

Shaking his head, Akira opened up the dresser.  A quick moment of digging and he threw a pair of underwear and socks to his roommate.

“Thank you.”

Akira spun around.  “Guess we have to get dressed now.”


Their first time together without Morgana, and neither knew quite how to proceed.  Should they just leave?  Or, perhaps, there was something else?

Goro grabbed his pants, long-sleeved shirt, and sweater vest out of the closet.

Guess that answered that.  Akira turned around to grab some of his winter clothes too.



Hatsumode, the first shrine visit of the year, could get crazy, and seeing as they hadn’t arrived all that early, the shrine grounds looked more like a sea of people than a place for worship and introspection.  Akira and Goro melded in with the mob generally moving up to the shrine.

Akira rubbed his gloved hands together to keep them warm.  Without Morgana on his shoulders he felt abnormally cold.

“Anything I can do to help?” Goro offered, holding out a hand.

Akira graciously took it.  Goro had gloves on as well, but neither of their gloves were particularly thick and some heat still made it through.

He shoved his other hand into his coat pocket.  “Thanks.”

“No problem,” Goro replied, glancing around at the people around them.

In such a mob very few people even noticed the two guys holding hands.  A few did a double-take, but no one looked too askance.  New Year’s wasn’t an uncommon time for romance and hand holding, so at least the general attitude towards signs of affection didn’t cause too many issues.

“Don’t worry what they think,” Akira whispered into Goro’s ear.

“A hard habit to break, I’m afraid.”

Akira scooted even closer.  “You’ll get it,” he promised.

“A New Year’s Resolution, perhaps?”

“Could be.”

“And yours?”

“Hmmm.”  Akira squeezed Goro’s hand tightly.  “I think I’ll just wish for a good year…”

Goro turned away.  “Seems simple enough for you.”  He spoke sharply, a reminder of the jealousy and anger he had displayed when battling the Phantom Thieves.

“…together,” Akira finished.  “I’m selfish, remember?”

“Very,” Goro replied dryly. He did manage to look back at Akira though, so it was good enough.

They slowly oozed forward with the mob, until their turn to take the steps to the shrine came.  Akira slid a five hundred yen coin into Goro’s hand.

“Let’s make our wishes come true.”

They ascended the steps together.  Stood beside the offering box together.  Tossed in their coins together.  Bowed together.

Clapped twice, and held their hands there, thinking of their wish.

Akira hadn’t been joking when he said he wanted a good year together.  All of his friends, all of the phantom thieves, together again.  Even more though, he didn’t want Goro Akechi taken from him.  He knew it would be a fight, and so to Okuninushi specifically he prayed for the strength to fight on.  To prove to his friends that Goro deserved a second chance, and to see it through.

He bowed down, glancing at Goro as he did.  The other man still stood praying.

Akira stood, slowly walking away from the shrine.  He had barely turned when an arm wrapped around his own.

“And where do you think you’re going?” Goro reprimanded.

Akira leaned in and kissed him on the cheek.

He sighed.  “We should get to work.”

“Not before I get you a New Year’s charm.”  Akira began dragging Goro along.

“Akira, it isn’t necessary.”  Goro tugged back.  “You’ve done more to aid me than any charm ever could.”

Akira turned to him, surprised.  He generally just went along with what Akira wanted.  He’d been expecting Goro to push back at some point, but over getting a good luck charm?

“I am enough of a financial burden without the gifts.”

“You’re not a burden.”

People pushed past and around them on the crowded shrine grounds.

“And you’re the first person to ever believe that.”

“Then you should be the second,” Akira countered.  He clenched Goro’s hand tightly.  “You should have been the first.  You,” he stepped closer, making it easier for people to get around them, “you are not a burden.”

“Then tell me, phantom thief, what am I?”

Leaning in, Akira replied, “A Phantom Thief of Hearts and…”  His breath warmed Goro’s lips, a devilish smile crossing his own.

“Your lover,” Goro finished.  The word felt weird on his lips.  Foreign.  A concept he had so little grasp of that even saying it felt strange.

“Your lover,” Akira whispered back.  He offered Goro a quick kiss.

“Mine, huh?”

“Yours.”  The devilish smile had broadened now, and an internal fire granted warmth to his gaze.

“Well then, I suppose if I am yours as well, then things may work out.”

“I really mean this.”

“Impressive for a man with so much dating experience,” Goro retorted.  He shook his head in exasperation, “but I believe you.”  He spoke gently again.  “I don’t know why, but I almost always believe you.”

“Guess I have an honest face.”

Raising an eyebrow, Goro replied, “Truly?  I find it rather reminiscent of a kitsune’s.”

“I am fond of foxes,” Akira admitted, “but I find I prefer crows these days.”

Goro’s face reddened slightly, his body making an escape attempt through his cheeks.

The devil grin returned.  “Come on, let’s get to the cafe.”



Being one of the few nice cafes open on New Years definitely presented a financial advantage.  Master had been thrilled when Akira had brought Goro up to him, asking about work.  If they were going to make being open on New Year’s day worth it, they needed the extra help.

And Goro rocked the uniform.  Seriously, distractingly, rocked the uniform.

Akira had known it was coming.  Master took Goro’s measurements almost immediately upon meeting him, but Akira hadn’t expected it to be so damn perfect.

The last patron they had in the afternoon rush left.

Goro leaned slightly against the counter.

He’d been all smiles and complements the whole shift.  The Detective Prince once again.  Seeing Goro frown when he caught sight on an unreported spill actually made Akira feel a bit better.

“I’ll get it,” he offered.

“Thank you.”

Akira nodded, waving the towel he’d already been using to wipe down tables as he did.  He was already equipped for this sort of job after all.

“Well done,” Master congratulated.  He handed Goro a fresh cup of coffee.  “You do seem to have a knack for this sort of thing.”

“Thank you.”

“I told you he’d be perfect,” Akira called over.  The table already looked pretty decent.  He stepped back, examining it.  Spotless.

“Still, sorry to hear you had to cancel your trip to Tokyo.”

“It’s fine,” Akira assured his boss.  “Just decided on it a bit too late.  I’ll have to go visit next break.”

“Maybe you should invite them up.”

“No place for them to stay,” Akira replied with a smile.  He moved to the counter.  They had a small bin for rags behind the counter where he tossed his own rag.  Laundry after this wouldn’t be fun, but at least they didn’t have to worry about it quite yet.

Akira leaned back near Goro.  He too received a cup of coffee.

“Hey, Morgana,” the man suddenly called out.  Akira and Goro both jumped.  “I made you an extra creamy latte.”  He lightly tapped a saucer on the counter.


Akira and Goro exchanged glances.  Neither of them had seen Morgana earlier, so he must have slipped in before they got there.

The disgruntled, and clearly recently awoken, Morgana hopped of a beam near the back entrance.

“You weren’t supposed to tell them I was here,” he attempted to berate the manager.

“There you are.”  Master tapped the dish.  “Lots of cream with just a bit of coffee.  You want it.”

“You sure are responsive to good coffee,” Akira teased.

“I’m sure you two had a good time,” grouse Morgana.

Goro sipped his coffee, but neither cat nor boyfriend missed the smile on his lips.

Morgana put a paw against the edge of his dish.  He then slowly drug it further away from Goro, sliding it over until he was on the other side of Akira.

“You have a strange cat,” Master remarked.  “Came in on his own just before you got here.”

“Really?  Well, glad he made it here.  He’s pretty stubborn.”

“Very,” Goro added dryly.  He didn’t even bother to look at Morgana.

“Perhaps he doesn’t like someone new in his space,” Master mused.  “Cats can get rather territorial after all.”

“I’m not a cat!”

“He’s always so loud.”  Master smiled.  “Like he wants in on the conversation.”

“I do.”  Morgana splashed at the creamy coffee.

“Hey now, no messing up the counter or you get fed on the floor.”

Morgana stopped.  Akira chuckled.

Master held up his own mug.  “To a new year.”

“A new chapter,” Akira added, lifting his cup.

“A new life,” Goro replied quietly.  He raised his mug as well, but stared straight at Akira while speaking.

“Lady Anne,” Morgana called up with a sharp meow.

“Newly available, I hear,” Akira added.

Morgana splashed cream on his uniform.

Master broke down laughing.  “I don’t know how you do it, but if I didn’t know better I’d think you and that cat were best friends.”

“Friends furever.”

Goro and Master just blinked at him for a moment.

Morgana recovered first, muttering something about knowing where he slept.

“Heh.  Ha….Ha,” a strange grunt following from Goro’s mouth.  He put down the coffee.

Now all eyes turned to him.

The laughter grew steadier.  Goro leaned over the counter slightly.

“It wasn’t that funny,” Master remarked.

“I…I know, but…”  His voice shook from laughter and, maybe, something else.

“Goro?”  Akira leaned down.

“Sorry, sorry.”  Goro stood up straight.  He wore a big grin, but large tears clung to the bottom of his eyes.  “I guess all of it just hit at once.”

Akira lunged forward, wrapping him in a big hug.

“I didn’t think,” Goro wrapped his arms around Akira.  He took a steadying breath.  “I really didn’t believe I’d see a new year.  Ever.  I didn’t think I’d live.  I didn’t really plan to.  And it’s not that you were funny, it’s that you and Morgana just play off each other so naturally.  You’re a pair.”

“We’re a pair too.”

Morgana walked over. “Look, you’re not my favorite person.  I don’t trust you, but you’re one of us now.  And if Joker trusts you, well then, I guess I can give you another chance.”

“Heh.  That almost sounded nice.”

“I am a gentleman,” Morgana reminded them.

Akira chuckled, pressing his forehead against Goro’s.  “You heard the cat.”

“Not a cat!”

“I may not know quite what’s going on,” Master suddenly cut in, “but,” he raised his glass yet higher, “this is looking an awful lot like the part where you kiss.”

A disgruntled meow begged them against it.

The two fools, already so close, leaned in together.  It wasn’t their first kiss.  Goro had kissed Akira when he had first entered the cafe a week ago.

It was, however, long and warm, and even when it ended they held each other tight.

“Don’t make me lose you again,” Akira whispered.

“I think by now it’s quite clear you’d simply find me yet again.”

Akira leaned into the warm hug.  After so many quiet New Year’s, so many years the same, or alone, it felt good to lean against someone.

“Happy New Year, Akira.  I don’t know what it’s worth.  Used to think nothing, but…for what it is worth: I love you.”

Akira clung to him even more tightly, digging his hands into Goro’s back.  “You’re my treasure.  Worth everything.”

“Happy New Year!” cheered Master.  He took a big gulp of coffee.

Morgana let out a gagging sound, but put a paw again Akira, and another on Goro’s arm.  “Happy changing year, you two.”

“You too, Morgana.”  Akira nodded to his employer, “Master.”

“Perhaps it really will be happy,” Goro mused.

Akira kissed him again.


End Note: A common term for a significant other in Japanese is “koibito”.  It’s a gender neutral term, but used very much like how we like to say girlfriend/boyfriend.  That’s the world they’re using when they talk about being lovers.  I wanted to stick to the gender neutral aspect to help convey the idea, especially for Goro, that what’s surprising isn’t that he’s dating a guy.  It’s that he loves anyone and, even more strongly, that someone else loves him.  Whether it be a guy or a girl isn’t the point.  It’s the simple act of loving and being loved.

Mistletoe Epilogue: Lingering Love

Mistletoe Epilogue: Lingering Love

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasy than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.



Akira opened his eyes slowly, scared to find out it was all just a dream.  Morgana snuggled up against his face.  


He sat up, desperately looking around the room.  “Goro?”

Morgana stirred beside him.  

Akira stood up.  “Goro?”

The sound of running water.  He rushed for the bathroom.  

There stood Goro, in the same uniform he’d worn two years ago, rinsing his face.  

Akira wrapped him in a big hug.  

“Oof.”  Goro slammed into the sink under the force of the hug.  

Akira buried his face in the other man’s hair.  “You’re okay.”

“Heh.”  Goro placed a hand on Akira’s shoulder.  “I’ll never understand you.”

“That makes two of us,” Morgana added from just outside the small bathroom.

Akira just held him tighter.  “I don’t ever want to let you go.”

“Worried I’ll go off the deep end again?”

“Worried you won’t come back,” Akira corrected.  

“I’ve done terrible things, you know.”

“You were drowning.”  Akira rested his head on Goro’s opposite shoulder.  “I won’t let you drown again.”

Goro shook his head.  “You’re lying.”

Akira slowly spun him around so they could face each other.  “No.”  He smiled.  “Something about you has always made me speak my mind.”  He paused.  

“You make me a better person.  Let me do the same for you.”

“You already did.  When I was with the Phantom Thieves, I actually felt like a hero.  I felt like who I had always wanted to be.”

“Then be that again.”

Goro looked away.  “It was never the real me.”

“There’s more than one real you.”  Akira lifted Goro’s head to face him.  “That mask is a part of you.  A very real part of you.  Robin Hood is no less you than Loki.  You don’t have to be selfish.”

“You don’t have to be altruistic.”

Akira shook his head.  “I’m not.  Right now,” he put both hands around Goro’s face, “I am being very selfish.”

He leaned in, bring Goro’s face down slightly, for a kiss.  Just a simple peck, he’d never actually kissed another guy, but it had the desired effect.  

Goro stared at him.  

“Why don’t I go look up train tickets before I cough up a hairball?” Morgana offered right before quickly scampering away.  

“My Shadow was right,” Akira admitted.  “I am a very greedy person.”

Goro stared a moment.  Then a smile cracked across his face.  Then, he laughed.  

“I always knew you were crazy.”

“How so?”

“I really did mean to kill you, both times.”

Akira shrugged.  “Guess I hold onto people more than grudges.”

“I shot you in the head.”

“No, you shot a cognition of me in the head.”

“Which I thought was you,” Goro reminded him.

“Minor detail.”

“Major detail.”

“You also sacrificed yourself so we could get away.”

“It was you or both of us.”

“We could have taken it on together.”


“How’s a noon train on Wednesday sound?” Morgana called from by the computer.  

“Sounds good,” Akira shouted back.  

“You and me, right?”


The not cat let out a deep sigh. “Fine, two humans and a cat.”

“You’re taking me with you to Tokyo.”

“You shouldn’t have to hide.”

“I shouldn’t be alive.”


Goro sighed.  “So, I could use some clean clothes.”

Now that he thought about it… Akira took a good look at Goro’s clothes.  They were torn and stained.  

“You got it.”



The café had calmed down with the end of finals, and the clientele had shifted.  Their decorations seemed to bring in couples at an alarming rate.  Akira made sure to give them all a warm smile.  

“Must be looking forward to seeing your friends in Tokyo,” Master grumbled.

“Sorry I took the time off so suddenly.”

“Well, at least you seem better.  I’ll be mad if you quit on me though.”

Akira smiled at him.  He’d already discussed the possibility that he might move back to Tokyo to his manager and, for all his grumbling, the old man seemed understanding enough.  

“Get this coffee to the reading lounge.”

With a nod, Akira brought the small cup to a woman cuddling beside on a man on the couch.  

“Here you are.”  He placed it gently on the coffee table in front of them.  “I hope you enjoy.”

“Thank you.”

He smiled warmly at them before moving back towards the bar.

The ringing bell from someone opening the door turned him right back around.


There stood Goro Akechi in a slightly short winter coat.  He had unbuttoned it before walking in to reveal a red, black, and white sweater vest underneath.   The wind had wreaked havoc on his hair, and it seemed to have no idea which direction to go anymore.  

“He insisted on coming,” Morgana explained as he trotted into the café.  

The door closed behind them, but Goro didn’t move.  He just looked around nervously, like someone lost.  

“Welcome,” Akira greeted, moving closer.  “Can I help you?”

“Ah, yes, I…I just followed the cat here.  Thought it looked nice and warm.”

“We have some of the best coffee in Sapparo,” Akira assured him.  They stood just a couple of feet apart now.  “Alternatively, we serve some very nice tea.”

Goro smiled, moving his head down.  “You’re too natural at this, and in a butler outfit no less.”

“You think so?”

Goro looked back up.  “Definitely.”  His eyes darted upward then.  

“Is something wrong?”

“No, just wondering if you’d be willing to come closer.”

Akira took a couple of steps forward.  They were now within arm’s reach.

Goro pointed up to the mistletoe Akira had hung just a few days before.  “Pretty sure this means something.”

Akira blinked in surprise.  Goro hadn’t said a word about the kiss in the bathroom, leaving Akira to assume he had no interest.  Not surprisingly, really.  But, then why was he indicating the mistletoe.

Goro chuckled.  Then, he reached out and grabbed Akira by the collar of his shirt.  He pulled him in close.  Akira hopped closer in an attempt to stay standing.

Goro kissed him.  Akira’s eyes widened.  This wasn’t a cautious peck, but rather a heartfelt kiss.

They pulled back, Akira stuttering out a vague attempt to ask, “Why?”

“Well,” Goro innocently replied, “mistletoe is how Loki gets himself into trouble.  And you are definitely trouble.”

He leaned in again.  Akira offered no objections.  

Mistletoe 04: Lingering Hatred

Mistletoe 04: Lingering Hatred

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasy than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.


Joker topped the familiar stairs to enter a familiar room.  Filled with gifts from his friends, star shaped lights dimly illuminated the small room.  In front of the TV, his Shadow busily tapped away at a controller.  It didn’t even look up.

Across the room stood the shoddy bed he had spent most of a year using.  Someone was tied to it, rope going under the mattress.

A red mask with the nose broken off rested on the windowsill.

The sounds of someone furiously tapping a controller stopped.  A final click, and the light stopped fluctuating.  

“Go ahead and put Morgana on the bed.”  Joker’s Shadow stood.  “I wouldn’t want him getting hurt.”

Joker slowly moved towards the bed.  One good look at the tied up Akechi and he nearly dropped Morgana.  

He’d figured that’s who was tied up on the bed, but he hadn’t expected so much damage.  Akechi’s messy hair stuck to a shallow wound on his forehead, and his bottom lip bled slightly from a bite mark.  That wasn’t the only bite mark either.  The buttons on his Phantom Thief uniform had been undone and he had bite marks and bruising on both shoulders.  There appeared to be bruising throughout his body.  

“He kept running,” the Shadow explained.  He sighed.  “I really wish he wouldn’t.  That he’d choose to stay, but his pride won’t allow it.”

Joker gingerly laid Morgana down beside the injured Akechi.  “How could  you do this to him?”

“I hate him.”

“Then let him go.”

“I can’t.”

Joker spun to face his Shadow.  They looked identical except for the yellow eyes.

“Why are you doing this?  Why are you keeping them around like this?  These cognitions, they’re miserable.”

The Shadow shrugged.  “They’re my game pieces.  I need them.”

“They’re my friends,” Joker corrected.  

“No, they’re replicas of our friends.  Most of our real friends are in Tokyo.  These cognitions exist because of my desire to see them again, my desire to have them by my side.”  He grinned.  “And my desire to continue the Phantom Thieves.”  He slammed his head against the wooden wall.  “I feel so useless like this.”

Joker looked away.  

“What do you want, Joker?  What do you really want?  Why are you living like this?  You don’t know why you study.  Why you do anything.  You don’t know what you want.  Your friends don’t need you to be happy or successful.  So, what good are you?  No one needs you and you don’t even know what you want.”  

The Shadow stepped forward.  “Tell me what I want.  What can happen to make me happy?” he pleaded.  

“I don’t know.”  Joker looked up to his Shadow once more.  “I just know I have to keep moving forward.”

“You’re not though.  You’re stuck in place.  We’re stuck in place.  I play all these games to keep my mind busy.  To hone my intelligence and my strategy, but there’s no reason for any of it.  I don’t even please myself.”

Unable to really think of a response, Joker just said, “Let Akechi and Morgana go.  Let everyone go.”

“And be alone?”

“Better than imprisoning others.”

“Maybe, but I want the real thing.  I want them back.”  The Shadow’s form morphed, black wings sprouting from his back.  His hands extended into monstrous talons, and his mouth a beak.  “And I know you won’t give it to me, so maybe you should just die.”  It hunched forward.  “Maybe I should just die.”

“There’s a better way.”

“You don’t get it at all.  You don’t understand what you’re really asking me to do.”

Joker pulled out his knives.  “I will free them.”

His Shadow beat its wings, generating a hurricane of wind.

Joker held his position, but couldn’t move forward.  Unfortunately, all he could do against such a gale was wait for it to end.

And it did.  Just moment before talons raked into his arms.  He fell to the ground, bleeding heavily.  His Shadow pressed down on him, tearing into him with its talons.

Arrows of light descended on the Shadow.  It howled in pain.  Joker took the opportunity to get up from under it.  

Glancing over to the bed, he saw Robin Hood dissipate.  A moment later and Akechi sat up.  Morgana moved down to his feet.  

“How dare you,” the Shadow hissed.  

“Kougan,” Akechi whispered in response.  Robin Hood appeared once more.  He looked dull compared to how he had been before, but Joker wasn’t about to complain as light once more rained down on the Shadow.  

Another rope came undone.  

The Shadow went for Morgana.  Joker dived after it, grabbing it around the waist.  They tumbled together at the base of the bed.  

His Shadow got him pinned, only to get a slingshot hitting its head.

Joker used that distraction to jab it with a knife.  It howled, but also slashed him with a talon.  

Morgana leapt at it with his scimitar.

The Shadow tossed him aside, but not without receiving a rather large gash across its arm.  

Joker slide out from under it, coming to his feet near the stairs.  Akechi moved away from the bed, towards the shelves stacked with gifts.  Morgana shifted closer to the TV.  No matter what it did next, the Shadow would expose its back to someone.

Indeed, it stopped to look at each of them in turn.  It ended on Akechi, glaring at him.  

“I hate you so much.  Everything you did, so unforgivable.”  Its talons clenched.  “I despise you, and I despise how little I despise you.  Worse yet,” it took a faltering step forward, “I despise how little you despise me.”

With a sudden spin it lunged for Joker.  

A darkness surrounded it, surging ahead of its own charge.  

Joker cross his dagger in an attempt to guard.  

The darkness dug into the wound caused by the talons just moments ago.  He grimaced as it widened the gashes.  

“Mercurius,” Morgana shouted.  A warm light shone over Joker, Morgana, and Akechi.  Joker’s wounds stopped bleeding, the darkness within them dissipating.  

Unfortunately, healing couldn’t stop the Shadow’s charge.  

A red sword slashed across its midsection, practically hurling the Shadow into Morgana.  Loki hovered in front of Joker, but something seemed different.  There was more flow to its form than Joker remembered.

The Shadow attempted to barrel into Loki, only to have Mercurius punch it.  It went tumbling down the stairs.  

Loki dissipated, but not before Joker realized that the black and white stripes around it seemed to be unraveling.  He passed Akechi a concerned look.

“I’ll be okay.”  He wore his black outfit now, but even it seemed to be falling apart.  “Let’s get him while he’s down.”

“Agreed,” Morgana replied, hopping down the stairs.  

Joker grabbed Akechi’s arm.  “Are you sure you’re alright?  We need to get out.”

“We have to get rid of the cognitions.”

With a nod, Joker let go of his arm, and proceeded to head down the stairs where he could already hear the whipping winds.  

Akechi was right behind him.  

Black blood covered the arcade machines.  Morgana had apparently managed to get a deep gash into one of the Shadow’s wings while it was down, and now it staggered around, slashing wildly at the quick moving Morgana.  

Akechi called out.  “Take him down, Loki.”

Loki’s red blade left a deep gash in the Shadow’s back.  It spun angrily.

“How dare you.  After I pitied you, how dare you.”

Akechi placed a hand on Joker’s shoulder, steadying himself.  

So he was hurting, even after Morgana’s healing.

“You didn’t pity me,” Akechi hissed.  He gripped tightly on Joker’s shoulder.  “You just couldn’t let me go.”

The black and white around Loki’s form continued unraveling.  They unfurled into a black and white cape, like snow falling at night.  A mask like encircling flames surrounding the Persona’s face, and its horns remained relatively unchanged.  

Runes ran along the blade.  

The Shadow charged the shifting Persona.  

“Oh no you don’t,” Morgana shouted.  Mercurius once more slammed into the Shadow.

Morgana looked up at Akechi.  “Go get him, Crow.”

“Allow me,” Akechi responded, stepping ahead of Joker.  His outfit shifted as well, some of the white  and red from his Robin Hood uniform sneaking in, as it too seemed to unfurl.  The cape grew into a long jacket similar to Joker’s, with runes in red and white around its edges.  A golden clasp of a two-headed snake held it together.  

The Shadow looked passed him, to Joker.  “Do you see it now?  Do you understand?”

Loki raised Laevatein high.  

Joker reached out to hold Akechi’s, Goro’s, hand.  

Laevatein pierced the Shadow, and it screamed, darkness spreading around the room.  

Morgana moved over to them in the darkness, standing just in front of Goro.  

The darkness cleared to expose his Shadow, dressed in the Shujin Academy uniform, sulking in the middle of the room.  

Joker looked to Goro.  “Come with me?”

He received a slight nod in response.

All three of them walked forward together, but Morgana let Joker and Goro take the lead.  Goro wore a mask again, once more a crow motif, but all black.  

“Now what?” Joker asked his Shadow.

“That’s up to you.”

Joker looked down at his and Goro’s hands.  “This is my treasure, isn’t it?”

The Shadow nodded.  “Your guilt, your anger, your hatred.  All of it, right there.”

“This is real.”


Joker looked carefully at Goro.  “You’re real.”

“That’s my understanding.”

“He’s real,” the Shadow assured them.  They both looked to it.  “I found him injured and starving in my domain sometime after the disappearance of Mementos, sometime after I came into being.”

“You’ve been inside me a long time.”

The Shadow nodded.

Letting go of Goro’s hand, Joker kneeled down to look his Shadow in the face.  

“I need to return to Tokyo, to see my friends for who they are now.  To grow with them.”

“Does that mean we’re moving back?” Morgana asked from behind them.

Joker smiled slightly, but otherwise ignored him.  

“You, both of you, have limitless potential.  Being unable to tap into that…”

Goro spoke up.  “If we’ve been here for an extended period of time, why did he only just now start showing up?”

“I don’t know,” the Shadow admitted.  “I think I just kept growing stronger, until he couldn’t hide from me anymore.”

“I shouldn’t have hidden to begin with,” Joker admitted.  “I wanted new experiences, to try new things, and make new friends, but you’re right, I need my friends from the Phantom Thieves.  I can’t just leave that behind.  I don’t want to.”  He turned to Goro.  “Any of them.”

The Shadow smiled, rising up to take the form of Arsene.  “I am pleased to return.  Do not fall into complacency.  It is simply not your true self.”

Joker reached out, taking the mask offered to him.  

The area around them began to shake.

“Uh, so did we ever figure out how to get back out?” Morgana pressed, coming right up to  him.  

“I’d guess we just wake up.”  Joker grabbed Goro’s hand tightly.  Morgana hopped onto his back.  

Goro clenched his hand tightly.  “I’m ready to get out of here.”

“I’ll bet.”

“Arsene,” Joker whispered, “get us out of here.”

The persona surrounded them, lifting them high.  The Palace crumbled beneath them.

Previous | Next 

Mistletoe 03: Lingering Concern

Mistletoe 03: Lingering Concern

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasy than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.

Akira lay on his bed, Morgana curled up beside his head.  

“You really think this will work?”

“It should,” Akira replied.  He’d gone over Lavenza’s information with Morgana and they had agreed to try it the next day.  Akira had gotten the day off from a rather distressed, but understanding, boss and he didn’t have any more finals to worry about.

“Want to message the others?” Morgana asked.

Akira held up his phone.  They’d been debating this since deciding to go in.  Sure, his friends couldn’t just hop up to Hokkaido, but shouldn’t he at least tell them?  

“I don’t know what to say.”

“The truth?” Morgana suggested.

Akira gingerly typed on his phone.  “Sorry this is sudden.  I think I have a lead on,”  On what?

“Go on,” Morgana urged him.  “This can’t be the scariest thing you’ve ever done.”

“I think I have a lead on a Palace.  I even have a thought on how to get in.  Trying it with Morgana.  Plan to text again this evening.”  He lay down the phone.

“I guess it will work,” Morgana grumbled.  

“I trust you,” Akira whispered.  He turned his head to look his feline friend in the eyes.  “I trust you to see me through this.”

“Merow.  Well, I am the best.”

“It’s scary how good you are.”

Morgana buried his face in Akira’s shoulder.  “Let’s just get this over with.”  

Akira closed his eyes.  “Aresne,” he whispered, “guide me.”  

He could feel the Persona stir within him, but rather than try to bring it out, he encouraged it to dive deeper.  He needed to follow it.  

Something soft touched his hand.  Akira glanced over to see Morgana, actual anthropomorphic Phantom Thief Morgana, beside him.

“We got this, Joker.”

Akira nodded.  He then took the chance to look around.  They were falling in a sea of stars.  No, not stars.  The lights around them were glowing spheres.  Each one held something, but he couldn’t make out details.  

Morgana shouted, “Incoming!”

Looking down, Akira realized they were plummeting towards one of these spheres.  It drew closer and closer, not much larger than a human.  Inside…

“What is this?” Akira whispered.  Inside the sphere was him.  

They dove into the sphere with a great splash.  Instead of the bubbles Akira expected to see, white feathers surrounded them.  

And beneath them was him.  His Self.  All of who he was completely exposed.  

They hit into it hard.  Morgana and Akira groaned, lifting themselves up from the pavement.  

“We’re in Tokyo?”

Akira nodded, gingerly rubbing his head.  He didn’t feel any blood or obvious lumps.  Better yet, he did feel his mask and gloves.  

“Let’s go find your treasure, Joker.”

Joker nodded just before running off.  He knew these streets, and he knew they had to get to Leblanc.  It didn’t really surprise him that it represented his Palace.  After all, it had been the hideout for the leader of the Phantom Thieves of Hearts for almost a year.  

A great bolt of lightning crashed down from the sky.  Joker rolled, still getting hit but managing to rise back to his feet quickly.

Morgana, on the other hand, went flying.  He crashed into a building wall and lay there, dazed.  

Joker glanced up to the rooftop.


Skull, or at least a representation of him, jumped down.  He tapped a wooden paddle against his leg.

“Yo, Joker, good of ya to drop in.”  He held out the paddle.  “I’m  supposed to escort you in.”  He looked over to Morgana.  “Alone.”

With that he reached for his mask.  

Joker leapt forward, no hesitation in his movements.  This had to be a cognitive version of Skull.  For all Skull and Morgana fought, there was no way Skull would ever harm his friend so intentionally.

Skull jumped back, narrowly avoiding Joker’s knives.    He pulled off his mask, a blacked out version of Captain Kidd appearing in the air between them.  

Joker kept moving, narrowly avoiding the lightning bolts.  

He managed to get close again for a series of furious attacks.  He emphasized Skull’s injured side, forcing him to put his weight on his gimp leg.  

Skull swung at him with the paddle.  Joker ducked down.  The paddle barely crossed over his head, brushing against his hair as it went.  

The swing finally put too much weight on the injured leg and Skull stumbled.  

Joker lunged forward, driving him to the ground.  He had a knife at the cognitive Skull’s throat before he could recover.  Joker’s other knife cut into his opponent’s weapon arm.  

“Alright, alright, I get it.  I lose.  So get rid of me.  I’m useless now, right?”

“Joker?” Morgana called.  

He registered the sound, but chose not to turn his attention away from Skull.  The mask had reappeared, giving Skull’s eyes a sense of endless black depth.  

“Well?” Skull pressed.  He grinned.  “Come on, get rid of me.”

Joker pressed the knife closer.  

“I’m just a cognition.  A poor copy of the original.”

“Don’t say that.”

Skull laughed.  “You really are him.  Such a pack rat.”

Morgana placed a paw on Joker’s hand.  “Joker, this isn’t really Skull.”

“I know.”

Skull shouted, “Come on, let me go.”  He lurched forward.

Black blood splattered everywhere, the cognitive Skull’s throat sliced wide.  Joker just stared, still sitting on Skull’s chest as the body convulsed.  

Morgana backed away.  “Wha-?”

“Does he really think that will work?” a female voice inquired from behind them.  

“Lady Ann!”

Joker forced himself to turn his head from the grinning mockery of his friend.  Behind them stood Panther.  Queen and Fox stood beside her, shaking their heads sadly.  

“Hardly an elegant end,” Fox replied.

Queen placed her hand on her face in exasperation.  “He should have waited for us.  Now, he’s bound for a world of hurt.”

Slowly, Joker rose to his feet.  He faced them.  “More cognitions?”

Morgana pulled out his sling.  “They’re just more shadows, in the end.”

Panther held up her hands.  “We aren’t supposed to fight you.”

“Our job is to escort you to the Master,” Fox explained.  

“We don’t have to fight if you come peacefully,” Queen added.

Joker got back into a combat stance.  “I go on my own terms.”

“Really?” asked Morgana.

Surprised, Joker turned to him.  

One Morgana stood over the Morgana holding the slingshot.  

“You think you’d be sneakier.  I mean, you’re supposed to be our boss, right?”

Joker sheathed his knives.  “Let me carry Morgana.”

Fox chuckled.  

“Fox,” Panther snapped.

Queen shook her head, but Joker could see her smile too.  “Of course.  We wouldn’t expect you to let him go.”

Cognitive Morgana moved over to the side so he could lift the real one up.  “I’ll follow you.”

Panther and Fox turned to lead the way.  Queen went in step with him.  

“You really can’t summon your Persona, can you?”

“Why do you say that?”

“You could easily defeat us if you had your full power,” she reasoned.  “The boss thought you might be limited, but Skull hoped otherwise.”

“Why did he kill himself?”

“Freedom,” Queen whispered.  

They stopped in front of Leblanc.  

“He wants to see you himself,” Queen explained.  She stepped away.  “You know where he is.”  

Joker held Morgana close.  “And you?”

“Our job is to make sure you don’t escape,” Fox replied.

“Let us have a boring night,” Panther added.  

Cognitive Morgana looked down, kicking the pavement.  “Yeah.”

“Let me ask one question.”  Joker looked directly at Queen.  “Is Akechi here?”

“What do you think?” Panther responded.  

“Only you can answer that,” Queen added.  She gestured for the door.

With a deep sigh, Joker walked into Leblanc.

It looked more similar to the real thing than he expected.  Instead of booths, arcade machines lined the wall, but the bar and kitchen area seemed unchanged.  He could even smell the curry.

A cognitive Sojiro poured freshly brewed coffee into a mug.  “You better give it your best, you hear?”  He slid it along the bar.

Joker shifted Morgana to one arm so he could accept the coffee.  “I will.”

The cognition smiled and gestured towards the stairs.  “Best not to leave yourself waiting.”

With a nod, Joker headed up the stairs.

Previous | Next

Mistletoe 02: Lingering Question

Mistletoe 02: Lingering Question

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasy than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Example: featured image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.


This is my mind.  I’m in control.  

Akira opened his eyes once more to the dim streets of Tokyo.  This time though, he could feel the weight of a coat hanging behind him, gloves wrapped tightly around his hands, and a mask cool against his face.  

He touched it, assuring himself that this was, indeed, the correct mask.  

He’d entered his dream as Joker, and he would not be caught by surprise again.  

His mind.  His rules.  

The figure in red and white, Goro Akechi, stood a block down from him.  His face shone clearer than ever before.  Akira could see damage on Akechi’s mask.  The most obvious, the missing crow nose.  

“Crow,” he called out.

Akechi turned and fled.  Joker followed.  

His mind.  His rules.  His Tokyo.  The streets around him shifted, becoming increasingly more familiar.  

Akechi turned a corner.  Joker turned the one before.  The chase moved to a parallel alley.  

Joker leapt over trash bins and parked cars.  They were near Leblanc now.  His zone.  

“My turn to catch you,” he muttered.

Akechi spun to face him.  Joker leapt.

A black and white striped Persona with a large red sword appeared between them.  

Joker fell back, cursing, “Loki.”

Sure enough, when he looked at Akechi now, the man’s outfit had entirely changed.  The mask still clearly showed damage, but his entire outfit had turned dark.  

Looking at it now, it reminded Joker of a strait jacket.  


“Kurusu, I need…”

Loki stayed between them, perched on its sword.  

“I found out why it happened,” Joker shouted.  “I found out who was using us for their sick game.”

“A game?  Heh, ha, ha, ha,” Akechi burst into psychotic laughter.  “You don’t get it at all, do you?”

A powerful gale whipped around them.  

“What do you mean?”

“Isn’t it obvious?  The person using it all as a game, all as an escape, is you.”

Akira’s footing slipped, and he slammed against the wall of Leblanc.  

Akechi’s face calmed, easily visible through the holes in the mask, “And I did too.  I used you as an escape.”

“What do you mean?” Akira growled, rising back to his feet.  

“I was caught, trapped.”  He lifted a hand to point at Joker.  “By you.”

What?  Behind him, he could hear movement inside of Leblanc.  He recognized Anne’s voice, and Futaba’s, and Makoto’s, and…everyone.  The Phantom Thieves were inside Leblanc, but they didn’t sound right.  Worn out.  

“Turn around,” Akechi instructed.

Unable to resist his curiosity, Joker turned.  He even took a few steps back, closer to Akechi, to better take in the sight of Leblanc.  

The upstairs window opened.  

He could hear the sound of arcade machines and the rough shuffling of mahjong tiles.  A familiar face smiled at him from the window.  

Bright yellow eyes stared into his.  

His Phantom Thief outfit vanished around him as he fell back.  

His Shadow stepped out of the window.  

Akira felt a hand on his shoulder.  He looked back to see the black and purple clad Akechi behind him.  

“You have to wake up now,” he instructed, “before he catches you.”

“What is this?”

Akechi offered him a small smile before hauling him to his feet.  “Just run, before you’re added to his collection.”

His Shadow landed just a little out of reach from them.  

“Knights shouldn’t betray their king, Crow.”

Was that really his voice?  It sounded distorted, cruelty warping the tone.

Akechi’s outfit reverted to the one he had worn with the Phantom Thieves.  He pushed Akira behind him.

“Run,” he hissed.  

The Shadow grinned, mouth curling upwards to a hideous level.  “You know he won’t.”  

Robin Hood surrounded Akechi.  “Hamaon,” he whispered.  

Blinding light surrounded Akira.  He heard his Shadow shout something.  Chains erupted around them, surrounding Akechi.

“Wake up!”

Akira sat bolt upright in his bed, adrenaline racing through his system.  

“Morgana?” he shouted.  Where was Morgana?  Was he really back?

“I’m here.”  

Akira turned to see Morgana sitting on his desk.  

“You started kicking,” the cat explained.

“I caught him.”


“And?”  Akira looked at his hands.  “Can I have a palace?”

“Did you dream it?”

Akira looked back at the desk.  “Morgana,” he pressed.

“Probably.  Just because we got rid of the entrance doesn’t mean people’s hearts changed.”  He jumped on the bed.  “I don’t think it’s normal for a Persona user to have one though.  And the Nav’s gone, so I don’t know how we’d access it.”

“I saw my Shadow.”

“A dream of your negative self,” Morgana explained.  “You’re probably just seeing it as a Palace because that’s your context for Shadows.”

“Akechi said he had escaped, but that I…my Shadow, caught him.”  Akira let out a deep breath.  “I think he’s still alive.”

“Akira, it’s been two years.”  

Akira detected a hint of pity in Morgana’s voice.  Even in his closest confidant thought he was delusional.  

“I know that.  I know it’s probably all a dream.  But, what if it isn’t?”  He started at Morgana.  “What if he really is alive?  What if my distorted desires are hurting him?”

Morgana let out an approving meow.  “Well, when you put it that way, it does sound like a case.”

Akira gave Morgana a sincere smile.  That was the friend he remembered.

“Now the question is, how do we proceed?  Even if there is a Palace,” Morgana reminded him, “we have no way in.”

Akira stood, moving over to his wallet.  He gently ripped out some stitching along the outside edge.  He had sewn the concealed pocket himself, and it took longer to undo than untangling lights.  

“I don’t know the answers,” he muttered, “but I do know who to ask.”  He pulled out a small blue key.

Morgana let out an approving ho-ho.   




Akira found himself in a small room draped in blue.  Two comfortable chairs sat across from one another.  One of those chairs, a deep blue velvet, was already occupied by a young girl in almost identical blue.  

She gestured for him to sit in the crimson chair across from her.  

“Welcome to the Velvet Room once more,” she greeted.  “I’m afraid, that with your contract complete, I can’t let you into the velvet room at large, but my Master has agreed to a discussion.  He feels it unfair to you, that you were never given proper instruction.  And so bids me offer any advice you may need.”

Akira took his seat.  “Thank you, Lavenza.”

He could have sworn she saw a bit of red on her face.  “It is the least I could do.  Now, ask your questions.  I will answer as best I can to guide you.”

“Are there still Palaces?”

“Not as you know them, but in function, yes.”

“Not as I know them?”

“The Sea of Souls, the Collective Subconscious, a place between dream and reality,” she gestured around them.  “Whatever you call it, it does not simply cease to exist.  Rather, it is shaped by those who dwell within it.”

“Is it still possible to enter?”

She smiled gently.  “You’re here, aren’t you?”

“On accident?” he clarified.

“It happens all the time.”

Akira leaned back.  So, jumping into your own palace in a dream wasn’t just possible, but perfectly plausible.

He took a deep breath.  “Is Goro Akechi still alive?”

She spread out her hands.  “I am afraid I do not have the answer to that inquiry.”

“He said he used me as an escape.  Does he mean he went into my subconscious?”

“Not impossible,” she admitted.  

“Do I have a Palace?”

“Unlikely, but not impossible.”

“I think I saw my Shadow.”

Lavenza closed her eyes.  “There will always be shadows, but if you truly possess a Shadow…”  She opened her eyes once more.  “Can you still summon your Persona?  Try it.”

Akira took a deep breath.  “Arsene,” he whispered.  Immediately, he felt the power flow through him, the warm flame engulf his face.  

A piece moved across a Shogi board.

The power fizzled out.

“You have a Shadow,” she clarified.

“That’s how you know?”

She nodded.  “It’s very rare for a Persona user to maintain their abilities while they have a Shadow.  Part of why such a Shadow can form is simply that you no longer require the sense of self for Persona summoning.  Perhaps, you are simply bothered by what you witnessed, but given that you could proceed partway in the summoning, it is more likely that you simply lack the strength.  Fundamentally, you currently lack an important piece of your Self.”

“How do I get it back?”

“You accept your Shadow.  You admit that it is part of you, but not all of you, and you accept that piece.”

Akira had a bad feeling about this.  “I have to confront it directly, don’t I?”

She nodded somberly.  

“Is there some way to bring my friends?”

“Are you sure you want them there?”

Akira paused.  He had just thought about needing their help, and he trusted them completely for that, but was he really okay with them seeing his Shadow?

No, but he trusted them, and if it meant saving someone’s life, then it was worth it.  “I want at least Morgana to back me up.  And if I need more help, I know where to get it.”

Lavenza smiled.  “It is good to see that your Shadow has not dimmed your faith in your friends.”  She stood.  “It would prove difficult to enter someone else’s Palace, but your own mind should prove doable and, as long as you truly desire it, then others may enter with you.”


“When humans dreams, they inherently communicate with their subconscious.  Summoning a Persona isn’t really any different.  You reach into your Self and pull forth the mask.  This time, you must not bring it forth, but rather follow it down.  I cannot guarantee you will appear near your Palace, but you will appear in your own mind.  From there, finding it shouldn’t prove difficult.”

“And bringing in others?”

“If they are truly bonded with you, as I know Morgana is, then physical contact is all it will require.  If you desire his presence, and he desires to aid you, then you will appear together.”

“Will my body remain in the physical world?”

“I am not sure,” she admitted.  

“I’ll do it in my room then.”

She smiled at him.  “A wise plan.  I wish you well in your endeavor, but I am afraid information is all I can supply at this juncture.”

Akira stood.  “I understand, and thank you.”

“I do wish things had gone differently.”

“Yeah,” Akira muttered.  He did too.  If they could have somehow saved Akechi, how different might things have been?  

Previous |

Mistletoe 01: Lingering Pain

Mistletoe 01: Lingering Pain

Author’s Note: Beware SPOILERS.  I do not suggest reading if you have not finished the game.  I suggest leaving immediately if you have not yet finished the Justice Confidant.  You have been warned.  Otherwise, I hope you enjoy.  I threatened waiting until Christmas, but it ended up less Christmasey than I thought it would, so I’m posting it now.

Mandatory Disclaimer: The story is based on the world and characters of the Atlus video game Persona 5.  I do not own Akira, Morgana, Akechi, ect.,.  I do, however, own this story itself, and any original characters who appear.  Additionally, assume images used are official.  Any which aren’t will credit the artist.

Featured Image is from Pixiv.

Now, read, enjoy, and maybe even review.  I hope you enjoy.


Portrait of the Protagonist


A figure in red and white ran ahead of him through the hazy streets.  He ran desperately behind, but could never quite get a good look at the one ahead of him.  

The figure rounded a corner.  He followed close behind, only to nearly slam his face into a wooden fence. 

Something moved behind him.  He turned.

An arrow with a green vine wrapped around it flew for his chest.  No chance to dodge.  

It pierced his chest, pinning him to fence.  He stared down at it, desperately gasping for breath.

“Ar…sene,” he whispered.  Maybe, if he could summon a Persona…

The vine began to grow, oval leaves quickly covering his vision.  Something entered his mouth, some sort of smooth berry.  He bit down on it, trying to stop the growth.  A bitter taste spread over his tongue, numbing him.  

The plant continued to grow.

Unable to utter a coherent sound, he screamed.

Something sharp slashed across his face.

Akira Kurusu opened his eyes.  His breath came out in ragged gasps, and he could feel blood on his cheek.

A cat’s face peered over his.  “Thank goodness you woke up.”

Akira touched his bleeding cheek.

“Sorry about that, but you needed to wake up.  I’m surprised your own screaming didn’t do it.”

A knock sounded at the door.  “Mr. Kurusu, is everything all right in there?”

Akira sat up, staring at the cat, Morgana.  “Screaming?”

Morgana nodded.

Another knock at the door.

He should probably handle that.

Akira rolled out of bed.  Sharp pangs ran through his chest, but otherwise he seemed fine.  Fine enough to move up to the door of his tiny apartment at least.

He pressed the speaker button.  “Sorry about that.  Just a nightmare.”

“Alright.  As long as there’s nothing wrong.”

“No, my apologies.”

He heard footsteps as his neighbor walked away.

Akira turned around.  Morgana sat on his bed, watching him closely.  

It hurt to breathe.  Then again, he’d been panicking just a moment ago.


Here it came.

“You haven’t had a good night’s sleep for over a week.”

Akira tried to mutter something about finals, but Morgana’s tail swish told him how well that would work.  Instead, he moved over to the bed to sit down.  Maybe telling Morgana would help.

“It’s variations of the same dream,” he explained.

“Getting worse?”

Akira nodded.  “I’m always chasing someone.”

“Do you know who?”

Akira stared into Morgana’s face to gauge his reactions.  “Sometimes he’s easy to spot.  Tonight, for example, he wore bright white with red.  Glint of gold too.”

Morgana twitched.

“Two nights ago, he wore dark clothes that covered almost his entire body.”  His chest hurt, and from more than the screaming.  It felt like it was constricting around him, his heart trying to jump up his throat.

“Akechi,” Morgana whispered in disbelief.  

Akira tried to simply nod quietly, but hearing the name made his constricted heart pop from the pressure.  The harsh sound of a pair of gunshots pounded in his head.

He laid his head down in his hands.  


He could understand Morgana’s confusion.  It had been over two years, and he’d rarely given Akechi’s death much thought.  Now and then, he and the party would have a moment of remembrance.  They’d even found Akechi’s mother’s grave, to let her know what had happened to her son.

The only nightmares he’d ever had over Akechi’s death had involved thoughts of if they could have saved him, but they weren’t exactly guilt ridden either, and they didn’t make him scream like this had.

They didn’t make him cry.  

“It felt real,” he whispered.  He was beginning to feel a little better, like the tears were making room in his chest for his heart.

“What happened in it?  What made you scream?”

Akira took a steadying breath.  “I got shot with an arrow.”


“It pinned me to a fence and then…there was a vine around it, and it grew.”

“What kind of vine?”

“I’m not sure.  It had bright green leaves.  Round ones, and some sort of berry.”

“Maybe if we find out what it was, we can figure out why you’re having these dreams,” Morgana offered.

Akira nodded.  Talking to Morgana helped make him feel in control again.

“Now, why don’t we go back to sleep?  You do have a final tomorrow.”

Even distressed, Akira managed a small smile.  Count on Morgana to make sure he got plenty of sleep.



“Excuse me, Professor, may I speak with you?”

Akira’s psychology professor turned to him.  The man had a hawk’s face, complete with dark eyes.  He even looked at students like they were prey.  

“What is it, Mr. Kurusu?”

“Do you have any suggestions on dream interpretation?”

Akira knew it was a long-shot.  One semester had been enough to teach him that this professor was more a chemicals and lab rats sort of man.  Still, it seemed wise to start with such an easily available source.  What was college for, after all?

“Are you actually stressing about your finals, Mr. Kurusu?”

Yes, but only because of nightmares keeping him from a good night’s sleep.  Akira doubted even a delve into Mementos could have made him as sleepy as his current dreams.

“Professor, these dreams don’t involve finals.”

The professor sighed.  “I see.  My approach would be lucid dreaming to remove myself from the nightmare.  If there’s an obvious symbol, I’d conduct an internet search for its various meanings.”

Akira nodded.  Logical enough.  He hadn’t really thought of trying to control his dream, but a change in how he approached it would likely do wonders.

“I take if you find this advice helpful?”

“Yes, sir.”  Akira bowed.  “Thank you very much.”

“Very well, now, if you’ll excuse me,” he held up the stack of finals, “I have some grading to complete.”

Akira offered another quick bow before moving out of his professor’s way.  He then buttoned up his coat, put on his gloves, and headed for the exit nearest one of the school heat vents.

Sure enough, Morgana had perched himself on top of an old plastic chair over the vent.  Akira had moved the chair there with the first frost, and had consistently found Morgana there ever since.

The black and white cat wore a small blue scarf, secured with the help of his collar, and even had snow booties on.  Akira wore a matching scarf.

“Anything helpful?”

Akira shrugged, opening up his school bag so Morgana could curl up inside.  “Some good advice, but no information.”

“Maybe the Master would know?” Morgana offered.  “He seems to have a thing for plants.”

Akira nodded, zipping the bag partway to hold in heat.  His current employer, a man about Sojiro’s age, had insisted on turning the café into something of a paradise for the winter months.  The number of green plants in that café made it feel like spring or summer.  

“It will be crowded today,” Akira reminded Morgana, slinging the bag over his shoulder.

“I know, I know.  No jumping on the tables or bar.”


“And no picking the customers’ pockets.  Jeesh, Akira, steal one cellphone charm and you treat me like a hardened criminal.”

“She got it from her boyfriend.”

“Whom you hate,” Morgana countered.

Akira just shook his head.  They had argued over the charm theft for two months now, and Morgana still refused to apologize.  Akira had managed to return the item at least, claiming it must have fallen off in the café, but he wished Morgana would offer up an apology, or at least a promise not to do it again.

He wandered through the snow.  Even for Hokkaido there had been an obscene quantity of snow this year, and none of it had melted.  Fresh flurries kept the world a pristine white.  

Akira didn’t much like the subdued landscape.  The world felt muted like this.  Still.  Even in the city, it was like snow stopped the world.

At least the café was always lively.  Akira walked in just as a student rushed out with a practical bucket of coffee.    Inside, a small line waited to order, while several others waited for pick up.  Every table was packed with cramming students.  He suspected many of them had made it the rest of the semester partying, only to realize that failing this final meant failing the class.

“Akira,” Master called from the counter, “bring out some fresh beans when you go change.”

With a nod, Akira headed for the back room.  There, he changed into his work uniform.  This particular café emphasized feeling fancy and relaxed.  The uniform, a European butler costume, reflected that ideal.  Still, Akira had to admit, it worked well.  He could move around quite well, and he looked damn good doing it.  

Morgana hopped out of the bag while he was changing.

“I think I’ll stay back here for a while.”

Akira nodded, even as he corrected his bow tie in the mirror.  

“Don’t forget to ask about the plant in your dreams.”

“After things calm down.”

“Naturally.  Now, go steal those hearts, Joker.”

Akira sighed.  Morgana said that every day at work.  It had been cute at first, but then he’d realized that Morgana desperately wanted a girl around.  

Still, he’d be lying if he said it didn’t make him smile every time.



Darkness had fallen by the time things really calmed down.  A few regulars sipped their coffee quietly, but all the noise had died out.  The manager had watered the plants, and only an hour or so remained until closing time.

Morgana had come out at this point.  One of his favorite customers, and older gentleman who came every evening to read, had arrived.  The old man always came with a few cat treats, sometimes even a piece of fish, and absentmindedly stroked Morgana while he read.

Times like this, Morgana was definitely a cat.

“You feeling okay?” the manager asked suddenly.  He spoke quietly, and slid a cup of freshly brewed coffee along the bar.  “Your work wasn’t quite as efficient as normal.  You better not be getting sick.”

“No, I’m not sick.”  Akira gratefully took the cup.  He’d taken a careful look around the plants in the café, but none matched the one from his dream.  “Just not sleeping well.”


“Not really,” Akira muttered.  “My psychology one went well today.”

“Good to hear.”

“It’s just…” he sighed, “bad dreams.”

The manager moved to the back room, pulling out a small box of decorations.  “Well then, maybe a bit of holiday decorating will help you brighten up.”

“Holiday decorating?”

“We’re European style, right?  So,” he pulled out a Santa hat, “we should decorate accordingly.”  He plopped the hat on Akira’s head.  “I’m thinking we should give you a Christmas uniform too.”


The man winked.  “I just like seeing the ladies swoon.”

Akira smiled.  He’d have been lying if he claimed not to appreciate the attention.  He’d seen more than one man eyeing him appreciatively as well, and more than a few jealous glares.  He enjoyed the responses his presence caused.  People saw him as attractive, and were drawn to his confidence.  

“Now, I’ll decorate the bar.”  The manager handed him a box of decorations.  “The lights should frame the windows and door.  The mistletoe needs to hang over the entrance on the inside.”  He winked.  “Don’t want anyone getting frostbite while they kiss.”

“Right.”  Akira had only a vague idea what mistletoe looked like, but he remembered it was a green plant with berries.  Berries.  He felt the bitter taste from the berry he’d bitten in his dream override the smooth bitterness of coffee.    

“Akira?” the manager whispered beside him.  

“Sorry, just remembering something I ate.”

“Nothing good, I take it.”

“No.  Sorry about that, boss.”

Akira could see Morgana’s concerned look from over where he was shamelessly receiving a belly scratch.  Akira nodded slightly in the cat’s direction, hoping that conveyed that it had to do with his dream.  

With that he slipped on his coat and headed outside to put the lights up.  It turned out just to be a couple of small strings of sparkling white lights.  The manager clearly wrapped them up carefully.  Between that and Akira’s proficiency for this sort of thing, he hung up the lights quickly and efficiently.  

Good thing too.  The wind had picked up considerably since he had arrived to work.  Nothing quite like gloppy snow ramming into your face to make for a pleasant evening.  

He pulled the mistletoe out of the box.  Oval leaves and white berries.

This was it.  This was the plant from his dream.  



“What are the meanings of mistletoe?”

He pulled the stool out, so he could hang the plant over the door frame.

“We hang it over the door to encourage lovers to kiss, and it’s often a sign of affection.”

“Anything else?”

“In more traditional languages, it can symbolize surmounting difficulties.”

“Surmounting difficulties,” Akira whispered.  He hopped off the stool to make sure he had hung the plant correctly.

“There’s more, but those are the most known meanings.  Many cultures think of it as a magical plant, and a symbol of fertility.  You could easily look up more online.  Why the sudden interest?”

Akira headed back to the bar.  The boss had decorated it with ivy and small lights.  

“It was in my dream.”

“You could probably look it up in a dream dictionary then.”

“Dream dictionary?”

“Yeah.  I’ve never bothered to look up mistletoe in one of them, but they help sort out my thoughts.”

“I’ll do that.”

“Hope it helps.  I want you energetic for Christmas.  Now, why don’t you and Morgana head home?”



“Clinging affection?” Morgana asked, staring incredulously at Akira.  

Who knew cats could look so disgusted?  

Akira carefully read the small webpage.  Clinging affection stood out, but there was also something about dependency on a host, and… killing a god?

He quickly typed Baldur and Mistletoe into his search bar.  A post about the death of Baldur showed up on top.  

“Do you really think that has to do with it?”

“I’m killed by an arrow of mistletoe,” Akira reminded him.  Sure enough, it looked like Loki had used such an implement to kill Baldur.  


Akira leaned back on his bed.  He’d assumed the arrow had to do with Robin Hood, but now that he thought about it…

“Akira, don’t get too caught up in dream logic,” Morgana warned.

“I know, but this means something.  You don’t go two years barely thinking about someone only to suddenly have them invade your dreams every night.”

“Is that true, Akira?  That you didn’t think about him much.  You never said anything, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

Akira winced.  Akechi certainly rarely came to the forefront of his mind, but when he did it always hurt.  To Akira, to Joker, the failure to save Akechi, to save Crow, his teammate and friend, had stung more than he liked to admit.  He had felt a certain kinship with Akechi.  Even after everything that had happened, he had found it hard to hate his friend.  He still couldn’t hate him.  

“I need to know why.”

“I know.”

“Now that I have a lead, I’m going to try treating the dream like a Palace.  Maybe then I can catch him.”

“It’s all in your mind,” Morgana reminded him.  “Go get ‘em, Joker.”

Akira smiled at him, finally putting on his cocky grin from two years ago.  “I’m counting on it.”