"What should we do with the body," Akira asks, leaning over to check for a pulse.
Makoto keeps her cool, because she is an honor student. It is in the handbook, one she is rapidly expanding, but an iron clad rule nonetheless.
"Don't tease me, he's merely... incapacitated."
It's only when Akira says nothing for so long that Makoto feels her own heart rate spike. It had been a standard defensive throw, and more importantly, he should have gotten up by now. Before Makoto can go and see for herself, Akira stands up and halts her from stepping closer.
"He's pretending to be unconscious. He's scared of you."
The body flinches suddenly and Makoto does not apologize. He had grabbed her arm to show her the sights and she doesn't owe him anything. She sighs, then gestures for Akira to follow her.
"Let's go, Akira-kun."
"Still want boba tea?"
"Not really... but we have come all the way here."
"I'll buy us snacks."
"Mm, I don't think so." Makoto shakes her head with a smile. "My junior won't be doing anything of the sort."
"Joker's orders?" Akira hedges.
"The local family mart is a strange looking Palace."
"Ah, then I guess you won't be able to advise me on my illicit bread buying activities, here in the real world."
Makoto parries the blow with a laugh but chooses not to retaliate. There are worse battles to lose, and she would rather they be here, than in Mementos. "All right," she concedes. "I'll follow your lead."
The red bean paste in her bun hits her craving, and their walk is pleasant. What ruins the day, is Makoto's unease every time Akira smiles at her. It's been two weeks since she realized, an awful lot of Shujin students do think they are dating. Or at least, that Akira likes her. And while she doesn't have hard evidence that he does or does not, the circumstantial evidence... It makes her uncomfortable, that awful dreary feeling of being trapped in a cell called a lie.
She's wasted so much time walking straight ahead, being the perfect model of what others needed her to be. Independent to lessen the burden of living on her sister, reliable and orderly to fulfill the responsibilities of others. Her perfect box hiding the truth behind her. Never once questioning her school until Kamoshida's horrific abuse came to light. Johanna's spark had ignited her, topping off the last of patience and uncertainty, unleashing a vicious will to live by her terms and to destroy the poison others called justice.
Hurt is a motive but not an excuse for crime.
In this moment, she senses her truth wanting to come forward, because she is done hiding and it feels like the right time. Better to deal with awkward feelings now then later.
She's just finished agreeing to study with Akira at the library when she realizes this is the fourth time.
"When Ryuji calls me in a fit, I have an easier time helping him after you've helped me."
"I see." Makoto digests the likelihood of this, which is extremely high. She throws her first shot and it connects. "Before we separate for the evening, there's something I need to tell you."
"What's wrong?" Akira stops and turns to face her.
"Okay." Akira amends, "What is it?"
"At the risk of someone being mislead in our relationship, I would rather put an end to it now than deal with a more uncomfortable problem down the line."
Akira merely nods and Makoto braces herself.
Like a shackle breaking and bursting into a thousand pieces, her chest violently flips inside, no longer weighted down by a secret but free to worry about loaded silences and harsh words. They never come.
Instead, Akira nods. This time with a bit of a shrug.
"Oh, of course. Me too."
Makoto explodes in a fury of verbal punches.
"Me too? Wait. What do you mean, of course? Don't laugh at me!"
Akira hides his laughing mouth behind his hand and only when his shaking shoulders subside does he speak.
"I meant, of course I knew. With how you get around Ann, seriously?"
A flush of embarrassment and indignation lands a hit across her cheeks, the world flipped upside down and alien. Soon she'll look up and find the subway station above her head.
"I'm not here to discuss my behavior with Ann-chan."
"You thought I liked you?"
"I wasn't sure." No, that's not definitive. "I didn't want to hide, regardless of the truth."
If I can't reveal my truth to my teammates, we have no business working together, she thinks.
"I understand." Akira teases his bangs with his fingers. "Ryuji and Ann already know about me."
"Do you really think he wonders about other people?" Akira snorts and Makoto can't fault him. Yusuke's wavelength makes him... unique but never close minded. Considering how often he forgets to eat or being his wallet when he does remember, it's a moot point.
Makoto asks one more question, because this afternoon is a series of firsts, not unlike the previous times Akira has joined her. "How long have you known about me?"
"After you got your persona. I figured you'd tell me sometime, or never."
The frank way of speaking has Makoto chuckle, a hand wiping her face for tears that aren't there. "You're always so honest."
"I'd say it was because I have no choice but... it's always been my burden." Akira smiles, something small and tight. His record looms over him. "Was that it?"
"Yes." It was. It feels like the situation calls for them to have a large discussion, about their fears, and their troubles, cling to one another because finally they have someone to understand one another. But Makoto doesn't feel like doing any of that. So, "That's all."
"I'm sure you're relieved."
"In more ways than one." For once, it's her turn to tease. Akira's face lights up in surprise before he nods his approval.
And just like that, they're discussing what Akira should do about skill inheritance in his velvet room until it's time to hit the turnstiles and head home.
Makoto goes to bed full of both wisdom and might.