chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (when you need me most)
[personal profile] chisotahn posting in [community profile] ikuzeaibou
Title: Breakdown
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Souji/Yosuke
Summary: The events of 12/3, and what happened next.

Notes: This will spoil you in the face for December. Third in the 'Irreplaceable Days' fic-sequence; direct sequel to Filling the Silence.




November soon settled into an easy rhythm, and while at first Yosuke thought he'd miss the rescues and the journeys into the TV, after the stress earlier in the month it was almost a relief to not have to worry constantly about training, the Midnight Channel, the weather forecast, and everything else. He was pretty sure he'd start missing the good parts - his Persona, the thrill of having a secret, the knowledge that he was a hero in a sense - eventually, but for the moment he was willing to just take a step back and be Yosuke Hanamura, Normal Guy for a while, instead of Yosuke Hanamura, Persona-user.

It seemed like everyone else needed a breather, too; while the investigation team did poke into the TV world once or twice just to check on things, for the most part the others also seemed content to take it easy. Dojima-san was slowly mending from his injuries, and while Nanako-chan's status hadn't really changed that much, at least she hadn't gotten worse. Yosuke ended up over at Souji's house most nights, sometimes bringing Junes bento for dinner - at least until Souji forcibly grabbed the bag out of his hands one evening, shoved it in the fridge, and produced an actual homemade dinner that was every bit as good as the shared lunches they enjoyed every so often. They took to alternating back and forth on dinner duty, just to be fair - to be equal, as Souji teased. "That's what you wanted, right?"

Yosuke had to concede the point.

So the month drifted on, and the fog set in after one rainy night on which the Midnight Channel was blissfully empty, showing nothing but fizzing yellow static. Things changed a bit, then - the story about Namatame broke to the news, and (more importantly) Nanako-chan regained consciousness. The pattern switched to visiting Nanako-chan almost every day, alternating with frantic studying for midterms, and with all of that going on it was nearly December before it truly dawned on Yosuke that the thick fog hadn't ever really broken, not once. And that was worrying, but so was failing midterms, and the academic threat was much more immediate. Thankfully, Souji offered to help him study. Yosuke immediately accepted, simultaneously embarrassed at needing help and pleased that Souji would offer it.



So, with all of that time - all those evenings spent together, all the dinners, the teasing, the studying, the rest of their friendship, everything - why, why didn't Souji understand?


...............



It all happens so fast, so fast Yosuke can hardly parse it. One night the two of them are studying as usual, stuffing their minds full of facts for the last day of finals; the next day, Kanji helps them realize that the fog shrouding Inaba is the same as the fog in the TV world - and that's really worrying, but they go in and finish their finals anyway, because high school waits for nothing, not even supernatural death-fog.

One moment, they're laughing and joking together under the bright lights of Junes; the next, Souji's phone is ringing. He answers it, listens, tenses suddenly; Yosuke turns to him questioningly and sees sudden fear creep into his gray eyes. Souji's hurried explanation sends them all running out into the night-

-and now it's just past midnight, and Yosuke's mind is so full of pain and rage that it's a wonder he's still standing, still able to function. The target of that rage is on the floor, kneeling, clutching his head as if it's going to explode - and suddenly, with the television right there, so close, so blessedly large, the solution is completely clear, like a gift.

"All we have to do," he manages, somehow, "is push him inside the TV. That's it. We do that one thing, and this is all over." So simple, so perfect, so easy.

"J-just push him inside?" Chie's reaction isn't the vehement rejection he'd half-expected; instead, her almost thoughtful tone gives fuel to his righteous anger, helps vindicate the entire thing.

"If any of you want no part in this, just leave the room. I'm not gonna force you to stay." He glances at the others, quickly, not willing to make eye contact too closely lest he see doubt in their eyes - but no, there's the one person he can't ignore. But with all the time they've spent together, always on the same wavelength, surely he'll get it - he's a smart guy, after all - "As for me, nothing could make me forgive this bastard." Hands trembling at his sides, Yosuke turns to Souji. "But before we do this, I want to hear what you think. What do you want to do... Leader?"

Yosuke can hardly stand the silence that descends then, just the sound of them all breathing, of Namatame's desperate gasps, of Yosuke's own blood roaring in his ears - but he can see the struggle in Souji's face, and silently urges him towards the answer he knows is right-

"Wait a second here..." Souji says, very slowly.

Wait? Wait? Is he crazy? Yosuke all but lunges at him, to shake some sense into him, to make him understand - but he pulls back at the last second, turning the movement into a wild gesticulation. "We don't have time to wait! If we don't do this now, the cops will come back! What're you trying to say?!"

"We're missing something." Souji's words are slow again, but more firm this time, more sure of himself.

"Something we don't know...?" Yosuke gives Souji a disbelieving look. "What don't we know?!" He all but screams it at the other boy, and the sense of betrayal is jarring - where's the understanding, the agreement he's always had, he's always come to expect from his best friend? It doesn't help calm his anger at all; he glares at Souji with as much rage as he's ever leveled at any Shadow.

"Namatame's true feelings." Souji's voice is way too calm, the emotional struggle in his face smoothed down to a thoughtful, controlled expression that's absolutely infuriating.

Feelings? Why the fuck should I care about a murderer's feelings? Yosuke pounds one fist into his free hand hard enough that it hurts, staring right at Souji, trying to force sense into him with the weight of his own angry gaze - everyone else forgotten now, they might as well be the only two people in the room. "But we just heard the guy's true feelings on TV! What didn't you understand?!" He needs Souji to understand, to nod and agree, to give him the right answer like he always does-

"Something's bothering me," Souji says, as if Yosuke isn't right there breaking to pieces in front of him.

Yosuke lunges forward again, his wild gesticulations almost hitting Namatame in the head. "Well, what is it?!" he shouts, desperately. "I already told you, there's no time to waste!" Another idea flashes through him, making him grit his teeth, dropping ice into his stomach. "Are you even getting at something here, or are you just stalling?!" he snarls, clenching his fists so tightly at his side that he can feel his nails biting into his palms. There's no time, we'll miss our chance, you'd better not be-

"We're missing something..."

"Missing?" and Yosuke's voice breaks. "Like what, exactly?" This time his hand actually does graze Namatame's scalp, not that the trembling man notices, and Yosuke certainly doesn't care. "Damnit... I've heard enough of this bullshit! Give me a straight answer! Are we doing this or not?! That's all I give a damn about right now!" No more of Souji's goddamn thoughts, bothers, anything like that. Screw that. Screw him.

And then, without warning, Souji is lunging at him, his gray eyes so cold and filled with anger now - anger directed at him, at Yosuke Hanamura, not at Taro Namatame. "Calm the hell down!" Souji stares right at Yosuke as he shouts, and while the words are ostensibly for everyone, Yosuke knows exactly who they're really meant for. It's enough to make Yosuke recoil, that frozen gaze a shock as sure as any physical blow; distantly, he sees the others flinch back as well-

And Namatame groans, and something in the air changes, breaks, leaves Yosuke standing there - shaking and wrong.


...............


So many things happened that night - such a rapid succession of joy, grief, pain, anger, and then impossible joy again (so sudden, so overwhelming, another gift) that it left them all reeling. It was almost too much for Yosuke to deal with... and there were certain parts he really didn't want to remember, to think about too much, most of them centered around Souji. Sleep would help, he was sure. It usually did.

And then it was morning, far, far too soon, and Yosuke's phone was ringing. He opened his eyes slowly and glared at the phone as it buzzed at him, almost mockingly - but it was reachable without getting up. If it hadn't been, he probably wouldn't have bothered.

"Yo, it's Chie - did Teddie come home?"

Yosuke stared up at the ceiling for a moment, trying to remember. - right, the bear hadn't come back with them last night. "Hang on, I'll check," he mumbled, kicking the covers off, stumbling sleepily out of his room and down the hall to Teddie's door. "Hey, Ted? You in there?" No response. "Teddie?" He pushed open the door. Nope, definitely no Teddie, and the futon was still folded up. Yosuke sighed. "Doesn't look like he came home at all, Chie."

"Ooh... that dumb bear, who does he think he is, just disappearing like that?" Chie replied, exasperated.

"I'll look for him. I know where he usually hangs out." Yosuke closed the door again and padded back down the hall to his own room. So much for sleeping in. Stupid Teddie.

"Sounds good. Call me if you find him. I'm going to call the others. If you don't find him out here, he might be inside the TV, right?"

"Yeah, maybe. I'll call you then. Seeya." Once Chie hung up, Yosuke gave his futon a long, wistful look, then sighed again and and went to get dressed and ready.

It was cold and damp outside; the snow from last night had become dirty slush on the ground, sullen under the blanket of fog. Visibility was nowhere near good enough to risk using his bike; while he could just put on his glasses and clear everything right up, everyone else wasn't so lucky. So he'd have to walk. In the slush.

Fantastic.

Yet even after a good forty-five minutes of trudging around Inaba, eventually putting on his glasses for the visibility improvement, he couldn't find any sign of Teddie - not at Junes, not in the Shopping District, not anywhere. Frustrated, Yosuke pulled out his phone and called Chie again. "Hey - I can't find him at all. Nobody's even seen him."

"Ugh. I bet he really is in the TV. I'll get Rise, and we'll go look, I guess." Chie sighed into the phone. "Can you go tell Souji?"

Yosuke was not at all prepared for the sudden twist that hit his stomach at the sound of his best friend's name. "Y-yeah, sure," he managed, and either he was better at covering than he thought or Chie just didn't notice, because her reply was all business.

"Great. Meet you guys at Junes, then - give us an hour. Bye." The dial tone buzzed in Yosuke's ear, and he slowly lowered his hand and stared at the phone. He knew the right buttons to press to speed-dial Souji's number, he could probably do it in his sleep now... but, try as he might, he couldn't make his fingers move. After a few moments he gave up, closing the phone and shoving it into his pocket.

He didn't want to face Souji, not now - not by himself. With everyone else around, sure, that'd be easy; he could hide behind the rest of them, and maybe given enough time the confusion left over from last night would dull and everything would drift back to being okay again. Maybe.

Maybe not.

Yosuke sighed and turned around, heading for Souji's house.


...............



Yosuke stared at the door to the Dojima residence - it was so familiar, he'd been here dozens of times, but at that moment he'd rather have entered any damn door in the TV world than this one. Why couldn't he have just called Souji and done this at one remove?

Still, he was here now, and even he wasn't stupid enough to call Souji from right outside the damn house. He shook his head, irritated at himself, and headed to the door, taking off his glasses and tucking them into one pocket. He pushed the doorbell with unnecessary force, then waited.

Nothing.

The urge to just turn around and leave was strong, but Yosuke bit his lip and pressed the button again - and this time he heard creaking, the tell-tale signs of someone moving around upstairs, followed by the unmistakable sound of Souji coming down the stairs. The door opened, and thankfully the expression on Souji's face wasn't angry, just friendly as usual, if tired, and that helped a little. "Hey," Yosuke said, awkwardly.

"Morning." Souji stepped aside and gestured for Yosuke to come in. "What's going on?"

"Teddie's missing," Yosuke said, quickly, trying to cover up the trepidation in his voice, but he knew he wasn't succeeding. Maybe Souji would parse it as him being worried about Teddie, at least. "I looked all over the neighborhood, but I couldn't find him anywhere..."

Souji frowned, just slightly. "Hm. I'm worried."

"Yeah, me too. He was acting all weird lately..." Yosuke gestured, vaguely. "Rise and the others are checking inside the TV to see if he's gone back to the other side. We're meeting pretty soon, so will you come with me to Junes?"

He wasn't sure if he was relieved or not when Souji nodded; Yosuke hovered in the entryway as the other boy did whatever else he had to do to be ready. If Souji thought that was odd, he didn't say anything about it, and they left the house together.

Still, as the two of them walked down the quiet street, the fog-muffled silence began to feel almost unbearably awkward to Yosuke - and no, he couldn't do this anymore. This was stupid. "Hey, ah... heh, y'know what? I just realized, I didn't check along the floodplain road." He ran one hand through his hair and gave Souji what he hoped was a sheepish, aren't-I-a-moron-haha look. "We should probably check there on the way, just in case. Man, that'd be pretty dumb if he was there this whole time. Heh."

The lie was completely transparent, and Yosuke knew it, regretted it almost as soon as he said it - but, to his surprise, Souji nodded. "Sure. It'll go faster with two people looking, anyway."

"Heh, thanks. Sorry," Yosuke said, trying to look embarrassed, which wasn't exactly a challenge. They turned at the appropriate corner, heading for the river and the floodplain road. "You know me, dumb as a stump..." Souji didn't respond to that, for whatever reason, and Yosuke slipped back into confused silence. Souji was a smart guy; there was no way that he wouldn't see through Yosuke's obvious ruse. Was Souji just being nice by not calling him on his shit?

The floodplain area was completely empty, other than the usual scattered stray cats - the fog and the cold weather weren't exactly a big draw. Yosuke made a half-hearted effort at poking bushes as they walked along the road, calling for Teddie every so often, knowing damn well the bear wasn't here to answer him. And while the road was fairly long, it wasn't that long, and soon they'd be done here and off to Junes and he'd have, once again, missed his chance. He could see the barriers at the end of the road now, slowly emerging from the fog, the end of the line.

He stopped walking.

Souji noticed immediately, to Yosuke's surprise; the other boy came over to him, one eyebrow raised. "Did you see something?"

"See s- oh, er, right, yeah. Uh, I mean no." Yosuke glanced away, frustrated.

"What's wrong?"

The question was posed in Souji's usual mild tone, but Yosuke's gaze snapped back to him as if he'd shouted again. "Oh, yeah, fine. Now you're going to be perceptive. That's great, Souji." The words tumbled out before Yosuke could really filter them, and he folded his arms and gave Souji an almost defiant look.

Souji just frowned at the outburst. "This is about what happened last night, isn't it?"

"What the hell do you think? You- why wouldn't you- I-" Yosuke stopped and made himself take a deep breath, surprised at how quickly all the anger and hurt came back. "Last night. Right. Why?" He wrapped up all his frustration and confusion in that one word and threw it at Souji like a weapon.

Souji pivoted on one foot, turning away from him slightly. "Because... because I didn't want to see my best friend become a murderer."

The words seemed to echo into the fog, and Yosuke flushed hotly, opened his mouth, closed it, then lunged forward and grabbed Souji's wrist. He all but dragged the other boy across the muddy grass to the gazebo, and while Yosuke knew Souji could have broken free without a second thought, he didn't even try. Yosuke released his hold at the foot of the gazebo steps and stomped up them before whirling on Souji. "Yeah, fine, just tell all of Inaba! Go ahead!" He swallowed, hard. "What the hell do you mean, murderer?!"

Souji rubbed at his wrist where Yosuke had grabbed it. "That's what it would have been, Yosuke. That's why-"

"No," Yosuke snapped. "No. It's not. You kill things like that, before they kill more. Before they take what's close to you. I fucked up on that once," he managed, past the sudden tightness in his throat. "I'm not going to do that ever again. It's no different from killing Shadows, damnit - why don't you get it?!"

"I do," Souji said, sharply, and Yosuke stopped abruptly, his hands shaking again. "Damn it, Yosuke, do you really - do you think I wasn't just as tempted as you?" Souji continued, walking up the gazebo steps himself to face Yosuke on the same level. "You were with me the whole time, when we fought the Shadow. I know you saw how much I wanted to kill him."

Yosuke certainly did remember; that was part of what made it so confusing, how the visceral fury in Souji's face when they'd fought Namatame's Shadow had been starkly absent in that hospital room. "W-well - we can do that, we can push him into the TV and then go after him and finish the job. I'm fine with that," Yosuke began, but Souji shook his head.

"No. We can't. We can't be... like him. Like Namatame." Souji's gaze was abruptly full of pain, and Yosuke flinched away from meeting it; there was something there that struck too close to home, echoes of that same desperate need for the other person to understand. "If we threw him into the TV, we would be exactly like Namatame - exactly the same as what he did to Nanako-chan, and Naoto, and Rise, and Kanji, and Yukiko..." Souji paused, and said the last name gently. "And Saki-senpai."

Yosuke sat down on the bench with a thump, stunned as realization, understanding flooded through him. "Like... no, no, I'm not like that, I'm nothing like that-" You're not me, you're nothing like me- and that echoed parallel hurt, too, and he stared mutely up at Souji with an almost fearful expression.

"I know," Souji said, quietly. "That's why I stopped you."

Yosuke blinked, then slumped as the tears came, hot and hurting and no longer angry at Souji, but at himself. He felt Souji sit down on the bench next to him, the other boy silent as he so often was, but his presence spoke volumes. After a moment, Yosuke felt the soft touch of Souji's hand on his back - not a hug, like the last time he'd cried himself sick over Saki-senpai's death, but it was more than enough.

He wasn't sure how long they sat there, but eventually the tears ran out, and Yosuke sighed raggedly and turned to his friend - only for Souji to hold out a packet of tissues in his direction. Yosuke stared at it for a moment, then started laughing helplessly. "You are such a weirdo, Souji."

"Doesn't everyone have some for emergencies?" Souji said, mildly, but there was an amused smile on his face.

Yosuke snatched the packet out of his hand and freed a tissue. "Yeah, well, I'm not planning on having any more 'emergencies'. Two's enough."

"You sure? I can get more," Souji began, then ducked as Yosuke threw the wadded-up tissue at his head.

"Dumbass," Yosuke said with a sigh, then offered his best friend a sheepish smile. "T-thanks, man. I needed that... more than I thought, I guess." He took a deep breath. "And... I'm sorry."

But Souji just smiled back and stood up. "I was tempted too," he said, quietly. "Don't forget that. We all were. But we can choose which path to take. We don't have to do things the same way."

"Yeah, well." Yosuke got up, rubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. "Good thing we've got you to show us the way, Leader."

"Heh." Souji walked down the gazebo steps and glanced up at the foggy sky for a moment, then looked back at Yosuke with a playful expression. "Let's go, partner."

"Hey, that's my line," Yosuke protested, then grinned and ran after him.

Date: 2009-03-13 10:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sugarainbow.livejournal.com
This feels like exactly what would have happened behind the scenes! I love how they aren't ooc at all! everything feels so real and I love you for writing it~

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ikuzeaibou: (Default)
let's go, partner!

August 2012

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