chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (bewildering fog)
[personal profile] chisotahn posting in [community profile] ikuzeaibou
Title: Truth in the Shadows
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Souji/Yosuke and a little of the rest of the cast.
Summary: Mid-December: questioning, weariness, and truth.

Notes: This will spoil you in the face for December / the endgame. Fourth in the 'Irreplaceable Days' fic-sequence; direct sequel to Breakdown.

Ten million thanks to [livejournal.com profile] frigoris for doing truly exhaustive reads and re-reads on this one, and to [livejournal.com profile] akisazame for her excellent suggestions. You are both amazing. ♥




They knew what to expect out of Magatsu Inaba and the Mandala by now - mazes of tilted and cracked streets, caution-tape barriers that tangled around Souji's sword when he broke through them, and a fresh helping of bullshit from Adachi whenever they made any real progress. "He's running scared," Souji said, grimly, tossing aside a wad of caution tape; Yosuke helped him tear the rest of the yellow mess away from the 'door' so they could go through. "If he really had as much control over this place as he says, he wouldn't have to rely on taunting to try and get rid of us."

"His so-called 'truth' is just as messed up as the rest of this place, anyway," Chie muttered, making a face at the way down to the next level of the Mandala.

Yet, despite all that, everyone hesitated a little before they plunged onward - even if it was all bullshit, even if they could try to write it off as just the desperation of a madman, sometimes Adachi's words hit uncomfortably close to home. Yosuke hoped it was accidental, just a lucky guess, but Adachi had fooled them all for months. Whatever else their opponent may have been, he wasn't stupid.

Sure enough, as soon as they descended, there was that feeling of being watched again. Yosuke sighed inwardly and waited for the inevitable.

"Have you even thought about the 'truth' you all want so bad?" Adachi sounded bored, as if their progress was only barely worth paying attention to. "Who really wants it, huh? Isn't it just you guys? What good is the 'truth' if you're the only ones satisfied by it? See, you just want to satisfy yourselves."

"Yeah, well, at least we're not killing people to do it," Chie retorted, but - as usual - it didn't seem to matter what they said.

"'Namatame is the serial killer,'" Adachi went on, and Yosuke resisted the urge to turn up the music on his headphones to drown him out. "That's what society accepts as truth. Everyone's fiercely latching onto it. Let's say you guys catch me, and that 'truth' is proven false... What do you think will happen then?"

Yosuke looked over at Souji, confused. What the hell was Adachi's point this time? His friend was looking up at the red and black sky, brow furrowed, a slight frown on his face.

Adachi laughed. "You don't get it? It's simple. They'll simply latch on to that instead. Nothing about them or the world will change. That's the 'truth' you're all looking for," he said, derisively, and then the sense of being watched faded.

"Ugh, he's annoying," Yukiko sighed. Next to her, Chie kicked at the broken asphalt hard enough to dislodge a chunk and send it skittering over the edge.

"He's such a smartass," Rise put in, with a huff. "Ready to go, Senpai?"

To Yosuke's surprise, Souji didn't respond right away; in fact, the other boy was silent for long enough that Yosuke wondered if he'd even heard Rise's question. "It doesn't matter if we're the only ones," Souji said, finally. "The truth is still true, no matter what our motivation is for wanting it."

The rest of the group exchanged glances. It seemed to Yosuke that there was a faint edge of uncertainty in Souji's assertion. "W-well, yeah," he said, not quite sure how to respond.

"Senpai?" Rise prompted again, hesitantly.

That seemed to work; Souji straightened and seemed to regain his focus. "Yes. Right. You're all ready to keep going?" Souji asked, shifting his sword to his left hand and rubbing the back of his neck.

"The faster we go, the faster we can end all this," Chie said, firmly, though she glanced over at Yukiko and put one questioning hand on her best friend's arm. "I'm game for at least another few rounds."

Yukiko nodded. "So am I."

"You know I'm ready," Yosuke supplied, but he frowned slightly as Souji led them around the corner and down yet another screwed-up 'street'. Chie shot him a look, and Yosuke could only shrug helplessly in response. Sure, Adachi had needled them before, but Souji had never been the one knocked off-guard.

It was worrying, and it showed in their fighting; they didn't make any obvious mistakes, but there were enough false starts and hesitant moments to throw off the usually smooth rhythm of their combat. Souji stopped them after three battles. "I think we're done for today." He didn't say why, and there wasn't any condemnation in his tone, but Yosuke still felt a little guilty.

"I could keep going, but... hey, if you say so, Leader," Chie replied, obviously trying to hide her own concern; it was equally worrying that Souji didn't seem to notice that either.

With Rise's help, leaving the Mandala behind was fairly simple, and it wasn't long before they were all back in Junes, under the glaring fluorescent lights of the electronics department. "Let's meet here again tomorrow," Souji said, to general agreement. The other half of the investigation team didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary.

Still, there didn't seem to be a good opening to broach the subject, as Souji seemed more interested in talking to Kanji, Naoto, and Teddie about what challenges the other group had faced in their explorations. Eventually, Chie and Yukiko drifted off together, and Rise followed them after a few minutes. But Yosuke couldn't just leave it like that. He hung around, pretending to be deeply interested in one of the endcaps, until Souji was done talking. Kanji and Naoto went off together, and Teddie practically bounced over to Yosuke. "Are we going home now, Yosuke? It's ramen tonight! Delicious ramen!"

"You go on ahead, Ted. I'll catch up with you later," Yosuke replied.

"If you don't hurry up, I'll eat yours too," Teddie threatened cheerfully, then waved at Souji. "See you tomorrow, Sensei!"

When Teddie was finally gone, Yosuke hesitated for a moment. Everyone else had left, but there was still a strange, awkward feeling in the air, a barrier between him and Souji that he was hesitant to approach. He'd never been any good at this. Still, he took a few steps towards Souji and stretched, trying to be casual about the whole thing. "Nnngh. Man, I'm tired. I really wanted to get a little further, but..." He glanced over at Souji. "It still takes a lot out of you, even if you're determined."

"Right," Souji said, and that was it.

Well, that hadn't worked. Yosuke settled for walking alongside Souji as they headed out of the store. The fog was as thick outside as ever, and as the automatic doors swished open the fog curled as though it were alive and trying to sneak in. Yosuke had to resist the urge to swat it away with both hands. "Ugh, it's getting worse, damnit. I almost stepped on someone on my way here, and all she did was look at me funny and giggle, like she was crazy or something."

"Yeah, I've seen that," Souji replied, and there was that slight frown again. "See you tomorrow, Yosuke-"

"Wait, hang on," Yosuke interrupted, quickly. "I'll walk back with you."

"But your house is just down the street."

"Yeah, well... fighting gets me on edge, y'know? I'm all jumpy. Need to walk it off," Yosuke said, stubbornly; Souji wasn't going to get away that easily, and maybe he'd think of something on the way there.

Souji shrugged, and started walking. "Okay."

And that, once again, was that; Yosuke rolled his eyes in exasperation (which Souji couldn't see through the fog, of course) and trailed after his best friend. Yosuke tried to force a conversation a few more times, but Souji just wasn't responsive; Yosuke eventually gave up, and tried to ignore the way the fog obscured everything around them, as if they were alone in a void.

But they weren't alone, not really - while the fog reduced other people to fuzzy shadows in the haze, Yosuke could still hear bits of conversation around them as they walked. Despite the weather, people were still out and about, talking and laughing in small, hunched-up groups that were much easier to hear than see. "Did you see what was on TV last night?" someone said, off to Yosuke's left.

"They say it's the end of the world, psh. At least it's entertaining!"

"Everyone's talking about it! Nobody knows what's gonna happen, but I can't wait to find out!"

"Me neither," and this time the speaker drifted close enough to Yosuke that he could make out more than just a dim shape in the fog. "I'm not really worried about not being able to see anymore. Some people get sick from it, but I'm all right so far, so who cares?"

"Morons," Yosuke muttered, under his breath; it was the same crap that they'd been hearing all month, ever since the fog had set in. This odd self-absorption had crept subtly through Inaba until it, too, was everywhere. The number of crazies in gasmasks and of slumping, incoherent people had increased with every passing day.

They walked in silence all the way to the house, with no brilliant strategies coming to Yosuke's mind. Still, as they reached the front entrance, Souji hesitated just enough to inspire one last desperate attempt on Yosuke's part. It was either speak now or fret for the rest of the night.

Well, since 'subtle' was a total failure, let's go with blunt. Yosuke stopped walking; Souji paused and turned to look back at him over one shoulder, one eyebrow raised in question. "Alright, give it up. What's wrong, damnit?" Yosuke blurted out.

Souji just gave him an odd look. "I'm fine."

"Not gonna work, partner," Yosuke insisted, sidling over to nudge Souji lightly with one elbow. "When you hang out with someone for this long, you figure a few things out, right? Come on, man."

Souji sighed. "Fine. You want to come inside?" he asked, after a moment.

Well, hey, that counted as a better response than he'd gotten all the way home. "Yeah, sure."

The house seemed so empty without Nanako-chan and Dojima-san; this wasn't new, of course, but somehow it seemed worse with the fog pressing against the window panes. Yosuke kicked off his shoes and dropped his messenger bag as Souji wandered over to the TV and turned on the weather report.

"Welcome to beautiful Inaba - all fog, all the time," Yosuke muttered, making a face at the forecast. "I wonder if they'll pick up on the end of the world? 'Tomorrow's weather will be red and black, with a high chance of Shadows.'" He'd meant it as a joke, but Yosuke saw Souji twitch, just a little. "Aw, c'mon, it wasn't that bad. At least it's better than Teddie's puns, right?" Souji hit the mute button on the TV and sat down on the couch, still looking blankly at the now-silent broadcast. Yosuke plopped down next to him with a frown. "Seriously, dude. Spill. You're freaking me out."

Thankfully, that seemed to work; Souji sighed and turned himself slightly, focusing on Yosuke rather than on the TV. "I'm sorry."

"Sheesh." Yosuke rolled his eyes. "Let's try this again: What. Is. Wrong. And now you tell me." He gave Souji an expectant look.

Souji paused for just long enough that Yosuke seriously considered leaning forward and shaking him. "Sorry," he said, finally. "I just... the fog... the way everyone else is changing, like they're turning into Shadows from the inside out already..."

"Yeah?" Yosuke prompted, when Souji's speech faltered. "Um... and?" Man, he really wasn't any good at this.

Souji shook his head. "I'm just... tired," he admitted, slumping forward slightly. Yosuke half expected Souji to stop there, but he kept going. "It feels like I don't know anything, not anymore. It was Mitsuo first, then Namatame, now Adachi, and after that, who knows? Maybe there's no end to it. Maybe we can't ever catch up... maybe we should just be happy with whatever we find, and accept it as the truth... and be done, like everyone else."

"Souji, I... we can't stop now..." Yosuke said, desperately searching for words, some sort of response. Adachi's taunts rang in his mind again. Nothing about them or the world will change. That's the 'truth' you're all looking for. But the memory, pointed as it was, actually helped; it kicked Yosuke from flustered shock into anger, and he could work with that. "Don't tell me you're actually paying attention to Adachi's crap. We can't stop now, especially not because freakin' Adachi says so!"

"I'm not going to stop," Souji said immediately, but he stared fixedly at the floor. "I'm not going to let everything end this way, not like this... but nobody else seems to care. They seem almost... happy... about it. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this is what people really want. Maybe I don't have the right to decide this for everyone."

Yosuke had not been expecting that. "W-what, and Adachi does?"

"No, but..." Souji sighed. "You heard them too, on the way here. They don't care... whatever 'truth' is presented, that's it, that's enough. Maybe that really is all they are, at the core."

Yosuke squirmed a bit, inwardly; he couldn't deny that part of what Souji was saying was correct, but something was missing. "People can be like that inside... but that's not the whole truth, y'know?"

Souji lifted his head and looked at Yosuke. "Yeah?" he said, after a moment.

"I..." Yosuke paused, more than a little intimidated by Souji's thoughtful attention. "It's like with me and my Shadow, right? All the terrible things it said were true, but it was leaving out a hell of a lot. My Shadow... is part of me. Part," he stressed. "Not all. You told me that yourself, remember?"

"Yes," Souji admitted, "I know, but... you, you and all the others, you defied your Shadows. Nobody else is. They're just slipping happily away, not paying any attention to what's really going on."

"Oh, yeah, defying my Shadow was a great plan," Yosuke said, with a scowl. "It could have killed you." He understood what Souji meant, though. It seemed easier to deal with Shadows when they were right in front of you. Watching people erode at the edges was somehow more disturbing than facing a yellow-eyed reflection. "I don't know, maybe they don't have the power to do that. Like with Namatame, maybe - it wasn't the same for him as it was for us. Anyway, they're not in the TV."

"Yet."

Yosuke resisted the urge to roll his eyes; he knew Souji could be stubborn, but this was not something to be obstinate about. "Well, if they can't find the truth, we'll just have to find it for them, right? Give 'em something real to focus on, something that's not all this damn fog. If they don't care, that's their problem. Not ours."

"If they want to stay blind to the truth, they will... but at least we can give them a choice," Souji said, slowly. He was silent for a few seconds, then started to laugh, a soft, self-depreciating sound. "I'm an idiot."

"No, you're not," Yosuke objected. "We're all tired, man... and it has to be worse for you, with Dojima-san and Nanako-chan still in the hospital and all. It's okay."

"You were all worried, weren't you? I'm sorry."

"Geez, Souji," Yosuke sighed. "Adachi got to all of us, at least a little. Just because you're the leader doesn't make you immune. Of course we were worried. We're your friends, stupid."

"Heh." Souji actually smiled, just a little. "Good thing I have you to smack some sense into me."

"Y-yeah, well, uh," Yosuke stammered, his face turning red. "If you run your mouth off enough, eventually you'll say something that makes sense, right?"

"I thought it was an astute observation," Souji said, and he shifted to sit more naturally, no longer slumping like there was a tremendous weight on his shoulders.

Yosuke made a face. "You sound like Naoto."

"Well, it was astute. Especially for you," Souji added, and Yosuke would have swatted at him if he hadn't been so relieved to see that familiar teasing smile come back to Souji's face. "Thanks, Yosuke."

"Hey, I told you we were all worried." Yosuke awkwardly brushed one hand through his hair. "It wasn't just me, man."

"You're the only one who followed me here," Souji said, simply, then stood up. "At the cost of your dinner, if what Teddie said was right."

"My din- oh, damn." Yosuke frowned, then sighed and grinned up at his best friend. "Eh. It was worth it."

Souji padded past him towards the kitchen. "What do you want?"

Yosuke blinked. "Huh?"

"For dinner," Souji said, patiently.

"You don't have to-"

"Well, I'm hungry, and if I eat in front of you without sharing, you'll just look at me pathetically the entire time. It'll spoil my appetite."

Yosuke gave Souji an offended look. "I do not look pathetic. Ever."

Souji grinned at him and turned to open the fridge. "I think I have the ingredients for curry, if you're interested."

"...well, geez, if you insist on making my favorite food, I guess I'll be forced to stay here."

"I thought so," Souji said, satisfied. "Here, you can chop the onions."

Yosuke made a face. "Nuh-uh, partner. I'm no good with knives."

Souji's only response was to arch one eyebrow at him.

"...I ... I meant with knives in the kitchen, geez! Shut up!" Yosuke spluttered, jumping to his feet and huffing his way into the kitchen.

"But I didn't say anything."

"... shut up."

Date: 2009-02-28 08:20 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akisazame.livejournal.com
YOU'RE AN EXCELLENT SUGGESTION

wait what

Date: 2009-02-28 10:24 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akisazame.livejournal.com
Yosuke would be petulant about it though

but he would accept because it means Souji has to touch him o. m. g.

Date: 2009-02-28 10:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] padraiceen.livejournal.com
didn't they get arrested for that

Date: 2009-03-01 10:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zero-damage.livejournal.com
So I found my way over here via akisazame's fic journal (Hope you do not mind)

Just read this and the earlier parts. Awesome work! Great dialogue in particular, and you actually give Souji a personality (I fail epically at this). Looking forward to seeing the continuation, keep it up :-)

Date: 2009-03-14 11:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sugarainbow.livejournal.com
I loved the end waaay too much to describe it in words!~
and I like the fact that you're not rushing anything, everything is going smoothly so far.
staring at the monitor... waiting for the rest!

Date: 2009-11-24 12:34 pm (UTC)
falkner: photoshoot picture of Sakurai Sho from Arashi (P4 ▪ Swimsuits)
From: [personal profile] falkner
I just stumbled upon your journal and read the 4 chapters of Irreplaceable Days, and was wondering if you're going to keep writing it? ♥

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

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