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Title: Reach Out (Part 6) - Echoes
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Yosuke with the rest of the surviving Investigation Team + spoilers. Pairings are Souji/Yosuke (in the past), implied Chie/Yukiko and Kanji/Naoto.
Summary: AU, pseudo-fill for [ profile] badbadbathhouse; details in the notes for the first part, here.

Souji has fallen in battle, and the rest of the team moves on without him, with Yosuke taking up the job of leader. They manage to catch the killer and continue on with their lives as best they can, but as time moves on, they begin to question if everything is truly resolved...

Notes: This will spoil you in the face for the true ending. This is part six of ten.

There's nothing but mist - roiling, churning, and filled with sound that crashes against everything, dizzying, terrifying, and impossible to comprehend. And yet, slowly, meaning and order begin to emerge from chaos.

"-morning, Hana-chan... no, I'm fine, don't worry about me-" "-sale on produce this morning, hurry up and stock those-"

"Will you fucking listen-" and that one's new, different, sharper.

"-do you mean, you broke it?! You're gonna buy me so many steaks-" "-another new transfer student, maybe you'll finally-"

"Pay attention, you stupid-"

"-catch him together, you'll see, we'll put an end to all this-" "-special to me too, Yosuke-"

"Pull yourself together, damnit!"

And then everything snaps together, violently, and Yosuke stumbles to the ground, opens his eyes - and sees himself.

"Fucking finally," his own distorted voice mutters, and yellow eyes blink at him in irritation.

"... what are you doing here?" Yosuke manages, staring at his Shadow, reflexively feeling for Susano-o in the back of his mind and finding only a fleeting, tenuous connection to his other self. There are still strange voices echoing in his ears, their meaning now impossible to decipher. "Where... where is here, anyway?"

All around them is nothing but white mist.

"Think real hard about that."

"I..." Right, they were fighting Izanami, and... that orb-thing, and then she became even bigger, and rotting, and then the grasping darkness and Kanji had saved him and- "What... what happened?"

"She killed us, dumbass," his Shadow replies, scowling and folding its arms.

Yosuke stares down at his own hands; they look the same as always, not transparent like a ghost's are supposed to be, or sickeningly pale like Souji's face had been after- "I'm dead?" he asks, disbelieving.

His Shadow sighs, exasperated. "Yes, genius. Are you gonna get up or do I have to make you?"

Yosuke gets to his feet slowly, sounding out every movement he makes, trying to assess how he feels - but all he can come up with is strange. There's no pain, not exactly, though he knows there should be considering the beating he took. All around them is mist and whispers, and adjusting his glasses does absolutely nothing. Experimentally, he fumbles his headphones into place and hits play. Nothing but static. "Dead," he repeats, trying to make sense of it.

"You knew it was suicidal, but you kept going anyway, and now you're acting surprised that you all bit it?"

"I thought..." Yosuke starts, but he can't quite finish the sentence. That everything would still turn out okay in the end. He'd had those weird dreams, heard the whispers, had that orb thing, and yet...

His Shadow laughs. "At the end of the path lies the truth, huh? If you find any of that bullshit here, let me know."

Yosuke glares at it. "Fine, let's say you're right... so where are we?" He doesn't bother asking why he's still capable of movement or speech at all. All he knows is that this formless, shapeless place isn't anything like what he thought the afterlife would be.

"Use your damn brain." His Shadow leans forward and taps him sharply on the forehead; it doesn't hurt, though Yosuke can feel the pressure of his Shadow's touch. "You already know."

And... he does, Yosuke realizes slowly, as if his Shadow's prodding has shaken the memory loose. This is part of the sea of unconsciousness that exists within human hearts. A hollow forest born from bloated desire and false imagery.

"Good," his Shadow mutters, shaking its head. "You die here, you stay here - stuck in the void, like the rest of us."

"The rest of you? You mean... other Shadows?" Yosuke frowns.

"You see why I was so happy to see you in that liquor store back then? This place is more boring than your damn Inaba could ever be. Everything's either stuck in limbo or reduced to brainless, oozing piles of instinct. Such fucking fantastic options." His Shadow smiles at him, the expression distorted under its bright yellow eyes. "By the way," it adds, casually, "you really hate it, don't you?"

"...Hate what? Being dead?"

"The expression on their faces when they look at you and you're not him."

Yosuke stares at his Shadow, a distant, cold feeling plunging into the pit of his stomach. "Y-you..."

His Shadow just smirks. "You hate him too, don't you? Hate him for leaving you, for making you pick up all the pieces he left behind. It was so hard, you cried so much, yet you still kept going. But nothing you did brought him back, did it? And now you're dead too, and so are the rest of them. You did a great fucking job, Leader."

"Don't call me that," Yosuke snarls, and whips a kunai at his Shadow's face.

It snatches the blade out of the air easily, of course. "They were all right, you know - the guy with the long nose, the divine bitch who just kicked your ass. 'A role you weren't destined to take,'" his Shadow quotes, mockingly. "'Your part in this is more than over.' But you weren't finished with your petty atonement, were you? Because you miss him soooo much, you loved him soooo much... so much that you couldn't stand for anyone to see you two together? That's love, huh?"

"Shut. Up," Yosuke grates. "You think I don't know that? You think I don't regret it every damn day? But your bullshit's not going to work, damnit. Maybe it's true, but it's not the whole truth. You know that, too. Because you're me, and I'm you!"

"Tch," his Shadow scowls. "You're no fun at all. Take my advice - just give in now. You'll thank me! I'm the only thing that can give you oblivion."

"Is that why you helped me? So you could piss me off?!"

His Shadow shrugs, and grins hungrily. "You're way more fun like this. We'll see how long you last here... and you'll give in eventually, no matter what happens. Why fight it?"

"If I'll give in eventually, then just wait. It's inevitable, right? What, are you scared I'm going to magically not be dead and you'll miss your chance?"

His Shadow just stares at him, then throws the kunai back - but underhand, not as an offensive strike. Yosuke catches the kunai and shoves away the jangle of emotions in his mind; his Shadow's words are painful, and would probably make his eyes sting if he weren't fucking dead, but there's also something suspicious about it all. "So what would happen if you... won?"

"Oh, you wanna find out after all?"

"No," Yosuke snaps. "Tell me." He reaches out mentally, exerts just a bit of pressure, as if calling up Susano-o - and the Shadow flinches, taking a step back, away from him.

"I already told you," it says, irritated, but also clearly on the defensive now. "Back then."

The memory is sharp, still redolent with the fear he felt back then, when all his strength drained from him as he dropped to the floor of the nightmare liquor store. Yeah, that's right - I'm ME now! I'm not you anymore, see!? His other self twisted into a new form, and he was unable to escape - except then there was Souji, jumping between him and the monster-

"I could have taken everything," his Shadow practically purrs, tugging his attention back to the here and now. "I still can, you know," it adds, but Yosuke mentally twists at it again, and smiles slightly when he sees it recoil a little further. "You would have ended up like your precious Saki-senpai."

Yosuke resists the urge to flinch. "What about her?"

"Oh, you won't find her here. She's gone. Completely devoured, nothing left. The same oblivion you're gonna beg me for once you get sick of this endless fog."

"You won't get the chance," Yosuke mutters, walking past his Shadow. "Anyway, if we're dead, and the others... are too, then... they have to be here somewhere, right? Maybe if we find each other-"

"Do you have any idea how big this place is is? I'll give you a hint: it's really fucking huge."

Yosuke bites his lip, hard - still no pain, just pressure - and stares past his Shadow at the fog. There's nothing to guide him, just infinite hazy whiteness touched with soft, nearly inaudible echoes. His Shadow looks startling against that emptiness, dark and vivid. "Chie?" he tries. "CHIE?!"

The sound bounces, echoes, and is swallowed up - but something returns. The whispers in the mist sharpen, become clearer in his ears; he can hear Chie's voice, snatches of conversations they once had. Yosuke takes a step forward, desperately, then runs a few feet into the fog... but there's nothing there but sound.

"Lovely echoes, aren't they?" his Shadow says, sardonically. "But that's all they are. Your friends are probably playing games with their Shadows, too." It gives him that hungry grin again. "I wonder what'll happen to them?"

"They've faced their Shadows before. They can handle this," Yosuke mutters, then slumps to the ground. "Damnit-"

His Shadow ambles over to him, crouches, and drapes one arm over his shoulders. "Ready to give in yet?"

"No," he mutters, though he doesn't shove his Shadow away. "Get used to being disappointed."

"Oh, I'm not worried. We've got lots of time for you to change your mind."

For a moment he just sits there, irritated - but his Shadow's words echo, resonate strangely against the fog, and come back-

"Geez, that's what - eight months from now? I'm not worried about that, partner. I've got lots of time to change your mind." Yosuke grinned as he leaned forward and drew a scribble on March 21, 2012. "So that's my deadline, huh?"

"So how are you planning on convincing me?" Souji raised one eyebrow in amusement.

"Hm. I have a few ideas..." Yosuke tossed the pencil to one side and pounced on Souji, easily tackling him back onto the futon. "Like this, for example."

"That might work," Souji acknowledged, and leaned in to press his lips against Yosuke's.

Yosuke sits very still, an idea rising in his mind, both wonderful and terrifying at the same time. "If you die here, you're stuck here."

"Yes, dumbass." His Shadow rolls its eyes. "Are you only now figuring this shit out?"

He inadvertently knocks his Shadow flat on its ass as he scrambles to his feet, eyes wide. "Then... Souji could be..."

His Shadow starts laughing. "And you're still hung up on that useless-"

The next second, there's a kunai at its throat; the laughter abruptly stops. "Shut up. I'm not going to deny you, but I'm getting pretty damn tempted to see what'd happen if I stabbed you. Don't. Push. It."

His Shadow glares up at him. "He always was the special one, wasn't he? Special to you... special in other ways, too. Nothing to hide, no Shadow to fight... and so very, very fucking many Personas. Do you know what that does to your self? You can't imagine having anything like what he had... one was enough, right? And what happened to you when you showed up here? Think about it."

Yosuke does, for a moment, then shudders.

His Shadow's grin grows wider, and he voices the thoughts that make Yosuke's stomach twist. "All those selves. All those tiny pieces. And he doesn't have such a friendly Shadow to help him out. No focus, no reminders, no pulling yourself together. Nope, he's fucking toast. So much for being special."

Yosuke pivots away from his Shadow. "Get up."

"Wha-" his Shadow begins, but Yosuke yanks hard at the bond between them, and it scrambles to its feet. "So you really do want to go after him. How... sweet. I'm sure your other friends will be thrilled that you ditched them."

"You just said they had their 'friendly' Shadows to help out," Yosuke says, eyes narrowed. "Souji doesn't, and he's been here way longer - they'll understand." Any of them would do the same thing in his place, he knows.

But his Shadow is his Shadow, and it hears all the things he doesn't say, too. "And you still think you can redeem yourself, tch."

"You've been with me all this time," Yosuke keeps his words even, deliberate. "Yeah, you pissed me off at first, and you're pissing me off now - but you fought with me, too. You're me. And if you're me... then you want this too. You miss him too. Yeah, I can't deny you... but you can't deny me, either."

His Shadow just looks back at him, silently; a ripple runs through its form, lending hints of red to its hair, and the dark Yasogami High uniform flickers blue for a moment.

"Let's go, already - I don't care how long it takes. We're dead, we've got forever and nothing better to do, right? Let's go, Susano-o."

His Shadow smiles, slightly, then vanishes; a moment later, a familiar shape appears next to Yosuke, the Persona almost unbearably vivid against the white mist. Good, comes a distant echo, and his Persona dissolves, moving to take up residence in the back of his mind again.

Yosuke slowly turns on one foot, staring out at the apparently endless mist. It's a sea of chaos and echoes... but also of potential, just waiting for a human mind to give it form.

Let's give it something to do.

He's not at all sure this is going to work, but why the hell not - it's not like he has anything to lose. "C'mon, Souji," he mutters, then pauses as the mist hisses back its echoes at him. But they're faint, terrifyingly so, and what sound he can make out is broken and fizzing, like a bad tape recording. "Damnit! Where are you?!"

His own voice cuts through the whispers, seeming to silence them, and for a moment his stomach twists. But, as the echoes die, something in the mist shifts, ever so slightly. It's only barely visible, but there are faint variations in the fog now, gray streaks and lines of discoloration running ahead of him.

A path.

Yosuke smiles grimly and starts to run.

Part 7


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

August 2012

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