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Title: Reach Out (Part 7) - Anchors
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 [livejournal.com 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 seven of ten.




He doesn't have any idea how long he's been running. All his usual benchmarks of duration and distance are completely irrelevant here, so Yosuke isn't certain how far he's come when the gray streaks in the fog abruptly run out.

He stops, sharply, blinking at the sudden blankness that surrounds him once more, and his heart sinks. "Souji?" he tries, hopelessly.

The reaction is instant, chaotic, the definition of sensory overload. Yosuke stumbles backwards as his friend's name brings a torrent of rebounding echoes, sound and memory fracturing and breaking in the fog. It's very nearly overwhelming, and Yosuke trips over nothing and falls - but then his Persona is there, unbidden, sheltering him and driving the echoes back so that he can think again.

"Holy..." Yosuke manages, as the insane jumble fades to a dull roar. "Holy shit."

It's a million times worse than what happened to him, which makes sense considering how long Souji's been here, and how peculiarly vulnerable his Persona ability must make him in this shapeless place. For a moment, Yosuke feels crushingly guilty - god, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry I didn't get here sooner - and buries his head in his hands. But he knows he really only has two choices. It's either sit here beating himself up until his Shadow comes out again, or get up and try.

Yosuke gets up.

Susano-o floats over him as he slowly gets to his feet, the Persona still holding off the onslaught, keeping everything from overwhelming him. He can barely make out colorless shapes in the fog now, darting, curling, blinking in and out of existence. Familiar shapes, most of them; he's seen them before in many battles over the time they spent chasing the killer before Souji's death. At the time, he'd thought the ever-increasing numbers of gods, demons, and monsters under Souji's command were fascinating, to the point where he'd almost looked forward to seeing what new Persona his best friend would surprise them with each time.

Now, watching the faint shadows churning in the mist, it just makes him feel sick inside. So many Personas, so many pieces. This whole time, Souji had been quietly fragmenting his self for the sake of their journey, for the sake of the truth. Maybe he hadn't known about the possible consequences.

Maybe he'd known, and just hadn't mentioned it. That sounded like Souji too.

Yosuke's first idea is a total failure - he plunges into the fog after the Persona-shapes, trying to grab at them, to pin them down and make them stay put. It doesn't work, and he ends up flat on his face multiple times as his hands pass right through their indistinct forms. He tries to listen to the echoes around him, to try and drag some inspiration or direction from them, but they're way too jumbled and indistinct to pick apart.

Yosuke sighs and slumps back to the ground, overwhelmed again, but not by the echoes this time. It all seems so hopeless. Yeah, sure, he came barreling in all determined, but then he was determined going in to face Izanami, too, and look how well that turned out. "What the hell am I supposed to do?" he groans.

A slightly louder echo catches his attention, and he looks up to see a barely cohesive figure watching him, its dim gaze actually focused rather than blank and dazed. "What?" he asks it, almost accusingly. "Don't pay attention to me - go get your friends and fix this shit, damnit." But the Persona just blinks at him, then fizzes at the edges until the mist claims its form again. "Oh, fine."

He watches the fractured shapes slide past for a few minutes more, then sighs raggedly. Sitting here isn't doing anything either, that much is obvious. "Damnit, Souji... god, I don't even know if you can even hear me, or anything," he says, as another faint figure flits past without so much as a glance at him. "Maybe it's just one more noisy thing... sorry... but damnit. I couldn't save you then and I don't know if I can save you now..."

His voice reverberates faintly in the fog, then comes back - and it brings the sound of Souji's voice with it. Yosuke tenses for a moment, then droops again and closes his eyes as he realizes it's just another damn echo, hears his own voice too, and remembers-


"Yosuke!"

Yosuke glanced over from where the others were deep in conversation with the damned fox - "You jokin'? That's too damn much!" Kanji blustered at the creature's impassive gaze - to see Souji standing by the doorway that led out into the Shadow-infested corridors. His best friend was smiling at him, indicating the door with a slight tilt of his head.

Yosuke sidled away from the others and over to Souji, and the two of them crept out into the hallway without being spotted. "What's up?" Yosuke asked; Souji was clearly pleased and amused, but Yosuke had absolutely no idea why.

"I wanted to show you something." Souji said, then pivoted on one foot and took a few steps away from Yosuke. He took a deep breath, then made the familiar sharp gesture that he always used to summon his Personas. The Persona answered him instantly, shimmering into being in front of him.

"Whoa. Another new one?" Yosuke said, bemused; having new faces join them in battle wasn't exactly unusual, but Souji usually didn't look so damn pleased about it. "That's cool...?"

"Its name is Mada," Souji informed him, grinning. "And it's your fault."

Yosuke blinked at that. "My... fault? What're you talking about?"

The Persona dissolved into the air as Souji let his hand fall back to his side. "Like how Susano-o is my fault."

Yosuke stared at him. Souji's friendship, his advice and guidance, had helped Yosuke overcome so much, transfiguring Jiraiya into Susano-o - but he had no idea that it worked both ways. "You have that Persona because of
me?"

"Yeah." Souji stepped forward until he was standing right in front of Yosuke. "I thought you might want to see... and I wanted to thank you." Before Yosuke could react, Souji pressed his lips against Yosuke's, lightly at first, then more firmly as Yosuke responded by leaning in to the kiss.

"Dude, thank me for what?" Yosuke managed when they paused to breathe.

Souji shrugged. "Everything?"



"Yeah, I remember," Yosuke mumbles, his eyes still closed; the memory is fragmenting and breaking away now, like all the rest. "Good thing the fox was being such a jerk that day, or they would've..." You loved him soooo much... so much that you couldn't stand for anyone to see you two together? That's love, huh? Yosuke flinches slightly at the reminder of his Shadow's words. "... I'm sorry. I'm so goddamn sorry-"

And who's going to hear him but himself, his Persona, and what's left of his best friend?

"Everything inside me changed after I met you. I'm... glad we met. I'm glad we had what we had. I'm not sure I did a very good job afterwards... but I had big shoes to fill, y'know? I wouldn't have made it this far if I hadn't had you to show me how... I'm sorry," Yosuke whispers, and he can't get rest of the words out - they're too tangled with his memory of that nightmare foggy midnight, of walking numbly through the empty streets to Junes, his face turned to the sky, to the wires and antennas, looking. Waiting for a corpse.

I need you. I love you. I'm sorry.

Yosuke sighs again, the sound a broken thing, opens his eyes - and sees the Personas.

There are still dozens of shapes sideslipping blindly through the mist on all sides, but there's also a small group staring at him, still fuzzy at the edges and wavering, but there's definitely a sense of attention there. Familiar, he realizes, though all their names don't come to mind - Pixie, that one he does remember, and the pumpkin-headed one, and so many others. But the one that draws his focus is the blurry shape from that memory, from when Souji thanked him for everything he'd done. As if he'd done something important. Special.

"Heh. You had that Persona because of me, huh?"

His words sound abnormally, startlingly loud, and for a moment he can't figure out why. But the echoes are fading a bit, not gone, but definitely quieter. And the largest Persona, Mada, is gaining cohesion. The other Personas, the fairies, the pumpkin-headed thing, the short one with the jester hat, all of them are fading away, the faint tints of their color mixing with the larger figure, giving it solidity and strength.

And then Mada's gone too, and Yosuke scrambles to his feet, practically diving to catch the tarot card as it drifts downwards into his hands. He shakes for a moment, trying to figure out what on earth's just happened. "Souji? Souji?" he calls out, desperately - this is Souji's, he needs to be the one to have it - but there's no reply, just more echoes.

No reply, until he hears another voice and whirls in the fog.

It's not Souji's voice, but it is familiar, and it's not something from memory. "I know this is kind of... stupid, Yuki..."

"Chie?!" Yosuke starts forward, only to see dim shapes in the fog - it's them, Chie and Yukiko, sitting on the ground as haze momentarily obscures their features. Their Personas are with them, Amaterasu's long, winglike arms sheltering the pair in its embrace, Suzuka Gongen just behind it.

Yosuke makes a startled noise and takes a step towards them, then stops - there's a strange sense of distance between them, as if the girls would vanish if he got too close. Wherever Chie and Yukiko are, it isn't here, but he can hear their words nonetheless. "Even if it is stupid, I have to say something anyway. Just in case, y'know?" Chie sighs, leaning against Yukiko; their fingers are intertwined, and Yosuke's abruptly glad they managed to find each other.

"I was scared before, and I'm scared now," Chie continues, shaking her head. "I'm such a stubborn, two-faced coward... but you understood me, Souji-kun. I wasn't strong enough back then... and I guess I'm not now, either, but you gave me hope..."

Yukiko squeezes Chie's hand, hard, then looks up, her gaze flicking right past Yosuke; it's obvious they can't see him. "You were our strength. We tried so hard... I'm so sorry I couldn't do more then. I don't know if I can do any more now, not when we're all... here... but..." There's an ache in Yukiko's words that Yosuke understands only too well; she'd taken her inability to revive Souji very, very hard. "If you're here too, I wanted you to know. That's all."

Then Chie squeezes Yukiko's hand back, but this time out of alarm, not comfort. "Yukiko! What's-"

The two of them stare straight past Yosuke, and he can't tell what's happening until Yukiko speaks again, her voice shaky. "Personas...?"

Both Amaterasu and Suzuka Gongen react, rising warily behind their other selves, but the girls are smiling. Then the fog washes over his friends' forms and hides them from view, but it seems to Yosuke that the echoes around him are becoming less jumbled.

"Damnit, Senpai-" The familiar voice makes Yosuke turn, and he sees Kanji in the distance now, still hazy and indistinct, Rokuten Maoh towering over him. "I couldn't protect you, Souji-senpai... I had to make up for it somehow, y'know?" Yosuke shivers, slightly; no wonder Kanji had knocked him out of the way of Izanami's first attempt on his life. "Dunno if it worked... dunno what's gonna happen now. This's probably another dumbass idea, sittin' here talking to myself... but who's gonna know? 'M sorry, anyway. I looked up to you, y'know? Yosuke-senpai tried hard, real hard, but it wasn't quite the same. Just... damnit."

Then Kanji also looks up suddenly, taking a step back and nearly knocking into his Persona. "The hell? Who're you guys?"

Everything seems to happen quickly after that; as if motivated by a single idea, familiar faces and voices appear in the fog, speaking as their Personas shelter them from the void. "I'm glad I came to Inaba and met you, Souji-senpai," Rise breathes, standing at Naoto's side.

"You gave me a reason to stay as I am, even though we didn't have as much time together," Naoto adds. "I didn't have a chance to tell you how much that meant to me."

"You were so important to me, Sensei," comes Teddie's voice as Rise and Naoto fade. "You helped give me my life... but I couldn't give you yours. This place is strange, and I think maybe I've been here before, but maybe... just maybe..."

And then there are other voices, belonging to people Yosuke knows aren't here in the void with them, people who are still alive out in the real world - people from school, classmates, friends. All people Souji knew in life, their whispers breaking through the fog as shadows flit in and out of being around him. Yosuke bites his lip hard at their words, feeling like an interloper again - he shouldn't be here, hearing all this. It's too personal, too intimate, and it hurts.

Yosuke tries not to listen as he hears Dojima-san's rough voice echoing through the fog, and he mostly succeeds, but the next voice is his undoing. "I miss you, big bro," Nanako-chan cries, and Yosuke nearly collapses right there; her anguish had been the most difficult to face. She was just a child, and she'd lost so much already. "Are you going to leave me behind...? I'll be a good girl... So don't go... I don't want you to go... Big bro..."

It's the closest thing to actual pain that Yosuke's felt since Izanami-no-Okami killed him - and yet, as the sound of Nanako's voice fades, Yosuke realizes suddenly that he's surrounded by silence. Utter, complete silence, and there are no more dim, fragmented shapes sliding through the mist around him. "Souji?" he tries, forcing the name out past the lump in his throat. If he's lost him again, he's never going to forgive himself.

There's a sudden odd heat against the palm of his right hand, and Yosuke jumps and nearly drops the tarot card he forgot he was holding. Shakily, he recovers his grip on the thing and stares at it, confused. He could have sworn the picture on it was different before, that it was blue, but now there's color there, four quadrants surrounding a central oval. Unfamiliar.

His own Persona rests one hand on his shoulder, just for a moment, then vanishes.



Part 8

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