chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (souji: badass)
[personal profile] chisotahn posting in [community profile] ikuzeaibou
Title: Ten Steps
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Souji/Yosuke (eventually); ensemble
Summary: AU, longfic; fill for this prompt on [ profile] badbadbathhouse; details in the first part, here.

Notes: This will spoil you in the face for events up to August + elements of November. This is part fourteen of sixteen.

The Shadow stretched over them both, laughing as it changed, growing larger, gaining definition; Souji saw Yosuke collapse, ran to jump between his prone best friend and his Shadow. Damn it-

Senpai?! came Rise's sudden, panicked voice in his mind.

"Rise-" Souji began, then stopped talking abruptly as the Shadow reared out of the shadows, hissing at him in delight. It was massive, all whirling blades and swift, agile movements, its yellow eyes filled with hunger as it stared down at them.

"Wonderful, thank you," it laughed at him, then spun one of those blades in a swift arc; Souji brought up his sword just in time, bracing against the impact as he deflected the strike, sending the smaller saw-like blade to embed itself in the wall. "He was doing so well until you came along."

Souji glared at the Shadow, eyes narrowed. It had used him, and he'd fallen right into its trap. "That doesn't matter. You're still going to lose." He called Seiryuu in one swift motion, the dragon coiling over him and bringing a surge of lighting to crash down into the Shadow. The thing hissed sharply and reared back, but-

Senpai! What's going on?! I'm detecting a powerful Shadow! Oh, no... you didn't- Rise sounded frustrated, a little angry, but then her mental sigh resounded through Souji's mind. We're coming as fast as we can, I'll try to support you from here!

"Too bad you're useless to me now," the Shadow snarled, its voice drowning out whatever else Rise had to say. "And I don't like useless, boring things." Its yellow eyes glittered. "Yes... I'll crush everything that bores me... starting with you!"

No weaknesses! It nulls wind, don't use that-

"Understood - I'm sorry, Rise," Souji said under his breath, his heart pounding; this was going to hurt, but he had to do this or else they were both going to die. He called Triglav next, the Persona protecting both himself and Yosuke's unconscious form with its power. In return, the Shadow drew itself up, laughing, then came down with a massive burst of wind that made Souji stagger backwards. Okay, he could work with that - Seiryuu again, and-

Watch out!!

Rise's cry was the only warning; the Shadow lunged past Souji's guard, bringing one bladed hand down, aiming for Yosuke instead. Souji dove, driving his body weight into the thing's arm as it moved - just enough oh thank god to make the finger-blades dig into the floor, instead of into his best friend's prone body. "I'm not going to let you take him, damnit," Souji said through gritted teeth as the Shadow thrashed, trying to free its hand from the floor, and brought his sword down hard on the exposed limb.

It didn't cut all the way through, but it certainly made the thing scream, and brought a Nice, Senpai! from Rise; Souji grimly pulled his sword free before the Shadow could twist it out of his hands.

He wasn't beaten yet.


"Yosuke? Yosuke! Hey, wake up-"

Yosuke was dimly aware of someone shaking him, of a bone-deep ache that seemed to run through his entire body - and then memory came flooding back, and he sat up with a sharp intake of breath. Maybe he was dreaming-

But everything was still around him as he remembered, with few exceptions - the nightmare Junes interior was still there, and Souji was next to him... but his best friend looked exhausted, a sheen of sweat on his face, glasses askew, sword laid to one side. And that thing, the one that had worn his face, that had said those terrible awful true things, was there too. But the aura of darkness was gone, as was the lithe, massive shape it had become. It was just him again, or not-him, staring at them soundlessly with those yellow eyes.

"What... what are you?" Yosuke managed, staring at it.

"It's you, Yosuke," Souji said quietly. "Part of you. Your Shadow."

"No," Yosuke began, but he felt Souji tense next to him, and while his best friend didn't say anything, he knew. Souji had protected him from... from that thing, from that... Shadow... and... He swallowed, hard. None of this made sense, and yet... yet it did. Those bruises, those long times when Souji was nowhere to be found, the way Souji's friends would suddenly stop talking or change the subject when he came too close... "This is what you've been..."

"Right," Souji said, quietly. But Yosuke couldn't look at him; the Shadow was still staring at him, silently, waiting for something. "Yosuke, it'll attack again if you don't..." Souji's words trailed off, and Yosuke took a deep, shaky breath. He didn't want to face it, to admit those things... not here, not now, and most definitely not in front of Souji - but Souji had exhausted himself to protect him from this, from the monster his Shadow had become.

And, in the end, that was what decided things; he couldn't let his best friend, the person he cared about most, have done all that for him in vain. Yosuke slowly got to his feet, and after a moment's hesitation he walked over to face his double, hands shaking at his sides. He opened his mouth, tried to say something, failed-

"Yosuke, it's okay. You're still yourself."

"Myself..." Yosuke said quietly, then sighed and looked up into those yellow eyes. "Damnit, it hurts to face yourself... but... i-it's true, what it said. I knew it, but I was... couldn't say it, but... you're me," he admitted. "Everything you said... is me. You're me, and I'm you."

I am thou, thou art I, came an answering echo that seemed to resonate in his mind; the Shadow smiled, just slightly, and dissolved. A new figure appeared in its place, that wild red hair and flash of steel reminiscent of the creature his Shadow had become - but this time, as Yosuke stared at it, he didn't feel afraid. It was weird, true, but it was also right in a way he couldn't explain-

And then it was gone, opening up a part of his mind he'd never known he had, a comforting, powerful presence. "This... is my... Persona?" he breathed, echoing the strangeness in his head.

"Yeah," said a quiet voice, and Yosuke jumped - for a moment, he'd actually forgotten that Souji was there. Then another wave of dizziness hit him, and he stumbled, only to find Souji there to catch him. For a moment he flinched away, remembering everything the Shadow had said - everything it had admitted for him, everything he'd had to confirm was true - but, damnit, he was too tired to worry about that now.

And, well, if Souji had protected him... well, you didn't protect people you hated, did you?

"Sorry," he mumbled into Souji's shoulder.

"It's okay," Souji said, and Yosuke smiled despite his utter exhaustion.
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