chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (carry you home)
[personal profile] chisotahn posting in [community profile] ikuzeaibou
Title: Heaven Falling Down
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Ensemble - the investigation team, Nanako, and spoilers.
Summary: Prompt from [livejournal.com profile] akisazame - "I want to read a fic where Nanako-chan is the killer."

... I am so sorry. D:

Notes: AU, obviously. Spoilers for the true ending. Also, my soul is crushed. Enjoy!




It was one of the strangest places Yosuke had ever seen inside the TV. Sure, Mitsuo's psyche had built a pseudo-videogame, and the bathhouse... well, he wasn't going to think about the bathhouse, but the point stood. Everywhere else had definitely been weird and creepy, but they'd all been similarly so. They were all twisted in some way, as much a messed-up reflection of the minds that had birthed them as the resulting Shadows had been.

This place, this 'Heaven', was different. It was almost too nice, too pretty, too full of sunlight and hidden gardens. Sure, it had been pleasant at first, but now that they were climbing to what Rise promised was the top floor, it just made Yosuke uneasy. But he wasn't going to say anything now, not with Souji walking way ahead of them all with single-minded intensity. It had only taken them two days to get this far, with Souji pushing them all harder than ever before. Yosuke couldn't blame him, not with Nanako's life on the line.

"It's here," Rise said, as they reached the top of the steps. The stairs opened onto a tiny plateau ringed with flowers, with nothing but gentle sunlight and sky visible all around them. Yosuke risked lifting his glasses and saw the fog wrapping hungrily around the summit; without the special lenses, he could hardly see Souji only a few feet ahead of him. He twitched and pushed the glasses back into place.

"Here?" Souji said, striding up to the elaborate doors that marked the other end of the small sanctuary.

"Yes. Nanako-chan is there..." Rise hesitated. "And so is Namatame."

"Are you ready?" It was more of a statement than a question, and the group quickly exchanged glances.

"Ready, partner," Yosuke said, after a moment. He took a deep breath to try and steady himself - he couldn't be impulsive now, not with Nanako in danger, even though the thought of Saki-senpai's killer being behind that door made him shake with anger. As long as Nanako was safe, he had absolutely no problem with beating Namatame's face in; in fact, he was almost hoping the man would resist, just to give him an excuse.

"Let's go," Souji said, and opened the doors.

The sight of the two figures at the top of the stairs made them all break into a run, Souji in front, Yosuke not far behind. "Senpai," Naoto shouted, and they both slowed as they reached the top of the stairs. "Do not do anything rash," Naoto continued, speaking in a measured, level tone.

Nanako was there, only a few feet in front of them - but she was in Namatame's arms, the man's eyes wild with fear and desperation. Nanako's own eyes were closed, and for one terrifying moment Yosuke thought she might be dead... but no, she was breathing, if shallowly, a fine sheen of sweat covering her pale face.

"Let her go," Souji said, somehow keeping his voice calm; Yosuke had absolutely no idea how he managed it.

"N-no," Namatame replied, tightening his grip on Nanako's limp form. "I'm going... going to save this child!"

"We're here, Nana-chan!" Teddie called out.

"Be careful," Naoto said, quietly. "Be very care-"

Yosuke had turned to look back at Naoto, just a quick glance - but it was just enough for him to miss the moment. A strange, childlike giggle cut through all other sound, familiar and yet strangely distorted at the edges. "Oh, big bro! You came! But don't worry... I can save myself." Then there was a sharp, damp sound; Yosuke whirled just in time to see Namatame staggering back, away from Nanako. He fell to his knees, eyes blank and staring, then collapsed forward.

"What?" Naoto gasped, as Nanako fell to her knees as well, her eyes now open and wide with terror. She looked up at Souji, her lips moving, saying something Yosuke couldn't hear - and then there was something behind her, a delicate, bright shape that faded into transparency at the edges.

"There, there. You're safe now," said a soft, gentle voice; as the figure coalesced, features becoming clear, Souji made a startled noise in the back of his throat and took a step forward. Yosuke just stared, trying to make sense out of what he was seeing.

"M-mom," Nanako whispered, tilting her head back into the figure's embrace. She stayed there for a moment, then smiled and got to her feet, eyes bright, every inch the happy, cheerful Nanako-chan they all knew and cared for so much. "Big bro! Teddie! And... everyone! You came!" She ran forward to Souji, who dropped his sword and crouched, holding his arms out to her automatically though there was confusion writ large in every movement. "I wanted you to meet her," Nanako beamed as she wrapped her arms around Souji's neck in a tight hug.

Souji returned the hug, though he was staring past her at the bright figure, a lovely woman who looked at them with a half-smile on her face. Her hair was brown, like Nanako's, but there was a faint waver to her, a ripple like barely-disturbed water, like static.

"No way," Chie breathed, behind them. "No freakin' way."

"Senpai," Naoto said, her tone quiet but urgent, "that can't be-"

Nanako released her hold on Souji and stepped back, her smile wide. "See, big bro? It's Mom! She was here waiting for me the whole time!" The little girl beamed and glanced at the smiling figure behind her.

"How long have you been... visiting her, Nanako-chan?" Naoto raised her voice, still keeping her tone level and pleasant.

"For a while," Nanako said, stepping back a little further, reaching up to the bright woman. "I was so lonely, and all I had to do was watch TV, and..."

"She missed me so much," the woman said gently, crouching down to caress Nanako's cheek. "And now she's found me again... and you're here, too. She won't ever have to be alone now. You won't leave her, will you?"

Souji got to his feet. "No, I won't leave her. Especially not with you."

The woman laughed melodically; Nanako's face took on an expression of utter confusion, and she shrank away from Souji. "Big bro?"

"Nanako-chan, have you... has anyone else... visited you?" Naoto asked, clearly rattled despite her composure.

Nanako stepped back even further, sudden panic in her eyes, and reached desperately for the woman's hands; her 'mother' knelt to envelop her in a gentle, supportive embrace. "I-it wasn't... didn't mean to... it wasn't my fault! Mom told me it wasn't-"

"It's all right," the woman said, softly.

"I... big bro..." Nanako was shaking despite the comfort her 'mother' was offering. "That lady from... from TV... she was asking lots of questions, a-and... she might have made it s-so I couldn't see Mom anymore, and..." She swallowed, hard. "Mom said..."

"It's not your fault. You were such a good girl. You did everything I asked." The woman gently stroked Nanako's hair.

Yosuke's stomach twisted; he took a step forward, involuntarily. "And... Saki-senpai?" he managed, somehow.

Nanako stared at him, terror in her eyes once more. "I didn't... we were just getting groceries... the TVs were so big and pretty. I wanted... to see if I could see Mom and..." She shut her eyes tightly. "I looked, and then that pretty girl was there... I was so scared when she tried to pull me away... I... and then... s-she fell in..."

Yosuke practically stopped breathing, right there. This didn't make any sense, this was insane, it was supposed to be Namatame, it- no, surely this was some sort of terrible, messed-up dream.

Not this. Not Nanako-

-not such a pointless, useless reason for Saki-senpai to-

"We have to get her away from it," came Naoto's soft, urgent whisper, hopefully pitched low enough that the woman couldn't hear it. "Do not think about the implications, not now. Just move."

Yosuke desperately tried to reassert some form of control over himself - he was more than fine with not thinking. Thinking hurt more than he could have imagined. He forced himself to glance away from the woman, from Nanako, and caught Kanji's own searching gaze. The other boy nodded, just slightly, and indicated the woman with his eyes.

They leapt at her together, trying to tackle her to the ground, to push her away from Nanako by any means necessary. There was no finesse to their movements whatsoever, but there didn't need to be, not for this-

-except even as Yosuke grabbed for her, the woman's form thinned and vanished, leaving only an amused chuckle behind as he and Kanji nearly ran into each other and crashed painfully to the ground. Still, it was enough for Souji to make his move; Yosuke heard Nanako gasp as Souji scooped her up.

"Why, big bro?" Nanako cried in fear, squirming in Souji's grasp. Yosuke's palms stung from where they'd hit the ground, but he got up almost immediately, adrenaline easily carrying him past any pain. Kanji followed, and they retreated to the safety of the group, moving to stand in front of Souji and Nanako.

For a long moment, nothing disturbed the tranquil sunlight. Then that melodic laughter came again, and they looked up to see the woman floating above them - but her brown hair was shifting, fading to a tousled gray, and her previously normal clothing dissolved into a delicate white shroud. "So you've come this far," the woman said, amused, her voice echoing strangely.

Nanako stopped kicking and stared, her eyes wide, utterly silent; Souji took a step forward. "Who... are you?"

"You don't recognize me? That's a shame," she replied, and Souji's brow furrowed in confusion. The woman drifted downwards and held out one hand towards Souji, the movement delicate, elegant. "I bestowed three gifts upon this town. One... has been wasted." Her red eyes hardened for a moment, and she cast her gaze down to where Namatame's body still sprawled on the floor. "One is still growing to its full potential... and the third is yours."

Souji looked startled. "I don't-"

"Just a simple touch can do so much.... a handshake to greet you, or a gentle pat to comfort a child crying in the restroom," the woman said, softly. Souji stared at her as she raised that hand again, a smile on her face - and then he paled, sharply, and fell.

A bolt of horror snapped through Yosuke's mind. Nanako screamed as Souji crumpled under her, but he somehow kept his hold on her. Yosuke dropped to his knees next to his best friend, throwing one arm around his shoulders to steady him.

"I-I'm okay," Souji managed, swallowing hard; he had to stop for a moment and breathe before raising his voice again. "What did you do to her?"

The woman chuckled. "I gave you both gifts, little nudges to open up the potential within... and look at all the others you have opened in turn, surrounded yourself with. I am impressed," she said, nodding towards the group. "Despair, emptiness, and hope... the first has fallen. Two remain."

Souji tried to get up, but couldn't quite make it; he leaned heavily against Yosuke. "Emptiness?" he managed.

"Suffering such loss at such a young age. It leaves a void in the soul, even for a child. Especially for a child. She was so lonely... all those empty hours after school spent watching television. But the purity and power of a child's heart is so wonderful. She's young, yes, but emptiness can be filled however you desire. In time, she could have been so perfect." The woman sighed, and shook her head.

"You're the one," Souji said, sitting up a little straighter. "I remember. At the gas station... but that doesn't matter now. You gave me the power to enter the TV, didn't you?"

"Good, good." The woman's red eyes held approval for a moment. "You showed the most grounding of the three; I would expect nothing less. Such a splendid power you had locked within you. Your soul rang like a bell when I touched it."

Souji made as if to get up again; this time, Yosuke was ready, helping Souji to his feet as Kanji stepped in to assist from the other side. Nanako shrank in on herself, grabbing Souji's coat in both hands; she was making tiny, incoherent, terrified sounds that made Yosuke's heart break more with every breath. "How could you do this?" Yosuke shouted, just barely resisting the urge to throw one of his kunai right into the woman's face. "She's just a little girl, damnit!"

"Such emptiness, such grief, such loss," the woman said, apparently unruffled by Yosuke's anger. "I gave her a gift. I gave her her mother back, for a time. I gave her a void, and she filled it with Heaven. And I gave her a... friend."

Nanako shuddered in Souji's arms, and then there was a small figure in front of them, wreathed in blackness, eyes glowing a sharp, unsettling yellow. Her tiny hands were stained crimson, and Yosuke stared at Namatame's corpse. That laugh they'd heard before he fell-

"You came back, big bro," the child giggled.

Souji's grip on Nanako's shaking form tightened convulsively. "Nanako," he murmured, looking down at her; she stared at him wide-eyed before burying her face in his coat.

"I was so lonely, so lonely, but then... she came, she found me," the Shadow said, rocking back on her heels. "And now you're here. All here with me - my big bro and his special friends. All I need is Daddy and we'll be one big happy family again! Together forever!"

Nanako moaned. "Go... 'way..." Yosuke tensed; that sounded perilously close to a denial, but the Shadow just smiled at them, unmoving.

The woman chuckled. "You have met so many challenges on your way here. So many familiar faces. Surely one more won't make a difference. I'll be waiting."

And then she was gone, leaving behind only a trace of mist that quickly faded - but there was no time to think about what the woman had said. "Big bro?" the Shadow piped up, her smile huge and distorted. "You came all this way... aren't you going to play with me?"

"Tch..." Souji gently turned Nanako's head so that she was looking at him, and not at the Shadow wearing her face. He whispered something that Yosuke couldn't hear, and Nanako made a small, wounded noise - but she also released her tight hold on Souji's coat and nodded, just slightly. Souji slowly took a few steps back to where Yukiko was standing. He spoke a few more quiet words to Nanako, and the trembling child allowed herself to be transferred from Souji's arms to Yukiko's. Souji stood there for a moment, gently stroking Nanako's hair.

The Shadow giggled again. "I'm waiting! Hurry up, big bro, I want to play with you so much... I was so lonely. So, so lonely. Daddy was never there when I needed him. And then you came!" Souji turned and opened his mouth to reply, but the Shadow wasn't done. Her tone shifted, distortion and anger creeping in. "You came... and Daddy talked to you. He was all I had left, and you took him away from me! I hate you."

Yosuke saw Souji just stop, right there. His stomach took a nosedive, and he opened his mouth to try to say something, anything to make the damn Shadow shut up and make Souji move again - but Kanji got there first, stepping forward with a sharp gesture of negation. "You son of a.... Senpai!" he barked, keeping his gaze fixed on the Shadow, his hand interfering with the line of sight between the Shadow and Souji. "Don't listen to it! It ain't-"

"Kanji," Naoto said sharply, mirroring Yosuke's thoughts - that kind of wording was dangerous, far too dangerous. They all knew from experience.

"...anyway, don't listen to it," Kanji continued, glancing back at Naoto. "We've done this before, right? It's just wearin' a different face!"

Souji took a deep breath, and for a moment there was silence - until a small, desperate gasp broke it. "Big bro..." Nanako's voice was faint. "It's not... not true..."

"Shh, don't talk," Yukiko said; Yosuke's stomach twisted again. He knew what had to be coming. He had to fight the urge to jump back and cover Nanako's mouth, to do something so that she wouldn't say it. And yet, he knew somehow that it wouldn't matter, even if he did.

"You were so angry," the Shadow crooned. "So angry, so lonely, so empty, how dare he come out of nowhere and take away what little you had? You know I'm telling the truth. We're the same, you and I. You're me, and I'm you."

"N-no," Nanako whispered. "You're not... not me..."

At the sound of Nanako's words, the group tensed as one, all unconsciously shifting forward in preparation for what they knew was coming next. Yosuke bit his lip hard enough to draw blood as the Shadow laughed. Darkness coalesced around it, shrouding its form, but those yellow eyes still glinted at them, bright with a perverse joy. "No, no... you're right, you're right. I'm me now. Isn't it wonderful?"

"Nana-chan!" Teddie gasped, and Yosuke whirled to see Nanako go suddenly limp in Yukiko's arms.

"Come on, what are you waiting for? Play with me!" the Shadow hissed; it lost cohesion at the edges and reared back, its shape flickering between little girl and amorphous darkness. "I won't be alone anymore," it snarled, roiling upwards to tower over them all.

Yosuke actually had to fight to not jump away as Souji walked past him, picking up his sword in one smooth, precise movement. He thought he'd seen Souji angry before, but that was nothing compared to this. Yosuke ran forward to Souji's side as the Shadow hissed again, his knuckles white around his kunai; by unspoken agreement, Kanji slid back into a fighting stance as Naoto also moved to join them. Yosuke could hear the others closing the line, knew they would be protecting Nanako. Slowly, Souji shifted his sword into his left hand, and reached up his right in that familiar gesture.

"Play with me, big bro," the Shadow crooned, its distorted voice sliding back into Nanako's pleading tones at the end.

"Persona," Souji breathed, and crushed the waiting tarot card in a convulsive movement. As the Persona materialized over their heads, Yosuke tensed and crouched, staring at the Shadow, waiting for his opening, heart pounding in his ears. No time to think now, with Nanako's Shadow shrieking as a powerful lightning bolt tore through it. The consequences would have to come later - of their mistakes, of being so completely wrong about everything, of Nanako shaking in Yukiko's arms, of the woman in white that had brought their leader down with a word.

Yosuke saw his opening and went for it, kunai flashing in his hands. Right now, they just had to survive.

"I won't be alone," the Shadow snarled, and dove.

FYI

Date: 2009-03-03 07:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] frigoris.livejournal.com
You are a horrible person.

Date: 2009-03-03 07:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akisazame.livejournal.com
oh god oh god

it's so horrible and yet

IT'S EVERYTHING I DREAMED OF

Date: 2009-03-03 07:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] akisazame.livejournal.com
I ACCEPT YOUR BLAME

Date: 2009-03-04 07:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hpdigipokefan.livejournal.com
OH GOD WHY. D:

I'm literally sitting here with my jaw dropping. And...and...DUDE.

*incoherent flailing*

Date: 2009-03-12 10:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sinnatious.livejournal.com
Oh wow. Woooooow. .____.

That's a really, really cool prompt, and you made it SO PLAUSIBLE. Such a sucker punch. Guh. And so well-written. The ending line was PERFECT, even though a part of me wants to read the battle and aftermath.

I don't even really know what to say other than that it's AMAZING. I take my hat off to you for writing this.

aslkfjslakfjslakjf

Date: 2009-03-12 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miltia.livejournal.com
Holy crap, that was amazing. It was an interesting prompt to begin with, but I could totally see that happening and adskjfansdfl. My heart kind of hurts now, but just...well done!
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