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Title: Reach Out (Part 8) - World
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 eight of ten.

Yosuke swallows hard, his gaze still on the card in his hand. There's only one thing he can think of to do with a tarot card. "Souji, this had better goddamn work," he mutters, squaring his shoulders, then hesitating. Just swiping at the thing with his kunai, the way he calls Susano-o, seems wrong. He feels hesitantly at the edges of the card for a moment before tensing and crushing it in one hand.

For a moment he's certain he's done something wrong; the tarot card seems to crumple under his fingers like ordinary paper, but then it resists. Yosuke blinks as the card shatters in his hand, making that sharp, singing sound that he associates with the power of Persona. He glances up quickly, fully expecting to see Susano-o, but instead there's a darkness slipping out of the fog, rapidly gaining cohesion. Yosuke's jaw drops, and his hand falls limply to his side as a familiar shape resolves itself in front of him. "I-Izanagi?"

The black Persona snaps into solidity, staring at him with an unreadable look in those yellow eyes. "Don't just look at me, god damnit! Do something!" Yosuke all but screams at it, hands shaking at his sides. "Do something..." He has to fight back the tears, because he can't think of anything else - but as it turns out, he doesn't need to.

In an instant, Izanagi is surrounded by all those shapes that had vanished from the fog, a wild swirl of power and Personas. The mist seems to sweep over them all, and for a moment Yosuke's frozen in terror that they're all going to break apart again, be eaten by the haze, and he'll be left screaming at nothing. One by one, the Persona-shapes dissolve, and then all that's left is Izanagi again - but different, larger, changed in subtle ways. White sweeps over it, changing it, driving away the darkness.

Yosuke stares as the transformed Persona looks at him again, then begins to dissolve as well, sinking downward - and Yosuke freezes as he realizes there's something there, something - someone - for the Persona to go home to. He can't speak, can't move, can't do anything but stare as this new Izanagi vanishes, leaving behind a blinking, dazed, silver-haired form lying on the ground.

And then those gray eyes focus on him, and Yosuke makes a strangled noise and starts forward; still, he hesitates for just one moment before reaching out, suddenly terrified that this, too, will be an illusion and vanish under his hands-


"Oh my god don't ever do that to me again," Yosuke manages, and pulls Souji into his arms, shaking. He squeezes tightly, trying to reassure himself that his best friend is really there, really blinking at him in utter confusion.

"Hey, I can't breathe-"

"That's okay, dude, we're dead. You don't need to breathe," Yosuke reassures him, then laughs in almost hysterical relief as Souji gives him that familiar 'what the hell, you idiot' frown. "God, I missed you..."

"Wait, start over - ow..." Souji's gaze is still slipping in and out of focus, but that terrifying pallor from the day of his death is nowhere to be seen, and his clothing isn't stained with blood anymore.

"How do you feel?" Yosuke asks, quickly, shifting so that Souji is leaning against him.

There's a long pause. "... Really, really strange," Souji says, finally, wincing slightly and raising one hand to the side of his head. "I remember... we were inside the TV, and... Shadow got past my guard... it hurt... and then it was... noisy," he says, confusion on his face, as if trying to articulate something that couldn't possibly be put into words.

"Yeah, I know what you mean."

"I couldn't... couldn't think, or anything... like a nightmare... but then I heard voices, yours and everyone else's... and then you were here." Souji shakes his head, very carefully. "What happened? Where are we? And what the hell do you mean, we're dead?"

"Heh..." Yosuke tries to think of how to put it. "Well... yeah, we're... that Shadow, the one that got past your guard... it kind of, uh. Killed you."

Even though Souji's here in his arms, the words still bring a lump to Yosuke's throat, and Souji gives him the weirdest look before vague horror dawns over his face. "You're serious."

"Yeah. Yeah, I am." Yosuke sighs. "It's March, dude. I think, anyway."

For an instant, there's nothing but a blank, unthinking fear reflected in Souji's eyes - but then he shakes his head again, hard this time, and Yosuke can practically see his best friend shoving the emotions away, hiding them somewhere until he can deal with them properly. "Okay," Souji says, then swallows, hard. "Okay. What happened?" There's a faint tremble in his voice for a few seconds, but then even that disappears.

"Um. We... we did a lot... but it was really hard, without you." Yosuke's grip on Souji's arm tightens convulsively. "But... well, we did it, sort of. We caught the killer-"

It takes a while to explain - "Adachi?" "Yeah, I know..." - but Souji takes it fairly well, considering. "So... everyone else is..." Souji says, slowly, sitting up on his own now, giving the mist around them a wary look.

"Y-yeah. As far as I know." Yosuke sighs raggedly, guilt twisting in the pit of his stomach. "I'm sorry, I'm a crappy-ass leader-"

Souji cuts him off. "No, no, you're not. You never should have had to do all this, it was my responsibility-"

"As if you got ki- as if this happened on purpose!"

But Souji doesn't reply to that; instead, he carefully gets to his feet, closes his eyes, then opens them again. "Is it always so hazy here?"

"Yeah - I dunno, here, these might help."

"You carried these with you?" Souji says, quietly, as Yosuke hands him his glasses; one lens has a crack running through it, a testament to the blow that felled him back then.

"Just take them," Yosuke orders, sharply aware of the renewed flicker of dread in Souji's expression. "Look, Souji, I... it was hard, okay, but you're here now, and... we can find the others and... I don't know. Do... something," though he has no idea what. He hasn't planned for anything beyond this moment. What can they do?

Souji puts his glasses on. "You said you went to the Velvet Room?"

"Huh? You mean that blue room with the weird long-nosed guy?" Yosuke blinks at him; that wasn't what he was expecting to hear. "I had a bunch of dreams about them, and before we went after Izanami... I think I ended up there for real."

"Over by Daidara's?" Souji asks, then sighs as Yosuke nods. "Yeah, there's an entrance there. They... helped me, I guess you could say."

"Heh. I thought it reminded me of you, kind of," Yosuke offers, with a wry smile, but then the grin fades. "They showed me when Izanami gave you your power... so that we'd know who to go after, I guess... and then I thought I heard them when we were fighting her, but the thing they gave me didn't goddamn work. It just got us all killed." He sighs, heavily. "At the end of your path lies the truth, my ass."

He glances up when Souji doesn't immediately respond, and sees the other boy staring off into the distance, brow furrowed in thought. "You... didn't really pay much attention to the lecture on the school trip, did you?" Souji says, after a long moment.

"What? No. Why?"

"Because... Izanami..." Souji turns and gives Yosuke a serious look, his eyes narrowed. "And my Persona... I can't feel any of the others now. Just one..." He takes a few steps away from Yosuke, then reaches out into the air. Yosuke takes a step back, involuntarily, as the transfigured Izanagi materializes above Souji.

Souji's hand drops to his side, but the Persona doesn't vanish. "You're Izanagi, I can tell," he says, slowly. "But you're different, too... your arcana..."

The World, the completion of a cycle; after every path has been traveled, there remains only one thing, one final step - the truth.

The echo comes out of nowhere, and Yosuke makes a surprised noise; it sounds like the long-nosed man from the Velvet Room. But Souji just turns, a determined expression on his face, then looks up at his Persona. "She's waiting for us, isn't she? I'm sorry I took so long." Souji glances back at Yosuke again. "That goes for you too. For everybody."

"Dude, you couldn't help it," Yosuke says, firmly. "We're the ones who're sorry..." But if they go around in apologetic circles, nothing's going to get done - and Yosuke has the weirdest feeling that now they have options beyond sitting in this fog forever. "What're you going to do now?"

"What're we going to do now," Souji corrects him. "Anyway, shouldn't I ask you that? Aren't you the leader now?"

Yosuke stares at him; there's a faint smile on his best friend's face. "Only because you... weren't around." But he can't help but feel a little pleased, a little proud. They did pretty well, considering the odds. Maybe he wasn't so bad at this leader thing. "Anyway, I can't give you orders. It'd be weird. We're equals, right? Partners?" Souji nods, and Yosuke grins sheepishly. "If you have an idea, hey, go for it. I'm fresh out."

Souji gives him a grateful smile. "At the end of the path lies the truth, huh?" He reaches out into the air again, this time with his left hand, and comes back with a sword in his grip. "Then we've got work to do."

And this, this is how it's supposed to be, the two of them together, and the fact that neither of them are breathing doesn't matter. "Let's go, partner," Yosuke agrees, running to Souji's side. He has no idea what's coming next, but... well, that doesn't matter either.

Souji squares his shoulders, then nods at his Persona. "We're ready. Take us to her."

Yosuke feels Souji reach for his hand just before Izanagi-no-Okami nods in return, and the world goes white.

Part 9


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let's go, partner!

August 2012

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