[Author's notes: This is for my friend Disco Agidyne on twitter/tumblr. I wrote this when the Japanese version of P5 came out, but held off on posting it due to minor spoilers on P5's Velvet Room mechanics.
A Yu Narukami version is available at Dreamwidth at the following address:
angevon dot dreamwidth dot org/42425 dot html
Every 'dot' should be a '.'
Souji was at the kitchen counter, chopping up some carrots, idly thinking about his shopping list for tomorrow. They were almost out of curry powder, and he needed another half-gallon of milk, and wasn't there a sale over at the grocery store this weekend?
A presence ghosted behind him, and soon hands were settling around his waist. "Akira," Souji murmured, not even fazed.
"Whatcha making?" Akira breathed into his ear.
"Stew," Souji answered succinctly. He used the flat end of the knife to push the chopped carrots out of the way, then grabbed a bell pepper and continued chopping.
Akira watched him work for a while. After the pepper, Souji moved onto a beef block. As he began to cut it, Akira remarked, "Maybe Igor should hire you. You're good at this."
"Hmm?" Souji wondered what Igor had to do with anything.
"Chopping, huh?" If Igor was hungry, Souji supposed he could bring some of his stew to the Velvet Room.
"Chopping Personas' heads off," Akira said. "What else?"
Souji faltered in his slicing, causing the next strip of beef to be far larger than the perfectly-sized pieces he'd cut before. "What?" he asked, turning an openly-confused gaze onto the other boy.
"You know," Akira said, waving a hand. "For fusion."
Souji stared at Akira's face, but there were no answers forthcoming. Akira's expression began to match his own.
"With... the... guillotine?" Akira continued slowly, his normal confidence suddenly full of doubt.
"Are we even talking about the same thing?"
"I-I don't know!" Akira stepped away from him. "How do you make new Personas, oh wildcard-senpai?"
The sarcasm at the end there meant he was getting defensive. Souji set his knife down and turned around to face Akira and found him standing there with his arms crossed, clearly agitated. "My cards," Souji said. "They kind of... float up, and combine together to make a new card."
"That's right, you use cards," Akira said, more to himself than anything. "I wonder why it's so different. You even summon them differently."
"What happens in your Velvet Room?"
Akira was slow to answer. "...I don't use cards, you know."
He didn't say any more, and his gaze was directed at his feet.
"You're not going to like it," Akira muttered, not looking up.
"I don't have to like it."
"I don't want to tell you."
"You don't have to tell me."
Akira glanced at him now, clearly startled.
"You... kind of already said," Souji clarified. "A guillotine?"
Akira was playing with his fingers now, trying to avoid Souji's searching eyes. Souji let the silence draw out until Akira filled it.
"Two guillotines," he finally said. "For both Personas."
"And... the new Persona?"
"Is fused from their heads," Akira finished. "I don't know."
Another silence followed. Souji really didn't know what to say. The differences in their situations were so great, sometimes. The fact that Akira's Velvet Room was an actual jail cell was only the tip of the iceberg.
"Do you think..." Akira mumbled.
Souji tilted his head in question, but Akira was still not looking at him.
Souji blinked. "What..."
"I kill my other selves to create better and stronger ones." Akira raised his voice. "What kind of person does that?"
Akira was trembling. In a flash, Souji crossed the short space between them and enveloped him in a hug. The other boy was surprised, then Souji began to run his back and he began to relax.
"What kind of person does that?" he repeated into Souji's shoulder.
"Someone who really needs that strength," Souji answered.
Souji tried to hold him tighter. He enjoyed having him close like this. He could feel the rise and fall of Akira's breath.
"I mean, you still have a compendium," Souji murmured. "So it's not like they're really dead if you can have them brought out again."
"Yeah," Akira said. By the sigh that followed, he was not entirely convinced.
"And maybe my card fusion is painful to the Personas too," Souji tried. "I don't really know."
"More painful than a guillotine?"
"At least a guillotine is fast. They don't, you know, suffer."
"I guess," Akira said again, and this time his tone sounded amused. Souji smiled to himself and released Akira from his hug to find the boy smiling faintly back at him.
"Feeling better now?" Souji asked.
Akira nodded. "Thanks."
They gazed at each other for a little while, and then Akira glanced at the kitchen counter.
"Well," he said. "Your stew won't cook itself."
"Maybe I should let you do the chopping now," Souji suggested. "You should be good at it!"
Akira batted him on the shoulder, and they both laughed.