Rated T (or M if this was AO3 or M in ESRB rating) for mature themes, violence, strong language (usually shit, crap and damn, but up to fuck) blood, physical abuse, sexual themes, suicide (both attempted and past), partial nudity, alcohol references and drugs references. Otherwise known as typical Persona 5 stuff.
Additional and approptiate warnings/reminders will also be added in appropriate chapters.
Prologue: For Want of A Breath
Screaming, shouting, and insults... Those were the only thoughts in Ren's head as he tried to make himself as small as possible in the corner of his room and covered his ears to block the noise. But it was no use. He could still hear Mom being mean to Dad. He whimpered and sniffed. It was probably over something stupid again, like Dad not buying the right drink or not putting his clothes away. Or, worse, it was something he did and Dad was taking it for him again. Why did Mom have to be so mean? Dad loved her but Mom just kept shouting and hitting him. And she was never nice to Dad or him. Wasn't Mom supposed to love Dad and him?
There was a crash and Ren flinched.
He didn't really think. There was only one new thought:
And he did. He went out of his room, past his parents in the kitchen, shouting for him as he burst through the front door. He felt the heat of the sun on his skin. He could hear the talking of people passing by. And he could smell the scent of wet concrete. But he didn't see any of it, shutting his eyes to try and stop the tears threatening to come out. He didn't care where he went, he just wanted to run. But it wasn't long before his body slowed, telling him to stop, and he was forced to listen to it. He ended up sitting on a sidewalk, his back up against a random building as he hugged his knees to his chest.
Ren didn't know how long he sat there. All he knew was that the ones around him only glanced at him before going on their way, and that the sun was starting to set. He knew he should head back, but he also knew there was still a good chance of Dad and Mom still fighting if he did, maybe even because of him. And he didn't want to go back to that. It didn't matter though as when he thought that...
Dad shouted and he glanced up to see him run up to him. When Dad was beside him, he kneeled and looked him over.
"Are you all right?" he said.
Ren looked back at the ground.
Dad just sighed. "Come on, let's get going."
He gripped his arm and started to move him.
But Ren snapped his head side to side. "No..."
Another sigh. "Ren, please. Your mother is mad enough as it is."
He was going to speak again but his ears picked up the sound of coughing and panic. Ren turned to his left to see a woman in very dirty clothes shouting for help, asking for someone to call an ambulance. In her arms was a little girl, her clothes just as dirty and torn, who was shaking from her wheezing. It looked almost like the little girl was choking. Ren felt Dad pull him again, about to lift him up and carry him. But he thrashed in his grip. That surprised Dad into letting him go and he said, pointing at the girls,
"Dad! They need help!"
His dad followed his hand and saw them.
"What?" he said.
Why did Dad have to be slow? Ren just went for his dad's pockets to see if he had his phone.
"R-Ren!" he said, his big hands stopping him with little effort. "What are you doing?"
"They need help Dad! That girl can't breathe!"
He struggled to get his hands out of his dad's. Why didn't Dad get it? Why did he keep doing things that didn't make sense? Why did Mom do the same? He was tired of it. He wanted to help. He just wanted to help. Just let him help!
His thoughts were interrupted when the hold was suddenly gone and he saw Dad grab his phone, call the ambulance, and said,
"This is Souichirou Amamiya. There's this girl having a hard time breathing and..."
He went on to tell what the person on the phone needed to know as he went closer to the two, Ren following him. When the woman noticed them however, she looked like a scared puppy as she hugged the little girl closer. Not liking that, Ren said,
"We wanna help!"
The woman was shocked and she looked back and forth between him and his dad but eventually stopped to look at only Dad, who nodded at her.
"I have some questions I need to ask you for the caller. Can you do that for me?"
Despite everything, and also looking like she was going to cry, the woman smiled, nodded and said,
Darkness in her eyes.
Softness under her back.
And...air up her nose?
Akira gasped and opened her eyes to find that, no, she wasn't in Hell or Limbo or Heaven. Even if she didn't know what kind of place was so big and white and clean nor why she had a mask over her face, she knew this wasn't any of the places dead people would go. Not that she was sure which one of the three would she have ended up in. Good people went to Heaven after all and Mom said she was a good girl but people kept saying she was a demon, a curse. And she couldn't help but wonder if they're right...if all she caused her mom was pain and she couldn't even breath or see properly.
"Oh. You're awake," a voice said.
For a second, Akira thought that she was actually in Heaven after all and that was an angel's voice. But then there was rustling to her right and she saw the silhouette of a boy who had black hair and almost looked like he had black eyes, but it was hard to tell with the distance between them, too far for her broken eyes.
"Ah. Yeah..." she said.
"Good," he said, Akira imagining him smiling from his tone. "I'll go get your mom."
He ran off, presumably towards the door as, after some grunting, she heard the slide of wheels on metal and the black of his hair disappeared while he leaned out to say something. Akira just blinked as another silhouette in grey clothes and Mom rushed inside. Mom was the first by her side with tears in her eyes.
"Akira... Oh Akira..."
Mom hugged her tightly and Akira did the same, feeling like she would cry too, glad she was back with her. They stayed like that for a while but then Mom leaned back, turned to the stranger and, for the first time she had seen towards anyone besides her, smiled.
"Thank you again," she said. "I...I don't think I could ever repay you."
"No need," the stranger said, a man from his voice. Akira could also easily hear the relief and slight smile in his tone. "I'm just glad your daughter is fine."
"I'll say it again and again, it's fine."
The black puff then joined in and said, "We just wanted to help."
Her mom jumped a little before looking down to him with surprise, but it was for a moment, her happy expression soon back.
"Thank you very much for that," Mom said. "Can I know your name? Mine is Shiori Kurusu." She briefly glanced at her. "The one you saved is Akira."
The black puff once again disappeared but she assumed he was bowing since he came back up again as he said,
"I'm Ren Amamiya. Nice to meet you, Kurusu-san."
"Nice to meet you too, Amamiya-kun."
The peaceful moment, however, was broken when someone at the top of their lungs said,
Everyone jumped and looked to the door as there were sounds of a commotion outside. Then, just as sudden as the shout, Akira heard the door to the room slammed open and she scrunched her nose. In the doorway was the person who had shouted earlier. Whoever it was, all she could tell was that it was a woman with brown hair, she stunk of alcohol and had sounded ready to tear something into pieces. The man, Souichirou, seemed to know her but...
"Tomoko..." Souichirou said, apprehension dripping from just that one word.
But then the woman, who she assumed to be Tomoko, said, "What are you doing here in the hospital? Where's Ren?"
"Ah, well, about that..."
She seemed to have spotted the boy she was looking for as she said, "There you are, you little brat..." The brown dot went to the black puff, Ren. She seemed to have done something as he shouted in pain. "Where did you think you were going?"
"Tomoko, please..." Souichirou said.
"And you! You still haven't answered me! What are you doing here in the hospital?" she said, now with Ren struggling against her.
Akira frowned, and so did Mom too. Akira wanted to tell the woman to let him go, but then Ren said,
"We were helping Akira!"
"You! Shut up!" Tomoko said, sounding crazier by the second. "I've had enough of you! I am talking with your father."
"No you're not! You're shouting at him! And then you're gonna hurt him! Stop being mean to Dad!"
Akira felt her breath freeze but not from her breathing problem. Even with her imperfect vision, she could make out that Tomoko raised her free hand and swung it towards Ren. But there wasn't the sound of flesh slapping flesh. Instead Tomoko gasped as Mom had jumped from the bed and grabbed the offending arm.
"Don't hurt him!" Mom said, sounding like an angry cat. "It's my fault they're here! So if you're going to hit anyone, hit me!"
"Stay out of this!"
Akira gasped. The crazy woman finally let go of Ren and was about to hit Mom, but once again...
"Tomoko! That's enough!"
...her hand was caught, this time by Souichirou.
"Souichirou... Let. Go..." the crazy Tomoko said, her voice now low and dangerous.
"No. I won't. I won't listen to you this time, Tomoko. I thought you would get better if I stayed and tried to help you. I thought it would be best for Ren to have his mother. But if a stranger has to protect him from his own mother, then I've had enough. We're done."
"You heard me. We're done. I'll ask our families for a divorce. Now get out."
Tomoko gritted her teeth. "Why you...!"
Everyone focused on the doorway to find a nurse standing there.
"If you will continue to disturb the patients, we will call security to escort you out."
Akira knew it was only a second. It wasn't actually long. But it felt like it to her as the woman stared the down the nurse, scared she might just decide to turn into a wolf or something because she certainly acted like a monster and maybe she was secretly a werewolf. But that second passed, the woman muttered something Akira couldn't catch, and then she said,
"Fine. I'll go."
Mom and Ren's dad stoped holding on to her and she stalked out the door. But not before she said,
"You'll regret this, Souichirou."
"No, I won't," he said. "I only regret that you won't let me help you."
Tomoko once again said something Akira couldn't hear and then she was gone. The nurse stayed a bit to make sure she wouldn't come back all of a sudden before leaving with a good-bye. It wasn't until the nurse was gone did Souichirou and Mom relax. When they did, she and Ren said,
"Are you okay?"
She turned and stared at Ren, who she imagined looked just as surprised as her that they had said that at the same time. Their attention returned to their respective parents when they chuckled. Akira couldn't help but pout behind her transparent mask.
"What's so funny?"
"Aha, sorry sorry Akira. I'm just glad you and Amamiya-kun are okay," Mom said.
"Me too," Souichirou, Ren's dad, said. Then he turned a little towards Mom, his voice having lost its edge and now much softer. "And...thank you."
"Eh?" Mom said. "For what?"
"For protecting Ren."
"Ah, well, um...it's the least I could do... You've done so much for us already."
It was then Ren decided to tackle Mom's leg in a hug, surprising her.
"Thank you, Shiori-san. You were cool."
Akira smiled. "Yeah! You were cool, Mom! You grabbed her arm like on the TV!" she said.
Akira was going to say more but those words turned into a yawn in the middle of opening her mouth.
"Akira?" Mom said with slight panic.
But Ren's dad said, "It's fine. Just tired, right?"
"No I'm not..." Akira said, but it wasn't very loud and her eyes started to droop.
Souichirou chuckled. "Come on. How about we leave and let Akira rest? We can call a nurse to check on her to be sure."
"You need sleep too!" Ren said to Mom. "You look bad! Dad says a good sleep always makes you feel better."
This time his dad kept back his chuckle, only letting out a short snicker. Mom stared for a bit, looking back and forth between Ren and his dad. Eventually, she calmed down and said,
"Okay okay, Amamiya-kun. I'll rest too."
"Then let's go," Ren's dad said.
The three went to the door but Akira whimpered and said, soft from her body's want to sleep, "Wait..."
Only Ren heard as he turned but Mom and his dad went out, soon followed by their voices sounding like whispers as they talked to some of the staff. Ren, meanwhile, went back to her bed and, with the help of a chair, leaned against the bed to be near her.
"I don't...wanna sleep..."
The boy just tilted his head. "Why not? Sleep makes you feel better."
She didn't want to see the bad people in her dreams hurting her or Mom... She tried to say that, she really did, but her throat choked up as the nightmares came to the forefront again and she wanted to cry from them.
But, thankfully, Ren then said, "Is it bad dreams?"
Akira just nodded.
A moment passed before he nodded and sat like a shogun with a thud, his legs crossed.
"I'll stay until you sleep so that I can steal any bad dreams you have."
Akira pouted. "How can you steal bad dreams?"
"Because I'm a phantom thief."
"Huh? Phantom thief...? What's a phantom thief?"
"Phantom thieves are special thieves that can steal anything."
"But aren't thieves bad?"
"Yeah. But phantom thieves can be good. Because they can steal anything. So they can steal from bad guys and bad things like bad dreams."
Well, if he put it that way, it sounded very nice. And he and his dad did save her. If he thinks he could steal her bad dreams...
Akira nodded and leaned against the pillows, the surprising softness making her close her eyes as she said,
No bad dreams came.
Author's Notes: Hello and welcome to Persona 5: Refraction.
This is more or less P5R but with a twist: we have both Ren and Akira.
The reason why stems from several things. One was my want for a FeMC for P5 which spawned from the speculation on Kasumi before she was properly revealed. Another was my love for the Akechi/Fem!Akira ship, which is because of the fic Wings of Rebellion by aiyumi (which you'll notice will have a lot of influence on this if you've read it). Yet another was wanting to make a novelization of P5. And because of those it led to me thinking of unique way of combining it from one simple AU that is common (as far as I know): Minato and Minako as twins.
And thus this was born. So there will be some self-indulgence in this but hopefully it won't be too much and/or you'll still enjoy reading this as much as I had writing this.
I was actually tempted to not make this prologue at all but changed my mind because there were several things I wanted to establish. One, what Ren's family situation is and how I imagine it to be for canon P5/P5R. Two, what changes to that situation because of deciding to save Akira. And three, a reason why Ren and Akira have the intense urge to help others, even a certain detective.
Yes, there will be pairings in this fic. The main one is Akechi/Akira as that is, well, kind of the one third of the point of this fic. Ann/Ren will also be in here too, with hints of others if I can sneak it in...
Akira's asthma was slightly inspired by the time-loop-travel-fix-it-fic called Escape My Night by KhadeanVhaden on AO3. I liked the idea, especially since I'm someone who actually has asthma, and once I thought of Akira with asthma, it worked well with tying her into P5's story, or at least how I tied her into the story. I would recommend reading that fic. It starts out really dark (and I do mean dark) but ends very sweet.
The title of the fic, Refraction, is in part because it starts with R like Royal, but more in reference to the fact that it means that the path of light goes in a different direction when it deflects on something and colors are the light we see reflected from a surface, thus a reference to Colors Flying High, the opening song of P5R, which is all about "choosing your own color" aka "being yourself". So basically the title is reference to the canon divergence in this fic and the colors theme in the song of P5R.
Meanwhile, the title of the prologue is based on the trope For Want of a Nail and changing the end to breath in reference to Akira.
For anyone who might have noticed, the reason why Souichiro said "I'll ask our families for a divorce" is because of what research I could do on Japanese divorce and child custody. Short version: for the sake of my sanity on their backstory while keeping it realistic to what I researched, Souichirou kept custody of Ren thanks to both his parents and Tomoko's agreeing that Tomoko wasn't fit to be a mother anymore when they were divorced by them and the law.