Chie is three. She is three, and Kaa-san is soft, and a little bit chilly, and something else that Chie doesn't have a word for. Later she'll call it weak, and know that the word isn't the right one- eventually she'll learn to say larger words like 'fragile' and 'delicate'. Still, even without words she understands the concept, and Chie's so very careful as she clambers up onto the couch, eyes wide on Kaa-san's face. She leans in and plants her lips wetly on Kaa-san's cheek, because she hasn't learned just yet how to pucker her lips for a kiss, and then pulls back, voice solemn and innocent. "Aw bettuh?" Kaa-san pulls her close and cuddles her, and Chie falls asleep, safe and warm and happy because she is three and doesn't yet understand that the pain that twists Kaa-san's face can't be kissed away.

--

Chie is five. She is five, and where Kaa-san is soft and chilly and something that Chie can only identify as 'weak', Tou-san is big and hard and warm and strong. Chie sits on his shoulders, giggling wildly as he ducks, his worry about her hitting her head exaggerated. "Tou-san," she shrieks as he dumps her backwards onto the couch, and she scrambles to grab his leg, not noticing the slight wince that he tries to hide. She doesn't know that he was in a car accident years ago, that his leg is stiff and his knee hurts to bend. Kaa-san knows. Kaa-san notices.

"Come here, Chie-chan," she says, voice soft and quiet and Chie scampers over, small hands eagerly patting Kaa-san's rounded belly. Kaa-san laughs, and it's like music. "No, silly, you still can't feel the baby kicking yet."

"Awww." Chie pouts a little, but it doesn't last long, and she bounces back over to Tou-san.

"No more tonight, Chie-chan," he says, voice a deep rumble in his chest as he sits, winded. Chie gives an exaggerated sigh but runs off to entertain herself anyways. She's not worried, because she is five and she doesn't yet understand that there's a reason Tou-san gets tired so quickly.

--

Chie is six. She is six, and she has decided on the first thing she will ever hate. It is the hospital. Not just any hospital- this one. She especially hates the waiting room with its white-white walls and its hard chairs and the nurses who come through every few minutes to check on her. She can't run around or make noise and she's tired and they won't let her see Kaa-san, and she feels like crying, but Tou-san's trusting her to be a big girl, so she tries her best to play word games with herself, like the ones they do in school. "Ichi Ni San," she starts, counting softly to herself, and by the time she reaches "Hachi" she's bored, but at least the nurses have stopped asking her if she wants water or toys.

She doesn't notice the pity, because she's six, and she doesn't realize that there could be a reason for them to pity her.

--

Chie is still six, and she is sad, because after nine months- she counted them on the calendar- of waiting and planning and trying to convince her parents not to name her little brother "Hidetoshi" because she thinks it's an ugly name, Kaa-san is in bed and there is no little Hidetoshi to be found. Chie cuddles close to Kaa-san and for once, the thin fingers combing through her hair aren't comforting, no more than the shaky voice that sounds like rusted wind-chimes. "Chie-chan, you have to be strong now for Kaa-san, okay?" And Chie knows that she's really saying 'You have to be strong so this will never happen to you' but she just nods and burrows in closer.

--

Chie is eight. She is eight, and she's standing over a small boy, facing down three older kids, brow furrowed and little hands on her hips. Her silky pigtails are gone, chubby cheeks almost worn away, bright eyes a little dimmer, though not by much. Her voice cracks but she never flinches as she tells the older kids that they shouldn't pick on weaker people, that they're being cruel and unfair and that nobody but nobody likes bullies.

She hides the missing tooth in her sock drawer when she gets home and practices smiling without anyone noticing the missing gap. Kaa-san notices anyways and fusses, but Chie can tell that Kaa-san is proud of her for standing up for the boy, for being so strong. Tou-san laughs and says that she's probably old enough now to watch American Kung-Fu movies, and that if she wants, he can teach her some moves.

She wants.

And when it happens again, she doesn't even feel the bruises forming as the older kids run away, terrified by someone who's small and can hold her own, even though she's smaller and weaker. And Kaa-san fusses, and Tou-san ruffles her hair and tells her not to beat up on other kids too much.

And Chie shakes her head and smiles and says "No, Tou-san, I won't. I don't like bullies."

--

Chie is ten. She is ten, and she still hates hospitals, but a little less now that she knows how to keep herself occupied. She talks to the nurses and looks at magazines, and eventually closes her eyes and naps in one of those hard, uncomfortable chairs, because it beats just staring at white-white walls. And she's never been happier to see Tou-san's smiling face because that means that this time, after nine months of waiting and counting and telling her parents that it was a bad idea to name their son "Ichiro", there will be a little Ichiro running around.

--

Chie is still ten, and she scuffs her shoe against the tile as Kaa-san talks with the doctor. She is sad and weary and she wants to go home and sleep, but Tou-san has drowned himself in work again and Kaa-san is hysterical and Chie couldn't just leave her all alone, not now. And the doctor must have seen what Chie sees, because he rests his hand on her arm and shakes his head. "Satonaka-san," he says, being so very careful with his words. "I understand that you are distraught- I have also lost sons. But you cannot risk pregnancy again. It would kill you, and you would be without son or life."

Chie wants to tell him that it's useless, that Kaa-san has contraceptives at home still and that she wants a son so badly that she doesn't care, just to see his understanding face fall. But she doesn't, she just walks Kaa-san home and takes what money she has saved up from allowances and goes to Aiya Diner, ordering as much steak as she can manage to swallow and bit more, and she eats it all.

By the time she gets home, she's sick to her stomach, and Tou-san scolds her for being so selfish with Kaa-san the way she is, but Chie gets what she wants- she gets to stay home and not deal with one more pitying glance from a teacher, or the gossip floating around school, propelled by her classmates. She lays down on her bed and goes to sleep with the vague hope that she'll never have to wake up.

--

Chie is still ten, and she is still sad and weary, but life goes on. She takes to spending time outside, going over the moves that Tou-san has shown her and the moves she's seen in movies and moves that she made up herself just because they feel right. She buys a jacket when it gets colder, a jacket that's on clearance because it's green and yellow and so kind-of-ugly that no one else wants it. She decides that it's really comfortable even though it's too big even for Kaa-san, and she dubs it her favorite article of clothing.

She's on her way home when she sees the other little girl, and she doesn't want anything to do with her, but she stops anyways because the other girl is crying and hugging a dog. "Hey," Chie says, crouching down next to the black-haired girl in red. "You okay?"

The little girl chokes out that no, she's very well not okay, and that she can't keep this dog even though it's injured because they can't have it running around in a hotel. Chie shrugs, not sure how to fix it, but she sits down in the dirt with no regard for her skirt or new jacket and starts talking to the girl, until the other calms down enough to introduce herself as Amagi Yukiko.

"Satonaka Chie," Chie offers, and pauses before smiling. "I can take the dog home if you want. And you can come over and see... her." She decides that it's a her because of the fluffy white fur and the poor dog can't possibly be male, and Yukiko-chan says nothing so she doesn't put too much thought into it.

She goes home with a dog on a leash and her new friend's phone number scrawled messily across her palm.

She decides two days later that dogs are too much trouble, but Kaa-san seems to like it and takes care of it most of the time, so Chie names it Nana and doesn't bother changing it when they realize Nana is actually male.

And it's okay, because it makes Yukiko-chan laugh, and Yukiko-chan laughing is much better than Yukiko-chan crying.

--

Years pass.

--

Chie is seventeen. She is seventeen and she hates herself. And she hates herself a little more for every flash of jealousy that she gets when a boy looks at Yukiko-chan, for every little piece of disappointment that weighs her down when Yosuke-kun dates other girls. Mostly though, she hates when people fail to see, no matter how strong she's trained herself to be, no matter how feminine she's not, that she's still a girl. And she still has the feelings of any other hormonal teenage girl. But then, if she let her hair grow out and dressed pretty like Yukiko-chan and that girl who is called Rise but is also Risette, maybe they would realize that, so it must be her own fault, and she hates herself for it.

And then Souji-kun comes, and the murders start. It's terrifying, and even more so when she jumps head-first into the TV world, and then it's too soon and she's forced to confront her own jealousy. She can't hide it from Yosuke-kun and Souji-kun, and it's humiliating and humbling all at once, and even after she accepts it as truth because it's not important enough to risk leaving Yukiko-chan in there any longer, it festers, and adds a little bit more to her anger.

--

The year passes too quickly. People die, people are injured, and yet as she sees Souji-kun pulling away on the train, she can't help but know that she's going to miss the year he was here, because it was dangerous and exciting and she was doing what she had always wanted to do- acting the hero, saving people, protecting. She smiles more and is relaxed more and congratulates Yosuke-kun when he says that he's dating Rise-chan, because in the end she knew it, or something like it, was going to happen.

And she misses that year, misses feeling like she can make everything perfect, but she learns to let it go and live her own life.

--

Chie is nineteen. She is nineteen and in the police force, and no longer in Inaba because she won't let her career follow the path of traffic cones and tracking down those who break the speed limit. She hasn't spoken to Naoto-kun or Souji-kun since Souji-kun left, and she hasn't spoken to Kanji-kun or Nanako-chan or Dojima-san since she moved. Yosuke-kun and Rise-chan visit every few months, but less now that Rise-chan is pregnant, and Yukiko-chan often writes letters.

It seems ironic that Chie was the one to leave, when Yukiko-chan was the one who wanted to.

But Chie's living her dream, chasing always that fleeting feeling of success, the idea that she can protect others, the knowledge that she is strong and independent.

And she is, though she's lonely, and she works more for the pay as the time goes on, and the thrill escapes, and the people she protect are ungrateful or too traumatized to express it properly. She grows hard... brittle. She doesn't bother turning the lights on at night when she gets home, her training slows to a stop, and she stops writing letters to Yukiko-chan.

She moves. Now there is no contact with anyone, and she is happy while she hates it, because it is a familiar feeling, the anger and hate and sadness. She knows that she should have gotten help a long time ago, but the thought is worthless without some helping along, and she doesn't, she leaves it dormant.

And it stays that way up until the day she takes a bullet in the shoulder as she curls around a little girl, screaming into the CB that the car won't fucking start and they're being shot at and there's a little girl goddamnit hurry the fuck up!

Afterwards she cradles the girl in her lap and runs strong fingers through the silken brown hair, murmuring that it will all be alright. The mother cries and thanks Chie when she arrives, taking the little girl away so that the medics can tend to Chie's wounds, and she feels a spark of something, hope maybe though the word is too optimistic in her ears.

--

Chie just turned twenty, and she watches the mail truck pull away, laden with letters to everyone back in Inaba and anywhere else that she can think of, smiling. Then she turns and curls up on her couch, making herself comfortable. It hurt less than she thought it would, her attempts to renew those old ties, and she wondered why she hadn't done it months ago.

She ignores her therapist on the answering machine asking her to please, please pick up the phone, turning on the television instead and watching the little girl on the screen, very seriously saying that the criminal was a bad, bad man, but the good police lady stopped him.

Stretching out, she blows on that small flame inside of her that she has named hope, and closes her eyes, humming a tune quietly.

"... I search for your heart, pursuing my true self~"

iamalineiamalineidonotlikebeingalineiamnowadodecahedroniamadodecahedroniamadodecahedron

Yes. Yes, I just broke the fourth wall. Because I own like that.
Um. In other news... Wangst! Nothing new there, eh!
I feel like a horrible person for making Chie into such a wangsty ho, but I think I made it fairly plausible.
... Considering that I never played the game and whatnot.
e.e

Also, eating steak until you're sick just so you don't have to go to school the next day or two- been there. Done that.
Was so worth it.

I definitely would like feedback on this, since it's my second Persona fic, my first Persona 4 one.