Disclaimer: Atlus owns Persona, and Minako, and Pharos and Ryoji. :(

Author's Note: Okay, so, this is definitely AU. I wanted to write a Pharos/Minako fic 'cause Pharos is just so cute, in his creepy smile-y way, but somehow it evolved into this. Not necessarily romance, but it's definitely there if you squint. Or even turn your head a bit sideaways. This also features a very Minato-like Minako, so be warned!

And, oh, just for the record, I never played any Persona game before P3. So sorry if I made a mistake. And yes, I love this guy's poetry, if it's not obvious yet – however, I rarely read any in general. :p

in time of daffodils

(and in a mystery to be
(when time from time shall set us free)
forgetting me,remember me)

-e.e cummings

Everyone tells her they didn't deserve to die.

When there's the funeral, she's dressed by some Uncle's wife in a black dress that feels too tight and is a size too small, but she doesn't talk anymore so the Uncle's wife doesn't know it. They lead her out like it's some sort of parade, except that the air is quiet and somber, and the people are crying.

They sit at the very front. The priest hired drones on and on and she thinks – he doesn't even know what he's talking about. He didn't know her parents; why is he pretending that he did?

She doesn't look at him, or the coffins. She looks outside the glazed windows of the church they're in, and watches the butterflies dance underneath the sunshine. Her feet want her to move to be there twirling with them, but the wife has a hand on her knees and she sits still, counting the seconds until she can see her parents one final time.

When she's standing there, at the podium in front of all the people gathered, she looks down into the corpses' faces and realizes she's been crying the entire time.

They return somewhere far away. Her Uncle is a businessman of some firm with a too long, forgettable name, and his wife works as a hairdresser. Minako thinks it's terribly normal, so she sneaks out onto the roof, careful not to scrape her knees, and tries to watch the stars hiding behind all the city smog. She draws constellations in the skies and make-beliefs that it's all the ones her father never got the chance to teach her.

They have to move to some small town once; it's hidden in the countryside, much smaller than Iwatodai ever was. She doesn't like it there – it's always raining, or it's always cloudy, and she swears she can see a figure watching her in the fog. She draws a blue butterfly on her wrist, right above where she can feel her pulse beating, and pretends that it'll protect her from the monsters hiding under her bed.

There are no monsters her Uncle tells her in that adult sort of way she's come to recognize, frowning down at her in the kitchen. She stares at him for a few moments, quiet, never one to waste words, and attempts to smile.

Okay is what she says, but when she closes her bedroom door, her blood is thumping against the scribbled butterfly tattoo on her skin and there's a voice inside of her.

"Minako," it whispers, quiet and uncertain and frail.

They change houses again. This time it's back in some city filled with screams of cars and chatter of crowds, and she refuses to cling onto the wife's hand as they navigate through. Her ears perk up when the sound of a music box hits her, and she stops, trying to figure out where it's coming from. Her feet lead her away from her guardians and down an alleyway opening up to another street.

There's an antiques shop in front of her; she presses her nose against the glass, staring at the pretty dark-haired doll with a butterfly's mask sitting there. The music from inside the shop stops and the door opens with a tinkle of a bell – she glances up at the man with a brunette ponytail and a golden mask smiling down at her.

"Do you like it?" He asks her, voice warm and chuckling, and she nods her head, unable to tear her eyes away from the doll for more than a few seconds.

"It's very pretty," she says, sounding the every bit of her eight years that she is. The man disappears, and she watches him take the doll away from the case – he emerges a second later, holding it out to her with a large smile.

"Here you go, then," he says, and her eyes widen.

"I can't take it!" She might not like her guardians, but she knows when to be polite. Her Momma taught her that much. She bites at her lower lip as she glances at the doll in the man's hands, face obscured by the blue mask. He pushes it closer to her, insistent.

"Go on," he encourages her. "She's been waiting for the right person to take her."

It's like her hands are moving without her consent, and before she knows it, she's holding the doll in them. She clutches it close to her chest, and grins up at the owner. "Thank you!"

Later in her room, she places the doll beside her on the bed and closes her eyes.

"Minako," the voice whispers, uncertain and frail and afraid. "I'm sorry."

When school begins, the teachers remark that she is an unusually quiet child for her age. She just smiles at them and says I'm sorry and they cover their mouths as they laugh, saying Don't apologize, little girl. Now, why don't you tell us what's bothering you? Is everything okay at home?

She cocks her head to the side and thinks (how home is a cold word in her heart, how the fire hearth never burns and the static of the TV is always on, buzzing inside her ears as she lies upstairs in her room, drawing bridges and butterflies) and says, confused, Yes. Is something wrong?

She color codes pencils in her binder and doodles her name on the front at home - MINAKO the letters spell, and there's a voice saying, "Minako," in her ear and it sounds frail and afraid and just as alone as she is. "Wouldn't you like to play together?"

"Momma said I'm not allowed to play with strangers," she replies to it one day, her words nearly silent in the vast expanse of her room.

There's a pause, and then – then the voice says nothing. She doesn't let herself feel disappointed.

She's playing with the doll with the butterfly mask when she looks up, and there's a boy sitting on her bed.

"Hello," he says, his hair the color of dark ashes and eyes of robin's eggs. She brushes the doll's hair back and sits up on her knees.

"Who are you?" She replies, calm and curious, and the boy shrugs.

"You can call me Pharos."

She eyes him, nine years and a half of age, and asks – "How old are you?"

Pharos of the blue sky eyes smiles. "I'm forever years old. That's a very pretty doll you have."

She glances down at the toy, holding it closer to her body. The butterfly bracelet she keeps on her wrist feels like it's burning. "Thank you."

She doesn't ask how he got into the house, because she can see the faint outlines of her lamp right through where his heart should be. "Do you want to play?" She hesitates. "My name is Minako."

Pharos' lips curl into a smile. "I know," and his voice is afraid and just as alone as she is and maybe somewhat even happy.

"You used to watch me in the fog," she says when she's ten years old, curled up beside him on the bed. She can feel his heart beating at her ear, almost like a fluttering bird struggling to break free.

There's a shift of air above her as he looks down at her. "Are you angry?" He questions, his tone mild.

"No," she says as she thinks it over. "I'm not. Why were you in the fog?"

"I was keeping you safe from the monsters lurking under your bed," he replies, just as alone as she is and maybe somewhat even happy, but definitely content.

She tightens her arms on the friend who tells her the secrets of the world, trapped under the cover of darkness and stars. "Are we friends?"

He giggles into her hair. "That's a silly question, Minako. We've been friends for a very long time now."

She doesn't ask how long it has been for him.

They're both twelve, staring at the butterfly doll before them.

"Have you ever taken the mask off?" Pharos asks, leaning forward to peer closer at it. Minako takes the time to notice that she can no longer see through him like she used to, and feels a bit sad.

"No, never." The boy sends her a small grin, eyes alight like stars at midday skies. "Do you want to try it?"

She rubs at the blue marker on her arm, watching the pen smudge away and leave traces on her fingertips. "…Okay."

There's a tie underneath the doll's hair and she takes it in her hands, fingers fumbling as she tries to undo it. The mask falls away and Pharos is silent, staring into its face. "Well? What is it?" She asks, and turns the doll over. Cherry red eyes stare back at her, pale pink lips curled into a soft smile.

She's not surprised that it looks like her.

"I have to leave you," Pharos breaks the silence, gazing straight at her as he talks. She feels herself free-falling in the blue skysea horizon, empty inside and outside.

"Why?" She asks, running her fingers through doll-Minako's wavy hair. Pharos' lips turn downward into the perfect inverted smile.

"Because I have to," he says, reaching over to embrace her, sounding maybe somewhat even happy, definitely content, and very ashamed.

The doll's head presses harshly against the underside of her ribs as she lets it fall to her lap, winding her own arms around his body.

"Okay," she answers, wondering just when he made her be so detached to the world.

She remembers, back when she was seven years old, people told her that her parents didn't deserve to die.

She stares at the sixteen year old boy holding his hand out in front of her, tall and brunette with the brightest blue eyes she's ever seen, making her think of the depths of the oceans and the glitter of the lakes. There's some sort of tha-thump inside of her, like her heart is speeding up, beating faster and faster inside her ribcage, fighting to break out – but, that would be impossible. She hasn't reacted to anything for almost ten years, cold and hallowed like the bones of a bird, light and airy in the sky in order to be able to fly.

"Hello," she greets, ignoring his stretched out arm. "Who are you?"

The boy withdraws his hand, scratching at the back of his head in embarrassment. She notes the small mole right below his left eye, and watches him with curious eyes. "Sorry… I'm Ryoji. The new transfer student – they said I should ask you for a tour around the school…?" His voice is content, somewhat ashamed, and familiar.

She remembers the little boy who grew up with her like her own second shadow, bringing silent comfort every minute she spent with him with eyes of robin's eggs. She gazes into Ryoji's face, mapping it out in her head as he shifts nervously underneath her gaze, and thinks his eyes look like the waterfalls at the end of the world.

"…Okay. I guess I can spare a bit of my time." She reaches up to brush at her bangs with her right hand, turning away to walk down the hall. "Are you coming?"

There's a second of silence, then the sound of footsteps so soft that it's like he's not even there. His voice is just as quiet, maybe even reminiscing as he says, "That's a nice tattoo you have."

She glances down at the blue butterflies wound around her wrist, ink stained to the bone so it'll never wear off, and smiles. "Thank you."

There's a red-eyed doll sitting on her shelf when she brings him over for a class project a few weeks later, brunette curls spilling down to her shoulders. A butterfly mask sits on her head, partly covering the side of her face, the sparkle in it reflected by the warm sunlight outside.

Ryoji stretches in the middle of the room as he gazes around, his voice familiar and light and flirty as he says, "You know, I think I've been here before." He turns to her, grinning with a soft smile curling the corners of his lips, his eyes the shade of all the blues existent in the world and beyond.

Much to her surprise, she's laughing a laugh that hasn't heard the light of day for four years. "Yes, I think you definitely have."