A/N: 'Sup. Yeah, I know this is a pretty odd pair. Everybody hates Takaya (for good reason), but I just have a little soft spot for him. I'm gonna end up doing a split Lovers/Friendship path, with some extras for both, although I might end up emphasizing Lovers more (so don't throw vegetables at me!).
This is version 2, so let me know what you think. Thanks for reading!
Social Link Rank 1
"Takaya!" he heard behind him. "The guy from Strega?" When he turned to look, he recognized the girl, and especially her red arm band.
"And what brings a benevolent officer such as yourself to this place?" He asked, his arms opening wide to display the area around him. It was run-down, with rust streaking down the sides of buildings and debris collected up along the sides. Grafitti stained the walls. He seemed to fit.
"I feed the cats," she said, smiling.
"Surely you have more important matters to attend to."
"Don't you?" She took a seat on the dirty concrete beside him, setting what looked like a school bag to the side his opposite.
"The highest point of my activity is during the Dark Hour. I am sure you're aware of the amount of work I must attend to."
"So what do you do during the day?"
"You're trying to divine information, aren't you?"
"Don't answer my question with a question," she said, smiling. "You don't have to say anything if you don't want to. I was just curious."
Takaya's hands went back to rest on his legs, and he looked out towards the punks that usually hung around there. "I wander. I search for information. I question and converse with people."
"So Strega is a full time job?"
"I suppose you could say so."
A few minutes passed as they watched the teenagers, puffing on cigarettes and fooling around with each other.
"Are you usually here?" she asked, her eyes focused on a small fight that had broken out.
"I do not usually idle in a place, if that is what you're asking."
"I've got free time tomorrow. You should come back by."
"Ha," he said with a snort. "Befriending the enemy is your plan?"
"No, just talking to a guy who seems like he needs some company."
"It is a pity that you have nothing better to do."
"Is it? I'm pretty busy, normally. It's nice to sit and relax." Her hands ducked into her bag and took out something wrapped up in brown, crinkly paper. She peeled back the paper to reveal a chunk of food, and thrust it forward at him. "Melon bread?"
"Is this your attempt at poisoning me?" he questioned, turning to look at the food in her hands. She took a large bite of it in response, chewing and swallowing before handing the rest to him.
"A smaller bite would have been sufficient," he said as he took a bite of his own. He heard a small laugh. "You find humor in even the smallest of things, I presume."
"It makes life a little more pleasant." Her hand reached over to tear off a small piece from the bread.
"And here I had assumed it was mine," he said, but only barely bothering to watch her hand.
Still with the bread in her mouth, she said, "Sorry. I always get really hungry around now. Usually I stop somewhere and go eat."
"Then go eat." He remarked, dryly.
"I'm busy right now," she replied.
He chuckled in response, but they continued eating their bread for a while.
"Meet me at Wakatsu tomorrow?" she said, rising swiftly and crumpling the paper in her hand. "My treat."
Takaya made a noncommittal sound as she started walking away. She didn't wait for his answer.
Social Link Rank 2
When she stopped by to feed the cats, Takaya was missing from his spot. Her face crinkled. She had expected him to be there, ready to chastise her for wasting her time. Her eyes moved to the group of thugs, but the rest of her decided against questioning them on his whereabouts. Sighing, she headed to the strip mall to eat.
"Did you forget?" inquired a cool voice, coming from straight in front of her. Making a beeline to the restaurant's door had meant she completely missed the sight of him. He was leaning against the wall, but straightened up once she noticed him. His ribs showed even more as he twisted forwards.
"No, sorry, I was..."
He waited patiently.
"I thought you wouldn't come."
"I had nothing better to do. This would be better than idling in boredom."
She smiled as she held open the door for him.
"All of this time spent with me, and you have yet to express hostility. I'm sure that there is wrath somewhere inside of you, waiting to spill."
"Wrath?" she said, blowing on part of her food before sticking it into her mouth. "I don't do wrath. I can't justify it."
"You cannot justify it? You sit before a killer, and one who had left you to die, no less."
"Are you asking how I feel about you?" She asked, stuffing a bun in immediately afterward, pulling back a sliver.
"Hate. I am an irritant; an obstacle to your ultimate goal, a dangerous hurdle to be crossed, and an intimidating foe. " He answered confidently, taking the rest of the bun from her hand and eating it. Takaya's eyes locked with hers.
Her eyebrows furrowed and she met his stare dead-on. "Disappointment."
"What?" He spoke with an equally surprised and angered tone.
She said nothing, but would not break the contact.
"Disappointment," she repeated. She frowned, and it seemed like he was sucking the very breath from her lungs.
"You are...disappointed in me? Are you a mother? Have I misbehaved, and you—"
She silenced what she assumed would be a loud and angry tirade. "Listen!"
His chair had been half pushed back, but he stopped to look at her.
"You have potential, Takaya. You have so much more potential than you think you do."
"I have potential," he spat. "I can enrapture and lead. I can bring forth a being far greater being than any human alive. I am potential at its peak."
"You can be greater than this," she answered, rising from her chair as he rose from his. "If you want to know what I think of you, I think it's that Strega is a waste of your talents. Of all of your talents. I think all three of you could do so much better than you think."
"And I presume that you know exactly why we started Strega, why we maintain it, and each of our motives for staying with it!" His voice seemed beyond anger now. He stormed to her side of the table. The other people stared at them. For a second his hand twitched towards the revolver. "Don't you have any better reasons? Or better people to be concerned with?"
"Better people? I don't have a worry switch to turn off. I don't know why you guys are like this, but I'm not going to be angry or vengeful. It's a waste of energy."
"I also think that this conversation is a waste of energy," he replied, and turned to leave. She grabbed him by the arm.
"What's revenge going to get me? You can't get anything back from it. Hating you or killing you won't magically make everyone alive or awake."
"I don't expect you to understand," he said. "I'm sure your life has been absolutely charmed."
"No, but listen to me!" He had started pulling away. "Takaya, remember 'time heals all wounds'?"
"There isn't enough time for that," he said, pulling his arm completely free and storming out. The sudden slam and door jingle made her flinch a little. She sank back into the chair.
Social Link Rank 3
Hunched over her laptop, she had spent hours searching for the revenge website. She searched for Takaya's name especially, but nothing turned up. It seemed like he didn't even exist.
Having enough of staring at the screen, she shut the lid and wandered to outside the dorm. She let her feet just start walking, letting her mind wander as well, thinking to her confrontation a week earlier. Maybe Takaya would've been happier if she'd said she did hate him. When her attention snapped back, she was at the mall. Her eyes wandered until they recognized someone. Standing aggressively, he was talking to a woman in a blue suit.
It seemed to be the end of their conversation. He waved her off and turned to walk away. Akako moved to meet him from the side.
"Takaya," she said.
He stiffened and turned to face her. There was that same chilling face.
"You never finished eating." There was already some concern on her face, but it grew after she'd realized she had nothing else to say.
"I do not eat that often," he said coolly.
"You should. It's good for you."
"Is there a point to this?"
She sighed. "Do we have to start from square one?"
He turned his entire body towards her. "What square had we gotten to, if you do not mind me asking?"
"Why is it wrong to worry about someone, even if they're a killer?"
"It is a waste of energy," he said. "I move along my own orbit, and so shall you move along yours."
"Orbits do collide," she said. "We've seen the craters."
"I was assuming that craters were not a positive thing."
"Not the craters, but the debris that gets kicked up into the atmosphere." Thanks a lot, Ms. Ounishi.
He shrugged and adjusted the revolver tucked into his belt. Her whole body tensed while his hand was on it.
"Am I making you nervous?" He asked.
"Just a bit," she answered.
"You should not fear death, Akako. It will come eventually, so it is not a matter of huge consequence when it will."
"You know as well as I do that future events would change drastically if I were to die sooner." She may have been nervous, but her face was as still as stone. An uneasy silence passed between them.
"Escapade is nearby," he said calmly. His hand moved to his hip. "Let's go."
"You have been in there previously. If they disregarded you then, they will disregard you now."
He started walking in that direction. She took a moment to process her thoughts, all of them questioning what he was thinking, and followed him there.
She had avoided the attention of the bartender long enough for the two of them to reach the upstairs. He moved as confidently as she did nervously, and they squirreled themselves into one of the corners. The music blared and the lights changed different colors. Each color reflected off of the trayful of glasses Takaya had ordered. None of them looked like anything she recognized.
"I don't really want to drink..."
"It is your choice," he said simply, and took a large glass in his hand. He tilted his head back and drank.
"So you're going to drink all of those by yourself?"
"Is it that unusual of a habit? I see many others drinking as much as this, spread out along the evening." He placed the empty glass down and picked up another.
She frowned. "I bet you haven't even eaten yet."
He finished with that drink and moved on to the next one. She watched him, noticing how prominently his collarbone stuck out. His fingers looked like bones with skin over them. They didn't compliment his face very much - it was surprisingly full in regards to the rest of him.
She looked over at the tray again and picked the largest glass up. Without hesitation, she began swallowing it down. This was the first time she'd tasted liquor, and it was impossible to determine what kind it was, other than "disgusting". As he set down another empty glass, she picked up the next largest one and drank it down. Her throat gagged against it, but she forced it to stop. She picked up another one. There was no way he was going to drink all of these..
At the end of the night, she didn't even know what time it was. Takaya had shouldered her out to the street, to her drunken surprise.
"This's good," she slurred. "I got it from here."
His arm remained, even with her trying to pry it away. It shook the both of them when he laughed. "You're not even capable of speaking normally. I'm taking you home."
"No! You can't! You'll…get Jin to bomb it."
"If I were really going to bomb your dorm, wouldn't I simply have Jin look through the student directory for you?"
"Because…" She stared at the pavement. "Because you don't know my whole name."
"Even that would be easy to solve, as we know Aragaki's complete name as well as his friend Akihiko, and their friend Kirijo, and from there we are able to extrapolate. You do not disturb us outside of the dark hour and we do not disturb you."
"Okay," she said, but still fussing with his arm. "You're making my stomach hurt worse."
His grip loosened, and moved to her hip. "Direct me."
Eventually he deciphered her instructions and the two of them arrived back at the dorm.
"Thanks, Takaya. You're great."
"Good night," he said, smiling. His body turned away and he walked far enough away to not be seen. Once the door was unlocked and she stumbled through, he walked back home.
Social Link Rank 4
"Have you recovered from your binge?" She nearly jumped at the voice. Swiftly looking behind her, the gleam of the revolver clued her in to the identity faster than the voice. "You drank a formidable amount."
"Don't even mention that, " she said. A card in her hand was fed into the wooden stand in front of them. It was better not to comment, he reasoned. "Mitsuru-senpai was on me about that. Ken had to be the one to rat me out."
He already knew those names; no consequence.
"'Oh, Akako came in awfully late last night!'" She used her best child voice and he smiled.
"Your dorm-mates annoy you?" He leaned against the wood. "Somehow I find that unlikely. You seem the type to love them all."
"Love? I guess. I can still get irritated, even if they're my friends. The only one that doesn't ever bother me is Koro!"
"Oh. The dog. I am still perplexed as to how you have trained a dog to battle and summon a persona."
"He came that way," she said. She slowly started walking towards the gate to the shrine, but backwards, a small hand gesture encouraging him to follow. He righted and did so.
"A dog came equipped to summon a persona – a powerful persona." A hint of bitterness tinged his words.
"We can't believe it either." Her mouth opened to say something further, but she closed it. She turned her back before weakly saying, "Yours is powerful, too."
"What if I never wanted it to be?"
"What do you mean?"
"There is a trade off with power. If you want more, more must be sacrificed. Is it not the way it works for you?"
"I'm not sure about the others, but for me… No." A few seconds passed before she noticed that he had stopped walking.
"So, truly, yours are the superior abilities."
"You think so? " She turned around. "If I can bring out more than one, what does that say about me? Personas reflect your inner self – so what's mine?"
"Whichever one you have with you at the moment," he said, smirking. "More than one? It is no small wonder that you lead them. That is our similarity. You and I are leaders."
"We're both people, too."
"It's fortunate that you're not speaking to the dog."
"Look at it this way – we're viewing each other with labels. You're 'that Takaya', or 'the guy in Strega', or 'another persona user'. And I'm 'leader of SEES' or 'the girl who needs to be stopped'. You see? We're still people. It's why I've been talking to you – you're not the Strega guy, you're you. You're Takaya."
"And you are very, very odd…" His eyes focused on her face, but not in focus – like he was staring at her to find out how her brain was moving.
"And you're still very, very skinny, so we should find something to eat. I'm craving some sweets, let's go!" She walked forward and grabbed his hand, rebounding from the spot and rather pulling him along. "I'll treat!"
He snapped from his reverie and found his feet moving with hers. Her hand was warm. Very, very warm.