This was written on the base of the asumption that Ryouji doesn't just, you know, fall off the face of the earth for the month of December. But this is pretty much my thoughts on what if Mshe had gone off with him for that time. I'm not sure about the flow of some of the scenes, but I felt for the most part everything was necessary in order to convey what I wanted. So I hope you all enjoy,
Disclaimer: Yeah, no. I don't own Persona. I've run out of witty ways in order to say this.
The Act of Vanishing
Reach out your hands to me/And let's just disappear/Let's just disappear…
The Aftermath - Escape the Fate
"Ryouji," the girl calls lightly. Her voice is soft and while it's obvious she's tired, she doesn't look as if she's ready to fall asleep any time soon. The boy shifts slightly in order to show that he's listening. She 'mms' in response, as if she's unsure what to do with his attention now that she has it. Instead she focuses on their hands, and where their fingertips are gently pressed together. She gently, cautiously, presses her palm against his; doing it so slowly that it seems as if she's afraid she'll break him. He finds that ironic considering the fact that it's rather obvious she's the delicate one. "If you ever disappear," she finally voices, gaze softly concentrated on their hands. "Will you promise to take me with you?"
Ryouji takes a moment to fully absorb the girl next to him. Her vibrant, blood-red hair pooled around the pillow, stray strands scattered on her face. Eyes as red and shining as her hair peering out from her pretty face, slightly more watery and much more gentle than they normally were. His gaze travels lower, to her chin, down her neck, past her collarbone and to the soft swell of her breasts—only stopping here because the blanket draped across them impedes any further progress. Her skin is littered in marks, red and purple blotches that bloom like dark flowers against porcelain. Remnants, or rather proof of their lovemaking.
He finds himself wondering how anyone could possible say no to someone this beautiful. "I promise," he finds himself murmuring. His smile softens as hers takes on a more relieved tone. As if in an attempt to seal his promise, he lowers his head and presses into the base of her neck. His mouth opens and at once he closes his teeth gently, but firmly over the soft skin. (Mine! I'm marking her to show all of you that she belongs to me, races through his mind, but is ignored because his possessiveness scares even him.)
Riichi gasps in that pretty, sing-song voice of hers. "Ryou- s-stop!" she breathes. But he doesn't stop, because he knows as well as she does that she loves the feel of his teeth scraping against her skin. Her moaning and writhing is only proof of that. So he doesn't stop until he is sure that another purple flower is blooming, and this time in a place that will be hard to hide from the prying eyes of their male classmates who only dream of doing to her what he is doing now.
"I'll be back on New Year's Eve."
He gets up to leave and is stopped short. It is not Junpei's shouts that are the cause of his faltering. It is the small fingers that are entwined in his sleeve that made him stop.
"Your promise." Riichi's voice is barely loud enough to be called a whisper, but it's strong and commanding in it's own right. Her grip tightens and he can almost feel her desperation through her fingers. "Pharos, Ryouji, don't go back on it."
Perhaps it is the use of his other name—the one he had been using since she was a small girl and the child form he used had been bigger than she—that makes all his resolve crumble into itty bitty pieces. Even though he knows this is wrong, that doing this will make everything immensely harder for both of them, he kneels down at her side and presses his mouth against hers. She receives it easily, twining the fingers of her free hand into the fabric of his scarf.
Ryouji pulls away ever so slightly, and whispers against her lips. "I'll meet you out front in an hour."
He really does leave then. Walking out without another look back. When the hour is up he finds himself standing in front of the building, torn between the giddiness of having her come to him and the hope that she would decide to stay away from the despair that he was. The large doors open and she steps out of the safety of the dorm and into the cold of the inky black night. Her smile tells him that she regrets nothing, and though he regrets everything, he takes her outstretched hand with a loving smile and spirits her away.
"I wonder if they're worried about me?"
Ryouji looks over at her, face a mixture of confusion and interest. The girl looks up and locks eyes with him, her gaze warm and smiling despite his expression. "Well, I left without saying anything," she explains, shrugging lightly. Her attention returns to the window display.
"You left a note didn't you?" he asks. He's praying that he doesn't sound desperate.
She purses her lips and hums. "It's not the same," she tells him.
He bites his lip, unsure of whether or not he really wants to venture further. But his more sensible side wins over and the boy opens his mouth again. "Do you want to go back?"
The girl refocuses her attention, face a perfect picture of surprise. He himself is rather startled at how shocked she looks. Riichi once more purses her lips, then shrugs and looks forward again. "Only if you want to," she says. The boy sighs, relieved despite the fact that he knows he shouldn't be. He then feels the warmth of her hand and her fingers lacing shyly with his. "And only if you stay with me."
Riichi blushes at the same time his smile widens.
"Where should we go next then?"
The snow is pretty, she had said. Laughed and danced and twirled merrily in the middle of the square. He hadn't been the only one to notice how lovely it made her look. How vibrant and entrancing and utterly alive she seemed. Maybe it was because it was dark, and the light from the streetlamps was just right, but the snow that fell around her made her look almost ethereal. He once more takes notice of the crowd her little show has produced and finds himself irritated with how many males have stopped to stare.
They're all thinking the same thing, he can't help but inwardly snarl. That she's the most beautiful thing they've ever laid eyes on.
Her laughter brings him out of his thoughts, and the boy once more focuses his gaze on her. Riichi gestures for him to come and join her. He feels his face heat up, and suddenly feeling disgusted with himself for his earlier jealousy, declines.
The girl sighs and rolls her eyes dramatically. She strides over to him, takes his arm in both hands. She pulls with all her strength and succeeds in dragging him foreword. "It's nicer up close," she explains to him. Her face is flushed from her earlier activity, but she doesn't seem to be the least tired. In fact her eyes are sparkling and if anything she looks excited. The girl manages to pull him to the center of the square, right where she had just come from. "Look!" she exclaims, releasing one of her hands from it's hold on his arm and gesturing towards the sky. "Isn't it pretty?"
Ryouji cannot help himself. He's not sure if it's the fact that he can't stand the way these people are looking at her, or if it's simply how content she looks right then, but he wants nothing more than to feel her right now. So he bends down and presses his lips to edge of her jaw. "You're prettier," he whispers, and he has never been more sincere.
She focuses mildly surprised eyes on him before they narrow into a coy smile. "Then shouldn't you want to see me up close as well?" she teases.
He laughs and assures her that he would like nothing better.
She gasps and writhes beneath him. Lithe fingers clutching desperately at the bed sheets haphazardly pooled around them. A well placed lick and the girl is sent bucking against him once more.
Their lovemaking has been getting rougher as the days go on. He attributes it to the fact that the more time they spend together, the more they realize that all of this will end soon. He can only play human for so long, and she can only pretend that everything is fine for a little bit longer. The happier they become, the more desperate it leaves them.
But at this moment he doesn't find that he minds at all. He nips the inside of her thigh once more and smiles as she has to bite her lip in order to stifle another moan. This is the one part of her that will belong forever to him and him alone, and he relishes in this knowledge.
"Rii-chan," he calls softly, tauntingly.
She's breathing hard, but even then he can hear the hoarse, "Yes?"
"I love you," he whispers, pressing it against the skin of her leg, imprinting it with his softly scraping teeth. He then thrusts, needy, and wanting, and deliciously hard. And Riichi gasps again, back arching up and off the solid cushion of the mattress.
One hand unlatches itself from the tangle of covers and lifts dazedly up to entwine pale white fingers into the midnight black of his hair. She moans and cries and he can't help but feel like the sound of her voice is driving him crazy. "M-more," the girl finally manages to breathe. He is more than happy to obey.
"It's cold," she mutters. She brings up her mitten covered hands to cup around her mouth and breathe warmth into them in an effort to warm up her face. By the continuing scowl that graces her expression it is not as effective as she wishes. Even a scowl looks delicate on her, and he finds the whole thing slightly amusing.
"I'll share," he announces. The girl looks up warily, unsure if she wants whatever he's offering. He really does laugh this time. "It won't bite," he assures her. His hands reach up to unwind the yellow scarf from around his neck. When he has freed himself of it, he reaches out to gently grasp the girl and pulls her to him. Riichi stumbles over and when she has righted herself he has already begun winding the fabric around her neck.
She stays perfectly still while he finishes. When he is done he ruffles her hair and laughs at how she glares at him. The girl twirls on her heel to face the other way. After a minute of hesitant shuffling, she hunches foreword slightly and murmurs, "I'm cold."
The boy can't help the laughing smile. "I'll share," he assures her softly. He takes a step further and envelopes her small body in his arms. His head rests gently on top of hers. It's like she's cocooned inside of him now. Safe from everything that can hurt her, he briefly muses, laughing inwardly at how ironic that really is.
Both of them are startled by the soft laughter of an older woman standing a few feet away. She turns to her husband and chortles, "Young people are certainly open these days aren't they?" Her husband laughs in agreement. "It's nice to see such a loving couple." They disappear and the 'young couple' is left in their embarrassment.
Riichi brings up slow hands to clamp her fingers around his arms. "We're not a couple," she mutters.
His chest hurts; a painful constriction of his very core. If she denies that they are a couple, then what else does she deny? And if they aren't a couple, what did you call this? He knows she isn't fickle, and that she would never sleep with someone out of pity or a sense of duty. He knows this because he knows everything about her. But even though he knows this, the fact that she is now denying him is unquestionable. His possessiveness spikes back up and he feels his hold on her increase.
Why? When she belonged to him. Why was she now saying that they weren't-
"We're not a couple," she repeats. He vaguely realizes that her grip on him has tightened as well. "We're not, because that's a frivolous title." His surprise should be evident to everyone. Everyone except the one girl who cannot see his expression at the moment. "We're more than a couple," she continues, her voice now barely above a whisper. "Much more."
He is now remembering that she rarely listens to anyone. She had run over a particularly icy part of the sidewalk, of which he had just told her not to do, and had slipped and crashed with a frighteningly loud thud, of which he had just told her she would do. The girl now lies on the sidewalk, staring at her ankle contemplatively. She's strangely silent for a teenage girl in her position.
The boy scrambles down next to her, all worries and fear and groping hands. He hesitates before touching her ankle because he can tell, like a throbbing pain in his own joint, that this is where she's hurting. His hands hang uselessly in midair because he cannot figure out what to do with them now. Finally he settles on brushing the hair away from her face and letting his hands settle there.
She smiles, though this one is a little more apologetic than he's used to. "I don't think I can walk," she admits, embarrassment prevalent in her voice.
He merely chuckles, as if this is a minor problem. "Come here," he tells her. He loops one of his arms under her legs and supports her back with the other. With one fluid motion he hoists her up and Riichi gasps in surprise and clutches almost-frightened arms around his neck. Her fear, something she rarely showed, makes him laugh merrily all over again. "Just relax," he soothes. "I promise I'll get you back to the hotel safely."
Riichi remains rigid for a few more moments. Slowly she relaxes, arms going slack in their hold, head resting naturally on his collarbone. "I'm kind of tired," she admits. "Is it alright if I take a nap?"
"Of course. I told you, I'll keep you safe." She mumbles a thanks at this affirmation, eyes already closing in order to permit herself some rest. He really can't blame her. Since that cold night when he whisked her off the steps of her dormitory they have been in constant movement; the longest they have stayed in one place having been three days. He's not sure if it's really sightseeing they are trying for, or if the constant switching of environments helps keep their minds off what is inevitable.
She mumbles something in her sleep and Ryouji finds himself strangely intrigued in what she's dreaming of. "I love you," the girl whispers. Her hands, which had slipped from around his neck to lay carelessly on her stomach, clutch weakly at the fabric of his shirt. "Don't go," she continues, her voice shaky and desperate and pleading. "Don't leave me, not again, never again…"
As she trails off, muttering different iterations of the same plead, he feels his heart shatter into fragments of bleeding glass. The pieces that don't pool into the pit of his stomach travel up and lodge themselves into his throat.
Ryouji has never cried before. Not when he left her as Pharos. Not when he first saw her that day in school and had felt as if he was finally home once more. Not even when he realized what he was, and what his existence meant for her future. But he does now. He cries all the way to the hotel, clutching the tiny and alarmingly breakable girl so closely to him that passerby wonder if she is in pain like that. When he reaches their room and lays her down on the expanse of the bed, he rests his forehead on her shoulder and repeats the same phrase, over and over.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."
She looks beautiful like that. With the lights dancing across her, painting her reds and greens and yellows. The streets are decorated for Christmas. The storefronts and lampposts and everything else dolled up to the point of looking almost tacky. But every new sight brings a new amount of joy to her, and with each discovery she clutches his hand in hers and drags him over in order to examine it closer. He finds her whole display rather charming.
The girl becomes strangely silent and he becomes preoccupied with trying to find out what's wrong. She grips his hand tighter, the tremor small but not unnoticed. "I didn't really think about it when I was making it, but I suppose I picked a good present," she joked, her serene expression settling on him. She turns to face the boy and her other hand holds out a pure white box tied together with a yellow ribbon.
He takes it with great care, unsure what to make of the gesture. "Merry Christmas," she smiles as he attempts to unwrap the present with one hand. He finally manages to pull out a long piece of fabric, colored the same deep blue as his eyes. The material is warm in his hands, and even though it's not perfect he can immediately tell it's a scarf. "Since I stole yours," the girl chuckles, her other hand reaching up to burrow her fingers in the yellow fabric wrapped around her neck.
His expression softens. "Thank you," he says. She only nods in embarrassed affirmation. The boy suddenly remembers something. He drapes the scarf lovingly over his shoulder before he removes his hand from the confine of hers. For a moment Riichi looks almost terrified at the loss of contact. But he raises his hands to chest level in order to show her what he's doing, an act that has her enraptured. Slowly he pulls off the small ring that has never left his hand since he purchased it in Kyoto. He places it in his palm and reaches with his other hand to procure her left arm. The girl, for all her amazement, still manages to splay her fingers in order to make it easier for him.
Ryouji gently slips the trinket onto her ring finger and returns her hand in order to allow her to raise it to her face and marvel at how it looks on her. "Take care of it for me okay?" he asks her. "It's my treasure." She allows her hand to fall back to her side, face full of naked surprise. Then she throws her arms around him and kisses him with everything she has.
They place a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door, and refuse to come out of their room for the entire day.
The rattle of the train is soothing. It's enough to rock anyone to sleep, but the two occupants currently seated together don't want anything to do with sleep. They are huddled under one blanket, the girl so close that she's almost on top of the boy's lap. Her hair is down and there is no sign of her trademark hairpins. Because of this, her bangs hang loosely in her face, and most of her expressions are hidden. He, however, doesn't need to see her face to know exactly how she feels. Her body language tells him everything he needs to know.
"What would happen if we just ran away?" she asks. Her voice is strong and smooth, as if she is simply commenting on the weather.
He can feel how much she's shaking now though, and it pains him that he can't comfort her the way he wants to. "Nothing," he explains, and for a moment the one perceivable eye looks almost hopeful. "I would still disappear, and she would still be summoned."
Any energy that may had collected within the girl's body fades away with this declaration. "I see," she murmurs. Silence reigns for a long time. The only change is that she shifts underneath the blanket and grasps his hand with shaking desperation. Finally she parts her pretty lips and asks, "Do you really have to go?"
This hurts more than she can imagine. More than if she had told him that she never wanted to see his face again. Because at least then he would leave her knowing that he wasn't hurting her. But this, knowing that he was going to leave her (he was going to betray her) again, knowing that he was the cause for her pain was clawing out his insides.
"Yes," he answers, in a small, unsure, and terribly lonely voice.
She squeezes his hand, an act that works in reassuring him. "I-" she begins, and then cuts herself off. The girl shifts, recollects herself, and tries again. "I'm not going to kill you." she whispers.
His grip on her becomes painfully tight, and she lets out a squeak in response. He hastens to release her hand, but whirls on her all the same. "Why?" and in his disbelief it comes out in a hiss.
There is a moment in which it seems like she's rethinking. As if she's seriously contemplating his wishes. She sits up and swivels in order to fully face him. Her face is set in determination. "I refuse," she says. There is no room for argument.
Now it is only desperation that keeps him trying. "But why?" he tries again. "It'll be harder than you can even imagine."
Riichi cocks her head soothingly, expression soft and full of love. "Because I love you," she admits. "Because I've always loved you."
He slowly leans forward and slips his arms around her, pulling her small frame against his chest. His nose buries itself into the crook of her neck. She smells like strawberries and vanilla body wash. She gently hugs him back, and her smile presses into his shoulder.
"You're my everything," he whispers to her. "Please, just remember that."
She nods her gentle assurance. Her head moves ever so slightly, and with her new position she's able to whisper into his ear, "You were the only thing I've ever had."
While someone else might have taken this differently, he knew it for what it was. He was the only thing she's ever wanted.
The first thing that happens when they return, is she is slapped.
He rushes to haul the woman away from her, but the girl at his side places a reassuring hand on his upper arm, and eases him back.
The red-haired empress is spitting fire. Screaming about unreliable leaders and the gall to disappear without so much as a whisper. But when her tirade is over and she is left panting and breathless, she rushes forward and captures the smaller girl in a too-tight hug.
"I was worried," she confesses.
Ryouji finds it ironic that it is the empress of ice and composure that is the one who first lays out her heart to the girl.
The rest of their greetings, while not playing out in exactly the same fashion, have a similar sort of relief to them. He takes notice of the fact that while none of them are ignoring him, not one has met his eyes. The only reason he can think of, is that he is not forgiven for the disappearance of their precious leader.
He feels the girl at his side be slowly pulled away from him. The familiar comfort of her presence being taken away with a frightening sort of finality. Though he wants nothing more than to pull her back and wrap herself in him, he knows that he no longer has any time.
It is the voice of the boxer, perhaps the one with the most hostility towards him, that answers the unspoken question. "We're going to fight."
He cannot help the dry smile that flutters across his lips. "I already know."
The girls take turns dressing her up. Helping her into her kimono and pinning up her hair with gold ornaments. She feels like a glass doll. Something that is dearly loved, but who no one knows how to handle anymore.
The walk to the shrine hides awkwardness underneath the cheerful banter. She smiles and nods and laughs along with them, easing back into her role with almost effortless grace. It isn't until they reach the shrine, and all their wishes have been made and divulged that she realizes how different their desires now are. While all the others are focused on saving the world, she can only think of saving one boy.
She thinks that maybe it's her who isn't sure how to handle them anymore. Her time away has made it so that she cannot get used to the rhythm of a crowded room, the responsibility of a leader, and a lonely bed. But after all they have been through, and all their trust in her, she cannot possibly tell them that she's tired. That she no longer wants to be a part of this, a part of anything really. So she dons fake smiles, a cheerful attitude, and a small glow ring. She remains mostly silent (but this isn't really much different, since she's always been rather reserved in a way) and blends into the woodwork as much as she can.
Fuuka catches her attention with an almost frightened expression and Riichi's smile, for a moment, becomes sincere. "Don't worry. I won't vanish again."
Aegis's lap, she decides in that moment, is really much more comfortable than it seems. Her smile softens at the thought, and the gentle hold she has on the android's hand tightens slightly. By this time her consciousness is beginning to fade and she feels as if she's falling into a dreamy sleep. She thinks that it would be much better if there was someone there to hold her to a solid chest and whisper sweet nothings until she goes mad.
She can vaguely hear the sound of running footsteps. The heavy breathing of those in a desperate race to reach something they fear might not be there. For some reason she feels a little bad. Like deep down some part of her knows that this is it, and yet she's too tired to inform them of this important fact.
"Did you keep it safe?"
This voice floods her ears with such clarity that for a moment she thinks she truly has gone insane. Unbeknownst to her, the hand not currently linked with Aegis's raises and splays pale fingers against the yellow of the sun. The tiny band on her ring finger glints brilliantly in the light.
"It's my treasure," she whispers, a smile fluttering lovingly across her face.
And for the second and last time, she disappears with him.