So yet another thing that isn't the new chapter to Dear Casanova. Sorry about that. This features a slightly more apathetic FeMC, simply because I like writing her that way.
Disclaimer: If I owned Persona, all of these random scenes would have shown up in it.
To Keep What's Mine
It was simply natural, he told himself. As natural as breathing.
Just because it was natural though didn't mean he was happy with it.
The boy sighed and leaned back, holding himself up with the palms of his hands. His gaze settled on the sky, having to crane his neck to see above the chain of the fence. Perhaps the roof of the school wasn't the best place to find enough solitude to think but at the moment it was the only place he had and he was going to make the most of it.
This was quickly becoming troublesome. The competition he had for her attention; the feelings of jealous animosity that welled up whenever he saw other boys surrounding her; the way a smile was all it took to wrap him around her pretty little finger. It was exhausting as much as it was perplexing. To make matters worse—and certainly more complicated—it was becoming clearer that there was no way he would be able to untangle himself from the web he had spun around them.
It was probably for the better, he decided after he had abandoned his earlier train of thought and settled on the matter that had chased him up to the roof in the first place. It would be good for her if she accepted the confession. After all, while the two of them were certainly compatible, he didn't feel as if he deserved being the one by her side. In the words of all those terribly cliché (although surprisingly easy to seduce with) fairy tails, she was a princess and he was well, certainly not the prince that was going to be able to give her a proper happy ending.
"I thought I'd find you up here."
His inner musings stopped short and Ryouji found his neck snapping to the side in order to see his intruder. The red eyes and thin frame that filled his vision was certainly not what he had been expecting.
The girl strode towards him, her lissome legs making short work of the distance. She didn't stop when she had reached him though, and instead took a few more paces to place herself mere inches from the fence that separated them from the edge of the building. She said nothing more, contenting herself with clasping her small hands behind her back and staring off into the distance.
Her appearance had not been anticipated. He was not sure of the proper way to react to this situation. Honestly, this on top of the events from earlier was making his anxiety spike through the roof.
"That was very quick. Wasn't the specified time a few minutes ago?"
That was stupid. He had hated the words even as they were spilling out of his mouth. Only a desperate idiot would reveal the spite and jealousy. It had also been a rather good way to rub salt into his own wound.
But the only response he got to his question was a lethargic shrug. "There really wasn't much to say," she said.
She was able to lift all his apprehension with this simple response. Now feeling more comfortable he began to grow bolder. "You let him down gently I suppose?" The thought that he might have been wrong in assuming she had declined the proposal didn't so much as cross his mind at that moment. There was no reason for it to when she had already made the answer to that question clear.
"I told him the truth."
This made the boy sigh. He could only imagine how harsh that truth had actually been. "What exactly did you say to him?" he asked.
For the first time since she had shown up, Riichi glanced back over her shoulder and finally looked at him. Her gaze was nothing if not smug. "Why are you so concerned?" she tried. "Are you perhaps jealous?" He straightened up at once, the shock of being found out having made him lose composure. His wide blue eyes latched onto her gaze and couldn't move away. She gave a small noise that might have been a chuckle, before she released him and turned her attention back forward. "I told him that there was no way for me to go out with him."
Ryouji gave a short nod. He could be satisfied with that. He didn't want to seem like he was prying anymore than he already was, and really it was enough just knowing that she had said 'no'. Hoping for anything else was just selfish.
"He then asked me if it would be okay if the two of us at least went out sometimes, just as friends. I told him that was an impossible wish as well."
He was surprised all over again. Her earlier teasing had not led him to expect this play-by-play. But he kept quiet—interrupting her now would probably lead to unpleasant conclusions.
"He seemed to be very distressed at this. It was rather strange, I've never seen someone get so worked up over not being able to playact as friends." She shrugged her shoulders absentmindedly. The way she was speaking made it sound as if she felt absolutely nothing for the situation she had found herself in. Like it was merely a minor roadblock, not even worthy to feel irritation from. Despite his lingering feelings of resentment, Ryouji found himself feeling somewhat sorry for whoever this boy was. "After all that I told him that I would appreciate it if he didn't try to contact me anymore. It would be awkward for the both of us."
"That's rather harsh Rii-chan," the boy laughed weakly, trying to lighten up the mood.
Another shrug made up her response. "It's the truth," she stated. "I can't afford to have people cling to broken relationships with me. It's exhausting, and I have something far more important that needs to be dealt with right now."
At that last point she had become strangely somber. Ryouji noticed her shoulders square up in an show of strength, and then curl forward again in what he could tell was hesitance. Whatever it was that she was talking about, it was making her feel weak. His stomach did a small summersault, just enough to make him feel queasy. This weakness worried him; made him want to lay her down and stroke her hair and tell her stories about a past that he couldn't quite remember correctly and a future that seemed altogether hazy.
Instead he took the coward's way out.
"Well, at least you'll have a good memory. Even if you rejected them, looking back on old love letters is comforting." He plastered on a weak smile and cocked his head in an attempt to be flirtatious. Why was it that he couldn't be completely honest when it really counted? Of all the things he felt he could tell this girl (and it was quickly becoming clear that everything fit into that category) the shameful feelings that kept bubbling and rotting inside him were never able to truly come out.
For the second time she settled her gaze on him. Unlike the first though, her expression now was that of mild surprise. "I didn't keep the letter," she stated.
The boy wasn't sure what to do with this information. Most of him was wondering why she hadn't just pocketed the thing and kept it as a fond memory. The rest of him was curious as to what she had done with it. But there was a small part of him, he was ashamed to admit, that took a sadistic pleasure in this knowledge.
"I gave it back to him," the girl continued, without waiting for his prompting.
Ryouji winced slightly, the thought of how mortifying that must feel overriding any other emotion. "That's just cruel." Once again all he got in response to this was a lazy shrug. "Why didn't you keep it? If you gave it back to kill any last hopes he might have had, I think it definitely did the trick."
Riichi shook her head. She leaned back against the fence, her fingers lacing between the links in the chain. "No, that wasn't the reason." Her voice had become milder, expression softening into one of weary passivity. "I just don't accept things that I don't need." He must have looked rather confused right then because she focused a soft smile on him. "I've made it a habit of not taking things that I absolutely can't live without. That's why I refuse things, why I can't accept other people's important objects and feelings." She paused after this and took a moment to rethink her last sentence. "I seem to have been getting more lenient about that last part though. Or perhaps more people have become important." The smile faltered and she now had to visibly fight to keep it up. After a minute she ceased her attempts and simply let her expression fall back into an easy apathy. "It'll become troublesome soon, that fact."
He understood. He understood everything that she was saying, the way she felt about it, even the fact that there was simply no other way for her to live now. "I suppose we're alike in that sense."
When they locked eyes this time, there was no teasing, no blushing embarrassment. All that swam in their eyes was a mutual understanding of the other's twisted psyche.
Riichi was the first to move, allowing the corner of her mouth twitch up in a light grin. "I knew you were too good to be true," she finally voiced. The mood melted back into the easy banter they had become so accustomed to.
"Ah, my dear Princess," the flighty and altogether empty title becoming weighted with meaning when it was used to address her. "There are many things you have yet to find out about me." Having said that made the almost nauseous feeling well up inside him again. Half of him was saying how much of a lie that had been; she knew just about everything about him, unquestionably. The other half though was laughing at how right he truly was. She knew nothing about how dark the deepest parts of him were.
But all the same she laughed that knowing chuckle, and cocked her head in what might have been taken as flirtatiousness by anyone else. "I suppose I'll just have to wheedle them out of you somehow."
It took him a moment to realize what exactly that statement had revealed. Ryouji felt the corners of his mouth tug into a brilliant smile. "I'll try and make it easy for you," he promised. The girl let out another laugh, her voice ringing like bells. He felt a strange sort of pride well up in his chest.
She was his now, that much he could be sure of. Riichi, the girl who shined like the sun, the girl who purposefully kept everyone at an unnoticeable but quite solid distance, had just admitted that she wanted to stay close to him. Though there had never really been that wall of hers between them, Ryouji felt what little resistance there had been crumble.
In the back of his mind he felt a tiny voice remind him that there really had never been a question to this fact. Of course she belonged to him, thinking otherwise was simply insulting.
He wanted to touch her right then. Just feel the contact of her skin. A broken memory of times spent caressing and holding hands in a sickly green light surfaced and the desire grew. As if in a daze he slowly raised an outstretched arm, his fingers splayed to better receive what he wanted. It didn't take long for Riichi to understand. She smiled again and released her hold on the fence to stretch out her own arm and lace her fingers with his. Her hand was small and warm in his grasp. This was the only thing that differed from the hazy memories. In those the hand had been larger.
Riichi stepped forward to get closer; her slim legs positioned themselves right in front of his, knees almost touching knees. Their arms bended, palms pressing closer together and elbows knocking lightly against each other. The girl bent forward, resting her head on his shoulder. Ryouji raised his free arm and managed to secure her other hand in his. Their movements were fluid and practiced. Instinctual in a way that shouldn't have been possible yet. The boy didn't dwell on this. Instead he closed his eyes and relished in the feeling that he had finally returned home after a painfully long separation.
The girl let out a satisfied breath before she shifted and positioned her mouth next to his ear. "I hope you know, I won't allow you to get any ideas," she whispered. Her breath tickled, and the sensation of her lips feathering against the skin of his ear was making him lose his mind. Her grip on his hands tightened slightly, and he felt her smile press against him. "I promise you that I will be the one pulling the strings."
He shivered, the knowledge that she was undeniably right flowing over him with a comforting sort of finality. With a soft chuckle he retorted with, "I don't get a say in this?"
She returned his laugh, her silky voice overwhelming his senses with it's close proximity. "Not at all," she assured him. A beat, and then she parted her lips again. "I'll let you in on a secret though." Her voice was now much softer than it had been before. "You're the first thing I've ever wanted to hold onto."
The pride and possessiveness spiked to almost inconceivable levels. His grip on her became almost painful. In one swift movement the boy pulled her down, his grasp on her hands releasing to allow him to encircle his arms around her. Riichi's body was warm. She felt small and fragile compared to him, and somewhere in the back of his mind he marveled at how different the feeling was when he was the bigger one.
Riichi stiffened, shocked with the unexpected movement. Gradually she relaxed, and after a moment she found herself shyly burying her fingers into the fabric of his shirt. His embrace reminded her of midnight chats and whispering childhood secrets. It reminded her of a comfort that she had sorely missed. Her forehead rested easily against his chest, deciding to allow the last of her barriers to fall.
Ryouji opened his mouth, the first mutterings of his words dripping off the tip of his tongue. Before he could get it out he choked it back and camouflaged it as a shudder. He was too terrified to say it yet. If he destroyed this he would never forgive himself.
The girl gave a small sigh and lifted her head in order to meet his eyes. "Ryouji," she called. When she was sure she had gotten his attention she smiled apologetically. "I have to go now."
A sharp pang of desperation shot through him and for a split second he was seriously contemplating refusing to allow her to leave his side. But he loosened his hold on her and allowed the girl to silently slip out of his embrace. His arms fell limply to his sides, feeling almost useless now that there was nothing for them to hold onto. It was also much colder now, he realized.
She bit her lip, the pricking feeling of anxiety now unsettling her as well. This feeling reminded her of the day she had lost the last thing that had been the most important to her, and Riichi found herself bending down again. The bridge of her nose brushed his temple as she knocked her forehead against the crown of his head. "You're mine," she whispered. The quiver in her voice did little to help her mask the apprehension.
A silent roar burned through his chest. As images of chains and a confined space flashed through his head, he smiled and stroked the base of her neck with soothing fingertips. "Of course," he agreed, his words easing his own worries as much as they did hers.
A soft nod was her response, and after a very short hesitation, the girl straightened back up and made her way back to the door. He didn't allow his gaze to follow her, knowing that if he did the fear would come back to destroy any amount of solace her words had left in him. But he heard the silent squeal of the door opening, and the padding of her feet stop.
"I'll see you tomorrow."
As if running away from an embarrassing situation, the door quickly clicked shut as she disappeared behind it. Ryouji allowed this to settle over him before a wide smile broke out across his face. He laughed; long and hard and full of so much unrestrained joy.
"I'll tell her," he said when he had finally calmed down, his voice filled with calm conviction. "Next time, definitely."
That night, amongst the nightmares of giant towers, falling moons, and a pale sickly light, he dreamt of a future with a little girl whose red eyes sparkled and whose lips speak nothing but truths.