I swear this is the last update for the Persona category until I upload ALC 9! I've had this in the back of my mind for awhile now, so I figure it's time to put it out there. Also, these were supposed to be three individual works, but I figure I may as well put them together.
Rated T for language.
Shinjiro hated falling in love. It wasn't being in love he hated, but more so the falling part. He lived his life without ever feeling butterflies or rapid heartbeats. He hated feeling attached and especially feeling vulnerable. Feelings like that would only lead to sleepless nights and broken hearts. There was no way he would let that happen. And yet it did.
since she left
It started when he came back and joined S.E.E.S. She came into his life rather unannounced, showing up one day out of the blue like a stray cat. He never planned on developing a connection of any kind, until one day when she asked him out to eat. Reluctantly, he agreed and soon one dinner became two and then followed the rest.
"I don't have a heart." He told her one night over a bowl of ramen at Hakagure because, well, he was certain it was true.
She smiled in return, one of those brilliantly intimidating smiles that made his heart ache. "Sure you do. You just have it wrapped up in armor so no one can bayonet it."
He couldn't help but feel resentful at that comment. Yet overtime he came to love how she got him. Even though it had only been weeks since he decided to join S.E.E.S. again, they just seemed to click together.
"Kismet." Akihiko said aloud one night in the dorm's commons. It was after dinner and everyone had retreated into their rooms except for the two of them.
Shinjiro raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"It's kismet," he said even louder. His grey eyes never left the newspaper he kept in his hands.
This time Shinjiro narrowed his eyes. He had no idea what kismet was, but the word was starting to sound offensive. "There was no kismet in dinner tonight. What the fuck is kismet anyway?"
"Destiny. Fate. Jeez Shinji, maybe if you didn't skip school all the time you'd learn something."
"Shut the hell up, Aki."
Akihiko shrugged off his unruly behavior—as Mitsuru would put it—and sat up in his chair. "What's going on between you two anyway?"
"Nothing you need to worry about." Shinjiro replied gruffly.
"Then why did I see you two sneaking out the dorm last night?"
"It's not sneaking asshole, it's called grabbing a bite to eat."
"When didn't you tell anyone you were leaving?"
"Fuck, what are you my mom? No one was around. What the hell do you expect me to do? Hike up the stairs to your room, knock on your door and ask for your permission?"
Akihiko stared at Shinjiro silently. He didn't want to ask this, but he had to. "Shinji, do you—"
"You've managed to annoy the hell out of me enough for one night." He interrupted dismissively. "I'm going to bed."
Shinjiro left the commons promptly and stalked his way to his room.
Changing into her pajamas, Hamuko climbed into bed, but sleep refused to come. Every time she closed her eyes his image was there in her mind. For the next hour she tossed and turned and berated herself for caring so much. It had been one day since she and Shinjiro became intimate for the first time and almost immediately after it happened, Shinjiro seemed to be distancing himself. She had asked if she could spend the night with him, but he promptly refused. From the beginning she'd known they didn't have a chance. How could she have allowed herself to start loving the man?
She punched her pillow trying to rid herself of pent-up frustration. It didn't work.
Sleep was what she needed, she told herself. Tomorrow, when she was rested, she could be more rational, more practical, more in control. But the escape into sleep wouldn't come. Finally, every muscle aching, she gave up and climbed out of bed. She'd heard warm milk helped a person relax and, at this moment, she was willing to try anything.
Making her way to the kitchen, she noticed the light in Shinjiro's room was off. Obviously he had no trouble sleeping.
Turning on the small light near the sink, she found a pan. She was just about to pour the milk into it when the main light was suddenly switched on. Swinging around, she saw Shinjiro standing in the doorway in his jeans.
"I didn't mean to wake you," she apologized tightly.
Frowning, he gazed from the carton of milk from the pan. "Do you really drink that stuff heated?" he questioned with distaste.
"I was having a little trouble sleeping," she confessed grudgingly. "I heard it was supposed to help."
He combed his rumpled hair from his face with his fingers. "I was having a little trouble falling asleep myself. Want something to eat?"
"I don't think so." His bare chest was playing havoc with her senses and all she wanted was to escape before he guessed what effect he was having on her. Putting the pan back in the cabinet, she shoved the milk back in the refrigerator. "In fact, I don't think I even want the warm milk."
She moved towards the door, but he blocked her way. "I miss watching you sleep," he said gruffly. "You're cute the way you curl up and hug your pillow."
"It was your choice," she muttered, changing direction and leaving through the dining room.
He met her in the hall. "Maybe it was a bad choice."
She wanted him so badly her body ached, but the sting of his leaving her bed was too strong to ignore. "I wouldn't want you to do anything you'd regret in the morning," she said dryly.
A grimness came over his features. "Is that your way of saying you prefer things to remain this way?" he asked.
The anger that had been building inside her flashed in her eyes. If he expected her to invite him back into her bed, he'd have to wait for a cold day in hell. "You set the rules." Suddenly afraid she might say something to reveal how deeply he'd hurt her, she brushed past him and continued toward the stairs.
His hand closed around her upper arm like a vice. Jerking her up close to him, he looked down into her face. "If I made the rule, I can break it." Before she could protest, he tossed her over his shoulder and started up the stairs.
"Put me down," she hissed, keeping her voice low so she wouldn't wake everyone.
Ignoring her demand, he carried her into the bedroom, gently kicking the door closed behind them. "I haven't had any sleep for two nights," he said, standing her on the floor in front of him. "Are you saying you'd prefer things to stay this way?"
Pride ordered her to say yes. Taking him back into her bed would only be asking for new pain. Even more important, she wanted him to know what rejection felt like. But his hands on her waist were warm and her will where he was concerned was weak.
"I don't know," she hedged.
Six months later everything was boxes.
Not boxes of the same size, but of different varying heights and widths. It was like they were themselves again. Not a team, just a group of different people.
"That should be all of it." Mitsuru said, breaking the tension in there air. It didn't sound as triumphant as it should have. Instead it was full of sorrow.
It started two weeks before. Shinjiro woke up before his alarm clock had the chance to do its job and just like every other morning before, the strong sunlight made its way through the thick curtains. He waited a moment before rolling over onto his back and staring at the ceiling, watching the shadows of leaves dance. He hated how the sun still shone every morning like nothing happened when in reality, everything that could have went wrong, did.
She was gone and there was nothing right about that.
A door down the hallway slowly creaked open and closed, causing him to stir. He instantly knew it was Akihiko again. Every morning since she died, he had been visiting her room every morning and evening, pretending she was still there; taking to her like nothing happened and all Shinjiro could think was, he's like the damn sun.
Since she left it was always the same thing. He always knocked before entering, always took the same seat at the end of her bed, always said the same damn thing, "Hey, how did you sleep?"
He was living in yesterday and Shinjiro was pretty damn sick of it.
Grimacing now, he cast the covers aside and got up. He made his way to the closet to throw on whatever was available, and after heading to the washroom, he made his way down the stairs to the dorm's dining room.
He was greeted by the nod of Mitsuru's head. She looked as put-together as always, it was almost as if she never slept or never needed time to get ready.
"No sleep for the wicked." She said suddenly, surprising Shinjiro in the process. He had to be more careful, even his thoughts weren't safe.
After taking a seat at the table with his what-used-to-be team, Mitsuru asked, "How has Akihiko been? Did he get any sleep last night?"
Shinjiro knew right then and there what she meant and he shook his head in reply. "I see him every night. He still goes to her room to say goodnight exactly at ten…He acts like she's still alive."
Yukari's eyes widened. "N-No way…"
Junpei adjusted his cap meekly and stepped forward. "It's true. I've been trying to ignore it for as long as I can, but it seems like it's now or never."
Mitsuru folded her arms in front of her chest. "I understand. I leave this to you Shinjiro."
He wanted to ask, "Why me?", but he already knew that she would answer, "It was always you."
Trudging up the staircase to her room, Shinjiro took a deep breath before opening the door as quietly as possible. This caused Akihiko to come out of his trance and look to the door. "Oh, it's you..."
Shinjiro surveyed his surroundings carefully. The room looked the exact same since she left. Her bed was made, each pencil in the pencil case perfectly sharpened, ready to be used. His eyes then wondered to Akihiko, who waited for him to say something. "What are you doing?" He asked lightly at first, not as spiteful and condescending as he wanted it to sound.
Akihiko looked at past Shinjiro's shoulder. "Just saying hi."
Shinjiro looked behind his shoulder. There was nothing there. "To who?"
"You know who."
"She's not here."
"She is. She's right behind you."
It was then that the air stilled and Shinjiro felt a chill run down his spine and heard nothing but the thud of his own heartbeat. It took awhile for him to recover before he was able to speak. "Don't say shit like that. She's dead. She's been dead for a month now."
Akihiko didn't frown. He didn't move an inch. "No, she's not." Then he got up from the bed and walked towards the desk by the window. His fingers traced the light layer of dust on her desk.
"She is," Shinjiro said louder, then added, "Maybe you would know that if you came to the fucking funeral." He saw the hitch in Akihiko's shoulders, and he thought how it was rare that someone could make him lose composure like that.
"Get out, Shinji." Akihiko ordered. "You've overstayed your welcome"
"Make me." Shinjiro replied, his hands balled into fists. He didn't know how much more of this he could take now that the girl was gone and his best friend turned into a compete nut. "You're full of shit. You go around, acting like you know everything when you don't know a damn thing. You don't know anything!"
Before he could register what was happening, Akihiko charged towards him, fist ready. He braced himself to take the first punch, then had a counter-blow ready. It made perfect contact with Akihiko's left cheek, causing him to stumble a foot back. Then everything was a blur. Shinjiro didn't remember tackling him to the ground and beating the hell out of him. The only thing that stopped him was the blood dripping from Akihiko's lip, which reminded him this was real. Really real. Not some haze of days that passed by without his consent and certainly not the ghost of a dead girl.
"Aki," he said, the word a mere choke that came out involuntarily. "You've gotta move on."
Akihiko breathed in slowly and didn't bother to look away. It wasn't until that moment when Shinjiro realized the bags under his eyes. "I can't. You of all people know that." Shinjiro was scared for a moment—scared that Akihiko was onto him since the day he walked into the dorm and she greeted him with a smile. "I can't forget her."
Then something tightened in his chest and Shinjiro's sympathetic expression changed to a horrified one. "Don't tell me you…loved…"
Akihiko took a much needed breath of air then exhaled. "It was more than love. I needed her. It was like she saved me. After all these years of struggling she came into my life and everything was okay. Now she's gone…and I don't know how I'm still breathing. It's like you build your everything around her…and then one day you wake up and it's like none of it really existed. Like maybe—"
"It was all just a goddamn dream."
Akihiko blinked and when he opened his eyes and saw Shinjiro's reddened eyes, he knew that while he poured out his heart to this empty room of what used to be his best friend was silently thinking, I loved her first.
He knew then that love never leaves, it stays to watch you fall apart. Not all endings were happily ever afters and in the end the hero didn't always wind up with the girl. Some endings were sad heart-wrenching tragedies that prevented you from moving on in life.
There were no goodbyes said on the last day, just silent nodding and the words see you later.
There was no more S.E.E.S., just nine strangers standing in the doorway.
They took one last look around before locking the door for good.