Mitsuru’s voice is always smooth, wrapping around Yukari like it’s a blanket of some sorts. She likes to think she’s jealous: of the line of Mitsuru’s slim waist, her soft yet authoritative voice, her perfect hair, perfect skin, perfect everything, no faults, no errors, unlike Yukari herself: fuckup on a fuckup on a fuckup, edges and ragged voice and broken words, unwilling to stumble out of her mouth.
It all just seems so easy when she does that, juggling the responsibilities of the Kirijo family heiress, the student council’s president, their unspoken leader in the battle (until Hamuko arrives to their lives, that is, and Yukari’s fingertips tingle with well-masked gloat, ugly and sticky) and so on and so on. Red hair falling to her shoulders, tamed current, and eyes of steel.
Yukari looks at her and sees things she could’ve become and bites her lips till they bleed.
Yukari is always bubbly, light, unburdened. There’s nothing clinging to her neck, no invisible yet unbearable weight pulling her to the depths of the sea, anchoring her to responsibility and maturity and whatever bullshit requirements she has to meet to be enough to walk in her father’s footsteps. She doesn’t have to be everything and then some, but she still manages to do it somehow; she’s open, she’s bright, people fly to her as if they’re moths seeking the warmth of a streetlamp. Except Yukari doesn’t burn their fragile wings with her fire, she keeps them safe and happy; Mitsuru watches her talking to the student council’s members, voice effortlessly sweet, and finds it really hard not to let her hands curl into fists, face expression too neutral to seem natural.
Mitsuru doesn’t consider herself an overall jealous person, but envy paves the palate of her throat with a bitter aftertaste no fine tea can heal.
When Yukari opens her eyes, feeling sort of groggy, she discovers that the ceiling above her is really purple and the bed beneath her is? vibrating? Yes, it certainly is. Yukari feels a little disturbed but it’s also weirdly relaxing, so she lets herself unwind a little.
She doesn’t really remember how did she get here and what is she supposed to do, but there’s a nagging feeling in the back of her head that she needs to get up and get… somewhere. The air is heavy and cloying; it fills her lungs with the sensual premise of satisfaction; Yukari feels hot blush envelop her cheeks.
The door leading to, presumably, the bathroom, opens with a quiet click, and Yukari finds herself following the smooth lines of Mitsuru’s body with her eyes, as if being made to do it. Mitsuru is honest to god stunning, she muses, impressed and not at all surprised by the revelation, and is that lace. Oh god. It is lace.
The fog emerging from the bathroom doesn’t help her to untangle the mess of her thoughts, not even a single bit, and Mitsuru’s legs are great. Her face is also great and how come she’s never noticed how full her lips are and she’s also flushed and they’re so close, so, so close now, her heart is racing as if she’s on a battlefield, her bow in her hand, and--
Wait. Battlefield. Shadows, more specifically the giant shadow they’re sort of supposed to be fighting at the moment; and Mitsuru is flushed and her eyes are glazed and Yukari is willing to bet her lips are as soft as they look.
“We have to go, wait, the Shadow, it’s still here!” Yukari has to force the sentence out, because the towel Mitsuru is wrapped into does splendid job in highlighting the curve of her waist. Mitsuru blinks, as if she doesn’t understand what Yukari is saying, and reaches out to touch her cheek. Yukari flushes, hot and sudden, for a thousand of different reasons, and Mitsuru is pretty, it would be so easy to lean in and kiss her right now and what on earth is she thinking damn shadow it’s all its fault god
Mitsuru’s eyes fly open and she jerks her hand away, as if she burned herself on the wildfire of Yukari’s blush.
“What’s. What is going on? Where are we? Yukari, we need to find the others. I am highly sorry about any inappropriate behaviour. I was not… in my right mind.”
Trust Mitsuru to go back to normal in 0.05 seconds, Yukari thinks, kind of relieved that some things never change, and leans to get her clothes. She’s still flushed and disoriented, but her mind clears a bit so she is actually able to get dressed and to do her absolute best in not looking at Mitsuru while she does the same.
Acknowledging a tiny spark of irritation and disappointment at the way things could’ve gone but hadn't is nowhere near the top of her to-do list for the moment.
When Mitsuru walks out of the bathroom into the main room, she is wrapped in a towel and feels very, very light. Laughter threatens to tear itself out of her chest, so she inhales the hot air and lets herself smile freely. She doesn’t know why she can’t loosen up more often. In fact, right now she doesn’t appear to know a lot of things, for example, how did she get there or why is Yukari Takeba is in her bed in the some love hotel room. Nor does she care about all of these, to be honest.
Yukari is slim and dangerously tender, the string of a bow laid loosely on the covers, and she is beautiful. Not that Mitsuru has never noticed that before, for it’s hard to miss something shining so brightly even by the corner of your eye, but her mind is hazy and slurry, so Yukari is less of “pretty” beautiful and more of “tempting” beautiful now, so Mitsuru fails to keep herself at bay.
She touches her cheeks, not even registering getting closer to Yukari, her skin looks so good in the hushed lightning of the small room, and everything is covered with fog, Yukari’s eyes are honey brown and Mitsuru drowns in their sugary sweetness, not trying to escape. She hears her say something about shadows, but the meaning of the sentence can’t pull through the cotton candy Mitsuru seems to be floating in.
Something in her mind clicks a second later, and the realisation dawns on her.
Shadow. Which is still here and undoubtedly will take advantage of their compromised state. Shit.
Yukari is still achingly gorgeous, Mitsuru’s mind unhelpfully offers as she tries not to fumble with the buttons of her blouse while putting it on; she tries looking as collected as she usually is, but it’s much, much more difficult with Yukari blushing red next to her with her sweet eyes and short, unruly hair.
Mitsuru grabs her rapier and waves it a little, securing her grip. She’s absolutely determined to find the damn Shadow and give it a hell of an ass-kicking and also to forget previous several hours.
She looks back to Yukari, whose collar appears to be slightly out of order and reaches out to fix it with her free hand. Their eyes meet, and Mitsuru has never had her hands so sweaty and her heart beat so fast, damn Shadow, damn Shadow, she wants to scream. What she does instead is fixing Yukari’s collar for her and turning to open the door.
She convinces herself that the flash of longing in Yukari’s eyes is just an effect of the weird fog the room is filled with the entire way to Hamuko and Akihiko. She does an excellent job in believing it, as she always does, except her insides twist unhappily at the thought.
Mitsuru ignores it. They have more pressing issues to deal with and, as always, her feelings aren’t one of them.
Fuuka’s voice is guiding their small group along the maze of Tartarus’ corridors; Yukari follows in Hamuko’s footsteps, bow in her hand, ready to fire at any Shadow lurking in the dark corners.
Mitsuru is just beside her, the sound of her heels sharp and rhythmic in the surrounding silence, and Yukari keeps an eye on her, trying to do it as discreetly as possible. Not that she needs it, of course, Yukari thinks, bitterness mixing with admiration in equal proportions, but there’s no such thing as being too careful.
And, surely, this has nothing at all to do with the way Mitsuru holds her rapier, sure and effortless, as if it’s natural for people to handle swords and spears, and the way her red hair fall in bloody waves on her shoulders. Yukari’s spent a lot of time trying to convince herself that heat flooding her cheeks whenever Mitsuru near has been but mere envy, since it’s normal for people to be jealous of perfection, polished and out of reach, right?
Only now she knows soft edges of Mitsuru’s smile after beating yet another full moon Shadow; the way she rolls sharp ‘r’ on her tongue when she’s nervous; how she blinks, slow, eyelashes fluttering, when faced with an aspect of everyday life that Yukari finds as mundane as Mitsuru finds her meetings and endless duties. Her Persona might be ice and masks, but Mitsuru herself is, well, human, and this might've sounded ridiculous when spoken of anyone else, because it’s obvious; Mitsuru is different. She always is, Yukari supposes.
Hamuko’s sharp exhale and the rattle of chains, dragged across the floor, effectively pulls her out of her musings and the only thought that is on her mind is we’re screwed. Akihiko next to Hamuko mutters a curse under his breath and Yukari grips her bow tighter in solidarity: a) it’s the damn Reaper, b) they’ve passed the stairs quite some time ago.
They’re not as powerless as they’ve been when they first started exploring Tartarus, they have Fuuka now and all of them went through extensive training, as Akihiko likes to call it, but the Reaper is far from being an easy prey.
Well, Yukari thinks gloomily, as the Shadow looms closer and they take a defensive stance, Junpei could’ve been here so it’s not all bad. At least there’ll be no stupid yelling next to her. It really is annoying.
Yukari looks especially lost in thought today, Mitsuru notes as she checks the group. She doesn’t really concern herself with Hamuko and Akihiko, though, they appear to be fine. Yukari, on the other hand, seems to mull over something heavy, judging by the way she chews on her lower lip when she thinks no one is looking. Mitsuru herself isn’t quite sure why does she focus on the way Yukari behaves, and it’s not just today or last several days or even week thing; she’s grown particularly aware of Yukari’s presence next to her and, ever more particularly, her absence; her flowery perfume, her high voice, always expressive and lively, her honest attitude and all sorts of things that make her up as Yukari, as bright as she is.
All of a sudden, Yukari turns around, startled, and Mitsuru raises her rapier on reflex, without thinking. The sound of metal against blood-stained tiles of the floor is alarmingly familiar; turns out her reaction was perfectly on time, since this can only mean that they’re being chased by the Reaper.
Hamuko gives the wall next to her a sullen look, full of was this really necessary, and the corners of Mitsuru’s lips twitch, forming a tiny half-smile against all odds.
Yukari looks at her from her bangs, a hint of curiosity in her gaze, but she doesn’t linger on Mitsuru for long, since they sort of have an incoming emergency, and Mitsuru honestly can’t despise the Reaper more than she already does.
The first few rounds go nicely, as far as the word “nicely” can even be applied to a battle with something resembling a huge wet blanket wrapped in quite a number of chains; Yukari’s wind attacks have gotten stronger and Hamuko is as good with shifting between elements and Personae as ever.
The next thing Mitsuru knows, the blasted Reaper casts a Megidolaon and Yukari falls unconscious.
The effect of slow motion has always been a mystery to Mitsuru: as far as she was concerned, no tremendous amount of effort could make time flow differently from as it always did, so why should anything, even the most extreme occasion, change it?
She gets it now. Yukari falls on her knees first, slow, as if she’s grass mown by the scythe of the Grim Reaper, and, well, she would certainly appreciate the irony here if the circumstances were different, but Yukari is lying on her side now, motionless, and Mitsuru rushes to her as fast as she can. She doesn’t hesitate to use the Balm of Life, they still have quite a large number of them left, thank Hamuko for her connections in the antique store; Yukari opens her eyes and smiles at her.
Kirijo Mitsuru does not gape at any confusing, surprising or outrageous situation her life keeps throwing gracelessly her way for it is unsightly and inelegant and she’s not a heiress to Kirijo company for nothing, but the curve of Yukari’s mouth as she smiles is too warm and honest to be real and the Tartarus must be inflicting her terribly, because she can swear that Yukari’s eyes are sparkling, black tea and honey and all that. She still doesn’t gape for abovementioned reasons, but she is very, very close.
She reaches out to grab Yukari’s hand to help her up; Yukari’s palm is warm and dry and Mitsuru almost wishes they could’ve hold hands for a bit. Then she shakes her head and the magic is gone, except for a hot ghost of Yukari’s fingers next to hers.
Her next Bufudyne comes out especially vicious. Hamuko snorts and Mitsuru is sure those two happenings are completely and utterly unrelated.
Strong, Mitsuru is so strong, Yukari doesn’t know how she’s never really thought of this before.
Yukari doesn’t let herself appear burdened; Mitsuru understands and wonders whether anyone besides her and Hamuko knows.
“No reason to be friends”, Mitsuru’s voice is cold and distant, and Yukari feels like she’s just been pushed into an ice cold waterfall. After all that, after smiles and glances and warmth, Mitsuru’s solid handshakes, lunches together, after everything they’ve been through - she thinks Yukari has been doing this only to fight Shadows?
Mitsuru goes on, bitter, angry; one of the most emotional Yukari has ever seen her. She doesn’t cry, maybe she doesn’t think she has the right to cry, and this makes Yukari’s heart make a small unhappy leap, because everyone deserves to be fucking human, and this is why she slaps Mitsuru’s cheek, bringing her back to earth, where she belongs, human and alive and grieving.
Yukari tells her of her mother, and of her father, watching the dusk coloring the river in front of her, red lights dancing on its surface and reflecting in MItsuru’s eyes. It should be hard, telling her such personal stuff, things she kept carefully hidden from curious eyes all around her.
Somehow, it isn’t, not at all. Mitsuru nods when she finishes talking; her eyes are gentle.
Mitsuru is equal parts grief and gratitude now, it’s like Yukari broke the dam inside her with her sharp words and the sting of her palm against Mitsuru’s cheeks. Feelings flow all at once, and her chest is filled with surprised warmth when Yukari suggests taking a bath together.
A bath does sound nice. Her shoulders are stiff with this tugging ache a day too tough marks you with; last several weeks do feel like one day, exhausting and weary.
The way Yukari pronounces the word “together”, blushing thoroughly, also sounds pretty, just like the rest of Yukari is, and Mitsuru feel her cheeks tingling with pink in response. The unspoken tension, hanging heavy between them just moments ago, spills down the drain; Mitsuru feels weightless for the first time in a long, long while.
Yukari knows what Hamuko will choose; it’s sort of painfully obvious for everyone but Yukari gets why she decides to take her time with the final decision. It’s tough on her, of course: the entire humanity is at stake and Hamuko can only stand so much; all of them, the entire SEES and her friends all over the city sometimes forget that she is just a person like the rest of them, with shoulders fragile and ill-equipped for carrying heavy dilemmas.
They give her all the time in the world, at least, of the world they have in their disposal, but everyone knows what they’re about to do.
The death is imminent, Yukari probably knows it better than most people and just as well as the other members of their not so merry band of misfits, but that doesn’t exactly mean she wants to leap into its welcoming arms.
At least this is what she used to think; now it’s different. She’s still not eager to die, but there are things worth protecting with her life, there are mistakes she wants to fix, there are people whose faces she will miss even in the numb oblivion of death.
A quiet knock at the door interrupts the flow of her thoughts, but it isn’t as surprising as Mitsuru’s quiet voice asking whether she may come in. Yukari gives her agreement and watches the door open as Mitsuru enters the room; she seems like she wants to tell Yukari something personal. A few months ago Yukari would’ve thought she’s dreaming, now she just pats the space next to her on her bed.
Mitsuru sits down gracefully, nothing unusual, and Yukari lets herself bask in her presence, the anxiety, ever-present since Ryoji’s confession, fading a little, giving place to hushed comfort.
Mitsuru doesn’t know how Yukari will take her intentions; maybe she is still bitter about the company and the truth behind her father’s death and she’ll hate her, and this is the last thing Mitsuru wants, but. Lying to Yukari is somehow not an option; she deserves the truth, since this is the most valuable thing Mitsuru can give her.
She tells her that she plans to rule the Kirijo company and to clean up the whole terrible mess; for some reason, her heart beats as if it’s her first public speech and this is very far from truth, at least because she’s been giving speeches all the time in school and the only audience she has in Yukari, but maybe this is the exact problem.
Yukari’s eyes light up at the resolve in her voice, and Mitsuru knows she’s made the right choice.
They talk about Nyx, about Hamuko and how she doesn’t seem the type to give up even with the night itself staring into her eyes, and Mitsuru allows herself to hope and believe instead of planning everything with frightening accuracy; and then Yukari averts her eyes.
“Senpai, do you remember what you told me in Kyoto?”
And Mitsuru does, of course she does. She tells Yukari just so, that they will fight together (“and die together, if needed” goes unsaid) and Yukari nods, serious and determined and absolutely wonderful.
Ah yes, Mitsuru thinks, one more thing.
She reaches out to cup Yukari’s cheek, a little unsure of what exactly she is doing, but this is one of those rare moments she just goes with what her instincts are telling her. Yukari leans into the touch, titling her head just a bit and covering her hand with hers; her fingertips are cold and Mitsuru finds herself wishing abruptly that she could banish the ice from Yukari’s fingers and replace it with heat, mild and soft.
They choose the same moment to lean in for a kiss and the softness of Yukari’s lips against hers seems like a conclusion and, simultaneously, a beginning of something daringly new.
The month before the graduation day slips through Yukari’s fingers as though it’s sand; there’s just too much stuff going on in the archery team because of the third-years leaving and she’s assigned vice-captain of the team and this keeps her busy enough to ignore the nagging feeling of forgetting something important. Sometimes she frowns at nothing at all and can’t understand what had her gloomy later. Yukari doesn’t dwell on it much, though. It doesn’t really matter and if she forgot it, it must have been something really insignificant, so better just drop it. Besides, trying to remember just gives her monstrous headache.
The day of graduation is no different: she runs around with errands for the team, bickers with Junpei, easy, familiar, except it seems that all their talks are just empty chatter while it should be something heavier and more meaningful.
The impulse to go to the rooftop is sudden and impossible to ignore. She’s sort of got things to do, but it’s like the school’s rooftop is her very own centre of gravity, she can’t think of anything besides the warm sun that awaits her there and the abrupt giddy excitement fills her up to the neck.
When she walks up the stairs, she hears voices, familiar and not so, and her every instinct tells her to run.
Mitsuru sees the door open and there’s Takeba, flushed, as if from running, and the rooftop is full of people now, and
She remembers now, the Dark Hour, the Tartarus and Hamuko, who’s vanished, but she’s here, alive and smiling and squirming at the sun, and there’s even Koromaru here and Take-, no, Yukari, and now she remembers how warm her kisses are and her terrible bedhead and how her fingers feels against her lips and God.
Judging by Yukari’s wide eyes, she thinks of the same things, the same shared moments, and they can’t exactly hug right here, but once the day is over they definitely will, and Mitsuru can’t wrap her mind around the fact that she was able to forget all of this.
They smile at each other, fond and bright and hopeful, and Mitsuru thinks that this time, everything’s going to be alright.
(Hamuko closes her eyes. She feels exhausted, worn down to her bones, but she’s content. It was, she finds herself musing, the very last thought flowing through her head before she falls asleep, a damn good ride.)