Fandom: Persona series, Persona 2-era
Characters: Reiji Kido, Eriko Kirishima
Word Count: 3255
Date Finished: September 11, 2007
Author's Notes: I don't know what it was. I always wanted these two to get together when I was a wee fangirl playing the first Persona.
His heels clicked along the tile flooring in the apartment buildings hallway. He knew was about to get fired from his job -- and that's what weighed over his head as he dragged his feet along, to the next door. This was a ritzy, swanky type of building. No one would want to buy knives from his sorry ass.
With a sigh, he pulled his hand up and knocked on the door, waiting for it to open. He was also already preparing for it to promptly slam in his face, once he frightened the customer or yelled at them or something else that should never be done by a proper salesman. He didn't have the patience for this; he didn't have the temper ---
He stared to the open door and the woman standing in it. Behind her, floor-to-ceiling windows ran throughout the apartment, the setting sun throwing a soft glow to the white walls, reflecting onto the tenant's face. He almost didn't recognize her with her short hair.
Who was he kidding? He had seen her on fashion magazines, in print ads. But for him to see her in person again, she looked completely different to him.
"What are you doing here?! Come in!" She pulled the door open all the way, rushing him into the apartment.
He stepped in, clutching his briefcase in one hand and suddenly tensing up. He had no clue why though. This was Eriko, an old friend from high school -- it had only been a couple years. Same homeroom, same ordeal with all the demons in Mikage-cho, same old Eriko -- occult-freak and exotic beauty or something, right?
His back was to her, as she locked the door and fiddled around with the lights, dimming them slightly so the sunset was the main illumination in the apartment. It really was a spectacular unit and Reiji felt a pang of jealousy and regret for not doing more with his life. She had done so much in such a little amount of time.
Stepping around him, Eriko placed her hands on his shoulders, her orange tinted nails catching his eye as they moved. The color matched her sweater, which was buried under a tight tan long-sleeved jacket that went with the shorts she had on. Her hair was cut short, extremely short compared to the last time he had seen her, when it was past her mid-back and always up in a thick ponytail.
"What have you been up to?" She squeezed his shoulders and let go with her right hand, guiding him towards the plush sofa with her left.
He let himself get herded to the over sized piece of furniture and gently set himself down, placing the briefcase on his lap. He hadn't been up to much, and it made him feel horrible. He didn't want to tell her about any of it, he didn't want to look like a slimy asshole.
Knife salesman, living with a woman two years older than him. He got her pregnant and the only reason they're living together was for the kid. She reminded him of his mother when they met; it went downhill from there and she wasn't pleasant for long. Unfortunately, she was already knocked up when she turned into a conniving wretch.
Reiji could feel himself snickering inwardly and quickly just spouted out what came to his mind. "Nothing much, just been selling knives." He motioned to the briefcase in his lap.
"Knives? Oooo! Like cooking knives or weapons?"
"Unfortunately just boring cooking knives."
Reiji watched her laugh, the way she threw her head back and placed her hands over her mouth. She was always so perfect. She knew how to mask her emotions, how to work rooms, how to make friends, how to make a more than decent living. Reiji wanted that. He wanted to feel like that.
He forced a smile, which ended up coming naturally as she grabbed the case from his lap and opened it, instantly gushing over the cutlery.
"Hey, this is good stuff! These would make great weapons too. How's business? Maybe if you sell them as weapons, you could make more money." She was running her fingers along the edges and down the handles.
He chuckled quietly, "I'm a horrible businessman though, I can't sell anything."
"Why is that?"
"I don't know. I'm too scary or something? Maybe?"
"Is it the leering?"
Reiji was shocked at the question. Nanjo and Masao always told him to stop doing exactly that in high school, and here Eriko was asking about it. "Do I still do that?"
"I asked because you're kind of doing it right now." She giggled.
Reiji realized he was leaning forward, peering over her shoulder to the knives. "Oh, sorry." He pulled back and relaxed, continuing. "Yeah, I think I might get upset easily with customers too."
"You? Upset easily? Come on, Reiji." Eriko grinned, recalling the time Reiji threw down with Hidehiko for taking up space in his locker when Brad had his own across the hallway. After picturing that in her head again, memories came flooding back into her head. "Like the time Masao was dancing in homeroom to the song they always played in the Pharmacy -- and he kept playing it over and over again and flailing around until you punched him in the jaw?"
"Hey! That deserved me getting upset."
"You couldn't even hear the song, Reiji. He was wearing headphones." Eriko laughed again.
"I could hear it in my head, plus, Masao's dancing just looks so offensive and creepy," he responded, taking the case back from Eriko as she closed it.
Sharing a chuckle, they both sat in silence momentarily before Reiji muttered, "High school."
"Yeah, nothing's ever like that again. When you're there you just think to yourself get me out of here. But then once it's over... all you want to do is go back." Eriko pulled her legs up on the couch under her and rested her elbow on the back of the couch, facing Reiji. "Especially our high school and what we all went through."
"Of course you liked that, Miss Occult."
"Of course! It was amazing!"
"Y'know, I thought you were a total nutjob the first time I met you," Reiji set the briefcase down on the ground and turned slightly to face her, crossing one leg over the other. He figured he was going to get fired soon anyways, so why not slack and get paid for it while he had the chance. It was the perfectly good opportunity to; Eriko was someone he had always wanted to catch up with. Hell, she might even end up buying some knives out of pity.
"People usually do," she grinned a sort of wolfish grin that made Reiji smile.
Sliding off of the couch, Eriko padded over behind the cushy sofa to a long, sleek table made of mahogany that sat against one of the windowed walls, her hands traveling to a row of bottles along the top. "Want a drink?"
"No thanks, not at the moment. I'm good." He responded, his muscles finally loosening as she shifted away from him.
"Suit yourself," Eriko said, reaching out for a small bottle of brandy and a plain glass. Pouring the amber liquid, she could hear him on the couch behind her, yawning. Taking a small sip of the drink, she savored the taste and peered out over the city and water ahead of her for a few moments.
She turned, seating herself on the very edge of the table. Her painted lips had the edge of the brandy glass against them, while her eyes locked on the back of Reiji's head. His hair was shorter than it had been in high school -- and his eyes had definitely seen more than their fair share of insanity over the years -- something people their age should've never had to experience. They were different than Eriko had remembered them, those eyes. They were softer and less focused now.
A sigh escaped her lips, her breath rippling the brandy in front of her. She had no idea what he was thinking right now -- and she was fairly afraid to figure out. She was afraid he just wanted to get up and leave, to walk out of her life again like so many people before had. Eriko was used to feeling alone, but she never liked it. She had fans, she had acquaintances, she had assistants. Her family was gone, her friend's communication was sparse if not absent altogether -- and there was no such thing as a lover in Miss Ellie Kirishima's life.
Right when that word crossed her mind, that word, lover, Eriko snapped out of her trance, taking a good swig of the alcohol in her hand, her gaze still locked on the back of Reiji's head. The way the setting sun soaked into his black hair and crept down the back of his neck, over his worn blue suit...
"Nice place you have here, Kirishima." He turned, the cords in his neck and strands of ebony that she had been admiring suddenly replaced with those experienced eyes and chiseled cheekbones, the scar that was usually seen on his forehead hidden by his bangs.
She responded without even thinking, trying to avert her eyes from him as casually as possible. "Thank you." Moving back over to the couch, she sat herself down, placing her already half empty glass on the table in front of them and then pushing herself back into the cushions and pulling her feet under her. Finally, she dared to move her gaze back to him and was pleasantly surprised to find his eyes still on her. "I bet you have a place even better than this."
Reiji laughed. A loud whooping sound that Eriko had only heard from him once or twice in their lives -- and those few times took place in high school and probably involved Masao acting like, well, Masao.
"You've got to be kidding me. Better than this place?" He waved his hands around, and Eriko expected to see those American Flag gloves still there after all these years. They weren't there. That had changed much like Reiji had changed.
Reiji was still peering around the apartment after her comment, his eyes wandering from the fancy foyer area, down the hall towards the bedrooms and then back towards the kitchen. She had to be kidding. Had to be. He had a two bedroom dump on the south side of town with that woman and their gorgeous baby girl. A thought crossed his mind, just a flash of something. He felt a pang of regret when he realized he had wished that Eriko was his daughter's mother and they were all living there, in that fancy apartment together. He gulped, his mouth dry and quickly spit out a continuation to his question. "I mean, come on, I'm a knife salesman."
"So what?!" She pulled a leg out from under her and kicked his arm playfully from across the couch. "Stop beating yourself up about it."
"It's what I'm good at."
"No, you were always good at beating other things up, not yourself."
He nodded wistfully. That was a definite fact. "How true that is."
A chuckle was the only thing that came back from her. They spent the undetermined amount of time talking about the time they were younger, the days of Kandori and the demons, fortune telling, Nanjo's new jacket, the school nurse's horrible cooking, what they wanted out of life, anything and everything. They remembered lost comrades fondly, they remembered the power they shared and hadn't talked about in years, they laughed at old stories about the Peace Diner and the bets on Persona in the old storage room at St. Hermelin.
And watching Eriko giggle and brush short dark strands out of her face, Reiji realized that what he wanted was her. He wanted someone in his life who could laugh away problems and look at the bigger picture, someone who knew what she wanted in life, someone who had a path to follow. He wanted someone who could help him pull himself together.
The sun had almost set at that point, the stray rays of lingering light tried to hold on, drifting around the airy apartment, but even those vanished after a few more minutes. The lights of the city below and the dim fixtures overhead cast the living area in a smooth silver glow. He was slouched at the end of the couch, his left elbow propped up on the arm and his head tilted in his hand. Hours had passed since Reiji had arrived at Eriko's apartment.
It didn't seem that long.
"Want to go grab something to eat?" Eriko had curled up at the end of the couch at some point during their conversations and reminiscing, her bare feet buried behind Reiji. He had flinched when she casually pushed them back there, her toes creeping up under his dress shirt and tickling the small of his back. It was a casual movement and disregarded gesture between friends, but Reiji's mind kept racing to something else.
"I don't know. I'm supposed to be on the clock." The last part of his response came out in a drag, a monotonous voice that basically didn't want to believe what it was saying.
Eriko sat up, her feet drifting across his back and out from under him. "You've already wasted lots of time yammering with me. What's a few more minutes?" She had pulled herself beside him, sitting cross-legged and facing his lazy form.
"I know." That sly grin appeared again, her eyes glinting in the dim light.
A rebellious lock of hair was sticking out of her bob, out over her right ear and Reiji reached out with his free hand and brushed it back in place. He sat up, pulling his hand away from her and opened his mouth to speak. A few seconds passed before any noise actually drifted through his lips.
"What would you do if I kissed you right now?"
Her smile slowly faded as she turned her eyes up to his, her head slowly following the motion. "I'd feel like I was in high school again."
"Why?" He asked softly. They had never kissed in high school. There had been a few awkward moments between them, where something could've happened, but their group of friends always had silly moments like that, what with an even number of girls and boys hanging out together all the time.
Her shoulders shifted and Reiji swore he saw her cheeks flush the slightest bit. Eriko quickly clamped down on that and rushed the color away. "I might have had a crush on you." She paused. "Well, pretty much like every other girl in school." She watched the corner of his lips twitch and then continued. "You were the bad boy. The one I wasn't supposed to want."
"Yes, the pleasant and kind straight-A girl with all the admirers. I know." He nodded, his lips finally upturning like they had been dying to do. "You had your share of stalkers too, if I recall correctly." His voice had grown even quieter as they got closer -- and he almost couldn't hear himself over the hammering of his heart in his ears. It was something he never really felt. He had always stayed collected at times where other's hearts were pounding loud enough for the world to hear. In battle when they were younger, facing his corrupted older brother -- but this...
This was different.
Finally reaching out, and without even thinking, Reiji slid his fingers around the back of her neck and pulled her to him, their lips joining. He could feel the ends of her short hair brushing his fingertips, the way her hands slid under his jacket and over the thin fabric of his shirt. He was afraid she would push him away, but she didn't. He kissed her and she was returning it with just as much heat and intensity. It surprised him and at the same time it caught him off guard.
They shifted together without warning, but with a shared understanding at what was happening physically. He had turned and fallen backwards on the couch, pulling her down with him, his hands finding the hips that her shorts slung low on. He could feel her lips opening into the kiss as her fingers danced up his sides. It felt right. Reiji had no goals when he was younger and now he felt like there was something to reach for, one goal. Just one. He wanted this.
Not now. I can't do it now. This is wrong.
He gently pushed her off of him, scrambling off of the couch and out from under her warm, inviting body.
"No, I can't do this to you."
"Do what?" She looked puzzled. That lock of hair had escaped from behind her ear. She looked younger and she had that expression on her face -- the one he always saw in school, when one of their friends said something questionable. "Reiji... what?"
"I'm... I've done nothing with my life. I've done sales since high school, I'm living with a horrible, mad woman just because she's the mother of my child and I'm not good enough for this. I'm not good enough for you. It was so amazing to see you again but I wish I hadn't because you're something I want and I could never have. I want what you have. I want a life like this." He waved his hands violently towards the apartment that surrounded them. "I want you."
Her lips pursed and as much as she wanted to tear her eyes away from his animalistic gaze, his heaving chest, his balled fists -- she couldn't.
"I can't drag you down with me," he whispered. The glow of the room cast a halo of light around his form, and it shifted with him as he reached down to pick up his briefcase. With one last glance to her seated on the couch, her long legs pulled up under her and her hands locked together under her chin, Reiji began to stumble backwards, away from her and towards the door.
"Reiji..." She could feel her eyes welling up. An almost foreign feeling to have around another person. When Eriko cried, she did it alone. Just like everything else she did.
He finally turned away from her, opening the door and letting himself out. She bolted up from the couch and to the foyer area before the door slammed shut, grabbing the door frame and throwing her head out into the corridor. Her fingertips tensed against the cold metal as she watched him retreat towards the elevators.
Eriko stared, choking back a sudden sob as Reiji pulled his arm across his chest and slammed it out to the side, letting go of the old briefcase. It opened as it hit the wall of the hallway, its contents exploding and echoing up and down the aisle of apartments. The knives scattered around the corridor, tinkering over the tile and sliding across the smooth surface. It sounded like glass shattering.
She felt herself flinch at the sound, her eyes clenching shut. Seconds later, she forced herself to open them -- to watch him leave her.
He was still the bad boy, even after all these years. And even after all that he told her, it hurt to watch him walk away.