Names are a fickle thing.
People around him, from before, they all greeted him as Kujou, some even Masamune. And he recognized the name as his own, as an identity he possessed; but after he’d experienced several weeks as Yashiki, he almost didn’t feel like he even was Kujou anymore.
Even some like Moe and Shou had taken to calling him Kujou, as if that had been his name from the beginning (in a literal sense, it had been). If he wasn’t so keenly aware of his break in self-identity, he almost could have believed he’d never gone by a different name at all.
He didn’t know where Masamune ended and Kazuo began- and he couldn’t quite decide if that mattered at all. All he knew was that his own name- the one he was born with- gave him a sense of displacement, like he didn’t belong. Like he didn’t even exist.
All thanks to that cursed doll, that brought him into this nightmare of non-existence, of confusion. And all alone in that giant mansion, he couldn’t help but feel like he was drowning.
And so he sat on the floor of Saya’s room, near the spot where her body had been. He’d had the carpets cleaned, of course, but he would never forget the image of her chest split open from the flowers that had erupted from it. He didn’t often hear her voice, anymore- since re-sealing Mary away, her presence had slipped away to almost nothing. Maybe she had assumed that he would be able to cope once the demonic doll had gone, but instead, he found himself hiding away in the mansion, unable (and perhaps unwilling) to move past it.
The sound of his phone ringing from in his pocket pulled him from his stupor. He’d been ignoring calls, lately; trying to exist in general was a near-impossibility these days, so socializing was basically out of the question. The name on the display read Satoru Mashita, so- on impulse, or wanting to avoid being chewed out later, he couldn’t quite decide- he gently tapped the answer button.
“Hear you haven’t been leaving that mansion,” Mashita’s gruff voice came through the speaker, and he felt himself calm. Had Mashita’s voice always done that to him? “Those damn kids are worried sick, they won’t leave me the hell alone.”
“Mashita…” he answers softly, not sure what else he could say. They had every right to be worried, but how could he possibly explain that he couldn’t figure out who he was?
“Come to a bar with me,” he hears Mashita demand. “Can’t be a hermit forever.”
“I… no.” He says it with a surprising amount of finality, given his mental state. “I can’t.”
“Hell you mean, you can’t? That doll is gone, you’re free to do what you want,” Mashita sounds almost disgruntled, but only barely. “Fine, you won’t leave the mansion? I’m coming to you.”
“Wait, Mashita, don’t-” he couldn’t finish before Mashita hung up the phone. He sighed, sliding the phone back into his pocket. Once he’d decided to do something, it was impossible to change Mashita’s mind.
He didn’t get up, even still. He wanted to hear Saya, feel her presence again. He hated to admit that he was lonely without her- every mention of the Kujou name was a reminder that he was the last one. He sat by the wall, staring blankly at the floor.
There was a faint knock on the door, startling him- had it been minutes? Hours? He had no idea. He hurried down the stairs into the main hall, opening the lock. Before he could even reach to take the handle, the door swung open. Mashita stood there, a bottle in his left hand, a stern expression on his face.
“Can’t leave, huh?” Mashita said, stepping around him to go inside. “What, Mary’s spirit locking you in?”
“It’s not that,” he replied, closing the door and following Mashita to the dining room. “Why are you all so concerned with me leaving the mansion?”
“Because,” Mashita turned around sharply. “it’s not good for you. The whole thing with Mary was- was damn traumatic, but closing yourself off won’t solve anything.”
“You’re right,” he said quietly. “But that’s not… exactly the problem.”
“Then what is, Yashiki?” Mashita yelled at him, slamming the bottle down on the table. “We’re- I’m- damn worried sick, you not answering for weeks, not leaving this godforsaken mansion- why else would you shut us- shut me- out?”
He was quiet, staring holes into the floor by Mashita’s feet. Then, slowly, he looked up. “You called me Yashiki,” he managed, his voice nearly dying in his throat.
“Uh, yeah, what else would I call you?” Mashita seemed to soften slightly. “It’s your name, right?”
He sinks to the floor, head in his hands. “I don’t know,” he managed, fighting back white-hot tears that are threatening to spill over. “I’m Kazuo, I’m Masamune, I’m neither, I’m both- I don’t know who to be, and I don’t know how to be either of them.”
He felt the anger in Mashita all but disappear as the other man knelt on the floor beside him. “I think… you’re overthinking it,” Mashita said quietly, setting a hand on his shoulder. “You don’t have to go back to a version of you that may or may not exist. Just… be you. Pick a name. Hell, pick a new one. I’ll call you whatever you like.”
The tears won, pouring over his unshaven cheeks. He pushed his face into Mashita’s chest, clinging to his green trench coat.
“Kazuo,” he forced the name out between sobs. “Mashita, call me Kazuo. Please.”
“Kazuo,” Mashita repeated, running a hand through Yashiki’s hair. “You’re Kazuo.”
Yashiki didn’t move, save for the sobs wracking through his body. “C-can you stay?”
“What was that?”
“Satoru, can you stay?” he asked again, looking up at Mashita. “I- I can’t-”
Without hesitation, Mashita leaned in to Yashiki, closing the gap.
To Yashiki, he tasted like the remnants of his last cigarette; he was clean-shaven, a stark contrast against his own stubble. He could have melted there on the dining room floor, forehead pressed against Mashita’s.
“I will,” he whispered into Yashiki’s ear, arms tightly around him. “I’ll stay as long as you need, Kazuo.”