chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (doesn't matter what the weather is)
[personal profile] chisotahn posting in [community profile] ikuzeaibou
Title: Ten Steps
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Characters: Souji/Yosuke (eventually); ensemble
Summary: AU, longfic; fill for this prompt on [livejournal.com profile] badbadbathhouse; details in the first part, here.


Notes: This will spoil you in the face for events up to August + elements of November. This is part three of sixteen.




The rain arrived on Saturday morning, exactly as the forecast had predicted, though it wasn't supposed to last long. The rain was still pounding on the windows when the last bell rang, though, and Chie elbowed Souji with an aggrieved sigh. "Can you believe this? It said it was supposed to clear up by now!"

"Go down to Aiya, then?" Souji suggested.

Chie stuck her tongue out at him. "Nah, I can't afford to risk losing to the beef bowl today. Anyway, I'm going to go help Yuki at the Inn." Yukiko had left early today; Rise's discovery near the Amagi Inn had brought a new wave of publicity to the place, and Yukiko's family had their hands full. Chie tilted her head down to whisper into Souji's ear. "Hey, we gonna train tomorrow?"

"Maybe. I'll call you," Souji whispered back.

Chie nodded, then stood up. "Alright - seeya later!"

"Bye," Souji said, then turned to gather his books and put them into his bag as Chie left the classroom. He glanced back at Yosuke as he did so; the other boy had his head down on the desk, and Souji couldn't see Yosuke's expression under the fall of his hair. Maybe he wasn't interested after all... after the way Morooka had 'welcomed' him, Souji really wouldn't blame the guy too much if he wrote off Inaba entirely based on that experience alone.

But as soon as Souji stood up, Yosuke shifted, then glanced up at him with a grin. "Hey, what you said yesterday - is that still on?"

"Absolutely. You don't mind the rain?"

Yosuke shrugged. "That's what umbrellas are for, right? Anyway, I got the afternoon off work, and that wasn't easy. Might as well enjoy it."

"You have a part-time job?" Souji asked, curious, as Yosuke started shoving the contents of his desk into his own school bag.

Yosuke gave him a bemused look. "What, you don't already know? I work at Junes - it's not open to the public yet, but there's lots to do. My dad's the store manager. He wasn't supposed to be, but the first guy they hired had to quit because his wife got really sick. So they dragged us all out here to the boonies." Yosuke grimaced, then stood up, slinging his bag over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I know the feeling, kind of... but honestly, Inaba's not that bad. You'll see." Souji smiled. "You hungry?"

"Uh. Well, I didn't really eat much lunch today, so... yeah?"

Souji's grin widened. "Then I know exactly what our first stop will be."

............


"This is crazy," Yosuke muttered, poking at the pile of meat inside his bowl. "This bowl's got some kinda meat generator at the bottom, right?"

Souji swallowed his own mouthful of beef, then chuckled. "They don't call it the Beef Bowl Challenge for nothing. It's only on the menu on rainy days."

"I said I was hungry, but I'm not this hungry. I don't think I've ever been hungry enough to finish this - I don't think anyone's hungry enough to finish this! Ever!" Yosuke took another bite, but his pace was rapidly slowing down.

Even Souji had to admit he was getting full. One day, he was determined to conquer the Beef Bowl Challenge, but it wasn't happening today. "I do know somebody who's finished it, actually. Chie's finished it three or four times, believe it or not."

Yosuke's chopsticks clinked against the side of the bowl as he stopped eating and stared at Souji. "You're not serious."

Souji laughed. "Completely. I got to see it the last time she took the challenge on. It was terrifying."

"Geez, she's so skinny... where does she put it all?" Yosuke poked at the beef bowl again. "If you'd said that Hanako girl, I would've believed you in a second, but... oof. I give in, man. The beef bowl wins." He put down his chopsticks almost reverently.

"Yeah, me too," Souji admitted, pushing his own bowl just out of reach so he wouldn't be tempted to eat any more - otherwise, he'd never be able to walk home, let alone show Yosuke the rest of the shopping district.

Their movements caught the attention of the chef, who casually leaned over the counter to peer at their bowls. "Aiya... too bad, boys. That'll be six thousand yen."

"I got it," Yosuke said, quickly, and Souji blinked.

"Wait, no you don't. That's way too much - I brought you here, I should pay for yours if anyone's going to-"

But Yosuke shook his head. "Nah, I told you, I got it. I have a part-time job, it's good. Anyway, I owe you one for the other day."

Souji seriously doubted that working part-time at Junes was anywhere near as lucrative as selling Shadow bits to Daidara, but Yosuke seemed pretty determined. So he just nodded. "Thanks," he said, with a smile. "I'm pretty sure one answer isn't worth quite that much, though."

"Then you'll have to give me some more answers later, to make up for the difference," Yosuke joked, handing the chef some bills and getting only a few coins in exchange.

Souji snickered. "We'll see. Ready to move on?" He stood up, then stretched.

"If I can still move." Yosuke made a face, but got up and stretched too. "Oof. I can't believe anyone could possibly finish off that monstrosity."

"Walk it off," Souji informed him with a grin, then led the way back out to the street. The rain was only a sporadic drizzle now, not even worth using an umbrella; there were more people along the streets, chatting as they went from shop to shop. "Ready to keep going?"

"Yeah, sure." Yosuke readjusted his headphones and stepped out onto the sidewalk. "So where to next?"

"Hm. I'd take you by Souzai Daigaku, except I don't think there's much point. Their grilled steak is a local specialty, though."

Yosuke groaned. "Don't mention meat. Please. Let's just go wherever. Walk it off, like you said."

Souji nodded, and started walking; Yosuke paused for a few seconds before catching up and keeping pace next to him. They ambled slowly down the sidewalk, with Souji pointing out various shops and stopping every so often to talk to people; Tatsumi-san laughed and asked how Kanji was doing, and Naoki Konishi paused from stocking the soda machine to say hello, though he gave Yosuke an almost wary look after being introduced.

"Y'know, you're right... this place is kinda nice. Cute, I guess." Yosuke stopped and peered into the window of the bike shop as they walked past. "The prices are kinda high, though. I think Junes is going to undercut a lot of this." He paused, then shook his head and pointed at something in the window. "Someday, I'm gonna get rid of my stupid bike and get something better... a motorcycle would be pretty cool, huh?"

Souji glanced down the street, thoughtfully. What Yosuke said about Junes was probably true, and according to Naoki, there'd been some concern about it among the local merchants. Which was probably why Naoki reacted the way he did, but-

"Souji?"

Souji blinked and refocused on Yosuke; the other boy was giving him a questioning look. "Sorry - what's up?"

"Aren't you... y'know, curious about Junes at all?"

"About Junes? No, not really - I mean, I know it's opening soon, and my cousin Nanako absolutely loves it. She has the jingle memorized. But we've been to them before. It's not like it's a new thing to me." Souji shrugged. "I'm sure you're sick of answering questions about it, anyway."

"Huh." Yosuke looked bemused for a moment, then grinned, and it seemed to Souji that the smile came more easily. "Well, hey. That works for me. You wouldn't believe how many people were my 'friends' until they realized I couldn't get them a job..."

"I've already got a job," Souji assured him. "Day care, very exciting."

"Really? I wouldn't have figured you for being that domestic."

"Oh, yeah, I wear an apron and everything," Souji said dryly, then laughed. "I cook, too. Is that domestic enough for you?"

"Figures," Yosuke teased, then stretched and looked up at the sky - the sun was beginning to set, and the sky was stained bright orange, with only a few scattered clouds left. "Whoa, I didn't realize it was getting that late. I guess time flies when you're having fun?"

"Having fun, huh? I told you, Inaba's not that bad," Souji said with a smile.

"I guess," Yosuke said, mock-begrudgingly, then grinned back. "Thanks. I appreciate it, seriously."

"Any time," Souji replied, and he meant it - it was nice to spend an afternoon not thinking about Shadows or the TV world or the case or anything. Just... being himself, being the leader of nothing more complex than a tour of the shopping district. He spent so much time with the others that it was easy to forget there were plenty of things going on in Inaba that had nothing to do with the murders. "Maybe we can hang out again sometime."

"Sure, that'd be great," Yosuke said immediately, then ducked his head slightly, as if embarrassed. "I guess I'd better get going. See you at school on Monday?"

"I'll be there," Souji promised, and watched as Yosuke gave him a thumbs-up and trotted down the street, heading for home.

That really had been fun.
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