chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (subtext? what subtext?)
[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 six of sixteen.




"The police have apprehended the prime suspect in the Inaba serial murder case. The suspect was taken into custody last night-"

Souji changed the channel as Nanako came back into the room. "Did it start yet?" she asked eagerly, hurrying past him to take up her usual seat in front of the TV.

"Not yet," Souji replied with a grin. He knew better than to get between Nanako and Featherman, even for breaking news updates. Anyway, he was more than familiar with the news this morning. The ache in his shoulders was a constant reminder - they'd done it, they'd completed Mitsuo Kubo's 'game', defeated his Shadow, and dragged him out of the TV. It was over, at least in theory.

Souji knew that, logically, but he'd spent so many months working on the case, going to the Amagi Inn, jumping into the TV, summoning his Personas... it was startling, somehow, to be done. It was almost disappointing, in a weird way... and he had to admit that he'd kind of miss it.

But right now there was something - someone - else he'd missed that he needed to take care of. Souji padded into the hallway and flipped open his cell phone, tabbing through his address book until Yosuke's name was highlighted. He looked at it for a moment, then closed his phone and put it back in his pocket. A phone call or text message wasn't really enough. Yosuke had been really mad, not that Souji could blame him. Yosuke hadn't said a word to him, spoken or otherwise, since that morning five days ago - which was kind of worrying, considering that Yosuke usually texted him several times a day.

Souji turned to peer around the corner at Nanako - the show had started, and she was humming along to the theme song. "I think I'm going to go out for a few hours. Is that okay?"

"I'll watch the house," Nanako said immediately, her eyes flicking up to meet his gaze for just a second before her focus returned to the TV. Souji shook his head, grinning wryly, then put on his shoes. He couldn't remember if Yosuke was supposed to work today or not, but Junes was still a good place to start looking.

Sure enough, Yosuke wasn't too hard to find - he wasn't at their usual table, but he was in the food court, his chair shoved into a small patch of shade. He had his headphones on, eyes closed, head bobbing slightly in time to the music, and he jumped when Souji tapped him on the shoulder. "Gah! Hey - Souji?" The surprised smile lasted for a good five seconds before it turned into a scowl; Yosuke folded his arms, glaring at Souji in a half-hearted fashion.

The switch from cheerful to petulant was so abrupt that it was almost funny. "What, did you forget you were mad at me?"

"No," Yosuke said, then sighed and let his arms fall to his sides. He opened his mouth to say something else, but Souji got there first.

"Look, Yosuke - I'm sorry, I was a jerk, and... are you working today?"

"No." Yosuke glanced away for a second. "I'm just hanging out."

"Feel like hanging out with me?"

Yosuke gave him a long look. "Your treat?" he asked, finally.

"Yeah, sure," Souji said, and Yosuke's uneasy expression melted a little.

"Fine, I guess I can be bribed," he said, getting to his feet; still, when he walked over to Souji, he abruptly leaned over and punched him in the arm, hard enough to hurt. "Just - don't do that again, dude, okay? Seriously."

Souji winced - Yosuke seemed to have a talent for hitting his bruises by accident - but he had to admit he deserved that one.



They ended up walking down the main street in the shopping district, eating Topsicles and talking about nothing; Souji narrowly evaded Teddie in front of Tatsumi Textiles, the 'bear' working happily despite the heat and sparkling like mad at everyone who walked by. "'Sensei?'" Yosuke asked him as they headed up the ancient stone steps to the shrine. "You know that guy?"

"Yeah. We hang out sometimes."

"Heh. You hang out with the guy in the mascot suit for the shopping district Merchant's Association, and you hang out with me." Yosuke stopped walking, looking up at the leaves overhead.

"Why would that matter?" Souji asked, taking a seat on the cool stone in front of the offertory box; after a moment, Yosuke joined him. "You're my friend. So's he. It doesn't have to be all complicated."

"Maybe for you," Yosuke muttered, then bit off the tip of his Topsicle. "I don't really like coming here by myself, y'know? Everyone just looks at me funny, and they whisper when they don't think I can hear. I'm not me, I'm 'that Junes kid'. Like I personally decided to open the store just to be a jerk."

Souji sighed. "They'll get over it eventually. They're just worried about their businesses, that's all." But it wasn't an adequate answer, and Souji knew it; it was unfair, he couldn't and wouldn't deny that, and yet... it wasn't something he could really fix.

And that bothered him.

"Yeah, well." Yosuke kicked at a pebble. "That doesn't make it feel any better. It wasn't quite the same back home, but... now I'm thinking maybe I was just the Junes kid to people there, too. Discounts, connections, yeah... and how many of them answer my texts now?" He laughed, self-depreciatingly. "Nobody took anything personally... it was just business. I guess I was 'just business', too."

"But you're not Junes - you're you," Souji said, finally, glancing at Yosuke. "And if people can't figure that out... well, it's their loss."

Yosuke sighed, but when he looked back at Souji there was a faint smile on his face. "So you're not here to wheedle a discount out of me?"

Souji laughed. "No." He elbowed Yosuke lightly. "I promise."

"Well... good. So long as we're clear." Yosuke grinned, then ducked his head again, quiet for a few moments as he licked at his melting Topsicle. "I was kinda worried."

"About earlier, you mean?"

"Yeah," Yosuke admitted. "I thought you might be like the rest of them. I mean... if you don't want to hang out, promise me you'll just tell me, okay? I'm sick of people never answering my calls or messages, making excuses..."

"I'm sorry-"

"It's okay," Yosuke said quickly, then gave Souji a sidelong glance. "But what were you doing, anyway? I kept getting those damn 'out of the service area' messages when I called you. Did you go somewhere?"

Souji looked at his own Topsicle, trying to think of something. "Um. Kind of-"

"Sensei! There you are!"

Souji had never been more grateful to hear Teddie's voice; the 'bear' was standing at the top of the shrine steps, out of the bear suit now, waving a Topsicle in each hand. "I brought Topsicles, too - can I come share with you, can I, can I?"

Souji glanced at Yosuke; the other boy was looking at Teddie with a bemused expression. But he didn't seem bothered by Teddie's intrusion, so Souji nodded, grateful for the reprieve. "Sure, Teddie."

"Goodie!" Teddie beamed and came over to them, alternately licking at each of his dual-wielded Topsicles. "Oh, Sensei, it was so hot, it was unbearable! Tatsumi-san gave me a break and money for these, though. She's such a nice lady!"

"Yeah, you've been working hard lately," Souji said. "Hey, Teddie - this is my friend Yosuke. Yosuke, this is Teddie."

"Uh. Hey," Yosuke said, awkwardly.

But Teddie gave Yosuke a curious glance, then rocked back on his heels with a sparkly smile. "Oh, I heard about you! Sensei talks about you all the time. Nana-chan too! She taught me how to sing your song, Yosuke-kun!"

Yosuke blinked. "My song?"

Souji opened his mouth, but Teddie got there first. "Every-day's great at your Jun-es!"

Yosuke stared, then blinked again, then started to laugh, helplessly. "What the hell?"

"Nana-chan said you were from Junes, and that's the Junes song!" Teddie pouted. "Nana-chan and I practiced a lot!"

"And it shows," Souji reassured him, resisting the urge to laugh along with Yosuke. "You were almost on key that time!"

"Thank you, Sensei! Someday I'll get it perfect," Teddie said, with a determined nod. "Just wait and see!"

"N-no, you did fine, Teddie," Yosuke said, quickly. "I just was kind of surprised, that's all... I didn't think you'd like Junes at all, let alone sing the jingle..."

"Oh, no - Teddie loves Junes! Nana-chan showed me!" Teddie brightened even more. "And Chie-chan and Yuki-chan took me there to get some clothes! It's not the same as what Tatsumi-san makes, but Yuki-chan said these clothes suited me better, anyway! Pretty girls love hot studs in stylish clothes," he added, with a sparkling grin.

Yosuke blinked. "Well, uh... come and say hi to me next time you're at Junes, then? Maybe I can get you a discount or something."

"Thank you! You're really nice, Yosuke-kun - Sensei always picks good friends," Teddie gushed.

"Yeah... I guess he does." Now it was Yosuke's turn to nudge Souji, a wry grin on his face. "Even if he is a weirdo sometimes."

"Hey!" Souji protested, then choked back a laugh as the remains of Yosuke's Topsicle slid off the stick to land unceremoniously on the ground.

Yosuke glared at it, then glanced up at Souji with a calculating expression. "You know, you still owe me, dude."

"Fine, fine. You want another Topsicle, I assume?" Souji shook his head and got to his feet.

"Ooh! Ooh! Teddie wants one too!"

Souji wisely refrained from pointing out that Teddie already had more Topsicles than he could handle; Kanji's mother was going to have fun de-stickying her house guest when he finally made it back to the store later on. "Okay - two Topsicles."

"Get me a soda, too?" Yosuke grinned unrepentantly.

He only barely managed to duck when Souji flicked the Topsicle stick at him.

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