chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (this is probably not a good idea)
[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 fifteen of sixteen.




"... pay attention to the parallelism in this sentence," the teacher droned on, and Souji's gaze flicked to focus on the classroom clock for the tenth time in as many minutes. This afternoon's lecture was particularly boring, and while Souji still took detailed notes as always - especially since Yosuke would probably need to borrow them later - the last bell couldn't come soon enough.

When it finally rang, Souji leaned back in his chair with a sigh of relief. "Ugh, that was so dull," Chie groaned, stretching. "When am I ever gonna need to know English, anyway?"

"You never know," Yukiko chided her, a playful smile on her face. "Maybe you'll have to arrest a foreigner someday, if you ever become a cop."

Chie rolled her eyes. "I already learned how to say that stuff from movies, geez." She grinned back, though, then turned to focus on Souji. "Hey, how's Yosuke-kun doing?"

"I don't know," Souji confessed, reaching down into his bag to find his cell phone; no messages, as usual. He'd sent a few text messages to Yosuke, here and there, mostly 'feel better soon' notes, but he hadn't gotten any replies. It was weird that Yosuke hadn't so much as texted him, and Souji couldn't help but worry a little that the awkward strangeness of - well, everything - might have been too much for his best friend.

Yukiko gave him a sympathetic look. "Just give him time. It's only been a week and a half... I know it wasn't the same for the two of you, but it's really exhausting when you're... well, you know," she added, leaning in and lowering her voice.

Souji nodded. "I'm sure he'll contact me somehow once he's feeling better."

Chie shoved back her chair and jumped to her feet. "Well, I think some training is just what I need. Gotta keep fit, especially since this isn't over, right? Ooh, when we get this guy I'm going to leave footprints over every single inch of his body!"

"Sounds good to me," Souji replied, and resisted the urge to chuckle at the look Yukiko gave Chie behind her back. "I'll see you two tomorrow."

"Tomorrow," Yukiko agreed. "And don't forget what I said about Yosuke-kun."

"I won't," Souji assured her, then turned to pack up his things as the girls left the classroom. Still, as he packed up and made his way downstairs, he couldn't help but think about Yosuke. Souji hadn't spoken to him since that afternoon inside the TV, when they'd waited quietly for Rise to guide the others back to the top floor and get them out of there. All his words then had been explanations about exactly where they were and what was going on, about Shadows and Personas.

Souji hadn't really thought about the significance of what else had been said and done, not then; he'd been too damn tired. But since then, he'd had a lot of time. Oh, sure, he had plenty to do with music club and soccer practice, not to mention homework and everything else, but Yosuke's absence left... gaps.

It was a warm afternoon, still muggy, and the cicadas seemed to muffle all other sounds with their incessant drone. Souji didn't really have anything planned, so he took his time walking home, lost himself in thought again - thoughts about easy banter and back-and-forth teasing, about the way he and Yosuke had just clicked from the start, about fireworks and that quiet, simple moment on the fence in the field behind the shrine. About how damn scared he'd been when Yosuke's Shadow showed up on the Midnight Channel.

About how, despite the swirl of conflicting emotions at the time, he'd still had to catch his breath after the Shadow kissed him.

Really, he should have seen it coming from a mile away. But he couldn't really do anything, couldn't be sure, until Yosuke had recovered and they'd talked this out. At least there was one small blessing - the entire team hadn't been there to see what had happened with Yosuke's Shadow, and they hadn't asked. Souji wasn't sure Yosuke would ever come back to school again if all of that had happened in front of six other people. As it was-

"... Souji?"

Souji stopped walking immediately, brought out of his reverie by the sound of his own name - and there was Yosuke, grinning sheepishly atop his shaky yellow bike. The brakes squealed unpleasantly as Yosuke stopped the bike. "Piece of crap," he muttered, then looked up at Souji. "Hey. Uh. I was looking for you."

"Long time no see," Souji replied, with an answering grin. "How're you feeling?"

"Well enough that I can go back to school tomorrow." Yosuke made a face, then glanced around and lowered his voice. "How the hell do you come back from... uh, that... and not sleep for a week every time?"

"Practice," Souji said, and tried not to laugh when Yosuke's expression shifted into that familiar not-really-irritated scowl.

"So. Uh. You doing anything right now?" Yosuke ran one hand awkwardly through his hair.

"Not since you showed up." Souji smiled. "Man, it's good to see you again. Now I can finally stop taking exhaustive notes."

"Oh, right, like you wouldn't do that anyway," Yosuke scoffed, but Souji was quite sure he didn't imagine the faint spread of color across Yosuke's cheeks. "You took notes for me?"

"Well, yeah, considering it was my fault you missed class in the first place."

"Yeah, about that... um." Yosuke bit his lip. "Can we... go somewhere and talk, and stuff?"

Souji nodded, then gave Yosuke's bike a dubious look as the other boy indicated the bike rack with one hand. "What, you want me to ride on that deathtrap?"

"Just shut up and get on, okay?"

Souji laughed, and complied.



They ended up at the overlook, with Yosuke tiring himself out halfway up the hill; Souji had taken over pedaling duty, despite Yosuke's loud protests that he "wasn't dying, damnit, I can ride my bike just fine!" There wasn't anyone up there today - too hot, probably - and Yosuke flopped down on the grass almost immediately. "Damn, it's hot. Ugh."

"You're the one who wanted to come up here," Souji said, though he sat down next to Yosuke; there was a faint breeze, but it wasn't worth much considering the exertion they'd both put in to get here. "You really, really need a new bike."

"Yeah, I know," Yosuke grumbled. He shifted to tuck his arms under his head, staring up at the cloudless sky; Souji joined him after a moment, laying back on the grass. "You know, I was kinda wondering if everything that happened was all some kinda messed-up dream, like maybe I just got sick and started seeing things... but it wasn't, was it?"

"No, it's wasn't a dream." Souji hesitated. "Yosuke, I'm really sorry I didn't tell you about everything sooner. I wanted to tell you, but..."

"It's okay. Besides, I don't know if I'd have believed you. I mean, a world inside the TV, with Shadow-things and that power... Persona... yeah, I don't know." Yosuke sighed. "But everything kind of makes sense now. All the disappearing acts you pulled, and all those bruises, and everything else. That was all because of this, wasn't it?"

"Yeah, it was."

Yosuke was silent for a long moment. "So... since I have that power too now, maybe I could help you guys? Uh. If you want."

"Of course you can - man, if you didn't volunteer, I'd practically beg you," Souji said, propping himself up on one elbow and grinning down at Yosuke. "It was driving me crazy to not be able to tell you what was going on."

Yosuke looked up and met his gaze, a pleased smile on his face. "Really? Um. Awesome. I mean, I've never really fought anything before, but I'm pretty fast, and... yeah. I think I could do it."

"I know you can do it," Souji said, firmly.

"Thanks, man." There was another long pause before Yosuke sighed and glanced away. "Souji, I... ugh. I'm sorry... that I didn't tell you about. Uh. Things. That's why I didn't call you or anything. I didn't know what to say. Didn't want to do it over the phone."

Souji nodded, slowly, though he felt a faint anxiety thrill through him; this was it, pretty much. "It's okay. I figured it was something like that." Yosuke's face was red with embarrassment now, and he was firmly looking off to one side; then he jumped to his feet, wandering over to lean against the overlook fence. Souji followed him, leaning up against the fence too, not quite sure what to say.

Yosuke took a deep breath and ducked his head. "Geez, this is the most... nah, second-most awkward thing ever..." Souji was pretty sure he knew what the most awkward thing was, but he kept quiet. "I guess... part of me had things figured out, but the rest of me didn't want to hear it..."

"That's okay," Souji said, quietly. "Everyone's like that. I was there when the rest of the team faced their Shadows, too. We all have things we don't want to admit."

But Yosuke gave him an almost anguished look before snapping his gaze back to the landscape below. "Yeah, but that's a pretty damn important thing..." He sighed. "Anyway, I know that was all... really weird and dumb and you can just... I don't know, don't freak out or anything, and forget about what the other me said. That part. You know. I just... don't want you to stop being my friend, just because..." His voice trailed off, swallowed up by the drone of the cicadas.

Souji took a deep breath; something in his stomach twisted up tight with sudden nervousness, which was dumb - but he couldn't screw this up. Not now, not when he knew, when Yosuke's presence had snapped everything into sharp focus. "I'm not going to stop being your friend. That's not going to happen. Ever."

Yosuke immediately slumped in visible relief, then glanced back at Souji with a grateful smile on his face. "T-thanks. Heh, I guess I'm kind of dumb, huh? Why would you come up here with me if you hated me?"

"I don't hate you," Souji said, firmly. "It's... the opposite, actually."

Yosuke tilted his head to one side; Souji saw the way his fingers tensed around the wooden fence railing. "Yeah?" he said, finally.

Souji sighed, then grinned sheepishly at his best friend. "Yosuke... I was scared when I knew you were trapped in there, more scared than I've ever been about anything. Because I couldn't lose you. Everything you meant that night at the festival... it's also true for me. Because you're special to me, too."

Yosuke just stared at him. "U-uh. Wait. Seriously?"

"Yeah," Souji admitted, aware that his own face was getting a little red, too.

"Wait, so I was freaking out for nothing?" Yosuke teased, then paused. "Um. So, uh..."

And Souji couldn't quite think of what to say, so he settled for leaning closer to Yosuke; then his best friend was leaning in too, his movements quick, as if he were afraid of losing the moment. Souji had just enough time to take a quick, pleased breath before Yosuke kissed him, one arm coming up to grab hard at the back of his shirt.

It was a relatively quick kiss, and there was nothing fancy about it - but there didn't need to be. When Yosuke pulled away, the completely stupid grin on his face was a mirror to Souji's own. All the awkwardness and tension flowed away, leaving nothing but relief in its wake.

"You know what?" Souji said, after a moment.

"What?" Yosuke's face was red again, but he was smiling hugely this time.

"Next time you want to confess, you really should just put a note in my shoe locker, or something."

Yosuke paused, then started laughing helplessly. "Geez - what, using my Shadow was a little much for you? I thought you had experience with that kind of thing!"

Souji grinned, feeling better than he had in a long time. "Well, it was kind of overkill. Very unique method, though, I have to say..."

"Shut up," Yosuke laughed, and leaned in again to ensure Souji was much too busy to say anything more.
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