chisotahn: Firebird with the text "Firebird's Child". (into the sky side by side)
[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 four of sixteen.




As Junes' grand opening drew closer, Yosuke found himself increasingly buried in work. The week before Junes' grand opening, Yosuke found himself going to school, then immediately rushing to the store to work until long past his shift would normally have ended. He had just enough time left to eat and possibly stare blankly at his homework before collapsing into bed. Lather, rinse, repeat until totally exhausted.

Souji helped him out in class here and there, either giving Yosuke answers in response to King Moron's sharp questions or nudging at his desk to wake him up when he dozed off, but even that wasn't enough to break through his constant exhaustion. Hell, even the news that the serial murderer had struck again and killed King Moron, of all people, hadn't done more than make Yosuke blink at the TV and wonder who'd finally snapped and given that jerk what was coming to him. He was just too damn tired.

So the grand opening itself wasn't the bright, joyous spectacle he'd imagined - oh, sure, it was crowded and people seemed happy, but Yosuke couldn't bring himself to care. All he could think about from the time he stumbled out of bed was the end of the day, when he could finally freakin' sleep. To make matters worse, he was on the registers, and the combination of what seemed like the entire town showing up at the store, plus the fact that hardly any of the new employees really knew what they were doing...

Ugh. This can't be over soon enough. Yosuke went through the motions dozens, maybe hundreds of times - "Hi, did you find everything you needed today? Have a great day!" - until his shoulders and throat were sore, but the lines never got any shorter. So many people went through his line that he didn't realize the face in front of him was familiar - and amused - until he was halfway through his greeting. "Hi, did you find everything you- Souji, what are you doing here?!"

Souji just grinned. "Shopping, obviously. How're you doing?"

"If I don't come to school again, just assume I'm dead and Junes killed me," Yosuke said, under his breath, then reached out for Souji's first item and paused. "Wait, what? Five... five medical kits? Dude, I didn't know you were that accident-prone."

"Heh, well," Souji said, though his gaze flicked away from Yosuke's for a second, but a moment later a small figure came up to him, brown hair just barely visible over the counter. "Ah - this is my cousin, Nanako," Souji said, and Yosuke leaned over the counter to see a small, pigtailed girl in pink standing by Souji's side, her face flushed with excitement. "Nanako, this is Yosuke, the transfer student I told you about."

The little girl beamed at him as if he was a movie star or something. "I love Junes!"

"Wow, uh... hi, Nanako-chan," he said, then flinched slightly as the man in line behind Souji pointedly cleared his throat. "Uh. Sorry, dude," he said quickly, grabbing the items and scanning them, bagging them as quickly as he could. "I'll catch up with you on Monday or something-"

"When's your break?"

"Heh.. a break? What's that?" Yosuke sighed, but he gave Souji a weary smile and handed him his bags. "Maybe in an hour or two, I don't know. Don't worry about it. Seeya - uh. Have a great day!"

"Every day's great at your Junes!" Nanako sang back at him, then waved.

But Yosuke had no time to think about Souji, or Nanako-chan, or even how glorious a break would be. The seemingly endless line continued to demand his full attention, and it wasn't until a good hour and a half later that he got a breather, finally relieved by the next shift. Not that his work was over, oh no - they needed him in the stockroom after his break - but he had a half an hour in which he could do absolutely nothing.

He almost went into the break room, then paused - nope, there were too many people in there. He'd be swarmed in a second with questions, and oh man, he was not in the mood for more damn questions. Instead, Yosuke took off his apron and shoved it behind an endcap, then hurried up to the food court, hoping to lose himself in the crowd for a while.

What he wasn't expecting was to have a cheerful "Yosuke-kun!" reach his ears as he wove his way through the crowded food court. He stopped suddenly, his attention drawn to a corner table, currently occupied by a small child in pink and a familiar silver-haired teenager. Nanako-chan beamed at him as he made his way over to the table.

Yosuke raised one eyebrow at Souji. "Dude, I told you not to worry about it."

"Who's worrying?" Souji grinned. "A guy can have lunch with his cousin anywhere he wants, can't he?"

"Big bro, can I go play on the playground?" Nanako asked eagerly, putting down her empty cup.

"Sure, go ahead. Can Yosuke-kun have your seat?"

"Yeah! Thanks, big bro!" And Nanako hopped up, hurrying over to the playground; Souji just gestured for Yosuke to take a seat.

He did so gratefully, slumping forward to rest his forehead on the cool plastic of the table. "I think I'm just gonna fall asleep right here," he mumbled, turning his head to one side so he could see Souji's face.

"This will all be over tomorrow, right?" Souji asked, glancing over at the playground before focusing on Yosuke again.

"Man, I hope so. My whole damn life's been nothing but Junes, Junes, Junes lately. Sometimes I really hate this place."

"Yeah, I can understand that." Souji picked up his own cup and took a long drink. "Nanako-chan likes it, though. I'm sure I'll be coming here a lot."

"Your cousin's cute - and hey, you said your uncle was a detective, right? I bet he's really busy what with King Moron getting murdered and all. Here I thought all that crazy serial killer stuff was all tied up. It's kind of exciting, isn't it?"

To Yosuke's surprise, Souji glanced away again. "Exciting? I guess so, in a way."

Yosuke raised one eyebrow; even though he didn't know Souji all that well, it was still pretty clear the other boy was being evasive about something. Then again, if his uncle was a detective, maybe he was sick of hearing about the whole thing. "Something wrong?"

"No, nothing's wrong. Nanako just gets lonely when her dad isn't around. I feel bad for her," Souji said, looking over at where Nanako-chan was playing. "We were all hoping the murders were done with, I suppose. My uncle isn't really home much with normal police work, let alone when there's an intense investigation like with the murders."

"That makes sense," Yosuke said, then stifled a yawn; even with all the noise, he was still exhausted enough that he wanted to just fall asleep right there on the table. "Ugh. I'm beat, but I still have to go back down and work in the stockroom for two more hours."

"How much more time do you have? If you want to sleep, I can just wake you up. I do it often enough in class."

"Shut up," Yosuke muttered, but he gave Souji a grateful smile. "Uh. Fifteen minutes?"

Souji checked his watch, then nodded. "Sounds good. Go ahead."

"Thanks, man," Yosuke said with a sigh, and rested his head on his arms, closing his eyes.

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