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 [ 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 eight of sixteen.

The cicadas hummed into the night, their drone muffled by the sounds of the summer festival. For these two nights, the tiny shrine was revitalized; Souji wondered idly if the fox approved, if it was sitting somewhere and watching them all with those bright, knowing eyes. "Ta-da-da-dum! One shaved ice, just like you wanted, Sensei!" Teddie proclaimed, holding the thing like a trophy before handing it off to Souji. "There's so much food, so many lights... so many pretty girls..."

Souji had to admit that the girls looked fantastic in their summer yukatas, even if they couldn't walk very quickly at all. "Man, how'm I supposed to catch goldfish with this thing on?" Chie sighed, fanning herself with what looked like one of Yukiko's older battle fans. "I feel like I can't move!"

"It's perfect for you," Yukiko giggled, and Chie rolled her eyes.

"You gotta be real careful," Kanji advised them, through a mouthful of ikayaki. "And take real good care of 'em once you catch 'em, too!"

"I will!" Nanako-chan beamed as she hovered over the goldfish trough, a paper 'net' in one hand. "Which one is the best, big bro?"

"Hmm..." Souji studied the fish carefully, then crouched down next to Nanako and pointed one out. "Do you like that one?"

"Yeah!" she agreed, enthusiastically, then sat down on her heels and leaned forward with a serious expression on her face. "Careful... careful... ah!" There was a splash. "I got it!"

"First try, too! Awesome, Nanako-chan!" Chie grinned as the booth attendant carefully transfered the goldfish into a water-filled plastic bag. "Whatcha gonna name it?"

"She's a girl fish," Nanako informed Chie, "and... um..."

"You should name her... hmm..." Kanji's brow furrowed.

Souji laughed and stood up, stretching as he did so. This was fun, if a little bittersweet - it was, after all, partially a celebration that they'd solved the case. They hadn't been inside the TV world in a good week and a half. And while that was obviously a good thing, they weren't really the team any more. Not the way they had been, anyway, with their mission and shared secrets.

"The glow of the lanterns, the beauties in yukatas..." Teddie sighed next to him. "It's like a dream come true!"

"It's kind of romantic, isn't it?" Rise laughed, coming up beside Souji.

"Very, very romantic! Under the fireworks, young love blossoms," Teddie proclaimed. "And then comes the kiss!"

"I acted out a scene like that before, for a drama. And your shaved ice is melting, Souji-senpai," Rise said, and Souji hurriedly picked up the straw as she giggled. "Take notes, Teddie - dripping shaved ice on people is almost never romantic!"

"Right!" Teddie said, nodding seriously. "But Rise-chan, when is it roman- oh!"

Souji blinked as Teddie suddenly zipped past him; ever since they got here, Teddie had been darting from booth to booth like a little kid, but this time the 'bear' was waving wildly. A moment later, Souji stifled a laugh as he heard a familiar voice rise in protest over the sounds of the festival. "H-hey Ted- whoa, hey, let go!"

"Sensei, look who I found!" came Teddie's triumphant shout as he returned, practically dragging Yosuke behind him.

"Good job, Teddie," Souji said solemnly, then laughed as Yosuke gave him a pained look. "How's it going?"

"Oh, hi, Yosuke-senpai," Rise added with a winning smile.

Yosuke actually blushed a little. "H-hey, Rise."

"Rise-chan promised to teach me all about the festival!" Teddie beamed, releasing Yosuke's arm and latching on to Rise instead. "The lights, the food, the romance - I'm ready, Rise-sensei!"

"Rise-sensei, huh? I like the sound of that!" Rise giggled. "Okay, Teddie, let's go!"

"What just happened?" Yosuke asked weakly, as Teddie shifted his grip on Rise's arm, according to her instructions, and the two of them walked off. "Dude, you got some weird friends."

"What, like you?"

Yosuke punched him on the arm. "You know what I mean. Geez."

"What're you doing here? I thought you didn't like coming out here alone," Souji said with a grin.

"Yeah, well... it's summer, right? You gotta go to the summer festivals... but wow, Risette in a yukata. That was definitely worth the trip." Yosuke shook his head. "Man, you gave up hanging with Risette? You're crazy!"

"You know she's just Rise to me." Souji took another bite out of his shaved ice.

"Yeah, yeah - you're always hanging out with all the teen idols, right?" Yosuke grinned. "So what's there to do around here? I just got here, so..."

"The usual - food, a couple of games..." Souji glanced over at the goldfish booth; his uncle had joined the group, and Nanako was proudly showing him her prize while Chie and Kanji energetically debated which name was more appropriate for the fish. "It's not very big, but it's cute."

"I guess I'm getting used to the small-town thing. Cute's fine with me, and food is definitely fine. Something smells really good. C'mon!"

Small as the festival was, it did indeed have plenty of food; before long Yosuke was armed with a meat skewer, while Souji stuck with his shaved ice. "S'good," Yosuke informed him through a mouthful of food. "Junes' food's kinda crap. This stuff's much better."

"You'll choke if you keep doing that, you know."

Yosuke just rolled his eyes, but swallowed before opening his mouth again. "Dude, I was trying to have a conversation with you, not get a lecture." He took another bite, turning slightly to survey the booths that lined the walkway leading up to the shrine, then flinched as a sudden loud boom filled the air, accompanied with a burst of red light from above. "Whoa, what the hell?"

"Fireworks already? I guess I lost track of time." Souji blinked as an excited murmur swept over the rest of the scattered crowd, and almost everyone at the festival began moving towards the street as another firework exploded somewhere beyond the leaves overhead.

"Oh, damnit, I wanted to see these - man, all the good spots are taken already," Yosuke groaned, looking at the people already lining the stone steps and pressing against the bushes at the front of the shrine. "Argh, we'll never get out onto the street now..."

"We don't need to. Come on," Souji told Yosuke, grabbing his arm; he'd been here with the fox often enough to know his way around the shrine grounds better than most. He led Yosuke around the back of the shrine, where there was a gap in the fencing just wide enough for a person to slip through to the small field on the other side. It was a tiny clearing, good only for children (and foxes) to play, but it was enough. "Here we go," Souji proclaimed, stopping by the fence and climbing up to sit on the top rail. As Yosuke joined him, another firework boomed overhead, perfectly visible, with only a few telephone wires in the way.

"Geez, you really do know how to find everything in Inaba," Yosuke muttered as another firework arched across the sky. "You're so damn weird."

Souji elbowed his best friend; Yosuke had to grab the fence to avoid falling off. "You're complaining? You can go stand behind everyone else, up on your tiptoes, trying to catch just a tiny, tiny glimpse-"

"Not on your life," Yosuke said immediately, then gave Souji a grin. The burst of a firework made the shadows around them flicker. "I'm glad I ran into you."

"Even if Teddie did have to drag you over," Souji teased; Yosuke made a face. "He's pretty excitable, but he means well."

"Yeah, I know he does." Yosuke looked bemused. "You'd think... y'know, how he works for the Merchant's Association and all..." He didn't finish the sentence, but Souji still knew what he meant.

"That he wouldn't like you because you're 'the Junes kid'? Teddie doesn't worry about things like that."

"Yeah... some people do, and that sucks, but not everyone's like that." Yosuke looked up at the sky, a sheepish smile on his face. "You're not like that, and there's other people around me who aren't like that either. This town's still tiny as all hell, and it still kinda sucks sometimes, but..." Yosuke was quiet for a long moment. "I guess if you have your family, and you have real friends... you can be happy anywhere, right?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"So... I don't really hate being here anymore." Yosuke's smile softened a little, though he was still looking up at the fireworks. "Because my family's here, and I have friends here now, too... and I have you. You're special to me, y'know?"

There was something oddly soft and vulnerable in the way Yosuke said those words, and Souji quickly glanced over at his best friend - but the flickering burst and crackle of a particularly bright, rapid-fire string of fireworks made it hard to make out Yosuke's expression. And when the sharp, staccato popping faded, the moment was gone. Maybe it was just his imagination... and he wasn't sure if he was pleased or confused by the thought.

"That was kinda neat," Yosuke said slowly, as the crowd along the main shopping street started applauding; he rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, then stretched and jumped off the fence, as if nothing had happened. "Thanks, man... that was fun. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon, maybe?"

"Sounds good," Souji agreed, climbing down himself. "Call me after your shift?"

"Will do." Yosuke grinned. "G'night." And then he was gone, darting across the field and easily hopping the fence that separated the field from the shopping street.

Souji watched him go, a thoughtful look on his face.
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let's go, partner!

August 2012

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