Title: Heartbeat Heartbreak
Fandom: Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4
Summary: The immediate aftermath of the events of 11/5.
Notes: This will spoil you in the face for November. Seriously. Also the usual spoilers for Yosuke's social link.
This fic is the first in a multi-part fic sequence entitled Irreplaceable Days; all the entries in the sequence are cataloged under the 'irreplaceable days' tag.
The decision to stay behind had been spur of the moment. Souji and Naoto had gone up to Dojima-san's room, of course, leaving the rest of the group to mill about uncertainly. However, once it became apparent that nothing was going to be resolved any time soon, the others began to trickle away in ones and twos - Chie and Yukiko first, then Rise, then Kanji. Teddie was the last to go, rocking nervously back and forth on his heels as he glanced between Yosuke, the hospital door, and the door to the outside. "Are you sure?"
Yosuke glanced at the clock - nearly three in the morning, ugh - then back at Teddie, and nodded. "Yeah. My parents must be worried by now, and they'll listen to you more than they will to me." That galled him, it really did, but he was going to take any advantage he could get right now. "If they're still awake, tell them I'll be back later. And that I'm fine, I guess."
Teddie sighed and looked at the hospital door again. "Sensei... Nana-chan..."
"It'll be fine, Ted." Yosuke stifled a yawn and offered the anxious 'bear' a tired smile. "We'll save her, just like we've saved everyone else. We always been fine so far, right?"
"Yeah..." Teddie didn't seem entirely convinced, but he nodded at Yosuke. "Take care of Sensei."
"I will," Yosuke assured him, then yawned again as Teddie finally headed out, hesitating in the doorway for a moment before leaving. He was the only one left now, pretty much, other than an exhausted-looking young woman on the other side of the room. Shaking his head to try and shake some of his own exhaustion out, Yosuke fumbled his headphones into place and tried to find some song that wouldn't make him fall asleep.
Maybe it was the distraction of song-shuffling, or maybe he really did fall asleep for a little while, but the next thing he knew the door was opening and Souji and Naoto were walking out, talking to each other in quiet tones. Naoto stopped when she saw Yosuke, and he quickly turned off the music and stood up. "Hey," he said, awkwardly, trying not to feel as though he was intruding. "How's... everything?"
"Dojima-san is resting," Naoto replied, keeping her voice low. "His wounds will take some time to heal. The most important thing we can do for him right now-"
"-is rescue Nanako-chan," Yosuke filled in, finally daring to glance over at Souji. His best friend usually kept his emotions to himself, but Yosuke could see the cracks in Souji's mask now. There was a bone-deep weariness in his eyes that went beyond the physical and emotional exhaustion they were all feeling. It was unsettling, somehow, and Yosuke quickly looked back at Naoto.
"And to do that, we need to be well-rested," Naoto finished. "We cannot take the risk of entering the TV unprepared or overtired."
Souji nodded, just once.
"I'll go with you," Yosuke blurted out, turning to Souji; he'd waited this long, he wasn't just going to leave them - him - alone now, just like that. "My house is closer to Souji's anyway," he added, glancing at Naoto.
Naoto said nothing for a moment, then nodded. "Call us when you're ready tomorrow morning. We'll be waiting."
"Thanks," Souji said, though Yosuke couldn't quite tell who Souji was thanking, him or Naoto. Still, when they moved forward, Souji followed, and the three of them walked out into the night in awkward silence.
The ground was still damp from the rain, and the air smelled crisp and clean, but Yosuke was in no mood to enjoy it. "Tomorrow, then," Naoto said as she reached the turn-off for her own home. Souji just nodded again, and Yosuke managed a "see you then," and then it was just the two of them in the remains of a dark, damp Inaba night, their footsteps echoing shallowly as they walked.
Yosuke shoved his hands in his pockets and kept sneaking glances at Souji; there was a wall between them now in a way that there never had been before - a private pain that Yosuke couldn't intrude into, that he didn't know how to deal with. What the hell did you say at a time like this? Sorry your cousin got thrown into the TV? The turn-off for Souji's house was coming up first, and Yosuke tried desperately to think of something, some comforting words, something inspiring perhaps - leader stuff, the things Souji was so good at. But his tired mind couldn't come up with a damn thing, nothing he could say or do to get that exhausted, blank look out of Souji's eyes, or to make him stop walking in such a measured, mechanical way.
They made it to the corner without anything coming to Yosuke's mind, and Souji stopped abruptly in his tracks; Yosuke almost didn't notice in time, and nearly ran into him. Flashing lights reflected from the damp pavement. "Oh, yeah, the cops..." Yosuke said, blinking at the police cars parked around the Dojima house. "H-hey... Souji, come on." He reached out and caught his friend's hand. "Come back to my place, okay? The cops are all... and it's empt..." Great, real comforting, there. "Er..."
"Okay," Souji said, after a moment more, his gaze still fixed on the flashing lights of the police cars. Then he turned to Yosuke and smiled, the expression a small, weary thing that only just qualified, but it was more than Yosuke had gotten all evening. "Let's go, then."
"Ah... o-okay, great!" Yosuke let go of Souji's hand, suddenly self-conscious, and they continued down the street; it wasn't exactly a short walk, but they didn't have much of a choice, not at this time of night. Still, Yosuke turned the corner onto his street with no small amount of relief. At least when they were at his house he could do something, even if it was just setting up the other spare futon, and not feel quite so much like an awkward, useless lump.
"Teddie's in the extra room, so..." Yosuke whispered as he shut the door behind them and slipped off his shoes; Souji followed suit. "Doesn't look like anyone else is up." He was kind of relieved, really - he didn't feel like explaining anything to his parents right now, and Teddie's excitable worry wasn't something he was quite up for at the moment. "C'mon, my room's upstairs."
Souji followed him up the stairs, and Yosuke darted quietly ahead into his room, gathering up everything that was on the floor and shoving it into a pile in one corner. "Hang on, let me get the extra futon," Yosuke mumbled, gesturing for Souji to sit as he darted back into the hallway to extract said futon from the storage space in the hallway. This one was kind of lumpy and misshapen; they'd given the newer one to Teddie. Yosuke swore under his breath, manhandled the thing back into his room, and dropped it onto the floor. He couldn't look at Souji as he tried to make the damn futon respectable, but no matter how much he shoved it and smoothed it, the ancient thing absolutely refused to cooperate. Finally, he sighed in exasperation and rocked back on his heels. "O-okay, here - you take mine, okay? I'll sleep on this one. You have to be ready for tomorrow, right?"
Finally, he glanced over at Souji - and stopped; stopped pushing at the stupid futon, stopped talking, practically stopped breathing. Souji was bent over in the chair, his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking. "Souji...?" Yosuke managed, his heart dropping into his stomach. "I... I'm sorry, I-"
"No," Souji managed, taking a deep, shaky breath and looking up at Yosuke. "It's not your fault. None of it is your fault."
"It's not your fault either," Yosuke mumbled, kicking at the lumpy futon with one foot.
"Just... damn it..." Souji turned away abruptly, staring at the small TV on Yosuke's desk. "I wonder if... if she's in there, if she could hear me, if..." His hand reached out towards the screen, then stopped with one finger a millimeter away from the glass; Yosuke could almost see the surface rippling in anticipation of his touch.
"We will save her," Yosuke managed, trying not to let his voice crack too; he'd never heard that level of pain in his best friend's voice before. And, damnit, he was worried about Nanako-chan too! "We'll save her, and we'll get that bastard Namatame..."
When Souji turned around again, his gray eyes were so filled with cold anger that Yosuke almost physically recoiled. "Yes," Souji agreed. "We will." One fist clenched at his side, in a sharp, sudden movement that was reminiscent of his Persona-summoning. And then the rage was gone, replaced by ordinary exhaustion once again. Souji's shoulders slumped as he sighed, a long, ragged sound that very nearly ended in a sob.
"Damn it, Souji-" and Yosuke stepped across the futon, wrapping his arms around his best friend, as Souji had done for him when he needed it so very much. Souji flinched, then leaned into Yosuke's embrace, tears flowing freely now. Yosuke just stood still and held on, not saying anything, just being there.
He wasn't really sure how long they stood there - he couldn't see the clock, and it was way too damn late to care in any case - but at last Souji sighed again and straightened, shaking his head slowly. "Yosuke..."
"I, uh - oh," Yosuke let Souji go, allowing his arms to fall back to his sides, suddenly feeling tremendously awkward. "I... sorry... I just... you helped me when I needed... someone and..."
"Dumbass," Souji said quietly, but wonder of wonders, there was a smile on his face under the tears, a real one this time. "You waited for me. You didn't need to do anything else..." He reached up and wiped away his tears with one hand, still smiling.
"Like I could leave you there!" Yosuke replied, flustered, sitting down on the lumpy futon with a thump - but he was smiling too, now that Souji was. "I'm... glad I could help, though," he added, biting his lip and looking down.
"Thanks," Souji said, sitting down next to him with a sigh. "I... really didn't want to go home..."
"You can stay here as long as you need to," Yosuke assured him, then grinned. "But it won't be long, because we're going to save Nanako-chan tomorrow. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Right, partner?"
Souji chuckled. "Right. Tomorrow."
"Good answer." Yosuke nudged Souji cheerfully, pleased at the familiar repartee, then yawned and flopped backwards onto the lumpy futon. "Ugh. Oh, man, I don't even want to look at the clock. I don't want to think about what time it is."
"Me neither," Souji admitted. "I guess I'd better try and sleep... and you'd better sleep, too. I need you with me when we save Nanako-chan."
Yosuke blinked in surprise. "S-seriously?" He blushed a bit, self-consciously.
"Of course. We're partners, right?" Souji grinned, then leaned backwards himself until he, too, was lying down on the futon. "You can have your real futon. I don't think I can move anymore."
"Pfft. I was here first."
"I'm the guest, aren't I?"
"It's too late for this crap, Souji."
The next morning, Teddie padded down the hall, holding his cell phone to one ear. "Chie? No, I don't know why he's not answering... hang on, the door's closed. Yosuke?" Teddie quietly slid open the door to Yosuke's room, blinked, and grinned. "Ah..." he whispered into the phone. "I found 'em." He paused, then nodded. "Uh-huh! Yosuke and Sensei too!" Indeed, both Yosuke and Souji were there, snoring away, sprawled across the floor on a lumpy futon, Yosuke's usual bed completely ignored.
"... what do you mean, 'that figures'?" Teddie's forehead wrinkled slightly with confusion, and he quietly stepped back and closed the door again.
- Persona 4: Heartbeat Heartbreak [Irreplaceable Days 1/9]