Summary: He's pretty comfortable with the whole dating thing. He even gave Souji marshmallows. Why, then, does Yosuke seem to be avoiding his boyfriend?
Notes: Written for this prompt at badbadbathhouse and as a sequel to my Valentine's Day fill. Souji/Yosuke, of course. Fluuuuuff fluff fluff fluff fluff. And marshmallows.
Souji hears the argument long before he can see either of them.
“What are those?”
“New Marshmallow Munchies – we just started carrying them this week!”
“Ugh, it figures. I bet you didn’t even have to pay for those things, did you?”
“Hey, I paid good money for these! Just because they’re from Junes doesn’t mean I get them for free!”
Gifts in hand, Souji pauses. If he gives them out now, will it distract Chie, or will it just make Yosuke look worse? He doesn’t get a chance to decide – Yukiko spots him and waves. “Souji-kun! Good morning!”
Yosuke glances back over his shoulder with a relieved smile. “Yo.”
“Hi.” Souji leans past him to hold out two wrapped bundles to the girls. “Happy White Day.”
“Oh! Thank you.” Blushing brightly, Yukiko takes both of the gifts and passes one on to Chie, who pops open one corner to peek in.
“Heeey, are these homemade marshmallows?”
Chie tears a bit off and chews it with enthusiasm. “You see? Now this is what I’m talking about. Real, homemade-”
Yosuke breaks in, “It’s not like either of you two made your chocolates!”
“-heartfelt gifts,” she finishes, and snatching another bite, she adds, “And you specifically told me you didn’t want homemade chocolate!”
“Well, yeah, but-”
“Thanks again,” Yukiko says, holding the bundle to her chest with both hands. “This must’ve taken you forever.”
“Not really; Nanako and I made them together.”
“You see?” Yosuke crosses his arms defiantly. “If I had a cute helper like Nanako-chan, I’d make stuff too.”
“That reminds me...” Souji rummages around in his case for a moment before pulling out another wrapped bundle, this one with a small pink heart sketched on the paper. Yosuke and Chie give him twin stares.
“Umm. Did I miss something?” Chie says slowly. For his part, Yosuke blushes until he glows.
Pressing the gift into Yosuke’s hands, Souji sighs. “Nanako said you helped her pick out Valentine’s chocolates.”
“Oh, right! Nanako-chan! At Junes!” Souji hadn’t thought it possible, but Yosuke’s cheeks burn even redder. “I have something for you too.”
Then there’s a box in his face, bright blue and green with plump letters that spell out-
“Marshmallow Munchies.” Yosuke grins. “Brand new at Junes.”
Souji doesn’t notice until later that, unlike Chie and Yukiko’s boxes, his is already open. Inside, next to the plastic liner holding tiny marshmallows in assorted shapes (stars, butterflies, and no shortage of hearts), is a slim CD case. Over the course of the day, Souji tries to ask Yosuke about it, but he never manages to. Every time he tries to slip him a note, Yosuke buries his face in his textbook, and when lunch rolls around, by the time he’s done handing out (courtesy, store-bought) gifts to most of the girls who gave him chocolates, Yosuke’s nowhere to be seen. The kouhai are no help – Rise got Marshmallow Munchies from him early that morning, and Naoto found hers in her shoebox.
“So, Senpai,” Rise giggles, the perfect picture of coy Risette if it weren’t for the anxious tug to her smile that makes Souji twinge with guilt already. “What sort of gift do you have waiting for me?”
“Homemade,” and the way she bounces knots him up more, “marshmallows from both Nanako and me.”
Kanji immediately perks up. “Whoa, really? Can... can I try some?”
Without a word, Souji draws the three remaining bundles out of his bag and passes them out. When he gets to Rise, he hesitates for a moment, but she whips the gift right out of his hands and shakes her head. “Don’t worry. After you and your mystery date on Valentine’s, I figured this would be your answer.”
Kanji looks down at her, lost. “Mystery date?”
Rise bumps her shoulder into Kanji’s side and in a lilting, melodramatic voice announces, “Haven’t you heard, Kanji-kun? Senpai had a secret romantic rendezvous in the city with a mystery lady. Everybody knows where they went – nobody knows who the other half of ’they’ was.”
“What?” The corners of Kanji’s mouth and his eyebrows draw down in unison. “Is that even possible?”
“Very,” Naoto says calmly. She tucks her bundle of marshmallows under one arm. “Reservations at a steakhouse for two under the name Seta were confirmed. It’s also a fact that Senpai was seen approaching the train station, as well returning from it later that evening, presumably after said rendezvous.”
Kanji groans. “Ya gotta use her word?”
“Rendezvous!” Rise laughs. “It’s a fun word, Kanji-kun.”
“It is... appropriate,” Naoto adds.
Shaking his head just a bit, Souji smiles. “You’re thorough.”
“Not thorough enough, it seems. I’ve been unable to ascertain who it was you dined with.”
Naoto blinks at him, startled. “Are you?”
“Yeah. You’ve got the clues.” Double-checking the clasps on his case, Souji shrugs. “It’s not like you to not have a theory.”
Rise loops her arms around Naoto (who, despite her obvious efforts, can’t quite suppress a squirm). “Awww, go easy, Senpai. You didn’t give her much to work with.”
“I guess.” Souji waves and turns to walk away, and though he doesn’t glance back, he knows exactly what they look like. Rise’s still clinging, humming lowly to “ignore Senpai – he’s pretty tricky, but we’ll figure it out,” completely oblivious to the uncomfortable pink tint creeping up onto Kanji’s cheeks. Naoto would normally blush at this sort of thing too, but not today. Today, she’s too focused on Souji’s back, eyes wide with realization. She must be. Given everything else she knew, she must’ve known he and Yosuke walked to the station together. It’s not that he wanted her to figure it out; it’s just that he knows she would’ve sooner or later. Better to stop her now before too many other people hear the information she has and start to piece everything together. Souji trusts Naoto to not spread her discovery around.
He was planning on telling the group pretty soon anyway. Just has to make sure the other half of all of this is okay with it first. Which reminds him...
Souji spends the remainder of the school day fighting the urge to inspect Yosuke’s gift. It would be enough, he lies to himself, to just peek at the CD case and see if the cover tells him anything. There’s no way he can get into the box and pull out the CD case without making noise, though. He definitely doesn’t want this getting confiscated. Hanging on to that bit of fear mediates his curiosity just enough to let him pay attention to lecture. When class finally lets out, Yosuke jogs out of the room, flashing him a quick, apologetic smile as he goes, and is gone before Souji can even react.
Chie sighs and props her head up with one elbow on the desk. “He’s sure acting weird.”
“Oh. Didn’t he tell you?” Yukiko twists around in her chair. “Teddie called in sick today, so Yosuke-kun has to work a double shift. He mentioned it when I ran into him at lunch.”
Then Chie’s eyes light up, and she leans forward and says, “Hey, you know what we should do? We should visit Junes!”
“Yeah.” Yukiko smiles warmly. “On a busy day like this, he could probably use some cheering up. We could keep him company.”
“Exactly. What do you think?”
What Souji thinks is that he’d like to get home and find out what his present is, but with both of them looking at him expectantly (and the thought of seeing Yosuke is pretty persuasive as well), he can’t bring himself to say anything other than, “Let’s go.”
The first thing Souji notices when they get to Junes is the squat bear handing out-
“Marshmallow Munchies?” Chie plants her fists on her hips. “Jeez, they’re really pushing this stuff hard, huh?”
“Sensei!” Teddie waves with his free hand and waddles over, squeaking with every jubilant step. “And Yuki-chan and Chie-chan! What are you guys doing here?”
Souji can’t help but smile down at him. “Glad to see you’re feeling better.”
“That’s right,” Yukiko says slowly, thoughtfully. “You should go home and rest, Teddie, just in case. Although, you look pretty healthy...”
Teddie raises his tray of samples and, feet spread, stands triumphantly. “Well, of course! I’m the bear-y pinnacle of health!”
Chie laughs. “Someone rebounds quickly.”
“Yeah, you know. From your illness.”
At that, Teddie’s pose falters. “Illness? You mean the roachie in my suit this morning? Don’t worry, he’s my friend now.”
Yukiko blinks. “You have a roach friend?”
“Wait wait wait,” Chie says. “Yosuke told us you were home sick!”
“Homesick? Why would I be homesick?”
“I... because... argh!” Stamping one foot, Chie turns to look at Yukiko. “Why would he lie to you?”
“Hm? Oh, Yosuke?” Yukiko tucks a slip of hair behind her ear and hums. “He did seem like he was in a rush or something when I saw him. He looked... panicked, maybe.”
“Panicked? Why would he... do you know anything, Souji?”
Souji shakes his head, but through the rest of their stay at Junes (right up until Teddie uses his charms on a swarm of housewives and they descend on him like locusts on an especially delicious and sparkly meal) and his walk home, he considers it. There are a number of reasons Yosuke might be panicked today. At first, he’s concerned that Yosuke’s having second thoughts; after all, they just started dating a month ago. Everything might be moving too fast for him, especially given the way he teases Kanji about this sort of thing.
Then again, Yosuke did give him marshmallows this morning, with an extra enclosed gift, no less. At that thought, the urge to hurry home rises in him again, but Souji quashes it. He has to think this through.
Maybe Yosuke’s nervous about the gift. It would explain why he seems to be avoiding him, though it doesn’t really cover his lie to Yukiko. For some reason, he wanted to leave school as quickly as possible and not tell anyone where he was going. At the turn-off that would take him towards Yosuke’s house, Souji pauses. Yosuke might be home, but it seems unlikely, and even if he is, with the way he’s been behaving, Souji doubts he’d appreciate the unexpected company.
Souji continues home.
When he opens the front door, something seems off. Nanako’s nowhere to be seen – as he steps in, he’s greeted by hushed whispering emanating from her room. With a sigh, he toes off his shoes, drops his case, and walks over to knock on her door.
The rush of voices suddenly breaks off, and Nanako says through the closed door, “W-welcome home!”
Souji chuckles. “It’s okay. You can open the door.”
A voice in the room too low to be Nanako’s mutters something.
“I know your dad was teasing you,” Souji continues, “but it’s okay to have a friend over, even if he is a guy. You don’t have to hide.”
There’s absolute silence, and Souji’s about to open the door out of concern when something hisses loudly behind him. He spins around and spots a pot on the stove, bubbles frothing over onto the burner. In a flash, he has the heat turned down and is holding the pot up to let it cool down. “Nanako,” he says loudly, “whatever you’re cooking is boiling over.”
The door flies open and she rushes out, eyes wide with terror. “The dashi!”
“I’ve got it.” Souji sets the pot down, eyeing it as the boiling starts up again, but this time the bubbles stay small and no foam forms.
“Sorry.” Nanako slumps a little, defeated. “I thought it would be okay.”
Souji lays a hand on her shoulder and smiles. “It is okay. Boiling over is no big deal. Don’t worry about it.”
“Really. But you know, you don’t have to cook dinner alone. I’m always ready to be your helper.”
“I wasn’t-,” she starts, but then she breaks off and tensely glances over her shoulder. Souji follows her gaze to find nothing. Absolutely no one.
“Is he hiding?”
“I... uh...” Nanako sucks in her lower lip. “Big bro...”
“I said don’t worry.” Double-checking the dashi to make sure it’s simmering nicely, Souji nods, then moves to scoop up his case. “I’m going upstairs, okay? I won’t come down unless you want me to, so you two can watch TV out here. That way, you can keep an eye on the food too.”
Nanako’s smile is so bright Souji thinks he’ll still see it when he closes his eyes. “Thanks, big bro.” She hugs him quickly, and he watches her scurry away before heading up to his own room. With the door closed tight, he takes a deep breath before clicking open his case. He doesn’t have much homework to do tonight, and he should really get that done before dinner so he can try to get a hold of Yosuke later, but...
He reaches into the Marshmallow Munchies box and fishes out his prize. Inside the slim CD case is, predictably, a disc. Its top is unlabelled, a smooth expanse of pure white. Souji tries it in his stereo, but the player just whirrs and whirrs, never finding a track. Frowning slightly, he draws the disc up with a finger through the middle and peers at the underside. His own face, tinted amber and striped light and dark in concentric circles, peers back at him. He watches himself for a minute, blinking and breathing evenly as he thinks, before an idea hits him. Sure enough, as soon as he inserts the disc, his DVD player hums pleasantly and the TV screen flickers to life.
Souji recognizes the setting (a cluttered desk, frosty from sunlight hitting the patches of dust on its surface and rife with CD cases and haphazard stacks of paper, its chair swiveled around to face the camera) immediately, even before the voices start talking.
”Don’t turn it on yet!”
”Because I’m not ready, you idiot! Now turn it off and delete this.”
“... It’s still on, Teddie. C’mon, can’t you do anything right?”
“How rude! Here I am, selflessly helping you score-”
“This is not scoring!”
There’s a cut – one of them must’ve figured out how to pause it, though not how to delete what was already recorded, apparently – and when the picture comes back, Yosuke is sitting in the chair and looking far from enthusiastic.
”Uh. Hi there...”
From behind the camera, Teddie chimes, “Call her ‘lover’!”
“I swear, I’m gonna...” Yosuke bites out, but he stops himself, fists clenched, and when he looks back up again, there’s a small smile on his face. “See what I go through for you? Borrowing this camera, dealing with Teddie-”
“He’s even wearing my clothes!”
“Shut up, you stupid bear!”
Souji thought he looked different somehow. Yosuke’s regular v-neck t-shirts are nowhere to be seen. Instead, he’s wearing a plain white undershirt, white slacks, and worn white socks with a hole in one heel, a stark circle of skin amongst all that pale fabric.
“What he means to say is that he picked out these clothes,” Yosuke says carefully, staring straight into the camera. “I told him I wanted to do a White Day video, and he wouldn’t shut up about my wardrobe.”
Teddie hmphs. “Costuming is an essential part of any production, Yosuke-chan.”
With his eyes fiery and the rest of his face flame red, Yosuke lunges towards the camera. Then it cuts again, and Yosuke’s back in the chair, arms crossed over his chest.
“Go on, Yosuke,” Teddie wheedles. “Play for your lady.”
Yosuke sighs. “Thanks for spoiling the surprise. Teddie’s right, though. Time to do this.” He reaches just off camera (and Souji can’t help but fixate on the sliver of skin exposed when that white shirt rides up) and returns with an acoustic guitar in hand. “So, uh... I told you before that I play guitar, and you said you’d like to hear it... well... so... this...”
When the Yosuke on-screen smiles, Souji smiles with him.
“It doesn’t have any lyrics.” Yosuke settles the guitar on his thighs, and his fingers curl around the neck like it was made to fit against them. “I tried, but I couldn’t get the words to come out right. Hope you don’t mind.”
He fiddles with the strings, plucking them in turn and twisting the tuning pegs until the line of his mouth quirks with satisfaction. “Okay. Ready.” His thumb touches a string, one of the thick ones, and a low note thrums into existence. Then his left hand squeaks along the neck, and there’s layering, a chord, and then a higher note plucked. The speed picks up a bit, but not much – it’s languid, liquid, pulsing fast enough to pull only slightly. Yosuke’s eyes are closed, and as his fingers move more and more, the tip of his tongue pokes out from the corner of his mouth. In the stillness of his room, Souji almost wants to close his eyes too, but the images are too good to give up.
Yosuke slides one foot out, thumps the accelerating beat with his heel. There’s a key shift and his body shifts with it, pitching back just enough to let the sunlight wash over his shoulder and glint on worn frets. As the guitar crescendos, Yosuke’s voice filters into the mix, wordless, thoughtless, riding the sound in flitting harmony. There’s almost too much to keep track of – his caresses on the fretboard, his thumb weaving from string to string above swift but sure rolling fingertips, his Adam’s apple bobbing as he whirls from pitch to pitch, and above all else, the music: thick, warm, complex but unstrained. It’s at once both utterly natural and captivating in its singularity. Souji holds his breath. On the screen, Yosuke sways his head a little, just enough to make his hair sweep side to side, granting fleeting glimpses of the closed eyes underneath. Then they open. His fingers slow. The music calms. Yosuke licks his lips and turns to watch his hand work, and the strings sigh under his moving fingers. The tune sinks out bit by bit, until the only sound is that low note, the one from the beginning, full under his thumb and throbbing its way down into awed silence.
Yosuke clears his throat. “Um.”
“S-say something nice,” Teddie says quietly, stunned.
“I wrote that for you,” Yosuke blurts, looking straight into the camera for a breath before he ducks his head sheepishly and toys with the guitar’s tuning pegs. “Kind of. I mean, I was thinking of you, so it wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for you, so it’s like... it... belongs to you.”
He bites his lip subtly, twitching between embarrassment and flushed affection, and Souji thinks he’d be happy to just rewatch this video for the rest of the night.
“I... that’s it.” Yosuke sets the guitar down beside his chair and smiles nervously.
“Happy White Day!” Teddie hollers, and he leans in front of the camera, waving with a sparkling grin. Behind him, there’s some movement – Yosuke stepping towards the camera, Souji bets.
“Okay, Teddie, time to turn it off.”
Most of the sound is rustling now as Yosuke fumbles with the camera, and the picture tilts.
“Yosuke, that was amazing!” Teddie steps closer, filling the whole frame with the frills of his shirt. “Is that what it’s like to be in-“
The screen goes black. Souji doesn’t even bother to turn off the TV before he grabs his cell phone and clicks through to Yosuke’s name. It rings once, then abruptly cuts off. Puzzled, Souji glances at the reception. Zero bars. With a sigh, he quietly steps just outside of his room and tries again. This time, the call goes through like it should, and as he listens to the dull ringing, something beeps from downstairs. Souji pulls the phone away from his ear and moves closer to the stairs. He can clearly hear it now – an upbeat tune of blips and synthesized beats. He’d recognize that jingle anywhere.
“Nanako? Could you do me a favor?”
He snaps his cell phone shut with one hand. “Could you send your guest up here for a minute? I’d like to talk to him.”
“Your big bro’s too smart, Nanako-chan. I think he figured us out. Be back real quick, okay?” Uneven footsteps thump up the stairs, and when his eyes land on Souji, Yosuke grins. “Yo.”
“Did you like your marshmallows?”
“Of course. How about yours?”
Souji nods. “Good. I liked the other gift better.”
“Hey hey hey, not where Nanako-chan can hear,” Yosuke hisses, grabbing Souji by the arm and pulling him into his room. “Nobody knows about that stupid thing.”
“Don’t remind me. And anyways, he doesn’t know who I gave it to.”
In one motion, Souji slips his arms around Yosuke’s waist, reaching past with one hand to nudge the door closed, and kisses him. It takes Yosuke a moment to relax into the kiss, but he does, and when they part, he laughs. “I’m guessing you liked your song.”
Souji adjusts, shifting his arms up over Yosuke’s shoulders, and with his mouth against Yosuke’s cheek, he says, “Teddie’s right. You’re amazing.”
“Cut it out,” Yosuke protests, but he hugs Souji tighter. “Most of my songs aren’t any good. It’s just that one.”
“Let me judge.”
Yosuke pulls back and examines Souji’s expression carefully. “You’re not joking, are you?”
“Fine,” he sighs, “I’ll play more for you, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Souji kisses him again, hard, breathing his appreciation into Yosuke in a soft sigh. It’s Yosuke who pulls back first, and with no small amount of reluctance, he says, “I should really go help Nanako-chan. I promised her we’d cook together.”
Yosuke starts to step away, but Souji catches his hand. “Is that where you were this afternoon? Buying ingredients?”
“Some of them, yeah,” Yosuke says with a shrug. “That and here, so we could get the soup started.”
Souji pauses, then says absently, “I guess that would explain why you left so fast, but I’m still not sure why you lied to Yukiko.”
Yosuke groans. “Do you have any idea how hard it is for me to buy things from Junes without getting delayed? I had to go while everyone was at lunch, and I really didn’t have time to stop and explain why I didn’t want to hang out. I just gave her the first excuse that came to mind.”
“We went to Junes to see you.”
Scratching the back of his head, Yosuke winces. “Want to help me come up with a good alibi?”
“Later.” Souji squeezes his hand. “For now, I want to help you cook.”
“H-hey, Nanako-chan and I can handle it!”
“You want me to sit up here alone?”
Yosuke mutters, “Some surprise this turned out to be,” but his eyes are gentle, and he presses a quick kiss to Souji’s lips before he opens the door.
“So,” Souji says as he follows Yosuke down the stairs, “what kind of soup are we making?”
He can’t see Yosuke’s face, but judging from the way his hopping steps falter, it must be bright pink.