Summary: What Yosuke wants.
Notes: Written for this prompt at badbadbathhouse. Souji/Yosuke, mostly Yosuke-centric. Based off of this song. I really like how this turned out.
Yosuke’s not sure how it can feel so muggy in the middle of January. It does, though, and even though he’s pedaling as fast as he can, he still can’t find a breeze. It’s like the air is a blanket, thick and unyielding, shielding the town of Inaba, or maybe just containing it. He slows down. Why not? The rest of the world seems to be stagnant. He moves on momentum, coasts up over a hump and oozes down the moisture-dappled slope on the other side. It’s at the bottom of the hill, right when gravity shoves him down onto the seat, that he hears it. The sound is subtle at first. He’s not sure if he heard anything at all, but then he stops, backs up, and once he’s still and the chain on his bike has quieted its whine, it’s unmistakable. Quacking. Yosuke can even make out a bit of movement off in the field beside the road, hazy from fog in a way that makes him feel hollow and stuffed to bursting at the same time.
He abandons his bike in a patch of uncut grass. No one will steal it – without his face and the resentment that carries attached to it, it’s just as worthless as the weeds that poke up around its fog yellow frame. It doesn’t take him long to get to the source of the quacking. About fifty feet into the field, next to an assortment of wooden planks criss-crossed haphazardly over one another against the side of a building, he finds the duck. It flaps mottled wings, bleats out another weak quack at his approach, slaps the dry ground with dry feet better suited for paddling. Behind it, half a dozen ducklings scrape oval paths in the dirty with their low, downy bellies. Yosuke waits for the duck to approach him before he crouches down and holds out one hand. It watches him curiously.
“Of course,” he sighs. “You’re not a dog.”
He takes his hand back, goes to slip it into the pocket of his jacket, and when it drops unceremoniously onto his thigh, he realizes he must’ve left his coat at work. “My day sucked too. What happened to you?”
The duck waddles closer to him, and without thinking, Yosuke sticks out his hand again to pet it. It snaps at his fingers. “Ow! Okay, I get it, I’m not wanted!” When he gets up and turns towards the road, though, the duck scurries around to face him and stamps, as if preparing to charge. Yosuke sighs, “If you want to kill me, you’re gonna have to wait your turn,” but even as he says it, he shuffles backwards nervously. The duck responds by flapping past him to do a jolting dance next to the pile of planks again. The only thing Yosuke can think of to do is follow it.
Once he gets closer, he can finally tell why the duck is so riled up. There’s a scrubby nest inside the cage of wood, a tangle of familiar weeds, dried out lengths of yellow grass, and broken skewers, stained with beef grease. And inside the nest, there’s one lone duckling.
“How’d he...” Yosuke starts, then shakes his head. He begins looking for a way to move the planks that won’t send one crashing down onto the nest’s sole occupant. A gap on one side almost large enough to let the duckling squeeze through looks promising, but when he goes to wriggle his hand inside, the structure sags and sweats splinters into his knuckles. “Let me guess,” he groans, “this is what used to be the entrance?”
The duck shimmies its wings.
“Okay. That won’t work.” As he straightens up to cross to the other side, Yosuke catches sight of a warped plank just resting on top of the pile. “Hey, maybe...”
He has to brace himself against the rickety old building in order to reach without putting his weight on the precarious jumble of water-logged planks, and even then, it almost feels like the building flinches away from him; he digs his fingertips into a crumbling windowsill as best he can and holds his breath. The weight of the wood makes his fingertips go numb, but he musters up enough strength to flip the edge of the plank up into the air and send it sliding down the other side. In its wake, he can spy a few more pieces that look loose, and he sets about tossing, shoving, flicking each one out of his way. Eventually, there’s a hole large enough for his arm to fit through. He reaches in, wiggling his fingers in a way that he hopes will entice the baby duck. Its mother quacks from near his ankles, and when tiny webbed feet stumble into his palm, Yosuke laughs.
“You,” he says to the palmful of fluff he extracts, “are a very lucky duck.”
There’s a flurry of activity as soon as he sets the duckling down, mother grooming it and chucking in the back of its throat, siblings rushing to choreograph a new dance that includes an orbit for it. Yosuke slumps down against the building to watch. He’s not sure how long he sits there – the light is peach now, and he knows he left work before sunset – before a slim shadow stretches across his lap.
Yosuke looks up. “What are you doing here?”
“I saw your bike by the side of the road. Thought I’d make sure you were okay,” Souji says as he sits down cross-legged beside him. “I also saw the rescue.”
“And you didn’t feel like helping. Some partner you are.”
“You looked like you had it under control.”
A duckling trips over its own feet, stirring up a cloud of dust as it gyrates, and the mother rushes over to nudge it upright. “Yeah,” Yosuke says, “I guess I did.”
There are no cars on the road, no gusts of wind in the air, no streetlights to click on and bathe them in jaundiced light as the sky’s own light dims. Yosuke watches the colors slip from a red so bright it makes the cheerful tone of his accessories – messenger bag, pants, headphones – look sickly and artificial on into the bleary blue of nighttime. The January moon is icy silver, and it almost feels like the fog has transformed into airborne frost. He knows for certain he should be shivering, especially without his jacket, but Souji’s shoulder is warm against his.
“Is this where you’ve been all afternoon?”
Yosuke jolts. “Huh?”
“I’ve been trying to call you, and your parents haven’t seen you since this morning. Nobody knew where you’d gotten to.”
“Ah crap.” Souji’s eyes are on him, wide, silver, and Yosuke rubs the back of his head and searches for something brown. All he can spot are the dull blots on the duck’s wings and the pile of splintered, discarded, unwanted, useless wood. “I just... I wanted to get away from work for a while, you know? I was planning to ride around a little and then go home on time. Didn’t think anyone would notice.”
“And those ducks,” Yosuke continues, “I couldn’t just leave them! One of the babies was stuck in there, and... wait, you saw that, huh?”
“Yeah.” Souji’s smile, duckling small, is somehow warmer than his shoulder. “You were their hero.”
Yosuke laughs. “I like being a hero.”
He looks back up at the sky again and sees the stars fading into life in the country clarity, pinpricks of brightness even through the haze that’s started to prickle his eyes.
“It’s getting cold,” Souji exhales.
“You can go. I want to stay out a little longer.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to leave.”
They sit in silence, and when the exhaustion catches up and Yosuke starts to lean more heavily against him, Souji doesn’t say a thing. Yosuke closes his eyes. In a voice half-slurred with sleep, he mumbles, “I want to be a hero.” Souji waits until his breathing hitches into quiet snores before he carefully nudges him away, shrugs off his coat, and lays it over Yosuke’s chest like a blanket, like a shield.
“’M not asleep.”
Souji chuckles. “Obviously not. You haven’t shut up.”
Fingers as warm as summer intertwine with his, and Yosuke cracks one eye open and peers down at them, streaked with dirt, brown, but not dull, just earthy, just right against the untrimmed grass. He fades back into half-sleep for a while before Souji talks him awake and suggests they head home.
“My mom’s gonna kill me,” Yosuke sighs.
“Why?” Souji glides to his feet and Yosuke clambers up after him, their hands still linked.
“Um, because I’m coming home in the middle of the night, covered in dirt?”
“No, you’re not. You’re staying up to study with me and then crashing at my place. I called to explain and tell her just how much work we were getting done hours ago.”
Yosuke breaks at that, laughing so hard it echoes back at him and some small animal bolts away, terrified, further into the dark. “You really are something.”
“And you’re something for offering to give me a ride back.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Yosuke mock-grumbles with no bite.
Disentangling the weeds from his bike chain takes a lot less time than usual with two people working, and once they’re on their way, flying homeward on a bike the color of sunshine, Yosuke laughs into the wind. He’s not sure if the breeze is due to the motion of the bike or the power still living within him, but it doesn’t matter. He knows it belongs to him.