Why did things like this always happen to him?
Everyone was looking at him – Chie in shock, Yukiko curiously, and Souji in concern – and Yosuke wished the ground would open up and swallow him or a Shadow would slither around the corner and cause a distraction. Neither happened, so he settled for balling his hands up in the sleeves of his jacket, an easy thing now since it was too big, and hunching his shoulders, the collar of his school jacket doing an inadequate job of hiding his face.
"W-what's the big deal?" he said, his voice not quite right. "It'll wear off in a few minutes, won't it?"
"It's just weird," Chie said, leaning forward to get a better look at him. He avoided her eyes and stared at the ground, which was closer than it should have been, but he was looking at the ground between them and that let him see her legs, hers and Yukiko's. Had their skirts always been so short? He looked between his shoes. "When's the last time you were this short?"
He was about the same height as her, maybe taller or shorter, but he didn't want to straighten up to find out. "I don't know, uh, thirteen? It's been a while."
"Do you feel alright?" Souji asked. "Besides the obvious, does anything feel off?"
Yosuke jerked up straight, his desire to hide fighting with his desire to look cool under Souji's eyes and making him look like an idiot instead. "I'm fine," he tried to say confidently, only to have his voice crack and break halfway through. Mortification flooded hot through him, making him blush, and Souji's mouth twitched as he fought a smile.
Yukiko, who had so far managed to keep a straight face, snorted and dissolved into laughter.
"It's not funny!" Yosuke said, voice stupidly high, and shot a quick, desperate look at Souji to make sure he wasn't laughing too. He wasn't, thankfully, but he still looked amused, and Yosuke was so embarrassed he was starting to sweat and that just made him more self-conscious because he was sure Souji would notice any second now, even if he was too nice to say anything about it.
Why couldn't he have been aged up, twenty-two and taller than Souji, or at least young enough that he was a cute little kid who wouldn't realize was going on? Why this age, why at all, and why, dammit, in front of Souji of all people?
"You're so...little!" Yukiko said. "Your clothes don't fit and, look, even your headphones are falling off."
Yosuke clenched his teeth and adjusted his headphones. "I hate this place." When they rescued Naoto, Yosuke was going to punch him in the face. It was his subconscious that had given birth to the Shadow that did this to him so it was his fault. Yeah, it was mean, but it'd just be one punch. One good one.
Chie frowned. "He is awfully little, isn't he?"
"I am not."
Chie continued like she hadn't heard him. "Do you think we should wait until this wears off before we start moving again?"
Souji raised a hand to his mouth and looked him over. Yosuke bit his tongue, fingers worrying his sleeves despite himself, and fought to keep his hands at his sides when all he wanted to do was cross them over his chest and hunch over. It felt like Souji's eyes were crawling over him as they took in every little detail, and he grew increasingly aware of how ridiculous he must have looked, dirty from their fights and in clothing a few sizes too big, and how Souji's fingers rested lightly against his mouth.
Souji had a very pretty mouth. Yosuke found himself staring at it.
"Rise, how close are we to the next floor?" Souji asked.
"Really close, Senpai," Rise said. Her voice was as clear as if she stood right next to them. "A few more turns and you'll be there."
"We could probably push it," Souji said, "but there's really no rush. We're making good time today so there's no need to take risks."
"Why wait?" Yosuke asked, anger pushing his discomfort aside. He wasn't a little kid; he didn't need special treatment. "If we're that close, let's just do it, this'll wear off by the time we meet another Shadow, anyway."
"I'm not so sure," Yukiko said, serious now. "It resisted my healing and there's no guarantee it'll be gone in a few minutes. Wouldn't it be safer to take you back to the entrance?"
Souji opened his mouth to say something, hesitated, and Yosuke rushed to speak before him. "That's stupid; we don't switch out because of status effects. Okay, so I'm younger or whatever, but I've still got Susano-o and it's not like I've forgotten how to fight. If we go back, we'll just waste time having to do this floor all over again."
"He's got a point," Chie said, and bounced with renewed energy. Yosuke made himself look away. Her skirt was distracting. "I'm all ready to keep going, why stop now? We're doing great today!"
Souji was still hesitating, exchanging looks with Yukiko.
"Partner," Yosuke said to catch his attention, and waited until Souji caught his eye before continuing, "I can still fight. Let's go."
"Okay," Souji said finally, "but let's be careful."
Five minutes later, when they ran into another Shadow, the status effect still hadn't worn off, but Yosuke worked around it. He didn't run out like usual, knives flashing, but that was only because his body felt wrong, arms and legs somehow too long and too short at the same time, everything off and uncomfortable as he was forced to relive the awkward stage of puberty (like the original time hadn't been bad enough). He summoned Susano-o as easily as ever, relying on him maybe a bit more heavily than usual, but he was still the fastest person on the team, and he proved that when a hard hit made Souji stumble. He saw the Shadow trying to take advantage of the situation out of the corner of his eye and ran forward – one, two, three steps, the familiar rhythm coming quick and without thought – only to slip and stumble as his pant leg caught under his shoe. He barreled into Souji, too clumsily to push him out of the way, and he had a thought, a horrible feeling that they were going to die, but worse, he was going to get Souji killed—
And then there was an arm around him, and he was being spun, pushed onto the ground. Something heavy crashed over him and held him down, and he felt another moment of panic, pushed against it, before he realized what it was: Souji, pulling him close, fingers digging into his skin and breath heavy in his ear as the Shadow sailed over them.
"Partner—" His voice cracked again.
"Wait," Souji said tensely, and only got off of him when Chie finished the Shadow off.
"Yosuke, that was so stupid!" Chie said, fists planted on her hips. "What were you thinking?"
"I..." Yosuke was at a loss for words. Souji was kneeling in front of him, paler than usual. His sword had been tossed aside."I wasn't."
"Are you both alright?" Yukiko asked, giving Chie a careful look.
Souji sat back on his heels. "I'm okay. Yosuke, what about you?"
"I'm fine," Yosuke said, and looked away from Souji's eyes. Chie was right; it had been a stupid move. He might have been able to push Souji out of the way – might have been because he'd lost who knew how much weight and Souji was hard to push even when he was the right age – but more likely he would have gotten them both seriously injured if Souji hadn't reacted fast enough.
The thought stung. Not being able to attack up front, he could handle. Being short and uncomfortable and – what? – thirteen again sucked but that by itself wasn't completely unbearable. But not being able to protect Souji? Worse, putting him in danger?
He hated this status effect. He'd never wanted one to wear off faster his whole life, not even that time Chie got confused and kept trying to kick him.
"Yosuke, I appreciate what you were trying to do—"
"Sorry, partner," he started, "it was dumb—"
"—and I know you might hate this," Souji said with a little smile, "but how about I watch out for you for a while?"
It was slightly horrifying how hard hearing that made him.
It was even worse when Souji, still smiling like he didn't know Yosuke was suddenly sporting an erection, took hold of his pant leg and started to roll it up. "Let me fix this for you, okay?"
Yosuke tried to jerk his leg away as Souji's fingers brushed his skin. "You don't have to."
"I don't want you to trip again."
Easy enough to say no, to tell Souji that he wasn't a kid, and do it himself, but Yosuke leaned back on his hands and watched, his breath coming shorter for no reason, as Souji bowed over his shins and fixed his pants for him. His hands moved carefully, making each fold crisp and precise, and when he finished, he stood and helped Yosuke up.
"Yeah," Yosuke said, for the first time grateful how long his shirt had become. He pulled it down to make sure it covered him properly.
For the rest of the trip through the floor, Souji kept an eye on him even when they weren't in fights, and more than ever Yosuke was aware of his presence, of how Souji watched him from the corner of one eye. Souji smiled encouragingly each time Yosuke, face hot, peeked over, and Yosuke did his best to smile back and act like nothing was out of the ordinary. In the few fights they did encounter, Souji stood close to him and distracted the Shadows when they tried to target him, and Yosuke knew he should have been annoyed or frustrated but...
Souji was taking care of him. Souji was watching out for him and asking if he felt okay after each fight and acting like Yosuke needed him to do all of this, and it was making Yosuke ridiculously, achingly hard.
By the time they made it to the next floor, Yosuke was digging his nails into his palms, sweating, and considering finding a corner to jerk off. Every step made his pants brush against his erection and it was an awful tease made worse by Souji half a foot away. Less than half a foot away; Souji had stepped towards him, frowning.
"You don't look good."
Yosuke knelt down and put his head between his knees. "I feel sick," he said, which wasn't quite a lie.
Souji took a seat next to him and rubbed his back. Yukiko and Chie crowded close, and Yosuke had to shut his eyes to block out their legs and Souji's – concerned, soft, protective – face, but he couldn't block the feeling of Souji's warm hand on him.
He moaned miserably.
"Yukiko," Souji said, "could you try casting it one more time? Maybe since some time has passed..."
"That's a great idea."
Yosuke felt the healing of her Persona pass over him and sink into his bones. Last time it'd lingered briefly and disappeared with no effect. Now, it sunk deeper, made him burn, and he could feel his limbs stretching, the ache muffled by magic, body rearranging itself into the proper order. He tried to curl in on himself but Souji grabbed his shoulder and pulled him closer, and he buried his face in his neck, panting hard, inhaling his smell and clawing at Souji's clothing, wanting him closer, wanting something – anything – Souji, please – to get him off.
"Yosuke, are you okay now?" Souji asked.
"Let's go home, partner," he gasped.
Souji took that as going home separately, but it was probably for the best. The instant the Goho-M sent them back to the entrance, Yosuke headed towards the stack of TVs.
Souji caught his arm. "Do you need some help getting back? You look...kind of strange."
"I'm gonna—" Come, right in front of Souji, right on Souji if he got any closer. "—barf. I'm going to sleep. At home. I need to leave."
"I'll walk you, make sure you get there okay."
It wasn't fair; Souji was saying that on purpose. "I'm okay, partner, really, seriously, just let me... I'll call you, I swear."
Souji let him go with a frown, and once they were out of the TV Yosuke raced home. The Junes restroom was closer, temptingly close, but if he went in there, Souji would follow and offer to rub his back while he threw up, he'd say comforting, soothing things, and suddenly Yosuke wished he really were sick.
When he locked the door behind him in his bathroom, it only took three quick pulls before he was coming hard to thoughts of Souji's hand on his back.
Coming down from his high, his painfully good orgasm, he expected that to be it. Weird transformation, hair-trigger brought on by changing hormones, whatever. He'd call Souji tomorrow, apologize for acting strange and making him worry, and punch Naoto when they saved him.
That night, though, he had a dream.
He wasn't sure when exactly he fell asleep. He wasn't sure he was asleep at all, only that he'd lay down, exhausted and with his mind racing, and his body had grown heavy, a dull ache in his shoulder from where Souji had thrown him to the ground to protect him. He wondered what he should say tomorrow, if anyone would bring it up, and if it'd happen again. He hoped not. It'd been inconvenient with how long it lasted but maybe if it got Souji time this... He didn't want him to be hurt, of course, but that wasn't like being hurt, not really...
"Yosuke, are you awake?"
He started, going stiff, and he thought—remembered—he wasn't supposed to be awake, not this late. He'd get in trouble. But Souji only laughed softly as he made his way across the room, the floorboards creaking beneath his feet out of Yosuke's sight.
"You don't have to fake it, I know you're up, but don't worry, I'm not mad. Actually, I wanted to tell you how glad I am you tried to protect me today." Souji knelt behind him and brought one hand up to touch the back of his neck. "It made me really happy."
Yosuke's heart beat fast against his chest and he rubbed his face into his pillow, hiding a nervous smile. Souji was happy with him, and that was great. Souji was…in his room?
"I'm glad your parents asked me to watch you tonight."
Ah, right, that's why he was here.
"But you don't have to all the time, protect me, I mean." Souji crawled into the futon and lay out next to him, curled around him. He was bigger than Yosuke, bigger than he should have been and—no, Yosuke was smaller, younger, but that was fine because it meant he fit against Souji perfectly. "I can take care of you too."
Yosuke dug his toes into his futon as Souji's hand touched his waist and trailed towards his stomach. He was hard and he wanted Souji to touch him but the idea was too embarrassing, letting Souji see him in such a state. Souji would think he was immature, getting hard over nothing, and Yosuke wanted Souji to see him as cool and mature, craved it.
"Wasn't that nice, me taking care of you?" Yosuke nodded quickly, the movement so ungainly he hoped Souji hadn't noticed it. Souji toyed with his waistband. "Did you like me making sure you were okay, my little kōhai?"
Yosuke whimpered. There was something wrong with this, something off, but Souji had his face against his neck and let out a curious breath as his fingers dipped low to touch the head of Yosuke's dick, and Yosuke stopped worrying, stopped thinking about anything at all.
"What's this? Are you excited about something? Don't hide your face, so am I." Souji's hips met his, erection pressing against his back, and Yosuke panted into his pillow. "Why don't you let your senpai teach you how to take care of it?"
Teach me...? Yosuke could only claw at his futon when Souji's fingers wrapped around him and his hand began to move.
"I'll make you feel good, don't worry. I'll look out for you."
"No, no, let me take care of you. And, mmm, call me senpai?" Souji whispered.
Yosuke came all over his fingers.
He came all over his boxers, he realized five minutes later as he stared at the ceiling. Every inch of his body was trembling and when he closed his eyes he could still feel Souji flush against him, could still feel the sense of comfort, of arousal, that came with the idea of Souji looking out for him.
And he was slightly distressed to find himself looking forward to returning to the secret lab if it meant he got a repeat of today's experience.