Yosuke leaned back against the fence surrounding the food court, watching Nanako play with Chie, Yukiko, and Souji at the little play area nearby. He'd join them in a few minutes but right now he was still too embarrassed by what he'd said earlier, that comment about Souji being good with his hands. No one had mentioned it and he was still surprised Chie hadn't taken the opportunity to tease him, but it was enough to make him want a few minutes alone. Seriously, what had he been thinking? Okay, he knew what he'd been thinking and it'd involved his chest and Souji's hands, and that was as much as he was going to remember because his neck was starting to go hot.
Stupid Souji and his long fingers and his dumb, nice smile that was getting closer and – oh, he was walking over. Yosuke straightened up, but Souji leaned his back against the fence as well and he relaxed again.
"You're not coming to play?"
"I'm a little too old for the swing, I think," Yosuke said. "But, yeah, I'll be over in a second. I'm just thinking."
The heat on his neck rose. "Nothing important."
"Hmm." Souji wasn't any closer than usual but Yosuke was so aware of him that he seemed to be. He put his hand on the railing – Yosuke told himself not to look at it and did it anyway – and slid it sideways and then he definitely was closer than usual, his side pressing against Yosuke's and his arm behind him and Yosuke's whole body was hot, he must have been blushing like crazy.
It was a bad idea but he looked at Souji's face. Definitely a bad idea; Souji was smiling, and Yosuke's stomach dropped in a really odd, really good way. He couldn't help but notice how good Souji looked in that outfit, how even his smile was kind of quiet, and he was tempted to return the gesture but what if his smile was dumb looking?
"Hey," Souji said and tilted his head to the side slightly, "wanna make out?"
"W-what?" That came out louder than he meant it to and he looked around to make sure no one was close enough to have heard Souji. "Dude, you can't—what the—"
Souji leaned away and laughed softly, bringing the hand behind Yosuke up to pull his hair. "Relax, okay? You're still thinking about what you said earlier, aren't you?"
"It's…I didn't mean it like…" He couldn't finish; lying to Souji was surprisingly hard.
"Don't worry about it, I know what you meant." Souji pushed off the fence and grabbed his sleeve. "Come on, I'll push you on the swing."
"I'm not going on that, I'll look ridiculous."
"Then you can push me. That's even better."
Chie hadn't teased him about his slip but she did when he started pushing Souji. Souji didn't seem to mind. He pulled Nanako onto his lap and after a while Yosuke stopped caring how ridiculous they looked.
That wasn't the last time Souji made the suggestion. It became something of a running joke between them, a friendly ribbing they indulged in when they were alone. Souji would suggest it, sometimes looking almost serious, and Yosuke quickly realized Souji liked it best when he got embarrassed. He tried to take it in stride and sometimes teased back – the look on Souji's face when he turned him one day, said, "Take me, partner," and tackled him onto the bedroom floor was priceless; Souji flustered was a great sight – but Souji was so good at the timing that Yosuke rarely expected it and usually just ended up stuttering no.
Despite Yosuke's comment at the food court in April and how his thoughts would sometimes go off in unexpected directions, neither of them took it seriously. It was just a joke, and they both knew that, but then June came and Kanji's bathhouse and the camping trip and everything kind of…tangled.
They were hanging out in their tent after a ruined dinner, curtsey of Chie and Yukiko and the amazing Mystery Food X. Yosuke complained about it at length and Souji nodded and made the appropriate sounds of agreement whenever Yosuke looked at him expectantly. Souji's disappointment was quieter. He settled for making a face and vowing never to eat anything offered by the two of them.
Eventually, even Yosuke ran out of things to say about the topic and they reached a lull in their conversation. He leaned back on his hands, not thinking of anything, enjoying having the tent to himself and Souji, and Souji sat next to him, equally silent. He kept sneaking glances, though, and finally said, "So…wanna make out?"
The urge to bump shoulders with Souji and call him a dork, to brush the whole thing off and get a smile in return, immediately welled up, and he opened his mouth before his brain properly processed something besides the familiar words. Souji sometimes said it in mock-seriousness but never like this, all quiet and curious, and when Yosuke looked over Souji met his eyes evenly and didn't blink.
Yosuke's mouth went dry. He tried to swallow and it hurt, tried to look away but couldn't. When was the last time Souji had asked him this? Before the bathhouse, he remembered, and that brought back memories of being hot and sweaty, of steam and fog curling around them until they couldn't see Yukiko and Chie, and when he'd caught Souji's eye just as a moan from some unseen man drifted through the air. Souji had gone red and Yosuke's face had burned and he'd wanted to—he'd thought of—he hadn't been able to stop thinking of it since. It was all Souji's fault, for starting this little joke and for having nice hands, but he couldn't say anything when Souji's hand crept forward until it touched his. He stared at it and out of the corner of his eye he could see Souji leaning closer, and Yosuke could hear his breath coming too loudly in a nervous, uneven pattern – or maybe it was his own, but, no, he was holding his and he hadn't inhaled properly beforehand so he was getting dizzy. Souji's lips touched the corner of his mouth and Yosuke kept his eyes on their hands, drew in a huge, unsteady breath that rattled in his chest. Souji dragged his mouth along Yosuke's until he was directly in front of him and Yosuke caught a glimpse of his face, of a mouth that was opened in a sigh and half-closed eyes, and tightened his hand around one of Souji's fingers—
And then Kanji was there, ruining it – rescuing him – and Yosuke was….glad, maybe, or upset, he couldn't decide. Souji moved away and took the warmth with him; the tent got five degrees colder, but Yosuke's hand burned and so did his mouth.
That night, not for the first time, he had weird dreams about Souji. He woke up with a heavy feeling in his stomach, worried, but Souji smiled at him easily and pulled his hair and things clicked back into place. And Yosuke was…glad, maybe, or upset.
He couldn't decide.
Shouldn't they talk about this? He didn't want to but he did, and it seemed unfair to pretend it never happened, unfair to Souji who'd taken the initiative and unfair to Yosuke who hadn't moved away and couldn't stop thinking about lips touching the corner of his mouth. But Souji didn't bring it up and Yosuke couldn't, and it was another few weeks before Souji turned to him again and asked to make out. Yosuke cracked a joke about only doing it if he had legs like Rise and Souji made a show of stretching them out, and it was alright, the tension almost gone. A hint remained, though, and sometimes Yosuke was tempted to say yes to see what Souji would do and sometimes Souji seemed like he wanted him to say yes but he didn't lean forward again and those moments passed without comment.
Yosuke figured he could keep going like this, refusing to acknowledge that tension between them, but he didn't think he wanted to. He wasn't going to let Souji leave with things like this and if Souji didn't say anything soon, he was going to have to.
Things came to a head when he visited Souji in mid-December. He'd been meaning to do it earlier in the month but stuff had come up and when they'd finally calmed down Souji simply wasn't at the house. He'd taken to spending as much time away from it as possible, and it was only because of rainy weather that Yosuke managed to catch him there, although luck had something to do with it as well. Souji was prone to fishing in the rain and while Yosuke didn't mind keeping him company while Souji searched for whatever particular fish he was after at the moment, he hated getting wet doing it.
The living room was dark and quiet. Souji opened the window to let in some light but even then it had an odd feeling. Despite being spotlessly clean, it felt like no one, not even Souji, was living there. That was the problem, Yosuke decided as he sat down on a carefully brushed couch. It was too clean.
"You haven't been hanging out in here much recently?" he asked.
"No." Souji sat next to him and turned the TV to some sitcom. "I'm up in my room mostly. Down here…" He shrugged and looked towards the entrance, where Nanako's shoes were sitting.
They watched some TV and talked about nothing serious, school and people around town. Yosuke discussed work and how hard it'd been to get so many days off while they had been after Adachi.
"I've got to work overtime to make up for it. I thought my dad was going to blow the last time I had to bail." Yosuke winced at the memory. "He even threatened to keep me from seeing you, thought you were a bad influence or something."
Souji frowned. "Sorry about that. It's tough, trying to get everyone's schedules to match."
"Don’t worry." He waved the concern away. "Working a few extra days is totally worth putting this all behind us."
Souji pressed his lips together and glanced at the empty spot in front of the TV.
"Right," Yosuke said. "I guess we can't say it's all done and over with, huh? How're Nanako-chan and Dojima-san doing?"
"Better." Souji's voice was tight. "Still weak, you know, but they're getting there. I went to visit them the other day. I mean to go more often but seeing them like that, I still can't…"
He trailed off and looked away but Yosuke could still see that his face was starting to go red.
"Yeah, I just don't like thinking about it." Souji brought a hand up to his face. "Sorry, give me a second."
Yosuke stared at him stupidly. Souji crying? What was he supposed to do if that started? Hug him, maybe, the way Souji had on the floodplain, or rub his head? But that only worked on kids, didn't it? He searched for something reassuring, something that would bring Souji back before he tipped over into depression, and came up short, only got dumb jokes and an uncomfortable urge to laugh, and what kind of loser was he that he couldn't think of a single comforting thing to say to his best friend? Something to make him smile, to take his mind off of the empty spot in front of the television and the coffee mugs that hadn't been touched in weeks.
What always cheered Souji up?
The answer came to him in a flash that made his cheeks burn, but his dignity took a backseat to Souji. Doing his best to look tempting instead of nervous (what did tempting look like? Oh man, what if he just looked constipated?), he moved closer to Souji, slipped one arm around to rest a hand on his waist, and said in his best nonchalant, totally casual, please-please-please don’t backfire voice, "Hey, you…wanna make out?"
Souji blinked. His face screwed up – crying! – no, wait, in confusion, which was better, if not what Yosuke wanted, and his mouth turned down – now he's mad, that's worse. Yosuke didn't want Souji crying but he didn't want to make him mad either, he was the worst friend in the world—
The corner of Souji's mouth turned up and he chuckled, putting a hand over his mouth to muffle his laughter. Even if Yosuke was a little put-off by the fact his suggestion was that funny – yeah, he'd said it to get Souji smiling but was it that unbelievable? – seeing Souji relax made him smile too. Shoulders shaking, Souji leaned against him and when his amusement died down he didn't move or ask Yosuke to remove his hand so he kept it there. Yosuke rested his chin on his head and took a deep breath now that the air didn't feel so heavy.
Souji pulled back so he could get a clear view of his face. "I want to make out with you."
"I, uh…" He didn't have time for a proper reply, not that his brain was coming up with one. Souji was closing the gap between them and Yosuke's world became made up of gray eyes and a mouth that was rapidly getting closer to his, and then he was kissing his best friend, who had soft, dry lips, whose hands were clutching at his shirt, and who, after the first few seconds of hesitant contact – the first few, nice seconds where Yosuke's stomach jumped and his chest hurt and that pain was okay because it was really just too much pleasure and he was kissing Souji – proved to be insistent. Really insistent.
Too insistent; Souji pushed him back onto the couch and crawled on top of him and very quickly the kiss wasn't nice anymore or soft or anything approaching good. Souji pushed down too hard, his nails digging into Yosuke's skin, his voice coming out in weird, pained whimpers, and his mouth started to taste like salt as water dripped down onto Yosuke's face.
Yosuke wanted to push him away – this wasn't nice, he didn't want to kiss Souji like this – but he couldn't, not with Souji like this, he'd be an ass, so his hands just kind of fluttered uselessly, now on Souji, now curling into fists off to the side. He tried to kiss back but Souji didn't want him to give, he wanted to take, and this was awful, he wanted it to stop, this wasn't how partners did something like this—
Souji broke away and hide his face in the crook of Yosuke's neck, where he shook his head and made a low, disgusted noise. Yosuke wiped his face. He couldn't help it; there were tears on it and he wanted the lingering sense of wrongness gone. He didn't feel so bad about it when he noticed Souji doing the same thing.
"Ugh, sorry, ugh, I can't—" Souji sounded frustrated. "I don't know if you meant it, but once you offered I couldn't resist. I thought it'd make me feel better, but I didn't mean for it to be like that." He wiped his mouth again with more force. "I'm sorry, you can leave if you want or…"
"Leave? What are you talking about?" Yosuke tried to look at him but Souji continued to hide his face. "I'm not going anywhere, and that… I didn't mind. It wasn't great, yeah, but you can do it again if it makes you feel better."
"I'm not going to use you like that."
"You're not using me, I'm offering. I want you to do it again. I'll…" He fumbled for a way to get what he was trying to say across. "I'll give it to you. I'll give you a kiss, like a gift." That sounded so stupid he had a hard time believing he'd just said it. "Here, switch places with me."
It was awkward to kneel above Souji and see him stare up with red-rimmed eyes, and Yosuke doubted his decision, decided to go slow. He balled up his sleeve and rubbed it across Souji's face, removing any traces of tears. Souji squirmed once before leaning into the touch, and Yosuke continued doing it for longer than necessary, turned the motion into simply brushing his hand across Souji's cheeks and running it through his hair. Souji's eyes drifted close and the harsh grip he had on Yosuke's shirt loosened into something more natural. The tight line of his mouth relaxed and he drew in a deep breath.
"I'm a jerk," he muttered, "doing that to you."
"Don't worry about it."
"I shouldn't have…" He trailed off and made a low noise as Yosuke kissed behind his ear, a nervous brush of his lips so light he barely made contact. It was an encouraging noise; Yosuke did it again and got the same reaction.
"Souji, whatever you need me to do or whatever you need from me, I don't mind."
Souji opened his eyes and looked towards Nanako's shoes. Yosuke nudged his face straight again. "Don’t look at that. They're not here right now but I'll be, and when they get back I'll still be here. I'm not going anywhere."
Souji tugged on his shirt until Yosuke was lying against him and he could press their cheeks together. "I'm…really glad we're partners, Yosuke. Stay here for a while?"
"Didn't I just say I would?" Souji's lips touched him hesitantly, and he turned until he could catch them in a kiss. Much better; nice and soft, it made his heart jump. Souji sighed contently when they broke apart and settled back against the couch cushions with a tiny smile on his face.
"That was good," Souji said.
"Yeah." He wondered if he was allowed to do it again. He did, brushing his mouth over Souji's, and Souji let him. He increased the pressure, just a bit, and blindly adjusted the throw pillow behind Souji's head. "You look tired."
"I am." Souji rubbed his eyes and frowned. "Mind if I take a nap?"
"Sure, let me move."
"No, it's fine." Souji wrapped his arms around him tightly. "Stay right there."
Yosuke worried that he was too heavy and it was kind of odd to lie on Souji like this, but Souji drifted off without complaint. When he frowned in his sleep, Yosuke ran a hand through his hair and murmured something reassuring and once his features smoothed out, Yosuke stopped caring how ridiculous he felt.