Before Souji came to town, Yosuke spent a lot of his free time alone, avoiding the kids of parents whose shops had gone out of business and the shopping district in general. He'd never been invited to a classmate's house for any reason, much less to lounge the afternoon away on a couch with a guy and his little cousin, but he'd convinced himself he didn't care. Why should he? Inaba sucked and so did most of the people in it.
Man, he'd been dumb.
"Are you listening, Yosuke?" Souji asked, and Yosuke refocused, shook his head to clear it.
"Yeah, I hear you."
"Then what was I talking about?"
"Nanako." That was too easy; even if Yosuke hadn't been paying attention – and he had been; he'd only drifted off for a second – Souji talked about her every chance he got. "She got the best grade in her class today."
"That's right." Souji patted her head where she sat between them, prouder than any actual big brother Yosuke had ever seen.
"You're following in your big bro's footsteps, huh, Nanako-chan?" Yosuke couldn't help but feel proud too, the way he did when Teddie did a good job handling customers at work or Souji beat out every other kid in their year on an exam. "What'd you have to do this time?"
"She had to tell the class about something interesting she did recently," Souji said.
Nanako nodded. "I got to tell everyone about going to big bro's school and sleeping at the Inn!"
Yosuke hoped she left out the part where they'd walked in on the girls bathing and got buckets thrown at them.
"I heard you two were on stage but I missed that so I couldn't talk about it." Nanako picked her legs out, frowning seriously. Yosuke'd never seen another kid that frowned the way she did, like thought that passed through her head was terribly important. If he hadn't known better, he'd have thought she picked it up from Souji. "I wish I could have seen it."
"Trust me," he said, remembering the sight of Kanji's legs under his dress and the strawberry tie that had gotten caught in his hair when he tried to take it out, "you didn't miss much."
"It would have been fun." Her shoulders sagged. "Or did you not want me there?"
"That's not it at all," Souji said, coming to his rescue. He pulled out his phone. "It might not be as good as being there, but would you like to see a picture of it, Nanako?"
"Huh?" Nanako straightened up. "You have some?"
"A picture?" Yosuke wasn't sure he was going to like this, not with Souji smiling the way he was. "Of who?"
Souji didn't take his eyes off the phone or stop smiling, and Yosuke didn't have to look to know what made Nanako gasp and say, "He's so pretty!"
He didn't have to look but he did and, yeah, that was him, strawberry hairpiece visible and everything. Was that what he'd looked like? No wonder everyone had laughed.
"Dude, no way." He covered his face, felt it go hot. "Why do you have that? Who took it?" How many pictures of him in a skirt were circulating around school, making their way through town or – and this was a thought for nightmares – ending up on the Internet?
"I did, after you finished changing." He sounded fond. "I had to do it without you noticing, but it's still a good shot, isn't it?"
"I like having pictures of you," Souji said, more easily than Yosuke could hope to manage, "and you're cute when you're embarrassed."
He was not. "You better have one of yourself."
"Of course. Rise took it for me, and then I made sure to catch Kanji and Teddie, too. This was a lot more exciting than anything my other schools ever did."
Nanako was still intent on the screen, her frown back in place. "Big bro, since he's wearing a dress..."
It was a skirt, but Yosuke didn't correct her.
"Yes?" Souji prompted.
"Then it'd be okay if you married him, right?"
Yosuke wanted to sink into the floor. He crossed his arms instead and said, more sharply than he'd normally be around her, "Boys can't marry each other."
"But you two love each other, and if there's a dress..." Nanako frowned, face scrunched up in confusion, and man, Yosuke had not come over here today to have a discussion about his love life with a seven-year-old. What had Souji been thinking?
"You're absolutely right, Nanako."
Nothing. There wasn't a single logical thought in Souji's head.
"You can't decide to marry someone on your own," Yosuke said.
"Of course I can."
"You have to ask, partner." He put every bit of annoyance he could into that sentence, but when all Souji did was stare at him, a familiar, thoughtful look on his face, he had to turn away. He couldn't be comfortable when Souji watched him like that.
"Are you two fighting?" Nanako asked.
"No." Souji laughed under his breath. "Yosuke's right, though. I'm being very selfish. If you want to marry someone, you have to ask first. Yosuke?"
He held out his hand. Yosuke hesitated but he couldn't just sit there and refuse, not with Nanako watching them or Souji waiting so patiently, so he freed one arm and dropped his hand onto Souji's palm.
"Yosuke." Souji's voice was soft and he stroked his thumb along the back of Yosuke's fingers. "I'm sorry I'm upsetting you."
Yosuke chewed on his lip. He hated when Souji felt like he had to be careful with him. He should have laughed at himself and gone along with the whole thing, but it was too late for that now. "You know I don't like joking about us."
"I'm not joking." Souji's grip tightened. "I wouldn't do that to you; you're too important to me. If I could, I'd stay here in Inaba and spend the rest of my life with you. Nothing makes me happy than imagining that, and if there were a chance to tie you to me forever I'd jump at it. There wouldn't even have to be a dress. I don't want one. I just want you."
Yosuke's chest felt tight and when he tried to laugh it came out more like a cough. "That's kind of cheesy."
"Ah." Souji smiled self-consciously. "That's a no then?"
"You idiot." Yosuke dunked his head. "Weren't you listening to yourself? You didn't ask me anything."
"Are you sure? It felt like it. Should I say it again?"
"No way, don't... You can't go back on any of that, you know." Souji made it seem so effortless to say whatever he was feeling, but Yosuke had to take a deep breath before he continued and he couldn't meet Souji's eyes. "The whole wanting me forever, calling me important, that's—that's serious stuff. I gonna hold you to it."
Souji squeezed his hand. "Okay."
Yosuke nodded. "Alright then."
"That's a yes?"
"Yeah." Yosuke swallowed hard. It couldn't actually happen and it was one of the most embarrassing things he'd ever said but... He glanced over. "Yeah, I'd—I'll marry you."
Embarrassing, sure, but it was worth it for the smile Souji gave him and the hand that curled over the back of his neck. "Wait," Yosuke said, as Souji leaned in, "Nanako—"
"Won't mind." Souji let go of his hand to cover her eyes, and Yosuke exhaled heavily when their mouths met.
"Dude," he said under his breath. "Keep your tongue where it belongs."
"I barely did anything."
It was still too much to indulge in around Nanako, who waited without fussing until Souji removed his hand. "He said yes?"
"He did," Souji said, "and it's a big promise. We can't break it."
Nanako clapped. "Yay! We should tell Dad when he gets home."
"No, nuh-uh." Yosuke shook his head. "No mentioning this conversation to Dojima-san."
Souji bent close to Nanako's ear. "It'll be a surprise."
"Hey, no more about that, alright?" Dojima didn't need another reason to think he and Souji were up to no good, and he couldn't imagine trying to explain this. "You said you have a picture of yourself, didn't you? Why don't you put mine away and show Nanako-chan how you looked in that skirt?"
"I was pretty impressive, wasn't I?" Souji clicked around. "After that, I'll pull up Kanji's—"
"Wait until I'm gone before you bring that one out." Kanji in drag was high on the list of things Yosuke could go without ever seeing again.
"Hm? Okay, then another picture of you."
"Another?" He eyed Souji's phone. "How many do you have?"
"A few. Do you mind?"
Sort of, but it was obvious Souji liked them, and that was a little flattering, even if Yosuke couldn't see the appeal himself. "You're not going to show them to anyone, are you?"
"Don't worry," Souji said, "they're only for me."
"You can keep them then." He could deal with that.
"And Nanako," Souji added quietly. Yosuke pretended not to hear.