Somewhere between the flat tone of Nanako's heart monitor and his uncle's thoughtless quest to see Namatame, Souji forgot his long-held promise to himself to never let his emotions control him. And when they were standing over Namatame's shuddering form, the girls saying, "No, no!" and Yosuke, Naoto, and Kanji flashing murder in their eyes, Souji said, "Push the bastard in."
Later, standing over Nanako's still form and reading Teddie's good-bye missive, Souji felt regret. Wondered if playing the judge and jury in Namatame's sentence has been right. But there was nothing for it, not with Teddie gone; they no longer had a way out of the TV world, no way to save Namatame, assuming he was even still alive.
'It doesn't matter,' he told himself as he parted from his friends, unable to meet their eyes. 'What's done is done. He deserved it.'
He climbed into bed, tired from the stress of the day. When he woke the next day, he felt weighted down as he went about his normal Sunday routine.
Someone knocked on the door and he went to open it. Yosuke stood there in his school uniform, smiling as if they hadn't pushed a man into the TV less than twelve hours ago.
Yosuke's smile fell as he took in Souji's rumpled appearance. "Hey, Partner, you feeling okay? You don't look too good."
"I– What?" Souji blinked a few times and shook his head. "Uhm, no. Last night? Why are you wearing your uniform? It's Sun–"
"It's Saturday. Last day of exams?" Yosuke reached up and touched Souji's forehead. "Maybe you should stay home today."
"It's Saturday?" Souji mumbled before he turned and walked back inside to the television, which he turned on to the weather. It said it was Saturday. "Was it a dream?" he wondered to himself.
Yosuke was at his elbow, hitting the power on the TV and pulling him towards the stairs. "C'mon, Partner. Let's get you to bed."
Souji shook his head. "Yeah, okay..."
They were halfway up the stairs when Souji remembered, 'Nanako!' He turned on the stairs, almost knocking them both off balance, and said, "I'm going to visit Nanako!"
Yosuke blinked for a minute, then stumbled down the stairs after him, tripping over his briefcase by the door. "Souji, hey! You need to be in bed! Souji!"
But Souji was already out the door, tugging on his jacket as he went.
Yosuke spent a minute debating between going after his best friend and going to school before deciding Souji was more important. He left his briefcase inside the door and took the time to lock up with the keys Souji had forgotten to grab, then he was running after Souji, quietly muttering, "Fuck, he's fast for a sick guy..."
Yosuke finally caught up with Souji outside Inaba Municipal Hospital, breathing hard and grabbing at the back of Souji's jacket just to make him stop. "Dammit, Souji...slow...down..."
Souji looked back at him, head clearer from the run. He still didn't know what was going on, but he felt calmer, more in control of his emotions. He'd also thought to put on his glasses, which cleared his thoughts almost as much as the fog. "Sorry," he mumbled to Yosuke. "I just... Bad dream. Sorry."
Yosuke shook his head. "Don't worry about it, Partner. Hey..." He frowned. "Why're you wearing those?"
Souji touched his glasses. "Put yours on," he directed, because this was one of those times where explaining would take too much effort.
Yosuke pulled out his glasses, which he'd taken to keeping on him at all times, since it was easier than running home to get them when they decided to go into the TV. The fog immediately cleared and he choked. "Wha–! What the fuck? But–"
"I know," Souji murmured, more disturbed than words could describe that his dream had been right in that regard. "Come on, let's go see Nanako."
Yosuke fell in beside him as they entered the front doors, ignoring the frown the nurse on duty sent them for being there when they should have been at school. "So, what was this bad dream about?" he asked, looking around and enjoying being able to see more than a couple feet in front of his face. The fog was never as bad indoors, but it was still there, and something about being able to see the far end of the hallway made him want to simultaneously dance and throw up. It was...strange.
"Today," Souji replied, voice tight as he relieved the horror of holding his cousin's hand as she died. "Nanako died and we... We pushed Namatame into the TV. Sentenced him to death."
Yosuke frowned. "Instead of leaving him to be convicted? Seriously?"
Souji shrugged. "There's not enough hard evidence; there's a good chance that he'd get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist."
Yosuke came to a stop in the middle of the hallway, expression disbelieving. "No way. But... But he did it!"
Souji looked towards Nanako's room, only a few doors down, and sighed to himself, knowing better than to take this conversation in there, where she might hear and be upset by it. The people shouting about the fog were bad enough, no need to add to her stress. "Yes, but no sane person is going to believe you can shove someone into a TV and they'll die in there. Unless the jury is made up of conspiracy theorists or us, he'll probably get off."
Yosuke balled his hands into fists. "Dammit. Fuck it, throw him in the TV, then!"
Souji sighed. "Uncle Ryotaro will figure something out." 'Maybe. I hope.' "Come on, let's go see Nanako."
Nanako was doing okay and she was plenty happy to see them. They settled in to play board games with her until she fell asleep, then settled in the chairs a little ways from the bed.
"Feeling better?" Yosuke asked, calmer himself from having played with Nanako.
Souji nodded and sent a smile towards his sleeping cousin. "Yeah. It was just a stupid dream. But... thanks. For coming with me, I mean."
Yosuke grinned. "Hey, no sweat. That's what best friends are for."
"Even though you missed the last day of exams?" Souji wondered, only half-teasing. He knew Yosuke avoided all thought of tests when possible.
Yosuke grimaced. "Geez, Partner, thanks for reminding me." Souji flashed him a smile and Yosuke smiled back, pleased with his good humour. "Spending a day with Nanako-chan is worth suffering through Kashiwagi's lecherous comments during the make-up exam. Though, we might want to check our mobiles for texts from Chie."
Souji sighed and glanced towards the sleeping Nanako as he stood. "Yeah. Let's go outside, then."
Chie had sent them both three texts. Yukiko, Rise, and Naoto had each sent Souji one, as well. Yosuke made a brief complaint about not 'feeling the love', which Souji rolled his eyes at as he texted them all back with assurances as to his health and a brief explanation for why he'd missed school.
Ryotaro had some words for both teens when he found out – during his lunchtime visit – that they'd skipped school to visit with Nanako, but his heart hadn't been in it. Something about seeing Nanako's free smile at having visitors all day had softened his tone, and he'd ended his berating with, "Just...don't do it during exams, next time."
When their friends showed up after school, Souji mentioned the glasses thing to them, which sparked a long conversation about the fog and required Chie getting the daily paper from the lobby for them to look over, which they did while Nanako was napping. The resulting conversation followed a similar pattern to the one from his dream, and Souji shivered and pulled on the jacket he'd removed earlier, waving away their concerns over his health.
Shortly before dinner, Nanako's monitors let out warning screams and everything spiralled downward from there, until Souji was standing at his cousin's side, pleading with her to, "Stay with me just a little longer, Nanako. Please, please, please... Please don't die... Don't do this to me again..."
And then the monitor's tone went flat. And Ryotaro was being helped in, his friends running in at his broken cry. Chie and Yukiko started crying and Yosuke cursed, looking helplessly towards Souji. But Souji couldn't look up from where his lips were pressed against Nanako's tiny hand, whispering, "Samarecarm, Samarecarm, Samarecarm..."
When they all stood over Namatame's shaking form later, the girls quietly whispering, "No, no..." and Naoto and Kanji whispering, "Yes, yes..." Yosuke stared at him, hatred for Namatame in his eyes and asked, "What do you want to do... Leader?"
Souji shook his head. "I can't stay here," he whispered, heart in his throat and he turned away.
"What...? Are you saying you forgive this bastard!? Sou–!"
But Souji had already left, the door falling shut behind him. He just wanted to go back to bed, to wake and find this all another bad dream. To wake and find Nanako still alive and not have to be the one who decided between killing a man and letting him go free.
When Souji stepped back into Nanako's room, there was a steady beeping coming from her monitors and he looked up, heart in his throat.
"There you are!" the Doctor said, smiling. "Nanako-chan came around!"
Souji ran over to look, took in the rise and fall of her chest, the eased lines of her face, and fell back into a chair, relief making his legs jelly. He felt like dancing and crying and shouting for joy all at once, and he settled on leaning his head back against the wall and taking a deep breath. 'She's okay. She didn't die. It was just a dream...'
The others were elated when they finally joined him, laughing through tears. And if Yosuke, Kanji, and Naoto stood a little apart from the girls and Souji, it didn't matter, because Nanako was alive. It didn't even matter that Teddie was gone, or that Namatame had been left for the police to attempt to bring to trial – Chie had explained, through her tears, the moving words Yukiko had spoken that got the others to walk away without doing Namatame harm – though Souji thought he might start to worry about all that tomorrow.
He crawled into bed that night feeling much lighter, like the world hadn't come crashing down on his head only hours before.
The next morning, he woke and was about to start his Sunday morning routine, but then he frowned a bit, wondering, and turned on the TV.
There, bold at the top of the screen, was, 'YOUR SATURDAY MORNING FORECAST'.
Souji closed his eyes. "Fuck."
Souji spent the entire walk to school cursing his life, while Yosuke complained about the fog and exams. When they met up with the others, he made all the right responses – at least, he hoped they were the right responses – then trudged through the exams, not even caring what answers he put, just wanting this day to be over.
At Junes, he turned his mobile off, completely missing Adachi's call and spending the evening picking out gifts for Nanako. On his way home, after waving the others off, he turned his mobile on and listened to his messages. Nanako had died, then come back, but Ryotaro was in intensive care after struggling past the policemen outside Namatame's room and half-falling out the window after the escaping man. Souji ran to the hospital and fell asleep in one of the chairs outside the intensive care ward, only to wake in his room. Saturday again.
He only screamed for two minutes.
That day, he wrote in the exam margins all the possibilities of why he was repeating Saturday again and again. By the time the final bell rang, he'd decided it was, somehow, because of Namatame. Because Nanako had died, and she'd remained dead when they pushed him into the TV, but survived when they decided to leave him to the police. He decided to try shoving him into the TV again to see if that thesis proved true.
Namatame was shoved into the TV again and Nanako remained dead. Souji only felt about half as torn as he had the first Saturday when he stood over Nanako's bed while the others remained dry-eyed, but listless.
"So," he wrote on his exam margin the next morning, "pushing Namatame into the TV kills Nanako, leaving him to the police saves her life, but the day continues to repeat. Maybe there's something more I have to do? Like what?"
The Saturdays continued to pass, draining Souji's energy each morning until he no longer screamed, just shuffled off towards school, glasses on and not really reacting to what anyone said. In the evenings, he stood at Nanako's bedside and held her hand as she 'died', listening to his friends and uncle curse and cry.
He started just saying random shit while they were standing over Namatame, finding a tired sort of amusement at Yosuke's responses to some of the crazy shit he spouted, and not having the energy to ask Yosuke, "Do you think Nanako would approve of you killing him?" when his best friend brought up Nanako's death at Namatame's hands. The closest he ever got to asking that was when he said, "Is revenge right?"
"It probably isn't," Yosuke had replied, looking momentarily troubled. "But if we let him go free, and he claims another victim... is that right? Would it make Nanako-chan happy if something like that were to happen!?"
Souji sighed and zoned out on the rest of the familiar discussion, Yukiko's heartfelt plea talking the boys and Naoto into leaving Namatame to the police.
One day, he thought to start selling the answers to the second year exams. Yosuke bought them right off him, as did many of his other classmates, and he made a small fortune. That night, standing over Namatame, he was in better humour than before, so when Yosuke turned to him to ask, again, "What do you want to do... Leader?" Souji shrugged and said, "He can still repent."
Yosuke blowing up and shouting obscenities in his face was actually kind of worth the horrified looks and avoidance of all his friends for the rest of the night.
A couple nights later, when he started selling the first year exam answers too, he stalled Yosuke with excuses, watching him get progressively more ticked off, until he snapped, "Well, what is it!? I already told you, there's no time to waste! Are you even getting at something here, or are you just stalling!?"
Souji considered that, then shrugged and said, "I got nothing."
Yosuke stared at him in disbelief for a long moment before turning around and stalking out of the room, clearly fed up with the whole matter. Souji was left to debate with Kanji and Naoto, which was much easier without Yosuke leading the charge. He didn't see Yosuke again that night, wasn't even sure his best friend heard the news about Nanako's miraculous recovery. To make up for it, he gave him the exam answers free the next morning.
It was probably his thirtieth Saturday when, standing in front of that TV in Namatame's room, he happened to glance at his watch.
20:00, the display read.
Souji blinked at the numbers on his watch, disbelieving. But, the Midnight Channel only came on at midnight... 'It's not midnight. Then, what is this... Not the Midnight Channel?' He turned his gaze on the smirking Shadow on the screen, took in the background of Heaven's top floor. It was the TV world, sure, but now that he was looking closer, he realised that he couldn't make out any details, like the faces of the angels. He was sure there had been faces, but he hadn't really been paying attention at the time, didn't know what they'd looked like. 'Why can't I see them now?'
The argument for Namatame's life carried on around him while Souji stared blankly at the now-dark screen. He was brought out of his thoughts by that terrible, horrible question that Yosuke always asked, "What do you want to do... Leader?"
Souji blinked at him. "We're missing something."
Yosuke frowned. "Missing? Like what exactly?" He looked towards Namatame and anger returned to his expression. "Dammit, who cares! Who fucking cares!? The only thing I give a damn about right now is whether or not we're shoving this fucker into the TV!"
But Souji, who had lived this day thirty times, cared about this mystery, needed to follow it and find out why the Midnight Channel had come on at eight at night. He was tired of living this day, of holding Nanako's hand as she 'died' and reading Teddie's good-bye. So he got right in Yosuke's face and shouted, "Calm the hell down!"
Everyone jerked back, shock written across their faces. Even Namatame stopped shaking, looking up towards him with wide, wide, wide eyes. And Souji wondered, 'What do you know?' And Namatame shook his head and looked away, but he didn't shake again, just crouched there with his hands half-covering his ears, listening. 'What do you know?' Souji wondered again.
"H-He's right," Yukiko choked out, shoulders shaking and eyes wide as she stared between Souji and Yosuke. "L-Let's all calm down for a second."
Yosuke tightened his arms over his chest. "I'm perfectly calm," he stated tightly.
Souji gave him an unimpressed look.
"Hey, what did you mean by, 'we're missing something'?" Chie asked.
"What's there to miss with a sick bastard like him?" Yosuke snarled, leaning forward like he was about to invade Souji's space, like Souji had just done to him. Souji frowned slightly and Yosuke sunk back to his hunch, like a child scolded.
Rise stepped forward, touching Souji's arm like she wanted to cling to him, but unwilling. "Hey, let's all take a deep breath," she suggested quietly. "After what happened to Nanako-chan, and seeing Dojima-san... we're not thinking straight right now."
Yosuke hunched a bit more under Souji's glare. "Fine," he muttered. When Kanji looked like he might start the argument anew, Souji turned his glare on him, and the first year looked down, expression troubled.
Under Souji's glare, they all took a few deep breaths, relaxing and unclenching their fists.
Naoto was the first to speak, stating the facts in a cool, efficient tone that was nothing like the chilled voice of murder she'd mentioned the TV in, and the sound of her familiar tone put everyone further at ease.
Adachi eventually showed up to kick them out, and they debated the case all the way back to Nanako's room, where they found her alive. There was no note from Teddie, however, and they left the hospital so Yosuke could call him.
Outside, they were unable to reach him, but they were distracted by the snow. Eventually, they parted.
As Souji walked home, shivering against the chill of the snow, he thought, 'This is the best ending to this day so far. Maybe, tomorrow, I can find a way to keep Teddie around, too. Drag him with us to Namatame's room, maybe. Hm. That could be interesting...'
That night, he dreamed of the Velvet Room. He woke to the sound of someone knocking on the front door and stumbled downstairs to find Yosuke in his day clothing. Not in his uniform.
"I can't find Teddie!" he shouted, concern across his features.
"Is it Sunday?" Souji breathed, hoping, hoping...
Yosuke frowned. "Is it... Yes, it's Sunday! Help me find Ted– Souji, get off me!" he shouted when Souji jumped forward and hugged him. "What are you doing!"
"I'm celebrating the fourth of December," Souji replied, giddy and fighting the urge to dance. "It's Sunday!"
Yosuke shook his head, concern for Souji shoving aside the concern for Teddie. "Hey, dude, are you... okay?"
"I have never been better," Souji assured him. "Come in out of the cold while I get dressed. Come on, come on!" he ordered, turning back into the house and heading for the stairs. "Ten minutes, promise!"
Yosuke shook his head and closed the door behind himself. "Dude gets weirder every day," he muttered to himself.
Souji celebrated the changed day by buying everyone lunch with the money he'd made off selling exam answers. Even with the case still hanging over their heads, Teddie missing, and Nanako and Ryotaro in hospital, he thought it was the most wonderful day ever.
And, next year on the third of December, he was going to hide under his covers all day and refuse to come out.