Kanji knew he wasn't exactly the smartest guy in Inaba. Now that he was going back to school like he was supposed to, he managed grades just good enough to keep his Ma happy, but Yukiko-senpai was never going have to worry about him being competition for the school's top student. What he lacked in book smarts, though, he made up for in common sense. So of course he picked up on what was going on between his senpai. Eventually.
Wasn't like he didn't have an excuse for not immediately picking up on it - he'd been thrown into a TV, dammit, and it took a while to recover from something like that. Then he found out he had to keep it all a secret from his Ma and he spent awhile worrying about that. It was better this way, Souji-senpai told him, and he was probably right, but Kanji didn't have to like it and he didn't.
Anyway, eventually he put two and two together and got annoyed. Did his senpai really think he didn't know what was going on, that he didn't notice Chie and Yukiko's hands touching all the time or how Souji was always smiling at Yosuke? They were hooking up, right? No wonder they'd welcomed him into their group so fast. Kind of hurt that none of them said anything, though; sure, it wasn't his business, but they didn't have to hide it from him or anything. Maybe they were just waiting for the right moment to tell him so it didn't come off as a big deal. He could understand that.
Except, nobody seemed like they were going to approach him, not even Souji-senpai. Huh, okay. He'd have to go up to them then, which was a little more intimidating, but maybe that'd be better. If he pulled it off right and didn't blurt out something stupid the way he did when he'd asked about Yukiko-senpai, he could show them he was a guy who didn't sit around and wait for directions all the time. They'd appreciate having a kōhai like that.
Unless they didn't want to say anything precisely because he was their kōhai and this was their way of letting him know he should keep his nose out of their stuff. Well... Damn. Now he didn't know what the hell to do.
It wasn't like he was just pulling these ideas out of his ass, though. He was pretty sure he wasn't. From what he knew about them, it was normal for girls to have sleepovers and do each others' hair and shit, to be all touchy-feely, but none of the girls he knew gave off the same vibe Chie and Yukiko did when they were together. And Senpai... Well, Souji was a popular guy, he could have had a date no problem, but he spent a lot of his spare time with Yosuke-senpai and, no offense to him, but Yosuke was the kind of guy you really had to like to hang out with for any length of time. Actually, it was Yosuke-senpai that gave Kanji a headache trying to figure out. Dude had freaked out for no reason on the camping trip, and that was definitely a mark against him, but Yosuke didn't treat Souji like he did other people, always hanging off him or trying to catch his attention.
He was hanging out with them, Yukiko and Chie brushing up against each other as they browsed through a rack of clothes in Junes, Souji and Yosuke goofing off and upsetting displays nearby, when he had new thought: maybe they actually thought they were hiding it. He didn't see how, but it was starting to look more and more likely.
Alright, now he had to ask somebody or he was never going to stop thinking about this.
He decided to confront Souji about it. Yosuke, too, since he was always hanging around Souji.
"Hey, Senpai." Kanji knocked on the empty classroom wall. "I got a question. You mind?"
They'd been in the middle of talking about something, Souji leaning over the desk Yosuke was lounging in, but it must've not been too important because he straightened up and gestured for him to come in. "No, go ahead."
"It's about Chie-senpai and Yukiko-senpai," he started, stepping forward, and then paused as he tried to figure out how to he was gonna say this. It'd taken most of his courage just to make himself do this. He hadn't considered much how the conversation would go.
"Is something wrong?"
"Nothin's wrong, not exactly, I was just wondering..." He cleared his throat uncomfortably. "They, uh, they're close, right?"
Yosuke snickered, and Kanji flushed, wishing he'd managed to catch Souji alone. "You mind giving us a second?"
"Why?" Yosuke asked, making himself comfortable. "I want to hear the rest."
Without looking at him, Souji reached out and pinched him. "Yes. Chie says they've been best friends for years."
"Yeah, I get that," Kanji said. "But they're kind of... Do girls always act like that? I mean, they're always together and there ain't nothin' wrong with that, but the way they talk about each other they come off kind of..."
Yosuke snickered again, and Kanji scowled, looking at Souji for help. He liked Yosuke-senpai, sort of, mostly when he wasn't being an ass about something or other, but if this kept up it was going to be hard resiting the urge to wipe that grin off his face. Thankfully, Souji didn't make him continue.
"Oh, I know what you're talking about." Souji smiled and raised a finger in front of his mouth. "We don't mention that."
"Then they are? You know--"
"Of course," Yosuke said. "They think they're hiding it but they're not fooling us. Hell, they're raising a dog together, aren't they?"
They were doing what?
"They don't want us to know, though, so we don't say anything and pretend not to notice." Souji looked at Kanji closely. "You'll do the same, won't you?"
"What? 'Course I won't say nothin', it's none of my business." Kanji shrugged. "Just wanted to know, thought I might have been going crazy, seeing things."
"I'm be more worried if you hadn't noticed," Yosuke said, and Souji laughed.
That was the perfect opening; if Kanji asked now, Souji could mention what was going on between him and Yosuke all casual like and Kanji could congratulate them, maybe, and then go on and find something else to occupy his time. Blushing a little, he gestured between them. "And you guys...?"
They stared at him blankly.
"We guys what?" Souji asked. He looked to Yosuke for an explanation and got a shrug. "We're fine with it."
"Yeah, what do I care who Chie's swapping spit with?"
Kanji couldn't bring himself to be more direct. He muttered, "Alright, thanks," and left the two of them confused confused behind him.
At least he'd gotten one question answered. It was good to know he wasn't making stuff up or projecting or whatever. Sure, he couldn't look either of the girls in the eye for a couple of days but they didn't notice, and after that things went on like normal.
Only thing left to do was figure out Souji and Yosuke.
(He was starting to feel like a pervert, dwelling on all this so much. Good thing his Ma didn't know.)
He couldn't ask Souji. He might have answered, but Kanji couldn't imagine going up and asking him such a personal question. It was the same reason he hadn't approached one of the girls; it might have been sneaky to ask about them behind their backs, yeah, but it was a hell of a lot easier than asking them face-to-face. Yosuke-senpai was out of the question, too. He'd probably blow up no matter what the answer was, either mad at Kanji for suggesting it or mad at him for wondering. That left Chie and Yukiko, and there was no way he could ask Yukiko-senpai something like that, so Chie it was. Which wasn't so bad; she was easy to hang out with and as likely to know what was going on as anyone else.
They were at the food court when he got the chance. Souji was treating them to lunch with some of the cash he'd been making from his part-time jobs, but instead of eating he spent most of his time watching a couple across the court share a meal and smiling under his hand about it.
"Don't they look nice together?" Souji asked. "Makes me want to go on a date."
"Don't stare," Yosuke said, glancing over at them. "You look like some creepy old man."
"Does that mean I should start getting grabby?" He stood, wiggling his fingers at Yosuke so that he leaned away and nearly fell off his chair. "I'm going to use the bathroom."
"Jeez, thanks for telling us," Yosuke said, but he eyed the couple in consideration and soon pushed his chair back. "Be back, I've got to piss."
Chie balled up a napkin and threw it after him. "Can't you just say excuse me?"
Kanji waited until Yosuke was out of sight before setting his chopsticks down. "Yo, Chie-senpai, can I ask something?"
She had food halfway to her mouth but, with some reluctance, set it back down. "Sure, what's on your mind?"
"There anything up with Senpai and Yosuke-senpai?"
"Uh, probably not?" She frowned. "I guess it depends on what you mean by up, though."
"They, uh..." Kanji scratched his head. "Senpai got a girlfriend or anything back in the city?"
"No," she said immediately, and then added, "I don't think so. He doesn't really talk about himself much, but he would have mentioned something like that."
Kanji nodded. "And Yosuke-senpai's, he's..."
"What are you getting--oh!" Chie blushed and shared a look with Yukiko.
"You can stop now, Kanji-kun," Yukiko said. "We understand."
"Yeah?" Thank goodness. Who knew it'd be so hard to ask if a couple of guys were secretly dating?
"We should have figured you'd ask," she continued. "After all, they're not exactly subtle. Maybe we should have said something earlier."
There was no chance of anyone overhearing but Kanji still lowered his voice. "So they're dating then? Or whatever?"
Chie rolled her eyes. "They think we don't know but how can we not? They're always sneaking off together, and the way Yosuke calling him partner all the time...? One day they're going to get caught making out in a classroom or something."
"It'd be best if you didn't say anything about it to them," Yukiko said. "Souji-kun's such a private person, and Yosuke-kun's so... You know Yosuke-kun. It's better to just let them think we don't know."
"It's funnier this way," Chie said.
"I got ya." Just to see what response he'd get, he asked, "And you two?"
"I can't say it isn't a little surprising to think of the two of them together like that," Yukiko said, going faintly red and shooting a quick look Chie's way, "but then again maybe not. They do get along very well. Other than that, there isn't much to think, is there?"
"Just try to act surprised when they finally tell us," Chie said. "Can you do that? Maybe you should practice."
Kanji snorted. "Nah," he said, watching Souji and Yosuke walk back together, "I think I can manage that."