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Fooling Yourself

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Yu was sitting on the couch in his room, elbows resting on his knees with his head in his hands.  The Dojima household was completely still and had been for awhile now with his uncle and cousin in the hospital.  Yu felt an ache in his heart as he thought about his family, and how close he had come to losing both of them.  And now, the case was at a standstill as they tried to figure out who the real culprit was and get justice for what happened to Nanako. 

Yu’s phone buzzed, interrupting his melancholy, and he flipped open it open to see another text from Yosuke.  “Look, Ted has been really bugging me about you coming over.  Can’t you help get him off my back?”

Yosuke had been trying new and creative ways to convince Yu to stay at the Hanamura household ever since Dojima had ended up in the hospital and Nanako had gone missing.  Yu had taken him up on his offer twice and Yosuke had invited himself over a few times as well, but while his parents were perfectly happy with Yu staying with them while his uncle recovered, they didn’t want their son staying over there for long periods of time.  They were too worried he would use it as an excuse to slack off, much to his chagrin.  No matter how much Yosuke protested the matter, his parents had remained firm while keeping their offer open for Yu to stay.  Yu just couldn’t bring himself to accept and stubbornly remained at his uncle’s house, almost like he was keeping vigil.

He texted back to Yosuke that it was too late for him to come over tonight, thanking him for asking.  He smiled slightly as Yosuke messaged back that the dumb bear was now crying loudly in his ear, before snapping his phone shut and setting it on the coffee table.  He leaned back in the couch, letting out a sigh and staring up listlessly at the ceiling.  He wasn’t entirely sure why he kept refusing his friends’ help, for Yosuke had not been the only one to offer, even if he was the most persistent.  Yu figured that he had relied on himself for so long that he just didn’t know how to accept anyone’s help.

He wasn’t sure how long he had been sitting like that before his thoughts were interrupted by a sudden hissing sound as the television popped on with a dull cackle from the static.  Yu’s eyebrows furrowed, for he knew immediately what it was, but also knew there shouldn’t be anyone on the Midnight Channel right now.  He turned his head, slightly pulling down the blinds to check, and sure enough it was actually raining outside.  ‘This is weird,’ he thought – he had not seen rain on the forecast, but if he was honest with himself he hadn’t been checking lately either.

His attention was drawn back to the television when he heard a light chuckle coming from the screen.  He froze at the familiarity of the sound, feeling a chill run up his spine before he turned around to stare back at the screen.  His face stared right back at him, only instead of normal gray his eyes were yellow and there was an uncharacteristic smirk on his face.  “Did I capture your attention?” his shadow taunted, and Yu felt his chest tighten with anxiety.

“What?” he asked, not realizing he had spoken aloud.

His shadow rolled his eyes.  “And they made you the leader,” he tutted.  “Apparently I am not as bright as everyone gives me credit for.”

Yu had never seen any of the other shadows interact directly with someone through the television like this.  Sure, they had interacted with what they assumed was a viewing audience, but he somehow felt his shadow was speaking to him directly and could actually hear and see him.  It was unsettling.  Also, he had never faced a shadow like the others had, so he had no idea why this was happening now, and why his shadow was so clear if he wasn’t in the Shadow World yet.  Something was off.

While his shadow continued to needle at him on the screen, he quickly called Yosuke, hoping his partner was still up.  To his relief, after a ring the phone immediately picked up, with Yosuke whispering, “What’s going on?  You gave me a heart attack – I thought for sure my parents were going to hear…”

Yu thought back to all the times Yosuke had called him after seeing something strange on the Midnight Channel and rose an eyebrow.  He decided not to comment because he had more pressing concerns.  “Yosuke, are you seeing the Midnight Channel right now?” he asked.

“Let me turn off my game,” Yosuke said, and after a moment Yu heard a gasp over the phone.  “What the hell partner?” he asked, his voice elevating slightly.  As he spoke, the Midnight Channel faded to black and the television turned off again.

“I’m not sure,” Yu said, and Yosuke was quiet as he heard the frustration in his friend’s voice.

After a pause, Yosuke reassured him, “No worries, because we’ll definitely figure it out.  There’s nothing the investigation team can’t do!”

“I’d prefer it if we didn’t involve them,” Yu replied firmly, and Yosuke was silent again.  Yu could imagine the range of expressions probably crossing his friend’s face right now as he tried to come up with a response.

“Well, alright, I totally understand.  Facing your shadow can be rough – I mean, you’ve seen all of ours so you already know.  It’s definitely not something anyone feels comfortable with,” Yosuke spoke quickly and rambled slightly, and Yu knew he was struggling to force the words out.  “So, yeah, although they’re not going to be happy about it, I can agree not to bring them in.  But, partner, you’ve gotta promise me to at least let me help.”

“That’s why I called you,” Yu agreed.  “I saw your shadow, so I thought it fitting that you would see mine and help me as well.”

Yosuke breathed a sigh of relief before chuckling slightly.  “Yeah, you did.  It’ll be like old times, you and me figuring this weird shit out together.  How about we discuss it tomorrow during lunch?”  Yosuke was stifling a yawn as he spoke, and Yu would have felt bad if he hadn’t known Yosuke had been up playing videogames on a school night.  Although, on second thought, he was probably up worried about him so maybe he should feel bad.

“Sounds like a plan,” Yu replied, and they hung up after exchanging goodbyes.  Yu set his alarm before going to climb into bed, thinking back to why he had called Yosuke.  He recalled their brawl on the banks of the Samegawa flood plains and how Yosuke had confessed to wanting to be equals, partners.  He couldn’t continue to break his friend’s trust by not relying on his help, not for something this serious.

He would definitely need backup, for he wasn’t sure if he would be able to use his Personas while this was going on.  Having another person to bounce ideas off of was also useful, and Yosuke was actually pretty sharp about figuring things out for the case.  He didn’t want to bring the whole team in and break their image of their leader, but he trusted Yosuke and knew that the young man wouldn’t think less of him.  He had seen the worst of Yosuke, and thought it was only fair he share the same, even if he had no idea what to expect. 

That’s what scared him the most – he couldn’t think of what he could be lying to himself about and his shadow had not provided any hints earlier either.  Yu tried not to think about it too hard and tried his best to go to sleep, knowing he needed to be well rested to tackle this new mystery in the morning.  At class the next day, Yosuke was surprisingly already at his seat when Yu walked in.  He gave Yu a friendly wave, but Yu could tell by his expression that Yosuke was worried and trying to mask it.  They couldn’t speak yet, however, since Yukiko and Chie were both there and dragged them into a conversation about their thoughts on the true culprit behind the kidnappings and murders.  Once their homeroom teacher arrived and began class with her usual complaints about younger, prettier girls, they wrapped up their conversation. 

All morning, Yu could feel Yosuke’s eyes boring in to the back of his head, which distracted him.  He hoped that Yukiko and Chie didn’t notice, for he knew that if either of them noticed, Chie would for sure begin asking questions.  He didn’t have time for their scrutiny right now.  To his relief, neither of them commented on it when the lunch bell rang, and he and Yosuke were able to make their way up to the roof in peace.  He had messaged Yosuke early that morning that he would make lunch for him since he was helping out with his dilemma, and Yosuke had seemed excited at the prospect of not eating convenience store food for a change.

“So, what do you think caused this, partner?” Yosuke asked, once they were settled at their usual spot on the roof.  Yosuke was in the process of opening his container of tonkatsu and rice, and he glanced up when Yu didn’t immediately reply.  His usually collected leader was instead staring unsurely down at his container, nervously fiddling with his chopsticks and looking agitated.

“I’m not sure,” he finally replied, looking up and catching Yosuke’s concerned glance.  “I’m not sure how he’s showing up so clearly on the Midnight Channel when I’m not in there.  And I have no idea why I’m getting a shadow now when I never encountered one before.  I can’t think of anything that could have caused it.”

“Really, nothing?” Yosuke pressed, ignoring his food for now.  Yosuke seemed exasperated, and Yu couldn’t place why.  There wasn’t anything he knew of that he was repressing, so he wasn’t sure why this was happening.

“Am I missing something?” he asked, surprised at the slight snap to his tone.  Yosuke looked shocked as well, and took in a sharp breath, considering his words.

“Well, think about it,” he replied.  “Both Nanako-chan and Dojima-san are in the hospital and we’re no closer than before to knowing who put them there.  It’s a very stressful situation.”

“Yes, but I’m aware of that stress.  It’s not something I’m hiding from myself,” Yu replied.

Irritation flashed in Yosuke’s eyes, which surprised Yu.  Yosuke was often irritated, but it was rarely directed at him.  When Yosuke got irritated at him, things were serious.  He let out a sigh, however, and reined it back in.  “How about we just face your shadow and let him tell us?  That’s the only way we’re going to know for sure,” he suggested.

Yu slowly nodded. “How about we go tonight?  We don’t have school tomorrow, so we would be able to rest the next day.”

Yosuke shrugged.  “Good with me,” he agreed.  He then flashed Yu a confident smile.  “Don’t worry – we’ll solve this, together.”

Yu nodded, feeling a little more at ease with a plan.  Yosuke was right, the very first thing his shadow would do is confront him about whatever he was holding inside.  His job at that point would be just to accept it.  “Thanks…partner,” Yu replied, smiling lightly when he noticed the light flush appear on Yosuke’s cheeks as he tried to busy himself by eating his lunch.  Yu had noticed awhile ago that Yosuke appeared flustered when he used the term back, and he found that he liked it.  They both ate in companionable silence for the rest of the lunch period, thoughts about what to expect that evening on both of their minds.

After school, Yosuke asked his parents if he can stay the night at Yu’s since tomorrow is Sunday, and they readily agreed.  Yu, meanwhile, didn’t need an excuse to sneak out since he no longer had parental supervision at the house.  He felt empty at the thought, remembering how early on in his stay his uncle had forbidden him going out at night until they had learned to trust each other and he had gotten some evening part time jobs.  It had been much more difficult sneaking out to go to the Shadow World in those early days, especially when Dojima was home early from work, and Yu found himself missing it.  Life had been simpler back then, and everyone had been full of hope and confidence that they’d solve the case.  Now, he was starting to be less sure.

He shook himself from his thoughts as the doorbell rang, signifying that Yosuke had arrived.  Yosuke dropped off his bag that he would be using that night for their sleepover before they both left and headed to Junes.  It felt weird, the two of them going to the television section of Junes without the others, but they trekked on silently and soon pushed through the large screen TV they had on display all year, ending up on the foggy other side and pulling out their glasses in order to see.  “You’re lucky Teddie has been staying at my place so he could visit Nanako every day,” Yosuke commented once they were on the platform.  “He was bugging me while I packed too, about staying the night and hogging you all to myself.  I have no idea how he comes up with that crap…”

Yu chuckled lightly.  “He gets lonely without you around,” he pointed out, and Yosuke looked like he wanted to argue for a moment before looking down.

“You’re probably right,” he muttered.  “So, do you sense anything about where we should go?”  Yosuke was flipping his kunai in his hands nervously while eyeing each of the paths they had gone down during their travels.  His eyes lingered on the path to the shopping district where he had faced his shadow, and Yu was surprised he couldn’t read his friend’s expression for a change.

“I didn’t see anything last night that would lead to a clue,” Yu admitted, also eyeing each path before stopping on the same one.  The only one that made sense to him was the shopping district.  He spent a lot of time with all of his friends there, and it was where he and Yosuke had explored when they first ended up in the Shadow World.  Something felt right about the choice, and he took a step toward it without realizing it.

Yosuke immediately noticed, however, and sighed deeply.  “I hate going back there,” he grumbled, before turning toward the path and surprisingly leading the way.  Yu rose an eyebrow before following, realizing that Yosuke was probably trying to appear more confident to set him at ease, just as he usually did for the rest of the team.  He appreciated the gesture, and he couldn’t help but feel a little more assured as they headed down the path.  With Yosuke by his side, he was sure they could figure things out.

Once they reached the Shadow World’s version of the shopping district, eerily silent and somehow even more derelict than the current one which still had some life in it, they began to wander along the streets, trying to figure out where Yu’s shadow may be hiding.  He had been surprisingly silent since they had arrived, causing both boys to second guess their decision to come here first.  Yu couldn’t think of any of the shops or areas that held any specific value to him above any of the others, until he realized that the path continued beyond the shopping district and actually led to another part of Inaba that did hold significance – the Samegawa Plains.  He stopped and stared, for that area had not existed any of the other times they had visited.  “What’s up?” Yosuke asked, and Yu pointed forward at the road that hadn’t been there before.

Yosuke’s eyes widened when he spotted it.  “I believe I know where we need to go now,” Yu commented, and Yosuke swallowed nervously before nodding.

“I’m with you, partner,” he commented, and Yu smiled gratefully.  He now took the lead, deciding it was time to demonstrate to Yosuke that his show of confidence earlier helped.  It didn’t take them long to arrive at the river, for it was a path they had both walked many times and were familiar with.  Sure enough, once they arrived they saw Yu’s shadow off in the distance, waiting patiently for them with a wide, unnatural grin on its face that looked a little unhinged.  “Holy shit,” Yosuke whispered under his breath, and Yu turned slightly to see uncertainty shadow his best friend’s face.

Yosuke noticed and immediately straightened.  “Sorry you heard that.  It’s just…so weird seeing another you,” he commented.  “Like, even weirder than when I saw another me, and that was the first time either of us had encountered a shadow.”

Yu couldn’t help but agree – everything about this was unsettling.  “Ready?” he asked, tilting his head slightly at Yosuke who nodded in reply.

They both began walking toward Yu’s shadow, side by side, and as they approached his smile only seemed to grow larger.  “Ah, so you brought along Yosuke,” he said, eyes roaming over the other boy’s body appreciatively in a way that immediately caused his friend to shy away and a strange, possessive feeling to thrum through his veins.  He found it odd, how his shadow seemed focused on Yosuke instead.  Usually the shadows would focus on their other self, taunting them, forcing them to confront the sides of themselves that they hid away.

His shadow, on the other hand, was silent again and watched him carefully before flickering his gaze over to Yosuke with an expression that Yu couldn’t quite understand.  He only knew that he didn’t like it.  “Well, aren’t you going to tell me anything?” Yu finally asked, impatience breaking his usual cool façade. 

His shadow locked eyes with him before chuckling.  “And take away all of my fun?  No.  We both know once I say anything you will try desperately to agree with me to avoid a confrontation.  And that’s not why we’re here today.  I want you to figure it out,” he smirked, before leaning back onto the picnic table under the pavilion.  “Well?  I’m waiting.  What does everyone’s favorite “leader” think?  You are supposed to be smart, aren’t you?”

Yu grit his teeth, for he was still at a loss and knew if he replied incorrectly it would spell trouble for both him and Yosuke.  To his surprise, however, he didn’t need to say anything because Yosuke suddenly jumped in.  “Well, for one thing, you shoulder everything yourself and hardly let us help at all.”  Yu felt himself suddenly tense, before turning to look at his best friend.  Yosuke was looking at his shadow and avoiding his gaze, but Yu could read the turmoil on his friend’s face.  It was obviously difficult for him to bring this up, but he knew how necessary it was.  “I mean, we’re supposed to be partners, but each time I reach out to you in order to help, you turn me down.  It’s really frustrating, to be honest.”

Yu looked back over at his shadow, who was now staring at Yosuke again, also appearing surprised.  There was another expression its eyes, and it suddenly dawned on Yu what it was.  His shadow was looking at Yosuke like he was the most important person he knew, like how Yu probably looked at him sometimes without realizing it.  He suddenly started to get an inkling about what his repressed feelings might be, and he felt his shadow flicker its gaze at him knowingly.

Yosuke wasn’t done though.  “I know how hard things have been on you, especially with Nanako-chan and Dojima-san, but you won’t talk to me about it.  I’ve given you so many opportunities and you just bottle it up inside instead,” he complained.  “That’s what this is probably about – you shouldering everything on your own and not acknowledging it to everyone.”  Yosuke turned to look at Yu nervously, looking relieved when he realized the silver haired boy didn’t look mad.

Yu looked over at his shadow, which was smiling fondly at Yosuke now, and let out a sigh.  “I’m sorry, Yosuke,” he admitted.  “You’re right – I have been shutting everybody out,” he confessed.  His thumb worried at the grip of the katana in his hand as he tried to find the words to continue.  His shadow’s golden eyes were trained on him, and he instinctually knew that it was curious about how far his confession would go.  He leaned against one of the poles holding up the pavilion and noticed Yosuke folding his arms in his usual pose as he waited patiently. 

“So, you are aware I am here because my parents are currently out of the country for work,” Yu started, and Yosuke nodded.  “They have always been very busy, ever since I was a child.  My earliest memories are being alone at my house, and I don’t have very many of my parents being around or us doing things as a family.  I had to learn how to start cooking for myself and doing chores because they would sometimes forget to leave food and were often not home to do any housework.”  Suddenly, Yu’s talent in cooking and his neat, tidy room began to make a lot of sense.

“We also often moved a lot so I never really bothered to make any friends,” Yu confessed.  “So, I honestly am not used to relying on anyone.  It’s why I really feel a connection with Nanako, and why I am glad that my uncle has started to bond with her so she will hopefully not grow up like I did.”  There was a slight hitch to Yu’s normally calm voice as he said that, and Yosuke’s arms dropped as concern filled his eyes.  He took a step forward, but Yu shook his head, choosing to keep Yosuke at a distance.  “It’s why, I love it when we go to your house.  Because you have such a bond with your family, and I get to see what it’s like.”

“You have that with Nanako-chan and Dojima-san now,” Yosuke said quietly, and Yu sighed.

“I did at least,” he replied, looking forlorn.

“Yu,” Yosuke said firmly, causing his friend to glance over at him.  Yosuke stepped forward this time and placed a comforting hand on his friend’s shoulder.  Yu immediately stiffened, surprising Yosuke who hesitantly drew away.  “Nanako-chan and Dojima-san will recover,” Yosuke said cautiously, trying to read Yu’s mood and struggling to understand why it suddenly changed.  “She had that bad night but pulled through – they’ll be home soon and you’ll have your family again.”  Yosuke looked so earnest, and Yu felt his heart warm and his insides twist guiltily at the same time. 

His shadow was beginning to tap its foot impatiently while staring at him, and Yu had a feeling it was about to interrupt.  He quickly stepped back from Yosuke again, and his shadow smirked while standing up from the picnic table.  Before it could speak, however, Yu barreled forward with his confession.  “All of that, however, is not what I was actually repressing.  I was well aware of what I was doing there,” he added, surprising Yosuke who looked confused.

“Wait, that wasn’t what you were hiding?” he asked incredulously.

Yu shook his head while his shadow looked pleased and leaned back again, ready for what was next.  “I…” Yu struggled, gripping his katana tightly as he tried to come up with the words.  “There’s a reason why my shadow appeared here,” he started slowly, trying not to look Yosuke in the eye.

“Yeah?” Yosuke asked, now leaning against the other pole and crossing his arms again.  He looked a bit nervous about where the conversation was heading.

“It all stems from that day you told me to punch you.  And said you wanted to be equals,” Yu pressed forward.  Yosuke was starting to fiddle with his kunai again and was kicking his shoe against the ground nervously.

“Are you saying,” he began to stammer, “that you don’t want to be partners?”  Yosuke’s breathing sounded uneven, and Yu looked directly at him again and realized that Yosuke looked upset.

“No, nothing like that,” Yu quickly explained, his chest also constricting.  “What I mean is, my reason for wanting to be your equal is not entirely platonic.”

“What does that even mean?” Yosuke asked in frustration, and Yu let out a deep sigh.

“What I mean is, what I’ve been lying to myself about, is my feelings for you.”  Yosuke stared at Yu, trying to process what he said.  Yu, meanwhile, had to lean against the pole for support, suddenly feeling weak in the knees.  His shadow was still watching him carefully, however, so he knew he wasn’t off the hook yet.  He had to be clear. 

“I didn’t want to admit it to myself.  I wanted to only view you as a friend, my best friend, and I had convinced myself that I wanted to be your partner only for those reasons,” Yu explained.  “But, that’s not why I wanted to be your equal.  I wanted to be your equal because I thought it was the only way I may actually have a chance with you.”

Yu didn’t know how to read the look in Yosuke’s eyes as he spoke, and for the first time in his life felt incredibly unsure as he continued with his confession.  He was suddenly afraid that Yosuke wouldn’t like him anymore, remembering all the comments he had made in the past around Kanji.  That almost silenced him, until he remembered why they were here in the first place. 

“Between the comments you made about Kanji and the fact you confessed you used to be jealous of me, I thought there was no way I would have a chance with you so I just buried those feelings inside.  Then, we had the fight and you declared we were equal, and I think a part of me began to hope again without me consciously realizing it.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw his shadow smile and nod its head before it suddenly disappeared with a flash and turned back into Izanagi’s card.  The card fluttered down at his feet, and he bent down to carefully pick it up.  He looked at the card silently, remembering the first time it had come to his aid against Yosuke’s shadow.  Yosuke didn’t reply for several long minutes, and Yu felt his heart beat rapidly as he waited for his friend’s response.  He was about to give up waiting and suggest they just head back now that his shadow was gone, when he’s surprised by a sudden warmth against his chest and around his shoulders and realized his vision was blocked by messy brown hair.  Yu blinked in surprise, stiffening for a brief moment before feeling himself immediately relax in relief.  He hesitatingly wrapped his arms around Yosuke in return, who had buried his face in his shoulder.

“I guess it’s my turn to be honest, because I seriously don’t want to deal with my shadow again,” Yosuke grumbled into his shoulder, and Yu immediately stilled.  Yosuke pulled away to look into Yu’s eyes, and the silver haired boy is immediately blown away when he realized that instead of the disgust he was expecting, his friend’s eyes were filled with a tenderness he had never seen before.  Although Yosuke had pulled away slightly, his hands were resting on Yu’s arms, almost as if he was using him for strength to continue. 

“So, first, I want to apologize about something,” he said slowly, a slight flush at his cheeks.  Whatever he was about to say, he obviously felt embarrassed by.  Yu’s heart continued to hammer, and he felt like pinching himself suddenly.

“All of those times I flew off at the mouth about Kanji and…all of that?  It was because I felt confused,” Yosuke admitted.  “As we became closer throughout the year, and I began to feel things, I would get defensive.  Because I didn’t want to admit to those things I was starting to feel.  So, I owe an apology to you, because obviously it caused you to bury things and freaking led to you getting a shadow, and I’ll apologize to Kanji because I’ve been a dick to him.”

Yosuke had pulled away at this point and had his arms crossed against his chest again.  “And, I felt the same way about our fight as well.  I asked you to hit me that day, because I thought if I kept you on a pedestal all the time, there was no way for me to have a chance otherwise.  By that point I had basically accepted how I felt, and I wanted to be your equal, even if I was pretty sure you were into girls since they hang over you all the freaking time, and I had no chance.”  He was looking hopefully at Yu now, who took in a sharp breath upon hearing Yosuke’s confession.

“So, you?” Yu asked hesitantly.

“Feel the same way, partner,” Yosuke finished with a lopsided grin and a slight shrug. 

Their conversation was interrupted when they heard the telltale signs of a shadow in the distance, and they exchanged glances.  Now that Yu’s shadow was gone, he was no longer controlling the normal shadows in the area, and they were starting to creep back in. 

“Why don’t we finish this conversation outside?” Yosuke suggested nervously, and Yu silently nodded.  He also paused before hopefully extending his hand to Yosuke, who shyly smiled before taking it firmly with his own.  Yu smiled back, giving his hand a grateful squeeze before they headed back out to the shopping district and to the pathway that lead back to the platform.

Once they exited the Shadow World and re-entered Junes, blinking in the bright light of the store which would be closing soon and feeling like it was almost surreal after what they had just experienced, they headed back to Yu’s house, taking a quick detour to the Samegawa flood plains on their way back.  Although it was night time, it still felt brighter than it had in the Shadow World, due to the lack of fog and a lack of the heavy presence that lingered over there.  The sky was also clear that night, giving them a nice view of the stars as they made their way over to the pavilion that Yu’s shadow had been waiting at in the other world.  As they stood there, they looked across to where they had their fight on the riverbank and reminisced back over all their experiences that year that led them to this moment.

They were still holding hands, and Yu suddenly let go, causing Yosuke to glance at him with a slightly worried expression.  Yu gave him a reassuring smile, before turning to face him seriously.  “Yosuke,” he said, his tone warm and affectionate.

“Yeah?” Yosuke asked, his cheeks slightly flushed again.

“I love you,” Yu replied firmly, leaning into Yosuke as he said it and causing the other boy to get trapped against the pole holding up the pavilion.  Yosuke didn’t look bothered by it, however, and instead his eyes met Yu’s with a smoldering gaze.

“I love you too,” he replied, before reaching forward and tugging Yu even closer to him.  Yu took that as his cue and gently pressed his lips against his best friend’s, smiling slightly as Yosuke eagerly leaned forward to meet him.  Their first kiss was rather chaste since it was the first time for both of them, and they weren’t fully sure what to do yet.  However, they both felt warmth linger long after they had pulled apart, and neither of them thought it had felt awkward.  Instead, it felt overwhelmingly right.

Yosuke was the one to initiate the handholding this time as they headed back to the Dojima household.  Yu felt lighter now, like the heaviness that had been weighing him down since Nanako had been snatched, was finally melting away.  All of the hope and confidence that had been waning in the past several weeks had suddenly returned, and he felt a renewed energy to solve things with his friends and his partner by his side.  He could tell Yosuke felt the same way, for he had a bounce to his step again and was humming one of his favorite songs as they walked; it had been awhile since he had looked that cheerful.  “Yosuke,” he said again, stopping right as they finally reached the house.

Yosuke turned to look at him, head slightly tilted.  “We’re going to solve this case.  You, me, and the rest of the Investigation Team,” Yu said decisively.  Yosuke grinned, realizing that they finally had their leader back.

“Hell yeah we are,” he agreed.  They probably would have bumped fists at that point if they hadn’t already been holding hands.

“Thank you for supporting me through all of this,” Yu added.  “I know it was difficult, but no matter how many times I rejected it, you still kept trying.”

“Anything for you, partner,” Yosuke replied sincerely.  “Just, don’t shut me out anymore, got it?”

Yu nodded.  “Never again,” he agreed.  They headed inside and quickly got ready for bed, feeling exhausted after the emotional turmoil they had been through.  In the past, whenever Yosuke stayed over, Yu would have pulled out a guest futon for him to sleep on, but this time he shyly asked if he wanted to share his bed instead.

Yosuke nodded, blushing bright red before cautiously joining him under the covers.  Yu’s heart beat rapidly as Yosuke settled next to him, back to him as he curled up and tried to get comfortable.  Yu tentatively reached an arm out and draped it across Yosuke’s chest, waiting to see if he would pull away.  When Yosuke instead scooted closer, Yu smiled before tightening his grip and pulling Yosuke against his chest, feeling all of the tension from the day immediately release from his partner’s warmth.  Yosuke let out a comfortable sigh as well before pressing his hands against Yu’s arm.  “G’night partner,” he said sleepily, and Yu pressed his lips against Yosuke’s messy hair.

“Sweet dreams, partner,” he replied, grinning slightly as he felt Yosuke squirm at his words.

“You still say the weirdest shit, Yu,” he complained, cringing at his word choice, while Yu chuckled.  They quickly settled back down again, however, and that night Yu had the most peaceful sleep he’d had in a long time.