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                >Inaba station…

                >It’s time to leave…

You stand at the platform, surrounded by your family, your closest friends, and you’re at a loss. Everyone else seems to be, too. This isn’t an ending; you won’t let it be one. It’s just a change. But it’s a pretty significant change, considering the year you’ve all been through together.

"So,” Yosuke says, breaking the silence, “this is it, huh.”

Chie gives Yosuke a kick. It’s more of a nudge, really; her way of empathizing, you’re sure. “Don’t you dare bring down the mood,” she hisses, throwing a conspicuous glance towards Nanako. “We gotta send him off with a smile!”

Yukiko takes a deep breath, then gives you the brightest ‘customer service’ grin in her arsenal. “We hope to see you again,” she says. After a second of stunned silence, you can’t help but laugh, and it’s not long before the others join in. “What?” she asks, taken aback. “I did my best, alright?”

“That was pretty good, senpai,” Kanji says. “Kinda scary.”

“Honestly, I’m impressed.” Rise puts her hand on Yukiko’s shoulder, giving the other girl a look of admiration. “You’d be a great idol.”

“Oh, what would my theme be?"

“Could I be an idol too?” Nanako asks, breathless with excitement.

Rise crouches down, a winning idol-esque smile on her face. “You can be anything you want to be, Nanako.” It’s an incredibly diplomatic answer.

“What about me?” Teddie asks, crouching besides Nanako. “Bears can be idols too, right?”

Before Rise can say anything to that, he gets tugged back upright by Yosuke. “Guys, we’re getting off-track.”

“Track? Like, train tr-”

“Senpai, is now the time?” Naoto interrupts, which is probably a good thing; it takes a while for Yukiko to calm down after she gets started.

It’d be nice if this moment could last forever, but apparently, the time for shenanigans is over. Yosuke pulls you into a hug. “It’s too bad you gotta go. Right when we got the hang of things, too." As light as he keeps his tone, there's a rueful edge to it that makes your heart ache with sympathy.

You pull him close, trying to memorize the way he feels in your arms. "I'll text," you say. "All the time. I'll visit whenever I can.”

You get maybe an extra second longer, and then Rise clears her throat. “Alright, you don’t get to use your partner privileges here. We have to say goodbye too!” And at that, everyone crowds into an extremely large group hug; Dojima lifts Nanako so she can join without being crushed.

“You won't forget us, right?” Teddie asks, a tremble in his voice.

“Of course not. How could I?”

“We won't forget you either,” Kanji says with a raw candor. “All of us... we wouldn't be the same if it weren't for you.”

And that's what starts the tears. You rub furiously at your traitorous face as the waterworks stubbornly persist, and it's kind of really embarrassing, but you feel better when everyone starts to join you. Everyone. Naoto hides behind that signature hat, but you aren’t fooled for a second.

“Look out for each other,” you manage.

“There you go again, worrying about everyone else.” Yosuke reaches past everyone to tug at your cheek. “We’ll be fine. We’ve got each other! And you’ll be fine, too, because you’ve got us!”

“Yeah.” You give them all the brightest smile you can manage. “This isn’t ‘goodbye’, it’s ‘see you soon’.”

“Sensei!” Teddie bawls, getting absolutely everything and everyone covered in snot. “We’ll see you soon!”

You’re still in the midst of the group hug when the train arrives, and it takes a little time to extricate yourself from it. They’re still calling out their farewells as you pull your suitcase into the train, and they keep calling out as your train departs. You watch them chase you as long as you can, staring even as they disappear into the horizon.

It’s not even half an hour before you get your first text.