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“Hey, Yosuke! Are you even listening to me?!”

“H-Huh?” Yosuke’s thoughts were interrupted by Chie snapping her fingers in front of his face. Yosuke shot his head up from his desk, almost making himself dizzy from the quick movement. He shifted his gaze around the classroom, realizing that it was practically empty. “Wait, class is already over?” But… didn’t class just start?

“It’s been over for about ten minutes now,” Yukiko informed him. "Did you not notice?”

“Wow, was I really spaced out that long…?” Yosuke shook his head to clear his mind. Spacing out in Ms. Kashiwagi’s class wasn’t anything unusual, but he normally came out of it as soon as the bell rang. He could tell that he hadn’t fallen asleep, as Kashiwagi would’ve swiftly woken him up with a loud bang on his desk and a pink detention slip. He learned this fact the hard way after many previous experiences following long night shifts at Junes.

“Apparently you were, since you’ve been staring off into space for the past hour,” Chie said in annoyance. “ Anyways … I was trying to tell you that we’re gonna be meeting the others at Junes. You’re free to come, right?”

Yosuke nodded, his mind still a bit fuzzy. “Yeah, for once in my life I don’t have work.” He said with a light-hearted laugh. “Why, is there something new on the case?”

Yukiko shook her head. “Unfortunately, no.” She replied simply. “Nothing we don’t already know, anyway.”

“What, we can’t all get together as friends without it being about the case?” Chie teased, placing her hands on her hips.

“Come on, you know that’s not what I meant, right partner?” Yosuke turned to his left to get backup from Yu, but noticed that the desk in front of him was empty. “Huh? Where’s Yu?”

“He left as soon as class ended, said something about basketball practice,” Chie answered with a shrug. “It’s a shame he can’t come to Junes with us.”

Yosuke nodded in agreement, somewhat disappointed that Yu wouldn’t be coming. It wasn’t that he didn’t like hanging out with the other members of the Investigation Team-- Yosuke actually valued each of them as his closest friends, something he’d never had before coming to Inaba. He even valued Chie’s friendship, no matter how many times she made jokes at his expense.

It was just that Yosuke’s bond with Yu was something… different. Yu was the only one who’d seen Yosuke’s shadow and, instead of turning his back in disgust like Yosuke had expected, Yu had embraced him. He was there to offer unconditional support during a time where he so desperately needed it, after the trauma of losing someone close to him, finding out she only thought of him as a nuisance, and then subsequently having to face himself and the thoughts he so desperately tried to hide from the world, and even himself. Yu was his best friend. Yu was his partner.

“Hey, what’re you smiling about, you doofus?” Chie jeered at him.

Yosuke felt the muscles in his face relax as Chie snapped him out of his musings once again. He hadn’t even realized he’d been grinning widely as he thought about his partner.  God- he probably looked like an idiot. “Nothing.” He said, almost in a whisper, afraid his voice would crack if he spoke any louder.

Chie was about to press him further, but stopped when Yukiko pointed out the time. “We should get going, the others are probably at Junes already.”

Yosuke breathed a sigh of relief, silently thanking the gods for Yukiko. He really didn’t feel like being interrogated by Chie today, or any other day, for that matter.

~~~

The food court at Junes was fairly empty, with it being in the middle of the week and all. Yosuke, Chie, and Yukiko headed over towards their usual “special headquarters” to meet with the others, despite not having any plans to talk about the case.

“Hey guys!” Chie greeted, announcing her arrival. Kanji, Rise, Naoto, and Teddie were already seated around the table, and turned their attention to the approaching trio.

“‘Bout time you three showed up!” Kanji said with a hint of exasperation, though he was smiling widely. “I’ve been dying to eat since that last bell rang!”

“Sorry if we made you guys wait.” Yukiko apologized politely with a bow.

“Yeah, this dork over here completely spaced out on us!” Chie said, roughly elbowing Yosuke in the side.

“Hey!” Yosuke complained, rubbing the part on his abdomen where Chie had hit him. “Come on, you guys can’t blame me for tuning out Kashiwagi’s lectures, can you?”

Rise giggled, finding Yosuke and Chie’s constant squabbling strangely amusing. “It’s fine, Yosuke-senpai, we haven’t been waiting long.”

“We actually just got here ourselves, in fact,” Naoto added. “Kanji’s just being dramatic.”

Kanji whipped his head around to Naoto. “Am not!” He protested, and Yosuke could’ve sworn he saw a faint blush creep up on his cheeks. “A man’s gotta eat, you know!”

Teddie eagerly bounded over to the three. He was in his mascot costume, as usual. Yosuke never understood why he wore it all the time, especially with all the strange stares he got when he wasn’t working his shift. “Hey, where’s Sensei?” Teddie asked, curiously sniffing around Yosuke, as if Yu was hiding in his pocket or something.

“Hey, personal space, you bear!” Yosuke shouted, pushing Teddie off of him. “Yu’s just off at basketball practice.”

“Aww…” Teddie pouted.

“But, didn’t we just go into the TV yesterday?” Rise pointed out, absentmindedly twirling one of her pigtails around her finger. “I swear, Yu works way too hard.”

“You got that right.” Kanji agreed. “You’d have to knock him unconscious to get him to take a break for once.”

Yep, that sounded like Yosuke’s partner. Yu was always so busy. Basketball practice one day, then drama club the other. Not to mention all the odd jobs he worked- Assisting at the daycare, tutoring, cleaning the hospital- Yosuke was amazed at how much that guy could handle. And here Yosuke thought he was gonna collapse after one shift at Junes.

And yet, no matter how busy Yu seemed to be, he always made time for Yosuke. Whenever he asked to hang out, whether it was to train in the TV World, go to the movies, or to just chill by Samegawa River, Yu never turned him down. Not even when Yosuke added an “its k if ur busy 2day or dont wanna” text so he didn’t seem annoying.

Yosuke wasn’t sure if he was always coincidentally free whenever he wanted to hang out, or if his partner dropped everything he was doing the moment the brunette texted him. Yosuke felt the heat rise in his chest at the thought of Yu going out of his way to free his schedule, just for him.

“Hey Senpai! You coming or what?” Kanji’s voice interrupted Yosuke’s thinking, bringing him back to reality.

Yosuke blinked a few times, shaking his head to clear his mind. He noticed that the others had left the table, presumably to go get their food. “Y-Yeah, sorry…” Yosuke murmured. Did he really just space out again?

“You doing alright, Senpai?” Kanji asked, genuine concern in his voice. “You look like something’s on your mind.”

A few shades of pink began to appear on Yosuke’s face. “O-Oh, it’s nothing. I’m just a bit out of it today.” He rubbed the back of his head, embarrassed. He would have to make more of an effort keep himself from drifting off again, or the others would definitely notice something was up.

“Alright.” Kanji wasn’t very convinced, but he decided to drop the subject for now.

~~~

By the time Yosuke returned with his food, a simple beef bowl, Chie was already seated at the table, wolfing down a steak like she hadn’t eaten in years. Yukiko was in the seat next to her, though she hadn’t gotten any food, likely so she didn’t spoil her dinner at the inn. Soon, Kanji, Rise, and Naoto appeared with their food as well, each of them with a different ramen dish containing various amounts of noodles, meat, and vegetables. Teddie came back not long after, holding a large bowl with way too much ice cream, topped with an almost sickening amount of chocolate fudge and gummy bears.

Yosuke wanted to tell Teddie to hold off on the sweets before he got sick, but he knew it would be a losing battle before he even opened his mouth. He just settled on letting Teddie do what he wanted, making a mental note to himself to pick up more stomach medicine on his way home for when he eventually came to him crying about a tummy ache (for the fourth time this month).

Yosuke was about to dig into his meal when something was placed in front of him. It was a small, travel-sized tube of what looked to be a type of ointment or cream. Yosuke looked up to see Kanji standing by his chair.

“Huh?” Confused, Yosuke took the tube in his hand and read over the label. Natural Remedy for Bruised or Damaged Skin. “What’s this?” Yosuke questioned, looking up at Kanji.

“It’s for your bruise.” He answered, looking somewhat sheepish. “I get them all the time, so I always carry this stuff with me. I figured you’d need it.”

“My… bruise?” Yosuke repeated, even more puzzled now. He didn’t have a bruise…

Kanji tilted his head. “You know… the one on your neck?” He said cluelessly.

Yosuke’s hand reached up to touch his neck, feeling around for whatever Kanji was talking about. He inhaled sharply, standing up as his fingers grazed against a sore spot on the soft skin beneath his chin. It wasn’t huge, but there was definitely some kind of mark there.

Suddenly, Chie gasped, getting up out of her chair and pointing an accusing finger in Yosuke’s direction.

“Oh my God! Yosuke, is that a hickey?!”

If a psychic were to read Yosuke’s mind at that very moment, they’d probably go deaf from how much he was screaming internally.

“W-What?!” Yosuke stammered, slapping his hand hard against his neck to cover the mark there. The others at the table turned to look at him, each of their eyes wide with shock.

“No way!” Rise said in disbelief, standing up as well. She rounded the table, nearly shoved Kanji out of the way, and seized Yosuke’s arm, pulling it away and putting his neck on full display for the others. “It is !”

“H-Hey!” Yosuke protested, pulling his arm out of Rise’s grasp. “It is not !”

Kanji snorted with mockish laughter. “And here I thought it was just an ordinary bruise.”

“It is just a bruise!” Yosuke’s face flushed with embarrassment, red enough to rival Yukiko’s sweater. “You guys are overreacting!”

“Ooo, getting defensive, are we?” Rise cooed, a mischievous grin stretched across her face. “Sooo, who gave it to you?”

Before Yosuke could tell Rise off, Yukiko gasped in a sudden realization.

“It was Yu-kun wasn’t it?!”

Yosuke’s mouth went agape. How had she come to that conclusion?

More importantly, how had she been right?

Somehow, Yosuke managed to blush even harder.

“Oh, he’s blushing!” Rise pointed out with a giggle.

“No, you guys are just crazy!” Yosuke objected, trying to pull himself out of this catastrophic mess he’d found himself in.

“If it’s not a hickey, then why’re you getting so defensive about it?” Chie glared daggers at Yosuke, her intense brown eyes looking him up and down.

“Because you guys are making random accusations that aren’t true!” He fired back, shifting his eyes away from Chie’s piercing gaze. He felt as if she were probing at his mind with her eyes. He swallowed, his mind scrambling to come up with a quick lie. “L-Look, I was restocking one of the higher shelves at Junes last night, and one of the heavier cans fell on me! That’s all!”

“Actually,” Naoto, who’d been mostly silent up until this point as she watched the situation unfold, spoke up. “A falling food can would likely leave a larger mark than the one you have, would definitely look a lot more sore than it is now, considering you claim the injury occurred just last night. Nevermind the fact that a bruise like that would be blue or purple in color, not a light reddish like yours.”

Naoto had the most smug, shit-eating grin Yosuke’d ever seen, which surprised him more than her scarily accurate analysis of his injury, considering the blue-haired first-year’s usually stoic nature.

“Damn,” Kanji said after a short, shocked silence from Yosuke. “She just scientifically told you that you’re full of shit.”

“S-Shut up!” Yosuke stammered, flashing a dirty look over at Kanji. Yosuke’s eyes scanned each of his friends and lit up when they fell on Teddie, who was looking bewildered at the entire situation, as if the others were talking in an entirely different language. A spark of hope ignited in Yosuke’s mind. Teddie would back him up! “Teddie was there when it happened, remember ?” He nodded at the bear, silently pleading at him with a gaze that said ‘for the love of God, please just go with it’.

But, of course, being as clueless as ever, Teddie didn’t take the hint. He tilted his head, perplexed. “I don’t remember that, Yosuke-kun.” He said innocently. “Actually, weren’t you over at Sensei’s house last night?”

Yosuke mentally facepalmed.

A-ha!” Yukiko blurted out. “So it was Yu-kun!” Her words had a sort of ‘gotcha!’ air to them, as if he’d just been caught in the middle of committing a crime.

“W-What?! I-”  Yosuke didn’t even know how to react. Yukiko had hit the nail right on the head. So much for keeping his relationship with his partner a secret.

“Y’know, I kinda saw this coming, but I’m still a bit disappointed.” Rise said with a sigh, shaking her head. “Though, I guess I can’t blame Senpai for picking Yosuke over me. You two are so perfect for each other it makes me angry!”

Teddie still didn’t understand what the others were talking about. “I don’t get it…” He said, puzzled as he put his hand on his chin in contemplation. “What’s a hickey?”

Yukiko’s eyes lit up deviously, turning her attention to the bear. “Oh, I know! It’s when a lover sucks on the sk-”

“HE DOESN’T NEED AN EXPLANATION!” Yosuke cried out, stopping Yukiko before she went any further into uncomfortable territory. He really didn’t need to hear Yukiko give Teddie ‘The Talk’.

Naoto chuckled lowly, affixing her gaze directly at Yosuke, bearing a pompous smile that made the brunette uncomfortable. “I hope you two at least used protection.”

Naoto’s voice was cool, with a hint of amusement compared to the uncontrollable laughter that traveled around the table and the sputtering mess Yosuke had become after that comment. “What? No, no no no no no, you’ve got it all wrong! N-Nothing like that happened last night, I swear!”

He’d actually been telling the truth with that statement. Sure, he and Yu may have cuddled a bit after watching a movie, which had turned into a pretty intense make out session…

But nothing else happened! Especially not… whatever the hell Naoto was suggesting!

Chie narrowed her eyes at Yosuke. “So you admit that something did happen last night?”

“No! I didn’t-”

“Y’know, Senpai…” Kanji started with a short chuckle, interrupting Yosuke’s miserable attempt to save face. “I never thought you’d be the one to be on the receiving end of things.”

That was it. Yosuke was not going to stick around just to have the rest of his friends continue to make fun of him. “Nope! Nope nope nope, I’m not dealing with this anymore!” He said, clamping his hands over his ears. “LALALALALALA, I’M SORRY, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

With his face still a fine shade of scarlet, Yosuke turned and sprinted away before the rest of the Investigation Team could react.

~~~

 

Yosuke slammed the front door shut as he frantically entered his house. He paused, panting loudly. He’d practically ran home all the way from Junes, afraid of running into anyone he knew and making even more of a fool out of himself.

“Mom?” He called, receiving no answer. “Dad?”

Still, no answer. They must’ve gone out. Yosuke sighed in relief, not knowing how the hell he’d explain a hickey to his parents.

Knowing that he should probably cover it up before they got home, Yosuke headed to the bathroom. He caught the eye of his reflection in the mirror, and, though he’d felt it earlier, it shocked him to actually see the hickey on his neck. He leaned over the bathroom sink to get a closer look and held his fingers up to the blemish, tracing delicate circles around the perimeter and pressing on it lightly, ignoring the flashes of pain that came whenever he did. The mark was about the size of Yosuke’s thumb, and had a reddish color to it, just as Naoto had described.

Yosuke’s mind began to wander as he stared into the mirror, recalling the events of the previous night. The memory of Yu’s delicate hands in his own, Yosuke’s fingers in Yu’s soft, silver hair, the feeling of Yu’s smooth lips and teeth nibbling against his neck… Just the thought of it all filled Yosuke’s mind with bliss.

Despite all of the humiliation the mark had caused, Yosuke couldn’t help but smile at the thought of the hickey. The hickey Yu had given him. The hickey that acted as proof that Yosuke was his . Yu Narukami, the enigmatic transfer student who all the girls swooned over, had chosen him , Yosuke Hanamura, the infamous ‘Disaster Prince of Junes’, to be his .

But, the warm feelings disappeared almost as soon as they’d come, being replaced with an imminent sense of dread. He had school tomorrow- how was he goes to face his friends after such an embarrassment? Even if he covered up the mark, they’d still seen it. They knew it was there, they knew it was a hickey, and they’d even somehow known Yu was the one responsible.

The two had made a promise to keep their relationship a secret for the time being. After all, Yosuke himself was just coming to terms with the fact that he’d fallen for another guy- his best friend , for that matter, and he wasn’t prepared to be open about it just yet, and possibly face judgement or rejection from his friends. Yosuke thought for a moment that Yu had accidentally let it slip that the two were dating, but he quickly dismissed the theory. He trusted his partner, and, even if he did tell their friends on accident, Yosuke knew he would tell him immediately.

Perhaps Yosuke hadn’t been as subtle as he’d thought when it came to his affections for Yu. He did his best to keep himself under control during school and in public, but sometimes the two couldn’t help but sneak kisses in the bathroom between classes or hold hands underneath their desks. The worst of it was when it came to them studying together during their free period. It was almost torture for Yosuke to resist the urge to kiss his boyfriend to shut him up when Yu was trying to explain a complicated math formula Yosuke knew he’d never understand.

Anxiety began to gnaw at Yosuke’s mind as he thought about having to confront his friends at school the next day. He’d have to tell them everything, about how after all the douchey remarks he’d made and all the shit he’d given Kanji, Yosuke had fallen for their leader, who, miraculously, returned his feelings.

How would his friends react? Angry? Disgusted? Would they call him a hypocrite? Would they never speak to him again? They hadn’t seemed angry earlier today, more amused at Yosuke’s blundering than anything else, but that didn’t stop thousands of possibilities from swirling around Yosuke’s mind, each possible outcome worse than the last.

The familiar chimes of the doorbell prevented Yosuke’s thoughts from consuming him entirely. Dazed by the sudden noise, Yosuke shoved his worries aside and left the bathroom, heading out to see who was there.

Yosuke was startled slightly to find that no one was at the door, and figured it had just been a prank by one of the neighborhood kids, but looked down to see a small, white box sitting in front of the doorstep. He picked it up, turning it over in his hands. There was no return address, no name indicating who it was meant for. It was just a blank, white box, about four inches on each side.

Shutting the front door behind him, Yosuke tore the package open with ease. Inside was a black rounded capsule, which the brunette discovered to be a brand-new container of concealer. Yosuke didn’t know shit about make-up, but he could tell that the concealer he’d received couldn’t have been cheap. At the bottom of the box was a piece of paper, folded up delicately with Yosuke’s name clearly written on the front. He unfolded the paper, noticing the unmistakable neat handwriting that belonged to his partner.

Partner,

I heard about what happened.

I’ll try to be more careful next time.

~Yu

“Yu, you fucking dork.” Yosuke said aloud with a laugh at his partner’s cheesiness, down to the silly heart he’d drawn on the note. Though, deep down, he could barely contain how much his heart fluttered at the words ‘next time’.

Yosuke’s face broke into a smile, his previous fears now seeming small and insignificant compared to the raging storm they had been before. He would come clean to his friends tomorrow. He would apologize for his shitty behavior, especially towards Kanji. He would tell them about his relationship with Yu- No, the two would tell them together. Because, when Yosuke was with his partner, he could do anything, even begin to face his other self.