It was simple, really.
A reunion party, doubling as an anniversary to the day they successfully solved the case that shook Inaba from its’ core. Fresh, home cooked food filled the small house with a soothing aroma, adding to the heartfelt atmosphere coming from the laughter of friends. The weather of the small country town was still warming up from the cold of winter, but the air had a comfortable cool to contrast the heat of bustle.
It really was a simple event with no issues to be foreseen.
But things are never quite so simple when it came to Yu Narukami.
It was Rise that brought up the idea, but it was ultimately unanimous that everyone had been thinking of it all the same. Five years have passed since the Investigation Team saved the townspeople of Inaba from a series of strange and unexplainable murders, and it felt only proper to celebrate by meeting back up in the same scene of the events. It had nearly been just as long since the last time they saw each other all in one spot, as well, deciding that it was a requirement for everyone to come, no matter what.
Yu, initially, had been excited. He truly missed the others, having only heard updates from them through calls and texts. They all seemed to be flourishing their own way, and Yu was filled with a type of pride, knowing how far they had come in the years they’ve been apart. This was more than a celebration of their one success, it was also one for themselves.
The only person he was always filled in on, with every minute shift and change from his day to day, was his partner, Yosuke Hanamura.
It was inevitable that they would decide to live together, everyone and their mothers knew it would happen. Yosuke understood Yu more than anyone could begin to grasp, and Yu was there to keep Yosuke in check. They were a package deal, and once the brunet graduated, he was off to the city to keep it that way.
No one except Teddie was surprised when Yosuke spilled that “partner” stopped being a platonic nickname a while back. It even felt like there were sighs of relief.
However, Yu realized that meant that his boyfriend was the only person that knew the full extent of what he’d been up to, as well. Yosuke was the only person that knew who Yu really was, who he had become.
And this realization striked Yu Narukami with a terrifying thought.
What if the others don’t like me anymore?
Shaking his head to push the words to the back of his mind, Yu preceded to force the excitement in to the front. The man did not need to look more stressed than his hair already gave way to.
Yu told himself it would be fine and ignored the questionable looks his partner would give him.
— — —
The day came, and it came fast.
The train ride to Inaba was full of Yosuke talking, Yu only giving short and quiet responses in affirmation that he was, in fact, listening. Any form of concern coming from the auburn-haired man’s face were excused with white lies.
“I just feel a little motion sick,” was the first one, immediately called out for the fact that Yosuke knew it was bullshit.
“I forgot to eat before we left,” was try number two. His partner rolled his eyes and reminded him they ate both breakfast and lunch together. Yu bit the inside of his cheek and tried one last time to get the other off his case.
“The… The cats. Yeah.” He spotted Yosuke raising an eyebrow, seconds away from asking for more explanation before Yu gave it to him. “I’m worried they’re going to be lonely. It’s been a while since we were out for two whole days, hasn’t it?” He finished with a deep breath, hoping that his excuse worked. It took a minute, but Yosuke let out a sigh of his own before sitting back into his seat.
“I won’t pressure you right now, but you should talk about what’s going on later. I’m not against you here.” Yosuke feigned a face of frustration, but still moved his hand to rest on top of Yu’s own. The latter gave a small nod in agreement.
— — —
You’re not against me—
The both of them were standing together in front of the Dojima household, Yu’s hand tight on the door’s handle, but no movement being made.
But what if they are?
“Hey, partner? It’s not going to open like that,” Yosuke sputtered out, getting a little impatient from the lengthy wait in the cold night air. Yu decided to ignore the insensitivity on the other’s part in the defense that he had kind of been intentionally avoiding talking to him this whole time. It just made it even.
The push did help Yu finally open the door, though, and the muffled sounds that could be heard from the outer walls suddenly burst into clarity. It was loud at first,— it looked like Teddie was in the middle of some grand performance he had practiced way too many times— but once the couple were in fully in the doorway, everything went quiet for a second as all eyes shifted onto them.
“H-Hello…” Yu swallowed heavy, giving a weak wave to match his soft spoken greeting. It was enough to cause all the formally arrived team members to cheer in surprise. He was shocked by the sound of happiness in their voices, thinking for just a second that it was more than simple party joy.
“Big Bro’s here?” The first to run up was Nanako, wide eyed and filled to the brim with excitement. No matter how low Yu felt, he at least could rest easy that his cousin would always be a constant, a true bond, now and forever. As she clung to his waist, he realized how much she has grown and wondered how tall she’ll end up. Maybe he had something to fear from her, after all.
“Narukami-kun, you made it!” Came a loud call through the crowd, shifting Yu’s attention from the girl giggling beneath him. The source was none other than Chie Satonaka, which lead to no surprise. She always spoke with a voice that contrasted her small form. “Oh, and hey, Yosuke.”
When she walked over, his partner complaining about the half-baked greeting, his stomach suddenly lurched. She seemed so strong, and anyone could tell just from appearance she’s made a name for herself. Last he remembered, the girl even got into a friendship with Sanada-san, creating a near unstoppable team.
“It’s so good to see you again!” And just like that, Satonaka had her arms wrapped around the two of them. Yosuke was sputtering out a response akin to disgust, causing the other to laugh, but Yu found himself in a state of shock. He couldn’t hear anything she was saying, whether it about the man himself, her friends scattered around the room, or even about nothing, it came to him in muffled tones.
Hugs are just a type of greeting, right? Nothing more, and nothing less.
He smiled and nodded along, recycling pre-rehearsed words and phrases.
“Yeah, you too, Satonaka,” seemed to satisfy the girl, but not without questionable glances from the only one that knows Yu’s out of his norm. Swallowing again, the grey haired man moved on with ignorance before the gazes turned into inquiries.
The least he could do was keep quiet so the others can have fun tonight.
— — —
It didn’t take long for his act to crumble.
Yu’s anxieties were subdued while he cooked, one of the few distractions that can actually soothe him, and by the time he was serving all the guests, he thought that, just maybe, his worries are wrong. He talked to Shirogane, the only one to arrive later than the partners, about her latest successful case and everything felt alright.
However, his fears creeped back in.
You haven’t done enough, you haven’t changed.
Yu poked at his half eaten food, suddenly lacking all appetite. He listened to his friends’— Do you even deserve to call them that? — banter, bouncing story after story amongst each other. Great leaps they’ve made, awards they’ve won, people they’ve met.
And what have you done?
“Nothing…” He whispered out, quiet enough that no one quite heard it. Amagi, however, asked Yu what he said, the male making up the first sentence that fits. “Uh, ah… Nothing… makes me happier that seeing you all again.”
She looked shocked, and Yu looked back down in a feeling of shame. It wasn’t a lie, but it wasn’t really true, either. This ache inside pounding against his head, his stomach, his every joint and nerve, it wasn’t happiness, but… These people; they’re kind, they’re there for him, they’re his… his…
“Me too,” Amagi spoke with a light nod. When he looked back up, he saw the face of surprise had warmed into one of endearment.
“I think all of us here feel the same,” she finished. Yu found himself staring a beat too long before moving his gaze along the room. The looks around him all radiated comfort, gratitude, and even love.
“Yeah, Senpai! I ‘unno where I’d be if I didn’t meet you.” Tatsumi, the only one louder than Satonaka, was the first to add on.
“Agreed. Meeting you, as well as everyone else here, was a turning point in my life. I’d never take it back,” Shirogane spoke in a careful way, but her expression still came through.
And one by one, everyone around the room spoke about how forming the Investigation Team was what cemented themselves. It was what helped them grow, and pursue their dreams.
Did you live up to their expectations, leader?
“Yay! I’m so happy we’re all friends!” Teddie yelled out, jumping up in joy. Smiles and laughter followed suit from everyone but Yu, too caught up on one word.
No, that’s not… I’m not…
Yu stood up suddenly, the room now falling silent in confusion. Questions lingered in the air; What’s wrong? Are you okay? Do you feel alright? But no sounds were made before the man walked out to the backyard in a hurry, ignoring the concerned looks.
“Whoa, hey, wait! Partner!” Yosuke said, breaking the silence. He fumbled up from where he sat to run after Yu, leaving behind whatever the others started yelling about.
When the brunet had caught up, Yu had already found a spot on the edge of the house, hunched over and grasping his legs tight. Yosuke softly slid the door behind him as he watched precariously, unsure where to start. He hummed, opened his mouth a couple times to start, but closed it back up when he felt it didn’t feel right. Stagnant and silent minutes passed before he resolved to move and take a seat next to his boyfriend.
A notable amount of time passed before Yosuke spoke up again, which Yu appreciated. He was thankful for the given moments to compose himself, albeit barely so.
“Listen, partner, I’ll cut straight to the point: I know something’s wrong. I’ve known all day. Now, do you want to talk about it?” Yosuke asked, voice soft and filled with care.
The other had to think. The break of calm solitude he had was enough to break out of the shell he mentally built around himself, but he’s struggling to come clean about everything. About his fears, his insecurities.
What if he sees me differently? What if they all do?
Yu sighed and decided that, if anyone, Yosuke would stay the same. They were equals, after all.
“I’m… scared,” he admitted. The male beside him didn’t push, but was listening for more.
“I’m scared that everyone won’t like who I’ve become, or rather, how little I’ve changed. I haven’t done much since we parted, meanwhile they’re all leading amazing and successful lives.” Yu felt his face heat up, stark to the chilly wind around them, as he held back his personal floodgates.
“What will they think of their leader when they find out all he’s done is the same as when they last saw him? I should be happy for them, and I really am… but…” He looked away from Yosuke and to the ground, ashamed to feel so weak and helpless.
“Why would I still be their friend, when I’ve failed to keep up as the inspiration they saw me as?” Yu finished, throat tight and threatening to crack.
It took a while for any response to be made, Yosuke thinking his words through carefully. Seconds before Yu was going to say to forget about it, he felt a hand on his own, gripping loosely.
“You know that’s not why you’re their friend, right?” He said it bluntly, and it sounded dumb to hear something so simple. Yu remained stubborn, gaze still far away from the one beside him.
“It’s pretty clear, but I’ll spell it out for you. You’re our friend because no matter what stupid shit any of us do, you will always be there. You support us in every way you can, and you’d drop anything you’re doing in a moment’s notice if we were in trouble. You’re inspiring to us because we all admire how dedicated you are to what is important to you; your friends,” Yosuke took a deep breath before he finished.
“Most importantly, Yu, you’re our friend because we genuinely like you, and just because we go down different paths doesn’t change any of that.”
Yu, speechless, took a glance over at his partner, and the moment he was met with that loving smile, that’s also a little dopey, he felt the pools of water collected around his eyes silently pour out. Yosuke’s arm slid across his back, turning to make an embrace, his hand smoothing circles where it lay.
— — —
It felt like hours before Yu shifted underneath the hug, sniffles becoming fewer and farther between. He looked tired, his eyes red and puffed, but marginally less stressed. Yosuke left his hand against the broad of his partner’s shoulders, and still had the smile from earlier stuck on his face, a bit more toothy as they met eyes again.
Yu admired it, took in every line and freckle around it. Took in the way Yosuke’s eyes creased as it grew, and how it somehow made the man look even cuter. He leaned in, placing a kiss against the smile that could always save him from the dark. The smile that was like the sun.
It was a slow and hesitant part, neither of them really wanting to move, opting to rest foreheads against each other.
“We should probably head back in, partner.” Yosuke finally spoke, a bit of remorse in his voice.
“Mm… Yeah…” Yu moved up to place another kiss on his boyfriend’s forehead. “They’re probably worried.”
They stood up in unison, brushing off any dust that clung to their clothes. In all honesty, Yu could spend the whole night out with Yosuke, but it’d be rude to leave the others without an explanation.
“You can run to the bathroom and wash up, I’ll make a distraction… or some kind of excuse.”
“That works, we don’t want them to know we were hugging. Too girly, was that it?” Yu smirked as his partner rolled his eyes. He knows the jokes overdone, yet teasing the brunet is still fun, all these years later.
“Dude, shut up,” Yosuke said playfully, holding back his own laughter. He started to open the door and begin their hastily formed plan, but before he could the silver haired man spoke up one last time.
“Thank you.” It was a simple phrase, but something about that didn’t quite cut it for Yu. He tried again.
“Thank you, Yosuke. I love you.”
Yosuke looked a bit shocked, his face flustered from the sudden words, but it quickly formed back into that comfortable smile as he responded.
“I love you, too, Yu.”