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"Yu?"

He knows that tone. The slight wavering, carefully disguised and quieted down so as to not cause worry. "What's wrong?"

There's a long pause, and Yu stares at the receiver, as if he half expects Yosuke to appear from it. He hears strained breathing from the other end.

"I told them."

Yu's heart sinks. He'd known this day would come. And judging by Yosuke's voice, it had gone just about as well as he'd expected.

"I'm on my way." Yu says immediately, surprising even himself as he quickly gets to his feet. "I'll be there in ten minutes."

There's an audible commotion in the background of the phone call, and Yu hears a sharp inhale from Yosuke. "I'm leaving anyways." The words spill out, hitting like a sledgehammer. "Meet me halfway. At the riverbank. I'll be there as soon as I can."

Yu isn't given time to reply before the call ends.

He stands in stunned silence for a brief moment, before giving his head a shake and hurriedly grabbing things to bring with him. Within minutes, he's out the door, slinging a backpack filled with essentials over his shoulder. He's not sure what Yosuke is planning, but the least he can do is show up prepared for anything.

Snow drifts lazily down, doing little to ease the cold and hopeless atmosphere of the day. Few people are out of their homes, which makes for a lonely walk, and only seems to heighten Yu's rising anxiety. It's reminiscent of the days when unnatural fog lay thick among the town, basking it in a sickly yellow colour. Just like back then, tonight didn't feel right at all.

He's early to the snow-covered gazebo, and paces beneath it, impatiently rummaging through his bag for his cellphone. He checks it quickly. No missed calls. No texts. No emails.

And so he sits on the bench, feeling the cold seep in through the stitches in his pants. It chills him almost as much as it does to imagine what Yosuke could be enduring at this moment. Had he been cussed out? Rejected? Ridiculed? Or worse...? Yu bounces his leg restlessly, thinking up different scenarios, each more improbable than the last, but never failing to make his stomach turn regardless.

He shivers, his admittedly thin jacket not doing much to keep the cold out. He's not sure if it's been all that long since he'd gotten to the Samegawa, but each minute seemingly ticks by in slow motion. He feels helpless.

Eventually, he brings both of his knees to his chest and huddles in on himself, and with the adrenaline finally wearing off, finds himself unable to keep his eyes open. No matter how much he struggles against it, he falls asleep quickly, with his phone in his hand.

 


 

Yu awakens with a start, feeling a sudden pressure on his back. He nearly falls off the bench with the force of his movement, only to be caught by whoever had been standing behind him.

Eyes still blurry from sleep, he blinks rapidly, trying to focus on the face looming over him.

Yu takes in the slightly swollen amber eyes, giving a sigh of relief and relaxing almost immediately against Yosuke's warm midriff.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, partner." His voice is hoarse. He'd been screaming.

"Don't apologize, just tell me what happened." Yu's tone ends up harsher than he'd meant it to, but Yosuke seemingly pays it no mind and takes a seat beside Yu.

Yu reaches for his backpack, pulling out a blanket and a bottle of water. He hands them to Yosuke, who offers a tired smile in response and wraps the blanket around both of their shoulders.

"You should've used this earlier; you're freezing." Yosuke remarks, the second half of his sentence almost completely muffled by the water bottle pressed to his lips. He takes a long drink, then sets it on the table behind them. "Thanks man, I'm... I really appreciate you uh... being here for me and stuff."

Yu nods, his stare still fixed on Yosuke's red-rimmed eyes.

Yosuke tries to say more, but the words die on his lips. His gaze shifts all over, looking everywhere but at Yu, and he clears his throat meaningfully. After a moment, he sighs in defeat and lays his head on Yu's shoulder. He doesn't appear to be ready to talk just yet.

Yu snakes an arm around Yosuke's waist, quietly reveling in the way he squirms under his gentle touch. The cold is much more bearable with their shared body heat, and Yu forces himself to focus on the snow sparkling in the glow of the streetlight rather than Yosuke's dejected expression.

The silence is a comfortable one, even with so many unspoken words lingering in the air between them. Yu doesn't dare push. He knows how difficult it is for Yosuke to drop his conditioned "everything is fine!" façade. Even just being here with him, knowing he had just lost everything; the fact that he was working up to baring his soul to Yu was nothing short of a miracle. Just a few months ago, it would've seemed like a joke to him; an improbability.

Yosuke reaches for Yu's hand, gripping it tightly, readying himself. "So I... told my parents," he starts, voice shaky. He takes a deep breath before continuing. "I told my dad, actually. I don't know why, but I thought maybe he'd... Be fine with it. It was completely stupid, but I had this hope that... Maybe they'd just accept me, you know? And it wouldn't be a big deal." He rubbed his knuckles against his eye with more force than was strictly necessary. "Anyways he freaked out. Obviously. Told my mom too. She would never say anything against him anyways, but she had this look of... betrayal or something on her face. Like she was just so..."

The hand enveloping Yu's tightened its hold.

"D-disgusted? I don't really know, I've never s-seen her look that way before..." Yosuke is choked up now, trying to stifle his sobs, but only succeeds in causing himself to let out a strangled cough. He buries his head under Yu's chin; there's no hiding the wetness Yu feels against his neck.

Yu is at a complete loss for words. All he can do is gently stroke Yosuke's hair, his heart aching, chest constricting painfully while he listens to Yosuke's quiet crying.

"She told me to leave," Yosuke whispers. "They said I wasn't allowed to come back unless I broke it off with you. That was... I snapped." He takes a shaky breath, and Yu places a reassuring kiss against the side of Yosuke's forehead. "That's when I called you. I was packing my shit, and... they both came into my room. It was like they just couldn't leave me alone. My dad started throwing things. He threw my guitar into the T.V. and smashed them both. My mom just went on about how we could 'fix' things, and that it was normal to be confused."

"You don't need to be fixed, Yosuke." Yu interjects. It's the first time he's spoken in a while, and he feels Yosuke startle beside him. He drops his tone to a low murmur before continuing. "You're not broken. I hope you know that. Your parents are in the wrong here."

Yosuke lets out another choked sob in response, huddling in on himself. He looks positively miserable, and it crushes Yu to see him like this; especially considering the cause of all the upset.

Yu stands abruptly, keeping his hold on Yosuke's hand. "Let's go home."

Yosuke's eyes widen in confusion, followed by a look of terror that makes Yu regret saying anything at all.

"My home," Yu rushes on, pulling Yosuke up so that he stands pressed against him. Yu takes the opportunity to hug his partner tightly, once again placing a gentle kiss upon the top of his head. His arms encircle Yosuke's waist, and his body presses flush against him, so close that he can feel his racing heartbeat through their winter jackets.

He lifts Yosuke up, ignoring the sputtered protests, and places him on the picnic table bench they'd been sitting on. Yu looks up at Yosuke, now standing about a head and a half taller than him."C'mon, and bring the blanket too."

Yosuke looks confused, but seems to catch on quickly enough, placing his hands on Yu's shoulders and hoisting himself up onto his back. Yu grabs his legs, consciously keeping his grip lower than normal. Yosuke wraps his arms around Yu's neck, chin resting between his shoulder blades.

They don't say much on the walk back to the Dojimas', and if Yu didn't know any better, he'd have thought Yosuke had fallen asleep. But he knew his partner was much too wired to rest now. His heart pounded unevenly against Yu's back, likely due to spikes of anxiety and upset. It makes Yu's stomach flip, imagining all of the inner turmoil Yosuke must be enduring.

When they neared his home, Yu noted that the lights on the main floor still had not been turned off, meaning that either Dojima had waited for Yu to return, or he had fallen asleep with the lights still on. Yu hoped it was the latter, though he wouldn't be surprised if his uncle had discovered his empty bed while he was gone.

"What are you gonna tell him?" Yosuke whispers, voicing Yu's concerns. "Do you think he'll be alright with it?"

Yu sets his face in a determined frown, and his pace quickens as he approaches the door. "If he's not, we can find somewhere else to go." He sets Yosuke down, brushing off his coat and straightening himself out, as if he's about to walk into an interview. He couldn't see Dojima putting up too much of a fight, but it was an obstacle he really didn't want to have to face at the moment.

He takes out a key from his jacket pocket and unlocks the door, taking care not to have it creak open. It's late enough that Nanako has already been put to bed, and waking her up is the last thing he wants- especially if he needs to stay on his uncle's good side. He toes off his shoes and peers around the corner, from the front entrance into the living room.

"Why were you out so late?"

Yu's stomach churns. "Something important came up." He steps into the main area, studying Dojima's tired features. He doesn't look angry, just relieved.

Yosuke pads up behind him, curled in on himself as if he's scared of taking up any more room than he has to. "Hello, Dojima-san."

Dojima looks perplexed. He leans over slightly to get a good look at Yosuke, who is still partially hiding behind Yu. "Oh, Hanamura. What's going on? You look exhausted."

"He's had a pretty rough night. Is it alright with you if he stays over?" Yu sweetens his words just enough so that it's not entirely noticeable.

Dojima grunts and waves his hand dismissively. "Well, you already brought him over, what else can I say but yes?" He purses his lips, looking Yosuke up and down. His expression softens after taking in his bedraggled appearance. "Of course you can stay. Just don't be too loud; Nanako has an important test tomorrow, and she needs her rest."

Yu bows, muttering words of thanks, then takes hold of Yosuke's shirt sleeve, dragging him upstairs to his room. He pulls out an extra futon and blankets while Yosuke changes into the pyjamas he brought. By the time he's showered and changed, Yu has laid out the futon next to his own, and sits with his back against the wall. Yosuke collapses onto the futon, then shuffles his way over so that he lays with his head in Yu's lap. It was extremely rare for Yosuke to be so physically close to Yu, even after they started dating. He tended to shy away from most physical affection, preferring to keep their relationship private. It wasn't that he was ashamed of them, more that he was terrified of anyone knowing.

Yu guessed that, in that respect at least, a large portion of his anxieties had been eased.

"How are you feeling?" Yu asks hesitantly. He runs the back of his hand over Yosuke's cheek, which causes a light blush to appear over his features.

Yosuke squashes his face into Yu's knee, embarrassed. "Good, I think. Better than I've felt all night, at least. There's just a lot on my mind." He closes his eyes, rolling onto his back and stretching his shoulders.

Yu settles down next to him, laying across the two futons with his legs hanging off the end. "Like what?" He presses.

A deep breath, and a small, restrained laugh. It's clear that he's preparing himself for a heart to heart. "Like you... and me. And a lot of other stuff; but I'm mostly just trying to focus on us right now, I guess."

"There's nothing wrong with that, but..." Yu pauses, staring down at Yosuke's deceivingly peaceful expression. "...There are some things that I need to know still. Some things we need to figure out sooner rather than later."

Yosuke frowns. "I know." He sighs and presses his palms into his eyes, clear signs of his frustration. "I know that. Of course I do. I'm just as lost as you are right now." He blinks his eyes open and finds himself face to face with Yu. He reaches for Yu's arm, grasping at his shirt sleeve. "I don't know what I'm gonna do."

Yu makes no move to comfort Yosuke, not knowing exactly how to proceed. He'll be leaving Inaba in just a few weeks. What was Yosuke to do after he was gone? Would he be forced to return to his parents' house? He wouldn't be able to live with Yu in his tiny two-bedroom apartment back in Tokyo... Not to mention the multitude of other problems that would likely accompany that decision, if they were to act on it. Yu doubted his own parents would react much better, should they ever find out about his relationship with Yosuke, and that was a chance that he simply couldn't take.

He loves Yosuke, and cares for him deeply, but if they both have no place to go, they'll be in even more trouble.

"I don't know either." Yu replies, his voice strained. "Maybe we can work something out with my uncle." Out of all of their options, it seemed the safest. "Once I'm gone, this room will be empty. I could convince him to let you stay, I'm sure he'd allow it if we explained the situation."

Yosuke tugs at Yu's sleeve. He looks utterly defeated, damp hair falling over his alarmingly pale face, making it all the more apparent just how tired he was. Yu is forcefully reminded of the face Nanako had worn during her stay in the hospital. Scared, confused, like all of the fight had drained out of her. Yu finally reaches for Yosuke, pulling him into his arms, feeling his partner start to shake with the release of unshed tears.

"I feel relieved," Yosuke rushes out, "I'm finally away from them. I've disappointed them for the last time." He digs his nails into Yu's shoulders, stinging even through the fabric of his shirt. "They've always expected so much of me... Too much of me. It's so much pressure. I'm not good at anything, and I never have been. And... Nothing is ever good enough for them... I'm... I'm just their disappointment of a son. I'm a loser. And now I've really gone and fucked everything up for them... I'm dating a guy."

The words ring through Yu's mind, striking hard at his heart. He curls around Yosuke protectively, placing his chin atop his head, and tangling his legs between Yosuke's. Yu could relate. More than Yosuke would ever know. His parents weren't exactly loving, caring people either. He had striven for perfection in all areas of his life, seeking validation, but had never gotten any sort of acknowledgement from his parents. He worked himself ragged, cooking, cleaning, studying, without a single word of praise. It was one of the reasons he held his uncle and cousin so close to his heart after a year of acting like a true family. Nanako sang his praises, constantly surprising him, saying things that he would have never imagined he'd hear in his lifetime. Dojima even, had told him time and time again how much of a good kid he was, even saying that he was proud of him, rewarding him with spending money when he placed top of his class on each and every test throughout the year. His own parents would hardly look at him on a good day, never mind speaking to him as if he were their child. He felt like a stranger in his own life.

He assumed it must be something similar with Yosuke; though it sounded as if, instead of being outright ignored by his parents, he'd been constantly berated and looked down upon. Just as the residents of Inaba had done when his family had re-homed there. Yu couldn't be sure which was worse. Both of them had been deeply scarred by their respective situations, and as different as their upbringings had been, they had many unfortunate commonalities between them.

Yosuke leans back, separating himself from Yu, peering up at his face - which held a solemn expression. He sniffed and wiped away his tears, then brought himself close to his partner once again. His tired eyes train on Yu's lips, then flick up to meet his eyes, as if asking permission.

Yu leans in and steals a kiss, quickly, before Yosuke has any time to make a move himself, pouring all of his unspoken reassurance into it. "You're a good person." Yu mumbles against his lips. "And we can do this together. Don't you dare believe all of those things your parents have said to you." He speaks to Yosuke, though the words reassure himself just as much.

Yosuke takes hold of Yu's face and deepens the kiss, almost aggressively. His face contorts into a pained scowl, eyes still closed tightly as he explores Yu's mouth, entwined in his protective embrace, and feeling more assured than he has in a long while.

He pulls away, panting slightly. His eyes remain shut tight, scowl marring his features. "Tell me about your parents. You hardly ever mention them. They're the same as mine, aren't they?"

Yu brushes Yosuke's bangs off his forehead, watching as his eyelids flutter open, revealing his amber eyes once again. Those beautiful brown eyes, brimming with love. Yet also pensive... Tired, and full of hurt, anger and betrayal. It causes a pang of guilt in Yu's heart, even though there really wasn't much that he, himself could have done to ease it. He rests his forehead against Yosuke's with a deep sigh. "My parents expect me to be perfect. I don't get recognition even if I manage to consistently have the top score in my class. It's just what's expected of me. They're hardly ever around; I'm usually at home alone, and we move around a lot. I really haven't ever been able to settle down and have a group of friends before... It's nice. I've had a lot more fun this year than... ever."

"Oh." Yosuke says lamely. He stares at Yu for a moment, then places a kiss against the bridge of Yu's nose, lips lingering a little longer than usual. "That's pretty shitty."

Yu chuckles, despite himself. "Yeah, it is. But the way I see it, as soon as I'm done high school, I'll be able to chart my own course. I'll get my own apartment, decorate it how I want, and I'll live in it. It'll be a home, not just a place to sleep."

"I guess that's something I've kinda taken for granted." Yosuke says, running a hand through his hair. "I've really only ever lived two places my whole life... And it's definitely always felt like my home. At least... It does now."

Yu looks off to the side, avoiding Yosuke's eyes for a brief moment. "I really do love it here in Inaba," he starts, his words cautious, "but I think I want to stay in Tokyo. I've... come to love the people here, not the town. And I can come visit anytime; but our group is splitting up, and moving on, and I want to do the same. I don't want to be stuck here holding onto memories, I want to forge my own path." He pauses, staring directly into Yosuke's eyes, with intent. "With you."

Yosuke's face flushes red, right up to the tips of his ears. He looks taken aback from the weight of the implications. "Y-yeah me too, partner." His mouth curls into a hesitant smile, gracing his features with the first display of genuine happiness since the night began.

Yu can't help but smile back, and before they know it, they've both broken into fits of laughter, light and relieving, taking some of the edge of the night off. "Sshh!" Yu manages to whisper between giggles. "We can't wake Nanako up; Dojima'll have my head!"

Yosuke snorts loudly, and his hand, which had been slapped over his mouth, was really not doing much to muffle the sound. "S-sorry, I almost forgot." He presses his face against the futon in a futile attempt to quiet his laughter.

Eventually their laughter dies down, and they're left feeling relieved; almost cheerful. Any events leading up to the present felt like a distant dream, and the only thing that truly mattered at that moment was the closeness of their bodies, and their shared smiles as they giggled quietly, gazing at each other and reveling in the fact that they were here, together.

"I don't know how you manage it," Yosuke whispers, his trademark wink gracing his face, "but I always feel a thousand times better when I'm with you." His cheeks redden as he says it, still not entirely used to baring his emotions so readily. "And you always make me say the dumbest things... It's like my head is full of cotton candy instead of brains."

His cute, bashful expression causes Yu to grin widely in response. "You really are the best thing that's ever happened to me. I can't believe I got this lucky." He feels his face heat up as he's hit with the ridiculousness of his own clichéd words.

Yosuke's breath audibly hitches, which he then lets out in a whimper, face softening into an expression of something like gratitude. "Really? You got lucky? Every girl at school was practically hanging off you, and out of everyone... You chose me. Me. I used to think something was wrong with your head for you to turn down all those cute girls, but now I know you've got something scrambled up there." He laughs, but is unable to completely play off his self deprecation without his smile faltering slightly.

"Of course I did," Yu says, genuine adoration in his tone. "You're my best friend, and the one person I can really act myself around. I really do love you, Yosuke."

Yosuke's face scrunches up, and Yu watches new tears well in his eyes. "So... I did the right thing tonight?" He blinks back his tears, willing himself not to cry again. "By telling my parents about us? Because I think I... I like you... L-love you." His face sets into a more determined expression, "I love you too. I wanted them to know, even if they hate me for it. It was eating me up inside... For so long..." He inhales shakily, biting his lip.

Yu rubs his thumb in circles around the center of Yosuke's palm. "You did all you could by telling them. The way they chose to react isn't something you could have predicted. But they know now. No more hiding, Yosuke."

He places a kiss across Yosuke's knuckles, then relinquishes his hold on his hand, untangling their legs and righting himself on the futon. Yosuke sits up as well, looking apprehensive. "I feel... selfish. Like I've caused you so much trouble already, and now you have to call in favours for me..."

He's met with a tired-looking glare from his partner. "Yosuke. It's no trouble at all. I'm sure you'd do the same for me. In fact, I know you would. You're always going out of your way to help others; think of it as my going away present to you." Yu screws up his face, squinting as he reconsiders his words. "Actually, don't think of it like that- this is something that's necessary. I'm not letting you stay in that home any longer. One year of living with my uncle isn't gonna kill you."

The words of protest die in Yosuke's throat, and he simply nods in response. As much as he hates being pitied, he's not exactly keen on facing his parents again either.

"We can talk more tomorrow." Yu says softly, ruffling Yosuke's still-damp hair and reaching up to turn off the light. Yosuke lays on his futon, watching as Yu sinks down next to him into his own.

"Thank you." Yosuke whispers, smiling more to himself than his partner. "I really can't thank you enough. For being here for me. For this whole year, really... You've changed my life in all the best ways."

Yu reaches over and squashes his hand over Yosuke's face, which elicits a small laugh from him. "Go to sleep, you're starting to sound like a bad chick-flick."

"Alright, alright... Good night, partner."

"Good night, Yosuke."