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hometown doesn't mean home

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He hates this place.

All Akira had done was spend one (awfully short but still somehow horribly long) year in Tokyo. But now, coming back to drab old Inaba… it’s tough. No flashing lights, no Leblanc curry, no friends.

The ‘no friends’ part hits the hardest.

His only friend here is Morgana. Even convincing his parents to let him keep the cat was a struggle, but by promising to pay for all Mona’s needs (no need for a litter box, at least, he was smart enough to do his business outside) he was able to keep Morgana by his side.

If they had said no, well… He can’t exactly just ship a cat back to Tokyo all on it’s own. Maybe that nice man who runs the textiles shop would have been willing to look after him.

At school, it’s just like when he first showed up to Shujin. Whispers, quick glances, parting the hallways like a sea whenever he walks through them. It’s hell. A true, living hell.

There’s never a break. He goes to school, gets avoided and whispered about, and he goes home, where he gets avoided and whispered about by his parents. If they’re even there. Their jobs didn’t use to take them away from home so often. It’s probably because they don’t want to see their disappointment of a son any more than they have to.

He takes to having dinner in his room. Or grabs something small from Junes.

The Junes has integrated nicely into Inaba society. They made a deal with the traditional shopping district not to step on each other’s toes, so all the businesses are harmonious, now. Which is nice, but it’s not like he gives a shit about the Inaba economy.

“Are you okay? You look beary sad.”

A voice breaks through his self loathing thoughts. Akira looks up from his phone, where he’s desperately trying to remember someone, anyone’s number. Damn his parents, wiping his phone like this. He looks up into the face of the Junes bear. He has a little tray of Junes food court takoyaki in his hands. Paws? Paws.

“Teddie brought you this, because when I’m sad, I like to have a snack.” The bear holds out the tray to him, and Akira takes it. It would be rude not to.

“Are you happy now?” The bear asks him, tilting his weird mascot head slightly to the side. Akira looks at him, back to the snack, and back to the bear.

“Yeah. Sure. Thanks, uh, Teddie.” He nods. God, Ryuji and Ann would get such a kick out of this guy. Akira doesn’t even know what he looks like under that suit. Honestly he wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t anything under that suit.

Hah. Like that would happen.

At least he seems to have appeased the bear for now, as it seems happy to have ‘helped’ him.

“Okay! Uhm, Teddie has to get back to work now, otherwise Yosuke will yell at him, so, bye-bye!” The bear waves a cute little wave, before doing that weird walk, disappearing inside the store.

Akira sits back, chewing on a takoyaki thoughtfully. Yosuke was the name of the store manager, right? He’s pretty sure he remembered that. The dude got promoted while Akira was away.

Thinking about his real home makes him lose his appetite pretty damn fast. The rest of the takoyaki goes into the trash, face down. Just in case Teddie came out to check on him again.

As he leaves the food court and takes the elevator down, he can hear Makoto’s nagging voice in his head. Telling him it’s important to eat, that he shouldn’t skip meals like this. God, he misses them. He misses them so much that sometimes it gets hard to breathe.

First chance he gets, he’s out of here. Back to Tokyo. Back to his real home.

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His mom wanted him to pick something up from that textiles shop. She must’ve noticed that Akira’s in a real funk right now (a funk. She’d never use the word ‘depressed.’ Oh no, not her son, he could never be drowning in his own head) and has been sending him on errands this whole week.

Today the errand is to get a dress that she had altered at the textiles shop. Akira takes Morgana with him, as always. He doesn’t trust his parents not to try to give Mona away or something.

They head into the shop, just as a short woman (with very blue hair)  is leaving. His memory supplies a name, Naoto. She was that local detective... She looks, flushed? And a bit ruffled, her clothing not quite in the right place. On top of that, she looks a bit guilty, like she’s been caught doing something she wasn’t supposed to be. Naoto rushes out, not quite looking at Akira. She’s not what Akira’s here for, so he disregards her entirely, and enters.

The guy who runs this shop is Kanji Tatsumi, and he’s pretty nice. Akira has no problems with him. Though he’s nowhere in sight.

“Hello?” He calls into the shop.

“Y-yeah, one second!” Kanji calls back. He appears a moment later, mirroring the flushed look of the woman Akira saw earlier.

Oh.

Yeah, doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they were up to.

“Have a fun afternoon?” Akira can’t help but mess with him. Kanji waves him off, but don’t think that Akira doesn’t notice him flushing a bit more.

“Yeah, yeah, whatever, you brat. You here for your ma’s dress?” He asks, obviously changing the subject. Akira lets it slide.

“Yep. I brought Mona.” As if on cue, Morgana peeks his head out of his bag, and meows. Kanji goes starry eyed at the sight of him.

“I’ll hold ‘im in a second, gotta go get that dress.” And he vanishes once more, only to return a moment or two later with the dress in question.

He pets Morgana while Akira pays for the dress.

“Y’know, ‘s kinda funny…” Kanji starts, but then trails off, as if he’s not sure if he should be saying this.

“What’s kind of funny?” Akira prompts him.

“Well, this dress didn’t need like, any work done. Like, only the tiniest bit, yknow? So I dunno why your ma decided to get me to do it, could’ve done it herself for a lot cheaper.” Kanji blinks, a look of realization crossing his face. “Y’think she’s just tryna get you outta the house?”

“Maybe.” Akira keeps his reply clipped and short so he’ll get the hint.

“Hey, I’m just sayin’. ‘S hard moving somewhere for a year just to go right back to where ya came from, I know, okay? Had a friend do that, and it sucked. Just, keep staying strong, yeah? For both you, and your little furry buddy here.” He punctuates the point with another pat to Morgana’s head.

“Right. Thanks, Tatsumi-san.” He gathers the dress up carfully.

“How many times I gotta tell you, ‘s just Kanji. Tatsumi-san makes me feel old.” He waves off the formalities. “See you later.”

“Bye.” Akira takes the bag, and leaves the shop.

He feels just a bit better than he did walking in.