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More Than Just A Feeling

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Yosuke used to watch a lot of television when he was younger. His dad was always busy with whatever it was that corporate businessmen do while his mother was interested in socializing with the resident housewives- book clubs, recipes, knitting tips- you know, the kind of stuff women are interested in. Yosuke didn’t make friends very easily (still doesn’t) so watching television was all he could do to kill his free time. The only reason he no longer spends his free time that way is probably because he’s recently had a little too much of the television, thank you very much, and also because he has Souji and the others now to hang around with. Which is new, having friends that genuinely care. And also kind of funny, because sure, he doesn’t watch TV anymore because he has friends now but the TV’s what led him to having this many friends in the first place and…well…he’s sure there’s some deeper meaning behind it that he can’t quite puzzle out yet.

Irony. That’s probably the word he’s looking for. Souji would know.

Well, whatever. The point is, if nothing else, television’s a pretty good indicator of what’s normal, what’s to be expected. Yosuke knows how guys are supposed to act; he knows how girls are supposed to act. He knows that guys like girls, girls like guys. That girls like certain things, guys like certain things and all of it makes sense really (does it?) and it’s all very clear-cut (isn’t it?)

And Yosuke likes normal, he thinks. Not boring, God knows he loathes that. But normal is nice, normal is good. At least, his parents seem to think so and while Yosuke’s never been particularly close to them, he still craves their approval. Maybe it’s because he’s never been close to them that he feels this way. It’s stupid but it is what it is.

His parents have helped shaped his views a lot, maybe a bit too much for all their absence. He’s seen the way his dad looks at those teenagers, the ones with the piercings or tattoos or otherwise unsavoury fashion, seen the way his lips curl back in distaste. He’s seen his mother’s repulsed fascination with the weirdoes (the word feels rude just a little bit but his family uses it) on reality television. He doesn’t want them to look at him like that. He never wants anyone, ever, to look at him like that.

So he tries his best. It isn’t that hard, at first at least. He’s a pretty average guy with average grades from an average middle class family. It’s not even a matter of pretending, this is who he is. He’s comfortable with that. Except for that one thing. Just that one thing.

It started when he had been thirteen and mom had decided to give him the talk about the birds and the bees. Television got one thing right. It had been mortifying.  

Yosuke had been fairly certain by the time it was over that he got his motor mouth from his mother and also that he will probably never look at the assorted fruit sitting innocently  on the counter the same way ever again- hell, he’ll probably never eat another fruit ever again. His mom had looked fairly pleased with herself as she told him to be a good boy and not to breathe a word of this to his father because he didn’t approve of talking about such things but she’d read in some new magazine that it was good to be frank with your kids about this…Yosuke had not been listening anymore by that point. His ears had been ringing from the blood that’s rushed to his face.  

It’s not like she had to tell him. It’s not like he didn’t already know. It’s one of those things, you know, that everyone just knows without ever realizing exactly when they figured it out. Everyone already knows.

Somehow though, his mother’s impromptu speech had acted as a catalyst. Yosuke thinks that he would have figured out this oddity of his sooner or later but he would have preferred it if it had been later (he’s a coward that way).

The thing is: Yosuke doesn’t get it. Where the appeal comes from. He’s seen pretty girls and, as much as he likes to deny it there’s no point in denying it when it’s just him in his head (bad experiences with that too), he knows when a guy is good looking too. But when his mum had told him to practice abstinence he remembers thinking at the time, okay, that doesn’t sound hard to do. At all.

Yosuke also remembers, very vividly, the very next day when he had come to school only to find a few of his friends huddled in a corner. He remembers approaching them, he remembers one of them thrusting this picture of a semi-naked girl grinning scandalously from a magazine in his face. He remembers his cheeks colouring in embarrassment and he remembers…feeling nothing at all. Discomfort, maybe, because they probably weren’t supposed to be seeing these things. Fear, definitely, at getting caught by a teacher. But that was about the gist of. He may as well have been looking at a picture of an apple.

“Okay,” he had said. “So what?”

“Okay?” the other had repeated incredulously. “Dude, she’s so freaking hot!”

“Yeah, she’s pretty,” he had agreed with a shrug. “So what?” What was the point of showing it to him? Or of bringing a porn magazine to school in the first place?

“Dude,” the guy had narrowed his eyes at him suspiciously. “What, are you gay or something?”

That had struck a nerve, because queer people well, they weren’t normal. They were- they were just weird, they definitely weren’t the kind of people Yosuke’s parents would want him associating with and really, the insinuation was just-

“I’m not gay!” he had protested hotly. “I’m just, just-” Not interested. Completely apathetic. Maybe a little empty inside. Broken? He hadn’t said those words that day. He couldn’t think of anything appropriate and the others had laughed it off soon enough. He thinks them now though. He thinks them a lot.

Maybe he’s imagining it, maybe he’s noticing more than what is actually in front of him but it seems to him that all guys his age care about is sex and girls and their bodies and what their bodies make them feel and Yosuke just stands there and thinks, how does that even happen? At one point, he had considered that maybe, just maybe that kid had been right and maybe it was just the fact that they were girls that was the problem but nope (he’s not sure whether he’s upset or relieved that men don’t do anything for him either).

One thing Yosuke can honestly say is that the Internet is a teenager’s best friend and that he’s plenty friendly with it. When you’re worried you’re a freak, there are not a lot people you can tell. By the nth time Yosuke felt left out, he googled it. Yeah, he googled porn. To this day, he’s still not sure if those excursions are a big mistake or hugely enlightening. A little bit of both maybe. He’d seen it; he’d watched it and when straight porn failed to do anything for him he’d looked at the gay stuff too. But still…nothing. He never feels hot and bothered, he never feels turned on (whatever the hell that is). All he feels is just vaguely uncomfortable at best and completely grossed out at worst.

So fine, Yosuke isn’t normal. Boo-fucking-hoo. That’s fine, he doesn’t have to be. All he has to do is act like he’s normal (for how long though? He has to grow up and get married eventually and after that-). So he does exactly that: pretends. He jumps at the chance to hang out with the other girls. He flirts, albeit badly. He acts like he’s totally interested in what’s under that girl’s skirt, honestly he is. Underneath it all he hopes that if he pretends hard enough, one day he’ll wake up and he’ll feel it too.

…Not that he’s never felt that about anyone before…he can’t be sure. He doesn’t have much to go on, he can’t compare it to anything else but…there’s a reason Saki had been so special to him.

'You wanted her to be the solution to your little problem,’ his Shadow had taunted. Yosuke cringes a little at the memory and buries his head deeper into his arms.  How pathetic.

“Hanamura!” There’s a loud bark and suddenly Yosuke’s springing to his feet, regretting dozing off in class.

“Yes, sir!” he squeaks.

“Well?” Well? Yosuke doesn’t even know what the question is, let alone the answer. His saviour, however, comes in the form of the grey-haired boy sitting in front of him. Yosuke hurriedly repeats Souji’s whisper and slumps in relief when the teacher grudgingly accepts it.

“Thanks, partner. I owe you one,” Yosuke sighs as he falls back onto his seat. In front of him Souji turns his head to the side, giving him a small smile in acknowledgement and Yosuke wants to bury his head in his arms again, suddenly remembering the other reason he doesn’t think about Saki so much anymore, doesn’t want to even.

Why is he like this? 


There is -was- something about Saki. The way she smiled, the way she walked. Yosuke had found himself noticing the little things he never noticed about anyone else. The curve of her hips when she placed her hands on them, the quirk of her lips as she smiled, the way her dresses seemed to hug her body- they had all made something warm coil up inside, made him blush at times. He had felt a little less unfeeling around her, almost felt normal. Yosuke remembers feeling a little worried, a little relieved. He remembers wondering, ‘is this what it’s supposed to feel like?’ He supposes now that he had been a little over-eager in his approach with her (no wonder she’d found him annoying) but she had made him feel all these new feelings and he’d thought that maybe, just maybe he’d been fixed.

It’s almost funny now that he knows her true feelings. Still, he can’t let go of Saki. If there’s one thing the Shadows have taught him it’s that you can never judge someone based on a single facet of their personality. He still feels for Saki in a way that he’s fairly certain he’ll never feel for anyone else in his life. Fairly certain. Mostly.

There’s this thing though. About Souji (it’s always him isn’t it?). Yosuke watches him as they wait for the others to arrive at Junes. Souji’s absentmindedly folding origami cranes with the paper napkins provided while Yosuke watches as his long fingers move precisely across the paper over and over again. There’s a certain sort of lull in the fluidity of the repeated movements.  Yosuke observes uncharacteristically quiet, and wonders if when normal people think of ‘attractive’, fingers are the first thing that comes to mind. They are attractive though. Souji’s fingers. Slender, graceful and dextrous and for just a moment, Yosuke entertains the thought of threading his own fingers through them. Then he bites his bottom lip. That’s gay. Super gay. But he still can’t get rid of the tightening in his gut when he thinks of it.

“Penny for your thoughts?” a quiet voice breaks him out of his stupor and he wrenches his gaze away from the cranes to meet Souji’s gaze. An amused smile is playing on his lips and Yosuke hopes that he isn’t blushing, that he isn’t so transparent.

“Umm,” he shakes his head. “Nothing. It’s nothing.”

Souji raises an eyebrow but says nothing. He likes that about Souji: how he never pushes, just waits for you patiently. He likes a lot of things about Souji. A lot of people like a lot of things about Souji, he thinks a little sourly. And why shouldn’t they? Souji’s great. He’s more than great actually, he’s genuine. Unlike Yosuke. When Souji says something, you know he believes it. And maybe everyone can sense that about him, maybe that’s why everyone’s drawn to him.

Souji suddenly raises a thumb to his lips, brushing the pad across them and it startles Yosuke. Something uncomfortable flares inside him and he realizes that he wants to do that, run his fingers against Souji’s lips. Stupid, stupid, stupid but he can’t help the voice that whispers again, ‘is this what it feels like?’

“You happen to have any lip balm on you?” Souji asks conversationally. Oh, Yosuke thinks, his lips must have split.

“No, I don’t,” Yosuke shakes his head. He can’t help but add, “Only girls carry those.” Even though he’s not sure he believes in stufflike that that anymore.

“Hmm,” Souji glances to the side and spots a rapidly approaching figure clad in green, followed by the rest of their motley crew. “Chie or Yukiko probably has some then,” he says and rises to greet them. Yosuke hates that, the way Souji is just so damn comfortable in his own skin. And why shouldn’t he be? Aside from all of his extra powers within the TV world, Souji’s as normal as can be right? Normal enough anyway. Unlike Yosuke.

He’s a little peeved that the peaceful atmosphere he’d been enjoying until now is soon going to be gone. At the same time he’s glad that the others are here. He can’t stand being alone in Souji’s company recently, he doesn’t know how to feel anymore, doesn’t know how to pretend around him anymore. And that’s probably the part that scares him the most.    


“You settled your beef with Kanji right?” Chie asks him. He’s stacking the cans in the storeroom out back because the part-timers have ditched again and Chie’s ‘keeping him company’ to put it in her own words. Apparently, Yukiko’s out doing something or the other with Souji and she’s bored. Yosuke wishes that she’d find someone else to bother though.

“I have never had any beef with Kanji!” Yosuke sputters indignantly. “What gave you that idea?”

“Oh please!” Chie gives him a level look. “Are you kidding me?”

“Look, I just found his bathhouse thing a little weird, that’s all!” he raises his hands defensively. That’s not it at all and he knows it. Kanji’s not normal. He’s probably the first example he’s had that being different, not normal, might not be so bad. Kanji’s different almost the same way he is, but not quite. And he’s gay. Probably. That’s not normal and that had itched at Yosuke. Nowadays, however, he finds himself not minding much about that anymore. And nowadays, Kanji seems a lot like Souji: comfortable in his own skin. He brings his knitting to the food court, asks for their advice on how to go about promoting Tatsumi Textiles’ new knit-toy business and he when anyone stares or comments, he glares at them until they back off. He seems to be at peace with himself and if there’s any beef to be had now, it’s because Yosuke fucking envies that.

Chie remains silent for a moment and he sees something flicker across her face. Yosuke’s always found Chie to be a little loud-mouthed and scatter-brained but with the look she’s giving him right now; he’s beginning to rethink that. She looks like she’s seeing right through him. People surprise you at the strangest of times.

“I get it, you know, why Kanji made you uncomfortable,” Chie speaks quietly so much so that Yosuke has to stop stacking to properly hear her. “I’m scared too but…well…you should go for it. I think, maybe then…I mean you don’t have forever you know.”

“Chie,” he interrupts exasperatedly. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Annoyance flares across her face. “Come on!” Chie groans. “Don’t tell me you’re still in denial!”

At Yosuke’s blank look, she grinds her teeth in frustration. “Look,” she stands up and points at him, “You’re the same as me right? In fact, you have less time than I do, okay? He’s not going to be around forever. You should, you know, make your move and maybe then I can…”

“Make my move?” Realization dawns on him. “You mean, what, with Souji?!” he swallows and Chie nods almost nervously. “…and you and Yukiko?”

Chie looks down at the floor. “You like him right? The same way I like Yukiko and I keep thinking…that maybe if someone else…”

Yosuke narrows his eyes, tries to summon up anger to stop his heart from hammering in his chest because he can’t, Chie doesn’t understand. He’s not like that; he can’t give normal people what they want- except, except when he’s around Souji, when Saki-senpai had been around- oh fuck it all.

“What, you want me to confess first so that you can gather up the courage to do it too?” he almost bites out and Chie’s eyes glare fiercely at him. Chie does the anger thing better than him. He just feels stupid and wrecked. I’m not gay, Chie, he thinks quietly. I’m weirder than that. I’m not anything at all.  

Broken, broken, broken

“No!” she protests loudly. “I just want…to not be alone in this,” her voice wavers a little at that and Yosuke feels his glower simmering down. “You know what it’s like, don’t you?” she almost pleads. “To be in love with your best friend?”

“I’m not in love!” the response is immediate, reflexive. But it’s true, it’s true. Yosuke can’t be in love, he can’t know what it feels like. He’s not made that way (and when he tells himself that he tries not to think about the way Souji makes him feel).  

“Oh Yosuke,” Chie shakes her head sadly and something twists itself into knots in Yosuke’s stomach. “You’re not fooling anybody, you know. Neither of us is.”


Yosuke doesn’t admit anything to Chie and that frustrates her, he knows. But he can’t because that would be a lie, he’s almost certain of it. And besides, Souji’s normal. Souji has girls all over him-Ai Ebihara, Yumi Ozawa and Rise-freaking-Kujikawa- even if Yosuke was like that, why the hell would Souji want him?

He listens to Chie though. It surprises him, how at ease he is with the subject matter. At some point, he’d learned that apparently to guys lesbians are hot but gay people are just gross but he’s never felt any of that. What he does feel is that Chie is one of his best friends. And right now, that’s all that should matter.

So he listens as she tells him that sometimes she’s scared that Yukiko’s going to leave Inaba behind, leave Chie behind and start her life somewhere else, that sometimes she wants that too because she wants to be with her so badly and she knows no one home will approve.

Chie doesn’t want to leave Inaba, Yukiko wants to leave Inaba. Chie wants to be with Yukiko, she doesn’t know if Yukiko wants the same. Chie’s scared. And Chie thinks that Yosuke wants to be with Souji.

A part of him is miffed. Really, who is Chie to go around telling him what he feels when he himself can’t say how he feels. Pathetic. The rest of him just feels tired and confused. They’d hugged, before parting ways. He’d tried to be reassuring. And Chie had told him with a begrudging smile that he’s not a bad guy and if he ever gets his head out of his ass, he’d be an even better one. Yosuke resents that. But that’s beside the point.

Yosuke’s trying to remember what it felt like to hug her. He knows a couple of people that would kill for the chance to hug a girl so he’s trying to catalogue the experience. Warm, Chie had been warm and solid. She’s shorter than him so her hair had brushed his chin. Her arms had tightened around him and his had been gingerly placed on her shoulders because he hadn’t wanted to cross some social border and get kicked again. It had been nice, he supposes. Reassuring, so it had served its purpose.

It had been more than nice to hug Souji though, that day at the riverbank. It’s so stupid because a hug’s just a hug but when Souji had hugged him, he remembers feeling as if someone had tied a hook to his insides and pulled. He’d broken down right afterwards and Souji had been there for that too. And while he has no opinion on whether he wants to hug Chie again, he knows that he definitely won’t mind hugging Souji again. There had just been something so completely right about burying his face against Souji’s collar bone. The memory sends electricity dancing across his skin. He can’t believe this is happening.

This isn’t right, it’s not right at all. It’d been alright when it had been Saki-senpai but it’s just worrying –downright terrifying- when it’s Souji. Because Souji’s a guy and Yosuke’s a guy and that kind of stuff matters, right?

His phone buzzes just then. Speak of the devil, he thinks a little drily. A part of him wants to ignore it but he can’t. His own mess of a mind aside, Souji’s still his best friend. It’s not his fault Yosuke’s the way he is. He flips the phone open and sighs out a “Hey there, partner.”

“Hey,” is the breathy reply from the other end and Yosuke wants to groan out loud because the universe is just fucking with him right now. Who gave Souji the right to sound so, so-

“Are you outside?” Yosuke swallows around the lump in his throat, concentrating on the sound of the downpour through his phone.

“Yeah. I was out at the shrine when it started raining and your house is closer than mine so…”

“Come over,” Yosuke says. The forecast says the rain will only last a day and the Inaba weather forecast is nothing if not immaculate.  His dad’s not home yet and his mom’s weekly soap is about to start. They won’t mind. Besides, they like straight ‘A’ student, part of a dozen clubs, perfectly polite Souji much better than they like some of Yosuke’s other new friends. Good thing Souji doesn’t know about that. The way he had defended Yosuke against the part-timers and the people at the shopping district, face stony and eyes cold, Yosuke can picture him looking at his parents at exactly the same way if he ever hears some of the choice comments they make about the likes of Kanji, Naoto and even Rise. But they’re still his parents (only now, when they make snide comments, it’s annoyance instead of fear that flashes through him).  

The doorbell rings about a minute later and when Yosuke opens the door, he’s greeted by a completely-soaked-to-the-bone Souji who smiles at him a little sheepishly.

“Dude, you’re drenched!” Yosuke exclaims. “How’d that even happen? You’re the one who always keeps tabs on the weather report, Leader.”

“I did check it,” he shrugs. “Yukiko didn’t.”

“Ah.”

After exchanging a hasty ‘hello’ with him mother, Yosuke leads Souji up to his room. Souji definitely needs a change of clothes if he doesn’t want to catch a cold and he’s around the same size as Yosuke. He can just return them later.

He rummages through his closet to find something suitable while Souji drips on his floor. Belatedly he realizes that he probably should have given him a towel first. When he finally turns –after spending a disproportionately long time deliberating on whether or not to give Souji red pants- Souji’s already taken off his coat.

Oh. Oh. His shirt’s sticking to him. Right. Well then. Shirts tend to do that. When they’re wet. Of course they do. They stick to your skin. To Souji’s skin. Okay, that’s fine. That’s cool. That’s…hot. He means it literally. Is it just him or did it just get much stuffier in his room?

Souji’s half-turned away from him, surveying the music collection sitting on his shelf. He lifts his hand up to brush his wet bangs away from his eyes and the kind of just gets stretched across his shoulders and-

Oh. Oh fuck.

“Um,” his voice comes out as a squeak but Souji turns his head anyway. “Um,” Yosuke repeats and Souji’s lips quirk into an amused smile. God he hates that smile. The way he looks at you as if he can see right through you and what he sees is kind of funny. He looks like that whenever Yosuke’s done something stupid so obviously, he looks like that a lot.

Yosuke tries to get his thoughts in order and ends up throwing the wad of clothes at Souji who catches them easily.

“Towels are in the bathroom,” Yosuke can’t quite meet Souji’s eyes as he jerks his thumb towards the door.

“You okay?” Souji asks quietly, his smirk giving way to a frown.

“Fine,” he answers, relieved that his voice doesn’t crack or something embarrassing like that. “Go change.”

“Okay…” Souji nods slowly, frown still in place. Then he moves out the door, feet making wet smacking sounds against the floor.

Yosuke’s knees feel a little weak. He wants to start laughing at the absurdity of this. He wants to crawl under his futon, curl into a ball and stay like that for the rest of his life. He wants to, for the first time in his life, just once, to run his hands down Souji’s-

Okay. Stop. Desist. Get your shit together Yosuke. It doesn’t matter; he takes a shaky breath and tries to calm down his hammering heart. Souji’s normal. Souji has girls all over him. And Yosuke’s just a fuck-up.

(Congratulations, a voice that sounds eerily like his Shadow whispers in his mind, you’re fixed!)   


 

Yosuke tries to avoid him, at least for a little while. Until he can get his thoughts together. But it doesn’t last long. Barely two days really. And, okay, maybe those two days don’t really count since Souji was preoccupied during that time anyway. Whatever.

They are sitting on the rooftop, just about finished with Souji’s bento when Souji asks, “So I heard you and Chie hugged?” He says it casually, conversationally.

Yosuke blinks in surprise then groans. “The rumour mill’s churning again,” he grumbles.

“Is it true though?” Souji probes. Yosuke can’t quite be sure but he thinks he hears a sense of urgency in his voice. Weird.

“Yeah, it is,” he admits and Souji’s face contorts into a frown. “But not like that!” he adds hastily. Chie’s a one-woman girl after all. “She just been figuring out some stuff and she needed someone to talk to. It didn’t mean anything like that.”

“Oh.” Souji stares at the chain-link fence and it seems like he’s counting each individual link and cataloguing them in his mind. He has that look on his face, whenever he’s thinking something over and Souji never seems to speak without thinking. Yosuke abruptly realizes that he’s been staring and looks away. Instead he uses the opportunity to steal the last piece of fish.

“I can’t believe I’m jealous,” Souji says suddenly but quietly. Even so there’s a tone of finality in his voice. It sounds like a declaration.

“Huh?”

“Jealous,” Souji repeats, turning to look at Yosuke impassively. “I didn’t think I had it in me”

It takes Yosuke a moment to wrap it around his head. When he does, all he can say is “What?”

Souji nods, lips pursed.

Yosuke almost blurts it out then, ‘But Chie likes Yukiko!’ but he catches himself before the first syllable can leave his mouth. It’s not his secret to tell after all. But still, he can’t believe it. Chie? Chie?

“Seriously?” he exclaims incredulously. Chie’s got to be the least feminine girl Yosuke knows and that’s saying something considering Naoto actually dresses like a guy. Somehow he’s glad that Chie’s feelings are accounted for. Very, very glad.

Souji nods again, looking at Yosuke as though he’s waiting for something.

“So…um,” Yosuke tries again, unsure of how to continue.  He should dissuade Souji right? Tell him that Chie already has someone? “I hate to break it to you but Chie’s already…kinda taken-?”

“What?” Souji cuts him off, looking surprised.

“What?” Yosuke repeats, just as bewildered.

“…Yosuke,” Souji groans in frustration, “you’re an idiot.”

“Hey!” he protests reflexively. “It’s not my fault you’re being confusing!”

Souji tilts his head and looks at Yosuke contemplatively while Yosuke frowns petulantly.

“You’re right,” he nods slowly as if replaying the conversation in his mind. “That was kind of vague wasn’t it?”

“No kidding”, Yosuke grumbles a little sullenly and Souji’s lips quirk into that smile again. “So do you like Chie or not?”

The smile drops off his face just as quickly and Yosuke is startled because he knows that face Souji is making right now, with the pursed lips and the frown between his eyes. It’s the same face he makes when they’re in the TV world and he has only a split-second to decide, tell them how to move and where to go. It’s his Leader-face.

“Partner?”

“You,” Souji says finally. “I like you.”

“…What?” The world feels as if it’s tilted on its axis and thrown Yosuke off. His ears start ringing and oh, he’s blushing. Again. He can feel the warmth on his face.

“Say something,” Souji implores quietly, his eyes trained on Yosuke’s face. How can he be like that? If Yosuke had done something as embarrassing as that, he’d never be able to anyone’s eyes ever again. He’d stand there looking down, wishing the ground would open up and swallow him whole.

Yosuke tries to say something, really he tries. But the words that oh-so-eloquently come out of his mouth is another, “What?”

“Is that all you can say right now?” Souji smiles a small smile but it doesn’t reach his eyes. That’s how you know if Souji’s smiles are genuine or if he’s just doing it for the sake of politeness: The way his eyes crinkle around the corners.

“Uh-oh, I think I broke Yosuke,” Souji continues wryly when Yosuke fails to respond. That spurs him to life through the haze that had settled over his brain.

You can’t break what’s already broken.

“Souji…” he hesitates. He doesn’t know what to say, doesn’t know what to do. A part of him feels ecstatic because hello, Souji fucking Seta likes him. Him. So what if they’re both guys? It’s Souji. Screw what his parents thought. Screw what anybody else thought. It’s Souji. A part of him wants to say that’s fine partner because I like you too.

But he doesn’t. He can’t help but think, sure he likes Souji now but what if it fizzles out eventually? What if he can’t give Souji what he wants (because that’s what all guys want, isn’t it) If fact, he’s almost certain he won’t be able to. Fascination with Souji’s, uh, body aside, he’s still not overly thrilled by the idea of sex.

So he doesn’t admit it. Because a guy like Souji deserves someone whole.

“Souji,” he says and tries to quell the crushing disappointment that swells inside him. “I’m sorry. I’m flattered, really. But I’m just not…like that,” he finishes pathetically. He knows what it sounds like he’s implying but it doesn’t matter because it’s still true in a way.

“Yeah,” Souji says softly. Yosuke can’t bring himself to look his best friend in the eye. Instead he stares at his own shoes. “I thought you might say that,” the way he sounds pierces Yosuke. “But I thought it couldn’t hurt to ask. Did it?”

“Huh?”

“Are we still friends?” he asks Yosuke seriously.

“Don’t be stupid!” Yosuke blurts out immediately because not be Souji’s friend? He’d rather face his Shadow again a hundred times over.  “We’re partners after all.”

Souji smiles once more but it still doesn’t reach his eyes. “I’m glad.”

When the bell rings two minutes later, Yosuke tells Souji to go ahead and that he’d meet him at class. He lies and bunks instead.


Yosuke thinks that it should be over by now. He should be able to stop thinking about Souji that way. After all, he’d nipped it in the bud before anything could start at well so could things please go back to being the way they were? But apparently that’s not how feelings work.

He still can’t stop thinking about Souji. He’s tried. He’s avoiding Souji, he’s avoiding everyone in general really and besides training in the TV (so far no one’s been kidnapped since Naoto) he’s not kept a single commitment with his friends. He’s sure they’ve all noticed the awkwardness between him and their Leader. Well maybe not Kanji and Teddie. But Naoto definitely. Maybe all of the girls have noticed. They’ve proven themselves to be surprisingly observant.

He can’t help it though. His feelings have yet to fizzle out but they might, one day, and he just can’t break Souji’s heart that way. He can’t. So this is the way it has to be.

Chie corners him after work a week into this whole mess.

“Are you completely crazy?” she screeches in greeting. Nice to meet you too Chie.

“You’ll have to elaborate,” he answers drily.

“You said ‘no’?!”

He reels back in shock. “He told you about that?”

“Uh-huh,” Chie nods with her lips drawn into a thin line of disapproval.  “Since you were so spectacularly unhelpful that other day, I asked Souji for help with my little problem- I don’t know why I just didn’t go to him to begin with- and that’s when he told me about it. I can’t believe you did that. Can’t you at least admit to yourself how you feel?”

“Chie,” he sighs. He’s getting tired of this, her self-righteous anger about something she really should have no say in, “I’m not gay.” He cuts her off as soon as she opens her mouth to protest, pointing a finger. “And even if I was, it’s not really fair of you to try and bully me out of the closet this way is it?”

Chie’s mouth abruptly snaps shut at that and she blinks in surprise. “Wow Yosuke…I didn’t think of it like that. That’s…a surprisingly thoughtful line of thinking…”

“Thoughtful line of thinking?” he snorts and Chie punches him on the arm. Honestly though, he’s a little surprised at himself as well. He had only wanted to stop Chie pestering him. But it is still true; he didn’t want her to tell him he’s something he knows he isn’t.

“I’m sorry,” she says softly, “if well-y’know.”

“It’s fine,” Yosuke rubs his sore shoulder. Damn Chie’s too strong for her own good. “I’m not mad or anything. And I’m really not gay Chie.” It’s not a lie.

She pauses, looking conflicted and he has to wonder if she’s more hurt by her own actions than he supposedly is. “I’m not either,” she confesses. “At least, I don’t think so. It’s just – there’s something about Yukiko you know? Just her. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this way about anyone else. Everything feels special when it’s her. You get what I mean?”

The question was meant to rhetorical but Yosuke finds himself nodding along anyway. “Yeah, I do.”

Chie smiles tentatively at his admission. “Well, either way, I’m gonna do it tomorrow. Tell her that is. I can’t stand all of this pining and waiting around bullshit anymore. So I’m just gonna take a deep breath and do it. Tell her the truth.”

Yosuke nods once more and wonders if she’s still trying to give him a hint about something.


He takes Chie’s hint. It’s torturous, all of these conflicting feelings he’s having when it comes to Souji.

It’s Sunday but that’s no guarantee that Souji will be home. In fact he probably won’t be. He’ll be out helping the elderly cross the street or fishing or spending time with the fox or doing any one of the millions of hobbies he has. He’s probably not home so would you please just get a hold of yourself and knock already Yosuke?!

It’s still not too late to back out, a part of his mind reasons. He can still go back home and pretend he never came here. That’s certainly an option. But he knows that things between him and Souji will never be the same again until he tells Souji exactly why he rejected him. So before he can lose his nerve he steels himself and rings the Dojima residence’s bell. The door opens only a few seconds later to reveal Souji.

Really dude? You couldn’t have gone fishing?

“Hey,” he trails off awkwardly.

Souji raises an eyebrow at that. “Hello,” he answers the greeting cautiously as though he’s worried that Yosuke might bolt. He can feel the guilt pressing down on him at that. Damn it, hadn’t he promised that they’d still be friends? Instead he’s the one who started avoiding Souji like the plague. Well now’s as good a time as any to fix that.

“Can we talk?” Yosuke asks quietly. “I have something important to tell you.”

Souji looks a little surprised at that. If Souji were someone else, he’d probably say something along the lines of ‘Oh so now that you need me, I suddenly exist again. Get bent pal’ and then shut the door on Yosuke’s face. Except he’s not someone else, he’s Souji so all he does is purse his lips and nod, letting Yosuke into the house.

Nanako doesn’t appear to be in the house which leads Yosuke to wonder to what Souji’s doing here alone but once he enters Souji’s bedroom he notices the half-folded origami cranes littered around the work table along with envelopes and scripts and notes. Honestly Souji either has too many part-time jobs or too much time on his hands.

Souji sits on one end of the couch and Yosuke gingerly takes the other.

“Well? What do you want to say?” Okay yeah, he does sound a little short there after all. Not that Yosuke can blame him. Souji’s not a saint and Yosuke’s behaviour probably hurt him a lot, he has a right to be angry. But that’s why Yosuke’s here: to explain.

“Look Souji,” Yosuke swallows around the lump in his throat. “I don’t like guys.”

Souji sighs. “Yeah, I know-“

“I don’t like girls either,” Yosuke cuts him off.

“…Okay…” Souji’s eyebrows are raised and Yosuke can tell that Souji doesn’t quite believe him, doesn’t quite get it. Yosuke can’t blame him. But he’s here now so he might as well say it. If there’s anyone who might understand, it’s Souji.

“Let me finish okay?” Yosuke pleads quietly and Souji nods, shifting a little closer so that their knees a touching. Yosuke wonders if he did that on purpose. He wets his lips and tries to force the words out of his mouth.

“I don’t- I just- I can’t feel it,” that’s a bad start. “I don’t feel certain things the same way other people do.”

“Go on.” Encouraging.

“Like…” oh fuck it. “Sex. I don’t get that. Why do people have sex? What makes them want that?”

“For reproduction and the continued survival of their species?” Souji looks completely bemused and god, this has got to be the most fucking embarrassing thing he’s ever done. He feels like he could fry an egg on his face.

“Not that!” he groans. “Other than that. When people, when they say things like ‘she’s so hot’ or ‘I’d bang that’, I don’t understand what they mean by that. People look pretty sure, but not that. I’ve never liked anyone like that.” Until now. But let’s just take it one step at a time, Yosuke.

“…But, well, you always seemed so…” Souji trails off and Yosuke knows he’s trying to find a more polite alternative to what Chie would have put as ‘pervy jerk’.

“I just, I didn’t want to be different,” Yosuke admits with a sigh. “I wanted to be normal. So I tried to do what everyone else seemed to be doing, to fit in. But I kind of picked the wrong group of friends when it comes to fitting in,” he smiles weakly. But he’s glad, he’s so grateful for them.

“It just felt wrong. I felt wrong,” he continues, his smile fading. “So I tried very hard not to be. I kept pretending that I cared about girls and dates like everyone else. But I just feel like maybe it doesn’t matter that much anymore…And I wanted to tell you the truth.”

There’s a pause in which Yosuke can’t look at anything except for his own hands before Souji’s hand finds a place on his knee and squeezes.

“Thank you,” his voice is as soft as ever but it’s warm, kind. Yosuke releases the breath he’d been holding. “For telling me.” He nods in reply.

“And for the record,” Souji’s voice seems to grow firmer, “there is nothing at all wrong with you.”

Yosuke can’t help it, he lets out a snort.

“There isn’t,” Souji insists, removing his hand and Yosuke can finally, finally look into his eyes. The look on his face makes Yosuke feel flushed all over. “Not a thing.”

“Right. I believe you.”

“It’s called being asexual, Yosuke.”

That catches Yosuke’s attention. “What?”

“Asexuality,” Souji repeats. “It’s when you don’t feel sexual attraction to anything, I think. And that’s fine. It doesn’t mean-”

“That’s not a thing!” Yosuke protests instinctively, trying to process what he’s just heard. That’s, it’s just- that’s not a thing is it? Yosuke’s never even heard of something like that. What the hell? It sounds wrong, it sounds fake (it sounds a little like him actually).

“Yosuke it’s a thing,” Souji rolls his eyes and smiles reassuringly. “Asexual people exist. You might be one. And that is completely fine.”

“Where…How do you even know about stuff like this?” Yosuke chokes out, unable to think straight. Because just what? He’s heard about gay people and straight people but this is just something else entirely. But it fits though, doesn’t it? Almost fits, actually, but not quite.

“I read,” Souji shrugs and leans back on his couch with a smile. The tension seems to have eased out of his shoulders. “I surf the net.”

Yosuke wishes he could be that relaxed. He looks back down again for the nth time and wonders what the hell he’s supposed to do with this information now.

“Yosuke I mean it, you’re fine. So what if you never like anybody that way?”

And what Yosuke wants to say is a joke, something along the lines of ‘what if my mother wants grandkids?’ What comes out of his mouth instead is this:

“I like you though. That way. I think.”

Beside him, Souji goes very still. “You like me?” he repeats quietly.

“Yes,” Yosuke’s voice is cracking again from panic, mortification (he doesn’t know what). “Maybe, I think. And it’s not the first time I’ve felt this way either. Before with Saki-senpai, I-” he cuts himself off. This is probably not how you should be confessing to your current crush, by bringing up your former (and now deceased) crush. But nothing about this is conventional.

“You liked Saki-senpai too,” Souji seems understanding. He doesn’t seem very upset by this. Then again his feelings on that matter are hardly a secret. “Tell me about it,” he prods.

“Back then, I couldn’t stop thinking about her,” Yosuke speaks in a rush as though hoping that if he says it fast enough, Souji won’t be able to catch his words. “I kept noticing all these little things about her and I, I dunno. It’s the same with you. You’re driving me nuts, partner! I mean every time I look at you, I can’t help thinking about how good you look. And not like the way I usually think it but like good. Really good. And- wait a minute, are you blushing?”

Through the course of his rant, Yosuke’s voice had been growing shriller and shriller, his gestures more agitated as his words got more disorganized than ever. But now that’s he’s looking at Souji’s face he realizes that his best friend’s got this shy smile on his face (Souji being shy? What the hell?). More than that, Yosuke can see the pink glow across his cheeks. And that’s quite a sight. The dusting of colour on Souji’s face sends his stomach flopping like a fish out of water.

“Maybe,” Souji’s still smiling like he can’t contain himself. Unbelievable. Somehow this just doesn’t strike Yosuke as the appropriate response.

“Are you even listening to me?” Yosuke complains.

“Yes hence the blush,” Souji answers. And there goes the stomach-flop again, when Souji mentions that he’s the reason for it. “So you think I look ‘good’ huh? I can live with that.”

“Souji,” Yosuke frowns. “It’s not funny.”

“I know it’s not. I like you,” he bites his bottom lip and Yosuke’s brain does that thing, where it’s mesmerized by the way the skin looks stretched beneath Souji’s teeth. “And you like me too, is that right?”

“Yes,” Yosuke admits and the smile spreads a little wider over Souji’s face.  

“The same way I like you?”

“I-I think so.”

“Okay,” Souji nods. “What now?”

Yosuke stares. What now? What now? “I have no clue, partner.”

“…I think that maybe you need to take a step back and stop overanalysing this,” he insists. “The more you think about it the more confused you seem to be getting. And…I have an idea…to just see where this goes.”

Yosuke swallows.

“I want to try something and you can tell me how it feels,” Souji tells him seriously and Yosuke is captivated by the way the colour of his cheeks intensifies. “And I want you to stop me if it makes you uncomfortable. Just say the word. Think of it like an experiment. Okay?”

“Okay,” he agrees against his better judgement. He’s seen enough rom-coms to know where this is going. But right now, sitting so close to Souji and feeling his own heart hammering- as nervous as he is he can’t bring himself to refuse.

Souji hand cups the side of his head and he leans forward and Yosuke waits, tries not to think about what this this means, or how it will feel or if he’ll feel anything at all really-

And then Souji’s lips press onto his.

Yosuke’s greatest fear hadn’t been that it would feel bad. His fear had been that it would feel like nothing. That it would be the same as a handshake or gym class or even holding a pencil. It’s not bad. It’s definitely not nothing either. In fact it’s probably the biggest something Yosuke’s ever felt when it comes to these things.

The whole feelings business spreads everywhere. Too close, Souji’s just too close. His chest feels tight and his stomach feels like it’s curling up and his head is swimming and before he knows it, his eyes are closing and his hands are on Souji’s shoulders. And he thinks he might be kissing back, if he actually knew how to do it.

They part just a moment later and Souji’s breath ghosts over his lips for a second as he moves away. It sends what feels like electricity dancing through him. The whole experience bizarrely reminds Yosuke of when he first summoned his persona, that heady rush of adrenaline and euphoria.

“Was that okay?” Souji asks him and he sounds worried, as if he’s suddenly second-guessing his decision to do this.

“Okay?” Yosuke repeats incredulously. “That was- fuck partner-” Isn’t this just the stupidest thing ever? He’s seen the dirtiest fucking on around a dozen different sites. And a little kiss is what makes him feel this intense.

Actions speak louder than words (and Yosuke can’t really form a coherent thought right now anyway, let alone speech) so he just grabs Souji by his collar. He takes a moment to appreciate the way the flush spreads down Souji’s neck and the soft smile Souji sends his way before dragging him back towards himself once more.

After all, an experiment needs to be repeated if one is to get accurate results. 


Chie looks inappropriately happy when Yosuke gives her a watered-down version of what happened, although that could just be her happiness from Yukiko’s acceptance of her own confession overflowing. Neither of them has told anyone else (bar Souji that is). Inaba’s not the kind of place where you can go flaunting this sort of relationship after all (and Yosuke would rather not tell anyone in their team when it’s all so new to him).

But the word is what gets him. That’s what it is now; Yosuke thinks part giddy, part terrified. A relationship. With Souji.

It’s new and petrifying and to Yosuke, it’s more exhilarating than even fighting Shadows. On the other hand, however, it’s more mortifying than getting hit by the Fear ailment and bolting on your team mates until you come to your senses.

It’s not overly physical in public, not like the couples Yosuke has seen hanging around malls or cafes where they’re perpetually wrapped around each other, sucking face or acting like an octopus. That’s not to say that there’s not touching either. There’s plenty of that. Hands clasped and thighs pressing against each other when they’re sitting side-by-side. Souji’s head on his shoulder and his fingers in his hair and hugs, lots of them, warm like a campfire.

And there’s plenty of kissing too. That’s an interesting experience; overall, given how easy it is to lose yourself when you’re pressed that close to somebody. Everything just seems to move on their own accord: Souji’s hands, Yosuke’s hands, and the tilt of their heads. Plus nothing ever seems like enough. Not enough proximity, not enough pressure, not enough air. Yosuke thinks that he’s being greedier in these few moments than he has ever been in his entire life.

It’s a little educational too. Like that other day when Yosuke had discovered the hard way (hah, pun) that he actually was capable of having a boner. And yes Souji this really is the first time that’s ever happened so would you please stop looking like that?

Despite the few (very rare) moments that make Yosuke make Yosuke feel embarrassed enough to want to keel over and die, it’s mostly good. Two weeks into this dating scene and nothing much has really changed in their friendship. Except for the touching. It should be weird but it’s not. It’s comfortable. Thousands of small touches and heavy kisses, and Yosuke finds himself anticipating each one.

He hopes this can last.

Currently they’re on Souji’s couch, with his boyfriend (that’s a good word too, boyfriend) on one end working on his laptop and Yosuke splayed across the couch with his feet on Souji’s lap. As a result, Souji’s laptop is very precariously balanced on one knee to accommodate Yosuke but Yosuke’s too comfortable to even think of moving. It’s a relaxed silence with Souji typing up his report and Yosuke reading a magazine and promising himself that he’ll finish his one when he gets home. It would be even better if Yosuke could just stop thinking long enough to enjoy this. But there’s this itch in his brain…

“Hey, partner,” he begins cautiously.

“Hmmm?” Souji responds absent-mindedly.

“What if I just, y’know,” this is hard to voice but really, honesty does go a long way he has found out, “what if I don’t want it anymore?”

The clacking on the keyboard pauses. “Want what?”

“You know,” he repeats uncomfortably, “the whole touching thing. What if I just stop being into it one day?”

“Then I suppose we’d have to figure it out,” he answers carefully. Why is it always so hard to gauge Souji’s emotions from his voice? Or his face even. It’s not fair, especially since Yosuke often feels like an open book in his presence.

“And if we can’t?”

“Then I suppose we’d have to break up,” his voice is still even but he’s very carefully not meeting Yosuke’s eyes; instead he’s staring at his laptop screen.

For some reason, the thought of breaking up with Souji makes him feel more than a little squeamish. “And…you’d be okay with that?”

“I’d have to be, wouldn’t I?”

Yosuke glances away at that. He hasn’t even done anything yet and he still feels intensely guilty. The thought just keeps looping itself in his brain, the fact that this might end one day and he’d probably be the reason for it. Logically speaking, he knows that high school relationships rarely last but still…

“You think too much,” Souji sighs and Yosuke snorts.

“That’s probably the first time anyone’s accused me of doing that.”

“Second time actually,” Souji smiles softly. His hand is on Yosuke’s foot and Yosuke can feel him tracing his ankle with his thumb. It sends shivers up his spine. “But I mean it. You don’t owe me anything, you realize that right?”

It’s really not fair, how he can just see through people like that. “Except for my life, maybe.”

Souji rolls his eyes. “Not a thing,” he repeats firmly. “Besides, just how many hits have you taken for me anyway?”

Well, he can’t argue with that. He tries to mull over those words in his brain, tries to think of a proper response when Souji draws his attention back.

“I found something a few days ago that I wanted to show you.” He types something into the laptop and then waits a few moments before turning the screen towards Yosuke who sits up straighter to take a better look.

 

‘A demisexual is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a strong emotional connection with someone. It's more commonly seen in but by no means confined to romantic relationships. The term demisexual comes from the orientation being "halfway between" sexual and asexual.’

 

“And then there’s also this-” He shifts to another open tab.

 

‘Asexuality and sexuality are not black and white; some people identify in the gray area between them. People who identify as gray-A can include, but are not limited to those who: do not normally experience sexual attraction, but do experience it sometimes.’

 

Yosuke blinks and then groans, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Oh, now you’re just making stuff up!”

“Well, I’m not gonna lie,” Souji answers with a small smile, “there is a bit of debate going on about whether or not demisexuality actually counts as a legitimate identity. But hey, it’s the Internet. When are people not arguing about things?”

“I just thought you should know,” he continues when Yosuke doesn’t answer. “What do you think?”

“I…don’t even know anymore,” Yosuke shakes his head. “I can honestly tell you that stuff like this have never crossed my mind, ever.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything right?” he insists. “To be truthful, I don’t think all of this matters much. At least not to me. I don’t really care for labels, I know who I am.” And that’s the truth all right. Yosuke has never met anyone as in tune with themselves, as secure as Souji appears to be. He’s not sure if that’s how it really is or if that’s just how it seems…

“But that’s just me. I still think people should know about these things. Keep informed you know. It might help you understand yourself a bit more…or something like that.”

Maybe you wouldn’t have had to spend years wallowing in self-loathing, Yosuke thinks. Not that Souji says anything like that. Yosuke’s never really elaborated on the extent of his insecurity to Souji. But maybe he can guess, he’s weirdly observant like that.

Yosuke looks back at the screen. Well it would explain a lot. He ponders over the words over and over in his mind but they all still sound so foreign, so… (Appropriate?). “So I guess as long as I don’t fall out of love with you, we’re good to go, huh?”

It takes a moment for him to realize exactly what he’d just said. And then he can almost hear the crickets chirping. Fuck. Fuck. He hadn’t meant to say that. Not at all. He hadn’t wanted to use that word. The L-word. Oh damn.

Yosuke’s going back to looking at the ground again. It feels like an eternity before Souji replies and it makes Yosuke’s heart sink.

“I…don’t think that’s exactly how it works,” he murmurs. “Like I said, you should try finding out more about this…”

“Yeah, okay.” He’s trying not to feel wretched but he’s failing miserably.

“And, uh, Yosuke?” Souji’s not looking at him either, Yosuke realizes. And he’s blushing again, fiercely. Even the back of his neck seems red.  Yosuke has to wonder, just how many people have seen Souji like this? Not many, he’d wager.

“The, um- I, uh-” and just how many people have heard Souji, cool, collected Souji, stumble over his words like this? - “I love you too.”

He can’t help it. He laughs. And when Souji looks at him, his smile is a little sheepish too. Yosuke grabs Souji’s hand and twines their fingers together, suddenly feeling like he’s on the top of the world.

“Cool. Great,” he grins and Souji bites his bottom lip again. “That’s fucking fantastic. And also really, really embarrassing. So wanna try making out again?”

It’s the best rush in the world really, to watch Souji blush and know that he’s the one causing it.

The laptop snaps shut. “Okay,” he agrees with a grin.

He knows it’s not gone; that lingering doubt that haunts him. He knows it’ll be back eventually. But as Souji’s lips settle over his, he can’t help but think that maybe he’s right. Maybe he should try that whole discovering yourself thing chick flicks are always talking about. He has time, he doesn’t have to decide anything right now (maybe he doesn’t have to decide anything about this, ever- who knows?) Right now, he’s got a whole lot of good things going on his life and he’s going to enjoy them.

Like making out with his boyfriend.