"It's been a long time since I was last here…" Souji muttered as he looked up at a bright neon sign that reflected off the clean and shiny walls of Port Island's Paulownia Mall. Not since the school trip during the year I stayed in Inaba. Heh, that brings back memories. I just hope this visit isn't nearly as… 'exciting' as the last.
However, the moment he walked through the door, Souji's hopes at having a 'calm night out with friends' were eliminated as a pair of arms threw themselves around his waist and a loud, girlish cry of 'Senpai!' filled his ears.
"Wh—Rise-san, please let go..." Souji gasped, unable to actually see who had grabbed him as stepped through the door. "You know I already have a-"
"I'm so sorry!" another more familiar voice cried, "I tried to hold her back but she seemed to think you were—oh! Senpai! Hey!"
"Huh? Rise-san? Who…?" Souji blinked as he watched a familiar pair of red pigtails bounce through the air as the aforementioned girl hurried forward, looking apologetic.
"Ahaha…" Rise laughed nervously as her gaze fell on Souji, looking extremely guilty about something. "I-it's good to see you, Senpai! I'm really sorry about this—I mean, I didn't even know they started serving alcohol again. Apparently, Yosuke-senpai switched her drink with something really heavy and-"
But Souji wasn't listening. His gaze slowly shifted downward, blinking as his silver eyes meet a pair of unfocused gray-blue orbs that stared up at him from under the rim of a dark cap, the same girlish giggle from before escaping the lips below them.
"S-Senpai! You're here! I'm soooo happy! I missed you! Rise-san said that it wasn't you…hehehe, but I knew better. I just knew it was you! Hahaha!"
Souji looked up at Rise again, his mouth moving wordlessly as he tried to vocalize the questions that were flying through his mind. Not a sound was able to escape as the arms around his waist tightened and a face was buried into his chest, causing him to gasp in shock and look back down, a dark blush quickly spreading across his cheeks. Normally, I'd be thrilled to have her hugging me, but this…
"Uhm… N-Naoto-kun," Rise cooed, pulling gently on the detective's shoulders, trying to loosen the death-grip the sleuth had on her boyfriend's waist. "Why don't we let Senpai come upstairs and find himself a seat, okay? I'm…sure Yosuke's gotten you another drink by now, why don't we go see?" And hopefully, he used his brain and didn't get any alcohol in it this time. What was he thinking?!
"But…I want to be with Senpaaaai!" Naoto cried in distress, making both Souji and Rise wince. The detective would never allow herself to act like this in a right state of mind. "He's been gone…two whole years! I wanna—hic."
"Y-you can…" Rise assured Naoto as she slowly pulled the detective away from Souji, flashing him a more intensely apologetic look. "But he…needs to get his drink! He walked a long way to get here so…he's uh… thirsty! Right, Senpai?"
Souji could only stare as something in his mind finally clicked into place. Naoto, most certainly not in her right state of mind, clinging, snuggling and giggling... was drunk. The mere idea of it was almost impossible to imagine, let alone see happening right in front of him. Hadn't it been she who had said the club had stopped serving such drinks? When did they start again? And…had Rise said it was Yosuke who switched her drink? He was going to have a long talk with the 'Junes boy' when next he saw him.
Finally gaining control of himself once more, he nodded slowly, looking around the club. Thankfully, even though the music-filled club was unusually packed, the other patrons looked at the pair with a mixture of pity and sympathy.
"Upstairs?" Souji's face was impassive, though his rising anger with Yosuke was reflected in his grey eyes.
"Yeah…" Rise nodded, not liking the look in Souji's eyes. "The same room as before."
"Keep her downstairs for a few minutes. I need to… talk with Yosuke."
Rise had been afraid of this. "P-please don't start a fight, Senpai. Not here… There are so many people, and it's your birthday! We're here to have fun! I'm sure it'll all be okay! Um... I think I'll take her to the bathroom and see if they have those pills that help you, uh...'get the alcohol out'... are in the dispensers."
Watching as Rise led Naoto slowly through the crowd, Souji made his way to the stairs, quickly scaling the metal steps and striding down the small hallway. He reached the same private room he'd shared with his friend's only two years before and, dreading what he would find within, pushed the door open and stepped inside. He blinked in surprise as confetti and steams of paper exploded all around him and a loud shout of, 'happy birthday' sounded from all corners of the room. In spite of the circumstances, Souji couldn't help but smile as each of his old friends stepped forward and pulled him into a hug, offering him a wide smile.
"It's wonderful to see you again, Souji-kun," Yukiko smiled as she stepped back, "We've all been looking forward to this, and we're so glad you decided to spend your birthday here… Naoto-kun—" but she stopped, looking uneasy as she watched Souji's gaze snap towards Yosuke, who paled and tried to hide behind the rim of his brightly colored drink.
"Excuse me for a moment, Yukiko, I need to ask Yosuke something."
"O-oh…right I—ah… C-Chie! Ahaha, I'd love to go downstairs and dance for a bit. Kanji-kun, why don't you—ah…Rise-san, Naoto-kun. You're back!"
"H-hey, partner." Yosuke looked up from his drink, forcing a small smile as Souji looked down at him, any and all traces of humor completely gone. He looked as though he was caught with his hand in a cookie jar.
"…Yosuke," Souji began, crossing his arms as he tried to keep his voice calm and steady, "Rise-san told me a very interesting little story. Is there something you want to tell me?"
"I finally got my motorcycle?"
"Wai-wait a minute! You can't put all the blame on me, dude!" Yosuke looked around, his eyes falling on the only other person nearby. "Kanji! He was all for it too, and—"
"H-hey!" Kanji's eyes widened in shock. "Don't drag me into this! This was all you, man. I said that it was a stupid—"
"—He said Naoto-kun really needed to loosen up and that she was being too hard on herself."
"I didn't say a damn thing! Yosuke-senpai, I swear if you keep putting your words in my mouth-!"
"The truth, Yosuke." Souji's patience was wearing thin.
"Okay, look!" Yosuke sighed resignedly. "She's been miserable since you left, and even though she heard you were coming, she was still trying to act all 'adult' and 'proper'! So we thought- Fine! I thought," Yosuke corrected himself when he noticed Kanji's own evil glare, "that I could give her a drink, thinking it might help her calm down. You know, bring her out of her shell a bit…But I guess they add a lot more alcohol here then we thought. It doesn't help that she's so damn tiny, and a light-weight. I mean, dude! She didn't even finish her drink before she started giggling like crazy. It was creepy man, she just—"
"She's a minor." Souji said firmly, "It doesn't matter how she was acting! You gave her alcohol! ALCOHOL! Yosuke, she's seventeen! Not only is that illegal, it could also lead to serious troub—"
Everyone froze. The music itself seemed to go completely silent as five pairs of eyes slowly fell on Naoto, who stood in the middle of the room, waving around a handful of chopsticks, swaying slightly as she hiccupped and giggled.
"Why is everyone staring at me like that? Let's plaaay! That's what we did the last time we were here, right?" Naoto's tone was beginning to slur slightly, making Souji's eyes flash dangerously once again as he turned back to his headphone-clad best friend.
"Dude, I swear, this was never part of the plan…" Yosuke paled as he watched Naoto's smile slowly fade to a very Rise-like pout when no one seemed excited at the idea.
"What? Why are you all just standing there for? Someone get them ready and everybody sit!"
"Naoto…" Souji began slowly, stepping forward as he reached for the chopsticks. "Why don't you give me those? I don't think… anyone likes that game very much. Why don't we… play something else?"
"You don't want to play with me?" A pained look fell on Souji's face as Naoto stared up at him with wide, innocent, and heavily unfocused, doe-eyes. "But... two YEARS, Souji-kuuun! You OWE me... hic!"
"That… I…" He struggled to finish his sentence, looking around at the others for help, but each looked away quickly before they could meet his gaze, suddenly becoming very interested in their shoes or hands.
Sighing, Souji ran a hand through his hair, shutting his eyes as he tried to visualize the consequences of what he was about to agree to.
"Alright, fine." The silence in the room only seemed to grow deeper. "We'll play. Yosuke, get the chopsticks ready. I'm going to sit her down…"
"What?! Why me?!"
"Because it's your fault this entire mess started…" Souji paused before adding thoughtfully, "And the 'birthday boy' says so. Chop-chop."
"…Dude, you suck. This had better not end up like last time. I'm not letting anyone on my back again. I don't care who the king is." Yosuke muttered as he stood up and walked over to Naoto, easing the chopsticks from her hand before he went in search of red and black markers.
"Come on, Naoto. Why don't we go sit down while the others get the game ready?"
"Okay, Senpai! We can play 'snuggles' while we wait!"
"Ah… sure? Of course, anything you want." 'Snuggles'? What on earth is-? O-oh.
A dark blush spread across Souji's face once more as he quickly learned just what 'snuggles' was. Normally he wouldn't have complained about receiving gestures of affection from the detective. But given the situation, he was torn between just how much he was enjoying it, and the strong sense of 'right and wrong' that was quickly waving a red flag in his mind and warning him not to let anything go too far.
"I'm SO sorry, Souji-kun," said Yukiko as she reached for her own drink, the rest of the group sitting on the soft, plush leather seats like before. "We were hoping to have a better present for you than... well, this."
"It's.. fine." Souji continued to blush as Naoto let out a muffled coo and giggled into his shirt.
"Uhh," stuttered Yosuke as he held out the numbered chopsticks to Souji, "they're ready... Are you sure you wanna-"
"Kiiiing's Game!" Naoto grabbed the sticks out of Yosuke's hand before anyone could stop her, wobbling slightly in Souji's arms. "Everyone pick one! C'mon, don't be shyyyy!"
If there are any Gods—or even Shadows—listening right now… please don't let this game get out of hand like last time. Let it be calm… let it pass and for all that is good in this world… Don't let Naoto be picked for anyone or any—huh? Souji blinked, looking at the small red mark on the chopstick in his hand.
"So, who's the first king?" Yosuke asked, glancing around. "Someone sober, I hope?"
"It's me," Souji held up his chopstick. "I'm the first king."
"Oh, thank god." Chie sighed in relief. "There's a chance this won't get out of hand then. So, are your orders, King?"
"Ah…" Souji frowned, carefully thinking his words over in his mind. The last thing he wanted to do was start a flame they wouldn't be able to put out. "Number…two has to…drink that." He pointed to a random cup on the table, the thought of checking its contents slipping his mind.
"What is that anyway? I don't remember ordering it…" Yosuke frowned, eyeing the drink uneasily. "It doesn't look dangerous, but maybe someone should—"
"Well, that's easy enough." Yukiko put down the number two chopstick she was holding, stood up, and walked over to the drink in question, picking it up. "I was afraid the game would start with something much crazier like last time. As long as we keep it like this, everything should be just fine."
"W-wait! Yukiko! I don't think that's a good—" Chie started, but Yukiko had already drained the cup of the liquid inside and was taking her seat once more.
"Alright, let's pass them out again."
The chopsticks were all passed to the center of the room, where Souji gathered them together in his hand and held them out, wincing with each one that was passed out. I have a bad feeling about all of this…
Naoto giggled uncontrollably as she held up her chopstick. "I'ma KING... Queen... Queen Seta!" She giggled at her own silly humor, though Souji's flush deepened slightly at her use of his surname. "Queen Seta saaays... numberrr... six... drink the whooole bottle that was next to that cup!"
"Err, Naoto," Souji winced, noticing that the bottle was more than half-full, "maybe that isn't such a good idea."
"...I'm number six," said Kanji blankly, staring at his chopstick.
"DO it, Kanji~!" Yukiko cooed, and everyone turned toward her in worry as her cheeks became flushed, eyes slightly unfocused. "C'mon! Be a MAN and drink it ALL!"
...Why do I always have to be right? Souji moaned inwardly as Kanji rose immediately and strode to the bottle.
His eyes firmly on the beverage as though it had insulted him, Kanji grabbed it and put the open top to his lips. He began chugging down the liquid without a second thought, and Yukiko cheered him on in loud, enthusiastic voice.
Souji blinked as he looked down at the clinging Naoto, and he couldn't help but feel like something was different now that he was able to pay close attention to her. She was smiling broadly, her unfocused silver-blue eyes alight with mischievous affection.
"Guess what, Souji-kun..." Naoto purred as she rose up in his lap. She pressed herself to her boyfriend, her face inches from his own, and Souji finally understood what had puzzled him... and his blush deepened even further.
"Hehe, yeah... I'm not wearing any bandages!" Naoto said, a little too loudly. Chie yelped and covered her mouth in her hands. Yosuke nearly fell sideways out of his seat. Rise looked away from the pair with a thick blush enveloping her cheeks and Kanji, in the middle of his drinking, suddenly choked on the liquid in his mouth, pulling the bottle away from his lips as he spluttered and gagged, much of the beverage having been redirected through his nose. Yukiko, unable to focus, sniggered as she plunged full force into a fit of laughter.
"I, uh... Well... you look... good!" said Souji hesitantly, trying to weigh his words.
"...Souji-kuuuun, you're so sweet!" Naoto purred softly, nuzzling her cheek into his chest. Unfortunately, her attentions were beginning to negatively affect Souji, and her admission about the bandages only made matters worse. He was silently telling himself to endure it, that it would be best to let it all pass... Alas, he was only a young man, and his thoughts began to drift to less innocent ideas, testing his self-control.
"I'm in deep shit, aren't I?" asked Yosuke dejectedly as he passed out the chopsticks a third time. He looked worriedly at Kanji, who stumbled back to his seat and wiped his face off clumsily with his own jacket.
"I'll only say this," said Souji through gritted teeth. "You'd better start writing your last will and testament on that napkin."
"A-anyway, who's king this time?" Chie muttered softly, glancing around the room. "Please tell me it's someone reasonable this time…"
"Woohoo! I'm da man!" Kanji cried in delight, taking a large swig from his drink, missing his mouth almost completely, causing half of the bottle's contents to slosh down his shirt. "Alright! So this is gonna be… really great! I'm gonna get my revenge for the last time you guys dragged me here! So… number six—hic—has to kiss number…three!"
"W-what?!" Souji cried in protest, looking at the small number 'six' on his chopstick. "Hold on, wait Kanji! I can't-!"
"I have number six!" Naoto cried out, looking very upset at the idea of Souji having to kiss anyone in the room.
"Naoto," Souji muttered softly. "I'm number six…"
"Then I'm number three!" replied Naoto as if this settled the matter.
"Y-yeah! Naoto-kun has number three!" stammered Yosuke, looking worried. "Let them kiss and let's move on to the next round!"
"Nooo—hic—she doesn't, Senpai!" Kanji's voice seemed to slur more rapidly with each passing second. "I can—hic—see her's! Naoto has…numbah four!"
"Oh, no way!" Chie gasped, standing up as she rushed to the other side of the room, her eyes fixed on Yosuke's hand. "Don't tell me-!"
"H-hey!" Yosuke cried as Chie tore his chopstick away from him. "Mind your own business I—"
"Yosuke's number three!"
"Ehehe—hic—alright, Senpai! Come on now! Kiss kiss!" Kanji grinned, swaying with the music as he waved his bottle absently in their air.
"W-what?! No!" Yosuke cried, jumping to his feet. "I'm not—First off, he's a guy! Second, he's a guy! And third, I really don't want to die here tonight! Have you seen Naoto-kun with a revolver? I don't want to be the one who finds out if she's as good a shot drunk as she is when she's sober!"
"But Yosuke, those are the rules…" Chie said, unable to suppress a smirk.
"Chie! Don't encourage them!"
"Hey!" Yukiko piped up, a deep frown etched across her heavily flushed face. "Kanji izzz the king and whadevah he says….goes! So you two gotta… kiss up! Come on… smooch smoooooch!"
"No!" Naoto's slurred voice cried out as she threw herself in Souji's arms, glaring at Yosuke while making a sound close to that of an angry cat that had just been thrown in a river. "He's mine!"
"…The defense rests." Yosuke motioned to Naoto in satisfaction. "Looks like I can't—"
"Yosuke, get over here."
"Wh-what?! No way dude! This isn't like the pageant at the culture fest! I don't care how into this you are, I'm not. No way, no how. I'm—H-HEY! DON'T PULL ME!"
Souji fought the urge to roll his eyes as he grabbed Yosuke's wrist roughly, jerking the protesting teen forward with a swift tug. A silver eyebrow rose upward as Souji watched Yosuke's panicked movements, flailing around like a man about to be pushed off a roof.
"Whoa! Are they seriously gonna-?!" Chie gasped, eyes widening as Souji began to lean forward, earning a small squeak from Naoto.
"H-hey! Don't you even-!" Yosuke stopped as he felt something soft brush the back of his hand, causing him to look down, blinking slowly. "What-?"
"There, I've kissed him."
"Aw…" Kanji and Yukiko protested, looking thoroughly disappointed.
"Kanji-kuuun!" Yukiko slurred, "You gotta remember to say… 'on the lips'! They gotta smooch!"
"…W-well…d-damn." Kanji muttered, looking upset.
"Ahaha, whoa man. You lucked out this time, didn't you Yosuke? It's good for you Souji thinks so well under pressure." Chie grinned, slapping Yosuke on the back.
"Y-yeah… I did." Yosuke muttered, looking at hand with a mix of horror and relief. Well, it could have been worse. He thought as he took his seat. Man… but why—just once—can't I be paired up with one of the girls? Any of the girls… except Naoto-kun. I'm already on Souji's shit-list and I don't need to push my luck with him any further.
"You're such a HOT STUD, Souji-kun!" giggled Naoto with a slur. "I hope this means we can score tonight!"
"H-hey, now!" said Yukiko, her face turning sour as she hiccupped, "We can't have you bein' the only one who scores tonight! Pass out the sticks again!"
Much to the dismay of the sober members of the group, Yukiko managed to pull the King's stick.
"Woohoo!" cheered Yukiko, raising a wobbling hand up in victory. "I'm gonna SCORE tonight no matter what! Soo... Number ONE, come and... sit on my lap!"
"W-wait!" Chie panicked, shaking her head in alarm as she stared at her stick. "You've gotta be kidding! I can't-"
"You GOTTA!" roared Kanji, standing shakily for a brief moment before tumbling back into his seat. "Them's the RULES! DO IT!!"
Chie clenched her fists as she rose, walking past Yosuke as she moved toward her best friend. "You... are... SO dead, Yosuke Hanamura!!"
"I know, I know..." sighed Yosuke, his face contorted in anguish as he watched Chie gently lower herself onto Yukiko's lap, both girls blushing profusely at the close contact.
"Mmmm, you're so huggable, Chie!" giggled Yukiko, petting Chie's sandy hair.
"Yukiko, don't say things like that..." Chie turned away, her body shivering from embarrassment.
"Are you cold?" asked Yukiko in concern, wrapping her gentle arms around Chie's waist. "Do you wanna play snuggles and... warm up?"
"H-huh?!" Chie's eyes widened in panic at the mention of the game. "N-no, that's- Yukikoooo!!" She couldn't get away fast enough, and her best friend pressed her close, too close, forcing Chie to close her eyes.
"Souji-kuuuun!!" Naoto had noticed the two girls' exchange, and the realization made Souji wince. "We... can't let THEM beat us at snuggles! It just... isn't RIGHT! We gotta show 'em how we REALLY play, right Souji-kun?"
Souji shut his eyes and tried desperately to control his surging emotions, but Naoto's nuzzling and cuddling made it nearly impossible to focus on anything other than her. He silently wished that she WASN'T drunk, and yet... she would never have acted like this under any normal circumstances, and the sense of divided desire intensified within his mind.
"H-hey! Not so tight..." whimpered Chie, trying desperately to wriggle free without hurting Yukiko.
"Psh!" Yukiko snorted, "That wasn't what you said last niiiight, Chie-chan!"
Yosuke choked on his drink, his face turning red. "Wha?! Ch-chie?! Y-you said you were washing your HAIR!!"
Chie covered her face in her hands, the entire situation becoming too much for her. "I... I did! I swear!"
"...in my bathtuuuub!" giggled Yukiko, her eyes glittering with teasing mischief.
Chie finally managed to tear herself away with a growl, looking guiltily at Yosuke, who was leaning forward with his head in his hands.
"Yaaay! We won 'snuggles'!" cried Naoto, her legs entwining themselves around Souji's. "Here's your prize, Souji-kuuun!" She leaned forward with a giggle and kissed him on his flushed cheek. Souji continued to hold her close, and yet he couldn't help but feel a nagging intuition that something was off...
"J-just draw the lots again, damn it!" snarled Chie, sitting back down between Souji and Rise. "Geez, nothing happened, I swear! It was just a sleep-over!"
This time Rise handed out the sticks, and Yosuke twitched nervously as he drew the King's lot once again.
"N-now, Yosuke... Think about what you're gonna-" Chie began worriedly, and her face fell as she saw Yosuke groan in frustration.
"Argh! I can't TAKE this anymore!" He stood up, the stick clenched tightly in his right hand. "I've been getting screwed this whole game, so I say screw it back!" He took a deep breath, committing himself to his decision. "Number three, take off your shirt."
"Aw, pooh..." said Yukiko in disappointment, "I have five..."
"That's a GOOD thing, Yukiko." Chie rounded on Yosuke, her eyes blazing with fury. "What the HELL?! Stop being a pervert, Yosuke!"
Yosuke's face became stony. "Are you three?"
"I... well-" Chie stuttered, checking her stick reflexively. "No, but-"
"Then why are you complaining?" Yosuke looked around at Rise hopefully, but she shook her head, holding up a stick labeled two.
"..I have three," said Naoto, staring at her own stick.
"HELL YEAH!" cried Kanji, leaping to his feet and raising both arms in victory. "Senpai, you're the ma-... Hey, wha's that look for?"
Yosuke's face had turned a sick shade of green as he stared into Souji's unblinking eyes. "S...shit... P-partner, I swear... I didn't know! It was... meant to be a joke! I-"
But Souji, very calmly and without a word, took Naoto's stick out of her hand and replaced it with his own. The entire room was deathly silent.
"H-hey, you can't-" Kanji began, but faltered at Souji's penetrating look. He compensated by taking another deep swig from the bottle in his hand.
"You know..." said Naoto with a slight hiccup, "I'm a defective!"
"I know," said Souji quietly as he removed his shirt. However, he didn't expect Naoto to cling more tightly to him, her soft hands playing over his tone stomach, her smooth, warm cheek pressed against his bare chest. In spite of his quick decision seeming like a good idea, it had only made his internal struggle all the more difficult for him.
"And... I deduce... that you're holdin' somethin' back, Souji-kun!" She leaned forward, her face inches from the nape of Souji's exposed neck.
"I, ah... I'm f-fine..." Souji shivered, feeling Naoto's breath against his skin. "R-really! I'm okay..."
"Ya know what I think?" Naoto's voice rose in volume, her lips parted in a relaxed grin. "I think... you're sectionally flustrated!"
Souji looked away, blood surging through his face. He heard Chie and Rise snort with laughter, and even Yosuke managed a nervous chuckle, though it was quickly stifled.
"Which section is the flustration spific to, Naoko-tun?" said Yukiko, her slurring becoming worse.
"Ooooh, I'll point to it!" Naoto seemed happy to oblige, and Souji's head turned in alarm. "It's riiiight he--" Naoto blinked as she felt Souji's hand enclose around her own. She blushed and giggled uncontrollably, her unfocused eyes looking right into his own. "Souji-kun, its sweet you wanna hold hands... but I'm tryin' ta show Yuki-chan somethin'..."
"Oh, god, my sides...!" Chie had lost her composure, laughing uncontrollably as she listened to Naoto's "deductions". Rise was in a similar state, clinging to Chie and giggling hysterically.
Meanwhile, realizing his current danger, Yosuke took Souji's advice and began writing a will on a clean napkin with a ball-point pen. "I, Hanamura Yosuke, being of sound mind and body, at least for the moment, divide my material possessions like so: I leave my motorcycle to Souji, as an apology for tonight. I leave my headphones to Chie, as an apology for never listening. Please sell the rest of my possessions and give the money to charity, and donate what remains of my organs to troubled teenagers who could possibly meet the same fate as me."
"Geez, Yosuke, don't be so dramatic!" said Chie as she took the napkin from him. "Yes, you're in deep trouble, but I think we're all having a… decently good time. Well..." she peered at Souji, who was still being "snuggled" by Naoto, "...Most of us are, anyway. Geez, what a birthday this is turning out to be, huh?"
"Please don't say anything else!" groaned Yosuke. "I feel guilty as it is!"
"You should," said Chie firmly.
"Just pass out the next set of sticks." Souji sighed, carefully trying to pry Naoto's hands from around his waist without offending her. "Naoto….Hey, we need to start the next around so—ah, thanks, Chie." Souji muttered, taking the two sticks handed to him. "So who—"
"I'm the next King—whoopsie! Queen! I'm the Queen!!" Yukiko cried in delight, throwing her arms into the air, nearly knocking Yosuke's pen from his hand.
"Oh man, sheesh… This is getting really out of hand. Y-Yukiko, please, listen to me. For the sake of all of us, don't do anything—"
"Number four has to go and get Ted—"
"NO!!!" Several voices cried out at once, making Yukiko pout.
"But I'm the—"
"Yukiko…" Chie began weakly, "Please… Not that. Anything but that. Anything!"
Sighing, Yukiko nodded, her head lolling from side to side as she hiccupped several times.
"Okay…okay. Fine fine, the Queen will listen to her subjects and pick somethin' else."
"Whew," Yosuke sighed in relief, leaning back against the black leather couch. "At least things can't get any worse…"
"Rabbits!" Yukiko beamed as she jumped to her feet, clapper her hands together. "Rabbits!"
"Just…stop talking, Yosuke. Please!" Souji and Chie cried in exasperation, looking horrified with the situation.
"Huh? Rabbits?" Yosuke raised an eyebrow, tearing his gaze from the death glare Souji had fixed him with to look at Yukiko. "What the hell-?"
"Number six and one have to pretend they're rabbits!"
"Huh? Well uh… I'm number six but…whuz that s'posed to mean?" Kanji frowned, one of his eyes rolling around in the socket while the other fixed itself on the raven-haired female. "How…do we pretend we're rabbits and uh…whozzze….number one?"
"Oh! Oh! I'm number one!" Naoto grinned, waving the chopstick with a number 'one' in their air.
"Rabbits! Rabbits! Rabbits!" Yukiko began chanting again, grinning with pure delight.
"So…" Kanji started, waving his bottle around again. "Yo… Yukiko-senpai. So…how do we pretend to be rabbits? I mean…they're them…cute little fuzzy things. And like…Teddie isn't here with his… fur so like… we can't pretend to be fuzzies."
"No no!" Yukiko pouted, stomping her feet. "You're not getting it! RABBITS!" She began waving her hands in the air as if to emphasize her point. "You know, they—mmfgh!"
Yukiko's words were cut short as Souji stood up abruptly, nearly sending Naoto tumbling to the floor as he dived across the table, clapping his hand over Yukiko's mouth. Several cups fell and shattered, making Chie wince as the glass and liquid scattered across the floor.
"They…wha…?" Kanji blinked, looking from Yukiko to Souji in confusion. "What are we…?"
"They jump around!" Souji said firmly, fixing Kanji with a dark glare. "Rabbits jump around. You and Naoto are to jump three times and then sit back down!"
Yukiko stomped her foot in protest again and pulled Souji's hand from her mouth, frowning.
"That's not what-!"
"Yukiko!" Chie jumped in, gently pushing the raven haired girl back into her seat as Kanji and Naoto began hopping around the room... or rather, crawling around the floor and laughing wildly. "Why don't you sit down, okay? Let them have their run and jump around I'll um… get you another drink! A nice one!"
"Really, Chie?" Yukiko nodded happily, hair flying all around her face. "Ooookay then! It's a deal! Now whozzzz the next King?!"
"We can't draw yet, Yukiko-san. We need your stick…" Yosuke called hesitantly, eyeing Souji as if expecting the silverette to jump him if the said something wrong.
"Whoops!" Yukiko giggled as she held her chopstick out to Yosuke, watching as it tumbled out of her fingers and landed on the floor with a clatter.
"I've got it." Yosuke sighed, scooping the red-marked chopstick from the floor, gathering it together with the others before holding them out. "Alright… let's start the next round. Everyone grab a stick."
"…So, who's the next King?" Souji sighed, falling back into his seat, rubbing his forehead as Naoto climbed back onto his lap and returned to her 'snuggles'. This is getting completely out of hand… I knew this was a bad idea. I should have said something. Distracted her… anything! Kanji sat back down next to Yukiko and grabbed his bottle.
"Oh holy crap! W-whoa! I'm the queen! I'm actually the queen!" Chie cried, staring at the chopstick in her hand in shock. "…Oh man. Now that I've finally been picked, I don't have a clue what to do. Uhm…" The martial artist stood up, rubbing the back of her head as she slowly walked around the room, nibbling her bottom lip as she tried to come up with something. "Well… let's see… I think that ah… number… Oh!" Chie grinned, an idea suddenly popping into her mind.
Turning sharply in her round-about of the room, Chie glanced over at Souji, winking as she walked behind Yosuke, following the border of the room past Souji, before sitting in her seat again.
"Number three gets to hit number five!"
"Three." Souji said triumphantly, finally realizing why Chie had winked at him.
"What?!" Yosuke jumped up, pointing at Chie, eyes wide. "You cheated!!! You walked around to see everyone's numbers! This round was rigged! RIGGED!"
"I did no such thing!" Chie gasped defensively, "I was just stretching my legs! If they cramp up, I won't be able to practice my kung-fu moves!"
"That's a load of—" Yosuke cut off as he saw something move from the corner of his eye. "Wh—S-Souji?! Why are you standing up!?"
"I did promise that I was going to punish you for starting this mess." Souji smiled, calmly stepping around the table that stood in the way of Yosuke and himself.
"Oh…Wow! This is way more fun than it was last time!" Naoto piped up, grinning as she looked between Yosuke and Souji, laughter dancing in her eyes.
"Speak for yourself…" Rise muttered, sighing as she shook her head. "This is insane! Everyone has completely lost it… Why'd you have to ever give Naoto-kun that drink in the first place, Yosuke-senpai!?"
"I didn't think it was going to turn out this—gaugh!" Yosuke tumbled backward, falling with a loud crash against the back of the couch. "W-what the hell, Souji!? That hurt!"
"I've hit him. Start the next round…" Souji muttered, holding his hand out to Yosuke who eyed it uneasily. "…My revenge has been made." A small smile graced Souji's lips. "We're all in this together, so let's just try and keep help each other for now. Sorry for hitting you so hard, partner. You okay?"
"…Heh, I guess I deserved that. You're always too calm. If I were you, I'd be punching whatever inch I could reach."
"Yes, well… beating you isn't going to change the situation. Besides, we've already beaten the hell out of each other once. I'm sure if you want another go, we can have another spar later."
"Dude… you're insane." Yosuke shook his head, grabbing Souji's hand and shaking it firmly. "But that's something I've always admired."
"…Spar? What the-?" Chie rolled her eyes, shaking her head slowly. "Geez…. Boys are so stupid…"
"Start the next round!!!" Naoto shouted, crossing her arms. "Stop talking already, geez! Souji-kun! Come back here… Stop playing with Yosuke!" Slapping the cushion next to her several times, she looked at Souji expectantly, a childishly pleading look in her eyes that begged Souji to come back and sit with her. Sighing deeply, Souji returned to his seat, where Naoto immediately clung to him more tightly than before.
"W-was I REALLY this bad before, Senpai...?" Rise collected the sticks again as she shook her head at Naoto, who was enthusiastically pressing her lips against Souji's chest, forcing him to cover her mouth with his hand.
"...Yes. Yes, you were," said Souji with brutal honesty as he accepted two sticks with his free hand. Naoto was looking up at him pleadingly, her eyes still unfocused and hazy.
"YEAH!" yelled Kanji again, brandishing his stick. "King again, baby! So... Lesee what we can do..."
"Piggyback ride!" cried Yukiko, causing Yosuke to turn pale.
"...You're the man, Yukoko-senpai!" Kanji slurred, accidentally mispronouncing the name. "..Piggyback ride! ...uh... number..." He started counting on his fingers. "...seven!"
"...Kanji-kun, there's only six players!" cried Chie, smacking her forehead.
"...Oh. Uh... yeah. I knew that." Kanji took a large gulp from his bottle. "...Six, then. Number six... gives me a piggyback ride!"
"No! NO!!" Yosuke turned even paler, throwing the stick away in outrage. "I refuse! I said in the beginning that I will NOT give ANYONE a piggy-back ride!"
"....Yeah? Izzat so?" Kanji turned to Yosuke and glared darkly at him. "You.. goin' 'gainst the King? You DARE.. disobey the King, peasant?!"
"You'd better do it, Yosuke," said Souji calmly. "Three laps around the room should be okay."
"Yeah, Yosuke!" Chie smirked. "Be a man, for a change!"
"...Damn it all to hell..." Yosuke sighed deeply and, with a sour expression, let Kanji jump onto his back. Grunting at the weight he was forced to bear, he began to run quickly around the room, desperate to get the entire ordeal over with.
"Woohoooooo!" cried Yukiko. "Ride 'em, Kanji-kun!"
"Would you give me a piggy-back ride later, Souji-kun?" Naoto giggled when she finally pulled Souji's hand away from her mouth. "Then we could play rabbits and-"
"Finished!" gasped Yosuke, letting Kanji go. However, the younger man was unprepared for the drop, and he fell unceremoniously to the floor. He didn't seem to mind, however; he was laughing too hard to care.
"I've never seen you run so fast before, Yosuke-senpai," said Rise, intent on trying to have fun in spite of her sobriety. "Well... except when you've made Chie-senpai mad."
"Get your LOTS here!!" Yukiko called with a hiccup. Once again the sticks were passed out, although Yukiko's lack of focus caused her to drop more sticks than anyone expected.
"EEP!" Rise blinked at the red-marked stick in her hand. "I'm the king?! ...Uh... What should I.."
"Have someone be a puppy-dog!" hollered Kanji without warning from his place on the floor, and Yukiko squealed and clapped her hands in excitement at the prospect.
"N-no, I don't think-"
"Puppy! Puppy!" chanted Yukiko, giggling insanely. "Woof-woof!"
Rise looked around frantically, trying to think of something quickly that didn't involve animals for once. "I, uh... Number two! Aaah!!" she yelped as she saw Yosuke smack his forehead. "Uh, I, I... with..." She managed to catch Chie's eye, who held a finger up to her lips... and winked. For a moment, Rise didn't understand. Then something finally clicked into place in her mind. "Number two with number one! Umm... Two lays in one's lap!"
Yosuke looked around hesitantly, breathing a heavy sigh of relief when he saw Souji hold up the number three and five lots. Kanji cursed vaguely in a slurred voice, tossing away the number six stick. Yukiko pouted as she looked blankly at her lot, labeled with a four.
"W-well?! What are you waiting for, Yosuke?" called Chie from her seat, nervously patting the cushion beside her. "Are you gonna obey the King or what?"
"H-huh?!" Yosuke stared in horror at Chie, slowly shaking his head. "I.. Wait, how do I know you won't kick me in the nads again?!"
"Let me put it this way," said Chie venomously. "I WILL kick you in the nads if you DON'T. Now PARK IT!"
Yosuke didn't think twice as he leaped from his seat and laid down on the cushion, placing his head on Chie's lap and blushing heavily. "P..please be gentle?" he squeaked feebly, wincing as Chie's hand touched his face, expecting it to be a fist... and yet the hand was soft, warm, comforting. His gaze drifted upward to Chie, her own expression one of compassionate exasperation as she ran her hand through his hair, gently running her fingernails across his scalp.
"When will you ever learn, Yosuke...?" whispered Chie with a soft smile, putting her other hand on his shoulder and holding him close as she continued to pet him.
Yosuke didn't say a word. He simply laid there and allowed Chie to do as she pleased.
"...Good answer," said Chie, her smile widening into an affectionate grin.
"...I think he woulda made a better puppy," said Naoto with a soft hiccup.
"I dunno," Rise giggled gently, "I think this is kinda the same thing."
Souji smiled and gave Yosuke a thumbs up. Yosuke winked back, silently thankful that something finally went right for him with this crazy game.
"Pass 'em out again!" Yukiko hiccupped, nearly tipping forward to the floor as she began tossing chopsticks at everyone in the room. "This time it's gotta be really good, okay? You needta make someone do something really embarrassing! No more of this…sissy stuff! Something BIG!" The raven-haired girl threw her arms into the air, waving them around airily as she tried to express her meaning of the word 'big', only causing herself to lose balance and topple sideways into Kanji's lap, making the boy grunt loudly in protest.
"Whoa….Senpai, you can't do dat. We wasn't ordered to play 'snuggles'. 'Sides, Naoto already said she won that game…"
"And I did—hic—too! Didn't we…. Souji—hic—kun?"
Souji forced a nervous laugh as he nodded slowly. The last thing he wanted to do was upset Naoto in her current mind state, he'd already nearly managed it several times that night and he didn't want to risk sending her any closer to the edge then she already was.
"O-of course, Naoto. We…blew them out of the water." The silverette forced another smile as he blocked Naoto's wondering mouth with his hand, shaking his head slowly. "Naoto, hold on a moment… we're still in the middle of the last round, remember? We can… err… play more when we finish the game, alright?"
"Prooooomise?" Naoto sang childishly, looking up at Souji, eyes wide with delight.
"I… promise we'll have fun after the game." On which terms of the word 'fun' that I mean and the ones that you currently mean… I'm afraid to know that they are most likely very, very different.
"Stop blabberin' already! Geez…" Kanji muttered, taking a deep swig from the bottle in his hand, which he had yet to realize was empty. "Look at yer damn….stickz already. Whoz zah next King?"
"Aw…" Yukiko pouted, staring dully at the stick in her hands. "Not me… I had a really good one too!"
"I've got a number," Rise muttered, looking at her stick with a mixed expression, not sure if the lack of a red mark was good or bad.
"Not me," Chie shrugged. "Probably better that way, I wouldn't know what to say."
"Again?" All eyes in the room fell on Yosuke, who was staring at the stick in his hand as if it didn't quite belong there. "Well… I guess I'm up again."
Three collective groans from the only other 'sane' members of the room were heard as Yosuke's brow furrowed in thought, the gears of his mind turning slowly as he tried to come up with something that wouldn't end up with him moaning on the floor.
"Uh… Let's see… numbers… four—no, not four. We've picked that one enough tonight. Oh! I know!" A grin spread across Yosuke's face as he tossed his chopstick on the table, sending a very unpleasant feeling shooting through Souji's stomach. "Numbers five and two have to go into the supply closet over there and play 'seven minutes in heaven'."
Souji looked at his stick, and his stomach sank down to his shoes. He was number two.
"I'm number five!" Naoto jumped up, clapping in delight. "So, who's the lucky number two?"
Souji twitched visibly. Unfortunately for him, everyone noticed. Everyone, including Naoto, whose lips parted in a very evil grin.
"…Seven minutes—Are you crazy?!" Chie shouted, tugging harshly on Yosuke's hair, making him yelp in pain.
"She's still drunk!" Souji roared, jumping to his feet as he started forward glaring at Yosuke. "Change the order! Now!"
"He can't!" Yukiko protested, "The King's orders are… absolute! No changing them! Hehehe… Have fun, Souji-kun!"
"Oh yeah! Turn 'im into a real man, Naoto! Show him what you're made of!" Kanji nodded happily, taking another swig from the empty bottle. "Uh…huh? What the-? Ish empteh. Waiter!!!"
"Hehehe…" Naoto giggled softly as she tugged at Souji's arm with a surprising amount of force. "C'mon, Senpai! Time to give you…wiiiiings!"
"W-what? Naoto! Wait, I—" Souji glanced over his shoulder as Naoto threw open the door to the closet, grinning madly. "Yosuke, I really hope you finished writing your will on that napkin. When I return you're—urk!" The silverette yelped loudly as he was shoved into the closet and the door was shut, sending both himself and Naoto into near complete darkness.
"So…" A hand slowly slid itself up Souji's chest, wrapping around his neck as a body pressed itself close against his own. "Senpai… How do we start this game, huh? Hehe…"
"N-Naoto…" Souji gasped, quickly pulling the sleuth's hand away from his neck, shaking his head. "Naoto, don't. You don't know what you're doing."
"I know just what I'm doing, Senpai!" Naoto protested loudly, stepping forward again, "Why are you pushing me away? Is… is it because I'm not pretty enough? If I were pretty, like Rise-san, would I be better for you?"
"What? No! That has nothing to do with it!"
"Then why-?!" Naoto began, starting to sound angry.
"Because you're not yourself!" Souji cried, grabbing Naoto by the shoulders as he forced her to sit on an upturned bucket. "You have no idea what you're going right now, Naoto. Your mind has been elsewhere all night long and you've been doing things you'd never do in public, and definitely not when we're alone. You're… you're acting like someone completely different, and while it's not your fault… I'm not going to let anything happen. You've been making all sorts of advances on me, all night long…" Souji ran a hand through his hair; he had never felt so tense in his entire life. "You really have no idea how difficult it's been for me to not just grab you and…and… do something I know would hurt you and end up leaving us both with nothing but regrets. Naoto… you're too important—too precious to me to allow that to happen. I love you, Naoto... more then anyone else in this world! You are my world, and I don't want to destroy it by letting my hormones control my desires… So… I'm sorry, but I won't play this game with you. I refuse. I'd rather have you upset with me for the rest of the night then allow myself to do something horrible to you… If I ever lost you for giving in to desire—or anything for that matter—I don't know how I'd survive it. I'm sorry…" Souji shut his eyes as he finished, turning away from the detective, not wanting to see the look on her face after all he'd said.
"I'll wait for you outside with the others," he muttered softly, grabbing the handle of the door. "…I don't expect you to follow me out immediately. You have every reason to be upset with me but—no… I won't say I regret my actions. I don't. I won't." He started to open the door, causing light to flood over half the storage area. "I—"
Souji felt a hand clasp his bare shoulder; it was strong and steady, yet soft and gentle. His intuition surged as he realized that the hand shouldn't be so stable. Turning slowly, his questioning gaze fell upon Naoto, and he was shocked to see her appear entirely sober, her eyes clear and focused, save for the tears welling within them. What-? Why is she-?
"I'm sorry, Senpai..." Her voice was broken, but the slur was entirely gone, replaced instead with guilt and regret. And in that moment, Souji realized instantly why he was so confused by Naoto's actions... why something seemed wrong... and why, for the past hour, he had never caught the scent of alcohol on her breath.
"I... wasn't drunk..." Naoto confessed, looking away and blushing profusely. "I was... faking it the entire time."
Souji's eyes suddenly went unfocused as her words reverberated within his mind. He couldn't think, thoughts and emotions flooding his entire body, a mixture of confusion, anguish, relief, joy, and many others that he couldn't pin down. He opened his mouth, but something had caught within his throat.
"S-Senpai?" Naoto practically squeaked the title, her heart filling with worry. "Are... are you alr-"
She was interrupted as Souji, unable to stand up any longer, tumbled sideways and crashed hard into a collection of brooms, mops, and buckets, the numerous cleaning tools accepting the dumbstruck male with loud clangs and clatters.
"SENPAI?!" Naoto rushed forward in a panic, tossing broken broom handles and dented buckets aside as she desperately sought to uncover Souji. Oh, god, what have I done?! "Souji-kun...?" She hesitantly reached out and extracted an overturned bucket from Souji's head. "A-are you alright...?"
"W-why...?" Souji looked up in a daze, croaking the single word that would pass through his dry, tight throat.
"I-I..." Naoto looked away again, unable to make eye contact with Souji. "I... needed to know. I needed you to prove-- no, I need to prove to myself that you weren't like everyone else. I needed to expel any and all doubt I had. I couldn't... I couldn't keep asking myself "what if". I... I'd have nightmares of you leaving. But... but..." Emotion began welling up within her heart, and she sniffled as she held back tears. "I had... I had to test you... just one final time. I needed... but I didn't want..." She choked, unable to find words to express her fear, her deep and profound worry that she might only have been used... or worse, left behind without a second thought.
Souji lifted his hand to his forehead, and to Naoto's astonishment, smiled. "I... guess I deserve that."
"W-wha?! N-no, that's-" A chill ran down Naoto's spine as he heard Souji speak. This isn't.. it wasn't supposed to end like this!
"No, you're absolutely right." Souji looked down at his hands, his smile faltering into a sorrowful, pondering expression. "We... don't talk as often as we used to, do we...? That separation... it's understandable for you to be concerned, to be afraid... And I've done nothing to help relieve you of it, or else you wouldn't have seen the need to do this."
"Senpai, no-!" Naoto shook her head, her heart almost stopping. Why...? This isn't your fault! Stop saying things like that!!!
"That's.. all the more reason for me to walk out of this room." Souji squeezed his eyes shut, trying to hold himself back. "...I don't deserve you..."
"NO!!" Naoto practically leaped on top of the prone Souji, pinning him to the ground. "No! I won't let you! I don't want to be alone anymore!" She stared deeply into Souji's widening, disbelieving eyes. "Don't leave me again! Not when I finally have you back!" Her hands moved to Souji's and closed around them, gripping them tightly and keeping them firmly pressed to the floor. "I'm the one who doesn't deserve you! Doing this to you... I'm... horrible..."
"N-Naoto..." Souji was lost for words. He could only stare up at her as she continued to plead and beg.
"It's alright if we don't talk everyday! It's alright if you're busy with college, or work, or whatever you have to do! Just... please..." Naoto leaned forward, her face dangerously close to his... She could smell his cologne, his sweat... and she couldn't, wouldn't, look away from those beautiful silver eyes. "I...I can't lose you. Don't rip away the reason I finally found to stay... please... I don't want you to go away again... ever..."
The two of them remained still and silent for what seemed like years, neither of them daring to ruin the moment for the other. Yet it was Souji who spoke next, and the whispered words that came out of his mouth, as well as his nervous, blushing expression, would remain etched in Naoto's mind forever.
"Naoto... You're... you're too close..."
Naoto blinked, more memories coming into prominence... memories of times spent in Souji's own bedroom, sitting on the couch... She remembered herself uttering those exact words… and then giving in to her wishes, her desires, for closeness, for affection.. for…
And she realized what Souji needed. After tonight, after all that he had been through, he was still hesitant, still unwilling to do anything that would hurt her...
Naoto's lips parted into a grin, massively affectionate and slightly mischievous. "No... We're not close enough, Souji-kun..."
She leaned forward and pressed herself against him, their lips meeting as though magnetized.
Seven minutes became seven long, glorious eternities, each one better than the last.
"Happy Birthday, Souji Seta. I love you..."
Yosuke jumped, jerking upward out of Chie's lap as a loud crash sounded from the closet, followed by a panicked scream.
"W-what the hell are they doing in there!?" He shouted, looking at the closet door in horror. "Should we—gaugh!"
"Leave them alone, Yosuke." Chie muttered, tugging the brunette back down into her lap, resuming her previous stroking of his hair, effectively shutting him up. "I'm sure… they're just fine."
Rise smiled gently as she covered Yukiko and Kanji in blankets, sighing as she looked over at the broom closet as her expression fell into a slight pout. "I'm so jealous... Why does Naoto-kun always get to have all the fun with Senpai...?"