A/N: It's been some time since I've written anything o_o
Finally out of my Writer's Block, somewhat!
Sorry this took so long, VG!
This is a songfic of sorts, set to the song 'Your Guardian Angel' by the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. Sort of. If you want something to listen to while reading, I suggest this.
Disclaimer: I don't own Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 or any of the characters within the story, for they are well-guarded creations from the minds of Atlus.
The final bell rang out through the school, signaling the end of the school day. The classroom erupted into a commotion of chatter as students discussed after-school plans with each other.
Rise stretched in her desk, glad that the day was over. "Man, what a boring lecture…Hey, Kanji, wanna hang out somewhere with the others?" she asked, turning in her chair to Kanji, who was already slinging his bag over his shoulder.
"Nah, we need some new fabric for the shop, so Ma's sending me to the city." Kanji replied. "Maybe later."
"Awe, no fair!" Rise pouted a bit. "With Senpai back in the city and the others all graduated, there's nobody to hang out with!" A sudden, innocent look crossed Rise's face. "Oh Kanji, are you going to meet Senpai in the city?"
"Wh– No, Rise, I'm just going for fabric!" Kanji said with a frown. "Why not hang out with Ted?"
Rise sighed. "Oh well, maybe. Jeez, too bad Naoto-kun left on that new case in the city. At least I could have brought her along…"
At Naoto's name, Kanji tensed a bit. It had been a while since anyone had talked about Naoto after she left. The cops in the city had needed her skills to help crack some multiple rape/murder case. It didn't sound very fun to him.
He looked over to her desk, half-expecting to see her short frame packing away her schoolwork, writing notes, or reading a book. Instead he saw an empty seat, unoccupied for over two months now.
"Heey! Kanji! Come back to earth!" Rise Said, waving her hand in front of his face. Kanji shook his head and turned for the door. "Sorry Rise, I gotta jet!" he said, leaving before she could say anything.
During his train ride, Kanji thought about Naoto. It had been a while since anyone at school had mentioned her since she left. The school was buzzing after she left to help with this new case, but within a couple weeks everyone's minds shifted to exams, parties and holidays. Eventually Naoto had slipped the minds of her classmates.
That didn't stop Kanji and the others from thinking about her. Even after their escapades in the investigation of the Midnight Channel, they were all still close. Souji's returning to the city, while expected, was a parting they all felt, and they all felt that feeling again when Naoto left.
Kanji thought back to that day, such a long time ago, when she left. Everyone had either work or other things to do, so he had gone alone to see her off.
"So, you heading for the city?"
She nodded. "Yes. There haven't been many breakthroughs in the case, so they employed my aid."
"Ah…Yeah," He scratched his head. "So…You gonna be gone long?"
"That depends on how long it takes to solve this case." She replied. She had looked down a bit, adding "I hope it won't take too long…"
Kanji was surprised with her tone. She sounded…sad as she said it. Like she didn't want to go…
A tone sounded through the station, along with the announcement telling passengers that the train would be departing shortly.
"Guess that's your call…"
"Yes. I'd better be going."
"Yeah. Take 'er easy, yeah?"
She nodded, then turned to leave.
"…Hey, you'll keep in touch, right?"
She paused, turning back to him and nodding, giving him a small smile. "Of course," she promised. "I'll see you again, Kanji."
After that day, Naoto had sent him a few emails and text messages from time to time. Her messages usually just asked how everyone was doing, how her case was going, or her irritations with the case or her coworkers. The case seemed intense to Kanji, and as time went on her messages became fewer and more stressful. With time, they ceased altogether.
Kanji sighed. Had it really been two months? It felt so long since he'd last heard from her…
The train slowed as it entered into the station. Snapping out of his thoughts, Kanji stood up and made his way off the train to complete his errands.
It hadn't taken Kanji long to buy the fabrics he needed, and soon he was returning to the station to catch the early train back to Inaba. Holding the fabrics made maneuvering through the crowds more difficult, and he often bumped into other people, most of which were not too pleased with being nearly knocked over.
Hurrying to the train platform, Kanji glanced up at the clock. He had about ten minutes to get back if he wanted to be there on time. He figured he could make it if he—
His train of thought was interrupted as he walked smack into another person.
"Shit! Sorry!" he cried at the same time the person said "Please forgive me."
Kanji blinked. He knew that voice. Peering over his fabrics, he found himself staring into a pair of familiar grey eyes.
Kanji gaped as he stared at Naoto. "Wh-What are you doing here? Ain't you supposed to be in the city?" he asked.
"I'm heading back to Inaba," Naoto said, looking up at the clock. "But we have to hurry if we want to make the early train. I'll explain once we board."
Though still confused, Kanji nodded and headed off with Naoto to the train platform. It was a lot easier for Kanji to manage through the crowds with Naoto forging a path for him up ahead, and they were fortunate enough to make it onto the train in time.
Once settled into the train with the station fading behind them, Kanji turned to face Naoto. "S-So what're you doing back here?" he asked.
Naoto turned to look at him. "That's right. I never got the chance to message you," she said. "The case is over. I managed to solve it."
"Heh, hey, that's great news!" Kanji said, grinning. "Good to hear ya put that prick behind bars."
Naoto nodded, giving a small smirk. "Yes. I'm glad it's over." She said. Her smile faded a bit as she looked out the window at the passing scenery. "Though, I wish it could have been over sooner…"
Kanji blinked, raising an eyebrow. "What'dya mean?" he asked.
"Mm…It's nothing that you should concern yourself with," Naoto said. "It's just some personal matters I have to attend to."
Kanji frowned. "C'mon, spill it." he said. When Naoto didn't respond, he added, "It's not like I'll laugh or anything."
"It's not a matter of if you'll laugh at me…" Naoto said, looking back in time to see Kanji frown at her. She let out an exasperated sigh at Kanji's persistence. Slowly, she began, "While I was in the city I was contacted by Yakushiji-san—"
"That's the guy who takes the calls at your place, right?" Kanji asked.
Naoto nodded. "Yes, he's our secretary. He contacted me and informed me of my grandpa's current state." She looked down at her hands on her knees. "He's fallen ill, and about a week ago he was admitted into the hospital."
"What?" Kanji asked, eyes widening a bit. Naoto nodded.
"That's why I wanted to return to Inaba as soon as I could. Yakushiji-san told me that my grandpa is stable right now, but I want to confirm it for myself."
"Damn…must be tough, huh?" Kanji said, looking off a bit and scratching his head. He remembered when his old man was in the hospital, and how badly he took that news.
"…It's a little unnerving, yes," Naoto admitted. "I'm just worried…" she suddenly shook her head. "N-Not that you have to concern yourself with my personal matters!" she said quickly, which surprised Kanji; it was rare that anyone heard Naoto stammer like that. "I-In any case, grandpa should be okay. This happened once before when he caught the flu, so it's possible that this is another episode like the one he had before…" She trailed a bit, looking away. "Forgive me for making you feel uncomfortable…"
"Huh?" Kanji's head snapped up to look at her. He shook his head. "N-No, I ain't…You're not…Look, if you wanna talk, go ahead. Ma says it's good to talk about this kinda stuff…" he shook his head. "Damnit, I ain't good at this…" he muttered, before looking up at Naoto, who was looking at him peculiarly. "Uhm…I-I mean…W-Well, if you wanna talk…I mean, I ain't a good speaker, b-but I can listen…"
A small smile formed on Naoto's face as she listened to Kanji stammer. "I'm grateful for your concern, Kanji," she said to him, "and I'm glad to hear that you're willing to listen, but I'm sure that this isn't anything extremely serious. I'm afraid I'm just being overly-cautious with my grandpa's situation than I should be." She nodded to herself. "And I'm sure it's nothing too serious." She paused, then, changing the subject, she asked, "So how is the situation in Inaba?"
"Eh, same as always, really." Kanji said. "Senpai said he was coming by to visit as soon as his exams were finished."
"Oh, it'll be nice to see him again." Naoto replied. The two continued to talk small talk amongst themselves for the rest of the ride back to Inaba, keeping off the topic of Naoto's grandfather for her sake. Kanji could tell she was nervous, but if she didn't want to talk about it, he wasn't going to press the issue.
"So now do you all understand? Plants are simply fascinating!" Ms. Kashiwagi was telling the class. Kanji was hardly paying attention to what she was saying, resting his head on his propped-up arm and staring out the window. The morning was just dragging on, and he was even beginning to miss Rise's little notes she'd pass to him that they'd use to talk during the class. Sure it was stupid, but at least it was something to do aside from listening to the teacher babble on. Unfortunately Rise wasn't there today; something about an interview…
"So now you know the importance of how…Hey, turn around and pay attention, you brats!" she suddenly snapped, causing the small cluster of girls leaning closer to Naoto to jump and straighten back in their seats. It had been a week since Naoto's return, but the school's clamor about her return hadn't died down one bit. Everyone was asking her about her case, what she had to do, how she caught the guy, and other such questions. Naoto had answered a few as best as she could, explaining how most of the information they asked for was classified, but soon her patience had grown thin enough to request them to stop. Of course, this had just invited more inquiries, and they didn't stop until Kanji stood over her and barked at them.
"She said she ain't gonna tell you, so she ain't gonna tell you!" he had snapped at them. "So shut your traps and leave her alone!" It had been effective in driving off the hordes, and Naoto, after stating she was fully able to handle the situation on her own, quickly nodded and thanked Kanji for his efforts. Still, there were a few that were still brave enough to try and pester Naoto, but it wasn't enough that she couldn't manage.
Ms. Kashiwagi sighed, shaking her head. "Honestly, you little brats can't get enough gossip, can't you?" she asked. "And such a boring subject, too! If you kids want my opinion, I'd say to gossip about something more fun, not just city crime scenes and detective mumbo jumbo—"
The teacher's rant was cut off as the phone suddenly rang. She glanced at it, then walked over to the phone and picked it up, leaning against the wall in a slightly suggestive manner that caused the class to sweat drop.
"Hello?" Ms. Kashiwagi asked in a silky voice. She listened, then nodded. "Very well, I'll get her on," she said, before looking up at the class. "Shirogane, the phone's for you."
Naoto nodded, standing up and walking to the front of the classroom. Ms. Kashiwagi handed her the receiver, which Naoto grabbed and placed to her ear. "Hello?" she asked, stepping outside the classroom.
"Well, that's enough talk now!" Ms. Kashiwagi said to the class, which had begun chattering during the short interruption. "You all had better be taking these notes down, because I might just be naughty enough to put this on a test!" she giggled, causing half the class to grumble. Kanji shook his head; seriously, the school hired this nutcase of a teacher? He probably would have preferred that King Moron over this hag. "Alright now, don't get too rowdy," Ms. Kashiwagi said, walking back over to the desk. "Open your books to page 125 for—"
The unexpected outburst caused everyone's attention to turn to the door. Naoto's eyes were widened in shock, listening intently to the person on the other line. After a few tense seconds she nodded. "Yes, Yakushiji-san. I'll be there as soon as I can. …No, that won't be necessary, just stay with him." she said hurriedly, before turning back inside and placing the receiver back on the phone. "I'm sorry Ms. Kashiwagi, but I have to go now," she said to the teacher as she walked back to her desk, grabbing her books.
"Excuse me?" Ms. Kashiwagi asked in an annoyed tone. "Just where do you think you're going?"
"Please excuse my forwardness, Ms. Kashiwagi, but I must be going." Naoto said firmly, looking up at the teacher with a leer. "I've just been informed of a family emergency that I must attend to."
Kanji looked up as Naoto spoke. Family emergency? What could be so serious that Naoto had to leave school? The only family she had was that secretary and her grandfather…
His eyes suddenly widened in realization. Oh crap, was this about her grandfather? Did he somehow get worse?
Just as Naoto finished packing away her books, Kanji grabbed his own books. "I'm going with you!" he blurted out as he stood.
Naoto looked over as Kanji stood up. "Kanji?" she asked, then shook her head. "No, that's alright. I really must go, and you don't have to miss the remainder of the lecture," she said hurriedly.
"Tatsumi, sit down and stop causing such a ruckus!" Ms. Kashiwagi ordered, but Kanji turned to her, glaring.
"Shut your trap, you old hag!" he snapped. Ignoring the surprised gasps from the students and the infuriated death-glare on Ms. Kashiwagi's face, Kanji turned back to Naoto and said, "Don't bother telling me not to come, Naoto. It's about your gramps, ain't it?"
Naoto's eyes widened a bit, and she looked away a bit. Finally, she sighed and said, "Very well, but we must hurry." Kanji nodded, and the two hurried out of the classroom, Naoto quickly excusing the both of them as they exited the classroom.
"…Why did you do that?!" Naoto demanded as they exited the classroom. "This isn't something for you to concern yourself with!"
"H-Hey, I just…" Kanji began, but he trailed off as he failed to find an appropriate answer. Why did he choose to go? He had one answer, but he wasn't entirely sure he was brave enough to tell her.
Naoto sighed. "Just nevermind. We have to hurry to the hospital." She said. "My grandpa…Yakushiji-san said he just got worse." Kanji gulped at her statement. So he was right, it was something with her grandfather. No wonder she was so uptight…
Their conversations ended there, as they quickly headed out of the school. From there they ran, hurrying to the bus stop.
"Shirogane-san!" Yakushiji called to them as the two stepped into the hospital's lobby. He was apparently waiting there for their arrival.
"Yakushiji-san, I told you to wait with grandpa!" Naoto said, her voice stressed from the tense situation as well as the long trip here. Yakushiji shook his head. "I was with Shirogane-sama, but, well, he had an episode…the doctors told me to wait outside—"
"What'dya mean an episode?" Kanji asked. "Is he gonna be alright?"
Yakushiji shook his head. "I'm not sure, but…It's not looking good."
"What room is he in?" Naoto demanded to Yakushiji. Kanji gulped at the tone she was using; harsh, demanding, tinged with worry. The only times he'd heard this tone before was when she was confronting her Shadow, or dealing with Adachi or that creepy gas station attendant. It was rare to see Naoto so…uncontrolled with her emotions.
Yakushiji bowed to the two. "Follow me." He said, before heading down one of the halls. They walked through a couple wards and down a few halls before entering another ward. Kanji looked around, a disturbing sense of familiarity setting in; this looked like the ward his old man was in when he collapsed all those years ago…
"He's in here." Yakushiji said, turning to one of the opened doors. There were three doctors in the room, two of which were exiting and heading down another hallway. Naoto hurried ahead into the room, passing the remaining doctor and immediately moving to the bedside and out of sight. Kanji watched her go in, then turned to Yakushiji.
"'s he gonna be alright?" he asked. Yakushiji only shook his head. Kanji frowned and turned away, taking a seat on a nearby bench. He didn't really want to go into the room, still remembering his old man, and Doujima-san, and Nanako…so many people he knew had been bedridden and hooked up to all sorts of tubes and machines. He couldn't stand seeing it again.
The third stepped out and turned to Yakushiji. "We were able to stabilize him for now, but I'm afraid he doesn't have long left." the man said quietly to Yakushiji. The secretary lowered his head. "I see…thank you, doctor…" he said slowly, before going into the room as well.
The doctor turned to Kanji. "Are you family as well?" he asked. Kanji looked up and shook his head. "Eh? Oh nah, just a friend." he said. The doctor nodded, then walked down the hall, leaving Kanji alone on the bench.
Time seemed to stretch on forever as Kanji sat on the bench, listening to the various hospital sounds. The beeping, the footsteps, and the doctor mumbo-jumbo would catch Kanji's attention for a while, but soon they all just meshed together into an incoherent mess of noise. It didn't help that whenever Kanji would look up at the clock, the hands would just be an inch or so away from where they were when he last looked. The only sounds that broke up the congealing sounds were the occasional fits of coughing from the inside of the room Naoto and Yakushiji disappeared into, which caused a pit to form in Kanji's stomach whenever he heard them. As time trudged on, the fits sounded worse and occurred more frequently.
After an hour had passed since their arrival (though Kanji was sure it was much longer than that), the doctor who had spoken to Yakushiji walked by again, nodding at Kanji before heading back into the room. There was some talking going on in the room, but Kanji couldn't hear what they were saying. He debated whether he should go in or not. Was it appropriate, or was only family allowed? Not only that, would he be able to work up the courage to enter? While he was debating, a new sound drifted to his ears, piercing through all the other noise. The machine that monitored heart rate was flat lining.
A lump formed in Kanji's throat as he heard the flat line. He could hear the doctor as he announced the time of death. But what sent shivers down his spine and made his heart sink was the soft sobbing he heard, and Naoto's muffled "Grandpa…" that came from inside the room. The doctor must have unhooked the machine, because the unending tone of the machine was abruptly cut off, allowing Kanji to clearly hear Naoto's crying.
A few agonizing minutes passed before Kanji heard movement from the room. He heard Yakushiji speaking, saying, "Come, we have to leave him for now." He looked up, seeing the secretary guiding Naoto out of the room, standing behind her with his hand on her shoulder. Naoto's head was bowed, her eyes obscured by her hair and the brim of her hat.
"Naoto…" Kanji said, standing up. She didn't look at him or acknowledge his presence.
"Come, Shirogane-san. We have to leave now…" Yakushiji-san said, carefully urging Naoto to walk down the hall. She moved mechanically at his urgings, and to Kanji it looked like she didn't even notice or care that she was moving. It made Kanji uneasy, seeing her like this.
Yakushiji looked up at Kanji and said, "I'm sorry you had to be here and see this…" He looked up, asking, "Would you like us to give you a ride home?"
Kanji shook his head. "Nah, I'm fine. Go home an' look after her." he said, motioning with his head to Naoto. Yakushiji nodded and turned, heading off with Naoto.
Naoto hadn't returned to school for the rest of the week, having to stay home and help arrange the funeral proceedings. Kanji explained to the others what happened at the hospital, which took them all by surprise. Their responses were different, but all revolved around the usual "Oh my god!" or "I can't believe it!" or "I hope she'll be okay…" Yukiko and Rise tried to see if Naoto had needed any help with the funeral, or if there was something they could do, but their offer had been denied. Kanji could see why; when his old man had died, all he wanted to do for the first few days was be alone.
Kanji was sitting in his room that night, stitching an arm onto a blue rabbit he was making. Even though Naoto had wanted to be left alone, he wanted to do something to make her feel better and figured this was the best he could do. He craned his neck, feeling the bones crack a bit. He glanced up at the clock; jeez, was it that late already? His mother was gone for the night visiting someone in the city, so he was unaware of the time that his mother would have let him know had passed. He set the blue rabbit down and cracked his knuckles. Damn, it was late. His hands were stiff from the stitching, and his neck was sore from looking down for so long. Maybe he'd call it a night…
He nearly jumped out of his skin when his phone rang in his pocket. Trying to calm down, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell, flipping it open.
"Yeah?" he asked whoever was on the other side.
"Yes, hello. Is this Tatsumi-kun?" Yakushiji's voice asked on the other end of the receiver.
"Yeah…what's up?" Kanji asked, frowning a bit. Why was Naoto's secretary calling him?
"I'm just calling to ask if you've seen Shirogane-san lately." Yakushiji said.
"Wasn't she helping you guys with the…well…" Kanji trailed a bit.
"Well, yes, but have you seen her recently? As in the last couple of hours?" Yakushiji pressed, his voice sounding tense.
"Oh…No, why?" Kanji asked, frowning.
"I…I see," Yakushiji said. He sounded worried.
"Yo, is something up?" Kanji asked.
"Well, you see…Shirogane-san is missing."
Within seconds of receiving the call from Yakushiji, Kanji was out on the streets of the Shopping District, searching for Naoto. He had immediately called the others, quite literally yelling at them to get their asses out of bed and help him look. The others had told him to calm down and that they'd help him look, but his own tension had made him nervous and demanding results now. A part of him tried to be rational, but hell, this was Naoto he was talking about. She didn't just up and disappear on her own!
After running around the district for a good half hour, Kanji began to tire. It was late enough as is and his body just wanted some sleep, but his mind kept buzzing, not wanting to rest until he knew where the hell Naoto had gone off to. What was more, the air had grown cooler, and he felt small drops of rain falling on his skin and the streets. His mind wandered back to when Naoto had gotten herself captured for the sake of the murder case, and mentally swore; if she had gone and done something stupid again, he was going to drag her back by the scruff of the neck if he had to…
Kanji blinked, suddenly hearing a noise. "The hell…?" he asked, looking around.
Kanji looked up, hearing the sound above him. He squinted, seeing something on the top of the bookstore. It hopped down, landing in front of him. Kanji blinked; it was a fox. What was a fox doing here? And why was it wearing a weird bib thing…
"Hey, wait…you're that fox…" he said slowly. He knew this fox; it was the same one that was always with Souji, and had healed them when they went into the TV (for a fee, of course).
The fox let out a small bark, then ran around Kanji a couple of times before running off in one direction. It stopped a few feet ahead of Kanji, looking back at him with its yellow eyes. Kanji blinked, then, figuring out the fox wanted him to follow it, ran after the animal. The fox yipped and ran off, pausing every few feet to make sure Kanji was following.
The rain was falling in a light but steady downpour when the fox veered off the road suddenly, running up the path to the shrine. Kanji skidded in the mud as he made the sudden turn, running up the path. The fox passed by the offering box, paused to look back at them, then darted beneath the shrine. Kanji panicked a bit as he lost sight of the fox, but calmed as he saw a figure in front of the offering box.
"Naoto!" he yelled, running up to her. Naoto slowly turned, hesitantly looking up at Kanji. She looked terrible, her blue hair dampened and messy from the rain, her hat respectively removed. Her eyes were red and puffy, indicating that she had been crying earlier.
"…Kanji?" she asked, her voice sounding somewhat strained.
"…Damnit, Naoto, you scared the shit outta me." Kanji said slowly at the sight of her, shaking his head. "Why'd you go running off like that? It ain't like you to do crazy shit like this…"
"Running…oh," Naoto said slowly, looking away a bit. "I…I wanted to clear my head…" she wrapped her arms around herself as the wind picked up, directing the rain to fall more directly onto them.
Kanji shivered, then motioned to Naoto. "Come on. My place ain't too far." He said. At the confused look she gave him, he quickly turned away and muttered, "W-Well, it's raining, and your place is too far an' you have to go inside before you get yourself sick…"
Naoto looked up at him, then lowered her gaze, nodding slowly. "Very well…" she said softly. Wringing her hat slightly, she stepped forward, walking past Kanji and down the path ahead. Kanji watched her go for a moment, then walked after her. She must have been taking this really hard. Her grandpa's death must have affected her big-time if she was acting like this.
By the time they made it through the rainy streets back to the textile shop, Kanji was drenched and cold. He sneezed as they entered the shop, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he might get a cold. "Damnit…" he muttered, wiping the bridge of his nose with his hand. He glanced back at Naoto, noticing her shivering as well, her clothes dripping wet.
"Come here, you need to change." Kanji said. When she didn't respond he sighed, lightly grabbing her shoulder and directing her into the back of the shop, picking up a spare kimono on the way. He directed her to the bathroom, then pushed the kimono into her hands. "Change into this, then I'll toss your clothes in the dryer." He said.
Naoto nodded, disappearing into the bathroom and shutting the door behind her. Kanji shook his head and headed to his room, changing out of his wet clothes. He slipped on a pair of dry sweats and a fresh t-shirt, then reached for his cell phone. He quickly sent a text message to Yousuke and the others stating that he found Naoto and she was at his place now before going through his phone memory and redialing Naoto's home number.
"Yes, hello?" Yakushiji asked on the other side of the phone.
"Uh, yeah, it's Kanji Tatsumi" Kanji said. "Look, I found Naoto…"
"You found her? Where was she??" Yakushiji asked.
"She was over by the shrine…but look, she's wet and not feeling' well, so is it okay if she crashes here until tomorrow?" Kanji asked.
"Oh, yes, of course. I'm just glad that she's okay." Yakushiji said.
Kanji nodded. "Yeah. Well, see ya."
"Good-bye Tatsumi-kun, and thank you."
Kanji hung up, tossing his phone on his desk before going back to check on Naoto. He found her sitting in the living room, wearing the kimono he had given her; a simple white one with flower designs embroidered onto it. It was about three sizes too big, the sleeves extending over her hands and the hem bunching up on the floor. It oddly reminded Kanji of the too-long lab coat her shadow had worn in the TV world.
"You want a drink or something?" he asked, scratching the back of his head.
Naoto shook her head, looking off. "No thank you…" she muttered. She had her arms wrapped around her, and her frame was shivering slightly.
"…Damnit, Naoto. You had us all scared" Kanji said, shaking his head as he walked off to one side of the room. Reaching for one of the chairs, he grabbed a blanket and walked back, wrapping it around Naoto. "The hell were you doing out there?"
"…I just wanted to think…" Naoto said softly.
Kanji frowned. "In the middle of the night, when it's raining, without telling anyone?" he asked, sitting down next to her.
"I know…I just…wanted to be alone." Naoto said. "I'm sorry if I caused you all to worry. I just…"
Kanji sighed, shaking his head. "Damn Naoto, this ain't like you. You never just go and do stupid shit without thinking…" he looked over at Naoto again and suddenly trailed, surprised to see a tear falling down her face. "Wh— hey, Naoto? You okay? Shit, don't cry…"
Naoto wiped her eye with the sleeve of the kimono, still looking down. "…I miss him." she said, her voice breaking a bit as she tried to hold back a sob. "After my parents died, Grandpa took care of me. He was usually busy with his work and his cases…but he was there for me. I learned everything from him."
Kanji fidgeted a bit. "Yeah?" he asked, unsure what to say. Naoto nodded. "I wasn't apt at making friends, and instead chose to read my grandpa's detective novels. I almost expected him to refuse, but he always let me read his books. When he found out I was secretly aiding him in cases, he was proud of my work…" she had to swallow, wiping her eyes again. "He was so kind…and now he's gone. I don't know if I'm ready to do this on my own…" she shook her head. "I…I just…"
Kanji frowned, seeing her struggle to keep her composure together. He felt a lump form in his throat, and a wave of sorrow and empathy washed over him. It almost reminded him of how he acted when his father died. Without thinking, Kanji reached forward, grabbing at the blanket wrapped around Naoto and pulling her against him, wrapping his arms around her. Naoto went a little riged, unsure what Kanji was doing.
"…Look, stop beating yourself up." Kanji said, looking off a bit to hide his face, which was gaining a crimson hue. "You ain't helping yourself by keeping it all inside…so…" he trailed a bit, waiting. Naoto hesitated, then relaxed a bit against Kanji's shoulder, gripping his shirt. It was as if his words had allowed a floodgate somewhere inside her to open, because she began to weep. Slow at first, then it all came rushing out; her cries grew louder and her shoulders shook whenever she sobbed, and Kanji could feel the wet spot that was formed by her tears steadily spread on his shirt. He held her, hugging her as she sobbed and rubbing her back to comfort her. They stayed like this for a long time, but eventually Naoto calmed down, wiping her eyes again.
"…feel better?" Kanji asked.
Naoto nodded slowly. "Kanji…I'm sorry you had to see me like this…" she began, but Kanji shook his head.
"Don't apologize. You needed to let all that out." He said.
Naoto nodded, curling up against his chest. "…Thank you, Kanji" she whispered to him. Kanji blushed again. "N-No problem…" he stammered a bit.
They remained seated like this, and Naoto eventually drifting off to sleep. Kanji looked down, admiring the peaceful grace of her features as she slept. Gently, he kissed the top of her forehead before leaning against the couch, falling asleep with Naoto still in the safety of his arms.
He couldn't stand to see her upset. He didn't care what he did, he would do his damn best to get her smiling again.
Gyeee, this put me in such a good mood! Maybe I'll be able to write those other stories I had planned too...