Yes, taken from a Bathhouse prompt, in which Souji comes to Naoto's house to take care of her, or might be not. I wonder why I un-anon myself for this particular fic, since it's so jumpy at places and contains too much cheese. Anyway, please read and perhaps review too, as corrections are very muchly appreciated!

Disclaimer: Atlus owns Persona 4.


Days had been hectic, at least for a certain Seta Souji. It started when he received the second threat letter, which was sadly read by his uncle Doujima, too. Souji was put under the oh-so-called surveillance by his uncle due to the questionable content in the letter, which linked Souji to the murders. And as if that was not enough, it was raining that night and the Midnight Channel was on. The catch? It was Nanako on the screen, and that alone was enough to send shivers into Souji's spine. He was worried, he hoped that he and his friends would have enough time to secure Nanako and prevent the kidnapping. Yet fate failed him, as Naoto reported to him that Nanako was already missing.

Already missing.

Panic filled him, various worst scenarios spinning in his head. What if they were not able to save her on time? What if Nanako had to face her shadow? What if the fog in the TV world affected her health badly? Nanako was just a small child, dammit. If even adults--or teenagers, in this case--were fatigued badly after they had been rescued, what would happen to Nanako? Souji gritted his teeth, and along with his friends he broke out from his custody, searching for Namatame, the main suspect for Nanako's kidnapping.

When Souji arrived there, Doujima was already in the crime scene. Yet he was caught in an accident, although he was able to get Namatame cornered. Still, Namatame was nowhere in sight, and only a huge television was present in Namatame's vehicle. While the sudden disappearance of Nanako and her kidnapper were incomprehensible for the two detectives, Souji and his friends knew what exactly happened. It was the worst possible scenario. Nanako, as well as Namatame, were already in the TV world. The thought of Nanako alone in the TV world was enough make Souji extremely worried about her well-being, but together with her kidnapper and prime suspect of a serial killing? Souji tried his best to block the incoming images from his mind, he should be concerned with saving Nanako first.

The incoming days seemed like hell--for Souji, at least. He insisted on saving Nanako right away, afraid if anything happened to her. The rest of the investigation team understood why Souji was in such a hurry to save Nanako, yet they also were worried if Souji was pushing himself over the limit. And pushing themselves too, since their physical and mental endurance were at best, limited. They tried to cope with Souji, but when the team arrived at the seventh level of Heaven, they honestly could not take it anymore.

"Partner, I understand that you want to save Nanako as soon as possible. But that doesn't mean that we have to blast our way through this dungeon on the first day, you know?" Yousuke finally commented, his tone weary.

Souji stopped from progressing further, he looked back to see his teammates. Yousuke were busy catching his breath, as what Kanji and Chie were also doing. Teddie's expression clearly showed that he was fatigued from over-exploration. Even Rise and Yukiko lookes exhausted. He glanced, and his silver orbs captured the sight of Naoto, cheeks flushing and weary. Souji sighed. He was reaching his limits, too. He understood the importance of saving Nanako, and in order to be able to save Nanako--and fight her shadow, if she had one--he and his friends needed to be in full strength.

"I am sorry, I was blinded by the fact that Nanako is... held hostage here. We will continue two days later, is it enough time to recuperate?"

The rest of his party members nodded, and they went back to the real world.

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Sometimes Souji wished that he did not have to go to school, especially after a long day of grinding inside the TV world. His muscles ached terribly, and he was mentally exhausted from casting spells using his personae. This time it was no better, even worse. The pain doubled, he was feeling sleepy all day, and his brain simply could not process whatever lessons were being taught in class as it was constantly spinning. He was pushing his limits, and that was what he got from trying to do things beyond his limits. It did not help that he was constantly worrying about Nanako, too. Yousuke, Chie, and Yukiko were no different, from what he could see. They were exhausted too, and probably would need some time to get back on their prime condition. However, would Nanako be able to survive in the TV world, if they took too much time? Souji's head continued to spin even more furiously.

After school, he had planned to check the condition of his underclassmen--Kanji, Rise, and Naoto. To see whether they were alright, or whether they were the same as him, still exhausted. He had hoped that they would be fine, yet it was easy to conclude that Kanji and Rise were still exhausted from the look in their faces. Perhaps they really needed more time to recuperate. Souji tried to look around, but he did not see Naoto. Rise noticed that Souji were searching for the sleuth, saying, "Naoto's absent. Cold, I heard."

Naoto. Absent. Cold. Heavy grinding the day before.

Souji was shocked to hear this sudden revelation. Naoto was not only exhausted, she was sick. Then again, Souji suddenly remembered that Naoto was running in the middle of the rain to check on Nanako. She was flustered the whole time they were exploring Heaven, and already had that tired look even when the group was just entering the dungeon. Souji did not notice this, and even worsening her condition by demanding to continue their exploration. Even if, let's say Yousuke, who was fine and dandy before the exploration was wasted the next day, what would happen to Naoto? And she was living alone, on the top of that. Guilt striked him, it was he whom was largely responsible for Naoto's condition. Especially considering how important she was to him, he should knew better.

Without a second thought, Souji darted to Naoto's apartment, forgetting about his own fatigued condition. It was Naoto who was sick. Upon arriving at Naoto's place, Souji rang the bell. Nobody answered, and Souji assumed that Naoto was resting. He did not want to disturb her, yet at the same time he wanted to make sure that Naoto would be fine. He reached for the door knob, which to his suprise, the door was not locked. She must had been to exhausted to even lock the door, Souji thought. It added more to the guilt he felt. Naoto was really sick, and it was because of his own foolishness.

Souji sighed, before finally deciding to enter the apartment. The apartment was pitch black, as if telling Souji that its owner was too fatigued even to turn out the light. He decided to turn on the lighting, and as the place was lightened up he could see a figure lying by the blue sofa. Naoto. Souji bit his lip upon seeing Naoto's current condition, exhausted and sick. And the sofa was not the best place for a sick person to rest. Souji quickly carried Naoto, ignoring protests made by his arms' muscles, and carried her to her bedroom. He could feel heat when his skin touched Naoto's, and it convinced him further that Naoto, was indeed, very sick. And it all was because of him.

After carrying Naoto to her bedroom, putting her to the bed, and placing wet cloth on Naoto's forehead, Souji could feel that his body ached even more. Although Naoto was light, he was still doing something that requires energy, which he currently lacks. His legs also began to ache, the aftermath of running to Naoto's apartment. Souji tried to dismiss the pain, and moved to Naoto's kitchen. Considering her current state, she must had not eaten anything, especially to think that she was living alone. Souji reached for Naoto's fridge, his tired eyes searching for any ingredients that he could turn into something edible for Naoto to eat.

Souji was just finished making soup (although he was not sure of the taste for his tasting senses refused to cooperate) when he heard the sound of a door being opened. He looked to the source of the sound, finding Naoto standing in front of the said door, looking at him. "Senpai?" she asked, as if she was unsure that she was seeing Souji.

"You should be resting," Souji pointed out, making a small frown. Then he remembered that he entered Naoto's apartment without her permission, and maybe Naoto was refering to that particular rudeness of him. "Rise said that you are sick, so I think I should check on you. And I am sorry if you dislike me barging into your apartment uninvited."

"No," Naoto said, her voice weak. "I am alright now, Senpai. You don't need to be concerned with me, as you should concentrate on recuperating yourself."

Souji did not take what Naoto said. Instead, he walked to Naoto, and placed his hands on her shoulder. Then he gently pressed his own forehead against Naoto's, a gesture that makes the younger detective's face even more flustered. "Your temperature's still rising," Souji said, as the matter of fact.

"I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself," Naoto commented, looking away from Souji's eyes.

Souji pulled himself away from Naoto. He was telling the truth regarding Naoto's temperature. In such state, she would not be able to take care of herself well before passing out again. In addition, her condition could be worse, considering that she spent the night at the sofa, not in her bedroom. And there was no way Souji would leave her alone, for he was responsible for Naoto's current condition, too. "Not in your current state," Souji retaliated, "or are you simply insinuating that you dislike my presence here?"

Naoto seemed to notice Souji's hurt expression, as she shook her head, apparently in disagreement. "It is not the case, Senpai," she said. Naoto looked at Souji's weary state closely, and then she continued, "I... you are the leader, and you should be resting to prepare yourself to rescue Nanako. The whole team depends on you, and we have no time to spare."

"And that is exactly why I should be helping you. I am fine, or else I wouldn't be able to run to your apartment and carry you to your bedroom."

Naoto visibly blushed at Souji mentioning that he carried her to her bedroom, and Souji could not help but smile at seeing her lovely blushing face. She noticed Souji smiling at her, and she looked down. "You aren't. I can clearly see that you are exhausted, Senpai. And as for me, I am better now after resting for a day."

"Sleeping at the couch is not resting, Naoto," Souji pointed out. "And I am not taking advantage of a sick person, if that is what you're concerned about."

"I-I am not.." Naoto stuttered, her flustered cheek now blushing on full power. "I know you are not that king of person, Senpai," she said, still blushing. Yet from her tone, it was still clear that she preferred to take care of herself alone, and Souji would never agree with that. After all, he believed that he was the cause of her sickness. Therefore, the responsibility of taking care of her fell to his shoulders. Souji's hands reached for Naoto;s shoulders, and he said, "Listen, Naoto. I am sorry. I didn't know that you are sick and I insisted on going through Nanako's dungeon. It made your condition worse, and I feel horribly guilty for it. Please, let me take care of you. I understand that you might not want me here, but please. Well, just think along the line that I might be haunted by your current condition, and I will be unable to recuperate properly. Please."

Naoto was silent after Souji finished pleading for her permission to take care of her. It made him unsure whether Naoto would grant him his plea. After all, 'guilt' was not the only driving force for him for wanting to take care of her. He needed distractions from worrying over Nanako's condition in the TV world, for it was driving him insane. More importantly, he wanted to see it himself that Naoto was getting better since he was the one who made the condition of the most important person in his life worsened. Heck, the truth was that Souji would not press his case of wanting to personally look after her if the person in question was not Naoto. Yet sadly, Naoto did not seem to notice Souji's underlying intention.

The silence between the two of them grew heavy, as well as Souji's feelings of uncertainty. Souji was good with reading people's emotions and thoughts, yet this time his personal fatigue prevents him from being able to read her. In addition, Naoto was looking down all the time, which made Souji even more uncertain--and nervous. "Hey, Naoto? Is there something wrong?"

Naoto only shook her head, and Souji could not understand what she possibly could mean with his half-functioning thought process. He tried to strengthen his grip on Naoto and shake her body slightly, pleading for real responses. He only could hear Naoto's soft sighing, before his mind could clearly process what the detective prince said, "No. I-I should have known it better. You are in no way guilty for my apparent sickness, since you did nothing to cause it at all, let alone worsening it. In addition, I am not sick, which makes your points invalid."

Souji let loose of his grip on Naoto's shoulder, confused as for why Naoto was too persistent on having Souji left her place. Sure, Naoto had refused some of his offers to accompany her going home after school, but she always ended up agreeing with him. Besides, there was no way that Naoto was not sick. Her flustered state and high temperature were striking evidences showing that she was sick. He did not understand why Naoto did not want him there, and he did not want to understand why. He was keen on his purpose of going to Naoto's apartment, and he would not leave until he had seen that Naoto was taken care of. But still, he was disappointed at Naoto's insistence as he wondered why she was too persistent. "You should tell me straight if you don't want me here. It hurts me, seeing you go around only to tell me to go away."

At the same time, Souji's head continued to spin, and it was far beyond what he could bear. Clearly, Naoto's rejection was a force strong enough to make his headache worse. The toll of standing up for too long also was beginning to pile up rapidly. And just in the matter of minutes, Souji's consciousness began to slip away from him.

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The first thing Souji saw when he opened his eyes was Naoto, looking extremely worried. Instinctively, he smiled at the sight of the face of the person he held dear, although Naoto was possibly thinking in different direction from him.

"Senpai! You... you don't know how worried I was when you suddenly passed out! I knew this is going to happen, you should not push yourself because of a simple guilt! As you see, I am perfectly fine..."

"This is out from the original plan," Souji interrupted, although honestly he was only bluffing. "And it is not a simple guilt."

"It is. Senpai, you are the leader, and you are supposed to think about things calmly and proceed according to the plan. While I understand why you pressed on to save Nanako, it is unwise of you to insist on something trivial such as taking care of me."

Souji frowned at Naoto mentioning that she was a trivial matter. Not for him, at least. Did she could not see the real reason as for why he was so persistent? Or it was simply because he was not obvious enough? Souji did not comprehend, all he could understand was that Naoto was not in her prime state considering how she was unable to pick out the hints. He tried to sit up from his current lying down position, and it was when he realised that he was on the floor, lying by Naoto's lap all the time when he passed out. Could he take that as a positive sign? He was unsure, and perhaps it was the time to make things obvious.

"You are not a trivial matter, Naoto. And you'll never will. You must have been sick all this time, for being unable to grasp my true intention."

Naoto only looked at Souji, her eyes wide--perhaps with disbelief? Souji did not know, he did not understand. Perhaps, he needed to be more obvious.

"I admit that I am a fool for being such an idiot in Nanako's case. It is because I care for her, she is the closest sibling figure I have. And I want to save her as soon as possible. It is for Uncle Doujima, too, as I want to help the closest parental figure I have to recover her daughter. They are important for me, the closest thing to a real family I ever have.

"And I feel even more idiotic for not noticing your condition at that time, and it was my actions that elevates your sickness. I feel guilty, I want to personally take care of you and see that you are getting well. You are indispensable, Naoto. For the team, and for me. My feelings for you is the closest I have ever felt against anyone. I love you, and I'll always do although you seem to have completely different feelings toward me. And you are assured that I am in the right state of mind, and you are not having fever dreams."

It was hard. Extremely hard. Souji did not know that confessing to someone was that difficult, even though he felt relieved afterwards. After all, after seeing how Naoto seemed to be convinced to make him go, he did not have much hopes of Naoto reciprocating his feelings. Making it obvious might be enough, although he could imagine the awkwardness that would ensue afterwards.

And perhaps, he should leave now before listening to Naoto's rejection. He was not in the fit condition to learn the painful truth. Souji stood up, walking to Naoto's door. Yet suddenly, his movement was stopped by a sudden gesture of Naoto's warm hand holding Souji's hand. Then he could feel warmth from his back, as Naoto's hands were wrapped around his body and he felt her face buried in his back.

"I am sorry, Senpai. I must have hurt you."

Souji could feel the butterflies in his stomach, and his headache returned as well as full-fledged protest from his entire aching muscles. He knew better. And although he expected nothing, he did not want to listen to Naoto's rejection. Say something, he urged himself. It's alright. I am not expecting anything. You shouldn't be sorry, concentrate on your recovery. He tried to say something, but nothing could come out. He was not ready after all, although he thought he was.

"Senpai... I-I don't intend to drive you away, I just... I don't think I am good enough for you, and I don't want myself to be a burden to you, since you have other more important things to attend to."

Souji could feel Naoto's hands wrapped around his torso became loose, and he turned to see her. He was not sure on how to react, his head was not helping much too. Too much spinning when he needed it at a calm state for him to process what was happening properly. Naoto was looking down even at that time, and that made Souji even more uncertain. She said, she thought she was not good enough for him, and Souji wondered where did she got that kind of impression. But it was if Souji's ears were not failing him. And he sincerely hoped that they did not, as he would like to take that as a positive sign--of some sort.

"Err--so, can I take it that you, like, love me back?" And Souji suddenly found the urge to smack himself on his head. Perhaps it would make him able to say things appropriately.

And again, there was a long, awkward silence that made Souji wished that he was keeping his mouth shut at the times he believed that his mind were not working. He was just started to say that Naoto should not take what he said seriously, when he saw a small nod from the now-blushing Naoto. And at that time, Souji did not know what to do but to pull Naoto into his embrace and kissed her. He did not care anymore if his eyes might be fooling him. Yet any doubts he previously had was eliminated when Naoto responded to his kiss, even making it more passionate. He could feel her still-warm lips and tongue, and the sweet taste of her inside his mouth was just too overwhelming that he began to forget all previous pains and aches he felt.

It felt only like seconds when Naoto suddenly pulled out, gasping for breath. Souji was rather disappointed when he realised that Naoto ended their kiss, and he leaned to kiss her once more. However, that time Naoto put a finger in front of her lips, as if she was saying that once is enough. Souji raised one of his eyebrows. Naoto noticed this, however, as she justified her actions for preventing their second kiss, "According to you, I am sick. I cannot bear with the consequences of spreading my apparent sickness to the leader as it will put the whole investigation team to a disadvantage. We still need to save Nanako, Senpai."

Souji frowned. He did not think that Naoto would use his own reasoning to go against him, yet he realised that what she said was true. There was still Nanako, waiting to be rescued. He leaned back and caressed Naoto's warm cheek, saying, "True. You are sick, and now you have admitted to that fact yourself. But, regarding to the kiss, I found it as rather... revitalizing." He stopped for a while, enjoying the flustered look in her face at the mention of their kiss. It made him want to tease her even more. "Well, but people do say that the best cure for a cold is to pass it to another person? So I think you should be recovering faster now," he said, with a smirk.

He stole a peck from Naoto's lips.

And he pressed his lips against Naoto once more, this time it was lighter and faster.

And he gave her another soft kiss softly afterwards.

"You were teasing me," Naoto finally said.

"No. You didn't resist, and I was only trying to cure you while revitalizing myself."

"Jerk."

"Yes. You don't know that I am also known as the number one heart-breaker in Inaba?"

"I do. And you should do things properly if you don't want to break mine, too," she said, with a commanding tone Souji rarely heard before. Yet, before he was able to respond to her, Naoto pulled him with a strength he did not imagine she had before, luring him into another passionate kiss. Which of course, he responded gladly. It was the best cure for him, after all, and perhaps for her, too.


...writer still feel fail hanging in the air.