Disclamer: I don't own Persona 4 or any of the characters. Bla bla bla…
The steady hum of the sewing machine was mostly drowned out by the hard beat and shouting of Kanji's favorite rock band. He knew that most people wouldn't be able to understand his varied interests. But he didn't care; the people that knew him best had already seen him at his worst. He fought with them side by side, saving people he hardly knew. That created a bond that was hard to deny.
Kanji turns off the sewing machine and clips the last few threads hanging from the miniature pink dress he had just made. He dresses a small stuffed rabbit and puts a pink bonnet on it. He nods, satisfied. Nanako would like it. She is due to get out of the hospital soon, and Christmas is coming up. He sets the finished rabbit aside and looks over to his work-in-progress pile. A small teddy bear sit on top of some navy blue fabric. He still needs to make the coat and hat for the bear. He knows how he'd do it. He can see in his mind where the seams would go and what buttons to use, but every time he picks up the navy blue fabric he would get nervous and set it aside again.
Does Naoto even like stuffed animals? He wonders. Most girls like cute things. But then again, Naoto isn't like most girls. In fact she had passed as a boy for who knows how long, before the truth had come out. But Kanji just can't put aside the idea that he should make her a Christmas gift.
Kanji sighs and picks up his own jacket. He turns off this music as he leaves the room. As Kanji thumps down the stairs his mother calls.
"Hun, where are you off to?!"
With that said, Kanji practically slams the door in his rush to get away. He heads down the street, not caring where he ends up. Why did Naoto have to make things so complicated for him? He was always able to push back that part of himself that he didn't want to admit was real, until he met her. I'm not gay! I just like to sew! He'd tell himself. But no matter how many times he told himself that it was always a nagging worry in the back of his mind. Then when he met Naoto, he was attracted to her from the get go, even though she pretended to be a boy. That just turned Kanji's head upside-down. His head still ran around in circles. But she is a girl, so it is ok… I'm not gay. But do I only still like her, cuz I thought she was a guy to start with…
Kanji ran his fingers through his hair and let out a frustrated growl. I've got to get my mind on something else! I know! I'll go to Junes, an argument with Yosuke or Teddie always gets my mind on something else. Hell, just watching Chie and Yosuke argue is always good for a laugh.
Kanji wonders around the Junes food court without catching sight of any of his friends. He's just about to head out when he hears a familiar voice.
"Come get your coupons for a buy one get one free on instant ramen!"
A grin spreads across Kanji's face as he caught sight of Teddie in his bear outfit. I wonder if I sneak up behind him, if I can pet his fur. Kanji thought. Just as he was about to execute his plan he hears a voice calling him from behind.
Kanji turns just as Rise bounces over to where he is standing. Kanji shoves his fists into his pockets and watches as the other girls come over to where he is standing. All of the girls: Chie, Yukiko, and Naoto.
"Hey." Kanji manages to say.
"What are you shopping for?" Rise asks.
"Nothin', just walking around. You?"
Rise bounces. "We're going to try on some outfits."
"I thought we were getting more ingredients for baking?" Naoto says, in her monotone voice.
"No reason we can't have a little fun while we're here. It's always fun to try on clothes, especially ones you'd never wear in public. Just to see how you'd look in them." Rise says, getting more excited as she talks.
"That sounds completely irrelevant."
"So… uh… what ya bakin'?" Kanji asks, running his fingers though the back of his hair.
"We decided to make a cake for Nanako's welcome home party." Chie says.
"But we thought it would be a good idea to make a practice cake first." Yukiko adds. "It's a good thing we did too."
Kanji laughs despite himself. "Were their any casualties? Have to call poison control?"
All the girls look at the floor. Chie is the first to get her composer back. "That doesn't matter! The cake will be wonderful for Nana-chan's party!"
Kanji couldn't keep the grin from his face. "Need my help?"
"Yes," Naoto says, weakly.
"No." Yukiko says firmly. "We want to make it ourselves. It is our gift to Nana-chan. Thank you for offering to help Kanji-kun, but no thank you."
"Well come on ladies! Let's go try on some clothes." Rise says, while grabbing Naoto's arm and starting to drag her towards the clothing section.
"I really don't think that would be the best use of our time." Naoto protests.
"Come on!" Rise complains. "You've got to learn how to relax sometimes Nao-chan."
Chie and Yukiko give Kanji small waves before fallowing Rise and Naoto. Kanji watches the retreating forms of the girls as his mind starts to wonder. What kind of clothes did Rise say they were going to try on? Kanji asks himself. An image of Naoto in a dress forms in Kanji's mind, and with a shake of his head Kanji dismisses it.
"Maybe Junes wasn't such a good idea." Kanji says, as he heads for the exit.
Kanji shakes off the snow from his coat as he walks into his house. "Ma! I'm home."
"Are you hungry?" His mother asks, stepping into the entryway.
"Yeah. Ain't I always?"
She smiles, "Dinner is almost ready. Wash up."
Kanji sighs, and heads to the sink. After he scrubs his hands he sets plates on the small table. His mother sets a dish of beef and tofu in the middle of the table and heads back into the kitchen for the rice. Kanji starts dishing up food right away, not waiting for his mother.
"Really Kanji-kun, would it kill you to wait for your mother." She asks, as she sets the rice down.
Kanji shrugs off the comment and dishes up the rice. "Itadakimasu.*" Kanji mumbles before he dives into his food.
"You know I ran into that sweet Kujikawa girl at the Tofu Shop today. She really is a cute girl. She's your friend isn't she?"
"Yeah… I guess."
"I've seen you two walking to school together sometimes."
"Naw, Ma, it ain't nothin'. Rise, just don't like walkin' to school alone. She don't want to get bothered by annoying fans. She's a usin' me as a bodyguard."
"Well even if it is nothing, I think it is sweet of you."
Kanji shrugs and continues to pay attention to his food.
"Do you like her?"
"Ma!? I said it was nothin'. Sides, she talks too much, and she flirts with Senpai every chance she gets. She's a kinda annoying really…"
Kanji's mother reaches her hand over and pats her son's arm. "Sorry, if I'm being too nosy, but I just wonder what you're up to these days. I've noticed that you've been working on some kind of stuffed animals lately."
"I'm makin' one for Senpai's younger sis. She's going to get out of the hospital soon."
"Oh that is so thoughtful of you!"
"Ah ma…. It's nothin' she's a cute kid. It's sad all the bad stuffs that happened to her."
She smiles, and continues to eat her dinner, at a much slower rate than Kanji. Soon Kanji's plate is empty and he stands up, to take it to the sink. "I'll be in my room." He says, as he heads up.
Tatsumi-san's eyes fallow Kanji and she listens to him thumping up the stairs. Soon his music starts up again. She sighs and walks over to a small shrine in the corner of the living room. She lights a stick of incense and sets it next to a small picture of Kanji's father.
"Oh my dear husband, I don't know if I've done right by that boy since you've gone. I miss you so much. You were always the one that Kanji talked to. He's gotten a several new friends lately, but I can tell that something is still bothering him. He is always holding himself aloof from the other kids his age. My son is hurting, and I don't know what to do. Oh please, give me guidance."
With a small bow Tatsumi-san ends her prayer and starts to work on cleaning up the dishes.
I've died and gone to Hell. Naoto thought as Rise pushed yet another dress into Naoto's hands. "I really don't see a point to this."
Rise sighs, "The point is to have fun. You're not the only one who'll be trying on clothes. In fact I have to find something cute for Chie."
With that said Rise bounces off. Naoto glares at the pile of clothes in her arms and throws the whole batch into the bin for returns next to the fitting rooms. She then steps over to where Chie and Yukiko are looking at hair pins and accessories, figuring that would be safer.
"Naoto, what do you think of this?" Chie asks, indicating the fake flower that is pinned over one of her ears.
"It is simple, yet feminine."
"Thanks… I like it. It's not too girly and it's cute. Maybe I'll wear it for new years."
"Hey Naoto, do you ever do anything with your hair?" Yukiko asks.
"No, not really."
"Try this." Yukiko says, pulling off Naoto's hat and puts a headband in its place.
Yukiko holds up a small mirror and Naoto stands transfixed by her reflection. The headband is dark blue with a small bow to one side. It isn't overly girly, or frilly, yet it transforms Naoto from looking like a boy into a girl. Who would have thought such a slight change could make such the difference. Naoto thought.
"Do you like it?" Yukiko asks.
"Uh…oh yeah… I think I do."
"You know, you can be feminine with out all the frills, lace and makeup that Rise does. Sometimes subtle is better."
"Yeah… I think I can see that now."
"Good." Yukiko says with a grin. "You only have to take it one step at a time."
"Hey Chie!" Rise calls.
Naoto pulls off the headband and puts her hat back on, just as Rise bounds over.
"I've found the cutest outfit for you. And Yukiko I think it would be fun if you'd try on this." Rise says, handing both girls a small pile of clothes.
The girls sigh and take the clothes into the fitting rooms. Naoto hides the headband behind her back and starts to slowly step away from Rise. "I think I'll get a cart, and the baking supplies we need." Naoto says, heading off before Rise can find more clothes for her to try on.
Once Naoto is out of the clothing department she slows down to a walk and looks at the headband. She runs her fingers along the smooth satin fabric covering the hard frame. One step at a time. I can do that. She thinks, as she sets it into the cart and heads for the grocery department.
*- Itadakimasu – is a small prayer all Japanese say before eating a meal. Literally it means 'I humbly partake.'
-the shrine- in Japanese households it is common to have a small shrine to a lost family member. Buddhists believe that their ancestors watch over them and protect them. They will burn incense and set out water and rice every day next to the picture of the deceased family member and give prayers.