Souji was stoic. There had been the possibility, somewhere along the line, that something more might have developed between the two of them, but it had shimmered away with a few deft subject changes on his part, saying without saying that you are a wonderful person and a cherished friend, Naoto, but that is all this is going to be. She had been hurt for a little while, a little quieter below the overriding rhythm of Chie and Yosuke-senpai's back-and-forth and Rise's giggling jibes. But she had gotten over it. It had been a brief lapse, she told herself. He had saved her life, after all, and weren't Yosuke-senpai, Yukiko-senpai and Kanji-kun there too?
So she gives him a brief, tight smile as he says the right words about her confession, and lays a soothing hand on her shoulder.
"Thank you for telling me, Naoto," Souji had said, and gives that pleasant smile again. "Just make sure you pick the right moment to tell him. This sort of thing needs privacy."
"I...yes," she had replied, glancing away. A small part of her that she didn't like to think about wondered whether he had 'picked the right moment' when he had confessed to Chie; or, perhaps, she had confessed to him. "I will. Thank you, senpai."
Souji paused a moment, and added as an afterthought: "I wouldn't mention this to Kanji, though."
"Hm? Why is that?"
"...nothing. Never mind." Another smile. "And good luck."
Yukiko-senpai, oddly, seems to have a faint touch of disappointment in her voice when she reveals it. She had stopped by the Amagi Inn on an errand from her grandfather and accepted the offer of tea. They were sitting alone together - an odd phrase, she thinks vaugely, bringing the cup to her lips. Fitting. - in one of the rooms when it came out. She didn't even consider it a secret from her; she may not have been particularly close to Yukiko, but the two had always shared a kind of kinship, both more learned in the ways of proprietry and familial obligations than any of the others. Though, she supposed, Yosuke would know about the latter, and didn't even notice when the -senpai was left out of her mental monologue.
"You...r-really?" Yukiko had said, cheeks turning a slight pink. "With Yosuke-kun?"
"Yes," she said, evenly. "I cannot explain it either, but that is how it seems to be."
"...I never would have expected that," Yukiko murmurs to herself, brushing some hair back behind her ear, giving Naoto a sidelong glance. "I always thought you..."
"O-oh." A quick recovery - a trait she always admired in this particular senpai - and a pleasant smile reserved only for her true friends. "It's nothing. I suppose I should offer congratulations, shouldn't I?"
Naoto felt herself blush before she could hide it, tugging down the brim of her cap. "...I don't think those are neccessary quite yet, thank you. I haven't even told him yet, after all."
"Oh, I'm sure that won't be a problem," Yukiko said, with a demureness starkly at contrast with her words. "Yosuke-kun would be a fool not to return your affections."
Naoto winced; for one who worked in customer service, Yukiko sometimes had a painful bluntness. Another mystery. "Do you...think so?"
"I do," she said, much more firmly. "Absolutely."
That seemed to be approval, in her eyes, and Naoto felt another small chunk of the weight lifting off her shoulders. Souji-senpai had given his blessing, and Yukiko-senpai had given...something. But it was positive, at any rate, and she felt she should be contented with just that.
There was a slight sadness in her senpai's eyes, however, that she could not place, nagging at her like the last loose string in a case. If pulled, it could bring the whole thing apart, but just leaving it there was an irritant, a sense of things unfinished. Naoto put it aside as a mystery for another day and took her leave. Sometimes, as loath as she was to admit it, ignorance could be bliss.
Chie-senpai's reaction, oddly, was almost exactly the same as Yukiko-senpai's...if several dozen decibels higher in volume.
"You what?! W-with YOSUKE?!"
Naoto winced, immediately glancing around for passers-by. Luckily, there was only one distracted-looking little girl staring at the lamp-post a little further down the riverbank, accompanied by a boy who seemed entirely more interested in the little girl than Chie's outburst.
"Chie-senpai, please, keep your voice down..."
"O-oh, sorry! I just...I can't believe it! Why would you- Yosuke?!"
Naoto sighed. "Yes, Yosuke-senpai. I am at a loss to explain it, either."
"But he's so...eugh! Oh, that's so gross."
"He does have some admirable qualities," Naoto said, her voice pitching a little higher than she would have liked. "I've been told he threw himself into danger to save you as well."
Naoto knew she had hit the right button when Chie winced, closing one eye. Her shoulders slumped a little, kicking at the ground with one foot. "Yeah, I guess, it's just...sheesh, I thought you were-"
"Interested in Souji-senpai?" Naoto finished, and the electric reaction she got could only suggest the truth. Chie-senpai had always been passionate about protecting the people she cared about, but ever since her relationship with Souji had turned intimiate, that had been turned up to almost unhealthy levels at times. Naoto considered her lucky, in a way, to be able to express that kind of devotion and passion. She gave a small, private smile. "I can assure you, nothing of the kind ever happened."
"Yeah, I know...sorry, Naoto-kun. Haha, I guess I'm still getting used to it."
"It's perfectly understandable, senpai."
Silence held for a moment until Chie, ever uncomfortable with it, broke it with a much more upbeat tone to her voice.
"Oh, but hey! If it all works out, you just tell me if he does anything dumb, and wha-taaaa! I'll make him wish he was never born!"
Naoto suppressed the comment that Chie may have done that numerous times already, opting instead for a simple nod of the head. "Thank you, senpai. I'll keep it in mind."
"Alright!" Chie said, giving an airy laugh. The atmosphere seemed dissipated, invigorating Chie with her regular enthusiasm. "Go get 'em, then! I'll be rooting for you all the way!"
Naoto needed to hold the phone nearly thirty centimetres away from her face to bring Rise's excited squeals down to bearable levels, only daring to bring it back to her ear once the excited babble was no longer audible to everyone in the room. Or in the house. Possibly the entire neighbourhood.
Perhaps this particular confession had been a bad idea.
Kanji stared at her for a good minute before responding, a look not unlike a kicked puppy on his face. For the life of her, Naoto could not figure out why.
"...oh," he said, after awhile. "Th-that's, uh...I'm real happy for ya, Naoto. Thanks for tellin' me first."
"First?" she said, with a blink.
"You didn't..." he said, eyes widening. A too-big smile was quickly plastered on, Kanji scratching the back of his head. "Well, yeah, I guess it don't matter. Look, I gotta get back to the shop, Ma's real busy with all this...stuff..."
"Of course," Naoto nodded. What a strange reaction. "Thank you for being so understanding, Kanji-kun."
"Yeah," he said, and the two parted ways. Naoto heard several loud crashes once she was halfway down the street, and muffled yells and screams, but from the way Dojima-san was already rushing past her, barking at her to 'get down to the station and report, Shirogane!', she assumed the matter was already well in hand.
Hopefully, they could all go that well.
"...actually, never mind, Teddie. It's not important."
"Whaaat? But Nao-chan, you said it was a big secret!"
"Yes, I did. And isn't it true that the best-kept secrets are those that you tell no-one?"
"W-well, I guess so, but...I can't bear the suspense! Tell meeeee!!"
"...I think not. I apologise, Teddie."
He's loud, and brash, and speaks his mind before his mind has even realised there's anything there to speak. He thinks hard about everything he shouldn't and slacks where he should - according to Chie-senpai, at the last, who has had to put up with his light snoring for enough months to be a reliable witness - and holds an unshakable determination in the face of impossible odds that puts in her mind images of all those daring, quick-witted detectives that she spent rainy childhood afternoons poring over.
He's into music with screaming guitars and enough energy to power the whole of Inaba for a good few weeks. He never takes his headphones off unless it's absolutely necessary. (He looks better with them on.) He's a fumbling, stumbling, loudmouthed fool at times that makes her want to use her gun - either end - just to get him to shut his mouth when he inserts his foot in it for the umpteenth time.
He's brave, and determined, and likes her for who she is as well as who she pretended to be. He's fiercely, burningly loyal and always means well, even if he does nothing like it. He doesn't have Kanji-kun's masculinity or Souji-senpai's calm reliability, but he's there. And he smiles at her with no pity or nervousness. (Well, not much nervousness.) And for one who leaps around like there is an electric current running through him - ironic - he has surprising strength as he takes her in his arms for the first time, blushing hard enough to start a fire.
Well, really, it was more her backing him up until he was against a wall and couldn't get away, paying no heed to his spluttering protests of disbelief. That was how he was, that was how he always would be. She would just have to accept that and - a wry smile quirks her lips as she leans in close, actually silencing him - be the man in the relationship, as it were.
So she kisses him, and accepts it. She can almost hear what his Persona might have to say about that.
She's glad, however, that she cannot.