All characters in this story are property of Atlus.
It was kinda wrong, she knew that much; so soon after they'd all been hit in the gut, over and over, by finding out that their assumptions had just been wrong. Despite his calm demeanour, Chie knew it had hit him hardest of all; his cousin had nearly died and he'd looked more broken than she'd ever seen him, head down, clutching Nanako's tiny little hand like it was life itself. Her heart had broken just looking at him. She wanted to go over there, hug him, whisper that everything would be alright. But…she couldn't. Too much shock, too much confusion in her head, too much of that insisting voice in her head that she couldn't reveal their relationship in front of everyone.
How nobody knew, she had no idea, but she hadn't realised how much she'd been taking it for granted until just then. They'd been dating for almost six months and she still didn't even hold his hand in public unless she was sure nobody could see. The teasing from Yosuke would be endless, and with the way Yukiko looked at him sometimes…she knew he was their leader, but a small part of her wanted him to be hers and hers alone. That wasn't too much to ask, right?
So, when he'd called her name as they all went their separate ways in the shopping district after it was all done, given her that look – the hurt in his eyes, oh god, it just stabbed her right in the heart – that said he wanted, needed her to stay, she'd given a nod to Yukiko. The red-clad girl had been confused for a moment, but nodded; she looked tired too, like…well, like they'd just nearly murdered someone. She'd wandered off to the Inn and Chie had stayed, standing in front of her leader, her boyfriend, waiting for him to speak and willing herself not to just throw herself into his arms.
"I…" he said, words catching in his throat. Chie was surprised; he sounded flustered sometimes, certainly, and surprised, but now he just sounded…pained. Close to broken.
He swallowed, tried again. "M-my…house is going to be empty. Could I…" he murmured, trailing off, head hung low. Chie made a soft noise; Nanako-chan and Dojima-san in the hospital. Nobody should have to go back to an empty house after that.
She made another noise when he reached out, took her hand in his. His hands were shaking.
"…I can't be alone right now."
Chie bit her lip; this was a big thing. He hadn't asked anyone else, not beautiful understanding Yukiko or his eternal buddy Yosuke. He'd asked her, to come over to her house, likely to her room. Sure, they'd been dating, and done stuff before, but…argh. The fight between letting him and keeping propriety warred within her.
Then he looked up, eyes wet with the beginnings of tears and his shattered heart so evident. Yosuke had asked him how he could stay so calm, and now Chie could see exactly why.
There was no choice. She pulled him close, wrapped her arms around her, letting out a small sob herself. She felt him shuddering in her arms, tiny sobs from this tall, strong guy who'd picked her, of all people, to be with. She still didn't know why, but now…maybe she could do something to help him. He'd helped her so much.
"Of course you can." she murmured, rubbing slow circles on his back. Her cheeks tinged pink as he didn't move away, feeling the nod as his hair brushed hers. "C'mon."
He nodded, slowly shifting away, his head bowed as she took his hand, leading him through the shopping district. A small, selfish part of her was glad for the fog, so no-one could see; she'd never hear the end of it if she was noticed leading a guy by the hand in the middle of the night. She chanced a glance to the side; he'd subsided to sniffles now, breathing audible but slowly calming.
It occurred to her that she hadn't even seen him like this when they were making their way through Heaven; he had been all cold professionalism and a quiet anger that she was surprised to see in him. Usually they took just over a week to save someone, since he insisted they pace themselves, but this one was all-out. Her cool, sensible leader was slinging his most powerful spells left and right, practically screaming the names of his Personae as he crushed the card in his fist. Yosuke had muttered to her when they took a break – all the motivation in the world still needed a break after all, though he never sat down, tapping his metal bat against the floor, staring ahead into the fog – that their leader seemed to be cracking. He'd never seen him this pissed before, ever, at anything.
In fact, now that she thought about it, it was the only time they'd saved a person on the very first day. If Naoto-kun hadn't restrained him from diving into the TV right then and there, he most likely would have done it the night before. On his own. His emotions were just too intense to restrict.
Her front door seemed like a thunderstorm of noise as she slid it open, silently wincing as it clattered through the empty house. Her mother's head popped out of another doorway a moment later, Chie only having mere moments to snatch her hand away from his as he stood there, quietly toeing his shoes off, his quiet nature never seeming more like silence.
"Chie? Where have you been, it's…"
Her mother cut herself off, glancing from the boy to Chie; she knew, of course, her mom had to know. She'd mentioned him just a few too many times, had him over for 'study sessions' more often than anyone else, and even though she'd never admitted it, she knew her mom knew. Chie shifted uncomfortably as her mother stared that 'explain' stare that she did so well.
So Chie explained; about Nanako, about Dojima, about how he was going to be all alone at home and he'd asked, and was it okay that he stay here, just for tonight?
She'd always liked her mother, Chie realised, as her expression softened and she moved forward to gather the boy in a hug. Chie pushed aside the momentary flash of jealousy, muttering something about how she'd lay out another futon. Her mother sat him down and moved off to brew some tea.
It was more surprising, she reflected, that as they passed each other in the hallway as Chie was tugging out the spare futon, that she'd said it was alright if Chie had him in her room. After that, and how he looked…being alone would be bad.
"Just…be careful, Chie. Don't let your heart take you too far."
Chie blinked, but her mother just moved off, looking oddly serious as she returned to the lounge, a cheerful tone in her voice as she told him to head up to Chie's room, his bed would be ready shortly.
It wasn't until she was changing – why would she hide anything from him after so long? – that she realised he still hadn't said a word. She glanced up, watching him tugging off his school slacks, biting her lip for a few moments before speaking.
"…we could, uh…" she said. Was she blushing? She hoped she wasn't blushing. Not the time, Chie. "Y-you know. You don't have to…be alone right now."
He looked up at her, and she thought she saw a little of that hurt fade away, replaced with gratitude and that pure, real affection she saw in his eyes in happier times that always turned her that special shade of red. He nodded, shrugging off his jacket; it wasn't really the time to notice how their fighting had toned him, but she did it anyway as she shoved her futon next to his, clambering under the blankets.
A moment's hesitation - Don't let your heart take you too far, Chie - and she lifted the blanket for him to climb in next to her. Her futon was big enough for two, if they squeezed together.
A small surprise widened his eyes before he nodded again, and soon enough they were together, Chie resting her head against his chest as they held each other. She could see from this close that his eyes were all red…people would see that he'd been crying tomorrow, she thought, irrelevantly. Ai-san and Kou-san would be all over him with worry.
But for now, as she shifted up to hold him, feeling a tickle as his hair brushed against her chest, so lightly covered…it was just her and him. She might not be sensitive like Yukiko, or sexy like Rise, or smart like Naoto, but for now it was just the two of them. She was smart enough to know better than thinking it could last forever; he'd find someone better than her. Not like it was hard, she wasn't anything sp-
"…Chie?" he murmured; Chie jolted a little at her name, looking down at his head, resting on her shoulder.
"Y-yeah?" she replied, soft and quiet.
"…I love you."
That familiar swell of the heart; she knew he did, but he said it so rarely, always preferring actions to words like the leader he was, like the guy she'd grown to know and love. Chie blushed dark red as she shifted down, pressed a kiss to his lips, long and real. His grip tightened around her as they laid face to face, close as two people could be. Equals.
"I love you, too." she whispered.
Nothing more was said until the next morning. Chie reflected later on, as she woke up with his arms around her, face close to hers and so much more peaceful as he watched her arise with small grumbles and groans, that she wouldn't mind doing this again. The way he pressed a kiss to her lips as soon as she was lucid, pulled her close, buried his face in her hair even though she was sure it was all stinky and gross...well.
He was a real nice guy to wake up to.