I got the inspiration for this story from a fanart piece that I actually came across. While reading this, some of you might say "Souji's not like that!" to which all I have to respond with is "It's Possible!" Though I do have to admit I kept thinking Minato from P3 was a better fit for this. Oh well. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out actually. Well, I hope you enjoy reading it, and please comment to tell me what you thought and how I can do better. Thanks!
Disclaimer: Dear god I wished I owned this. But sadly, all I have is dreams.
I don't want to go back…
Never; please don't let me have to go back…
It was always cold in that house now. It wasn't that he wasn't used to it, the cold had ultimately become quite comfortable. All his life he had lived being numb. Friends, while plentiful, had never really been something he desired. Many of them were irritating, stupid, and utterly cold. None of them had ever managed to form an actual connection to him, and he had ultimately never cared. He had weaved together a pretty, perfect little mask to deal with them. One that would let him pretend and lie his way through everything.
One that would allow him to pretend he wasn't so completely numb to everything.
To Souji, it was easy. After all, when one doesn't have time to connect to anything, it's easier to hide one's imperfections; or he supposed in his case it would be lack of emotions. His parents' line of work had them moving all the time. The longest he had ever stayed in one place was seven months. He didn't mind that either. People were all the same anyway, it wasn't hard to figure out how to please someone when you've already succeeded with another.
His mask never had to change, never had to fix itself. It was perfect in every way possible. But it was because of this perfection he had achieved that he slowly began to warp. Everything began to fall into two categories; useless, and amusing. What wasn't considered worthless was made into a game. The people his game pieces, and the mask his king.
What could he make them do? How could he make them dance? In what ways could he twist and twirl them around his fingers, like wires in need of snapping. In all, how could he destroy them?
This lifestyle was so comfortable, so natural, that it never occurred to him he would be violently ripped from it. It was typical, so utterly typical, that his parents would once more skip off into the sunset in order to do their jobs. What wasn't usual, was the fact that instead of once more stringing him along with them, they had decided to dump him on his uncle. Souji couldn't say he minded, it wasn't like he held the capability for it.
He had to admit, at first it was somewhat shocking. He hadn't been informed that he was to be living out in the sticks. Though perhaps that had been on purpose. The mere mention of it would have had him hissing and spitting until he had once again been forced to fly away with his parents, even if they were going abroad. It wasn't that he found the countryside distasteful, but it was much harder to find things to occupy yourself with when there was nothing there. Toying with people only gave for so much entertainment. The second shock was that he had a cousin. The girl was small, and terribly shy, so it wasn't as surprising as it could have been, but the fact that he hadn't known about her still rubbed him the wrong way. It didn't help that now he had to keep up his mask inside the house as well as in public.
When they managed to reach the house, the rest of the night was spent settling in. It didn't take long for him to pinpoint the family dynamic. Workaholic single dad, grade schooler forced into an early maturity. It was the typical, no clichéd, family setup. One that had long ago ceased to bring him any kind of amusement or sympathy. But as the first few days wore on and faded, he couldn't help but think of how lonely a life it must be. It never occurred to him that his situation, while not exactly similar, was as lonely as hers.
He wasn't allowed to really settle in before he was expected to go to school as well. The next day Souji was once more forced to perfect his already flawless mask. Already he was bombarded by classmates, stared at from the safety of the doors by upper and lowerclassmen alike; like an animal on display. It was so amusing, so utterly hilarious how much interest he struck into people. And yet, he felt such intense disgust at the whole thing he didn't know what to do with it. People were so easy to read; so simple minded.
He walked home with two girls that day. He couldn't really remember their names though he played along flawlessly. The mask was a hard thing to make rusty after all. Idle chatting, some more than obvious flirting, and then something that was more than simply interesting.
A murder wasn't something one stumbled across day after day. He supposed it was almost sick that he found this so fascinating, but then again he also supposed he was already sick for being the way he was. His uncle chided him and soon after the girls left. Souji went home with an almost giddy mindset. It wasn't that he was interested in the murder per se, after all, several thousand people were murdered a day. It wasn't anything new, it wasn't anything really exciting. But the way the girl was murdered; the fact that there was nothing wrong with her, the position and place that she was somehow haphazardly thrown. It was the sheer theatrical way she was shown that interested him. After all, it wasn't every day you found such an odd and almost impossible method of killing.
His second day was almost as exciting as the first. There wasn't another murder, in fact nothing of any real note happened. But it was this day that he met someone who was to provide him with ample entertainment for quite some time. Yosuke Hanamura was like him. A city boy who didn't exactly want the situation thrust upon him. Souji could read all this and more within fifteen minutes of talking to him. But for some reason this boy intrigued him. Maybe it was the simple fact that he was in a similar situation; maybe it was that for once Souji wanted to be able to relate to someone else. But that was highly improbable and the boy almost broke out into hysterics at the mere thought of it. No, it was merely because he wanted someone entertaining.
He didn't realize how important this boy was eventually to become to him.
It took him another day to finally reach what would become his entertainment for the rest of the year. "On a rainy night, when you look into a tv at midnight, you'll see your soul mate." It was miraculously funny what people would believe these days. Despite thinking this, that short haired girl's enthusiasm about the whole thing made him decide to try it out anyway. He couldn't say he wasn't surprised by the fact that he did see something on the tv. In fact he had been in so much shock that he hadn't had been able to think of anything but how Chie ( for he had now deemed her worthy of a name ) hadn't been full of hot air.
For some reason the next thought through his head was, I wonder if I could touch her. Without even really thinking his hand went out to touch the tv, and was successful in slipping through the screen. It was as if someone was pulling him in, yanking at him hard enough to suck him inside.
The next day he recounted this experience with the other two. He wasn't sure why, he himself hadn't exactly believed it, but something nagged him into thinking it was necessary for him to share it. Maybe he was just interested in their reactions.
He couldn't say he was surprised when they made fun of him. It was one of two responses he had been expecting. ( It did make him much more relieved that they had chosen that one instead of the latter, which would have been complete and paranoid belief. ) But though it was expected, he still couldn't stop himself from feeling some resentment. In what could only be described as a malicious form of revenge, he decided he would prove them wrong by showing them firsthand what had happened to him.
He surprised himself when it actually worked, and after school his arm was now halfway inside the tv. Now this was something you didn't see everyday. His attention completely fell from the two who were with him, and he chose to ignore them in favor of further investigating this. Next to go was the upper half of his body which slid into the television with ease. Both Yosuke and Chie continued to panic, and for a split second his mask shattered. Souji had been about ready to slip his head back out and yell at them to shut up when he was roughly thrown foreword. The next thing he knew the three of them had crashed into some weird room.
After exploration and a rather odd chance meeting with a bear, his whole perspective of this town was turned on it's head. This was certainly an interesting turn of events. There was no way he could pass this up. This; an event so strange and creepy and downright fascinating! There wasn't a thing that would pull him from it.
His resolution was sensed by the other two, because throughout the rest of their time together in the tv they were wary of him. Chie in particular seemed afraid to get too close. Perhaps his mask was cracking slightly. Or maybe it was just the sheer excitement that was making it dull.
He wasn't sure when everything really began to change. It had happened so gradually, and he had been so caught up in the excitement that he hadn't noticed until it was so prominent that even his friends were commenting on it. But it might have been that next day. When he and Yosuke had gone back into the tv, and he had a front-row seat to all of Yosuke's inner emotions.
At first it frightened him. If he was privy to their secrets, to all their innermost feelings, that would mean he'd have formed a bond, no matter how forced, with that person. Bonds meant one had to take care of each other. They meant that you had to understand and at least attempt to make the other person happy. To someone who couldn't feel any of those emotions, they were shackles. But it happened again, and then a third time, and after a while he stopped even thinking about the consequences of having others' secrets revealed to him. Maybe he just became immune to it, like everything else in his lackluster and cyclical lifestyle. But he supposed it was because he had already become accustomed to the warmth.
Someone once said, that he seemed like a type of guy who had nothing to hide. Souji couldn't disagree more. He had plenty to hide. So much in fact that when he looked at it the whole thing it made him sick. It wasn't the fact that he had nothing to hide that made him different from them all. That wasn't why his persona had come so naturally, almost fluidly even. It was because he didn't want anything. He didn't feel, so he didn't desire. He could change his attitude, his innermost feelings, his core, because he was incapable of having something of his own. But that had begun to change now that he had managed to grasp a hold of something.
Everything was a blur from then on. It was so peculiar, so interesting that he completely disregarded the fact that people were gathering around him. They built up. People he had previously sneered at; people who had never held an ounce of amusement for him before this. As the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, and those became moments that rushed by with such ferocity he was left wondering where they had gone, he had found himself surrounded.
The warmth of those around him was almost suffocating. He had been so used to the cold that the sheer warmth of the people closest to him burned so much he found himself terrified of even going near them. He wasn't sure how he was supposed to act anymore. He had procured a vast amount of friends when his back was turned. So many that he had almost thought he was dreaming. A nightmare that is, for no one like him should have been feasibly able to make this many people care this strongly for him.
Where had it all started?
But the warmest place, and the place he found himself gravitating towards without even a thought, had to be the house. His uncle, who he had been so sure he had figured out, had proven to be much deeper. Father, brother, uncle. He couldn't distinguish between any of those relationships, because he had never truly had one of them, but Dojima had become special, he had become warm, and no matter which of those he really was it didn't seem to matter anymore.
The real surprise had been Nanako though. He had never thought that a little girl, an elementary student, could be the one to finally break his mask. It had been chipped at by everyone he had unknowingly entangled himself with, but she had ultimately been the reason it melted. It was truly like she had become his sister. Like all those "big bro" 's and "we're family" 's had weaved a spell around him, lulling him into believing it was okay for her to become special.
Where did I slip up?
It was going so well. Everything was perfect, and though they hadn't caught him yet, the murderer was in the palm of their hands. It was merely a simple game of waiting now. They had all been so unprepared, so naïve in thinking that everything would go without a hitch. 'Just like always!' They had forgotten there was no guarantees. They had forgotten there was always a chance something would happen.
They had ultimately forgotten they weren't invincible.
His sister, his precious sister. Nanako was kidnapped, Dojima was hospitalized. They had screwed up, and they only had themselves to blame. He had become weak, and pathetic. Lulled by how comforting the warmth had become. Now he was simply paying for it.
It had taken them three days to rescue her from the tv. Three days of such mental anguish that he never thought he was capable of. The first day had ended with Yukiko receiving a serious injury. The second had ended with him almost passing out. The third had ended with her back in the hospital, but with no guarantees that she would make it. Out of the frying pan and into the fire. It was just another reminder that he wasn't allowed to have this.
When did it become so warm?
The house was cold. It was freezing. He hadn't realized how used to the warmth he was until it was gone. Stripped away so quickly he hadn't even had time enough to blink. The silence was like a constant reminder that he was now once again completely and utterly alone. It was there to make sure he knew that once this year was done and he got back on that train, he would once more have to don his mask and reset his chessboard. His game would be over, and all the pieces he had procured would have to be left behind. This thought was more than enough to make him panic.
Why? After he had finally found out how comfortable, how enticing the warmth was,
why did he have to go back? His mask had been torn apart so completely that he wasn't even sure he was capable of salvaging it. He wasn't sure he even wanted to. But everything was crumbling before his eyes, and he was ultimately going to have to be the one to kick his sandcastle down. There was no room for
It's so cold.
argument there. He was going to have to go back to that existence. Pretending, and lying, and keeping everything at bay because he wasn't able to connect with people. Because he was frozen.
He wasn't sure how long he was out for. The next thing he remembered was laying in the middle of his floor, curled into the fetal position with his comforter coiled around him. It didn't take him long to realize his room wasn't as it was before. It only took him a moment longer to realize the room was completely trashed. His head swiveled slightly and he was able to take in some of the destruction. His couch had been shifted a few feet, now acting as a sort of barrier to his chaotic desk. The desk chair was nowhere in sight, but if he kicked just right he could feel the cracked plastic of the seat just beyond the couch. His shelves had been toppled over, contents crushed and scattered under it. Clothes, small objects, and the rest of his sheets had been thrown haphazardly about the room. He wasn't even sure he could find his uniform anymore in the mess he had ultimately created. For some reason this last detail took the longest for him to take in. His table had been shoved against the tv stand, and the television itself lay face down on it. The chords tugging dangerously as they reached their limit.
That's right, it had been the television's fault. The Midnight Channel, the tv, the very first murder cases. It was their fault he was now like his. Their fault he now knew how cold he had been.
Someone please save me.
The door to his room slowly opened. He heard the click, the silent squeal of the hinges, and the soft padding of sock feet. Despite the fact that someone was obviously in his home Souji didn't care. If it was a robber it would be too much of a hassle for them to search the room in it's state now, and if it was the neighbors they would take a hint and leave.
"Damn it man,"
It was whispered. So quiet that he almost entirely missed it. But he didn't, and it made him tense up. No, anyone but him. Anyone at all. He was the last person he wanted to see him this way.
The sound of rustling plastic filled his ears, alerting him to the fact that they had brought something. Souji's body went completely rigid as he heard them come closer. Maybe if he pretended he was asleep he would leave. Leave and forget that he ever saw his leader in this state.
"Souji I know when you're faking."
The boy's eyes shot open in shock and alarm. Yosuke's solemn face filled his vision. The brunette softly kicked away several pens and pencils and one of his shirts before he gently lowered himself into a seated position. He was so close, his crossed ankles barely three inches from Souji's nose. Souji would have inched away if he hadn't been so terrified of what the other boy was thinking of him.
Yosuke sucked in a breath, one that made Souji wince ever so slightly. He opened his mouth for a moment before he was able to speak. "You wouldn't answer the phone," he said. The boy sighed and leaned back against the couch, looking both comfortable and awkward at once. "You always answer your phone."
Souji wasn't sure how to respond to this. He wasn't sure if Yosuke was explaining why he had come over, or why he had brazenly come in without being invited. In all honesty he wouldn't have been able to tell if Yosuke was lying or not ( though he seriously doubted he was ) because he didn't know where his phone was. When he had blacked out and started to destroy his room he was sure his phone wasn't able to escape it's fate, and if it had he still had no idea where it would have gone. He wasn't going to give this as his explanation though. Yosuke didn't need to know how unstable he was quickly becoming.
"You know," Yosuke began, and Souji was brought out of his thoughts. The brunette fidgeted slightly. He looked almost like he was having fun, but it was obvious to see that underneath the flimsy façade he was worried. More worried than Souji had ever seen him. "When you first showed up, I thought you were really interesting. You were like some anime hero, right off the big screen. Cool, calm, and collected, you were everything I wanted to be. Not to mention all the girls loved you. Yukiko especially, she just ate you up man. To tell the truth I was a little jealous. I suppose I've told you all this already haven't I," he chuckled embarrassedly.
Was he making small talk? For a moment the whole situation baffled Souji. Did the idiot not realize he was sitting in the middle of a destruction zone? Did he not understand what was going on? And then he caught the boy's expression once more and everything became clear to him. Yosuke was so worried that the only way he knew how to fix the situation was to try and make everything seem normal.
"I thought that nothing could break you down. I was wrong right?"
That sentence was the one that shook him. Souji gave a violent flinch, as if he had been slapped. What was going on? Was he mocking him now? Fear bubbled up inside him, suffocating him with it's incredible magnitude. What was he going to do if he lost Yosuke as well?
The brunette simply sighed, and this time his soft smile was genuine and not simply a cover up. "I'm glad I was wrong," he said. This was more confusing than anything else. He was happy?
Yosuke gave another sigh before reaching out to brush the comforter with the pads of his fingertips. " Souji, you were always cold you know. In the beginning, every time we touched -bumped into each other, high-fived, helped each other up- you were freezing, as if you were ice. And then you gradually began to warm up. I'm not sure when I first noticed it, but you became so warm to the touch that I didn't want to let you go."
His voice was gentle. So gentle that Souji found himself getting lost in it. It was enough to make him forget that Yosuke had just revealed he had seen through him from the start. He wanted that warmth. Craved it so acutely that he found himself releasing his left hand from the confines of his comforter and gently setting it atop Yosuke's. The warmth flooded in immediately. Not only did he have the warmth of Yosuke's pressure on the comforter, but now he had it from direct skin contact.
Yosuke himself didn't seem to notice how much this was impacting Souji. But he did softly turn his hand and laced his fingers with the other's. "I'm glad you changed, Souji."
His sudden proclamation made Yosuke's expression turn from soothing to confused. "This house is freezing. Everything warm about it is gone." His grip on Yosuke's hand tightened, and he found himself curling into a tighter ball. "I hate it,"
"I don't want it to be cold anymore. I don't think I can play that game anymore. Everything was ruined and now I can't go back. I don't want to go back!" He was getting so desperate that his words were becoming rushed and he himself didn't know what he was saying anymore. But as he calmed down and regained his breath, he knew exactly what he wanted to say.
"I don't want to be alone anymore."
They were both still for a few moments. He was so tired that he just didn't care anymore, and Yosuke's surprise was so strong that he wasn't sure what to do. But finally the brunette moved. Souji could feel the warmth leaving as Yosuke's hand slowly slipped out of his. He panicked slightly, fingers closing around Yosuke's so tightly in an attempt to make the boy stay as he was, but his efforts were in vain and Yosuke's fingers slipped from his grasp.
For a moment he felt frozen. For a moment he felt so lost that he was almost afraid he would black out and rampage again. The moment passed when he felt a rush of cold air, followed by the feel of a body pressed up against his.
Yosuke's warmth was almost scorching as the boy positioned himself underneath the comforter with him. The comforter tugged and stretched, being pulled from under and around him in order to shelter both boys from the offending chill. When Yosuke had finished situating himself he spoke, "You're not alone okay." For some reason his tone was a lot more snappish than Souji thought necessary. "You have Chie, and Naoto, and that stupid Teddie, and even Kanji. And, and you have me." That last part was whispered. So soft that it was almost inaudible. But Souji heard it loud and clear.
A wave of emotion hit him at that moment, and Souji found himself wrapping his arms around Yosuke's form. The other boy gave a surprised grunt, and attempted to wiggled away for a moment before he leaned his head into Souji's chest. "We'll always be here okay? For Christmas eve, New Years, graduation, Golden Week, and all the holidays after that. I'll spend them all with you. Each and every one."
Souji squeezed the boy tighter, burying his face into Yosuke's thick hair. "Thank you," he murmured, clutching tighter, tighter. Bringing him so close so that he could imprint this scorching warmth into his memory. Make his skin remember the feeling of having something like this. "Thank you."
He didn't see it, but Yosuke blushed wonderfully. "Idiot," the brunette muttered, while he himself attempted to press himself closer. And in the warmth, they fell asleep.
"Hey Yosuke, did you know how warm you really are?"