Junpei wasn't exactly what one would call brilliant, or deep, or even very aware. He was the class clown, the one who slept through almost every single class he had ever taken – how he had passed was a miracle that nobody ever understood – and always the one who'd be there to crack or joke or make a silly comment. He understood simple things, like the fact that his high school would transform into a tower of hell at midnight was very ironic, making perverted comments around Yuka-tan would get him slapped (and that making them around Mitsuru was a guaranteed EXECUTION), or the fact that he loved Chirdori, even if he couldn't explain it.

But there was other things he understood; emotions, loneliness, and heartbreak. Not only that, but he was human, and humans were naturally empathetic beings. It would take someone really heartless not to feel bad for someone who was going through hell, or had just lost a loved one.

It would certainly explain why he was standing here, outside on a cloudy, dreary day, handing Aragaki Shinjiro an old MP3 player and a pencil sketch of a girl they had known. The girl Junpei himself saw as his best friend, a virtual sister, and the girl Shinjiro had fallen in love with.

The girl whose grave they were standing in front of; Arisato Hamuko.

Junpei had only met Hamuko a year ago, when she had arrived at Gekkoukan High School. She'd been sitting at her desk after the first day had ended, looking over some notes she had taken, with the rest of the students jockeying around her. A twinge of sympathy had snuck into him, and he had wandered over to say hello. The grin she greeted him with was a sweet, caring one, and it held a lot of honest kindness. Not even Yuka-tan's arrival and reaction to his presence had been enough to get rid of the grin just talking with the girl had plastered onto his face.

And then he'd been – unfortunately – introduced to the Dark Hour, and had moved into the S.E.E.S dorm. Finding out that he was one of a few people who could summon the strength to fight demons and monsters known as Shadows had been exciting. Learning that they'd be fighting to stop the Shadows from attacking more and more innocent people had been exciting and horrifying at the same time, and yet he'd wanted to lead the group at first. Looking back on it now, he chalked it up to his sheer enthusiasm over being included in something and not wanting to accept the fact that he would have failed miserably at leading.

With that though in mind, he was understandably miffed when Hamuko had been picked for leadership over him. It was kind of petty, really, not wanting to get shown up by a girl, but that was the way his mind had been working back then. It had stayed like that until after the May Full Moon, where both Hamuko and Yuka-tan had needed to come save him from being overwhelmed. He'd stood there, unable to meet their eyes, just bearing the scolding that Yukari was giving him, wondering why Hamuko hadn't joined in. when he'd looked at her, expecting to see annoyance and anger on her face, he'd been shocked to see what was clearly both worry and relief in her eyes. Relief that they'd gotten to him in time to help him, and worried that he'd been hurt. And after the fight against the Priestess Arcana Shadow, she'd complimented him, told him he'd done a good job.

That was enough to change Junpei's opinion on her completely.

From that event onward, she quickly became one of his best friends, if not THE best friend. Quirky, big-hearted and always smiling, it was hard for Junpei not to feel fond of the auburn haired girl. She was exactly like the sister he'd always wanted to know and have, but had never gotten. She put up with his stupid comments, laughed off his perverted jokes (he doubted he would EVER forget fighting the Arcana Shadows in the love hotel, it was so embarrassing), and would let him copy off of her notes if the lecture had been exceptionally boring, and Yukari wasn't letting him copy hers. Otherwise, she'd just whap him on the head with her own notebook, and playfully tell him he needed to get to bed earlier when they weren't in Tartarus.

So, it hadn't shocked Junpei in the least when he heard rumors about the two of them dating. He would always laugh at them, saying quite honestly that she was more of a sister to him. If the people he told that to believed him, it was good; if they didn't, he would shrug and walk away, still chuckling over how pointless rumors are. In fact, he and Hamuko had openly joked about them later while they were in the middle of a group study session, laughing at the silliness of it all.

Perhaps it was this connection that had allowed Junpei to notice when Hamuko actually did fall for someone. He didn't know how many of their dormmates had noticed it – it was very possible that only him and Akihiko had seen it – but the moment Shinjiro had moved back into the dorm to help fight with S.E.E.S, Hamuko had begun to act strange around him. It wasn't very visible at first, but Junpei knew the girl well enough to know when something was off with her. He had to really give her props for not letting her emotions distract her in battle – he swore the girl had immunity to Rage – otherwise it was likely that all S.E.E.S would have noticed it.

It had worried him at first. After all, Shinjiro wasn't exactly prime boyfriend material in any sense of the word at first glance; he was coarse, short-tempered, very intimidating, and just an overall lone wolf. But as September had progressed, Junpei had watched as Hamuko slowly broke down the wall their sempai had built up around himself, and Junpei felt his nerves begin to relax. The fact that Shinjiro was an incredible cook also helped, if only a little.

So when Hamuko had pulled Junpei aside and admitted how she felt about the older teen, he had only been mildly surprised by it. What had surprised him was his own reaction to it; the fact that he told her flat-out that if Shinjiro hurt her in any sense of the word, he'd go up to the older boy and beat him senseless still shocked him to the present day. She had stared at him in shock for a few moments, but eventually began to giggle, and then ended up laughing while assuring him that he'd be the first to find out if that happened.

He also had a rather good idea of what had happened between the two on the evening of October 2nd, but there was NO WAY IN HELL he was going to let ANYONE know that!

So when October 4th rolled around, and Shinjiro had nearly been killed by two bullets to the chest, Junpei had been flat-out pissed. Pissed at Takaya, pissed at being too slow to intervene with the whole thing, pissed at the Dark Hour in general, but mostly he was pissed off because of Shinjiro. Not because of what had happened with Ken's mother – at least, not solely because of that; accidents do happen, after all – but because of the fact that he'd broken Hamuko's heart. It had taken only one look at the auburn's face for Junpei to see just how utterly heartbreaking it was for her to watch the man she loved seemingly die right in front of her. What made it worse in his book was the fact that Shinijiro was having a big enough of a dumbass moment to say that this was how it should be! If the youth hadn't been bleeding to death and in critical condition, Junpei would have throttled him.

Finding out that Shinjiro had survived, but in a comatose state from his critical condition, hadn't been much better. He still couldn't be with Hamuko, who would stop by his hospital room every chance she could sneak past the doctors, couldn't comfort the girl who had given him everything when she needed it the most. Watching it had been incredibly painful, and there was more than one occasion where Junpei had caught sight of Hamuko sneaking into Shinjiro's room to sit quietly on the bed.

At the same time, he was struggling with his own feelings for Chidori, who he had met in late August by pure chance. After that one meeting, he'd begun running into her all over Iwatodai and Port Island, and something about the girl with blood red hair intrigued him. When that intrigue had turned to infatuation, Junpei still didn't know, but he'd given up trying to figure it out. Finding out she was a member of Strega had been a shot to the heart, as did going to visit her in the hospital after saving her life. He did it often, but always in secret; for some reason, going to see Chidori – who was conscious, talking, and able to visit – made Junpei feel like he was stabbing Hamuko in the back.

And then … then he'd nearly lost Chidori, and it was his own fault. It had been in that split second of catching her cold form, and processing that he had lost her for good that had made him realize what Hamuko had gone through that night. The rage that had been in his body since then exploded out with a single Agidyne spell, one that had made even Jin stagger backward in pain; he was furious and heartbroken at the same time, at them and with his hypocritical self. The one thing that had pissed him off about Shinjiro's near death was exactly what he himself had done, even though Junpei had made a vow never to be that reckless, if only for the sake of his loved ones.

How Chidori had come back to life still stunned him; he knew about her Spring of Life ability (or whatever it was), but he hadn't expected it to work on her as well, and from FLOWERS of all things. And while Hamuko had grinned and congratulated him on getting to keep the girl he loved, Junpei couldn't help but feel like apologizing for it. It just didn't seem fair to him that a reckless idiot like himself got to keep his girl, while someone as kind and selfless as Hamuko could do nothing with her loved one but talk to his comatose body.

He didn't have much time to ponder on it, however; not only did they have Nyx to deal with, but the group had now just found out what beating Nyx meant. The whole cruelty of it all had made Junpei want to scream in frustration and beat something to a bloody pulp. It wasn't fair that Hamuko got all of this shit dumped on her plate, wasn't fair that she didn't have someone she loved to comfort her when the news had been revealed, wasn't fair that this was her purpose in life.

It just wasn't FAIR.

But she had accepted it, and done so without flinching or regretting it. That sole bit of commitment had inspired all of them into fighting Nyx's Avatar alongside her, knowing that whatever the Night Queen threw at them wouldn't matter much if they kept their faith in Hamuko. It had worked, and Nyx was defeated. Almost everyone in the group, sans Aigis and Hamuko herself, had forgotten about the Dark Hour and the Shadows completely. It was supposed to be some sort of reprieve for such a momentous task, but Junpei could only look back and think about those days of complete obliviousness as a curse.

And then, on March 5th, Hamuko died, her soul passing on to become the Great Seal. How Shinjiro had remembered everything before the rest of S.E.E.S (if he had even forgotten anything at all), they would never know. And yet, seeing the senior on the roof, cradling Hamuko's cold body and asking her to come back, had made the already traumatic event all the worse. Taking her to the hospital had been even more horrifying, as the doctor that had looked at her said that they couldn't find a cause of death, or a way to bring her back. Junpei had watched from a distance as Shinjiro had stood there, almost paralyzed, and then turn around and storm out of the hospital waiting room without saying a word.

Her funeral had probably been too much for Shinjiro to handle; Junpei hadn't caught sight of him the entire time, but the thought didn't anger him like it did Ken and Yuka-tan. Because as he stood there, staring at Hamuko's casket as it was lowered into the ground, that old feeling of impeccable pain came back, and he could almost see Hamuko sitting on Shinjiro's old bed in his mind's eye. That coupled with the memory of Shinjiro's actions at the hospital only confirmed the thoughts in Junpei's head; he knew what heartbreak felt like first hand, after all.

So when he had come to her grave again, just a few days later, he hadn't been shocked to see Shinjiro standing there. He hadn't moved for a good long while, watching the brunet as he opened his mouth, and then close it without saying anything, a hand holding his beanie and the old, broken pocket watch that had saved his life all those months ago.

The very same pocket-watch that Hamuko had found and given back to him, out of love and the sheer goodness of her heart.

So when Junpei had seen Shinjiro begin to quake, he had turned around and left, not turning back at the loud, heartbroken curse he heard. He didn't have any right to spy on the other man as he grieved, no matter how he chose to show his pain.

Even so, the sight had stayed with him until nearly three weeks later. He had gone to visit the slowly recovering Chidori, who had handed him a sketch that she had done of Hamuko a few days after finding out she had died. It was incredibly accurate, right down to the auburn's bright smile and her 'XXII' shaped bobby pins, and simply looking at it made Junpei smile.

It was as he was leaving the hospital, the picture rolled up in his hand as he walked, that the idea had come to him. He didn't know where it came from, but it was an idea he had to follow through with. Running to the dorm for a brief stop, he snuck up to Hamuko's old room, where a mostly empty box of her things still remained. Fortunately, what he had wanted to grab was still in there; not hesitating, he pulled it out of the box and left the dorm as quickly as he had entered it, heading off for the small clearing where Hamuko was buried.

Like he had thought, Shinjiro was there again, standing there and staring at the grave with a lost, distant stare. He didn't even notice Junpei's arrival until the younger male was directly beside him; even then, he didn't glare at Junpei like he would have in the past, but gave him a blank, wordless look, grey-brown eyes dull.

Not saying anything, Junpei offered him the rolled up sketch. When Shinjiro just stared blankly at it without taking it, Junpei all but shoved it into his hands. While the elder was trying to register this, he pulled out the object he had taken from the dorm and pressed it into Shinjiro's free hand. It wasn't until he pulled his own hand away that Junpei saw Shinjiro look down at what was unmistakably Hamuko's MP3 player, the bright red headphones still plugged in.

He remained silent as Shinjiro gathered the strength to unroll the sketch and stare at it. When he got a good look at it, his eyes went wide, and he looked up from it to stare at Junpei in shock. The younger met his gaze squarely, still not saying anything as he nodded and turned away, heading out of the grotto as he adjusted his baseball cap, letting the brim shadow his eyes. What Shinjiro did with the sketch and the MP3 player now was entirely up to him, and him alone, but Junpei suspected he would keep it. Of course, the brunet was probably still in shock that he'd actually given him something to remember her by, instead of snapping at him for not coming to the funeral and saying goodbye to her then.

In Junpei's book, however, it wasn't that big of a deal. He knew what struggling through utter heartbreak felt like, and if he could do something to help out another person going through it, he would do it.

After all, he was only human.

And by nature, humans were empathetic.


Why do the best ideas always seem to come just as I'm falling asleep? *sweatdrop*

This was partially done as an exercise in writing something with no dialogue at all, and partially as a thought that came to my mind. Wouldn't Junpei feel at least SOME sort of empathy for Shinjiro at the end of P3P, if you completed Shinjiro's Soc. Link? After all, he's gone through something similar with Chidori, but his has a slightly happier ending (we hope).

Let me know what you think of it in a review, please.