Written for the Persona 4 kink meme of "Everyone tries to help Souji with money." Not that much kink, really.
This is meant to be a general fic with a bit of a comedic touch. As a personal challenge, each character's focus was attempted in a slightly different 'style', so you may well find you like one person's and get nothing out of another's.
Overall, a writing experiment. Please share how you think it worked.
"So… where's Leader?" Chie was the first to ask. "He's usually among the first here."
"Partner's at club today. Which is why I called us all here. Don't you all think it's about time we carried some of the slack for him?" Yosuke asked. Everyone leaned in.
"Think about it," he continued. "We're totally depending on him too much. When was the last day anyone's seen him relaxing by himself, or not working? If he isn't being dragged off by one of us or doing something for school, he's pulling shifts around town just trying to pay for our gear. I mean, look at this!" Yosuke exclaimed, tossing something onto the Special Headquarters table.
The Investigation Team looked, and saw that it was a weekly planner. Each day was divided and marked, filled with useful fill-ins like 'school,' 'hang with (insert friend),' or 'pull double shift on Sunday working.' There was no free time.
"As you can see, the Man's got a schedule we'd all go crazy trying to do. Maybe he's already crazy. But we've got more time than him, and I think it'd be best if we did what we could to help him. He needs a break, a real break, one of these days."
There were hems and haws, and ultimate agreement.
"So, what should we do?" Rise asked reasonably. "I mean, you already work at Junes full time, and Teddy part time, but didn't you say recently that the lull in activity means you don't have much work for the rest of us?"
"Hm, that is true," Yosuke mused, putting a fake introspective look on his face. "Only one solution: to the jobs board! Everyone pick out something you think you could do, and we'll meet up at the end of the week to see how it goes."
It seemed, like all things Naoto put her mind to, a logical decision. With no false modesty, Naoto was a smart person, possibly the smartest among the Investigation Team. She was proficient at crime scene criminology, knew the derivative knowledge and applications of criminology, psychology, and deductive reasoning as well as anyone her age could. A job based on expounding upon intelligence to others, one genius to a young mind, seemed perfectly obvious at the time.
And then she met Shu.
It wasn't that he was disrespectful, per say: she had experience dealing with difficult criminals and even more difficult police. It wasn't that he was stupid, either: she had been worried her admittedly verbose manners and communication style might confound a client. Deliberately putting someone in awe with an overwhelming intelligence might be fun, but it made poor practice in actually teaching someone. But that wasn't the problem.
No, it certainly wasn't that Shu was too dumb. It was that he was too smart.
Yes, she could list and explain the number of chemical practices for analyzing a crime scene, but that didn't mean she knew the nature of chemicals bonds for a thirteen-link chain reaction. She could identify suspicious behavior and analyze someone's personality off of thirteen unwitting tells in a heart beat, but what did that matter to knowing the history of a half dozen different psychologists?
What was useful in school, and what was useful in her practice, were two very different things. Nothing underlined that point more when it became obvious that he was teaching iher/i the material.
At least he had the kindness not to rub it in.
"No offense, but you aren't as good at this as Souji. I'll wait until he can teach me again. Here's your night's pay, and I won't be needing your services again."
Kanji was a nice guy. He might not look it, with long, lean muscles and a ugly tattoo. He might not sound like it, with his ingrained habit of cussing and threatening. But deep down he was really a sweetheart, liked cute things, and wanted to change. He also liked kids.
Daycare was such an obvious choice.
"Hello, and welcome to our Daycare! You must be the new worker and- eep!"
Kanji scowled. "There a problem?" he asked with an edge in his voice.
Don't look at the scowl. Don't look at the scar. Don't look at the tattoo. Don't look at the long, toned, rough muscles. Don't look at the hands that could surely crush your windpipe with ease…
"Mister, Mister, you're the bad guy!"
"Bad guy? Me? I'll show you little punks…!"
The children away, squealing in a delighted terror as Kanji chased after them, never quite catching them. The adults didn't notice the delight, or the extents Kanji went to not catch them.
"Protecting your mom is a good thing," Kanji seriously explained to Yuuta and the other children who were gathered around him. "Not just from bullying, but from other things to. Like this one time there were all those biker gangs keeping my Ma awake, so I-"
The kids listened, enraptured, much to the supervisor's horror.
Kids used to play Featherman. Now they play Kanji-man, at least until the adults stop them.
Of course Kanji would make something for the kids. And of course he would take requests. Not all of the kids were happy with cute animals and flowers and embroidery.
When kids started asking for skulls and cross bones, like his tattoos, a mitigating virtue became yet another concern.
In the space of a week, Kanji was subject to five aspirations to be just like him when they grew up, four requests for sewing lessons, three photo requests, two fan clubs (one for the girls, one for the guys), and one declarations of love/intent to marry (when she grew up).
The final straw was when half the children showed up with bare shoulders, temporary tattoos, and a familiar hair style.
"Please don't come again," the Supervisor begged, failing to hide her fear. "The parents can't take it."
Though Yukiko nominally worked at the Inn, she wasn't paid for it per say: it was a family tradition as well as a business, and putting more hours than she already did wouldn't increase her income. So instead Yukiko took hospital cleaning.
"It can't be too different from cleaning the Inn, right?" she asked at the time. "And I'll be able to help people, even indirectly. I bet the hospital is filled with people who like to help others."
No, Yukiko realized, it was not. It was empty, smelled of sterility and sickness, and decidedly creepy. Not a homey environment like the Inn.
She tried not to jump when the windless began rattling in the wind. Tried being the key word. She made no such attempts to refrain from calling Chie to walk her home.
The day staff, when they were around, seemed like nice enough people. Seemed.
But the night staff was a bit… different.
Yukiko didn't understand why the nurse in the pink jacket struck up a conversation. She just realized that she was more used to dealing with those sort of looks from guys.
Sayoko's smile had teeth. "I hope you enjoy working her," she said in a voice she certainly didn't use for her patients. "I'd like to think we could be… close."
The windows weren't the only thing rattling that night. Chie was called again.
"So, I hear you're an acquaintance of that young boy who works here. Souji."
Yukiko looked up from her work, where she had been previously been trying very hard to ignore the nurse who seemed content to smirk at her.
"You know Souji?" Yukiko asked, interested despite herself. "We're- we're close friends," she settled.
Sayoko's eyes danced with laughter. "I doubt you're as close as we've been," she whispered, leaning a little too close, leaving Yukiko's imagination to fill in the rest.
"Just kidding," Sayoko laughed. "You still have your chance." Her eyes narrowed frighteningly. "For now." And she walked off without another word.
Chie was already out the door when Yukiko called.
That one short conversation was a mistake, and now Sayoko seemed intent on cornering her whenever she came by to work.
She thinks mistake, but Yukiko can't exactly not talk about Souji whenever Sayoko started. She tried, but Sayoko always found the right buttons to push to push to get her talking.
"He's such a hard worker."
"Yes, he is."
"So considerate too."
"Yes, very much so."
"Always helps others with their needs."
"He's going to make some girl very happy one day."
"Definitely has a cute ass."
"Good job," Sayoko praised her a week after she started. "Very clean."
Yukiko said nothing , waiting for the punch line.
"You're as good as Souji when he's around."
Huh. Not too bad.
"You should see how Souji cleans the floors, though. He's on his hands and knees just so…" Yukiko tried not to envision it, but Sayoko smirked as the evidence of failure rose on her cheeks.
"I like you," Sayoko declared. "You're just too much fun." She held her ever-present clipboard close to her and moved beside Yukiko, too close once again.
"Tell me when you'll work here next," Sayoko asked, her devilish leer never leaving her eyes. "I'll arrange the schedules so you, me, and him can all be here at the same time. I know all the places no one will look for anyone for a few hours…"
Yukiko fled, chased away by Sayoko's laughter.
Strictly speaking, Teddy had a job already at Junes. It's just that most of that went towards his room and board, and topsicles. And Teddy had already sworn off topsicles once already.
So Teddy looked to part time work, because if Sensei could do it he could to. And Teddy chose…
"Dude, you realize that you don't get paid for that, right?"
Teddy frowned. "Don't be such a pooper, Yosuke. I'm sure someone would like to pay for my beautiful Origami!"
"…Teddy, this is volunteer work. You're doing this with the expectation of NOT being paid."
"I'll just do so well they'll change their minds, and shower me with money and topsicles!"
"Ahuh. I see. Teddy, I don't know if you realized this, but your folding skills suck. I have no idea what that one was supposed to be."
"But it's so obvious!"
"And what's so obvious about it?"
"It's your persona, Yosuke!"
"My inner self looks nothing like that. At all. I will kill myself if that's how it ever comes to look."
"Sure it does! I mean, granted, I might have cut a few corners here and there, and I might be misremembering a few things…"
"Teddy, correct me if I'm wrong, but that's just a crumpled ball of paper."
Chie knew her limits. Or rather, Chie knew she had limits, and knew the other jobs were beyond her. Hospital janitor work too creepy for her, daycare too risky (for the kids), tutoring too high-brow, origami too much finesse for too little pay. And one look at her test grades gave reason why translation work wasn't for her.
But you know what even a low-brow, knuckle-dragging, thick-skulled, ultra-violent, anti-womanly cave-girl like her could do? Envelope folding.
After kicking Yosuke thoroughly for his unsought description, and then another time for good measure as he cried that she was proving his point, she agreed that it was, in fact, a good suggestion.
Fold paper along the lines. Not hard. All it takes is the sort of mind that can do the same task over and over again with no appreciable immediate benefit.
In other words, sort of like training. Joy. And that's how she approached it: little tasks, little goal marks. Tying it in together. All in all, a good plan.
No plan survives first contact with the enemy. Or reality.
"I will do ten envelopes for every squat!"
Fourty envelopes later, she felt she wasn't getting enough leg work, too much time on the envelopes.
"Five envelopes for every lunge!"
Well, it sort of worked a bit better, but it didn't feel right either. Thirty envelopes later, another change felt called for.
"Three envelopes per pushup!"
Pacing, that worked better, but the time spent getting down for the pushups, up for the envelopes, too almost as much time as the envelopes and pushups. Sixty envelopes later, it just wasn't working out.
"An envelope per sit-up!"
That one worked best. Sit up, grab an envelope paper. Lower down, fold the paper. Sit up, deposit envelope on table, grab envelope paper. Repeat. She did that until she actually began stiffening in the abs, and stopped as she realized she'd be dealing with cramps in her sides for the next few days if she continued like so. But still, three hundred more envelopes was good, right?
"What else can I do…?" she wondered, looking around her room. "Can't do it while training, that's for sure…" her eyes drifted to the TV with which she watched the midnight channel, her stack of DVD's, and the table meaningfully situated across from it.
"I'll just do the envelopes while watching the movie!"
And it seemed to work. Not fast, not beautiful, but functional. Soon enough, her hands had the muscle memory down. A thousand more, easy.
Then, in her excitement of the action packed fight scene, she watched in horror as she knocked her drink onto the pile of letters, ruining them all.
Rise wasn't smart like Naoto, but she had a certain sort of business smart. She could have done just about any job: idol-experience made working with kids easy, if tiring, and quite frankly she could sell her fame to get people to pay her lots for tutoring, even if she never taught a thing. And they'd thank her. And those were the hardest of jobs. Everything else was manual, boring labor.
So that Monday she chose translating, much to everyone's surprise.
"Rise, didn't you have trouble with that?" Chie asked in surprise.
"Don't worry," Rise assured. "I have a system planned." Picking up the required texts, she went on her way.
"How's the translating going, Rise?" Teddy asked her on Tuesday.
"Great!" she answered. "I've got a system, after all. Want to go get topsicles with me?" Any more questions on Teddy's part were silenced.
A similar happening event happened the next day, and the next.
"Are you sure you're doing good at the translating, Rise? Need any help?"
"No need, I have a system!"
"Rise, are you sure you're good with your job? If you're struggling and just don't want to admit it-"
"Don't worry, I have a system!"
"Rise, when are you finding the time to translate? You're always hanging out so late-"
"I have a system!"
"Have a system!"
Eventually, the Investigation Team met again sans Souji.
"So, how did everyone do?" Yosuke asked. "I got my share from working at Junes." He pushed out a fat envelope.
"And I got something too!" Teddy cheered, pushing both a smaller envelope, also from Junes. Compared to Yosuke's, it was pitiful. No one cheered him, but no one booed him either.
The other members of the team looked uneasily amongst themselves, each begging another to go first.
"Tutoring… is not for someone of my sort of caliber," Naoto said vaguely, pushing forward a meager envelope that also paled compared to Yosuke's.
"I got fired," Kanji said bluntly, putting his own pay envelope forward. "Nothing more coming from that place."
"I thought I'd try and ask my parents for a raise in exchange for working more hours at the Inn," Yukiko laughed nervously.
Chie didn't even say anything, just pushed forward a soggy envelope as an explanation. "My dog did it."
They all looked despondent, until laughter brought them up. Rise fake-hid her laughter behind her small hand.
"Oh, you poor dears," she cooed, gloating. "You all must have had such a hard time with work. Maybe this will cheer you up." She slipped forward a filled envelope.
"Let me see that!" Yosuke said, grabbing the envelope and counting yen. Not near as much as he had made, but it was almost as much as Souji brought in-
"I don't understand it, Rise," Kanji said, echoing everyone else's thoughts. "You hate translating, and you even nearly failed the test. How'd you get so good?"
Rise waved a finger. "Uhuhuh," she titted, "a girl would normally never lets go of her secrets of success. Suffice to say, unlike all of you, I have a system that works for me." But she was playing it up, and they all knew it. "But if you must know… I took the jobs, and then sub-contracted it to some other person on the board for half the price. I dropped off the texts in the morning, the next day they appear all filled out, and I get half the money with none of the effort. Lucky for me that idiot willing to do it was so smart!"
And then she laughed. And left everyone else to grit their teeth.
"At least someone sounds happy these days," came a familiar voice.
Indeed it was their leader, who walked over and nearly collapsed into the empty chair they pulled out for him. "Thanks," he nodded weakly.
"Dude…" Kanji began, "are you OK? You need something to drink?"
"That'd be great," Souji said, an admission that nearly sent everyone scrambling to get him something. It was like a rule of the world: birds fly, fish swim, and Souji doesn't ask or accept offers unless he really needs them. It was only compounded by the weighty bags under his eyes, and the overall look of exhaustion.
"Hey guys," he began, not meeting their eyes only because his eyelids kept dropping down. "Sorry, but equipment purchases will have to be put off a week or so."
"We don't care about that, man," Yosuke interjected. "What happened to you? When was the last time you slept? For more than four hours?"
"Is today Friday or Saturday?" Souji weekly joked. "I've been trying to make up a shortfall of finances, and I'm still on the wrong end of it. Actually came up here to see if Yosuke's dad needed any part time work."
"You, having problems finding work?" Kanji asked. "You're always loaded!"
"Not this month," Souji sighed. "Everywhere I usually work doesn't want me anymore. The parent of the kid I usually tutor now believes that tutors are a waste of money, the hospital and the daycare center got new staff recently who agreed to work for less, and apparently the envelop shop started ordering envelopes from out of town after some supply problem. I've been working myself raw just trying to make ends meet for my own household budget!"
"That's… pretty rough," Yosuke said, perhaps the only person besides Teddy who hadn't broken out into a cold sweat. "We were actually-"
"And the worst thing!" Souji continued, either not noticing or caring about Yosuke's words. "The only job left in town is monopolized by some asshole who buys up all the translating work and then leases it out for half the value! I've been working up to two in the morning and I'm not even breaking even! Urgh!" he grunted, at last letting his head fall to the table with a resounding 'fwop.' There was silence following the outburst.
"Sorry about that," he apologized. "It's been a long week. What have you guys been up to?"