Author notes: I'm so sorry, I made this simply on a whim I apologize for an inconsistent writing style and if the logic makes no sense.
Again I apologize for everything in advance.
It started out just like this a year ago. As much of a cliche as it is, it all did seem like just yesterday. Only a year ago did one mister Seta Souji arrive in the rustic rural town of Inaba to live with both uncle and cousin. The year's previous events held murders, mystery, and adventure. And it all started with a train ride.
Sitting in what seemed like the same spot as the last ride here, Souji watched intently out the window,enjoying as the tall grass rolled by. Many called him crazy for preferring the country to the cities, but here were memories that no amount of time in the city could replace. Checking his phone he went over all the messages he had received in the past hour or so:
"omg cant wait to c u!"
"I'LL SEE U SOON K?"
"MOG SENPAI I'LL C U SOON 2, BE READY FOR A KISS~ ;*"
It astounded him how so many of his friends had horrible texting grammar, he had even expected more from Naoto, but it seemed even she had her quirks. With a sigh he flipped his cell phone closed and shoved it back into his pocket listening to the rumble of the train tracks. It was almost soothing by this point in time.
He was visiting for Summer break today what with his parents gone on yet another overseas business trip. Dojima was more than happy to house him again as Nanako was practically begging to see him as well.. It would also be nice to see how much Inaba has changed since then. Yosuke did say that now the town and Junes were working side by side and there was no more rivalry between them. Just thinking about the memories of Inaba and the idea of seeing precious friends and family suddenly set his heart all aflutter and such cheesy lines. His daydream was cut short by the announcer's static voice calling,"Inaba." over the intercom.
Standing much too eagerly, Souji reached up for his familiar old duffle bag. Inside the side pouch was the picture they all took last year before he left. It was his prized picture. With a cheerful smile, he waited until the train came to an agonizing stop. The moment the doors swished open Souji made a hurried walk out. Already the familiar scent of Inaba assailed his senses. It was all so nostalgic and it gave him just the pick up he needed from that unbearable train ride.
As he expected, Dojima wasn't there to greet him, nor was Nanako. Everyone must be planning another surprise party to make up for last Spring Break's miserable failure. While not too thrilled about having to carry his bag through town, it would be worth it to see everyone up to the bright blue sky and shielding his eyes, Souji sighed with his calm smile before setting off for Junes.
Walking through Inaba was second nature by this point, but he never remembered it to be this bustling before. Familiar faces and strangers passed by without a nod in his direction, as they continued on their comfortable lives. Aiya was busy with customers today, as was the shrine; the fox was happy about that he was sure.
So many places brought back so many memories. It took everything he had to keep from breaking out into a run for Junes. Once the familiar shopping mart came into view his heart pounded excitedly. A cool rush of air hit him as he entered. He half expected to see Yosuke or Teddy waiting for him right there in the front where they usually waited for him on the weekends, but of course they wouldn't be that obvious. Turning the corner he headed for the elevators to the food court. Souji mentally flinched at the corner window right by the elevators, remembering how a certain rookie detective waited eagerly day and night for a chance to talk (Slackoff). The memory of that clumsy kind man almost hurt. However, now was not the time for letting bad memories get to him, no, now was the time to go see everyone. With confidence he strode into the elevators and took it up to the food court.
Their "Secret Headquarters." is what they called it. Looking back on it, it was silly yeah, but it helped cheer them all up in hard times. Their table was empty and available, but no one else was there. Souji paused tentatively for a moment wondering if they had only found better hiding spots than last time. Taking several steps forward it became apparent that no one was there to greet him there either. Odd, perhaps they were at Dojima's.
Well that meant a lot more walking in the opposite direction. With a dejected sigh, Souji turned around and adjusted his bag strap better on his shoulder. A small squeak, like that of a chew toy, caught his attention before he walked away. Turning his head to look back at the empty table, he chewed his lower lip for a moment before hearing the shuffling of feet and hushed whispers. He closed his eyes and let a smile overcome him as he turned his head back around just in time to see Kanji barely make his way into line of sight.
Yosuke, Yukiko, Chie, Naoto, Rise, Kanji, Teddie, Nanako, and Dojima stood there, silent with held in excitement. Teddie broke this silence with an excited wheeze before the whole group took that as their sign to jump up and scream at the top of their lungs,"WELCOME BACK!" before lifting their arms forward in an extravagant manner. Their little act left an awkward moment of silence as Souji simply stared on with his calm smile. He was happy,oh no doubt, but what was he supposed to do for their obvious wait of a reaction?
Thank goodness Nanako could wait no longer before breaking her pose to run forward with a squeal of happiness. Souji quickly set his bag down and leaned down with open arms as Nanako soon flung herself into his arms clinging to him had grown since last he saw her, but she was every bit as warm and sweet as ever.
"Welcome back big bro! I missed you!" she cried happily planting a soft kiss to his cheek.
Souji returned the action by placing a kiss of his own to her forehead, earning him an ecstatic giggle from her. Once it became clear than Nanako had just broken the ice, everyone took the opportunity to swarm their leader, Dojima standing by with a serene smile on his face.
Rise was the first to jump up to him, keeping true to her text she leaned up and kissed the very corner of Souji's was a nice welcome yes, but it still flustered him slightly.
Teddie tugged at his arm excitedly crying out loudly, "Sensei, sensei, senseeeeiiii~!" before being satisfied with a tentative pat on the head.
Chie came forward with a confident stride, her head raised high as she gave him a smug look, her now curled hair bouncing as she made a movement and gave Souji a rough punch to the shoulder. A sharp recoil,and rubbing of the sore area, Souji looked up to Chie with an attempt at a smile. Yukiko tapped her shoulder lightly and gave her a stern look, shaking her head in disapproval as she placed her hands on her hips. Chie merely giggled and gave an unabashed smile as she suddenly turned face and hugged him suddenly, burying her face into his chest. She pulled back before he could return the gesture.
Yukiko rolled her eyes and gave a warm serene smile before reaching her arms out and wrapping them around Souji's neck and hugged him tightly,
"Welcome back Souji. It's so good to see you again." she murmured gently.
Souji hugged her back with a small thanks before letting go. She smiled at him, pushing back a strand of hair behind her ear bashfully.
Naoto gently pushed her way through dragging Kanji by the arm.
"It's great to have you back senpai, we missed you." she smiled softly.
It was surprising how much she had opened up since last time, dressing now like a cute girl, not that she didn't look great before. However, Souji still needed to get used to Kanji's looks. It was such a drastic change for him, Kanji looked like such a good boy, and it was certain Yukiko did tease him about this. However, his mannerisms didn't seem to change, he still fidgeted nervously, scratching the back of his head before stuttering out some sort of mashed together gibberish that he assumed was a hello. Naoto discretely shook her head with a silent chuckle.
Souji nodded back in acknowledgment before looking to his side to see Yosuke, who was waiting patiently for his turn to say hi. Both boys were overcome with smiles as Yosuke held his hand up, "Welcome back," Souji firmly grasped their hands together,"Partner." he finished with his mischievous grin
Everyone was here, they were all together and for the longest time, Souji had never been happier.
Chie bounced up and down excitedly, "All right, the gang's all together again! Oh man aren't you just PUMPED I feel like I could jump over an entire building!" she exclaimed mirroring (although exaggerating) Souji's happiness.
Yukiko nodded, "Oh definitely of course, we have to celebrate."
"Speaking of celebrating.." Rise butted in, "We all cooked you a special lunch." she chimed, affection dripped from her words.
The idea of the girls cooking sent a chill down Souji's spine and a cold shiver blew through him. As if reading his mind, Rise leaned forward, wagging her finger,
"Don't you worry senpai, we've been practicing and we've gotten SO much better." she assured him.
Teddie nodded, "Oh yes, the girls have nearly perfected their cooking techniques, oh and to be served food by such lovely women, it just makes the taste all the sweeter." placing his hands on his face he sighed deeply with a flushed pink dusting his cheeks.
Nanako rolled her eyes, "Teddie, you're so weird." she smiled happily, her now long hair swaying as she giggled. Souji smiled feeling a warmth in his heart, however, he noticed just one he hadn't said hello too yet. Quietly, per usual, Souji slipped away unnoticed to stride up to Dojima who prefered to stay in the back. He looked down from the sky as he head Souji approaching and gave his same old tired smiles,
"Hey there, you're looking well." he commented wiping his eyes. Souji nodded shifting his weight onto one leg,
"Thank you, how are you, you seem tired as always." he replied brushing back his silver bangs which were probably in need of a cut. Both were silent in a sort of mutual lock, each one saying nothing, but understanding everything. Dojima was probably still busy as ever, one of his occupation never had many opportunities to rest.
"Ahahaha, yeah work has been a little tough, but you know, your friend there, miss Satonaka, she's a real help y'know?" he motioned to Chie. Souji hummed in surprise, that's right, Chie did say something about joining the force and working under Dojima, it was her way of protecting her loved ones.
Knowing this, Souji smiled, it was just like her.
It wasn't long before Souji was discovered to be away from the group and Nanko had come to retrieve him.
"Big bro, c'mon big bro! Yukiko-chan promised us a fun day, we need to go!" she cried excitedly as she tugged on his hand.
"Now now Nanako, he just got back from his train ride, he might be tired." Dojima pat her head softly as she gave a little 'oh'.
Souji looked to Dojima, to Nanako, and back at his friends and shook his head, "With all due respect Dojima-san, I've rest on the train the entire ride here, I don't need to take a break when I could be with my friends." he said suddenly holding onto Nanako's hand.
Dojima observed him for a moment and gave a knowing smile, "Alright then, go on ahead and have fun." he leaned down to give Nanako a kiss on the forehead, "You'll be ok right?" he asked softly. Nanako replied with a big nod of her head and tightening her grip on Souji's hand, "Uh-huh! Of course I will, I've got my big bro with me and all our friends!" he declared proudly.
To this, Dojima laughed and stood up grabbing his jacket firmly in one hand, "Ok then, you all take care now, I think I'm going to go rest up a bit is all. I'm sorry I can't be with you." he managed to stifle a yawn.
Nanako shook her head, "Oh no, it's alright daddy, you go and rest up a lot ok?" she moved closer to Souji, ready to go play. Souji looked to Dojima and nodded in agreement. With that Dojima turned around, "Alright then, you both take care now ok?" he called out and walked away back to the elevators.
Nanako suddenly became energetic again, "Oh oh! I have to show you how good I've gotten at the piano now, I'll play you a special song tonight ok?" she grinned and suddenly Rise was at Souji's other arm, "Oh yeah, Nanako-chan has gotten so good, maybe someday she can be in our band and we can all perform together!" she added excitedly, clinging to Souji.
"I thought we said we weren't going to do that again." Yosuke called from behind them.
"I 'ain't stage diving again!" Kanji declared loudly in response. This earned laughter from the entire group.
- o O o-
The day was quite hectic indeed, it was if they had done all they could to cram as much as they possibly could into one day, Yosuke wanting to go to the movies, Rise to the beach, Yukiko wanted to go to Okinawa just for fun, Chie would have been happy doing leap frog at the park. Naoto and Kanji were ok with anything for the time being and Nanako was happy that day they even stopped by the Amagi Inn for that lunch the girls promised him. True to their word, they had improved greatly since they last saw each other, though Rise's dishes were still a tad spicy. Not only was it a taxing day for Souji's body, but also one for his wallet, in all the excitement he had bought way more useless junk than he needed for one vacation really. What he'd even use most of this stuff for was a mystery really.
Now later in the day with the sun down and the air cooler did the whole gang stop by the Samegawa flood bank for some relaxation.
"Ok, so while you were gone, there was this day, where we all thought it would be fun to go to Okinawa one day together, but we were just there for fun." Chie began already on the verge of chuckle, "So then Yosuke was acting all high and mighty and so I dared him to see if he could jump those garden walls and stuff. And he was like 'oh you're on' and he did it and he felt right on his face! You should have seen it it was just so great!" she cackled.
Yosuke sat up in his defense, "Oh ok, listen I told you, my foot was snagged on one of those thick knotty branches, I totally could have made that jump. If I can jump over huge ass shadows I can jump over public garden walls." he retorted.
Souji nudged Yosuke lightly and and motioned to Nanako, not so much worried about Yosuke cursing in front of her, but more because she still was unaware of the other world inhabited by the shadows. Yosuke was quick to backtrack and make up some other excuse but Nanako beat him to the punch.
"But Yosuke, it's impossible to jump over your shadow. I've tried, your shadow just jumps with you, it's just always there with you." she stated looking to her own shadow that the sun cast.
Suddenly everyone went silent to take a moment to look at their shadow. Nanako may not have known, but she was right in more than one way. As they stared, it was obvious to see the faces that overcame them, as if her words had unintentionally dug up an old wound. They all winced at the memory of their shadow selves and they winced to think they could see those shadows in their actual shadow.
Nanako seemed to notice the sudden change in atmosphere and scooched closer to Souji, "Did I say something wrong?" she whispered to him, cupping her mouth as she leaned in to prevent them from hearing. Souji leaned away after listening to her and shook his head calmly, which sufficed in calming her down for the time being. Honestly that took a turn for awkward quite fast.
Noticing that this might not have been the best time to have Nanako around, Souji stood clearing his throat to attract the attention of his teammates.
"I should probably be getting Nanako back home, besides you did say you'd play me a special song, right?" he asked softly holding out his hand for her to take. With a bright smile, Nanako stood and nodded eagerly, "Yeah!"
Suddenly the team was pulled out of their stupor and they quickly threw on smiles as their leader took his leave.
"Oh hey, no problem, we'll see you all again tomorrow ok?"
"Oh senpai I'll miss you! Be sure to think of me tonight~"
"Ok dude, see you later!"
"Be careful alright senpai."
"Bye-bye sensei, see you later Nana-chan!"
Exchanged goodbyes, waves,promises for tomorrow, it was normal, it was peaceful, it was
It was all just mundane actions, how many times have they all said goodbye like this? It should have been normal. Or maybe that was the problem? But why? Souji's friends were all smiling, happy, healthy, and safe. So why did their goodbyes bother him, they'd see each other tomorrow.
Putting his worried away, Souji found it best to not worry over little things like this, everything was right now. He looked to Nanako who was excitedly relaying the days events, she was alive and smiling. That was good enough. Inaba was safe, it's inhabitants blissfully unaware of the disaster that nearly befell them them just last year.
With a deep breath of clean air, Souji smiled and decided it was best to actually tune into Nanako's excited rant.
Dojima was awake from his nap by the time they got home. It radiated the same hospitable warmth as it did when he was last here. He even noticed the tiny soul tomatoes growing in the side garden he and Nanako built was just the same, the sight, the smell, and the looks.
"We're home daddy!" Nanako called. Dojima looked up from his newspaper and smiled, "Oh hey there you two, how'd it all go, did you have fun?" he asked with a warm chuckle. "Uh-huh, we went to the inn to eat, and then we went to the beach on the way to Okinawa and then we went back and stopped by the park and we just had so much fun, right big bro?" Nanako replied turning her big brown eyes on Souji who smiled and nodded happily.
Dojima stood and set down the newspaper,
"Glad to hear you all had fun, I know you may not be too hungry, but I got us something to eat for dinner tonight. Also, Souji I took your bag and set it down upstairs." he stated as Nanako let go of Souji's hand and headed off more into the living room and sitting down in her usual spot by the tv.
Souji glanced upstairs and nodded with a soft 'Thank you.' and sat down at the small table as Nanako pat the floor, signaling for him to sit down. On the tv was Marie, cheerful as usual, she was hyped and excited, she must already know he was here. She made a good point of showing that.
"Oh I know I said that I would always make it sunny for him whenever he was around but had I known sooner I might have made it rain in the past few days so it wouldn't need to rain the days he was here!" she exclaimed cheerfully though emphasizing the words in irritation.
Honestly Souji would have called, if only Igor or Margaret would give her a cell phone. Though Margaret had called him in the past. How did she even get his number...?
It was... Late to be thinking about that. He turned as Dojima place small appetizers of food in front of them. However, after such a large lunch, it was hard to stomach much more of though quickly swallowed down her food, urging scoldings from Dojima telling her to slow down. Oh but this didn't deter little Nanako, by this point Souji was watching her intently, chopstick still in his mouth, to see if she was going to accidentally start choking. But no, Nanako pulled through with no incidents and stood, quickly excusing herself and hurrying away, her feet pattering on the wooden floor.
Souji watched her bustling back and forth, at one time with paper in her hands, and looked to Dojima who took a sip of his coffee with a knowing smile.
Before the idea even clicked in Souji's head, Nanako hurried toward him, ushering him up from sitting and hastily pulling him into her room.
Oh there was a piano in there now, nothing like a grand piano, no, it was a rather small piano, the size of a dresser maybe and Nanako eagerly had him sit on her bed while she fidgeted nervously in front of him. Her tiny hands balled up into fists in her dress and she swayed before giving a cute curtsy.
"Uhm... I'm going to play you a song now. Don't laugh or anything ok?" she smiled before sitting on the piano bench and glancing at her sheet music.
Souji was silent as Nanako took a few shaky breaths, finger outstretched, and yet hesitant. She gave a shuddering breath before finally bringing her fingers down on the keys. three repetitive notes and then into a trickle of chimes as her fingers danced over the keys in a smooth fluid closed his eyes and listened, it was beautiful, just gorgeous. If there was any way to to describe it, it sounded like a clear midnight with a bright shining full moon.
It was simply amazing how Nanko was capable of being able to hit all those notes which flitted so close to each other with only one hand while the older held the background notes.
Just as Souji could have fallen into a peaceful sleep, Nanako ended the song with a fading chime and a final exhale. She slowly turned herself around shuddering and clenching her fists tightly,
" H-how was that?" she asked nervously avoiding eye contact.
Souji was silent, never had he seen Nanako this nervous before, well she had nothing to worry about. With a calm smile Souji began clapping enthusiastically, "That was wonderful Nanako, you were terrific!" he placed his hands down as Nanako smiled and covered her face in embarrassment.
"I'm serious, that was fantastic." he assured her standing up to go pet her head and finding his left leg had fallen quite asleep.
With a modest smile Nanako stood and brushed her dress off out of habit,
"You really liked it?" she smiled up at him.
Those big brown eyes leaving an almost physically painful throb in his chest. Souji only found himself nodding stupidly. This seemed to be enough to make her happy as she hurried and hugged him, her head no longer at his stomach but more at his chest. Souji made a note about how much taller she was.
Dojima stood at the doorway silently, he had been listening as well and smiled softly. Before the hug lingered for too long he cleared his throat and stepped inside the room,
"Alright Nanako, you still have a bedtime you know. And I'm sure Souji's tired from today." he called out in a stern voice.
Nanako let go with a giggle and nodded, "Ok," she looked up to Souji, "Good night." and with that Souji and Dojima left the room silently for Nanako to head to bed.
"She really is great." Souji repeated softly running his finger through his hair.
Dojima nodded, "Yeah, she's something. Gets more and more like her mother." he sighed with a faraway look.
Souji suddenly went silent, "That case... Was it solved?" he asked softly hands to his sides stiffly.
Dojima gave him tired look, "Actually, yeah. I thought I'd feel better putting that hit and run killer behind bars but..I dunno, I think it just made me more worried for some reason." he muttered looking Souji in the eyes.
"It's getting late, you should go to bed. I'm sure you have a long day ahead of you with your friends he smiled walking over and giving Souji a firm push in the direction of his room.
Stumbling slightly Souji glanced back at Dojima who dropped himself onto the couch with a deflated huff and closed his eyes. Without a question, he turned and took one step after another to his room which was empty once more. However, Dojima was kind enough to set aside his bag and the same furniture he had last year. Aside from some slight unpacking, this room would soon look just as it had before, with the same familiar and comforting atmosphere. But Dojima was right, he was tired, he would get no packing done tonight. But for now, he unzipped his bag and pulled out the photos from last year. Of he and his friends and of all their a smile he placed them on his dresser by the small TV and already the room felt warmer. He unfolded his futon and quickly flickered off the lights. He felt his way to his futon and snuggled himself in. He quickly fell into a quick, deep, dreamless sleep