e(mp3)ty

((Apparently, there was a point in the Endurance Run where the players noted something along the lines of 'I bet Yosuke is just listening to himself telling him how awesome he is'. I turned it into angst. First fanfic I'm okay with, so please treat me kindly~))


He hadn't realized just how exhausted they all were the day after Rise's rescue; while it did cause trouble with having to fight not one, but two shadows in a row, he didn't quite expect to visit Yosuke only to find him fast asleep on the bed, sheets twisted around his legs and pillow in his arms. Headphones clung to his ears, shifted slightly but soft murmurings that drifted through the room proof that his mp3 player was still going strong and the volume too high to be any good for his hearing. Yu was a little torn between waking him or leaving him alone for another hour or two. Then again, his right hand man had been the one to ask to meet up in the first place for one reason or another and this really was his entire fault.

There was nothing saying he couldn't at least take advantage of the situation.

A curiosity had long ago risen with Yukiko's rescue, one that Chie couldn't explain because she didn't know him quite that well (but mostly because she was too busy destroying all that got in her way just to reach her best friend at the top of the castle and bring her home safe). Yet, for the entire dungeon, his eyes were always drawn to the orange headphones that settled over ears whenever a fight began, blocking out whatever was unnecessary and amplifying what was. No matter what, it just made him more reliable and eager to continue on and it showed through the next two dungeons they had had to traverse.

That was where the curiosity had started. Yu himself had never really been one for music. It took up too much of his attention and time; with his various part time jobs and need to study for exams every so often, he didn't get as many breaks as he could've possibly wanted and was lucky enough to afford a few days of hanging out with friends once in a while. Then there was Yosuke, who worked afternoon shifts at Junes, overworked himself whenever employees called in sick (or played hooky) or had an event going on, and somehow always found the time to listen to his endless playlists and expand his forever growing collection of albums. Whatever he listened to probably changed daily, if he really was that easily bored as his shadow had suggested, and there wouldn't be too much rhyme or reason to it.

Now, he was presented with an opportunity.

Experience dictated that the Junes prince slept like a rock on the worst of nights, and he certainly wasn't disturbed by Yu's very slight movements or the feeling of his headphones being slipped away, untamed locks falling over his ears. That there was no change in position had nearly drawn a chuckle from his partner and the bright orange headphones were placed onto a different head. The very first line to greet him was in a far too familiar voice.

"Don't forget; you're awesome!" It wasn't a musical track; it was a purely spoken track. Completely unhumble words caught the listener off guard and part of him could only wonder just how highly Yosuke thought of himself or how fake the words could have been. The words suit the voice, but he just couldn't see something like that ever physically come out of his best friend. He didn't love himself enough for that. "You can't let everything bring you down. Hell, you're better than all that! Keep your head up and march on!" Slight murmurings in the background were brought forth by a second of silence and those were suddenly cut off as well as the mp3 player moved onto another track.

"You're a really brave guy for going through all of this." A soft, female voice spoke up then, the same background noises starting up again. "Everything you've been through; you're lucky to have pulled through. We all count on you and we're really proud. You made it to today, so keep breathing into the next and the next. You're a great guy, Yo-kun; I know you can keep going." There continued her talking, all the words an attempt of comforting and supporting and his eyes locked onto Yosuke, whose breathing was as even as ever.

Another track started, a male voice this time, and the speech was along the same lines. Keep breathing. Keep walking. Don't throw everything away. And then another after that. And another. It continued before finally cycling back to Yosuke's voice, the same words repeated and the speaker finally woke up, sleepy grumbles and shifting of sheets heard until he realized that something was missing.

"Good morning."

"Ya know, that good natured greeting really ticks me off," came the response, and Yosuke shook his head to wake up as much as he could. "Man, what are you doing in my room anyways?"

"You wanted to hang out today, remember?"

"...Damn, you're right. Hey, what happened to my headph-" Yosuke finally found the nerve to shut up and properly look at his friend, still standing by his bed and a familiar pair of brightly coloured headphones now settled around his neck. A second of registering and remembering later, he lunged at his friend, underestimating the power put into the attack and knocking them both to the ground, sheet fluttering to the ground and pillow flying into a corner of the room.

"Give them back!" The prince growled as he straddled the other, frantically reaching with flailing hands and stopping short when Yu had the mind to calmly hand them over instead of playing keep away like any other person would do. He stopped in his surprise, clutching tightly to the item and staring at him in wonder. "Ah, thanks..." But the question in his friend's eyes unsettled him, and a short second of listening to what had cropped up on his playlist reminded him of what he had fallen asleep to.

Narukami had heard everything. His weakness. His past. Everything. And the curiosity from that shone through, unsettling him.

"...I'm guessing you wanna know, huh?" He asked with a weak chuckle, hand rubbing at the back of his head and a forced smile faltering once or twice before finally giving into a thin frown. "Just let me get changed first. I'd rather not talk about it here, ya know? If my parents heard..." A shrug followed and he didn't wait for a response; it was enough already that his secret had been found out. If he couldn't at least explain it away in a safe place, then he wasn't so sure he would want to face his friend again.


"Sure ended up hot today, didn't it?" They had ended up at the riverbank, the floodplains miraculously empty that morning and the river flowing calmly. Yu gave him a look, full of questioning and the purpose for the trek remembered and Yosuke groaned at the prospect of having to explain such a weakness. "Uhm..."

"Take your time; unless you'd rather fight again." The small chuckle from the brunette was half expected, along with the twinge of hesitance.

"Sorry, bro, I just really don't like bringing it up." Time was taken as thoughts sorted and rose from dark depths before a sigh of resignation made itself known. But the silence continued, the topic still too hard to bring up right away without a warning of sorts. "It was a few years ago, though. Just so you know." Narukami nodded in understanding and waited again for a hesitant voice.

"There was a lot of crap that I had to deal with before I moved here. Back in the city, I mean. I think... I had less actual friends there than I do here; lame, huh? People just really got pissed off with me for one reason or another; they didn't want to deal with me. Either that or they just wanted to use me. Try and get a job or discounts and stuff like that. It's not like here, where they just hate me for being the 'Prince of Junes' or whatever. I think they actually did hate me back there." Yu watched quietly, eyes never leaving but Yosuke wasn't perturbed in the slightest; it just meant that he was listening intently instead of trying to change the subject because 'who wants to hear depressing crap this early' or 'you're just being stupid grow up'.

It was a welcome change. Had he tried this with any of his other Inaba friends, they'd likely just laugh nervously and trying to move the subject away because they just didn't know how to deal with that kind of situation. His city friends would be the ones to tell him to grow up and get over it, that he wasn't that bad off, someone was always worse, and he was just complaining about useless things.

"Ah, so. It was like... my last year in middle school?" He thought a moment, decided that that was about right, give or take half a year, and continued. "It got worse. I mean, I'm already not that physically, ah, intimidating, right? So the bullies came out and picked on me a lot. It hurt, man. I got really sick of it really fast and... I acted out too and I managed to get all of my friends pissed off at me."

"Sounds like quite the feat," Yu quipped.

"Yeah, well, that was probably when I was just sick of all the crap I was dealing with and I ended up taking it out on them. Yelled at them and everything. I deserved it. They ignored me for a while. Deserved that too. Then I guess that was when I started thinking 'they're all better off without me'." A weak chuckle escaped him and he stared down into the clear waters. "I tried doing something about it." When he tried to continue, his voice choked off and it took a moment for him to pick up again with a tinge of depression. "You can see how that went."

"Is that why..." Yu trailed off, both knowing what he meant to refer to. The day they had first stumbled upon the TV World, where they had found the distorted bedroom and the noose that hung from the ceiling. While Chie had shown an aversion that was all too appropriate for her and the situation, Yosuke had shown a great deal of remembrance of something, suddenly going sheet white and eyes wide, wondering out loud what it was doing there. It had seemed suitable at the time, but now...

"Yeah. The scarf was almost the same colour too."

"So, why do you have the speeches?" And now it came back to the topic of initial interest once the silver haired youth had noticed signs of distress, that it was too much too soon. The actual topic itself should have been off limits in the first place, but the trust that they had in each other pushed the limit back a bit.

"Ah. I still had a few friends. Not many, but enough. They got insanely worried over me after I came back to school, since all I did was keep my headphones up and ignored them. I still can't believe they figured out what I was trying to do, instead of thinking I didn't like them anymore. But it means they really did try for me." A weak chuckle escaped him and he nudged a stone away with his foot. "They stole my mp3 player and replaced it with a cheap USB one that had all these speeches on it and so I just had that to live with and listen to all day."

"It must've worked."

"It did. I felt so... needed, even though part of me kept thinking 'oh they're just doing this because they feel guilty' because they kept treating me way better up until I moved here to Inaba." Hanamura paused again, scratching at the back of his head as he thought of how to continue.

"That's what got you there in the first place, that thinking," Yu commented, watching the other cringe at some point and placing a hand on his head in a reassuring pat. "You don't need to say any more." The weak smile that followed told him that he had said the right thing.

"Thanks, partner. It's been a while but..." It obviously still hurt to think about it. Yosuke's emotional stability was obviously not the greatest thing to rely on, and while Narukami was more than happy to play therapist, the sheer self-depreciation was unsettling.

"Yosuke." The brunette turned to his friend, waiting somewhat expectantly for whatever his friend was about to say when the comforting touch was pulled away. "You really are amazing." It took a bit, but once the words registered, a light pink blush stained fair skin. "I already knew that you were pretty strong-"

"I'm really not," he retorted, hands moving up to cover his face and voice trembling. The conversation had opened up old wounds that refused to close now and he shuddered. "I'm fucking weak. You have no idea- you don't know. It hurts and moving here made it all go to hell. I didn't have... didn't have my friends, just their voices. The city stopped calling me, everyone here was against me, I wasn't that cool transfer student; not like you, anyways. I was just the Junes Prince, the heir to the crap that was putting half the shopping district out of business and good game for mocking and talking behind a back and it hurts damnit and I can't-" He sobbed once and tried to shut up, biting down on his arm. It didn't work. Not at all.

Yu took the opportunity, pulling Yosuke in by that same arm and wrapping his own around him. The brunette acted, not against him, but instead turning to him, fisting his hands in other's shirt, sobbing quietly into a ready shoulder. There wasn't just the pain of what had happened, how close he had come to repeating it. There was also the death of Saki, the many times a friend had fallen in battle for a time, revived by an extra bead they happened upon, and for just the sake of letting everything pent up all out.

It lasted a while, longer than the first time on the river bank where it had solely been about Saki, losing a person he loved, someone that made the time there all worth it. But there was sheer patience and Yu was more than willing to let it continue even after Hanamura had finally pulled away, wiping away tears from his reddened eyes and murmuring apologies under his breath all the while.

"Are you feeling any better?"

"Ah, yeah... yeah, I am, actually. Feeling better than I have in a while. Sorry, man. It's just been so long since I've had to think of it." He fidgeted, and sighed. "Thanks, though. I mean it. You're really something, you know that?"

"Here I thought I was special~" The tease broken some tension and caused a dark red blush with some stammering to accompany it.

"H-Hey! Don't use me words against me like that- I mean yeah you're special but-" With a groan, his head went back into his hands and he vehemently tried to deny it all. "You're doing this on purpose, you jerk! Why do you always have to know exactly how to do this anyways?!" Yet the actual rage wasn't there and Yosuke quieted down. Yu could hear, faintly, that the playlist he listened to had long changed and was going through an upbeat pop song, lyrics muffled.

"You're my best friend. I think I'd have enough firsthand experience." A bright grin appeared at that, short laughter following and an arm was slung over the silver haired youth's shoulder.

"C'mon, partner. I'll treat you to a beef bowl at Aiya's."