"Everyday's Great at Your Junes!"
A Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4 fanfiction short story
By, Vivat Musa
Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Persona 4 or its original characters.
"Come here, kitty, kitty," Nanako cooed softly, crouching close to her neighborhood's sidewalk.
She raised her hand in front of her, palm up. About a foot away was a sitting feline. The cat blinked its yellow eyes lazily as it regarded the girl. It rose from its sitting position, arching its back, before tentatively stepping closer to sniff the outstretched hand. Trying not to scare it off, Nanako fought to keep as still as possible before slowly placing her fingers against the animal's furry cheek. For a street cat, its coat was surprisingly silky when it touched her skin. Nanako giggled when the feline brushed its head further into her palm, purring like a miniature engine.
Unfortunately, the peace did not last for long.
"Look, guys, look! It's the baby playing with the witty kitty!"
There was a roar of laughter when the girl looked up. A group of three kids were standing further up the sidewalk. It didn't take Nanako long to recognize the newcomers; they were the renowned bullies in her school, after all. Leading the group was Johnny; his frayed jeans were ripped with holes from getting into countless fights. Flanking his sides were his two adoring followers, Kip and Zack.
"What do you want?" Nanako tried to appear stern as she rose from her crouched position to face the group. The cat turned to look at the boys, narrowing its yellow eyes with distaste.
"We just wanted to see if we could play with the baby's kitty," Johnny said in a mockingly innocent voice. "See? We even brought a toy."
Zack held something up from behind his back. Nanako caught a shimmer of light, shining off the item's surface. At the last moment she realized it was a tin can stripped of its original label. The boy pulled back his arm and hurled the can at the feline. With an earsplitting crunch, the metal hit the hard concrete. The cat furiously hissed, rearing its back into an arc, before fleeing into the bushes.
A rush of anger flooded through Nanako; her arms were rigid against her sides. "Hey! Leave it alone!" she yelled. "It didn't do anything to you!"
"Oops." Johnny smirked. "Is the wittle baby mad that she doesn't have her playmate anymore?"
"I am not a baby!" Nanako shouted in frustration, stomping her foot. The three boys only sniggered as if it was the funniest thing ever. Nanako's earlier courage began to waver as the bullies continued to bend over from laughter. Suddenly she felt very small. The girl could feel hot, angry tears swarming her vision, fighting to be freed, but she furiously blinked them away. She refused to cry in front of them.
What would Big Bro do right now? she thought. Ever since her cousin came to live with her and her father, everything seemed different. Though she knew that her father loved her, he wasn't always there—his job took up the majority of his time. But Yu was always there to sit with her at dinner, or to keep her company as she watched TV. He would always spare the time to ask her about her day, listen as she sang along with Junes commercials, and take her out to see his friends. Yu was someone that Nanako could always look up too…
Yu and his friends were gone for a school trip…leaving Nanako alone once again.
Johnny wiped a tear from his eye—if only she could wipe away his stupid smirk. "Is the wittle baby going to cry?" he taunted.
Nanako didn't dare move from her spot; if she did, she would hurl herself at him and then she would be no better than the bullies.
A malicious glint entered Kip's eyes—he was about to cross the line. "The baby doesn't even have a mommy to cry to, does she?"
Before she could say or do anything, a chilling voice boomed, "You should be beary scared." The words were followed by a low, threatening growl that could've come from a very large dog.
The three boys stopped smirking at once and looked around; hints of fear entered their eyes. When they didn't see anything, Johnny balled his hands into fists. "Come out, you big coward!"
"You bullies are the cowards!" The voice seemed to echo from everywhere at once, though it was impossible to pinpoint the exact location. "How dare you pick on a girl like that! You should be ashamed of yourselves!"
Nanako glanced around; the voice sounded so familiar, but she couldn't place her finger on whom it belonged to. Then her eyes caught a startlingly blue, peeking from the bushes nearby. She stifled a laugh as Zack took a nervous step back. "Man, maybe we should get out of here. This is creeping me out…"
"You should be creeped out!" the voice howled menacingly. "You have angered the Great Spirit of, eh…Spirits! I shall smite you all!" Suddenly a flurry of stones erupted from the bushes and bombarded the group. None of the rocks grazed Nanako, however; it was like an invisible forcefield was surrounding her body, preventing any rocks from coming close. For once, the three boys were on the losing side. They tried to raise their arms against the stones in a pitiful defense, but it only provided so much cover. Nor could they look for the source of attack without getting hit further. There was only one option left. "Run for it!" Kip and Zack yelled simultaneously, bolting away from the battlefield.
"Hey, come back here!" Johnny demanded, flinching when a rock hit the side of his arm. Neither of his friends paid him any attention as they continued to run away. The abandoned boy growled. He turned to Nanako, shooting her a glare filled with hatred. "You'll pay for this, you little—" Johnny was cut off when a pebble hit him directly on a sensitive bit. His eyes grew wide and watery while his mouth shaped into a startled 'o'.
"Run while you can, little boy."
Johnny turned on his heel, a hand clutching near his abdomen, and he soon disappeared from sight.
Nanako tried to stifle a giggle as a tall, blonde teenager appeared from out of the bushes. She immediately ran towards him and tackled his waist, breathing in the scent of fresh linen.
"Thanks, Teddie," she said. "I'm glad you were here."
The blonde smiled and affectionately ruffled the girl's hair. "Your welcome, Nana-chan. Teddie is always ready to fight the bad guys!"
Nanako leaned back to look up at her friend's face. His crystal blue eyes always seemed to light up when he smiled. "Just like my dad, right?"
Teddie nodded. "Yup, but I do it with a little more fun."
"That's good," she said. "Dad doesn't have fun very often."
The teenager leaned in until his breath tickled her ear. "That's because he doesn't know the secret."
Nanako's eyes grew wide with curiosity. "Secret?"
"Uh huh. It's why I came here today. I thought you might've wanted some company since Sensei was gone. But then I saw those awful bullies picking on you, and I knew I had to help." Teddie's eyes narrowed to slits, and Nanako didn't know if she liked the sudden ferocity that possessed his gaze. "They even scared away that nice kitty! That's called animal abuse, right there! That no-good bunch of—
Nanako cleared her throat politely.
"Oh, right! Sorry 'bout that, Nana-chan." The anger quickly ebbed away from the teenager's expression and he grinned. "The secret! Do you remember how I promised that we'll play together?"
Nanako nodded. "Uh huh. I remember."
"Well, I'm making good on that promise!" A devious twinkle shone in his eyes when he winked.
"I'm not sure if I should do that." Nanako eyed the shopping cart doubtfully. She and Teddie were standing outside Junes' entrance. Only a few feet away were the wide, glass doors that whispered the promises of her favorite department store and all of its glory. The only thing stopping her from entering was a row of shopping carts and an overly exuberant teenager.
Grinning goofily, Teddie patted the cart's handle. "Oh, come on! It'll be fun! All you gotta do is hop in and get ready for the time of your life."
"Are you sure?"
"Not really." Teddie sheepishly raised his hands when the girl gave him a harsh look. "Kidding, kidding!"
Still uncertain, Nanako grasped the side of the cart, awkwardly swung her legs over the edge, and settled into the basket. The cold metal rods that layered the bottom of the cart dug uncomfortably into her skin. "I've never done this before," she muttered, gripping the top edges anxiously. "Riding in a shopping cart, I mean."
"Neither have I." A wistful look passed over his face. "I tried once, but Yosuke stopped me before I could. He wasn't too happy about that."
"If he got mad at you, then wouldn't he also be mad at me if I do this?"
"If he was here, maybe." He gave her a confident wink, yet somehow she didn't feel reassured. "But he isn't. Now, where should we go first?"
"Um…" Nanako bit her bottom lip as her mind raced through the possibilities. There were so many exciting stores at Junes that it was difficult to choose where to begin. Before she could make a decision, an overhead speaker blurted out in a peppy voice, "Attention, dear customers! There is a sale at the clothing department that's available today only! Stop on by to get all of the latest fashions at thirty percent off!"
"That seems like a good start," Teddie said, picking with his fingers at his favorite white shirt that was beginning to show signs of wear. "I could use some new clothes."
As the teenager pushed the shopping cart and its occupant through the glass doors, Nanako began to sing happily under her breath. "Everyday's great at your Junes!"
"Ooh, I like this one!" Teddie pressed a piece of fabric against his chest, eyeing himself in front of the mirror. The reflection copied the teenager's movements as he twisted around to see all angles.
"But that's a dress…" Nanako pointed out. She was still sitting in the shopping cart with her chin resting on her crossed arms.
"A guy as manly as me could pull it off."
The teenager bended his arm so the cords of lean muscles were pronounced. However, the sparkly red dress he continued to hold didn't help to boost the masculine gesture. Several women shot him disgusted glares when they walked past.
Noticing the looks, Nanako recommended, "Maybe we should check something else out."
"Oh, alright." Teddie sighed dramatically as he slipped the outfit back on its proper hanger. From the ground he grabbed three large bags, each with the Junes logo printed on the front, and raised them to eye level. "But I'm still getting these ones! That fuzzy jacket is just so soft!"
"How were you able to pay for those?" the girl asked, tilting her head to the side.
"Yosuke let me borrow his credit card."
"But I thought he didn't—"
"So where to next?" Teddie cut her off and grabbed the cart's handle, setting the three bags beside the girl.
Nanako shifted into a more comfortable position in order to make room for the new items; it was beginning to be crowded. Pushed by the blonde, the cart began to navigate out of the rows of hangers and into the mall's main pathway. Nanako watched the aisles as they passed, waiting until a particular one grabbed her attention. It wasn't until she saw a stall lined with racks upon racks of sunglasses, all of different colors and sizes, when she told Teddie to pull the cart over.
Once he obliged, the girl climbed out of the cart and gazed in awe at the different glasses. She immediately reached for a pair of pink ones. With a giggle, she tried them on. Teddie, on the other hand, regarded the merchandise with a wary, unsatisfied expression. This was unusual since the teenager practically loved anything that had to do with clothes and accessories.
A woman with a cheery smile came over to the friends. Judging by her formal outfit and her glasses, she was the stall's clerk.
"Good morning," she said. "These sunglasses are all made with the finest materials and are of the latest fashion. They will suite you perfectly."
Teddie made a 'tsk' sound and raised his head smugly. "These silly things? I can make something better in a heartbeat."
Placing the pink glasses back on the stand, Nanako's eyes traveled back and forth between Teddie's superior expression and the clerk's suddenly tight smile.
"With all due respect, sir, these sunglasses are of top-notch quality." It was obvious the woman was forcing a pleasant expression. "We beat all other competitors in the business, and are the most recommended by customers."
"Maaaybe." The blonde wiggled his eyebrows mischievously. "But does your glasses let you see through fog?" I don't think so!"
The clerk frowned. "No glasses do that. If they did, nobody would be bothered by the fog in Inaba."
"Oh, I promise you that they do exist. That's because I'm the one who makes them." Teddie suddenly whipped around so his back faced Nanako and the clerk. His shoulders slumped forward protectively, as if guarding a treasured secret. Nanako and the clerk looked at each with curious expressions as the teenager bent his head down furtively. A noise that resembled a falling hammer earned inquisitive glances from several passersby.
Then, quick as a flash, Teddie turned around again and whipped something high into the air so it was visible by all. It was the most beautiful pair of glasses that Nanako had ever seen—even the clerk's eyes seemed to widen with admiration. The color of the glasses was a bright red that screamed for attention. Carved into the metal's surface was an intricate pattern of flowers—each leaf and vine were exceedingly detailed—that curled around to the sides, while glimmering rhinestones winked from the front corners.
Several passersby—all women—caught the shine of the crystal-clear lenses, and stopped in their tracks to gawk at the gorgeous spectacles. Nanako caught the muttered words from the crowd: "Are those for sale?" "They make those other glasses seem so drab!" "Hey, who's the cute blonde?"
Nanako decided to ignore the last comment.
The clerk paled as she frantically watched the crowd's wide eyes and awe-struck expressions. Teddie gave another proud smile, obviously enjoying the attention, and handed the glasses to Nanako with a deliberate bow. "Here you go, Nana-chan. They're not prescription glasses, since you don't need them, but they'll let you see through Inaba's bear-fuddlingfog."
Oblivious to the bystanders' jealous looks, Nanako put on the glasses (which conveniently matched her outfit) and smiled at Teddie. "How do I look?"
"Bearutiful." He chuckled at his own pun. "Ah, I crack myself up."
A woman from the crowd walked over to the two with an eager gleam in her eyes, as if she was a child walking into a candy shop. Leaning forward, she tapped Teddie on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, but can you make me a pair of glasses too?"
The clerk immediately swooped in with her best salespersons' smile. "I have a pair that you will absolutely lo—"
Another woman gave the clerk no mind when she turned towards Teddie. "Yeah, can I have a pair too?"
"Does it come in blue?" Someone called from the crowd.
The clerk tried to take control of the conversation but a chorus of eager voices almost instantly snuffed out her voice. Soon Teddie and Nanako were surrounded by an overwhelming horde of people, all shouting out prices and different requests.
Teddie protectively pushed the girl behind him and scowled at the crowd. His eyes narrowed with a fierceness that resembled the look that had appeared when he confronted the earlier bullies. "Teddie glasses are for VIP only! No glasses for you! GROWL!"
With that, the teenager shoved the shopping cart into the heart of the mob, knocking several people over in the process. "Run!" he shouted.
Before Nanako realized what was happening, she was being dragged across Junes by the arm.
A bored voice came out of the overhead speaker. "Clean-up in aisle 6."
"Do you think they're gone?" Teddie asked, anxiously glancing over his shoulder. In order to lose their chasers, Teddie and Nanako had to duck into several stores and hide in the dressing rooms until the crowd (and several mall cops) had passed. Thankfully, no crazy horde was in sight.
Nanako rubbed the part of her arm where he had grabbed her—she was surprised the limb hadn't fallen off. At least she didn't have to ride in that uncomfortable cart any longer.
"I think so," she muttered. "Where are we going now?"
"Hmm…good question." The teenager looked around for a moment. It didn't take long for him to point to a store that had only a few people wandering inside. The sign overhead the building announced it to be a bookstore. "How 'bout over there?" he asked.
Ten minutes later, Nanako raised a thin, colorful book so Teddie could see. "Do you think that Big Bro would like this one?"
Closing the book he was holding, the blonde teenager tilted the black glasses that he was wearing (he hoped they would make him look studious) and peered at the cover.
"My Little Pony," he said, reading the title. A grin spread on his face as he took in the pink Pegasus with big, cartoonish eyes on the front cover. "Oh, he'll love it! Do you think I can get one too?"
"Sure! There's a whole series over by the kids' aisle."
"That's wonderful!" The teenager sounded genuinely thrilled.
Out of curiosity, the girl tapped the open page of the book that Teddie was holding. "What's that one about?"
"Oh, this?" Teddie held it up so she could see. A young, kissing couple with floating hearts in the background dominated the majority of the front cover. "It's explaining all there is about dating. I'm reading it so I can learn how to score with Chie-chan and Yuki-chan. I don't suppose you know what a hot stud is, do you?"
"Um, no... Is it some type of spicy food?"
"I don't think so, but I'm not really sure," he admitted, frowning. "Whenever I ask Sensei, he just gives me a hard look. But I'll tell you if I find out, okay?"
"Mmm-hmm." Nanako gestured to an aisle behind her. "I'm going to go check out the cooking section. Big Bro's friends seem to like cooking a lot, but they can't get anyone to eat their food. I thought that a recipe book might help."
"They need one." Teddie visibly shuddered, as if remembering a bad memory. Though the girls were cute, he had learned very fast to never try their cooking. If you did…God bless your soul.
"How to make Rosemary-Chicken," Nanako muttered, holding the thick cookbook wide open. A mouthwatering picture of golden-skinned chicken, speckled with sprigs of rosemary, took up the upper part of the page. The My Little Pony book was tucked securely between the girl's right arm.
Suddenly there was a rapid tapping on her shoulder and Nanako whirled around. Teddie's blue eyes, wide and startled, filled her line of sight. The girl took a step back.
"Teddie, what's wrong?" she said.
"We need to go," he whispered in an urgent tone, looking back and forth frantically. "Now. Nownownownow!"
"Why? What happened this time?"
The teenager's face turned to a dark red as his lips puckered reluctantly. "I found out what a hot stud is…"
Nanako furrowed her eyebrows in confusion. "And..?"
"And you don't want to know."
"But you promised—"
"Onward to the next store!"
Then just like before, Teddie grabbed the girl by the arm and dragged her out of the store, forcing her to drop the cookbook. She managed to hold on to Big Bro's book as Teddie led her away.
The bookstore's clerk looked up from the shop's cash register and chased after the two, shouting frantically. "Hey! You didn't pay for that!"
But they were already gone.
"Convicts leaving the bookstore," announced the electronic speaker.
A reoccurring pattern was beginning to take form.
"Vanilla bean, chocolate fudge, strawberry…Hmm, which one do you think I should get, Teddie?" Nanako asked, staring up at the multiple cartons of ice cream. When there was no reply, the girl turned around. The aisle behind her was empty except for a woman who was looking at the shelves of canned soups.
"Teddie?" she called again, looking for the teenager.
Nanako followed where the voice was coming from. Turning the corner, she found the blonde standing in front of the refrigerated shelves filled with dairy products. In his hand, he held a thin yellow and white cylinder with a red cap. He was shaking it up and down as if it was an excercise. Stepping closer, Nanako realized the item was a bottle of whipped cream.
"Hey, have you tried this stuff before?" Teddie said, holding the bottle so it was in sight.
"Yeah, you use it for ice cream and stuff," she answered.
"But that's not the only use for it." He moved to lift the cap, but Nanako swatted his hand away.
"You can't open it!" she said, not lifting her hand from the cap. "That would be stealing."
"Don't worry. I'm a VIP." With a confident wink, Teddie brushed off the girl's hand, lifted the cap, and squirted the white substance directly into his mouth. Nanako frowned as she watched him swallow the mouthful in a single gulp.
"Delicious!" He sighed, content. "Want some?"
Before she could answer, a man wearing an olive-colored grocer's apron appeared. "Excuse me, sir, but please do not sample the merchandise," he said, frowning.
The man walked closer and squinted at their faces. "Wait a minute," he said slowly, as recognition dawned. "I know you guys! Everybody's been looking for you troublemakers!Security!"
"It's okay! I'm a VIP—Junes' mascot in the flesh!" Teddie suddenly burst out in a mini-jig that he usually performed at his Junes' part-time job when entertaining children. "See? It's me—the beloved Teddie!"
The grocer wasn't moved. "Security! I found them!"
"This isn't good…" Nanako stepped closer to her friend at the same time that Teddie grabbed several cartons of milk and threw them down. The creamy liquid spilled from the containers, forming a spreading puddle on the floor. "Run!"
They didn't get far before two men, each wearing a dark blue, padded vest, blocked their paths. "Oh-oh…" Nanako swallowed when she saw the white, unmistakable letters printed on their vests.
"Hi, guys." Teddie smiled weakly. "Who wants a bear-hug?"
"Clean up at aisle ten."
Cheeks burning with humiliation, Teddie and Nanako kept their gazes locked on the dull, gray carpet at their feet. The only sounds that filled the tense silence were the disturbingly loud ticking of a clock that hung on the wall and the shuffling of footsteps.
The manager of Junes, an intimidating man with a steely gaze, continued to angrily pace back and forth with his hands shoved deeply in his pockets. He hadn't spoken a single word since they got there.
Nanako squirmed in the uncomfortable chair; it felt like worms were eating away in her stomach. She wished the manager would say something—anything—if only to break this torturous silence. The young girl had never gotten in trouble before, and now seeing how the man was reacting, she hoped she never would again. She wondered if her father would respond in the same way.
Her face turned ashen at the thought of her father actually being there. He was a police officer! It was his job to put criminals in jail… Would he put her in jail, too?
Nanako glanced from the corner of her eye at Teddie. He seemed to be looking just as nervous as she was. His eyes kept glancing at the clock anxiously.
At last the manager stopped his pacing to stand in front of Teddie and Nanako. His daunting presence seemed to enlarge until the friends felt like two scared, cornered mice. Predicting the man's enraged face, neither of them dared to meet his eyes.
His words began slow and quiet, as if building up suspense. "You made a fool out of an employee and her products, injured several valued customers with a shopping cart, stole a book, and defiled unauthorized food products." Nanako winced at each accusation, taking them like a dagger to the heart. "What do you two have to say for yourselves?"
"We're sorry," the friends mumbled dejectedly at the same time, still refusing to look up. "We won't do it again."
Nanako raised her head an inch. She said in barely more than a whisper, "Are you going to take us to jail?"
There was a moment of pause and Nanako looked up. Teddie did the same.
The man seemed to almost smile, though the hardness in his eyes didn't diminish. "No," he said curtly. "Neither one of you are of age to go to jail. Both of your records appear spotless, as well. Your actions today are the signs of reckless, inappropriate, and immature children." There was a loaded silence as the manager stared at them until they were forced to meet his gaze. "But not of criminals."
Nanako and Teddie quickly glanced at each other, eyes widening.
"So…" the teenager said hesitantly. "We're not in trouble?"
"Oh, I didn't say that." The man crossed his arms. "There are still repercussions that need to be accounted for."
Teddie nodded morosely. "I'll take full responsibility, sir."
The girl quickly turned to him. "Teddie, you don't have to—"
He continued as if she hadn't spoken at all. "I talked Nana-chan into all of it. It's not her fault."
Not revealing any emotion, the manager solemnly nodded. "Both of you will pay for the things you had taken—specifically the children's book, the spilled milk, and the whip cream—and all bought items will be returned."
Teddie's face fell a little further at the thought of losing his new stylish clothes, but he didn't say anything as the man continued. "Your guardians will also be informed of your actions—" Nanako nervously swallowed—"and Teddie's job as Junes' mascot will be suspended for two weeks. Afterwards, Yosuke will keep you under personal supervision for a month. Understood?"
"Yes, sir," the two numbly replied.
"You may go."
Teddie and Nanako stood from their seats and turned to leave. They were about to step through the door when the manager's voice stopped them.
"You know," he said with a strange gleam in his eyes, "I did the exact same things when I was younger. Even squirted a tomato at the boss's white shirt."
The two friends were at the Junes parking lot a few minutes later when a ringing came from Nanako's pocket. She pulled out her phone, and when she saw Big Bro's name on the screen, she pressed it to her ear. "Hello?"
Her cousin's voice came out rushed and wavering in volume, as if he was yanking his phone away from someone as he talked. "Hey, Nanako. Yosuke's phone is dead so he wants to use mine to tell Teddie something. Do you know if he's—"
There was a muffling noise from the other end and Big Bro protests faded away. Suddenly a different, clear voice erupted from the speaker. "Hi, Nanako." It was clear Yosuke was struggling to keep his voice light. "Hand the phone over to Teddie, okay? I know he's there."
"Um, okay." Nanako looked to where Teddie was standing next to her, obviously yearning to know what the conversation was about, and handed him the phone. "It's for you."
The blonde took it and brought it to the side of his head. "You've reached the Magnificent Teddie. Please do not kill me at the beep."
An earsplitting yell came from the phone and Teddie hastily pulled it away from his ear, grimacing. Nanako could hear every word as clear as day. "YOU MORON! HOW COULD YOU USE MY CREDIT CARD? DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH TROUBLE I'M IN? AND HOW COULD YOU INFLUENCE NANAKO LIKE THAT? ARE YOU TRYING TO TEACH HER HOW TO BE A CRIMINAL? WE BOTH COULD HAVE BEEN FIRED! IS THERE ANYTHING BUT STUFFING IN THAT THICK HEAD OF YOURS? WHEN I COME HOME, I'M GONNA STICK YOU IN AN OVEN AND—"
It took ten more minutes until Yosuke calmed down enough to give the blonde one final warning. There were hints at the end that involved skinning and castrating. Nanako didn't dare ask what castrating meant.
Once Teddie handed Nanako back her phone, she hesitantly said, "So what did he..?" The words trailed off.
The teenager's face was completely ashen white as if he'd just seen a ghost. Excluding the more derogatory comments, he summed up, "Yosuke says I need to be beary good…"