Writing journal #004
Your appetite is so dangerous.
Persona 4 - A Barrel in the Sea (1/7) 
02 Oct 2009
Bury my worries deep
Title: A Barrel in the Sea
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama
Word Count: 1,915
Prompt: Yukiko's parents find out she's romantically involved with Chie. When her parents demand that Yukiko end it, she refuses and is subsequently thrown out off the Amagi Inn. She can't stay with Chie because her parents are still on the fence about their relationship... but then Dojima-san, feeling sympathetic, offers her Souji's old bedroom.

How does Yukiko deal with being practically disowned? How does Dojima-san feel about his new house guest? And how much does Nanako-chan know? And can Yukiko and Chie stay together, or will life just pull them apart?

Notes: You'd think long Chie/Yukiko fics would be more common, but it's hard to find anything with them as much else than a secondary pairing. Insert 20,000 word fic to fill in this void here.

Title from the Hem song "In a Barrel At Sea."




Yukiko dreaded returning home. There was a family of German tourists staying at the inn, and, naturally, the tourists didn’t speak Japanese anymore than Yukiko spoke their tongue. Of the entire inn’s staff, only her father spoke German. “A good language to learn for the tourist trade,” he had said vaguely when Yukiko commented on his fluency, in a way that suggested that he thought Yukiko ought to learn it. And what better way to learn it than by having her attend to the German tourists personally?

But more than that, she was bracing herself against a storm that could break at any moment. The week before, Chie had told her parents about the two of them. A more accurate description of what had happened would be that the news had fallen out of her mouth, but Yukiko didn’t resent that, not when she hadn’t made her fair share of slips, too. A casual remark she dropped into a letter to Souji had ended with an awkwardly worded, tentative congratulations that she had to turn aside, though she desperately wanted to accept it, and everyone who worked at the front desk and witnessed Yukiko kissing Chie goodbye at the door more than once.

The workers hadn’t said anything. The Inn’s staff had always been the epitome of discretion. No, what she was really worried about was the Satonakas making a call to her parents in the middle of the day, when she and Chie were still in school. She’d return home, and her parents would be sitting at the table, all terse and tense and silent. She’d walk in and know what they meant.

“You’re not fit to run this place,” they’d say. “How can we let a homosexual take this Inn?”

The thought made her stomach tie itself into knots. She had to be brave. Chie had been brave, and now it was her turn.

She just wished that being brave didn’t mean being terrified of the future at the same time.


---


Yukiko’s mother cornered her in the kitchens.

“You look pale, dear,” she said. “Kasai-san, could you make some porridge?”

“I’m not sick,” Yukiko said. “I’m just… I suppose I’m thinking too hard.”

“Nonsense. There’s no such thing. Tell your mother what’s wrong.”

“I’m seeing someone.”

“Well, I’ll be,” said her mother. “You? Finally?”

“I’m seeing another woman.”

She was doing more than just seeing, really, but she didn’t need to tell her mother that. And her mother had said, “Oh, for god’s sake!” and stormed out of the kitchen in a fit. Yukiko wanted to bury herself beneath the tatami mats and never come back up, but her legs and arms and body were frozen stiff and all she could do was to curse herself for saying anything at all.

Her mother was back in the kitchen, breathing heavily, but visibly calmer and less out-of-sorts.

“This is just a phase,” her mother said. “It’s just a phase. That’s all there is to it. You might think you’re in love today, but really, that’s not love, dear, that’s infatuation.”

“It’s not.

“Don’t argue against me. I would have thought you would’ve gotten over this silly sort of thing when you were younger. You were always such a sensible girl.”

“It’s not silly, and it’s not—”

“Don’t argue against me,” said her mother, this time even more sharply.

“I’m not arguing,” Yukiko said. “You’re the one who is—”

“You must be feeling a bit sick. Yes, that’s it. When your father comes home, we’ll have a talk. Don’t think you can get out of it, dear, this is a family matter. I expect to see you at dinner.” And with that, she swept out of the kitchen.

Yukiko stared at the place where her mother had occupied a scant second before. Her father. She had known on an intellectual level that she would see him, yet—

Kasai put a plate of steamed buns in front of her.

“Your favorite, Yuki-chan,” Kasai said, squeezing her shoulder. “I know how much you love red bean paste.”

She hadn’t had much of an appetite, but she ate the buns, grateful for the silent support offered by the Inn’s staff. Maybe things would go well.


---


The ironic part of this was that two years ago, Yukiko would’ve used this opportunity to skip straight out of town. Except right now she was at the gazebo by the Samegawa feeling—feeling like an idiot. She had forgotten her phone. She couldn’t believe that she had forgotten her phone. She had been so—so angry when she left the Inn that she had more-or-less floated out of her room, hit the road, and wound up here before she knew it with a bag of clothes, a fan, and mismatched socks.

Chie would probably be trying to call her right about now. She wondered if her parents would answer the phone or throw it away somewhere.

She wondered if she’d be able to return home and pick it up.

Maybe she’d stop by Naoto’s house—but Naoto was out solving a case an hour away, and Yukiko didn’t know if Naoto’s grandfather would let her stay. Probably not. It was too short of a notice, and she didn’t want to face the scrutiny of a detective. She could imagine Naoto standing in front of her, making one deduction after another, and she didn’t want to learn what Naoto’s grandfather could figure out by piecing together a few rumors and a couple of off-hand observations.

Maybe Kanji-kun’s, but her parents were friends with Kanji’s mother, and that would involve passing through the shopping district. Too much risk, she decided. People might see her looking upset, and that would draw attention to the Inn. She still had her family’s reputation to think about, whether or not she had been kicked out of the Inn. Or if she had run out of it, whichever one it was. The fight had been one big blur, really, a mess of quiet, but steely, words and anger boiling just under the surface of every statement.

Her father had backed her mother immediately, and Yukiko, despite herself, was drawn into arguing with both her parents. The more she argued, the angrier they all became. Every word out of her parents’ mouths felt like an attack. It had been like… it had almost been like facing her Shadow, and hearing all her early doubts being, suddenly and pointedly, flung back at her. Words flew out before she could even think them through. It was the first time she had ever raised her voice to her parents, and no one was ready for how quickly the argument escalated. It had gotten to the point where she was afraid her father would hit her, but all he said was, “Get out of my sight.”

In her temper, Yukiko had said, “Well, fine, I will” and left straight away.

But it really wasn’t fine, was it? And even though Chie hadn’t talked too much about what her parents thought about their relationship, she tried too hard to deflect questions about what had happened on the night she told her parents, and... really, she’d go to Chie’s house if she weren’t afraid of being dragged into another fight. She couldn’t do it anymore. The fighting, the arguing, and the crying added up to a massive migraine and feeling as though she was a grain of sand at the edge of a waterfall. She wanted to talk with Chie. She wanted to do anything except sit here and stew in her own thoughts.

People were on the path. Yukiko moved to leave, seized by a sudden panic that it might be someone she knew. Then she regained her wits, and sat back down on the gazebo. Really, it was night. It wasn’t as though anyone would see her, sitting up here on a muggy summer’s night.

That was what she thought, until Nanako, of all people, spotted her and ran up to her. Dojima turned to face her, and practically blinded her with the flashlight.

“Amagi?” he said. “What are you doing up here?”

“I was just thinking,” she said quickly. “Nothing that you have to worry about, Dojima-san. Were you and Nanako-chan taking a walk?”

“It’s become a habit with the two of us lately,” Dojima said with a wry smile. “Are you here with someone? Your boyfriend, maybe?”

“What? Oh, no...” She trailed off without really meaning to. Something about having the flashlight in her eyes made her feel almost like a criminal.

Dojima’s eyes turned sympathetic. He switched off the flashlight and sat beside her on the bench. He bade Nanako to go play on the fields a bit more, and took out a cigarette.

“Do you mind?” he said. She shook her head. He lit the cigarette and breathed in. “I should quit one of these days,” he said ruefully. “When Souji was around, I smoked less. I don’t even smoke in the house now, but sometimes…” He stared out across the Samegawa, and then turned his attention to her again. Yukiko was taken aback for a moment. Of course. Dojima was a detective, too. “Are you running away from home again?” he asked.

“No.”

“Really. I remember that your parents used to call the station at all hours of the night when you were a kid. You were always trying to sneak out of the town. I used to think you were doing it for attention, but there’s something else going on, isn’t there?”

The cigarette burned a faint ring of red, ashes forming on the tip and dripping down.

“This… this isn’t like the last times.”

“I see,” he said. He was resting his hands on his knees, the cigarette burning away into smoke. “Satonaka can’t take you in?”

“Her parents aren’t very happy with either of us right now.”

“Is that how it is.” ‘Is that how it is.’ When Yukiko was little, she used to think that was an incredibly adult expression. As she got older, she became more irritated by it: it seemed like a fast, easy way for people to ignore what she was saying, to avoid answering her questions, to avoid the subtleties in what she was saying. She didn’t sense any of that from Dojima. There were the words he said, yes, but then there was what was going on in his head. He was… he was thinking things out. Considering things. Using a bit of discretion, using tact.

She felt, suddenly, grateful and glad that it was Dojima who found her.

“If you have a place I could stay for the night,” she said, halting a bit because she didn’t want to press him, didn’t want to overstretch her boundaries. But she wasn’t going to get his house by waiting for him to extend his hand, and Dojima was a kind, honest man. She knew that.

But she didn’t want to come off as rude. Years of manners and propriety kept her from completing her sentence. She swallowed, and waited for judgment to fall.

Dojima nodded. He dropped the cigarette and ground it with his shoe. Then he bent down and picked up the stub and said, a bit sheepishly, “I shouldn’t be littering.” He took her bag for her. “Just until you can patch things up with your folks,” he said. “Got that?”

“Yes, Dojima-san,” she said, bowing her head to him. “I’m… I truly appreciate your generosity.”

Her gratitude seemed to embarrass him. It was embarrassing her a little, too, but she meant it.

“Don’t let it bother you too much,” he said gruffly. “Whatever it is, I’m sure you and your parents can talk through it. I’ll let you have Souji’s old room until things clear up. Until then, make yourself at home. God knows that I owe you and your friends a debt of my own.”

The three of them walked back home together, Dojima and Nanako in front, and Yukiko following.

The starry skies above the flood plains reminded her of nights she had spent with Chie searching for constellations and mythological figures stalking the dark skies. The thought of it made her miss Chie even more.




part 2. | part 3. | part 4. | part 5. | part 6. | part 7.
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