The Homra bar was already ringing with boisterous familiar voices by the time Yata came down the stairs in his costume. He stepped in without waiting, pleasantly assaulted by the sight of the warmly lit walls as well as the increased volume of welcoming noise. "Yo! Everyone's here, huh?"
"Chitose's not," Eric pointed out quietly from his seat at the bar. The helmet-mask he'd gotten nearly covered his face, the prominent fins stretching to either side and above his head. There was more blue on that and the rest of his costume than Yata would've ever felt comfortable in.
Not that blue was a bad color or anything, especially now, but... well... yeah.
Ignoring that, Yata stepped forward. "Huh. Vaporeon?"
"Yeah." Eric nodded slightly, and gave Yata a once-over. "Showing your true colors, huh?"
"Shut up! Arcanine is fierce, okay?" He grinned, brandishing the furry paws that went with the mane and distinct helmet-mask of his costume. "I'll be Anna's favorite, for sure! I'm a fire type, after all."
"Shouhei is too," Fujishima's quiet voice chimed in, before Eric could respond. His normal head of spiky hair was covered with a spiky yellow headpiece with long ears pointing back. There were even more spikes coating his matching clothing, and he had a white spiked collar.
Yata blinked at him, impressed. "You two went as Eevolutions?"
"Us three," Shouhei added from behind him, and Yata turned to find himself facing the firey equivalent of his other two friends. Pale mounds of fluff decorated his head and neck in addition to the ears and fuzzy costume, and a good-natured grin had spread beneath the mask. "It's not complete without the full original trio, right?"
"Heh. Guess so!" Yata grinned, a rush of nostalgia hitting him unexpectedly. "Man, I used to play this game so much... wonder if it's still kicking around at Mom's place."
Honestly, when Anna had brought up the idea of a Pokemon themed Halloween party – with a surprisingly earnest face – he hadn't wanted to admit just how much it appealed to him. It wasn't like he played them these days – well, not much – but the games had been addicting when he was younger, and he had a lot of good memories. It was like a blast from the past.
Right. Speaking of which...
"Yata-san!" Kamamoto cut into that thought, beaming as he approached them. "Great costume! It's a perfect match!"
"That's what I said," Eric murmured.
Yata shot him a sour look. "Didn't ask you." He turned his attention back to Kamamoto, whose grin was like a shrunken version of the enormous toothy smile plastered across his purple-clad belly. "Gengar, huh? Not bad."
"Think so?" Kamamoto patted the front of the costume with satisfaction. "Anna said it was pretty good."
With that reminder, Yata raised his head, peering around his friends. "Where is Anna, anyway?"
"Where else?" Kusanagi answered that, shooting him a knowing grin from behind the bar. There was a large pokeball symbol proudly displayed above his head – the direct result of a battle of wills that he had inevitably lost to their former King. He nodded in the direction of the couch where Mikoto had spent most of his time. "Passing judgement."
"Ah... right." Yata took in his casual appearance and frowned. "Oi – where's your costume, Kusanagi-san?"
"Hm? I'm wearing it." Kusanagi turned, holding up a plastic imitation of a badge between his fingers. "Gym leader."
"The hell?" Yata shook his head, attempting to cross his arms before remembering the bulky paws and setting them awkwardly on his hips instead. "That's cheating!"
Kusanagi winked at him, clearly unperturbed. "I got permission from above, don't worry."
"Yeah, yeah." If Anna was okay with it, whatever. "All right! Time to show off my awesome costume!"
"Good luck, Yata-san!"
"Oi... you make it sound like Anna's gonna be harsh about it." Yata muttered that to himself, pushing forward to approach the couch. "Not like she'll have a rating system or anyth – "
"Five," Anna's voice carried forward, unusually stern. When he looked up, she was sitting up straight, eyeing Bandou critically. "And a half. Or maybe a quarter."
"Huh? J-just five?" Bandou looked crestfallen. His costume was blue and black with pale yellow in the midsection, ears standing up sharp above his hood. "Kamamoto got a seven, though..."
"He captured the spirit of Gengar," Anna explained seriously, her eyes straightforward and unapologetic. "Lucario needs a cool aura."
"Wait – I'm not cool...?"
Yata blinked, shaking off the mild surprise. Somehow, it felt like he should've known. Letting a rueful grin spread on his face, he stepped forward to put Bandou out of his misery. "Anna!"
"Misaki." She looked up with a small smile, hands folded in her lap. Anna had chosen the female player from Ruby and Sapphire, and he had to admit, the bandana was sorta cute sitting on her pale hair.
It was red too, so it worked well.
"Arcanine was a good choice," she praised him, and raised on finger to her lips in quiet contemplation for a brief second before pronouncing confidently, "Eight."
"All right!" Eight was pretty good, right?
Bandou heaved a sigh, shoulders sagging. "Yata, too... What'd I do wrong, huh?"
Yata ignored him, grinning at Anna instead. "It's cool, right? A fierce fire beast is suited for Yatagarasu!"
"Wouldn't a flying type be better suited for Yatagarasu?" Dewa commented from his other side.
“No.” Anna refuted that before he had a chance to. Her expression was serious. “Arcanine suits Misaki’s red.”
“See? Anna gets it.” Yata shot him a triumphant smirk, and received a raised eyebrow in return. Dewa was dressed as Squirtle, complete with a plush shell on his back. It somehow suited him surprisingly well. “It’s because I’m a strong fighter, right, Anna?”
“Misaki is loyal,” she responded calmly, and balled her small hands into fists with a kind of earnest confidence. “Arcanine is the type to charge ahead without thinking twice for the sake of its friends.”
For a second, he just blinked at her, a little thrown by the fervency, and then grinned widely. “Yeah!”
“Brace yourself,” Dewa said suddenly, voice dry. He was looking over Yata’s shoulder towards the door. “Chitose just got here.”
“Eh? Why’d I need to brace myself for – ? Geh!” As he spun around, he caught sight of the girl first, walking shoulder-to-shoulder with Chitose and staring up at him with shining eyes.
Seriously – why’d he have to bring a girl here, huh?
After that moment of consternation, though, he caught sight of Chitose’s costume and nearly forgot about the girl altogether.
“She’s like my little sister, you know,” Chitose was saying, waving a generous hand. His arms were clothed in green, a large triangle of chest showing above the robe that cut to white at the waist, and his hair had been slicked forward on one side and pulled back on the other. “I wouldn’t just wear this costume for anyone.”
If anything, the girl beamed wider at him. “That’s so sweet!”
Yata stared at the ridiculous outfit, nonplussed. “What the hell…?”
“Gardevoir,” Anna muttered behind him. When he turned, she was frowning at Chitose. “Four,” she concluded critically after a moment.
“All right!” Bandou looked relieved. “I’m not the worst, at least!”
Dewa let out a rueful breath. “I thought it was oddly fitting, personally…”
“No.” Anna’s tone was stern. She straightened in her seat. “Four is generous.”
That was more or less that, Yata decided, watching his friends joke around. I saw everyone’s costumes, so it’s about time, huh? Breaking away from the crowd, he made his way across to the door leading downstairs.
Kusanagi caught his gaze as he passed. Not for long – more like just a second or two – but there was a serious look in his eyes that Yata couldn’t mistake. For all they’d misunderstood each other’s feelings in the past, there would always be that one thing they’d shared that neither of them was likely to forget.
Both of us… at that time…
Kusanagi’s eyes slid past him, and that second of clarity ended. Yata took in a sharp, determined breath, slid the giant furry paw from his right hand, and reached for the door handle.
Everything in the room downstairs was as he’d left it – tidy and in good order. The projector was off and the room was dark and still. When he flipped on the lights, his objective came into view: on the windowsill, framed by the curtain, Totsuka’s old camera was still set up. Waiting.
There was a lump rising in his throat; Yata swallowed hard, trying to shake it off, and made his way down the stairs. He bent over to face the camera fully and reached out to start recording.
It was weirdly embarrassing to be doing it by himself. “Yo, Totsuka-san,” he started, and managed a small smile, pushing forward through the rush of self-consciousness. “It’s a little weird to be talking to you like this, but hey, how else, right?”
That wasn’t too bad. Got this. Yata plunged onward, determined.
“Kinda thought you might wanna hear about today, since you always liked stuff like this. We’re having a themed costume party for Halloween this year. For Anna.”
It wasn’t the first time they’d had a party for Anna, but somehow, saying it in this situation brought him back to that one time they’d planned one and never ended up having it. Yata swallowed, trying to force down the lump in his throat before speaking again.
“It sucks that you won’t be here, but hey…” At that, he managed a lopsided smile. “At least you got me to tell you ‘bout it. I figure it’s about time someone did.”
He wasn’t really sure where the idea had come from, honestly. Just… when Anna explained the theme to him, the thought had kinda popped into his head – Totsuka-san would’ve been thrilled – and somehow it felt like he should’ve thought of this sooner.
“Sorry. Y’know.” Yata cleared his throat again, feeling that odd sense of anxiety again. “For making you wait so long.”
Not wanting to dwell on it for too long, he moved on. “Anyway, it’s Pokemon themed. Like the game? Dunno if you know it. You probably do, right?” He didn’t have to force the grin at that, slapping the paw he was still wearing against his chest. The camera may or may not have caught the motion, but it didn’t matter. “Pretty sure you already guessed it, but I’m Arcanine. Awesome, huh? Anna rated me an eight!” A little huff of a laugh escaped him. “She’s been pretty picky, too, so it’s high praise. No surprise there!”
Talking about her reminded him, though… “Oh – right, I forgot to say Anna’s the trainer. Ruby and Sapphire version, if you know it. Figured you would. And I know if you were here, you woulda helped her out, but she did okay on her own.”
Somehow, that had the lump rising up again fast; Yata swallowed, and pressed on. “Anna’s strong, y’know? Stronger than me.” He shrugged, feeling the tug of another rueful smile. “Guess it’s weird to hear me say that, but it’s true. I just try to listen to her and do my best. It’s worked so far.”
That lump didn’t seem to be going anywhere this time; letting out a sigh, Yata gave up on it. “You and Mikoto-san… I miss you.” He could hear the waver of emotion in his voice, but didn’t bother to try and correct it this time. “All of us do, all the time.”
When he raised his head to look above the camera where the person operating it would normally be, there was a moment of jarring disconnect as he took in the reflection of the light on the window panes rather than the kind, laughing eyes. “Heh.” Yata lowered his head again, shutting his eyes with another small smile.
Not that he could ever forget, but still… sometimes he was pretty good at fooling himself.
Well, whatever. On impulse, he stood, reaching for the camera. “I was gonna just tell you about everyone’s costumes,” he started, flipping it around so it aimed in front of him as he started for the stairs again, “but hell, it’s better if you see for yourself, right?” The grin was back on his face, the ache at the back of his throat fading slowly. “That’s what you’d say if you were here, isn’t it, Totsuka-san?”
When he opened the door to step back out, the warmth and the friendly chatter rushed up to greet him like the cheerful wave of an old friend.