If you could give up tricks and cleverness, that would be the cleverest trick.
Kismet was exactly the word for it. Daisuke, so offended by the entire concept of this date, and entirely furious with the universe for allowing it to happen, was at least a little mollified by the fact that Ken had happened make reservations at a restaurant owned by one of his more illustrious cousins. This intelligence came to him courtesy of Inoue Miyako, who had taken it upon herself to give Daisuke minute-to-minute updates on the situations, sharing non-private tidbits from her email exchanges with Hikari. It was without a second thought…to be frank, it was practically without an original thought… that Daisuke instantly decided that he must witness this “betrayal” firsthand and hopefully satisfy himself on the correctness of his prior assumption of Ken’s untouchableness.
All that hand holding sent Daisuke into fits.
He had lurked around the Kamiya’s apartment terrace for the better part of the afternoon, not wanting to miss the moment that his former best friend arrived to collect his former love interest for an evening of illicit delights.
With uncharacteristic patience, he hid behind bushes, strategically safe from prying eyes as he exchanged any number of emails with Takeru and Miyako, who both had been apprised of his plan. Takeru disapproved, whereas Miyako provided detailed instructions on how to successfully skulk. Daisuke actually found it exciting, after a while. I am...Superfly!
At precisely 7:27, Ken strolled up the walk. He might have arranged the time with casualness, but he adhered to it with military precision.
Rarely had Daisuke been afforded the opportunity to spy on..err..observe Ken like this. It made him feel a little better to dwell on Ken’s priggishness, because he didn’t want to have to deal with the fact that Ken looked so impressive just then. In the years since the Digital World Fiasco, Ken had grown quite tall, whereas Daisuke had stubbornly only gained a few inches. There had always been a disparity between himself and most other boys, and the past few years had widened the gap considerably. Daisuke had enough personality that he usually felt equal to anyone, of any height.
But not Ken. The way that Ken crossed the sidewalk was criminal, his refined height and slimness enhancing his strongly Japanese looks, his tigerish gait making him look sexual. Deceptively sexual. Ken was always so damned…imperial. That’s why he looked sexy, not because he wanted it.
Fucking deceptive bastard.
Daisuke suddenly felt quite small.
After Ken collected Hikari, Daisuke had followed doggedly. When Hikari pulled Ken’s hand into her own, Daisuke almost choked on his own spit and paroxysmal rage.
How dare she?
Daisuke might have been mad at Ken right then, but he firmly believed in Ken’s essential innocence. Ken’s just a child. A stupid kid. She’s using him!
Dark scenarios intruded into Daisuke’s susceptible mind. Hikari’s a temptress, a demoness. That must be it! That’s why Ken is hurting me which is SO not like him! She’s cast a spell! She’s evil, pure unadulterated evil!
This line of thinking made him feel better.
For a while.
Okay, so Hikari’s not really evil.
She’s a nice girl. Very…reliable.
All was tranquility.. until Hikari reached up to kiss Ken on the cheek. Daisuke's thoughts at that moment?
“ Ne, Ken?”
Playing with his food as if it were serious business, Ken looked up guiltily. I’m doing it again. Under ideal (i.e. non-sexually charged circumstances), Ken found Hikari to be quite engaging. High school probably would have been pretty lonely without her: her daily presence reminded him of his resolve to honor the lessons that the Digital World had taught him, to be real. Even Daisuke never offered so much; he simply was never around when the most potent temptations occurred.
Who was it who sought him out to encourage him during homeroom? Who powdered him with eraser dust with alarming regularity? Who helped fend off the social parasites with her own deft expertise? Hikari. Hikari, out of all probability. Because of her, he had been able to fall in with the most interesting people at school, the quirky and cute friends that he wanted…rather then the suave, cruel set that wanted to call him their own. Hikari was a true friend, an important one. Valued.
And yet… it was all Ken could do not to fall over in boredom. His natural defenses were kicking in, and every time his date slipped into tender conversation, something vital inside of Ken turned off. It didn’t help that Hikari didn’t seem the least bit disturbed by this flagrant indifference.
If anything, she was feeding off it.
“Hmm?” Ken replied after a moment, his head turned to watch other couples at the restaurant, absently twirling the straw in his soda.
“Where do you think we should go this Spring, then? Hawaii?”
This almost was enough to capture Ken’s attention. Surely, surely she can’t be suggesting that we…? Ken shook himself slightly. No. She’s just talking about the class trip. She’s on the selection committee… I'm an idiot.
“Whatever. That would be fine, I guess.”
Hikari leaned forward, tapping Ken’s plate with her chopsticks. “Nonsense! You must have an opinion.”
Ken leaned back, fatigued beyond belief. Why can’t I focus? “Not really. I’m not going.”
“No! I’m counting on you!” Hikari forbade warmly, her voice a caress. “I can’t invite Miyako or any of the others, so you will be the only one of my old friends who can go. I need you.” She assumed a wheedling tone. “You are the only boy I can trust, in any case. I’ll want your protection!”
“I have commitments,” he replied tersely.
Hikari frowned, her smooth forehead wrinkling slightly between her eyebrows as she tried to recall if this was something he’d discussed in the past. “..and they would be?” she said finally.
“I promised Daisuke…” Ken started, then stopped. He must hate me. Here I am, on a date with Hikari, and he’ll hate me forever, most likely. I knew that. I asked for it, in a stupid fit of pique. So what plans, exactly, can I presume are still binding?
“Oh, that.” Hikari said dismissively. “ I can’t believe he’d hold you to a promise you’d made years ago.” With a seductive smile, Hikari kicked her foot against Ken’s, causing him to sigh in exasperation.
“I never break my promises to Daisuke, Hikari.” It had been a crazy, reckless thing to promise. But Ken had felt he owed it to his friend, after all the things he had taken care of on Ken's behalf. Besides, at the age of 11 it had seemed exotic and exciting…
“I can’t believe the both of you still do that, year after year. It’s so… childish.” Hikari rolled her eyes, adopting a tolerantly bemused expression, her foot still kicking into Ken’s with all the flirtatious skills at her command.
Ken didn’t feel like justifying himself. Really, all he wanted to do was go home and call Daisuke, telling him that the date had been a bust and that he would never do it again. But in a way, this turn of the conversation was engaging him, waking him up. Like toying with a painfully loose tooth, it felt good to talk about Daisuke. Look, here’s a person who will know him for always, even if I don’t. My own foolish pride, ridiculous decisions, and above all, gayness— it will destroy the friendship for sure. But maybe, maybe.. this date isn’t such a bad thing after all. A girl who Daisuke loved… if I date her, I will always have a piece of him, through her…. “Mmm? How so?” Make her talk… Make her talk about him. That’s what I’ll do.
“Well, neither of you is exactly the creative type, right? So why the artsy boot camp? You aren’t ever going to be concert pianist, and Daisuke’s sure as hell not going to be a painter. It’s not like you work hard on these things during the rest of the year. Dabbling is fun, dabbling is good. And it’s true that you are both talented amateurs. But hell! For years now you have both skipped out on the most important bonding time you could have with your classmates, in favour of this adventure. Is it worth it?”
“The artsy boot camp,” as Hikari had dubbed it, was actually a Julliard-like academy tucked away in the northern wilds of Japan. Daisuke had never bothered to tell anyone besides Ken his fondest dream- to become a manga artist. And in fact, he was more then a dabbler… a lot more. Years ago, Ken had seen some of Daisuke’s pictures, and found them impressive enough to encourage him to continue in this vein. Daisuke, ever worshipful of Ken’s good opinion, quickly seized on that approval, and began art lessons that only Ken and his family knew about. These yearly trips were a reward for Daisuke’s hard work by his parents… and Ken’s participation in the “boot camp” was in part for moral support. However, Ken’s promise, to abandon all future class trips to instead tinker around with the piano in a decidedly amateurish fashion, has also been secured for a completely different reason… but that’s a story for another time.
Ken thought about all these things, as well as the possibility that the promise might be nullified forever, either because of tonight, or another night: hurting Daisuke seemed inevitable. “Worth it?” he tasted the words curiously, wonderingly. Is it even possible that time with Daisuke could be anything but?
“Yeah.” Hikari misread his question for doubt, and pressed her “advantage” ruthlessly. “Think of it. You will have sun, volcanoes, beaches, and me. You’d like that, I hope? Daisuke would understand, I know it.”
Everything felt so surreal. “You think so?” Hikari, Hikari… you didn’t see the pain in his eyes that I elicited, just by proposing this stupid solitary date.
“Absolutely!” Hikari shook her head winningly, and her subsequent smile was like a kiss. Dazzling, surprising. Hikari, of the best beauty. In this moment of confusion, a waiter stepped up to the table, and took Hikari's empty water glass gently, filling it slowly and expertly. Neither Ken nor Hikari looked up, caught up as they were in this mini-emotional tableau. She kept rubbing his ankle, and he wanted it to stop. And yet... he also wanted to want her to continue.
Ken’s feelings were very complex. He wanted to be attracted to her, she was making herself so wide open for it. He wanted to slap her… it seemed unnatural for anyone to have that careless level of self-confidence. He wanted to beg her to reconsider her rejection of Daisuke, all those years ago... Maybe the boy didn’t love her anymore, but he could, oh he could!…
Above all, Ken wanted Daisuke’s happiness. He wanted to be an instrument of it.
I will be straight for him. I want him to hate me if he needs to. I want to forget him. I want to touch him. I need him. I should never see him again. If I don’t see him this evening I will die. I wish I could tell him the truth. I want to shield him from it, and anything else that might confuse or pain him. I want. Ooh, how I want.
My selfishness is amazing.
Ken leaned in towards Hikari, adopting a conspiratorial tone, absently holding his glass out to the waiter, to have it refilled. "I'm not convinced." Gently, he kicked her back, which stopped her sensual rubbing and yet made him seem all the more winsome. "I think he'd mind."
"You are no fun!" she pouted. With her customary poise, she sniped a riceball off Ken's plate, and popped it in her mouth. She then stuck out her tongue, little pieces of rice still sticking to it.
"Attractive," Ken noted wryly. "Very, very attractive."
Hikari was lost in thought for a moment, and then a determined look suffused her face with light and warmth. "So, have I told you yet what I've decided to be when I grow up?"
"No..." Ken answered, feeling the malaise setting in again as the topic shifted away from Daisuke and to inconsequential matters.
"Have you ever heard of Herbalism?"
Midori.. Natsuko.. Rei... Ayame.. Kimi.. Mai.. oooh, Mai… Sakura.. Idoru.. bitch!.. Yukiko... Hermione… Lian.. Shanta.. hell, All those girls from American University.. Hikari…oh, no never“I’m too good for you” Hikari. I keep forgetting…
After some begging and bribery, Daisuke found himself in the corner of his cousin’s restaurant with silver in hand and conquest on the mind. The fact that he was dressed as a waiter was purely for effect… he wasn’t allowed to mingle among the “guests” upon pain of death. What he was allowed to do was sit behind a tasteful screen-- a latticework of wood and ivy-- and sulk.
Trying to make himself feel better by listing all of his past girlfriends was an admirable strategy, but one that backfired when Daisuke glumly concluded that he had loved none of them. And once Hikari’s name slipped into the list, there was no help but to deteriorate into sarcastic self-flagellation. Was she really my first love? After everything that’s happened, could it be that she was my only love, frigid condescending bitch that she is? Is that why I am so fucked up? For the 467th time that hour, Daisuke’s eyes strayed from the tarnished teapot that he was polishing, over to the far corner where his friends dined on curry and rice. His line of site was really quite decent… Ken and Hikari were both in profile, and Daisuke could even see some of what was going on under the table.
Thus the glumness.
Did it help that Ken was obviously suffering? A little. Daisuke, knowing his friend’s moods, had been keen to pick up on the indifference shading into torqued, muscular boredom. Actually, when Daisuke caught a wince, he lifted up a silent cheer. Very good, my friend! Show that bitch! But his moment of triumph didn’t last long, because he saw that Ken was obviously making some kind of effort, training himself to accept Hikari’s attention with grace and slowly growing interest.
And why, by all that is unfucking holy, do I keep calling Hikari a bitch? She’s lovely. Nice. Just because she rejected me…
Jealousy works in interesting ways. Daisuke might not have realized it…no, he didn’t realize it. He couldn't. Trying to make himself jealous of Ken for Hikari’s sake, he didn’t realize how often his jealousy flowed in the exact opposite direction. The only evidence of this were the insults, directed at Hikari. For years he hadn’t entertained a single immoderate feeling towards the girl, preferring never to revive his earlier crush, but also decidedly refusing to blame her for not returning his juvenile emotions. But now, things seemed different, and Daisuke permitted himself to go wild.
I hate her hate her hate her hate her. Oh, and him too. Nah, Ken’s alright. She’s the evil bitchfaced rude deviatrix! She’s mindwarping my boy!
Daisuke liked to refer to Ken as “my boy,” in his thoughts and sometimes in conversation. There were men who did this, and not nearly all of them were gay or gay-leaning. It must be noted, however, that he never granted this appellation to Takeru, or Iori, or Tai. Or anyone else, ever. If there was a meaning to this distinction Daisuke never bothered to discover it for himself.
Never as pretty as Ken, the dynamic of their friendship had been set early on… Daisuke would be the one to get all the girls for casual sex and triumphant serial relationships, whereas Ken would be the untouchable idol, inspiring unrequited sighs and reams of bad poetry. Daisuke never needed to think about why this situation pleased him; at least, not until now, when he sensed everything falling apart. How can Ken and I be the same… how can I ever have a place in his life after he turns on to his own appeal?
Even in the most non-introspective person, moments of clarity can occur, and Daisuke found himself thrust into nirvana. This was what he saw: Hikari, the most successfully flirtatious girl he had ever known, softening up Ken and changing him, transforming him into a weirdly sexual being. In theory, Daisuke could accept his own responsibility in the genesis of this date, but he refused to accept any blame for the possibility of this relationship continuing, and he did not care at all for the thought that his young, boyish friendship with Ken seemed destined for an ignominious end. He’ll become enchanted with Hikari… and then girls in general… and I’ll lose him forever to depravity.
Over the years, Miyako had been known to draw Daisuke into conversations that she called “Adventures in Self-Discovery.” During these little talks, she would ask him the most embarrassing array of personal questions. How do you like it? Have you ever tasted your own come? Why didn’t you ever have a crush on me? Angewomon or Lilymon? What about boys—be honest! You were lying about the ramen cart, weren’t you… what do you really want to do with your damn life? Favorite color? No, Titanic does not suck!
Sometimes she would rely on aggressively argumentative statements. Her favourite such statement was a doom that she often pronounced: You and Ken won’t be friends forever. Of anything that Miyako could offer, this was the one topic guaranteed to make Daisuke go ballistic. You won't be friends forever. He would argue, cajole, demand explanations, wax sarcastic, descend into outrage, alight upon revelations, and basically, amuse Miyako to no end. She called Daisuke the Defender of the Impossible Eternal Friendship, but only in private, because to get Daisuke to be honest she always promised utter secrecy.
Daisuke had dismissed this title as nonsense. Now, he had the disturbed feeling that maybe he should have hailed her as a prophetess.
“I want to die,” Daisuke whispered to himself.
At that moment, he happened to look over at Ken, yearning for something nameless and primitive, and noticed that Ken appeared to be excusing himself to go to the bathroom. Ken looked so damn good, in that blue blazer and flushed pink from the curry. Daisuke also felt himself flushing, with nervousness and general anxiety. He felt a confrontation coming on, and this excited and unnerved him.
“Umm..I think I’m going to be sick. Yeah.”
Not knowing if he was being clever or reckless, Daisuke also excused himself to the bathroom.
Ken and Daisuke stared at each other through the intermediary of the bathroom mirror, each boy aggressively washing his hands, refusing to be the one to break the gaze or the ritual cleanliness. No sounds emerged from the stalls, so it was presumed that they were alone.
Having already gotten over the stony silence of the reunion at the urinals, it was Ken who spoke first, as was his right.
Too bad he wasted it by stating the obvious.
After Daisuke confirmed that Ken's accusation of "you!-ness" was correct, a lull occurred before the argument had even begun. Ken seemed embarrassed, instead of 100% angry. In turn, Daisuke was confused-- he wanted Ken to be furious, so that he could lay down a righteously illin' smackdown in retaliation. Ken's hesitations were throwing Daisuke off his game. Not that there was much of a pre-established game... Daisuke had never fought with Ken before, not in any purposeful, life-changing way.
"Umm..." Ken said coolly, but with some hesitation. "Are you spying on me?"
Daisuke shrugged, and continued to wash his hands. Playing the punk seemed safest, until he could get a handle on his own quicksilver shifts of emotions.
Ken opened his eyes wide at the insolence. More frosty on the second pass, Ken looked exceptionally stern. "Well?"
"I sure as fuck don't know what I'm doing here." Daisuke said casually. "Whim, maybe? I think I just came to watch the show."
"Yeah.. I particularly liked when you let Hikari slobber all over you. She'll make a man of you yet, natch?"
Ken froze. "I have feelings, you know." Do not let it be said that geniuses always say genius things. They don't.
"So do I." Daisuke said flatly, taking his hands from the sink and wiping them on the pantlegs of his borrowed uniform. "I'm not sure I want to see you with Hikari, after all. I don't like it."
Ken also stopped washing his hands, and wiped them on the revolving towel, as is correct. He then leaned against the tiled bathroom wall, slouching-- as is completely incorrect. "Why not?"
"She's my... and you are... and Takeru has rights too, you know!"
Ken blinked. "Takeru-chan?" He said after a pause, suddenly dimpled and pleased with himself, for reasons that Daisuke could not guess.
"Don't you fucking call him that! Don't you dare fucking call him that! He's no sweet little thing, he's not your kindergarten lover, shut up, you betrayer of me and him!" Despite the heat of the words, Daisuke had a hard time maintaining the heat of actual anger, not with Ken beaming down on him with that...smile! What in the world could Ken be smiling for?
"Of course not." Ken said, still grinning. "Okay, so Takeru has rights. How interesting."
Daisuke collected himself, and then stepped right into Ken's personal space, mugging and pointing his fist deep into where he imagined Ken's aura to be. "Stop. Laughing. At. Me."
And like that, the smile was wiped off Ken's face. "I would never." Without even knowing what he was doing, Ken let one of his hands creep up to smooth down the side of Daisuke's arm. A long time-- it had been a very long time since Ken had initiated any kind of contact with Daisuke. So perhaps, it is not surprising that Daisuke jumped. Or that Ken pulled back his hand quickly, ashamedly.
"You think you're funny, don't you? Little Mr. FancyFace, with your fancy new girlfriend and everything. So smart, using my guilt over saying one stupid meaningless thing to trick me into letting you ask out Hikari. So, so smart. I'm impressed, Ken-chan. You really snowed me. I'm glad that our friendship meant so much to you that you cooked up such a special scheme, just for my benefit. I'm touched. And now you think its funny, to see stupid little Daisuke founder for words because he's not as good at that kind of thing as you are. Oh, yes. I'm glad someone is laughing."
Imagine all of that said with a tone of deep, deep sarcasm.
Daisuke stepped away from Ken, leaning on the sinks instead. He decided to go for the Martyr Pose, wondering what reaction it would draw out of Ken, hoping for an abject apology, for weakness, for something... What he really wanted (but didn't know that he wanted) was to know that it was still in his power to hurt Ken, although that was something he had never purposefully done before.
Fear of loss made Daisuke desperate, and foolish. During Daisuke's speech, Ken seemed to be in danger of busting a coronary. His face turned purple, which combined with his hair, eyes, and clothes to give him and oddly monochromatic look. Lesser boys might splutter at such hurtful and untrue accusations from a dear friend... especially a friend for whom a torch has been carried for a very, very long time. Ken is not a lesser boy. He growled...actually growled! This is not just a picturesque description of a manly sigh... Ken actually bared his teeth and looked remarkably fell. "How dare you? "
Daisuke did not fully appreciate what he was doing to Ken. "Ooohh... that bothers you? Good. Maybe you'll stop seeing Hikari then. Because I don't like it, and won't stand for it. Not if you still want to be my friend."
And there you go-- the Ultimatum.
"You idiot!" Ken raged. "Don't you see, for the fucking sake of Kannon, that it's not Hikari I want? It's you!"
Insert lots of stunned silence.
Daisuke's hands flew to cover his mouth. Ken suddenly stood up straight, experiencing what it is like to be fully appalled at himself for the very first time in his existence. "...strike that?" Ken added, in a markedly less angry voice. Almost, a quivering voice.
Daisuke rocked backwards, and then forward, and looked to be suffering from vertigo.
"No, don't." Ken corrected swiftly, less quiveringly. "Don't strike it. I...I have a confession?"
Daisuke made his famous Pained Face, winking one eye shut while looking tortured. "Another one?" he managed, after removing his hands from his face, only to hold then in front of himself and examine them minutely. He was studiously avoiding looking at Ken.
Like any good Japanese male, Ken knew how to turn humiliation into an art form. He turned away slightly, resting his forehead on the back of his hand. "I'm gay."
"Yeah." Neither boy was looking directly at the other. All of the blood had drained from Ken's face, leaving him with a beautiful pallor that destroyed Daisuke when he noticed it, because suddenly he realized that he had a long and illustrious history of noting Ken's countless modes of beauty.
And this is where Ken waited. He waited for Daisuke to say something, small or awkward, it didn't matter. Or maybe it would be okay if Daisuke just moved, or looked up at him, or gave some kind of cue as to what he was feeling. Any cue, that would be okay. Ken felt exceptionally stupid, and as the moment dragged on, he began to feel hated and rejected as well. I killed him. Daisuke is not hardly breathing. He must be disgusted with me.
Ken waited some more.
And some more.
One last chance. I do think so...
Tallness is not an advantage for someone who wishes to communicate his vulnerability. Awkwardly, Ken reached forward for the second time that night, and cupped Daisuke's non-moving face in his not-to-be-trembling hand. Amazingly, Ken really wasn't trembling, but touched Daisuke like a full-grown man might. An experienced man, a knowing man... things that Ken technically was not, and feared that he never would be. He tilted Daisuke's face up, wanting to look into Daisuke's eyes, but Daisuke kept looking downwards. Of course, he looked adorable like that, but adorable and attainable are two very different things.
Daisuke might as well have been in Antarctica for all that Ken felt that he was getting through to him.
And still, nothing: no reaction, no change. Daisuke appeared to be locked in stasis. And then, just when everything seemed most tense... a toilet flushed.
Apparently, a witness had been present, an unknown stranger who had been silent throughout the whole exchange... and who had decided that this moment was as good as any for announcing his presence. Daisuke stepped back reflexively. Ken's hand stayed suspended in the air for a moment, and then he fell back as well.
Ken's eyes darted to the line of stalls, but his desperation was too strong, the sense of Daisuke's skin under his touch too fresh in his mind. Feeling reckless, Ken pushed the point. "Perhaps...I do... love.. you. What do you think about that?" Such a careless risk, with such horrible timing. But in a way, Ken welcomed the presence of the stranger. If he could admit his feelings like this, in front of the world... then those feelings were real. He had often wondered before, doubted whether it was even possible to love someone who had never shared a moment of honest intimacy with him.
Now he knew.
"You really are gay," was Daisuke's non-brilliant response. Things took a while for him to process, and the reality of his suspicions, and Ken's confession, was finally sinking in.
"Yes..." Ken said hesitantly, not understanding why suddenly Daisuke stepped back several minutes in the conversation. This was just remarkably and horrifyingly painful. He doesn't like it..or me. I'm such a fool. I never should have told him.
A cough from the stall. Apparently, the unseen stranger was uncomfortable with the turn of the conversation, despite his earlier eagerness to listen in silently. Daisuke began to blush, and Ken's embarrassment grew more and more acute.
It's all over.
"I need to go," Ken said at last, wanting to spare Daisuke the indignity of turning him down clumsily. I can give him that, at least. Without waiting for an answer, without pausing to look any deeper into those pretty brown eyes, afraid to see the rejection confirmed... Ken fled.
Daisuke stood still, vaguely catatonic as all these revelations washed over him. The sound of the bathroom door slamming revived him a bit, and he looked that way curiously. It occurred to him that he should be doing something. Following Ken! But instead, all he did was lift his hand to touch his cheek, to hold in the warmth of Ken's touch a little longer. This is unexpected... and nice. In a bit of a trance, Daisuke turned towards the door, intending to find Ken and see if he would touch him again. I need to know.
"Pansy." The stranger in the stall mumbled quietly. "Fucking pansy fag."
Daisuke's eyebrows furled. He was still in a state, but something about the rude declaration triggered instincts in him, reflex actions that did not require much tertiary brain function for assessment. "What did you say?" he asked absently, still turned towards the exit, but paused.
"Your friend is a piece of work, pal. I'm surprised you were so nice to that pathetic loser."
Loser...loser... I let him leave...I lost him carelessly. Daisuke wondered, and then reality descended. Above all, for as long as he could remember, it had been Daisuke's chosen duty to defend Ken against all comers. Insults against Ken had been distressingly common, in those early days after the dark spore had been overcome and Ken had to struggle with the pain of building himself up to genius levels from scratch. Oooh, people had been so cruel then, delighting in the humiliation of the child prodigy. Ken had eventually restored himself to a state of perfection, both mental and physically... these things were his birthright, after all. But it had been a lot of work. And Ken had been all alone, in a school full of children who resented and mocked him. Ken suffered through all that without complaint. But then...
How did I find out? Daisuke wondered, as he slipped into the stall right next to where the insult had originated. Oh yeah... Miyako and her Infinite Gossipnet. Daisuke scrambled up onto the toilet seat, and peered down at a suddenly terrified man who was pulling up his pants. I targeted them all, and somehow I won every brawl. The look on Daisuke's face was truly evil, as he bounced a bit, trying to figure out a way to tumble into the next stall. They left him alone after that, damn straight.
Daisuke sighed. "I'm coming on in, you know. Defend yourself if you can." The man barely had a second to breathe, before Daisuke jumped, grappled, and rolled into the little sanctuary. One arm landed in the toilet water, but the bulk of his body slammed into the rude gentleman, knocking the wind out of him and practically winning the fight without having thrown a single punch.
No-one insults my Ken-chan.
Damn it all to hell, maybe I do love that fucker.
“…yeah. Ne, Ken?”
After leaving the bathroom, Ken collected his emotions with almost frightening efficiency, planning to deal with them after the situation with Hikari was sorted out. His pain was like a bleeding ulcer… nothing to feel, really, except a growing sense of anemia and fatigue. Normally Ken was one of those fortunate boys to boast “high color” in his cheeks, a peachy permanent blush on his immaculately textured skin. But after his encounter with Daisuke, that color had fled, and even Hikari had noticed the difference.
Ken couldn’t bear to stay in the restaurant for one second longer then he had to, knowing that Daisuke was doing some suffering or…something… in the bathroom. So when Hikari made comment about Ken’s Plath-like pallor, he seized upon it as a marvelous excuse. Claiming nausea, he asked if it would be alright to leave early.
Hikari, ever the understanding sweetheart, was quick to oblige.
The walk home back to Hikari’s place had been pretty uneventful, besides Hikari’s frequent assessments of Ken’s healthfulness. Ken wanted to slip into a fugue state, to forget everything and just run away. But down that road lay danger… the Kaizer might find him in that kind of weakness. Besides, mental disorders aren’t something that can simply be summoned at will… something needs to trigger them, and they require a susceptible host. Ken did a lot of sighing, and he thought a lot about Daisuke, even though he tried very diligently not to.
And so. Standing in front of Hikari’s apartment complex, half suspecting that Tai was spying the exchange from a terrace high above, Ken attempted to give Hikari his all. After all, she didn’t deserve to be a party to this deception… especially since he suspected that he was going to be foolish and hurt her some before the night ended. Fallback girl, fallback girl… Ken thought to himself in a singsong way, as he looked deep into Hikari’s hopeful eyes.
“Yes Hikari?” Ken answered at last.
Hikari looked down, abashedly twisting her leg at the heel, looking like a very young girl. “I don’t know how it was for you…but the experiment…I liked it. Thanks for asking me out.”
“It was…good…for me too.” Well, what else could he say?
At this point, Hikari would have had to have been fending off kisses from most any other boy who might have spent some quality time with her. But not Ken—she felt like she was the aggressor, having to extract every little reluctant speck of emotion. And subconsciously, this is exactly how she always intended it to be… not just with Ken, but with any boy who she might have dared to like. She never framed her desires in terms of Safety, but in truth, she never allowed herself to experience any speck of romantic affiliation without first reassuring herself that nothing as sticky or unglamourous as sexual intercourse might be the result.
So, feeling safe, she took Ken’s hand. “We should…do it again sometimes.”
“Maybe.” Noncommittal, noncommittal! Ken shouldn’t have said that, especially not to Hikari… if he said “I don’t know” or “Hmmm,” that would have sufficed for a No and Hikari would have understood. She was too familiar with the forms of rejection, having been the Rejecter in many of these little confessionary interludes. Her heart certainly would not be crushed…bruised, yes…but not crushed. And if Ken had had the temerity to say “Of course!” or “How about next weekend,” then he would have revealed himself to be a man of Feelings and immediately Hikari’s sense of attraction to him would have cooled. The Republic of Yes was not a place that she visits often.
“Mmm?” Hikari murmured, and then did something very bold… she led Ken’s hand to her side, and placed his palm just over her waist. And then, she reached up and pulled Ken into a kiss.
It should be noted that the only kind of loving that Hikari approved of was of the elegant sort. So, when she placed her lips on Ken, it was with a closed mouth and not in the French style. She wanted to give Ken something beautiful, something chaste.
This is not what Ken took, however.
Emotionally strung out, desperate for affirmation, and above all, greedily desiring to cease considering himself a Repulsive Creature…Ken decided to go for it. Maybe Hikari’s sweetness could erase the shame of Daisuke’s rejection. Without considering the possible consequences, Ken decided to kiss Hikari like he had always dreamed of with Daisuke: lips parted, eyes closed, and deeply. Not so much French as Greek: an immoderate style of kiss from a country fraught with passionate lovers.
Needless to say, there was tongue involved.
Ken had never kissed anyone before, and Hikari had never been kissed before like this. She was not appreciating of Ken’s natural aptitude, of his forceful touch, of the way that he bent her backwards and practically dared her to breathe. He was everywhere, in her face, and she was overwhelmed. She tried to push him away, but he was far to strong for that, and so she balled up her fists and began to hit him.
It took Ken a few seconds to understand what the pounding on his chest was all about, but as soon as he did, he pulled back, looking confused.
“No no no no no! This is impossible!”
“Hhhuh?” Ken said, huskily. He was beginning to wonder if there might be something to the whole bisexual thing, but that was only because he was mistaking his own breathlessness and quickened pulse for desire. Later he would re-evaluate this and classify it as Understandable Confusion following his first mouth-to-mouth. Much later…right now he felt unpleasant and was back to Repulsive. The whole world hates me! I can’t do anything right!
“What the hell was that? Were you trying to impale me?” Hikari said, all traces of her tender affection overwhelmed by the disturbed sense that perhaps Ken wasn’t everything he appeared to be. Sure, he was always so gentle and non-amourous around girls… so it didn’t make any sense for him to go off like that.
“I’m sorry…I’m so sorry..” he said brokenly, the instinctive response of boys everywhere when confronted with female derision.
“Did you think I’d like that? Did you, did you!?” She resumed pounding on his chest in frustration. “You had no right.”
Ken looked down at her, not knowing what to say, and so he said what first popped into his head. “I’m sorry…but, you see… I needed to know…I needed to try…”
“What did you need to know?” Hikari shouted, not caring that she was making a scene. Anything it took, anything at all, to show the world that she was no slut, no oversexual hussy: this was her goal.
Oh, fuck it…Daisuke knows…surely I can tell her, reprehensible monster that I am. “I…oh, Hikari, I’m sorry…so sorry…I think I’m gay…”
Hikari’s mouth fell open, and she stopped moving. Guardian of the Crest of Light, the Eight Child, child of prophecy, child of destiny…she paused, paused, paused.
And then she slapped him.
“Get out of here! You heard me! Leave, you jerk! How could you do this…to me?” Ken looked at her, and tried to interject, but she started to push him away. “Go! Now! You are cruel and a liar. You hurt me! Go! For the love of…”
Hikari then turned around, and stormed into her apartment complex, not wanting Ken to see the tears, a sign of weakness, an emblem of her willingness to desire him and her deep sense of betrayal. The door slammed behind her, and Ken was left alone in the lamplight, which wasn’t enough to hide that he was surrounded by darkness.
“I…I… want to die,” Ken said brokenly, unconsciously echoing Daisuke’s statement from earlier.
Ken knew what he needed to do.
"…on a blanket with my baby, that’s where I’ll be… (one, two, three and yeah!) Under the boardwalk.. blam!…out oooovv the sun! Under the board walk...huh!..we'll be having some ~fun~! Umm..mmm.. well.. Under... the...boardWALK! BOARDWALK!"
After narrowly escaping both juvenile arrest and the damning wrath of his cousin, Daisuke was strolling down the centre of the road with nary a care in the world, singing loudly, obnoxiously, and only barely on-key. The same sorts of people who smiled at Ken and Hikari as they passed preferred to roll their eyes at the undersized little punk who dominated the scene now.
Nothing like a good fight and American cabana music to clear the head. Pretty well haunted by the way that Ken’s bare-handed touch had felt, Daisuke wasn’t clear on the implications of Ken’s confession, but it seemed beyond doubt that he wanted to try on that feeling again.
Something to think about… how would it be, instead of snuggling with a girl on a beach blanket, to spend that same time with Ken? Not just goofing around like they normally would, but doing all of the small little amorous things that he was so used to sharing with his girlfriends? What if Ken were the one to slather the sunscreen on his back and playfully glob it under the waistband of his swimsuit? What if Ken, while rubbing said sunscreen on his back, leaned forward and kissed him behind the ear, and on the neck? What if Ken were the one to be lying next to him while he baked, that long pale body shimmering like a rose petal under the blazing sun, and they touched?
Daisuke’s teeth ached, his face felt all funny… and he couldn’t stop grinning or singing his silly song. The concept of Ken as the major power and principality in his life was turning him on, withering him and blasting him with heats of sheeting desire. What does it mean? Daisuke wondered gamely, caught up in the surprise and delight of discovering something that he probably should have always known. Ken—gay? And he loves me?
Daisuke really had no opinion of homosexuality. He didn’t fear it, and wasn’t bothered by it. Whenever Miyako had urged him to consider the possibility for himself, he would always laugh, saying that girls were soft and sweet, and with boys… really, there was no point. It would be like masturbation, nothing special. But then, what might explain this strange warmth and…stiffness…when he contemplated the possibility, with Ken as the object? During the many times that he spent roughhousing with Ken, maybe something important was coursing through Ken’s mind, something like desire. What if, when Ken had looked at him, it wasn’t just with casual interest, but with admiration? Or lust? Daisuke thought back over as many specific incidents as he could, and he felt shocked to realize how obvious that certain things had been… and how brazenly his friend had asked for it! He had seemed to know without exactly knowing just how attentive that Ken was, and a more sophisticated part of his brain had tucked that information away for later, to be processed in a time like this.
Why didn’t I ever feel like this before? He’s so beautiful… why didn’t I respond then like I seem to be responding now?
The difference seemed to be in the knowing. Ken, so perfect, most high… he deigned to have feelings for Daisuke…real feelings! Ken’s persistent solitary datelessness never bothered Daisuke, because there was always the conviction that it was by choice… Ken seemed like a powerful wizard, with drives and needs far beyond those of mortal men. For him to be humanized like this, and for it to be so personal, so passionate… Daisuke couldn’t help but respond. He knew that Ken had wanted to be kissed, had wanted to be taken… back there, back in the restaurant. And this was pretty exciting.
Of course, Daisuke was a little bemused, perhaps a little frightened. These were very new feeling for an incongruently familiar object… the possibilities left him dizzy, vertiginous. Pulsing throughout his mental confusion, however, was desire burning like a rash. It spread from the folds in his skin all the way deep into his joints, warm and peculiar and so nicely satisfying.
If I had looked up…or touched him… after all, he’s still a virgin. He’s still pure…there’s so much I can teach him. Ooohh….
New and surprising thoughts. It seemed weird to think of Ken’s inexperience as anything that he had any responsibility for, or could possibly do anything about. To see that the reason for Ken’s abstinence wasn’t apathy…but something else… To realize that he himself had the power to change that, to lift up Ken’s purity and taste it, transforming it into something just as beautiful, if not as rare… Oh my fucking lord, my dear and fucking Jesus…am I even worthy?
To imagine so many things, any thing that he had ever done with a girl, then changing the context to Ken and damning the consequences… Daisuke stunned himself by realizing that the mere thought of such adventures was more thrilling to him then many of his actual sexual liaisons had ever been. Those girls… they laid in my bed and I fucked them brilliantly, and it was pretty nice. But it never changed me.
Just these thoughts, and nothing else…
Ohh…this IS changing me.
Daisuke turned off the sidewalk, onto the platform that would take him to Tamachi station.
Okay, Ken, I’m coming to get you.
Let’s try this again, without the stops.
Ken fumbled in the dark, trying to find the cords to pull the blinds… There. Suddenly, the apartment he lived in… his parent’s place, which sometimes he was able to think of as home… was flooded with a cool artificial light, the night’s coagulation of a million small pollutions. Ken stood by the window, glad that his parents were gone for the weekend, so that he could contemplate his own rejected-ness in peace. Blue light fell all over him, and Ken held up his hands, watching the play of shadows as he moved.
He then looked up into the bloated sky, overfilled with the lights of man-- which obscured almost completely the tiny lights of god. The best thing about the Digital World was that its wildness still supported the existence of stars, and Ken used to spend long nights there with Wormmon, just looking up. Here on earth, stars were a stranger, and even the planets seemed subdued.
Light isn’t always a good thing.
Sometimes-- it’s a stain.
Light—Ken didn’t bother to think of it as a metaphor for Hikari, because he never seriously considered himself as an exemplar of Kindness either. It wasn’t really his style to employ cruelty towards his friends as a defense against his own feelings of worthlessness, anyway… these thought of light as pollution and stain were not intended to be little mental jabs at Hikari, but rather a bite at his own hopefulness. Light—in his mind, it stood for goodness… and the truth.
What was I thinking? Perhaps they will accept me eventually, the way that Miyako and Takeru have. But it will never be the same… Takeru proved that.
Takeru. Astute, observant Takeru… he figured it out almost from day one. And being the basically honest, good person that he was, he found a way to let Ken know about his suspicions without being offensive or intrusive. Ken had been deeply embarrassed, afraid that maybe this meant that he gave off the gay “vibe,” complete with lisp and swishy behaviour. Of course, this was not the case. When he articulated these concerns to Takeru, he had been subjected to a lecture on his own prejudices… as if a homosexual person could be homophobic! But this turned out the be exactly the case.. Ken hated himself, and feared the sexuality that was inherent in him.
Ooh, how valuable Takeru’s insight had been! “Oh, Ken, I’m way more froofy then you—and I’m totally straight! It’s the curse of blondes everywhere.” Takeru had been a useful sounding board—most recently, Ken had been attempting to articulate to him some of his feelings towards Daisuke. He assumed that Takeru already knew about it, but was too polite to bring it up so long as he himself was loth to talk about it. But before today, he had been working his way towards Confessing All, and he had held hopes that Takeru would be able to help steer him towards the proper way to approach Daisuke about… well, everything.
Takeru was endlessly kind, supportive, and genuine. In many ways, his friendship with Takeru was ideal. To be completely accepted for what he was—beyond wonderful. But… and this was a huge “but”… Ken couldn’t get over the sense that maybe his relationship with Takeru would have been different if his own sexuality hadn’t been at the forefront of everything. Heterosexual people can just be themselves, with sexuality just a small fragment of their personality. To be homosexual meant being defined by sexuality.... and all other aspects of his personality seemed to take second place to that.
It’s not fair.
Ken expected that Hikari would soon forgive him, and probably would come to feeling sorry over what she had said and done. But why bother? Now, he would be her “gay friend,” and things between them would be different. Like they must.
I just want to be myself. Not gay, just myself.
And then, to think of the wreck of what he had with Daisuke… he won’t touch me any more. He’ll be afraid that I’ll be thinking lustfully of him… which will be true, after all… and after a while he will be so uncomfortable that he will seek out reasons to avoid me. He won’t give up on our friendship… but it will become a pale and distant thing.
The light of the truth… the truth of his own sexuality… promised to drown out all of the small and precious things about life that he enjoyed. His friendships, his desires, his wishes and hopes… all of these things seemed threatened to oblivion.
Who cares if it’s “normal?” Who cares if I can’t “help it?” People will treat me differently. Daisuke… he will too.
This is killing me.
Ken turned away from the city lights and looked back in towards his apartment, now lit with an artificial gloaming. His eyes strayed towards a cabinet in the living room, where his father stored some grade-A sake.
Time to get fucked.
Daisuke’s biggest fear in life was enclosed spaces, so it wasn’t unusual for him to take the stairs everywhere.. even when it meant climbing the nineteen stories up to Ken’s place. Elevators scared the bejeezus out of him. Ken had always known about this little quirk, and was always deeply amused by it. “Belalvandemon would have had a field day with all this bullshit,” Ken would grumble good-naturedly, as he would join Daisuke in trundling up any given stairwell. Of all of his friends, Ken was the only one who routinely would join him in the purgatorial ascent… everyone else would just take the elevators and meet him up top.
Just another example of Ken’s perfection.
Daisuke felt warm, mildly aroused, and continued to be surprised by the boldness he felt coursing through his veins. Take him. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll let it be without a doubt that I am very interested in exploring this… possibility.
When he reached the 19th floor, the faintest sound of music met him in the stairwell. A sort of piano music, an air he could just barely recognize.
What is this?
Stepping out into the hallway, the strains of a vivid melody became stronger, and it struck him with an odd sense of déjà vu, of familiarity tugging at the edges of him memory. He knew that it must be Ken, playing.
Just in front of the doorway to the apartment, it was confirmed that the music filling the hall was originating from inside. Daisuke was surprised to find the door left slightly ajar, as if Ken had been so distracted when he got home that he forgot to close it. Mmm..
Ken’s carelessness would become Daisuke’s opportunity.
More strangeness awaited him as he entered the foyer… all of the lights seemed to be off, and only the dim glow of the city from the far windows allowed Daisuke to make his way. He took off his shoes reflexively and then slipped into the common area, where the piano would be, and where he expected to find Ken.
It was a sight worth seeing. Ken’s back was to Daisuke, and he was playing so noisily that it seemed doubtful that he would have detected Daisuke’s entrance. The piano was a small, modest affair, and yet it dominated the living room as a piece of furniture with Presence.
The shallow light lent the whole scene a brooding atmosphere, gentle and yet mildly tragic. The room was otherwise neat, filled with Ichijouji touches. These were things with which Daisuke had attained a high level of familiarity, such as picture frames and bookcases and other personal regalia. The light, so blue, did nothing to make Daisuke uncomfortable with this scene. Ken was too much with him, filling his heart and consciousness with delicious apprehension, for unease to be a factor.
The only unusual thing seemed to be the mess of dress-up clothes carelessly piled up in a corner, and also the bottle of sake recklessly perched atop the piano, coasterless.
Oxford shirt, plain light-colored boxers, and white socks… these were all the clothes that Ken had allowed himself to keep, while sitting down to paint a picture of his emotional turmoil using the timeless medium of sound. Noise, so carefully applied, fanning out in the familiar frequencies that indicated musical notes. These notes were grouped into chords, and strung together into melody.
Daisuke felt transfixed by the beauty of the sight, and the nagging sense that this music was familiar. It seemed to have a significance specific to him, and this extended Daisuke’s pause into full blown reverie.
To watch Ken play was to observe asymmetry at its height. The left hand touched on the low notes, rumbling through a cyclical phrase of sound… rolling, repetitious, flowing with the chord shifts to create a complicated background tapestry upon which the right hand picked out a song. The right hand, favored by God and man… it touched the high notes, never crossing the central C. For most people, the right hand is stronger, more supple… this was the hand that drummed out the counterpoint, which was yet again the thesis of the piece.
And again, Daisuke could just recognize the music, almost placing it, but he didn’t know the when. He didn’t know the why.
It was nearly enough to drive him mad.
But what if… Daisuke tried to reinvent the song as he might have heard it in the past, slowing the melody, imagining it with more mistakes studded throughout. Not with less passion, but definitely with less expertise. A younger Ken, who had to reach just slightly to get his feet to work the stops… Ken without the smarts… a Ken raped of his borrowed gifts, genius no more…
And then, Daisuke knew.
Another time, another place.
A specific time… 6 months after the final showdown with Belalvandemon. A specific place… Tamachi elementary, Ken’s former den of triumph. Now, arguably, it was Ken’s principle source of Hell on Earth.
“Looks like the Kitten-chan is going to pretend to play the piano again! How adorable… how quaint. Shall we call Ticketmaster and reserve seats?”
The only indication that Ken ever made that hinted at how hurt these comments left him was in the way that he let the door slam behind him, as he admitted himself into the sanctuary of the practice room. The doors wouldn’t lock, and so he wasn’t completely free from annoyances. But the room was soundproofed, keeping out the painful commentary.
More importantly, the room kept in the evidence of Ken’s humiliating downfall.
I can’t play… I can’t perform… I can’t win. Not anymore. No more photographic memory, no more unnatural dexterity… no more easy triumphs…
And so much fear. I didn’t have that before, the fear.
Ken spread out the sheets of music in front of him and then looked at his fingers, cursing them and their ability to forget skills that they had so long ago mastered.
Why do I feel like losing access to the seed of evil took away the most admirable part of myself?
Losing music probably was the smallest thing that Ken had to mourn, but it was also the most public failure. After the Big Bad Evil had been defeated, apocalypse averted, Ken had promised to himself that he would regain every last speck of skill that he had lost. Piano was just one of the many things he was torturing himself over, but it was a skill which he had a keen interest in regaining, for reasons of pride. He wanted to be able to prove his recovery, to his family…to himself… and to certain others, as well.
At the very least, I know I have it within me to be as good as Osamu was. His skills were real, and not contingent upon having some ridiculous evil spore rooting around inside of him.
As usually, whenever Ken thought about things like this, his hand strayed to his neck. Hope seemed like such a faraway prospect, and something that became dimmer with each passing day. He was so alone in Tamachi. He worried that his friendships with the other Digidestined would eventually fade over time, and that he would become a bitter and unlikable failure whose only distinctive quality was that he saved the world, once… and only once, at that.
Of what value is it to save the world and lose one human soul… even if its mine?
Ken sighed, as he positioned his hands over the keyboard, and began to play. A lot, apparently.
It was Daisuke… Daisuke was one of the others… no, the other… that Ken most felt driven to impress. Already, Daisuke had turned his experience in the Digital World into an unqualified success for himself. Increased confidence had made him more able to concentrate in school, more sure of himself around his family, more alluring to all the girls he knew. Daisuke seemed to be like a rising star, destined for greatness, whereas Ken bitterly concluded that his own star had long ago set.
What if Daisuke realizes this, and abandons me at the last? I wouldn’t blame him… but it sure as hell would kill me.
Ken lost himself to his practice, not so overwhelmed with frustration that he was anywhere near quitting in despair. He played and played, the muscles in his fingers slowly limbering up through the repetitions. It felt good to be so lost. He knew he wasn't talented anymore, but at least he had drive, and he was using that drive to transform himself into a different sort of prodigy... the kind that works.
He continued to play, fully occupied by the slow process of improvement. And so, it was completely a shock to him when, after stopping in the middle of a particularly difficult movement, that the pause filled with the sound of clapping.
“What’s the name of that piece?” A familiar voice, not mocking him… Ken whirled around to bear incredulous witness to a shamefully bedraggled Daisuke. His friend looked dirty, with a few cuts on his face, crusting blood in his nose, and the signs of potential bruises dotting his arms and face. Was this normal? Abnormal? Ken could hardly tell, anymore. One day a genius, the next not... all certainties had been washed away.
Ken made himself comfortable, leaning his elbow back onto the piano as he eyed his friend…his cute friend… speculatively. “Doesn’t matter,” Ken responded. “Let’s talk about you for a moment, if you please.”
“What’s to talk about?” Daisuke shrugged, feigning innocence. He was wearing the longsleeves-shortsleeves two-shirt combo that he favoured, the tight longer shirt emphasizing his wiry thinness. Even that seemed to have bruises, but it was just a trick of the light.
“I never asked you to do this for me, you know.”
Daisuke laughed. “If I didn’t, before long you’d be entering the Witness Protection Program and I’d never see you again.”
Ken looked down at that. Of late, he’d come to the conclusion that his sexuality had found an object at last, and yet he’d already at least half given up, before he’d even tried. “I can take care of myself.”
Daisuke became serious, and earnest. He leaned forward, putting both of his hands on his knees and looking for all the world like he was about to lecture a small child. “You can’t! I’ve seen you. Despite the fact that you could absolutely destroy any of these jerks in about two seconds flat, you just walk on by, no matter that they take a little bit of your self-confidence every time you let it slide. I know it’s not pride. I know it’s not because you like to see me fight in your stead. You just…you just…you’re just too damn nice!”
Ken leaned back further, a lounging position that would work very well in a throne room. In a cramped practice chamber, with a piano at his back, the effect was muted somewhat. “What do you hope to accomplish, by coming here every day and picking fights? You can’t fight them all, you know. You can’t fight forever.”
Daisuke stood up suddenly, rubbing his wrist quite firmly into his soft spikes of hair. He turned around and looked out the glass window in the door, making a rude gesture to some gawkers in the hallway. They scurried away, afraid of the wild interloper. Daisuke continued to look away from Ken, glowering at the world in general. “You think I can’t, when you do it every fucking day?”
Despite the fact that no-one was looking, Ken’s face froze into stillness, although his eyes tilted up with curiosity, and his breath quickened. Daisuke never took this tone with anyone else. “What do you mean?”
“I know how you spend your days, and your nights. You don’t sleep much anymore, do you? You want to get back to the way you were before… all the genius of the Kaizer, without the fucked-up insanity. And so you study, and practice, and sweat, and fight. You are fighting for your very self, and you don’t think that we haven’t noticed? You don’t think that I…we… don’t care?” Daisuke turned back around, and smiled through his mask of injuries. “The penance stops now. You think I’ll let these badasses insult the hell out of you, until your confidence is shot? I won’t allow it. It’s counter…counter…ummm…intuitive?”
“Productive. It’s counter-productive.”
“What he said,” Daisuke addressed an invisible audience. “Look at him, thinking he’s so pathetic, when he has more vocabulary then I’ll ever know, and can still lick more math problems then I could in a lifetime! On top of this, he plays soccer, and piano. Pretty damn well, too. What a fucking embarrassment.”
“I’m…I don’t…” Ken floundered for a moment, and then straightened. “Thank you, Daisuke. This means more then you could know.”
Daisuke shrugged, suddenly all grins and slyness. “Miyako is helping me to pinpoint the targets. A natural disaster, that’s what I am. The insults should stop by spring break, this I swear.” He reached down to pick his bookbag off the ground, from where he had shrugged it off earlier. “Here.” Daisuke tossed a grungy, spiral bound notebook Ken’s way.
Ken opened it up, and discovered lots of doodles, of Veritech fighters and Godzilla, of Imperialdramon and Chibimon. “What’s this?”
“My Work,” Daisuke intoned with mock-seriousness. “You can’t be the only Digidestined with Skills, you know…”
Ken found pictures of the Digidestined, a few lightly sketched images of himself and the others. The most recent was an exquisitely detailed portrait of Iori, looking stern. “This is very good…” he said, surprised.
“What? Oh, that. Iori is so easy. He doesn’t move for shit.”
Ken brushed a few strands of his dark hair out of his face, as he leaned forward to examine the picture more closely. “You should do this. You should practice.”
“Me, practice?” Daisuke laughed, but he made a space for himself on the bench next to Ken, playfully scootching Ken out of the way until the taller boy only had about 4 inches of space to hold on to. “Hmm…You really think so?”
“I know so.”
Daisuke leaned into Ken, trying to press him all the way off the bench, pleased when his friend finally began to push back, participating in the game at last. “So… are you going to play for me or am I going to have to become violent?”
Ken slid around quickly, while Daisuke remained on the bench, facing away from the piano. “Okay. But stop crowding me.” With a little flutter in his heart, knowing that he was nowhere near good enough to play for an audience, Ken began. He hit the round chords of the piece cleanly, if somewhat slowly. Having Daisuke there, pressed into his arm (but not exactly hampering his performance)… well, that made a difference. Hope didn't seem like such a stranger when there was someone to share the moment with.
After he had finished, Ken and Daisuke shared a silent moment, leaning on each other for comfort, for the sake of an alliance that was perfectly suited to them both. “…what was the name of that song, again?” Daisuke asked at last.
Ken turned to look at Daisuke, and then smiled. “The Heart Asks Pleasure First.”
Daisuke returned the smile. “I’ll remember that.”
Daisuke’s reverie stopped when the music did. And his heart almost stopped when Ken spoke, without turning. “I know you’re there,” he said, his voice sticky-sounding from the sake. “My beautiful Daisuke. Have you come to torment me some more?”
Torment? Daisuke began feeling miffy, and so he walked up to the piano and grabbed the bottle of sake, taking a rather largish swig before looking down to take in Ken with his eyes, drinking him in with this new lust which left him so quivering and strange. “Maybe. Do you like that?”
Ken laughed, and raised his hand up in the air while limply pointing it at....nothing in particular. Casually, Ken let it hang in front of his face as he tried to remember what he wanted to do with it. “Of course. I love it when you reject me, Daisuke. It makes my day.” He giggled at that, obviously thinking he’d said something clever, and then he sighed.
“Who said anything about rejection?” Daisuke took some more of the delicious sake, and then placed his hand on the top of Ken’s head, surprised with how fluidly the silky hair moved between his fingers. His hands couldn’t help but slide down to the tips, and his fingers brushed against the side of Ken’s face, clipping the angle of his jaw and his earlobe.
“You’re here to fuck me then. I’d like that. And then you’ll reject me. What brilliance!” Ken looked up at Daisuke, his eyes bleary and unfocused. Ken was making a confession here, every word intentional even though he was drunk. The alcohol made his emotions run high, and clouded his judgement… but it couldn’t even begin to touch the core of his personality, his love for Daisuke, his bitterness over the evening’s events.
“Who said anything about rejection!” Daisuke wanted to holler, but his breath caught as he began to move air more quickly to and from his lungs. Ken’s mentioning of sex-- no matter how wrongheaded and stubborn he was being-- was enough to crystallize his resolve, even as it shattered his impetuousness. Daisuke suddenly felt… shy.
“I did,” Ken replied calmly, with slow deliberation. “It’s okay. My life is a masterpiece of misery. But if you wouldn’t mind terribly?" Ken made a broad-based gesture with his hand, waving it about carelessly. "Maybe if you kiss me before you go, it will amplify the irony.” Ken arched his head upwards, closing his eyes. “Let’s get this over with.”
What a bind! Now, more then ever, Daisuke wanted to kiss this frustrating boy… but he couldn’t, not while Ken was misunderstanding his purpose in coming. He peeked down at Ken’s boxers, hoping for a flash of… Stop that! Conversation before cuddling!
“I remember that music you played,” Daisuke said at last.
Opening his eyes, Ken seemed to pout over not having been kissed, but then he lit up with a New Plan. Ken finally figured out what he had wanted to do with his hand-- he began tugging on Daisuke’s sleeve, urging him to sit down, to join him. “Here. Sit. If you must stick around, sit next to me. I need you, even if you don’t need me.” Ken was laughing lowly as he resumed playing the piano.
Daisuke tried to place his hand on Ken’s thigh, or on his waist, but Ken merely swatted him away, and continued to play. He’s so drunk… so there’s only one thing to do. Daisuke took a long shot of sake, swallowing and swallowing until he counted the passage of 10 seconds. And then he listened for a bit, liking the way that the alcohol was transforming Ken's music into gorgeous noise. “I need you too,” Daisuke said brightly as he replaced the sake bottle at last, just before he tackled Ken off the bench and onto the floor.
“Rough trade, huh? The way it has to be, when I’m gay and you obviously refuse to be…” Ken said, still with the smile, although he looked sad as well, and of course: unfocused.
Daisuke was laying full over Ken’s body, the thin boy radiating a surprising warmth for someone so pale. In the city light, Ken appeared translucent, almost fragile. “You will listen to me, Ichijouji.” Daisuke said through gritted teeth, his voice husky with his desires and frustration. “I did not reject you earlier. I was just.. .surprised. So why the fuck are you acting like this? How dare you assume that I just came here to use you?”
“Hikari did…” Ken looked to the side, his cultured refinement shining through, even now. Even drunk. “I knew when I asked her out, that things would end badly. It did. She rejected me because I kissed her. Because I kissed her poorly... Of all the things, I didn't expect...." Ken coughed quietly as he trailed off. "Anyways. I’m a monster, unworthy of her. Unworthy of you. Even if you came here for… me… you will leave disgusted. I guarantee it.”
“Hikari is delusional.” Daisuke said, surprised at what Ken just said, but knowing that he had no time to process it. They… kissed? I won’t be his first? Daisuke shook his head, burying outrage. The whole farcical evening was his fault, and if Ken was in pain… well, that was his fault too.
“She seemed perfectly lucid when she slapped me. She thought my kiss was horrid.” No longer smiling, or laughing mysteriously… Ken just looked dead inside. “You will too. Everything I touch turns to ashes.”
“You talk like a fool, Ichijouji. This is crazy talk. You know that you are not horrid, and that Hikari was just surprised… and let’s not talk about her anyway! It’s time for me to make a little confession of my own!” Daisuke rearranged himself, so that he wasn’t pressing against Ken all over, but only in the most interesting places. He lifted himself onto his hands, and locked his arms so that he could look down at Ken’s tragic visage from on high.
“You love me? I love you too. You need me? Me too. You can’t live the rest of your fucking life without me? You better not, you bloody fucking bastard. Because I don’t know about a lot of things, but I know this. If you don’t let me kiss you honestly right this minute, I’m going to wring your fucking neck.”
Throughout this speech, Ken’s
eyes opened wider and wider, and in the dim light his pupils seemed filled
shadows. It was difficult to
imagine Ken looking any more beautiful then he did in his day-to-day existence,
but Daisuke was pleased to no end to find that this was indeed possible now.
This is a side of Ken that no-one has seen, besides me…
“ Kiss me, then.” Ken said, his voice not really all that deep, but with all the power and control that any boy might desire, despite the sake sliding through his veins. Ken closed those eyes, shutting out the light… and Daisuke took his chances, took a breath, and plunged right in.
Opening his mouth on Ken’s, whose lips were almost relaxed and slightly parted… such a new experience. Ken withheld his tongue, having learned his lesson with Hikari, but very gently, Daisuke was able to draw him out, and encourage him to Kiss Back. The rest of Ken seemed unnaturally stiff, a rigidity which Daisuke chalked up to inexperience. Oh, how he cherished that hesitation! But it frustrated him, too. Ken didn’t know what to do with himself, not exactly, and whatever natural sense he might have had was banished with Hikari’s vote of No Confidence.
So. While Ken was relaxing in stages, daring to believe that this was real and that he wasn’t failing miserably—well, Daisuke decided to show off a little of his expertise. One hand remained up near Ken’s face, playing with his hair, petting his satin cheeks. The other however… traced downwards. Slowly. Daisuke knew that this might be his only opportunity to teach Ken anything, and so he wanted it to be a good lesson, gentle and glorious all at once.
But first, it was time to check in. Daisuke disengaged from the kiss, and Ken opened his eyes, unable to hide a sense of worry. Both boys were panting. “Are you okay?” Daisuke asked quietly.
“I like this very much,” Ken confessed shyly. “mmm..why did you stop? Am I doing something wrong?”
“Not at all.” Daisuke kissed the tip of Ken’s nose, just so. And he kissed his lips. And then, he allowed his searching hand to find something most interesting through the cotton of Ken’s boxers. Ken moaned, as Daisuke tried something that was new, even to him. “Not at all.”
It was completely unsurprising to Ken that Daisuke made him so weak. He always had assumed that Daisuke would be the one to take control, at least at first... his sheer normalness made him a better candidate for initial romantic leadership. And what did not surprise him also did not bother him: Ken liked to give over to Daisuke, at least in this. At least for today.
And....especially since he was falling-over drunk. Not that this mattered much, seeing as how he didn't plan on leaving the floor anytime soon. But despite the deceptive clarity that passion seemed to afford his thinking processes, whenever he moved his head too quickly or tried to formulate a very complicated assessment of the situation, Ken became sufficient aware that he was a long way away from sobriety. He found himself concentrating on the smallest things, like the way the fan in the window whirred. Or.. or..
Take charge, Daisuke!
"Mmm..." Ken knew that he was famous, both in his school and outside of it, for his beauty and his mystery. People wanted to be with him. Usually girls, but boys had tried to pick him up as well. Those occasions filled him with no small amount of dread and doubt, because he was still young enough to love Daisuke exclusively, and not afraid to reject prospects just on the basis of his own unrequited love. But life had become very difficult for him. To be so sexually cognizant, to be fully aware of the things that he wanted to do.. and yet abstain? Very, extremely difficult.
It had been a challenge. But worth it. Extremely. All that abstinance would surely pay off.... the fan is going, the ceiling has 4 lights in it, Daisuke is holding me ever-so tightly.... bring it on, baby!
"Ohh... Daisuke.. my Daisuke..." Daisuke was still kissing him passionately, the sake-taste in both of their mouths commingling with their natural flavour to make... a difference. Ken could tell that Daisuke was struggling to hold back, to go slowly, because he must have figured that that would be how Ken would want it the first time. Ken smiled into Daisuke's mouth. He might be trying to go slow, but that didn't stop him from slipping my underwear off anyway.
All that Ken had left was the shirt...he had kicked the socks off of his own volition. The crumpled oxford, white and still crisp around the collar, was all that stood between him and absolute nakedness. And even that was unbuttoned quite recklessly down the front, so that Daisuke could explore Ken's body pretty much unfettered. It was obvious to Ken that Daisuke was getting a tremendous kick out of the novelty of it all, but the thing that soothed his fears and doubts wasn't Daisuke's enthusiasm, but his tenderness. His touch was so careful, not hesitant but clearly appreciative of Ken's responsiveness, and aware.
Ken wanted to see what he could do with his own hands, and decided that Daisuke's pants zipper would be a wonderful place to start. Turnabout is fair play, after all... and he really wanted to try out some of the shameless maneuvers that Daisuke was inflicting upon him. But with his breathing so quick and shallow, and with his fingers shaking so, it took him a while. And all during this time, Daisuke was slicking him up, making a mess of kisses all across his chest, giving him an erection so hard and insistent that he felt most sure that he would die if things didn't crest along more quickly.
Daisuke-led sex would be, by definition, vanilla sex. It's not that he didn't have an imagination, it's just that he liked to stick to what's tried, true.. and above all, quick. The things he was doing to Ken were all basically things he liked to have done with his own body. He liked to be played with in a certain way, to be touched and fondled just so... Ken understood this, that Daisuke was giving him the kinds of stimulation that he himself enjoyed. Mentally, this was a tremendous turn-on, whereas physically?
Ken was completely ready.
Me or him. That's how it will be.
Once Ken got his hand down the front of Daisuke's pants and began to stroke him earnestly, he just felt so perfect, so wonderful... so giving... He's running this show. It should be him.
Ken was feeling tremendously loved. The blue light that gave him such an ethereal glow worked on Daisuke in a different way, making the duskiness of his olive skin seem almost darker, and his normal rosy glow was blotted out. Daisuke's hair seemed darker, almost black...the red candy-color of his hair was faded as well. And his eyes, now. Dilated from the insufficient light, and already dark to begin with... Daisuke was really quite something, and the glimmer of sweat tracing his temples made him out to be a young demigod.
"Take me..." Ken whispered. "Do it now."
Daisuke felt himself released from the confinement of his pants, Ken practically teasing him out of them into a full blown erection. Ken did something to push down both pants and underwear, although he didn't seem to have the patience to push them very far. Daisuke had to take an excruciating 20 second break kicking them off, cursing under his breath as he did so. The only thing that made this bearable was the seductive way that Ken writhed underneath him, who was also in torment during the momentary cessation of contact.
Daisuke let his pleasure be known to all and sundry with a side-splitting groan, when his naked sexuality came into blistering contact with Ken's aroused penis. So used to the lock-and-key arrangement of sexual intercourse, this was so strange, impossible... deadly sexy. Anyone who was friends with Miyako for any length of time knew the mechanics of the any kind of intercourse, down to the most mind-numbing detail. But to actually experience it, to feel a male body under his own...
Let's just say that Daisuke knew then and there that gay sex was absolutely nothing akin to masturbation.
Before Daisuke could say "how you doing?," Ken began to spit all over his hands and rubbed the spit onto Daisuke's penis, getting it slick and prepared. This also tacitly let Daisuke know exactly how he wanted it, which caused Daisuke to draw in a breath, feeling something not unlike performance anxiety. It shouldn't have surprised him that Ken would be up to speed on something so basic such as the need for lubrication... but it did. And welcoming this thought into his head merely meant that he had to assume that Ken knew a lot of other extraneous things as well.
Never underestimate the modern-day virgin.
In the end, every man just needs to come.
It doesn't matter his status in life, his stated goals and desires, or even his general fortitude or views towards sex. Even the most Tantric male needs to let loose, sometimes. Ken has no odd spiritual beliefs regarding the purpose or place of orgasm, but in his drunkeness he was as close as he ever would be to just forgetting about the whole thing altogether and going to sleep, despite his arousal. And yet, having long since passed the threshhold for when orgasm stopped being desirable and became inevitable, Ken could drink another bottle of sake and never get a wink of sleep, not with this Business he needed to take care of.
The things I do for love...oh, no. Wait. The things I get for love.
Daisuke had been quick to figure out the reason for the spit-polish, and yet had been somewhat hesitant upon inserting his favourite organ into such a .... delicate... area. But with all the conviction of a dying man, Ken forced the deed, knowing that his orgasm would be long in coming if Daisuke decided to require coaching. Damn, I don't know how to tell him what to do!
It was a moment of beauty, of sheer animal pain and bliss, when Daisuke first insinuated himself up Ken's ass. Ken was unprepared for the weird sense of pressure, or how it interacted with his state of arousal. As for Daisuke... well, Ken had clamped down almost immediately. Need more be said? Daisuke was almost mad with the position, with the beautiful look of destruction on Ken's face, with the whole conceptual framework of what he was doing.
"Ergh...oh god. Oh good god, yes!"
It was at this point that Ken decided that it didn't matter if he were good at this-- or terrible. All he knew was that he tremedously enjoyed the array of sensations that were coming with every motion that Daisuke made, from the brush of his hand to the highly intimate way that he moved within him. Obviously, this was a subject worthy of further investigation.
Ken could spend the rest of his life studying sex.
Earlier that night, both boys had separately wished for their own death. And now they had it, if not in a form that they could have predicted. In pain, in insane pleasure, in bliss, in affection, in trust, and in revelation: they died. Not a phyiscal death... their bodies were far to young to be possibly punished with that consequence of extreme arousal. But this was a more potent form of death, a stripping away of artifice. With Daisuke inside of him, Ken felt lifted above his prior self, and when Daisuke thrust deeply within him, it became the most spiritual event he could possibly imagine.
Daisuke brought his hand around Ken's penis to finish the job. Ever the gentleman, even until the end.
And how was the sex itself? Brisk, flawed, and yet completely perfect. It happened so quickly, and yet was eternal in its scope. The boys themselves had it within them to make it so. For a moment, the moment was eternal, and from kiss to climax, stasis reigned.
Without changing, the boys were transformed, a Jogress of their own existence that destiny had laid out for them since the day that a sparkling Digivice shot out of a computer in Tamachi, identifying the Ninth Child to the world.
(for your pleasure, an epilogue follows)
Herongale, 2001. All rights reserved.