Author's note: Small random plot bunny based loosely on something that did actually happen to me. Yeah. I share Ken's aversion to small talk. Yeah. It somehow always seems to lead me places I'd rather not go.
Stand alone? Chaptered fic? I'm not sure. I'm hoping for the latter, but no promises.
Ken despised small talk.
“So? What do you think? It’s nice right?” Daisuke cajoled.
He was shit at small talk.
“You just kind of sink right in,” Daisuke continued, “It’s like you’re being hugged from behind. Right? I mean, you’re the cuddle type. Aren’t you?”
Small talk was, by its very nature, supposed to be easy. But then, that's not how Ken’s life worked, was it.
No. Of course not.
Were Ken the sort to believe in karma (he wasn't), he might have seen this as proof of the shitty person he really was, deep inside. After all, why else would something as simple as small talk always manage to land him these sorts of situations?
How else could Ken go to what was supposed to be a uncomplicated Christmas party, but instead, somehow find himself trapped, lying fully clothed, in the bed of the man he had been secretly harboring a crush on for more than 10 years, all while a room full of people wearing party hats and eating Christmas cake stared down at his awkward form?
“I mean it’s shit for sex but, well, you know…” Daisuke trailed off, but not before embarrassing Ken further by shooting a knowing look and a shrug at Ken’s had-been conversation partner, Miyako and adding, “I’m sure Ichijouji Ken, super-genius, could figure something out.”
“Daisuke…”Ken pleaded, doing his best to sit up only to have Daisuke push him back down on the bed again.
“No, no, no, really try it,” Daisuke insisted, “These mattresses are like super space-age smart technology. They’re amazing! They just completely conform to your body.”
Ken found himself wishing the mattress was super space-age smart enough to recognize when he wanted to die so it could just suffocate him already.
“Best damn purchase I ever made,” Daisuke assured the gawking room. Thankfully, Takeru decided to take that as his cue to intervene.
“Okay Daisuke,” Takeru promised, “I think he gets it. Let him up already.” Ken tried to climb out of bed before Daisuke could say otherwise but the damn thing kept sucking him right back down. Eventually he gave up what little remained of his tattered pride and just rolled off the side, landing on his knees on the floor with a thud.
Fucking small talk.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It wasn’t supposed to be this hard. After all, Ken had known these people since they were all kids. They had once saved the world together. And while they had started growing apart as the number of years since their time in the Digital World had increased and they had begun going their own, separate ways in life, they still considered each other friends and made effort to get together once a year at Christmas.
Lately though, Ken had found even that much difficult.
After all, it had been the Digital World that had bound them together. And while 12-year old Ken might have believed that the friendships they had forged in battle were strong enough to last forever, reality had shown older-Ken that he and his fellow digidestined had little in actual substance in common. They had even less in common now, 10 plus years later.
Or, at least, Ken felt that way. The other digidestined seemed to fall back in with each other easily, with no regard for the time passed, friendships as strong as ever. But Ken couldn’t do that. Every year, every Christmas party, Ken found the ice a little thicker, a little harder to crack. More and more he felt like they were only inviting him out of obligation to the friend they wanted to believe he once had been.
Even then, they were probably being kind. After all, it’s not like he had even been in the running for friend-of-the-year back then, either.
They didn’t want him. They certainly did not need him. Their time together would be more enjoyable if he wasn’t there, hanging out around the edges of the party, unable to even make simple chitchat comfortably.
“Dude,” Daisuke’s nose was inches from Ken’s, the younger man crouched down next to him on the floor to apologize, “I should have warned you about that.” Daisuke stood up, offering Ken a hand which Ken waved off in useless attempt to salvage one small shred of his dignity, before standing on his own.
“You’ve got to remember,” Daisuke lectured the attentive room, a single finger held aloft, “Sitting up on a memory foam mattress requires serious core strength.”
“Seriously,” Daisuke insisted when his proclamation received little beyond disinterested murmurs, “It’s true!”
“Just check out these abs,” he continued lifting his shirt, oblivious to the chorus of groans.
“Rock hard,” Daisuke insisted, slapping his tummy.
“Put your shirt down already,” Ken was surprised to hear his own sarcasm-laced voice. Leave it to Daisuke to do something so outrageous that even Ken was moved to comment, “Trust me when I say that no one here wants to see that.”
“Oh yeah?” Daisuke winked at Ken, who only rolled his eyes in response, “You sure about that?”
“Yeah,” Takeru chimed in, “Some of us are trying to eat, you know. You trying to ruin cake for me forever?”
“Oh har har har,” Daisuke mocked back, “You’re just jealous.” Takeru and Daisuke. Still just Takeru and Daisuke. Even after all this time. The easy predictability of their relationship all but ignored by the rest of the group who began filtering their way back out of the bedroom and toward the apartment’s larger living area.
“Hey,” Daisuke tugged gently at Ken’s arm, holding him back even as the others left. “Sorry about that,” he offered, explaining, “About embarrassing you, I mean.”
“Don’t worry,” Ken brushed him off, stepping away before adding, “And I wasn’t embarrassed.”
“Ha!” Daisuke’s amusement almost gave Ken the desperate seconds he needed to escape. Almost. But somehow, the curly headed man still managed to snag Ken by his collar and pull him back around.
“Okay. First of all,” Daisuke began, unable to contain his smirk, “Yes. You were embarrassed. I am an expert in reading Ichijouji Ken and that was clearly an embarrassment blush. And second of all—“
“Wait. Stop.” Ken demanded, “You’re a what?”
Daisuke ignored him, “And second of all,” he repeated, “you kind of deserved it for flirting Miyako right in front me and everyone else.”
Ken was dumbstruck. He was well and truly dumbstruck. And that was saying something. Because Ken was certain that he could count on one hand the number of times he had actually been shocked into silence throughout his entire lifetime. Though, that being said, he was also pretty sure that they could all be traced back to Daisuke in some way or another.
But still... somehow... here he was, again.
“Ehm,” Ken finally managed to clear his throat enough to get something out, “Excuse me,” Ken began softly enough before finishing somewhat more pointedly, “I what?” When Daisuke didn’t answer, he continued, “I wasn’t flirting. I don’t even know how to flirt. Why would I even—”
“Oh, see?” Daisuke was clearly not concerned in the least by Ken’s tone, “This,” Daisuke gestured in round and about Ken’s face, “This is an angry flush. And yes you were. No man talks to a woman about mattresses unless he wants her in his.”
“Daisuke...” Ken warned.
“See? Angry flushes start at your ears,” Daisuke explained, “First your ears turn like really, really red. Dark red. Crimson. And then it’s like the color starts creeping forward.”
“It’s very different,” Daisuke continued, “From your ‘I’m frightened’ look. See, with that one, you go all pale on top. You know, like your face, your ears, but then these little red blotches start popping up here,” Daisuke ran a finger lightly around the inside of Ken’s collar, “And here,” his finger brushed against the small hallow just between Ken’s collar bones, “And here.” Daisuke’s finger traced a snaking path down to the point it was blocked by Ken’s top shirt button. “And I’ve always wondered how much further down they go,” Daisuke admitted, hooking a finger over the ‘V” and giving it a little tug only to have Ken slap the offending hand away.
“They aren’t as red as your angry flush,” Daisuke smirked, “It’s, I don’t know, almost raspberry colored? Not too dark.”
Ken tried to walk away again but Daisuke grabbed his arm, pulling him in close, “But see, this?” Daisuke nodded at Ken, voice soft as he ran a single finger lightly down the side of Ken’s face before asking again, “You see? This is embarrassed Ken. Embarrassed Ken's blush is not red at all. It’s barely pink and almost powdery somehow and only on just the edges of your cheeks. Here,” Daisuke traced a light line across first one side of Ken’s face and then the other, “And here,” he smiled.
Then Daisuke leaned in, his lips as close to Ken’s ear as they could get without actually touching. So close that Ken could actually feel his breath tickle the hairs along his neck as he whispered, “Tell me I’m wrong.”
Ken jerked back, thankful that at least some part of his brain seemed to be working even if his conscious brain seemed to be suffering some kind of full-on electrical storm.
“That’s not funny Daisuke.” Shit. Ken had thought, well, at least he had hoped, that his body would quit betraying him this way once he was finally done with puberty. Part of him thought that maybe it had. Leave it to Daisuke to make a mockery of what little self-respect Ken had managed to build in himself.
“Sorry,” Daisuke apologized again, “I mean… Really… Sorry… I feel like I’m saying that to you a lot today.” Daisuke offered Ken a contrite smile, “It’s not like I’m trying to be mean. Not really,” Daisuke shrugged, continuing, “It’s just, you make this face, and that really makes me want to pick on you, but then I do and then you make that face and it’s like, suddenly, I feel really guilty for having done it.”
“Oh.” Ken intoned, unimpressed, “Poor you.” At least Ken’s sarcasm was working again. And that made Daisuke laugh.
“Yeah,” Daisuke agreed, hamming it up, “Poor me!” He nudged Ken with his shoulder, trying to coax a smile out of the dark-haired man, “And all I really wanted to do was ask you to do me a favor. Hmmmm?”
Oh god. The wheedling tone. Ken hated the wheedling tone. His defenses were shit against Daisuke’s wheedling tone. “Sure. Whatever,” Ken answered before he had really even thought about it.
“You mean it?” Daisuke asked, clapping his hands together in excitement, “You don’t even want to know what it is?”
“Wait,” Ken demanded, “Stop. No… No.” God-damn it brain, get it together, “I meant, sure, tell me what you want.”
And then, “I’ll probably say no,” Ken clarified a second later, hoping he sounded surer of himself than he was before offering again, “But feel free to go ahead and ask.”
“Okay... Hmm... Well...” Daisuke began carefully, “I don’t know if you know this, but my little noodle cart has been doing pretty well... I mean...” Daisuke was hesitating and Ken almost thought he might be embarrassed, “I mean, well enough, I guess.”
It was an understatement. Even if Ken had not been automatically tuned in to all things Daisuke, he would have known that. Daisuke’s little start up business might have seemed like something of a lark at first, but the red-headed man clearly had a knack for business. Never mind he was a damn good cook. Add in his natural warmth and a good dollop of luck in the form of a couple of favorable write-ups by better-known critics and what had started off as a small noodle stand was fast becoming something of a Tokyo hot spot.
“I mean, I had this idea,” Daisuke continued, “I wanted to maybe open up a second stand and I was thinking that a good place to get lots of business would be… maybe near a university?”
“Uh huh,” Ken answered vaguely, “Go on.”
“Well, you know T-University is the closest one to here. But even that would be an awful long commute...” Daisuke winced. He understood full well that by now Ken knew what he was asking and yet, Ken seemed equally determined to make him slog all the way through the actual asking part. Daisuke regretted not factoring in Ken’s despotic streak before teasing him earlier. “And I just got this apartment… And I really like it… And I don’t want to give it up just yet...”
“Hmm, that is a problem,” Ken offered, his voice completely devoid of any compassion.
“And, well, I was thinking that, you know, you work at T-University. And, you know, that you—“
“No.” Ken was proud of how firm his voice sounded.
“Oh come on, Ken! It wouldn’t be that bad!” Daisuke promised, “I’m not even talking every night. Three, maybe four days a week. At most!”
“Absolutely not.” Ken responded. Ken had lived with Daisuke only once before and it had very nearly killed him. He wasn’t about to just go and volunteer for that same misery again anytime soon.
“Please Ken?” Uh-oh, Daisuke was bringing out the big guns, “This is really important to me and I don’t think I’ll be able to do it otherwise.” Daisuke had Ken by the arm, squeezing even as he tried to stare deep into Ken’s eyes.
Ken sighed, damn the red-headed man and his tricks. “Daisuke…” he began, “You know me… you know… I need my space. It’s just… it wouldn’t work.”
But Daisuke was not swayed. “You would have my word. Only two days per week. Max. And you wouldn’t even know I was there,” Daisuke assured him. “I’d sneak in, quiet as a mouse, late at night, sleep and then sneak back out the next morning.”
That wasn’t how it was going to be. Ken knew that that was never how it was going to be. Still...
“Daisuke,” Ken shook his head, thinking back to what had got him cornered in the first place, repeating “It wouldn’t work. I don’t—I don’t even have a bed for you to sleep on, remember? You’d be better off just coming back here. Really. I mean...”
“Well, if you’re that worried, I’ll have someone move my mattress over to your place. There’s plenty of room for both of us on it.” Daisuke offered with a cheeky grin.
“Daisuke.” Ken growled, annoyed. But that only made Daisuke grin bigger.
“See?” He asked, pronouncing, “Angry Ken,” before continuing, “I’m just kidding, I’m just kidding,” he promised, “I don’t know, I’ll buy a futon,” Daisuke suggested, but then, noticing Ken’s discomfort, “or, I don’t know, a sleeping bag. Something less… invasive? Something you can toss in a closet when I’m not there. Which will be most of the time,” Daisuke promised before asking, one more time, hands folded in prayer, “Pleeeeeeeease?”
“Okay, fine,” Ken finally relented, “You can stay. But only 2 days a week.”
And then Daisuke was on him. Hugging and jumping. And somehow jumping while hugging. And excited. Too excited.
“Okay, okay, okay,” Ken pushed himself out of Daisuke’s grip as gently as he could manage, “You’re happy. I get that. But you’re going to need to calm… down...”
“Yeah, I know,” Daisuke smiled, “But it’s going to be cool. Just like when we were kids.”
“Yeah,” Ken agreed, “just like when we were kids,” before reminding Daisuke, “Two days per week. Remember. You said two days”
Daisuke nodded, “No, no, yeah. Two days. I mean, unless—“
Ken cut him off, “Two. Days.”
“Right,” Daisuke agreed with a smile, “Two days. Wouldn’t want to, you know, intrude. Don’t worry,” Daisuke pledged, “I promise I’ll stay out of your hair. You won’t even know when I’m there. After all, I know you Ken.” Daisuke smiled. “I think I know you better than you know you.”
Ken sighed. There was no way that this wasn’t going to end badly. What had he done? What had he been thinking? Of course this wouldn’t work. What little was left of Ken and Daisuke’s previous friendship was predicated on the fact that Ken avoided Daisuke whenever possible. This was practically asking for Ken to do something stupid that would destroy everything. And that might very well destroy him. Or, at the very least the best part of him. The only part of him that had ever really mattered. The only part he actually dreaded losing. Daisuke.
Ken had just about made up his mind to tell Daisuke it wouldn’t work after all, that he would have to think of something else. And he would have to. That is, if a loud voice had not come hollering down the hall.
“Hey!” Takeru called, “Have the two of you finished fucking yet?” Oh god. Ken was sure even the neighbors had heard that.
“Some of us would like to get out of here before midnight and it’s awful hard to make our excuses when the host is mrmrrhm—“ Ken sent a small prayer heavenward for whoever took it upon themselves to shut Takeru up.
“See?” Daisuke smiled a toothy grin, pointing to Ken’s cheeks, “You may not realize this but you’re actually really embarrassed right now, Ken,” Daisuke laughed. “I get you. I understand you. This is going to work out perfectly,” he laughed, “Promise.”
Yep. There was no way in hell that Ken wasn’t going to end up regretting this.