Chapter 1: Small Talk
Chapter 2: Shark Tank
Chapter 3: No Harm, No Foul
Everyone has that one person in their life. Or so he told himself
That one friend that they like, truly, whose friendship they value, and yet, that they still find themselves resenting or loathing even, often when they least expect it.
The one person that they try, often vigorously, even desperately, perhaps relentlessly not to hate, and yet, despite their best efforts, still do hate.
It is an enmity that is not constant. It fades with distance and time, and can even disappear entirely upon occasion, replaced by nostalgia and sentimentality. It is a hostility that waxes and wanes, only brought forth by, say, extended and/or frequent proximity to the person in question.
Yes, folks, it is true. Absence really can make the heart grow fonder. Or, at the very least, more amnesiac.
It is a hatred that can only be felt for a dear friend that you truly like, or maybe even love—or rather, who you think you do—right up until that moment when you suddenly realize that you’d like nothing more than for them to shut the hell up and go far, far away.
Small doses. That’s what Daisuke was thinking. Some people were best taken only in small doses. Preferably spaced way the fuck apart. Anything more than that and they would inevitably find a way of reminding you why you didn’t really like them all that much after all.
Daisuke closed his eyes, willing himself to count to ten, slowly, offering a silent prayer that after nearly 15 years of friendship, he would not finally crack and strangle the blond man sitting in front of his noodle stand.
Not that Takeru paused long enough to even notice Daisuke’s distress.
Don’t misunderstand. It wasn’t that Daisuke didn’t like Takeru. No, the blond was like a brother to him, one of his oldest and dearest friends. Their shared history ran deep and could not be easily forgotten.
Nor was Daisuke’s annoyance based on nagging childhood rivalries. Those old ghosts had been laid to rest years and years before, roughly about the same time Daisuke had come to understand that any burgeoning affection he may have believed he felt for Hikari was based more on her lean, boyish figure and her societal acceptability than anything so pithy as actual love.
So what made Daisuke want to throttle Takeru?
Well, partially, it was those god-damned stupid hats and the scarf that the man insisted on wearing everywhere and always, regardless of the season. Only idiots wore a scarf in Tokyo in summer.
But also, it was the fact that, without fail, when Daisuke was at his busiest, or at his most vulnerable, when he was desperately fighting to keep his life's little fires from raging out of control and destroying him and everything around him, Takeru Takashi could be counted on to be standing smack dab in the middle of it all, gas can at the ready, gleefully dumping fuel on the flames.
“No, no, no. Just hear me out,” Takeru insisted, “I feel like you’re making this way too difficult.”
“Yeah,” Miyako concurred, her contribution being offered via Takeru’s cell phone, left on speakerphone on the counter of Daisuke’s yakisoba stand, “This is Ken we’re talking about,” she reminded everyone in the nearby vicinity, “I’m pretty sure he’s had a crush on you since he was 12.”
“Um-hum,” Takeru nodded his agreement, slurping this way through his third helping of Daisuke’s noodles, on the house, of course.
“He’s shy. If you’re planning on waiting until he makes the first move you’ll—” Miyako continued before pausing with a, “Hang on a second.” Daisuke could hear a muffled exchange followed by a second, more exasperated sounding exchange and then Miyako was back.
“Ugh,” she groused, coming back to the phone, “Work stuff. Again.” Daisuke rolled his eyes. It was just after two in the afternoon, a time generally considered to be smack dab in the middle of most able bodied Japanese’s work day. But not, apparently Miyako’s.
“Sometimes I think these people couldn’t tie their own shoes without asking how first,” she complained.
“Anyway, as I was saying,” she continued, “Ken’s shy. He’s not going to make the first move. You’re going to have to get in there and show him you’re not going to take no for an answer.”
“Yeah,” Takeru agreed with a grin, “If you say jump, the only thing Ken should be asking is in which orifice.”
Daisuke groaned. Why did it always seem like he was the one that got stuck arguing with the crazy people, “Okay, first of all—that doesn’t even make sense,” Daisuke began. “Second of all, I’m not letting either of you idiots talk me into anything that would give Ken reason to hurt me because I’m pretty sure he could kick my ass. And third,” Daisuke reminded them, “There is still a little something called consent in Japan. Just because you read it in a manga doesn’t mean it won’t get me thrown in jail.”
“I mean, it kind of makes sense,” Takeru grumbled.
“No, it doesn’t.” Daisuke remained firm, “Not unlike the rest of your so-called plan.”
“The plan’s solid,” Takeru defended, “It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get into it…” Takeru trailed off momentarily before adding, “I mean, I’m pretty sure…” there was another pause before, “Well, kind of mostly sure.”
“You and Ken will laugh about it later,” Miyako concurred.
Yeah. That wasn’t how Daisuke saw this going down. “Just move on,” Daisuke insisted, “it’s not happening. End of discussion. The next person who brings it up has to pay for every plate of yakisoba they’ve ever eaten here. And I mean it.”
Oh, that was a threat.
“Okay, fine, jeeze,” Takeru conceded, not willing to endanger his ability to grab free food on demand, “So we’re nixing ‘forced seduction’.” Takeru shook his head, exasperated. “I’ll put that one down with ‘fake fiancée’ and ‘moving to America’ on the ever growing list of things that Daisuke is apparently unwilling to even try.”
“Oh Daisuke,” Miyako’s frustrated sigh filtered down through the telephone line, “If I didn’t know better, I’d think you didn’t even want our help,” she complained, before promising, “But don’t worry. Takeru and I won’t be giving up.”
Yeah. Don't worry. If only that wasn't the fear that kept Daisuke up at night.
Ken looked out the prep room’s only window and across the tree tops obstructing his view of the west end of the campus. If it weren’t for those trees he would have been able to see the red banner that hung stretched across the top of Daisuke’s noodle cart. Well. If not for the trees and his less than stellar eyesight, anyway.
He found himself wondering what Daisuke was up to at that very moment. It was doubtful that he’d have many customers in the middle of the afternoon, even right off of a college campus. So what did the red-headed man do during his down time? Did he get bored? It seemed so unlike Daisuke to just sit around waiting for a customer to show up. Did he shutter the stand before opening back up just before the dinner rush? Or was Ken underestimating Japan’s between meal snacking habits?
Ken supposed he could just ask but, perhaps strangely, doing so almost felt like it would be an intrusion. After all, much of Daisuke and Ken’s current relationship seemed predicated on the mutual, if unspoken, agreement that neither man would pry into the other’s life any more than was absolutely necessary.
Ever since their argument, if it could even be called that, a few weeks ago, Daisuke seemed to have been taking special care to avoid Ken whenever possible. At first Ken had been worried that he had seriously hurt the younger man’s feelings. Then Ken had started to worry that Daisuke was only tiptoeing around on tenderhooks out of fear Ken would rescind his offer of a place to stay. But then Ken had started to think that maybe Daisuke was going out of his way not to engage with Ken so as to not have to deal with Ken’s no doubt annoying idiosyncrasies, which, if he were being honest, Ken could understand. So Ken decided to respect the boundaries Daisuke seemed intent on putting in place.
After all, that would probably be better for the both of them.
Strangely though, distancing himself only seemed to be making Ken think of Daisuke all the more. Whenever he had a spare moment, Ken’s thoughts immediately went to where Daisuke was, or what Daisuke might be doing. On the nights that Daisuke did not come back to Ken’s apartment, Ken found himself worrying about whether or not the red-headed man had made it back to Odaiba safely. And on the nights when Daisuke did stay over, Ken found himself lying awake, awaiting the younger man’s return only to have to feign sleep when he heard Daisuke’s key in the lock.
It was exasperating, not to mention exhausting.
And now it seemed the red-headed man had even invaded Ken’s working hours, much to Ken’s unending frustration.
There was a quick rap on the door frame before the door slid partially open with a questioning, “Ichijouji-sensei?”
Koushiro Izumi—quite possibly the only digidestined, other than Daisuke, that Ken saw more than twice a year—something that had more than a little to do with the fact that he worked two buildings over in the computer sciences department of T-University. It didn’t hurt that Koushiro seemed to share some of Ken’s innate social awkwardness and thus, won some small consideration.
“Hey, Ken,” Koushiro’s demeanor immediately relaxed when he realized that Ken was alone in the prep room, “I was hoping you’d had a chance to look over that program I sent?” Koushiro was in the habit of sending anything even loosely related to the Digital World over for Ken’s input. And the more excited he was about the program, the more impatient he got. Not that Ken minded. Looking at the programs, even brainstorming possible solutions to whatever issue Koushiro was encountering was actually kind of fun. And it was good to know that Ken wasn’t the only one who sometimes wondered if there was a way they might one day connect with the Digital World and their long lost partners.
This time though, was different. Koushiro wasn’t just working on a communication program. He seemed to be trying to build a new digital gate and his excitement was evident in the fact that he had only sent it over to Ken that morning and here he was already knocking on the prep room door.
“Yeah, sorry, no,” Ken admitted, “I had classes all morning,” he explained, never mind his other distractions.
“Hey, no, it’s cool,” Koushiro promised, his disappointment evident. Ken bit back the urge to apologize, something Daisuke had tried repeatedly to tease out of him when they had been children, with, at best, only minimal success. Instead, Ken offered Koushiro a small smile.
“I was actually just starting to look at it…” Ken hedged, motioning towards the laptop sitting open on the desk in front of him, “If I’m reading this right,” he continued, “it almost looks like you’re trying to use a bit of quantum theory to stabilize a digital gate?”
That was all it took. Koushiro immediately jumped in and began explaining his theory in detail. It wasn’t half bad. If Ken were being totally honest with himself, he would admit that he was a little disappointed that the idea had not occurred to him. But these thoughts were only the lingering competitiveness left behind by the long dormant dark seed. Ken had long ago learned to let such things go. Mostly. And again, with no small thanks, to Motomiya Daisuke. Ken found his mind wondering who, or what he would have become without the red-headed man having shown up in his life when he had. Ken did his best to try not to think about who, or what, he would become when Daisuke finally realized the futility in trying to be his friend and—
“Ken! Hey—Earth to Ken!” Koushiro’s words broke through Ken’s thoughts and Ken was surprised to discover that he was, once again, staring out across the west end of campus. He glanced up at Koushiro, expecting annoyance at his inattention but finding only amusement in its place.
“Yeah, sorry,” this time Ken did apologize, “I just…” he trailed off before admitting, “I haven’t been sleeping that well.”
“House guest?” Koushiro surmised, making Ken smile. If anyone could understand how Ken felt, having his world turned upside down on any given night by nothing more than another human being existing in closer than usual proximity, it would be Koushiro. Or so Ken assumed.
“Yeah,” Ken admitted, “It’s strange. You wouldn’t think it be that much different from all the sleepovers we had when we were still kids but…” Ken trailed off with a shrug before continuing, “I guess I don’t feel like either of us really feels like we can relax.”
Koushiro nodded his understanding but, otherwise, didn’t comment.
“I mean, Daisuke’s not a bad guest,” Ken suddenly felt the need to defend his oldest friend, “He cooks. And he’s surprisingly neat. He got me a little air mattress so I don’t have to sleep on that crap couch anymore.”
Again, Koushiro only nodded but he was unable to completely hide the tweak of a little smile.
“It’s just the never knowing if he’ll be there this night or that,” Ken admitted, “There’s no reason or rhyme to the days he chooses.” Ken was staring out his window again, eyes trying, if only subconsciously, to bore their way through the treetops, “I can’t ask him to leave, not after saying he could stay,” Ken reasoned, more for himself than Koushiro at this point, “He needs a place to stay on this end of town when he works late,” Ken rationalized, “But part of me almost thinks it be easier if I knew he was coming back to the apartment every night rather than just whenever.”
It surprised Ken to hear himself say such a thing out loud but what truly shocked him more was just how right the words actually felt.
Koushiro, however, did not seem particularly stunned. “You could always ask,” Koushiro suggested, “I don’t think Daisuke would mind.”
“Yeah, but…”Ken hedged, “He has that apartment he purchased in Odaiba. He’s not going to want to just give that up. Not to come live in my cramped place. No matter how close it is to where he’s working.”
“Eh,” Koushiro shrugged, “I wouldn’t be so sure. Besides,” he reminded Ken, “you’ll never actually know unless you actually ask him. After all, the worst Daisuke could say is no. And then you’d just be back where you started,” he reminded Ken, “No harm, no foul.”
Yeah. No harm, no foul. If only that wasn't the fear that kept Ken up at night.