NOPE! I'm not dead yet! Barely alive, but not dead yet!

Violettegal345: I hereby reassure you and everyone right now that no matter how long it might take me to update, I will never abandon this fic. I love it too much to do so. I will see it to the end, which is near.

Black Mirror: XD yes, I'm quite proud of you. And yes. Omi rules the anime universe *melt*

annakas: Hm. As I mentioned previously, ideas for the fic come from either my own demented brain or my sempai's. I'd list to you all which ideas belonged to who, but that would make a long list. Maybe I should do it sometime and post it with the epilogue.

Midsummer's first birthday happened in December. Wow. I can't believe I started it more than a year ago O.o To celebrate that, and to compensate once again for a long delay (I'm blaming school, which hated both of us this term, and Hunter x Hunter *huggles Kurapika, before glomping Gon, Killua and Leorio too*), I have a really, really long update here. More than four months delay? Four times as long chapter!

Enjoy.

Chapter 21 – Talk to Me

His eyes felt sticky.

That was the first thought in Ken's mind when he woke up that next morning. He groaned to himself, trying to rub out the gunk. He wondered for a moment what state he must've fallen asleep in to make his eyes feel like that in the first place.

Ken suddenly sat up, eyes snapping wide open.

The potion.

The antidote.

Memories of what had happened slowly came back to him. Omi came up with something and tried to cure him and Yohji. They'd fallen asleep with this 'Dian's Bud' antidote and waking up the next day, they should be cured of any infatuation for the youngest Weiss member.

…… So why did he feel no different?

His heart and mind raced. He should be back to liking Aya. But he wasn't. He instead tried to bring up an image of Omi and, without even a thought, it brought a smile to his face.

He made it fall as he groaned and shook his head. "No! No!! NO!!"

This was wrong! Omi'd cured them!! He'd tried to come up with some sort of cure for them from the procedures he'd found from those files. Then, with mental power many people thought Ken didn't possess, he came to the only conclusion.

It didn't work.

Ken's heart sank. After all their trust and confidence in Omi's work, to have it fail just like this?! It was an anti-climax… one that would once again hurt the young blonde. With that thought, his heart ached even more. Omi had counted on this. Having it blow up in his face could crush him.

But why didn't it work? Omi'd followed the instructions, made a few modifications…

… Did he end up with the same thing?

Ken felt sick. He remembered the book that Omi kept comparing themselves to. That one girl was loved by both, then the other girl was the center of attention because of some idiocy. Then in the end, it had just been done again, so that the one the girl actually liked would still like her back. Ken's thoughts gave him a brief headache. Once it cleared, though, he felt worried. Was that what happened here?

Suddenly, Ken was uneasy to go outside. If he was going to fall in love with whoever he saw first, that would be even more trouble. And he wasn't even sure he wanted to go through all this again, with a different love. Truth be told, he still wanted Omi…

…… That's it! Omi!

Ken leapt from the bed and tried to get dressed. If he got out there and tried to see Omi first… and Omi thought that they were cured, then maybe… Maybe Omi would think…

It was a dirty scheme, that was for sure. But he wanted to see Omi smile again.

As soon as he tugged on a clean shirt, he raced out the room to find his friend. Of course, things don't always go according to plan, because as soon as he had left the door, he plowed straight into another body.

"K'sou!" Ken immediately swore, and his eyes glanced up to scan whoever it was who dared interfere.

Yohji.

All at once, his face began to heat up. His body tensed all over, his senses suddenly all alert. His heart pounded fast and loud in his chest, and it was hard to breathe.

Yohji glanced back at him. From the look on his face, he was feeling the same way.

For a brief moment, they only looked at each other, neither breaking the silence.

Finally, Ken opened his mouth to speak…

-----*-----

"Nee, Aya-kun?"

Aya looked up with a raised eyebrow, acknowledging his younger companion.

Omi looked worried, once again appearing to not have gotten much sleep. Still, his face showed the little hope that he had. "Do you think… that Yohji-kun and… and Ken-kun are okay?"

The redhead had no answer for him, mostly because he couldn't think to raise the boy's hopes, or to crush them with whatever he could say. Omi accepted the silence with a sigh. He was about to ask about another thing when they heard it upstairs.

"Temee yoooo!!"

Omi paused, staring at the ceiling. "Anou. That's… Ken-kun."

"Aa." Aya nodded.

"Ow! Fuck! Ken!! What the hell is your problem?!"

"…… And that's… Yohji-kun."

"Aa." A glare came to Aya's face as he glanced up as well.

"Um. I guess… it's safe to assume they're awake?"

"Aa."

Omi scowled and put his hands on his hips as Aya looked back to his mug. "Really, Aya-kun. It's always nice talking to you." He winced as his voice was drowned out by more yelling upstairs.

"My problem is you, Kudou!! Why do you always try to trip me up?!!"

"Trip you up? What the fuck did I do to you this time?! Don't tell me you had some incredible scheme cooked up?!"

There was silence after. It was either because they'd stopped arguing, or Ken had calmed down and decided to tell Yohji in a lower voice.

"Ken, that's the stupidest thing I'd ever heard!"

… Obviously, now, it was the latter. Omi sighed and got up to retrieve a glass of water.

"Well, what do you think I can do?? I don't want to lose him!!"

"Oh right. So says the guy who chases down anything pretty."

"You're the fucking playboy!"

The voices were coming closer. Aya and Omi looked at each other in confusion.

"I haven't done that in months!"

"Really? Aren't you some kind of expert on lying to people, then making them cry, and breaking their hearts?"

They were getting closer to the kitchen as the seeming argument grew even more heated.

"WHY don't YOU take a good look around, if YOU think you're so observant…Tell me… Who's the one crying and heartbroken now?!"

There was a brief silence.

"God, Ken!! Why don't you open your eyes a little wider? That's the damned reason why you never realized Omi had this crush on you!"

"I… I didn't realize! I didn't think of him that way because he's my friend, so I didn't SEE it! I'm sorry! I didn't know! Why are you blaming me, dammit?!"

"I don't want to! But if you're going to be such a damn idiot then why don't I pound it in your head?!"

"Fuck!! Yohji!! Why is this all me now?! Who are you really in love with, anyway?!!"

Aya suddenly started coughing. Omi spun around, wide-eyed, and discovered that he had started choking on his water.

"I… Err… ahh…" There was a lot of sputtering going on outside as well. Finally, Yohji's voice reaffirmed itself. "That's not the point right now!"

Aya's face turned dark and indifferent seconds before it disappeared behind a newspaper. Omi could find no other action other than to stare.

"Isn't it? If I remember right, there was another victim to this stupid love thing."

"Right… The 'love thing'. Which Omi wanted to cure us of. Which goes back to you're not going to do that bullshit you're talking about."

"I already said I won't do it! But what do you want me to do?!"

"Tell him, you lousy idiot!!"

"But that'll break him!"

"Ken, you'll break him thrice as much if you lead him on and he finds out the truth! I'm not going to let you do that! If you're not going to tell him it didn't work, then I will!"

There was a sudden crashing sound. Both men stopped and looked up. They'd made it to the kitchen. In fact, they were standing right outside of it.

Omi stood there, the broken pieces of glass at his feet. His eyes were wide as he gazed at them. Behind him a newspaper shifted uncomfortably, but otherwise no other sound was heard.

Finally, Omi spoke in a soft, quivering voice.

"I-it didn't work?"

Ken was already moving toward him before he paused, "Omi… I…" he swallowed and looked down. "How much did you hear?"

"All of it, you idiots. You could be heard throughout the house!" Omi's gaze turned cold. "How… how could you think of not telling me? Do you think I'm stupid, Ken-kun?!"

"No! Of course you're not! At… At least you tried to do something!"

"Well, look where it put us now!"

"It was… We really didn't know what would happen!"

"So that means, apparently, that I botched something up! Why… Why did I even bother?! Nothing I can do will fix this!"

Ken was at a loss for words as Omi shook his head in his grief. It was Yohji who cut in softly, "Omi. Don't blame yourself. It's not your fault that this happened to us. Just because you're team leader, or maybe because you're the center of everything right now, you don't have to take responsibility for everything that happens. Besides… noone's perfect…"

At the kitchen table, the newspaper suddenly lifted itself higher, shielding itself from everyone else.

Omi didn't reply. Instead, he murmured softly, staring at the floor.

"…… Ken-kun… So… You're still… You're still in love with me?!"

"…………" Ken hung his head. "… Yes."

Omi plopped into a chair, groaning. He buried his face in his hands, "It really didn't work, did it…?"

"… I guess it didn't." Ken admitted. "I… In fact I thought that it was like that book you read, and you did the same thing to us by accident. So when we wake up, whoever we see first will be some new love interest."

"…… That sounds like it could be right."

"Yeah, but then I saw Yohji right away, and I still hate his existence."

Yohji scoffed. "The feeling is mutual."

"Then… Why would Ken-kun still be the same?" He looked up at Yohji. "… What about you?"

The blonde thought for a moment. He shrugged. "I feel fine, the same I did last night after you left. Actually, I slept fine, even though I was thinking that Aya was waiting there to kill me after I fell asleep."

Something inside Omi clicked. "Aya-kun was there?"

"Yeah, he actually was there before I fell asleep."

Omi leapt to his feet and turned to the newspaper in the corner of the kitchen. The newspaper seemed to realize it was being watched, and lowered itself to reveal Aya's face.

"Aya-kun!! How could you?!"

Yohji and Ken almost fell over.

"Ahaha. I was wondering about that newspaper…"

"So, he was there all this time?"

"Do you realize what you could've done?! Everything could possibly have gone wrong thanks to what you did!"

Aya blinked in surprise. "What?"

"If this was some large experiment, you were the variable that went wrong! What if… What if everything went wrong because you were in Yohji-kun's room? What if… What if Ken-kun was right and I made the same thing?!"

They all glanced at each other as Omi continued.

"I… What if I was wrong and there was no need for sleep? What if it works as soon as it's put in? Or as soon as you rub it in or something? Now we don't know for sure, because Aya-kun was there!"

There was a little silence.

"You know," Yohji said softly. "He's right. I mean, I don't feel like that about Omi anymore."

"You don't?" Omi gasped softly.

"Uh. Yeah."

"So… it's whoever you see clearly, after the potion sets in," Omi concluded. "Even… now."

Aya wasn't listening. He was staring at Yohji as if he were the most disgusting living thing on the planet. Yohji noticed.

"… Aya."

But Aya didn't hear any of it. He had already stood and without a word, left the kitchen. Yohji cursed under his breath and took chase. "Aya!!"

Omi watched after them, then looked down at the floor.

"… Omi, I…"

"Don't say it, Ken-kun."

"But, Omi, I… we need… I think we need to talk."

"…… No, Ken-kun. Not now."

With that said, Omi left the kitchen.

-----*-----

Omi found himself in the den, in one of the side chairs. He curled himself up into a ball, as if trying to hide if Ken decided to come into the room.

Why? Why is it like this? Why can't things go back to normal?

But Omi knew that it can't go back to normal. They all knew about Omi's feelings. Ken will always feel guilty, he'll always try to make Omi feel right again. But it won't be right.

He hunched over, Ken-kun… Why did this have to happen? I was content being your friend. I didn't mind watching you without touching. It hurt sometimes, but then the pain was still bearable. Now…

Now… He couldn't even bear to be in the same room as Ken. It was horrible. Omi groaned into his arms. This wasn't what he wanted. He never wanted anything like this. He wanted everyone around him to be happy. He was content, being the one who hurt, and never wanted anyone else to hurt. Ken needed to understand that.

That's right. Ken-kun needs to know. Maybe I should go and talk to hi-

"Aiy wai won yuu tok to me?"

Omi twitched. That was Yohji's voice. He glanced up behind the chair in alarm, but there was noone there.

He raised an eyebrow and groaned. "It was just my imagination."

He settled back into the chair and was about to mope a little more when a figure appeared before him.

Omi jumped in his seat. "A-aya-kun?!"

But Aya paid him no heed, just walking past. Omi only had a few seconds to blink when Yohji suddenly passed by, hot on his tail. He had something stuffed in his mouth, the remnants of something edible in one hand, and a plate of doughnuts in the other.

"C'mn Ayaaa! Wuujuu justop an listen?"

Omi blinked a few more times. Then even more, as they came around the living room once more before him.

"Aya!!"

They were behind him again. Omi went dot-eyed, turning his head to watch them, then slowly returning to his original position as they circled back in front of him.

On the fourth or fifth time of this, he cracked.

"WILL YOU TWO STOP IT!!!" Omi screamed. He leapt to his feet and ran out to escape them.

His room. He'll be safe in his room. He can brood without them bothering him. And there he fled.

He locked the door as soon as he had reached his refuge. It was after he had tackled his bed when he picked up where he had left off. But he had barely gotten his thoughts settled on everything, there was a thumping up the stairs.

"Wairyu alwez runingahay?!" Kami-sama, he should stop talking with something in his mouth, it was murdering his ears.

"AHYAA!!!"

Omi's eyes popped open. There was a stomping outside past his door, then the sound of another door slamming, not too far away.

God no. They were upstairs.

Omi grabbed his pillow and buried his head underneath it. He wailed softly when there was a pounding sound coming from that direction. Aya must have locked his door too.

"AYA!! Open UP!!"

Well at least, whatever Yohji was eating was out of his mouth. Still Omi couldn't think. Finally he jumped out of the bed, opened his door, tore past Yohji (who had stopped and stared after him before going back to bothering Aya), and escaped back downstairs.

Omi didn't care where he ended up; he let his feet take him. So he didn't mind at all when he found himself back in the kitchen. He panted, leaning over the counter, hand over his chest as he struggled to catch his breath.

Just as he was about to straighten, and continue his Ken-related angst, he heard a dull thud outside in the alley. He glanced up, through the window, and stared in horror.

Aya had stood up, and was gingerly brushing himself off. He glanced at Omi, then came back into the house through the back door beside him. As soon as he closed the door, he locked it, took another glance to Omi, and left. Omi soon heard the sound of a door, maybe upstairs, slamming.

Before Omi was even able to recover, he looked back outside to witness Yohji leaping down from above.

Omi stared blankly as Yohji brushed himself off, though he had an odd expression on his face as if he had forgotten something. That's when Omi realized he was still carrying that damned plate. He was about to scold Yohji for disturbing everyone's peace, not to mention possibly breaking their dinnerware, when Yohji looked up. Omi paused, and couldn't help following his gaze.

There was a lone doughnut falling from the sky.

Omi sweatdropped.

Yohji muttered a curse under his breath, reached out his plate, and (to Omi's confused amazement) caught it. He reached out with his other hand. He wiggled his fingers, grabbed it, and stuffed into his mouth.

Suffice to say, Omi was in utter shock.

Yohji moved for the door, and tried the knob. He frowned and finished the final doughnut, swallowing it. He looked up and spotted Omi at the window.

"Hey! Omi! Can you open the door for me?! Oh, and I'll put the plate in the sink if you want. I know how you want Ken's kitchen to be neat."

Omi continued to stare, then finally slumped forward over the counter.

-----*-----

It was much later when Omi had escaped to the basement. First of all, if Aya still was around (maybe he had left so that Yohji wouldn't follow him), he definitely wouldn't go down to the mission room, seeing as there was no escape aside from the spiral stairs.

Second…… Omi glanced with a groan at all the chemistry equipment he had down there. He had gotten enough to fill two parallel long tables. That was how much he had needed to make his antidote. His failed antidote.

There was no use. He sighed, as he set out to start clearing out everything.

"Hey…"

Omi almost choked.

"What…" he tried to clear his throat. "What are you… doing here, Ken-kun?"

Ken came nearer, standing next to him. "Can I help with that?"

There was a long silence. Omi didn't respond at first, then after a moment's thought, he nodded, stepping to the side to give him room. Ken smiled a little. He complied, standing next to Omi and started clearing away the glassware.

They worked without speaking. Neither had anything to say. Or rather, they felt they didn't know what to say.

A voice eventually lingered into the quiet.

"I'm sorry… if it seemed I was mad at you…" Omi said softly.

"No, it's no problem. I should be the one sorry, actually. You and Yohji are both right. It was a stupid idea."

"…… At least you meant well."

"But I shouldn't try to go about it the way that I thought about."

Omi nodded, and silence befell them once more. They'd almost completely cleared one of the two parallel tables when Ken spoke again.

"Um… Sorry again."

"What for this time?"

"Sorry… it didn't work."

There was a small choking sound, then a sudden sound of glass breaking. Ken looked up in alarm. Omi was trembling. He had turned away from Ken, but the older could see he was clutching his own hand.

"Omi…?" Ken reached over to take his arm. Omi refused to move, but after a little coaxing, he finally turned to reveal his bloodied fingers.

"Omi…" Ken said again, reaching over to take some tissue. He began to clean up the blood, checking the cuts that Omi had just given himself.

"I'm sorry……" Omi whispered. "I'm… I'm just clumsy."

Ken smiled as he wrapped the hand gently. "And people say I'm the clumsy one."

"I'm sorry…" Omi repeated, his shoulders shaking a little.

"At least you're all right. I don't think you have any shards in your hand." Ken touched Omi's face with his other hand. "Chin up, 'mittchi!"

Omi hesitated, but the hand tilted his face up gently. Ken's heart ached when he saw the tears.

"Omi… Omi don't cry. I hate it when you cry."

Omi shook his head, closing his eyes. "I-I'm trying to stop. I c-can't. I'm… I'm such a weakling."

"No. God, no, Omi! You're far from a weakling. You're way stronger than any of us!" Ken moved his hand to wipe the tears away. "It'll be okay. We'll work things out!"

"When, Ken-kun? When?! I-I…" he sobbed softly. "I've been trying so hard, looking everywhere, just trying to get things back to normal, but I can't. I don't think I ever will be able to!"

"Like Yohji said… Noone's perfect."

"Everyone else thinks I should be."

"No we don't! Omi, you're human! You make mistakes just like the rest of us! And we know that!"

"Ken-kun…"

"You know what, Omi? Don't think about us, right now. You always think about me, and Yohji, and Aya. What about you? When do you ever think about yourself?"

Omi was quiet, once more looking down. Ken paused, "Omi?"

"I… you. More than anything… I want… us… but…"

"…… But?"

"b-but…" Omi didn't finish the sentence. He looked up into Ken's face. Ken was watching him intently, the pads of his fingers sliding up to gently wipe at Omi's tears.

Before any of the two could react, Ken slowly lowered his face and let their lips meet.

Omi gasped, his eyes wide as he moved his hands to push him away, but Ken held him fast, slowly deepening the kiss. His knees went weak, his mind getting foggy. It didn't take long at all, before his eyes closed against his will, and he began to respond to Ken's kisses.

He felt Ken gently push him backward. He complied, stumbling a little over his own feet, though Ken held him up. His back was pressed lightly into the edge of the table. Ken wrapped an arm around Omi's waist and held their bodies together.

"Mm…mm… Ken…kun……" Omi murmured softly, his arms snaking up around Ken's neck.

"Hai, 'mi?" Ken's mouth left Omi's as he started trailing kisses over the younger's chin.

Omi forgot whatever he had meant to say in favor of a soft moan. Ken's fingers had tangled themselves in his hair, Ken's lips were teasing his neck, and that arm kept a firm grip around his waist. He moved a hand down, running his palm and fingers over Ken's chest, his breathing becoming somewhat shallow.

Ken mumbled something against Omi's neck. He leaned forward, bending Omi back over the table, so that Omi needed to place a hand back to steady himself. He clutched tightly onto Ken's shirt to balance himself, all the while, making soft strangled gasps and moans as Ken found a sensitive area on his neck.

"Ken-kun…" Omi whispered breathily, eyes half-lidded. "K-ken-kun…"

Ken slid his fingers lower and slipped them under Omi's shirt. Omi gasped again as they grazed over his stomach, his head tilting backwards as he wrapped both arms around Ken to hold him close.

Ken reveled in Omi's taste… Omi's scent… the feel of Omi against him… the sounds that fell from Omi's parted lips. He felt intoxicated with the sensation of everything combined. The boy was so responsive, writhing and making tiny mewls of pleasure as Ken explored his body with his hands. Omi's fingers twitched against his back, and with an irritated cry, he pulled Ken from suckling on his shoulder and tugged him closer for a fervent kiss.

Ken obeyed without hesitation, returning the kisses just as avidly. Omi's hands were exploring his back, one slipped under his shirt. Ken groaned softly. He gently bit Omi's lip, and when the boy moaned, he took the opportunity to delve into that mouth.

Omi's mind was in a whirl. He felt he couldn't get enough, though it felt like something was wrong, terribly wrong. At the same time, it was right. He was confused, and overwhelmed, his thoughts giving way to the pleasure Ken was giving him.

But no! He tried to focus, even as Ken slid his hand back down Omi's stomach, tracing the waistband of his shorts. He was breathless, their tongues mingling together, making it harder for him to think.

And when Ken succeeded in opening the top of his shorts… when he began to slip his hand inside… Something snapped. Omi's eyes flew open. Everything flooded back to him, and he was suddenly very aware of what was happening.

Oh my god.

Ohgodohgodohgodwhatshedoingwhatarewedoingthisistoomuchtoofasttoomuchtoomuchitswrongitswrongitswrong!!

Eyes shutting tight again, Omi reached for Ken's shoulders. He shoved the older boy off with all his strength. Ken stumbled backward, crashing into the other table, knocking over a bottle. Its contents spilled behind him, filling the area with its distinct aroma. Some of it seeped into his shirt. Ken felt dizzy from the strong sweet smell of it.

Omi straightened, trying to catch his breath. His face was still flushed, his hand clutching his chest. He could still feel Ken's warmth, even his weight on his own body. Ken's hands still wandering over his skin…

He shook his head, horrified and angry at what might have happened if he hadn't stopped it.

"Bastard," he hissed. "H-how… how dare you!"

"O-omi…?"

"I get it, now, Ken-kun! This fake thing isn't even love! Hah! You aren't in love with me Ken-kun, you're lusting after me!"

Ken wiped his lip, ignoring the stinging in his chest. "That's not true."

"Damnit, Ken-kun!! You almost… You almost-!!"

"Omi, I would never have… Not unless you… I mean, if you'd just said 'stop' once…"

Omi blinked a bit, suddenly feeling a bit dizzy. He shut his eyes and shook his head to clear it out. "I-I can't believe you!!"

The room was blurring. Ken groaned softly and put a hand to his forehead. "Omi…" he managed. "You know I… I'm sorry. It's just… I… I don't know what came over me."

Omi paused, angry eyes softening into concern. "I'm… I'm sorry too… I… I guess… I… I can't really blame you, right? This… this whole…" he held his head. "And everything! And…"

Ken found himself squinting. The room was spinning, waving back and forth. Someone… stop the world… I wanna get back on.

"Gods Ken-kun, this is wearing me out. I want…"

Omi was still talking. Or yelling. Or something. He couldn't tell anymore. He could barely even understand what Omi was saying, if he was even saying anything. He glanced ahead of him, idly remembering what he had just done. And almost done.

"Just don't come near me again! Not until we sort this all out!! Who knows how far you'll go next time…"

Don't go near him? But Omi had tasted good. And also felt so good against him. Ken giggled softly, then tried to stop. He shouldn't giggle. Omi was mad at him. But he couldn't help it. His mind felt very, very clear, yet clouded at the same time.

"Please, Ken-kun!" Omi staggered a little, but he continued anyway, determined to make Ken understand. "This is bad for both of us! It's not right!!"

Strawberries. Omi smelled like strawberries. Ken smiled at the thought. Omi and strawberries. They seemed to match so much. And chocolate. Yeah. That would be really nice. So nice that Ken's smile turned goofy and Omi paused in his scolding.

"…… You're…" Omi blinked to get the words out right, even though his thoughts felt like they were in a tangle. "You're not listening to me, are you?"

Ken just giggled. "Omi tastes good with strawberries."

"……" Omi twitched, and surprised himself with a giggle. Strawberries? Ken-kun and me and strawberries. Oooh…… No! Wait!! He swallowed and shut his eyes. Bad thoughts. Bad thoughts. Bad thoughts…

Ken tried to stand up, but staggered a little. Another giggle escaped his lips. "Oohh. Yeaaahh… Chocolate covered Omi with strawberries."

"mm… Choco-… NO!!" Omi twitched again. "Ken-kun!! S-stop it about the strawberries!!"

"But they taste good!"

"No they don't! … Well they do… but… no! Ken-kun! That's not the point!"

"Think about it…" Ken murmured in a singsong voice, "Cho~cola~te and straw~berri~es… Nee~e Omi~ttchi?"

Omi gave him a goofy grin then scowled. "NO! No more chocolate and strawberries!"

"No?" Ken sniffled. "What about milk?"

"Milk. Milk is good. No… Cream! Cream and strawberries…"

"Cream? Oooh! Whipped cream, too?"

"That works too… Whipped cream…"

"But what about the chocolate?"

"But strawberries are good with whipped cream and chocol-…WAIT!!" Omi clutched his head. "Waaahh! Ken-kun!! Stop confusing me!!"

"What's this? What's this?"

The younger boy looked up to find Yohji coming down the stairs. He had one eyebrow raised as he surveyed the broken glassware.

"Yohji-kun? I thought you were with Aya-kun. You know…" he idly spun his finger around. "Down here, over there, other side, upstairs, around and around…" Omi suddenly giggled then stopped himself with a shake of his head.

"Arou~und… ro~und… heehee!" came Ken in an echo.

Yohji's eyebrow raised further. "I thought he came down here. Apparently, he didn't."

They were interrupted by yet another giggle. "Why you lookin for Aya? Don't think Aya would taste as good as Omi."

Yohji almost dropped what he was carrying. Omi giggled too, "Mmhm! Aya-kun's sooooo icy. I'm sure Ken-kun tastes better, too…" he stopped himself and groaned. "Yohji-kun… Help…"

"What…" Yohji glanced around, took note of the near empty tables, then the two boys' disheveled hair and clothing. "…the hell's going on?"

"Um." Omi looked at him weakly. "I don't know actually? My brain's not working right?"

Yohji carefully examined him. "Well, you look to be okay."

"I feel fine, Yohji-kun. Just something wrong with my head."

He approached the giggling brunette and tried to look him over. Ken inched away, whining. "Nooooo! Omi smells nicer than Yohji~~!"

"Riiiiight, Ken-ken." Yohji sniffed the air about them. "What's that?"

"Huh? It's Ken-kun, what's it look like?"

Yohji realized he was getting nowhere. "I meant the smell, Omi. There's a smell around here."

"Ah?" Omi came closer, clutching a table to make sure he wouldn't stumble, and sniffed too. His eyes widened and he took an empty bottle. "Ah!! The ether!! Ken-kun knocked over the ether!!"

"What does it do?"

"Well, we use it in Biology to knock out the frogs for dissection. You should see them…" Omi snickered to himself. "They're really fun to watch when they struggle to get out of their bottles and then they suddenly plop over unconscious… That's when we can cut them open."

Yohji stared at him.

"Well we do! And the fumes usually make the rest of us giddy. I think Kira-chan was hugging Ka-chan's bottle and crying her apologies before she opened it."

"…… Who's Ka-chan?"

Omi stared at him as if it were obvious, "Her froggie of course!"

Ken sniffed. "Ka-chan… Poor, poor Ka-chan."

"…" Yohji ignored Ken and stared at Omi. "…She named her frog."

"Uh huh! Uh huh! We all did! My froggie was named after Ken-kun, cause he was cute. And I cut him up. His lungs poofed. It was cute." Omi giggled, before stopping himself and whining. "Yooh~ji-kuu~un! My head is dizzy~! I think it's the ether! Make it sto~p!"

"Great, so you two are high?"

"Some…thing like that? It's like… uhhmm… Like my brain's not working right because I need to feed it. I think Ken-kun's worse though. I can still think straight… I think."

"… If that's you thinking straight, I feel really sorry for Ken."

Omi huffed. "Well, it wasn't my fault, Yohji-kun!"

Yohji sighed and glanced at the other occupant of the room. "C'mon, Ken. Let's get you upstairs before you start dancing on those broken bottles."

Ken blinked. "Dancing? I'm not good at dancing," he protested.

Yohji shushed him and hauled him up the stairs. "I'll take care of him, kay, Omittchi? You get some fresh air."

"Okay?" Omi sighed, glaring at all the broken glass on the floor. With a small grumble, Omi retrieved the dustpan and broom, and set work to clean the rest of the equipment and the glassware. Of course, it wasn't his fault there was a table in the way.

[crash!]

"… owwi~iie…"

-----*-----

Ken fidgeted as Yohji led him upstairs. Dancing? Why did Yohji talk to him about that? He was happy being with Omi and the strawberries. And chocolate. Never forget the chocolate. It was wrong to have Omi and strawberries without chocolate. Oh and the whipped cream. That was Omi's idea and Ken liked it.

But then Yohji took him away and started talking about dancing.

Well, at least he could still remember his dancing class in high school. Not because he was good at it, but mainly because it was so traumatizing. Sure, they said he was graceful on the grass fields, but never on the dance floor. Ken shuddered. He wasn't into dancing. Was Yohji asking him to dance?

Yohji brought Ken to the kitchen while the latter whined again, "I'm not good at dancing."

"Then just sit there and wait, ok?" Yohji lowered Ken onto a chair, patting his head.

Then just sit there and wait, ok? Ken remembered his sensei saying exactly that. They were all made to sit down and watch as a couple of seniors stepped on the dance floor to demonstrate. They had to watch very carefully so that they could identify the dance. It was part of the test, after all.

Yohji turned, intent to find something to give Ken to drink. He stopped in his tracks.

Aya had stepped into the kitchen.

Yohji ignored Ken's presence, folding his arms at Aya. The redhead pretended not to see Yohji as he stomped his way to the cupboard to grab a mug. Yohji stood right beside him. "We need to talk, Aya."

"I don't see the point of hearing any more of your idiocy," Aya huffed, not looking at Yohji and tried to shove him aside. Yohji stood between Aya and the hot water thermos.

Ken's eyes widened. It's starting, it's starting! The two dancers would position their arms on their partners. Right, he nodded to himself, proper stance.

Aya raised his free arm to push at Yohji's shoulder. "Out of the way, Kudoh."

"Don't give me that shit."

Aya glared up at Yohji. "GET. OUT. OF. MY. WAY."

"Not if you talk to me first."

He swung his right hand holding the mug at Yohji. Yohji blocked the mug, intertwining his fingers with Aya's, effectively stopping the blow and any successive ones from it.

"I DON'T want to talk to you!"

Yohji growled and grabbed Aya's waist, bringing him closer. "WELL, I don't fucking care! We need to talk, and I'm not letting you run away."

Ken leaned forward in anticipation. That was right, he remembered correctly. Clasp your left hand with the girl's, right hand on her waist, her left hand on your shoulder. He gotta remember that, basic position's always important. Now, for the first dance…

Aya peered up at Yohji's challenge. He decided not to have a drink anymore and just get the hell out of there. He shook both hands free and placed the mug on the nearby sink. Then he took a step forward. Yohji placed his foot right in front of Aya's, glaring back at him. Aya took another, and Yohji countered that one too. And another. Aya sidestepped. Yohji did it at the same time. "Don't run away."

Aya hissed at Yohji.

WALTZ, thought Ken reverently. One, two, three, and sidestep, two, three and sidestep...

Aya backed a step from Yohji, gritting his teeth. Yohji was taller, he couldn't run past Yohji since the longer legs were to his advantage. Then he walked past Yohji, backhanding him to push aside. Yohji caught the hand again, and pulled Aya back forcefully. Aya stumbled and nearly fell into Yohji's arms, but Yohji managed to hold him at length, clasping both Aya's hands in his. "You're not getting away that easily, Fujimiya."

Aya looked up, still glaring. "Try me."

Ken grinned, oh, that one was hard, but he knew what that was! It was… it was… Let's see, Back, two, three, four, with your arms out in front instead of on your partner… S…Ken bit his lip, was it?

SWING! Ken bounced in his seat happily. Sensei would be proud if he passed the test with high scores. That means he can get exempted from the final exam, and he could just go out and play soccer!

Yohji gripped Aya tightly. "Is that what it's all gonna be about? I'm tired of just trying to catch you, even though I'm not ever giving up. But I think you're just playing the coward."

Aya's face contorted in anger. "I am NOT a coward."

Yohji drew Aya closer to him, staring right down his face. "I'd know a coward when I see one."

Aya sneered, "You don't know anything."

It was Yohji's turn to snarl, "And who are you think you can say that? The last time I checked, I'm the one who knew who I was really in love with!"

Aya scoffed, "Oh, incredible. You actually believe the lies you say."

Yohji eyes slitted, and his entire posture tightened into anger. "Take that BACK, Fujimiya." His grip tightened on Aya's painfully, but Aya merely stared back defiantly.

Ken took a deep breath. The third one today seems to be one of those complicated ones, you know? Sensei always saved one of the hardest ones for last, and even if he was good and did his homework and studied before class, he might not be able to guess THIS one. Ken whimpered at the thought of not being able to play sooner.

Aya hadn't answered Yohji. His wrists were close to bruising, but his pride kept him from reacting.

"I said, TAKE IT BACK!" Yohji advanced forward, feet coming down heavily on the wood floor. Aya quickly cross-stepped backwards in time to keep from falling, stealing a couple of glances behind him to make sure Yohji wasn't going to slam him against anything. Then he darted a couple of steps backward himself, trying to free his wrists, but Yohji held fast, and kept up with him.

Eight cross-steps backwards, the last four done really fast, that if you snapped your fingers in time, you'll be surprised. Ken tried to remember REAAALLY hard then. Some dances were weird, not always the same steps, you know? It's not really a strict formula for some dances, you may follow the steps more or less, the rest of the beauty of it lies in the way you can improvise new steps that blend in while keeping to the beat or pattern, his sensei explained.

Ken frowned then, wondering what sensei meant. Why was he using such big words? It was really hurting his head, but he wanted to seeeee.

Aya pulled insistently on his wrists. He changed and sidetepped in another direction to try getting Yohji's grip off, but Yohji kept up, clenching his teeth.

The name of the dance was at the tip of Ken's tongue. He half wondered that, if he stuck his tongue out at a mirror, would he be able to find the word there? No, he shook his head, that would be cheating. He was a good boy, after all, and he never cheated in a test or a game.

He tried to think again, but it was getting harder. All he wanted to do was watch them do the pretty moves like in a cool fairy tale or movie.

On the count of eight (or was it six?), cross-steps that go sideways or backward, always looking at the direction that you're going. Same steps as a rhumba, except that in this you held the other in close contact.

"It's a……… a.… t… ta……" Ken muttered to himself.

Aya was being backed into the kitchen table. He twisted an arm to force Yohji to let go of it, then swiped at a slim table knife and aimed it straight at Yohji's face. Yohji snapped his head up and caught it between his teeth, seconds from getting it stuck in his throat. Another snap of his head and the knife got imbedded in the nearby wall.

Ken's eyes widened even further. That's right! He had seen this in a movie before, like one of those old foreign spy films! It had been so cool when one of the dancers had grabbed a single rose from a vase, and while dancing, managed to pass it to the partner without breaking a beat, then discard it. The dancers knew each other so well that showing off was easily arranged at a moment's notice. What was that phrase… Ken thought dreamily, 'it takes two to........?'

"Bastard." Aya breathed, and swung his fist at Yohji.

"...TANGO." Ken finished, his whole world suddenly getting brighter.

Yohji ducked to the side and the punch was rendered useless. Aya lost his balance and pitched forward. Yohji grabbed under his arms, hooked a leg on one of Aya's and stepped backwards. Aya tried to get up, but with his weight supported by Yohji under his armpits, one leg over Yohji's hip, his free foot dragged on the floor uselessly.

Ken cocked his head to the side thoughtfully, mind now positively floating in candy-cane clouds and taped violin music. Too bad that they were in a bare dance floor instead of an actual formal party. It would be real pretty, he thought, if one of the dancers had been a girl and in a long ballroom dress. She'd hitch a leg over her partner's, arms flung over his shoulders, and long skirt spread out on the sparkling marble floor after her, one foot trailing daintily. But it was... What was that word?

Adolescent Ken remembered how they used to describe their idols. Sexy.

Yohji backed into a wall and stopped. Aya used the pause to regain his footing, trying to squirm out of Yohji's hold. Yohji stilled him with a shout. "Listen to me!"

"NO!" Aya growled back. He had to get away, now. He didn't want to hear something that he might want to believe.

Yohji took one step forward and, with the same foot, swept Aya off his own feet. Aya immediately fell backwards, throwing out his arms to brace his landing, but Yohji deftly caught one of his limbs and had one arm snaked around his waist. Aya's head stopped one inch above the floor, hair trailing down. He looked up and locked eyes with Yohji. Yohji held him steady. "It's YOU that I l--"

"SUGOI!!!", Ken had jumped to his feet in utter amazement and was clapping loudly. It had been so cool, ending the dance on the perfect note with a graceful dip. It had been perfect! Awesome!

"Encore!! Bravo!! ENCORE!!!" Ken jumped eagerly up and down, cheering. Now, he wanted to learn how to dance, really, he did! It would be so nice to be able to do that. Maybe he can ask Omi later too!

Yohji and Aya both froze in shock at the sound, and only realized at that instant that Ken had been there. Aya kneed Yohji in the gut, making him let go, and fell that last inch to the floor. Yohji tried to grab for him again, but this time, Aya rolled and was on his feet before Yohji could recover.

Ken was so happy. He was gonna study in dance class, he was sure! He wanted to dance! And he can teach Omi, and they can both dance! Then he stopped as he noticed that Aya was missing. "Ara? Yohji, where did he go?"

Yohji just stood there, one hand over his stomach as they heard the loud audible sound of the front door banging close.

Ken frowned and whined, "Where did he go? It was so nice."

Yohji looked at him, sadly, all the anger and determination drained out of him. "What was so nice about that, Kenken?"

Ken looked back at him, devastated. "You were dancing, Yotan, didn't you know that?"

"Aaa. Were we?" Yohji stared at the direction where Aya had gone. He looked back at Ken, and frowned as he saw that the man hadn't quite recovered yet.

"C'mon, Ken-ken. Let's go outside."

-----*-----

"Yo~hji?"

"Yes, Ken-ken?"

"What's that sound?"

"Hm? Oh. Maybe it's your imagination, Ken-ken. I think the ether is still wearing off."

"Really? But I can hear it. It's like a banging sound… Or something."

"Just don't think about it. It'll make your head hurt more."

"Oh. Okay."

Yohji smirked and continued what he was working on. Well, true, Ken needed the fresh air, but he also had something he needed to do out here.

At least, Ken was somewhat recovering. Getting him to change his shirt helped, now that there wasn't the smell of ether lingering about. It had taken till after his so-called 'talk' with Aya to realize that Ken's clothes had absorbed the stuff.

Yohji looked down to check if Ken had run off to chase butterflies. Of course, there were no actual butterflies; they were in the alley behind Koneko, right behind the kitchen. Still, in the state Ken was in, he might be imagining the pretty butterflies.

Instead, he realized that Ken was staring off, but the expression on his face told Yohji that he was half-sane again. Then again, he WAS done with what needed repairing, so maybe talking to Ken will be alright now.

He put away his tools and joined Ken, "You want a drink? You might feel a little parched since you've been staring open-mouthed at the same patch of peeling paint for the last hour."

"Huh? Oh? I was? I thought I was watching a movie… or something."

"Ken, it was peeling paint."

"Oh." Ken stared blankly at the wall in front him.

Well, at least he wasn't chasing butterflies. "Anyway, whatever it was that you found interesting, can we leave it now? Do you want some water?"

"O-okay."

The trek back into the kitchen was quiet, and Ken did seem to be back to his senses. By the time they were back inside, Yohji had handed Ken his glass of water, and Ken had downed it, the brunette seemed perfectly normal. Or at least as normal as they could be.

The two of them lounged around the kitchen counter, each lost in their thoughts.

"So, Ken-ken," Yohji finally broke the silence. "Just what were you and Omi doing downstairs, other than getting yourselves high on those chemicals? I mean, you two looked like you got into some kind of tussle."

The other didn't respond, though his face said a lot. Yohji noticed guilt, shame, and embarrassment.

"Did you kiss him again?"

"… No! …… at least… I didn't… just… kiss him."

"…You molested him."

"I-I didn't think that-…!! I mean… I wanted him to feel better and… That… that doesn't sound right, does it?"

"Not at all."

"Didn't think so." Ken laughed weakly, "I might as well have a sign strapped to my back that said 'I'm ruled by my groin and I molested my best friend! Hit me!'"

"I would if I could, but I might end up being a hypocrite."

Ken only turned redder, hiding behind his glass. Not that it helped much. Yohji poured himself another glass of water, and Ken declined when he offered. He watched his ice swirl around as he thought, then glanced up at the other.

"Hey, Ken. I was wondering."

"Yeah?"

"How'd you feel about Aya last week? You know, right after that night at the hotel? When we got into this whole thing in the first place?"

"Aya?" Ken looked confused. They had been talking about Omi, and now the topic was Aya?

"Yeah. Did you still like him, too?"

"… No. I guess I was too caught up going after Omi, that I didn't realize that I'd forgotten about Aya."

Yohji blinked, and scratched his chin, "Really… You mean, you didn't go think of both of them? Not a thought about Aya. Just Omi?"

"… yeah. Pretty much. Why?"

"Ken. To me it got so bad, I bashed my head against the wall, because I didn't know if it was Aya or Omi I liked. Now, I know of course. But the point is…"

Ken stared at the floor. "It… it was different."

Yohji nodded. "Can't argue with you there. Did liking Omi seem wrong at all?"

"… No."

"Not even after the first week?"

"…… No. Not at all," Ken shook his head. "That's… I guess that's why I thought it was real. It felt… it felt so right. Like it was the most… right thing I've done. I still can't believe that it's not…"

"… What about Aya?"

"Aya? Before everything?" When Yohji nodded, Ken shrugged. "Well, Aya… I was excited about possibly getting him to go out with me, or something like that."

"Did it feel right?"

He paused, considering his reply. "… You know, I didn't think of it before. Never hit me."

"…… It's not as right as Omi now."

"… I guess not."

"And it really feels right? Just… 'right' and you didn't even have to think about it?"

"… I think so. But that's the fake thing talking, isn't it?"

"…Ken… How did you feel about him before all this?"

"Huh?"

"How did you feel about Omi before that night at the hotel?"

"He's… my friend."

"Uh huh, tell me something I don't know.

Ken seemed to be stumped on what to say, so Yohji gave him a hand. "How'd you feel when he was around?"

"Huh? Oh… Well… The place brightened a lot. Always did. It's like when he comes into a room, you can feel the difference. Everything's brighter, like he was the on-switch for all the lights." Ken chuckled. "Must be his attitude. He's always so cheery."

"Really?" Yohji blinked.

"Yeah." Ken laughed a little. "It's always great to be with Omi. He's fun and smart. He's outgoing, friendly… he's just fun. And he makes you feel good. Just seeing him smile is enough to make a guy melt into submission."

Yohji nodded in agreement, slowly filing this into his thoughts. "Omi does have that effect, but I think you get hit by them so much more."

"Feh," Ken chuckled again. "I guess we're that close, aren't we?"

"… Or closer than you think."

"Hm?" the brunette looked up, but Yohji waved it off. Ken sighed, laying his head in his arms. "You know, this whole thing reminds me of that time once, when I asked you guys... Nee, koneko-tachi, have you ever fallen in love?"

"Mm. I remember you talking about that. More than a year ago, I think, before Aya joined. You asked that then out of the blue. What about it?"

"Hmmm? Oh, I was wondering how it would be like. I even wondered if I already was. Well, I had you guys as my best friends then…"

"……Then Aya showed up?"

"Yeah. That was pretty much it. He was too interesting to not notice. But even then, I didn't really think about it much. He was nice to look at, but I didn't think there was much point to act on that. It was only a couple of months ago when it really hit me that I probably wasn't going to live for much longer. So I might as well ask him out or something while I still had the chance."

"I see. Then, what was your first thought when you decided to go after Aya?"

"I hoped Omi would understand and back me up."

"What would happen if Omi didn't approve?"

"I would've backed off. Just because I decided to get a crush on Aya, I don't want Omi to be mad at me over it."

"Why would you do that?"

"Well, he is my best friend… "

"But best friends don't have control over who you may or may not like, right?"

"His opinion still matters a lot to me! I've known him for longer! It just doesn't feel right for me to, if he wouldn't want me to. I guess he means that much to me."

Yohji smirked. The wheels in Yohji's head were turning. Oh… my… god. Ken… You're a fucking imbecile.

"You know… it seems… I was right."

"Right about what?"

"The opposite of what you said. You were too caught up going after Aya, that you didn't realize you'd forgotten about what was right there in front of you."

"Huh?" Ken looked bewildered. "Yohji, what the hell are you talking about?"

"Or maybe… It must have happened so slowly. That's why you never realized. You never needed to."

Ken continued to look clueless, "Wha…" His eyes narrowed into a glare. "Yohji, are you suggesting I'm an idiot?"

"Well, not exactly, Ken-ken."

"I don't know what makes you so smart. Who do you really like anyway? Aya or Omi?"

"I thought it was obvious and in fact you don't need to be smart to figure out that."

"But, Jesus!! You're always on Omi's side, defending him and taking care of him, and stuff. I thought you'd laid your claim on Aya!! Unless the previous potion isn't entirely gone, and you still like him."

Yohji waved his hand. "All right. So I do love Omi."

Ken, at first, looked shocked. Then the shock faded into anger. Yohji held up a hand.

"Before you strangle me, there're different types of love, and I love Omi like the little brother I never had, just like the way you say you love him. Even though Omi's very capable of taking care of himself, and he's proven that countless times, you just can't help but do everything in your power to protect him. Tell me, am I right or wrong?"

Ken calmed down considerably, slumping back in his chair. "So if that's Omi…" he raised an eyebrow at his elder. "What about Aya?

"Aya? Aya is a different story. I don't know. I like Aya. I daresay I might even love him." Yohji paused, and shook his head to correct himself. "No… I do love him."

"How can you be so sure of that?

"Because… Because of a lot of things. Do you really want me to list them all?"

Ken raised an eyebrow. "Shoot."

Yohji shrugged. "He's my best friend." He smiled sadly. "I have a bad history of falling for my best friends, did you know that?"

Ken's face fell a little and he shook his head. Yohji continued. "Well, I thought this time… Even if I risk losing that friendship, I wanted to at least tell him before I lose him. I mean, I know it would somehow suck. This is my best FRIEND. It's unfair that of all people…"

"Yohji…"

"But… it's perfect too, because… THIS is the person with whom it's all right to spend whole evenings with, just hanging out. You don't feel awkward. You don't lose composure. You don't do anything stupid, because you don't do that with someone who's your friend.

"It's alright to spend the rest of your life with someone who knows what you really are, and what you're really like, and not the mask you show other people. And… and after losing… Asuka…" Yohji winced to himself. "This time around, I decided to take the chance. I never told her, and that is one regret I don't want to repeat."

He stopped there, falling silent for a moment. He glanced at Ken.

"So I can say I love Aya. As a best friend and something that's a lot more."

Ken looked down, thinking over what Yohji had just said. He began to regret a lot of things he had done and said to the older man. But before he could even start with his apologies, Yohji chuckled to himself and smirked. "By the way, Ken… He smiled cryptically, "Don't you think my situation sounds a little familiar?"

Ken snapped out of his thoughts. "Eh? Familiar about what? Yohji, what the hell are you talking about?"

Neither said anything more, for there was the sound of a door slamming. It didn't take a genius to figure out who had come back. Yohji was well aware who it was, though Ken might not remember. He shook his head and turned back to Ken.

"Ken-ken," Yohji patted him on the head. "You wouldn't know love if it was a 4-ton bullet train that hit you."

Ken's retort caught in his mouth. He stared after Yohji in alarm but before he could say anything, Yohji had already disappeared up the stairs.

"That's…… what Aya said…"

-----*-----

Yohji ascended the stairs, his face sporting a smirk. Ken wasn't an idiot, true. He was just a little slow in some aspects, but he wasn't stupid. In fact, Yohji had started to think that maybe it was Ken who was the smart one at the moment, instead of Omi. Though the conversation he had just had might have turned the tables on that.

… All right. They were both being imbeciles.

But he had his own issues to deal with. And so here he was, once again in front of this door, but this time he had a trump.

He laughed to himself, and knocked on the door.

"C'mon, Aya… Talk to me."

-----*-----

God that was sooo long. I feel like I should've split it, but sempai said it was all interconnected, and I agree, but still @_@ When we started the chapter, it had nothing in it. We decided to turn it into a transition point, so good god in heaven, this was so friggin long.

*cackles* Prepare for humor, angst, sap, and another 4-ton bullet train.

Comment: Sorry if you thought Omi would come up with a cure. But I'm being realistic here. After all, he may be smart, but he's still just a high school student.

omiclones@hotmail.com