Author's note: And here we are at the last chapter of Rumored! It makes me kinda sad to think about – when I started writing this story over a year ago to YinYangWhiteTiger's crack challenge, it had this elaborate plot with a planned twenty five chapters in which drama and hardship would eventually bring us to where we are now. This chapter is one of the few I never changed as I made efforts to shorten the fic as interest dwindled. (I'm still trying to figure out where the hell I got Junkeru from.) I feel I may have failed the challenge; I never got the chance to develop the plot enough to include Digimon (Chibimon's minimal involvement was supposed to act as a cue). Still, shout outs and thanks to all my encouraging, helpful reviewers who made me keep going this long. Cheers to the completion of my first longer-than-two-chapters fic!
A little personal note, for those of you who have asked how things are (because I haven't really had a chance to reply to reviews or PM's) , my mom's doing alright as far as I've been told. Her surgery is Wednesday, and she'll be out of commission for a few weeks. And I got accepted into uni, and start at the local university in the fall as a Professional Writing major! Orientation is Thursday, and I'm really psyched. Thanks so much to everyone who's sent their best wishes. You are the best readers ever. Srsly.
And yes. The entire story was centered around the last sentence. I'm kind of like that.
It was the only word on Jun's mind, and she was fighting very had to keep from running into the living room to shout it in Daisuke's face. After all, Jun could take something resembling a hint. It took her a while, maybe, but she heard the hesitation in Takeru's voice before he suggested the lobby. Maybe he wanted to see her, but he didn't want Daisuke to see him.
Take that, twerp.
But still. What right did Daisuke have to butt into her social life? So Takeru was one of his friends. One of his close friends. So what? Had he flipped a shit on Yamato for being nice to her… before, when she first met him? To her knowledge, the answer was 'hell no'. This was just a silly game he was trying to play, but it didn't matter because Jun was winning. Takeru had called her. Takeru had said yes to her!
It was better than what Daisuke got for pining after Hikari. And besides, Jun thought a little unkindly, pausing in touching up her make-up to frown into her vanity mirror, shouldn't he be happy? Takeru was one less obstacle in the way to getting Hikari in Daisuke's mind, wasn't that right? So shouldn't Daisuke stop butting into Jun's life and go ruin his own? It'd make everyone, Jun thought sourly, a lot happier.
"Stupid baby brother," she grumbled, putting down her mascara with a snap. But she was determined to make it the last time she would grumble that night. No one wanted a grumpy puss for a date. She grinned. Takeru had called it a date! Well, she had said it first, but he had agreed with it and echoed the words without a question mark or anything negative like that. It was a good sign, Jun thought. A very good sign.
She glanced at the clock. It was nearly seven, the time that Takeru had suggested that they meet downstairs in the lobby. She knew the reason; he didn't want a row with Daisuke, considering it had been mere hours since Daisuke insisted that both parties stay away from the other.
He had always been bad at sharing, Jun thought, conveniently forgetting that she herself refused to share her toys unless they were broken or boring. He had gone too long under the impression that they couldn't share circles, friends, but he was wrong: her best friend, aside from Ami (whose position was seriously in question as of late) was one of his friend's sisters. They already had shared circles; this was only a matter of time, she thought as she brushed a strand of hair away from her made up eyes.
She glanced at the clock again. 6:55. It was time. By the time she reached the lobby, even by elevator, it would be only a minute or two after seven. Fashionably late without inconveniently tardy. Perfect timing. With a smirk of a smile, she slipped on a dark gray jacket and picked up a black purse, already equipped with an emergency make up kit, money, her mp3 player, and her cell phone… not that she thought she'd need the last two until the very end of the night if things went according to plan. She hoped she wouldn't need them at all, but it never hurt to be prepared.
"Where are you going," Daisuke demanded nosily from the couch as she stepped out of her room. His little… Digi-thing was bouncing on the cushion next to him, giggling every time he came landed with a whuff of impact. It was kind of cute, Jun thought. The thing was growing on her, even if her baby brother was still as uncute as he was the day she asked her parents if they could return him at the hospital for a puppy.
"What's it to ya," she shot back, immature though it may be. She wasn't particularly thrilled with her baby brother, but let's be truthful: when was she ever?
"I saw how you were with Yamato," Daisuke said, his voice unusually serious. "Don't drag Takeru into your sick fantasy land." Daisuke hadn't stood up, but he was watching Jun with narrowed eyes. Thinking back to what she had overheard him saying to Takeru, Jun was confused. Who was he trying to protect, anyway?
Or had he said what he thought Takeru would listen to? Daisuke wasn't actually known for being nice to Takeru. Jun blinked and shook her head as she grabbed a cookie from the jar on the counter. Why was she trying to understand her brother's brain, assuming of course that he had one to begin with. It was a futile, wasted effort, and she was going to be late for Takeru – more so than she had planned. After a brief pause, she reached for a second cookie.
"Sick fantasy land?" She snickered. "How's Hikari?"
She was rewarded with Daisuke's blush, his stammering that Hikari had nothing to do with this.
"Whatever," Jun said loftily. "I'm late for meeting Ami." Not a total lie, she thought. Ami was going to be at the party as well. Jun just wasn't going with her.
"I'm serious, Jun," Daisuke called after her. "Lay off!"
Jun didn't reply save for clicking the door to their apartment shut behind them, ignoring the funny feeling in her gut that told her she was betraying her little brother. But she wasn't really, she reasoned. And as she jogged towards the elevator, letting her excitement get carried away while there were no witnesses but a little boy with his skateboard in hand whose presence was practically insignificant to Jun. She nibbled on her cookie while she waited for the elevator to descend, bouncing on her toes impatiently. The second cookie was in her other hand, and her purse was thrown over her shoulder. She was saving it for Takeru, an apology of sorts for being a few minutes late.
"Oi, Jun," Takeru called, bringing her attention to the couch area of the lobby where Takeru was waiting for her. It was a place with plastic coated couches and outdated magazines where residents and guests could wait for taxis and buses and what-have-you. She smiled, both out of gratitude for helping her pluck him out in the lobby where people kept walking past and in front of her so that she couldn't get a grip on where anyone was and out of excitement. This was a fun evening. Her faint anxiety over Daisuke's words was forgotten, at least for now. She'd worry about it later, she figured, along with everything else. Why think about a bridge before you have to cross it, right?
"I was wondering if you'd chicken out on me," Jun said, her tone light and joking as she closed the distance between them. She held out a cookie. "Peanut butter chocolate chip. You know you wanna try one," she tempted, waving it in front of him. He accepted it with a wry grin.
"Thanks. What is this, my reward for not 'chickening out'," he asked, putting noticeable emphasis around her words with the same affect as using air quotes. Jun grinned.
"Maybe. I never pegged you for a party boy."
Takeru chuckled, his face mimicking her grin. "I'm down for anything once."
"Anything," she asked.
He shrugged. "Why not?"
Jun didn't have an answer. She wasn't exactly known for thinking through actions before jumping into the fray. If it sounded fun, or at least not excessively dangerous and dumb (like robbing a bank or wrestling a bull, for example), she was all for it.
"I'm beginning to think that good boy persona's just a façade," she teased. "Just who are you?"
"Full of surprises," he said mildly. She thought he was kidding, but she wasn't so sure. He had a certain tone to his voice that she found difficult to discern. So, as was her policy, she didn't bother. If it was important, she'd figure it out. Eventually. He glanced at the clock over the lobby desk, where a security guard was always sitting half asleep with a coffee cup in hand. "We should get going, ne? We'll miss the train, won't we?"
"I guess." Jun didn't really care; she hadn't bothered to tell him that seven was a bit early for a party, but it'd take them a bit to get there no matter what time they left. Trains got crowded, buses got delayed. It was an inevitable fact of life when you lived around Tokyo. "We're gonna hop off a few stops early though," she warned him.
He looked at her, confused. "Why's that?"
"Trains are a real bitch near Roppongi," she said with an indifferent shrug. His face turned a funny shade between normal and white.
" We're going to Roppongi," he asked, his voice raised a pitch above average. Roppongi was a well-known party district in Tokyo, known for clubs and other such goings-ons that understandably would make innocent Takeru's voice kinda squeak. Jun almost giggled, but she thought he might feel insulted if she did. So it was with the greatest effort that Jun kept a straight face while she shrugged and replied, "Near Roppongi. Don't worry, we won't go to the clubs. But the trains are obnoxious there. We'll walk some of the way, if you don't mind."
" I don't mind." He cleared his throat. His voice sounded normal again, if not a little uneasy. He obviously did not understand the concept of party above the age of eighteen, Jun thought, but that was kind of to be expected when he hung out with a guy who still forgot that candy wasn't a food group.
Jun grinned. "Good."
She glanced at her phone to check the time, and quickened her pace. Takeru hurried to match her step, glancing over his shoulder as though they were already in the unfamiliar, rowdier party district instead of merely running a few seconds behind schedule. Jun laughed openly.
"You're going to bail on me, aren't you," she teased, and again his cheeks flushed a dull pink.
"No," he insisted. He put on a remarkable act of calm after that, although she noticed he stuck close. She didn't mind. She let her arm brush against his as they stepped onto the crowded train platform, but didn't reach for his hand. He stiffened, and she bit her lip to keep from smiling.
Okay, so maybe some of the fun was in the game. But he was so cute when he blushed! She simply couldn't resist the seemingly innocent touch to the wrist, talking into his ear to be heard against the crowd, letting her lips "accidentally" brush against his lobe as she spoke. No one would recognize them there; she could flirt shamelessly, without fear of being caught by Baby Brat or their friends. None of them were the sort to go to Roppongi. Goody-goodies.
It didn't seem like a very long time at all before the train was pulling into Roppongi's station, surprising Jun. She really had intended to get them off at the stop before. They had to forcefully elbow and push their way off onto the platform, and even then Jun wasn't simply clinging to Takeru's wrist to flirt with him. She was honestly afraid of having to explain to his mother that she lost him in Roppongi. She wouldn't let that happen. If he got lost, she would throw herself in front of the train.
Maybe not. Histrionics are hard to quit, though.
"Where are we going, exactly," Takeru asked. It had been a long time since either of them had spoken, having lapsed into a silence first out of necessity (It had been so noisy around them.) and then simply because it hadn't become too awkward to change. It was kind of nice, a refreshing change of pace, to be with someone who didn't talk all the time.
"Not far now," she replied, although it didn't really answer the question itself. She led him down a side street, past neon lights and flashy signs, past store fronts with revealing clothes and gaudy jewelry, to an apartment building that showed signs of recent remodeling – a look around the corner of the building would show the original state, hidden by a neglected alley.
"Here," he asked, looking up at the windows. It seemed as though every light inside were on, although they were dim. Bodies moved behind the flimsy curtained windows.
"Here," Jun confirmed, knocking twice on the door before turning the handle and leading the way inside. This time, she did grab Takeru's hand, and smiled to herself when he didn't pull it away. She wanted there to be no questions about where the 'kid' came from, for he certainly looked younger than the university guys who were around the television, although Jun couldn't fathom how they were following the program – a match, for what and between whom, she couldn't say. Takeru stayed close, innocent eyes wandering, growing more tainted the longer she kept him inside, where bodies pressed close together as they danced to the music pumping through speakers set up in the corners of the rooms, the vibration of the bass nearly drowning out any conversation. It rose like a hum, so that everyone had to shout just to be heard.
"Jun! You... made it," a familiar voice said, although it was hard to tell from Ami's tone just what she was thinking. June wasn't sure if she was actually pleased, or if she was irritated.
"It was a bit of a train ride," Jun replied, voice equally void of emotion as she caught her best friend's eye.
"This is Ishida-sempai's baby brother, isn't it," Ami asked. "And your baby brother's friend. I've seen him at your place a few times, right?" As though she didn't know.
"Takeru," he said, voice light but slightly reproving. Ami ignored him.
"I didn't know we could bring guests," Ami said to Jun. "Does Ishida-sempai know he's here?"
Jun shrugged coolly. "No one stopped us at the door." She ignored the rest of Ami's probing questions.
"Huh."Ami's cool, calculating gaze was fixed on Takeru, who smiled uncertainly in return. But instead of smiling back, she turned her attention to Jun, a slight twitch at the corner of her lips the only sign of her displeasure at seeing him there. "Are you sure he should be here? A bit young, isn't he? You're corrupting Japan's youth," she said with a teasing smile, but her joke didn't quite reach her eyes, which still said she thought Jun was making a big mistake. But there was nothing in the friendship manual that said the best friend was always right – and if there was, it was a dumb and archaic rule that should be scratched out in the next edition, in Jun's opinion.
"We won't be drinking, so what's the problem?" The thin, pressed line Ami's lips formed said she could think of quite a few problems, but Jun didn't give her the chance to express them. Reaching for Takeru's hand, she wrapped her fingers around his and gently pulled. "Time to mingle. See you, Ami," Jun said cheerfully, but her airs were extremely forced, and she let out a loud sigh once she was sure Ami couldn't see them in the crowd anymore.
"Hey Jun," Takeru asked uncertainly, although he had to shout it twice over the din for her to hear him. When he had Jun's attention, he said, "Can I talk to you for a second?"
"Shoot," she replied, waving her hand for him to proceed. But he shook his head, looking more uneasy.
"Privately," he clarified. She frowned, but nodded, and led him to the upstairs section of the house – dumb upon reflection, for that was where all couples were going to get a little privacy of the kinkier kind. A few people whistled and grinned as they walked up the stairs, and Jun felt her face grow hot despite their innocent intentions. But she was more worried about what seemed to be bugging Takeru than what people she didn't even know thought of them. If he was worried about Ami...
Well, he might be pretty justified there. But she wasn't going to tell him that.
Takeru walked straight into a room with the door left wide open, ignoring Jun's hesitation. (She was lying when she said that she wasn't worried about other people's opinions). He seemed to think nothing of standing alone in a bedroom with her, the only light coming from the street lamp outside and a bed-side lamp with a thick shade that cast an eerily orange light over the immediate area surrounding the nightstand.
"You weren't supposed to bring me here, were you," he asked, very straight-forward despite the look of unease on his face. He didn't want to offend her, she realized, more so than he was nervous of what he was saying. He wasn't a 'fraidy cat, after all; he had accepted Daisuke's dares during Truth or Dare without a moment's hesitation, she remembered from one of the few times she had been stuck at home at the same time as them.
"I didn't ask," she admitted.
He bit the inside of his cheek; he wasn't sure whether or not to believe her.
"Why does it matter? You're here; we might as well enjoy the party," she said. She went to turn back, to walk out of the room back to where people were, but he reached out and held her shoulder.
"Why'd you invite me? Your friend is downstairs," he said. After a brief pause, he added, "and not too happy that you're here with me."
"Ami's never happy," Jun complained, but she couldn't tell him he was wrong. She wished he could. He looked really worried.
"You're going to fight about it." It wasn't a question, but a knowing statement. One she didn't really need to answer, but Jun's obstinate nature wanted to anyway.
"She has no right to tell me who I can hang out with," she scoffed.
"She didn't know I was even coming," Takeru pointed out, sounding rather confrontational now – like he was wanting Jun to disagree with him, to tell him he was wrong. Problem was, he wasn't. When Jun didn't say anything, he dropped his hand from her shoulder, but not the conversation. "Why didn't you tell her," he demanded to know.
"The same reason you didn't tell Daisuke."
"You didn't either."
"I don't tell him my work schedule, Takeru," Jun said with an exasperated roll of her eyes. "We aren't exactly buddy-buddy. You guys are. So, why didn't you tell him," she shot back. He blinked, like he wasn't expecting that.
"I...He wouldn't like it, me hanging out with his big sister," he mumbled. His cheeks looked pinker, but she wasn't sure if he was blushing or if it was an eerie effect of the weird lighting in the room. Most of his face was distorted by shadows.
"Really now," Jun said dryly, folding her arms over her chest.
"Ami doesn't like it either," he said, and again, Jun didn't feel she needed to answer him. "So... why? Why did you invite me?"
"Because I wanted to." She dropped her arms to her side, narrowing her eyes at him as though expecting him to argue with her – over whatever. He seemed in the mood to find a better answer than she actually had for him. She really didn't know why she wanted him there herself, except that she did. A lot.
"Because," Jun pressed on, cutting over his words and speaking with the blunt forwardness she was infamous for, "I like you."
"...Oh." This time, she was certain he was blushing. His entire face was a dull shade of pink, and he looked embarrassed to meet her eyes. "But... If Daisuke finds out..." He tried to take a step back when she took a step towards him, but he knocked into the dresser. She caught his arm to help him keep his balance and didn't release it.
"So he won't find out," she replied simply. He looked uneasy again.
"And your friend –"
"Doesn't need to know either. And so what if she does?"
"She could tell Daisuke," Takeru pointed out.
"She could," Jun said quietly. She took a step closer, and this time Takeru didn't move. His breathing was shallow, like he couldn't get enough air. "But so what?" This time, she meant it as she leaned in, her lips brushing against Takeru's when she spoke again in a whisper: "Let's get rumored, together."