Afterwards, Ken thought he should have known he was being reckless. He hadn't been thinking about that at time, though. What he'd been thinking was that his car was in the shop for repairs and he was stuck at home for a while. New Year's holiday was still in full effect, thank goodness, or else he would have been in a bind as far as getting to work was concerned. At least now he didn't have anywhere he had to be. Unfortunately, he wasn't happy about being confined to his room. Just the thought that he couldn't travel if he pleased was making him itch to go somewhere.
"What do you think, Wormmon?" he asked his partner. "Want to take a walk?"
"A walk?" the worm repeated. He looked doubtfully out the window. A more January-ish day couldn't be imagined; the sky was steel gray with clouds. Just looking at it gave Wormmon the shivers.
"Sure," said Ken. "Why not?"
"Because it's cold outside," Wormmon replied. "Why can't we just stay in here where it's warm?"
"I'm tired of being in here," said Ken. "I want to go somewhere, even if it's just to the corner store. I need to be out of this apartment."
Wormmon's defensive posture drop a bit. The corner store wasn't that far away, really, and was a good source of candy.
"Well, maybe just a short walk, then," he said.
Ken grinned. "I'll get my coat."
A few moments later, they were out in the elements, Ken wrapped tightly in a long coat, Wormmon wrapped up in a scarf and hat. Not that there were much in the way of elements that evening, nothing worse than a brisk breeze and a few clouds. Ken felt cheerful as they strolled along. It was nice to be out and about, getting his blood stirring again and stretching his muscles. His coat protected him from the wind, and Wormmon was safe snuggled in the crook of his arm, shielded effectively from any cold air that might threaten him. It only took a few minutes for them to reach the safety and warmth of the store. There, Ken bought a cup of coffee and a doughnut for himself, and some hot chocolate and a generous supply of candy bars for his caterpillar friend. While Wormmon gobbled his treats, Ken sipped his drink and thought.
"You know," he said, "it's really not that far from here to Daisuke's apartment."
"Do you want to go there now?" asked Wormmon. Ken had to smile at the expression; not only was Wormmon wearing his most wide-eyed look, but he had a smudge of melted marshmallow on his beak.
"You aren't worried, are you?" he asked.
"Well, not exactly," said Wormmon. "But it's getting kind of dark out there, and I don't like those clouds."
"It shouldn't take long," Ken replied. "We'll be there before you know it. Besides, I haven't seen him in a while."
"Not since Christmas," said Wormmon.
Ken blushed a little. "Well, okay, maybe it hasn't been that long... but I didn't really get to talk to him at Christmas. There were too many people around. I want to talk to him alone for a while."
Wormmon nodded. "That explains a lot."
"What do you mean by that?" asked Ken.
"You like Daisuke."
"Of course I do. He's my friend."
"That's not what I mean."
Ken gave his partner a hard stare. "Are you insinuating something?"
Wormmon gave his antennae a flick. He knew from years of experience that Ken was a difficult person to tell things to. He had to be led to figure them out for himself. The caterpillar looked out the window and debated with himself.
"Let's go to Daisuke's," he said.
So they did... or tried to. The first part of the walk was easy enough, no worse than the trip to the convenience store had been, but it quickly got worse. The dark clouds finally fulfilled their ominous promise, spilling out shafts of rain, first as a light drizzle, then as a steady downpour. The wind picked up, lashing the rain into their faces. It wasn't long before Ken was drenched to the skin. He kept Wormmon hidden under a fold of his coat, doing his best to keep him warm, but the worm could feel his partner shivering harder with every gust of wind that went by. It became very dark, and even the street lights didn't seem to do much good against the sheets of grey rain. Ken gritted his teeth to keep them from chattering.
*No good turning back now,* he thought. *I've come so far now it would be as much trouble to turn back as keep going.*
Even so, it was an arduous trek. Neither of them spoke, both too concerned with trying to keep warm and keep moving to even think of anything to say. Ken almost didn't see the door of the apartment building, nearly passing it over as another shadow. With a gasp of relief, he took the handle and pushed his way inside.
A few minutes later, Daisuke, relaxing in his room with nothing more on his mind than the music that played in the background and the images it brought to mind, when he was suddenly interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Coming!" he called, hauling himself to his feet and ambling to the door, wondering who would be paying a visit in this kind of weather. He got his answer when he opened the door, and Ken all but fell into his arms.
"Whoa!" said Daisuke. "What in the...?"
"I got caught in the rain," answered Ken with a tired smile. "Silly, huh?"
"I'll say! You could have frozen out there or something, Ken! ... I think you did. You're shaking worse than my old radiator. Here, sit down."
Daisuke half-carried his friend to the nearest chair, and then pulled a throw-blanket off the sofa and threw it at him.
"See if you can warm yourself up," he said. "Veemon, look after him and Wormmon a minute, would you?"
"Sure thing!" answered the little blue 'mon.
Ken relaxed. The cold was making him sleepy, and while he had enough self-control to keep from dropping off completely, he did allow himself to fall into a light doze, hardly noticing as a pair of claws took Wormmon away to wrap him in a warm, soft towel, not even registering when his shoes and socks were pulled off and replaced by a pair of slippers. All he cared about now was that he was finally starting to feel warm again.
*That was dumb, Ichijouji,* he thought vaguely. *Daisuke's right, this could have been bad. A few more minutes and I'd have been a Kensicle.*
After a little while had passed, he became aware of a silence. A rumbling noise that he had dimly attributed to the rain had stopped, even though he could still hear the rush of falling water outside.
"That ought to do it," said Daisuke's voice. A few seconds later, the man himself appeared once again. "Feeling any better, Ken?"
"A little," he answered.
Daisuke took his hand to help him up. "Your fingers are still frozen. Come on. I've got something that will help you get thawed out."
With Daisuke's help, Ken shambled into the bathroom, where the tub was filled with lots of warm, sudsy water. To anyone else, it was just a white bathtub, but to a shivering young man, it looked like the water of life. He managed to shed his sodden coat, but his numb, shaking fingers couldn't manage the buttons on the rest of his clothes, so he didn't protest when Daisuke undid them for him. Carefully, he climbed into the tub and let himself sink into the water up to his chin, almost floating. Immersed in warmth and the sweet smell of the soap, he gave a sigh of content.
"Thanks, Daisuke," he said, utterly grateful. "This is exactly what I needed."
"No problem," answered Daisuke.
Daisuke walked away again, leaving Ken to thaw out in this nice, safe, warm place. He closed his eyes again, letting his thoughts float just as he was. He could still hear Daisuke's music playing in the other room, something soft and caressing, and he wondered idly what had prompted his fiery friend to make the selection. As his shivers slowed and finally ceased, he could feel a real sense of pleasure setting in. It would be nice, he thought dreamily, if this could go on forever...
Daisuke came back, but Ken didn't open his eyes, only listening as the young man wandered around the small room, apparently moving things. The level of light shifted suddenly, from the harsh white glare of a flourescent bulb to something softer.
"Open your eyes," Daisuke said.
Ken did. He blinked. A row of candles had been set up on the countertop, their sweet perfumes blending with the scent of the soap and adding a smoky overtone. In the new shadows and golden light, the room had gone from a simple apartment bathroom to something magical, like a hidden spring. The candlelight made the silver bath fixtures shimmer and the bubbles glitter like heaps of jewels. A few of the lights caught Daisuke's hair and eyes and highlighted his face. Ken stared.
"How are you feeling?" asked Daisuke. "Not still cold, are you?"
"Much better, thanks," answered Ken.
"Good," said Daisuke. "I didn't think this would be good for you if you were still cold, but I guess it's okay now." He reached for something out of Ken's line of sight and came up with a wineglass. Ken eyed it skeptically.
"What prompted this?" he asked.
"No reason," answered Daisuke lightly. "Thought it would make you feel better, that's all."
"And the candles?"
"You planned this," said Ken. "I don't know how, but you did."
"How could I plan anything?" Daisuke answered. "I didn't even know you were coming."
"You're taking advantage of me," Ken accused.
"In what way? If there's anything you don't want, I'll take it away again. I'll leave you alone if I'm bothering you."
"No, that's all right. Stay here," answered Ken quickly. *Wait a minute, why am I telling him that?*
Ken accepted the wineglass, and Daisuke settled himself against the edge of the tub, carefully keeping his back to Ken. For a moment, it was quiet except for the music as Ken sipped his drink. It tasted good, and chased away a bit of the tension he'd felt briefly. Then again, the warmth that it sent running through his veins was setting off a few other reactions, making him remember vividly the way the candlelight had sparkled in Daisuke's eyes, calling to his attention the way it made his hair shine like a halo.
*Some angel. This is the second stupid thing you've done today, Ken. I'm doing a lot of stupid things for Daisuke today.*
"You know," said Daisuke after a while, "I think I just lied to you. Maybe I did plan this."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I was just sitting here all alone, wishing you were here, imagining what I'd do if you were... and then you were, so I just went ahead. I guess I went a little too far, though. Sorry if I upset you or anything."
"I think it's okay," said Ken. He hesitated a moment, then took a hand out of the water to touch Daisuke's face, gently turning him around so they could look each other in the eye. "Yeah. It's okay."
"You mean it?"
"I mean it," answered Ken. "Daisuke?"
"Did anybody ever tell you you're beautiful by candlelight?"
"So are you." Daisuke had turned all the way around, and was stirring the surface of the soapsuds with his fingertips. "Absolutely gorgeous. I always wanted to see you by candlelight."
"I never knew."
Daisuke popped bubbles one by one with careful flicks of his finger. "Well, you've been such a good friend to me, Ken. I've always felt closer to you than any other human being on Earth. I was afraid if I let it show, it would scare you away, and I didn't want to do that to you... I knew I was going to have to tell you someday, though, and it was easier this way."
Ken caught Daisuke's hand and held it still, then brought it up to press to his cheek. It felt warmer than the water, but there was a faint shiver in it. He looked into Daisuke's eyes, made deep and bright by the candlelight, so honest and open that he felt he was seeing his soul laid bare. Ken's breath caught in his throat.
*I think this is love.*
"I... I don't know how to say it."
"That... well, I guess I should have known all along. Daisuke, I..."
"Tell me you love me."
"That's it. That's what I want. I love you, Daisuke."
Daisuke couldn't finish the sentence. Taking a breath like a swimmer preparing to enter the ocean, he pulled Ken as close to him as he could and kissed him. They stayed together until they were dizzy and breathless, then slowly pulled away again.
"All warm now?" asked Daisuke, with a hint of a smile.
"Never felt warmer," Ken replied. With a devilish grin, he added, "though I think you look a little chilled. Come here."
There was a small splash, and water spilled out onto the floor, as if something had been pulled into an already filled tub. The water continued splashing out in gentle ripples that danced in the candlelight, slowly spreading over the floor... but nobody minded at all.