Ken glanced up from the book he was reading at his friend, who was slumped on Ken's couch, Play Station controller in hand. "What is it?"
Daisuke hesitated for a moment, glancing at Ken then to the television screen then back to Ken. "It's just… do you think something's wrong with me?"
Ken raised an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"I mean," Daisuke said with a sigh, "I mean… why doesn't she like me?"
"Oh, I see. This is about Hikari, then?" Daisuke nodded. "What happened now?"
"The usual, she wouldn't go out with me," Daisuke replied, a pout forming on his lips. "But I just… I don't know. I thought maybe she'd warm up to the idea as we got older but it's been years now! And she still won't even give the idea a second thought!"
"Daisuke," Ken said as soothingly as possible, closing his book and placing it beside him. "Have you ever considered that maybe Hikari just… isn't the one?"
"Of course Hikari's the one!" Daisuke snapped back without hesitation. "I mean, how can she not be? She's… she's perfect."
Ken sighed. "But Daisuke, you're right. It's been years and she still doesn't want to date you. Maybe it's because by now she just knows that you aren't her type."
"Exactly! So what's wrong with me? How do I become her type?" He frowned at the sight of Ken shaking his head. "What?"
"You just… you can't become her type, Daisuke. I mean, Hikari's obviously looking for something very specific in a boy and she just hasn't found what she's looking for in you. That doesn't mean there's something wrong with you; it just means that you and she aren't compatible."
There was a pause as Daisuke looked Ken over in confusion. "Why would you say that?" he asked. "You're always the one encouraging me to keep trying with her, I don't… why now would you say something like that?"
"Because I don't want to see you change yourself to suit her needs."
"But why not?" Daisuke ran his hands through his hair, frown deepening. "I mean, people change for each other all the time, right? It's perfectly natural."
"But Daisuke, I think Hikari's already found someone she needs."
"Who? You mean Takeru?"
"Perhaps." A pause. "…Most likely."
Daisuke raised his gaze to the ceiling and let out a sigh. "So… what, I should try and be more like Takeru?"
"No!" Ken shook his head. "No, you shouldn't try to be like Takeru because it's not fair to you if Hikari agrees to go out with you and spends all her time looking for you to be Takeru, or Taichi, or whoever it is she's looking for. She should want you to be you, just as you are."
"But she doesn't!"
"Then wait for someone who does, Daisuke."
"But why? Hikari-"
"Hikari may not need someone like you, Daisuke, but that doesn't mean there aren't people who do."
Daisuke rubbed the back of his neck and let out a small sigh. "Yeah? I'm not so sure about that."
Ken stared at him. "You don't think there's anyone in the world that needs you to stay the way you are? No one?"
Daisuke rolled onto his side, taking up the controller and resuming his game with none of his former enthusiasm. "Yeah. No one."
Ken continued to stare at Daisuke in stunned silence. He opened his mouth to speak, and when he couldn't muster the will to speak the words running through his head, he closed it in resignation and bitterly returned to his book.
The blue Digimon's popped up out of a nearby bush, mushrooms in hand and blinked at his partner. "Yep?"
Daisuke didn't look at him, opting instead to stare at the open sky of the Digital World without ever really seeing it. "Do you think…"
"Think what?" The Digimon inquired, tilting his head in curiosity.
"Ken thinks I should give up on Hikari. What do you think?"
"Uh, I don't know? I'm not a human, or a girl, but you have been trying to get her to date you for a long time… and she still always says no." Veemon frowned, stroking his chin as he sorted out his thoughts. "So, maybe Ken's right? I mean. Do you really think you have a chance with her? I can never really tell if you do or not."
Daisuke scratched the back of his neck. "I don't know. I guess I did once? When we were little. And I was stupid. …Stupider, anyway."
"Well what changed?"
"…I don't know."
"Daisuke, do you even still really want to be with her?"
"…I don't know."
"How am I supposed to help you if you don't know the answers to any of my questions?!" Veemon exclaimed, throwing his arms up in dismay.
Veemon groaned in exasperation before plopping down on the ground next to Daisuke. "Is that why you wanted to come here today?" Daisuke nodded. "Well, like I said, I'm not a human or a girl, so, I can't exactly tell you how they think or, you know, what you should do about it. So, um." He kicked his feet aimlessly.
Daisuke sighed. "Yeah, yeah, I know… Still, thought it was worth a try."
"Sorry I can't be of more help," the Digimon said sincerely, frowning in disappointment. "But uh, I think it would be a good idea if you, you know, tried to figure out what you feel for Hikari. Since you don't really seem to have a clue right now. And that can't be good."
"But how do I do that? I mean, Hikari… Hikari was the first girl I ever really, really liked, and I've never liked another girl the way I liked her. But I was just a little kid when I met her and first felt those feelings; I just assumed it was love. How am I supposed to test if that's true or not? I've got nothing else to compare it to."
"Well I've never been in love either, so I can't really tell you that."
"…I thought you had a thing for Gatomon?"
"…Who doesn't have a thing for Gatomon."
"I just…" Daisuke began, leaning back and placing his hands behind his neck, lying in the grass. "I just don't get why this has to be so difficult. This whole growing up thing. I was fine going through life thinking what I felt for Hikari was the deepest of loves, but maybe I was wrong."
"And that bothers you?"
"It worries me, because if I could go so long thinking something that wasn't love was love, how would I ever be able to recognize real love when I felt it?"
"The way I always heard it, when you really fall in love… you just know it. Or something like that."
"But that's just it, Veemon, is that I thought I knew. But I didn't. Not really."
Veemon's ears twitched as he thought. "Perhaps you're just trying too hard?"
"Too hard at what? At finding love?"
"At looking for it."
"You think so?"
"Seems like it."
"That doesn't help me! What do I do, Veemon?"
"I don't know! I'm a Digimon; we don't have to deal with these things!"
Daisuke heaved a heavy sigh, shutting his eyes tightly. He breathed deeply for a few moments, seemingly trying to calm himself down, and then he cracked an eye and peered over at his Digimon. "So, what, you guys don't mate or anything?"
Daisuke blinked a bit before pushing himself up into a sitting position. He ran his hands through his spiky red hair, letting out another sigh. "Ken said that Hikari was looking for someone else. That I wasn't the person she needed. But that I shouldn't change myself into the person she would need. That there were people who needed me for… me. But I'm not… I'm not so sure that's true."
"Huh?! How could you think that isn't true?"
The boy raised his eyes to meet the blue creature's shocked gaze. "Isn't it?"
"Of course it isn't! What about me? I like you just the way you are, why would you want to go and change into someone else! If you did that, you wouldn't be Daisuke anymore!"
"But Daisuke can't seem to get a girl."
"Is that really all that important?"
"Well, yeah. I mean, I'm a teenage boy. This school year is almost over and then I only have one left and if I don't get a girlfriend by then, I'll have gone through my entire school career having never been on a date! That's just… that's sad. Pathetic, even."
Veemon blinked. "I never knew high school was so… dating oriented."
"Of course it is. What did you think high school was about?"
"Psh. Yeah right."
There was an awkward pause as Daisuke rubbed his neck and Veemon pulled at some blades of grass. "Still," Veemon said after awhile. "Like I said, I like you just the way you are. I don't want to see you change for some girl, not even Hikari."
"Thanks, Veemon," Daisuke said, reaching out to pat the blue Digimon on the head. "That means a lot to me."
Veemon turned his head and beamed up at his partner. "Any time."
The other boy didn't respond at first. Daisuke reached over and gave him a little nudge. "Ken? Hey. Ken!"
Ken stirred a bit, shifting around on the couch to get more comfortable but didn't wake completely. Daisuke's lips curled upwards in a small smile as he watched his friend. He couldn't get over how completely peaceful Ken looked while asleep. Still, though, he needed to talk to Ken and it really wasn't something that could wait. Plus, Ken had to catch a train soon. So. "Ken? Come on, Ken, you gotta wake up!"
Daisuke gave Ken a few more nudges, and finally the other boy cracked his eyes open and blinked, trying to focus. "Mmm?"
"Sorry," Daisuke said, grinning sheepishly. "But you need to leave soon to catch your train, right?"
Ken blinked several times. "Mmno idea. …time is it?"
Ken groaned but made no move to get up. "You must be really tired," Daisuke commented, slightly amused. It wasn't often he got to see Ken in a state like this. "Need me to carry you or anything?"
Ken shook his head, his eyes fluttering closed again and Daisuke had to nudge him again to stop him from falling back to sleep. "Didn't like the movie, huh?"
"Yeah, it really wasn't that good," Daisuke said, nodding in agreement and understanding. "But, Ken? Hey, can you please wake up? There's something I really need to talk to you about."
Ken lifted his head a bit and peered groggily at Daisuke. "What?"
"It's about Hikari."
Ken groaned and rolled over. "No! Really, it's not bad! Or… you won't get mad at me, I swear! It's just, I've been thinking a lot and I wanted to talk to you about it."
"You were… thinking, Daisuke? Must be dreaming…"
Daisuke pouted. "I think all the time, Ken! You just don't see me do it, that's all."
"So are you up? Are you listening?"
Ken nodded but didn't move to turn himself around. Daisuke sighed. He knew Ken was listening, though, so he continued. "It's just, I've been thinking lately about what you told me, about how I shouldn't change myself for her. And I don't know. I think you might be right."
"But that got me to thinking if I had ever even really loved Hikari at all! I mean, when it comes right down to it, I didn't really know her all that well when I started crushing on her. She was just this really pretty, really nice girl in my class, and I was just drawn to her for some reason. But once I actually got to know her and could call her my friend… I don't know. It was weird. It kinda. I don't know how to describe it. It was different then."
"Well, I just… I don't know. I mean, my crush on her didn't really die, I guess. But to an extent I think I acted on feelings that I wanted to have, not feelings I really did have. If that makes sense."
"It does. …What made you come to that conclusion?"
"Well… Veemon asked me if I even still like Hikari, and I honestly… couldn't answer that. And that got me to thinking about if I'd ever really liked her at all, because I feel like I feel the same way about her as I always did."
Ken turned slightly to look at Daisuke over his shoulder. "Oh? That's a bit of a big revelation."
"I guess so," Daisuke said, thoughtfully. "But maybe not. Maybe that was obvious from the beginning and I just never really got it."
"You don't seem quite as bothered by this as I thought you would be."
"Well, like I said, I don't feel like my feelings towards her have changed. It's the same as ever, it's just… I think I read them wrong."
"Is that okay?"
"I don't know. I guess so. I mean, it kinda makes me feel like I wasted a lot of time and energy on something that wasn't really real, but more than that I think I'm just worried for the future."
"What about it?"
"How will I know real love when I feel it? I've I'm this bad a reading my own emotions?"
"I don't think you're bad at reading your own emotions, Daisuke. I think you were a young kid, you felt strongly about something, and thought it had to be the one thing you knew it might be. And once you'd made the decision that that's what it was, you followed through on those feelings passionately, and that's never a bad thing, Daisuke."
"You're awake I see."
"Unfortunately," Ken said with a groan, pushing himself up and turning to fully face Daisuke. "But like I was saying. I don't think you were wrong; you were just young and inexperienced. Now that you're older, you can look back on those times and know that maybe you were misreading signs, but in the mind of a child, what else could such a strong feeling be?"
"I did have a crush on her, though, right?"
"Definitely. No denying that."
"I just… wasn't really in love with her."
"Well damn," Daisuke muttered angrily, running his hands through his hair. "If that was me with a crush, what will I be like when I really fall in love?"
Ken chuckled. "Come on now; be fair to yourself, Daisuke. You tend to get really passionate and thorough in everything you do. It's part of your charm. True, you weren't really in love, but you thought you were, and acted accordingly. And honestly I kind of wish I could be more like you, in that regard. You were always so open and honest and expressive about your feelings."
"I think I scared Hikari off that way, though."
"Perhaps. But you didn't scare everyone off."
"No, I guess I didn't," Daisuke said with a slight grin. "Veemon's still around after all."
Ken's grin faltered.
"But then again," Daisuke said with a laugh, "I think Veemon would stick by me no matter what, so maybe that's not the best example."
"Yeah. I'm sure he would," Ken reassured Daisuke. "But, um, listen. It is getting late, so I better get going."
"Oh, alright," Daisuke said, his smile dropping. "Do you want me to walk you to the station?"
"No, that's alright, thank you," Ken said with a shake of his head, standing up and heading to get his coat. Daisuke turned to watch him. "Thank you for inviting me over," Ken called to him over his shoulder as he slipped into his jacket.
"No problem," Daisuke replied, giving Ken a nod. "Um, Ken?"
Ken froze in place and stared at Daisuke blankly. "Hmm?"
Daisuke offered the other boy a small smile. "Thanks a lot for listening to me, Ken. It really means a lot to have someone like you to talk to."
Ken didn't react at once, but after a few seconds he returned Daisuke's smile warmly. "No problem, Daisuke."
The original leader of the Chosen Children glanced over at the second leader, who was seated at his kitchen table. "Yeah, you want something?"
"Uh, no, thanks," Daisuke said hurriedly and watched as Taichi grabbed a soda and closed the fridge before walking over to sit opposite the Daisuke. "I was just… I was just wondering about Hikari."
Taichi frowned. Daisuke shrunk back in his seat a little. Big Brother Taichi always had the potential to be incredibly frightening and dangerous. "Yeah? What about her?"
"Do you think she's going to go out with Takeru?"
Taichi seemed a bit surprised by this question but recovered quickly and frowned slightly in thought. "I don't know, maybe. I can't say I'd be surprised if she ever did, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's guaranteed to happen."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, see," Taichi's frown deepened and he seemed to be getting more and more lost in his own thoughts and memories. "The world of dating is a very confusing place sometimes. On occasion you think something is absolutely bound to happen, there's no way it can't, no way she can't love you, and then, bam! She rejects you for the hot blond."
There was an awkward pause. Daisuke eventually broke it with a slow, "What?"
Taichi blinked. "What?"
"So… Hikari is dating Takeru, then?"
"Did I say that?"
"'She rejects you for the hot blond?'"
"Oh. That's an unfortunate coincidence, I didn't mean she's going out with Takeru."
"Oh. Um. Alright," Daisuke said, unsure of how to proceed. "We'll, it's just-"
"Why do you ask?" Taichi interrupted, taking a sip from his drink and never once taking his eyes off of Daisuke.
Daisuke shrugged. "I don't know. I guess, I was just wondering if maybe the reason they weren't dating yet was because of me."
Taichi raised an eyebrow.
"Well, see, because I was always so open about my feelings for her, and she's such a nice person. I guess… I thought maybe she was holding herself back from following her heart because she didn't want to upset me."
"It's possible. It would be something she'd do. But I couldn't tell you for sure," Taichi said, thoughtfully. "I mean, she's my little sister. I like to forget she's growing up and that her dating anyone is even a possibility. But who knows. You might be right."
Daisuke smiled at this. Big Brother Taichi had the potential to be terrifying, surely, but he also had his sweet, tender moments that were always a treat to see. "It just worries me because now I'd feel like I was making her wait for nothing."
"How do you figure?"
"Well. I mean. I always made my feelings for her seem like more than they were."
Taichi frowned. "What are you talking about?"
"I mean I always said I was so in love with her and I don't think I ever was."
"Oh well duh."
Daisuke blinked. "What?"
"It was obvious you weren't really in love with her," Taichi stated matter-of-factly, nodding to emphasis his point. "I mean, you were what? Eleven? Twelve? Who at that age can honestly say they know and understand what true love is? Especially when they hardly know the other person."
"So you knew?!" Daisuke exclaimed.
Taichi nodded. "Well, yeah. Why do you think I never tried to kill you?"
"B-because you like me?" Daisuke offered weakly, shrinking back into his chair.
"Well that too," Taichi said in agreement. "But mostly it was because I was never too worried about you and her actually getting together. It seemed pretty clear to me from the get-go that you were way over exaggerating. I figured you'd grow out of it eventually. And thankfully I was right."
"Well thanks for warning me?" Daisuke muttered bitterly, glaring at his (former?) idol. "Seriously, it wouldn't have killed you to tell me that sooner. I might have realized all this a long time ago and be over it by now."
Taichi shrugged. "I thought it was better for you to figure it out for yourself? Really, I didn't think it was that big of a deal."
"But it is!" Daisuke said, eyes widening. "It is! I could… if what I was feeling all those years wasn't love, then what is?"
"You'll just have to find that out for yourself, I'm afraid. It's not the same for everyone."
Daisuke groaned. "But what… what if I don't realize I'm in love? And the opportunity passes me by…"
"I don't know. I think that when you really, honestly fall in love, you'll know. Or at least I'd hope you would."
"And if I don't?"
"Daisuke," Taichi said with a sigh. "Listen, I don't have all the answers, and what's true for me and my experiences might not be the same for you. I can't… I can't tell you what it's gonna be like for you when you fall in love. I mean, just talking to Yamato, it amazes me sometimes how different our experiences were with love, but we both definitely felt it. Feel it. Something. So I can't really help you."
There was a pause as the two leaders regarded each other. Finally, Daisuke bowed his head and sighed. "Yeah. Yeah. I know. I just… I keep thinking on what I might've already missed out on, and what I might've lost, or could still lose, and it… I don't want that to happen."
"I know you don't," Taichi assured him. "I know that. But I can't… there isn't much I can do for you, Daisuke. This is something you're gonna have to figure out on your own."
"I know," Daisuke said, and he meant it. He had known, had always known, that this was what Taichi would say, but still. He had still hoped. "Thanks anyway, Taichi. You've been a big help."
"Except not really."
"I'm sure things'll work out fine," Taichi said, offering the younger boy a grin. "Things always seem to have a weird way of working out for you."
"Yeah?" Daisuke grinned. "In that case, next time you come home, we'll have to have a soccer match. With my luck, I'll beat you this time."
Taichi laughed. "Yeah. Right."
"Have you ever been in love?"
"Ken! Are you alright?!"
"Y-yeah, I'm fine…"
Wormmon appeared in the doorway, looking panicked. "What happened?!" the little creature called, quickly looking Ken up and down as Daisuke pulled the boy up, trying to see if there was any sign of injury. "Ken! Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Wormmon," Ken muttered, brushing himself off. "I was just startled. That's all."
Wormmon hopped across the floor and clung tightly to Ken's leg. "Are you sure? You really aren't hurt? I could hear you fall from the other side of the apartment!"
Ken smiled fondly down at his Digimon, grateful for his concern, and bent down to pick him up. "Really. I'm perfectly fine."
"Good!" Wormmon exclaimed, cuddling up to his human. Then he turned his attention to Daisuke, frowning. "What did you do?"
"Me?!" Daisuke took a step back. "I didn't do anything!"
"You must have done something to startle Ken that much!"
Ken shook his head. "No, really, it's fine, Wormmon. Daisuke didn't do anything. Listen, Wormmon, why don't you go see what's on TV, alright? Or pick a movie or something you might want to watch tonight. I need to talk to Daisuke alone for a bit."
Wormmon looked worriedly up at Ken, then to Daisuke, then back to Ken. "Well, if you're sure you're alright," Wormmon said though he didn't sound at all convinced. When Ken nodded, the caterpillar-esque creature leapt down to the floor and bounced out of the room.
There was an awkward silence in the room.
"…Was that a yes?"
Ken spun around to face Daisuke, wide-eyed. "Why do you want to know?"
Daisuke shrugged. "Just wondering. And, well, you are my best friend and all. I think I have a bit of a right to know?"
"No. You don't."
Daisuke stared at Ken, taken aback. "O-oh? I'm sorry, then."
Another silence descended upon the room. "Is this about Hikari, again?" Ken said after awhile.
Daisuke shook his head. "Not really. It's more… it's about me. I think I might be in love."
Ken's eyes widened. "Really? With whom?"
"I have no idea."
Ken blinked. "What?"
"I don't know yet. I haven't figured out who it is, yet."
"If you… if you don't know who you're in love with, then how do you know that you are even in love?"
"I think I must be," Daisuke said, nodding. "If I wasn't really in love with someone, I'm not sure the fact that I wasn't in love with Hikari would bother me so much. If I wasn't, I… I'm not sure I'd feel quite like I was missing something. But I do. I do feel that way."
"I guess that makes sense," Ken said, sitting down on the edge of his bed. "But why do you ask me if I'm in love?"
"I don't know. I guess I was just wondering if you could… give me some tips on how to figure out what love is? Taichi said I had to figure it out on my own, and that's true and all, but I think some hints are better than nothing. It's a start, right?"
"I suppose so," Ken said, slowly. He paused, looking thoughtful, as if he had something to say but couldn't decide whether he really wanted to say it or not.
"Yes. I'm in love."
Daisuke's heart skipped a beat. "What?!"
Ken looked up at Daisuke, a small smirk pulling at his lips. "What? Does that surprise you?"
Daisuke's clenched and unclenched his fist at his side. "I- no, not really, I guess, but I- why didn't you ever tell me?!"
Ken shrugged. "I never really thought you needed to know. And… I don't know, I guess I always thought it was a bit obvious."
"Obviously not!" Daisuke stared at Ken, horrified. "How long have you been in love? And… with who?!"
Ken tapped his fingers lightly against his knees, not meeting Daisuke's gaze. "It's not that important."
"My best friend is in love! Of course it's important!"
Ken shook his head. "No, it… really isn't. It's never going to happen, anyway, so there's no point in really thinking about it."
"Don't say that, Ken!"
"Why not? It's true."
"It isn't true, it isn't true at all! And… and even if it is, it's their loss! You're… you're wonderful, Ken! Anyone would be lucky to have you!"
Ken blinked at the redhead before smiling, softly, pleasantly surprised. "You think so?"
"Of course! I mean, you're attractive, you're smart, you're like one of the sweetest people ever, and I- did I mention you're attractive? Because really Ken, you're kind of. I don't know. Beautiful."
Ken blushed at the compliment and averted his gaze quickly. "I- thank you."
Daisuke grinned, widely. "Just stating the truth."
Ken's blush deepened. He still didn't raise his head to look Daisuke in the eye. "That really means a lot coming from you."
"And see, that's only the basics," Daisuke said with a nod. "There's still so much more to love about you, Ken. I mean, you're such a caring person, and yeah you've hit some bumpy spots in the road but you've come so far from that. You've tried so hard to turn things around for yourself, and that's such an admirable thing. You're supportive and selfless and you've got a smile that could light up even the darkest of nights. And I… I just want to make you happy, Ken."
Ken's head shot up. "You what?"
Daisuke blinked. "I what?"
"You just said you want to make me happy?"
Daisuke blinked again. "No… I said I want to see you happy."
Ken shook his head. "No, Daisuke, you said you just want to make me happy. Did you mean that?"
Daisuke gulped, a small blush spreading across his face. "Well, I mean… of course I do! You're my best friend! Of course I want to make you happy… And if being with this person makes you happy, then I wanna help you and this person get together!"
Ken's face fell. "Oh?"
"Of course! I mean, it's the least I can do after all the times I've made you help me with my love life!"
"I'm not so sure you can help me, Daisuke."
"Like I said, it's pointless. We're never going to get together, so."
"Why not? Does she have a boyfriend already."
"No. He's single."
Daisuke blinked. "Oh. …Is that why you didn't want to tell me, Ken?"
"Are you… mad at me?"
"I'm mad at whoever this boy is! How can he not see how wonderful you are? Is he straight? Is that why you're saying this won't ever happen?"
"Sort of? But even if he was bi or gay, I'm still not sure he'd like me."
"Why do you say that?"
Ken shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "I don't know. I just don't think I'd be the type of person he'd ever see as anything more than a good friend."
Daisuke frowned. "Do I know this person?"
"Who is he, Ken? Do you want me to talk to him? Or, I don't know, punch him in the face and tell him to wizen the hell up?"
"…Daisuke, doesn't it bother you?"
"What? That's you're gay? Or bi, or whatever you are? That you like boys? Of course it doesn't! Ken, you're the most important person in the entire world to me, why would something like that ever change how I feel about you?"
There was a pause as the two regarded each other. "You know, Daisuke," Ken said, quietly, "it's strange sometimes, because I honestly think you're the sweetest boy I've ever met but sometimes you can just be so insensitive and jerkish and you don't even realize."
Daisuke's eyes widened. "What?! What did I say? I didn't upset you, did I, Ken? Really, just tell me, I-"
"No, no," Ken said, cutting him off. "Not… Not now, anyway. But some stuff you've said to me in the past have been… they've really hurt me, Daisuke."
Ken shrugged. "You said no one would need you to stay the way you are."
"Yeah? So what, how does that hurt you?"
Ken stared at Daisuke, blankly. "What about me, Daisuke? What if I need you to stay the way you are?"
Daisuke's eyes widened. "Ken, I…"
"I know you didn't mean to hurt me, Daisuke, but it just… how could you not realize that I need you?"
"Ken, I just… I wasn't thinking! And I… I guess it never really… really occurred to me that you would need me… I mean, why would you?"
Ken tilted his head to the side, seemingly unable to believe that Daisuke could be serious. "…You saved my life, Daisuke. More times than I can count and in more ways than you'll ever know."
"I… I know. I guess it's just... As cool as I like to pretend I am, I never really believed it and it's hard for me to accept or consider that I ever really impacted someone's life so much."
"But you did," Ken said, quietly. "And I'm so grateful for it. I'm not… I wouldn't even be here right now if it weren't for you."
"Don't say that, Ken."
"You know it's true, Daisuke. You know… what kind of a state I was in back then. The things I could've done. I was perfectly willing to let myself die. I was… I was looking to die."
"You saved me, though, Daisuke. You know that, right? You saved my life."
Daisuke nodded solemnly. "Yeah. I know." Suddenly, he cracked a smile and gave a small laugh. "You know, it's kinda weird to think about. Back then I never would have guessed you and I would ever be this close. Or… you know. How much you'd need me, or how much I'd need you, too."
Ken returned his smile, sheepishly. "People always find their hearts in the strangest of places, but once they find it they have to hold on and never let it go."
Daisuke nodded. Then his smile faltered a bit.
Daisuke shook his head. "I don't know, I just thought… it would kinda be weird if you started dating someone."
"Well, you'd… have less time to spend with me. And. You know. Stuff."
"Same thing would be true if you started dating."
"Yeah, I know… I guess I never thought about it that way."
"I did. But I wanted you to be happy, too, so I never said anything."
Daisuke's eyebrows rose. "Do you not want me to date, Ken?"
"…Do you not want me to date, Daisuke?"
Daisuke opened his mouth to respond then shut it again, brow furrowed in thought. "I… I don't know. I mean, now that you say that, I guess… I don't… I just… I want you to be happy, Ken."
"Being with you makes me happy."
"But that's not enough, Ken!" Daisuke exclaimed, throwing his arms up. "There's… there's a certain happiness you get from being best friends with someone, and a certain happiness from being with someone you're in love with. It's not fair for you to miss out on one for me."
Ken sighed in frustration. "Daisuke? Can I ask you something?"
"Does the idea of me dating someone else… anyone else… make you at all jealous?"
"Well? Does it?"
Daisuke didn't move.
What kind of question was that? Why in the world would Daisuke be jealous? After all, it was just Ken. Ken, his wonderful, amazing, beautiful best friend. Ken, the one who was smart and kind and deserved so much more than he ever seemed to get. Ken, the one who would talk with Daisuke for hours on the phone, who'd play video games with him, watch movies on his couch, help him with his homework.
Ken. The one who always helped him with Hikari, whether it was by helping him come up with some new way to ask her out, or by listening to him when he spoke of his troubles and worries and never once asked Daisuke for anything in return.
Ken, whose smile was enough to make Daisuke melt.
The one who would miss Daisuke if he went away. If he changed. Who needed Daisuke because he was Daisuke, and who didn't spend his time looking at Daisuke while wishing he was someone else. Anyone else.
But why would Daisuke be jealous? What for? It wasn't like Ken and he would suddenly not be friends anymore. And that was enough, right?
Of course it was.
So why did the thought of losing Ken break Daisuke's heart so much?
This wasn't love.
"Daisuke, what would you say if I told you I was seeing someone?"
This couldn't be love.
"Would you be sad?"
"Would you be jealous?"
How in the world was Daisuke supposed to even know?
"Daisuke, say something."
"What if I told you I was jealous of Hikari all this time? What would you say to me then?"
This wasn't love, this could not be love, but how was he supposed to know?
How could he recognize a feeling he'd never felt before?
Even if maybe he'd felt it all along.
Daisuke didn't move when Ken stepped closer to him, looking nervous and terrified and beautiful. He didn't flinch when Ken placed his hands on Daisuke's shoulders. But when Ken leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to Daisuke's lips, he responded, kissing back and slowly bringing his hands up to rest on the small of Ken's back.
An awkward first kiss.
It only lasted a few seconds before Ken pulled away, head bowed, unable to look Daisuke in the eye. Daisuke blinked, his mouth forming words but made no sound. The stood together in silence. Awkward, terrible silence.
"…Would you mind if I fell in love with you?"
There was a pause, and then Ken laughed, relieved and still so scared but so, so happy. "No, Daisuke. I wouldn't mind at all."