This challenge came from Na-Cat, as part of the Digi-Challenge Forum revival. It's taken me a while, and I'm not sure if all of the details flow, but I like the way it turned out, for the most part.
Characters: Ken, Kari
Pairings: Ken/Kari, if you wish.
Summary: Ken, being the kind soul that he is, agrees to help Kari when she asks him to stand in as a model for her drawing class. Thing is, it's a Life Drawing class. It looks like Ken's in deeper than he can handle.
Sentence to include: "I grew up sharing a room and bathroom with Tai; it's nothing I haven't seen before."
Notes: Bonus points for anything about terrible drawing running in the Kamiya family, remember Tai's awful map making skills?
Disclaimer on profile.
"So you'll do it?"
Could he say no? Would his mother scold him for denying Kari's request? Probably, he admitted, and then she'd make me do it anyways. He sighed, running a hand swiftly through his hair, noting that the burning sunlight had warmed it considerably. Ken loved summer immeasurably—the gentle breezes, the smell of the ocean, and most of all, the start of soccer season. He glanced down at Kari once more, wondering whether that pleading look of hers was supposed to work on him as it did on Davis and TK. If it was, he wasn't falling for it, but in the end it wasn't necessary.
"I guess so, Kari. When do I have to come in?"
She jumped excitedly, throwing her arms around Ken's neck and squealing not unlike those girls in his gym class.
"Oh thank you, thank you, Ken! You won't regret it, I promise! We can start out next week, okay?"
He nodded, peeling her arms off of him as his train approached.
"I gotta go, but I'll give you a call later, alright?" He watched her nod vigorously, and then jogged to the platform just in time to board the train before it left without him. He waved at Kari, who waved back enthusiastically and much more energetically than he would have ever thought possible. "She must have been really desperate for some help," he murmured to himself, finding a seat quickly. Ken frowned, trying to guess why anyone would object to helping Kari with her project…
Ken arrived Monday after school, at Kari's art class. She hummed to the radio as she set up her paints and easel, eager to begin her final project. It wasn't exactly a class she'd have chosen for herself, but somehow, by mistake, she was signed up for it, and began to love the atmosphere and tranquility of the art room. Painting, drawing, sketching… those weren't ever going to be her fortes, but the best part of art she discovered, was using her spare time to take her photographs and try to replicate it using various mediums. Who would have ever thought that her most prized photographs from the Digital World would one day end up as beautiful, colourful works of art hung up in her room? Granted, the picture did look a lot better than her paintings did. But compared to Tai's awful drawing skills, she was practically Picasso!
Kari giggled, recalling the story Sora had told her about Tai's horrendous map-drawing attempts from back when they had first discovered the Digital World. Her art teacher had even been wary of Kari at first; she was positive that based on Tai's own lacklustre abilities, the entire Kamiya family must have been complete amateurs at art. However, Kari's hard work and enthusiasm for the subject soon changed her prediction, and now Kari was one of the top students in class.
The door to the art room squeaked open, and Kari skipped over to it to open the door for Ken. He came, dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, holding a soccer ball, and sporting a very large grin.
"Good afternoon, Kari. Are you ready to begin?"
She responded, "Yeah, let's get started!" and dragged the poor boy over to her easel, where her supplies were set up.
All the easels were arranged in a circular fashion, surrounding the small platform placed directly in the middle of the room. Various lighting illuminated the platform brightly, making it the centre of attention. Ken's eyes were automatically drawn to it, as he contemplated his future standing there, modelling for the art students.
Kari took his soccer ball from his hands and tossed his bag over by the side of the wall, where her backpack was resting. They chatted for a bit—she asked how soccer practice was going, and he told her all about the freshmen who didn't know left from right—wasting time until more kids trickled in, filling the room with the acoustics of teenage blather.
Ken felt a bit nervous, never having done anything like this before. His picture had been taken more times than he could count… but standing there before the piercing eyes of budding artists made him pause in anxiety. His gaze sought Kari, who held his stare and seemed to peer into his very soul. Is this a side-effect of being nervous? he wondered, astonished by the intensity of her eyes. Or is this just an artsy thing? Ken had no more time to ponder the matter; he was too distracted by Kari's fierce voice.
"Strip," she commanded.
Ken left abruptly after that, claiming dehydration from too much time in the sun. No way was he dropping his drawers for Kari's project in front of the entire class. He finally understood why Davis had burst out laughing at his admittance of agreeing to help Kari with her painting for art class. And he especially knew why TK's face had gone a dark red colour. Apparently, after being turned down by everyone, Kari's tactics had changed—she decided to only tell the victim what exactly they had to do after she hooked them into agreeing. Ken could only feel sorry for himself, as he had fallen for it without question. Who'd have thought that Kari would be okay with drawing a naked man?
Not Ken, evidently.
She had pleaded, begged, got down on her knees and asked that he stay so they could discuss this more. Ken, for one, was not comfortable with the arrangement she suggested. Embarrassment was one emotion that came to mind immediately. He would never live it down and plus… no one had ever seen him naked before, save for his family. But that was a long time ago, and this was now.
Inside his mind, he could imagine how it would all play out now: Ken, determined to do his part for Kari's sake, standing proudly on the platform in the middle of the classroom, like a real-live knight in shining armour, sans armour or any other kind of coverings. And Kari, poised behind the easel, paintbrush in hand, palette in the other, and laughing.
Ken's worst fear, realized in that very scenario.
He was only a teenage boy. A self-conscious one at that. He didn't purposely fix his hair every moment of the day, but when cameras often hid in the bushes outside your house… yeah, you want to look semi-decent at least. Ken wasn't ashamed of his body, and he certainly did not want a different one, but he wasn't prepared to bare it for Kari and company in broad daylight. Maybe if she turned off the lights in the room, and it were a dark, moonless night…
No. No. She asked him to do a very specific task: strip down so she and her peers could draw him for their art class. The bottom line was that Ken had no intentions of doing something like that, even for one of his closest friends. There was simply no way on Earth.
Kari approached him then during his rationalizing, sauntering over to his slumped position on the bench he occupied. She didn't sit too near to him, for which he was glad. Distance must be maintained at all times.
"Have you decided yet?" she enquired innocently.
Didn't this woman know what she had put him through in these past few hours? His head felt like it had been through a washing machine from all the circles he'd been running in, trying to figure out the right thing to do.
"Not exactly," he hedged, "but I'm pretty sure my answer's still no."
Kari nodded solemnly, looking absolutely devastated by his response. Damn it… he hadn't expected her to start getting mopey. She didn't say anything and neither did Ken. What was there to say? In his mind, this awkward conversation was done. He had declined her request, and now they could work on putting it all behind them. Unfortunately for the traumatized boy, Kari wasn't done saying her part.
"You know, I grew up sharing a room and bathroom with Tai; it's nothing I haven't seen before, so you shouldn't be embarrassed."
Bingo. Did Kari have psychic powers? Curse her for being able to read his every thought like that. That being said, it was probably more than a little bit obvious that Ken had trouble coming to terms with the idea of being naked in front of a bunch of girls (and guys), subject to her scrutiny. Embarrassment may have been a slight understatement at the moment.
He glanced at her, all calm and collected, wondering why he was so flustered by this and she was not.
"I'm just not sure you understand my point of view," Ken explained mutely, not wanting to express more emotion that he already was. "If our positions were reversed, could you not grasp the… hesitation I feel?"
Kari finally let loose a blush, and looked down at her toes. "Yeah, I guess… but… isn't there some way you can get over that and still help me out? We really need someone for the class."
If only those words worked on me, lamented the boy genius. Even if you need me, I'm not going to take off my clothes for you, Kari.
… wait, that sounded wrong, even in his head.
Ken mentally gave himself a shake, steering clear of those kinds of thoughts. He was supposed to be letting Kari down gently; not imagining what kind of other situation would require a loss of clothing…
"Listen, Kari, if it was only you, then maybe I would reconsider. But this is an entire class we're talking about."
She perked up, latching on to his first words.
"Only me? So you'd do it if it was only me sketching you?"
Her query startled him—he'd been ready to go on a whole tirade as to why he absolutely would not model for the entire art class—but her eager expression made him wary. What exactly was she planning?
Kari continued, "If that's what works best for you, then I suppose I can get special permission from the teacher. She'll be happy at least one of us found a model…" The girl frowned, preparing what she'd say to convince the teacher, and to get time off class in order to work on the project.
"Excuse me," Ken interjected, "but are you suggesting I model for you?"
"Sure, why not? You did say you'd do it if it was only me…"
That conniving little minx. Ken narrowed his eyes at her, unable to take back his words and regretting them with the fiery passion of a roasted hot pepper. Rationally, it was the best choice so far. This way, he wasn't disappointing anyone (which meant his mother would not have to force him to do anything), he wasn't posing nude for an entire portion of the school… it was just Kari, right? Just Kari, her painting stuff, and Ken.
Ignoring that fact, it was almost easy to agree. He told Kari his decision, she went away happy as a daisy on a summery day, and Ken trudged home to his bed, where nightmares of being laughed at awaited him.
The weekend approached rapidly, stressing Ken out immensely to the point of needing intervention from his parents. They sat him down that Friday night, determined to get their son to express his every thought to them.
"What is it, son?" his father asked, a concerned frown adorning his Worried Parent Face.
Ken fought down the blush that threatened to erupt long enough to assure his father that nothing, absolutely nothing, was wrong. The bags under his eyes and the tense position his body was in countered his statement, encouraging further probing from his parents.
"We just want to know what's got you so… upset, dear. That's all. If you're having trouble at school or with your friends, we'd like to know."
His mother's distress tugged at Ken's heart, but he utterly refused to reveal his… problem… to his parents. That was between him and Kari and the fact that in less than twenty-four hours, he'd be bared before her without a single piece of clothing covering his… parts.
Growling mentally, Ken scolded himself for continuing to blush whenever he thought about it. He was getting frustrated with his inability to control his reaction to the sheer mentioning of Kari's request. It had been impossible to face Davis or TK this entire week. Ken had spent most of his time avoiding them, now that they knew what was going to happen this weekend. Davis would tease him for the rest of his life about it and TK would simply stare at him weirdly, as if he was out of his mind for considering it in the first place.
And now, to make it worse, his parents had noticed his odd behaviour and weren't going to let him leave in peace until they got the answer they wanted. By this point, Ken was even too mentally exhausted to come up with a decent lie. He just wanted it to be over with so that he could begin his new life far away from everyone he knew.
"Just go ahead and tell us, Ken. We won't judge you."
Trusting his father wouldn't renounce his words, Ken began his story.
"You see, Kari told me she needed some help with one of her art projects and I agreed to help…"
Surprisingly, his parents hadn't deemed it necessary to have a 'talk' with Ken about what happened between girls and boys when one or both were undressed. Ken appreciated their muteness on the subject, but wished he could've gotten a better response than a strangled, "Good luck, son," from his father. And his mother had merely blushed and muttered, "Oh dear…" before rushing off to bake some brownies. At least now he knew where his awkwardness was stemming from.
Rewarded with his goal of being left alone, Ken retreated to his room, where Wormmon was snoring away in front of the computer, having recently discovered online gaming in the form of Tetris. Ken shut down the machine and moved his Digimon from the computer desk to his pillow on the bed. Watching the slumbering creature, Ken calmed down his mind long enough to change into his pyjamas, crawl into bed and doze off into a fitful sleep.
The next morning brought about a round of nerves to go with his tasteless breakfast. His mother couldn't look him in the face without blushing and tittering about how he didn't have to go through with it if he didn't want to, because it was bad to succumb to peer pressure and he shouldn't be doing things like this just to get a girl's attention. Eventually, she left the kitchen, giving her son a quick kiss on the top of the head—supposedly for comfort, although Ken figured he needed courage more than he needed comfort. If only he could bottle Davis's personality for a while…
But the real world didn't work that way and he'd have to summon some bravery by himself. The walk to Kari's was filled with the usual nervous tension, but after a week of envisioning worst-case scenarios and primping himself to make sure he looked (hopefully) decent enough for Kari's project, Ken just didn't have it in him to worry any more than he already had. He'd agreed to do this and if he backed out now, that just meant that his new hermit-lifestyle would begin sooner rather than later.
Kari's apartment door was held open by one of Tai's oversized shoes. Ken un-wedged the shoe and placed in neatly beside its match before closing the door with a click and removing his own shoes.
Humming that could only belong to Kari wafted from what Ken assumed was her bedroom; he headed in that direction, apprehensive and vaguely wondering where everyone else was. The artist herself had promised to empty out the house in time for their rendezvous, and Ken was mystified how she managed that without informing them as to why they needed to leave the house so urgently.
He poked his head around the edge of the doorframe, noting how elegantly she'd decorated her room and most importantly, the easel set up in front of the window. It was facing a white sheet hung up on the opposite wall, which Ken could only imagine was where he was going to stand, nude and revealed in mere moments.
Kari came up from behind him, placing her hands on his lower back and steering him into her lair as she said, "Hey, glad you decided to come. I was worried you'd back out."
Ken forced a smile her way before shrugging off his jacket and sitting awkwardly on her neatly-made bed.
"So…" she tried chuckling, laughing it off like nothing serious was going on, but Ken could detect the tension in her voice and it occurred to him that maybe she was nervous about doing the painting as well.
His shirt was first to come off, and it dropped to the floor amidst the silence that engulfed the bedroom abruptly. The sunlight hit his chest, warmer than he'd imagined it would be and it caused goose bumps to erupt all over his arms. Kari's eyes were glued to hands' movements; the casual grace he exuded while undressing.
Next to go were his pants. The loose jeans would slide off easily, as soon as the button and zipper were undone. A slow, calculated move slipped the button through the hole in the fabric and Kari sucked in a breath, trying to calm her racing heart. She wasn't even the one getting naked and already her palms were sticky, damp and cool from the nerves that had been building since earlier that week. As the grinding noise from the zipper being undone reached her ears, Kari dropped her gaze to Ken's almost… sensual movements. A moment later and he stepped out of his pants, kicking them aside along with his shirt.
He now stood before her, exposed save for his briefs—black, of course. His next step of action was to position himself in front of the back drop. Kari moved forward instinctively, still not saying anything as she moved his limbs into a suitable position for the portrait. Ken looked down at her, examining the sprinkle of freckles on her cheeks and shivering from the light touches she used to move him. Her head raised, the top of it coming just up to his nose and they stared at each other for a handful of seconds before she stepped back, giving him some space.
He felt self-conscious again, but also got the feeling that doing this for Kari was the right choice, in the long run. Without waiting any longer, he hooked his thumbs in his briefs, toying with the elastic before pulling them down and tossing them aside. Watching Kari as she watched him, Ken let loose an enormous blush that rivalled hers. Her eyes fluttered, as if she was wanting to shut them and block out how embarrassed she was at seeing one of her best friends in the nude.
Ken repositioned himself, standing just as she had shown him earlier. Her back straightened at that and her sight left his body to land on his face, making contact with his determined gaze.
She turned, going around to her easel and Ken was glad that the first awkward moment was over with. Now he just had to deal with her scrutiny for the next couple of hours and then he was free to leave and put it all behind him.
The first half and hour couldn't have left the two teens any more uptight. Kari had encouraged him to relax a bit—otherwise the sketch wouldn't turn out very well. Ken tried hard to loosen his shoulders, but the constant roaming of her eyes from the easel to his naked body just wasn't something that he found relaxing. He told her this and she giggled, but continued doing it for the sake of the project. As Kari began to memorize his figure and spent longer and longer glued to the paper instead of him, Ken managed to shake off a bit of his nervousness. He knew it would still take a while for Kari to get in the details, but he found a way to spend his time: memorizing her.
She worked diligently, in her 'art mode', he supposed. She caught his eye once and gave him a small smile before returning to her piece of work. The pencil was grasped firmly and the strokes Kari made against the page were precise, informing Ken that she wasn't simply drawing a stick man, like he would have done in her position. A few strands of hair fell from behind her ear, but she brushed them back just as she brushed her pencil over the page. It was fascinating, doing nothing but standing there watching her. Ken had never seen her like this before—concentrating hard and looking utterly adorable in her paint-smeared smock. Smirking, he shifted minutely to regain some feeling in his toes and returned to his task. Kari really was a beautiful girl and Ken was taken aback by it as the sun descended slightly, framing her entire body in a blazing glow of brilliant sunshine. Being the bearer of the Crest of Light had never been more appropriate when it came to Kari, Ken mused. Not only was her personality a reflection of her inner light, but at that moment, her body seemed to radiate that fierce brightness from within and Ken's breath hitched in his chest. His intense gaze was inevitably drawn to the sight before him and Ken knew that he'd get naked in front of Kari anytime if only he was allowed to bask in her luminosity like this every single day.
She stepped back, still outlined by the sun's rays, and came around to inform Ken that she was finished with the drawing. All it needed was a bit of colour and some more shading, and she'd be done. Her fingers brushed his shoulder gently, his palm coming up to grasp her hand and draw her into a full-bodied hug. Arms coming up to wrap around his torso, Kari sighed into his chest, glad to be done with the awkward moments between them.
Soon, his hand moved from her lower back to her chin, lifting her face up just enough to press his lips against hers in a slow, tender kiss. She sighed once again, encouraging him further and his hands cupped her face; thumbs rubbing across her cheekbones soothingly before releasing her and stepping back a bit.
"Kari…" he whispered reverently, still admiring the way the endearing girl before him looked, basked in the glow of the sunset.
The following Monday, Kari wordlessly passed the drawing over to Ken during lunch period. He accepted it without comment, and opened the rolled-up sketch to see himself, transferred onto the paper.
"I like it." he declared, handing it back to Kari.
She blushed and admitted that it was probably her best drawing yet.
Ken smiled and asked, "So, fair's fair… when are you going to get naked for me?"
Her blush intensified and she mumbled something about 'later' before taking a bite of her sandwich.
Ken copied her actions and offered her one of the snacks he had packed. She accepted, and placed it beside the drawing.
"You know," she started saying, "you really are the kindest person I've met. No one else would have gone through with it, I think." He nodded his agreement vigorously. "And I also think that, maybe… you should take me out for dinner tomorrow."
Ken choked before taking a sip of his drink and looked at Kari through watering eyes. He saw that she was being completely serious, though a hint of a smile reached her eyes.
"Well, tomorrow's soccer practice, but maybe Wednesday?"
Kari agreed to his offer, grinning broadly. She told him she'd call later and then ran off to Yolei, no doubt to break the news of her upcoming date. Ken mentally captured a picture of her, running in her summer dress, hair glimmering in the sun and smiling like the world couldn't be a better place.
And it's finally over. I haven't done a challenge in a while, but I'm happy with how this one turned out. It's also the longest one-shot I've ever done :D
Reviews are appreciated. Thanks.