Only When I Lose Myself


New girl. Been here for about a week. She's in one of my classes, too. I see here around a lot, beauty like hers is hard to miss.

She's from Okinawa, moved here last week. Takato says Kai knew her, actually. Wonder if he can give me some advice, I'll ask Takato to give him a call later.

I mean, she's beautiful! I can't help but stare at her a little. I'm doing my best to look casual. She's behind a half wall at the front of the school, talking with a friend. Her hair, her eyes...She's got this pretty silk flower in her hair, looks like something tropical...

...Oh, hey I wonder if that might be a good way to start talking to her. "That flower is beautiful, is it from Okinawa?" ...Yeah, I might try that.

"What do you think Kenta? Hot or what?" I say, Kenta's behind me. I can't look away from the new girl, though.

"Yeah, beautiful," Kenta says. "Nice ass."

"...Nice ass?" You can't see her ass. She's behind a half-wall...

"I see a nice ass..." Kenta trails off. From his tone, it must be a nice ass...

"Kenta, what are you talking about?" I turn to look at Kenta. He's...staring at my ass. I laugh, "Oh, good one..." His eyes go wide when he sees I'm facing him. He's...blushing...

...You..were joking, right?

...Kenta?

"Um, yeah," Kenta says. "...Good one."

He's not really laughing... "...Kenta?"

He looks to me with a grin, but it's sort of forced. Not an 'I'm joking with you' grin. "...H-Had you goin'."

"You...still have me going," I say. Kenta making a joke is obvious, you can tell by his laugh. And Kenta, for a while now, really hasn't been making jokes like he used to. Or at all, really.

"Hi-Hirokazu, it's...a joke! C-Come on!"

"Uh, yeah..." I sort of...trail off.

...Kenta...

...Are you...?

The bell rings, time for class...

Kenta gets up. "T-Time for math." He has math, I have history. Last period of the day before we walk home.

"Um, Kenta, wait for me at the gate after school," I say. "Okay?"

"D-Dude! It was a joke, really!"

I shrug. Maybe it was. "I know, but I still gotta talk to you about something." I roll my eyes, trying to look and sound convincing.

Kenta gives me a quick nod and walks off, I go in the opposite direction.

He probably was joking, but... ...I just want to know. Really. I just want to know.

History goes by quickly, it always does. Last period and...I kinda like history, whenever we cover wars and all that. Politics is boring as hell, though. And I hate memorizing names.

This time, though I'm not paying attention even though we're covering the Sengoku period. Y'know, Oda Nobunaga and all that? I've been waiting all month for this, but...

...I'm thinking about Kenta. Kenta's...been different. For a while now. I-I don't know why, well, I didn't know why until now. But, he just...He doesn't smile or crack jokes like he used to.

I think that's why I'm having trouble just writing off what happened as a joke...Kenta just doesn't make jokes anymore. He's...I don't want to say depressed, but...Not happy. I've been sorta worried because it's been going on for so long.

I hate seeing my friends like that. And Kenta's my best friend. I just want to know what's going on with him. That's all.

I go out to the front gate as fast as I can after the bell rings.

Kenta's nowhere to be seen. Which is weird, his math class is closer than my history class. He would have been here first. Kenta, if you're avoiding me...

...If you're avoiding me...

Then...It would be because you weren't joking...

...Holy shit...

Kenta's...gay... ...I-I can't believe it.

Kenta. Is. Gay.

...Wow...

...Kenta, dude, you're my best friend. Why didn't you tell me? ...Well, I guess...He was afraid I might freak out. People...sort of do that around gays. Sometimes.

I gotta talk to him now. I mean, this is...kinda huge. I didn't...I didn't really see this coming.

I take off in the direction of his walk home, I don't see him on the sidewalk but I catch a glimpse of him at the park. He's cutting through to get to his place, probably. I guess because, if I followed him, he'd beat me to his place.

I make a sharp turn into the park, jumping over a bush and go after him at full speed. "KENTA! WAIT!"

"Crap!" I hear him shout. He takes off running...Kenta, don't even try. I could walk and catch you because you'll get too tired to keep running after just a couple minutes.

Sure enough, he slows down and stops by the old playground equipment we used to play at when we were kids. I didn't even have to run, I just didn't want to lose him.

"Kenta, what the hell? Why'd you ditch me?" I ask. I know why he did, I just...I don't know why I'm pretending I don't know. Well, I guess...If I'm wrong, it might piss him off a little...

...But I don't think I am.

He's panting heavily. "...I-I was joking earlier, Hirokazu, really. I'm not-"

"Kenta, please, it's okay." I walk up to him, putting my hand on his shoulder. "Come on, there's a bench over there. We're talking."

I hold onto his arm so he doesn't try to run, not that I couldn't catch him or he's all that able to run right now. He sits down first. I sit next to him. "...Kenta, be honest, okay?" I try to sound as, well, not upset as possible. I-I'm just worried about him. Not about this. About him!

...Kenta, please, talk to me.

"...I...was honestly joking..."

"Then why did you run away?"

"...I...honestly...have no idea..." Kenta sighs. "...If, and this just an if, I wasn't joking..." He trails off.

I point forward, there's a guy from our PE class walking by in the distance. "...How 'bout his ass?"

It takes a moment for that to register with Kenta. "...You wouldn't...be upset?" He asks, quietly.

"Just tell me, okay?"

Kenta looks forward, he takes a deep breath and exhales sharply. He lowers his head and talks quietly. "...Hirokazu, you know when you do that 'she's hot' thing like before? ...Um... I...I'm not really...interested." His eyes look to me for about half a second, then back down. "So for the past, um, well, year, I guess...My commentary has been more directed...At you...rather than the girl you're looking at. I-I sort of did it for fun, since you usually...really focus on the girl. This time...I didn't know you couldn't see her ass. I-I didn't even know what girl you were talking about." He sighs and...He looks really upset. He's sort of trembling. "...I'm sorry, Hiro-"

"Wait," I can't stop the grin spreading across my face. "...Are you saying I have a nice ass? Be honest!"

Kenta's eyes go wide. "Wh-What?"

"Are you saying I have a nice ass?" I repeat. "Come on! Tell me!"

Kenta lets out a short laugh, that's more than he's done in a long time. "...Um...Y-Yeah, you kinda do." YES!

"Thank you for your honesty."

"You...don't mind at all? I just told you I've been checking you out behind your back for a year now."

I shake my head. "Dude, would I ever complain about someone complimenting my good looks?" Who in the right mind would?

"...You really...don't mind?"

I shake my head. "Kenta, just tell me. Okay? Say it. Just...Say it! And I promise, I won't get mad." ...I think he actually has to use the G-word here. Just to get it out. Admit it, Kenta...It might help.

"O-Okay..." Kenta swallows, looking up at me. "Hirokazu...I-I'm gay."

I pat him on the shoulder. "Kenta, I don't have a problem with that. I-I really don't." ...I'm a little surprised, but... ...He's Kenta.

"I-I...I have one more...confession," Kenta sighs, his face is bright red. He looks away. "...I-I know you're straight, but I think you...Should know this, okay? P-Please, don't be mad."

"I won't be mad." He's really upset about this, I can see why he would be, but...I just said I wouldn't be mad. I've said it a lot. Why doesn't he believe me?

"I-I...I like you, Hirokazu. A lot." Kenta's turning even more red. "I-I have for...a long time. Please, don't be upset. I-I just...I don't know why, I just like you. You've always been my friend and..." He's...shaking. A lot. He looks like he might cry. "...And I hope...you always will be." He whispers. A tear runs down his cheek, he wipes his eyes with his sleeve.

That kinda hits me, I...I don't know what to say to that at all.

"...Wow..." I stare off at...whatever's in front of me. I-I'm sort of blind to it, I'm...just thinking about what he said.

...Kenta...likes me... I-I never...Wow... Kenta, seriously?

You have good taste, I'll give you that.

I look over to him for moment. He's still shaking a little...I had no idea this would freak him out so much...

Is he nervous because he's gay? Because he likes me? Because he's telling me this? All of the above? I-I don't know.

I-I...I want him to be Kenta again. The Kenta who...always joked around with me! Not this...freaked out, nervous, shaking Kenta!

Whatever I can do to help him, I want to do it. This is...obviously a huge issue to him.

...Kenta, please, relax. And smile a little.

"...Are you mad?" Kenta whispers after a few moments, he has his head down. He...looks terrified.

...I don't think silence is a good thing right now. I gotta say something...

How do I feel about that? ...Kenta likes me...

...That's...a problem...

"It bothers me. But only because I feel bad," I say.

"...Y-You feel bad?" Kenta asks, his head still down.

"...Kenta, you're my best friend and I...I-I wish I could return your feelings." I blush slightly, I can't believe I just said that. "...Is that weird? I don't know if it is or not, but...It's how I feel. I know it...has to suck for you, knowing that I...can't like you back. I-I'm sorry. I really wish...I could like you back that way." I know, I basically just said I wished I was gay for Kenta, but...

...Kenta's the best friend I've ever had and...I know how much it sucks being turned down by a girl I barely even know...So, for him this...has to...

...Damn it, now I feel worse... I don't think I could relate to this too well, actually. Because those girls weren't also my best friends for my entire life.

Kenta looks at me. Smiling. "Trust me, Hirokazu, that was...the greatest thing you could have said short of...liking me back. You're...awesome." He's really smiling. I mean, I turned him down and he's...smiling. And it's...a real smile, he's not forcing it...

...There's something I gotta do...

I give him a hug, he almost shouts when I do it. I did it really sudden, and I know he wasn't expecting it at all. I couldn't control myself, I guess.

"Wh-What are you doing?" Kenta asks, keeping his hands to his side.

"...I had a feeling you wanted to do that," I say. "Just...from the look on your face."

"I-I did." I knew it. "B-But...I thought, well...You wouldn't want..." He trails off.

"Kenta, you can hug me," I laugh. "I shouldn't have to give you permission for that."

Kenta, after a moment, hugs me back. "...Thanks."

We're quiet for a little bit. Not long, and...I think Kenta's really enjoying the hug, not that I mind at all. It makes him happy.

I do...have some questions for him. I just hope he doesn't mind me asking them...

"...How long have you really felt like that? Towards anyone, I mean." I let go of him, he sits back...Sort of quickly. I guess he's still afraid I might be grossed out or something.

Kenta, I hugged you. I don't think you're gross for liking guys. It's okay. You're not slimy or anything, I'm not going to scream "gross" if I touch you!

"Years," Kenta shrugs. "It's...weird, I can look back on when I was a kid, before I ever thought about stuff like this and...I can see how things were leading up to this, you know? ...And...well, after we started middle school, I realized...I was attracted to you. Like more than just being best friends like when we were kids. ...I-I was scared at first, because I didn't want to be 'that way.' But...I couldn't stop thinking about you and...Any attempt to like a girl... ...Didn't end with me liking her. I-I tried a lot, but...In the end, I realized...I liked other guys. Especially you. I-I thought about you a lot and...I didn't want to call myself 'that way,' even though I obviously was. I-I was even afraid to say the word 'gay.' I tried to ignore it, when that didn't work..." He takes a deep breath and lets out a long sigh.

I nod. I can't believe he kept this a secret so long. I wish I knew sooner, he...was probably freaking out a lot during that time. I know I would...I wish I could have helped him through it.

"...I've been able to say 'I'm gay' to myself for about about a year or so but I seriously denied it before then. It scared the hell out of me." He says.

"Why?"

"It was...Just not what I thought I would ever be. And with the way people react to gays, what if my family hated me? Or you, Jen and Takato? I-I just wanted to be 'normal,' so badly. I didn't want to lose my friends and family over something I couldn't control and didn't want. But...I just got used to it over time. It bothered me less and less."

"And now?"

"I'm okay with it, mostly, but...You're the first person I've told," Kenta looks to me. He still looks nervous...Please smile, Kenta. "And...You have no idea how much of a relief it is that you know and it doesn't bother you. I have nightmares of what would happen if you or Takato, Jen, my family-Anyone-ever found out."

"Kenta, you're my best friend...That wouldn't change so easily." I give him a pat on the shoulder. "...Will you tell anyone else?"

"One...step at a time," Kenta says. "I...I have no idea how anyone else would take it. What do you think Takato would say?"

"...He's Takato, why would it bother him?" I shrug. Takato...he wouldn't...This isn't something that would bug him, I think. He's Takato. Jen, too, probably wouldn't care.

But telling people is up to Kenta. If he wants to keep this a secret, I won't tell a soul. ...I know I sometimes have trouble with keeping secrets, but... ...I'll keep this one as long as Kenta wants.

"It's just...easy to picture the worst case scenario." Kenta says.

"What did I do in your worst case scenarios?" I ask.

"Just told me I was a freak and never spoke to me again," Kenta shrugs. "That's how they usually played out in my head. Everyone always hates me and doesn't want to be around me."

"You're not a freak. And I will speak to you again," I say. "I'll stop doing that whole 'check her out' thing, though...Sorry about that."

"You can keep doing it, I don't mind. I'll, um, just do what I usually do," Kenta, less subtly than he probably wants to, checks my face for a reaction.

...Oh, if that's what you wanna do, Kenta...

"...In that case," I get up. "...She's hot, don't you think?" I turn my back to him. There's not even a girl near by. I'm pointing at a tree...A really hot tree, I guess. "What do you think of that ass?" I can't help but shake my ass a bit.

Kenta laughs, like he hasn't laughed in a long time. He laughs a lot, and loud. I'm so glad to hear him laugh. "...Th-Thank you, Hirokazu...I...I'm so glad you're my friend right now..."

I sit back down with a laugh. "Is it really all that different? I mean, I know you're afraid of how people will react, but...You check out guys like how I check out girls, right?"

Kenta shrugs. "Not as openly, but...Yeah."

I gotta know. "...Is Takato cute?"

Kenta blushes. "...Sorta..."

I laugh. "Cuter than me?"

"Nah." Kenta laughs. A real laugh, too. Good, I like that.

"What about Jen?"

"...Y-You really don't mind talking about this?"

"D-Do you?" Crap, I hope he doesn't think I'm making fun of him-Well, not any more than I would in any other situation.

"...You first." Kenta says, quietly. He's...nervous again.

I shrug. "I'm actually...Kinda curious about the whole thing. I just want to understand what you've been going through. If you don't want to talk, though, I understand. But if you want to, I'm all ears. And...I meant it, Kenta. If it makes you feel better, I want you to feel better. Okay?"

"Are you...serious?"

I nod. "...Do you mind?"

"N-Not at all...Like I said, I've never told anyone about this and...It feels good to talk about it. Like...you have no idea, Hirokazu. I-I've...kept this to myself for so long...And...You knowing and...Just everything you're doing, it..." He chokes up a little. "I-I haven't felt this good in a long time." Kenta takes off his glasses, wiping his eyes with his sleeve before putting his glasses back on. I hope those are happy tears, Kenta...

...Like I've said, for a while now Kenta's sort of stopped joking around like he used to and he's been quieter. I never asked him why, I just...I dunno, I thought he was just a little down at first, I tried to cheer him up...And I still try to make him laugh, but...

...I should have asked what was wrong. If this is what's been bothering him, then I want him to feel better.

I wrap my arm around Kenta with a smile. "...Then talk, I wanna hear and... Look, if it'll make you feel better, that makes me feel better." I look to his face, he's blushing again. I normally don't hold onto him like this, but...Hey, if it makes him happy. I tug on him a little, to let him know it's okay to lean on me...Kenta hesitates at first, but...

...After a couple tugs, he's sort of using me as a pillow. I've got my arms around him, kinda hugging him from behind. If someone saw this, they'd probably think we're an item. And I don't give a crap if they do. Kenta's happy, damn it! That's all I care about right now!

"You don't want to tell your family, right?" I ask.

Kenta shakes his head. "No way. Never. I know my Dad would flip out. My Mom wouldn't be as bad, but she wouldn't like it. I'll tell them after I have my own place. Maybe."

"...What about Jen and Takato?"

"...Maybe later...I-I just...Hirokazu, I never thought I'd tell you. I was ready to take this to the grave with me."

"I-I wish you told me sooner, then," I say. "Kenta...This obviously has you really freaked out. I don't like that, I like seeing you happy. Okay? Just tell me. Everything."

"...Thank you so much, Hirokazu." He takes off his glasses again, wiping his eyes with his sleeve. But he's also smiling. For real.

"What's wrong?"

"I-I just...Like I said, I feel really good right now. And it's all thanks to you. I..." He hesitates, then says, "I...think you're awesome, Hirokazu."

...I think he meant to say something else.

I smile. "...You can say it."

"S-Say what?"

"I know you were gonna say it. You wanna say it. And I wanna hear it. I really, really do."

"...Are you...sure?"

"Come on, say it, Kenta. It won't bother me."

"...I love you, Hirokazu." Kenta is bright red. But he's still smiling.

...I actually...really did sort of like hearing that.

I smile. "That's what I wanted to hear." I give him an extra squeeze, to let him know it's okay.

"I-I can't believe you actually...got me to say that." Kenta laughs. And it's a real laugh.

We talk for a couple more hours. We didn't even notice how long we'd been there. The sun was starting to set when my cell phone went off. My Mom wanted to know where I was...

...I also realize, I've been holding onto Kenta the whole time. It wouldn't bother me if someone saw it, and...Hey, he complimented my ass, I owed him a hug!

We get off the bench, it's time to go home. I wish we could talk longer, Kenta's...the happiest I've seen him in so long. And so am I, actually. Kenta being happy really does make me happy, too.

"Thanks again, Hirokazu. You have no idea how much all that meant to me." Kenta says, the smile still on his face.

"Talk to me whenever," I say. "And if you ever need help finding a date..."

Kenta's jaw drops. "...You would...seriously help me pick up guys?"

"For you, anything," I smile. "And I meant it." I really do.

We wave goodbye and go our separate ways... ...I'm really glad I made Kenta feel better. I was sort of worried about him, with how nervous he was and how scared he was. I really haven't seen him like that before. Ever.

Kenta's my best friend, that will never change. I-I want my best friend to be happy and I want him to know I'm not going to be upset that he's gay. He's still Kenta...If anything, I think it makes him, I dunno, more one of a kind. More awesome. Not really because he's gay, but because he's Kenta.

...I didn't even know I'd be this okay with it, too. Really, I sort of can't believe I was hugging him so much. Especially the last few hours. Not that I really mind at all, but...I mean shounen-ai manga and stuff, I would never read it or watch shounen-ai anime. I avoid that stuff entirely, but...

Hugging my gay best friend? ...He's Kenta.

Hearing him say he loves me? ...I...Well...

...I sort of love him, too...Just not in the way he would like me to.

...I'm sorry I can't like you back, Kenta. I guess that's the other reason I wanted him to talk about it, because I want to do anything to make him feel better.

...It's...sort of confusing, too. I'm not gay, trust me. I like women. A lot.

...But...

...I can't stop thinking about how I feel really bad that I can't like Kenta back. If it was a choice like some people claim it is (and I know it's not), I'd... ...I might actually choose Kenta. I know that is...Not something most straight guys would say, but...

...I-I just...

...I hate being rejected by girls I really like. I hate that feeling, when I get my hopes up that she'll like me back and just says "not interested" to me instead. I don't like having really strong feelings for a girl, only to have her tell me she doesn't like me that way (or at all). And I get it a lot more than I really want to...

...And I did that to Kenta today. And for him it had to be even worse than how I feel...

...And he smiled after I did it. I-I would never smile, no matter how nicely a girl turned me down...But...

...Kenta smiled even though I said I can't like him back that way...I want Kenta to keep smiling.

So, Kenta, I want you to tell me everything about how you feel about me or anyone else. I want you to talk about what it's like being gay, what scares you about it, what you might like about it, that cute guy in your math class, anything at all.

And if you want to give me a hug, give me a hug. If you want to say "I love you," say "I love you." I won't mind.

...I-I won't...kiss you, though... ...Sorry, but...I got my limits. Anything else, go for it, Kenta.

Just...do me one favor...

...Be happy.

I see that I'm passing by the Matsuda Bakery. I think I'll go in to get some Guilmon bread. A snack sounds good right now and the Matsudas make the best bread. Especially Guilmon bread.

Takato's at the counter. "Hey, Hirokazu...What's with the smile? You look...Happier than usual, I guess."

"Oh, just had a fun talk with Kenta," I say. "One Guilmon bread." I reach for my wallet.

Takato goes to get the Guilmon bread. "What'd you talk about?"

"Our concepts of beauty," I say. That...should be safe enough. I don't want Kenta to get pissed that I outted him to Takato. Sorry, Takato, Kenta'll tell you when he's ready.

"Concepts of beau-Oh, boobs and asses, right?"

I nod. "Exactly."

"Who's likes what?"

"Kenta's an ass man, I'm a boob man...Not that there's anything wrong with either." I chuckle. Takato just looks at me, sort of confused.

~Owari~


Original Author's (AKA Ori's) Notes:
When I was editing Blasphemous Rumors I wanted to expand upon Hirokazu and Kenta's relationship. Since this is a prequel to Blasphemous Rumors, the title is another Depeche Mode song. Except it makes sense.

"It's only when I lose myself in someone else\that I find myself\I find myself"

Originally the title was "Shake The Disease," but I realized some might think I was referring to Kenta's orientation as "the disease," instead of his slip up about Hirokazu's ass (The lyrics talk of a "disease" that takes "hold of my tongue," listen to the song - it's awesome!) so I decided to go with this one instead. I like themes with my titles, so I had to go with another Depeche Mode song title. Only When I Lose Myself is an equally (if not more) awesome song, too!

If you haven't read Blasphemous Rumors - Be warned, it's a(n attempted) suicide fic. Takato's POV in the first quarter, Hirokazu's POV through the rest. I remember when I sent BR to Taiki and asked, "Think we should put this up?" He read it and...um...Well...

...It kinda broke Taiki...

He was a little better after an hour or two but... I felt really bad that I broke my Twerp-chan. So I made sure this one wasn't going to repeat that despite being in BR's continuity. It's fun to tease him, but I don't like breaking him.

Anyway, I sort of used an element from Kako Mo Yadda Yadda Yadda with Hirokazu being...A little closer to Kenta than most straight guys would be. But, in all honesty, I think it's something he would actually do just to make Kenta feel better. Hirokazu can be sort of an ass, but...He'll do anything to make his friend happy. Especially if it's Kenta.

Still, I probably do owe Kenta a fic where Hirokazu, or anyone, returns his feelings... Thus far, that's only happened in Akogare and Christmas Present...Oh, and a passing mention of being with Hirokazu in Bah Humbug. And in Kako Mo yadda, yadda, yadda it's sort of up to debate. But compared to Jianliang and Takato, he goes unloved. Sorry, Kenta!


Taiki's Notes:

That ending with Takato is pretty dark when you think about it, Ori. This is a prequel to Blasphemous Rumors after all. You really like playing with things like that these days, don't you? Trying to kill that "funny slash writer" persona from your old account once and for all, eh?

And, yes, Blasphemous Rumors did "break" me. I just had no idea Ori had it in him to write A SUICIDE FIC! I mean, he used to write just humor! And slash but he was known mostly for humor! I just knew he had something unreleased that I was curious about! I didn't know it was that sort of fic until I read his notes for Schnapps. I was surprised, to say the least!

With this fic I was really, really touched by how Hirokazu was trying so hard to make Kenta happy again. I honestly have to say that. But I-I didn't cry!

Much.

And slash fans: I told you Kako Mo Ima Mo Etc. wasn't going to be his last! He's even finished another one for the Christmas upload! It's called "Christmas Chocolates."

Ori, slash is all you have for romance and we love you for it. Don't you dare even joke about quitting on us!

-Taiki Matsuki