A Night Under The Mistletoe


It's Christmas Eve, I'm doing something a little unusual…

…I'm going to spend it at Takato's. It's sort of, um, a break from my family right now. Christmas time is always chaotic at the Li household, between Xiaochun and Lianjie, especially, this year, I've been losing my mind. Xiaochun's in 'Christmas Hyper Mode' and Lianjie and I have sort of been getting on each other's nerves. Actually, no, everyone's been getting on each other's nerves. Jialing's been trying to keep peace between everyone but…

…Christmas and Chaos begin with CH for a reason. Especially if your surname is Li.

Takato sort of picked up on it last time he came over to visit, Lianjie made a crack about my 'boyfriend' coming over and…I almost lost it but Takato managed to calm me down, he always puts me in a good mood. So, he cleared it with his parents and I'll be spending the night for Christmas Eve. It'll be fun, I really need the break, I really do. My parents were okay with the idea, too, they know what Christmas is like for us…

…Takato's lucky, he's an only child so he doesn't have to deal with siblings and Christmas.Especially when Xiaochun decides to wake you up to a Christmas song at five in the morning, telling you just how many days are left 'til Christmas…Xiaochun, I have a brain and a calendar on my cell phone: I KNOW HOW MANY FREAKIN' DAYS ARE LEFT TO CHRISTMAS! And there's no such thing as Christmas Eve Eve Eve Eve Eve EVE! AUGH!

Need. Takato. Need. Normal. Sane. Person.

It would also be nice if she didn't start doing it in November! Gods, I can't get to that bakery soon enough! I have a backpack with me of things for tonight and some snacks for Takato and I, I'm spending the night at Takato's. The bakery's just down the street, actually, I see a couple customers walking out with boxes in their hands, probably Chrismas cake or Guilmon cake…Yeah, Takato, for fun a couple years ago, found a mold that sort of looked like Guilmon's head (it was some sort of Halloween mold, we're still not sure what it's supposed to be – Kenta calls it "the vaguely dinosaur-head shaped silicone baking mold of mystery"), just without the, um…

…I guess 'bat ears' would be the best way to describe those things on his head but, anyway, with a little work and 'creative use' of some other cake molds Takato finally made his "Guilmon Christmas Cake" and, well, a customer saw it and wanted to know if it was for sale. It was for her son, who loves dinosaurs and Christmas cake…And Takato made another for the customer and, within a couple days, everyone wanted "Dinosaur Christmas Cake," especially little kids and Digimon fans (the latter of which are regular customers at the Matsuda Bakery, especially those with the surname Kitagawa or Shiota).

Takato accidentally created a Matsuda Bakery original best seller. His parents have been really proud of him for that, he says, since it was his first original item on their menu. They give him a share of their profits from the Guilmon cakes and, well, actually…Anything Guilmon-related, too, like Guilmon bread. It's because it's "Takato-inspired" or "a Takato original" that they do it. It's added to his usual pay for working, he started the year after The Digital World, which was a year before "Guilmon Christmas Cake."

Takato does a lot of Digimon-themed breads and snacks. Not too many of them stay on the menu very long, though, not that they're bad they just need to sell better than they did – Takato understands, but really wishes "Terriermon rolls" stayed on the menu…Me, too, actually (his parents let him put them on the menu on the month of my birthday, though, he even gives me a free batch as a birthday gift), but the biggest sellers are Guilmon bread and Guilmon Christmas Cake.

The Matsuda Bakery became really popular after D-Reaper, especially when Guilmon became an official Toei sanctioned Digimon: Everyone loves Guilmon and every evolution up to Dukemon (though they don't make any Megidramon merchandise, Takato never told Toei about…that incident). The fact one of the bakers is also one of the "Digimon Tamers" doesn't hurt, either. Takato can't work the cash register because a lot of customers will ask him a million questions about our adventure and he's too polite to say "I need to tend to other customers." Though, most of those customers were just as interested in his stories, he still didn't like holding up the line so much.

Because of all this and, especially, from Guilmon Christmas cake, Takato's had a lot of spending money on hand lately. Especially around the holidays…

...In fact Takato's goes overboard at Christmas when it comes to us and gifts. We couldn't believe what he got us the first Christmas he could do this, even Ruki was thankful for the gifts! It was a real shock to all of us since, well, before D-Reaper the Matsuda Bakery wasn't poor or anything but "money was always sort of tight with Takato," according to Hirokazu and Kenta. And now? He goes overboard for us at Christmas. And birthdays but especially at Christmas. Like, seriously, overboard. Last year alone:

Takato got Hirokazu and Kenta each the new Digimon World games: Digimon World Steel for Hirokazu (had Guardromon featured on the back with a ton of other machine Digimon) and Water (three guesses which Mega Ruki has labeled as 'the gayest thing in the history of gay' was featured on the cover). They've been playing both games against each other on their DSes ever since, they play against the rest of us that have copies of the games, too (Myself, Takato and Ryou).

For Ruki, the Digimon Savers DVD set. It was something we knew she wanted, she's a fan of Masaru. He also got her a giant Renamon plush he saw at a winter carnival, he spent probably twice what it was worth to get it for her. Same with a Lopmon plush for Xiaochun, actually. I was with him at the time, I couldn't believe how dedicated he was. It was this, um, game where you had to drop a ping pong ball down a series of bars by slowly turning a knob. Turn it too much and the ball would fall into the 'losing' hole. It was so hard that one win was a large prize, instead of two or three like the other games. We both played together, actually, to try to win the plushes, he paid for all of my games even when I told him not to (he asked the guy at the booth not to take my money…I'm amazed he actually said yes to that, considering his profession).

For Ryou: Like Ruki, a DVD set except it was Digimon Tamers. And, no, despite the title the show was nothing like our adventure (just 'loosely based' on a 'true story,' in the sense of how Hirokazu tells everyone he's Dukemon). Despite everything we told Toei about the Digital World, they've yet to really capture the 'weirdness' of that place, Digimon Frontier came kinda close at times, though. He also got him a Cyberdramon plastic model. Ryou really liked that, actually, he has it on display in his room, still.

For Juri…Anything and everything Leomon. At first he didn't want to get her anything Leomon-related but…When she saw a Leomon plush doll at a store once, she cried a little and said she liked the memory, so she bought it. Takato, um, even for what he got everyone else went insane for Juri. I think he got her, literally, everything Toei makes that's Leomon related. Including the Digimon Tamers DVD set, one of the Tamers has a Leomon for a partner and we know Juri's been trying to get into the anime series. Takato made sure not to get her Digimon Adventure, though, since that Leomon…Well…Had a 'similar fate,' let's say, Digimon Tamers' Leomon is a prominent character that survives despite a few close calls…We warned her about that, actually, not telling her why but: "Don't watchA dventure, Juri. Ever. We're not kidding." Hirokazu had to bite his tongue when Juri asked why and his reply was "It really, really, REALLY sucks." Adventure is his favorite season (02, especially, he loves The Digimon Kaiser – Takato even got him a Kaiser figure and Wormmon plush for his birthday one year).

And for me? Like Juri, everything Terriermon. From games he knew I didn't have to a giant Terriermon plush, Takato got that at the same carnival the next day, alone. I don't even want to know how much he spent trying to win it. I couldn't believe how much he got me but…

…As Hirokazu said, "Ever since he's been working there and getting a cut of all the Guilmon food: Takato's freakin' LOADED!" He sort of is but…I know he spends everything he has at Christmas for us. I felt really bad, actually, since…

…I couldn't afford to get him much. I never really can but Takato always appreciates what I do give him, he never does the whole "I spent ten million yen on you, but all you got me was a Guilmon doll? You cheapskate!" Takato's not like that (he'd never even joke about it) but…I can't help but feel guilty, Takato goes overboard for us at Christmas, he loves the holiday season. Especially since he started selling Guilmon Christmas Cakes. He's like a restrained version of Xiaochun, he gets excited about the holiday season but doesn't drive you insane…The opposite, actually.

I have his gift with me, actually. It's a new pair of goggles, his old pair's strap broke while he was baking a few months ago (he wears them while making Guilmon items, to "remember the old days," he says). They're the same color, a little different but…I think he'll like them. I also got him the new Digimon PSP game (checking with his parents to see if they'd bought it for them, they said they were planning to but would let me get it for him instead). I had to save up for the game since, well, video games aren't cheap but…

…I really wanted to get Takato a nice gift this year. Like I said, he goes all out on us and, really, only Ruki and Ryou can come close to doing the same for him. They usually do, too, as surprising as that may sound for Ruki.

But he goes all out, especially, for Juri and I. Juri for obvious reasons, me since, well, we're best friends and all. Like how Kenta does extra for Hirokazu and "vice-versa" (Hirokazu's "extra" usually comes after Christmas for Kenta, but Kenta sorta likes that about him, "Hirokazu-kun turns last minute shopping into an art form.").

I see a couple more customers walk out of the bakery as I approach, Mrs. Matsuda steps out and puts out the closed sign. She spots me and waves, I wave back. "Jenrya!"

"Mrs. Matsuda," I jog up to the bakery and bow my head. "Thank you again for inviting me tonight, I-I know it's…Christmas Eve and—"

"Don't worry, Jenrya," Mrs. Matsuda says. "Takato's friends are always welcome here. He's inside, putting away the day old bread right now."

I nod, following her inside, Mr. Matsuda is finishing up with one last customer at the cash register while Takato is taking bags of bread from the baskets around the store. "Takato-kun," I say.

"Jen-kun," Takato smiles. "Glad you could make it. I'm just about done here, we'll have dinner in a little bit."

"Can I help?"

"You don't have to."

"It's okay," I say. Takato always turns down help at the bakery, thinking he'd be putting us to work or something. Takato's…Takato. "Really, it's just putting away old bread, right?"

Takato nods with a laugh. "Anything from the 22nd and 23rd, since we won't be open Christmas day."

I nod, taking an extra basket and looking at bread dates. Takato and I get the job done quickly, Mr. Matsuda helps out once the last customer leaves. "Thanks for the help, Jenrya. We'll call you two when dinner's ready."

I nod. "Thanks again. Oh! Before I forget…" I reach for my backpack, I open it and pull out a pair of gifts, they're on top of…Um…

…I know I'm a little old for this but…I brought the Terriermon plush Takato got me, I wanted him to know I still appreciated it. I know how much you can spend at one of those carnival games, especially that one.

"I brought these for Takato-kun, my family has gifts for everyone, too, but Lianjie is going to bring those by tomorrow," I say, bowing my head. "They were too big for my backpack, sorry."

Mr. Matsuda nods, "Great! We'll put them under the tree right now, it's Christmas Eve and all."

Takato speaks up as I zip closed my backpack, "O-Oh, I…I can do that. Jen-kun, you can go ahead to my room—"

"What do you mean? It's just putting a couple gifts under a tree," Mr. Matsuda says with a laugh. He leads us to the back of the bakery, we all take our shoes off first by the stairs, we go upstairs and to a small 'living room' sort of space, it's at the opposite end of the hall from Takato's room, near his parents' bedroom. It's where his family keeps their television, a sofa and has guests over.

Mr. Matsuda opens the door.

…Wow…

The tree is, of course, beautiful but…

…There are a ton of presents under the tree. I mean about as many as you'd see at my place. Actually, maybe more…Wow…

Takato clears his throat nervously as I approach the tree…What's wrong?

"Let's see…Just put them about anywhere," Mr. Matsuda says, smiling. I nod, looking over the massive pile of wrapped gifts…

…Wait…

I-I think I see why Takato didn't want me to see the Christmas tree…

…A lot of these gifts have the same tag:

TO: Takato
LOVE: Mom & Dad

or

TO: Takato
FROM: Santa

Even though, for the latter, Takato is more than a little old to believe in Santa, it's probably his parents having fun. Xiaochun is just at the "stop believing" age while Lianjie…Normally, I know when he's joking and would normally assume he's just pretending to still believe but…He sounds so damned serious whenever he talks about Santa Claus that, honestly, I'm worried about him at this point.

Anyway, all of this is just from a quick glance as I find a place to put my gifts to him. I also see a few that are between his parents and quite a few from him to them but, compared to all the ones that say "To: Takato…"

…Well, Takato is an only child and I know his parents like to go all out for him sometimes. I guess he's embarrassed by me seeing this…

…I understand, Takato-kun, I'll play dumb.

I quickly set my gifts, putting each on one that's not labeled for Takato. I turn back to Takato with a smile, he definitely looks a little embarrassed. "Found a good spot, I think." I say, going back to Takato.

"Th-Thanks, Jen-kun," Takato says, quietly. Mr. Matsuda arranges a couple other gifts.

"Takato? Something wrong?" Mr. Matsuda speaks up.

Takato quickly shakes his head. "N-No, nothing! Just, um, a little tired after baking all day."

"Yeah, Christmas Eve is always the time for last minute Christmas cake orders…Especially a certain Digimon shaped cake," his father grins, proudly. Takato laughs with a quick nod. "Seriously, Takato, I can't believe how well that cake took off. Thanks for making that extra one that time. It's what started it all."

"I-I'm just really glad it came out good, it was my first time using the recipe."

"My son's got baking in his blood," Mr. Matsuda says, proudly.

"Takato-kun is the best baker we know," I say, smiling. "We'll never get tired of his Guilmon bread." Takato's usually the one who bakes the Guilmon bread he shares with us these days, you can actually tell the difference a little between his and his parents' versions. Takato's has a crispier crust and moist inside, which we all prefer. Especially Hirokazu, he's been known to eat five or six at a time…Kenta's still amazed he hasn't gone up a single pants size because of it.

"I remember when Hirokazu and Kenta told me the idea, before we knew about Guilmon…I-I thought they were insane! I had no idea what a 'Gillman' was, or even how to make a bread based on it!" Mr. Matsuda laughs. "Then I spent…I think every night trying to come up with a recipe while you kids were in The Digital World."

"Really?" I ask.

Mr. Matsuda nods. "It…gave me something to take my mind off Takato being gone."

"Thanks…" Takato whispers.

"I'll go start dinner, you two just have fun," Mr. Matsuda says, he goes past us and downstairs. I follow Takato to his room.

"…Sorry about that, Jen-kun," Takato whispers in his room.

"Sorry…about what?" I ask. …Takato, I-I understand, you're an only child it's obvious your parents would like to, well, go all out for you. I know with my family…Well, four kids? From our parents, growing up, we each got three gifts (two from them, one from Santa) each and, well, once Lianjie, Jialing and I each got our own source of income (allowance or otherwise, I've been helping out at an arcade Lianjie used to work at on weekends…They hired me based on his recommendation and the idea I'd be like him and put half my paycheck back into their games – I do not) that number has gone up a little and our parents don't stick to three gifts a year per child anymore. But…

…Well, I see why Takato would be so embarrassed by all that. I mean, that's something Hirokazu would show off but…Takato? …He's…different. Especially about things like this.

…I wonder if this has anything to do with why he goes so overboard for us.

"You…didn't, um… Ne-Never mind, I-I'm just…Like I said, I'm tired," Takato lets out a quiet laugh.

"Sorry I didn't come sooner, I'd have helped you with the Guilmon Cake orders."

"There weren't too many, just a couple dozen," Takato says. …That's not too many? What is? "I got them done by noon and just helped out around the place."

I nod, looking around Takato's room. He did a lot of decorating. There's garland around the door to his balcony, his desk has a bunch of Christmas ornaments (even a Santa mug for his paintbrushes), there's a stocking hung on the door to his closet and some paper garland hanging around his bed with—Huh?

"…Is that…What I think it is?" I ask.

There's a sprig of mistletoe by Takato's bed…Actually, it's…over where my futon is…

Takato laughs, "O-Oh! Crap! So-Sorry, Jen-kun! I-I forgot that was there…"

"Why do you have mistletoe in your room?" I ask, addressing the second most obvious. The first being 'why is it above my bed?' There's a reason for that but it's not important…

…Well, it is but I'm not going to bring it up.

"We-Well, um, it was originally put above the cash register as a joke but…Well, one guy…" Takato glances away, clearing his throat. "This one guy came in for custard pan at night, he was sorta drunk and my Mom was the one at the register…"

"Oh, crap, what happened?"

"My Mom was okay but when my Dad was done with him, we lost a potential customer and he lost three teeth," Takato replies.

"Th-Thank the Gods…I'm glad nothing serious happened," I say. That…had to be scary for Mrs. Matsuda.

"It…It isn't as bad as it sounds, thank the Gods, but…Actually, did you know that a three day old loaf of French bread works just as well as a baseball bat?"

"…Really?"

"According to my Dad…" Takato trails off. "But, well, my Dad decided the mistletoe might have been a bad idea after that. I asked if I could use it as a decoration for my room instead. I-I didn't mean to put it where you'd be sleeping, Jen, I-I mean…I just picked a random place I could stick a hook in the ceiling." He points to the overhead light, it's what the hook is attached to.

I grin, stepping under the mistletoe and tapping my foot on the futon. "…What? You mean you don't like me all of a sudden?" I might as well play along, even with Lianjie's joke…

…But I got upset about that for a different reason. And it's best to hint at that right now, I think.

Takato bursts out laughing, I do the same. "I-I'll take it down…Re-Really."

"No, leave it up. Quoth the Ruki: 'It's just a stupid plant.'"

"Isn't there a second half to that quote?" Takato asks. Yeah, '…And if you come anywhere near me with it, I'll kick you in the balls so hard, you'll cough 'em up, Shiota!'

"Yeah, but I wouldn't kick you in the balls for trying to kiss me," I say. "Er—Wait…That came out right and wrong…" …It sort of did.

Takato laughs, "Even without lips touching, mistletoe works its magic of making Christmas awkward." We both laugh. After a moment, Takato asks, "So, um, what do you want to do before dinner?"

I shrug. "Whatever you want…Thanks again for inviting me over, Takato. I needed a break from my family. I really did."

"I understand, sorry about that…joke Rinchei made."

I roll my eyes. "…Yeah…It's…I-I swear, he's…He's okay most of the time but when he wants to be an ass…" …He's an ass. But I felt really bad for getting so worked up over it in front of Takato. Especially over that joke of all things. With Takato, it was the worst thing for me to get so upset over.

Takato laughs, "It was just a joke."

"Yeah, on top of ten million others I wasn't in the mood for, it was sort of the last straw, you know? Thanks for calming me down." I say. Takato managed to come between us and just sort of pull me back, gently, saying 'Jen-kun, it's okay! It's okay!' And bring me back to my bed after I almost slammed the door on Lianjie's face…Lianjie, I think, might've realized he went too far with that one so he didn't bother us after that but…After a few minutes, I felt a lot calmer thanks to Takato.

Actually, I had a talk with him after Takato left about that joke…He promised not to do it in front of Takato anymore.

"He's just being…Rinchei, I guess," Takato shrugs.

"Exactly," I roll my eyes to my 'boyfriend.'

Takato and I have always been really close and, lately, Lianjie's been joking that we're secretly going out. Normally, I can ignore it but…

…That was the first time he ever made that joke in front of Takato. I-I…I just hate how he pulls crap like that sometimes. It's bad enough when it's just me, Lianjie, but…Well…

…Like I said, I had a talk with him. He even apologized afterward, so…I guess Lianjie's managed to stay on 'Santa and Jenrya's Relatively Nice List.' For now.

"I-I dunno, I still…sort of wish I had a brother or sister, you know?" Takato shrugs. "I really like your family, Jen-kun, they're all really nice."

"…Takato, I didn't know you knew another Li family," I reply, Takato laughs. "Seriously, you are so lucky you don't have a little sister jumping on your bed every morning singing Jingle Bells and reminding you how many days are left until Christmas…Want an example?" I joke, looking to Takato's bed.

Takato shakes his head with a laugh, "I-I'll take your word for it—"

"One day left, Takato-kun! One day! One day! Let's go to the mall, I wanna show you all the new doll clothes I want!" I shout, we both start laughing.

"I-I take it Shiuchon…gets really excited at Christmas."

"Understatement of the millennium," I say.

Takato and I joke around a little bit until we're called for dinner. Takato's parents have a huge dinner set out, a regular Christmas feast…Sort of like what we have but a little smaller since it's just four people.

Takato and I make our plates and eat sitting next to each other. Mr. Matsuda has a huge grin for some reason. Takato finally asks, "What's…going on?"

"I know you said you didn't want to do this tonight, Takato, but…" Mr. Matsuda trails off with a grin, looking to Mrs. Matsuda. "After dinner, we have something we want you to open. It's really important, actually."

Takato looks a little embarrassed again. "O-Oh…?" Huh?

"Tonight?" I ask. It's Christmas Eve…

"Every year, we let Takato open one or two gifts early, ever since he was about five," Mr. Matsuda explains, I see Takato look more embarrassed as he goes on…

…Takato's parents…Yeah, like I thought, they go overboard for their son at Christmas.

"…And this year, Takato, trust me, this one can't wait," Mrs. Matsuda says, giving her husband a huge grin.

Takato nods, smiling a little. "Th-Thanks…I-I can't wait!" He does his best to sound excited but…

…Takato, really, I know you're not some spoiled kid at Christmas. The way you go all out for us is definite proof of that.

"Can we have a hint?" I joke, hoping it might make Takato feel better.

"It can't wait to be opened," Takato's Dad says with a grin.

"It can't wait?" Takato asks, his parents just laugh in response. I do, too. "Je-Jen-kun…?"

"So-Sorry, but, in my family it's never the gift that's the impatient one," I say with a laugh, Takato laughs, too.

We finish dinner with a Guilmon Christmas cake for dessert. I thank the Matsudas again for having me over, I'm really glad they're letting me stay over for the night. I know it's…a lot to ask on Christmas Eve.

Once the dishes are done, Takato's parents take us back up to the tree, I sit on one of the sofas with Mrs. Matsuda. I see Takato hurry over to the tree, surprising me a little but…

…I see why, he gets a gift for each of his parents—Or…Wait…

"Je-Jen-kun, since you're visiting…" Takato trails off, nervously. He holds up two gifts to me.

"Ta-Takato, th-thanks, but…" I trail off.

"It's okay, re-really…Matsuda tradition and all," Takato says.

I bow my head, thankfully, saying, "Just one, okay? Save something for Christmas, right?" I smile. I can't believe how embarrassed he is by this. I've seen Hirokazu and Kenta's Christmas trees, too, Takato. They're…not as big but it's the same thing.

Takato nods, "You can pick which one." He says.

I nod, smiling. I pick the smaller of the two in Guilmon wrapping paper, it's shaped like a small box.

"Jenrya can open his first, then," Mr. Matsuda says, smiling.

"If it's all right," I say. "I-I mean, Takato's gift does want to be opened," I joke a little, again hoping it makes Takato feel better. My family doesn't do the 'one gift on Christmas Eve' thing, as much as Xiaochun's begged since she found out a friend of hers does it.

"It can wait a couple minutes, go ahead," Mrs. Matsuda says.

I give a thankful nod, opening my gift carefully…

…Ha ha ha! Thanks, Takato-kun!

It's not much by Takato gift-giving standards, but goes with his favorite theme for me: Terriermon. A Gargomon keychain.

"Like it? A 'circus clown' was selling them," Takato jokes.

"Oh, so that's why I haven't heard from Terriermon in so long, did he have a black and white mask and four swords on his back?" I laugh. "Thank you, Takato-kun!"

"Merry Christmas, Jen-kun," Takato says.

Takato's Dad goes to a closet behind the tree. "Okay, Takato, this is…sort of the big one for this year but it really couldn't wait. We really hope you like it."

"I-I'm sure I will, thanks," Takato sits down next to me, smiling weakly.

Mr. Matsuda opens the closet door, he lifts up a rectangular object covered with a blanket. "We got it today, while you were baking," he says. He brings it to Takato…

….Did that thing just make noise?

"…Dad…?" Takato looks to his Dad, then his Mother. They both smile, he carefully reaches for the blanket and takes it off…

…Under it is definitely something Takato has always wanted. I let out a surprised laugh, "Wo-Wow! Congratulations, Takato-kun!" Anyone who knows Takato knows this is…huge.

Staring up at Takato from inside a little boxis a bearded dragon. Takato's jaw falls. "Re-Really?" He whispers.

"We know you've always wanted a pet and…We think we can get away with him as long as he stays in your room," Mrs. Matsuda says, she gives Takato a hug. "Merry Christmas, Takato."

Takato gives his mother a hug back, thanking her and his Dad profusely. "...Thank you so much! He's great!"

Mr. Matsuda gets out a light and a heat lamp, saying, "We didn't want to leave him in there overnight. Think of a good name for him."

"Gil," Takato replies, looking down at the bearded dragon. I've heard about these lizards, they're really smart and…Pretty much like scaly housecats, from what I've heard. You can sit around and watch television with them and they'll just sit in your lap or on your shoulder, they're really tame for a reptile.

Gil is taken to Takato's room and put on his desk in a terrarium set up they also bought. Takato's…Definitely less embarrassed than before, I think both because of the gift and because he doesn't want to look at all ungrateful. Takato's always wanted a pet and, since Guilmon, he's sort of developed a thing for reptiles. Whenever we're at a pet store, he'll stop to admire whatever lizards they have.

"We checked with the pet store, they're not too hard to take care of and like to be handled just wash your hands extra before working," Takato's Dad says as Takato plugs in Gil's light.

"Promise! Thank you so much!" Takato smiles, looking down at his new lizard friend, it stares back up at him like before.

"Merry Christmas, we'll let you three play," Mrs. Matsuda laughs.

"Merry Christmas," Takato says, bowing his head, "Thanks, again."

"Just hope you like everything else," Takato's Dad says, that got to Takato a little but he hides his expression as his parents leave, saying good night.

I sit at Takato's desk, looking at Gil. "He's kinda cute, Takato-kun."

"Ye-Yeah," Takato laughs, he carefully takes Gil out of his tank and sets him down. Petting his head. "…Sorry about, um…"

"…What?" I ask.

"…Just, um…My parents, they…go overboard and…" Takato sighs. "I-I'm starting to feel guilty about it, I really wish I could…do more or something," Takato sighs. "Sorry you…saw all—"

"Takato-kun, it's okay," I laugh. "Re-Really."

"Thanks…It's just a little embarrassing, I forgot they usually, um, insist on still doing the 'tradition' every year and things like that from when I was a little kid," Takato says.

"I think Gil's happy you continued it, I don't think he'd like spending Christmas Eve in a cold closet," I reply, petting Gil. "Named him after…?"

"Of course," Takato nods. "Short for Guilmon Junior," he jokes. "Like him?"

I nod. "Yeah, my family doesn't keep pets since…Well, we tried to adopt a cat once, everyone fought over which one to adopt to where my parents just said 'forget it, no-one gets a cat!'" I laugh. "Xiaochun was really upset but…I was hoping for a dog."

"I can share Gil-chan with you," Takato says. "Gil, this is Jen, he's your owner, too."

"Good lizard, Gil-chan," I scratch his chin. "He's really calm."

Takato nods. "Yeah, I heard they're like that—AUGH!"

…And Gil has just made his first mess on Takato's table. I hurry to the bathroom to get some toilet paper to clean it up with while Takato puts Gil back in his tank. "Merry Christmas to you, too," Takato laughs.

We clean up the small mess and wash our hands before getting ready for bed. Takato turns off Gil's light, I get on my futon and look up at the mistletoe above me as Takato gets into bed, too. I'm wearing flannel pajama bottoms and a black t-shirt, Takato's in his yellow pajamas. Takato turns off his light just before going to bed, careful to walk around me. The mistletoe vanishes into the darkness, save for the little bit of light coming from the street lights outside.

"What's Christmas like for your family?" Takato asks. "I mean, how's it usually play out?"

"What time is it?" I ask.

"Um," Takato checks his cell phone on his nightstand. "Almost ten." He says, the light from the display lighting up his face.

"In about two hours, Xiaochun will be waking everyone to let us know it's technically Christmas day…And the only one not telling her to go back to bed will be Lianjie. And they might go back to bed but neither of them will be able to sleep," I explain. "They usually get everyone up around four or five, any earlier and Dad spends as much time as possible making himself coffee before anyone's allowed to look at a gift." Takato laughs, I hear Gil-chan scratching in his litter on the table. "After that, we each take turns opening something by age—Well, first it was from oldest to youngest but, after Xiaochun was old enough to know what Christmas was, youngest then oldest to second youngest. Then our parents open their presents." I feel a draft from Takato's balcony door. I ignore it but glance outside…

…I can see from the street lights outside, it's snowing and a little windy.

"I liked the tree your family got this year," Takato says. "Who decorates it?"

"We all do, same with your family? You had a ton of tinsel, it looked great!"

Takato nods. "Mom's the kind who insists, though, one strand at a time."

"Oh, so you start decorating it at Halloween?"

Takato laughs, "Pretty much."

"Lianjie and Jialing cover tinsel, they do this borderline elaborate ballet putting it on…It's…Ha ha ha, I-I'll invite you over for it next year, they take these little handfuls and let it fall on the tree through their fingers and everything." One of the few moments of peace in the Li household at Christmas: Decorating the tree. Even when Lianjie and Jialing manage to crash into each other while doing the 'tinsel dance,' which is pretty much a yearly tradition at this point. "Usually we just decorate the living room…I really like your room at Christmas."

"Oh, thanks, I-I just…I like to decorate and get into the spirit," Takato says.

"How does Christmas day play out for you?"

"…Um… …Like earlier except…more than…one gift…" Takato lets out a sigh. "I-I really appreciate it all but…"

"Takato, if you want to feel less guilty about getting so many gifts at Christmas and make a friend happy: Trade families with Hirokazu for the month of December," I joke, Takato laughs a little. "Really, I understand." I feel another draft, this one is harder to ignore.

"…I know but…I'm just glad I can buy everyone something nice now," Takato says.

"Thanks again for the keychain…I really miss Terriermon sometimes," I say.

"We all miss them…Too bad Yamaki-san isn't delivering any presents."

"Think he was serious about that Santamon story?" I ask. Yamaki-san…Apparently Hypnos used to spend Christmas Eve monitoring for 'Santamon.' I-I thought he was joking, like how that one American military base 'tracks' Santa Claus but…

…Yamaki-san did take his 'Digimon hunt' seriously. And he's not someone who jokes around.

…Santamon, if you do realize this Christmas, can I have a Terriermon? Particularly the one I'd grown to know and love so many years ago.

"I don't know, but when he told us the story I always had this image of him sitting on the roof of the government building with a cup of hot chocolate, some binoculars and a bazooka…Waiting."

We both laugh, that is frighteningly easy to picture, too!

Another draft, I let out a shiver.

"Jen-kun?"

"Sorry, is your balcony door closed tight?" I ask. "I'm feeling a draft."

"Oh, no, the track must have ice on it again…It won't close all the way because of it…Hold on," Takato grabs his cell phone, using it as a light source to get out of bed and avoid stepping on me. He goes to his closet and gets out a space heater. "Hope you don't mind the red light."

I shake my head. "Sorry to make you get it out."

"No problem, I don't want you or Gil-chan to freeze," Takato says. "It can get really cold because of that." Takato plugs in and turns on the heater, it gives off a faint red glow as he gets back into bed, he sits up first, saying, "Want the bed?"

"No, I'm fine," I shake my head. "The heater's enough. Thanks, Takato-kun." I can see the mistletoe again due to the glow of heat coils. "…I'm still under the mistletoe," I joke.

Takato chuckles. "I can still take it down…"

"It's just a plant…Besides, you take decorations down after Christmas." I say. "That reminds me…I should have let you open one of the gifts I brought you." I really should have, I got to open one of mine early.

"I can wait, Jen-kun…I sometimes sleep in on Christmas, actually."

"I'd like to know if I could," I reply. "Xiaochun won't let me find out. Not even when I was sick one year."

"Seriously?"

"Not even the worst flu of my life is a match for Xiaochun's Christmas spirit…She just said 'Christmas magic will heal me.'"

"Did it?"

"Not at three-thirty in the morning," I reply. "Worst was when she gave me this huge glass of egg nog, saying, 'drink up, you'll feel better.' It was dark, I thought it was orange juice."

"Ugh…Like when you reach for a soda without looking and thinking it's one flavor but really another?" Takato asks.

"Except ten times worse and near vomit inducing," I laugh. …I guess…it is sort of fun to be a Li at Christmas, we drive each other insane but…

…They are good memories.

"Did you feel well enough to open gifts, at least?"

"Yeah, not even the flu could come between an eight year old and the video games he hoped Santa would bring him," I say.

"Did he?"

"Yep, brand new Digimon game and a ton of cards," I reply. "Xiaochun got a bunch of new dolls, I think."

"I hope you like what I got you," Takato says.

"I know I will, Takato-kun…Unless I'm sitting under it, then can I trade with Kenta?" I joke.

Takato laughs, "Ha ha ha! How many jokes are you going to make about that?"

I shrug. "I dunno, I guess it's…kinda funny to sleep under the mistletoe at Christmas," I say.

"…Also, um, why Kenta?"

"Um…I dunno, first name that came to mind, I guess," I shrug.

"You think...he'd mind a kiss from me under the mistletoe?"

"If Ruki were here, you'd know the answer to that," I say.

"If Ruki were here, she'd be putting our faces together saying 'kiss, damn you, kiss!'" Takato says, quietly. I laugh. "Hey, um…Not to…remind you Rinchei's joke but…Hypothetically, say you're at a Christmas party…"

"…Like Kenta's tomorrow?" I say. Kenta's throwing a 'Tamers Christmas Party' tomorrow afternoon at his apartment. We're all going to exchange gifts there.

"Yeah, except…Juri and Ruki can't make it, it's just the guys. One of us is…under the mistletoe and you can't back out…Um...Wh-Who?" …Takato?

"Huh?"

"Ju-Just curious since…Well, it's mistletoe and Christmas and…all that," Takato says. …Takato...?

…I guess Ruki and Juri were right.

"Um…Kenta. I think he's the least likely to punch me," I reply. "You…?" I-I think I know the answer he was hoping I'd give.

"I guess…the same…So-Sorry, it's…a dumb question, I'm just…tired and all," Takato replies, still sitting up. "I-I can take that thing down if you want."

"No, really. It's just a plant but…" …Given Takato's question and…

…Part of why I felt bad about getting so worked up about Lianjie's joke and talked with him was, um…

"Lianjie, don't do that again!"

"Dude, it was just—"

"Takato's gay!"

"What?"

"…Well, we don't really know but Ruki, Juri and Kenta suspect it. Please, just don't do that in front of him. I don't want to offend him or anything, okay?" Even though my…reaction to the joke probably gave Takato the worst possible impression of how I'd react if I knew for sure…I've been more upset with myself ever since (though I'm still a little mad at Lianjie for starting it, ugh…I needed a night away from him).

"He's? We-Well, I guess Yeah, it makes sense. Sorry, Jianliang, I didn't know. I'll knock it off in fron t of himDoes he, um, like anyone?" Lianjie's tone implied he wanted to know if Takato liked someone more specific than 'anyone.'

"I-I don't know," Juri thinks he likes me. …It's been a theory between her, Kenta and Ruki for a while. Especially since Takato started giving out gifts at Christmas, the way he goes overboard…

…Juri and I always get the most from him and, well, Ruki thinks he's bi, maybe, but Juri and Kenta both vote 'gay.' In fact, I know Kenta wouldn't punch me for kissing him under the mistletoe for one reason: He's gay, too. I found out while fixing his laptop once, I found his 'secret folder' by accident. The fact it didn't bother me was how I was clued in to their theory last Summer.

"Just curious sinceDude, he's always here and…"

"Ju-Just don't do it again, please. If he is gay, we don't think he wants anyone to knowTakato's, well, Takato, you know? Ruki's even stopped making gay jokes about him just in case." Ruki's theory is based on how quiet Takato got whenever she made a joke about him being gay, like she usually does for Hirokazu and Kenta. Juri's the most concerned for him, though, she thinks he's 'still dealing with it,' Kenta agrees based on how he acts sometimes like, um…

…The mistletoe. I-I mean, it's sort of a 'hint' disguised as Takato 'forgot' it was there. Kenta says he'd do things like that around Ryou or Hirokazu, hinting that he liked them but as a joke. Neither of them know about Kenta, just Juri, Ruki and I.

It was last month that Juri threw out her part of the theory…

"I think Takato likes Jen."

"Wha-What?"

"Sorry, Jen-kun ,butWell, it's getting close to Christmas and you know how he goes all out for us butYou and I, especially. I know he does it for me because, well ,I think he still feels guilty over the Digital World but you? Takato's really close to you, Jen-kun."

"…Yeah, he is, but…"

"Gay for Jen, makes sense." Ruki agreed. "Comeon,Jen, does he everI dunno, do what Kenta said he does? That whole 'joke' thing?"

"We-Well, um, we saw a movie after dinner onceHe did joke it was 'like a date,' but…" …Takato…

Looks like they might be right.

"Jen…is so-something wrong?" Takato asks, I realize I went silent getting lost in my thoughts.

"N-No, nothing," I shake my head.

"Sorry about that question, it was dumb…I-I didn't mean to remind you of Rinchei's joke and all," Takato says. …I'm really worried Takato might think I'm homophobic over my reaction to that. I was just in a bad mood and Lianjie was getting on my nerves a little too much at the time.

"It's not that, but…" I wonder if I should just tell him.

I look up at the mistletoe, I have a feeling Takato did leave it there on purpose. I mean, it's hanging really low, he had to notice it while putting down my bed.

"...Jen?" Takato whispers, he sounds worried. I guess it's because I'm suddenly so quiet.

"…We know, Takato," I whisper.

"Kno-Know?"

"…Ye-Yeah, um, Juri, Kenta, Ruki and I. We know."

"Know…what?" I glance to Takato, his tone and expression tell me he knows what I'm talking about.

"You don't have to hide it, it's okay," I say. "I-I don't mind, I was just mad with Lianjie and didn't want him to upset you. I-It doesn't bother me. I'm sorry for how I reacted, I-I really…don't have a problem. At all."

I hear Takato's breathing getting heavier, I look to him again. He has his arms around his knees, his head down.

…Yeah, he's…still dealing with it. Kenta told us that he denied it for a long time in the sense he'd still 'like guys' and things like that but deny it to himself. Sort of a self-induced 'gay blindness,' he said. "I'd just think of myself as straight, even with how I felt about Ryou or Hirokazu. I-I justpretended 'it' didn't exist. I wasn't different.I finally realized it myself afterOkay, do not tell him this—"

Ruki took that moment to interrupt him, saying, "Kenta, we're not telling anyone you're gay, your biggest concern is how much I'm going to laugh at this."

"—Good point. A-Anyway, um, Ipeeked on Hirokazu now and then while he was changing or at a bath house and Well, I realized, 'I'm checking out Hirokazu. He's a guy, I prefer guys.' I don't know why butThat was the big realization for me, even though I'd been doing it so long, I justIgnored it until then, like I was 'just curious' or something, you know? I also sort of accepted it, I spent the night thinking about it and I stopped denying it to myself."

"Did you stop peeking on Shiota, too?"

"Hell no!"

"Ugh, KentaNo offense butAkiyama and Shiota? You have the worst taste in guys!"

"Ha ha ha!"

"…Takato-kun—"

"I-I think we should…get some sleep, I-I mean…It's late and almost Christmas," Takato says, quickly. "Re-Really…It was just a bad joke, Jen." Takato gets up, reaching for the mistletoe.

"…Leave it, it's okay," I say.

"…No, it's not…" Takato whispers. He takes the mistletoe and tosses it on his nightstand, he gets back into bed. "…Good night, Jen-kun."

"Ta-Takato…I-I…"

"Li-Like I said, it was…just a…stupid joke…" Takato whispers. He goes quiet after that.

I lay back, looking at the string that once held the mistletoe over me…

…I think Takato was referring to both the question and the mistletoe as the 'stupid joke.' I mean, claiming he 'forgot' it was there and all. Like I said, it's hard not to notice it and…

…I'm sorry, Takato-kun. I-I just…want you to be comfortable.

I hear a light sobbing from Takato's bed. Gods…I-I can't believe I did this. "Takato…"

"Ye-Yeah?" Takato's voice cracks a little, but he manages to sound mostly normal.

"…Don't tell him I told you this but…Kenta's the same."

"What?"

"…He's gay, too," I say. "I-I'm sorry I upset you but…We've been a little worried, even Ruki. Just, um, please don't be upset, okay? I don't mind."

"I-I…Je-Jen…Please, believe me…I-I'm not…"

"Takato, just…Just relax and breathe. I'm serious, it's not a problem. I swear."

"…I'm sorry…"

I roll my eyes. "Takato, why is whenever someone says 'it's okay' or 'it's not a problem' you always apologize?" I sit up, looking to him with a grin. "Really, you…You need to work on that."

Takato's sitting up again, his head down. "How long?"

"Huh?"

"How long have you…known?"

"Since last summer, but Ruki, Juri and Kenta have talked about it longer. I found out about Kenta and, since it didn't bother me they told me. It's not, like, gossip or anything, we don't talk about you all the time but…Juri and Kenta were worried about you, you just…Well, like with how you are right now…Why are you so upset? I-I told you, it's nothing that bothers me. A-And Kenta's gay, too, he…He's one of your best friends, I-I'm sure he would help a lot."

Takato just nods, he speaks but sounds like he's about to cry at any moment, "I want to change my answer to…that stupid question…" Takato groans, I think he's kicking himself for asking something like that. I know why he would, Kenta told me: Jokes can be good 'ice breakers' to find out how someone might react, as long as you're careful. It explains some of the things he's said to me, joking about liking someone or one of our friends being gay, before I found I found out.

I nod. "…Okay." …I have a feeling I know what he's going to say.

Takato's silent for almost a minute, taking a deep breath and exhaling now and then. Finally, he says almost too quiet for me to hear. "…You."

"…I know," I whisper, nodding. "We…suspected that, too."

"I'm so—"

"Takato, please, don't apologize over this," I say. "I-I'm…" Takato, you're my best friend, nothing is going to make me suddenly hate you. I-I…can't return your feelings but…

…Screw it.

I sit up on my knees, reaching onto Takato's nightstand and feeling around…

…Found it!

"…Jen? Wh-What are you—"

I hold the mistletoe over my head. "…I can't back out." I say. "Come on."

"Wh-What?"

"…Takato, just…Just do it, it's okay," I smile. "I-I…I can't…feel the same for you but…It's Christmas, I'm under the mistletoe. You know what you have to do."

"…Jen, please don't…joke like that…"

"I'm not joking…I only said 'Kenta' because, well, I know he wouldn't mind but…Takato, I-I…If I didn't think it'd get your hopes up that I'd feel the same, I'd have said 'you,' too." If I was somehow in a situation where I had to kiss one of my male friends, it would be Takato…I mean, he's Takato, I-I know I don't feel the same but…I know it would make him happy, at least.

Takato looks to me in disbelief. "…Jen—"

"Just…Please, Takato, this is proof: I don't have a problem. Who knows? I…might like it," okay, that was a joke…And sort of mean but I want Takato to know nothing is going to change between us.

Takato shifts forward in his bed, hanging his legs over the side and staring at me. "…I can't…Jen, you don't feel the same. It wouldn't be right."

"….I'm sorry," I sigh, setting the mistletoe aside. "I just thought…I don't know, I guess I thought it'd show you I really don't mind. I swear, the only thing that bothers me is how much this upsets you. I-I know it's scary, Kenta told me a lot about what he went through. Please, Takato-kun, just relax. …And, um, the…The offer is open all night, okay? …Just…" I reach for the the mistletoe and pass it to Takato. "Like you said, under the mistletoe…I can't back out. And you're…my real first choice."

Takato holds the dried up plant in his hands, staring down at it. He looks sad, but also like he hates the mistletoe and…himself.

Takato, please, don't handle it like this. I-I know it's scary but…Kenta's okay with his orientation, he denied it but he never hated himself over it. Why should you?

"…Did you leave it there on purpose?" I ask.

"Yeah, I did…I-I just thought it'd be funny, something that'd make me laugh. I-I didn't think you'd re-really notice," Takato explains. "I-I was…being an idiot. It was just something to make me laugh, I-I shouldn't have left it there, I-I'm…I'm an idiot!"

"Takato. Stop." I say, sternly. Even I'm taken by surprise by how serious I sound, Takato's giving me a surprised look, too. We stare at each other for a moment or two before I sigh, shaking my head. "You're not an idiot, you're not a pervert, you're not weird, you're not different…You're Takato. My best friend, always. Please, just calm down. Le-Let's just…talk about it, okay? You can tell me anything."

"Thanks," Takato nods, slowly, he's still holding the mistletoe.

"…Does anyone know? I-I mean, anyone you know that knows." I ask.

"Um…I think my Mom suspects something, my Dad…maybe…But no-one knows except…How did they…?" Takato trails off.

"Ruki noticed how you got upset at her gay jokes, Juri thought you might like me since…You do a lot for her and I at Christmas and things like that. And Kenta, um, he just said 'gaydar.'" I think he suspected Takato but didn't have 'confirmation' until he started talking to Juri and Ruki.

"O-Oh…"

"…Is it why…?" I trail off.

"Fo-For Juri, I think I have to because of everything that happened to her, we shouldn't have let her go," Takato sighs. "A-And…Ye-Yeah, that's why I…"

"…Thank you," I say. "Fo-For everything, Takato-kun."

"It's also because…you are my best friend. Yo-You mean that, right?"

"You need to ask?" I reply. "Always, Takato-kun."

Takato nods, he lays back on his bed. "Thanks, Jen-kun. …Sorry about the…stupid joke and all."

"It wasn't stupid, I know why you made it," I say. "And don't lose that mistletoe, okay? You can hang it again if you want, too."

"N-No, I-I just…" Takato sets the mistletoe on his nightstand. "I think we should…get some sleep, it's really late."

"Can we talk in the morning? I-I really…Takato, I want to help."

"Su-Sure, we can talk then…" Takato gives a quick nod. I think he's upset over me telling him I knew.

I lay back on the floor, looking back up at the string…

…I'm sorry, Takato-kun, I didn't mean to do this to you. Especially at Christmas.


I wake up to a slight chill and a ton of snow piling up outside of Takato's glass door. It's more than two feet! Actually, it's still coming down really hard.

I look up to Takato's bed, he's still asleep. I lay back in the futon and think, pulling the covers up closer. It's…definitely cold in here because of that iced track Takato mentioned last night. I hope Gil's okay…

…Actually…

I just noticed the heater is off, it must have been on a timer or something. I reach for it, turning it back on.

I get up, shivering slightly. I turn on Gil's light for Takato and feel the area under his heat lamp to make sure it's on. It's a ceramic lamp, it doesn't give off any light.

Gil-chan looks happy, he even approaches me as I turn on the light.

…It is sorta cold. I don't think Takato would mind…

I take Gil out of his tank and go back to my futon, setting him on the floor. As expected, he stays put. He's about a foot long and really mellow, when Mr. Matsuda brought him into Takato's room I noticed he was sort of 'studying' his surroundings. He does that a lot, I even saw him watching Takato and I from his tank before we got ready for bed. I think he likes his new home, I know his new owner definitely likes him.

I get back under the covers but I put Gil on my chest under them, saying, "No messes. I just don't want you to freeze."

Gil stares back, I pet him a few times…Takato is definitely going to love this pet, he's like a lizard crossed with a house cat. I know from experience how violent iguanas can be, Lianjie once took care of a friend's iguana…

…I'm amazed Lianjie didn't lose an arm to how much it scratched and bit him. It was psychotic! Especially when it got loose and made a mess all over Xiaochun's bed. Ugh, that wasthe last time Dad ever let anyone keep someone else's pet…

…But, if Takato ever needs a lizard sitter, I'll beg if I have to. Gil-chan's really cute. Ha ha ha, he's just sitting on my chest, warming up. He's really cool.

I hear Takato shifting in his covers. "…Jen?" He sits up in his bed, still half asleep, whispering, "are you awake?"

"Merry Christmas, Takato-kun," I say. "I have Gil-chan out, the heater went off and it was sort of cold."

"Oh, thanks. I forgot that thing goes off after a few hours."

"Want him?" I ask, smiling. Takato smiles back, nodding. I carefully take the bearded dragon and pass him to Takato. Takato lays back with Gil mostly under the covers, except for his head. "He's really cool, I'm glad you finally got a pet."

"Yeah, he's…great," Takato smiles, stroking Gil's chin. He looks like he enjoys it. "…Sorry again about last night that was…awkward…"

"Takato, I don't mind if you're gay," I shake my head, sighing. "Re-Really. I feel bad I can't like you back, that's the only thing that bothers me." It really does…Takato's my best friend and, if he likes me as more than that…

…I wish I could feel the same for him. I really do.

Takato nods. "I-I just…I've never really liked it, I just…wanted to be normal, to like Juri or Ruki or anyone else but—Er...N-No offense, I-I mean…"

"I know, Takato, don't worry," I say. "Kenta can help you."

"He's 'the same?' Re-Really?"

I nod. "Yeah, he told me after I fixed his laptop last summer. You said your Mom might suspect…?"

Takato nods. "…She says some things now and then I think can be taken both ways. I-I think she even knows that…I like you…" Takato says, quietly. "I-I mean, especially with this…They'd only allow a guest over on Christmas Eve if it was you. When I said 'Jen needs a break from his family, can he spend the night Christmas Eve?' Mom and Dad were on board with the idea once I said it was you… …So, yeah, I-I think they…suspect…"

"…Would you like to tell them someday?"

"I-I can't…I mean, it was hard enough just to…acknowledge that you were right, I guess," Takato shakes his head. "But, um, I-I'll talk to Kenta."

"I won't tell anyone I know for sure, okay? …We-Well, I mentioned it to Lianjie because of…his joke. I got mad because I didn't want him to offend you…Sorry if you got the wrong idea, he'd just been getting on my nerves so much," I sigh. "I'm really sorry about that, Takato. I-I know it gave you the wrong impression. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay, don't apologize. I-I'm glad to have your support Jen…" Takato wipes his eyes with his sleeve. "I-I was really scared last night when you said you knew and…Ruki and Juri, too? I-I can't…believe so many people know…"

"Well, it's not really know so much as…suspect. A-And I swear Takato, we don't talk about it behind your back like it's bad, it's just…Juri's really worried about you. I mean, she doesn't want anything like last night to happen to you, she wants you to be happy." …I do, too…

"Thanks…But…It just feels weird to…know you know. I-I mean…I-I thought I hid it really well and—"

There's a knock on Takato's door. "Merry Christmas! You two awake?" Takato's Dad, we both go silent. I'm glad he asked if we're awake, otherwise I'd be afraid he overheard something.

"Ye-Yeah!" Takato says. "Me-Merry Christmas!"

Takato's Dad opens the door, smiling. "We'll have breakfast ready soon, we'll call you. How's Gil?"

"Great," Takato smiles, lifting up his blanket to show Gil on his chest. "Thanks again, he's really tame…I think he likes me, too." Gil responds by crawling up Takato's chest, he's few inches from his chin. Takato gives him a hug with one arm, laughing. "Thanks, Gil-chan."

"Glad you like him, son," Mr. Matsuda smiles. "The guy at the pet store said he was one of the friendliest he's ever had, so he'll love the attention you give him."

"I'll definitely give him all the attention he wants," Takato says. "Thanks again."

"Merry Christmas," Mr. Matsuda closes the door, smiling.

"Um…A-After breakfast, you and I can exchange gifts. Your brother's coming by later, right?" Crap, I shouldn't have told Takato Lianjie knows, too…I-I wasn't really thinking at the time. Damn it, why did Lianjie have to make that stupid 'boyfriend' joke?

"Yeah, um, he said he'd—" Just as I start to speak, my cell goes off in my backpack, I get up to get it. "Sorry, mind if I…?"

"Sure."

…Huh, shuo Cao Cao, Cao Cao jiu daoIt's Lianjie, I can tell by the ring tone: The Super Mario Brothers theme. I answer, "Lianjie?"

"Hey, bro, hope you like it over at Takato's 'cause…Dude, you looked outside? It's a freakin' blizzard out there!"

"Yeah, um," I look outside of Takato's door, the snow's gotten worse. "It's pretty heavy."

"Yeah, um, look, Dad told me not to even try to drive over there or even think of walking. The streets are covered in snow, still. If they plow 'em soon, I'll call you and come over but…Dude, I haven't seen snow like this in years! Tell the Matsuda's we're sorry and Dad wants you to stay there 'til the storm lightens up if the Matsudas are cool with it, okay?"

"Okay, thanks for the heads up," I say.

"Merry Christmas, bro, I'll open your gifts for you and tell you what they are."

I laugh, "You'd better not."

"Whats yours is mine, what's mine is also mine," Lianjie jokes. "By the way, Donatello."

"Donatello?"

"Just sayin'." Lianjie lets out an…ominous chuckle. "See ya...Hopefully!" He hangs up, I put my phone away.

"What happened?"

"Dad declared Lianjie snowed in and me snowed out because of the streets," I say. "If it's okay, my Dad wants me to stay here until the storm lightens up."

"That…won't be a problem," Takato says. "I-I mean, it's Christmas and…No way I'd let you go out in that," Takato sits up, holding Gil to his chest and looking outside…The snow is really starting to pile up against his sliding glass door. A portion of the roof dumps a steady stream of it into a corner of Takato's balcony, leaving a huge pile that's more than half my size at this point. If this keeps up, it'll probably be bigger than I am before dinner.

"Thanks, sorry for the trouble," I was supposed to stick around for breakfast and exchanging gifts…And I have a feeling Takato does not want me to see him open the six dozen presents left for just him, he's embarrassed enough right now.

"It's no trouble, Jen-ch—KUN!" Takato shouts, his face suddenly turning bright red.

…Jen-chan? I-I…I wonder why he's never done that before. Probably because…he knows I know now, so he doesn't have to be as "careful" as before...Or, maybe, before he'd disguise it as a joke somehow. I-I actually remember a couple times he jokingly called me 'Jen-chan,' but it was before I was clued in on the theory...

...I'm probably going to remember a lot of 'jokes' Takato's made in the past that, um, I'm going to see in a new light, now.

I laugh, "…How often do you…call me that? I mean…"

"…A lot in my head," Takato sighs. "A-And if I know you won't hear me." He sits back against his pillow, sighing. "I-I'm sorry, Jen-kun…I-I really am. It's…weird now, isn't it?"

"No, it's not," I shake my head. "Really, stop apologizing for this…It's not a choice, right?"

"…It should be."

"…Takato, don't," I sigh. "Come on, it's Christmas…Cheer up. Think about Kenta's party later."

"Ye-Yeah…Where…Ruki and Juri will be, too…" …I probably should have just said it was a theory between Kenta and I, Takato obviously doesn't like being the subject of an orientation debate. Well, the only debate is…gay or bi. And it looks like 'gay,' I think Takato would handle 'bi' a lot better than this. That's Juri and Kenta's theory, too, but Ruki thinks Takato might still like Juri because of how he treats her and, like with me, goes overboard at Christmas and our birthdays.

"…Sorry," I sigh. "I-I really…We didn't mean to talk behind your back, but…Like I said, Ruki doesn't want to upset you anymore, Juri's worried you're not handling it well and…Kenta wants you to know you're not alone. And I want you to be happy…"

"…Thanks," Takato's voice cracks, he wipes his eyes again. Gil crawls onto his shoulder a little more, as if giving him a hug. He has his head and one claw over Takato's shoulder and everything…

…Smart lizard.

"...Takato, I'm sorry I told you I knew. I-I know you wanted to keep it a secret longer, right? …Did you ever plan to tell us?"

Takato shakes his head. "I didn't know how you guys would react, so…No, I-I wanted to keep it a secret forever." Damn it…I'm so sorry, Takato-kun. "I-It's okay that…you and some of the others know but…I-I just know things will be different now. I-I mean…Why wouldn't they be?"

"…Because we're best friends, Takato. I told you, that won't change," I say for probably the thousandth time. He's really hung up on this. I can't really blame him, though, I'd be upset too if I were in his position.

Please, Takato-kun, don't be upset.


Takato and I talked a little longer before we were called to breakfast. He changed the subject to Gil, sort of, he and I talked about what everyone else might think about him. He's thinking about asking Kenta if he can bring him to the party, too. I don't think Kenta would object, he's usually just as interested in admiring pet store reptiles as Takato is if he's around.

By the time we got to breakfast, Takato sounded a little better but his parents…They know something's up with him, I think. He's been really quiet since we sat down.

Takato did ask his parents if I could stay until the storm ended. They had no problem, they didn't want me walking home in that weather, either. Though, Mr. Matsuda checked the weather report: It's supposed to go on until tomorrow evening. I might be spending the night again, possibly two nights. Normally, that's something we'd be more excited about but…

…Things are a little awkward right now. I still think we're going to have a fun time and all, once we...deal with this 'issue' Takato has with himself. That won't be too hard…

…I hope.

"Takato, is something wrong?" Mr. Matsuda asks. "I mean, you're really quiet. It's Christmas!"

"N-Nothing's wrong," Takato shakes his head, forcing a smile. "Just tired. We were up a little late."

"We wanted to wait for Santa," I joke. "We wanted to know if he had a gift for Gil-chan."

"You like him?" Mrs. Matsuda asks, Takato gives a quick nod and his smile definitely isn't forced. "I'm glad. We almost got an iguana but…Mr. Li talked us out of it."

"My Dad?" I ask.

Mr. Matsuda nods. "We mentioned it to him and he told us the story about the iguana you took care of once. I didn't know they could be, um, so violent.I just see them sitting on a branch and…doing nothing!"

"That's how they get your guard down," I reply with a laugh. "Lianjie's arms were covered with scratches and bites from whenever he tried to hold it." Which was alot, Lianjie was hoping the experience would end with a pet lizard for him in the near future (quite the opposite). He ended up just wrapping an entire roll of gauze around it by the time it was returned home.

Mr. Matsuda shakes his head, saying, "Dodged a violent green bullet there."

"Gil-chan's great," Takato says. "We spent the morning with him." Yeah, Gil sat on Takato's chest until we were called to breakfast. We washed our hands thoroughly, of course. But Gil didn't make any extra messes like last night.

We continue eating some cinnamon rolls with icing and Guilmon bread. Once we're done eating, Takato and I exchange gifts in his room. He didn't ask his parents outright but sort of hinted that he wanted to wait as long as possible on opening his gifts. I think they understood, but…

…Mr. Matsuda is really excited about Christmas, I think he wants to open gifts just as much as one of my siblings would. Ha ha ha!

Takato has five gifts for me on his desk, in front of Gil's tank. The bearded dragon is watching us as we sit next to each other. I only have the two gifts I brought. The gifts Lianjie was going to bring were from the rest of us either to Takato or his parents. Xiaochun, Jialing and Lianjie usually get something for Takato every year (Jialing likes him and Lianjie does it to thank him for the free Guilmon bread he usually brings), Takato does the same for them, too, while our parents exchange gifts with the Matsudas.

Takato opens his first gift from me. "New goggles?" He laughs. "Thanks! I like them, they look a lot like my old ones."

I nod. "I knew you needed a new pair, I thought you'd like them. I spent a long time finding a pair that said 'Takato,' though. I didn't want to just get any pair." I spent months looking around for them, especially hard since goggles are more of a Summer item. I wasn't going to just get any pair of goggles, after all, they had to be Tamer goggles, ha ha ha! I pass Takato his other gift. "I hope you like this one…" I know he will.

Takato opens it, he smiles as soon as he sees the box. "Wo-Wow, Thank you, Jen-kun! I can't wait to play it, you heard about all the new Digimon they added, right?"

"Guilmon, Guilmon and more Guilmon," I smile. Part of why I wanted to get that game for him was because it had Guilmon on the cover.

I open my gifts next, I feel a little weird opening so many when, as usual, I can only afford a couple for Takato. I know it's the thought that counts and all but…

…Takato goes all out for me and…I know the reason for that, now.

The first I open is a small box…Ha ha ha!

"Great minds think alike?" Takato grins, it's the new Digimon World game…The same one I got Takato. "We'll have a ton of fun with two player, right?"

I grin, nodding. "Thanks, Takato-kun." He passes me the next gift and…

…By gift number three, I-I sort of go quiet as it sort of sinks in: Why Takato goes overboard for me at Christmas and, also, my birthday and things like that. All of these gifts are…a lot nicer than what I can get him, especially. And it's because…

…Takato likes me.

Takato picks up on it, too. "…I knew it," he sighs. "I-It's weird now, right?"

"N-No, I-I just…feel bad I couldn't get you much else," I say. "Really, I appreciate the gifts, Takato-kun. I…Like I said, I feel bad, that's all."

"I-I know but…" Takato sighs. "So-Sorry, I-I…"

"I know," I nod once. "It's okay. I mean, Kenta told me it's…You denied it for a long time, right? Before you could even admit it to yourself, I mean." I set the last gift aside, putting a hand on Takato's shoulder. "It's okay, Takato-kun."

"Yeah, um, I-I…I just ignored it, sort of. Even to last night…I-I knew I liked you but I didn't acknowledge that…I was…" Takato trails off, letting out a heavy sigh. "…I don't want to say it…" He whispers.

"…We'll talk to Kenta, okay? He can help, I know it." Kenta was planning to come out to Takato at some point, actually. Mainly as a way for Takato realize he's not alone and to have someone to talk to if this was the case. Ruki and Juri were behind the idea but he's been waiting for 'the right time' when he and Takato were alone.

Takato sighs. "Ye-Yeah, I'm sure he knows more about accepting…this…"

I nod. "Just don't forget, nothing's going to change between us, okay? That's…what you're afraid of, losing us over it, right?"

"Yeah," Takato nods. "I-I was…I had nightmares over it, I don't want to lose any of you over this. It's why I wanted to change so badly…And still do." …Takato-kun…

…He really wasn't ready for any of this. At all. I'm so sorry, Takato. I really am.

"…Come out," I say. "Just…give it a try. It might make you feel better." I mean, Takato hasn't even said the word 'gay' this whole time. I-I think…I don't know, this is just as crazy as when I told Takato to kiss me but…

Takato, I just want you to be…YOU! You're…Gods, he's been a wreck since…

…Damn it, I-I shouldn't have told him, I should have joked along with him or something but...Takato, you're not the idiot, I am!

"Wh-What? Come out? I-I…N-No! You mean at the party right?"

"No, just…Tell me." I say. "Just pretend I don't know…And tell me. Come out, Takato-kun."

"…Jen…"

"I just think it'll help," I say. "You can tell me on your own terms, sort of."

"You know, Jen-kun, I mean…It's not the same," Takato lets out a quiet laugh. I'm glad he finds some humor in this.

"Tell Gil-chan, then." Wait, did I really just suggest that?

"…What?"

"Tell him," I say, motioning with a nod to the lizard in the tank.

"Um…You're serious?" Completely…I think Lianjie really has driven me insane. It was more or less bound to happen, though.

I shrug. "He may have overheard us but…I don't think he really knows what we meant." …I can't believe I'm telling Takato to come out to his pet lizard but…Actually, this sounds like something Kenta would say or do. Just some baby step Takato can take towards accepting himself.

I-I can't believe I know so much about what someone goes through. It's from Kenta, mostly, I…I spent a lot of time talking to him about it, mostly because he did want some sort of 'gay outlet,' to talk and be open. It helped me 'prepare,' too, I guess, for if and when Takato did come out. The topic really doesn't even faze me at this point like it used to. I even told Kenta I'd try to talk guys with him if he wanted, once…

…That was…an interesting experience…

…I admit, I ranked our male friends based on, um, 'cuteness factor,' as Kenta put it. Kenta's list was: Ryou, Me, Takato, Hirokazu. My list…Takato, Ryou, Kenta, Hirokazu. Kenta asked why he outranked Hirokazu and…

…I can't believe I said this. I meant it in the…context of girls I find attractive but, like that comment on if Takato kissed me last night: It came out both right and wrong. "I think glasses are cute." Takato ranks highest since, um…

…He can sport goggles really well, sort of like glasses but…I-I dunno! Not that I like him the same way but, well, I can admit: Takato's…sort of...cute. Just a little, I mean, well, not that he's not good looking but...You now what I mean! Juri thinks he's cute,too, while Kenta calls him 'adorable.' Ruki and I had trouble not laughing at that, especially with how red Kenta's face was and his 'I can't believe I just said that' expression…

…But he…is onto something, I guess. Juri admits Takato is the sort of person you 'just want to hug' sometimes. I, um, joined Kenta in the 'I can't believe I just said that' club when I said I 'agreed.' I wasn't really thinking at the time but…

…Ruki joked, "AwwSo does this mean Takato has someone, too?"

…That was funnier then than it is now. A lot funnier.

Actually, Kenta told me ranking Takato above Ryou Akiyama is "undeniable proof" of my heterosexuality…No sane gay man would rank anyone above Ryou Akiyama, apparently. As Kenta said, 'Takato's huggable, Ryou's sexy.' Not that I think of Ryou in those terms!

Kenta really likes Ryou but…He says he likes Hirokazu a little, too, and thanks Ruki for his first kiss from him but he's…sort of head-over-heels for Ryou at times. He doesn't mind that Hirokazu was his 'technical first kiss,' though.

Ruki told all of us the story of that kiss once, Kenta was not ashamed of it. Hirokazu? Spent the entire story denying it ever happened, even if Ruki's version was not embellished in anyway (truly a miracle for her, especially for a story about Hirokazu and Kenta, in her words, "sucking face"). Kenta had to pretend it was 'gross' to keep up appearances, though…

…I might want to look back on whether or not Takato did that. I mean, if the subject of homosexuality came up with Kenta, he'd go quiet or 'agree' that two guys making ou was 'gross.' …Lemme think…

…When Lianjie made that joke, Takato just told me to calm down, he didn't say anything about the joke itself.

…When it comes to the specific topic, he never brings it up outside of a joke or repeating something Ruki said before she quit. Like last night, he didn't want to 'remind me' of Lianjie's joke, 'but...' But in terms of his opinion on the subject...?

...Takato just went quiet whenever Ruki made one of her jokes, he never said anything that could be taken either way. Or at all.

…Damn it…I hope this helps. Somehow!

I look to Takato, he's looking over Gil-chan. The lizard is staring back at him. I wonder if he really might come out to his lizard…I think I've lost my mind.

"Okay." Takato lets out another, louder laugh. That makes me feel better. He gets up and takes Gil out of his tank. "…Gil-chan, I need to tell you something. You're my new friend and I think…Ha ha ha…I think…you should know this…" We both laugh, Gil-chan just stares up at Takato. "I-I'm…I'm…" Takato looks to me, I give him a smile. "Gil-chan, I'm gay."

I speak in a high pitched voice. "I'm still your best lizard friend, Takato-kun.I hope you find a cute boyfriend someday! I'll help, guys like lizards, right?" I'm applying the 'use a small dog to pick up girls' logic Hirokazu uses whenever he walks a friend's pug. He likes the attention more than the dog does, I think.

Takato and I both laugh, Gil starts to crawl closer to Takato. Again, smart lizard. Takato picks him up, holding him in his arms.

There's a sudden knock at the door, Takato and I both freeze.

Mr. Matsuda opens the door, poking his head in. "Takato, can we talk real quick?"

…Shit…

Takato swallows, nodding. "…O-Okay." He sets Gil down and goes into the hall.

Damn it…I-I'm batting a thousand when it comes to helping Takato…His Dad overheard him coming out to a lizard…Wh-What was I thinking?

…I guess I'm just…desperate to make Takato feel better about this…

Takato comes back into the room a few minutes later, he looks…relieved.

"What was it?"

"Mom and Dad told me we'd wait on opening gifts, that's all," Takato said. "Same…reason as why I was…" He trails off. I nod. "I wasn't supposed to tell you but since…"

"I understand, sorry to hold up Christmas."

"They don't mind, that's a really bad storm," Takato says. "Mom does not want you to even try going home in this, not without someone driving you."

"So, he didn't…overhear anything?" I ask, Takato shakes his head. Thank the Gods…

Gil is still on the table, Takato comes over and pets him as he sits down. "…Thanks for accepting me, Gil-chan."

"Did it help?"

"…It sort of did," Takato shrugs. "I-I mean…I've never said 'I'm gay' before. Out loud, I mean."

"So, you're feeling a little better? I-I'm so sorry about last night, Takato-kun. I shouldn't have said anything…"

"Jen, I started it with that stupid question and the mistletoe…I was being…I-I don't know why I asked that I just…"

"…Wanted to be a little out without suspicion? Kenta does that," I say.

Just as Takato's about to speak, his cell phone goes off. "That's Hirokazu's ringtone…"

"Answer it," I say, smiling.

Takato answers his phone. "…Hirokazu-kun? …Merry Christmas to you, too. …O-Oh, really? …Yeah, I mean, this is a really bad storm. Is he upset at all? …That's a lot of snacks," Takato laughs. "…Jen's here with me, I'll let him know. Tell Kenta-kun, um, a-actually, can you ask him to call me?" …Takato? "…O-Okay, thanks. …Kenta? …Can you be alone? I-I…I need to…" He trails off.

…Takato-kun? A-Are you doing what I think you're doing?

"…Thanks, I-I'll wait," Takato holds the phone aside, looking to me. "Everyone's pretty much snowed in by the storm, Hirokazu's the only one who made it to Kenta's and…That's because he's, well, Hirokazu, you know?" …Yeah, those two are inseparable, Hirokazu braving a winter storm is just like him.

"Are you…going to…?"

Takato nods, he sets his phone down and puts it on speaker phone. "…Okay, Takato-kun, I'm in my room," Kenta says. "What's up?"

"…Jen's here and, um…He told me something," Takato begins.

".Jen…told you something…?" Kenta's tone tells us he knows what's going on, not that it's hard to guess. "Is he still there?"

"I'm here, Kenta, Takato's got his cell on speaker phone," I say.

"Jen, why?" Kenta sounds a little annoyed, we were supposed to keep this a secret until Takato was ready to come out…I should have listened.

"…It's okay, Kenta-kun, I-I…You guys were right," Takato says. "I-I'm…I'm gay, too."

"…I-I see—Wait, too? …Jeeeeen…!" Kenta lets out a mock angry shout. "You outted me?"

"I also said I'd kiss you under the mistletoe, if that makes you feel better," I add, hoping that does make him feel better...You did list me right below Ryou, Kenta-kun! And, um, I know he can be a little boy crazy at times...Just a little, though, and celibate if you compare him to Hirokazu with girls (though, that applies to almost anyone).

"…I'm going to hold you to that, now. Let's face it, Jen-kun, you are cute." I blush a little as Kenta says this. "Right, Takato-kun?"

"Ye-Yeah, Jen's…Jen's really…Um…Cu-Cute…" Takato says, looking to me nervously with sort of an 'is that okay?' Expression. I just smile and nod.

I smile. "Glad to hear I have admirers." …I admit, I don't mind hearing that I'm cute. Even if it's from Takato and Kenta.

"Vanity thy name is Jenrya," Kenta jokes. "So, um, what happened exactly? I mean…How'd you go from telling Takato we, um, suspected him to…Kissing me? Re-Really?"

"Takato had some mistletoe and asked if I had to kiss one of our male friends, who would it be?"

"My answer is Ryou and Hirokazu, followed by watching them make out under a massive mistletoe plant. The bigger they are, the more you gotta kiss," Kenta says. We both laugh. "Gods, it feels good to talk about this…I-I mean, seriously, I can only feign interest in hot women with Hirokazu for so long."

"Ye-Yeah it…feels good," Takato smiles a little. "Jen…accepts me. But…Kenta-kun things…are going to be different now, you know? …I-I mean…"

"Takato, nothing's going to change, okay?" Kenta says. "It's scary but you have your friends, still, and I know Jen won't abandon you. Just…relax, you're still you. Re-Really, Jen's so cool with it, we talk…We talk about me being gay all the time, he's totally cool about it. I-I know he's probably told you but…" …Takato needs to be reminded. Thanks, Kenta-kun.

"I-I know. Thanks, Kenta-kun," Takato looks to me. "You, too, Jen…I-I appreciate the support. It's not what I was expecting at all." I don't like hearing that last portion…

…Takato, I'd never abandon you. I've never had a friend like you and I never want that to change!

"I told Takato he's welcome to one kiss under the mistletoe," I say.

"…Takato, if you don't take Jen up on that offer, I will go down there personally to beat some sense into you," Kenta says. "Seriously, kiss. Him. Now."

"Je-Jen doesn't…feel the same, though, it's not—"

"Takato, never question a cute guy who's going to let you kiss him, gay or straight."

"Just promise you won't tell anyone, okay?" I ask.

"Promise. So, Takato, will you do it?"

"N-No," Takato shakes his head, quickly.

"Make you a deal," Kenta lets out a chuckle. A deal?

"…What?" Takato asks.

"First, Jen, you're serious,right?" Kenta asks. "If Takato held some mistletoe over your head right now, you'd let him kiss you, right?" Er…

…We-Well…

…To be honest, I-I knew in the back of my mind Takato would never actuallyaccept the offer, I-I just…wanted to show support but…

…If it'll make him happy and feel better. Plus, at this point, I can't really back out. I mean, if I said 'no,' Takato would think I was just making fun of him before.

"…Yes," I say after a few moments. "I would do it." I say, glancing to Takato. I hope I don't look too concerned about him accepting this offer but…

…Takato-kun, it's okay. You…can have one kiss. Call it a last minute Christmas present I couldn't wrap.

"Takato, if you accept Jen's offer, I'll come out to Hirokazu. Deal? Next time we're all together, I'll tell Hirokazu I'm gay."

"Wa-Wait! You're gay?" …Oh, shit

Kenta goes silent as we hear the sound of a door opening behind him. Takato and I go quiet, too. "…Hirokazu, how long have you been here?"

"Uh, long enough…"

"…Sorry, Kenta-kun…" Takato whispers, he looks like he's about to cry for Kenta.

"So, umYou? Fo-For real? You're?" Hirokazu sounds really shocked. And…

…Nervous…

"…Ye-Yeah, I'm gay." Kenta's tone tells me he sees no point in trying to deny it. I-I know this was something he didn't think Hirokazu would be thrilled about, I mean, the fact he just offered to come out to Hirokazu...

…Though, if it was in front of us or at the party, Kenta would probably feel safer around friends he knows support him. In case Hirokazu made a scene. Or, at least, took the news badly. Kenta's told me that he's wanted to come out for a while but always loses his nerve at the last second.

…And now…

There's another, even longer silence, save for the sound of Takato borderline-hyperventilating and Gil shifting in his litter…Actually, even he's staring down at the phone like we are, I think.

Smart lizard.

We both then hear some…less than comforting words from Hirokazu. "…Dude, wewe need to talk. Ca-Can I have my cell back first? Like, now, please? WeWe gottaWe gotta talk. Okay?Se-Seriously."

We hear Kenta swallowing. "Ye-Yeah…" The display on Takato's cell phone lights up and shows that the call ended.

Takato and I stare at the cell phone in silence for...I don't even know how long before Takato finally says, "That's…what I'm afraid of…" He wipes his eyes. "I-I mean…You heard that…"

"…Hirokazu is Kenta's best friend, maybe he wants to be serious for once," given the storm outside, it's possible Hell finally did freeze over. "And he only wants to talk. Tha-That's all."

"I hope so…" Takato whispers.

"Takato, try to picture Hirokazu hating Kenta, just try it! It's…impossible!" It really is, I mean, Hirokazu and Kenta are Hirokazu and Kenta! Hirokazu's already the target of a million and one gay jokes from Ruki, if this bothered him that much would he put up with the jokes?

Then again, one does not dare to tell Ruki Makino to 'shut up.' It's considered a form of suicide. Ruki stopping her gay jokes about Takato just shows how concerned she really is about him…

…And given how all this has been going, rightfully so. I try to tell Takato coming out wouldn't be bad and then…

…This happens. Damn it!

Takato wipes his eyes again. "Think we should…try going to Kenta's? Make him…feel better if…"

"If you want to, I'll go with you," I say. Going to Kenta's is…sort of a walk, especially in this weather but if he's going to be a wreck with Hirokazu mad at him then it's the least we can do. Especially since I feel partially responsible. "I'll get ready," I say. Takato nods.

I go over to my backpack and get my clothes out, I'm still in my t-shirt and pajama bottoms. I start to change when I hear a beep from Takato's phone. "Is it Kenta?" I set my shirt aside and go to the phone, it's a text message, Takato's looking it over.

"…He says 'Hirokazu's cool with it. Merry Christmas.' That's all." Takato says, he turns to me, then quickly blushes, looking away. "Er…!"

"…Takato, you've seen me without a shirt on before," and less, actually. I roll my eyes, laughing. The text message came just after I changed my pants. Takato and I have changed together before, we share a gym period this year, too.

"Ri-Right…" Takato nods, blushing. "Looks like we won't have to go…Thank the Gods."

I nod, getting my t-shirt and putting it back on, I also change back into my pajama bottoms since they're more comfortable. "That was scary," I say.

Takato still has his back turned. "Yeah."

"…Takato, why are you so embarrassed?" I ask. "I-I mean…Gods, we've been to bath houses together, remember?" It's hard not to 'see something' there, you know? …Though, um, I wonder if Takato has peeked on purpose now but…

…I did, too, so, um, we're even if he did. And I did it ju-just out of…curiosity, I swear!

"Ye-Yeah, but…So-Sorry, I just, um, usually…I'm 'prepared' for that," Takato says, his face bright red. He then lets out a sigh, "It's all…weird now."

"It's not," I say. "I'm not suddenly disgusted or afraid of you, why are you…Takato, it's like you're afraid of me!" It really is, I mean…Takato acts like anything we do is suddenly going to make me hate him because he's gay. I know he wanted to keep it a secret but…

"…I just feel weird," Takato sighs.

I walk up to Takato. "Stand up." I say.

"Jen?"

"Just…stand up. Please?" I say.

Takato nods, he stands.

I give him a hug, a tight hug. "JE-JEN!"

"…Takato, this is the last time I'm going to say it so listen: You're my best friend, nothing is going to change that. Nothing is different, the only thing that upsets me is that you're so afraid…Please, stop this. Just be yourself, don't hide anything, don't be afraid of anything…I'm sorry you're so scared but you have nothing to be afraid of with me, okay? Please, Takato-kun," I say. Takato finally hugs me back.

"…Thank you, Jen-kun I-I'm sorry about being like this, I'm just…Like with Hirokazu, I don't want things to change. I don't want anything to be different but…Now it is," Takato sighs. "Jen, admit it, it's different knowing this."

"Not in a bad way," I say. "…Wanna keep your side of the deal?" I say, jokingly. I still don't let go of Takato.

"Yo-You mean…Kenta's…?" Takato trails off. "…Okay." What?

"You…would?"

Takato sniffs, his voice cracking as he says, "O-Only if you're okay with it, I-I…I love you, Jen," Takato holds me a little tighter, I let out a surprised gasp, loosening my hug a little. "I-I'm sorry but…Jen…I-I love you. I…I know you can't like me back so…I-I guess...If I can have..." Takato lets go of me, stepping back and shaking his head back and forth wildly as he manages to get out of my arms. "N-No! Nevermind…Forget I said that! It's…It's stupid and selfish…I'm sorry, Jen, I don't know…what came over me…" …Gods…

…I think I've underestimated just how much Takato likes me. I mean...

…I-I admit, I'm not exactly up to the idea of Takato actually kissing me, but…Gods, what was I thinking? I-I…

…Takato, I owe you this much. So…

"…It's okay," I smile. "One kiss is okay. Go ahead."

"A-Are you sure?"

No. "Completely," I open my arms again, forcing a smile I hope doesn't look as…forced as it is. I-I think I pull it off, Takato doesn't look as apprehensive. Not that he's leaping into my arms or anything like that but he looks a little more relaxed…

…I can't believe I'm going to do this. I-I just…Takato, you're obviously not handling this well and I want you to know that I accept you. Completely. I-I always will, you're the best friend I've ever had. I mean, I'm spending Christmas with you instead of my family. Granted, it's mostly because of the snowstorm outside but…Takato, we're as close as two friends can get without…

…Without the step I know you want to take. That I…sort of wish I could take for you. I mean, he just…

…He just told me he loves me. On Christmas day. Christmas is for lovers, after all. He even did what couples want to do on Christmas Eve: Spend it with someone they love. I guess Takato is sort of having a Merry Christmas in that sense, given what he just said. Now I see why he left mistletoe of all things out. I wonder if, in the back of his mind, he was hoping this might happen instead of just making a joke he thought only he would get or laugh at. That he asked that question hoping it would end with…

…A Christmas Eve confession. From me...Or he'd confess and I'd tell him I feel the same. Either way, it would end with us together.

Takato Matsuda loves me. I-I never…I never thought I'd think those words or that they'd ever be true, even with Juri's theory, I-I just…I guess when she said she thought Takato likes me I shrugged it off as 'Juri's just insane.' But, no, she's…She's right. And, knowing Takato's gay? …It's…a little obvious. Sort of like, um, with Kenta and Hirokazu or, to a lesser extent (though he loves him more), Ryou. Knowing Kenta's gay makes you look at how he and Hirokazu interact in a different light, the same light I've been seeing my friendship with Takato since last night's 'confirmation.'

…He's right…

Things are…a little weird now. But…I-I don't want them to be weird! Takato, please, let's just have fun like we used to. No more of this, just…Just get this out of the way and let's go back to…

…Let's go back to being us again. Gods, please, let us be 'us' again, I-I don't want to be responsible for doing this to our friendship. Why didn't I just joke around or something? Damn it, I'm…I'm such an idiot!

Please, let this work. Let's be like before after this…

…I look to Takato, I can see it on his face. Just how…He looks anxious, excited, almost ready to cry…All at the same time. I think he's thinking the same thing. He just wants things back to normal, like before I had to utter those two stupid words!

"We know."

Takato, almost carefully, approaches. He's giving me a cautious and skeptical look. Like I'm going to shout 'Gotcha' at any point and push him down or something…

…Takato, I-I said I would let you kiss me and I…I have to keep my word. I-I just…I wish I knew what I was thinking when I said that! I was just so desperate for Takato to feel better, I guess I…I really would say anything to make him feel better. Now I need to prove that I would do anything…

…Here goes…

Takato steps up to me. "You promise this…We're…We're still friends, n-no matter…No matter what, right? …Nothing will change?"

I smile. "I'm your best friend, forever."

"…Okay," Takato nods. …This is it…

…Gods, wh-why?

Th-This is…also…

…This is going to be my first kiss, too…And I know this is Takato's. I guess that's 'incentive' for him: He gets me as his first kiss. Like I'm sure he wants. I-I'm okay with that, I wasn't saving it for anyone special. I-I mean if this was, say, my virginity things would be…

REALLY different. And I assume drinking would be involved. Or some form of mind control. For both parties. Or Takato has secretly been a closeted gay Hirokazu in disguise all these years.

But first kiss?

…Merry Christmas, Takato-kun. You can have my first kiss and…You can kiss me once. I-I don't mind…

…Too much.

Takato closes the gap between us. I-I don't know why but I put my hands on his shoulders, we stare at each other for a few moments before he starts to lean forward, then stops suddenly. His expression almost screams 'should we do this?' I-I think mine probably screams 'the hell if I know!'

…Again, he keeps leaning forward, his lips puckered slightly. He abruptly stops as the gap between us gets smaller and smaller. I feel it, he's shaking. I-I know I am. He puts his hands on my shoulders, too, I think to steady himself…

…This is it…

…Or…Is it?

Takato just…can't move. He's frozen.

…I-I can't believe I'm about to do this but…

…I close the gap. I-I start the kiss. It lasts all of half of a second. I-I just…kissed Takato. It ends with a surprised gasp from both of us. "So-Sorry…" I whisper, my face has to be bright red. "Th-That was…bad…D-Do over?" Wai-Wait—Did I just say 'do over?'

Well, that was a really bad first kiss. Sorry, Takato-kun.

Takato's jaw is down but he nods…Th-That wasn't so bad. A-And I just…

I just had my first…My first kiss…

Takato, I guess feeling bold now that he…He knows this isn't a joke, that I am serious. Now he closes the gap.

Our lips meet again and…

…This kiss…We…We don't know what we're doing, we just stand there with our lips together like…I-I don't know but…

…Oh, shit…

Takato breaks it after a few seconds, whispering, "Thank you, Jen-chan—Ku-kun!" If it were possible, I'm sure the blush on his face would deepen because of that but…

…Oh, shit…

"Me-Merry…Merry Christmas…Takato-kun," I say, sitting down as soon as he lets go of my shoulders. "Yo-You're…You're a good kisser," I say with a forced laugh as Takato sits next to me, he's…He's actually smiling a lot. I was expecting him to be…Well…

…I expected him to feel as weird as I do right now… E-Especially with…

Shit

"Th-Thanks. You, too," Takato laughs a little. "I-I…I always wanted that, Jen-kun. I-I'll…consider it the best Christmas gift ever."

"Anything for my best friend," I say. "So, um, since I'm here for a while…Why don't we give the new Digimon World a try? Train a partner and try some co-op missions?"

Takato nods. "Su-Sure! Sounds…Sounds like fun! I-I'll get my PSP! Thanks again for the game, Jen-kun, I-I really wanted that one."

I nod, rolling Takato's desk chair to my backpack for my PSP. "Th-Thanks for the game, too, Takato-kun. You're great to play with when it comes to co-op missions." I manage to sound less nervous than I feel. At least, I hope I do.

…Gods, I-I…

…Did I…?

…I-I think…I did…

…Thank the Gods Takato wants to play games since…since I-I need some…quiet time to think…

...Did I enjoy that? I-I know this sounds like some romance novel cliche but...My heart sort of, um...Not skipped a beat but...I-I felt...something...

A-And...Um...

I-I'm just...going to try to focus on my new game for a bit...Take my mind off this...

...I hope.


It's been a few hours since…our kiss. Takato's mother brought up lunch for us about ten minutes afterward, a tray of various breads and some snacks. Including leftover cinnamon rolls from breakfast. It was really good, we ate and talked for a little bit before going back to our games. We…acted like it didn't happen at first while we talked, just…We tried being our usual selves when we're together but…

Since we started playing games, we've been almost completely silent. It's been…a little awkward. We usually chat or something while playing games together but…This time?

It's…small talk, like someone you meet at the park who just happened to have the same game as you and wants to play some co-op missions or something. Just, um, one or two comments on the new features, the animated cutscene opening and…

…We're…

…Things are different now. Takato, I think he's doing his best to ignore that fact or, maybe, just needs some time to think, too, but it's obvious that…

…I-I don't…know what's happening to us now. Takato I know enjoyed the kiss, he was thankful for it and I'm glad it made him happy but I know neither of us are satisfied with the, um, awkward aftermath that I promised wouldn't happen…

…Some promises just can't be kept.

I'm training a Terriermon, I'm sure Takato's training a Guilmon or some kind of dragon-type Digimon. He also has Gil perched on his shoulder, the lizard is actually watching the PSP screen, I think, going by what it seems focused on it whenever I looked to Takato. He'd even raise the screen to show Gil, now and then, with a smile or a laugh…Takato has managed to smile a little more, so I'll take that as a good sign. I'm glad he got Gil last night since he does make Takato feel better whenever he has him out or we talk about him.

I glance up to Takato, not raising my head from the PSP in my hands…He's holding his PSP with one hand and petting Gil with the other. Gil is stretched out on his shoulders, his tail going over Takato's right shoulder, his head on his left.

I look back down to the screen just as Takato glances to me. I kick myself mentally, I'm sure he noticed.

…It's…a little hard to face him actually. Not because I'm disgusted but…

…I think I liked it. I-I mean, I think I actually liked it! I mean, not in the 'holy shit, I'm gay' sense but…I-I mean…I don't know how to put it, I just…liked it more than I thought I would. I didn't expect to be disgusted or try to find a way to sneak off and brush my teeth or rinse out my mouth or anything like that but…

…I…

…I want to…

…I want to try it again. I can't believe I'm saying this but I want to kiss Takato again. Because I want to know: Did I actually enjoy that kiss? And…if I did…

…Why would I even suggest something like that? Because I didn't think Takato would, in a million years, accept it, I guess…I mean, he's Takato. I had to convince him and…

…Why did I convince him? I-I even…We kissed twice! I-I kissed him the first time!

I clear my throat, standing up and putting my PSP in sleep mode. "I-I have to, um, 'wash my hands,' I'll be back in a few minutes." I say, 'wash my hands' being a Li family euphemism for 'go to the bathroom.' Hirokazu thought I was a germaphobe for the first couple years I knew him because of it.

Takato nods. "Okay," he says.

I go down the hall and to the bathroom. I don't need to go or anything, I just…I needed to be alone for a minute, away from Takato to think.

…What the hell is happening?

I close the bathroom door and lock it, I run the faucet and let the water warm up. I splash my face once, sighing, "…Why did I…do that?" I whisper to myself as I turn off the water after a couple more splashes. I put the lid on the toilet down and sit, sighing.

…Okay, just…relax. I'm not gay, I'd know if I was and one magic kiss isn't going to change me. And don't mind that Takato is my first kiss or that…we did kiss. I-I just…I don't know howIfeel about thatkiss! That, I do mind!

I think back to one of the times I talked to Kenta about guys, mainly his first kiss.

"…And Hirokazu landed on top of me,his lips on mine and, um, we sorta froze like that for a few seconds. I think we were both thinking the same thing, too, 'Is this really happening right now?' I-I was shocked, I mean, I wasn't exactly awake until I realized what was happening andWe both acted like it was gross."

"You did that to, um, hide, right?"

"N-No, it wasActually, it's what got me thinking I might be gay.The fact I didn't think it was gross like Hirokazu did. I mean, I didn't think 'huh, I liked that, I must be gay' butI was confused, I guess. And, um, the fact we took a bath after that…"

"Oh, yeah, was thatawkward at all?"

"Not really, we'veHell, we still take baths together sometimes. Hirokazu's the 'comfortable with his body' type. I-I wasn't at first butYeah, Hirokazu's got no problems being naked around someone, as long as no girls are present."

"…You sure he's straight?" All of us have, at some point, bathed or been to a hot spring together but…We don't 'show off,' not like Hirokazu can. He's convinced he's got a 'sexy ass.' Kenta tells me Hirokazu's ass 'isn't bad.'

"Unfortunately, not too many gay guys have an archive of lesbian porn like he does.But, um, it wasn't long before everyone started talking about girls and things like that, so I really felt out of place with you, Hirokazu and Ryou." Another part of Juri and Kenta's theory on Takato is how he avoids checking out girls with us, he claims he 'feels weird' staring 'at someone' (Kenta was the one who noticed his wording on that issue, 'someone') and doesn't like doing it. Hirokazu, when Takato told him this, actually (and 100% jokingly, Kenta knows Hirokazu doesn't suspect Takato) asked Takato if he was gay, Takato was really embarrassed but managed to laugh it off. This was before I was clued into 'the theory' so I didn't pick up any 'clues' at the time but…

…Looking back, it's obviously a topic Takato was very uncomfortable with.

"Sorry about all that…"

"Jen-kun, relax, I had to hide it somehow somy track record for checking out girls is a pretty good cover, you know?" Kenta doesn't turn Hirokazu down to check out girls, he just focuses on cute guys instead. "But, when I realized I didn't like girls as much as you guys didWell, that was when I started the 'denial' phase. I just wasn't into girls or dating, not guys. Guys were gross, no-one wants to kiss a guy. 'Especially' me."

"…So, you just 'checked out' guys and?"

"Justdidn't think 'gay,' justI-It's hard to explain.Think of it likeYou just tell yourself 'I'm not listening, I didn't see anything, this isn't what it looks like' andRun with it."

"We-WeirdNo offense but…"

"I know, it'sI'll remember times where I'd be, um, 'focused' on a guy and then talk about the 'cute girl' I wanted to go out with someday with Hirokazu and not think of myself as 'pretending' with him."

"I-I think I get what you're saying."

"But, umWell, after I realized I 'liked' guys, I-I'd think back to my first kiss and, then, it made sense, sort of. I realized that, back then, in the back of my mind I did like it. I was happy with the fact I got a kiss from someone I liked. I mean, I'd think back to it and play it out both as it happened and more 'romantic,' wishing it was that butIt's a happy memory for me."

"But not Hirokazu…"

"Definitely not Hirokazu, hahaha! Remember how pissed he was at Ruki when she told everyone about that?"

"Oh yeah! I-I've never seen that kind of look on his face before!" …Hirokazu…

…Kenta's message, I really hope he was serious and not trying to hide something else. I mean, why wouldn't he call back and tell us? I'm worried Hirokazu might have not been 'cool with it.' But, still, Kenta would tell us if something bad happened…He'd call us after Hirokazu left. And, if Hirokazu was willing to brave a snowstorm to see Kenta, I'm sure he'd be willing to brave a snowstorm to get away from Kenta if that was the case…

…So I think Kenta's "safe." I'm tempted to call him, actually…

…Screw it, I-I will…

I reach for my cell phone in my pocket, I dial Kenta's number…

"Hey, this is Kenta! I'm not here right now, leave a message!" …It went straight to voicemail. His phone is off?

…Kenta-kun, what's going on?

I end the call, not leaving a message. This might be a bad time to dump anything on Kenta, it's possible he's still talking to Hirokazu…Not very since I know Hirokazu, both when it comes to serious discussions and his short attention span.

…Maybe…

I dial another number.

"…Yo!" Lianjie…

"Hey, Lianjie…How's Christmas?"

"Freakin' awesome."

"…What'd you get?"

"You'll see," Lianjie, again, lets out an ominous chuckle. "How're things with Takato?"

"Good, um, just…Just good."

"Dude, what's up? You got that 'I'm in trouble' tone."

"…I-I got, um, confirmation on…You know."

"O-Oh, seriously? …So, um, is that a problem?"

"Just in the sense that…Lianjie, if your best friend told you he loved you, what would you do?"

"…Feel really, really weird but…Ye-Yeah, I'd be really guilty over it, too. That's how you feel, right? I mean, dude, it's…Takato, I mean…"

"Ye-Yeah, exactly," Lianjie knows how close Takato and I are as friends, it's why he's been calling him my 'boyfriend' for so long. "How far would you go to make him feel better? I mean, like…"

"Um…Anything! I mean, dude, if Kenichi was in love with me? …I'd feel like shit since I hate making Kenichi unhappy, y'know? He's always been there for me and all and, well, I still have our first FFVII save file on my memory card, where we spent hours trying to get a Gold Chocobo before we realized we were breeding the wrong kinds of birds…Ha ha ha, Kenichi was pissed that guide was wrong!"

We both laugh, I-I remember that day…They spend all afternoon breeding the wrong kinds of Chocobos with the wrong kind of nut and, when they finally get it right after managing to get a game over getting the right items…They got one on their first try. Lianjie…

…Lianjie was almost in tears, which would sound weirder if I didn't know my brother so well.

"…Anything?"

"…What'd you do?"

"…I told him, um, he could have one kiss under the mistletoe. DO NOT tell anyone!"

"…Dude…"

"…I know, but…"

"I-I wouldn't go that far for Kenichi but…Damn…Did he…take you up on it?"

It takes me a long time to answer, probably long enough for Lianjie to guess the word I'm about to say, "Yes."

"…Wow…"

"Look, um, Lianjie…I-I…I don't know how I feel about all this right now, I mean…I-I don't. I thought things wouldn't be different but…"

"Yeah, dude, a kiss? That…can really mess things up, even if it's not two guys."

"I…I really messed things up…"

"Dude, Takato's not gonna hate you and I know you don't hate him," Lianjie says. "Just, look, calm down and…Talk to him, I mean, he'd…Dude, he's got to understand the whole 'weird' aspect better than you could. Maybe he'll be able to make you feel better and…You really kissed him?"

"Ye-Yeah…"

"…Okay, I won't…ask what I wanna ask but…Jianliang, that's a hell of a way to show you accept him. Like, um, did you dip into Mr. Matsuda's private egg nog or somethin'?" ...I'm starting to wonder...

"I was desperate, he's…He's not taking things too well. He didn't want anyone to know. Ever. I-It's my fault, Lianjie, I was the one who told him 'we know,'" I hate those words right now. "I should have just…kept my mouth shut but…I-I thought he'd be glad to know his friends wouldn't abandon him."

"…Shit…Good luck, Jianliang, that's all I can say. I know Takato enough to know how much he can freak out," Lianjie sighs. "Sorry again 'bout that joke, I really…had no idea."

"It's all right, I-I mean, you joke about everything else…Sorry to bother you, Lianjie, tell everyone I said Merry Christmas, okay?"

"Right. Merry Christmas and…Like I said before, Donatello." …What?

"Donatello?"

"Just…think about it, 'kay?" …Donatello…?

"O-kay…Uh…Who gave you what illegal substance for Christmas?"

"We have the best parents on Earth!" Lianjie laughs, loudly. ...Obviously Lianjie is on something but I doubt it's something our parents gave him. Must've broken into the medicine cabinet…

"Right…Merry Christmas!"

"Just think about it!"

"…I will…" I roll my eyes, hanging up.

I look at my reflection in the mirror, sighing. I look like a nervous wreck, which is what Takato's probably seeing and feeling like, too…

…Okay, I'll talk to him…

I step out into the hall, but I see Mrs. Matsuda standing outside of Takato's room…She looks worried.

"Mrs. Matsuda?"

"Jenrya…what happened?" Mrs. Matsuda asks. "We were passing by and…we heard Takato crying." Oh, shit

"Cr-Crying?"

"Did you two have an argument? I-I mean…"

"N-No, I-I…I'm not sure what…" I trail off.

"Takehiro's talking to him but…Jenrya, nothing happened?" She looks…a little upset. With me. I-I don't blame her.

The door opens, Mr. Matsuda steps out. …He looks…a little strange…

…Please, Takato, don't…Don't tell me…

"Takehiro, what's wrong with him? Did they have a fight?"

"No," Mr. Matsuda shakes his head. "Takato's just worried about…something," he looks to me, his expression…

…Gods, Takato, did you…tell him…?

"Sh-Should I…go…?" I whisper.

Quickly, Mr. Matsuda shakes his head. "No, stay. You didn't do anything, Jenrya, it's okay. Just stay here." …He's insistent about the word 'stay,' that's a relief but…

…What did Takato say? I-I mean, he wouldn't tell him about...what we did...

...Would he?

"…O-Okay, so-sorry for the…trouble…" I-I feel like I might cry. I-I think they both might be blaming me for this and they're completely right.

"There's…no trouble, Jenrya, Takato needs his friend right now." Mr. Matsuda smiles a little. "Mie, let's…talk in the other room." …He did, didn't he?

Mrs. Matsuda nods, she walks to the room with the Christmas tree with Mr. Matsuda. As soon as they close the door, I bolt into Takato's room. "Takato-kun!"

…Takato actually isn't crying anymore, he has Gil on his desk as he starts up his PSP again. "…Je-Jen…"

"Yo-Your Mom said you were crying and…What did you tell your Dad? I-I'm so sorry, Takato…"

"…I-It's…It was because I was scared," Takato sighs. "Th-The way things have been so quiet, I just…I-I shouldn't have cried but after you left I-I just…I started thinking you were mad or hated me or…I lost control for a moment, my parents were walking by and heard me, my Dad stayed to talk while my Mom…She was worried we had a fight or something."

I nod. "Wh-What did you tell him?"

"I tried saying I was just upset Kenta cancelled his party but…" Takato shakes his head. "He didn't believe me, so…I just said I was afraid of...I-I told him I was afraid you were mad at me for something I 'couldn't control.'"

"Couldn't control?" What else could that mean…? A-And he said he thought his parents suspected him…

…I'm so sorry, Takato…

"I was so scared when I realized I said that but…My Dad asked why you weren't in the room, I told him you were in the bathroom and he asked if we fought or argued or anything and I told him 'no, nothing like that' and that you didn't storm out or anything or were even mad,you just…went to the bathroom but…What he said…"

"…What was it?"

"'Jenrya would never hate you, don't worry. He's not that kind of person and you know it. Just have a Merry Christmas.' I don't know if he knew what I meant but…The way he said that and everything, I felt better."

"…Takato, this is all my fault," I sigh. "You should be mad at me. I-I'm sorry, I'm so sorry." I wipe my eyes, adding, "I should never have told you we suspected you or anything. Ke-Kenta was going to come out to you later and see if that would help you feel at ease but…I-I'm sorry—"

"Jen,no," Takato stands. "I-I'm…I feel better, re-really! Please, Jen-kun, don't cry, too."

"O-Okay," I wipe my eyes, I can't really stop the tears that are coming out but I try to calm down. "So-Sorry, but I…I don't want things to be different or weird, too, and I'm worried…what we did…"

"…I know," Takato nods. "Can we…try forgetting about it for now? I-I mean, just...pretend nothing happened last night and today?"

"Okay, we can do that. I-I'm sorry, Takato."

"For what?" Takato manages to smile…I don't think he's really happy with the 'deny you're gay' idea but…For now, I-I'm in agreement. Sorry, Takato. I-I don't really want to talk about this right now, either…

…But I know I won't stop thinking about it.

"…Nothing," I say with a forced smile. I go back to my PSP and turn the game back on. "Does Gil-chan like the game?"

"I named my FlareLizarmon after him," Takato says. "My Guilmon doesn't have a nickname, though. He's just Guilmon!"

"I named my Guilmon 'Takato,'" I say, hoping he doesn't see that as a 'reminder.' I…I admit, I do that with the Guilmon I raise in my games: I name them Takato.

"…I named my Terriermon 'Jen,' actually." Takato says. "Gi-Gil's idea." Yep, back to 'joking' like before.

"Good idea, Gil-chan," I say. To my surprise, Gil looks up at me and then back to Takato.

Freakishly smart lizard…


We played games for a long time and things were like before. I guess I was the one who was so focused on talking about Takato's orientation, so when I stopped we were like we usually were.

At dinner, I got confirmation that Takato's parents really weren't mad at me for making Takato cry earlier. Mrs. Matsuda actually made custard pan for me, which is my favorite…

…But it does make me wonder…

An hour before dinner we tried calling Kenta again, but his phone was still off. And so was Hirokazu's…

…The 'topic' came up again for that hour because of it. Takato was less apprehensive about it but we were both focused more on Kenta's orientation than his. And really worried about him. He would have called us if anything happened, good or bad…Kenta being so quiet…

…We're worried, to say the least.

But after dinner, I called Lianjie again and told him things were better. He was glad to hear that and apologized again for his joke and for driving me so crazy the past couple weeks. I apologized for doing the same, too. It's a Li family Christmas tradition: Spend three weeks driving each other insane, three seconds apologizing for it and all is forgiven.

…I still want to know why the hell he wants me to think of 'Donatello,' though. I-Is now really the time, Lianjie?

Takato and I get ready for bed, we spent the day in what we slept in so it was mostly just getting Takato's space heater out and telling me how to turn it on again when it times out.

I stare up at the ceiling at the still hanging piece of string the mistletoe that started all this was on. The only light source is the red glow of the heater and our PSP screens, we're playing Digimon World before we go to sleep. There's a co-op mission we really want to do but we're not leveled enough yet.

It's quiet, save for the occasional sound of Gil shifting in his litter.

"…Takato, um, can we…talk about something?" I put my PSP in sleep mode.

Takato nods, doing the same and setting his PSP aside. "…Let me guess, the…um…"

"…Yeah, the kiss."

"I-I shouldn't have asked that, Jen-kun, it was…selfish and stupid of me to think you wouldn't mind."

"We-Well, there's…sort of a problem," I begin. "Um…You did it wrong."

"What?"

"You kissed me but…There wasn't any mistletoe," I say. "So that didn't count." …I can't believe I'm doing this but…I might as well borrow a page from Takato and Kenta's 'I'm Gay Just Kidding But Not Really' Joke Book.

"…Jen, what…are you saying?"

"…I want to kiss you again," I say, quietly. I sit up and, like Takato the night before, I pull up my knees and wrap my arms around them, hanging my head. "I-I…I want to try something."

"Try something?"

"…It's…complicated but…" I sigh. "Takato, um, how did you feel after the kiss? Be honest."

"Happy but…Scared, too," Takato says. "I was afraid it was the worst thing we could have done since…Jen, we were so quiet afterwards that I was afraid you were mad or grossed out. I mean, saying you accept me is one thing, kissing me? …I was worried I made the biggest mistake of my life because…You'd be so disgusted or it would make things…beyond awkward…"

"…I-I liked it," I say.

"What?"

"I liked…kissing you, I think," I say. "I want to…see if I really do."

"Je-Jen, don't…Don't," Takato sighs. "Don't force yourself to like me or anything like that. Please."

"What makes you think I'd force myself to like you?" I ask, looking up at Takato. I'm…almost offended by that.

"Because, if you liked me and I didn't like you…I think I'd do that," Takato says. "Like with Juri, if she told me she loved me I'd try whatever I could to like her back because I didn't want to hurt her…I've done that, sort of, but…I know I can't like her back, so if she ever confessed…" He sighs, "I guess that's one upside to her knowing, that won't happen…She knows I-I…I…like guys…"He says, quietly. That's…the closest to 'gay' he's said on his own, save for coming out to Gil. I take that as a sign of progress…

"Yeah, um, that's my only problem with any of this, Takato-kun, that I don't think I can like you back but…Takato, I'm not forcing myself, I-I mean…I didn't think you'd accept my offer for a kiss, that's why I was saying it until…Well…"

"I-I thought so," Takato sighs. "Sorry, Jen…It was selfish."

"No, I was being selfish…I was saying something I didn't really mean so both of us would feel better, but mostly so I would feel better. I-I…I shouldn't have done that, so I'm the one who should be sorry. I was just so desperate for you to know I didn't have a problem, especially after how I reacted to Lianjie's joke. I really felt bad after that, I mean it. I was…being the idiot, Takato, not you. You didn't do anything stupid, I did." Everything I've tried to help him with has…done the opposite of what I wanted to do. I wanted Takato to feel better, I just made him feel worse…

…Hell of a Christmas…

"I was just really scared, I thought I kept this hidden so well that…When you said four of you knew…I panicked. I took those four people and multiplied them by a million in my head, I felt like that many people knew. And you said you only suspected it but…I was just really scared, Jen, I'm sorry for making Christmas so weird."

"You didn't make Christmas weird and I'm just glad you're not as nervous. Did your Dad really help that much?" I was afraid I'd find Takato as a nervous wreck and both of his parents telling me to leave

…I wouldn't blame them if they did, I-I was expecting dinner to be a lot more awkward. The subject never even came up and they were the same as the night before. I-I don't know if that means they know and they support Takato or they're just relieved we didn't have a fight. But I'm glad it ended better than I expected. A lot better.

"…I think he knows," Takato shrugs. "And my Mom, too, now. But they didn't say anything so…I have no idea. It's just his tone when he spoke to me, it's the same he uses when he talks about how proud he is of my Guilmon cakes and things like that…He wasn't disappointed. I was so worried about how my parents would take this and…My Dad was still proud. He smiled, Jen-kun…I didn't think he'd ever smile about this."

"…I'm glad," I say. "They really are proud of you, Takato, I mean…I hear that tone from your Dad a lot, even when I just talk to him on the phone for bread or to see if you're not busy." It's true, Mr. Matsuda is one of those 'proud fathers' and he doesn't hide it. Takato's his only son and he's always going to be proud of him, you can tell from just his voice.

Takato nods. "So, I guess, hearing that tone when…he was saying you would never hate me made me feel so much better and I realized he was right. You…You've been so supportive, I've just been an idiot."

"Don't call yourself an idiot," I roll my eyes, letting out a quiet laugh. "Seriously, Takato, you…You need to work on that."

"I-I just can't believe one stupid plant…" Takato shakes his head. "I shouldn't have left it out like that."

"Put it back up," I say. "Please, Takato…I want to know. Okay? I mean…I felt something and it wasn't disgust."

"Jen, you're not gay."

"I'm Takatosexual, maybe?" I joke. "I-I know I like girls but, well, maybe I…like both or I'm in denial but…Takato, please." I can't believe I'm almost begging for a kiss but…

…I admit, as scary as this is, I know I'd be happy if I did feel the same for Takato. I mean, um…In theory, at least. I-I don't want to hurt Takato and saying 'sorry, I don't swing that way' isn't something I want to just say about his feelings for me.

…Kenta and I did talk now and then after Juri's 'Takato likes Jen' theory. Actually, I probably talk to Kenta more about homosexuality itself than just 'the Takato theory' or just in general compared to Ruki and Juri.

"What would you do if Takato did like you?"

"…I don't know, I mean, I don't want to hurt him by turning him down but it's not like I can force myself to like him or magically turn gay. I'd feel terrible that I couldn't return his feelings. I just know I'd feel guilty."

"Huh, I-I wasn't really expecting that. I mean,you'd really feel guilty over it?"

"Kenta, he's my best friend. He'd do anything for me, right?"

"No question there. I saw what he got you on your last birthday…" …A PS3 Digimon game. Those are not cheap but…Takato was excited that I was opening it, he knew I really wanted that game. Enough to where I would change the subject if it came up near my birthday since I didn't want him to spend so much on me…

…But Takato does things like that, now. Especially for me. I feel guilty about that.

"So, if he'd do anything for me…"

...I guess I'd do anything for him, too. But I don't think I'm forcing anything beyond that first kiss.

Takato sits up in his bed, hanging his legs over the side. "…Jen, I-I don't know. I won't lie, the fact you want to kiss again…I-I'm really tempted to say 'yes,' but…"

"We're still friends, no matter what," I say. "Please."

"…Okay," Takato nods. I stand up and sit on his bed next to him. We sit next to each other in silence, staring at each other with, I guess, sort of 'now what?' Look.

"…Um, should…I start or…?" Takato trails off, I keep quiet and put an arm around him. I take a deep breath, sort of preparing for this…

…If I enjoy it, then…

Takato leans forward but into me as I actually…I pull him closer into a one-armed hug, he's blushing as I sort of hold him against me, wrapping my other arm around him. "Je-Jen…?"

"…I-I think, um, at the very least…" I end the hug a little awkwardly by standing up suddenly. I look on Takato's nightstand…Found it.

…Might as well make it an official Christmas kiss. It's only about 10:30, it's still Christmas.

I take the mistletoe and hang it on the string. "Very least?" Takato asks.

"At the very least, um, make it…romantic, I guess," I let out a nervous laugh, Takato just laughs. I'm blushing as I sit down again and we get back into 'position,' I'm hugging Takato and, this time, he hugs me back…He's smiling a lot and…

…I-I sort of am, too, I-I can't…control it, actually…

…Gods…

"…Re-Ready?" I ask. Takato just nods, we shift into a better position and, not as slowly as before and without much hesitation, we kiss again. It last a few seconds and, um, I sort of…break it into three 'smaller' kisses, which…

…Takato definitely likes that idea. When we finally pull apart, he stares at me in surprise…

…Damn it…

"That was…a Chrismtas kiss…" Takato says, laughing quietly. "Ho-How do you…feel?"

…I-I still…don't really know. And I'm not going to ask to try again. I-I have a different idea…

"We-Well, um," I clear my throat, glancing away. "I-I don't know yet but…I-I…Takato-kun, um…" I stammer like an idiot, shaking.

"What's wrong?" Takato puts a hand on my shoulder.

"No-Nothing, I just…Can we, um, take things slow?"

"What?"

"Can we try to be together and take things slow? I-I don't know how I feel but…If there's a chance I can like you back, I want to take it. Please?"I finally face Takato, he's shocked and…He looks hesitant, he stammers a little as he tries to give some sort of response. "It's not selfish if you say 'yes,' Takato. It's…my idea."

"Are you…serious?"

More than ever on 'this subject.' "Completely," I say. "Please, Takato? I promise, nothing is being forced. I-I really want to know if I feel the same and…I-I wouldn't mind…dating you for a while, I guess," I shrug. "I mean, it'll…be like always. We already go out to dinner, to movies, hang out…I don't think it'll be too weird."

"…What about, um, things like…what we just did?"

"We'll be dating, we're allowed to kiss," I say, blushing as I realize just...how open I am to that idea. "I-I know this is weird but…"

"…Okay," Takato nods. "Can I call you 'Jen-chan,' too?"

"Su-Sure," I nod, quickly. I-I can't believe I'm saying any of this...

Takato gives me a hug, smiling, "Thank you, Jen-chan...I really like you."

"I-I really like you, too," I admit, I'm enjoying the hug, too...

...This is going to be...interesting...To say the least.


The storm ended early, around three in the morning according to the weather report…

…Takato and I fell asleep next to each other, actually. It was not intentional but, a little after our first "Christmas kiss" (as Takato calls it) we just sort of held each other and, after a little bit, went back to playing games on Takato's bed like we would normally do as friends (save for, um, one or two more "Christmas kisses"…And a couple "regular" kisses after midnight…). Actually, things are almost like before, thank the Gods, but…

…Well, it was getting cold, even with the space heater, so Takato offered to let me use his covers and…

…We fell asleep playing games and, um, holding each other. I-I'm so glad when Takato's Mom woke us up she didn't open the door. We were both embarrassed enough...

…But, um, things are…working out, actually. Takato's parents commented on the change in Takato's attitude from the past couple days, saying he was 'a day late' on smiling so much. We didn't tell them why Takato's so happy but…

…I'm happy, too. I-I'm happy seeing Takato happy, that's what's important to me right now. But…

…Do I feel the same? …I-I think the answer is…obvious, actually, but…

…I don't want to admit it. I-I don't! Not right now, at least. I-I want to be alone for a while to think on this. I-I mean, this whole time I've been saying and doing the first thing that popped into my head, I'm acting more like, well, Hirokazu or (even worse) Lianjie! I-I need…I need to be alone for a while to think!

Before breakfast, we also got a text from Kenta: Party's on at noon, my place. Still…nothing on how Hirokazu took the news. We sent a text to him asking what happened, still no reply.

We just finished breakfast, Takato and I are playing with Gil on Takato's desk. Takato's trying to teach him a 'follow the toy' trick with a Guilmon keychain. He's running it along the table in front of him and Gil is…showing interest in it but only in the form of watching it and moving his head around a little. He's not chasing it like we're hoping he will…

…But something tells me he'll pick up on the idea soon enough.

"C'mon, Gil, chase your big brother…Chase Guilmon-niichan!" Takato laughs, I laugh, too. My cell phone goes off on the desk, it startles Gil and he runs over to Takato.

"Mind if I get that?" I ask.

"Go ahead, that's Rinchei's ringtone, right?"

I nod, answering the phone. "Lianjie?"

"Bro! Tell the Matsuda's I'll be there with presents in a little bit! Streets and sky are both clear! Also, dude, just remember: Don. A. Tell. O."

"…What?"

"Trust me! See you soon!"

…Donatello?

I hang up my phone. "Lianjie's on his way with presents and to pick me up. Sorry for…all the trouble."

"Jen, do not apologize for this Christmas. Ever." Takato smiles. "You…promise not to be forcing yourself, right?"

"Promise, want me to try coming out to Gil, too?" I ask, maybe it'll help me the way it did Takato. Takato lets out a laugh and nods. "All…All right. Lizard, please." …Can I even say those two words?

…Do I even know if that's true?

Takato nods, taking Gil and setting him in front of me. "…Gil, as the friend of your owner, I think I should tell you something important about the two of us. I'm going to give dating Takato a try, I think I might feel the same for him and I want him to be happy…And being with him makes me happy, too. So, Gil-chan, I'm…Something other than straight, I guess." I-I couldn't... Ei-Either I'm beyond denial or...

…Maybe I'm bi or there really is such a thing as "Takatosexual" but I know I…care a lot about Takato, maybe even love him.

"You make Takato-san very happy, Jen-kun! I'm glad you're here for him, you're the best friend ever! I hope you get a cool lizard, too, someday so I can have a boyfriend!" Takato 'speaks' for Gil, I can't help but laugh. Gil's gay, now?

I laugh, "Tha-Thanks, Takato-ku—Er…Takato-chan," I'm…still getting used to that.

"Jen, you…Don't have to call me '–chan' all the time…I-I'm not even doing it as much as I thought I would. I think I did it more in my head before last night than I do now. Just what's happening is more than enough." …Takato really is happy right now, I haven't seen him smile this much in a long time. Or look this relaxed since I said those two words I'd been regretting since I said them: We know.

I smile, giving Takato a hug. "I'm just glad this is working so far, I-I was…sort of freaked out when I thought I liked the kiss before but…"

"…Thank you for telling me about that 'theory,'" Takato says, though I think that's the last thing he should ever thank me for. But, after last night…To him, at least, it was a good thing in the end. "Do you want to tell any of the others?"

…Not really, but… "It's only fair, you're out, I'm out. Just, um, don't tell my family, please." ...I feel a little hypocritical saying that since Takato knows I told Lianjie, but he doesn't seem upset or even cares about it.

"Sa-Same with mine, I know," Takato nods. "Thank you so much, Jen-chan…I-I love you." He blushes saying this.

I smile and put an arm around him, "Wo ai ni, Takato," I reply, Takato's smile gets a little bigger as he blushes. To him I know that sounds more romantic but…For me, though I'm pretty sure I mean it…

…I was a little afraid to say 'I love you' in our shared language. So-Sorry, Takato-chan-kun-whatever but…This is all new to me. Even with Kenta's talks before, talking about and experiencing something like this is two entirely different things…

Lianjie gets to the bakery about ten minutes after we let Takato's parents know he was on his way. He calls me downstairs. I have my stuff together and Lianjie's done unloading gifts for the Matsudas and Takato from his car, he puts them all in the dining room. Takato and I offered to help but Lianjie said there was something we're "not allowed to see" and told us to wait in the diningroom.

"Okay, Lil' Bro, Dad wanted Takato to be with you for this since it's a day late and he told us what he got," Lianjie says, grinning as he approaches the Matsuda's dining room with Takato's parents. "So I brought something with me. Something awesome!"

"Huh?"

Lianjie picks up a box with a blanket on it, saying, "Merry Christmas, Mom and Dad are the best!" There's a tag on the blanket with the following words:

TO: Li
Jianliang
FROM: Santa Claus

"And, remember, DONATELLO!"

Lianjie sets the box on the Matsuda's dining room table. I lift off the blanket. My jaw falls immediately upon seeing what's inside.

…Suddenly, Lianjie's obsession with 'Donatello' makes sense…

There's a little box turtle staring up at me from a lettuce dish. "Wh-What the…?"

"Surprise!" Lianjie grins. "They were gonna wait 'til Christmas day when you got back but they didn't want the little guys stuck in their bedroom closet for so long after you got snowed out. They told me to bring yours over, we got ours on Christmas day." Bring mine over?

"Little guys…?" I ask.

"Yeah, Mom and Dad got one for each of us! It's the big gift this year…Well, only gift this year since, well, dude it's a turtle!" Lianjie laughs. Yeah, um, one thing my family has in common with Takato: At any given time at least two of the four Li siblings are begging for some kind of pet…

…I'm amazed my parents held out this long! Let alone got a reptile of any kind after the iguana incident.

"We told your Dad about Gil when he mentioned that he and Mayumi were thinking about getting a pet turtle for all of you," Mr. Matsuda says. "Since dogs and cats are too big and messy for an apartment, they thought reptiles were the way to go. Anything except iguanas, they said." I think they went with turtles since lizards will forever be tainted by a certain large, green lizard all but one of us hated (and that 'one' was stupid enough to keep trying to hold it even after it repeatedly drew blood!)…

"He's so cute!" Takato says, smiling. "He's got to meet Gil!"

"Name him Donatello, please name him Donatello!" Lianjie says.

"Why Donatello?"

"'Cause mine is Leonardo," Lianjie explains. "And Xiao and Jialing might consider changing their names if you get on board. And he so looks like a Donatello!" Now I get it, Lianjie wants to be the proud owner of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was a huge fan as a kid, after all. The American version, not the weird 'magic crystals' anime they made a while back.

"What did they name their turtles?"

"Jialing went with Ishita and Xiaochun named hers…" Lianjie lets out a pained groan. "Shelly. C'mon, do it for poor, poor Shelly…No turtle deserves a name like that."

"I'll…think about it," I say, laughing a little at Lianjie's reaction to the name 'Shelly.'

"Rinchei-san, want to have some custard-pan while Jenrya and Takato introduce their new friends?" Mr. Matsuda asks. Looks like Gil might get that boyfriend…I wonder if lizards and turtles can date.

Lianjie nods with a grin. "Thanks!"

"Thanks, Lianjie, tell me when you're done eating," I say. Takato and I take the turtle upstairs to his room…

…I can't believe this… I definitely like the new pet and, like Gil with Takato, I have something else to think about this Christmas besides the 'other issue.' Gods, I'm acting just like Takato did…Now I see why he was such a wreck yesterday…I'm sorry, Takato, I-I had no idea how hard this is…

"He's so cute, Jen," Takato says again, smiling as we take the turtle out of his box and put him on Takato's desk. He's not too big, about half a foot. He's not very heavy, either, he looks heavier than he really is. "Are you going to name him Donatello for Rinchei?" …No.

"Um…" I shake my head. "I can't really think of anything, though…"

Takato takes Gil out of his tank, setting him in front of the turtle. They keep their distance but Gil hasn't puffed out his beard and the turtle's head isn't in its shell…That's probably a good sign of how they'll react to each other. Gil's really tame and turtles are generally nature's pacifist: Their lives consist of eating grass and bugs while getting mistaken for nicely polished stones.

"Gil-chan, play nice, okay?" Takato says, petting Gil.

Hm…Gil…

"…Terry," I say.

"Terry?"

"Short for Terriermon Junior," I reply.

Takato laughs, "But…Terriermon was, um, I guess dog or a rabbit would be the closest to what he was but…"

I nod. "I was inspired by Guilmon Junior," I reply. "And Terry is a fitting 'turtle name.' Starts with T and won't make Lianjie groan nearly as much as 'Shelly.'" Shelly sounds exactly like the kind of cutesy name Xiaochun would give a pet. I can just imagine the look on Lianjie's face yesterday morning when she picked it out.

Takato laughs, "Terry is a cute name for a turtle."

I might as well try this, too, "Hey, Terry," I say. "A-As your owner, I want you to meet my, um, my boyfriend…Takato. And this is his lizard, Gil-chan. Be friends with him, okay?"

…I can't believe I'm coming out to a turtle…

Takato laughs, "You're cool, Jen-kun! I like being your new pet!" He says for Terry, we both laugh.

"I-I can't believe my parents did this," I say. "I-I mean…They did not want to mess with any pets for us." They always came up with an excuse and…It was usually a good one to not get a pet. Granted, most of our begging was for a dog or a cat (and the dog vs cat debate could turn violent between the four of us when we were kids) and not even Lianjie was dumb enough to ask for a reptile after the iguana. We all figured that would never happen.

I guess we all forgot: Turtles are reptiles and…I don't think any sort of turtle you can find at a pet store would be anything like that iguana. Terry's nice and calm, just like Gil.

I pet Terry's shell, he moves forward towards Gil…They don't seem to mind each other, I'll take that as a good sign for bringing Terry over to visit now and then. Or if Takato does that same with Gil. And I have a feeling we'll be doing just that.

Lianjie finishes his breakfast in about half an hour, I thank the Matsudas for letting me stay and apologize for 'any trouble.'

..Mr. Matsuda replied, "Jenrya, trust me, no trouble at all. Merry Christmas. Hope you have fun at Kenta's party!"Does he know…? He wouldn't know about last night (unless he put two and two together with how happy Takato suddenly is) but Takato's orientation? …Takato suspected that they 'had a theory,' too.

I have Terry in my lap in his box, Lianjie told me Dad set up his tank in my room and he's been there since Christmas day. Lianjie also told me how much he likes Leonardo (and that 'Terry' is an 'okay' name for a turtle…I don't think I've heard the last of 'Donatello,' though).

Lianjie starts to drive home, he looks to me for a moment, saying, "So, um, how'd it go with Takato? …Things okay?"

"Ye-Yeah, um…Things are good, Takato's happy, actually."

"Happy? Great!" Lianjie says. "So, um, the kiss didn't make things awkward, I mean…"

"…Not by the third one," I whisper, feeling the blush on my face. I can't believe I said that, even if it was…hopefully quietly enough for Lianjie to reply with 'what? I didn't hear you.'

"Wh-Whoah, whoah, whoah…Wait, hold it! Back up! THIRD kiss?" ...Guess not.

"…Ye-Yeah, um…The first kiss was, sort of, two kisses since…The first wasn't all that good and…I asked Takato to…let me kiss him again last night. T-To see if I…actually liked it…" My face is bright red, I can see it in the rearview mirror. I can't believe I'm telling Lianjie of all people about this…

"…Okay, Jianliang, no offense but…These are the, ah, general rules," Lianjie begins. General rules?

"What?"

Lianjie holds up one finger. "One kiss is 'curiosity,'" He begins, he holds up two fingers. "Two kisses is 'experimenting.'" He holds up three fingers. "Three kisses is…Dude, that's…That's gay."

…Lianjie…

I let out a long, heavy sigh, looking down at Terry. "I know…"I whisper, I feel my eyes starting to sting.

"…Jianliang?"

"…I-I…I think…I…"

"…Holy shit…" Lianjie stops at a light, as soon as it changes color he pulls over in front of a café just down the street. "We're havin' breakfast." What?

"Excuse me?"

"You n' me, late Christmas breakfast. Donaterry, too," Lianjie says, turning off the car. …Donaterry? …Okay, Lianjie, you need to watch less cartoons.

"Lianjie—"

"I mean it," Lianjie says, "Car ain't startin' 'til after we eat, got it?"

I nod, sighing and wiping my eyes with my sleeve after a couple tears make their way down my cheek. I was hoping to wipe them before then, especially since I know Lianjie saw them.

"…Yeah, we…We gotta talk," Lianjie's tone worries me, it sounds...a little like Hirokazu's did. He opens his door, motioning for me to get out, too. "C'mon."

I set Terry on my seat and go to the café door, Lianjie stays put. "Lianjie?"

"Dude, Terrytello's gonna freeze. Bring him in, I don't give a crap what they say," he says, opening his door and getting Terry's box from my seat.

…He sort of has a point. "Okay." This breakfast will not last long. That's a good thing, if you ask me. Thanks, Terry, you're officially a great pet. Anything that shortens what is guranteed to be an awkward time with Lianjie is a very good thing!

Lianjie goes into the café after passing Terry to me, he takes a seat at a booth near the entrance. I put Terry on the seat next to me and against the wall.

"Um…What's in…your box?" Our waiter asks, passing us our menus.

"Pet rock," Lianjie replies. Pet ROCK? Lianjie, do you really think that's going to work? "Pot of black tea, please."

"Green, please," I say, quietly.

"…Pet…rock?" Our waiter looks to Terry's box, the fact he started moving and has his head and legs out of his shell isn't helping his 'camouflage.' "We can't allow pets in here."

"Dude, are you anti-rock or something? Not cool, man, not cool. Especially so soon after Christmas, you just give up on that whole 'peace and love thing' the next day? I'm shocked, man! Shocked!" Lianjie crosses his arms, shaking his head. Um, I'm not sure if Terry would like being called a 'pet rock,' Lianjie…

Our waiter rolls his eyes. "If the manager asks, I didn't see anything."

"Xiexie," Lianjie says with a grin and a nod. Our waiter goes off to get our tea as we look over the menu.

We sit in almost complete silence. The only noise comes from Terry scratching in his box now and then. It's a little chilly in here, actually, I'm glad Lianjie talked me into bringing him in, the car would be so much colder. We get our tea and place our orders, the waiter seems to have lightened up about the 'pet rock.' Terry's not making any noise to draw attention to himself so that might help a little.

Lianjie takes a deep breath, lowering his head. "…Okay, first…I'm sorry."

"Sorry?"

"I-I had…no idea you were…dealing with this, I guess," Lianjie says, "I-I wouldn't have made all those boyfriend jokes if…I knew, okay? I-I'm sorry, Jianliang."

"…Li-Lianjie, I didn't….I didn't know I was dealing with this either," I sigh. "It's…sort of new."

"…Oh, well…Still sorry, I guess," Lianjie shrugs, scratching the back of his head. "So, um, you and Takato…I-I just wanna say I don't have a problem with this. I mean, whatever makes you happy, y'know? If I'm weird about anything it's just…I-I didn't really see this coming, so…It's just a shock right now, you know?"

"I didn't either," I say, quietly. I lower my head to try to hide how embarrassed I'm sure I look. I glance to Terry, he's sitting on the furthest side of the box, staring up at me with only his head sticking out of his shell…

"Uh, you really didn't? Jianliang, I thought you meant 'finally being with Takato' at first or something…I mean, wouldn't you of all people be the first to really know?" Lianjie gives me a confused look. "You're telling me you never thought of Takato as more than a friend 'til that kiss or something?"

"Not so much that but…" I shrug. "It's complicated, Lianjie, I'm still trying to figure all this out."

"Well, then, dude…Talk! C'mon, it'll help…And you're with the older sibling who won't rant about how cute the two of you'd look together every couple minutes. Take advantage of that, Jianliang."

I laugh a little. "Ye-Yeah, I…I guess…"

"…Dude, please, don't feel weird. I-I know, I'm the last person you'd wanna talk to about this, right? I'm sorry for driving you insane the other day, I didn't know it'd…Well…Okay, maybe if thinking Takato was gay was less of a joke to me at the time…" Huh?

"Wa-Wait, you thought…?"

Lianjie shrugs. "Just a little, I wasn't serious but…I dunno how to put it but, um, your friend is just kinda, um, his sleeves aren't the 'most in tact' in the drawer, you know?" Cut sleeve…Duan xiu zhi pi, 'the passion of the cut sleeve' is a Chinese term for homosexuality and 'a cut sleeve' is someone who's gay. "At least, that's sorta how I felt. It's where the whole 'boyfriend' joke came from and…If I knew he really was and you were, um, into him, I-I swear…Sorry again, bro."

"O-Oh…" Even Lianjie suspected Takato? How did I not notice until Kenta, Juri and Ruki told me?

…Well, actually, like I said when I more or less confessed: We're close enough to where 'going out' means 'we can kiss and say we love each other now.' I mean, Takato and I are always together and…

…Looking back, even Takato made the odd comment now and then. Usually quoting something Ruki said about him and applying it to us. I guess I stopped noticing since he stopped after Ruki did, and we know why Ruki stopped... Before, Ruki would make a gay joke in front of me and I'd hear it again later as 'Remember what Ruki said?' If I wasn't there, he'd say 'Guess what Ruki joked about today…' Actually, I wonder how many of those were really 'from Ruki.' But, either way, I'd just laugh it off. It wasn't until I heard 'the theory' that gay jokes about Takato made me think of 'the possibility' he was gay or got me worried about upsetting him and he stopped quoting Ruki long before that…

…The fact those jokes, when she included me in them, never bothered me, though. I'd just laugh them off instead…Was it because I just shrugged them off as 'I know I'm straight, let her think what she wants' or 'it's funny because it's true and I'm blind to that fact?'

"Yeah, um, I didn't say anything at the time since I felt really bad in case I did offend him with that. And now…Sorry if I got to you, too."

"I really didn't even consider the possibility until yesterday," I say. "Don't worry…Thank you for not being upset."

"Hey, my little bro's got someone and spent Christmas with that person…Dude, that's awesome!" Lianjie grins. "I never spent Christmas Eve with any of my girlfriends, so yeah, you've obviously got someone special."

I can't hold back the smile on my face, but I manage to hide it by keeping my head down. "Thanks, Lianjie-ge."

"So, um, now that it's official...He confessed, right?"

"Sort of…He told me he…loved me," I have trouble saying those two words, especially in front of Lianjie, but…The calm expression on his face is pretty relieving, actually, he really isn't upset. I-I can't believe he's so open to this…Christmas miracle or did Mom and Dad get us a new Lianjie, too? "Before the kisses but…I-I was the one who confessed officially, I think," Again, I know I'm blushing. Especially since I actually do realize: I was the one who confessed, the one who started all this thinking he couldn't return Takato's feelings. "I-I asked him if we could take things slow, to be sure I…really feel the same."

"But the answer's obvious, right?"

I take a deep breath and just nod, exhaling slowly as I do. "Yeah," I whisper.

"…Jianliang, c'mon, you…Dude, I-I just realized, you haven't even said the G-word…" He trails off. "You said it a ton of times before you left and told me about Takato. What's up?"

"I-I haven't?" I ask, looking up to Lianjie.

"Yeah, I mean, before it was 'Takato's gay' this, 'Takato's gay' that…What about 'I'm gay' this, 'I'm gay' that? What gives? You…Jianliang, I-I thought you were nervous 'cause you were coming out to me. You're afraid of even saying gay? Du-Dude, come on! That's not you!"

"I-I was neverous because of telling you, too, but…I-I guess realizing I might be…" I trail off, I actually can't say it.

…I'm just like Takato was! Maybe even worse!

"…Gaaay?" Lianjie says, slowly, rolling his eyes. …Yeah, that

"…That makes it hard to acknowledge, I guess," I say.

"So you're just kinda scared, right? Like, um, you didn't realize something that should've been obvious?"

I nod. "Pre-Pretty much."

"Say it."

"What?"

"'I'm gay,'" Lianjie says. "Say those two words."

"…No."

"…Do it," Lianjie says. "It'll help." …Is he going to tell me to come out to Terry, too?

"Lianjie—"

"Dude, it's easy! Watch!" Lianjie turns in his seat, facing the kitchen. Our waiter is coming by with our orders. I ordered a bowl of ramen, Lianjie ordered some baozi. Lianjie glances back to me with a grin…

…You're not…

Our waiter sets down our orders. "Can I get you anything else?"

"I'm gay," Lianjie says, smiling.

"…Excuse me?"

"I'm gay." Lianjie repeats.

"…Okay… Can I…get you anything else…?" …I admit, I'm doing my best not to laugh at both the huge grin on Lianjie's face and the absolutely shocked expression our waiter has right now.

"Nah, we're good. Thanks!" Lianjie says with a quick nod.

"…Enjoy your meal," Our waiter backs up for his first few steps and walks off.

"I think he likes me," Lianjie grins, picking apart one of his baozi. "Your turn."

"...Did you really just do that?" I ask.

"I had to show you how easy it is to say two words. Your. Turn." Lianjie says.

Okay, my brother did just come out to the waiter…Even though he isn't gay. I-I guess I should try. "…I'm gay," I whisper.

"Louder."

"No."

"Louder!"

"…Lianjie…"

"Dude, say it louder or I will stand up and scream it," Lianjie warns, leaning forward. "I'll do it." I'm actually afraid he will!

"Okay, okay…I'm…I'm gay," I say in my normal tone of voice. Not nearly as confidently as I'm sure Lianjie want me to but I saidit!

Lianjie leans back, crossing his arms and smiling. "That's my out and proud little bro!"

"I'm not out, please don't tell anyone about any of this," I say, quickly.

"Fine, that's my out-to-two-people-and-a-turtle and just-short-of-pissing-his-pants-over-his-homosexual-attraction-to-Takato-Matsuda little bro…Please be out and proud soon, though, that's easier to say." Out to two people and a turtle? How'd he know I—Wait, Terry's right next to me, he must mean that.

"I-I'll…see what I can do…" I glance away, Lianjie just chuckles.

"Just relax, Jianliang, okay? I-I mean it, you dwell on things like this too much and…Shit, if you're freaking out this much, I seriously underestimated how much Takato had to be freaking out. Was there a lot of screaming?"

"No screaming," I shake my head. Takato cries, Lianjie, you know and have made fun of him for it.

"What about the night after you two confessed? Any screaming then?"

"Huh?" I give Lianjie a confused look as I eat some of my ramen.

Lianjie just gives me this huge grin and lets out the same ominous chuckle he did whenever he said 'Donatello.'

Suddenly, I turn bright red and nearly choke on my ramen noodles as I realize what he meant by that! Lianjie's chuckle turns into a fit of roraring laughter as I try to exhale a mouthful of ramen noodles and regain my composure.

…LIANJIE…!


Breakfast with Lianjie went…

…As well as breakfast with Lianjie Li can go. Especially since part of Lianjie's tip to the waiter was his cell phone number on a thousand yen note!

My brother's ability to show support in the most ludicrous way possible is…Actually surprisingly helpful. I know a lot of it is his way of trying to calm me down by making me laugh. And something tells me we are going to go down as legends with the wait staff at that café: The turtle-in-a-box guy and his "gay" older brother.

I admit, I had trouble keeping a straight face when the waiter picked up his tip, I'm amazed Lianjie managed to keep one, he even had the same grin as when he told him was "gay."

Lianjie did promise to keep this between the two of us. I know he will, Lianjie can keep a secret…Usually. When it's really important, at least.

When we got home, I thanked my parents profusely for Terry and met Terry's "siblings." The first being Leonardo, whose tank Lianjie had already decorated with a pair of katana-shaped letter openers glued to one of the far sides under the heat lamp, and a blue bandana draped over the other. The second being Ishita, who was actually the largest (Jialing said "I gave it a name with the Kanji for 'rock' in it for a reason." But she really likes her turtle). And last, but not least, Shelly…

…After meeting Shelly (who was the "smallest and cutest" according to Xiaochun), her name actually fits really well. She looks like a "Shelly," like you have to meet the turtle to see how the name actually isn't as bad as Lianjie makes it out to be. Also, it is confirmed: Xiaochun got the only female turtle, not that our parents were worried she and Jialing (or Lianjie and I) would fight over her. They only had three males and a female.

They all liked the name "Terry," but thought "Terriermon Junior" being his "full name" was a little weird until I told them "Guilmon Junior" inspired it (though it still doesn't make any sense).

I took Terry to my room and put him in his tank. I spent the next hour or so before Kenta's party finally thinking to myself…

…The first thing I had to consider was the kiss… More the fact that it was the first thing I leapt to, actually. I-I mean, as soon as Takato started to get upset, I held mistletoe over my head and said "Kiss me." And, after the scene in the restaurant, I'm worried that's a sign I'm more like Lianjie than I realize…A realization that is probably going to give me nightmares until June.

But I think some of it was also for the same reason Takato even asked about the kiss. I'm sure his mind was screaming "There's no way Jen will say 'you' or confess like you want him to," my mind said "There's no way Takato will say 'yes.'"

But a little voice in the furthest, darkest region of our brains was whispering, "But there's still a chance he might." …I think that's why I said it, the same reason Takato asked if there was anyone I would kiss under the mistletoe if I had to…

…And I know if Kenta was the one who asked me that question, I'd have said "Takato," not Kenta.

I almost wish I had said "Takato." …I wonder if things would have been different, easier on both of us if I had. I doubt it, though. Takato would have just gotten his hopes up, maybe even confessed and…I would have to say 'I'm not gay,' possibly not even realizing how…

Wrong I was about that. I-I think I'm bi, though…I know I've liked girls in the past. I-I'm bi with a preference to girls. That has to be it…If not, then I'm obviously deeper in the closet than Takato ever was.

After that it's "taking things slow" and that I "might" feel the same…At this point, the answer is obvious, Lianjie made that clear: I'm gay(…ish). I do feel the same. I think all that was a way to "ease" into the idea of accepting my feelings for him…

…My feelings for…him

…Takato Matsuda…

…I'm gay.

It's…easier to say that now, actually. I came out to Terry again as practice after first checking outside my room and making sure my door was closed tight. I said "gay" this time. I said "I love Takato." I tried it again because I have a feeling, before the day is out, at least Kenta will know Takato and I are together. That I need to be ready for…

…And I think I am. And I'm going to tell Takato we're "official," we don't have to "ease" into anything. I-I don't think I blinded myself like Kenta did…

…Much. I-I realize there are some things I've done that, um, weren't something I'd do if I wasn't at least a little interested in Takato. The occasional…peek…in gym or the bath house I chalked up to "curiosity."

I-I know Hirokazu's done it and he's Hirokazu!

…I swear, I just heard Ruki's voice in my head saying the word "exactly" just now. Ruki, get out of my brain!

I got a phone call from Takato just as I was leaving the apartment, he'll wait for me outside of Kenta's apartment building before going up. He still hasn't heard from either Kenta or Hirokazu, though…

…We're getting really worried about that, actually.

I walk up the snow covered sidewalk to Kenta's building, Takato's waiting outside the doors on a bench in a heavy blue coat and a couple shopping bags full of gifts next to him…Takato always goes all out these days, after all. I have a single bag at my side with gifts, save for the ones I had for Takato.

I notice he's also wearing the new goggles I got him, I'm glad to see he likes them. And they…look really good on him—Okay, cute on him. There, I-I said it! Happy now? TAKATO MATSUDA IS CUTE!

…Okay, maybe I do need to work on this "acceptance" thing a little more.

We both wave to each other as I approach and sit next to him. Takato does look a little weird, though…

"Takato, is…something wrong?"

"I-I, um, I had a very close call after you left," Takato says, laughing nervously. …Close call?

"What happened?"

"Um, you know how I thought my Dad knew?" Takato asks. I nod. "After you left, he and my Mom, um, we were going to open gifts but they first told me they wanted to apologize for…Well, for embarrassing me, they said."

"Huh?"

"The, um, mountain of presents. They realized why I was sort of upset when you were near the tree and everything and…When my Dad was talking to me, he was worried I was upset because, well, I was worried you thought I was selfish or spoiled because of them and…I didn't say anything because I didn't want to be rude to my parents or make them think I didn't…appreciate everything." Yeah, I know Takato felt weird about me seeing that mountain of presents but I know he'd feel even worse if he made his parents think he didn't like them or came off as rude to them – Takato's one of the few people who get that many gifts and appreciate the thought put into them (which I know his parents do put thought into, a lot of his gifts are usually practical things they knew he wanted or could use, not just toys and games like Hirokazu or Kenta would get). "Whi-Which…It was sort of true but…" Takato sighs, shaking his head. "That was what he meant by 'Jenrya doesn't think like that,' and what he thought…I-I…I…" Takato holds back a laugh. "They even apologized for 'showing off' Gil-chan on Christmas Eve," Takato smiles a little, saying, "I told them that was no problem, you really liked Gil-chan. They said the reason they did it was because they knew about Terry."

I laugh, "Looks like good things happen when Matsudas and Lis get together…" In many ways.

Takato nods with a laugh. "I'm so glad they talked to me first, though. It was right after you left."

"Why?"

"Because, um, I-I was…Jen, after last night, I-I was so happy and so…I guess confident that…I almost said to my Dad, 'you were right. Thank you for accepting me.'" …Wow…

"…That…would have been awkward," I say. More awkward than your brother faking gay to build your confidence and-slash-or terrorize a waiter, even…I haveto tell Takato about that at some point. Kenta, too, I just know Kenta would love hearing that since…

…He may have let it slip once or twice that he thinks Lianjie is cute. Or more specifically (and disturbing) the first time when he said Lianjie has a nice ass. …I told Kenta, "Kenta-kun, you know I'm not homophobic and don't object to your orientation in the slightestBut can we please not talk about my brother's ass!" …We both ended up laughing really hard in the end but it's not a topic I want to ever think about.

"Very," Takato sighs. "S-So, um, I told them that I was…just worried about something I shouldn't have been as usual and you didn't say anything or really notice the gifts. So, um, yeah…Th-They don't suspect anything, I think."

I nod. "Thank the Gods they spoke to you first…"

"Yeah," Takato nods. "I-It is…sort of funny in a…scary way, I guess." He starts to get up. "Ready to go?"

"Um, before that…" I say, looking to Takato. He sits back down, nodding. I lean forward, resting my hands on my hips and taking a deep breath. This is it, I'm going to do this… "…I love you, Takato-chan. And…I know I feel the same way. I'm sorry I made you upset before, though. And how, um, weird I'm being about all this. I'm just scared, I understand how you felt the other day, now."

"Jen-chan…" Takato gives me a hug. "…Thank you. Please, don't apologize, though, I understand. Trust me, I understand why you wanted to 'take things slow.' I'm not afraid any more because of that, I think…I've felt so much better since last night."

"Merry Christmas, Takato-chan," I say, hugging back. "Thank you—"

"Whoah…Christmas lovefest!" …Hirokazu?

Takato and I both break off the hug and sit straight up. Hirokazu's behind us with a wrapped gift under his shoulder, the bow crushed from being under his arm. "…Hirokazu…?"

"Hey, guys!" Hirokazu's got his usual grin, no sign of…any fight with Kenta or anything. Given the fact he's here is a good sign that he's not mad or anything. He just waves as he walks up to us. He seems unfazed by our hug, too…I guess he knows.

Thank the Gods…That has to mean he's okay with Kenta!

"Hirokazu-kun…" Takato trails off, looking away. "Um…Hi."

"…What? Something wrong?" Hirokazu stops in front of us. "Seriously, don't mind me."

"So, um, I take it…Things went okay with Kenta…?" I ask.

"Huh? Whaddya mean?"

I clear my throat, my voice going a little quiet as I say, "We-Well, you…don't mind us, so…Tha-That means Kenta's still your friend?"

"…Mind…you—Wait…" Hirokazu's eyes widen and his jaw falls. "…DUDE!"

…He didn't know?

Takato and I exchange confused glances, mine might have a hint of 'Sorry I just outted both of us' to it.

"…Um…No?" I reply.

Hirokazu clears his throat. "Uh…How long…?"

"…About fourteen hours?" I look to Takato, he shrugs with a nod.

"Oh, happy…Half-day-nniversary! You two are gay, though?"

We nod. He…wouldn't have figured that out from Kenta telling Takato he was gay?

"Cool!"

"…So, um, you accept Kenta?" I ask.

"Hell yeah!"

"Bu-But, um, on the phone you sounded…really serious when you found out," Takato says. "You told him to hang up and everything."

"Oh, yeah, he was kinda freaked 'bout that…He gave me my phone and I made a phone call." Hirokazu shrugs. "He'll tell you the rest, I mean…Let's just say I got Kenta an awesome last minute gift!"

I'm confused.

"So that means you have no problem with…Kenta being gay?" Takato asks. "Or…us?"

Hirokazu gives a nod, still grinning.

"Any idea why Kenta hasn't answered any of his phone calls?" I ask.

"'Cause he loves his present," Hirokazu says. Again, I'm confused. Hirokazu starts into the building, we follow after him and take the elevator. I help Takato carry his gifts in since I only have one bag "So, who confessed?"

"…I did," I say, blushing. "Um…Can you not tell anyone, though?"

"Sure," Hirokazu nods. "Kenta asked me not to tell anyone 'bout him, but since you guys knew, I guess it's okay. Does Kenta know?" I'm still amazed he didn't make the connection that Takato was gay.

"Just…about me," Takato says, nervously. We're both actually a little nervous talking to Hirokazu about this. My heart is racing and I think Takato's trembling a little. I-I mean…We've both been 'out' for less than forty-eight hours (twenty-four for me, actually, minus an extra twelve for the 'realization period') and now Hirokazu knows...And we were worried he was homophobic until about two minutes ago.

"Huh, I was wondering why he told you he'd come out but…" Hirokazu shrugs. "He tried to claim it was a joke while I was dialing but…Um, given how scared shitless he looked, I didn't really believe him."

I nod, I'm sure Kenta looked 'scared shitless' at the time. I'm glad things obviously worked out. "Who did you call?"

"You'll see…" Hirokazu chuckles as the elevator doors open. We all walk to Kenta's apartment and knock on the door.

Kenta answers, "Hey, guys! Merry-Day-After-Christmas!" He has a huge smile on his face. "You're just in time!"

"Ryou here?" Hirokazu asks.

"First to arrive!" Kenta says. "Juri, too. Ruki's gonna be a little late."

"Figured," Hirokazu grins. He walks into the apartment, taking off his shoes. Takato and I step in and do the same. We drop off our gifts at the tree and meet up with Kenta and Hirokazu in the living room.

"Kenta-kun, we've been worried sick since…" I trail off quietly as I see Ryou and Juri nearby. I whisper. "You-know-what. A-Are you okay?"

"Better. Than. Ever."Kenta says, smiling. "Hirokazu's the best!"

"Heh, Merry Christmas, Kenta," Hirokazu says. He looks to the refreshment table behind Kenta's living room couch. "Heeey! Is that green tea mochi?"

"I went out and bought a ton extra just for a certain someone…" Kenta trails off. Things obviously went well for Kenta, green tea mochi is Hirokazu's favorite. "Jen-kun, Takato-kun, we gotta talk in my room! Hiro-kun, mind, um, making sure Juri doesn't hear anything? For…you-know-who's sake?" …Juri knows, Kenta.

...Unless something else happened yesterday...

Hirokazu nods. "Same for Ruki, right? You mean…that thing, right?" Kenta nods. He looks to us. "Listen, Ruki can never know about this, 'kay?" About what?

"Ri-Right," Takato says. I just nod slowly.

Hirokazu and Kenta are making less sense than usual.

Kenta leads Takato and I to his room, he closes the door tight and goes to his bed. Takato and I sit on the chairs by his desk. Kenta first looks to me and crosses his arms. "First…Someone here has some explaining to do…"

I nod. "So-Sorry, Kenta, it's…A long story," I sigh. He's a little pissed I let Takato's secret out, I guess.

Kenta shakes his head. "I'm really sorry, Takato-kun. I swear, we only talked about it because we were worried you weren't handling it well. It started when…Well, you noticed that Ruki stopped her 'Takato's gay' jokes, right?"

Takato nods. "Yeah, I noticed after a while that she stopped making them about me and just focused on you and Hirokazu."

Kenta nods. "She noticed how you got when she made them, she put two and two together and told Juri. I found out after I let it slip to Juri I liked Ryou...And Jen because we thought he could keep a secret…"

"Kenta-kun, re-really, it's okay," Takato says. "I'm glad Jen told me. It worked out in the end…And I, um, sort of started it. I-I had some mistletoe hanging as a joke and…I asked Jen who he'd kiss if…it was just you, me, Hirokazu and Ryou and he wasn't allowed to back out. I-I was…I don't know what I was thinking but…"

"I told Takato 'we know,'" I say, quietly. "It was…chaotic at first but…"

"…Jen made me feel at ease about everything," Takato says. "He really did. It's okay he told me and I'm not mad about your…theory. Especially since you were right and I know you mean it when you say it was because you were worried."

Kenta nods. "Okay, Jen, I forgive you. I didn't tell Juri or Ruki what you did but…Ruki's probably gonna kick your ass for it. Fair warning. And I was your answer to that, you said?"

"Um…A-At first," I glance to Takato, nervously. "I-I would have said 'Takato' if I wasn't afraid I'd get his hopes up."

"I knew it," Kenta smirks. "Did you get that kiss, Takato?"

"…Jen, do you want to answer that?" Takato looks to me, I think he wants to make sure I'm okay with coming out to Kenta.

"…He did," I say, turning to Kenta.

"I knew it!" Kenta crosses his arm with a smirk. "You are gay!" What?

"Ex-Excuse me?" I ask.

"You and Takato, right? That's how it ended?" …Kenta, how the hell did you…?

"Ke-Kenta-kun? How did you know?" Takato asks. "I-It's…It's what happened, you're right but…"

"…You never…said anything…" I trail off. Kenta, if you thought I was gay this whole time…?

"Well, Jen-kun, it's…a little hard to picture since you always made a big deal about how you couldn't like Takato back but…I'll explain later," Kenta's got a huge grin on his face. It actually reminds me of Lianjie's back at the café. That's not comforting.

"Yeah, um, could you tell us what happened yesterday?" I ask. "I-I mean…We ran into Hirokazu outside of your apartment and he was normal! If we didn't hear him yesterday, we'd have thought nothing happened and…Your phone was off and you never texted us back!"

"I was busy," Kenta replies. "After I hang up, Hirokazu took his phone and…Well, I tried telling him it was a bad joke but, well, I was so close to pissing myself that he didn't believe a word of it. For once," Kenta shrugs. "I-I apologized and he said 'for what?' I mean, he just…He went from dead serious to 'regular Hirokazu!' I told him 'you said we had to talk' and he said 'Yeah! After this phone call!' I-I was afraid he was outting me and…He sorta was but…In the best way possible!"

"…Best way possible?" I ask.

Kenta grins. "His 'friend' picked up and he said, 'Dude! Good news! Kenta's gay, too!'" …Good news…?

…Wait…

"Hi-Hirokazu said 'good news?' He was…happy about it?" I ask. Kenta nods. …Holy shit…! They had to talk because…? Hirokazu got him a 'last minute present' he 'really liked' and…Kenta bought Hirokazu his favorite mochi and RUKI can never know? A-And…He said Kenta's gay, too? "…Kenta…You…and Hirokazu?"

"…Hirokazu, Jen?" Kenta rolls his eyes. "Jen, Hirokazu has twelve gigabytes of lesbian porn photos. And we know this because he tells us every milestone gigabyte! Jen, gay men don't have that much lesbian porn…Most straight men don't have that much lesbian porn. Nor do members of the lesbian porn industry."

"…Oh, right…" I nod, rolling my eyes. Stupid assumption. "I forgot, I fixed his laptop once…" His desktop background was 'stuck' as an image he accidentally set as his background instead of saving like he wanted to…

…And it wasn't 'stuck' because of any kind of virus or glitch, it was stuck because Hirokazu lost the website he found the photo on and asked me if I could somehow save it for him! That's right, Hirokazu brought his laptop to me so that I could help him save an image to his porn collection!

…Is it wrong I was actually very impressed by how well organized said collection is? I mean, for something Hirokazu had a part in it was in better shape than my MP3 or anime collection (and I put a lot of work into archiving the former).

Still, that was the most awkward laptop repair job of my life! I made sure to write down instructions for future reference (both handwritten and saved to a text file on his laptop) because I NEVER WANTED HIM TO ASK ME TO DO THAT EVER AGAIN!

"You…saw that background, too?" Takato asks, looking to me.

"You saw it?"

Takato gives a slow nod.

"…Do I even want to know?" Kenta asks.

"No," Takato and I say and shake our heads in perfect unison.

"Thought so," Kenta nods. "No, Jen, Hirokazu called a friend who, by the way, also thinks glasses and goggles are cute!" He gives me a wink, I blush. Ke-Kenta, I really meant that about girlsOkay, I don't know any girls with goggles but…Takato makes goggles cuter than glasses on a girl!

…Okay and maybe Kenta is kind of cute but…I-I didn't realize I felt that way at the time!

Great, I not only realize I'm gay but I need to come to terms with the fact I have an eyewear fetish, too.

Takato gives me a confused look, then turns back to Kenta. "So, um, what happened?"

"Well, a trip through a blizzard later…I spent Christmas with someone, too," Kenta smiles. "And, Takato? I knew Jen was gay because only Takato Matsuda's boyfriend would think his boyfriend is cuter than mine!" …Cuter…than…?

…Holy shit…

No wonder Ruki can never know…

"…You…and…Ryou?" I whisper. Takato's jaw is almost on the floor.

Kenta simply crosses his arms and smiles proudly. "Because of the weather, of course, we had to cancel the party so Ryou couldn't make it to confess in person…Instead, he told Hirokazu he could tell me about a little secret Hirokazu found out about after they split a big bottle of sake."

"…Ryou…?" Takato asks. "He's…?"

Kenta nods. "Apparently sake makes Ryou-chan a little on the 'affectionate' side. He thought Hirokazu was bi and tried to kiss him and, well, the sake also made it so Ryou couldn't shut up, either, no matter how nervous or embarrassed he got. He told Hirokazu everything and mentioned that he not only thought 'glasses are cute,' but liked me! As soon as Hirokazu got to that part, I was getting a coat, a pair of snow shoes and ready to walk to Ryou's with three different pairs of glasses and the biggest bottle of sake I could find! I told Hirokazu how much I liked Ryou and..." Kenta lets out a laugh, saying, "Best. Christmas. Ever."

"I-I take it that's what Ruki can never know about…?" I trail off.

Kenta nods. "Ryou…doesn't want anyone else to know yet, but I told him about…Okay, sorry to give you crap about it, Jen, since I did tell Ryou about Takato and my theory on you but…It put Ryou at ease after I showed up at the door, he was a little nervous that he gave Hirokazu the okay to out him to me."

"I-I understand," I say. I told Takato about Kenta for the same reason. "A-And, um, we told Hirokazu about us outside," I say. "He saw us hugging and, well, we thought he knew about Takato at least," I shrug.

"Yeah, um, when I called him after Ryou and I spent some time under the mistletoe, he actually asked what Takato had to do in exchange for me coming out," Kenta rolls his eyes. "I just said 'it was just a stupid Christmas dare.' He really didn't put two and two together? I thought he did after we hang up."

I shake my head. "Don't forget who you're talking about, Kenta-kun." Kenta laughs.

Kenta told us how his Christmas Day went: He spent it with Ryou 'under the mistletoe.' While we gave Kenta the details on what happened with us. Kenta was happy for us, of course, we were very happy for him. I told Takato how much Kenta liked Ryou, based on what he'd told Juri, Ruki and I.

…But, given how well we thought we knew Ryou…

Takato and I are chalking this one up to "Christmas Miracle" or "Santa Claus really likes Kentathis year."


We're out.

Takato and I.

It's the new year and we're out to all of our friends. It started with the party, of course, we told Ruki and Juri. They were the only two who didn't know…

…Juri was really happy for Takato, she hugged him and told him she was happy he was happy. And was even happier that he was with who he wanted, though she didn't suspect me at all.

As for Ruki?

"Thank the Gods, you're outI can finally bring my list of 1,0001 Takato Gay Jokes out of retirement! Expect them come the new year, MatsudaCongratulations on the fact Jen's one hell of a closet case. In fact, Jen, I think I'll write a sequel to my first list: '2,0002 Jenrya Li Gay Jokes.'" …That's Ruki's way of saying she supports us, of course. Ryou expressed his support in private…After the party. Actually, since Ruki arrived, he sort of avoided us. Even Kenta, but Kenta "understood" and would put up with it if it meant they were together…And Ryou confirmed, he really likes Kenta. A lot.

Apparently, Ryou is very deep in the closet. Deep enough to where he still has trouble with the word "love." The only person who knew was Hirokazu. In fact, the reason Hirokazu told Kenta the story about Ryou was because he was still too nervous to confess! Ryou Akiyama! I, at first, couldn't believe it but...

...After what I went through with Takato, I told Ryou I 'could relate.' We're both sort of helping each other adjust to this, but we both agree on one thing:

We're both very happy right now.

Kenta's been helping him come to terms with it, too, and not just "with his lips" as Hirokazu put it. Kenta's never been so happy before, but it's obvious why: He got the person he's both loved and obsessed over in terms of looks for years.

The gift exchange at the party was fun. Takato's gifts, as always, were very much appreciated…Though, Takato wanted to get something extra for Ruki, Juri and Kenta, too, which he did later. It was to thank them for including me in on the secret…

…Juri and Ruki only forgave me for telling Takato because we ended up together. If I was "still straight," I'd be a dead man, according to Ruki. Especially if Takato didn't take things well…But Takato's become a lot more confident since we got together. Juri says she thinks it's "because of how in love he looks." She likes to tease him a little and, to my surprise, the way Takato reacts to that…

…He's actually started playing into it. Not, um, like Kenta does or anything but Takato likes joking around with Juri about the fact he's gay. I guess he needed some time to come to terms with the idea of being out to someone, let alone a bunch of people who guessed! We assured him, though, he's not obviously gay or anything like that. I never suspected anything until after I found out about Kenta.

Takato felt a lot better after hearing that and the fact Ryou and Hirokazu didn't suspect a thing also helped. Me, too, since I was a bigger shock to them than Takato was! Sorry, Takato, but…I'm sort of relived by that.

Things are going really well, actually. I'm feeling a lot better about things,

I'm putting Terry-chan in his box. I was invited back to the bakery for dinner by Takato's parents. They even said Terry could join, too. Takato was the one who requested it, our new pets both like each other, Gil even perks up a little when he sees me carrying Terry over to his tank. I'm on the phone with Takato, getting ready to leave.

"I've got him in his box right now, Takato-chan," I say, smiling down at Terry. "He's excited, I think."

"I'll tell Gil-chan his boyfriend is on his way," Takato jokes. Ha ha ha, ever since the party we've joked about Gil-chan and Terry-chan 'dating' like we are. Terry's been back to the bakery a couple times since Christmas, like I said, he and Gil-chan get along very well. Terry even spends time in Gil-chan's tank with him. Terry will bask in Gil-chan's heat lamp and Gil-chan will sleep on top of his shell…

…We took pictures with our cell phones of that. It's the outer background for mine. The inside is…Takato, actually. Ever since I came out to Juri and Ruki and…Everyone else, pretty much, I've become more at ease with my orientation and being with Takato. Having all of our friends' support is so much help.

Hirokazu's really proud of the fact he was the first to meet up with us and be told we were a couple, actually. He even bought us some 'Day-nniversary pocky' after the party (two huge variety packs of their Chrismas flavors). We were both surprised by his level of support, especially after his tone with Kenta's call. He said it was because he really wanted to tell Kenta that Ryou liked him, "Ryou's been freakin' out ever since I found out he was gay! Gods, I wanted the old, awesome Ryou back! Havin' Kenta'd do that, I figured."

It did.

Ryou's…really closeted but Hirokazu said "he's Ryou again." Just as long as Ruki never finds out…

…We don't want to alarm him but, while we were alone with her, Ruki said, "So, when do you think Akiyama and Kitagawa'll make their Christmas announcement?" We managed to keep calm but the smirk on her face after she said that told us: She's known the whole time.

We also told everyone about Terry and Gil-chan. Not that they're "dating" (that joke's more recent) but that we both got a pet for Christmas. I was amazed to hear both Hirokazu and Juri let out the exact same "D'awwww...! It's-so-cute" sound when they saw a picture of Gil-chan on Takato's phone. I'm shocked to have heard it from either of them and for two completely different reasons, let alone in almost perfect unison.

Ruki actually likes Terry, though.

"Terry-chan can't wait to see him," I say with a laugh. "Still have that mistletoe?"

"Gil-chan's been saving it just for Terry-chan…I have it right here! It's…really dried out now, but…"

"We'll…make use of it," I chuckle. Gil-chan and Terry-chan won't of course, we're just joking around. "See you soon!"

"See you soon, Jen!" Takato hangs up.

I take Terry in his box and go out into the living room. Lianjie's alone, playing a new game he got for Christmas. "Goin' to Takato's with Donaterry?" That's the 'compromise' for Terry's name: Lianjie gets to nickname him Donaterry…And Shelly and Ishita are 'Raphaeshelly' and 'Ishitangelo.' We put up with it.

"Yeah," I nod with a smile. "…Thanks again for, um, that breakfast." That's 'code' for helping me with my 'preference.' Lianjie's really been a huge help for me. I thank him a lot for it.

"Anytime! I still can't believe that guy called…" Lianjie trails off. That had to be an awkward phone call. When we talked about it alone, Lianjie just said, "I didn't wanna break his heart butI had to."

I don't know if anyone was really heartbroken but…My parents and sisters suspect something withLianjie now because the entire family overheard him on the phone, shouting, "No, dude, I was joking when I told you I was gay! Re-Really!Yes, that is the same reason I gave you my number. I was joking.Yes, even the fact it was written on a Yen note. It. Was. A. Joke. ...Really!DUDE THAT WAS MY LITTLE BROTHER! I wasn't making HIM jealous with YOU! Gods, that'sjust wrong on so many levels!Don't call me a pervert, you pervert!" He got the phone call at dinner and took it in the other room, not realizing we could still hear him…

…Mom and Dad told us it was best not to tell him we heard any of that and "let Lianjie deal with it on his own. We'll accept him when he decides to tell us." I'm still not sure if I should warn him about that or not. Everyone's asked me for details on what happened at that breakfast, though, since it's obvious I was there at the time.

I told them "Lianjie swore me to secrecy. Sorry." They accept that answer...But Jialing's really disappointed, she wants to go check out boys with Lianjie!

...I wish I knew how my brother manages to get himself into crap like this!

"I'm sure he'll get over it," I say. "See you later."

"See ya! Have fun with Takato and Gil-chan!"

"I will!" I head out of the apartment, putting my shoes on. The walk to Takato's isn't too far, I just keep a blanket over Terry's box to keep him (sort of) warm.

When I get there, Mrs. Matsuda tells me Takato's in his room but…

…She's giving me a weird sort of look. She even said, "O-OhYoubrought Terry, um, to seeGil?" …I've done it a couple times before, but…She seemed weirded out by the idea this time.

Huh, I hope it's not a problem if I bring Terry over…I know they insist he and Gil-chan stay in Takato's room because of the bakery and all but Mr. Matsuda says he likes the idea of Gil-chan having a "turtle friend." He even suggested the idea of our pets visiting each other to my Dad when they told him about getting Takato a lizard. My Dad told me that when I first took Terry to see Takato again. He's behind the idea (and bearded dragon-sitting, too, thank the Gods!), too.

Mr. Matsuda was nowhere to be seen as I take Terry to Takato's room, knocking on the door. "Takato?"

"…Jen…" …Takato? He sounds upset.

I open the door, Takato's sitting with Gil-chan, he has his head hung. "Ta-Takato? What's wrong?" I close the door, setting Terry's box down and putting him next to Gil-chan.

"…I didn't know my door was open…" Takato whispers.

"What?"

"My door was open, while I was…talking to you," Takato wipes his eyes. "I-I think my…parents know now. They heard me joke about Terry and Gil 'dating' and…I-I don't know what else they heard but…" …Oh, Gods, no wonder Mrs. Matsuda sounded weird when I got to the bakery…

"…Takato…I-I'm sorry," I whisper. "What happened?"

"I turned around and they…They sort of hurried off with this…surprised look, like they were trying to make it look like they were just passing by…" Takato sighs. "I-I've stayed here since. I'm…afraid to…Did they say anything to you?"

"Your Mom was, um…She sounded sort of weird, especially about bringing Terry-chan," I say. …Damn it… "I-I'm sure it's…not as bad as…" I trail off, sighing.

"…Jen…"

"I-I'll face them with you, okay? If they…confront us, I'll defend you. And...Us. I promise," I say. "Please, Takato, don't be upset." I give Takato a kiss on the cheek.

"…Thanks, Jen-chan," Takato smiles, giving me a hug. "I'm so glad we're together now…I-I won't let it change."

"It won't. Ever." I say as we break off the hug. Terry and Gil-chan are sitting next to each other and staring at us. Gil has one claw on Terry's shell, actually.

…Smart lizard and turtle.

We let Gil-chan and Terry-chan play together on Takato's desk while we take our minds off what happened with our PSPs. Takato's Dad calls us to dinner after about twenty minutes. We go downstairs together, Takato's parents are at the table. We stand together in the doorframe, ready for anything…

…And Mr. and Mrs. Matsuda look calm, like nothing's unusual. Food is set out, I even have my usual seat next to Takato. I guess that's a good sign...

…Takato and I stand at the door frame for a few moments. "Um…Have a seat?" Mr. Matsuda says, motioning to our chairs.

"Ri-Right," Takato gives a quick nod.

I bow my head. "Thank you again for inviting me to dinner," I say, wondering if it'll…lead to anything.

"We're always happy to have you over," Mrs. Matsuda says, smiling. …That…has to be a good sign!

We all eat dinner quietly. Takato's parents chat to themselves, Takato still looks nervous.

"…Takato, is…something wrong?" Mr. Matsuda asks, finally!

Takato tenses up, he looks to his parents…Then to me. I give him a nod. It's okay, Takato. He lets out a quiet sigh, "…It's true."

"What's…true?" Mrs. Matsuda asks.

"Wh-What you heard," Takato whispers. "I-I'm sorry. It's…It's true."

"…Takato…?" Mr. Matsuda's jaw falls. "You two…are serious?"

"Ye-Yeah, we are," I say with a nod.

I-I don't like the almost frightened look on their faces right now.

"Ta-Takato, um…" Mrs. Matsuda clears her throat. "You two…take things that seriously? I-I mean…"

Takato nods, slowly. "Si-Since…Since Christmas."

"…Okay, um, Takato…" Mr. Matsuda begins, giving Takato a…very weird look. "I think you two…are a little old for this." …What? …We're too old to be gay?

"…Too old?" Takato asks.

"I-I know you two haven't had pets before but, um…You're pretending that they're dating? And taking it this seriously?" Mr. Matsuda asks. "You're…afraid we'd object to…a gay lizard?"

…You have got to be kidding me…

"Takato, we…We're so happy you're excited about Gil-chan but…Um… This is a little much. I-I mean, he's gay, too?" Mr. Matsuda asks. "Not that we…wouldn't accept our gay lizard if that…were the case in a sane world but…Son, don't do this, please, it's a little childish."

Takato and I look to each other, stammering. I-I have no idea what to say to any of this, beyond wanting to scream 'WE'RE GAY! NOT INSANE!'

But, somehow, I don't think that'd go over very well. I'd feel better at least.

"Ri-Right, um…So-Sorry, I-I mean, it's…a dumb joke! Ha ha ha, Gil-chan's not gay or dating Terry-chan…We're just…being weird and…stupid…" Takato groans. "Thank you for…accepting him, though…If he or…anyo—If he were gay…" …Takato…

…Do you want to come out…? I-I was a little surprised that he almost said, I think, 'anyone else.' If you want to, I know family accepts Lianjie as their unusually-heterosexual-for-a-gay-son so, um, they'd probably accept their unusually-homosexual-for-a-supposed-heterosexual-son, too.

…I actually sort of wish they thought we were gay instead of out of our minds

Takato and I look to each other, I think Takato might actually be thinking the same thing. This is embarrassing!

"Takato?" Mrs. Matsuda speaks up, looking to us. "That was what you meant…right?"

"O-Of course! So-Sorry to…make such a dumb joke!" Takato shouts, quickly. Unfortunately, I think Mrs. Matsuda may have realized what Takato was really talking about, or at least why we'd joke that our pets are 'dating.'

"O-Oh, um…Takehiro," Mrs. Matsuda looks to her husband. "Um…I think what he though we heard was…something a little different…Re-Remember what you…suspected?" …Oh, Gods…

Mr. Matsuda's eyes widen. Takato sinks in his seat. "Takato, um, is the reason you made that joke on the phone…?" He trails off.

I keep quiet and poke at my rice with my chopsticks, hoping Takato can think of a way to get out of this. The look on his face right now screams "No, I'm straight! Really! Ask Jen, he's as straight as I am, he loves girls just as much as I do! Jen, please think of a way out of this!"

A little voice in my head that, oddly enough, sounds a lot like Lianjie is saying "fake a heart attack" which is very tempting as Takato's parents both stare at us in shock while the two of us are getting ready to kick ourselves as the room fills with the most awkward silence I've ever experienced! Even more awkward than the one that filled the Li Family apartment after Lianjie got back from "dumping" that cute waiter!

…What? He was kinda cute…

At least until that silence is broken in the most unexpected way possible

…Mr. Matsuda is laughing. Loudly.

"Da-Dad?" Takato sits up a little, staring at his Father as he breaks down into a fit of laughs. Mrs. Matsuda joins in.

"So-Sorry, Takato…I-I'm sorry, I-I shouldn't…ha ha ha! I shouldn't laugh but…" Mr. Matsuda looks to Takato, saying, "W-We…We accept our...'gay' lizard's gay owner as well. I-It's okay, Takato…Ha ha ha!" …Why is this so funny? I-I mean, Takato just said he was gay! Th-This is—Wait, am I actually complaining about this reaction?

"What's so funny?" Takato whispers, nervously.

Mr. Matsuda calms down enough to speak, "A-After I spoke to you on Christmas, about Jenrya, I-I took your Mother to the other room and said I thought this was the reason. A-And…" …He did know…?

Mrs. Matsuda shakes her head, laughing, "I asked your Father, 'Please don't tell me you said anything like that to Takato! He's not upset because he's gay, he's upset because…'" She trails off, laughing a little and glancing to me, then Takato. "…I thought you were upset because of, um, what we apologized to you for the next day. I-I guess…I was a little wrong about that." ...The gifts...?

Takato clears his throat, nervously. "O-Oh…Yo-You were…both sort of…right, actually…" Takato trails off, sinking in his seat, he's bright red right now. "Tha-Thank you for…accepting us…"

"I'm sorry we embarrassed you, Takato, but…We love our son, always. Don't be afraid to be with Jenrya." Mr. Matsuda says. "I sort of…suspected it for a little bit, actually. I just…wasn't prepared to find out like this. I'm sorry."

"M-Me, too, Takato. Really, it's okay." Mrs. Matsuda says, smiling. "We're happy for both of you."

Takato lets out a relieved sigh, I do the same.

"Thank you," I say. "I-I'm sorry we…um…made you think we were insane earlier." I have to clear that up. W-We joke about Gil-chan and Terry-chan being a couple, too, but we don't take it that seriously!

"How…How long did you suspect…?" Takato asks.

"Not very long, but when the idea came into my head, well, I thought about it and it made sense," Mr. Matsuda says. "I didn't want to confront you, of course, especially after what your Mother said when I told her why I thought you were so upset. I-I mean, you crying like that is what made me realize it was, um, possible. Especially with what you said, something you 'couldn't control.'" He…accepted it that quickly? Wo-Wow…

…I feel sort of bad we expected such a horrible reaction from his parents, now. Th-This is amazing!

"O-Oh," Takato nods. "You knew from…that?"

Mr. Matsuda shakes his head. "No, a little earlier than that. It was Christmas Eve."

"Christmas Eve?" Takato asks.

"Well, I thought it was a joke at first but…I-I knew there was something to that mistletoe you left out over Jenrya's futon. I sort of thought…you two were already together, actually. Ha ha ha, when did it become official?"

…I can actually HEAR the sound of a mental foot kicking a mental ass coming from Takato the exact second Mr. Matsuda utters the word 'mistletoe.' Especially when I see the look on Takato's face and…I do my best not to join his parents in laughing, actually.

Sorry, Takato-chan but…At least we'e accepted, right?

Something tells me Takato's never going to want to hear the word "mistletoe" again after this.

~Owari~


Ori's Notes:

…Eh, not sure about this one. Another "holy shit, I can't believe this is so damned long" fic. Been having a lot of those lately… Originally it was just supposed to be: Takato + Jen + Mistletoe = Fic but...I dunno where a lot of this came from. I especially had trouble with anything past getting to Kenta's party, sorry if there's a noticeable drop in quality there. With the ending, I decided to end things with some humor. Also, with Kenta, I wanted to be extra nice to him this Christmas and give him Ryou. But I also wanted to see if I could make it look like the "Hirokazu's in love with Kenta and has his chance now" not-so-plot-twist (did you fall for it?). Since I always joke about how much Kenta drools over Ryou, I thought he should end up with him once and Christmas is a good enough excuse.

For Takato: With Christmas fics, I'm usually nicer to him than usual when it comes to who does\doesn't accept him and whoever he's with so this time no-one was going to object or freak out (especially his parents, see Mirai No Kodomo for details on why Mr. Matsuda was accepting this time). It's Christmas, I gotta at least pretend to be nice, ya know? Gotta stay on Santa's nice list somehow (Thanks again for that club soda maker last year, Santa! You ROCK! Also, Takato wants to volunteer his services as a Reintortoise should you ever need one).

With the "spoiled only child" plot point, I figured it would be an issue for Takato at Christmas if his parents ever did go crazy with gifts for him. I could see it being really embarrassing for Takato (as opposed to Hirokazu, who'd show you each one, saying, "Whaddya think this one is? *Shake shake!* What about this? *Shake shake!* SHAKE THIS ONE! *Shake shake CRACK!* …Crap…That sounded expensive…"). And, if Takato did manage to make a lot at the bakery, I could see him going all out for his friends\parents both because that's Takato's nature and to clear his conscience (whether or not it needs to be cleared, however, is another story).

Also, Guilmon Cake comes from "Santamon Wo Sagase," the Tamers Christmas song from their Christmas Illusion CD (the one with the opening that sounds kinda like My Sharona). Takato sings about making a Guilmon Christmas cake, so I thought it'd be fun to add. Especially as something his parents would be very proud of: A best-selling recipe from Takato.

With Jen's orientation: I wanted to hint throughout the fic that Jen does have some feelings for Takato and is, at some level, in denial, as well as have him analyze his relationship with Takato and how they interact (especially when Jen's desperate to make him feel better about like him\Jen being "unable" to like him back). So it's another "Jen deep in thought" fic. Near the end, though, I decided to have a little fun when it came to Lianjie "helping" him.

Gil-chan and Terry-chan: Originally, it was just Gil. Terry was added at the last minute. I wanted something "big" for the "Takato's Christmas Guilt" part of the story, so a pet would probably work on that front. Lizard because Takato can't have a dog or a cat at the bakery and, well, the Goggle Boy always has a Dragon\Dinosaur-like Digimon, so a bearded dragon seemed fitting for Takato. Terry was added for fun and turtles are good pets for an apartment. And we all know by now I'm one of those insane people who thinks reptiles are adorable (especially lizards and turtles, one day I shall have that turtle farm! ...And breed lizards, too, lizards need more love). Bearded dragons really are like reptilian house cats, too, mine used to sit and watch television or play video\computer games with me all the time. They'll even pay attention to the screen (Takato does this, too, by the way).

Anyway, I want to warn everyone: Fics (especially Christmas fics, which makes me feel really bad since I love doing a bunch of them every year) are going to take longer for an indefinite amount of time. For the past few months, I've been having a lot of trouble sitting, typing and (above all) focusing on fics. The reason is one of my RA meds has a…nasty side effect that's, more or less, caused part of my left hip to "cave in" on itself. So, yeah, enjoy me while I last.

I'm just having trouble sitting at my computer (both at home and at work, the latter of which is really becoming a problem) when this thing acts up, which is, unfortunately, happening a lot lately. So, just a warning: Christmas fics might be scarce this year. Taiki suggested I extend my usual Christmas deadline to January to make up for it, which I might do if I don't get much else out. So far, my fic list is the following:

-Some Mirai No Kodomo Christmas\Regular chapters
-A couple Non-MNK Christmas Fics
-A few follow ups to They Called Upon A Midnight Buzzed\fics set in that fic continuity (Content warning for those)
-Request fics (Sorry to requesters, I'm trying to get these done but I'm having off\on writer's block with a couple of these – I'll try to get them out soon)
-A bunch of Multi-chapter fics: Sequel to Teardrop, The Fic Taiki Will Never Forgive Me For (Sleep Mode), The Top Secret Jenkato (not tellin' ya what's happenin'…Except I just know the content's gonna get some…interesting…reactions if I finish it).

I'll do my best to get as much done as possible for Christmas this year. The good thing about Christmas fics is that I usually start them around September\October\November, so most of the ones I've got are half to three-quarters done, which means there's a chance I'll get more than just this one out (especially since this one was started pretty late compared to the others) but I can't make any promises.

'Til the next fic, I'm gonna go hop on a wheelchair, grab my cane and go Cane Joust (HUZZAH!) my doctor over this…

That's it for now, hope everyone's having a Merry Christmas and a Grand Feast of Red Cliff!


Taiki's Notes:

Ouch, I'm sorry to hear about the hip Ori. Actually, Ori has given me details on what's going on, it's not pretty. Essentially, Ori can't sit still for more than an hour or so at a time but also can't stand to move for a while after sitting becomes unbearable but it gradually gets better. He says, and I quote his email, "It's like a masochistic Zen riddle: To hurt less, I must first hurt more...A LOT more!"

I suggested that he take a break but it's impossible to talk Ori out of writing. Especially his yearly Christmas fics, Ori always looked forward to them every year back when he wrote on FFN regularly and, with his return, he looks forward to it even more!

On that note, please check the profile for links to his old account's Christmas works (Ori asks you please ignore the horrible, decade old FFVIII fics also on the account) and please check out the following Christmas works we uploaded last year:

Christmas Dinner (Tamers, Slash and catalyst for the Kako Mo\Mirai No Kodomo ficverse)
Bah Humbug! (Tamers, Humor and Slash)
Believe (Adventure 02, Humor)
Christmas Chocolates (Tamers, Slash)
Christmas Present (Tamers, Slash)
Issho Ni (Tamers, Slash, followed up with Eien Ni and Otoko No Chigiri)
Rosa, Hontou Naraba (Tamers, Slash)
The Life of a Dark Master Chapter V (Adventure, Humor)
They Called Upon A Midnight Buzzed (Tamers, Slash)

This fic was quite fun to edit, I especially enjoyed Lianjie's antics as he tried to make Jen feel better. I was verysurprised to see Kenta end up with Ryou as well, ha ha ha! That has to be the nicest thing Ori has ever done for him, giving him the gift of Ryou Akiyama and some mistletoe! Ha ha ha! I hope your plan to get on the nice list this year works, Ori!

Happy Christmas, everyone! And, should anyone else celebrate it: A Grand Feast of Red Cliff as well! And may Ori one day enlighten us as to what it is! Thus far I assume it, like many of Ori's "religious holidays"\excuses to take off work, is something he makes up as he goes along.

-Taiki Matsuki