Meimei

It figures, the day they air the episode of Digimon Xros Wars I've been dying to see since Toei released the summary for it three months ago (HUGE battle, the Dark Masters from Adventure make a comeback with Devimon and Vamdemon), just as the opening theme starts to play…

…Someone knocks on the door to my room. Thank the Gods for DVR (I've got every episode this season on my DVR – Well, except the ones I download-that-I-am-still-going-to-buy-on-DVD-when-available-but-used-since-DVDs-are-so-damned-expensive, as Lianjie would say). I pause the show as it records. "Come in." I turn my head to the door from my bed.

The door opens, Xiaochun pokes her head in, she speaks in a softer tone than usual, "Jianliang, um, sorry to bother you but I need to ask you something. It's…really important." Xiaochun steps inside, closing the door behind her. "Do you have a minute?" …Well…

Normally, with Xiaochun, I'd tell her to wait until after Xros Wars but, this time? Her expression tells me this is something big, something she wanted to turn to her big brother for.

"Sure," I nod. I motion for her to sit at my desk chair, she does so. "What is it?"

"Um…I-I need to ask you about, um, being with someone you, y'know, like…A-A lot." Dating advice? From me? To Xiaochun?

…There's a lot wrong with this picture…

"Wh-What? You're asking…me? Um, Xiaochun, wouldn't Jialing be a better choice? Or even Lianjie. They've at least been in some kind of relationship." Jialing with males, too, Xiaochun. I mean, not wanting advice from Lianjie because he's Lianjie is one thing but…This is Jialing's territory, not mine!

In theory.

Xiaochun quickly shakes her head. "No, not Jialing. I don't think she'd understand and, um, Lianjie's just, um, himself!" She's got a point about Lianjie but…Jialing wouldn't understand? She's, um, had her share of boyfriends ranging from "good" to "Jialing and-slash-or Dad and-slash-or Lianjie and-slash-or all three want to drive him deep into the wilderness sprayed with female-bear-in-heat scented 'cologne' and leave him for dead." Mostly the first one, though. The latter? A couple, especially one that Lianjie almost beat up for "making his little sister sad," but she told him not to…She still liked him "that much" to at least spare him a very thorough beating from Lianjie. We were all worried about how serious he sounded that day, actually, but…She was really upset that he broke up with her (almost as much as Lianjie...).

But, Xiaochun, Jialing's the one who'd be good for boy advice. I mean, she can't be coming to me for boy advice!

…'Cause if she is…

I shake my head, "Yeah, but—"

"And, um, Jialing, Lianjie and me, um, we sort of know you're seeing someone…" …Shit.

Be calm! BE CALM! BE CALM! "I-I'm not seeing anyone—"

"Jianliang, we all know!" …Know? "I mean, Lianjie pointed it out last week: You're always going over to Takato's," SHIT! "Come on, I know you two are friends but you can't see him that often, Lianjie and Jialing know it's a cover!" …Oh, thank the Gods… "'Cause otherwise, you're either madly in love with Takato or he's gotta be getting really tired of seeing you." …Trust me, he is not tired of seeing me. And vice-versa.

But I still don't want to talk about Takato with Xiaochun. "Cover" or no "cover." …Gods, that was close, I'm glad she didn't pick up anything from the "heart attack coming on" expression I'm sure I had for at least a split second back there.

"They're wrong, Takato and I are best friends, that's we see each other so much," I say, as calmly as I can. "I mean, after the Digital World? He's my best friend, that's it." Emphasis on IT!

"Jianliang…Please," Xiaochun lets out a quiet sigh, lowering her head and closing her eyes tightly. "I-I really, really need to talk to you about this! Don't lie, please don't lie!" …Cr-Crap! She…almost sounds like she's going to cry. Xiaochunmei, wh-whatever this is…It can't be that serious!

…Can it?

My little sister must really like this boy. I'm betting it's Hiroshi, he's in one of her classes and he came over a while ago for a class project, she was really nice to him and everything while they worked. Even Lianjie joked about how they 'looked cute' together.

Xiaochun's in her second year of middle school. And she even has one of my old science teachers and, last year, my homeroom teacher from my first year.

As for me, I'm in my second year of high school. And second year of my first (and, given how things are going, hopefully only) relationship…With Takato Matsuda. But only Takato, myself and one other person know this. And that third party is sworn to secrecy and is not someone I'm related to in any way.

"…Okay, I am seeing…someone," I say, quietly. "Xiaochun, calm down. I-It's not that big of a deal. You…want to confess or did he already…?"

Xiaochun shakes her head. "I just really like…him a-and, we-well…Wh-What's her name?" Huh?

"He-Her name?"

"Your girlfriend's! C'mon, you know I can keep a secret now!" Xiaochun says, looking at me with her arms crossed and an attempt at her usual 'I'm a sweet n' innocent widdle girl fwom the depths of Heww itsewf' smirk (Lianjie's nickname for it) but…She can't really pull it off, something really is bugging her right now. I've never seen my little sister nervous like this. Ever!

"I-I…Er…He-Her…name is…" I stammer, feeling my cheeks warm up. "Xi-Xiaochun, first…Tell me your problem, okay? Wh-What's going on?"

Xiaochun's semi-smirk fades, she swallows and says, "I-I want to confess."

"And…?"

"…It's scary," She whispers, lowering her head and sighing, "Re-Really…Really scary. But…I really, really like him." She looks up at me again. "Did you confess or did she?"

"She did," Sort of. "Is it Hiroshi?"

"N-No, he's a jerk," Xiaochun shakes her head. "I only invited him over that time 'cause we had a science project. I was nice to him only because it was a huge part of our final grade and he's really good at science." She swallows, lowering her head again. "I-It's...someone you know, but…You tell me her name first, okay?"

"I-I'd rather not," I shake my head. I couldn't even think of a name that sounds convincing, Xiaochun knows all the girls I hang out with, too, and 'Takako' is a dead 'my brother's gay and seeing his best friend' giveaway.

"Why can't you say it? …It's not Ruki, is it?" Ruki? Gods, no! She's not the romantic type, Ryou has confirmed that. Give her flowers, she'll force feed you a 'weed salad.'

"Definitely not Ruki," I shake my head.

"Juri?"

"No. Xiaochun,I really don't like…talking about her—"

Xiaochun lets out an annoyed sigh, her voice cracking, "Jianliang, I would swear before Guan Gong that I won't tell anyone if you'll help me, please!" She's really desperate for advice and from me of all people! Why?

…Okay, if she's…serious about that.

"Then do it," I say. "I-I'll…answer any and every question about…her…If you swear before the shrine," I reply. "You have to swear to him you'll never tell a soul until I say you can. Promise?" …I-I can't believe I'm going to do this but…

…My little sister's not herself right now, and who she is isn't something I like seeing at all. So, if it can help her and…Swearing before any deity, especially Him is…NOT something even Xiaochun (or even Lianjie) would take lightly. I-I'd feel safer knowing she's that serious about this. If she is, then…

…I'll tell her about Takato and I. Neither of us want our families to know, not yet. Or at all. I-I have no idea how my parents would take the news and…

…Takato knows his Dad wants grandkids. At the very least, he knows that much. Not how badly or if he'd settle for adopted grandkids but…That fact alone really gets to him. That and he really has no idea how he'd accept a gay son, he knows he doesn't have a big problem with gays. No outward disgust or anything, he might be a little awkward around an obviously gay customer, though.

His mother, though, um…She has a gay cousin she's close to, so he's been tempted to at least tell her but, even knowing about his mother's cousin, he loses his nerve at the last minute every time. I can't blame him, I-I'm afraid I'll lose my nerve any second with this. And we both know: Accepting a stranger or a friend or even a distant relative is one thing…Your own son? Your flesh and blood?

That's a whole new ball game. One Takato and I are terrified to even think of playing.

…Xiaochun, this…This had better be…REALLY important. Which, if you're this upset, it obviously should be. But, why me? I-I swear, this is…Jialing's territory if anything! Unless Xiaochun suspects or…

…Shit, what if she caught us or something—No, then…She'd have just said she knew I was with Takato, not using him as a "cover" to see my "secret girlfriend." Xiaochun's sense of tact isn't that good, not even close. Jialing and I agree: She's so much more like Lianjie in that regard, Lianjie would have just started things out with: "C'mon, I know you're seeing Takato" and I'd have to figure out whether or not he was joking before I could give any kind of response beyond the initial three that'd pop into my skull: Deny, DENY, DENY! N-No, she doesn't…She doesn't suspect anything.

…Gods, please, let this be a huge shock to her and not contain the words 'knew it' in any way shape or form. Or 'X older sibling-slash-parent-slash-mutual-friend-of-Jianliang owes me X amount of Yen,' too.

Xiaochun quickly nods and bolts for my door, she opens it and goes into the living room. I, almost cautiously, follow her, there's no-one else around, actually…I know Jialing's home and probably in her room but Lianjie must be out with our parents or something. Otherwise, I'd been seeing two Guan Gongs: The one small statue at the family shrine in the corner of the living room and another in Lianjie's copy of Dynasty Warriors (most likely dueling Zhang He of Wei).

…Actually, I sometimes wonder: Our television is within his view, exactly how does he feel about the fact my brother plays Wei almost exclusively in Dynasty Warriors as opposed to Shu-Han (which I like to play, mostly as Zhao Zilong or Ma Chao)? Well, he hasn't been struck by a plague of bad luck, so I assume Guan Gong's cool with it…Or at least likes seeing Zhang He beat the hell out Sun Quan and Wu's top generals on Lianjie's favorite map: He Fei Castle. Lianjie hates Wu (we all hate Wu).

As I get to the family shrine, Xiaochun is already on her knees before the small, red-clay statue of Guan Gong. She claps her hands together, saying, "I swear to you, Guan Di, that I will not reveal my elder brother's secret girlfriend's name until he says I am allowed to. And, please, let…things…go well for me, please." …She's definitely serious, I was sort of joking when I first told her to swear before the shrine but…

…Xiaomei, what's wrong? She's come to me for advice before but never like this. I'm officially worried now. She even asked for his help with her confession. Obviously, my little sister is…Dare I say…

In love with this boy.

…Okay, Xiaochun, you did swear before a deity, I owe you…the truth. As hard as it's going to be for me to say, I can't back out now. I owe you the truth and all the help I can offer…I guess she did pick the right brother: She can't get boy advice from Lianjie, after all.

Gods, I-I never thought I'd tell anyone about this. ESPECIALLY not XIAOCHUN! I-I mean, she's Xiaochun, keeping secrets "used" to be difficult for her (she's gotten a little better about that) but…

…I know my little sister can be a pest, whiney, loud, aggravating and wishing-to-find-out-one-of-us-was-adopted-because-we-don't-want-to-really-be-related-by-blood-ANNOYING at times but, well, she's still the best little sister I could ask for and if she's got a problem, even if this turns out to be 'first confession jitters' or something like that…I need to help her, it's my duty as her older brother. I didn't swear before any deities but I'll act like I did, because my sister is that important to me.

Wo ai Xiaomei. Wo ai wo de tongke…I love all of my siblings. That will never change. Even when they drive me insane, they're still my siblings and I can't even begin to describe how important my family is to me, even when they get the most on my nerves: I love my family. Always. And this had better be proof of that, Xiaochun.

Takato's that way with his cousin, Kai, they're not siblings but…They're as close as brothers to where one could make that mistake when they're together. Takato's really worried about what will happen the day Kai finds out about us. He knows Kai's straight, too, he's seeing Minami back in Okinawa. And, when he wants to, Takato's…Actually really good at 'playing it straight' because of how often Kai would talk about girls with him, he just imitates Kai on 'the gayest day of his life' when the subject of 'girls' comes up around his parents or the other Tamers (which is really convincing and the biggest reason I never suspected him until he came out).

Xiaochun turns to me, her expression isn't anything close to her usual smirk, she's…actually, she looks scared, too, like I am, sort of.

I lower my head. "…Okay, I-I'll tell you, let's…go back to my room. You can't tell anyone about this, Xiaochun." I'd say 'promise' or something like that but she already showed how serious she is, I don't think I need to.

"I won't, Jianliangge," Xiaochun says. "Just, um, please help me. I-I really, really need advice and…" She just trails off with a sigh. "Please, help me."

I let Xiaochun go in first before closing the door behind me. I'm actually tempted to lock the door because…I-I don't want people knowing about this, I mean, I really don't want anyone to know other than Takato…And, well, Kenta knows, too, but…

…He's 'one of us,'too. I-I was so relieved when he caught us in our secret spot and, after a long silence between all three of us, finally said, "Thank the Gods…I'm not alone." …We all had a long talk that day, it was…helpful for all three of us, actually, but especially Kenta-kun. Kenta's really insecure, finding out about us was the best day of his life, he said. We were glad to help, though we were still scared out of our minds that someone caught us making out. We found a new, super secret spot after that. I don't think we'd get the same reaction from anyone else, especially Hirokazu or Ruki.

I look to Xiaochun from the door, quietly asking, "Why me, though? …Re-Really, I-I still don't think I'm your best choice for…Anything like this, Xiaochun." I mean, yeah, she'll get boy advice instead of girl advice but…

…Confessing to another boy is completely different from confession to a boy. Lianjie would be a better choice since, at least, he doesn't have to give her a long 'I'm so deep in the closet' story, just 'I told her I liked her' and she either said 'let's give it a shot' or slapped him. I'm guessing, at least.

It takes her a minute to answer, she lets out a quiet sigh and says, "'Cause you always help me when I really need it." I sit next to her as she speaks, "a-and…I-I don't think Jialing would be very helpful, it's…different, sorta," Xiaochun whispers. …Different?

"How?"

"I-It's…It just is," Xiaochun shakes her head. "Yo-Your turn, re-remember?"

"I-I know," I nod, closing my eyes tight and taking a deep breath. I've got to honor my end of the deal.

I'm quiet for a long time as…I try to get my mouth to do anything other than go dry as a bone. I finally lower my head, clenching my fists to my side and whispering barely loud enough for me to hear myself. "…Takato…" I hope she heard me because…

…I don't know if I can repeat that.

"…What?" I have my eyes closed still, I-I can't bring myself to look at her expression. "Ji-Jian…Jianliang…? Di-Did…Did you…say…?" …She's definitely shocked, I can tell from her tone.

"….Takato," I whisper, louder than before. She…She definitely heard that. "I-I…I'm—" Before I can say the world's most difficult three letter word, I feel two arms wrap around me, tightly. I finally open my eyes to see if this is really happening. I-I'm shocked! I was expecting "gross" or "stop joking" or…Anything but a hug.

"…Thank you," she whispers. "Thank you so much for telling me, Jianliangge. I-I promise, I won't tell anyone, no matter what…D-Do you…How much do you like him?" She looks up at me, she's...She's actually almost teary-eyed. I-I can't believe it!

"…I love him, a-a lot. He's…very important to me, ever since…he confessed." I reply. "I-It doesn't bother you?"

"Never!" Xiaochun shakes her head, she hugs me tighter. "I-I love all my big brothers, Lianjiege, Jianliangge and Takato-niichan! Th-They're the best!" Takato-niichan? Ha ha ha!

Suddenly…I-I feel…really at ease about telling Xiaochun about Takato and I. She's…Gods, I was expecting her to be, well, shocked and maybe a little grossed or weirded out. Anything but a hug and thanks. And adopting Takato as her big brother, too…

Xiexie, Meimei. I-I'll do my best to help you with your confession, now. I'm sorry I ever doubted your support.

"Thanks," I hug back, smiling. "We…We've been together for almost two years."

Xiaochun ends the hug and sits normally. "When you realized you were, um…" She glances to the door and whispers the word "gay" and then speaks in her normal, though quieter than usual, tone, "were you scared? Ho-How did you…realize it?"

I speak quieter than I usually do, clearing my throat first, "I was scared out of my mind. I-It took a while for me to really admit it to myself…I-I would, um, find guys, ah, 'attractive' but shrug it off and try focus on girls instead. A-And I eventually realized I didn't…like girls like I was 'supposed to.' And…I-I was scared, Xiaochun. I-I would have done anything to change, especially when I realized I…I…Loved Takato. I didn't want to risk losing him as a friend, so I kept it to myself."

Xiaochun just nods, slowly. "And he confessed?"

"Ye-Yeah, it was…Two years ago this Summer." …That was…Chaotic, to say the least. Takato was…I-I'd never seen him so scared, even after all we've been through: Takato. Was. Terrified. So was I, even after he came out and still thought I was straight. He was afraid he made a huge mistake, I was afraid I was dreaming!

…But…

…Takato's braver than I was about this, he came out to me. I could barely acknowledge that I was gay and Takato…He took what he called the biggest and stupidest risk of his life but…

….He also said, 'it was worth it' in the end. I was inclined to agree. Especially after our first of many kisses. W-We were so happy after that day, we lost all of the anxiety and fear we had before of losing our friendship over this. That and so much more fear and anxiety in general, we weren't alone anymore. That alone made us both so happy once we realized it: We weren't alone, we weren't broken in some way. We were normal.

We did lose our friendship in a way, though. Only because we became a couple instead. And we don't want things to ever change.

"How did Takato confess? When did it happen?"

"Um, it was…less of a confession and more 'coming out' at first," I begin. "Takato came out to me and, when we both managed to calm down, I told him I was gay, too, and…We talked for a long time just…Just knowing someone else who was 'the same' was…We felt…so alone before that." Kenta did, too, we knew exactly how he felt when he found us that day…He's handling things worse than we did but, after discovering us, he doesn't deny his 'preference' as much as he used to. We're helping him as much as we can. We talk about guys a lot with Kenta…Especially Ryou and Hirokazu.

…It was a little hard to admit at first but, yeah, Hirokazu's…Kinda cute. In his own 'I'm the great Hirokazu' sort of way, at least. Kenta, of course, has a thing for him but all three of us know: Hirokazu's straight as an arrow. Despite Ruki's jokes, he really is…

…Kenta wishes otherwise, though. We do, too, since…Those two already act like a couple, why not take that extra step? Kenta sees Hirokazu's "ambiguously gay" status as a sign The Universe likes to play with him in the cruelest way possible sometimes.

"Ye-Yeah," Xiaochun whispers. "Like you were the 'only one,' right? That's how you both felt, right? …Like no-one else you knew…" She trails off.

"No-one else in the world, sometimes, Xiaochun," I say, quietly with a nod. "So, finding out that I wasn't alone and my best friend was gay, too? I-I…For the first time ever, Xiaochun, I was happy about it. Finally."

"What do you mean by 'finally?'"

"Well, it's not like I hated myself over any of it but I hated keeping it all to myself, to fake an interest in girls all the time, the fear of losing my friends, things like that. Knowing someone, anyone else, let alone Takato, who was gay, too? …I didn't feel alone anymore, that…was the first time I was ever happy about being gay. Especially after we became official as a couple—As in, y'know, fi-first kisses and all! N-Not…" Th-That came out a little wrong…

We're not that official!

Again, Xiaochun nods, holding back a giggle at how embarrassed I look. "I get what you mean…And it meant a lot more since it was someone you were so close to, right?"

"So much more, especially since…Well…I loved that person," I let out a quiet laugh, smiling. I smile just for the fact that it's so easy to say this to Xiaochun. "A-Actually, it also means a lot to tell you this." I feel I should mention it since I appreciate her support so much. I mean, this is…huge. I never thought I'd tell anyone in my family this soon or get anything like this reaction…

Xiexie, Meimei. Ha ha ha!

"M-Me?" Xiaochun shouts, giving an apologetic nod and glancing to the door before quietly saying, "Wh-Why me?" She's really surprised by what I said, actually.

Well, I guess it's more than a little unusual for me to say something like that. I wouldn't normally trust Xiaochun with a secret like this.

"Because you have no idea how much of a relief it is that you approve," I say. "I-I'm afraid of how Mom and Dad are going to react the day they find out, more than I am of you, Lianjie and Jialing. I know Takato and I can't hide forever, so…I-I just hope they find out when wedecide to tell them, not walk in on us or overhear me telling him…I love him or anything. We want to tell our families on our own terms and, hopefully, it'll work out."

"Mom and Dad wouldn't…They wouldn't abandon you, Jianliang! I-I wouldn't let them!" Xiaochun gives me another hug. "The-They'd…They'd have to abandon me, too! Wo ai duanxiuge!" Ha ha ha, loves her 'cut sleeve big brother.' Thanks, Xiaochun…I-I actually like that!

Her support right now…I'm so glad to know she really feels this way about my secret. It also makes me feel better about how the rest of my family might react, I don't expect the same level of support from all of them but…At the very least, I know Xiaochun will be there to defend me from any negative reaction. I can't believe how much of a relief knowing that is…

…Even if this is just 'first confession jitters' like I suspect, I'm glad I'm telling Xiaochun all this, now. Thank you, Xiaochun.

"Thanks, Xiaomei," I smile, putting an arm around her.

"Can you tell me how Takato's coming out confession went?" Xiaochun looks up, smiling a little. "Please?"

I nod. "It was at the start of Summer break, the day the power went out at the apartment. I went to the bakery, hoping I could hang out with Takato or, at least, help him work in an air conditioned environment," I chuckle, I was willing to volunteer to help at the bakery as long as it was near an air conditioner—Which Takato's family has running all Summer every Summer because of their ovens and it is a relief on a hot day. It can actually get cold enough in the front for Takato to tend the cash register in a long sleeve shirt and pants even if it's over a hundred degrees outside.

That power outage…Gods, something blew up in the basement or something like that. There was a deafening BOOM and the power went out for the entire building. We went without power for three days and in the middle of a really bad heatwave…Not. Fun.

…Lianjie spent those three days in his underwear in his room, playing handheld games he had saved for power outages with a battery-powered charger. I…did the same thing, actually, but with my door closed! Windows all open, though.

Ugh, Lianjie…I didn't need to see that! Or have you barge into my room constantly asking to look through my handheld games in your underwear while asking me why I was bothering with the "blanket loincloth" ("…Unless you're actually wearing less than I am, heh heh heh!" I wasn't!) Ugh…My brother has boundary issues sometimes, it's why I always lock the bathroom door when I so much as wash my hands. And even when I know he's not home.

At least he finally learned to knock come the power outage last Christmas when we were all wearing ten layers at all times...Which is completely fitting for my brother, now that I think about it…

…And yet he still managed to walk in on me changing once during that!

But, like I said, even when they drive me insane: I love my siblings. Even Lianjie, who tends to chauffeur me to the asylum on a weekly basis.

But, the first day of the power outage, after the apartment's temperature went up ten degrees in under an hour the Li siblings decided it was best to be somewhere (ANYWHERE) else while they 'worked on it' and hoped to come home to a nice, cool apartment (wasn't happening, unfortunately, but Dad was happy to get a huge discount on that month's rent because of the whole thing). Lianjie and Jialing went to an arcade, Xiaochun went to the public pool with Mom and Dad.

I decided to go to Takato's instead of the pool or arcade, especially the former…I-I was, um, not in the mood for a place that reminded me a lot of my 'issues' at the time – Not since I discovered that Ryou Akiyama's choice of swimwear is black speedos (which Kenta sees as "proof of a loving deity," I couldn't hold back my laughter as Takato agreed to that!).

I barely managed to hide that nosebleed from Ruki of all people that day. I know she didn't see it because, well, I'd never hear the end of it if she so much as suspected that I was the slightest bit gay. Takato, though, still gets his share of gay jokes from her, unfortunately...I once tried to defend him but Takato, actually, played into the joke a little and later told me: Ruki would most likely get suspicious if I was suddenly defending his (and probably soon, if I kept it up, my own) orientation. He actually had a point, but I don't laugh at her jokes…

…Most of the time, even Takato admits some of them are funny. And he thinks it's better we laugh with her and not 'adamantly deny any rumors' to keep our cover. Kenta confirmed for us that none of the others suspected us, we told him we didn't think anyone suspected him, either (we certainly didn't).

Kenta suspects she knows about him, though. He gets…really nervous when the 'gay joke spotlight' is on him and Hirokazu. Especially after he found out about us…

…I admit, I might have tried to turn the 'spotlight' over to myself if Kenta looks especially upset. Takato says he does the same sometimes, now. We really want to help Kenta, he's…a bit of a wreck over it. Worse than we ever were.

"I remember that, you…You were really happy when you came home that day, you were the only one smiling," Xiaochun says, nodding. Yeah, everyone else was miserable in the heat but…

…The fact I had my first kiss that day, nothing could make me feel anything but overjoyed. Just thinking about the fact Takato and I were a couple was…More than enough to make me ignore the heat. To me, it was like Christmas: Both in terms of joy and temperature!

"That was why," I say with a quiet laugh, looking to Xiaochun, she's…She's smiling a lot, I-I can't believe it. Kenta didn't smile this much, she really wants to know how all of this went. Again, this is the last reaction I thought I'd get from my family. "When I got to the bakery, it was actually closed…Takato's parents were out of town for the next five days, Mr. Matsuda surprised Mrs. Matsuda with a 'romantic getaway' for their anniversary and Takato was left home alone," I explain. "He could have a friend over but, well, no girls and no parties." Takato also had a ton of unsold bread that he had to either eat up or give away to friends since Mr. Matsuda couldn't spoil the surprise by not baking bread like he usually did. He didn't want Mrs. Matsuda to suspect a thing, so there was plenty of bread for Takato and I that week. And for me to bring home, Takato insisted on it, especially after we were a couple. He wanted to thank me and "never stop" thanking me, he said. I felt the exact same way, especially since he was the one with the courage to come out.

Xiaochun laughs, "O-Oh yeah, that was when you brought all that bread home, too. That helped so much with the heatwave." Yeah, I brought a 'day's supply' of bread home until the power came back on: Takato's idea, actually, since without power the bread would've gotten moldy a lot faster in the heat. Takato knows his breads, I didn't argue when it comes to that subject (none of us do, Takato's become our number one source of baking and cooking advice, actually, even Ruki calls him now and then if she has to bake something for school). And I got proof of what he meant: A fresh bag of choco-pan I left in my room and forgot about went moldy (beyond moldy – Like a new form of life was evolving before my eyes!) two days after I brought it home because the heat made it go bad so fast (normally: It'd last at least a week, provided no-one ate it before then – which is rare for Matsuda bread in the Li household). Takato gave us so much bread, all of our favorites and then some. My parents even wrote him a thank you letter since it saved all of us (especially them) from cooking and having to turn on the stove or oven (both of which were gas powered) or order out.

Takato wrote back: Anything for my best friend and his family, sorry about the heatwave. My Mom repaid Takato with a huge batch of her famous baozi (his favorite fillings and everything) when the power came back on. He really appreciated it, he loves my Mom's baozi. More than Terriermon did, even!

My family loves Matsuda Bakery bread so the bread helped us feel less hot and miserable when I'd bring it home or Takato'd drop it off if he came over to meet me before we went to 'hang out' somewhere…

"…My first date was the day after his confession," I say. "When Takato came over around noon with all that bread." I remember, Lianjie greeted him at the door in his underwear and…Takato's reaction was, um…

…Takato barely managed to hide the nosebleed he got, actually. He managed to look away and ask to use our bathroom. Lianjie was too focused on the 'world's most awesome choco-pan' to notice, thank the Gods.

I-I did my best not to laugh when I noticed a few drops of blood on his shirt sleeve later in the day. He told me: "Jen-chan, um…Since we're officially 'out' together, um…I-I won't lie, your brother is…kind of cute. So-Sorry, but I-I was not expecting…that!" I-I didn't mind hearing that, I just hoped Takato wasn't too embarrassed by how hard it was for me not to laugh by that point.

"Ha ha ha, I understand…But, is he cuter than me…?" I-I couldn't believe I said that to him but, at the same time it was…fun to be able to joke about that! To be able to acknowledge that we were gay to each other was…

…We never thought we'd be able to be so open about this with anyone, let alone each other. We, um, spent the first week together being 'gayer than usual,' let's say. It…just felt good to be open for once in our lives, to be able to talk about how cute, say, Ryou is and not feel weird about it...We even, um, checked out guys together at the mall for fun one day. I-I couldn't believe I was doing something like that but...Takato and I just had so much fun "being out" together.

We both laughed at Takato's response, "If it was you, Jen, your family'd think there was a murder scene at their front door," ha ha ha! I-I took that as a compliment. Actually, that 'murder scene' was possible since, knowing Lianjie, he'd have just sent Takato to my room if he didn't ask to use the bathroom first. Jialing told me he was here and I put some clothes on…

…In fact, when I mentioned that to him, I got a 'preview' of that scene followed by the words, "Sorry, mental image!" Ha ha ha!

"Where did you go?"

"The ramen shop near the bakery," I say. "We didn't want to go anywhere near the apartment in case you, Lianjie, Jialing or Mom and Dad passed by and saw us," Even though it probably wouldn't have been seen as anything more than 'two friends having lunch,' I know since Lianjie once came in on a date between us near a new arcade he was trying out: He joined us and didn't suspect a thing (I was nervous as hell, even though I managed to hide it). He didn't even joke about it like I expected him to. "It was a great first date." I can't help but smile at the memory. "But, um, when Takato came out…Like I said, he was home alone and saw me walk up to the bakery from his balcony. He got my attention and told me he'd let me in. He told me what was going on and that he was, actually, just about to invite me over. His parents had left that morning." Takato actually didn't know he'd be home alone for the next five days until the night before, otherwise he told me he would have called to tell me about what was going on and we'd have planned something. He was sort of excited about being home alone for so long, too, it was a first for him.

"So, you two were all alone together?" Xiaochun asks.

I nod. "We decided to watch some episodes of Digimon Adventure on his new DVD set and…Well, um, you've seen Adventure, right? The first season, not the second." Xiaochun never really watched the show until a couple years ago and has been trying to get caught up on all the seasons. So far, I know she's seen Savers, Frontier and part of Xros Wars (she watched the two seasons out of order at first, not knowing I only had the second season on the DVR – Now she's getting caught up on the first season via my downloads and then she'll watch my DVRs in the family room: Our DVRs are all shared on that receiver).

Xiaochun nods. "I finished your DVD set last weekend. I'm going to start on the second season this weekend."

"Well, um…The episode with VenomVamdemon, when Taichi and Yamato hold hands? I…I noticed Takato was looking at me every now and then during that scene." Two or three times since the 'prophecy' was named, at least half a dozen since the episode started, I wasn't sure what was going on at first beyond if there was something on my face or something behind me. "When I asked him if there was something wrong he…He actually paused it on the hand holding scene, just before Angemon and Angewomon throw the arrows at Taichi and Yamato…They were holding hands right in front of us." It was…fitting, actually, but Takato told me pausing it there was unintentional. He just panicked and hit 'pause' as soon as he found the button.

Xiaochun laughs, "I remember that scene, even I thought, um, the writers were hinting at something with them at that point, you know?"

I nod. "All of us joke about that scene when we watch it, it's just that season's most 'infamous' moment, you know?" Even Hirokazu knows how big of a shounen-ai following Adventure has and he avoids shounen-ai like the plague whenever we go manga or anime shopping. Someone'll point it out to him and he'll just roll his eyes and say 'yeah, yeah' or something like that: We sort of joke about it with him at that point ("Hey, Hirokazu-kun, found one of your favorites!") because of his reaction (Ryou started it, actually). Ha ha ha! "I asked him what was wrong and…" …Takato went quiet.

I almost immediately regretted asking anything just because of how there was a sudden seriousness in the air. This wasn't as simple as 'Jen has something on his face' or 'How does Jen not see what's going happening on the wall behind him?' There was something very wrong. And it had to do with me, apparently.

"Je-Jen, um…So-Sorry, I just…It's…I-I…" Takato just stammered something borderline coherent now and then. And the longer he did that, the more worried I got.

"Takato-kun, is something wrong? I mean…Do I have something on my face or something?"

I'd noticed him staring at me more than a few times but didn't really say anything until that point. He'd always try to 'casually' look back to the episode when I noticed or just…let out a nervous laugh and look away, embarrassed. I didn't think too much of it or anything until about the fifth time…

…Something was definitely bothering him, I thought. He was…actually gauging my reaction to the handhold scene. Seeing if I had any sort of 'change' in my expression, seeing Taichi and Yamato hold hands or if I'd make a joke about it, like Hirokazu or Ryou usually would. Or scoff and say something like 'just make out already' like Ruki.

"N-No…I...was…I…" We were chatting like we usually would throughout most of the other episodes but, when that one started, Takato had grown silent and a little distant. Anything I did say got a nod or a 'yeah,' like he wasn't really paying attention. Looking back, Takato was deep in thought. He told me that, well, that episode got him thinking about himself and his 'situation.' And the fact that 'the object of his affection' (as he tried to delicately put it later) was sitting next to him.

"Takato…? Se-Seriously, what's going on?"

"I-I was wondering if you'd do what Hirokazu did during that scene, um, roll your eyes or anything," he finally said after almost a minute of silence.

"Wh-What? Why?"

"N-No…No reason but…Jen-kun, um, ca-can we talk? I-I…There's something I've…wanted to tell…Anyone at this point." Takato sounded so serious as he said this but his expression? He was scared. "A-And since you're my best friend…I-I think it should be you. Yo-You should be…the first person I tell, Jen, because of…how…important…you are to me." He was choosing his words carefully and it was, well, less obvious to me at the time than it should have been.

"What are you talking about?"

"…I'm tired, Jen-kun. I-I'm sorry, I'm just…so tired…" For the first time in a long time, I saw Takato tearing up. He doesn't cry as much as he used to as a kid, not nearly as much.

"Ti-Tired? …Not…of me or anything, ri-right?" …I had no idea what Takato could have meant! We-Well, looking back it…was sort of obvious where this could 'go' but…

…When you're so convinced you're 'alone,' you…You force everyone else into the closet with you, you know? …I-I never suspected Takato as gay. Never in a million years. He felt the same way about me and the same with Kenta towards us the day he found out. Kenta even said, he wouldn't have believed it if he didn't see us kissing like he did, like if Ruki or Hirokazu told him they caught us or something. Kenta said he really would have had to see it to believe it because he was so sure he was the 'only one.'

"O-Of you? N-No, never, Jen-kun! I-I meant…Tired of…hiding something…" Takato took a deep breath, letting out a long sigh. "I-I…I don't know how you'll take this, Jen but…Can I ask one last favor from you, if you don't…approve…?" The words 'last favor' gave me a chill, actually. I really didn't suspect Takato was coming out, so hearing the word 'last' from him had me really worried.

"Do-Don't…approve? Takato…You can ask a favor, but…not a last favor. I-I don't want to ever do a last favor for you, Takato." …I was getting nervous, just from Takato's tone and words like 'tired' and 'last favor.'

"Please…Don't tell anyone else this. I-I just...I couldn't handle it if…" Takato…started crying. For the first time in so long, I was seeing Takato cry.

"Ta-Takato-kun…Please, tell me what's wrong! Gods, please, just tell me!"

"…I…Je-Jen-kun, I'm…I…" Takato stopped crying long enough to take a long, deep breath and say, after a long exhale. He said it as confidently as he could, more confidently than I ever could in his position. "Jen-kun, I'm gay."

…Those last two words…The look on Takato's face after he said them, neither of us could believe he actually said that. I-I…I just…

…We were both quiet for a long time, save for the occasional sob from Takato after about half a minute. He later told me how sure he was that he'd regret saying those words, that this was all the biggest mistake of his life, that just once he wished he listened to every voice in his head screaming as loud as they could, "DON'T DO THIS, YOU IDIOT!"

"…What? Ta-Takato…Did you just say you're…gay?" I didn't think I heard him right, I really thought he had said something, anything, else but 'gay.'

"Ye-Yeah…I-I'm sorry, Jen, I'm just so tired of hiding it, I wanted to tell someone… Anyone. Please, don't be mad. I-I just…thought since, well, you're…my best friend, you should be the one I finally tell. I don't know why but…I-I'm sorry, Jen, please—"

"N-No, Takato…I-I can't be mad at you. Tru-Trust me, I can't be mad at you over this! E-Ever!" That was the closest I could say to 'I'm gay, too' at the time. I was hoping he'd 'get the hint' with that but…I-I'm glad he didn't, I-I owed him more than just 'me, too' for what he did for me by coming out. "Yo-You're serious, though? You're gay?" …I-I…I wanted to say 'I'm gay, too' but…I-I couldn't! I could barely believe this was happening! Takato…came out! To me!

"Ye-Yeah, I'm…serious," Takato barely spoke above a whisper, he kept his head lowered the entire time. We were in his room, on a folded up blanket on the floor by his bed, leaning against a huge pile of pillows from around the house. It was dark, the curtain for his sliding glass door was closed and the lights were off for the 'Adventure-thon' we were watching: Vamdemon and Dark Masters Arc (our favorites from the first season), then we'd start Adventure 02...

…Until this, at least. The only light source was his television and the little bit of sunlight outlining the curtain over his sliding glass door.

"…Wo-Wow…I-I…I never suspected you, Takato. E-Ever. Yo- You're gay?" …I-I felt so stupid for more or less reminding him that he was gay and saying it so many times but…

…I had to say it to believe it.

"Ye-Yeah. Is it…a problem, Jen-kun?"

"N-No, it's anything but a problem, Takato-kun. I-I…I…" …I was starting to tear up, too. I didn't know how I felt beyond stunned. I was shaking a little, too, like Takato at that point. He wasn't crying any more, at least, he was still nervous but, compared to before, relaxed. A lot more relaxed than I was.

This was really happening. My best friend was gay, too.

"It really isn't?" I'm sure he was nervous because of how I was acting. I just never thought I'd have any sort of conversation like this. Especially not with Takato.

"…If…I told you I…was…"

I-I still couldn't finish that sentence. I wanted to say 'the same,' but…

"Told me you were what? Jen-kun? What's wtong?"

…I guess 'numb' would be a good way to describe how I felt. I wasn't sure any of this was real since I'd more or less convinced myself I was the 'only one' on Earth by that point. The fact that, a few days before, Lianjie and I had lunch at a ramen shop and he would not shut up about our 'hot waitress' was not helping that feeling—No. The fact that every other male I knew (even Takato when he was 'hiding') talked about 'hot girls' so much that it just made me feel so alone. The fact I had to 'play along' like I did with Lianjie and my friends made me feel so alone. The fact that doing so made me feel like I was somehow broken made me feel so alone.

All that made it so hard to believe that this was really happening.

I took a deep breath, I lowered my head and collected my thoughts, I only focused on two words, two words that I finally managed to say after Takato calmed down, too: "Me, too." …I owed him more than those two words but, I'm sorry, Takato-kun, It was, literally, the best I could do.

"Wh-What?"

"I-I'm…the same, Takato."

…I still couldn't say 'the world's most difficult three letter word' like he could…

"You're joking."

"N-No, I'm not. I-I'm gay."

…Until then. I don't think I had ever said 'I'm gay' out loud. I-I couldn't believe I managed to say it.

After that, neither of us knew what to say or do. We stared at each other in stunned silence for a long time, wiping our eyes now and then, holding back the occasional sob. At that point we both started to get a little emotional. We calmed down, at least, on the outside. On the inside, I thought my heart was going to burst through my chest at any second. Takato told me he was amazed his heart held out the entire time.

Finally, Takato came close and hugged me.I hugged back, tightly,and I let out a sob because I was so happy. "…Thank you," I whispered to him, barely holding back another sob. "Thank you for telling me, Takato-kun. Thank you so much."

"Thank you for not being upset, Jen-kun…I-I had no idea that you, too…" He let out a relieved laugh, hugging me a little tighter for a few seconds before letting me go. It actually took me a few seconds to let go of him…

…I was happy, for the first time ever I wasn't afraid to acknowledge my orientation. I didn't feel weird. We still weren't sure what we should "do" after this…Well, beyond smiling and the (not-so-)occasional hug once it all sunk in: We didn't have anything to be afraid of anymore.

"…And he told me he was gay," I begin, looking to Xiaochun for a second, she's definitely interested in hearing this, I was worried she might be disappointed by how she still ended up getting, not only, the same advice she'd have gotten from Jialing but even less useful advice. Instead, she's staring at me in with an almost disbelieving look but…I can't help but smile at the fact she's smiling, too. "It took me a minute before I could…tell him I was the same but when I did, we were..." I let out a quiet laugh, I smile every time think of how happy we were at that point. I mean, it was a complete reversal of the seriousness we felt and more.

I think I might still thank Takato for finally 'getting tired enough' to tell me.

"Jianliang?"

"It was…the happiest day of my life," I say. "I didn't want to say I had feelings for him or anything bold like that. Just hearing that I wasn't alone was great enough at the time, the thought I could have a chance with Takato hadn't even crossed my mind. I was just so happy knowing I wasn't alone." The fact that I had a chance with someone I knew I had feelings for really didn't cross my mind at the time, I don't know why. I guess it was that level of disbelief that was still lingering, that I was going to wake up at any second.

If that was a dream, I don't think I'd have been able to bring myself to get out of bed…I'd give anything to go back to sleep and keep dreaming forever. Especially since a dream like that is proof that the universe is simply crueland there could never be enough black speedo-ed Ryou Akiyamas in it to ever justify such cruelty.

"I-I bet that was huge," Xiaochun says. "I-I mean, just knowing someone so…close to you was the same? That he understood everything?"

I nod. "Exactly."

"So, when…did you two become a couple?"

".Um…" That…was interesting…

Takato and I spent I don't even know how long talking to each other about, well, everything! Once we got over the shock of what had just happened…

…We were smiling, I'll never forget that. We were grinning like idiots because, well, we could talk about it! Finally, we had someone to talk to about…EVERYTHING!

Things…were (very) obviously heading down the 'let's go out' road before we even got close to asking each other the question that, by then, I'm sure was on both our minds: Do you like anyone?

After we finally calmed down we…repositioned ourselves on the blanket, sort of, um, holding each other, resting ourselves on a huge pile of pillows.

And, that whole time, the episode was still paused on Taichi and Yamato holding hands…Ha ha ha! We didn't watch any more Digimon, actually, we just talked for hours and, eventually, I had to leave because I got a call from Lianjie telling me to get home before it was dark: We still didn't have power.

"…Um, si-since it's…this episode," Takato, um, between the two of us, was the most bold on this subject. "Um, have you ever…been a fan of…?"

I-I got what he was hinting at. "…A-A few. You?"

"Ye-Yeah, um, I'm…on a few art sites, mostly Taito or Daiken. I-I'm, um, RoaringGuilmon."

...I still can't believe that or my reaction. "Je-Jen? …Wh-What's…What's so funny?"

…I couldn't hold back my laughter. "I-I'm…a fan." I really was. I-I knew 'RoaringGuilmon's' artwork from one of my favorite Daiken shrines! Takato and I have been 'out' to each other more than we realized…

…I was sort of glad I lost the nerve to email RoaringGuilmon since I know Takato would have recognized my email address (RoaringGuilmon used one I didn't know).

"Wh-What?"

"Th-The picture of The Digimon Kaiser and with that chained up Daisuke you did…"

"O-Oh GODS! You've…You've seen…?" Despite that description, Takato doesn't draw hentai…

…At least, none I know about.

"Ye-Yeah…You're really good, Takato-kun. I also liked that, um, picture of Daisuke and 'Angelic Kaiser' you did." It was a picture of Daisuke being hugged from behind by the Digimon Kaiser 'redeemed' with angel wings and his purple glasses replaced with Osamu's.

Takato started laughing just as hard. "I-I can't believe it…Ha ha ha! I'm glad you…liked my artwork, Jen-kun."

We just spent so much time talking like that and…I was practically holding Takato at that point, I was on my back and Takato was on his side, leaning into me and I had an arm around him. So, when he finally asked…

"Can I ask a personal question, Jen? I-If you don't mind…"

"Not at all…Takato, I never thought I'd talk to anyone about any of this, so…Ask anything you want to." At that point, I think I could have answered anything.

"Is there anyone that you, ah, that you…"Takato turned to face me, the color of his face gave me an idea of what he was going to say.

"…Takato asked me if there was anyone I liked," I begin. "It was a little awkward to answer…"

…In the sense I don't want to tell Xiaochun my, um, first ever attempt at being 'romantic.'

"…Like?" Takato's voice was a little higher than it usually was when he finally managed to finish his sentence.

"Li-like? A-As in…?"

Takato just gave a single, quick nod, his eyes…almost popping out of his skull at that point. Everything about him screamed 'I shouldn't be asking this.'

…I…Um…

…I was just…so happy that…

I sat up, Takato did the same and…I put both hands on his shoulders, looking him in the eyes. "…Ye-Yes. A-A lot."I tried to sound…cool and confident but the fact my arms were trembling was not helping 'set the mood.'

But…Takato got the message and we both tried to, um, let things play out like one of 'RoaringGuilmon's' more romantic pictures but…

…We both burst into giggles as our faces were about half a foot apart, Takato started laughing a split second before I did, it took us a minute to calm down. "So-Sorry, Jen-kun, but…I-I…"

"Ha ha…I know…I thought it'd be fun to…"

"M-Me, too! Ha ha! Yo-You like me, though? Re-Really?"

"I-I do, Takato-kun. Do you…?"

I should have…maybe gotten confirmation he liked me back before I…even thought of trying to kiss him but, looking back, the fact we were holding each other for so long after he came out?

…Takato says it the best: Why did he even bother asking?

"Ye-Yeah, it's part of why I wanted to tell you first. I didn't think there was a chanceyou'd like me back, though."

"I know, I never thought there was a chance I'd know anyone else, let alone…You, Takato…chan."

"I thought I was taking the biggest, stupidest risk of my life, Jen-chan…" Takato gave me a hug, adding, "It was worth it."

"…He asked if I liked anyone and…I answered honestly: I liked him. We were 'official' after that," I say. "It's…I-I know not…really romantic but…"

Xiaochun shakes her head. "N-No, it was…I-I mean, your best friend, Jianliang. I'm really glad it worked out for you."

I smile, "Thanks."

Takato and I eventually had our first kiss a little later, after we managed to stop laughing at each attempt. And, from then on, we'd been together. I went to visit Takato or he came to my apartment to 'drop off bread' every day of his parents' trip. After that, we saw each other in secret. Our 'dates' were just two friends 'having lunch' or 'having dinner and seeing a movie.' Though….I wonder…

"…Xiaochun, um, Lianjie and Jialing…don't suspect anything, do they? B-Be honest, please," I ask, turning to Xiaochun. "I mean…" …Lianjie has made the odd comment about how much time I spend with Takato here and there. And he loves to joke about how I 'can't find a girlfriend.' As for Jialing…I don't know.

"No way," Xiaochun shakes her head. "Lianjie just thinks you're bad with girls and Jialing doesn't suspect a thing. If they did, Jianliang, you'd know. Trust me." Yeah, with Lianjie, at least, it'd be obvious he was starting to get suspicious.

"Did you?" She did joke that I was 'madly in love' with Takato…

"No," Xiaochun shakes her head again, adding, "I-I mean, when I said you were in love with Takato before, I-I was joking. Sorry if I worried or offended you, Jianliang."

"Don't be. Trust me, I-I…I'm really glad we're having this talk." I let out a quiet laugh. "Thank you, Xiaochun."

"Does anyone else know? Or just me?"

"…One other person," I say. "Takato and I had a 'secret spot' in the park, that huge willow tree with the leaves that reach almost to the ground," I describe, Xiaochun nods. "Well, one day…"

Takato and I were, more or less, making out…I-I won't lie, we're really "affectionate" when we're alone. We haven't gone that far yet but we have our secret make out spots…

…We gave up the willow tree after, um, well…

We had our eyes closed but a brief flash of sunlight and the sound of rustling branches got our attention and we broke our kiss and looked to the source…

…And nearly pissed ourselves. We were in each others' arms and, even if we hadn't had our lips locked, it was obvious we were 'more than friends' from how we were sitting. But I don't think our expressions of shock were anywhere close to the levels on Kenta Kitagawa's face…

...It was one of those long, awkward silences where all parties involved can do no more than just stare at each other with jaws hanging by a thread and eyes ready to start dangling from their sockets. My mind was running with possible explanations for what Kenta had scene, anything but 'we're gay.'

Kenta was the one to break the silence, "…Thank the Gods…"

Those were the last words we expected to hear from Kenta, especially based on his expression. Takato and I exchanged a confused glance before turning back to Kenta. He'd fallen on his knees at that point, he was…starting to smile.

"…I'm not alone." He said after a few moments, his smile getting even bigger. He let out a quiet laugh, shaking his head, "Yo-You two…? Re-Really? …You two are…?"

"…Kenta-kun? Yo-You're…?" Takato was the first to really be able to speak.

Kenta could only nod. "So-Sorry to…interrupt, but…Thank the Gods I-I was the one who came here." Kenta gave us the reason why we can't use that 'secret spot' any more.

"Wh-What do you mean?"

"This is…This is where Hirokazu and Ryou like to stash some of their cards and play where Ruki can't find them. A lot. The-They're a few branches up, in the metal box, on the other side of the tree." Like how Takato used to hide his cards in the old playground equipment…The fact we'd been using this spot so long had us so relieved that, when we got caught, it was by Kenta and not either Hirokazu or Ryou (or both).

"Sh-Shit! A-Are they…?" Takato and I separated immediately.

"N-No, Hirokazu just asked me to check on his cards for him when I told him I was going to be in the area…I-I'm alone, really."

We were so relieved. We relaxed and got "comfortable" again, but not too comfortable. Kenta approached us and sat down and…

…Like with Takato, we just talked for hours. Kenta was more insecure over things than we were, I think it has more to do with how Ruki targets him and Hirokazu for gay jokes more than us. He was afraid he was "obvious," even though we said he wasn't (and he believed us, save for still thinking that Ruki, at the very least, has strong suspicions about him).

"…Kenta walked in on us kissing. Thankfully, the first thing he said, made us feel better that we were discovered. He was happy not being 'alone,' like we felt," I explain.

"All of you felt alone?" Xiaochun asks. "I-I mean, um, you know gays existed. I mean, I know you didn't think you suddenly started a trend that turned into an entire anime and manga genre decades before you were born, but...You really felt alone?"

"I-I know," I laugh a little. "I mean, seeing anything that acknowledged there's other gay guys out there like on TV or something is one thing…It's another thing to know someone."

"Like friends or…family, right?" Xiaochun asks.

I nod. "I can't talk about what I'm going through with a book or DVD, I might be able to, sort of, relate to a character but…" I trail off.

"…Yeah, there's probably, like, three realistic gay characters in all of shounen-ai, right? At least, ones you could look at and compare yourself to them, right?"

"Exactly what I was going to say," I say, smiling with a nod. "I-I mean, being able to talk to someone, I-I can't say it enough: It feels good, just knowing someone else has been there, someone can help me because they understand what I'm feeling? …It's such a relief."

"I bet it is," Xiaochun smiles, giving me a hug. "Thanks, Jianliang!"

I hug back. "Thank you, Xiaochun…N-Now, um, about your confession…"

"…I can do it now," Xiaochun says, smiling. What?

"But…Xiaochun, before you were…"

"After hearing what you went through, Jianliang, I-I…I feel a lot better about what might happen. Thank you for telling me your story, Jianliang…Xie xie!"

I nod. I-I guess…I mean, she knows how well things played out for me, no matter how scary things got, so…Compared to telling a boy she likes him? Yeah, things…could be a lot worse, I guess. "Can you tell me his name, at least? C'mon…I told you my boyfriend's name…" I trail off, playfully, as Xiaochun goes to my door. She rests her hand on my doorknob.

"…Makoto-kun," Xiaochun replies after a few moments. "I like Makoto-kun."

"Impmon's Tamer? I didn't know you were in touch with him again," I say. We…barely remember those two from back then.

Xiaochun nods. "Ai's in my homeroom class, we're friends again and…Well, Makoto-kun's, um, really nice and everything. I like him a lot."

I nod. "Good luck, Xiaochun."

Xiaochun nods. "I'm going to go call him right now." She opens my door and walks off.

I go back to watching Xros Wars, though it's hard to focus on it given what just happened…

…I have that 'numb' feeling again, sort of. More at the disbelief that I told Xiaochun about Takato and I. One more person knows, now…I hope Takato won't be upset that I told Xiaochun. He knows how hard it used to be for her to keep secrets, we wouldn't normally trust her with something like this.

I admit, I'm a little upset by how 'easy' her 'problem' suddenly is. Based on how she was acting before, I was expecting to spend another hour helping her with Makoto. I shouldn't feel like that, though, I'd rather she didn't go through any of the stress I did.

I decide to check on Xiaochun, just to make sure she's ready to do this…I know, just from how nervous Takato was, that confessing to anyone is difficult, even if she doesn't have the same "concerns" we did.

I go out into the hall and to Xiaochun's room, her door is closed. I'm about to knock when I hear a phone dialing fairly loudly…Actually, that's because the gap between her door and the floor is a little bigger than most, so you can hear what's going on in her room pretty easily (I'd have never talked to her about Takato in her room because of it, not even if I knew sign language). I stand by the door so she can't see my feet, I probably shouldn't do this but…

…I just want to make sure my little sister is okay. She was really nervous before. And all of us, especially Lianjie, are a little protective of her. Jialing told me how much Lianjie freaked out when I went to the Digital World and that it was nothing compared to when Xiaochun "vanished" and they overheard Mom asking Dad if she went to that "other world," too. I had no idea Lianjie cared about me that much but, Xiaochun? He often says, "Someone makes my little sister cry, they die." So when she "disappeared" like I did, especially to "another world," Lianjie was a nervous wreck until we got back...

...In fact, when she and I walked through the door upon returning home Lianjie charged at us both and gave his this really tight hug...He was crying, saying he was afraid we were gone forever. I even apologized for worrying him so much, he told me, "If you EVER disappear like that again, Jianliang, I'm going to find a way to go after you and drag you back home myself! DON'T DO THAT AGAIN!"

...Lianjie may one day break my sanity but I know he cares about me enough to try to fix it when that day comes.

I hear Xiaochun talking on the phone, "…Makoto-kun? He-Hey, um…Is Ai there? I-I need to talk to her, it's important." …What? "…Thanks! …Ai-chan? Um, hey, it's Xiaochun…I was wondering if you could meet me at the park. I need to talk to you. …Thanks! See you soon!"

…Xiaochun…?

~Owari~


Ori's Notes:

…Be honest, you see that ending coming or not? Probably, but…I sort of wanted to play with a shoujo-ai pairing for once. And I've already paired Xiaochun with Makoto in Mirai No Kodomo, so I thought Ai would be the best choice (I think the age difference between the two is one or two years, they never gave an official age or surname for Ai and Makoto so it's just "as old or little younger than Xiaochun" for Ai).

Anyway, just an idea I wanted to play with. Hope you liked it! Also "Meimei" is Chinese for "Little Sister," "Xiaomei" would be an affectionate way of saying "Little Sister Xiao." Which is, sort of, a pun since "Xiao" also means "Little" (Xiaochun's name means "Little Spring").

"Gege" means "Big brother," so "Jianliangge" is an affectionate way to say "Big Brother Jianliang." "Er" is used between parent and child (and I think male-exclusive, but I'm not sure). All can just be seen as a Chinese form of "-chan" but, with Chinese, you use a different term depending on how you're related to that person (it gets really complicated with Uncles and Aunts, too, depending on which parent they're related to and if they're older or younger than the parent). For little brothers, it's "didi" and big sisters it's "jiejie." Also, a general respectful term used between males can translate to "brother," which can be taken from the saying "Within the seven seas, all men are brothers." (This phrase comes up a lot in Shui Hu Zhuan\The Water Margin\Outlaws of the Marsh, which is the novel Suikoden is based on).

Also, as usual, the Xros Wars spoiler (Dark Masters\Devimon\Vamdemon return) is fake (for now at least).

Though anyone keeping track of Xros Wars' second season, I gotta say this: The Meeting of The Goggle Boys and Xros Wars are officially FREAKING ME OUT! Seriously, either I'm psychic, a reality warper or Toei's spyin' on me... You guys know what I'm talking about, I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who's waiting for the dub\hasn't caught up with the latest episode.

Just in case my fics do have some bearing on reality all of a sudden I present you all a bonus mini-fic!

A Test Of Reality Warping Abilities

Once upon a time Digimon Tamers got a second season from Toei, airing right after Xros Wars finished its second season. And the fandom was pleased as the second season was twice as awesome as the first and gave both Li Lianjie and Li Jialing prominent roles as Tamers. Also, a Digimon fan fiction writer by the name of Ori won the lottery and bought a turtle farm where he and his co-writing tortoise, Takato, wrote many best-selling novels together. Because tortoises make the best co-writers, especially goggle wearing Russian Tortoises named Takato.

During this time, an editor by the name of Taiki Matsuki got a new super PC so awesome it made Koushirou Izumi weep tears of jealousy and made all of Hypnos feel technologically inadequate. And Jenrya and Takato along with Hirokazu and Kenta became official couples in Digimon Tamers' second season, making him the happiest closet case on the face of the Earth!

~Owari~

(Hey, if there's the SLIGHTEST chance my writing is somehow affecting reality I'm gonna put my powers to use! I'll let you guys know if it works!)


Taiki's Notes:

Ori, I'd think you were insane for that "mini-fic" but given how you somehow predicted the second season of Xros Wars AND (technically) the recent "amazing reveal" of the second season's plot I have only this to say: Please invite me to your turtle farm and thank you for the super PC! I still have yet to replace my old one but I'm still quite happy with your old laptop! Thank you again, Ori! And enjoy those lottery winnings!

And, yes, those pairings becoming official would make me the world's happiest Closet Ca-DAMN IT, ORI! You have me doing it, now! But it is a very small price to pay for Jenkato becoming official! Ha ha ha!

As for my notes on the new fic: I had just returned home from a trip and found this little surprise in my inbox, I was very excited to see a new fic from Ori so I had to get it up as soon as possible! I'm always excited to see a new Jenkato from Ori! Or a new, um, Aichun? XiaoAi? What would the second pairing be called? Either way, I'm also excited to see Ori coming up with new and exciting pairings for Tamers, I think this is another "Ori original" pairing, actually, (Like Jiangyu x Yamaki) but I'll double check after this is posted.

I didn't see the ending coming but only because Ori's never been known for shoujo-ai. He wrote, maybe, three back when he was on this site and he and I both agree that they weren't very good. I hope Xiaochun's confession goes well, though! Good luck, Xiaochun!

Also, a note: We're revamping the "Upcoming Stories" section with more details on Ori's current projects and status. It's due to his current hip problem (which makes it hard for him to sit at a computer for long periods of time) that we're expanding the list with everything plus "completeness" reports. Fics are probably going to take longer than usual now but Ori is still dedicated to writing, as always! Check the profile now and then for when it's complete! Thank you!

-Taiki Matsuki