Boku No Tatsu Na Sode


I…I'm going to do it. Today, in the park, after school. I'm finally going to do it. I have to, I already asked him to meet me there. I asked him at lunch, this is it. I'm really going to go through with it, I have to. I'm just so tired at this point, I have to tell someone and I think Jen should be that "someone." For a lot of very important reasons.

"Jen-kun, hey!" I was, as usual, happy to see him. After I finally managed to, at least, admit to myself why I was always so happy around him, I've…I've come to terms with that and, today…

…I guess I want to just be honest with him, at least. I-I don't think Jen would be upset. At least, not about part of why I want to see him. I-I mean, um, this is sort of big.

But it's too late to back out, now. I still can't believe I managed to…finally ask him to meet me. Before, we'd be alone and I'd start to bring 'something' up, awkwardly, but…I chickened out at the last second. As always, I just had enough trouble with the courage to say it to myself, let alone…

…Jen…

"Takato-kun!" We sat together at lunch, like we always do. "Something up? You look nervous."

"Can you…do me a favor, Jen-kun? Can you meet me, um, somewhere…Where no-one can see us or hear us, sort of?"

Not my…smoothest attempt—Well, actually, um, that might not be true. I've done a lot worse when I tried to ask this before, and this time it didn't end with 'never mind! I'm just being weird! Don't mind weirdo-Takato!' Followed by a ton of…nervous laughter.

I'm amazed Jen hasn't suspected something was up just from all that. It's been months of doing this at least once every couple weeks. I need to do this, fast! Otherwise, he might just…Figure it out on his own and ask me! Gods, if Jen asked me about…

…The fact I'm trying to come out to him? I'd probably throw up before he even said the dreaded "G-Word."

"Huh?"

"Er…A-At the park, Gu-Guilmon's...Guilmon's spot! Please, can we meet there after school? Please, don't tell anyone…I-I need to talk to you about…something important. Really, really important."

"Sure, Takato-kun. Why can't you tell me here, though?"

"It's…private, I don't want anyone overhearing, you know? Like Hirokazu and Kenta or something," that's true. I ran into them today, in the halls while I was, um, 'practicing' this 'favor' to myself between classes. It was 'break' period, the fifteen minutes between second and third period that lets students get a snack or catch up on any last minute homework. I usually spend it with Jen but in this case? I told him I had to "go to the library" and I'd meet him at class instead of what we usually do: Hang out in the near-empty classroom and talk about…Anything! Or help each other with some last minute homework help, like the art assignments from second period for that night.

On that note: Hirokazu has become the master of 'speed-homework-copying' with the classes he shares with Kenta: He can get a lot, if not all, of what he needs in those fifteen minutes, even right down to changing the wording so he doesn't get caught.

That's Hirokazu for you, he puts more work and, dare I say, skill into cheating than he would have if he'd just done said homework on his own! It's sort of amazing yet, um, I guess "dumbfounding" would be the word which, as Ruki would probably say: Emphasis on DUMB!

Hirokazu and Kenta asked what I was doing, I. sort of, told the truth: I was 'practicing a very important conversation' to myself. It was true. I was sort of pacing around the area between the second and third floor of our high school. Just…talking to myself about what I want to, need to and, most likely will, say to Jen at lunch and especially at Guilmon's spot…

…Hirokazu thinks I'm confessing to a girl, based on my wording, what I was doing and how I looked. They were, apparently, watching me for a few minutes…Thank the Gods I kept the 'dialogue' in my head or as quiet whispers to myself.

He's half right, at least. I'm confessing but not to a girl.

To Jen.

I'm…confessing to Jenrya Li. My best friend…Of the same gender.

I'm…That word I'm afraid of saying sometimes: Gay. I'm going to, at least, tell Jen that I'm gay. I-I don't even know how he'll take to that let alone the fact I want to tell him that I like him and as more than just my best friend. A lot more than just my best friend.

I love him. I-I mean it, too, I don't use 'love' very 'freely,' if you know what I mean…I really love Jen, this is more than just "let's go out," this is"Jen, I love you. I love you so much more than I should…Please, don't be upset by this. I-I can't change how I feel." As…hard as I tried at first, to come up with some rational explanation as to why I felt so strongly for him.

I just know that Jen's the greatest, not just the greatest friend I've ever had but…I admire so much about him, I hope I can somehow tell him that but…I-I might just have to leave it at "I'm gay," and hope…he takes to the news well. I-I need Jen, even if we're "just friends" forever, I don't want to know what things would like without him and, especially, I don't want to know what things would be like if…

…Jen hated me. Please, Jen, don't hate me. Anything else is fine, I know you won't feel the same but…At least, stay as my friend. I can accept that, I'm…expecting it. He'll still be my friend, he'll just…know why I never went out with Juri or turned down girls in middle and high school. Re-Really, I've been asked out a few times and…

…I did my best to politely say "Sorry, I'm not…into dating." I couldn't say "not into girls," ever. If the whole school found out? Gods help me, I don't know if I could survive that.

Ever since I realized it: I've been…anxious about it, mostly, but whenever I'm with Jen? Alone?

I don't feel as anxious or scared. I sometimes try (and ultimately fail) to bring it up because, I-I don't know, something, a little voice in the back of my mind—No, two little voices in the back of my mind argue:

"Jen will understand, tell him you're gay! Maybe he'd even feel the same way if you told him that you love him."

"You're an idiot, Takato! Don't tell anyone you're 'the g-word,' stupid! Especially Jen, he won't understand, he'll never want to see you again! You'll ruin your whole life, you moron!"

The second one gets louder and louder the closer I come to listening to the former. And then it usually wins. That's when I chicken out and tell Jen I'm just being weird. And he…usually accepts that, shrugs it off and we talk about anything else. I mean, anything!

"Okay, I need to stay a little after my last period, so I'll meet you there. Is that okay?"

"Thanks, and I don't mind waiting a little. That's definitely, perfectly, really okay!" …I know how stupid that sounded, Jen held back a laugh as that second voice just groaned as loud as it could, telling me I was an idiot. That first voice was getting quieter, but still…I could hear it, saying that Jen would, at least, understand. He may not like me back but I wouldn't lose my best friend. Jen's told me, more than a few times, he's never been as "close" to a "best friend" as he and I are. He and I, we're both the best friends we've ever had to each other.

"I'll see you there, Takato-kun. Good luck with history," was the last thing he said to me as lunch ended. History is my last period of the day. Jen's is a computer class, he's staying a little late to finish a project he's been working on…

…And I really needed those extra few minutes to keep my nerve and prepare mentally, to finally shut up that second voice. Telling it"I don't believe you" and…Hoping for the best. The absolute best being Jen telling me he feels the same and most likely best being Jen accepts me and has no problem with still being my best friend…

…The best friend I've ever had by so much. I-I don't know why but, by the sixth grade, a year after we met: It was like we'd known each other forever! We were there for each other when our partners went back, we were there when we got the same class in sixth grade and then on until high school…And, even then, shared more than a couple classes. First, second, third, fifth and the same lunch period. We're almost always together, not even Hirokazu and Kenta have this many classes. When we need to pick a partner for a project? We're each others' first choice, neither even has to ask! We only don't work together if the teacher assigns partners and…Often, we'll still end up together because of how well we work together, they say. We take the project seriously, Hirokazu and Kenta would usually spend the entire project goofing off or Kenta'd do all the work and Hirokazu "leeches" off what should just be Kenta's grade. Not that Kenta minds, it's been that way since Kindergarten for those two: Kenta does the work, Hirokazu copies it.

Jen…tells me everything, I tell him almost everything. I've never even hinted that I'm not…100% "normal," I guess…I don't see myself as "normal" over this. I-I mean, I-I…I like…

…I like…Jen.

I like guys!

I-I'm gay!

Why me?

Why am I GAY?

What did I do to…deserve this? Not that I'm resigning to some horrible fate if I accept it but…Why me? Which God did I anger? Or which God just pointed at me and said "Make that one gay! It'll be hilarious!" …Yeah, hilarious…The Gods have a great sense of humor, I guess. At least, amongst themselves. Most mortals would just say they have a sick sense of humor.

Maybe that's what the second, louder voice is: The Gods being merciful and warning me, if I do this I'm going to be miserable. Or, maybe, it's the first voice, the God of Love is telling me I shouldn't be afraid and it's my own insecurities that drown him out. Neither possibility would really surprise me: The former, I'm just being an idiot and not heeding any sort of warnings, even from the Gods themselves. The latter, I know how much and how easily I get worried over nothing. And this? …This isn't "nothing." This is...

…The scariest moment of my entire life.

…Either way, I have to do this. Today! I-I have to, at least, tell Jen the deep, dark secret: His best friend is gay…

…And would do anything in this life and the next for him to say "I love you, too, Takato." …But his best friend isn't that delusional. Or stupid. Or optimistic. He's…

…Going to be scared out of his mind. I hope Jen can…keep me from falling apart, keep me sane in the end. Just, maybe, give me a calming hug and say, "It's okay, I don't mind…You're my best friend, Takato-kun. That won't change. Ever." That's…how I'd feel if I were straight and Jen told me he was gay: I'd never abandon Jen over anything. I hope…he feels the same way as I do in that regard, at least. Jen won't abandon me over this. Or hate me. I-I know, for some 'best friends,' throwing 'gay' into the mix is…Not helping things. Especially the words "I love you."

But, Jen? There's nothing I can do to back out of this.

Especially now. I'm leaning against the entrance to Guilmon's spot, I see Jen approaching from the sidewalk: Alone. Just him, just like I asked. I was a little worried Hirokazu and Kenta might somehow catch wind of where I'd be and want to 'spy on' my confession, to see 'the girl I like.'

…If only I liked a girl. I tried so hard at first but…I just can't, I-I'm even more awkward around girls over it all, I think. I just get so nervous when the subject of 'dating' comes up. Or, with Hirokazu and Kenta, checking out girls. That's…always awkward. Jen backs out of it, too, when Hirokazu offers to let us join him and Kenta "girl watching." And I know even Kenta gets worn out on the topic now and then, and he's Hirokazu's best friend ever, too.

"Hey, Takato," Jen waves, smiling. I…force a pathetic smile and barely even hold my hand up. He looks a little concerned, now, as he walks up the steps. We both stand just outside of Guilmon's spot. "What's wrong? I mean, I've never seen you so, well, nervous. What's going on? What did you want to tell me?"

"Je-Jen, um, I…" I take a deep breath, exhaling slowly and closing my eyes. I-I'm quiet for a little bit, I feel myself shaking.

You have to do it now, Takato. There's no backing out, you can't just say you're 'being weird' again and expect Jen to just nod his head and say 'okay.' You asked him to meet you here, you told him it was important, you told him you wanted it to be an absolute secret…

…Because you're about to reveal the deepest, darkest secret you have: You love Jen.

"…Takato?" Jen asks, breaking the silence. He…sounds worried, now. There really is no way I can talk my way out of this, it's too late.

"Jen, I...I have a secret. I-I think it's time I told you, because...I want you to know and I-I hope you can accept it. Please, whatever you do, don't hate me. ...Please."

Jen gives me an almost scared look, saying, "H-Hate you? Takato, you're my best friend. I couldn't hate you, even if I tried. What are you so worried about?" Hearing him say he couldn't hate me, even if he tried…That's…

…That's a relief. I-I couldn't hate him, even if I tried, too. But, there's still a fine line between 'love' and 'hate.' And I'm treading on that line, and the next words I say will push me into one side or the other…

…Hopefully into the side I…would give anything to be on. Please, Jen…Please…Don't push me to the…Other side: Hate. Anything but that, Jen…Anything. I know you couldn't hate me if you tried but…You also can't love me if you "tried," you…You're straight, I'm sure of it. I-I just want to be honest with you, I don't like having to put on this "show" anymore…I want you to at least know: I'm gay.

I look at Jen, I feel like I'm tearing up. I want to just run away but, no, this isn't…This isn't something I can or want to run from any more! I-I need to tell him! I have to! I just…I…I…

…I'm miserable, keeping this to myself. I just can't take much more of it.

I take a deep breath, keeping my eyes as dry as possible. I look to Jen, he's still staring at me with concern.

Jen, please, don't hate me.

I beg of you, Jen, don't hate me.

I finally say it. Two words I never thought I'd be able to say to him…

"…I'm gay," I say, quietly and leaning back into Guilmon's spot with a light sigh.

…I finally did it. Gods help me, I-I can't take those words back, now. Jen knows. I finally came out to someone…Someone I happen to also love.

There's a moment of complete silence as Jen takes those words in, I'm afraid to look at him. "T-Takato...? I-I had...no idea, but it's nothing I'd have a problem with." Thank the Gods…But…

"Th-there's one other thing, that I'm...not sure how you'll feel about." I finally work up the nerve to look at Jen, he…He looks calm, he's surprised. There's no questioning that, but I don't see any anger, no sign of fear. I-I think…I can tell him this, but Jen? Please don't hate me for what I'm about to say. It's…the game changer, let's say. "I like you. Well, no, actually..." I stammer a bit before I quietly and not as awkwardly as I expected to, say, "I-I love you, Jen."

Jen's jaw…sort of goes limp, he stays completely silent. This is…less surprise, more…Eye bulging shock. I obviously blindsided him with that. I'm sort of surprised by how blindsided he is, I mean, Jen? If…If I'm gay, then, well…

…Who else could I love? Ryou? He and I don't see each other nearly as much as…Any of the other Tamers! Hirokazu? He'd freak out. Kenta? See Hirokazu. Anyone in our classes? I only know them from this school year!

Jen, you're…My closest friend. I-I trust you with everything I've ever told you and asked you to keep secret, you've never betrayed that trust. Within a year, it was like we'd been friends our entire lives! We…We went to The Digital World together! We were together throughout most of it, if not all of it! You and I, we fought D-Reaper together with our partners! When our partners left, we were there for each other…

…Jen, I…I love you because of all we've been through and more. I-I don't think—No, I know, I can't love anyone else on Earth as much as I love you. You've been there for me whenever I needed you, I always tried to do the same…

…But given how long he's been quiet, he's just…In shock, I guess…

…Please, please, don't let that second voice be right. Gods, I'll do anything if…If…

I-I look away, awkwardly and…I feel those tears again. "J-Jen? Are...you all right?" I whisper,

It takes Jen a moment or two to answer. He stutters a little at first. before taking a quick breath, exhaling slowly, "...Y-Yeah. I-I'm sorry, Takato, I...I just don't know...what to say to that or what to think. I-I..." …H-He sounds so nervous. I think he's scared.

Gods, what…What have I done? I-I mean, it's one thing to just "accept" a gay friend, but…Telling him I love him? Gods, what was I thinking? Tha-That's…He's straight, you idiot! I mean, it's one thing when your friend says he's gay, it's another thing entirely when he flat out says he loves you! IDIOT, TAKATO! IDIOT!

That…second voice…

It was the Gods, trying to warn me. No, not The Gods, that voice was…

…Common sense. The other voice was the Gods and their "sense of humor," if anything. The one that always got me so close to saying this but common sense prevailed in the end.

Why didn't I realize this ten minutes ago?

"Y-You're not mad, are you? ...D-Do you hate me? P-Please, Jen, I-I didn't mean to upset you!" I'm panicking, shouting and facing Jen. I hold out my hands, shaking my head frantically. What was I thinking? "I-I'm sorry, I-I can't...I can't help how I feel, but...I-I should have kept it to myself, I'm such an idiot. Please, Jen, forgive me!" Please! I-I'd do anything for you somehow forget I told you that I love you! What could make me think I had so much as the slightest chance with Jen? I hate myself, I-I'm going to cry any minute now. I hate myself for being so stupid, for ever thinking this was a good idea!

I love Jen, but I HATE MYSELF!

Jen looks at me, then shakes his head, quickly, taking a step backwards. Away from me...H-He's scared, isn't he? This is a nightmare to him, I just know it. Some pervert just confessed his love to him. "N-No! I'm not mad or anything...I...Just...Takato, c-can I have...some time to think about this? Please? It's not because I-"

"No, I-I shouldn't have told you! It's...not right." It wasn't right at all! It's stupid! I'm an idiot, I've ruined…everything. Th-The person I love is afraid of me! "Please, f-forget I said anything. I-It was wrong of me, I'm so, so sorry Jen." I-I know what he needs to think about, he needs to think about a way to say 'We can't be friends anymore,' because of how awkward I've made everything!

Please, Jen, don't…Don't hate me! I'm begging you, don't hate me! Don't avoid me, let's just somehow…SOMEHOW pretend this never happened! I'll do anything, Jen, anything for you to not hate me, to still, somehow, be my best friend like before. Please, Jen, I-I don't mean to ruin things for us, even as "just friends," I should have accepted that as reality. I should have never for a second gotten my hopes up that Jen would somehow feel the same way. He doesn't, he can't, he's…taken another step backwards. Each one of those steps scares me.He…He wants to run away, I know it! He wants nothing to do with me now. Jen, please, I…

…I…

…I really don't know what I would do without you, Jen. I-I never even thought of that until now: What would I do if…Jen did hate me? I-I mean, how could I ever be happy again knowing I screwed up the greatest friendship I've ever had because of something I had no control over, I didn't want to be true, I didn't want at all! …Why? Why can't I have said "I love you" to Juri or just any girl and…Be like everyone else! To just be normal! Not…this pathetic wreck who just…

…Ruined everything.

I'm sorry, Jen, I'm so sorry!

"N-No, Takato...I swear, I-I don't hate you. I don't have a problem with this, honest! I just...need to think about...things. That's all. Please, c-calm down..." He steps backwards, again! Further away from me…His expression tells me this is…

…Why am I so stupid? Why did I think this was ever a good idea? To be honest? …Honesty isn't…always the best policy, not when it can ruin your life like this. Ruin what once made me so happy, just being with Jen. Even if this was still a secret, I was still happy around Jen. I was happy even though I knew we'd…never really be together. I should have always known there was no chance of that. I-I'm just that much of an idiot, stupid enough to dig his own grave—No, a grave for "Jenrya and Takato's Friendship: It lasted until Takato opened his big gay, stupid mouth."

Gods, please, let me think of anything to get out of this!

"Ha ha…I-I had…I had you going…Didn't I?" I whisper, forcing a grin. "Hi-Hirokazu…dared me to say that. Re-Really, Jen, I'm joking. That…was all a bad joke, Hirokazu…owes me ten thousand Yen, now. Ha ha ha!" …That…won't work, just the look on Jen's face tells me, that would never have worked in a million years.

Especially since…I feel those tears I've been trying my hardest ever to hold back finally start streaming down my cheeks. Crying is…my biggest "tell" for anything. I hate crying these days, it never leads to anything good. Always, always…EVERYTHING bad!

Damn it.

I'm gay and pathetic. Common sense, why didn't I listen this time? I did every other time!

"Takato, please, I-I'm not mad! A-And I don't care if you're gay! I-I need to think, that's all! I don't hate you!" Jen, you're…still backing away. I-I'm some…Some monster, now, I know it! He's afraid to be around some pervert, because…I am a pervert, I-I'm not normal. I don't like girls, I don't like Juri. I like guys, I love Jen! There's…nothing right about me. Not in Jen's eyes, not from the expression on his face, not in the way he still takes a step backwards now and then.

Each step is…another step for me into that grave. My own, private grave. Jen, please, just…let it out and throw dirt on me, already. I should have known that's how this would all end. I dig my grave and lie in it. Then Jen gets the shovel and starts throwing the dirt in…

"Jen…I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," I whisper, I look away. I-I finally lose it. I'm crying, like when I was a kid…Back when I first met Jen. I haven't cried like this in years but…

…What else can I do?

"Don't be sorry, I-I really…just need to think. I-I…"

I CAN'T TAKE THIS!

"I-I'm an idiot, Jen! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry…Please don't…Don't hate me, Jen…I-I couldn't…I couldn't take…I'm sorry!" I-I can't stand to be here anymore, I run. I'm running away from Jen. The way I'm sure he wanted to run away from me…Because I'm that sick freak who loves him!

"TAKATO! WAIT! PLEASE!" I can barely hear him, despite him screaming at me to come back. Jen, I don't want you to see me like this, I don't want you to hate me, I-I'm so stupid…Please, somehow forget what I said. Believe that I really did get Hirokazu to dare me to 'play gay' with you…

…Anything but…This. H-He was backing away from me, he was afraid. I-I know it! Jen was afraid of me, he doesn't need to think, he just…Wanted to get as far away from me as possible! He was just polite enough to pretend that…Everything was okay, I guess.

I hate myself. I keep telling myself how much I hate myself and how stupid all of this was as I run, that second voice won't shut up, now! It's…pretty much saying, "I told you so, stupid. I told you so."

I finally stop at the last crosswalk before the bakery, I lean against a street lamp. I look behind me, towards the park I just bolted out of. As far away from it as possible, I-I ran faster than I've ever run, it takes me a few minutes to calm down enough to start catching my breath. I've never run and cried like that. All because…I was delusional enough to think Jen wouldn't be disgusted. I just ruined my life…

…And now I need to march to the bakery and act like everything is normal! Like I'm a normal person, not some pervert, not some idiot, not someone who…

…Lost the person he loves. All because he was stupid enough to think 'he would understand.' No, not with how he looked. He was…He was scared.

Jen, I need to think, too. I need to think how…Gods, how my life is over. It…It's more than just Jen's friendship I lost…My whole life is going to change once I go back to school tomorrow. Nothing will ever be the same again.

I step around to the back of the bakery, taking a deep breath. I go inside, leaving my shoes at the bottom of the stairs as usual.

"Takato?" …Damn it.

"Da-Dad?" I turn, hoping I look as 'normal' as I usually do…

…Even though I'm anything but "normal." Especially now, especially with Jen.

"Are you…all right?" Dad asks, Mom steps out into the hall behind him with a tray of fresh baked rolls.

"I-I'm fine," I say, forcing a smile almost as pathetic as I am. "I-I…I had a long day at school, that's all."

"You…sure?" Mom asks. "You look…Takato, what's wrong?"

"No-Nothing's wrong," I say, shaking my head. "I'm fine, just a long day."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Gods, no! Dad, not that, anything but that!

"Nope! I'm fine!" I say, quickly. I just know they picked up on the obvious panic in my voice. "Really, just a long day! Lots of homework and…I'm just not in that good a mood 'cause of some surprise tests. Yo-You know me and tests, always get nervous when they pop outta nowhere!" Please, please just…leave me alone! Just this once, I don't want any Fatherly advice! I don't want to break down and cry on my Mother's shoulder like when I was a kid! I especially don't want to tell them what I said to Jen! And how he's probably relieved that I ran away, saving him the trouble of doing it himself…I did Jen a favor by being the one to run away, he doesn't have to "think" of an excuse to leave…

…And never see me again.

Jen, I understand. I-I'm the idiot…And, like you said: I couldn't hate you, Jen, not even if I tried. I love you…

…But I hate me.

"Okay, but…If you change your mind, son, we'll…be down here, okay?"Dad says, he sounds almost sad for me. My Mother just gives a quiet, worried nod and goes back into the kitchen after passing the tray of rolls to my Dad. Dad goes out to the front, taking the tray of rolls.

…Great, it's obvious my problems are bigger than tests and long days and bad moods. At least they aren't pushing things, they aren't going to force it out of me…That…

…That never ends well, I usually end up in trouble or a crying mess or both. And with what I just did? Both would be the best case scenario.

I practically drag my feel up the stairs and to my room, just…Zombie-like. I'm running the day through my head, from Jen and I sitting together in first period and laughing as we worked on a group project with Kenta and Takeshi. Hirokazu doesn't have our same first period, otherwise he'd probably be in our group, too, not doing any work beyond what minimum he has to do but still "leeching" off our good grade since, well, Jen and Kenta do really well with their grades. Me? …I'm not perfect, but I'm at least above average in most classes. Art is the only class I have anyone beat, Jen and Kenta both tell me that: Getting the required art grade is easy for me, I'm the…

…"Sensitive artist type," I guess. What about that doesn't scream "GAY!" …Damn it, I'm probably more obvious. I didn't come out to Jen, I just confirmed his worst fear: His best friend is a pervert who…loves him. Why else do I always want to sketch him when we pair up to sketch another student? Most guys pick a girl, unless they have no other choice…

…We pick each other. That should have given him a clue, I think. Looking back, it's probably a huge tip-off.

Second period…Art. We walked through the halls to our shared classes and talk, as always. I almost hear Jen talking from this morning about the latest, greatest RPGs his brother discovered while digging through the "Used Game Store" for bargains on new generation, last generation, old, really old and before-he-was-even-born Role Playing GEMS, as Rinchei calls them! And then found a used copy of one of Koei's SNES Three Kingdoms games and practically thanked the Gods, then and there, doing a "Final Fantasy Victory" pose…

…And what's scary is, that's exactly what he did. Jen's brother loves games, especially things based on Sangokushi, The Three Kingdoms period of China. Jen likes that time period, too, but nowhere near as much as Rinchei does.

I…I never told Jen since I didn't remember that much but I read it once, a few Summers ago. It's so long but worth the read, I thought. I kept losing track of a lot of the lesser characters but…I loved things like Sou Sou invading Son Ken of Go, allied with Ryuu Bi's forces and how they beat a force of over a million soldiers with barely a quarter of their enemy's numbers! And when Shoukatsu Ryou and Shuu Yu matched wits with Sou Sou and each other. Like Shoukatsu Ryou "borrowing arrows" from Sou Sou after pledging to "make" 100,000 arrows for Shuu Yu or Shuu Yu could take Shoukatsu Ryou's head! And Shoukatsu Ryou got OVER 150,000 arrows by letting them collect on a bunch of straw targets on some boats one foggy morning, just letting Sou Sou shoot an almost endless number arrows at him without realizing he was supplying his own enemy with them! That was my favorite part of the battle of Red Cliff! Shoukatsu Ryou is amazing! He's one of Jen's favorite character, too, his family all like Ryuu Bi and his allies. Or all of Shoukatsu Ryou and Shiba Ii's battles near the end…It was really cool. I know Rinchei loves that time period and Jen...

…He knows a lot about it. All the characters in Chinese, naturally. I just know one or two and I can barely pronounce any of them. We talked a little about the games Rinchei got and how he was already playing his new Three Kingdoms game and trying to conquer China. For the "twenty millionth time since he first heard the words 'Dynasty Warriors' or 'Three Kingdoms' as video games." Ha ha ha, Jen...He likes games but nothing like Rinchei. I know Rinchei does like to play as Chou Kou in Dynasty Warriors who's…flamng gay, but…

…Chou Kou's not real—Well, he is and isn't at the same time. The real Chou Kou wasn't flaming gay, and…Gay video game characters are funny! Real gays?

Terrifying. I-I see Jen's face again as I think back to earlier, being reminded of Jen and the "closest" this topic ever came up between us, when he talked about Rinchei's favorite character, Chou Kou: "I swear, Takato, my brother is obsessed with Zhang He in that game…I don't even know why, he just…Makes him laugh, I guess." …If Chou Kou makes Rinchei laugh, I…I wonder what I'd do.

Would Jen tell Rinchei? Did he go home, saying, "Takato hit on me! He's gay! Can you believe this?"

I-I bet Rinchei's replies would be Choukou's best quotes, modified for me! I-I've played Dynasty Warriors with Rinchei a few times…I can just hear them making fun of me

"So, is the Digital World…Pretty?" Rinchei…

"What? It was…weird, if anything." …Jen…

"We will go into the Digital World with this beautiful Digimon I created! THIS is the art of Digimon Taming~!" …I can see it, now.

"A downhill charge, like falling blossoms…GUILMON! LET'S DANCE AROUND THE DEVAS!"To Jen, I'm terrifying.

"Jen, your battle against Zhuqiaomon was…BEAUTIFUL~!" …To Rinchei, I'm one big, flaming joke

"D-Reaper is not…beautiful…IT'S NOT BEAUTIFUL AT ALL! We will teach such an ugly program THE TRUE BEAUTY OF DIGIMON TAMING!" …Yeah, I-I can…I can almost see them, joking around: Chou Takouto. The 'Elegant Dancing Guilmon Tamer' or…Something! I just know, Rinchei will…Make his jokes, Jen might join in. Jen might laugh.

Jen…Maybe if you can laugh at me, you won't…hate me. I-I could accept that, maybe. Just as long as you still want something to do with me after today. As long as you don't hate me. Or you're not afraid of me. You…You'll have someone to joke about, I won't mind…Much. It's a small price if…we're still friends.

…No, Jen….Jen wouldn't make fun of me. Not to my face like that. Rinchei? Sure. Hirokazu? Naturally. Ruki? As if there was ever any doubt? Kenta? See Hirokazu, again! Ryou? I don't know, probably! But, Jen?

Jen isn't like that. He…He might joke with Rinchei in private but he wouldn't make fun of me to my face. He's Jen, he's…the best. If only…If only I wasn't so stupid.

As I walk into my room, it's like walking into art class…I see my "art corner," by my closet. My latest project that isn't for school on the drawing board: A sketch of Jen and I with our partners.

Wonderful, everything reminds me of Jen…I can't even draw anymore without thinking of him. I-I thought, maybe, I could draw something to take my mind off what happened but…

…No, I-I…I can't bring myself to draw. It reminds me of Jen, now. The Jen who's afraid of me.

In today's art class, we had to pick a partner to sketch. Naturally, Jen and I picked each other. Jen took "art" this year because he needs the "Art" grade. You need at least one passing art grade to graduate, after all.

He could have gone with the pottery, calligraphy or choir class, but…He picked the painting\drawing class I was in, too, without even knowing! We…We were just that inseparable, I guess.

Now?

I doubt he'll want to finish his sketch of me, or even think of letting me sketch him from anything but…Memory.

Jen's a memory, now.

Memory. Gods, I remember when he showed me his schedule before school started at the end of break.

"You picked that as your art class? Why?"

"I guess I want to learn how to draw like you can…You're really amazing, Takato. I wish I could draw like you could. Can you give me pointers for class?"

"Sure, in class…We have the same art period."

"Really? That's great! But…You need art lessons? Or is it for an easy grade?"

"A little of both, Jen-kun, ha ha ha! I could always use some tips."

"Same here, except…Promise not to get mad if I end up drawing a really bad sketch of you someday?"

"Ha ha, Jen, wait until you've actually attended one class before you tell yourself you're bad…You…You're not a bad artist at all, I've seen some of your sketches."

"Yeah, my so-called sketches are…On par with your pre-school masterpieces, I'll bet."

"Oh, then can I put your finger-painting of a kitty on the fridge?"

"Ha ha ha, it's supposed to be Terriermon."

"That explains all the green, then."

Of course, Jen…really was better than he let on. We've sketched each other before for that class. He's not great, but…

…I think he did a great job on each one. And he got better and better during the school year. He said I got "even better," too…Jen used to love my artwork, I'd give him sketches now and then of things I know he'd really like. Like memories from The Digital World, or Terriermon or…

…Once or twice, him. I'd give him a sketch I drew of him from…the now depressing word: Memory. And I'd ask him how well he thought I did without actually using him as a real model.

Jen always said "Perfect, Takato-kun!" or tell me I'm the best artist he's ever known (I liked to point out: I'm the only "artist" he's ever known).

And, now…No more art. I look at the sketch I was working on, I feel like I'm going to throw up. Because Jen isn't going to be there to tell me how much he likes my art, or thank me for giving him a sketch or drawing he really likes…

…He's probably throwing those away. I know it. If he and Rinchei aren't making a bunch of "Flaming Gay Takato" jokes with Chou Kou, then…He's throwing away all those sketches. At least, those of him…Because I drew them out of love. Love for…another male. Jenrya Li.

…Damn it.

I fall on my bed, sniffing and…I cry, I just cry. I pray my parents didn't follow me up to hear any of this. And that the walls are thick enough or, at least, my pillow can drown out the sounds of me sobbing uncontrollably.

I'm such an idiot.

And everyone…They'll find out soon, I just know it. Not that Jen even has to tell them, but he could. He's probably warning the others: Beware of Takato.

Or, even if he didn't…I can just see how tomorrow would go:

Hirokazu and Kenta would notice, immediately that we had some kind of fight. Kenta would go see Jen, Hirokazu would go see me and they'd try to figure out what happened on their own…

…And Hirokazu won't leave me alone! He'll drive me insane, bug me in every class we share (two and lunch, but he usually hangs out with Kenta at lunch or ditches his fifth period class for fast food to split with Kenta) and wait for me in the halls between classes we don't share! He won't stop. I know Kenta would accept "I don't want to talk about it" if Jen is kind enough to keep my secret but…

…Hirokazu?

I-I can see myself finally snapping and telling him I confessed to Jen. Knowing my luck, it'd be during our lunch period. I'd scream at the top of my lungs, "I CONFESSED MY LOVE TO JENRYA LI! AND NOW HE HATES ME!" And the entire school would know what happened, I'd be the latest, juiciest piece of gossip, I'd get all the stares and whispers all the other "rumored students" got in the last year combined in a single day! And…That's just people I don't know!

The Tamers?

Ryou and I would see each other much less, especially if he figured out how…"Attractive" I think he is (not that I like Ryou, I love Jen. And only Jen!). And, well, looking back he'd probably realize those times I was staring, like the beach or pool, let's say…

Hirokazu? He'll never want to be anywhere near me ever again!

Juri? Probably think I used her to "look straight" back when we were younger. I was using her to "hetero up."

Kenta? See Hirokazu, yet again.

Ruki? Actually, Hirokazu and Kenta might still like me after she finds out: No more gay jokes about them…Just me. I'm one big gay joke to everyone, now. She'd be worse than Rinchei, I'd be…Pretty much at her verbal mercy whenever she's near…

…Of course, the only time I see Ruki is with the others, so if the others don't want to be around me, then….Ruki won't have her big gay punching bag. Because she'd be the only one who wants to be around me and that's because she wants her big gay punching bag and an audience…No audience, no punching bag, no Ruki.

No friends.

And that's just being optimistic. If the school found out, either through Jen or my own idiocy with screaming at Hirokazu: My family will find out. Gods, I-I didn't even consider that.

I cry harder as I think of all the nightmares I've had about them finding out they…screwed up! Their only son is gay! I-I'm a failure, the reject, the one they should have "tried harder" to raise "right." They'll argue whose side of the family I got this from, probably. There's no way it was from a MATSUDA! It must be Mom's Okinawan side of the family: The Urazoe's…Gods…

…Kai…What would he think about me? He's…

…Kai's the closest person I'll ever have to a "brother," I guess. Before, when we were kids, he'd make fun of me, tease me, drive me insane…But after that trip with Guilmon? I remember how I didn't want to go but, well, I had to visit my family and my parents thought I'd love Okinawa, even though as a kid…I was sort of terrified of everything from crabs to even a sea turtle that snuck up behind me while I was snorkeling as a kid with Kai…I-I thought I was going to drown, but Kai managed to get me back up to the surface after I swallowed some water screaming at the HUGE Green Sea Turtle that 'was gonna eat me,' or something, That's what I told everyone, crying (I was, I think, six or seven), but in reality it just startled me and I 'inhaled' some water…Thank the Gods Kai was nearby. He pulled me the three feet up to the surface I somehow forgot was there, I forgot how to just float…Kai knew what to do, he got me to fresh air, I coughed up some water but I was fine….Except I never wanted to go to another beach or the ocean ever again! I didn't even like pools for a while. The Goggles I had, I only had them because, well, I loved Digimon so much: I wanted Goggles like Taichi and Daisuke…Except they didn't make goggles like theirs, I had this "goofy pair of yellow goggles." Jen…Jen told me that, um, I actually looked good with the "Goggle Boy" look. Hirokazu tried it, once, with my goggles…We thought he looked weird, Jen says I'm the only Tamer who can "pull off" that look. I'm one of the "Goggle Boys," except I didn't get to be an anime character, I just lived through a season of my favorite show, pretty much…And Jen lived through that same "season," too. He was…My Yamato or my Ken, I guess…

…And we all know how that can be interpreted. We know Digimon has a strong shounen-ai fanbase…I know because, um, I'm a member of said fanbase. It…helped me ease into the idea of being gay, a little. Admitting that I liked Taito and things like that was one of my first "gay baby steps," I guess.

But that trip with Guilmon? Even going snorkeling again for the first time in years? I guess I was finally old enough to have fun, especially since it was just Kai, Guilmon and I most of the time. Like when he caught that octopus and we had fresh roasted octopus on the shore. Kai's a great fisherman, he's following in Grandpa Wataru's footsteps, he loves fishing. He also loves the "beautiful babes in beautiful bikinis on the beautiful beaches of beautiful Okinawa." Yeah, my cousin loves women and…

…I play along, I don't use any girls I really know when we talk over the phone or online voice or video chat. I hate talking about girls on video chat, Kai can see how…awkward I am trying to "like girls," too…I wonder if he suspects me because of that, maybe the others suspect, too, because of how…awkward I am around that topic! I can't even pretend to like girls right! I just "like" one or two girls in my classes, I might make up a girl or something when we talk. Just "some cute girl" in my art class, I "sketched her" when we were assigned to sketch our classmates. When, in reality, all of our "partnered" sketches were of Jen, I drew Jen and Jen drew me

…And I always put extra work into those sketches. I never wanted to do a bad sketch of Jen. Ever.

And, again, I'm reminded of Jen when I think about that trip to Okinawa. Namely how scared I was in that "Water Zone" when we got separated from the others…And Jen was either brave or insane enough to figure out how The Digital World works and tried to breathe water!

And it worked…I kept forgetting I could breathe, I saw a bubble? I was underwater again. Thank the Gods that JEN was there! Hi-His confidence, the fact he was so calm is the only way I could have survived all that! The fact he...risked his life to test that theory, as much as Terriermon kept chanting "Moumantai," I-I was scared to death that my best friend just…Killed himself, pretty much.

Thank you, Jen, for…being brave enough to get us through anything.

And yet…I'm still scary. Because of how much…I don't even have to say love you, just how much I admire everything about you! You're brave, Jen…I might have been Dukemon but, you? You're Jen, you're the bravest person I know and probably will ever know. I-I wish I wasn't that….one thing you're afraid of, Jen. Some pervert who loves you, who's too stupid to realize he's making the biggest mistake of his life

…Because love makes you stupid: Kai said that once, telling me about his latest "romantic failures." Though Kai is pretty good with women, he has his, um, "failures." Or "One Date Wonders," usually he says or does something stupid to try to impress her and ends up getting hurt or looking stupid or something like that. Unlike me, though, who'd never live it down…Kai somehow doesn't let those things get to him. He forgets about them by the next morning, usually. He's an idiot until he goes to bed, then he's Kai Urazoe again the next morning.

I envy that about you, Kai-kun, you can ignore things like that. You make a mistake, your life isn't over. I make one huge mistake, my life is over. It's like a circle of dominos, all lined up perfectly for my destruction.

…So, let's line up my dominos…

From Me to Jen to all the other Tamers to my parents to Kai and Grandpa Wataru to…Me again. I'm the first and last domino in a long circle of misery, one false move and I'll knock everything over and destroy my life…

…And I did that. I fell, then the Jen domino fell, then my friends, my parents, Kai, Grandpa Wataru and…Me. I'm the first and last to fall, I'm…I'm miserable now. I've lost everything.

"…Takato," damn it…Please, please don't tell me you heard me crying from downstairs, Dad. Please! Or, worse, you got a call from Jen or his family: Telling you what I did and how they don't want me anywhere near Jen ever again. How they're switching him out of all my classes and—"Dinner." …Oh, dinner?

Already?

I go to my door, wiping my eyes. I open it, trying to avoid eye contact and sound normal. "Thanks, Dad." I take my plate, it's chicken curry with a loaf of Guilmon bread. I start to close my door, Dad stops me. "Da-Dad?"

"…Are you sure you're…okay?" Dad asks, he looks worried. "Please, Takato, you can talk to us."

"I-I'm really okay, Dad," I whisper. "I-I'm fine, I just…had a rough day. That's it." Rough doesn't even begin to describe my day! But… I can't tell him that. I don't want to add more misery, I just…

…Want to be a little happy, like before. Or to somehow pretend that I can be happy like before.

"…Okay, but we're downstairs if you need us. You've…Were you…crying, Takato?"

"N-No," obvious lie. Please, Dad, just pretend I don't exist! I-I just want to be alone in my misery…

"Takato…"

"…Please, Dad, I-I can't…" He knows something huge happened, I can't lie my way out of this. "I-I just…need to be alone."

Dad nods. "If that's what you want, Takato, but…Like I said, if you want to talk to us: We'll listen, we're downstairs. Any time you feel like talking to us…Please?"

"I-It's not that big a deal, Dad, really! I-I just…had a rough day, I'll survive," I whisper, hoping he doesn't see me starting to tear up again. Please, just leave me alone.

"Okay. Feel better, Takato, your Mom's…really worried," Dad says.

"Tell her I'm fine, really…I'll be my old self tomorrow. Just wait, I promise," I hate lying to my parents and, even worse, breaking promises to them but I want to be alone. Because, as of today, I am alone. I-I don't have Jen, I won't have my friends, soon I won't have you or Kai…Or anyone.

It's just me…I'll be the only domino standing, now. Alone. When I fall, I'll be the only one to blame for it, the only one hurt by it. Just the only one. I'm alone, now. I won't have anyone to catch me from falling, but I also won't have anyone to bring down with me, anymore…

…I don't want that but it's my future, I just know it. Why was I so stupid? I didn't listen to common sense.

"Okay, enjoy your dinner, Takato," Dad says. I nod with a forced smile. As soon as he leaves, I close my door and…I set my dinner on my desk and wipe my eyes, I'm crying again. I-I hate crying like this, I haven't cried like this since Guilmon but…

…I'm miserable. I hate myself! Jen…"needed to think," he needed to "think" of a way to get as far from me as possible! Not that I blame him.

I sit at my desk, sighing and poking at the curry covered rice with my chopsticks…

…I hate myse—Huh?

My cell phone just went off…And it's Jen's ringtone. Je-Jen? You're…calling me? To say "goodbye," right? Now it's…official: We're no longer friends. You can't stand being around me.

…I understand. I brought this on myself. I-I deserve nothing less. I'm sorry, Jen, I've ruined everything. I just…Please, Jen, be happy without me, at least. I know you can do that. I can't be happy without you but…

…That's the reality I just created for myself. I have to face it, now. Goodbye, Jen…I'll miss you.

I, cautiously, answer. Letting out a quiet sob first. "…Jen…?"

"Takato, um...I've been doing some thinking-"

I-I can't let him finish, I just…I have to beg, just so we can pretend it never happened. We can still be friends…Somehow. Please, Jen, I don't want to be miserable without you. I-I'll do anything if you'll…tolerate me, at least.

"Jen, I'm...so sorry about before. W-We can pretend it never happened, that I'm not—"–Gay.

But Jen interrupts me. With…Something I didn't think I'd ever hear from him.

"Takato, I don't hate you. I love you, too." …Je-Jen?

Did he…Did Jen really just say that? H-He…He loves me, too?

I-I'm going insane, or my hearing's going, I confused the words 'love' and 'hate' somehow, there's no possible way Jen just said…

I love you, too.

This is a dream, I fell asleep crying and this is a dream. A dream I never want to wake up from but…It's still a dream, I-I have to be dreaming. This isn't possible!

Is it?

I-I can't control the smile on my face, I-I still don't think I heard him right or…I'm really losing my mind! But..I can't stop smiling! "...Wh-What? J-Jen did you really just say that? Y-You...said you love me?" …Please, please tell me I heard you right. Please, Jen…I'll do anything!

"That's what I needed to think about, Takato. I didn't know how I felt about you. And what I did feel, I at least knew it was anything but hate. I love you, Takato." He really said it…Jen feels the same…

…Gods, thank you. Thank you so much…I'm sorry I ever doubted you. Tha-That little voice was right. The louder voice was…all of my insecurities over my orientation, they wanted me to keep from that "final step," I guess…Being with Jen, who…I-I love.

And he loves me, too.

If this is a dream, though…I never want to wake up. I-I'm tempted to pinch myself or something, but…I don't want it to wake me up!

Jen continues, he sounds so calm and relaxed. Not…like I feared: Afraid of me. "Can we meet at the park? As soon as possible?" Yes, Jen! YES!

"O-Of course! Jen...Thank you. Wh-What made you...realize this?" A-After what happened, and even before…I was sure he was straight. I-I know I can't 'change him' if he wasn't and, even if I wanted to…

…I don't want Jen to go through anything like I did. So much fear, anxiety, depression. I-I couldn't live with myself if I somehow did have the power to 'turn Jen gay,' because I wouldn't want him to go through what I did for so long. Even though I-I know it's…All gone now!

This…I can't believe this is really happening!

"I just...asked someone who had 'the passion of the cut sleeve' as well." Huh?

"...The...what?"

I hear a quiet chuckle from Jen. "I'll tell you at the park, okay? Meet me there?"

"As soon as possible, thank you…Thank you so much, Jen…I-I…I love you!" I-I can't believe I could say that again! A-And he said it twice! Gods, thank you!

If one did point at me and say 'make that one gay,' I-I…I think it was followed up with, 'He'll be so happy in the end.'

"I…I love you, too, Takato. See you soon." Jen hangs up, I-I have to stare at my phone for a moment…Call ended: Jenrya Li, his number displayed below his name…

…This is real.

I go to my door, running down the hall and downstairs. I slip my shoes on and run to the door!

Dad steps into the hall, I skid to a halt in front of him. "Ta-Takato—"

"Gotta run to the park!" I say, quickly, slipping past him.

"Wha-What? The park? This late? Why—"

"Really important!" I say.

"We-Were you...smiling just now…?"

"Day…Just got better!" I say, I'm not going to tell him why or how, but…

"Re-Really? …At the park?"

"Yep! Sorry, Dad, I'll…finish dinner later!" I open the back door.

"…All right," I hear Dad laugh, going back into the dining room downstairs. Thank the Gods, he didn't ask any follow up questions.

I run as fast as I can to the park, to Guilmon's spot.

Jen…He doesn't hate me. It's…the opposite!

"You idiot, he's just going to play a mean joke and out you—" SHUT UP! I never want to hear that so-called "common sense" ever again!

I finally stop at Guilmon's spot, the only places I didn't run were at crosswalks, waiting for the 'WALK' sign…And I almost caught myself running in place while I waited…Ha ha ha! This is…Thank the Gods! Thank Jen!

I catch my breath at Guilmon's spot, leaning against the building and wiping my forehead with my sleeve. I'm sweating just a little but…I-I don't think it matters. Jen's going to be here any minute now. I sit on the top steps, I-I can't stop smiling. Ever since he called me…I can't stop.

I only have to wait five minutes before I see Jen under one of the light of a lamppost up ahead. He sees me wave, smiling. He waves back and starts running over…

He stops at the bottom of the stairs, I stand he walks up…Smiling. H-He's smiling...I never thought I'd see him smile around me again.

"Jen…Yo-You weren't…kidding? You…meant what you said?" I ask as he approaches.

Jen gives a slow, cautious nod. "Ye-Yeah, I-I…Spoke to, um, my cousin, Jiuxian," he says. Huh? I never knew Jen had a cousin…Juushan?

"Your…cousin?" That…makes me think of Kai, actually. I-I don't know why, I guess because, like I said: Kai is the closest I'll ever have to a big brother.

Jen motions for us to sit, I sit down on the steps, Jen does the same. He nods, saying, "Well, he called me and…I-I sort of didn't want to talk to him because of…Takato, I swear, I just needed to figure out…How I felt about you. It wasn't hate, though. It never was, it never could be," Jen turns to me with a smile.

I lower my head, my smile fades slightly. "I'm…sorry I didn't believe you at first, Jen, I-I was just so scared and…I-I don't know, maybe I wasn't ready to tell you to where I wasn't expecting you to hate me or something," I shrug.

Jen puts an arm around me. "Trust me, I understand completely, Takato," Jen says. "I-I had, um, a freak out like you did, too, sort of." You did? Je-Jen, you're not emotional like I am. Even I know, um, from Ruki: I'm the King of Crybabies. I don't cry like I used to (except for tonight) but...I-I'm prone to emotional 'freak outs' like that. Jen? Not really, at least, nothing like me. And it's usually when he finally manages to lose his temper. That takes thorough provocation these days, though. Someone who wants to make Jen lose it, um, not only has to work really hard but…Is probably suicidal. So, for him to 'freak out' like I did earlier?

…I'm sorry, Jen. I-It's…scary to realize, I know. I'm sorry you had to face that, too, like I did. But I know you, Jen, you had to have handled it better than I ever could. You're…You!

"What happened? What's this…about sleeves?" I…I've never heard that term before, I-I don't really remember exactly what Jen said. The love of the torn sleeve?

"Duan xiu zhi pi," Jen says, in Chinese. "I-It means 'the passion of the cut sleeve,' it's a Chinese phrase for…homosexuality, actually. A 'cut sleeve' is someone gay, sort of. It goes back to Han China, one of the Emperors cut off the sleeve of his robe because his male lover, Dong Xian, held it in his sleep and he didn't want to wake him."

"An Emperor?" China…had gay Emperors? This is news to me…

…And makes me wish China still had that particular Dynasty. Wo-Wow…I wonder, um, how big or little of a deal it is now over there, actually. I-I'll ask Jen later, I know he's been to a lot of parts in China to visit family.

"Emperors could have anyone they wanted, Takato. Male or female," Jen laughs a little. "But, Jiuxian called me and wouldn't leave me alone unless I told him why I sounded so upset. So, um, I told him a friend of mine had…come out. He asked if I was upset about that, but I told him, 'No, he'll always be my friend. It's more that he said he loved me.' A-And he asked, like it was nothing, 'Do you love him back?' A-And, well, that was what I'd spent the past few hours thinking about: Whether or not…I loved you, too. I just didn't say 'gay' to myself, I called it 'the passion of the cut sleeve.'"

I nod. I-I can't believe this. That's what Jen had to think about? How he felt about me?

"And, when I realized I…'might' be gay, too, I sort of broke down. I apologized to Jiuxian because I 'might' be gay. He told me to never apologize for it. And talked me…down to normal, I guess. I was suddenly afraid D—Jiuxian would…hate me, I guess. No matter how calm he was or how he didn't make any big deal about it, I was scared he was going to be upset. I-I don't even know why, I-I was…just scared." …I know why, Jen, because it's scary in general. Just telling myself was scary…

…I'm so sorry you were scared, too, Jen. Like I said, if I somehow could have…made you gay, too, I would never do that since you'd have go to through everything I did. I don't want anyone I care about be as scared and depressed as I was. Especially you. But, I know you, Jen, you had to have handled it a lot better than I ever did.

"What did…he say about that?"

"Jiuxian's…a lot older than I am, so he told me that…" Jen pauses, clearing his throat. He's still a little nervous, obviously, but he still looks calm and collected, especially compared to me. "H-He sad that whe-when he was my age, he had a 'passion of the cut sleeve.' He was bi, Takato-kun," Jen looks to me, smiling. "My…cousin is bi, I-I was stunned! I-I didn't have a problem, both with him and, well, myself after he told me that and…He helped me sort out how I felt about you."

"A-And you…love me?"

Jen nods. "Ye-Yeah, I told him I felt the 'opposite of hate' for you," Jen laughs a little. "I-I was still afraid to tell anyone else I loved you, but…He knew what I meant. And I called you a little after that…I-I had a feeling you needed to hear from me, especially…" He turns to me with a smile. "I love you, too, Takato…chan."

My eyes feel wet again, I-I can't hold back as I hug Jen, tightly. He lets out a surprised shout, but hugs back…Just as tight. "I love you, too, Jen-chan." I whisper, a quiet sob escapes. "I-I wanted to tell you for so long but I was so afraid that you'd hate me."

"I told you, I couldn't hate you even if I tried…And I don't plan to try hating you anytime soon," Jen says. He lets go of me, I do the same. "I-I thought back to when we were kids, how much time we spent together…And, um, I-I sort of, well, when we were about twelve or so…I thought of myself as 'devoted' to you, because of how close we were."

"Devoted?" I ask.

Jen nods. "I thought of us like Oath Brothers, like in San Guo Yan Yi—I mean…Sangokushi."

"Ryuu Bi, Chou Hei and Kuan-sama?" I ask.

Jen turns to me, surprised. "Ye-Yeah, you've read Three Kingdoms or…just, um, Lianjie's games?"

"I-I read it once, Chou Un was my favorite character," I say. The 'Little Dragon,' he was one of Ryuu Bi's best generals, too. I especially liked the battle where he saved Ryuu Bi's son as an infant, he held him under his armor and fought an entire army to get back to Ryuu Bi.

"Zhao Zilong? Re-Really? I play as him in Dynasty Warriors, especially versus mode with Lianjie. Or co-ops, even if Lianjie's forcing me to fight for Wei because he's player one as…Three beautiful guesses, Takato." Ha ha ha!

I laugh a little. Rinchei only plays as Chou Kou. "You…Thought of us like 'oath brothers' back then?"

Jen nods. "I realized that, maybe, that 'devotion' was how…I rationalized how I feel about you, I wasn't 'in love' or 'gay,' I was devoted to my best friend. But Jiuxian helped me realize: I have the passion of the cut sleeve, too."

"Tha-That's…amazing, Jen-chan," I say.

Jen stands up, holding out his hand. "Want to…sit at a bench, real quick? Somewhere more comfortable and out of the way? No chance for…witnesses?"

I nod, standing up and taking Jen's hand, I-I can't believe I'm holding his hand. "Su-Sure…"

He leads me to a bench a ways behind Guilmon's spot, it's far from any paths and under a tree…

…We talk for a little bit, but after Jen tells me a little more about his talk with his cousin…?

…Jen shows me what he meant by 'no chance for witnesses.'

Our first kiss…

…Of many.


A few weeks later…

The…chaos of Jen's Grandfather is over, he left last week, and the rest of his stay had no, um, "further incidents" outside of…Well, everyone finally telling him how funny it was when he picked Kakko En—I mean…Xiahou Yuan as player 2 in Dynasty Warriors (almost every time, unless he played as one of Liu Bei's forces) when Lianjie-niisan played as Zhang He (I'm, um, practicing Chinese by not using the Japanese pronunciation of Three Kingdoms\Dynasty Warriors characters I know anymore, I really want to learn the language for Jen-chan). He didn't like the fact that the game was hinting that Zhang He had a thing for his character, though he actually didn't see the hints in some of the cutscenes (Lianjie-niisan actually made sure he saw at least one of them as a "test," Jiyan-san didn't notice it, to our shock since it was really blatant).

And, um, Lianjie-niisan really is serious about being my new big brother. I-I like it, actually, it's sort of fun.

All is…more or less forgiven. I meant what I said when I told Jen I could forgive his grandfather for…Outting me. It was because I really lost all my anxieties and fears when I heard Jen tell me he loved me. I had nothing to ever be afraid of again, even my family. Especially knowing I had Jen, Mr. Li, Lianjie-niisan and, shockingly enough, Yamaki-san to rely on for support and understanding…I-I can't believe Lianjie-niisan was bi, too, and…so scared, I mean, even I handled things…a little better. Um, beyond the "occasional dude on the side" thing, I-I couldn't do that! I-I wanted to be with Jen and only Jen.

Jen did apologize for lying about having a 'cousin Jiuxian.' I told him I understood, I mean, he'd have had to out his own father…And, um, I-I know that would have made our 'confession night' a little awkward to where, um, I know the topic would be just 'Your Dad is bi?' Instead of 'You feel the same?' I mean, I, um, thought about how I'd feel if one of my parents said that to me…

…It'd be, um, relieving but awkward as hell. I mean, um, I don't want to know that much about my parents' love lives, past or present (Jen admits, he was…really weirded out when his father first told him, then TEN TIMES more when he said he was with Yamaki-san). Still, I-I couldn't believe it when Mr. Li told me about himself, but…

…I also felt bad for what his father did to him and Yamaki-san, even though, um, it did lead to Jen's existence (Jen feels the same way, though, but Mr. Li and Yamaki-san always point the "existing" thing out to him). I just…don't want to ever go through that with Jen, and…Things came too close for comfort at first.

Especially that, um, "after school snack," I-I had no idea what was happening. I mean, I was…"Just friends" with Jen when it came to family, I thought, but…I was really glad to hear we had their support, Jen apologized if I thought the joke was mean or 'mild-heart-attack-inducing.' I told him I didn't mind, since it was an "acceptance cake," ha ha ha! I was amazed by how well his parents took things, though the reason why is now a little obvious…Not that Mr. Li is, I-I mean! I mean, I had no idea! Especially when it came to Yamaki-san! That was…a huge shock…

…Yamaki-san did say he was "surprised" about Jen and I…But, um, mostly Jen. Ha ha ha, I-I guess I'm…not exactly subtle when you think about it for a few minutes. My Dad, um, even told me after he became more accepting of Jen and I after a day or two, "Well, um, no offense son, but…I thought about things and, given how close you were to Jenrya before and, um, well…"

…I saved him the trouble: "I'm…Just, me, right?"

"…Yeeeaaah…No offense."

I-I actually had to hold back a laugh at the 'awkwaaard' look on his face.

"N-No-None…Taken…" …I sort of failed. My Dad finally had a laugh, too. He's…still impressed about the fact I'm learning Chinese for Jen and how well I speak it, according to Jen, too. I-I still can't believe he tells customers that and that it's "for my boyfriend." Though, um, a lot of the shocked looks he gets are kind of funny, I-I saw a few in the hallway…My Dad, actually, defended me from a customer who, um, didn't really approve of that idea.

"O-Oh, I'm sorry…"

"For what? My son's learning another language for his boyfriend!"

"Uh…Exactly.."

Cue the long, very annoyed stare from my Dad.

"Er…A-Anyway, um….What's the price for this bread?"

"…Ten million yen."

"Wha-What?"

…The Matsuda bakery apparently pays a "very steep homophobic customer tax" the government (supposedly) passed last fall. He'd "get arrested" if he didn't charge it! Ha ha ha, my Dad…is actually being a little comical about all this, I still can't believe it! Jen-chan and I laughed so hard when I told him about it. Though, um, I made him promise if Jen's grandfather came back: He'd be exempt from that tax...

"I don't know, son, that tax would earn us a lot of money from him…"

"Takato-chan, I wouldn't turn down that money, my Grandfather really liked that leftover Guilmon bread we had…" Jen was there for that, I asked my parents to not bring up the 'incident' if Jen's Grandfather did come back to the bakery (he didn't), I really wanted it to stay in the past…

Though, um, I ended up being outted to someone else…

It was last Saturday, my weekly video chat with Kai-kun. I sat at my computer as usual…

"Takato-kun, hey—Hold it, adjust your camera, all I see is your chest. And I don't stare at flat chests. Especially one's I'm related to."

"O-Oh, sorry, Kai-kun…That better?"

"Much…"

I noticed then, Kai had…this grin on his face.

"Kai-kun? What is it?"

"Oh, just thinking since we brought up chests…How's that Juri-girl these days?"

…And I started my usual 'humor Kai\Hirokazu\Kenta\whoever is talking girls with me' routine.

"Juri? Um…She's great, uh…I'm not going to go on about her, um, chest-area, though…"

"I'm sure you won't…"

"What?"

"…I might have overheard a phone-call Gramps told me I wasn't supposed to hear…"

"…A-A phone call…?"

"…How's Jenrya's chest?"

"Er…! Wo-Wouldn't…Wouldn't know! We're just friends!" I-I knew where this was going but...With Kai, I still wanted to try to deny it. Even if it was, um, obvious he was 'having fun' by teasing me, as usual. I just hoped he was teasing me without knowing how right he was.

"Suuure you are…"

"N-Not funny Kai!"

"Wanna bet?"

…The huge laugh I got from Kai, though, told me: He approved. Kai loves embarrassing me. Like I said, until Lianjie-niisan, Kai is the closest thing I've ever had to a brother. And given how Lianjie loves to drive Jen insane…

…That analogy is more, um, spot on than I realized.

"Re-Relax, cousin! Yo-Your Mom called Gramps and…Ha ha ha, I heard him say, 'Takato's dating Jenrya? …Makes sense, those two are pretty close—Shit! Kai's here!' And…I'm supposed to be sworn to secrecy, but…Ha ha ha, I-I can't believe you never told me!"

"I-I didn't know how…you'd react."

"Cousin, you're you, if I can accept a cousin who thinks the best way to escape a 'deadly sea turtle' is by trying to breathe water, I can accept a gay cousin, too."

"…That sea turtle looked really hungry, Kai…" He'll never let me live down how he saved me from a sea turtle

…The same way I don't let him live down the "Come on! This reef is knee deep at most, Takato-kun! Watch!" Incident a year later, Kai was trying to get me over my "fear of water." One splash later and… "DAMN IT! SEA URCHIN! SEA URCHIN! DAMN! DAMN! DAMN!" Ha ha ha! Kai…spent the next hour with Grandpa Wataru pulling sea urchin spines out of his foot while screaming 'very bad words' into a beach towel.

"Quit being such a baby, it's just twenty or thirty spines!"

"THEY HURT LIKE A…" Cue muffled swearing. "…GRAMPS!"

"Yeah, yeah, I got some pain killers I never used when my leg broke last summer, you want 'em in your bottle, big baby?" Cue a ton of muffled swearing… "I'll take that as a yes, vicodin and formula with your dinner all cut up nice n' small! You want a cookie, too? Would a cookie make Kai-chan feel better about his wittle boo-boo?" …Then more 'muffled screams.'

But Kai…Actually gave me dating advice and asked when Jen would be his cousin-in-law! I-I'm serious! …And really glad I have a cousin like Kai. I told him the story, leaving our Mr. Li and Yamaki, but I had to include Jen's grandfather when Kai mentioned my Mom told Grandpa Wataru I was, in Kai's words, "outted by some old fart with a cane up his ass."

"Er…That was…Jen's grandfather, actually."

"…Oh, poor Jen." I was really surprised by how upset he looked, hearing the "old guy" was my boyfriend's grandfather. Kai later told me, he'd swim to Shinjuku if he had to defend me somehow. I-I'm serious and…

…I was happy to hear that. He really doesn't want anyone "pulling crap like that" ever again, he even wants to know how all my friends take the news.

"He's…less vocal, now, re-really!"

"Good, last thing he wants is Gramps knocking some sense into him," I made the mistake of telling Jen-chan and Lianjie-niisan (he insists I call him that, too, I don't mind at all, except when Hirokazu 'pointed something out' as revenge for all the times we, um, joined in Ruki's jokes about him and Kenta in the past…More on that later) that. I told them both about how Kai's reaction went, Jen was, of course, happy my cousin accepted me.

Lianjie-niisan joked, "Heeey, that'd be pretty fun to watch…Old Karate Master versus Old Tai Chi Master! C'mon, Jianliang, ten thousand Yen on our Gramps, whaddya say?"

"…No, Lianjie."

"Fine…Takato, how 'bout you? Gonna defend your Gramps' honor and bet ten thousand on him?"

"How could we even get them to fight?"

"You leave that to me…"

It was while we were in line at Lotteria. I mentioned Kai since, um, we were buying lunch for a "coming out" meeting with Hirokazu and Kenta in the park a little later. Lianjie-niisan actually made sure we bought enough food to feed a small army to put them in a good mood. Lots of shakes, sodas, fries, burgers and at least three of every value-meal item.

What happened next was, um, interesting…

…It turns out, Kenta heard about the fight with Jen's grandfather from Jen's neighbor. The day his Grandfather outted me, Jen had already followed me to the bakery and Kenta asked his neighbor to return a game Jen loaned him. He told him Jen went off after me and about the 'screamfest' that came from his apartment the other night…

Kenta told Hirokazu, and they both wanted to know how (as Jen's grandfather put it as he left) "that perverted kid" had "ruined" Jen. They, um, figured it out just before we got there, even how the food was to put them in a good mood and everything. They also saw us the day after I confessed to Jen, Kenta said, "You two were…smiling, like, in a way Ruki would smack you for if she saw it! I mean, I didn't think anything at the time but…Looking back, um, something, um, really good had to have happened between you, obviously. I-I mean, I've never seen Jen smile like that before." I-I took that as a compliment, since…Jen really has been smiling more than ever since we got together, Hirokazu even noticed Jen's been in a "better mood than usual" ever since that day. They just didn't think it meant 'Takato confessed and Jen felt the same' until the 'other evidence' began to pile up.

Though, their first theory was that Jiyan-san caught Jen and I looking at porn! But Hirokazu knew we weren't "that type" so he joked to Kenta, "I betcha they clicked the wrong link just as he walked in…Hell, betcha it was gay porn or something if he got that pissed off! You know?"

That was when Kenta put two and two together: It wasn't gay porn, just gay that "ruined Jen."

Everyone sort of "came clean" about everything, Jen and I as a couple and Hirokazu and Kenta figuring it out at the last minute. Thank the Gods, neither of them had any problem at the time…

…But Jen's now the world's biggest pervert according to Hirokazu. Why?

"So, um, Lianjie-niisan helped us with—"

"Wait, wait, Rinchei-niisan? What's the deal there, Takato?"

Jen explained, "O-Oh, um, Lianjie adopted Takato after he found out about us. He takes it seriously, he wants Takato to call him that from now on, too. Takato's officially Lianjie's new brother. Like he literally adopted him." Baaad choice of words in front of Hirokazu, Jen-chan…

"…Dude, you pervert!"

"Wha-What?"

"Jen, think about it! Rinchei adopted Takato as his brother? Jen, that means you're dating your brother!"

…I admit, once that sunk in: The look on Jen's face was, um, sort of priceless. We're not really brothers now, Hirokazu! Gods, I admit, I had a little trouble with Hirokazu's 'take' on Lianjie-niisan's amazing support. Granted, being bi makes hard for him not to support us…Especially since we gave him, in his words, "the balls to face reality: Li males are gay!" Or, as Jialing pointed out (much to Jen's annoyance): "No, they're bi, Lianjie! Except Jianliang, he's just gay." "…Thanks, Jialing."

…And Lianjie-niisan still insists Jialing has "the passion of the snapped bra" whenever she brings up his orientation. She doesn't mind, though I did hear the two screaming 'cut sleeve' and 'snapped bra' at each other, but Jialing was joking while Lianjie was trying to 'annoy her away,' which was not going to work anytime soon. She still asks for details about Jen and I, too, but it's…Much less embarrassing than I expected (for me, at least, Jen's another story…).

"…Thank you, Hirokazu, I just needed someone to twist Lianjie's complete support of Takato and I in the worst way possible. Thank. You." …I apologized later for laughing, Kenta and Hirokazu had trouble controlling themselves. "Seriously, Hirokazu, you have the world's most perverted mind!"

"At least I ain't got a thing for my brother!"

"You're not going to drop this joke any time soon, are you?"

"Jen, Takato, remember AAALLLLLL those times you two, I repeat, you two, joined in Ruki's jokes 'bout me n' Kenta? …Payback's a bitch, ain't it, Jen?"

"…Touche," Jen couldn't exactly argue, we did join in Ruki's jokes but…We promised to stop since we became a couple! Re-Really! I was glad she never suspected us, apparently, since she only focused on Hirokazu and Kenta as, um…

"At least NOW we heave a real Official Gay Couple of Digimon Taming." …Hirokazu reminding us of Ruki's 'description' of Hirokazu and Kenta. He supports us, though, he really does. We were amazed by that, Hirokazu is completely okay with having two gay friends.

…Except…

…Kenta was a little quiet the whole time. He had a look on his face that wasn't disapproval as much as, um, "shock," I guess. He was quiet when he wasn't laughing at Hirokazu's jokes or thanking us for lunch.

Actually, Jen and I both noticed: We haven't really spoken to Kenta since that lunch. I'm a little worried Kenta was being polite while at the same time, um, I'm really shocked that, between him and Hirokazu, Kenta might be the homophobic one. I mean, they both take 'Otoko Shibuki' seriously, but Hirokazu ten times more!

Still, I think he might just be busy. School started a little after that. Jen and I haven't seen each other as much because of the heavy post-break workload. It happens after every break: You turn in your break homework and then have twice as much due Monday. That's probably it.

Though, we still had some time for dates. And, speaking of dates…

…Lianjie-niisan is, um, definitely more accepting of himself. He's still embarrassed to talk about it, especially in front of his sisters, but let's just say the 'phone call' he made went very well. They've gone on one or two dates and, um, Jen made the comment, "I've never seen Lianjie…so happy! I mean, this grin he has all the time beats his 'New Dynasty Warriors' grin by a ton, and you know how much he loves that series."

I joked, "Lianjie-niisan can love something more than Dynasty Warriors? Jen, don't lie like that!"

"Ha ha ha! Apparently he can!"

Though, he's still reluctant to talk about him or bring him over…He was joking about "bringing him over" while Jiyan-san was in town, which Jialing is really disappointed about. She might be trying to follow him on a date to see what his new boyfriend looks like but, um, Lianjie-niisan manages to lose her each time. "Lianjie's a gay ninja." She once said.

"BI ninja!"

"Same thing, how do you do it?"

"A magician never reveals his secrets."

"I thought you were a ninja."

"I'm a magic ninja!"

"I thought it was bi ninja."

"Bi-Magic-Ninja! …Bro, we so gotta do a manga about that: A magic bisexual ninja! Takato, you do the art, Jianliang, Jialing n' me'll write the story! We'll make BILLIONS!"

"...That actually sounds like fun!" Jen was the one who said that, but so far we haven't done anything with the 'Bi-Magic-Ninja' manga idea…Except Jialing asked me to do some 'concept artwork,' I was happy to oblige! Actually, Mr. Li wants to know if we do end up "writing manga," he says the idea "sounds crazy enough to work."

…And would you believe me if I told you Hirokazu said the same thing and wants a copy if it gets published? I'm serious!

Like Jen said, Hirokazu and Kenta's reaction sort of "set the stage" for the others for us. We told Ruki next…

"…You're gay, Jen? You? Where's the camera?"

"We-We're not joking, Ruki, Takato and I…we'r, ah, 'more than friends' now."

"…Again, where. Is. The. Camera?" It actually took a long time to convince Ruki we were serious…

…About not believing Jen. Me? "I mean, Matsuda? No shit! Matsuda having a thing for you? Double no shit! Matsuda drawing naughty pictures of you in his secret sketchbook? TRIPLE no shit—"

"Ru-Ruki! I don't…NO!" I really don't!

"—BUT, Jen being gay? Again, where's the camera and what orifice on Hirokazu am I gonna have to shove it through?"

"No camera, and Hirokazu already knows! Ruki, we're serious! Do I have to kiss him in front of you for you to believe me?"

"YES!"

"…Takato, may I borrow your lips?"

…The look on Ruki's face was really funny. First time I ever saw Ruki at a loss for words, too.

"…Holy shit…Congrats, Matsuda." That was a surprise to hear, actually.

"Co-Congrats?"

"Yeah, Jen's either really dedicated to the joke or you won the God of Love's 'Gay Jackpot.' Good for you."

We were expecting her to be worse than Hirokazu but…Ruki's actually really casual about us, she makes one or two jokes about me, still, but Hirokazu's still complaining that he and Kenta are her "main target."

"Jen and Takato are the Second Official Gay Couple of Digimon Taming!"

"Damn it, I thought they'd put an end to this!"

"I can't argue with reality, Shiota."

Actually, um, that was how Ryou found out, too, Ruki thought we told him when she made that second official gay couple joke and…

"Ruki? Now you're going after Jen and Takato? What'd they do to piss you off?"

"Jen locked lips with Takato right before my eyes. I'm not pissed, Akiyama, I'm stating a fact."

"…What?"

Ryou was, probably, the most 'blindsided' out of all our friends. But he said it was because he was "so used" to Ruki's jokes that he naturally assumed any and all accusations of homosexuality were false. He supports us, but um…

…Jen apparently had some sort of 'incident' with Ryou at a hot spring, one of those "we will never speak of this again" moments (Jen only told me this much; "I slipped on the wet rocks. That. Was. IT!") and he's convinced Jen has (or had, since we're together now) a "thing" for him. And he likes to tease Jen about it constantly. Apparently Ruki's rubbed off on him.

"Ah-ah-ah! Eyes are up here, Jen!"

"I'm not staring at you, Ryou!"

"Sure you're not…"

"I'M NOT!"

"Don't worry, Takato, I won't steal his heart from you…"

"Gods, I expected this from Ruki…Except she wouldn't joke I had a thing for her."

"Not unless your doom was imminent for even implying she had so much as a heart ten sizes too small pumping ice water through her veins."

"Akiyama's got a point there, Jen," Ruki was not going to accept any implication that she was capable of love. Ha ha, yeah, even Ruki makes fun of herself when she wants. Provided it's a joke she approves of (Hirokazu using Lianjie-niisan's "passion of the snapped bra" joke on her also taught us: She's familiar with the phrase "passion of the cut sleeve," since her response was "You're a dead man, Shiota. I'm gonna give you the passion of the SLIT WRIST for that!" "Shit! YOU KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS?").

"I always imagined magma, not ice water." I was the one brave enough to say that, actually. Ruki, um, 'appreciated it.'

"Ice water in a good mood, deadly toxins in a bad mood, magma when in a really bad mood! At least, that's what my last blood test told me." Ruki was the one who said that.

The last to find out was Juri…And that was awkward.

Um, she caught us in Kiichi, but that's not the scary part: She knows the tree's name. Well, it's because she saw the carving but, um, she just naturally assumed 'Kiichi' was the tree's name! We found out since, well…

She was sitting under us, we didn't even know until she cleared her throat. Loudly. …I hope she didn't want us make out for too long.

"Huh? O-Oh, crap! Ju-Juri? Wha-What are you…doing here?"

"Um, I wanted some shade…Why are you two making out in Kiichi-san?"

"…How do you know that name?"

Jen was almost catatonic from the fact Juri knew Kiichi's "name."

"Um…It's carved on the side. Hey, Jen! Are you the J? Is that Y just a really badly done T? That's sooo cute! You two carved your names in a tree…! …And a long time ago, it looks like…Aw, but it's cute you have a tree with Takato!"

"Er…Tha-That wasn't…us…"

Jen told me later, Juri's questions had made the history of Kiichi a million times more awkward than ever. She still thinks the "Y" was one Jen's ex-boyfriends\crushes. And won't stop bothering him about it!

She first asked when we, um, straightened ourselves up and came down from Kiichi. We sat and talked at a picnic table. She kept telling us we were so cute together and things like that, she was actually excited by the fact we were a couple! I-I couldn't believe it!

It was still a little embarrassing, actually. Not just the fact she caught us making out or knew the name of "our" tree but…Just how, um, she was in this sort of "Aw, so cute~!" sort of "mode" when it came to hanging out with us after that. I'm glad, too, since I was worried she might have accused me of 'using her' to 'look straight,' but she never accused me or even asked. I was really relieved by her support.

…Jen? Um…

When we decided to tell her what happened in the park, the topic of "how we got together" kept getting derailed by the carving on Kiichi. She "knew" the J stood for "Jen" (close, Juri, it's "Janyuu") but had to know who "Y" was…

"Come on, Jen, who was he? Yamazaki-san?"

"…Juri, he was…He was in my fifth grade class!"

"I know, that's a really old scar, though, had to be from around then! Oh, wait, what about Yuusuke? Is it him?"

"No, Juri, he was in your class, not mine."

"Yamato?"

"…I don't know any Yamatos."

"From Digimon Adventure!"

"…No, I did not have a crush on Yamato Ishida, Juri."

Then came the ultimate 'scar Jen for life' joke (except Juri wasn't joking) that not even Ruki, Hirokazu and Lianjie could come up with combined with a ten million year deadline and unlimited budget for special effects! "Wait…I get it!"

"You do?"

"It wasn't your REAL boyfriend, just someone you really liked, right? You had a cruuu~uuush~!"

I-I can't believe how Jen went so long without realizing he was gay and, yet, so many of our friends assume he's been "gay forever," like me. I guess it's Jen's nature: They assumed Jen would meditate on it for a few minutes and accept it, just not tell anyone. And, um, Ruki did point out: Jen never showed interest in girls before to where I'm the first time "the topic of romance" ever came up with him.

In reality, though, Jen was more like me on "fast forward." He told me, he was blind to the fact he liked anyone because of how close we were. He didn't think he was in love with me, just "devoted," and assumed that anyone he did fall in love he'd feel a lot stronger for than just his "best friend." It wasn't until I confessed that he realized his "devotion" to his "best friend" was actually love. Jen told me how much of a loner he used to be, so it sort of makes sense how he'd be confused about "how much" emotion he'd have for his "first real best friend" as opposed to his "first love." I'm just happy I was that best friend and first love…Jen agrees with me on when it came to Juri and his "crush back then," Jen had had enough by then and said, "Yeah, sure? Why not? The J is for 'Jen' and the Y was someone I really, really, really liked back then. It's the name of an old crush, sure! That's what it is!" Jen gave me this 'Let Juri believe what she wants' look, rolling his eyes.

"Aw, I didn't know you had a crush on Yamaki-san back then! Hehe, I had a crush on him, too, kinda! He's really cute isn't—"

"NOOOOOOOOOOOO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…!"

…Yeah… This actually went on for a number of minutes. Juri managed to break—No, shatter Jen's brain in a way Lianjie could only dream of without even trying. In fact, at one point, he started chanting "BU!" ("NO!" in Mandarin) because "The Japanese-language part of his brain overheated from constant use" according to Jen after he…"recovered," let's say.

"…So, it…wasn't Yamaki-san…?"

"BUUUUUUUUUUUU!"

"Tr-Trust me, Juri! It…It definitely wasn't Yamaki-san!" …I had to walk Jen home after that, I took him to the bakery and…He actually had to lay on my bed for a while, just staring. My parents were worried about him and wanted to know what happened. I just said "Long story."

Thankfully, Juri (somehow) managed to do no lasting damage. Jen was able to talk again after an hour.

Thankfully, it seems like all of our friends approve…Or, most of them, at least. Like I said, I'm worried Kenta—

"Takato! Guest! Kenta's here!" …Kenta? Shuo Cao Cao, Cao Cao Jiu Dao. Ha ha ha, Jen taught me that…Speak of Cao Cao, Cao Cao is there.

I call back, finishing a sentence of my homework. "Thanks, Mom! Send him up, please!"

I look up from my homework, Kenta steps into the room. My door was already open. "Hey, Kenta-kun." I'm…a little nervous. This really is the first time I've seen Kenta since Jen and I came out.

And the way Kenta looks scared has me even more worried. But he manages to, um, look a little casual. Not very, though. "He-Hey, Takato-kun, um…Sorry to barge in but, um, can I…have some advice?"

"Advice? About what?"

Kenta clears his throat, looking away. "Er…Real quick, um, wha-what was that thing Jen, um, called 'your thing?'" Our thing? O-Oh, he means…

"Duan xiu zhi pi," I reply, I know this term very well now. "The passion of the cut sleeve."

"Passion of…the cut sleeve…Go-Got it. Tha-Thanks," Kenta turns to me with a quick nod.

There's a short, really awkward silence.

"Kenta-kun, um, was that it?"

"N-No, it's um…"

"What do you need advice on…?" I trail off.

Kenta looks up to me, swallowing. "A-Advice on…Ri-Right…I-I need to…ask some questions about…um…" He starts stammering.

"About…?" Kenta, I have a lot of homewo—What the…?

Kenta just looks at me hesitantly, he finally lets out a quiet sigh and…

…He's making the motion of cutting his sleeve with his fingers as scissors…

I just nod my head.

…Kenta...?

Thi-This…This explains a lot, actually…

~Owari~


Ori's Notes:

Eh, not sure about the second half, but given Takato's freak-out at first I figured he'd be a lot calmer when it came to the Post-Jiyan era of his relationship with Jen. Especially when it came to being "out." I had some fun with a few of the jokes in Duan Xiu Zhi Pi (namely Takehiro actually telling customers Takato was gay and "learning perfect Chinese for his boyfriend.") and some other things.

I also wanted to close up a few loose ends from the first part of the narration, like how "Jiuxian" didn't exist and, since he was mentioned so much, how Kai would react to Takato (Takato even mentions him in Duan Xiu Zhi Pi as an example of a "close relative who might not approve.") and Jen's assumption Takato hadn't read Romance of the Three Kingdoms before (when he described seeing him as an "Oath Brother," like a lot of the characters in the story, when he was younger). Also, I couldn't really resist Hirokazu's joke about the implications of Takato being "adopted" by Lianjie, but it was mostly his payback for Jen and Takato (who are gay) actually joining in Ruki's gay jokes about him and Kenta, which Jen mentions in Duan Xiu Zhi Pi. In their defense, though, even Juri joined in on the "Ambiguously Gay Tamers" jokes.

With Kenta…Eh, I knew no-one would buy it if the second half focused on Takato thinking he was actually homophobic for more than two sentences (you guys know me: Kenta's always gay), so I didn't make a huge "Oh, Gods! Kenta hates me now, I had no idea Kenta was homophobic! WHY, KENTA? WHY?" rant from Takato since we all know the truth about Kenta. Sorry, Kenta, but you're not fooling anyone! The official gay representitive of any Digimon season (and, yes, I am well aware of the flaming gay Knightmon-character from Frotnier).

Originally, I wrote out the "coming out to Hirokazu and Kenta" fic, but…Eh, I didn't like how it was going so I tried a Prequel\Sequel fic from Takato's POV. But in the original, Hirokazu and Kenta did figure things out, only difference is Hirokazu picks up on how Kenta's acting and outs him to Takato and Jen (Kenta doesn't appreciate this, of course, but forgives his idiot best friend, who's defense is, "What? I don't care if they're gay, why would they care if you're gay, too?" "You still don't just out someone like that!" "But…They're gay, too…" "THAT'S BESIDE THE POINT!" "…How?" *Cue scream*).

And, yes, I know standing on a sea urchin is a lot more painful than it sounds, but I figured Wataru'd just joke around about Kai being a "big baby" over it. Kai and Wataru are always fun to use in fics.

Also, I had so much fun with the "Juri breaks Jen" joke. I just couldn't resist it after the "she knows Kiichi's name" joke. I figured Juri would jump to the conclusion the J stood for "Jen" and the Y was either a badly done "T" or someone else "J" (Jen) had a crush on a long time ago (as the carving is pretty much scared over, Juri had to think waaay in the past for "Jen").

Oh, right, before I forget: The title means "My Cut Sleeve" in Japanese. Yeah, we've come full circle with the same title theme: English, Chinese and Japanese. Next week: Russian! Why? Better question: Why not?


Taiki's Notes:

Ori, that has to be the meanest "joke" you've ever pulled on Jen! Though, I admit, I can see that happening when it coms to Juri's "logic" in the "carving mystery," let's call it. But that doesn't make you any less of a bastard to Jen!

Actually, I must admit: You were very mean to Takato at first, then mean to Jen. Ori, are you feeling all right? Why is Jen suddenly the victim of your character abuse? Well, as long as Takato gets a break, I suppose I shouldn't complain too much.

I agree, though, I knew something was up the second I got to the "Kenta might be homophobic" part. But I might be an exception since you've convinced me, too, that Kenta is gay in canon. Really, Ori is never going to see Kenta as anything but "gay" in both his fics and Tamers canon. Why? Well, aside from MarineAngemon (AKA. in Ori's words "Gay Incarnate") being his partner, his suspiciously Smithers-like devotion to Hirokazu, the fact that Kenta and Hirokazu kissed on screen and then shared a bath while singing arm in arm about men on long sea voyages\manly flying spit (Otoko Shibuki, their official duet on a Tamers song album, I might add) in the same episode? I don't know, to be honest. But that's just Ori's theory. And I support it, ha ha!

I'm glad their friends took everything well, Ori, I was very impressed by how Ruki took the news, too! From disbelief to "congratulations." I never knew Ruki could be nice to anyone with the surname "Matsuda."

Finally, there is a new poll regarding Ori's multi-chapter fics\series of fics, Ori wanted me to post it to see if there are any he should add more to or not, if he feels inspired. Also, some new options have been added\updated.

And, Ori? Should it follow Kenta's part of the story, might I suggest the next Cut Sleeve-series title be in MarineAngemonese? If not, what about Klingon?

-Taiki Matsuki