"I hate exams!" Daisuke collapsed across the bed, looking around for sympathy. "Why do they always have to be so much work? I’m always studying – it’s just not fair!"
Masao sat down on the floor at the foot of Takeru’s bed, shoving Daisuke’s legs out of the way and ignoring his indignant protests. "We all have to study, moron! Unless we want to fail. Or unless we’re Ichijouji Ken," he added, with a little smirk for Ken.
"I have to study, too." He sat gingerly on the edge of the bed, careful not to make contact with Daisuke. In the past two weeks, his attraction had gotten steadily worse. Every new little quirk of the red-head’s he learned seemed to make him more desirable. He had a habit of raking a hand through his hair – slowly – and it drove Ken wild.
And it’s becoming a tradition that I wake up in the morning and change my sheets, Ken thought ruefully, watching Daisuke ease out of his jacket. Mmm… yeah, take that off. Take off the rest, too, while you’re at it. An image came to his mind unbidden of Daisuke on stage ripping off various articles of clothing… Damn, damn, damn, you remember what that dream did to you when you had it! Stop now!
He adjusted his shirt a little, inconspicuously, and sat cross-legged.
"You’re lucky you don’t have one," Takeru told Iori. "Chemistry is a killer."
"Are you all taking it?" the younger boy asked curiously, sitting down at Daisuke’s other side.
"Unfortunately, yes." Masao chewed the end of his pencil, frowning down at the textbook he’d just opened. "I’m going for Computer Sciences when I get to college, and I’ll need science courses."
"There’s a pretty good computer program at this school," Ken mused, out loud.
"I know. That’s why I’m here. I can’t get the education I want to have anywhere else." Masao smiled, looking rueful. "It’s hard to find specialized courses at a high school level."
"You could always wait until you get to college."
"No, actually. I want to go to a very specific computer school, and you need certain prerequisites before they’ll even consider you." Masao made a face. "You have no idea how difficult it was to find a school that had what I needed, and that I could get to. And then to get in here…" He grimaced. "Well, let’s not even talk about that."
Ken nodded. He was in a Programming class with Masao, and the other boy seemed intent on doing well. This was the only class they actually happened to share – especially since they had separate homerooms. Masao was in class A, while Ken, Daisuke, and Takeru were in class C.
"I’m paying my own way through university," Daisuke suddenly announced, sitting up. "My parents want to pay for it, but there’s no way in hell I’m letting them."
"Why is that?" Ken carefully shifted to look at Daisuke’s face – and only his face. That was bad enough, without wandering into… dangerous areas. "I thought your parents were well-off.""They are." Daisuke made a face. "This is just… it’s something I wanna do for myself, ya know? I’m pretty bad at taking initiative. Maybe this’ll help me learn something." He made a face. "Those loans are gonna be painful, though…"
"I’ll bet." Ken thought of the money he had saved in his college fund, and felt suddenly thankful for it. It’s mine, and not my parents’ – I earned it. For once, he was glad to have been a ‘gifted’ student. Daisuke wouldn’t be so lucky; he’d have to take a student loan, and find himself a part-time job.
"I think we should focus more on the test, and less on college," Takeru suggested, sitting on the floor next to Masao. "We’ve got another year after this one. Let’s take this one thing at a time, huh?"
"I hate tests," Daisuke groaned, flopping back again dramatically, and then opening his eyes a crack to see if anyone was paying attention to him. Catching Ken’s gaze before the dark-haired boy could turn it away, he grinned. "Ken feels sorry for me, don’t you, Ken?"
"I will for five dollars worth of quarters at the arcade," Ken bantered, ignoring the twinges at the pit of his stomach. Daisuke was lying on his back, sprawled out, eyes half-lidded, and minus his jacket. Up close, Ken could see just how moist and soft and totally inviting his lips were… not to mention his skin… Fuck, he’d feel so good in my arms – soft and pliant and enthusiastic all at once… He could only imagine what it’d be like – to press their bodies together, lock his arms around Daisuke’s waist, passionately kissing him…
"I don’t have five bucks." Daisuke stretched lazily, not noticing when Ken licked his lips unconsciously, watching. "But I’m sure I could find some way to repay you…" He raised an eyebrow suggestively, and grinned.
Ken wished - for the millionth time - that it would be possible to take him up on that offer. He hadn't bothered trying that since the first time. Takeru had been right; Daisuke wasn't serious. Too bad, he thought, disappointed. Out loud, he only said, "I only take cash."
"Aw, dude!" Daisuke shifted a little closer - but stopped short of actually touching him. He held himself a little stiffly, as if he wasn't sure whether or not Ken would like to be touched. I would! Touch me, please! "Why not?" He looked up, and his eyes locked with Ken's.
Curiosity… confidence… boundless energy… He's so incredible, the dark-haired boy thought, caught by the moment and the way Daisuke's eyes seemed to put his thoughts on display. There was still that almost unconscious layer of shameless, in-your-face attitude that he couldn't get beneath… Well, it's not like I'm a psychiatrist or anything. Heaven forbid that I'd want to actually get close to him!
Ken turned his eyes away, uncomfortable. But it's not as thought I actually have feelings for him, beyond lust. A lot of lust. He cut off that line of thought, shoving aside half-formed mental pictures of Daisuke's body bared for his pleasure.
"Because… cash can be exchanged for something you want," Ken finally said, trying to sound light as he answered Daisuke's question. Stupid thing to say… why would anyone in their right mind want to exchange him?
Masao laughed, and Daisuke looked sulky. "No fair!" he complained. "That was mean!"
"I didn't mean it, though," Ken admitted, feeling guilty. "It was only a joke."
"Don't worry 'bout it, dude!" Daisuke rolled up his shirt, baring the skin on his forearm. "I'm made of rubber, see? Feel it! Rubber!"
Ken laughed a little, nervously, and looked away.
"Aw, c'mon!" Daisuke snatched up Ken's hand. "It's no fun if you don't call me on that!" He held the captured hand to his arm. "See? It's rubber. Feel? Touch?" He wagged his eyebrows. "Caress?"
Ken jerked back his hand, blushing furiously. "Cut it out!" Or take this to another room…
"You're no fun." Daisuke grinned, settling back. "Oh well, I gotta study anyway. There'll be time for us later, hmm?" He made a kissing face in Ken's direction.
"You are such a moron!" Masao scoffed.
"But you love me anyway."
"We humor you. There's a difference."
"Was there a section on that lab we did yesterday?" Takeru asked Ken, as Daisuke and Masao continued to squabble. "Or are we just being tested on lectures up until Monday's class?"
"I think we're covering everything," Ken answered, trying to concentrate on his book again. "But there shouldn't be too much from that lab; it was a fairly simple exercise."
"Yeah, but I want to know if we need to memorize the reactions - cut it out, you two! Some of us want to pass the class this term!" Takeru didn't even look up from his notes, which he was busily flipping through.
"We're studying, we're studying!" Daisuke grabbed his book and made some show of concentrating on his notes. "Hey, Takeru, after the test, are we heading over to St. Catherine's?"
Takeru looked up, suddenly shocked. "Daisuke!" he hissed, glancing sideways at Ken.
Something they don't want to tell me? Hmm…
"What? Ken's a member of the group now, right?" Daisuke tossed his book aside again, and sidled up to the taller boy. "Is this how you treat all of my boyfriends, Takeru?"
"Yeah, that is." Takeru crossed his arms over his chest, and gave Ken a grin.
He caught on. "Good thing I'm not his boyfriend, then."
"Yet," Daisuke added, wrapping an arm around Ken's waist. Okay, stay cool. He's just teasing you. It's just an act. He's just… warm. And close. And… oh god. Ken held himself stiff, trying to think about something else. How about that diagram of the female frog's reproductive system? Yeah, that's it. Very, very interesting. Mm-hmm.
Daisuke seemed to realize he'd gone too far, and slid his arm away uncomfortably. "Yeah," he said, moving away and not looking at Ken. "Anyway… hey, Takeru, you never answered my question. Are we going or not?"
"Well…" Again, Takeru glanced over at Ken, and hesitated.
"Okay, that's it." Daisuke sat up. "We're stopping this whole secret business. I'm sick of keeping stuff from Ken. He's one of us. We can trust him. C'mon!"
"Daisuke…" Takeru said warningly.
"Shut up, Takeru." Daisuke grinned at me. "Couple of nasty little secrets here, Ken. See, Takeru over there is dating a girl named Hikari who goes to St. Catherine's. Know what's wrong about that?"
"Daisuke!" Takeru protested, louder this time.
The red-head ignored him. "St. Catherine's is one of those holy, religious Christian schools, and the girls that live there are supposed to wear collars that choke them and crosses around their necks to protect their 'purity'. So, boys are forbidden." He said the word like it was a huge secret. "But, we all go visit Hikari anyway, because she and Takeru need their make-out time every Friday night - and sometimes on Saturdays, too."
Despite himself, Ken was curious. "If boys aren't allowed in, how do you manage that?"
"Up the trees and through the window," Masao chimed in, unexpectedly. He grinned. "Hikari opens it for us on Friday and Saturday nights, so we can just climb right in and no one notices a thing, as long as we're quiet."
"Miya - Masao!" Takeru looked indignant.
"Oh, that's another thing," Daisuke continued, smirking. "Masao isn't Masao's real name."
"Hey!" Masao protested, voice unusually shrill. "You can't tell him that!"
"And," Daisuke added triumphantly, ignoring the other boy's protests, "he isn't really even a he at all!"
"You are so dead," Masao said, in a voice that sounded different somehow.
"Masao's a girl - Agh!" Daisuke grabbed Ken and used him as a shield as Masao tried to pounce on him, looking murderous. "And her name's Miyako!"
"I'm gonna kill you, Motomiya!" the newly identified Miyako shouted, reaching behind Ken to grab Daisuke by the collar. The dark-haired boy watched, interested. How did I miss that? She's a girl, and I never even noticed! Huh.
"AAAAA!" Daisuke yelled, struggling in Miyako's grip. "Save me!"
"Calm down," Iori said quietly, from the other side of the bed. "Killing him won't solve anything, and it'll get you arrested."
"Damn." Miyako dropped Daisuke unceremoniously back onto the bed. "The easiest solutions are always the ones that cause the most trouble later on. I will get you for that, Motomiya. Don't you forget it."
"No need." Takeru grinned. "I know Daisuke's dirty little secret, and I'm not afraid to tell it!"
"What?" Daisuke straightened out his shirt, looking up. "I don't have a dirty little secret! What the hell are you talking about?"
"What is it?" Ken asked, curious.
"Huh." Miyako grinned wickedly, obviously sensing revenge at hand. "Now I always thought that he and Iori were secret-free. Daisuke doesn't have anything to hide. Does he?"
"What's going on?" Daisuke looked alarmed. "What secret?"
"Oh, now, Iori doesn't have any secrets. Iori's a perfect student." Takeru smiled apologetically at the younger boy. "But Daisuke… now that's a different story. What could there possibly be that the shameless, in-your-face Motomiya Daisuke would not want people to know?"
"I don’t have any secrets!" Daisuke burst out.
"Except for the fact that you're still a virgin," Takeru replied, calmly.
Ken looked over at Daisuke, in time to see the most interesting shade of red spreading over his face. "Shut up," the red-head told Takeru, glancing sideways at Ken. He looked away quickly when he noticed that the taller boy was watching him.
"Is that true?" Miyako looked like she was on the verge of bursting out laughing. One look at Daisuke's crimson face, and she let out a guffaw. "Oh my god, it is, isn't it? He acts like he's such a player, and here he is, still a virgin! That's too good!"
Daisuke scowled down at the bed. "Shut up," he muttered, again.
"This would totally destroy your image, wouldn't it?" Miyako didn't look like she was in the mood to show mercy. "Aw, poor little Daisuke, he's blushing! Such a pretty, pure, red-cheeked little virgin boy he is…"
"Shut up!" Daisuke pulled his knees up, crossed his arms over the top, and buried the bottom half of his face in them, glaring at everyone from just above the white sleeves of his uniform shirt.
Ken took pity on him. "What's so bad about that?" he said, shrugging. "I'm still a virgin, you know. And I'll bet you are, too, Miyako, unless a few more people are in on this secret of yours than you're telling us."
She shrugged. "Yeah, but we're not Daisuke. You've seen how he acts, Ken. And he's like that all the time. I seriously thought he'd been sleeping around with just about everyone. But it looks like that was just a desperate cover-up act." She smirked at Daisuke.
He continued to glare at her, shoulders hunched, face still bright red.
"He's waiting for Mr. - or Mrs. - Right," Takeru continued, gazing at his notes thoughtfully, as if spilling out Daisuke's secret was no big thing. "Because he's never gone beyond the flirting stage, and he's nervous."
"Aw, that's so cute!" Miyako teased.
Daisuke let his face sink beneath his arms until only his hair was still visible.
He's still a virgin. Ken let that information sink in. Which means I was wrong about his reaction that first time… That gave him a completely new outlook on the 'Daisuke' situation, one that sent a warm wave of heat through him. I could be his first. The thought was appealing. That way, Ken wouldn't seem so inexperienced, because Daisuke would be just as new to it as he would. We could teach each other… Mmm, just imagine what kind of a learning experience that would -
"Are you okay?" Iori's quiet voice cut through Ken's daydream. Fortunately, the younger boy was looking at Daisuke, not him. The red-head was still hunched up into a ball.
"I'll be fine," Daisuke's muffled voice answered back. "Just gimme a minute. I'm trying to sink into the bed."
"You know," Miyako said, with a straight face. "That probably won't get you laid any quicker."
Daisuke's head shot up and he glared at her. "If anyone says anything to anyone about this, I'll kill them myself!" he threatened. "It's just between us, okay? Got that?"
"We got it." Takeru finally looked up, and smiled. "The only one who'd let anything slip is the person with the most dangerous secret." He gave Miyako a sideways grin.
"Yeah, yeah, I know." She rolled her eyes. "I wouldn't tell anyone, though. Not if it's that important to you." The grin reappeared. "But I reserve the right to tease him about it for the rest of his life or until he finds someone desperate enough to hop into bed with him."
"Hey, I could have whoever I wanted!" Daisuke protested.
"Oh yeah?" Miyako raised an eyebrow. "Then what happened with Hikari?"
Daisuke scowled. "That's not fair! I was only twelve then!"
"So, you're saying that now you could - "
"Shut up, Miyako," Takeru interrupted. "Hikari and I were already interested in each other when Daisuke came here. It wasn't his fault that she didn't fall for him. He doesn't have feelings for her anymore; the subject's old. Drop it."
She made a face at him, but shut up.
"Dude, thank you!" Daisuke grabbed his book again and flopped down to start studying. "Having a cold-hearted bitch claw at my self-esteem is not my idea of a good study session."
"I'm sorry, okay?" Miyako muttered, grudgingly. "I went too far."
"It's all right," Daisuke said, abruptly dropping the scowl. "You're forgiven." Immediately, the air in the room seemed lighter. Ken let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. Things always seemed to get tense when Daisuke and Masao - or, Miyako, rather - butted heads.
With a last glance at the red-head sprawled out behind him, Ken turned back to the formulas he had to memorize.
"Well, tonight's the big night!" Daisuke leaned over Ken's desk as the dark-haired boy packed up his things. "You ready to go climbing?"
"Climbing?" Ken paused for a moment, confused. "I thought we were visiting Takeru's girlfriend?"
"We are." Daisuke grinned. "But that means climbing. You didn't think we just walked up to the front door and asked for Hikari, did you? We're sneaking in, lover boy. Remember?"
"Yes. And don't call me that." Ken tried to frown, but there wasn't much force put behind it, and Daisuke knew that just as well as he did. Why am I still refusing him? I should be taking him up on this! I should flirt back! I should grab him now and pin him to the floor and -
"Why not?" Daisuke asked, blinking innocently. "Everyone should know the truth about us by now, don't you think?"
Ken shoved aside any and all thoughts of taking him up on the offer. His stomach felt jumpy. He still remembered when Daisuke had shied away from his touch the last time. Just the thought of confessing how much he wanted the red-head made his palms start to sweat nervously. I can't do it. "I think you're insane," he said, and swung the bag he carried to class over his shoulders.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Daisuke shifting a little, awkwardly. But when he looked right at him, the red-head appeared perfectly confident again. "You just don't want to admit how much you want me," he answered brightly, standing to walk behind Ken out of the classroom. Their last class on Friday wasn't shared with Takeru or Miyako, so neither the blonde nor the girl joined them as they left.
"Right. That must be it, Daisuke." Ken paused for a moment, so the red-head could catch up. "Very clever of you to have figured it out. I thought I’d covered myself perfectly."
"You thought wrong. I know everything, you know." Daisuke grinned, then looked away suddenly, chewing on his lower lip almost thoughtfully. "You know, Ken…" he began, in a more serious tone. "I – "
The red-head was interrupted as someone rudely walked into his shoulder, hard. "Watch where you’re going, fag!" the intruder sneered. "You and your pansy-ass boyfriend are taking up the whole fucking hallway!"
Ken recognized Hayashi Jon, the boy who had tried to talk him into taping a sign onto the back of Daisuke’s jacket on his first day. One of those weak-minded idiots I’ve had to put up with for most of my high-school experience. He rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, and started to walk away.
Daisuke stayed where he was. "But I only did it so you’d notice me." He faced the other boy, with that same exaggerated expression of betrayal that Ken saw whenever one of them teased him. "It was because of last night, when I fucked your brains out!" he yelled, at the top of his lungs, and grabbed the front of the taller boy’s jacket with both hands. "Wasn't it?" The last part was more than loud enough for the whole corridor to hear.
"Get the fuck offa me!" Hayashi pushed away Daisuke’s hands, glancing around in a panic. "Don’t listen to the little faggot! He’s a fucking liar!"
Daisuke snickered, recovering from his ‘betrayal’ with astonishing speed. "Well, you know you wish I would," he said, smirking, and turned back to saunter down the hallway.
Ken watched him for a moment. He’s brave, the dark-haired boy thought, admiring the way Daisuke moved. Fucking gorgeous, and not afraid to stand up for himself. He shut his eyes and followed after the red-head. I wish he were mine.
"I'm going to fall!"
"Here, grab my hand!"
"I can't see your hand!" Ken made a wild swing with one arm in an attempt to find Takeru's hand - but missed. He hastily grabbed hold of the branch beside him before he could fall back down out of the tree and break two or three bones.
"Oh, here!" Miyako grabbed handfuls of Ken's shirt. "Brace yourself against the tree, and I'll pull you up."
"You're not strong enough to pull him up," Iori pointed out, from his perch on a branch above them. "You'll just end up ripping his shirt, anyway."
"Here, I'll help." Daisuke reached down from his own spot and took hold of Ken's arm. "You take one arm, I'll take the other." He and Miyako together pulled the dark-haired boy up onto the spot between them.
"What do we do now?" Ken asked, once he was settled.
"Lose ten pounds." Daisuke rubbed his shoulder and shot a mock glare at the taller boy beside him. Miyako reached around and smacked the back of his head. "Ow!"
"Mr. Big Stud." She snorted. "No wonder you're still a - "
"Hey!" Daisuke scowled. "I thought you said you weren't gonna mention that!"
"I made no such promise." Miyako grinned at him. "You'll be the subject of my ridicule until you either get laid or die."
"I choose option one. I like living." The red-head leaned over toward Ken. "Wouldn't you like the chance to get Miyako off my back?"
You have no idea… "Sure, Daisuke, I'll try," Ken said, as calmly as he could manage. "But I don't think we're high enough up in the tree. The most you'd do is break a few bones."
"Pretty and cruel… I love this guy." Daisuke rested his head on Ken's shoulder. "He's irresistible."
Ken's throat went dry. Love me? It was suddenly hard to breathe.
"Shhh!" Takeru hissed fiercely, interrupting. "The chaperone's still in the room!"
They went quiet again, staring at the lit window just above where Takeru was sitting. Ken caught himself holding his breath, and let it out slowly. Beside him, Daisuke shifted a little, impatiently, and his thigh brushed up against Ken's. Breathing once again became a thing of the past.
A loud crack distracted him suddenly, and the window slid open. A girl that Ken had never seen before leaned her hands on the sill and peered out at them. "You guys can come in now," she told them, quietly.
"Great." Takeru scrambled up to the window easily, and the girl moved back out of sight as he climbed in. Iori followed immediately after.
"Are you going to need more help, Ken?" Miyako asked, standing to pull herself onto Takeru's former perch.
"I'll stay behind him, you go ahead," Daisuke suggested. "That way we can both be there just in case."
"Okay." Miyako climbed up next to the window, and held down a hand for Ken. "Lift him up so he can reach me."
"More heavy jobs." Daisuke sighed. "All right, come on, Ken." He held out his hands, laced together, for Ken to step onto. "Climb up and grab Miyako's hand, okay?"
Ken did as he was told. That stage of the journey went perfectly. After Ken was safely up, Miyako climbed into the window, and Daisuke hurried up to share the branch with Ken.
"Want me to go in first?" Without waiting for an answer, the red-head moved around him and in through the window. "I'll help you through."
"I'm not completely helpless." Ken stepped through without waiting for Daisuke to offer him a hand.
"Coulda fooled me!" Daisuke grinned. "Who can't climb a tree in the dark? Geez!"
"Shut up, Daisuke," Miyako told him. "Anyway, intro time! Hikari, this is Ken. Ken, this is Hikari." She indicated toward the slender girl who had opened the window. In the light, Ken noticed that she was fairly pretty, with huge brown eyes and soft, short hair. "That oughta take care of it, hmm?"
Hikari smiled. "Nice to meet you." One of her arms was around Takeru's waist, and he had one looped over her shoulders.
"Same for you." Ken nodded politely.
"Why aren't you two making out yet?" Daisuke demanded. "It's not like we have a lot of time, you know!"
"Shut up, Daisuke," Takeru said, making a face. Despite the words, though, he leaned over and kissed Hikari soundly.
"Ooh!" Miyako grinned. "Okay, snack time!" She turned her back on the couple as if they were already gone from the world, and slid the bag she'd been carrying off of her shoulders. "I've got a real stash this time."
"Lemme see!" Daisuke dived for the bag, and came up with all kinds of chocolate bars in his hands. "All right! Jackpot! Here, Ken." He handed a couple of the bars to the taller boy.
Ken sat down on the floor beside where Iori was searching through the assortment of candy, chips, and chocolate now visible in Miyako's bag. "Is this what you three do every time you come here?"
"Yup!" Daisuke started unwrapping his junk food. "Hikari and Takeru usually join us after a while."
Ken glanced over to where the two were passionately kissing on the bed. "They don't have any problems with you being in here while they're doing that?"
"Not as long as we don't." Iori came up with whatever it was he'd been hunting for. "Besides, the fact that we're here keeps them from making any stupid mistakes."
"Oh." Ken nodded.
"Not that they wouldn't love to get away from us." Miyako gave him a wry grin. "But if Takeru even suggests it, he can count on at least one person to go up in flames." She nodded toward where Daisuke was rapidly consuming his chocolate.
"Why is that?"
"He doesn't like being left out." Miyako shrugged. "Something to do with friendship and insecurity, I’m sure. I don't pretend to know the confused mechanics of Daisuke's thinking process."
Ken glanced over at the red-head. Neither can I… But I think… I'd like to.
I think I'd like to know everything about him. Even the bad stuff. Because he's just that fascinating.
He wondered if that meant there was something more than just lust.
Maybe… I could love him. Just maybe.