Expanding Horizons

 

Part Two

 

"Done!" Daisuke set his hands on his hips, grinning in triumph at the black and white photos he'd laid out in front of him. "I am so the master - just look at that."

Hikari moved to glance at his finished work. "Those look great, Daisuke," she congratulated him. "So does this mean you're getting out an hour early?"

"Yeah, probably - hanging around in here doing nothing would probably get kinda boring." He shrugged, looking back down at the evidence of his genius. He and Hikari were the only ones in there - after discovering they were in the same Photography course, they'd resolved to work on an assignment in the dark room during a shared two-hour break. "How about you? Done yet?"

"Not even close." She smiled ruefully. "I shouldn't have taken so many, I guess."

"You're more careful about this stuff than me, too," Daisuke was willing to concede. "Anyway, I'm gonna take off - I'm starving. I'll be back to put these in my storage space later, okay?"

"I can do that if you want," Hikari offered, her eyes once again on her own work. "I'll be over there putting mine away anyway, so I might as well."

"Hey, even better! You're all right, you know that?" He felt confident enough to pat her on the shoulder - Hikari wasn't the sort of girl most guys would just touch, but they were friends now, so it was okay.

Actually, it was kind of weird… the more he talked to her, the more right she seemed for him. Hikari was the sort of person he imagined himself falling for, but with the exception of yesterday's coffee thing, he hadn't been all that interested in trying to start something.

Maybe Miyako and her set-ups finally burned me out.

There was a knock at the door before Hikari could respond to Daisuke's sudden show of friendship. "C'mon in!" the soccer player called out, after throwing a quick glance her way to make sure it'd be all right.

The door opened slowly, and the pale-skinned pretty boy Daisuke had introduced himself to the night before stepped inside. "Sorry, am I interrupting?"

"Not really." Hikari took another break from her work, shooting a trademark cute smile at her friend. "Looking for me, Ken?"

"That's right." A truly knee-weakening set of luminous blue eyes flickered briefly over Daisuke before focussing on her; they seemed a strange mix of light - glittering in the dark - and darkness - against the pale perfection of that movie-star-quality face.

Man, he's sexier in the dark than he is in the light - and that's saying a lot!

Daisuke took a moment to indulge in his right to take in the sights. It didn't take a genius to figure out how completely wrong the guy was for him, but he could still look, right?

"I thought I'd come and see if you've got time to go for lunch," Ken was saying. He had a quiet sort of voice - deceptive sometimes, other times just polite. Daisuke liked things straightforward, so there was no way he could like Ken's voice. "Are you close to being finished?"

"Not exactly," Hikari admitted ruefully. "You'd better go ahead without me - I'll have to skip lunch today."

"Hey, no worries!" Impulsively - and mostly because his success in achieving okay-to-touch status with Hikari had made him more confidant - Daisuke tossed a careless arm around Ken's shoulders. "You can have lunch with me."

The contact was a mistake; he realized that almost immediately. The taller boy stiffened up in surprise under his arm, and Daisuke felt… not quite right about it. Ken was in a very different category than Hikari, that was for sure.

That didn't mean he was going to stop, though. "So how about it?"

"That's a good idea - you two go ahead." Hikari, at least, saw nothing out of the ordinary - offered her blessing with a smile and approval. "At least you won't be eating lunch alone, right?"

"Yeah, that's my point." Daisuke felt the need to push against that limit he was brushing the edges of, by giving Ken's shoulders an extra, friendly squeeze. "I'll even treat you - how's that for a double bonus? My company, and a free meal. I don't make this offer lightly," he added, using the excuse of heading out the door to slide away his arm - although he wasn't too sure if that was a relief or a disappointment. Ken smelled good. "But I'm feeling nice today, so c'mon."

"I guess… that's an offer I can't refuse," Ken said slowly, as if he weren't entirely certain how to answer that. He did move to follow, though, looking back over his shoulder. "See you tomorrow, all right?"

"Sure - have fun."

"She works too slow," Daisuke confided with a bit of a grin, once they were outside. "But you probably knew that already. I just met her, so if I can spot it, someone who's known her longer has to have seen it. Right?"

Surprisingly - or maybe not - Ken smiled back. "She does like to pace herself," he conceded. "It's because she's being careful, though."

"What fun is that?" He didn't really expect an answer, especially from Ken, who looked like he'd never been less than completely careful about anything he'd ever done. "Anyway, enough about Hikari - want to go pick up a hamburger somewhere?"

The taller boy gave him a sideways gaze, eyelids lowered enough to make it seem almost veiled, and Daisuke felt a shiver up his spine. Man, talk about smoldering glances - if he could bottle that look he'd make a fortune! "Why not just go to the Foods and Nutrition building and get a sandwich?"

"A sandwich? You can still get those things?" Daisuke shrugged with good-natured exasperation, and went along with it. He probably shouldn't have been expecting anything different - this guy was like his polar opposite or something. "Sure, why not? Maybe if I get five or six, it'll fill me up. They're not too expensive, are they?"

"You've never been there for lunch?" Apparently, Ken felt the same way he did about stupid questions and waiting for obvious answers, because he didn't pause for a reply. "They make the food in class, so no - the prices are good."

"I guess I can't complain about that, since I'm the one paying." He moved ahead of Ken and held the door open for him. Not because he was trying to make a good impression or anything - he was just being a friend. After all, he would never really be interested in Ken, because Ken was everything he didn't want in a lover.

Right? Right.

It was good to have things sorted out in your head. Daisuke felt much better about that whole lunch thing now that he'd got that down.

Let's just hope he doesn't think I'm hitting on him or something…

He and Ken must've been reading each other's minds or something - either that, or whatever organized who thought what was being lazy. "About that… We are going for lunch strictly as friends." He said that with a certain caution in his tone. "Right?"

"Oh yeah. No offense, Ken, but you're so far from my type, it's not even funny. I mean, you're nice and all, but… well… you know."

"I know." Ken smiled, looking a bit relieved and a bit… something else. "I feel exactly the same way about it - not that it's anything against you, of course," he was quick to add, those stunning blue eyes flickering toward the shorter boy briefly.

Daisuke spun around and walked backwards, leaning a bit to the side so that he was in Ken's path. "So we agree that we'd never work as a couple, and we're just gonna be friends - nothing else."

Ken nodded, that slight smile becoming wider and more genuine. It was a beautiful sight - and the best part was that he was already looking at it, so he didn't need an excuse for staring. "Exactly."

"Good." Perfect set-up. Daisuke felt a bit smug about how smoothly he'd handled things.

After all… he couldn't really date someone who passed up a burger in favor of some homemade sandwich - could he?

~~~~~~

Ken sat down at one side of a booth at the pizza place down the street from his apartment, and wondered why he was there.

It was so much the restaurant itself - he came there every now and then; they had good food, and it was an ideal place for spending an evening with friends. It was the fact that it was Tuesday night, he hadn't planned this before noon that day, and the only one of his friends present was a too-damn-attractive soccer player he'd met the night before.

Why did I agree to this?

That thought triggered an unwanted memory of Daisuke sitting across from him at a table outside the Foods and Nutrition building, beaming up at him with that too-charming smile and flashing those playful brown eyes. "Want to take in my favorite place to eat?" he'd offered. "We could meet at seven. What do you think?"

And for some reason, he'd gone and said yes.

Ken shook his head and picked up a menu, waiting for either a waitress to take his order for a drink or Daisuke to show up and start a conversation. For whatever reason, despite the fact that he rarely talked about anything Ken considered himself to be enthusiastic about, listening to him was interesting.

"Hey, I'm not late, am I?"

He looked up; it was Daisuke, naturally enough, who was hurrying up to the table he'd picked out, in a blue sports shirt and a pair of shorts that were still a bit out of season for mid-Spring but showed off a pair of pretty nice legs. "Not quite," Ken replied, checking his watch. "You're right on time, actually."

"First time for everything." Daisuke slid into the seat across from him, and looked up with a grin. "You haven't ordered yet, have you?"

Ken shook his head. "I just got here."

"Another first. Hey, want to share a pizza?" Again, he didn't pause for an answer or a comment, but went right on as if he'd already received approval. "We'd better get a large - I eat a lot. So what do you want on your half?"

Well, he did go along with me when we ordered sandwiches for lunch today… "Just pepperoni."

"That's it? Where's your sense of adventure?" Daisuke grinned to show that he wasn't really serious, and pushed his menu aside without touching it. "I'll get us a waitress, okay?" He leaned over the back of his seat, and shouted out, "Hey, Lin! Over here!" When a uniformed girl with long black hair looked up in surprise, he waved one hand wildly, attracting more than a few stares. "Come take our order, we're starving!"

Impatient, isn't he? Ken smiled to himself, more than a little amused.

"Back again, Daisuke?" The girl obligingly came over to their table, pulling out her notepad and pen. "You were here a couple nights ago, weren't you? Not enough projects at school or what?"

"I'm just too good at getting things done," he bragged, grin going a bit cocky. "We're getting a large pizza, half pepperoni, half meat-lovers. And I'll take a root beer."

"Just water, please," Ken added, when she glanced at him.

"Right. Be right back." Their waitress hurried off, disappearing into the back.

There was a moment of silence, but it didn't seem awkward.

"So," Ken began, after a moment, "I don't think you've told me what your major is."

"Hey, you're right." Daisuke blinked, looking a bit surprised. "I can't believe I forgot that… I must be spacing out or something. Anyway, it's Fine Arts. That's why I'm in Photography."

"That makes sense." Ken nodded. Daisuke struck him as someone more creative than logical. "What do you focus on?"

The shorter boy shrugged. "I'm a pretty good sketcher, I guess. Mostly, I just want to play soccer. Fine Arts seemed like it'd be the most fun while I did that, and a lot of it's pretty cool."

The waitress came back with their drinks at that point, and Ken was spared the need to think up an answer.

He hasn't got any plans at all, has he?

It was perfectly all right, of course. Ken watched the muscles in Daisuke's throat move as he tipped back his drink. They were just friends anyway, and it was because of differences like that one. He overbalanced the drink, a thin trickle of dark liquid trailing out over the corner of his jaw, toward his neck. It wouldn't make sense for either of them to be seriously interested in the other - they'd both admitted it would never work.

It wasn't until the ice was the only part of that drink left that Daisuke let his head fall forward again, clapping his glass back down and wiping at the excess with the back of his hand. "They don’t put enough in these things," he observed, a bit breathlessly.

That was the point when Ken realized he needed to start breathing again.

Well, he is attractive, after all.

"So, you got homework you're skipping out on to eat with me?" Daisuke asked curiously. There was a glint in his eyes that suggested he'd be thrilled if that were true.

He's pretty fond of attention, too. "Nothing I can't do later."

"Oh yeah… the genius thing." If there were any disappointment involved there, he managed to shrug it off pretty easily. "Hey, you live in the dorms or at home?"

"I have an apartment." Ken leaned back in his seat, somewhat taken aback by the sudden interest, particularly since Daisuke displayed it by leaning forward and fixing all his attention on him in the form of a curious gaze. "I… They gave me a lot of scholarships. And I have a job during the summer."

"Must be a pretty good job, if they let you come back every year. What's your apartment like? Probably small, right?"

Ken smiled faintly. "Predictably so, yes." The thought that went through his head then made it to his mouth before he could stop it. "Why don't you come over after we eat, and you can see for yourself."

"Seriously?" Daisuke's face lit up. "That'd be great!"

"As friends," Ken clarified, swallowing hard and wishing he had the will power to look away. What exactly was it that made that smile so captivating, anyway?

"Yeah, no kidding 'as friends'." The shorter boy shrugged, and leaned his elbows on the table, grinning across at Ken as if it were the simplest thing in the world to understand. "It's not like either of us is interested enough for something to happen, right?"

~~~~~~

Ken's hands were under Daisuke's shirt, fingers pressing in a bit roughly in his desperation to deeply explore all of that warm expanse of skin. Daisuke was responsive to these touches; he groaned into Ken's mouth and pulled his partner's shirt up, almost clawing to get it off his back. They ground against each other, panting between hot, hungry kisses and becoming increasingly mindless with the force of that passion.

Daisuke made a low, frustrated noise and yanked hard at Ken's shirt. "Why isn't this off yet?" he growled, voice coming out wonderfully throaty.

"I return favors with more of the same," Ken panted back at him, brushing Daisuke's mouth with his. He had to make an effort to keep from falling back into more heavy necking; any thoughts beyond sex and getting it soon had been suspended from the working part of his brain. "Take off yours, and I'll take off mine."

"Mmm…" Apparently, Daisuke wasn't capable of the same restraint; he pushed himself up enough from Ken's bed to re-possess the taller boy's lips and pull him back into more of the same. He was an insistent kisser; demanding, needy, and thoroughly, thoroughly passionate.

And he did that thing with his hips, moving them like… Ken had to break the kiss to gasp and then moan, his breathing and Daisuke's suddenly loud in his ears, a harsher echo against the dull pounding that could've been his own heartbeat but wasn’t really something he wanted to take a lot of time to identify right then.

"That's it." Daisuke pushed himself up, wrestled his shirt off with an accompaniment of steady swearing whenever it stuck, and pushed Ken over, reversing their positions and straddling his hips as he treated the taller boy's shirt to the same. "There."

Ken fought for his breath, finding himself now staring at a half-naked Daisuke whose chest was still heaving bare inches from Ken's own, thighs braced on either side of his hips, and staring at him with enough intensity to arouse inanimate objects. He was dark, even with the light as dim as it was, but close enough so that it was possible to see the coloring of his skin and eyes, the way his body shifted - even the slightest movements. His breath was coming just as harshly as Ken's, but it hit his skin like a caress.

Oh hell, yes!

"Daisuke…" It was the only word he could get out; and it was really more of an exhalation than a word. Ken found his fingers drawn back to his partner's skin like magnets, pressing against the taut muscles now bared to him and feeling desire rushing through him, under his skin.

Was it possible to want something more than he wanted this?

"This is gonna be the ride of your life," Daisuke promised breathlessly, and caught Ken's answering groan in another open-mouthed kiss, banishing whatever hope of rational thought might have been left for the remainder of the evening.

~~~~~~

Well, that was kinda… unexpected.

Daisuke was a ways past too content to make any protest, so he stared up at Ken's ceiling with the heady, almost-forgotten feeling he always got from really damn good sex, and breathed. He was warm and tired, but didn't particularly want to fall asleep - one, because he wanted to prolong the moment; and two, because he'd need to clean himself up first or he'd wake up feeling more than a little gross.

And then, of course, there was Ken.

Just what was he supposed to think about Ken, anyway? Gorgeous, sexy, good in bed? This was a totally physical attraction, right? He really did like Ken, and definitely wanted to sleep with him again - many times, if he could manage it. But that meant nothing.

What'd Ken think about all this, anyway?

As if on cue, the dark-haired boy shifted, then sighed. "How did that just happen?" he asked, sounding somewhat bemused.

"Well…" Daisuke took a moment to think about that. "You invited me to your apartment, and when we got here, we got talking about Miyako and Hikari and how they're always trying to set us up. And then that got into old relationships… and I think there might've been something weird in our drinks, because that somehow turned into strange things people do in bed, and I don't know about you but I started thinking 'man, is he hot' and the sex talk really wasn't helping, so… yeah. Things happened."

Ken was silent for a minute. "Oh," he said finally.

Well, that helped… "Was that good or bad?"

"I'm not really sure," the answer came, in that bemused tone again.

Daisuke propped himself up on his elbows and looked over at his - lover? Well, maybe. Ken was one of those people who just always looked beautiful, but right then, he looked exceptionally good - lying with his head back and bare from the waist up, where the sheet had been pulled up over that pale skin. And his body was just as smooth as it looked - Daisuke could vouch for that now. He remembered he'd seen Ken earlier, face flushed and eyes dark with passion, and got a pleasant shivery feeling inching down his spine.

Nice…

"We did agree we'd never work out as a couple," he said, watching Ken's face for a reaction. "Right?"

"So we did," Ken agreed, face neutral as he returned the gaze. His eyes hadn't lost any power; Daisuke felt something flip around at the pit of his stomach.

"Looks like we're both too sexy for our own good," he commented, flopping back down and turning his head to give the taller boy a grin. "So, what's on your mind? You want to put this in the 'never happened' box and go on with life as usual?"

Almost the same instant the words were out of his mouth, Daisuke wished he could take them back. What if Ken said yes? This whole thing - whatever it was - would end right there, and he'd probably wonder about it forever. And if he said no… If he wanted an actual romance, some wacky relationship that would probably never work because it wet against everything Daisuke wanted…

Way to go, Motomiya - impossible situation either way.

"Why do I get the feeling I'm digging myself in deeper?" Ken began wryly, staring at the ceiling and not noticing Daisuke's fit of anxiety. "I can't say 'yes' to that - it'd drive me insane. We are in the same group of friends now, and this could cause… problems." He said the last word with some caution, still keeping his gaze fixed above him.

"Huh?" That hadn't been the answer he'd been expecting. "What do you mean 'problems'?"

Ken sighed, and turned back at that point. "Honestly, Daisuke, I can't imagine spending an extended period of time pretending that I think of you as a friend."

Self-esteem: rising… "So how about we pretend to be enemies?" Daisuke suggested, only about half-joking. "Well, enemies who secretly have a lot of hot sex, anyway," he added, after a brief second's thought.

For a moment, Ken just stared at him - then the corners of his mouth tugged upward into a partly-unbelieving, partly-amused smile. "I think the most disturbing part of that suggestion is the fact that it actually appeals to me."

"Hey, whatever floats your boat. I'm up for just about anything." Daisuke felt fairly pleased with himself, tucking his arms up under his head and grinning at Ken. "So what do you want to do, then?"

The taller boy raised an eyebrow - a simple action that managed to speak volumes. "You're up for anything," he repeated, slowly. "So… in other words, you'd rather I made the decision and you didn't have to worry about it."

"Uh… yeah, sorta." Daisuke had a feeling Ken was good at guessing other people's motives. Well, it's not like I've got anything to hide… "But look at it this way - you get to make the decision! Right?"

"Thank you." There was probably sarcasm mixed in there somewhere, but Ken was nothing if not subtle. "I think this whole thing is a huge mistake," he continued thoughtfully. "We're looking for completely different things, in life and in relationships. I can't see how anything good could come of this, and we'd end up affecting our friends as well if things go sour later on."

"Yeah," Daisuke agreed, slightly disappointed but easily catching on to what was being said. He was right, after all - it'd never work, and there were truckloads of things that could go wrong. "Guess you're right."

Ken nodded, turning onto his side and propping himself on one elbow. His motions were graceful and his limbs and body sleekly toned; Daisuke bit his lip and pulled his eyes to safer areas - if Ken's eyes could really be called safe - with some effort.

"I don't think we should pretend nothing happened," the dark-haired boy went on, in a rational tone. "But it would be a mistake for anything else to come of this."

Daisuke moved to imitate him - in an attempt to face Ken without having to look up - and found himself close enough to catch the warmth from the body he'd just been admiring. "Oh… yeah," he said clumsily, swallowing as he experienced a faint tingling sensation that told him he'd probably be more than interested in another round of sex very soon.

I should probably move, he thought vaguely, and stayed right where he was.

"Um…" Ken's eyes went a bit wider, then settled to the point where the lids partly shielded them, and gave one of those smoldering looks. "That settles things, I guess."

They were both quiet for a moment, staring at each other from inches away and listening to the combined sound of their breathing.

Okay, this is dumb, Daisuke decided, and moved to do something about that at almost the exact same instant that Ken muttered, "Settles things, my ass," and reached out to brace a hand at the back of his neck and pull him into a slightly clumsy but increasingly satisfying kiss.

And that was about it for meaningful conversations that night.

~~~~~~

"So how much have you got left on this thing, anyway?"

"Not much, really," Hikari said in a placating tone. "It shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes - you can come in with me if you want."

Miyako shrugged, not really bothered. "I'll take a trip to the ladies' room first, if you don't mind. But we've got just about two hours for lunch, so take your time."

"Don't worry, I will."

I don't doubt it. Hikari was a conscientious person, and she took her schoolwork seriously, whether the course was an elective or not. It was a nice bright Wednesday, and she was wasting precious free moments in the dark room with an assignment that wouldn't be due until the next day.

Oh well… It's how she is, I guess. Miyako was developing what she hoped would be a very strong friendship with the girl, and little things like personality quirks really didn't matter when you were talking about that sort of thing.

"All right." They'd reached the door by that point, so Hikari moved to open it, smiling over her shoulder. "Just come on in when you get back, then."

"I'll do that."

Actually, the more Miyako got to know Hikari, the happier she was that she'd never tried to set her up with Daisuke. The problem with setting up friends with other friends was that if it didn't work out, you couldn't hang out with both friends at the same time - or things would get awkward.

Of course, there was always the slight possibility that things might've worked out and the two of them could've formed a match made in heaven… but Hikari's friendship - or Daisuke's - wasn't worth the risk of pushing them into it.

It was gratifying that things had worked out so well.

We're probably going to have a larger group of friends, at least as long as Takeru and Iori are still dating - and it doesn't look like things are going to turn sour any time - huh?

On her return from the washroom, Miyako found Hikari standing outside of the dark room, making no move to go back inside - and looking a bit flustered, too.

"What's the matter?" she asked, eyebrows coming down in puzzlement.

"Nothing… I guess." The shorter girl sounded more than a little bewildered; her eyes had a hazy, confused sort of look to them. "Someone else is using the room. I guess I'll just finish my project later."

"What?" Miyako frowned. From what she'd heard, more than a few people could use the room at the same time, so why would her friend feel threatened by another occupant? "They didn't kick you out, did they? Because that's totally not fair."

"No… I don't think they saw me…" Hikari shook her head. "Please, Miyako, let's just leave it. I can come back later - I have free time after my last class today…"

"What's wrong with now?" This was getting annoying. Hikari wasn't the sort of person who was normally afraid to assert herself when the occasion called for it - and the look on her face… "Just because someone else is in there doesn't mean you can't work at the same time."

Hikari grabbed her friend's arm as the taller girl moved to march on in purposefully. "Miyako, wait!" She bit her lip, then blinked a few times, and added, "There are two people in there. Two… and they're not exactly doing schoolwork."

"Oh." Miyako blinked a few times herself, processing that. Then… "Oh. They're…" That sentence didn't really need to be finished. "In the dark room? Don't they care about people who actually have schoolwork to finish?"

"Well… it looks like that's what they were doing before… um… No, wait!" Hikari didn't move fast enough to catch her again when Miyako pulled free of her grip and reached out to angrily yank open the door and march inside.

"All right, you two jer - er -er - holy cheese whiz and crackers!"

The sight of the two male students currently involved in exploring each other's tonsils quite enthusiastically while pressed up against the counter in the dark room was enough to freeze her in her tracks.

Not because they were both male - she was used to that sort of thing, and then some.

Not because there was a good deal of heavy groping, and more skin than should really have been exposed - she had definitely walked in on worse in her time.

The shock came in when her eyes adjusted to the darkness well enough to identify the boy leaning against the counter with his shirt hitched up and his fly partly unzipped as Daisuke Motomiya. And the boy with his normally-immaculate hair in disarray and button-up shirt pulled out of his pants and undone at the collar as Ken Ichijouji.

Oh my fucking god!

She didn't really have a lot of time to process the sight, because at the sound of her voice, they'd somehow managed to untangle themselves in record time - Daisuke quickly re-doing his pants, and Ken trying to straighten out his appearance.

"What the hell is going on here!?"

Neither met her gaze or made a move to answer her question.

Miyako moved toward them slowly, eyes narrowing down to slits. She was aware of Hikari's presence behind her, but the girl - wisely - chose to employ caution and not approach. Miyako could've spat lightening at the moment. "Explain," she said, voice low, intense, and very dangerous.

"Uh…" Daisuke exchanged a quick glance with Ken, and grinned sheepishly. "We were necking in the dark room?"

"It was inappropriate," Ken murmured, not looking very apologetic. His eyes found Daisuke's again, and the only word Miyako could think of to describe that look was 'smoldering'. "I apologize."

Daisuke nodded absently, and Miyako wondered if he was still aware that she was even in the room. "Yeah, what he said."

That was not the answer she had been looking for. Miyako ground her teeth together. "That's now what I asked, and you know it!" she snapped. Behind her, Hikari took another cautious step into the room. There was only one question that needed answering, and the smaller girl would want to hear the reply as much as she did.

"How the hell did this happen!?"

~~~~~~

"How the hell," Takeru asked slowly, "did this happen?"

Daisuke just shrugged. That could have been explained by the fact that he had just taken a large bite out of his overstuffed hamburger, but Iori knew for a fact that the soccer player had no qualms about speaking with his mouth full. He just didn’t want to answer.

"You'll have to do better than that," the younger boy informed him, raising an eyebrow. He turned his gaze on the dark-haired boy at Daisuke's side who was quietly sipping a drink. "I don't suppose you have an answer?"

The corners of Ken's mouth twitched slightly as if he wanted to smile - or frown - but he met Iori's gaze squarely and said nothing.

"I think this is their way of saying 'none of your business'," Takeru said, glancing sideways at Iori with a meaningful little smirk.

And this is why I think I love you… "We tried to say that in a few different ways when Daisuke was so eager to get all the details of our relationship too, didn't we?"

Takeru gave one of those my-motives-are-holy-and-pure smiles that he was so good at pulling out on occasions like that one. "As I remember it, he didn't leave us alone even for a second, did he?"

"No - No, he didn't." Iori held his boyfriend's eyes for a moment, indulging, and then turned on Daisuke again. "You'll find it easier to tell us than it was to tell Miyako, I'd imagine."

Daisuke made a face, swallowing another bite of hamburger even as Ken coughed and looked away. "Yeah, try telling her that something's none of her business - man! You'd think we said her outfit made her look like a cheerleader!"

"She was probably right when she said that making out in the dark room without bothering to lock the door first made it just about anyone's business, though," Ken mused, turning to gaze at Daisuke thoughtfully. "We should have been more careful."

"What? That'd take half the fun out of it!"

"Excuse me for a minute," Iori interjected, not anxious to watch them exchange gazes that made it look as if the barest fraction of self control was all that kept them from jumping each other and ripping their clothes off in the middle of the restaurant.

Now I have an idea of how Daisuke felt when he was complaining about how Takeru and I were staring at each other while he was there…

It was Friday. The incident Miyako had irritably been referring to as 'the dark room hormone session' had taken place on Wednesday. Naturally, Iori had heard about it, but this was the first time he'd been able to spend a night out with Daisuke and question him about it.

The excuse had been an invitation for a double date.

Daisuke's response? "Well… we're just sorta dating. Not really dating. But sure, sounds like fun."

Iori wasn't anxious to give himself a headache trying to puzzle through that one.

"So, you two started dating on Tuesday, right?" Takeru asked, once he had the attention of the two boys across from him. "How did that happen?"

Ken and Daisuke exchanged glances.

"We're not exactly dating," Ken began, somewhat hesitantly. "It's more like…" He paused.

"Something more than just friends, and with benefits," Daisuke filled in for him, nodding as if that explained it all.

Takeru shook his head, raised both eyebrows, and grinned. "Sort of like… dating?"

Ken sighed, stirring his straw around in his drink with an unconsciously elegant wrist movement. "You might have noticed that we're looking for very different things in a relationship," he tried again, with less hesitance this time.

Iori nodded. No kidding. "Go on."

"It means we're probably not gonna work out," Daisuke added, leaning back and shooting a wry look Ken's way. "Think about it - someone like me, with someone like him? Yeah right."

"Stranger things have happened," Takeru commented, but he didn't say it with much conviction.

"Yes. Well." Ken apparently didn't think much of that statement either, raising his eyebrows at the blond briefly. "We decided that we didn't really want to race blindly into the inevitable, so we're not taking this… thing… between us very seriously."

"Make a long story short, it's all about the sex." Daisuke grinned, looking quite pleased with himself. "And when things stop working out, we're back to just friends. Simple as that."

"You don't really think it'll be that simple, do you?" Iori asked, frowning at him. It sounds like a shortcut to disaster, if you ask me…

"Most likely not," Ken agreed, and his eyes were serious. "All we're saying is that we'll be ready for the end - if and when it catches up with us."

"I guess that makes sense," Takeru said, a bit dubiously.

Iori knew he had doubts. They were probably the same doubts Iori himself had.

However, Iori made it a point not to try and tell other people how they should live their lives. He was opinionated, yes. Judgemental, sometimes, yes. A busybody, no. That was Miyako's job. "You were going to tell us how you started… sort of dating," he reminded them, taking a small sip of his water.

"We were? Oh, right, we were." Daisuke gave him a sheepish look. "Sorry, I got distracted. Yeah… um… anyway. How we hooked up." He glanced at Ken, at Takeru, and then back to Iori. "I don't know?"

"You don't know?" Takeru repeated, a bit incredulously.

Iori shifted his gaze to Ken, who smiled faintly but didn't offer any explanations.

"We went out for pizza - as friends - and then over to Ken's place," Daisuke started, then shrugged. "We were just talking. Then we had sex. And talked some more. And had more sex. That was the night, pretty much."

Iori stared at him. Takeru stared at him. Ken suddenly became very busy with his chicken salad.

There was silence.

"How, exactly," Takeru said, in a puzzled sort of tone, "do you go from 'just talking' to having sex? What were you talking about?"

"Uh…" Daisuke's grin was a bit weak. "Well, Miyako and Hikari at first, but - "

"Miyako and Hikari!?"

Ken rested his chin on one hand and watched Daisuke with interest, as if wondering how he planned to talk himself out of this one.

"About how they were trying to set us up! And that's not what led to the sex, you sicko!" Daisuke leaned forward, shooting Takeru a not-so-serious glare. "Man, and you think I've got a dirty mind? What goes on in there, anyway?" He leveled a finger at the blond's forehead.

"He knows you well enough to know that you're weird," Iori pointed out, wryly. This was shaping into a very strange conversation. There were a few people sitting near their table who were giving them some funny looks. "I think I've lost all interest in hearing about the rest of this, actually."

"Smart," Ken agreed.

"Yeah…" Takeru leaned back, and gifted Iori with one of his knee-weakening smiles, complete with warm blue eyes and considerable promise for later in the evening. "He is, isn't he?"

For a moment, Iori forgot about whoever else might be sitting around them.

"And Miyako calls us shameless," Daisuke commented lightly, stealing one of Takeru's fries.

~~~~~~

"Probably not gonna do you much good if you just sit there, Motomiya."

Daisuke looked up from his drink and shrugged at his teammate. "All that dancing tired me out!" he yelled back, over the music and the mixture of excited - and often heated - babble of voices.

Hirosagi gave him an incredulous look. "The hell?" he shouted back. "Are you sure you're Motomiya? The same Motomiya who played almost straight through, three summer league games in one day, and still had the energy to go to the bar, dance in the personal space of a bunch of girls he didn't even know, and get back to the dorms at four in the morning when he had an eight o'clock practice?"

Daisuke checked his watch. It was eleven o'clock. "That was a pretty good sentence," he complimented his team's Sweeper, taking a long gulp from the glass in front of him.

"Thanks. But come on, man, what gives here?"

Truthfully, Daisuke wasn't too sure about the answer to that himself. It was a Saturday night - almost two weeks since he'd started dating Ken - and they'd had another couple of home games. Since it was soccer season, his curfew was midnight anyway - ten on school nights - but for whatever reason, going out with his teammates wasn't giving him quite the same pent-up-energy buzz. He was enjoying himself, yes, but there was no real desire in him to innocently grope as many people as he could before leaving.

Maybe it's 'cause I've got Ken now… Even if it's probably not real and won't last that long. The more he thought about it, the more that made sense. Why would he care about some random girl from the bar when someone like Ken was available to him? Daisuke grinned over at Hirosagi. "Maybe I'm just not so interested in grabbing some grinding time with one of them" - he nodded in the direction of the dance floor - "now that I've got someone who's ten times better already."

"It's dancing, not sex. I though you said you weren't serious, anyway."

"So what if we're not?"

"So you don't have to feel guilty about one lousy night out, that's what!"

"Yeah, well, maybe I just don't feel like doing anything about it." That, Daisuke felt, was a killing blow if he'd ever dealt one. None of the girls in that bar could've even started to compare to Ken anyway. There was just something about him that put him above them in the soccer player's mind.

"Man, you are fucking whipped," Hirosagi shot back with good-natured exasperation. "Anyway, if you're not heading back out there anyway, we need another guy for pool."

Daisuke was terrible at pool. "Sure, if you don't mind getting your ass kicked."

"Yeah, right."

There were a bunch of guys on Daisuke's team who had cars, but he didn't happen to be one of them. The last bus came by that area at quarter to twelve, so he left the bar five minutes before then and caught it in time to head on his way back to the dorms. He probably could've grabbed a ride with someone, but he wasn't too sure everyone else was as good about the no-alcohol ban their coach had tacked to them on the first day of try-outs as he was.

And people call me stupid…

It was a ten-minute ride. Daisuke sat down across from a strange-looking lady with a beaded hat and oddly mismatched clothing, and leaned back to watch the scenery pass by. There wasn't much to see, but that was okay.

I wonder what Ken's up to now… Probably doing homework. He couldn’t help making a face at that thought. Guy's way too serious sometimes. It's not like he doesn't still have all of tomorrow to work on it, right?

Daisuke debated with the thought of stopping early and heading over to Ken's apartment instead of the dorm. He could rescue his lover from a night of boredom, right? Problem was, the genius might already be in bed. He didn't usually stay up all that late.

I'm kinda tired too, Daisuke admitted to himself, stifling a yawn. It had been a long week - playoffs were coming up, so practice had been sort of intense, and he'd had a couple of projects due, besides. Maybe it was a better idea to just go straight to bed and not bother Ken at all.

Yeah, that'd work. I'll see him tomorrow or Monday or something.

The apartments where Ken lived were just a couple of blocks from the university, and the bus made a stop in between the two places. Daisuke looked up at the window - three floors up, four from the right - that he knew was Ken's without really expecting to see anything.

The light was on.

He's still up?

Without fully consulting his brain, Daisuke's arm reached out to tug the cord that would signal for the bus driver to make a stop. He realized what he'd done about five seconds later, and frowned as the bus pulled over.

Well… I might as well go now, right? No point making the guy stop for no reason.

With that in mind, he pulled himself to his feet, gave the weird lady a parting grin, and hurried off the bus. Then he made a beeline back toward his lover's apartment building.

It took a few moments for Ken to answer the door, and when he did, he was dressed for bed - loose pants and shirt, possibly a pajama set since they were a matching shade of dark blue. "Daisuke?" He looked surprised, blinking a bit as he stared at his unexpected guest. "What are you doing here?"

A thousand different replies jumped up to his mouth - 'I missed you', 'I thought I'd come save you from your homework', 'I made a mistake and thought this was my apartment - oops, sorry' - but what came out was, "Can I spend the night?"

Ken blinked some more. He looked typically immaculate - if you didn't count the weariness that was every serious student's curse. Daisuke had seen Ken in the morning, when he was rumpled and blurry-eyed and not looking at all perfect, and it made him feel smug. The sight was something not many other people would see. "If you want," the dark-haired boy replied after a moment, moving aside and holding the door open wide.

"Thanks." Daisuke was ready with some kind of half-thought-out excuse, but after he'd stepped inside and kicked off his shoes in complete silence, he realized Ken wasn't going to ask for one. "So what are you doing, anyway?"

"Getting ready to go to bed." Ken shut the door once Daisuke had moved out of the way. "If you mean before that, I was going over my notes for the exam I have on Monday."

"Why would you do that when you've got all day tomorrow?" Daisuke covered up a yawn with one hand. "Man, I'm tired."

"There's a lot of material to cover," Ken explained, watching him with some care and more than a little puzzlement. "I'm going to bed, if you want to join me - to sleep, of course," he added.

"That's not why I wanted to stay over," Daisuke felt he had to point out. Didn't want Ken getting the wrong idea. "I mean, I'm tired too, so I didn't come here just to have sex or anything."

Ken nodded slowly, accepting that as truth. "Why did you come here?"

"I don’t know - just wanted to sleep over here, I guess."

"All right… You can use the bathroom if you want." The taller boy turned away, talking over his shoulder. "I'll be in bed - join me when you're done."

Daisuke grinned, pleased for no real reason. "Great!"

It was strange, he thought later, climbing into the bed beside his lover. He hadn't known why he'd made the detour, but didn't mind the confusion. It actually felt nice to have Ken there beside him in bed. Even though they hadn't just had sex, the comfortable feeling was the same. It was nice to be able to turn his head and look at him - to fall silent and hear him breathing. Being near Ken like this gave him the answer to 'why did I come here?'

Because… just like that, things felt the way he wanted them to.

~~~~~~

It was almost one in the morning, but Ken wasn't particularly tired and he had done his best to set the beginnings of end-of-semester stress aside for the night. There were two weeks left in the term, and things were starting to get busy. He probably wouldn't have too many more opportunities to spend a lot of time with the others until then - and, of course, there was the exam period to deal with.

Yes, it was certainly better to relax now, and worry later.

"I've only got one exam this term," Daisuke bragged, when the subject got around to it. He was sitting on Ken's couch and in Ken's personal space and he was absently playing with Ken's hand, with the attached arm slung loosely around his neck. "And it's set for two days after the term ends, so I probably won't have time to forget anything."

"You will probably go crazy finishing projects next week, though," Hikari predicted, from where she was perched on the arm of the chair Miyako and Wallace were sharing.

Miyako snorted. "Remember to get your lawyer to call us in to testify after you go insane and kill him when you're trying to study, Ken," she said, shooting the soccer player in his arms a good-natured glare. "You'll have plenty of justification, trust me."

Ken was almost positive that she was joking.

"Which class do you have an exam in?" Takeru asked, from the other side of the couch. There was more space between him and Iori than there was between either of the other couples in the room, but that wasn't really saying much.

Daisuke shrugged. "Marketing."

Hikari tilted her head at him. "How did you decide on taking that class, if you're doing Fine Arts?"

"Well, you never know when it might come in handy," Daisuke answered, a bit defensively. He shifted to get into a more comfortable position and ran his thumb over the back of Ken's hand with a familiarity that felt nicer than the gesture itself. "Maybe I'll open my own business some day or something."

Wallace laughed, arching his neck to look around both the girl on his lap and the girl on the arm of the chair. "Yeah, like maybe a hot dog stand?"

"Hot dogs? Who eats hot dogs any more?" Daisuke scoffed, waving his free hand negligently. "Maybe a stand, but not hot dogs. How about ramen noodles?"

"How about 'you're weird'?"

"Hey, it takes one to know one."

Iori checked his watch. "You know, as much fun as it is to sit here and lose brain cells listening to you people talk…"

"You're going already?" Miyako protested, shifting around and unintentionally causing her boyfriend to grunt in pain. "Sorry. Come on, you've at least got to stay until Ken tries to kick us all out!"

"Yeah, you're the youngest, Iori," Daisuke reminded him. "You're supposed to have all the energy and want to stay up really late while the rest of us old folks take our pills and get our well-earned rest."

Hikari laughed. "I can tell you're going senile already," she agreed pleasantly, and pushed herself to her feet. "I should be going too - I've got projects to work on tomorrow."

"Tell me about it," Ken sighed, with a wry smile.

"What an exciting group." Miyako sighed as well, more dramatically. "Well, I guess I should be rested for tomorrow - after all, Wallace has a day of fun planned." She turned to give the blond a narrow look. "You do have a day of fun planned, don't you?"

"Yeah, of course I do. What do you take me for?" Wallace paused for only the barest of seconds. "Don't answer that."

"What's special about tomorrow?" Takeru asked curiously, obediently pushing himself off the couch after Iori.

Miyako shrugged. "It's our anniversary."

"It is?" Daisuke leaned forward in Ken's hold, staring at the girl. "How come you never told us?"

"I just did. Besides, it's nothing important to you." She ran her fingers through Wallace's short blond hair and beamed at him. "Neither of us will be available all day, by the way, so if you call, you'd better have a damn good reason."

"I'll only interrupt you if I've broken a leg and no one else is available to drive me to the emergency room," Hikari promised, with a smile. "Congratulations."

"Yeah - a whole year," Iori commented, without a hint of sarcasm. "That's really something for one of your boyfriends."

Miyako shook her head. "I get the feeling I should be offended, but I'm going to take that as a compliment instead. And thank you for your congratulations."

"My brother once told me that the first year is like a milestone," Ken told her, offering his own smile. "The next one will be at the ten year mark, as I remember."

Daisuke turned his head to look up at him curiously. "I never knew you had a brother."

That was an ache he hadn't felt in a while. Ken didn’t usually talk about Osamu in front of people he didn't know well. "He died when I was younger."

"Oh." Thankfully, his lover was willing to let the subject drop.

"You two…" Miyako was staring at them now, and her expression was that of someone who had just been out-guessed on something. "How long have you been dating now?"

Daisuke craned his head up again to meet Ken's eyes. "Two months?"

"I think so," Ken agreed. It hadn't seemed like very long… The strange part was the fact that they weren't tired of each other - which was really what they'd both been expecting to happen. He still enjoyed having Daisuke around, even when they weren't doing much of anything.

And he wasn't entirely certain what that meant as far as the future was concerned.

At the moment, though, he liked Daisuke very much, and wasn't really anxious to be free of his company.

"It's lasting pretty long for something that was supposed to be a fling," Takeru said, mildly.

Ken shrugged, not wanting to explain something he didn't fully understand himself. "I guess it is," was all he offered in return.

"So, you think that ten months from now, we'll be congratulating you two?" Hikari teased. "And you'll still be telling us it's just a fling?"

"You know, as great as I am at predicting the future, I think that's a little beyond me." Daisuke let go of Ken's hand and stood up, stretching widely. "Come on, we gotta see your guests to the door, right?"

Iori finished pulling his shoes on and glanced back over at him. "'We'?"

Ken wasn't too sure why Iori always felt the need to ask.

"Oh yeah, the bed in Daisuke's dorm has about five layers of dust on it by now." Miyako rolled her eyes upward, lacing up her knee-high boots expertly. "When was the last time you visited it, Daisuke?"

"When I needed something that still lives in there?" Daisuke guessed, blinking.

Ken smiled to himself. He wasn't about to object. "Maybe you should just give up the pretense and move in here with me," he suggested, teasingly.

When Daisuke turned around to look at him again, however, his gaze was anything but teasing. "Well…"

 

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