Love the One You're With

 

"Eat my dust, Takaishi!"

"Hah! Fat chance, Motomiya!" I grinned at the familiar challenge and raced after the red-haired eighteen-year-old who was sprinting ahead of me. Daisuke always tried to beat me, no matter where we were going or what we were doing. It was probably some strange left-over competitive feeling from back when we were eleven. In his mind, at that point, we had been in competition for Hikari. We weren’t any more, but Daisuke had always had trouble letting go of those sort of things.

Like thinking he could beat me. I caught up to him easily, despite the head start he’d given himself. Daisuke was still a full head shorter than me, and my legs were longer than his. I had better reach. We were both athletic – soccer kept him in shape, and basketball helped me out the same way – but I was faster, and we both knew it.

"Give up?" I asked, pacing myself to keep us neck-in-neck. We were both panting heavily, and the people we raced by in the streets were giving us funny looks. Did I care?

Heck, no! I loved it!

"Not… a… chance!" Daisuke gasped out, straining to try and gain some kind of lead. It was useless, of course, but the look of determination on his face was some strange brand of beautiful. I couldn’t get much of a look, not while we were both running at top speed, but I could picture it in perfect detail. It was a fixed image in my mind: the crinkled brows, the set of those full lips, the way his warm brown eyes would narrow and widen in some weird rhythm that seemed to help him concentrate. Even the restless play of the slim muscles beneath his tanned skin could betray him. He wanted to beat me so badly…

I wouldn’t let him. Not once. If he beat me, he’d probably lose interest in ever racing with me again. Much as I loved Daisuke, I wasn’t willing to sacrifice that much just for the sake of his pride.

Just like the way I hadn’t ever told him that Hikari and I weren’t involved.

Because he’d lose interest in me. The goal was Hikari; once I was out of the picture, he’d start to ignore me in favor of reaching that goal. I knew my intentions with Hikari weren’t more than simple friendship, and she knew it, too – but Daisuke never found that out. He probably still doesn’t know why we’re not together, and it’s been more than five years.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Hikari. But…

That quiet affection paled in comparison to the vibrant, thrilling feelings that warmed my whole body whenever I was with Daisuke.

When had it happened? I wasn’t sure. Why? No way of knowing. Fate had a strange sense of humor sometimes. I loved Daisuke Motomiya. Me, Takeru Takaishi – the same Takeru who he’d plotted to strangle in moments of extreme infatuation with Hikari. The same Takeru who had seemed to make his every attempt to capture her attention a useless gesture. And the same Takeru who’d pushed him into achieving everything he was capable of, just by being better.

I took a lot of pride in Daisuke’s successes. I took pride in the fact that he’d finally beaten my score in History, that he’d been accepted into the same college that Hikari, Ken, and I would be heading to, and that he’d gotten a part-time job that offered better pay than the one I had. Every success gave him more confidence in himself, and I could feel a deep satisfaction in the fact that I had helped him to gain that sense of self-worth.

I loved him, though – and that alone could make everything worth it. I loved him, and I wanted him to love himself. No amount of effort put into him was too large. It all paid off, in the brilliant, proud smile on Daisuke’s beautiful face.

The subway station came into view, and I put in the speed I’d been holding back and zoomed ahead of him to win the race.

Daisuke stopped at the entrance, leaning over and resting his hands on his knees to catch his breath again. He glanced up at me resentfully. "One day I’ll beat you, Takaishi," he promised.

I laughed. "Sure thing, Dai – whatever you say."

"Let’s get on the train." He hopped into the station to buy our tickets. Where the energy came from after that mad dash along the way, I would never know. Daisuke was an ever-evolving mystery.

"So how come you didn’t just take the subway with Hikari?" I asked him, as we waited for the train. "You live a lot closer to her than you do to me – wouldn’t it have been easier to walk with her than to spend the afternoon with me first and then go?"

Daisuke shrugged. Apparently, the subject wasn’t important enough to him. "I wanted to hang out for a while. Anyway, Hikari said she was getting a ride over to Ken’s new apartment." From the way his expression shifted slightly, I could tell that this was something he didn’t like.

"And you’re not happy about that?" I kept my voice carefully neutral; these days, it was hard to tell if Daisuke still had some stale feelings for Hikari. We were close enough that I knew he’d tell me if I asked in the right way.

"Awwwww…" Daisuke crossed his arms and made a slight ‘hmmph’ noise. "Who cares if Ken’s giving her a ride? Not me! Just because he never called me, and I live practically right next to her… So I’ll bet he wants to ask her out. But do I care? No, not a bit! Who would?" He was babbling now, words spilling out over each other, almost angrily. "After all, there’s nothing wrong with Ken asking Hikari out. I mean, why should there be? It’s his life, and he can do what he wants, right? I’m just – "

"Spare me," I cut him off. Daisuke was so obvious sometimes. He was also glaring at nothing and acting horribly jealous, and I had to shake my head. I’d been right: he did still have a left-over crush on Hikari. I didn’t think it was serious enough for me to worry about, though. Daisuke never mentioned Hikari in casual conversations. He spent more time telling me what he ate for lunch at Ken’s house.

Daisuke looked at me, and sighed. "I’m being stupid, right?"

I smiled a little, surprised at how much more aware of himself Daisuke seemed to be. He’d almost seemed completely oblivious to how obvious his crush on Hikari had been, before. "Maybe just a little," I agreed helpfully.

"Well, I guess it’s just me," he muttered, looking down at the ground and kicking some imaginary dirt. "I kind of wanted to talk to you about that, too. I mean, you’re practically the best friend I’ve got, and this whole thing’s got me totally freaked – maybe you could help, right?" He glanced up at me again, hopefully, and I felt my heart jump.

"I’ll help however I can," I promised, glancing up again as the train pulled up in front of us. "You can tell me about it on the train – no one’s going to be listening to us, anyway."

"Sure!" Daisuke climbed on ahead of me and sank into the first seat he found. I slid in next to him, ready to hear about this "big secret". As if it was a secret at all, big or not.

"So what’s the problem, Dai?"

"Well…" He frowned a little. "You remember when I liked Hikari, back in seventh grade, right?"

I nodded. Who could forget?

"Okay, then this is nothing like that!" Daisuke faced me, looking about as serious as I’d ever seen him. "You gotta keep this a secret, though. I got over Hikari a long time ago, so it’s not her, but…" He took in a deep breath. "Well, I kinda started… feeling things. Like love or some junk, I don’t know. Different from with Hikari. You know?"

I nodded, trying to keep the dismay and fear from my face. "Yeah. I think so." Not Hikari… He said it wasn’t Hikari. But I never see him with other girls… Could he…? It was a last-second, desperate hope. I was afraid; my heart was pounding a mile a minute, but at the same time… I felt adrenaline coursing through me. It could be me… It might be – Daisuke was so unpredictable…

If it was, it would be worth everything I’d been through in my life. Everything.

"Like being around them makes me light," Daisuke went on, staring at me with this hopeful, earnest look on his face. His eyes begged me to understand. "I could fly, I feel like I weigh nothing. I think about him – them – all the time, and want to be around them every second. Is that love? I’m not crazy, am I, Takeru?"

It took me a moment to focus on that question; my head was starting to get a floating feeling. The hope on Daisuke’s face as he stared at me… the slip in his sentence: him… the way he turned to me for answers… It was like something out of a story, a tale of romance and love and everything I’d always dreamed of with him. "No," I managed to get out, reasonably calmly. "I don’t think you’re crazy at all, Daisuke."

He smiled, looking relieved. "Thanks! I mean, I didn’t think so, but still… I can’t help thinking it’s not normal – I mean, I might be falling for another guy… That’s okay, right?"

My heart was pounding hard; I could feel it. I nodded a little, unable to speak. That was exactly how I’d imagined the conversation going… Right down to the very last confession. "Daisuke," I began, finding my voice, "I – "

"So, do you think I have a chance?" he asked suddenly, cutting into the dream bubble I’d set us up in. I blinked and stared down at him again, confused. He was still looking up at me with that hopeful smile and those big, pleading eyes.

"Huh?"

"Duh! Weren’t you listening to me?" Daisuke shook his head, grinning. "I know I didn’t say a name or anything, but I thought it was kinda obvious, dude! Do you think Ken might like me back? I mean, he’s so smart and cool and all…"

My dream bubble burst. "K-Ken?"

"Who’d you think I was talking about?" Daisuke laughed. "Iori? Yeah right – he’s a little young for me, don’t you think?" He stopped laughing and gave me that look of anticipation, eyes shining. "So what do you think? Do I have a chance?"

I shut my eyes. Pain… Ken. He wanted Ken. Not me. I hadn’t even been a consideration, from what he’d been saying. I hadn’t had a chance. All those years of waiting, of loving him, of hiding that secret devotion in the hopes that one day I could act on it… Gone. I’d never even had a prayer.

And I couldn’t let him see that, either. I loved Daisuke, and I’d never, ever let him get hurt. Even though he’d hurt me, even though he didn’t know it, I was still going to make sure he was happy. And if Ken would make him happy…

Then Ken was what he’d get.

So, I forced a cheerful smiled and answered him. "Sure, Dai," I said. "I think you’ve got a good chance of being with Ken. A real good chance."

~~~~~~

The soft knock on my door came right on time. I smiled to myself, double-checking my appearance in the mirror. Ken was nothing if not precise. He was always right on time, never too late, never too early.

I decided to let my brother get the door. "Taichi, I’m not ready yet! Tell Ken to wait for a while, all right?" That said, I started cleaning up the things I’d used to make myself presentable.

There wasn’t much; I’m not big on make-up and hair gel and all that other junk. I don’t usually wear anything at all, but Ken made me do things like that sometimes. I couldn’t help putting on a little glittery nail polish, a hint of lip gloss, and some mascara – at least.

I heard Taichi telling Ken that I was still ‘primping herself up’, and made a silent promise to get even with him some day soon. Still, it wasn’t a big deal, since Ken already knew I wasn’t vain or superficial. I didn’t have to put on a front for him; he knew me well enough so that it wasn’t necessary.

Just the thought of that gave me a warm feeling inside.

Ken understood me. No one else had ever been able to, not Daisuke, or Miyako, or even Takeru. As the Child of Light, I’d dealt with darkness all of my life, so much that darkness almost seemed to become my life. Ken knew how that felt because he was the same as me. He’d been fighting darkness since that dark spore had been implanted in his head, and that made our situations similar. He was the only one I knew who could make me feel completely safe, and comfortable, just with his presence. I could read his silence, I knew his moods, and I understood his struggle to find himself.

I was Light, though. I could help him get through the darkness. I’d been doing my best to help him ever since he’d joined us, so many years ago. He felt… almost like a kindred spirit. We knew each other in a way I don’t think I could know anyone else.

That wasn’t likely to make sense to anyone but me – and Ken.

"All right, I’m ready!" I stepped out of the bathroom, with a smile for my exotic friend.

Ken’s face still had the hints of shadows from his past; it was likely that he’d always have at least a hint of that with him, forever. It gave him an almost wounded look, if you could see him the right way. He had such depth, Ken did. There were still roots of sorrow and regret deep in him; lessons he’d never forget. I could see his constant struggle against the darkness inside of him through the clear, violet eyes that were framed so beautifully by his pale skin. The contract of the pale, almost white flesh and his midnight-shaded hair was like the light and the dark inside of him. It fascinated me.

I suppose I could’ve taken the easy route, and fallen for Daisuke, or Takeru. Daisuke was bold and brave, and he’d have been able to make me laugh and keep me from the darkness forever. Takeru was brightness in itself; hope. I would never feel anything dark or evil around him, not once. Both of them could solidify my resistance to the lure of that inky blackness that threatened to engulf me so painfully. And yet…

Call it a fascination with darkness, perhaps. Or maybe I was just longing so much for someone who would understand what I went through, and share it with me. Whatever it was, that cold, lonely side of Ken drew me to him, if only because of his persistent resistance to it. The struggle inside of him appealed him to me, that inner strength that Daisuke and Takeru would never know anything of. Ken was beautiful in his moodiness. I’d been drawn to him, not since I’d known him, but since I’d started to know him well.

"Are you ready to go, Hikari?" Ken asked politely, though he smiled warmly at me. "It’ll take us about ten minutes to get to my apartment, and I told Daisuke and Takeru to be there by four." He didn’t look at his watch. "So we should be on time if we leave now."

"Fine with me." My smile widened. "See you later, Taichi!"

I didn’t listen for his reply, as Ken led me out to his car. It wasn’t very big – only a two-passenger model – and it was used. But he was the only person I was friends with who had their own vehicle.

And, besides, if there had been room for more people, I might have had to share his company with Daisuke. Call me selfish, but I really wanted Ken to myself.

I loved him, after all.

"How did your exams go?" he asked me, starting up the car. I watched his graceful, elegant hands adjusted the gears and the steering wheel until everything was set to his satisfaction. Ken never settled for anything less than perfection from himself.

"Good, actually," I answered him. "I think I did well on them – hopefully well enough to keep my grade point average where it is. How about you?"

"I did… well," he said, after a while. He was steering carefully onto the street, concentrating on driving at the same time as he talked to me. "They didn’t even raise the question of my exams when I applied for that University. How did Takeru and Daisuke do?"

"Good. Daisuke beat Takeru in History." I smiled, remembering the proud look on Takeru’s face as Daisuke jumped around in blissful ecstasy. My light-haired friend had worked just as hard for that grade as Daisuke had, and I knew it. "He was really happy about that."

Ken smiled a little, still staring at the road in front of him. "I’ll bet he was," he said, softly. There was a warmth in that tone that I hardly ever heard in Ken’s voice.

Even beneath that darkness, he was still kind. Beautifully, wonderfully kind.

I knew what people thought: that I should’ve been with Takeru, or even with Daisuke. After all, hadn’t Takeru and I both had the angel digimon? And hadn’t Daisuke always worshipped the ground I walked on? And I cared for them both, very much. Daisuke for his unconditional friendship, that endured even the roughest points of anyone’s life. And Takeru because he was sweet, and my dearest friend, and someone I loved deeply. If not for Ken, I think, it could have been Takeru.

But I can’t help loving Ken. I could never stop. And I’ll always be there to help him battle the darkness. I know he’d always need my help, as long as his struggle continues. And I’ve dedicated a part of myself to holding him up when he needs it.

It’s part of my life. I’m not sure what would happen if I ever let that go.

"Hikari." His soft voice broke through the silence that had settled in the car. I glanced up at him. "I have something to ask you. But I’d like to keep it between us. All right?"

"Of course, Ken," I said, automatically. "What is it?"

"Have you ever… been in love?" He kept his eyes on the road, but he was blinking rapidly. I recognized the look of longing and pain on his face, a familiar expression. The question was hard to ask.

"Yes," I answered clearly, forcing my voice to sound confidant. "Why? Do you have a special someone?"

"Maybe," he told me, uncertainty obvious in his voice and on his face. Those slender shoulders were hunched a little, and tension made itself clear all over his body. "I’m… not sure they would accept the position, if I offered it. But I do care for them, very much."

I licked my lips slightly, feeling nervous and fluttery all at once. I shouldn’t get my hopes up… that Ken would actually care for me in return, that he’d feel what I felt. "Do you want to tell me who? Maybe I can help."

"I-I’m not sure." He kept his eyes on the road, glancing around to be sure he wasn’t being completely careless in the marginally heavy traffic. "But maybe you can help me figure it out. It’s like… there’s no more night, and all I can see is the day ahead of me. And then when I’m alone, just the thought of them makes me feel like I’m walking down a dark tunnel and if I could just be with that one person, I’d reach the light at the end." His voice was reverent at that point, and he almost breathed the words out.

My heart pounded. The way Ken spoke, so beautifully… I was drawn to him even further. "That sounds like love to me, Ken," I told him, quietly so as not to disturb the spell he’d woven with his words.

"I can’t stop thinking about them," he went on, smiling a little. "And my heart starts to beat faster just from those thoughts. I feel… warm. And light. Like I’ve been frozen, but my wings have thawed and now I can fly."

I couldn’t help it; I sighed. If Ken had turned from the road, I’m sure he would’ve seen a dreamy, love-struck expression on my face. "That’s so beautiful," I whispered.

"Well, it’s how I feel," he said, smiling again. "I’m sure that it’s love. I just hope it’s returned; it hurts just to think that he wouldn’t feel the same."

My brilliant fantasy world dissolved as quickly as if a wave of cold water had doused it. All in one word, my universe had shattered. Just one word: he. Because with that word, I knew that it couldn’t be me he loved.

I was suddenly repulsed by my own femininity. I wished fervently that it would go away, even though it felt stupid just to think. Ken loved another male. Not me. My heart felt sore, and I felt my hopes smash cruelly under the crushing weight of that realization.

Ken was speaking to me again, and I tried to listen, through the hurt and the disgust with myself. "Do you think I might have a chance with him, Hikari? If anyone would know who he might have feelings for, it would be you, don’t you think?"

I blinked rapidly, and struggled not to let my voice betray me. "Who?"

"Daisuke." His pale cheeks flushed slightly at that, a charming pink shade that, if anything, only made him more beautiful. And that beauty was out of my reach.

Daisuke… How ironic is that? It was like my life moved in a circle. I’d been unable to return Daisuke’s affections, back when he’d wanted me, and he’d taken his revenge by putting me through the same miserable ache of rejection, only a thousand times worse.

"He might," I said softly, looking anywhere but at Ken. I would help him fight his darkness, and reach his light. "You should talk to him."

Even if that light wasn’t me.

~~~~~~

"Where have you guys been?"

I couldn’t help smiling a little as Daisuke bounded away from the building and raced to meet Ken and Hikari as they made their way out of the parking lot. He was so easily excited, and so full of energy… It was so great to watch him.

Even though I wasn’t the one who’d get to take care of him.

It hurt. I could hardly believe how much it hurt, knowing that he looked at Ken the way I’d always watched him. It felt like… every one of his smiles belonged to Ken. Like I could never have one, because he wanted someone who wasn’t me. It didn’t have quite the same effect when he smiled at me any more – there was a shadow over it now. It left an ache inside of me that I knew I’d never fill up completely.

I loved Daisuke. You didn’t just shrug something like that aside and get over it.

For Ken’s sake, I hoped he felt the same. If Ken hurt Daisuke the way I was hurting now… I would cheerfully kill him. Daisuke deserved happiness. If it took me forever, I’d make sure he got it.

Even if not with me.

"Sorry, Daisuke," Ken apologized. He actually sounded sorry. "I didn’t think you’d be early. I thought that I’d get back from picking up Hikari at about the same time that you two got here."

I have to admit, a secret little part of me was hoping Ken wouldn’t be interested in Daisuke. It was a horrible thing to think, because I knew that would hurt Daisuke… but if Ken wasn’t interested, then maybe he’d see… maybe he’d open his eyes a little and notice that I’d been waiting for him all that time.

But I knew it wasn’t going to happen.

As I watched, feeling my heart sinking, Ken smiled shyly down at Daisuke, obviously hoping to catch his eye and start a conversation. When he noticed the shorter boy had already turned to greet Hikari, his face fell.

Ken had feelings for Daisuke. How could I have missed that?

That’s good, though, the decent part of my mind whispered. It means Daisuke can be happy. He’ll probably be thrilled to hear that Ken likes him. A side of me liked that idea, picturing Daisuke’s predictably ecstatic reaction to finding that out.

But part of me wanted to break down and cry in utter despair.

With typical Daisuke-ish flair, the bright love of my life slung one arm around Hikari’s shoulders and one around Ken’s. It made him tilt over a little, since the brunette girl was shorter and Ken was taller. I smiled again, trying to keep from looking sad.

Hikari sighed a little, and I looked at her for a moment. She was rolling her eyes, smiling away, looking for all the world as if she was just exasperated with Daisuke’s antics. But there was something…

I carefully dismissed that from my mind as I followed the others up to get a look at Ken’s new apartment.

~~~~~~

I couldn’t believe it, but it was true. Daisuke loved Ken. How did I miss it? Honestly, Dai was so obvious about his feelings; once he’d figured them out, he practically wore them on his sleeve.

I had a feeling Ken wouldn’t even notice…

My heart hurt. My beautiful, mysterious, understanding Ken… All Daisuke’s. His heart was Daisuke’s. His soul was Daisuke’s. That brilliant and terrible resistance to the darkness that had drawn me so thoroughly into Ken’s person….

Daisuke’s.

I wished, honestly, that I could cry.

I wasn’t going to, though. Not while Ken needed me. I never left Ken when he needed me. This was the hardest thing he’d asked me to do, but whether he knew that or not, he had asked me to do it. I would never let Ken down. I would support him however I could.

Though I wasn’t sure how long my resolve to hold back tears would hold out if I saw the two of them together.

They’ll be happy, my mind told me. You can’t deny that. Daisuke would be so good for Ken – he could make him laugh and love, and fill his days with sunshine and happiness. I don’t think Ken would have trouble battling darkness with Daisuke in his life.

Logic didn’t help when all I wanted was to pour out my heart and have Ken take me in his arms… and tell me it was me he loved.

"Here it is," Ken said simply, opening the door of his new apartment and showing us in. "It’s not much, but I’m… well, I’m hoping you’ll come and visit sometimes…" He cast a hopeful look in Daisuke’s direction as he said that.

"No worries, dude, you can count on me to come raid your fridge and use your TV!" Daisuke responded cheerfully, making those familiar patented Daisuke calf-eyes that I’d come to know so well back when he’d had feelings for me.

This time, though, it was all directed at Ken.

I felt so much hurt inside, it was like I was dying.

Takeru shifted uneasily beside me, and I turned to look at him. He’d averted his eyes from the two at the other end of the room. I knew how he felt; it was like we weren’t really there at all, except as chaperones and support. It was hurting; this was like salt in an open cut. I’d just found out Ken loved someone who wasn’t me; did it have to be rubbed in my face? Did their happiness have to be waved in front of me as if to taunt me with the fact that I could never have it? Daisuke had gotten his revenge on me for not falling for him – and then some. I wanted to break down and cry.

"…not planning on actually eating that junk, are you?"

"It’s not junk! It’s health food! I don’t plan to drown my stomach in grease from fast food places, that’s all. This is good for you, Daisuke – try some."

"Uhhh… No thanks! I’ll stick to McDonalds – it seems safer."

"You’ll die of a heart attack if you keep eating that food!"

"Who, me? No way! My body’s made of steel – a little greasy stuff won’t hurt me!"

The conversation went on like Takeru and I weren’t even there, each of the two probably trying to maneuver the other into making a fatal slip-up and confirming that the feelings were mutual. They were so clumsy and bashful and cute, it would have been sweet if it hadn’t been shattering my heart into smaller and smaller pieces with every word.

I looked at Takeru again, and his eyes met mine. He looks so sad… I touched his arm in a gesture like comfort, and he shut his eyes and tried to smile. I don’t blame him. He’s spent forever just watching, and waiting, and hoping… Now this…

And Daisuke didn’t even realize.

Then again, Ken had never realized, either.

"Hey, you guys are awfully quiet!" Daisuke had obviously given up on the evasive verbal stumbling, and was looking around for support. "What’s on your minds?"

Ken’s eyes flashed with sudden disappointment as the red-head turned away from him. I immediately wanted to fix it, and I knew how, if only…

I glanced at Takeru again. "We just… haven’t seen each other in a while," I lied, praying that my light-haired friend would get my idea and play along. "We miss each other, that’s all." I smiled at Takeru with as much feeling as I could put into the expression, trying to keep from crying and picturing Ken’s face.

He understood. Of course. And I knew he’d feel the same way I did about the whole situation…

"Maybe we can talk alone later, Hikari," Takeru said, taking my hand gently. He was smiling too, but I could tell it was forced. "I mean, Ken invited us over to hang out as a group, right? I’m sure he doesn’t want…"

"No, no!" Ken interrupted. "I don’t mind at all! If you two want to talk alone…"

"I knew it!" Daisuke grinned like a madman, rubbing his hands together and cackling. "I knew the two of you had something going! Wait’ill I tell Miyako! She owes me twenty bucks for this!"

I think I was the only one who noticed the flash of intense hurt that moved across Takeru’s face at that.

"You guys were betting about us?" I laughed a little, lightly. "I should’ve known…"

"Well, we all sort of figured…" Ken admitted, and I felt my own pain sting at me. He smiled. "You two can use the bedroom if you want. But don’t do anything… you know…" He made a face, cheeks flushing slightly. "I have to sleep there, you know."

I nodded, feeling numb inside. My smile felt fixed, and fake. "We wouldn’t do that."

"I know. Just… making sure." Ken nudged Daisuke, who had rolled his eyes upward, making soft noises of mock disbelief. "Go ahead, if you want some alone time. You can talk to us whenever you’re done."

"All right. Come on, Hikari." Takeru moved past me into the bedroom, not looking back at the grinning Daisuke.

Feeling like it was tearing out my heart to do it, I followed him.

~~~~~~

It’s making Daisuke happy… it’s making Daisuke happy… I didn’t let myself stop smiling until after I’d made it into the room. Then I turned back toward the door after we’d closed it behind us, and found myself looking directly into Hikari’s big, sad brown eyes.

"You too," she whispered, voice catching, "huh?"

"Yeah." My voice was as soft as hers. We both had broken hearts, I could tell. Even sharing that kind of misery didn’t make it easier. "I-I just want to see him happy," I continued, still whispering.

"Yeah… I know. I feel the same way about Ken," she answered softly. The hurt on her face as she looked at the floor was almost tangible. Impulsively, I slid an arm around her shoulders – to comfort myself or to comfort her, I didn’t know.

"We’ll help each other," I told her. "And they’ll be happy, right? That’s the important thing."

"I guess." She sighed. "No, you’re right – it is. I just wish…" She didn’t finish the sentence, but the naked longing in her voice explained what she’d wanted to say.

"I know." I didn’t say anything else. Outside, we could hear Daisuke and Ken laughing. My eyes met Hikari’s and we both turned together to peek through the door.

The TV was on when we looked out, but neither of the two on the couch were paying much attention to it. Actually, they were looking at each other, trying to shift closer without drawing attention to themselves, and talking away with obvious contentment.

"It’s warmer over on this side of the couch, you know, Ken," Daisuke said, trying to be convincing. He was adorable enough to make me smile – and feel like I was going to cry at the same time.

Ken looked at him, uncertain still. "Really? Well, maybe I should move…"

"Move over near here," Daisuke suggested. "It’s warmer, trust me."

Hesitantly, Ken shifted over, probably wondering if Daisuke was going to move away a little to keep the distance between them. When he didn’t, Ken’s smile grew positively radiant. He looked gorgeous.

How had I ever hoped to compete against that? I felt another sharp ache rising up in my throat.

"I guess it is warmer over here," Ken said softly, so quietly that we almost didn’t catch it.

"Yeah…" Daisuke was looking right up into Ken’s eyes, not even bothering to pretend he wasn’t any more. Almost in slow motion, they were leaning towards each other, closing the distance between their faces inch by inch…

Tearing out my heart with every tentative movement.

I couldn’t look away, even as Daisuke’s eyes fluttered close, his full, soft lips parting to receive Ken’s. I’d always imagined that he would look like that, so willing and eager, breathlessly awaiting that first light touch. I never thought I’d be able to see it though. I’d always imagined myself where Ken was, leaning over that perfect vision, eyes half closed, lips so close to Daisuke’s that pursing them even a little would cause them to make contact. And then…

The phone rang.

I jerked back a little, feeling Hikari jump just beneath and to one side of me. Outside the room, Daisuke and Ken had jumped apart as if they’d been stung. I was relieved, though… even though it made me feel guilty, I was glad that they’d been interrupted. Maybe they wouldn’t kiss at all. Maybe they’d think about it, and realize…

"Hello?"

Daisuke scooted over as Ken answered the phone. Since it was at the little stand near the other end of the couch, he hadn’t had to get up – he’d just had to move away from Daisuke. But, from what I saw, and especially from the mischievous glint in the red-head’s eyes, Daisuke was about to change that.

"Oh, hi Miyako."

Daisuke shifted and "accidentally" fell against Ken’s side. "Whoops," he said innocently when Ken turned to give him a shocked look. I desperately wished that could have been me – I would’ve hung up the phone, no matter who it was!

"Uh… no, Daisuke’s here… um, yeah… they’re in the bedroom – not like that!"

Daisuke snickered.

"No, it’s okay. I know you were busy. You don’t have to come over later. Don’t worry about it."

"Tell her she owes me twenty bucks," Daisuke hissed, probably loud enough to be heard by Miyako herself anyway.

"Huh? What? Oh, no, Takeru and Hikari wanted some alone time, and Daisuke claims that the two of you had a bet about them." Ken was silent for a minute, then let out a squeak as Daisuke squeezed closer to him, grinning.

"Um, no, that was nothing, I just… um…" Ken gasped a little, when Daisuke snaked a hand around his waist. I wished I could shut my eyes. That should be me!

"Gotta go, Miyako – sorry!" Ken hung up the phone hastily and turned to face Daisuke again. "You are so bad!" he scolded, meeting the shorter boy’s cheerfully dancing brown eyes.

"Yeah, but you love me any – mmph!" Daisuke was cut off as Ken leaned over him, pressing his lips clumsily against the red-head’s. At first Daisuke’s eyes went wide, but then he relaxed more, melting into the embrace and grabbing Ken’s shoulders to pull him closer.

The phone started ringing again, but neither of them bothered to break away. When Ken began kissing down Daisuke’s neck, making my beautiful red-head squirm and sigh happily, I turned away from the door, feeling pained and utterly lost.

"Mmm… Ken…" I heard him murmur, slicing my heart completely. Beside me, Hikari made a sad little choking noise, her luminous brown eyes full of sorrow.

"Daisuke… I… I care about you… I mean, really… god, you’re so beautiful…"

"Me too… Ken… you’re perfect… perfect…"

That did it for me; my eyes overflowed. Hikari had streams flowing down her cheeks, and she turned and held me close. I clung to her, muffling my sobs, and tried to tell myself that everything would be okay.

I don’t think I was convincing enough.

~~~~~~

"Isn’t this great?" Daisuke was beaming like crazy, his arm linked casually with Ken’s. "Guys, think about it! We’ve been together a whole month! I think we deserve some ice cream – what do you think, Ken?"

"Oh yeah," Ken said seriously, shifting a little to lace his fingers through his boyfriend’s. "Definitely. I think Takeru and Hikari should treat us, don’t you? It could be an anniversary gift."

It was pretty obvious who the corruptive influence in the relationship was.

"For your one-month anniversary?" The laughter came easier now; every day made pretending less hurtful. I was going more and more numb; I tried to get over it, but most of the time, I just repressed things. It hurt. Not as much as it had that first day, but it was still painful. "I don’t think so!"

Takeru put a supportive arm around my shoulders. The gesture was so commonplace now that no one ever noticed any more. They all just assumed we were dating. "See us after you’ve had twenty years!" he added, with a cheerfulness that only I could tell was forced. It seemed more natural, too, like my laughter.

Like I said, it got easier with time.

"Hey, at our twenty-year anniversary, I expect a car!" Daisuke declared extravagantly, tugging Ken’s hand. "Come on, let’s go get that ice-cream! You’ll treat me, right, Ken?"

"I already got you a month’s membership at that spa you liked!" Ken protested. "Wasn’t that enough for you?"

"Hell yeah! So I’ll treat you to ice-cream, too!" Daisuke grinned. "S’only fair, right? You pay for mine – I’ll pay for yours! I got you those cool candles, anyway, and you know the spa thing was a present for both of us!"

Ken smiled down at him with typically love-struck happiness, and that twinge of pain that was so familiar by then shot up from my chest to rise in my throat. The ache never went away, but I learned to deal with it.

"Whatever you say, my Daisuke," he said softly. Ken did things like that. He was sweet in public, and he had a poetic, beautifully quiet way of expressing affection. Daisuke responded in a way none of us could have predicted a month ago, melting under the gaze and staring at Ken with wide, almost vulnerable brown eyes. The sweet, sappy side of Ken had the unexpected effect of always causing Daisuke to revert into a starry-eyed, lovesick trance. We didn’t know why, but I couldn’t blame him. I just wished I could be in his place.

"Are we still going for ice-cream?" I think I was the only one who heard the little catch in Takeru’s voice. He was watching Daisuke, no trace of what he might be feeling on his face. The obvious adoration on the red-head’s face would have been enough to upset him, for certain. I understood that.

"Yeah… sure." Daisuke shook his head slightly, and broke out of his trance. "Let’s go!"

I was pretty sure that the others just figured Takeru and I weren’t very public in our affections. They’d never seen us kiss, or hold hands – sometimes we’d hug or have our arms around each other, but it was for support. The only time we seemed to go out together was with Daisuke and Ken on double-dates. And I’m not sure if anyone outside of our group would even have been able to guess that we were a couple at all.

In a sense, though, we weren’t.

We found a booth near the back of the ice-cream place and Daisuke and Ken immediately snuggled together on one side, leaving Takeru and I to sit across from them. Those two could more than make up for our lack of public displays of affection – they never seemed to care who was watching. Close contact seemed to be a large part of their relationship. Or maybe a result of their emotional closeness.

I didn’t want to think about that, though.

"Here, Ken, have a bite of my ice cream!" Daisuke held up his cone for the dark-haired boy, grinning. "It’s good!"

Ken smiled. He seemed about as fascinated with Daisuke’s enthusiastic and sometimes childlike displays of affection as Daisuke was with Ken’s quiet, emotional moments. "Sure, Daisuke," he agreed, leaning forward for a lick.

Daisuke moved the cone up, a little too fast. It missed Ken’s mouth and smeared on his nose. "Oops! Here, I’ll get that!" With a goofy smile, the red-head eagerly leaned up and kissed Ken’s nose, licking off the ice-cream quickly. "Mmm," he said, licking his lips. "My favorite flavor!"

Ken was gazing at him with love shining blindingly from his eyes, as vulnerable as Daisuke had appeared earlier. Those cute moments made him absolutely crazy. I had to fight back tears again as I watched him watch Daisuke. It’s not fair…

But there wasn’t much I could do about that. And I wouldn’t risk Ken’s happiness for anything, not even my own.

Not even if it killed me.

~~~~~~

"A whole year!" Daisuke crowed out, watching himself in the mirror. "Can you believe it? It’s been a whole year, and I’m still so excited to go out with him… you know, when we first went out, I was so shaky! I nearly threw up all over the floor! But now it’s more like… every second makes me tingly all over! It’s so great!" He sighed happily.

I nodded. "Yeah, I guess. Where is he taking you tonight?" I’d take you to the moon and back if you’d date me for a year…

"He hired a helicopter! Can you believe it? He’s so great… Knew exactly what I’d wanna do!" Daisuke turned away from the mirror and leaned against the wall beside him, gazing dreamily at a point above my head. "We’re flying all over town, and having dinner on some rooftop place… I didn’t think he’d have this much money, but he’s been saving since we first started dating! Isn’t he great? I’m the luckiest guy in the whole world!"

"That’s great, Daisuke!" No, he’s the luckiest guy in the world… And I think he knows it. He’s treating you the way I’ve always wanted to – like something precious. Just look how happy you are, Daisuke… I wish I was the one to put that smile on your face!

"Hard to believe the longest we fought for was just two days." Daisuke grinned at me. "I couldn’t stand more – and I know he felt the same. You know what, Takeru? I wanna be with him forever. After I’m done college, I’m moving into his place, too!"

I caught my breath – hopefully Daisuke would think it was just surprise. "I… That’s a long time from now. Have you talked to him about this?"

"Oh yeah – lots of times." Daisuke looked at me seriously. "I know this kinda stuff is real personal and all – but Ken knows you’re my best friend, and he already said he didn’t mind me talking to you about it. We’re not even ‘doing it’ yet – we both thought it’d just be better if we waited. I said, not until I move in, and he said that was okay with him." He shrugged, looking a little sheepish. "I dunno why I’m telling you this – but I thought maybe you’d understand. I really want things to work out, you know."

I nodded, not trusting my voice. There was a lump in my throat, and I had to swallow several times to be able to speak without my voice cracking. "I know what you mean. If you don’t rush things, it can turn out a lot better."

"Kinda like you and Hikari!" he said brightly. "You guys are just waiting, right?" He gave me a sly grin. "Or are you just scared of getting her knocked up?"

"Daisuke!" I slapped a hand to my face. Hikari… of course. I was "dating" Hikari. We hadn’t even mentioned a one-year anniversary, though the motions of a mildly affectionate couple came so easy to us now that we even went through them when no one else was around. She was all I had, and I know she felt the same. We did love each other – not the same way I loved Daisuke, and she loved Ken… But it was love all the same. I could’ve loved her the way a boyfriend should have, I think – if not for Daisuke.

"What? I told you about me and Ken!" He turned to grin openly at me. "I’ll describe how far we’ve gone in detail if you want. It’s no big deal. Does it upset Hikari when you kiss and tell, or what?"

"No… I just don’t like to talk about it." Considering there isn’t much to talk about. I’d kissed her on the forehead, and she had given me a peck on the cheek a few times – but that was it.

"Fine, fine!" Daisuke tugged at his fancy clothes again. "I look okay, right?"

"Of course you do!" He looked great. Then again, Daisuke always looked great… I hope you know just how lucky you are, Ken!

There was a buzz from the front of the two-bedroom apartment Daisuke and I shared, and he dashed out of my bedroom to answer. Naturally, it was Ken, on time as usual. Daisuke buzzed him up, shifting visibly with excitement.

He was so happy. I hated every mention of Ken’s name, but I loved seeing Daisuke like this, with flushed cheeks and a smile almost perpetually on his face. I couldn’t, in good conscience, wish for the relationship to end. Daisuke was in love. And he was happy. And I didn’t have any business breaking into that.

But, as I watched Daisuke throw his arms around Ken’s neck and pull him into a wild, passionate kiss, I couldn’t help wishing that it was my business. That Daisuke would suddenly stop kissing him, look over at me, and realize… realize that he loved me.

Things like that just didn’t happen in my life, though.

~~~~~~

Ken checked the clock for the twentieth time in two minutes. "It’s only quarter to," he said – again – sounding disappointed. "How can time move so slowly? It defies the laws of physics!"

I smiled a little. "When you’re waiting for someone, time always seems to move slowly, Ken." The ache was nearly gone; or, at least, it felt so natural now that I hardly noticed.

Five years. You’d think I’d grow out of it; that I’d get over him. He was happy. He was in a relationship that was going in a positive direction; that would probably last for a very long time, if not for the rest of his life. I should have gotten over being foolishly in love with a guy I couldn’t have.

But I saw Ken every day, and every time I saw him, I could help thinking – foolishly – that maybe, just maybe…

It was stupid, I know, but I still loved him.

Takeru had come over to my apartment in tears the other day. Daisuke was packing up his things, bouncing around their rooms in typical Daisuke brand excitement. He’d apparently said something about how he was going to miss having Takeru as a room-mate – but he was obviously too excited to be able to spend much time thinking about it. To my blond "boyfriend", though, the idea that Daisuke wouldn’t be in the next room any more was enough to send him to me in complete and total misery.

I was moving in with him in Daisuke’s place as soon we’d helped the red-head move in with Ken. We weren’t telling anyone that yet, though. I got the feeling Takeru was going to need somebody very, very much. I could understand that. I hadn’t been living with Ken, so this was just another dull ache. Takeru was losing Daisuke all over again.

I think he’d been feeling the same way I had – that one day, Daisuke would wake up and realize that it was Takeru he loved, and that everything else had been a big mistake. Not having Daisuke with him every day meant severing another tie, all the while still being unable to let go of that hope, and it had to be painful.

I think we’d just about lost all of our ties.

Ken glanced at the clock again, and sighed. "How can fifteen minutes go by so slowly?" he asked me. "I can hardly even think right now. I’m nervous, Hikari. Nervous and excited and scared all at the same time. I hope Daisuke and I are ready."

"I’m sure you are," I assured him, inwardly setting up a wall to block out the pain. "You’re not having doubts, are you, Ken?"

"No," he said, with certainty. "This was a good idea. We’ve been talking about it for years. I want to have him here, I really do. But… I’m just worried… you know, some couples get along great until they move in together. I don’t want us to break up because of this." There was a desperately worried note in his voice. "I love him, Hikari. I love him more than anything, and I want us to be together forever."

"I understand," I said softly. I did understand. Not the way he thought, but I understood perfectly well. I didn’t want him hurt like I was. "I’m sure it’ll be fine, Ken. You do know that Daisuke snores, don’t you? I hope you’re not a light sleeper."

He laughed a little, looking more relaxed. "Yeah… I know he snores. I’ve only slept over at his house a million and one times. It doesn’t bother me. I’m probably worrying about nothing, too – something in me just knows that Daisuke and I are meant to be somehow."

My heart tore again. "You’re probably right," I agreed, voice quiet and blank.

"And if I’m right, we can work through any rough spots," he continued, looking suddenly a lot more excited and a lot less nervous. "Whatever we get through, together, will just make us closer, right?" He smiled happily. "I can’t wait until he – "

The buzzer went off, and Ken jumped for it without finishing his sentence.

I’d already known what he was going to say anyway, though, I told myself sadly, as Ken greeted Daisuke and promised to meet him downstairs to help bring his things up.

"Well, Hikari," he said, reaching for the door. "Time to go to work, I guess."

"Right," I agreed, masking the hurt.

Daisuke was waiting downstairs, and he was at least as excited as Ken, because he immediately threw himself into his boyfriend’s arms, hugging him tightly. "Isn’t this great? We’re finally moving in together! Finally!"

Takeru looked at the ground, and I immediately went over to put a calming hand on his shoulder. Passing Daisuke and Ken, I heard a soft, whispered exchange that almost made me gasp and burst into tears.

"Tonight?" Ken whispered, voice tense with barely-contained excitement.

"Definitely tonight," Daisuke whispered back, gazing at Ken with a huge smile on his face and adoration in his eyes. "Like we said – the first night I’m in your bed."

The hand I put on Takeru’s shoulder then was as much to steady myself as it was to comfort him.

~~~~~~

"I love what you’ve done with this place!" Miyako gazed around at Daisuke and Ken’s apartment in undisguised envy. "It looks so great! I wish I had the money for renovations!"

"You would if you didn’t keep spending it on things you didn’t really need," Iori commented drily, from his seat in Daisuke’s favorite armchair. The red-head had protested against that for a while until Ken had tugged him down into a comfortable embrace on the couch.

I sat at the other end, beside Hikari. It wasn’t so horrible now, not having Daisuke around. The first few weeks, I’d cried every night, and Hikari had held me and cried as well, both of us trying to drown out that aching emptiness that filled us up. It always made me feel worse to think that Daisuke and Ken were probably locked in an intimate embrace as we held each other and sobbed helplessly. But now… well, I’d adjusted. I’d had to. Two years of crying myself to sleep would have been too much. But Hikari still shared my bed, and we still held each other. I doubted I’d be able to sleep any more without that.

"Hey!" Miyako protested, glaring at Iori. "Do they really need a completely remodeled apartment? I don’t think so! Besides, I can’t resist sales!"

"Of course not." Iori rolled his eyes upward.

"You guys are like an old married couple," Daisuke said teasingly.

"You don’t think we’re going to fight like that some day, do you?" Ken added, grinning at the red-head in his arms. "I don’t think you have enough emotional enthusiasm to be like Miyako, love."

Miyako put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "Was that an insult?"

"I’m kinda wondering that myself!" Daisuke laughed, lazily trailing one arm around Ken’s stomach. "I don’t know whether to laugh or get mad at him!"

"It was just an observation," Ken clarified. "I didn’t mean to insult either of you. Miyako is very emotional, that’s all. It’s hard to match her in that."

"Okay, fine," Daisuke said, after thinking that over. "I’ll let you go unpunished – for now."

"For now?" Ken protested.

Daisuke grinned. "We’ll talk about that later – when there aren’t so many people around."

I looked away – but only for a moment, before my attention got drawn back.

"Well, I do have a question for you, Daisuke," Ken said calmly. "And it has something to do with old married couples – or any married couples, for that matter." He untangled himself from Daisuke’s hold and stood up.

Everyone in the room was staring at him, and Daisuke’s eyes had gone wide. "Wh-what?" he managed to squeak out, gaping at his lover.

Ken sank smoothly to one knee. "It wouldn’t be legal yet, love, but…" He reached into his pocket, and pulled out a small black box. "Daisuke Motomiya, I love you with all of my heart. We’ve been together for seven years, and lived together for two – but I still feel the same way about you that I did when we first fell in love."

Daisuke’s breathing was coming in short gasps. I’d never seen him so shocked in my whole life – and I’d known him for a long time. There were actually tears welling up in his eyes.

Ken’s eyes were staring to turn liquid as well, even as he kept talking. "I want to spend forever with you, Daisuke," he finished softly, his heart in his eyes. The box opened with a quiet click, revealing a set of beautifully made engagement rings. "Marry me," he said, fervently. "And I’ll treat you the way you deserve to be treated – beloved – for the rest of my life."

The entire room went silent. Miyako was staring at Ken in disbelief, and Iori looked stunned. I could hear Hikari’s sharp intake of breath and knew she was trying not to cry. I knew what Daisuke’s response was going to be, and resignation had built into the pit of my stomach, even before…

"YESSSSSS!!!!" With an ecstatic cry, Daisuke flung himself into Ken’s arms, knocking them both to the floor with that enthusiastic happiness. He was crying openly, and laughing at the same time, babbling in a typical Daisuke manner. "I can’t believe you asked me, I thought I’d have to myself, I didn’t know you had it in you, I love you, Ken, love you, love you, love you, and I’m so happy, happy, happy, happy…"

I couldn’t dwell on my own loss when Daisuke was so beautifully, brilliantly ecstatic. I had always wanted him to be happy – and he was happy with Ken.

I’d lost for good. Letting go was like a relief, even as I felt it tear at my soul.

"Oh, god, Daisuke, I love you!" Ken was crying, too, and his hands shook as he pulled out one of the rings to slide it onto Daisuke’s finger. Laughing and crying, his lover did the same, and they kissed passionately, right there on the floor in front of us, clutching each other tight and breaking occasionally to let out a sob or a burst of laughter or an odd mix of the two. It was a whole five minutes before they finally stopped for air, breathing heavily and staring into each others’ eyes in total and utter bliss.

I barely heard Miyako’s congratulations. Hikari and I looked at each other, helping with the shock and resigning ourselves – yet again – to losing the ones we loved.

It wasn’t as bad as it had been.

Somehow, I think, the engagement almost made it easier. It was a start.

~~~~~~

"…just because I used to live with him!" Takeru paused for a moment as people laughed. Daisuke even grinned, sitting right next to him. "All in all," he concluded, staring at his wine-glass rather than at the people sitting at tables all around us. "Daisuke’s a great guy – I mean he’s one of the people I’m closest to – and I can’t tell you how happy I am right now, just knowing that he’s happy." I was amazed at how steady his voice sounded. When he’d recited the speech to me, it had come out shaky and he’d wound up nearly in tears by the end. "Ken, you’re a lucky guy," he finished, with a smile, and sat down to hearty applause.

I felt his hand reach under the table to grasp mine. We didn’t let go until the food was served.

Watching Ken and Daisuke throw themselves into wedding plans had been mind-numbing. This was it. The final blow. And yet, it didn’t seem so painful. I didn’t even cry when they’d gone through their little service and been pronounced "husband and husband" – although Miyako had been sitting next to me, and she was bawling. It seemed… final, but not like a blow. Ken was closed off to me forever in that one ceremony, but instead of feeling hurt and miserable, I felt… almost… free.

It was strange.

Takeru’s eyes met mine, and I knew he felt it too. There was something about this, the final bond joining Ken with Daisuke, that seemed to seal them off from us forever. And, somehow, it helped. We’d been focussed so much on the process of losing them… It was like we expected, one day, for them to suddenly "come to their senses" and realize they loved us instead. But now… We knew, I think. Ken could never be mine, and Daisuke could never be Takeru’s – but we’d learned to live with it.

In a sense, we’d won.

"They look really happy together, don’t you think?" Takeru asked me, as the music started and Daisuke dragged Ken onto the floor for the first dance. Traditionally, the couple of honor danced alone that first time, and I had to admit, they did look beautiful – eyes lost in each others’ faces… pulled tightly together… smiling brilliantly without a hint of shadowing to mar it… It was inspiring.

It hurt, but not so that I couldn’t bear it. The dull ache was still there – I had a feeling it’d always be there – but I’d survive. And, looking at Takeru, I had no doubts that he would survive, too. We could never be completely happy, but we weren’t going to give up.

"Yeah," I agreed, meaning it. "They really do."

He raised my hand to his lips and kissed it gently. "Then it’s worth it, Hikari," he told me, smiling slightly. "We can’t have them, but we have each other. And that’s something. I love you, you know."

"I know. I love you too." I turned my hand in his so that our fingers twined together, and smiled back. "We’re strong, you and I. We can handle being hurt, for them." I stood slowly, still holding his hand in mine. "Dance with me, Takeru."

"I’d love to." He rose and followed me onto the floor, where the second song was beginning. All manner of couples were swarming out there, and we just joined the masses, dancing near where Ken and Daisuke still stared adoringly into each others’ eyes. We were watching them openly, but no one would notice. It was their wedding, after all.

"You guys looked so cute at the alter!" Miyako gushed, from the other side of them. "I loved it when the officiator stumbled over the ‘you may now kiss the… other guy’!"

Daisuke laughed at that. "He shoulda thought it through before we came!"

"Probably," she agreed, then her smile shifted into a smirk. "Just for the record… which one of you guys would be the bride?"

"Miyako!" Ken protested mildly. "What kind of question is that?"

"What? I’m curious!" She giggled. "So, who?"


Daisuke grinned and winked at Ken. "It’s a secret."

Miyako frowned at him in mock exasperation. "You’re infuriating, Daisuke Motomiya! Can’t you ever just answer without being all mysterious?"

"Not when it’s a question like that, he can’t!"

I turned away from them. "I’d say they’re happy," I told Takeru, finally feeling myself start to cry. It wasn’t as painful as I’d thought it would be, crying in public. There was something refreshing… like a cleansing. I felt new, reborn.

"I’d say we can be happy too," he answered, and kissed me softly. It was the first time we’d ever done that, and in public, too. I figured I might even come to like it as much as I would have with Ken. Some day…

And there was always that old saying to consider: if you can’t have the one you love…

Love the one you’re with. And we could. We did.

 

The End