Switch

 

Part Two

 

Takato stared at himself in the mirror. Well, not really at himself. He was looking at Jenrya in the mirror, and Jenrya's face had a mixed expression - of resignation, of guilt, of embarrassment… but mostly of determination.

Okay. Jenrya seemed to draw himself up a bit as Takato took in a deep breath. Here we go. "All right then," Takato told the mirror, in Jenrya's voice. "Here's the deal. Tomorrow morning, I will be taking a shower."

The mirror stared back at him with equal determination. Jenrya had cool grey eyes that were almost always warm and inviting when aimed at Takato - they had drawn him in even before, when he'd only thought of Jen as a good friend.

And now…

"You," Takato told the mirror image, "are going to try and be as unsexy as possible - in exchange for me getting you clean. That way I won't stare at you when you're naked and dripping with water, and I won't have to think of myself as a complete and total pervert."

Jenrya's image did nothing to reply, but Takato's imagination took that statement as a cue to summon up what it thought the image would look like naked and dripping with water. It was a nice mental picture, but it did nothing to help him and it made his cheeks grow hot. The mirror Jenrya stared back at him with an embarrassed expression, face flushed.

Which really only made it worse.

Takato cleared his throat and attempted to smile at the mirror - which smiled nervously back at him. "So," he said. "What do you say? Is it a deal?"

No response - but the mirror was still smiling. That could be a good sign…

Behind him, the bathroom door creaked open. "What are you doing in here?" Terriormon asked in an amused voice, poking his head around the partly opened door. "Huh?"

"Uh… N-Nothing!" Takato laughed nervously, tearing his eyes from mirror Jenrya and facing the small Digimon. "Just… talking to myself. I'm a little crazy right now - it's this whole switching bodies thing. That's all!"

"If you say so." Terriormon stared up at his face - he'd finally been convinced that it wasn't really Jenrya in his Tamer's body, but he still couldn't seem to take this whole business seriously. "How come you called yourself a pervert?"

Oh crap… Takato, think fast!

"Uh… well… good question. Eh heh heh… I was just…"

"You sure spend a lot of time looking in the mirror," Terriormon added.

His face felt like the surface of an oven currently being used to cook something. "Uhhhh…"

The phone rang.

Takato took that as an opportunity. "I'll get it!" he called out - voice just the slightest bit too high - and stepped around his best friend's Digimon partner to run and answer the phone. "Hello?"

"Hey Takato."

Juri's voice… That meant Jenrya. "Oh hey - uh - Juri." The phone was cordless, so Takato was free to retreat into his friend's room and shut the door behind him. "So how's it going?"

"I guess it could be worse." That wry tone didn't suit Juri at all. Takato sat down on Jenrya's bed, feeling a bit odd about this. He had liked Juri a lot - and now he liked Jen a lot.

And now he was talking to Jen - but it sounded like Juri.

Oh boy…

"I called your house by mistake the first time," Jenrya admitted. "I needed someone to talk to - you know, someone who doesn't think I'm Juri." Again with the wry tone - it was strange to hear. "Apparently, you're at Ruki's house."

Ruki… Kenta. Right. "I guess I should've known."

"It's probably a good idea, though," Jenrya went on, slowly. "I know I could really use some company right about now. Mind if I come over there?"

Takato grinned a bit. "You do realize you just asked permission to come over to your own apartment, right?"

"Don't even start with that!" Jenrya sounded relieved, despite the words. "I'm having enough trouble as it is. I'll be over in a bit, okay?"

"Okay."

They said their goodbyes and hung up. Takato set the phone down, and flopped back onto Jenrya's bed. At least now he'd have a distraction from thinking about just whose body he was in. It felt terrible to think like that now… it was like taking advantage of him somehow.

"So is Jen coming over now?" Terriormon asked, from where he'd been listening at the door.

Takato looked over at him. "Yeah - he should be here in a few minutes. He's Juri right now, though - remember?"

Terriormon giggled. He seemed to think the whole thing was pretty funny. "It'll be interesting, right?"

"Oh, yeah. Interesting." That wasn't the word he would've chosen…

Jenrya made it there about twenty minutes later. "People keep asking if I'm feeling all right," he reported in a low voice. The door to his room was open, since his father had been worried about leaving them in there together alone.

Yeah right… Now that was a weird thought. Jen and Juri? It'd be pretty ironic if it did somehow happen - and not much fun. Takato wasn't too crazy about the idea of being jealous of something he used to want to be with.

"Well, you are supposed to be in pain," he reminded his friend, pushing that thought aside and glancing at the crutches Ruki had given 'Juri' after the supposed accident. "How'd you convince Juri's dad to let you out of the house?"

Jenrya coughed. "Actually… he doesn't know about the sprained ankle - I just snuck the crutches out in case I ran into someone from school. It's easier that way."

"I could've just come over there, you know," Takato pointed out.

"I know - I just wanted to be home for a while." He smiled sheepishly. "Being stuck in a girl's body isn't a fun experience."

"Yeah, I can imagine." Especially Juri's body. Ruki was tom-boyish - Juri was girly. Even when he'd had a crush on her, Takato would not have wanted to try and pretend to be Juri. "Well, hopefully Ryo and Ruki will figure something out, and we'll all be back to normal."

Terriormon suddenly hopped onto the bed, between them. "Then I'll have a Jen who doesn't spend so much time talking to himself in the bathroom," he noted, cheerfully.

"Talking to himself in the bathroom?" Jenrya repeated, looking baffled.

Takato could feel his face heating again. "Uh… never mind that. It was just - weird. Being you. And not me. I mean… uh…"

One of Jenrya's understanding smiles slid onto Juri's face. "I know what that's like. You should've heard me when I first woke up." He shook his head ruefully. "Oh man…"

"It wasn't when he first woke up," Terriormon informed him, still in that all-too-bright tone. "It was right before you called. He said something about being a p - "

" - prehensive!" Takato finished quickly, rubbing the back of Jenrya's neck and laughing a bit, nervously. "You know, because I'm worried some teacher's going to call on me in computer class and I won't have a clue what to say!"

Jenrya seemed to accept that. "You shouldn't have to worry about it," he assured him, laying a calming hand on Takato's shoulder. "Mr. Kitamura never puts anyone on the spot unless they volunteer an answer. Just lay low, and you'll be fine."

This did not help the blushing at all. Takato looked up before he thought about it - and saw Jenrya's familiar warmth and intelligence staring back at him out of Juri's familiar brown eyes. He looked away quickly, feeling flustered.

This was really starting to mess with his head…

"Oh. Right." Jenrya quickly withdrew his hand. "I forgot, I'm Juri now, and you - " He halted there for a moment, then politely steered away from that line of thought. "Sorry. I'll try not to do that while I'm still in here."

"Huh?" Takato looked up again, kind of shocked by then. He knew about Juri? Granted, he hadn't been trying to keep it a secret… but he hadn't come right out and told anyone, either. Had it been that obvious? And he thinks…

That Takato still liked Juri.

"Anyway…" Jenrya seemed anxious to move the conversation away from that topic. "Did you think maybe we should call Juri? After all, if Hirokazu and Kenta are at Ruki's house, and Ryo and Ruki are working on figuring out how to fix things for us, she's all alone in Ryo's body."

"I didn't think of that," Takato admitted. "But you're right. Would your parents mind if I invited her to come over here, too?" He didn't want to think of Juri being alone in a confusing new situation like this.

"No, they like Ryo. Besides, I'm sure my dad would be a lot happier if it weren't just the two of us."

Takato winced a little at that. He thinks I like Juri… so how does he feel about that? He's the one in the body he thinks I'm going to be drooling over. Does it freak him out? Maybe it's not such a big deal…

Maybe it would even be a good way to work his way around to figuring out if Jen might like him back.

I might have to think about that later.

"Do you still have the phone?" Jenrya asked him, cutting into that line of thought.

"Huh? Oh, yeah!" Takato fumbled around for the portable phone. "Do you know Ryo's number?"

"No, but it's in my phone book." He slid off the bed and headed over to his drawers. "Hang on just a second."

Takato called Ryo's house. He didn't get a chance to invite Juri to do anything, though, because as it turned out, 'Ryo' wasn't even there.

"She's at a card battle tournament," he reported, hanging up the phone. It probably wasn't worth commenting that this was really weird. Takato was attracted to his reflection, Jenrya was a girl, and Juri was going to Digimon card battle tournaments.

No… it really wasn't worth commenting.

Jenrya raised an eyebrow. "Didn't Ryo tell her to cancel out of that?"

"I don't know." Takato shrugged, giving up on worrying about it. "Want to head over to the park?" he asked instead. "I somehow doubt Hirokazu took the time to visit Guilmon before heading over to Ruki's."

"Okay." Jenrya nodded, getting up off the bed.

Surprisingly - or maybe not - Terriormon automatically clambered over to ride on the shoulders of Juri's body.

I guess Digimon are just more adaptable when it comes to something like this.

~~~~~~

"You're not really Hirokazu?" Guardramon's stare was typically blank.

Ruki shut her eyes, took in a deep breath, and slowly counted to ten. "I just explained it to you," she said, voice dangerously low. "I am Ruki. Hirokazu's mind is in Takato's body. Do you understand?"

Guardramon continued to stare at her blankly.

"This isn't going very well," Renamon commented, beside her.

Ruki crossed her arms. "I don't know why I'm wasting my time - but I guess it's something to do while we're waiting for Ryo to get here." She looked around the playground area where Hirokazu left his Digimon in the evening. "It's better if we don't try to get him to help us, anyway."

Guardramon turned his gaze on Renamon. "Do humans normally switch bodies?"

"No." To her credit, Renamon didn't snap at the big idiot. "It's the work of an unknown Digimon. We're trying to find a solution now."

"Oh." At least he seemed to accept that part. "So… where is Hirokazu?"

Ruki's fingers twitched.

"Hey, Ruki." Kenta's body approached her from her right side. "You're early - I hope you weren't waiting long." He was holding Kenta's D-Arc in one hand, and Cyberdramon followed behind him, making no effort to remain inconspicuous. They were attracting more than a few stares.

"No, it just seemed like it because I was talking to that hunk of scrap metal." Ruki scowled at Guardramon, pulling Hirokazu's D-Arc out of his pocket. "Let's get to it."

The plan they had come up with had no real finesse to it. They were going to walk around the area, D-Arcs in hand, and attempt to track down any Digimon who might be in the area. While doing that, some discussion on how they might persuade the culprit to reverse the effects of its 'joke' was to take place.

"What do you think about making some threats?" Ryo suggested.

Ruki shook her head. "What kind of threats could we make? We're at this thing's mercy - it's got to know that. We'll have to outsmart it somehow."

"How? Try to make friends?"

"You can't be serious!"

Ryo shrugged. "Well, why don't we just wait until we find it, and see what happens?"

She glanced at him sideways, still holding Hirokazu's D-Arc out. "You mean improvise?"

"Why not?"

Ruki had to admit, he had a point. "I've heard worse suggestions, I guess."

He grinned. "Coming from you, I'll take that as a major compliment."

"I wouldn't go that far." She shook her head, but couldn't help a bit of a grin in return. "What did you tell Kenta's parents you'd be doing for the next few hours? I doubt they'd let you go if they knew you were wandering the streets looking for a stray Digimon that might or might not be dangerous."

"Ah, I just said I was going over to Hirokazu's house." He waved a hand. "They didn't think that was too strange."

Ruki shook her head. "Funny thing is, I told Hirokazu's parents the same thing. I wonder if someone will call over and figure it out."

"I get the feeling it doesn't really matter," Ryo said, chuckling a bit. "This seems like the kind of thing those two would do on a regular basis. I'll bet their parents wouldn't even be really surprised."

"You're probably right."

The search reached an unsuccessful conclusion when the last shred of daylight faded out. By that point, what remained of Ruki's good mood had faded. They weren't even a little bit closer to figuring anything out, and since there was no way to know if the Digimon was moving around, they'd have to start from scratch the next day. That meant the entire afternoon had been a waste.

"Guess that's it for tonight," Ryo said, glancing at his watch. "I'll have to go home for supper, or Kenta might get grounded, and we won't have any freedom to find this thing."

"Great." Ruki shoved the D-Arc back into Hirokazu's pocket, feeling testy. She was still stuck in this stupid body, and there was no sign that they'd be able to fix that any time soon! What a crappy day…

"Want to keep trying after dinner?"

"No, I don't, actually," she told him, irritably. "I've still got my homework to finish, and then I'll have to deliver it to Kenta so he can take it to school with him tomorrow."

Ryo smiled at her. "Would you like to make it a study date?"

The offer wasn't entirely unexpected - Ryo liked to make offers or comments like that at odd intervals, as if trying to prove to her that she still had his interest. But seeing that look on Kenta's face, and hearing the offer in his voice… That about did it. "Are you kidding? I'd rather puke up my dinner and then suck it back out of the toilet with a straw than go on any kind of date with you!"

He blinked, taken aback. "Okay… A simple 'no' would've been fine…"

"Look, having Kenta hit on me is just really creepy, all right?" She was already regretting that outburst; Ryo was still her friend - possibly more one day, if he wanted to stick it out while she got through some of the more important stuff first. Ruki did not like to feel guilty, and it only increased her irritation. "So just… quit it."

"All right. Sorry, then." Ryo shrugged again, acting for all the world as if it were no big deal. There were times when his too-casual attitude made her want to smack him upside the head. "I'll be at home if you need me for anything."

"Don't count on it." Still feeling belligerent, Ruki turned and stalked away from him, shooting glares back over her shoulder as she went.

"Ruki." Renamon caught up to her. "Should you have been so obvious?"

She snorted, brushing aside that guilt for the moment. "Ryo's used to it by now, don't you think? He'll be over it by tomorrow morning." When she'd probably apologize, despite the fact that at the moment, she wanted nothing less than his head on a platter.

"I wasn't thinking of him," her Digimon answered. "I was thinking of them." She looked over to where a group of girls from Hirokazu's school were currently clustered on a corner, whispering fiercely and casting glances Ruki's way.

"Oh, who cares what they think?" She was not in a mood to think about whether or not Hirokazu would care. If he didn't like it, he could figure out a way to get back into his own body himself. "All they ever do is talk; don't they have anything better to do with their time?"

Renamon was silent for a moment. "You tell me," she said, afterward.

Ruki sighed. She just wanted her own body - and life - back.

~~~~~~

"I want out of this body - and this life." Kenta groaned, slumped over at the moment with his head resting on the table in front of him. Ruki's hair was free of its feeble ponytail and currently annoying him by flopping around his face.

He couldn't see why anyone would want long hair.

"Hey, it's not totally bad," Takato's voice pointed out, from where his body was looking through some of the shelves in Ruki's room. "You're living in a pretty sweet place, aren't you? Look on the bright side."

"I'm a girl!" Kenta whined, turning his head and trying to wipe the hair out of his face. "There isn't any bright - what are you doing?" Self-pity abruptly turned to alarm as he saw his best friend examining Ruki's possessions - things that Kenta hadn't even dared to so much as breathe on.

"What's it look like I'm doing?" Hirokazu glanced up and smirked at him. "I'm going through her stuff to find material for blackmail."

"She'll kill me if you do that!" He jumped to his feet and tried to force him to put the notebook he'd just picked up down. "I'm too young to die! Hey, let go!"

"You let go! I had it first!"

If they had been in their own bodies, Kenta would've been overpowered and probably forced into a wrestling match of some sort that may or may not have ended with Hirokazu giving him a funny sort of grin that made his stomach jump around. But he was in Ruki's body, and Ruki was at least as strong as Takato. He managed to lock into a position, leaving them at an impasse.

Hirokazu didn't appear to like this new development, if the petulant frown on his face was any indication. "She couldn't kill you if we had some really good dirt on her, you know."

"She's in your body, remember? She can blackmail you just as much as we could blackmail her!"

Amazingly enough, that made an impact. Hirokazu gave up control of the notebook to Kenta, shoving him aside roughly and flopping back down onto the floor to sulk. "Isn't there anything good about this stupid body-switching thing?" he grumbled.

"You were the one who said to look on the bright side." Kenta put the book back on the shelf, and sank down beside him. "I could've told you there wasn't one."

"Thanks a lot for the pep talk, Mr. Positive. Or should it be Miss Positive?"

Kenta glared. He liked having Hirokazu around - and honestly, he'd probably go crazy if he wasn't there - but he didn't like being reminded of just what kind of body he was in. "Just… shut up," he said lamely, his heart not really in the retort.

He wanted his own body back… and he wanted Hirokazu to be in his own body, too. It wasn't that there was anything wrong with Takato, but he would rather have Hirokazu's face and eyes and body back. They matched his personality in Kenta's head flawlessly; fit with the daydreams just right. It wasn't fair to make him adjust his thinking like this.

Why couldn't things be normal again?

"Man, this bites!" Hirokazu leaned back so he was resting on the floor, with his hands tucked behind his head. "Why did I have to be stuck with Takato, huh? Why couldn't I have been somewhere interesting, like your body or something?"

Kenta opened his mouth to tell him not to complain, then blinked. Wait a minute… "My body? What would be so interesting about my body?"

One of Takato's eyebrows raised, the corners of his mouth turning up in a smirk. It looked odd. "Okay, well, first I'd take off all your clothes, and then - "

"What!?"

" - I'd dress you in something a little cooler than what you usually wear," Hirokazu continued, as if Kenta hadn't said anything and wasn't currently staring at him with his face on fire and his heart rate going through the roof. "Geez, Kenta, what were you thinking?"

Kenta let himself fall back onto the floor, mentally kicking himself for falling into one of his best friend's traps. "You're nuts," he said, wishing he didn't find the idea of Hirokazu wanting to strip him naked exciting.

"Hey, it takes one to know one! Anyway, I wasn't the one who automatically assumed that taking off your clothes means doing perverted things, was I?" Hirokazu turned his head and grinned at him. "What would you do if you were in my body?"

"I don't know." That was the truth - sort of. Kenta had vague ideas about what he might think of doing. "Maybe I'd go through your stuff looking for blackmail material."

"Oh yeah? Well, I'd take some of your underwear and throw it in the girl's change room," Hirokazu countered. "And then everyone would think you were secretly a girl."

"Everyone thinks I'm a girl now."

"Yeah, but that doesn’t count since it's not the real you."

Kenta struggled with a reply to that, but eventually had to concede defeat. "I wonder what's for dinner at my place tonight," he mused instead.

"I'd wonder what's for dinner here," Hirokazu pointed out. "That's what you're actually going to have to eat. Anyway, your mom's probably making spinach. And just think - Ryo's going to have to eat it instead of you."

That made him smile a bit. "Maybe he likes spinach."

"Dude, no one likes spinach! It's against all the laws of the universe."

"My parents like it."

"Yeah, well, parents don't count."

Kenta looked over at him, feeling suddenly worried. "You think Ruki and Ryo are really going to be able to figure out how to get us all back to normal?"

"Yeah, they'd better figure it out," Hirokazu sat up, and stared down at him.

It wasn't quite the same look that he normally got, but it sent that warm shivery feeling through him all the same. "Because there's no way you're being Takato for the rest of your life," he finished. "Right?"

"Yeah… and because the idea of locking lips with Ruki isn't all that great." That came out almost too fast; the brash grin on Hirokazu's face that accompanied it just a hint less certain than normal.

Kenta blinked at him. "Locking… lips…?"

"Kissing… smooching… sucking face… Whatever the hell you want to call it." He shrugged, still grinning away. "You need to get back into your own body so we can get on with things."

Get on… with… "You want to kiss me?"

"Hey, keep it down!" Hirokazu glanced around as if expecting someone to be listening in. "You want people thinking Takato's got it for Ruki? Man, the thought of those two so much as looking at each other with intentions is just revolting!"

"'People'? We're in Ruki's house!" Kenta sat up as well, staring at his best friend incredulously. "And you just said you want me back in my own body so you can kiss me! What's that supposed to mean?"

"What the hell do you think it means?" Takato's face and tone were starting to display irritation. "I want to jump your scrawny ass; is there some kind of miscommunication happening here? Because I really don't see what else something like that could mean."

Kenta's head was spinning. This was incredible - amazing… really terrible timing… "And you're telling me this now? I'm in Ruki's body, for crying out loud! Why didn't you say something when we could actually do something about it?"

"Because I - " Hirokazu stopped in mid-argument, and looked sharply at Kenta. "Waitasec… are you saying you're interested in doing something about it?"

"Yes!" He slapped a hand to his face, frustrated beyond belief. "I don't believe this… All this time, we could've been together, and now we finally do figure it out, and you're Takato! I don't want to kiss Takato!"

"Hey, you think I want to kiss Ruki? And you could've said something too, you know! Why am I always in charge of these things?"

"Because you never let me be in charge of anything!"

"Yeah, well, whose fault is that for not fighting back?" Hirokazu flopped back onto the floor again, letting out a frustrated noise. "This is definitely not fair."

Kenta sighed, resting his elbow on his knee and his chin on the upraised hand. "No kidding," he agreed, miserably.

Why couldn't these things ever just be easy?

~~~~~~

Jenrya bent his face over his notebook, pretending to be working hard on something and wishing that Juri's science teacher hadn't just given them ten minutes for 'independent study'. The clock couldn't move fast enough to free him from the chatter of the girls around him.

He was starting to wish he'd brought aspirin to school with him. It would've been easily explained by the sprained ankle, and he wouldn’t have to tell anyone that Juri's "friends" were giving him one of the worst headaches he'd ever had.

"… because Takato Matsuda is just too cute!"

"Oh, he's okay - but what about his hot Chinese friend?"

"My god, yes! He's dreamy!"

Jenrya inwardly winced.

"Aren't you and Takato an item, Juri?" someone asked, poking him in the arm. "I always see you guys together."

Sure… rub it in… He managed to smile at the girl, and gave the answer Juri would certainly have given. "No, we're just friends."

It was ironic, he thought, that out of everyone he could've switched bodies with, he got the girl his best friend was head over heels for. Wasn't it just the night before when he'd been wishing to be the person Takato wanted? Now he was, but it wasn't exactly what he'd hoped for, was it?

Things just can't be that easy, I guess…

"Speaking of items - and non-items…" One of the girls lowered her voice dramatically. "Did you hear about Hirokazu and Kenta?"

Jenrya glanced up sharply. The turn in the conversation had managed to catch his interest for sure that time. "What about them?"

"That's right, they're friends of yours, aren't they?" Another girl giggled. "I'm surprised you haven't heard yet - I think it's all over the school by now!"

He frowned. This didn't sound like anything good… "What is?"

"Well." The first girl leaned forward, eager to dish out her gossip. "I heard from Akiko who heard from Kerii that Yukiko saw them together last night. And," she went on, eyes shining with the sheer excitement of her news, "Kenta totally threw himself at Hirokazu - I'm talking desperate here. Like, practically begging him."

"No!" one of the other girls gasped.

No kidding, no…

"It's true!" the first girl insisted. "And Hirokazu was totally not cool with it - he was really nasty, and Kenta was crying and really depressed, and they got into a horrible fight over it, and ran off in separate directions!"

Jenrya glanced over at the clock. So, how soon can I get out of here…?

"But I saw them talking in the hallway!" the other girl protested. "If they had such a horrible fight, how come they're still talking?"

"Duh - they're pretending everything's normal, of course." Another girl tossed her hair, her tone condescending. "People would know something was wrong if Hirokazu and Kenta weren't talking to each other!"

What the hell did Ryo and Ruki do last night? Jenrya really wished time would go by faster. I'm pretty sure it didn't involve Ryo crying and begging, and I doubt either of them would 'run' away from the other…

He definitely wanted to know what really was up, though.

And he probably wouldn't be the only one…

~~~~~~

"What the hell did you two do last night!?" Hirokazu demanded, Takato's voice cracking as he glared at Ruki. "People think I hate Kenta!"

"Would you calm down already?" Ruki scowled, the irritation that had started building again with every new person who came up to her to ask what had happened grating on her. "It was just a stupid misunderstanding."

"She apologized," Ryo added, helpfully.

"Apologized for what? Wrecking my life?" Hirokazu had clearly worked himself into an agitated state before he'd even come into the lunchroom. The odd assortment of randomly-grabbed food on his tray was definitely proof that he was distracted by something. "I'm still waiting for an apology! Let's hear it!"

Ruki's mood slipped even further. "Me, apologize to you? I'm the one out there trying to fix this sorry mess, and you think I should be in charge of making sure your life is picture-perfect while I'm at it? I don't think so!"

"You made people think I hate Kenta!" This appeared to be a crime beyond any hope of redemption. "I don't care what you do, but you've got to fix this!"

"Oh yeah? And how am I supposed to do that? Beat them up until they can't talk any more?"

"Not everyone believes it," Takato pointed out, trying to negotiate some kind of peace treaty. "Anyway, it's not like you guys are suddenly avoiding each other, right? In a few days, it'll blow right over."

"You think I want to listen to this kind of crap for a few days? No way!"

Jenrya shrugged. "Well, you can't stop a rumor once it's gotten to this stage," he pointed out. "It's spread too far already. Waiting for it to blow over is the only thing you can do."

Hirokazu groaned loudly, leaning back in his chair and clapping his hands over his face. "I don't believe this! People think I hate Kenta! Me! Hate Kenta! You've gotta be kidding me! What the hell else can go wrong?"

Ryo shrugged. "You could have people coming up to you and trying to talk you out of suicide. Do you know how long it can take to convince them you're not really thinking about it?"

That did not appear to improve his mood. "This stinks!"

Takato patted him reassuringly on the shoulder. "It'll work out okay - somehow."

Hirokazu ignored him. "You'd better do something really good to make this up to me!" he grumbled at Ruki. "This is totally not fair! You can't just walk in and mess up someone's life! I have to live it again when you skip on back out, you know."

"Make it up to you?" Ruki fought to keep her annoyance in check. "I didn't even do anything - it was those stupid girls who took everything the wrong way! And what do you want, a sympathy card?"

"I don't know… something outrageous. Something that'll make me seem like me again. I can't even stand to look at myself right now, and that's saying a lot."

Unbelievable.

"You want outrageous?" Ruki stared across the table at Hirokazu, her patience at its limit.

"Yeah!" He gave her a challenging gaze in return. "Yeah, as a matter of fact, I do! And you'd better make it good, too!"

"Outrageous," Ruki repeated flatly. She pushed herself to her feet, then abruptly climbed up onto the bench she'd just been sitting on. "I'll give you outrageous," she declared, then cupped her hands over her mouth. "HEY! EVERYONE!"

Ruki was very good at projecting her voice. For the majority, the lunchroom quieted down, and students stared with some eagerness. Not just because of the rumor, either… A lot of people seemed to have been taking Hirokazu's recent silence as a prelude to something truly spectacular.

The boy who appeared to be Takato slapped a hand to his face. "What is she doing…?"

Ruki smirked. This should about do it… "Take a good, long look!" she ordered them - then, without warning, leaned down, hauled Ryo up by handfuls of Kenta's uniform shirt, and planted a sloppy kiss right on his lips.

Complete silence fell.

Ruki broke off the kiss, leaving Ryo to stare at her with wide eyes and with Kenta's glasses only precariously balanced on his started face. "See that?" she bellowed, staring in satisfaction at the shocked lunchroom crowd. "This is my property now - everyone else, hands off!" She freed one hand from Kenta's shirt and wrapped a possessive-seeming arm around his shoulders to emphasize that.

Then she let him go, stepped down off the bench, and sat down to resume eating as if nothing had happened.

Ryo, Takato, Jenrya, and Hirokazu all stared at her in mute astonishment as the room exploded into a flurry of excited conversation.

"What'd you just do?" Hirokazu demanded, burying both fingers in Takato's hair and giving her the most horrified look she could have imagined for his face. A second later, he was answering his own question. "You just kissed Kenta!"

"No I didn't," she answered, swallowing a bite of her sandwich and reaching for the root beer she'd gotten with it. "I just kissed Ryo. Kenta's not even here."

"You know what I mean!" He was almost bouncing in agitation. "That's still Kenta's body!"

She raised an eyebrow at him. "In that case, you just kissed Kenta. And why is that a problem?"

His mouth worked silently. "You - you - "

Ruki picked up a carrot, and continued eating.

Hirokazu buried his face in his hands. "That's the first time I got to kiss Kenta, and I wasn't even there to enjoy it!" he moaned, in a tragic-sounding voice.

Takato patted him on the back consolingly, but the corners of his mouth were twitching as if he were being very careful not to burst out laughing. Jenrya was openly smiling.

He really was asking for that…

Ryo let out a long breath, and then offered a grin. "So, does that mean I just got kissed by Ruki… or Hirokazu?"

 

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