Two Way Street

 

Life doesn't get much worse than this.

I'm sixteen years old, I had a stupid crush on one of my good friends, and I can't get over it. What the hell is wrong with me?

Sometimes… it feels like I've gone through love and hatred and indifference and caring to their most extreme degrees. It's like being put through the wringer, you know? I still spend too much time in my room wondering how girls can put us through this without doing anything other than date someone else.

Date my best friend!

I hate Sora sometimes. I hate her, but I still like her, and I can't get over it. There are times when being around her makes me want to scream. As Izzy would put it, logically I know it's not her fault she likes someone who's not me. And it's not Matt's fault, either. Or mine.

But still…

Two years! For chrissakes, two years!

Why the hell am I not over it?

~~~~~~

"It's not necessarily something that'll go away when you ask it to, Tai," Izzy tells me, swinging a little on his computer chair. "Give it time."

"I've given it two years!" I slam my fist into his pillow. It's convenient. I try not to wreck Izzy's room, but I get frustrated easily, and he's the only one I can talk with about this. "What more does it want?"

I don't like to talk about this stuff often, and I usually either get upset or try to brush things off when I do. It makes things a lot easier. But I need to get things off my chest, or they build up and come out when I don't want them to. I can't talk to Matt, I can't talk to Sora, and there's no way in hell I'd ever tell Kari.

At least Izzy doesn't laugh at me too much.

"I couldn't tell you that," he answers me, with a sigh. Giving up on trying to stare me down - he just can't do that like Matt does - he turns back toward the computer. "I don't know the answer."

"For one of the few times," I add, managing a grin. Then I flop down onto his bed. "You know, Izzy, this sucks."

"So you've said - more than once over the past year." He smiles a little, too. "I agree with you. This isn't a pleasant situation. I'd be far more comfortable if there were a logical solution we could work out between us somehow."

I grimace. "How come girls are so complicated?"

He doesn't say anything out loud for a while - but I swear I hear him mutter something like 'not the only ones'. Before I can ask, he answers me. "I don't know."

I pull his pillow over my head and growl in frustration. "Stupid feelings."

"I've never been good with emotions," Izzy confesses, in a more subdued tone.

I lift the pillow away and look at him. He's not looking back at me, but I can tell what he's thinking about. Distraction time. "Yeah, you don't really know what to do about the girls, do you? I've never seen you with any, except the four in our group."

Or maybe I'm wrong, because this seems to make his face shutter up even more. "I don't have a lot of other close friends," he says, somewhat stiffly, and abruptly changes the subject. "Did you want to sit in my room all day and complain, or are we going to get out and do something a little more productive?"

"I'm cool with either." I shrug. Izzy's a very closed person - more so than me. He doesn't talk about his problems, and he doesn't like having others pry into his personal life. I make it a point to do that at least once a week. The intrusion keeps him on his toes.

He's already made up his mind. "How about a movie? It looks as though there might be a good one playing."

That sounds promising. I can usually trust Izzy's taste in movies. "Does it have a lot of pointless violence, guns, and explosions?"

He offers a lopsided smile. "I would suspect so."

I sit up. "In that case… I'm all for it."

~~~~~~

I feel better. I always feel better after I've spent a night with a friend or friends. Especially Izzy, because he's single, like me. I resent some of the others, even though I know it's dumb. I have to try not to resent Matt, because he's my best friend and cool to hang out with. He never brings up Sora unless I do first, so I can pretend it's some other jerk she decided to hook up with even though I wanted her first.

That argument doesn't hold much weight - since, as Izzy reminds me, Sora is a person and not an action figure.

Life was so much sweeter when I wanted action figures and not girls.

Maybe I should see if I can date someone else.

There's always this little paranoid voice at the back of my head whenever I think that - the one that suggests there's something wrong with me, and that's why Sora wanted Matt instead. I never pay much attention to those voices, because I've got better things to do. But I can still hear them.

I don't want any other girl, either. I want Sora.

Why? It's stupid! She's with someone else! She's with one of my best friends! Why can't I just find another girl and get over her?

Sora was one of my best friends too, though… We knew each other. I feel comfortable around her. That's important to me - I need someone I can trust and get that warm feeling from. I like familiarity.

I don't know any other girls that well.

It's not fair. It never has been.

~~~~~~

"How far to your house?" I have to shout over the wind and the rain. The newspaper I'm trying to use as an umbrella isn't really helping - it seems like the rain's coming on sideways into my face. I can barely see a foot in front of me.

"Too far!" Izzy had a hand up to protect his eyes. His voice sounded faint, even though I knew he was shouting back. "There's the park - it would probably be a safer course of action if we were to sit it out under the tires!"

"Okay!" I move to follow him.

There's a jumble of hollow tires at the park that create a sort of hiding place inside - the top and the sides are mostly blocked off, so we should be safe from the rain. He and I used to use the place as a secret hideout when we were younger.

It's not quite as cool now, but at least it'll keep us dry for a while.

"Much better." Izzy sighs, easing himself down at one end of the small space and resting his back against a tire. There's not enough room to stand, even if we'd wanted to.

I crawl in after him. The noise isn't nearly as bad inside. "I feel like someone turned a hose on me."

He smiles a little. "I admit that the storm caught me off guard. I should have been paying more attention to the weather forecast this morning."

"I hardly ever do." I shrug, leaning back against a tire opposite him and looking around. "I remember when we used to make battle plans in here. This place brings back a whole lot of memories."

"Yeah…" He takes a glance around himself.

"We've known each other for a long time, haven't we?" I grin at him. "It doesn't seem like it, but it is when you think about it. I'm amazed we've managed to stand each other's company this long. Think about how different we are."

"Well, perhaps that's why." He gives me a thoughtful look. "If we were too similar, we might not have made such good friends."

I shake my head. "I think it's because I can tell you stuff - and you won't go telling anyone else or laugh at me or something. At least, not too much."

Oddly enough, instead of smiling in response, he swallows hard and drops his gaze. "You're saying that you trust me."

"Well, yeah." I try to lighten the mood by laughing like it's no big deal. "It'd be kind of hard to go telling Matt about this whole thing with Sora, right?"

"I suppose that's true." He drags out the words, eyes far away like he's thinking about something.

"Hey." I lean forward enough so that I can reach out and nudge him back into the present. "What are you thinking about so hard, huh?"

"Uh… well…" He gives me a look like a deer in the headlights - as if I've said something to put him in the spot. I can't remember saying anything like that… "Tai, there's something… I've been thinking about telling you. Something important. I wasn't sure if I wanted to bring it up, but your talk about trust made me think perhaps I'm not giving you enough credit. You are a good friend of mine, after all."

I shrugged and grinned at him. "I'm surprised you still doubt me. I thought we'd known each other too long for that sort of thing. Whatever you've got to say, I'm sure I can handle it. At least you don't have a thing for your best friend's girlfriend, huh?"

"True enough." He gives me a small, tense sort of smile, then completely changes the subject - or so it seems. "Tai, do you remember Mike Kawamura? He used to go to school with us before he transferred out."

"Huh?" I give him an odd look, but figure he must have a good reason for asking. After all, he is a genius. "Oh yeah… Some of the guys on the team used to talk about him behind his back - pretty stupid, if you ask me. Just because a guy's admittedly gay, it's no reason to - "

"I know," Izzy interrupts me, in a sharp sort of tone. The look he's giving me is guarded. "Were you ever friends with him?"

"Not really." I shrug. I honestly don't see where this is going. One minute we're talking about some secret of Izzy's, and the next we're talking about a classmate I haven't seen in almost a year. "I didn't know him all that well. But a couple of my friends were buddies of his. Why are you asking this, anyway?"

Izzy avoids my question, not looking at me. "Would you have been friends with him?" he continues. "Even knowing what… he liked? What he was?"

"Sure - it's not like I have a problem with it." I frowned, feeling as if I was on the verge of figuring something out, but not quite grasping it yet. "He seemed like a pretty good guy. But seriously, Izzy, what's - ?"

"I'd just like to know, Tai." Again, he interrupts me. "If you were friends with someone, and you found out something like that about them, would you continue to be friends with that person as if nothing had changed?"

"Of course! I - " It hits me right about then. I've been sitting there listening to him ask about a guy who's gay and whether or not I'd be friends with him… and it's not Mike he's talking about at all. "You're asking if I'd still be your friend." It's not a question.

Izzy is staring at the tire beside him in seeming fascination. "I suppose it was still kind of hard to come right out and say it," he says, in that flat, practical voice. Then he shuts his eyes and lets out a breath. "There it is, though. You're the first person outside of my immediate family to hear anything about it."

"Dude…" I can't really think of anything to say. What do you say when your best friend tells you he likes boys? I mean, I don't have a problem with it… but it's still kind of shocking to find out. "You've never told anyone?"

He's still not looking at me. "Tai, you're the closest friend I have - offline, anyway." That brings a small smile. "Who do you think I would've told before you?"

"You have a point there." This is stupid, I think, not liking the way it seems to be getting more awkward now. Izzy's still Izzy. I'm just going to be wondering if he's ever checked me out now… I mean, I thought it was harmless back when I was looking at Mimi's legs under those miniskirts she likes wearing, or staring at the outline of Sora's bra under her shirt, but it's kind of weird to think of Izzy looking at me that way.

Well, get over it, I tell myself stubbornly. "Hey, it's not like this is going to change anything." I lean back a little at grin at him when he finally turns to look at me again. "You're still going to help me with my physics homework, right?"

He blinks at me, then smiles, looking relieved. "Unless in the last five seconds you've suddenly grasped the concepts that were giving you trouble."

"Yeah, right." I laugh. "That's why I need you around. Joking aside, Izzy, you're one of my best friends. I can't even imagine what my life would be like if you suddenly weren't in it." I offer a lopsided grin.

For a minute, I think he might actually get emotional - and that's not like Izzy at all. But he just smiles at me again and says, simply, "Thanks Tai."

"Yeah, don't mention it."

And we're cool again.

~~~~~~

I guess I should thank Izzy. Because of him, I'm not thinking about Sora at all right now. Instead, my mind keeps wandering back to what he told me.

It's so weird. I mean, not really weird in a bad way. It's just… It never would've occurred to me. I always just thought Izzy didn't notice girls - that he was too caught up in his computer, and didn't think about that sort of thing. I never in a million years would've thought he liked guys instead. That's not something you think would happen to you, right? Finding out one of your good friends is gay… It's like something that happens to people in movies and TV shows.

Kind of makes me think of something I saw on TV once. Like maybe some girl liked Izzy, and now she's going to find out he's gay… doesn't that just suck? She can't have him - he's going to eventually find some guy to hook up with, not her.

It's so weird! I can't imagine Izzy with a guy. I mean, I never tried to imagine him with a girl, either… Somehow, I just never really pictured him with anyone. I guess I figured he would just always be this asexual computer genius friend of mine. Which doesn't really make any sense when you think about it. He's a teenager just like me… he has to have feelings like mine…

Somehow, Izzy just seems… I don't know… above all of that. Like he's too smart for hormones to effect him or something. Stupid, I know, but there it is.

Thinking about it, though, I couldn't see Izzy walking down the street with his arm around some girl, or his hand tucked in her back pocket or something. He's always been kind of small… not with height, since he had that growth spurt… but with width - he's got this thin, kind of girly look about him.

Who knows? Maybe he would look better with a guy…

~~~~~~

"Hey Tai." Matt sits down on the picnic table next to me. We're at a camp site - in front of the cabin Matt's dad rented for us, in fact. It's about four in the morning, and I haven't gone to bed yet.

I never go to bed before the sun comes up when there are no parents around to force me.

"Hey." I gulp down the rest of my soft drink - it's my fourth one in the space of the past half hour. Caffeine keeps me awake. "This is a pretty cool place - lucky us, huh?"

"Yeah." He leans back. "Well, this is the last time we're going to have all eight digi-destined guys together before Joe is off to college. I’m just grateful everyone's parents were okay with it."

I nod, and grin. "I didn't think Izzy's mom was willing to let him leave her sight for more than twenty-four hours."

"Well, what's she supposed to think - he's here with three older guys." Matt smirks a little. "She'd probably be happier if he were out camping with the girls. At least he wouldn't try anything with them."

"Yeah, but the girls might take advantage of him," I point out, reaching into the cooler for another pop. "Females can be scary like that, you know."

"Yeah…" He's silent for a bit. Then… "When did he tell you, anyway? I know you were already in on it when he got around to telling me, but he didn't say how long you'd known for."

I know what he's talking about without him even having to say it - and I understand why he feels like he needs to talk about it, even indirectly. It really is strange. "A few weeks. I was the one who convinced him it was okay to tell everyone."

"I don't doubt it," Matt says wryly. I can't tell if he's talking about Izzy needing to be convinced or me being the one doing the convincing. "I never thought about Izzy like that," he says thoughtfully, and helps himself to a pop as well. "He was always so…"

"Smart," I fill in. "And asexual. He never liked girls, so I just assumed he escaped the hormone thing altogether. Things always seem to be black and white until someone waves this big gray flag in your face."

"That's pretty deep, coming from you," he comments.

"Hey, I can be deep." I give him a good-natured glare, and then let it go. "Seriously, Izzy's been my friend forever. I thought about it for a while, and it was weird - it's still kind of weird - but lately I've just decided that it fits him. It's part of who he is, and that's cool with me."

"With me too," he adds automatically, and I can tell by his face that he's serious. Good old Matt and his Crest of Friendship. "It just… takes a bit of getting used to. You know? You have to kind of wrap your mind around it a few times before it sinks in."

"Yeah." That's true. I glance back at the cabin. Izzy's been on my mind a lot lately… I worry about him more than usual. I haven't thought about Sora in a while - maybe I just needed some other major revelation in my life to get over it. I don't really like how I'm thinking about Izzy so much, though… it weirds me out. This shouldn't be nagging at me as much as it is.

Should it?

"Tai?"

I look up. Matt's giving me a strange look. "What?"

"Geez, get your ears checked." He frowns, annoyed. "I asked if you ever wondered about Izzy checking guys out. I think that's what I find the hardest to get over - know what I mean? You think about what you're looking at when you see a pretty girl… and start wondering what he's looking at when he sees some guy. Kind of freaky, huh?"

"Yeah, I know." I rest my elbow on my knee, and my chin on my fist. "Especially when you start thinking he could be checking you out."

Matt grins. "Well, now that you mention it… I did see him staring at your ass when you bent over to go through your bag, Tai. His eyes go all glazed over, and he's drooling over some fine piece of Yagami - "

"Oh, gimme a break!" I shove him, and he laughs at me. "You're just trying to make me paranoid so I'll make an idiot of myself, aren't you?"

"Hey, it's no different than if some girl were looking at you," he points out, giving up on the teasing thing. "Think of it like this. You're not really interested in pursuing the option, but at the same time, the attention is flattering - right?"

"Got that right." I gulp down about half of my pop in one go, trying to hide the fact that the idea of Izzy seriously looking at me like that makes me just a bit uncomfortable. Not because I think it's repulsive or anything, but because… I don't know.

It might be flattering, though… I mean, Izzy knows me. At least as well as Sora does, if not more. If he can still think of me like that, then I know it's not something about me that's the reason Sora couldn't. There's nothing wrong with me, or unattractive, or whatever.

Then again, it could just mean that only guys find me attractive.

"Well…" I yawn and stretch widely, giving the just-rising sun a triumphant look. "Looks like it's time I hit the sack. Catch you later, Matt."

"Yeah." He doesn't say anything else as I slide off the table and saunter back over to the cabin; he's still sitting there, drinking pop and looking kind of thoughtful.

Matt's strange like that sometimes.

But I guess you can still talk to him about things. He's not as good a listener as Izzy, but he's a pretty good stand-in if you need one.

~~~~~~

Izzy's gay.

The thought comes back to me all the time now. Most of the time, I'm not even thinking about it, but there are just these moments when… well… it's there. I know it. He is. And I find myself watching him a lot and wondering why the hell I didn't figure it out sooner.

Lately, I've been thinking about how Izzy looks. It almost seems… vulnerable. Like just because I know this, now suddenly he's turned breakable or something. And small, like I said. It's weird, but he'd probably fit in some guy's arms, the way a girl would. Except better, because he doesn't have a chest.

Weird weird weird.

I wonder how he'd do it… Is Izzy the type who'd dish it out, or would he take it in? I know I could never let some guy near my ass with his… you know. But Izzy… he might. He's so passive. He probably wouldn't even argue about it; he'd just let some guy…

Gah.

I really need to stop thinking.

~~~~~~

"So do you ever look up porn on the 'net or anything?"

Izzy looks at me as if I'm insane. "Tai!"

"What?" I roll over onto my side and stare at him. He's sitting in his computer chair, like usual, and I'm taking up all the space on his bed - like usual. "It's not like there's anything wrong with it. Hell, I've watched porn."

He shakes his head at me and smiles a little. "Just because you know I'm gay now doesn't mean my answer to that will change. I've told you before that I don't care for that sort of thing - I prefer a little more subtlety than the "pizza delivery man" scenario."

"Subtlety. Right." I grin at him. "And just how subtle can you be about 'tab A, slot C'?"

Izzy's in the middle of turning around to type something into the computer again, so I can hear his fingers jerk against the keyboard. "Uh… well…" His ears are turning pink, too.

"Satisfy my curiosity here." I roll back and tuck my hands behind my head, still eyeing him. "Just how would two guys do it? And don't give me the basic mechanics - since you're so interested in subtlety, I know there's got to be more to it than some guy ramming his favorite head up where the sun don't shine."

His fingers jerk again, and his ears go from pink to red. "Y-You're curious about this?" he asks, after a moment of awkward silence.

"Well, yeah." Why wouldn't I be? I mean, it wouldn't matter if Izzy were straight, but he isn't, so I need to know. "Enlighten me. Come on, it's not that big a deal, is it?"

I'm being deliberately ignorant - for Izzy, yes, it is a big deal. This isn't the sort of thing he feels comfortable talking about. Like I said before, he's a really private person. I've never talked about sex with him before.

Well, there's a first time for everything.

"I suppose not." His fingers aren't moving, but he still doesn't turn around and look at me. The red shade coloring his ears hasn't faded at all. "Well… you don't… just… uh, ram it up there, if that's the phrase you want to use." His shoulders tense noticeably. "You need… uh…" He mumbles something under his breath that I don't catch.

"Sorry?"

Izzy takes in a long breath. "Lubricant," he says, awkwardly. "Like… like K-Y. You can buy it off the shelf at a drug store."

"Oh." That's news to me… I probably should've guessed, though; it seems obvious now that I think about it. "So do you have any of that?"

He spins in his chair to look at me, and I can see that the rest of his face is nearly as red as his ears are. "Tai, why are you asking me these questions?" he demands.

"Whoa, take it easy." I hold up my hands, a little startled by the look on his face. He's clearly embarrassed, and there's some suspicion there too, like he thinks I'll make fun of him. "I'm not just trying to make you feel uncomfortable. But you're my friend, and this is part of your life, and I feel like I should know more about it, because that sort of thing is important to me. Okay?"

Izzy stares at me for a moment. "That's your reason for wanting to know the specifics of gay sex?" he asks, a bit incredulously.

"Well, you don't have to answer." I'm actually not all that sure where this is going. I just know that I want to find out - and from him, not from some book of facts. "I want to know, that's all. Sorry."

He meets my gaze for a moment after, then shifts his away, still looking kind of uncomfortable. "I have some… but I've never used it," he admits.

"All right…" That's kind of a relief, but I'm not really sure why. "So what do you use it for? You grease up and go for it?"

Izzy actually winces. "Do you have any idea how much it would hurt just to… well, go for it? You have to… um…" His face goes red again. "… stretch the… area." His fingers are gripping the armrests of his computer chair almost convulsively.

I'm not in any mood to show mercy just yet. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, you take your fingers, and… well…" If anything, the red shade on his face brightens even more; he doesn't seem able to continue.

"I think I get the picture." This vivid image of having Izzy bent over something convenient while he gets 'stretched' with someone's fingers and K-Y hits me, and I grimace a little. It's not so normal, talking about this sort of thing… But at the same time it's new and different, and that's kind of… I don't know… something.

And I have to ask… I've been wondering for a while… "So would you be doing it, or taking it? If you were with some guy, I mean."

Izzy makes a strangled sort of noise, and I can see his mouth working silently. He's still not looking at me. "I… I don't know…" he gets out finally, voice cracking a little. "It… I suppose it doesn't really matter. I wouldn't do it with someone I didn't trust completely." He looks down at his feet, shoulders bunching up again.

"You know what?" I really gotta get this off my chest… it's the one thing I haven't told him. "I've been thinking about that too - I mean, it's not exactly the same thing, but I think the reason I couldn't like any other girl but Sora is because I need someone I know. Does that make sense to you?"

"Perfect sense." He finally meets my gaze, the blush fading somewhat. "I feel exactly the same way. It's difficult for me to get close to someone, particularly if we've only just met. Even if I were straight, I couldn't just walk up to a girl and ask her out. It would be an awkward situation for me."

I stare at him. Maybe it's just desperation, or maybe because I'm a teenager and I've been wanting all this physical stuff since I was about twelve - or even before - but there's this wacky idea at the back of my head… "You ever kissed anyone?"

He shakes his head. "If I had, you would have heard about it somehow," he says wryly. I gotta admit, that's true. I can usually weasel Izzy's secrets out of him sooner or later.

"Me neither." I sit up and face him, a bit of a grin sliding onto my face. "What do you say we give it a shot, huh? I won't tell if you won't."

"Wh-What?" His face, just back to its normal color, immediately goes red again. "Give it a shot… with… each other?"

I frown. "What, don't you think I'm hot enough?"

"No - I mean yes… I mean…" Izzy stares at me, his cheeks flaming, his eyes wide, looking as scared and hopeful and uncertain as I'd ever seen him. It was a rare day when you got Koushiro Izumi to display that much emotion. "Why would you want to?"

"Because otherwise we'll probably be able to drink legally before we ever do," I pointed out. "But you're familiar enough for me, and I'm trustworthy enough for you… right?"

"Yeaaah." Izzy draws the word out slowly, his dark eyes fixed on me warily.

"So we'll try it." I shrug. Now that I've put the idea out there, I'm actually looking forward to it. "Come on, it's just a stupid kiss. Pretend I'm someone you'd actually want to date. I'll keep my hands away from your chest, and make believe you're a girl. It'll work out fine."

"Pretend, huh?" He mutters that, looking at the floor. "I guess so."

"Is that a yes?" I lean forward.

"Yeah." He doesn't move, still sitting hunched over in his chair with his eyes fixed on the carpet.

Guess that means it's up to me, then. Picking myself up off Izzy's bed, I kneel down in front of his chair, brace my hands on his arm rests, and lean forward.

He doesn't make it easy for me; his face is tilted at the wrong angle and he's tensed up and not moving at all. I'm close enough to hear him breathing, and it sounds erratic. "Hey Izzy, look up a bit, will you?"

He lifts his head automatically, and I lean forward and kiss him.

It's not exactly what I'd expected. Izzy's lips are thinner than mine, but I didn't think they'd be so… slack? Soft? He smells familiar - I like that - but it's a stronger scent than when we don't have our faces pressed together. I'm not really sure what I'm supposed to do. Should I move? Try to use my tongue? Maybe I need more leverage… I lift one hand from the armrest and press it firmly against the back of Izzy's neck, where it meets the base of his skull.

He shudders a little against me, and I kind of like that too. Kissing is probably as good as they say… I think back to what I've seen in movies and open my mouth a bit, pulling back just a little and pressing in again. That works. Izzy's not so lifeless any more; he sort of moves forward, trying to match me…

I pull back. I don't want to, but I'm starting to have trouble getting my breath. Izzy too, I think; we're both breathing heavily. It's kind of weird, how it seems warmer when I'm this close to him, but the second I try to pull back away, it's like getting hit with a blast of cold air. I open my eyes a bit more and look at him; his eyes are half-lidded, and I don't think he's over it yet.

"So that's kissing, huh?" I sound funny. I guess this would explain why people kiss a lot before sex… It really puts you in the mood. "Not too bad."

He nods slowly, but doesn't say anything. I can still feel him breathe…

You know, before, I didn't get how people could sleep with someone and it could be an accident, but I think I have an idea how that happens now. Being this close to someone is… just… whoa.

I back off and sit on the carpet. Time to move on to something safer. I'm not really sure I like how my control slips with this. It's a little too freaky. "So what now?"

Izzy's eyes jerk open; he looks a bit freaked out himself. "Uh… I - I don't know…" He sounds weird too, but he clears his throat and regains control of himself right away. "I, uh, I've got a new computer game I borrowed from a friend. Want to try?"

"Oh - yeah." Nothing like blasting monster images to keep your mind busy for an hour or three.

~~~~~~

Should I be thinking about Izzy? I kissed him, and I liked it.

He's another guy. But I kissed him, and I liked it.

The scary part is that I think I'd do it again, too. I want to. The idea's even kind of a turn on. And that's really freaky. I mean, really. I never thought about Izzy like this before. I never looked at him. He was just another friend.

And now suddenly he's gay, and that means I can think about how he looks and imagine myself kissing him. Heck, I did kiss him. Why did I do that?

Does it make me gay? I still think about girls - I like looking at them, and all that. But Izzy's… different. He's a guy. I don't think about guys like that. I never once thought Izzy was attractive. I didn't even give him a second glance.

Is he thinking about this, too? He was kissing me as much as I was kissing him. Does it haunt him the way it does me? I don't even know what I was thinking when I got him to agree. I'm not even gay, right?

Maybe this is just one of those phases.

I'm not really sure if I hope it is or not.

Freaky.

~~~~~~

"It's funny… I can't seem to recall exactly how I was talked into his in the first place." Izzy's tone is flat, and he gives me a pointed look to go along with it. "Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I wasn't even consulted."

"Ah, relax." I shrug off his complaints. What I think is funny is how Izzy can be so agreeable and adventurous at some times, and then at others he refuses to even consider what you've suggested. "It won't kill you; it's not like I expect you to chug down five or six of these. Just try one."

He eyes the can I'm holding out to him with distaste. "And I suppose you'll be drinking the rest of them."

We're at Izzy's house again. We're always at Izzy's house, because my sister and I share a bedroom, and how can you have a decent conversation if your little sister might be listening at the door? Or worse, if she might walk in at the worst part. Izzy's parents are gone for the weekend, so I'm spending the night. Since we've got no supervisors, I brought over a corruption tool in the form of a six-pack.

Which Izzy wasn't all that excited to see.

"What do you think I am, an alcoholic?" I flop down on the bed beside him, and open my can to encourage him. "I don't drink a hell of a lot of this stuff either, but you can't go through life never having tried one. Come on."

"I'm not entirely sure your logic is sound, Tai," he says, raising an eyebrow at me. "You still haven't given me a good reason why going through life without drinking any sort of alcoholic beverage is such a terrible concept."

"Because I said so, that's why." I grin at him, and take a long, practiced chug to encourage him. "One day I want to get you really drunk, and take pictures for blackmail material. Then when you're rich and successful, you'll have to lend me money."

Izzy offers me a small smile in response, and opens his own can. "Hasn't anyone ever told you that you're not supposed to reveal your evil plans until after they've been successfully executed?"

I shrug. "I can always take you to a party and forget to warn you that the punch is spiked. Drink up." I gulp down some more of my drink and watch him out of the corner of my eyes.

He gives the can another dubious look, but dutifully raises it and takes a small sip. I watch with interest as he makes a slight face, swallowing.

"So?"

He sets the can down on his desk, still grimacing. "I am never going to understand why people become addicted to this."

I laugh. "Izzy, you just showed off every single person on this planet's first reaction to alcohol. It's something you drink with other people - you gotta get used to it." I take another long gulp, finishing off my can, then I scrunch it up and toss it across the room into the garbage can.

Izzy sighs. "My mom empties the garbage cans in here, Tai."

"I'll fish it out later," I promise, grabbing another can and leaning back comfortably. "Come on, give the stuff another chance. It won't kill you, you know."

He picks up his drink again. "I don't know why I'm doing this."

"Because I'm your friend," I remind him, opening my second can. "And you trust me, and value my opinion."

"Right." He takes another cautious sip, and makes a face again. Then he sets the can back down and leans back beside me. "And people say I'm intelligent."

His face is close… I gulp down some more. Somehow, that isn't helping. It takes a lot to get me drunk, but alcohol loosens my inhibitions. Those that I have, anyway. Which is why I'd like to see Izzy drink at least a little right now. He needs to relax more often.

"Tai?" he ventures, after a moment.

I look over at him. His face is turned away from me, up at the ceiling. "What?"

"I realize we've more or less decided not to talk about this any more," he says, in that flat, even tone that tells me he's trying to keep his cool about this. "But last week…"

Last week. That means the kiss. I join him in looking at the ceiling. "What about it?"

He lets out a long breath, and then continues cautiously, "Would you ever have asked a female friend of yours to kiss you 'just for practice'?"

"Probably not." You don’t just ask girls stuff like that, do you? But if you have a convenient gay best friend… Yeah. Sure. Why not? "Girls can get touchy about that sort of thing."

"What exactly do you mean?" Still the cautious tone.

"I dunno…" I'm not so sure I like this conversation. Is it leading up to 'let's try it again'? I get this funny feeling I'd take him up on that, just because I could blame it on him later and still get to kiss him again. "You don't really know what to expect. They might call you a jerk for asking, and say you're harassing them or something. It just wouldn't work."

Izzy lets out a long breath - not quite a sigh. "I guess you're right."

"Yeah." I wrestle with myself for a moment, then give in. I need to ask someone. I just… I need to know. "Hey, Izzy?"

He glances sideways at me."What is it?"

I hitch back a little and lean against the wall so I'm a short ways above him. I can see his neck and the top of his shoulders from here - his skin's so pale, and it looks smooth. "Do you think I'm someone people would want to… you know… be with? I mean, not just be with like hanging out, but… well…"

Izzy takes pity on me, interrupting my rambling before I can make too much of an idiot out of myself. "Well… yeah!" he says, in the same tone he might say 'how can you ask that, you moron!' in. "Sure you are. Why wouldn't you be?"

"I dunno." I stare down at my half-full can, trying not to picture the way his jaw curves. "Sora knew me better than almost anyone else, and she didn't want me."

"That doesn't mean anything, Tai." Now he's giving me the 'You're missing the obvious' tone. I can almost see the slightly raised eyebrow. That's one of the interesting things about Izzy's face - he's got those really expressive eyebrows. They totally give him his look; he wouldn't be the same without them. "Just because Sora didn't want to date you doesn't mean that no one else will. You're a likable person."

That makes me feel somewhat better. Still… "If I were gay, would you date me?"

"If you expressed an interest, I guess." His voice has gone all the way down to toneless; when I take a chance at looking at him again, he's not returning my gaze. "If you were gay, would you want to date someone like me?"

"Why wouldn't I? In fact, who else would I want to date?" I grin at him. Did I choose to sit this close, or was it Izzy? I can almost feel the warmth coming off him; it's making my heart rate jump up. "You remember what I told you last week, right? If I were gay, you'd be my number one target."

"I'm flattered." There's a hint of what could be sarcasm in there, but I get the feeling he's being sincere. He smiles, looking up at me as he does, and something in me jumps. It's impossible to be uncomfortable around Izzy… but…

I don't know. I don't understand this. It doesn't make sense, but I don't want to think about it either. I'm at my best when I'm around Izzy - wasting even a second of it seems like a crime. "So if you're not going to drink any more of that" - I nod in the general direction of his can - "what do you want to do?"

"I… huh?" Izzy's looking at me, but not meeting my gaze. More like he's staring at my mouth. Then he jerks his gaze up quickly, cheeks going a bit red. "I'm sorry - I was just… Sorry." He shuts his eyes, sucks in a breath, and forces a smile. "Anything's fine with me."

I have no idea why, but my mouth decides that me being allowed to think is getting in the way of something it wants. It lets out the first thought that comes to my head without waiting for anything else. "Want to try another kiss?"

Izzy's eyes widen slight. "I-I'm sorry?"

"Well… we didn't really do anything last time." Great. Now I'm justifying it. But it does make sense if I think about it… We really didn't. And how's that going to help us? "Aren't you curious at all?"

That gets a slight smile from him, even though he looks as if I've got him tied to a railroad track with the train coming. "Of course. I've never tried to contain my curiosity."

"So?" I grin and raise an eyebrow. I've got to follow through, don't I? Now that I've suggested it… I can't back down. So I lean over to set my can down on the ground and look up for his reaction.

He rolls his eyes upward - not so much in exasperation, but more like he's struggling with the offer. "All right," he agrees finally. There's a bit of a catch in his voice, and he eyes me warily.

"I don't bite, you know," I remind him, trying to sound casual. I get to kiss him again… Is it normal to feel this excited about it? Is it the kissing I like, or kissing Izzy in particular?

At the moment, leaning toward him and feeling the way he's breathing - not just the breath itself, but his chest moving almost next to or under mine - it doesn't seem worth caring about.

He's so warm.

I turn so I'm sort of hovering over him instead of beside him, and look at his face. His eyes are half-closed like he's not really sure whether to have them open or close them completely, and he's got his lips parted in a way that makes mine itch. I lean down and kiss him, so I don't think about it too much. My lips brush his, finding a way to fit against them. They're softer than I remember - warmer, too.

In a week… I think a person's memories get weaker. Now that I'm kissing Izzy again, it's different from what I remembered. Then again, we weren't lying on his bed last time… But it's more than just that. He's not so slack and unresponsive at the start; he braces one hand at the base of my neck and moves back against me. It doesn't take all that long to find a sort of rhythm. Kissing seems to mean moving your lips so everything goes smoothly, not awkward. But you have to move, or you're just sitting there with your mouths together.

I lean down so we're closer, and try to remember to find space to breathe. My mind debates briefly with whether or not exploring the inside of Izzy's lips is the higher priority, but eventually - reluctantly - comes down in favor of breathing. I pull back a little and catch my breath, staring down at Izzy again as I do. I don't actually want to move back yet… Actually, I'm already relaxing more into my position.

I feel dizzy, and it's strange, but I don't want to let go of it yet. I hadn't meant to get all the way on top of him, but I made it there anyway. I fumble around with where to put my legs for a moment; his seem to be in the way. His cheeks are flushed, and he looks at me with a sort of hazy confusion. It's so close to what I feel that I almost would want to laugh if I weren't so intoxicated by his scent and his closeness.

Will it feel the same way every time? I almost don't want to stop looking at him, but I want to keep kissing him, too. Maybe it'd be different… Maybe someone who wasn't Izzy would give me a different sort of feeling.

It doesn't even feel weird, with him not having a girl's chest… But then again, I wouldn't know, would I? I've never been with a girl. And as much as I thought I would like to, right now I want to be with Izzy more.

I close the inches between us and kiss him again.

It's hard to think clearly when you're trying to find a good way to get your tongue into someone else's mouth. This sort of kissing isn't easy, but practicing probably isn't going to be much of a chore. Feeling the inside of someone else's mouth is very different from feeling the inside of your own mouth. Especially if you're lying on top of them while you do it. I feel shivers running down my spine, even though I've got Izzy's body heat in addition to my own keeping me comfortably warm. I part my own lips more to try and get him to do the same so I can have more access.

I really want more of this.

The part of my brain that was sort of absently wondering what to do with my hands stops waiting for a response from the rest of it, and decides instead to take orders directly from the part that's enjoying the kiss and the shared body heat so much. My hands abandon the task of bracing the rest of me up, and start moving down Izzy's upper body. He's wearing a loose cotton T-shirt that bunches up and stretches under the friction between my hands and his chest, and I can feel him shudder under my fingers.

I like that.

This is Izzy's chest I'm feeling up… Izzy's ribs I'm running my hands over… Izzy's stomach muscles fluttering up with tension as I explore his sides. No one - outside of his immediate family - has ever gotten this much contact with him. You don't just touch Izzy. He's not the kind of person you wrestle with like I do with Matt sometimes, or tackle in greeting.

He's not the kind of person who would let just anyone make out with him on his bed and feel him up while they're at it.

It's weird… but not in a bad way. It feels good to touch him. A familiar sort of tension builds in my gut - an urgency. I want to sink under his skin and get inside him - as long as there's anything between me and him, it's too much. My mind flashes back to the image of him bent over, but this time it's me behind him and before I can analyze it and even recognize what it means it's gone. We're still kissing with an awkward clumsiness, trying to work out how it's done… but not so slowly as before. His fingers are tense against my neck, like he wishes he could pull me tighter against him - his other hand clutches at the shoulder of my shirt; I don't know how long it's been there. The bottom edge of his shirt's been hitched up too much - when I move my fingers down again, they meet bare skin.

Izzy lets out this little gasping noise, and breaks our lips apart. I can feel his hands twitch slightly, and he looks up at me with a half-hazy bafflement. "T-Tai…?"

I know what this is leading to now… I can tell by the way our legs are tangled together; how my fingers tingle where they're touching him… How the array of sensations is sending hot shivers down my spine to gather in an increasing pressure at my groin. Excitement clogs up in my throat at the prospect, and it's even harder to think. I shift so he can't feel the fact that I'm getting hard.

Is it wrong to be so turned on by kissing Izzy? By touching him? Should I stop and never touch him again? Never kiss him again? Try to forget this ever happened?

Scratch 'should I?' Could I?

At this point… probably not.

"Izzy…" That doesn't even really sound like my voice - but then, who could sound normal hovering just inches above their best friend's face? I'm shaking a bit, too… Maybe it's wrong to want this, but I do. I can't help it. So I blurt out the first thing that comes into my mind - probably the worse phrasing I could ever choose for this kind of request. "Want to do it?"

If he were a girl, I would've either been slapped or laughed at.

His eyes snap open wide for a brief minute, then settle back to normal. "Uh… sure."

See what I mean about Izzy? He barely gave the alcohol a chance, and now here he is agreeing to have sex with me - without even hesitating first.

Me and Izzy. Sex.

Wow…

I let out a breath, give him a quick grin, and lean back down to kiss him again. I'm already inching his shirt up; I want room to get used to this. I ease my hips back against him and he shudders a little when he feels the erection I'm not trying to hide any more. His stomach muscles are tense, and they jump slightly under my wandering fingers. It's so easy to get a reaction from him…

"Tai…" he breathes again, when we break for air. I really like that… He could drive a person crazy with that kind of tone. And it's my name - he says my name, like just the thought of me could get him off.

Now that is a turn-on.

I slide my right leg between his thighs so I'm straddling his, and get some pressure on my groin. Izzy's hip provides enough friction at this point to have me sucking in a sharp breath as little spikes of pleasure shoot from that area. He's hard too - I can tell just by the way his breathing's gotten so unsteady, even without having the evidence making itself obvious under me.

I want to make him come. I want to see it when he does. And I want him to do it because of me. All of this flashes through my mind and shoots sparking heat straight down my spine.

My right hand slides down from his stomach, and the next second I'm resting my fingers on another guy's erection. Izzy's erection. Even through his pants, it's different from mine… it doesn't have the same familiar size - he's smaller than I am. Not so wide. Not the same heat coming off him. I'm touching someone's erection, and it's definitely not mine.

I really shouldn't feel like I could get off on that, should I?

"Tai!" His grip on me is almost hard enough to leave bruises. He's breathing even heavier now - even faster… I can make his hips arch up, too, just by putting my hand there. His whole body thrums with tension, and his head falls back, exposing the pale length of his neck. "T-Tai…"

I take the offered chance and bury my face in his throat. His pants are the kind that snap open, so I don't have to fumble with buttons. The way he's moving against me is really distracting… His hip jars against my groin, sending stars into my vision. Dry-humping his leg almost starts to sound like a really, really good idea.

Izzy's even more gone than I am; he can't seem to form words to go with the noises he's making. I unzip his fly, and at the same time tentatively run my tongue over the soft skin at the hollow of his throat. He groans softly in response, clutching at me.

I kind of like the taste, too… I'm not sure 'taste' is really the right word, but it feels like Izzy, and that's the part I like. I pull back and tug his shirt up, and he lets go of me so I can pull it off him. I've seen him without his shirt before, so this should be no big deal… but it's way different now than it was at the beach. A person's skin can take on a whole new meaning when you're running your hands over it and sucking on their neck.

His skin's almost warmer than my hands… I guess I should've expected that, considering how mine feels. I run my fingers over his waist, stomach, and chest - the parts I could never really touch in a casual way. He's flat - stomach and chest both… but it's still exciting in a way. I can feel him breathe… feel his heart beating… see how warm he is… I can't get enough of this.

He's still moving against me, trying to get the pressure he lost when I moved my hand. We could probably keep doing this until we come from it… but that'd be disappointing. Like being at a good party that finishes before you really get to enjoy it.

I want time to enjoy Izzy - but, then again, I have no idea what to do next.

So… time to improvise.

I pull back enough to lean over his waist, running my hands down his hips. He jumps again, propping himself up on his elbows to peer at me with hazy eyes, and obediently arches as I tug at his pants.

I press a kiss to his stomach, feeling him jump, enjoying the sensation far too much but not really caring any more what it means - and then flick my tongue over the line of his pelvis. With his pants disappeared somewhere over the side of the bed, he presses his knees against my sides, his legs half wrapping around my torso. I'm halfway off the bed as I lean over his lower torso, and his erection is pressing into my chest just under my collarbone.

I don't know what I want to do - I don't know how I want to do it. All I can seem to focus on is the basic touch, taste and reaction I get.

When I move my mouth to just above his groin, the heat of his erection almost taking on a physical presence, Izzy really reacts, a noise like whimper coming from his throat.

I look up at him without moving my mouth, spanning my arms up to run careful fingers over his chest, both of my knees firmly on the floor and with his balanced on my shoulders. I have no idea how they got there - Izzy must have moved them without me noticing.

Then again, I've been kind of busy.

Then I suck in a breath to steel my nerves, because he's watching me again, and it's doing funny things to my stomach. So I avoid his gaze and lower my mouth to tentatively press a kiss onto the hardness between his thighs.

Izzy gasps, arching on his elbows, legs contracting, and watches me with breathless shock. I can tell he's shocked, so I extend my tongue and lick a path up his erection to get more of his shock.

I always thought it would be disgusting - it never occurred to me to wonder why people would do it if it were that gross. Actually, it's not so bad… More heat than the rest of him, slightly salty, and slick with that stuff that leaks out before you actually come. I can't quite name the taste of it right away - it's not quite a sensation either, but it's something I can feel for a while after I swallow reflexively.

And the way he reacts… I want more of that.

I think it's because he never shows any strong emotions, and now I've got him staring at me with flushed cheeks and wide eyes and those white teeth biting at his lip…

It's addictive. Good god… At this moment, I don't understand why more people wouldn't want to be right where I am, with Izzy writhing helplessly under them. If someone had told me a week ago that I'd ever put my mouth anywhere near another guy's dick, I'd have decked them. And here I am bracing one hand on his hip to keep him from arching up, and running my tongue over the head just so I can watch him gasp and wriggle and feel his muscles strain under my hand.

And it's such a turn on that I have to clench my other hand into a fist and press it into the mattress to keep from jerking myself off as I do. I want all my attention on Izzy. Christ, he looks amazing… If he looked like this all the time, no one would be able to keep their hands off him.

So in a way, I'm glad I'm the only one who gets to see it.

"T-Tai… I…" Izzy's whole body tenses up, like he's been pulled taut. "I'm… Tai…" That last comes out in the middle of a sound almost like a half-sob as his hips jerk violently - and then before I can realize what it means, he's straining against my hand, spilling himself in my mouth.

I wasn't exactly expecting that… I gag and pull back, instinctively replacing my mouth with my other hand as he twitches through the last fading throes of his orgasm. I let go of his hip and spit into that hand, ignoring the odd bitter-salty taste and concentrating on watching his face. When he came… god. He should always look like that. But then again, no, he shouldn't, because I want to be the only one who's seen it.

I made him come. I can't help but grin at that, pulling myself up. I'm still hard, and I would really like some relief about now, but there's a sense of triumph in there as well. His whole body's gone limp, as if every muscle gave out at once. His eyes are heavy-lidded, and he's panting softly.

"… sorry…" His gaze focuses on me, an uncertainty in it. "I didn't mean… I couldn't keep from…"

I shrug, lifting myself up onto the bed close beside him. "No big deal. It's sort of what I was going for, right?" I look down at his face. Now's the hard part… What do I do next? Should I ask him for the same? Jerk myself off and let him be? We haven't actually done it… I mean, we've done it, but we haven't done it.

If that makes any sense.

And what I'd really like to do… Would he let me do it? I'm not so sure I should ask…

"Tai…" Izzy's almost religiously quiet voice interrupts my dilemma. I look up at him; his eyes are still half-lidded and his cheeks are still flushed - from embarrassment, or because he's still coming down from his orgasm, I can't tell. "In the drawer closest to the bed - under my print-out files."

He must have a good reason for this… I ignore the way my body screams for pulling away from him, and dig through the drawer. What I come up with is a small tube, the label reading 'K-Y'.

He really does have some…

"Izzy…" I climb back up onto the bed and stare at him. He's managed to situate himself so that his legs don't hang over the side, but hasn't made a move for his pants. Yeah… I'd love to jump back down and take advantage of this. But… "Are you sure? I… don't really know what I'm doing. What if…?"

He grabs my shoulder, pulls me down, and proceeds to kiss me with a hasty clumsiness. "I'll tell you what to do. Please, Tai?"

He's pleading with me? He wants me to… Oh geez. Oh geez. I attack his lips, drawing out a startled noise from the back of his throat for the abruptness of it. My hands are busy ridding me of my pants; I'm fumbling with it, too eager to be coordinated. Izzy breaks the kiss and helps me, his breathing coming a bit faster despite his recent orgasm. We get the pants and boxers down, and I pull my shirt over my head almost as an afterthought. His is already off anyway, so we'll be even.

I stop to stare down at him, naked and with Izzy in the same condition under me. His arms are curled near his head, and his eyes remain half-closed, hiding a funny glint in them I didn't notice before. I don't know what it means, but now is definitely the wrong time to ask. I can figure it out later, after this odd whirlwind idea plays out, and go from there.

I might as well admit that I'm not sure what's going to happen now or later between us...

But at least, I think briefly, I can find out about now.

I drop the K-Y to the bed, unable to breathe - unable to even think - and lean down to kiss him again. His hands wind into my hair, holding my head. His legs move aside for mine, and it's really weird to feel the 'natural' sensation of sliding down against him. I mean really weird - and really hot, too, because it's hard to keep myself from coming right there.

"Tai… oh Tai…" Izzy murmurs between kisses.

All I'm aware of is the fact that my dick is going places I never thought it would, and Izzy's going to show me how - I mean, I get the basic idea, but it's like trying to draw a detailed picture of something you've only glanced at once. I don't think I can even talk enough to get my concerns across to him, but he's already moving his hands to my sides, wiggling under me a little.

"Okay," he says, a little breathlessly. "Pay attention." He's blushing, I notice, when I kiss his neck again. I can feel the way his cheeks grow warm. "I'm only going to say this once, Tai..."

I pause to support myself on my elbows, and gaze down at him, trying to pay attention.

He swallows, his cheeks pink - and this time I know it's from embarrassment - but I can tell he's too far gone to care. "Take the lube and put it on your fingers, and then put them inside me."

Oh… right. The stretching thing. "Um..." Does he mean all of my fingers? At the same time?

"It's okay…" Izzy smiles at me - I would almost say he's smirking, but that can't be right. Izzy never smirks. "Just... one at a time..."

I do as he says, uncapping the tube and spreading the clear liquid on my fingers. It's cool to touch, and doesn't really have a scent… Inside him… inside him… stretching him out… The thoughts won't stop repeating in my mind as I hesitantly slide one slicked-up hand between me and his legs. He shifts, lifting himself up a bit, even though I know perfectly well where I'm supposed to go.

Can I really do this?

It's easier to push a finger inside him than I expected. Oh god… I think, eyes darting back up to his face. He shifts again - uncomfortably - blushing and staring up at me with an almost shy expression.

I move my finger a bit, experimenting. This is uncharted territory - that's for sure. "Does it... hurt?"

"No… not really..." Izzy's hands are resting lighting on my shoulders, the little motions of his fingers sort of guiding me in the right direction. "Go ahead and try two fingers..."

Working with two is more difficult, I find, as I try to slide them in like I did before. Izzy makes a face, and I can tell he's doing something with his muscles because I can feel them moving - which is just too odd to think about at all right now - and it's with a careful nudge that I get two fingers within him. I know I have to move them around too, so I flex a bit. "And this?"

"Umm…" He takes in a couple of deep breaths, then focuses on me again. "Yeah, I'm all right. Maybe… get more lube and then try three?"

I'm not about to argue with him… This is hard - I want to get on with it because waiting is almost painful, but at the same time, I'm scared. I don't want to do this wrong. My fingers shake as I spread a generous amount of the K-Y onto them.

I guess Izzy can tell, because he leans up and kisses me quickly. "It's okay - I won't break, you know."

I nod. His reassurance makes me feel better… At least if I get it wrong, he'll forgive me. "Three?"

"Yeah…" He leans back again, dark eyes watching me with that same unrecognizable glint. I'm not sure if it should make me uneasy or reassure me - it almost seems to do both.

I slide in three fingers, and he sucks in a sharp breath - which makes me freeze. He shuts his eyes, breathes deeply, and relaxes slowly.

"You okay?" I move my fingers again, experimentally, and he shudders slightly.

"Tai…" That comes out in this breathy voice that makes my heart skip a beat. "I'm… fine." His eyes are out of focus when he tries to look at me again, but I can tell he's struggling to be coherent. "You… You need to spread some on your… on your…"

I get the idea. "All right…" He lets out a little whimpering noise when I pull my fingers out of him, which I really have to try to ignore - does he know how sexy those sounds are? - and I squeeze more lube onto my hand.

I must've used up half the tube by now.

The sensation when my hand wraps around my own erection seems to spend sparks shooting through me. I gasp a little, and try not to lose it. I've never had to wait so long to come… I have to concentrate hard to get my fingers pried away.

Izzy spreads his legs a bit more for me, and our eyes meet. He's blushing, but he doesn't look away - even as I move up to situate myself above him, and guide my erection to the area he just had me carefully stretch out.

His hands are on my upper arms; when I push inside him, his fingers clench and his eyes shut tight, finally breaking the contact between us. I can't stop myself, though… This is… It's nothing like jerking off, nothing like rubbing against him… Every pleasant touch I've ever felt pales before this.

He's tight around me - I know it must hurt - but it's all I can do to go slow; I can't imagine stopping. Oh god… This animal-groaning noise comes from my throat; I can only seem to focus on his face. Everything else is a blur. "I… Iz…zy…"

Izzy gulps in huge breaths, chest heaving as he stares up at me almost desperately. There are tears streaming over his flushed cheeks. "Tai…" he breathes, and the sound of my name in that tone causes something in me to snap.

I clutch his hips, trying to get a hold. My fingers are still slick from the lube; they slip on his skin. I bury my face in his neck, and thrust into his body - quick, shallow thrusts; I'm so close I can't even think of trying to draw it out. He feels so good… I can't stop… I need it… need it so… so…

"Ah… ah!" My whole body jerks as I reach that peak. I couldn't have been inside him more than a minute or two, but… I've never had an orgasm this intense - it covers my whole body in mindless, hot shivers of pleasure. I'm still twitching even as I come down, gasping against Izzy's throat and leaning all my weight on him helplessly.

I have no idea how long I lie there, panting heavily, as my mind comes back down from its high point. I feel completely lax - like I've been sedated. Dimly, I become aware of Izzy's fingers running through my hair; that gesture feels really nice. Soothing, almost. I'm sweaty and tired, and I just want to lie there and go to sleep.

"We should clean ourselves up." His voice is hushed; his hands don't stop their soothing motions, but I can feel him swallow close to my face. "Shouldn't we?"

I pull back enough so that I can stare at him for a moment to see if he's serious, then move to the side so I'm not resting on him so heavily, and slide my face close to his neck again. "We can do that later."

He's silent. I take that as agreement, and wrap an arm around his waist, sighing in contentment. It won't take me long to fall asleep… I'm already halfway there…

~~~~~~

Someone's making bacon.

That's what wakes me up - the smell. I'm a really sound sleeper; I can normally zone out pretty much everything as long as I'm comfortable. But when it comes to food… well, that's an entirely different story. And this smells good.

My mom never makes bacon - so I'm probably at Izzy's house and it's his -

Izzy's house.

I crack open one eye. Izzy's bed, too. I'm in Izzy's bed. And I'm stark naked.

Oh yeah…

I flop over onto my side and stare at the ceiling. I just slept with Izzy. I mean… Izzy. Me. Sex. And… god, it was incredible. Against my will, the corners of my mouth tug up into a grin. Does it feel like that every time? No wonder they say guys always want to do it.

Of course… I did just sleep with another guy. I did things no straight man should do.

So does that make me gay? Or just… curious?

And what does Izzy think about it?

I glance around and notice - for the first time since I woke up - that Izzy isn't anywhere nearby. I look up around the room - his discarded clothing is gone from the floor, and my shirt, pants, and boxers are lying across the end of the bed. A glance at the clock reveals the time to be 9:32am.

How early did he get up, anyway?

Well… Izzy's usually up before me, but this is different. We just had sex, so why isn't he here? Isn't that part of it? You wake up and see the person you slept with lying next to you. Right? It's never a good sign if they're gone.

Except you weren't having sex because it meant something, the more realistic side of my brain reminds me. You were doing it out of curiosity. You used each other, that's all.

That's all?

I don't really understand why that disappoints me. What was I expecting, anyway? I push the feeling aside, grab my boxers, and pull them on. My skin feels sticky and gross… and a glance down at the sheets after I get up brings on an involuntary grimace. Izzy's going to want to clean those before his mom gets home and sees them.

He's also going to need air-freshener. The room smells like sex.

For a moment, I can't help but pause, considering the strangeness of the situation. If we were dating, is this how it'd be? Would we have sex while our parents were out, and try not to get caught? I wonder if it's going to show on my face when I get home. Maybe the second I walk in through the door, my mom will take one look and me and screech, "You had sex!"

Then she'll ground me for eight years, and if I really were seeing Izzy like that, I'd have to sneak out through a window to be with him.

Just what would it be like, having sex with Izzy on a regular basis? Would we fall onto the bed laughing and kissing like those happy couples in movies? Or would it be slower, passionate, where we gaze into each other's eyes meaningfully before and after?

And why am I even thinking about it? What does it matter?

I leave the room. Maybe when I get some fresh air and breakfast, my head will clear up a little.

Izzy is sliding his breakfast onto a plate for himself when I come down the hall and peer into the kitchen - which makes sense, since his parents are out and who else would be frying bacon up in his apartment? He's showered and dressed in clean clothes, and nothing out of the ordinary is evident in his movements. It's almost like he's not the same guy who was writhing and gasping on his bed last night while I -

Yeah. Bad thought pattern there.

He turns from the counter, and catches sight of me. For a moment, his eyes widen a little, then his face shutters again, and he pulls out his 'friendly smile' look. "Hey Tai. Did you want breakfast, or were you going to shower first?"

I stare at him in perplexity for a moment, then clear my throat and try to sound normal. "Uh… yeah, I'll go shower. Save some bacon for me, huh?"

"Sure thing!" Izzy turns away, but I stay where I am for a moment. The normalcy in this scene seems really out of place. Did I dream everything that happened last night? I sure don't feel like it was just a dream… the memories are too vivid. But the way Izzy's acting…

Like it was nothing. It really was nothing, right? Why should he act like it wasn't?

I'm starting to think this was all a really bad idea on my part. Granted, Izzy went along with it, but it was my fault for suggesting it. If I hadn't, I wouldn't be wondering about this. I wouldn't feel so unsure of myself in the presence of the one person I've always felt totally comfortable around.

Too late for those thoughts now…

"Call me crazy, but somehow I don't think staring at the kitchen could ever become an effective method of finding the shower, Tai," Izzy points out in that condescending tone he uses when he's teasing me. "As I recall, it's still located in the bathroom."

I frown. "Yeah, but…" There's not really anything I have planned to say after 'but'. Izzy's dark eyes don’t give me any clues about what he's thinking, no matter how hard I stare at them. Still feeling weird, I turn around and head for the bathroom.

Maybe I'll feel better after I get clean.

Hot water feels great. Cleaning off the less sanitary layers from the previous night feels even better. Thinking about Izzy's body while washing mine off… not so good. All it does is confuse me even more.

Why can't I stop thinking about him?

I should admit now that I might've been thinking if I kissed Izzy again - or went further with him, satisfied that curiosity and all - maybe I'd stop thinking about it. Of course, it's a stupid thought - how can you stop thinking about someone you've just had sex with? Especially if you've never done it before. All I can think about this morning are all those little touches and sensations… exactly how it felt to be so close to another person.

So close to Izzy.

I finish my shower, towel myself off, and head back to Izzy's room to get the change of clothes I had in my overnight bag. When I come back out, he's finished eating, but has kindly left me two or three pieces of bacon.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you you're supposed to let the guest eat first?" I grumble, transferring the bacon to my plate and pushing some bread into the toaster.

He looks up from where he's washing his breakfast dishes, and raises an eyebrow at me. "I wouldn't have the opportunity to eat at all if I gave you that kind of freedom."

This is really frustrating, making small talk and pretending everything's normal… I turn and look at him. "Hey Izzy… about last night… I - "

"You don't need to explain anything to me, Tai," he interrupts me, looking away for a moment with a slight frown. His hands have stilled; the ripples in the soapy water are flattening out. "Let's not talk about it, okay?" He meets my gaze again and offers a half-smile.

I can feel my eyebrows knitting together. "But… Izzy…"

"I'm serious, Tai." The smile vanishes and he sighs - almost a long-suffering sound. "I really don't want to make a big deal out of this. Last night was an occurrence it'd be safer not to discuss in extended detail. Let's leave it at that."

I'd honestly love to grab him and shake him. Shout something like 'What the hell is wrong with you!?' We just had sex, and he's calling it an "occurrence"!? Where does he get off, being so calm and rational and perfectly fine with all of this? I can feel my eyebrows angling down and I frown, wishing I could transfer everything in my head into his, so he'd know what I wanted to say without me having to try and find a way to tell him. So he'd understand why I'm so confused, and wouldn't be able to avoid listening to me just by saying he doesn't want to talk about it.

And all I say out loud is, "Sure. Whatever you say."

~~~~~~

I can already see everything I had with Izzy crumbling in front of me.

I had his trust - I was his number-one confidant. And he was mine - I wasn't afraid to tell him anything. He was there for me, no matter what my problem was - no matter when I needed help.

All he ever lets me see any more is that friendly, polite mask, and I'm driving myself crazy wondering what's underneath it that he's so intent on hiding from me. I can't stop thinking about how he was that night… His emotions were so open on his face, bright and visible in a way I'd never seen on him. So why does that have to lead directly into seeing less of him than I did before?

I slept with him. Screwed him. However you want to say it. I have dreams about his skin and his face and the way he felt. Normal? Maybe… The way I thought about Sora seems like such a pale, puny comparison.

Then again, I never had sex with Sora, did I?

Does he think about me like this? Does it keep him up at night, remembering my skin and the way I touched him? He's so intent on acting like nothing's wrong - it seems like he's pulling away from me more and more, and I don't know what to do about it.

I've never had this problem before. Izzy was my friend unconditionally, like I was his.

I've learned something from this experience. Two things, actually… Messing around with a friendship, especially a good one, is never a good idea.

And sex ruins everything.

~~~~~~

On the other end of the line, I can hear the phone ringing.

A week and a half after - as Izzy put it - the "occurrence". I'm not sleeping right, my schoolwork's suffering, and my coach has threatened to pull me off the starting line if I keep messing up.

I can't take this any more.

"Hello?"

"Hey Matt." I'm actually kind of amazed I can manage to sound so steady. "Got a moment?"

"Sure. What's up?" He sounds perfectly cool - lucky him. He didn't sleep with his best male friend.

Although that would probably make me feel worse, because I'm pretty sure I'm Matt's best male friend.

"I need to talk to you about something," I mutter, retreating into my room with the phone. My mom's out, dad's at work, and Kari's with some of her friends.

This is a rare chance for me: complete privacy.

"Tai, I can barely hear you. What's the matter?"

"I… uh…" It's hard to get the words out. I don't want to say it, but I have to tell someone. "I kinda… well… slept with Izzy."

Silence. Then Matt answers, in this deliberately level tone. "You had sex with Izzy."

It wasn't a question, but I answer, "Yeah," anyway.

More silence. "So… does that mean you're gay too?"

"No! I mean… I don't know." I flop down onto my bed, feeling another headache coming on. "I never thought about guys… I like girls. I look at them all the time… Hell, I was talking to Kerri Shigumi today, and I still can't help but stare at her chest. I'm telling you, they're the size of - "

"Tai." Matt sounds kind of annoyed with me. "Explain this to me. If you're not gay, why did you just have sex with Izzy?"

I was hoping he wouldn't ask that… "I don't know. It seemed like a good idea at the time…" I run a hand through my hair and let out a long breath. "Ever since we were talking about him looking at me like that, I've been thinking." Now we get to the part I didn't want him to hear. "I always wondered… because Sora didn't want me - was it something personal? Like people can't think of me that way? So… Izzy knows me even better than she did - and if he could think of me like that… I don't know… It gets complicated after that."

"I'm a little confused here, Tai." Matt's voice is flat. "It sounds an awful lot like you're saying Sora is the reason you slept with Izzy."

"Well, that's not what I was trying to say." How do I explain something like this? "Look, Matt… I liked Sora for a long time. Maybe that's because I need to be familiar with a girl before I can think of her seriously like that, or maybe Sora's the reason I need the familiar thing. I don't know. But the only person who knows me better than Sora did is Izzy. I've been starting to think about him ever since I found out he was gay, and it's been freaking the hell out of me, okay?"

"So you slept with him." At least his voice isn't so flat now…

"Yeah. I don't know why I did that… Like I said, it seemed like a good idea at the time." I sigh loudly. "And it wasn't bad… I mean, I've never done it before, but it seemed pretty amazing to me."

"Right." Matt almost sounds amused. "And what does Izzy think about this amazing sex you had?"

I wince. "I… don't actually know that part."

Once again, Matt is silent for a moment. "You don't know how Izzy feels about you having sex with him."

"You know, you don't need to keep repeating the sex thing."

"I'll repeat it as many times as it takes to get it through that thick skull of yours, Tai!" Now he sounds exasperated. "You had sex with Izzy! Sex. With Izzy. If you're not taking this seriously… well, you should be! He's your friend."

"I am taking it seriously!" Does he really think I'm not? I've been agonizing over this ever since it happened. "I don't know how Izzy felt about it because he didn't tell me, okay? He spent the whole morning acting like nothing had happened, and then when I did try to bring it up, all he says is 'let's not talk about it'. So what the hell am I supposed to do? Hang him from the ceiling by his toes until he talks?"

"Well, he has to feel something for you," Matt points out, in that quiet tone he uses when he knows he's right about something I haven't been willing to face yet. "Otherwise he wouldn't have let you do it."

The worst part about those words is that I have this sinking feeling they're probably true.

~~~~~~

If I've learned nothing else over these past few weeks… I've learned that being obsessed with your best friend sucks. Especially when he's not even looking twice at you any more.

Mom keeps checking me for a fever, and I think she and my dad have both come to the conclusion that I'm in love with some girl who's rejected me. I've gotten two different 'talks' over the past three days - one from each of my parents. And they're both way off, because I was never like this over Sora anyway.

Kari thinks I had a fight with Izzy. Which is a lot closer to the truth. If she's thinking wrestling, that is.

I've thought about apologizing at least a dozen times, and realize as many times that I don't know what I'm supposed to apologize for. If I could fix this by confessing that I was a jerk and asking for his forgiveness, I would've done it a long time ago.

I can't fix it. I don’t even know where to start.

And I really miss Izzy.

~~~~~~

"Don't you think that's too much ketchup?"

"Are you kidding? There's barely any on there?"

"Pass me the salt, please!"

"For your pizza? You're crazy!"

"Spare me the comments, and hand over the salt."

I frown down at my plate, letting everyone's banter go straight over my head. This is a really good place to eat - one of those restaurants that are a step or two up from fast food, but not even close to fancy. I'm a big fan of their spaghetti and meatballs most of the time.

Lately I'm not really all that hungry, though.

Beside me is Sora, and on her other side is Matt. They're currently arguing over salt, though they don't look all that serious about it. TK sits beside Matt, and Joe is two seats from him - criticizing the younger blond's use of ketchup on his chicken-burger. Kari's between TK and Joe, and on my other side…

Izzy. Naturally.

I spike a meatball with my fork, raise it to my mouth, and choke it down. It'll look suspicious if I'm not eating. I probably look suspicious enough, sitting here frowning down at my plate. Izzy makes polite conversation with Joe - when he's not ragging on TK - and the two of us haven't said more than a couple of sentences to each other since we all met here.

I'm going crazy. Slowly. Painfully. Every time he so much as moves I flinch back. Sora's giving me really funny looks, and I don't blame her. I don't think she knows yet, but if I keep acting like I am, she's going to before too long.

At least Matt's a good enough friend to keep it from her.

"Hey, Tai?" Joe gives me a curious look from just beyond Izzy. "Are you feeling all right? You haven't said much."

"Who… me?" I blink a bit, then fake a laugh. "Never felt better! Just a little… tired. That's all."

"You haven't eaten very much," Sora points out, eyeing my plate and giving me a speculative look. "Are you sure there's nothing bothering you?"

I make it a point not to look at Izzy, but I can feel his eyes on me, and it's making me tense up. "I just said so, didn't I? What, don't you think I'm telling the truth?"

"He's been like this for almost three weeks," Kari points out. "Mom thinks he's moping about something, but she can't figure out what."

Traitor. I frown at her. "Yeah, well, it's none of her business. Or yours."

"Or anybody else's," Matt points out, smoothly. "He told us to back off - so back off already."

Sometimes, he really is a good friend to have around in your time of need.

Conversation moves away from me, and I start tuning people out again. I don't feel much like socializing at the moment. Normally it helps, but tonight I'm not doing so well. I'd almost rather be back home moping and driving my parents crazy with complaints. Or out on the soccer field… working off some of that tension…

"Tai?" Sora's speaking in an undertone - so low I almost don't hear her myself. She leans toward me so her voice will be audible. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure. What's up?" I roll some spaghetti noodles onto my fork and lift them up to take a bite. I'll be paying for this meal after all - I'm going to eat at least some of it.

She keeps her voice low. "Are you homophobic?"

I choke on my noodles.

Sora watches with concern as I cough uncontrollably, and then gulp down some water quickly. Did she just ask what I think she asked…? "Am I what!?"

"Well… you seem so uncomfortable around Izzy lately…" That worried expression hasn't left her face. "You two were so close - I just thought maybe…"

I can't believe this… "Well, you thought wrong, okay?"

"Tai… you know, if you are, it's okay. We'll still be your - "

"But I'm not!"

"Really, it's not such a big deal if you are." She's either not listening, or she thinks I'm lying for some reason. "You can tell me."

I really can't take this - any of this. After all the stress I've put on myself the past three weeks… "I am not homophobic!" I bellow at her, at the top of my lungs.

The table goes completely silent, and everyone turns to stare at me.

Oh, wonderful. Isn't this great?

Five seconds later, Matt starts laughing out loud.

Sometimes, he really isn't such a good friend to have around.

"Tai?" he chokes out, around his laughter. "Homophobic?"

Sora looks puzzled. "What's so funny?"

"Shut up," I mutter across the table, glaring at the snickering blond.

"Oh, man!" Matt's still chuckling, wiping at his eyes as if someone just told him one of the world's funniest jokes. "I can't believe you thought that! Tai - homophobic!"

"I mean it, Matt…" I can feel my temper rising. "Shut up."

He ignores me. "The only way you could possibly be farther from homophobia is if you accused Izzy of it!"

I jump to my feet, knocking my chair down. I can't take this any more - at all. I don't even want to be here, with Matt laughing and Sora thinking I'm homophobic, everyone else staring in confusion, and Izzy so silent and far away - even right beside me. "This should cover my meal," I snarl out, tossing a twenty onto the table. "Have a great night. I'm going home."

Then I turn and stalk out, ignoring the strange looks people around the restaurant are giving me.

I wait until I'm around the side of the building where there aren't any windows for people to watch me from, and then I give the stone wall a good, solid, frustrated kick.

"ARGH!"

That feels really good.

It's not so great for my foot, though… I think I might've stubbed my toe. Limping back home is not going to be all that pleasant. But it was worth it. I've needed to give some unoffending inanimate object a nice angry kick for the past three weeks.

I feel a little foolish now, though… I just snapped at my friends for no real reason. Why did I do that? "Why the hell did I just do that?" I mutter, out loud. Ever since that thing with Izzy… I can't concentrate, and I'm always in a bad mood. All I can think about is him… What gives, anyway? "What's wrong with me!?"

"Tai?"

I glance up quickly. I know that voice… "Izzy? What are you doing out here?"

He approaches cautiously. It's dark out, but he skin's pale enough that it almost catches light from the street lamps and the moon. I can see him clearly enough, anyway - it makes something inside me jump, and I'm not too sure why. Feels like I'm dancing along the edge of it… "I came out to ask if you were okay? You were behaving strangely."

Oh yeah. I'm fine - really. Just slept with my best friend, and can't stop thinking about him now… but I'm doing great. "To tell you the truth, no I'm not." I smile, without putting much into it. "I guess I just miss you."

"I haven't gone anywhere." Izzy stops a short ways away from me, looking at me quizzically.

"No," I agree, "but you're not really all there when I'm talking to you either. We know each other too well for that sort of thing, right?" And I know him well enough not to have to stare to see what he looks like - but… he's so… I don't know. But I don't stop staring.

He looks down, and sighs - just a slight exhalation. I can only faintly make out the color on him; it's like he stepped out of a black and white picture. "I hadn't meant to shut you out."

"I know, but could you do me a favor and let me back in?" I keep gazing at him, thoughtfully. He almost seems outlined, in this kind of dim lighting… As if someone darkened the edging around him. His features seem to stand out - it looks good. "I'm going nuts here."

He meets my gaze again and gives me a serious look, eyes more dark than usual with the soft light making his face seem so pale. "I'll make it a high priority."

I can't stop looking at him… Seems like forever since we really talked. Even longer since I've seen him give me some range of emotion. I stare at his face, and all I can think about is how it looked when… when… "Izzy?"

"Yeah?"

I stop thinking - one second I'm standing more than a foot away from him, and the next I'm right up close, grabbing his shoulders and pressing my lips to his in a desperate parody of a kiss.

And this time I don't have any excuses for it. I just… want to.

I want him.

He's still for a few tense seconds - from shock, probably - and then he yanks free, pushing me back with both hands. "Wh… What was that!?"

"You lied to me back then, didn't you?" I'm amazed at how steady my voice sounds. So many weeks of confusion and self-torture, and now… "If I were interested… It wouldn't make a difference. You'd turn me down the same way Sora did."

He stares at me, eyes huge. "But…" he begins, in a shaky sort of voice. "Speaking logically, this doesn’t make any sense. You can't be interested in me - you're not gay."

"Don't start with the logic thing," I warn him. "Do you think it makes sense to me? I've never wanted to be with any guys. But I did sleep with you, and you're definitely a guy - I can swear to it now. And you know what? I'd do it again."

Izzy's mouth works, but for a moment the only sound he can seem to make is this pathetic sounding squeak. "Just what are you saying!?" he demands, when his vocal cords start working again. His voice is cracking horribly.

I'm not too sure how to answer that… So I blurt out the first thing that comes into my head: the way I had planned to let Sora know, two years ago. "Want to go to Matt's concert with me?"

He looks at me like I've sprouted two extra heads. "Tai, I have no idea what you're talking about. Matt doesn't have any concerts coming up."

"It's supposed to be symbolic! You know - parallels and all that…" All I'm getting is a blank stare. I let out a frustrated breath. And he's supposed to be a genius? "I'm asking you out."

"But…" He really seems to love that word… And he's got that strange look in his eyes from that night - mixed in with a lot of hurt and confusion and something like longing… I can definitely recognize that last one - I spent a few weeks in its company, without even knowing what it was. "Why? Why me - and why all of a sudden? I don't understand."

I know how that goes, too. "Because I want to. Because I like myself most when I'm around you, and because I can't even spend three weeks without you. Oh, and because I spend about ninety-five percent of my time now thinking about how I want to jump you."

"But - "

"Izzy, if you say 'but' one more time, I won't be responsible for my actions." Anyway, if anyone should be asking why here, it should be me… Why's he being so damn difficult? "I don't know why I fell for you. I just did. Isn't that enough?"

The look in his eyes as he stares at me is one I really can't place - but it's definitely enough to make me swallow hard, and search through my brain frantically for something else to say. What'd I do? Did I mess up? He's not saying anything…

"Hey, Tai! Are you guys still out here?"

My head jerks up - I hadn't noticed anyone coming outside. That's Sora's voice… Great. Maybe if I don't say anything, she won't notice that we're still -

"Oh, there you are!"

Just my luck. I grimace. "What is it?"

Sora glances briefly at Izzy, who's still looking odd and staring at me, then turns her attention back to me. "I wanted to apologize for what I said back there. I had no right to assume that about you."

"It's okay." I glance over at Izzy myself. I have to get rid of her somehow… He still hasn’t answered me, and I somehow don't think I'll get an answer if she's around… "Don't worry about it - just go back inside and enjoy your food."

"Aren't you coming?"

Can she not take a hint? "No, I've got something to talk about with Izzy. Go ahead without me."

She turns - then hesitates, and looks back. "Are you sure you don't mind what I said? I mean, I did accuse you of - "

"Yeah, yeah, we're cool." I wave at her impatiently. "Hurry up and go eat." As she doesn't seem inclined to immediately do what I say, I walk over, take her by the shoulders, and steer her in the direction of the door.

"I've finished eating," she protests, looking back at me.

"Well, go in and talk to everyone else." I really don't care what she does, as long as she leaves us alone long enough for me to get Izzy's reply out of him. "I'm sure you've got lots of things to say to - "

"Hey guys." Matt steps out the door, raises an eyebrow at us as I stop shoving Sora toward him, and offers a small grin. "What's going on?"

"Well, I was just apologizing…"

"And I was telling her it's fine." I stress the word, frowning at the blond. "So you two can just head back on inside, and - "

"No, really, it's okay!" TK follows his brother out the door, busily arguing with Kari as he does. "I don't mind paying - besides, it's not that much more. I got paid just a couple days ago."

"I have my own money, you know!" Kari replies, giving him a good-natured glare.

"Would you guys stop arguing? You're giving me a headache!" Joe adjusts his glasses irritably, and glances over at Sora and me. "What are you two doing?"

I resist the urge to scream. And to punch the wall. Or kick it. "Nothing, I guess."

Matt looks around. "Hey, where's Izzy?"

I grimace; I left him back around the other side of the building when I was trying to get rid of Sora. "He's - "

"Over here."

I turn. Izzy's walking over to join us - looking rational again. "I was just talking with Tai, and now I have a question for you, Matt." He glances sideways at me, then focuses on the blond instead.

Is that a good sign? I know I'm sweating - it's making me more nervous than ever now, being around him. I really want to know what his answer will be.

There's more than just me wanting him, here… This is Izzy I'm talking about, not some random girl. He's my best friend. I can't just replace him if I lose him now.

It's seriously starting to scare me.

Matt doesn't appear to notice my inner turmoil. "Sure. Shoot."

Izzy doesn't waste any time. "When exactly is your next concert?"

Okay. That got my attention. Could he be talking about…?

"My next concert?" Matt repeats, and blinks. He was obviously not expecting that. "In about two months. Why?"

There's an odd shyness in the way Izzy's mouth edges upward a little more at the corners. "Well… because… my boyfriend's really interested in taking me to one of your concerts, so I thought it might be a good plan to have some idea of when the next one is."

For the second time that night, everyone goes quiet.

No one - and I mean no one - can possibly be more shocked than I am. His… his… Wait just a minute! Does he mean…?

"You've got a boyfriend?" TK's eyes are as wide as saucers. "Since when?"

"How come you never told us?" Kari demands, looking just as stunned.

Matt's expression is openly puzzled - he glances at me as if searching for an answer, then frowns at Izzy. "Well, don't just stand there - tell us. Who's the lucky guy?"

I can't stand it any more. I'm standing here probably looking like some dull-witted fish with my mouth open the way it is, and Izzy's smiling away and purposefully not looking at me, and… I duck in front of him, blocking out everyone else for the moment. "You mean you're agreeing?"

He looks up at me with that enigmatic little smile, and nods once. "I considered the request carefully, and have come to the conclusion that the benefits far outweigh the drawbacks - if in fact there are drawbacks. I'll have to test the situation out, and then I'll get back to you on that."

For another full moment, I just gape at him. This… can't be…

But it is.

"YES!" I let out this crazy shout, thrust a fist into the air triumphantly, and then - in front of our confused and startled friends - throw my arms around Izzy's waist, lift him at least a couple inches off the ground, and plant an ecstatic and thoroughly inept kiss on his still-smiling lips.

And I couldn't care less about the shocked silence around us.

Izzy's mine!

I like the sound of that…

"Tai's dating Izzy!?"

"But Tai's not gay!"

"When did this happen!?"

"How come I'm always the last to know these things?"

Izzy's smile only gets wider as he breaks our kiss. "Sounds like we have a few questions to answer."

"They can wait," I reply without hesitation, and lean in to kiss him again.

Something tells me I'll be doing a lot of this from now on.

~~~~~~

I'm not gay… at least, I still don't think so. But I'm in love with my best friend, who happens to be a guy.

Doesn't that sound messed up?

My whole perspective's changed on this now that I'm happy. Odd, huh? When you're happy, it's harder to give a damn what other people think.

It's crazy… thinking that just a short while ago, I was so frustrated that I couldn't even sleep right. Dating Izzy's definitely had a good effect on me, and I've only just started. Hell, Izzy's always had a good effect on me - but now I can talk to him and sleep with him. And everything in between.

I'm liking this. A lot.

I'm sixteen years old, I've had crushes on two of my good friends, I'm dating one of them, and who the hell would want to get over something that good?

Introversion isn't exactly my favorite mood, anyway. The less time I spend looking at my thoughts and actions and wondering what they mean, the better. Especially after what I've put myself through until just recently. I'd much rather head over to Izzy's, talk him into an early evening movie when I should be doing homework, and spend at least half the show making out at the back of the theater.

Life doesn't get much better than this.

 

The End