"The summer festival dance?" Hikari looked surprised, and honestly, Iori didn't blame her. He didn't normally go to dances - they really weren't the sort of thing he enjoyed. To be perfectly honest, he was about half convinced that he was losing his mind.
Or rather, what was left of it.
"I told Daisuke I would keep him company," he admitted, and stirred his straw half-heartedly in the gradually melting milkshake in front of him. "Since the rest of you have dates, and he didn't want to have to go alone."
That may not have been the right thing to say, but Iori wasn't sure he liked where the conversation was going. He hadn't intended to join Hikari for ice cream and milkshakes - the visit was supposed to be a solo trip - but she'd been there anyway and somewhere during the pleasantries, the promise Daisuke had dragooned him into making had come out. Not that she wasn't going to find out at some point anyway... The dance was only a day away.
"Oh." Hikari gave him one of those looks - the guilty, almost pitying ones. He was getting very tired of that look - for some reason, he got it a lot lately. It was frustrating being the youngest in the group. "We didn't mean to leave anyone out - I could cancel my date..."
"No need to bother." Iori wasn't sure it was a good idea to tell her that her date wasn't the one anyone cared about. Miyako cared about Koushiro's date with Mimi, Daisuke (and himself, not that he'd told many people) cared about Miyako's date with Takeru, and Jun's date with Jyou had been what started this whole mess in the first place.
Things would have been much simpler if Daisuke had just left things well enough alone.
"Well... if you're sure." Hikari didn't look convinced. Iori had noticed that she could be hard to deal with when it came to this sort of thing. If you didn't tell her that something had nothing to do with her, she'd keep trying to "fix" things. It was a nice enough sentiment, but it could become awkward, too.
"Very sure. You'll want to have a good time with Ken, anyway." Iori pretended to concentrate on his milkshake then. "He doesn't get out enough, or so I've been told." And never mind the fact that he'd been told the same thing about himself - thank you very much, Daisuke. "Don't get too caught up in Miyako's scheming, anyway."
Hikari smiled a bit, looking rueful. "Oh, I'll try not to. I did promise to be moral support, though." She took a bite of ice cream. "I guess I'll have to try and do that without getting too involved."
Iori only wished he'd been smart enough to do the same.
It wasn't unusual for Daisuke to come bounding into someone's house, give whoever answered the front door a quick greeting, and then barge into the room of whichever friend he was visiting without knocking. It really wasn't.
But it was unusual for him to bother Iori in such a manner. Normally he assaulted Takeru or Ken when he was upset. So the younger boy was more than a little startled when his work on the book report that was due after summer break was interrupted by his boisterous older friend suddenly flinging open the door, letting himself in, and slamming it behind him as he collapsed backwards on Iori's bed.
"It's not faaaaaaair..." He moaned, long and dramatic, and let one arm flop over his eyes.
Iori blinked - once, twice. Then he turned properly in his chair to face his unexpected visitor. "Can I help you, Daisuke?" he asked, a bit dryly.
Daisuke's head turned sideways to face him, the arm sliding a bit out of the way so he could see. "Iori, why do girls always go for Takeru instead of me? Seriously." He let the arm flop down onto the bed with obvious annoyance. "Every time I like a girl, it's like she automatically gravitates to him instead. What is it about that guy? Is he like put on this earth to be my nemesis or what?"
Oh, wonderful. Just what I need. Iori sighed. "Daisuke, you've liked a grand total of one girl, and she and Takeru aren't even involved. What is your problem now?"
"Dude, this isn't about Hikari!" Daisuke sat up abruptly, his expression petulant. "Why does everyone think I'm still in love with her? Do I really seem that desperate? Or actually, never mind, don't answer that." He sank back down again. "I don't want to know."
That makes two of us. Iori really wasn't eager to find out what was going on in Daisuke's somewhat bizarre mind. "Isn't there someone else who might be better to talk to about this sort of thing? Like maybe Ken, or - ?"
"I can't talk to Ken. He's in on the whole thing." Daisuke shifted on the bed, obviously agitated. "Or, okay, maybe he's not, but still, he's got his big date with Hikari to worry about. Man!" That seemed to distract him for a moment. "I never would've guessed, those two. Seems so weird."
"Ken and Hikari?" That was certainly news to Iori. He wasn't sure he would've guessed either. "I hadn't heard that they were an item."
"They're not - at least, I don't think so. Who knows?" Daisuke shrugged, as best he could while lying on his back. "It was some big thing Miyako came up with." At that, his face settled into a frown again. "Part of it, anyway. Do you know what's going on now? Huh?"
Iori suppressed another sigh. "I assume you'll tell me, one way or another."
"Okay. I fixed up Koushiro with Mimi - it was like a favor, almost." Daisuke rolled over onto his stomach, and his voice took on a defensive note. "I mean, the guy's had it bad for her for how long now? Like, years or something. And they say I'm desperate - sheesh! Anyway, where was I?"
"I don't know, Daisuke." The urge was too great - Iori let the sigh out, and turned back to his book report. He was never going to get back to it if he kept trying to make sense of this conversation. "Why don't you just - ?"
"Oh yeah!" Daisuke snapped his fingers, ignoring what Iori had been about to say. "Koushiro and Mimi. Okay, so I fixed them up for that dance on Friday. It was all part of my big master plan, see, to get Miyako to go out with me. 'Cause if Koushiro's not available, then - "
"Miyako?" Iori jerked upright, losing his train of thought. He hadn't expected that...
"Yeah, Miyako - I like her, okay?" Oddly, Daisuke sounded somewhat embarrassed. It didn't stop him from continuing to jabber on, though. "Anyway, I was all set to ask her to be my date for the dance, but she goes ahead and gets Takeru to take her before I can make my big move! How totally uncool is that?"
Iori wasn't terribly concerned with 'uncool' - more with the sudden ache that had risen at the back of his throat. He swallowed, trying to force it down, but it only seemed to get worse. "Takeru and Miyako?" His voice cracked a bit.
Okay, so he had known that it was hopeless - it still hurt, though.
Daisuke didn't seem to notice his reaction. "I mean, sure she forced him into it, but still. Things happen on dates. Right?" There was a shifting noise as if he were moving around on the bed again; Iori couldn't tell for sure since his gaze was fixed more on the wall just beyond his desk. "What if those two get all sappy and mushy and decide they want to be together forever? Then what am I supposed to do?"
The same thing I'm doing, I expect. Iori decided it was not worth the trouble it'd take to say that out loud. He tried to push the hurt feeling from his mind. "Why not just find another date and try to have fun anyway?"
Not that he could follow his own advice.
"Oh, I'm getting another date." Daisuke's voice was at once determined and stubborn. "You."
Oh, for crying out loud... Iori took all of 10 seconds to be shocked, and then turned in his seat again to fix his friend with a flat stare. "You had better be kidding me."
"Dude, not like that or anything! I mean, we should go together and hang out with everyone so nothing happens between Takeru and Miyako." He seemed to think that was a brilliant plan, already nodding away with a satisfied look on his face. "Like, make it a group thing, and then maybe I can get a dance with her and try to get her to fall in love with me instead. What do you say?"
No. No, no, and no. It was a terrible idea. No matter what, he was just going to get hurt. He should not be interfering with Miyako's happiness and wrecking her date. He should be staying at home. And maybe Takeru and Miyako would be happy together, and... and... fall in love, and get married, and...
"Yeah, I'll go with you," Iori heard himself answer.
"You will? Really?" Daisuke looked thrilled. "Dude, that's awesome! This is gonna be perfect!"
Mentally, Iori gave himself a smack upside the head. It's going to be a perfect something, that's for sure...
"You know, Iori," Hikari said, shifting the rest of the ice cream in her bowl around to one side, "I'm a little surprised that Daisuke managed to talk you into going at all." Her soft brown eyes rose to regard him curiously. "You're usually too - "
"Practical," Iori filled in for her, after a short pause. Don't I know it. If only I could stay practical long enough to tell Daisuke to keep his half-baked plans to himself.
"I guess that's the word I was looking for," Hikari agreed, shrugging a bit. "Anyway, what I meant to say is that you don't usually let Daisuke or anyone else get you involved in these sorts of events. Was there something that changed your mind?"
She looked so genuinely concerned - open and trustworthy and ready to listen - that Iori almost told her everything. He'd told Koushiro, of course, but it would've been so nice to get the whole thing out in the open. It seemed like he was the only one who hid these things from others - the only one who had to hide them; he was so much younger, and, well... it would seem like a bother. But here was Hikari, and she'd certainly listen to him if he needed to talk. She'd be sympathetic, too. And might possibly even have some advice...
There you go getting your hopes up again. That really wasn't good for him. Iori clamped down on the thought, and the urge to tell Hikari about his hidden crush faded. "Nothing important," he said, and focused his attention on the milkshake.
Hikari was tactful enough to take the hint. "Well, just stay with us - we'll try to make sure you have a good time," she told him, and quickly checked her watch. "I should be getting back home. Miyako wanted to take me shopping when she finished her shift at the store."
"All right. I'll see you later, then." His own milkshake was still more than half full, so he stayed seated as Hikari got up and took her tray to the garbage.
He needed some time to think, anyway. Obviously he hadn't been doing enough of that lately - at least, not before he acted.