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Shibiyama Junpei could tell anyone the exact moment he fell in love with Orimoto Izumi.

 

He was twelve and she eleven. The Trailmon they had boarded on with Tomoki had been nothing more than an instrument with which to solve their summer boredom with. 

 

Her long blonde hair tumbled down her back and her careful inspection of her phone charming in a strange way he couldn’t express.

 

Yes, he could remember the exact moment he fell in love with her.

 

The moment her eyes lifted from her phone and traveled across the train compartment they currently resided in. Her green gaze held a sort of closed off intelligence that stole his breath way. Her eyes had lingered on him for but a second but it felt as if time slowed down for him. It might as well have been only her and him on the Trailmon, far as his heart was concerned at the moment. 

 

Of course time only makes the heart grow fonder and being able to fight at her side and speak to her only strengthened his affections.

 

Everything about her was unexpected and new. She could rough and tumble with them, but for the longest time it felt like something was holding her back. Like she wasn't really comfortable in her own skin.

 

She ate her fair share of food when they stopped to eat, and slept beside them on the forest floor each night before their bodies realized they didn't even need sleep.

 

She normally didn't laugh when the others spoke, more often she laughed to little comments she'd murmur to herself when she didn't realize he could hear her. Most of it was in Italian, but it was beautiful... even though looking back on it she swore quite a bit.

 

By the time their adventure ended and the shock of losing a part of himself he had only just grown to know settled in he was well past the point of smitten.

 

The sinking feeling of going back to not having friends after this, of returning to an unchanged time as a new person from his stay in the digital world was enough to make him cry.

 

Kouji and Takuya led the way to Kouichi’s hospital room and the fear of losing all of his friends paled in comparison to one of them dying.

 

They all cried together and took turns embracing Kouichi. He'd never seen Izumi cry before that day. And he'd only allowed himself to cry twice in front of others before that.

 


 

Junpei knew how to admire a wonderful day with the girl you liked. Had poured over countless manga and romantic comedy films in his time. 

 

He was fourteen and she thirteen. The Digital World physically long behind them, but emotionally close to their hearts.

 

Izumi laid with him in the soft grass of the park. Junpei felt as though he was floating upon a green cloud.

 

The sun was warm against his face, upon his lips a kiss of joy.


He couldn’t remember the last time he’d actually spent this much alone time with her. Maybe in a past life- a past life when he had been moss and Izumi rock. Maybe that one would get a laugh out of her?

 

He spent a moment admiring the clouds above before looking over Izumi again.

 

Her purple shorts were baggy and her blue and white shirt had a single tiny breast pocket in the shape of a heart. She was effortlessly cute in the worst way possible for his psyche. Even with a hairband around her neck like the tackiest necklace there was an elegance to her.

 

An unattainable princess.

 

He musters up the will to speak.

 

“Izumi chan do you ever think about what it’d be like to get married?” Izumi lazily kicked her feet in the air. Her intelligent green eyes framed with long, golden eyelashes. They fluttered against her soft face like the beating of a butterfly’s wings.

 

“Hm…” Junpei tore his eyes away from her to stare up at the endless blue sky.

 

His face felt hot and his palms grew uncomfortably sweaty.

 

“I think it’d be nice to get married,” he pressed on, heart hammering harshly against his chest. “Falling in love- staying in love. They have the prettiest flowers at weddings, you know?”

 

"It's summer. Summer always makes me think of weddings... is that weird?"

 

He could feel Izumi’s eyes on him. The weight of her gaze garnered a flush against his wishes.

 

Izumi in white, sitting in a field of wild flowers with him. In the distance several rookie form Digimon run about. She laughs as a friendly Poyomon nuzzles her face. It settles it's slimy body in her lap and she pets it. A smile lighting up her beautiful face. She turns her head to him and blinks open her stunning sapphire eyes.

 

Junpei's brain skips a beat. Izumi had green eyes not blue. He quickly rectifies his mistake and it's Izumi's shinning emerald eyes. But there's a hollow look in them. Even with his edits it felt as if something was off. But he clings to the dream with everything he has.

 

And just as suddenly as her eyes were on him they shifted back to the soccer field. Junpei breathed a sigh of relief.

  

The color in his cheeks faded and just when he’s certain the conversation’s over Izumi speaks.

 

“I don’t think I’ll ever get married.” he sat up quickly, brown eyes wide. The image in his head went down in flames.

 

“Huh? Why do you think that?”

 

A wry smile formed upon her pretty lips. Her next words sent a chill through him.

 

“I wonder why?”  

 

She squints off into the distance, where the others are playing soccer together and frowns.

 

He sees a dark haired shape go down hard and he winces in sympathy.

 

“Kouichi chan!” Izumi’s up and on her feet and taking off before Junpei can even blink in the direction of the soccer field.

 

Izumi’s unfairly fast, long blonde hair whipping around in the breeze.

 

When Izumi arrives, Kouichi’s on her knees, white pants grass stained.

 

Izumi’s kneeling to her level and inspecting her for injuries by the time Junpei catches up to her.

 

“It’s my knee. I just fell and skinned it, I swear! No need to worry.” Izumi tuts and pulls a band aid out of her shorts pockets.

 

“You’re lucky I’m always prepared.”

 

Takuya snorts at the display.

 

“There’s no way you have antiseptic-” Izumi retrieved a bottle from her other pocket.

 

Takuya groaned, head tipping back to beseech the sky.

 

“Oh come on!”

 

“What’s that? I could’ve sworn I just heard you doubting me for a second there, Takuya.”

 

“No. No of course not, dear .”

 

Kouichi snorts at the display, waving the two off of each other.

 

“Don't you think that's enough?”

 

"Are you okay, Kouichi chan?" he asks, hesitant as ever to ask about her well being.

 

"Yeah, I'm fine, Junpei." She smiles up at him, face sweaty. She allows Izumi to fuss over her for a moment longer before hushing the other girl.

 

"I'm fine. I'm fine, Izumi chan. I know I always have you and Kouji watching over me."

 

Junpei offers her a hand, regretful he couldn't get there faster. She grips his hand and he hoists her up as carefully as possible. 

 

She dusts herself off and thanks him. He knows Izumi could have easily done the same, but he refused to stand around like an ass when he can easily do something.

 

He gets the okay to return to his seat, the others insisting he could relax a while longer and join them in another game.

 

After another short match Kouji separates from the others and ambles towards him.

 

Kouji plopped down next to him, graceful as ever. He’d grown more talkative and just the slightest bit easier to read over the years, but Junpei couldn’t understand what was going through his head at that moment. 

 

He knows why he's sitting out this game, and as much as the others had reassured him it didn't matter, he'd gained a few pounds that month that left him just on this side of self conscious. At least they still made sure to include him in other ways.

 

But the reason as to why Kouji had stopped playing when he seemed to have been having fun was as much of a mystery to him as a 1,000 piece puzzle.

 

He'd seemed distracted in this last match, maybe he had a headache? Hopefully it wasn't heat stress.

 

Kouji's shoulders were set with a finality only displayed in leaders. His sunshine yellow shirt clung to him, dampened with sweat.

 

Probably not heat stress.

 

“Kouji! What are you doing? Aren’t you gonna keep playing, man?” Takuya stood in the middle of the field, hands on his hips. Tomoki laughed at his side, arms wrapped tight around the ball.

 

Up close Junpei could see the way his friend’s shoulders tensed up at the inquiry.

 

“I’d rather sit with Junpei than listen to you complain about twin telepathy .” sky blue eyes peeked at him. “Is that okay?” was said much softer than his previous words.

 

Junpei flashed him a grin, broader shoulders shrugging.

 

“It’s cool with me.”

 

“Okay. Cool.” his shoulders relaxed, tension slowly seeping out of his back.

 

“Come on Tomoki let’s kick these girls’ butts!” the youngest friend of their group let out a crow of agreement, bouncing on the balls of his feet.

 

The girls laughed as they shared a look, nodding in sync.

 

Takuya and Tomoki proceeded to get absolutely destroyed in the next friendly match of soccer. 

 

Tomoki had to take it upon himself to cover his ears to block out the creative curses flowing from Takuya.

 

“We’re gonna get ice cream you want any guys?” Izumi looked as (near) immaculate as always, especially highlighted by the sweaty forms of the others. She combed out her lightly tangled hair and retied it up in a high pony tail.

 

Kouichi looked a little worse for wear but she was smiling, red cheeked and hair pushed back and out of her face by a simple purple hair band. Though not Izumi’s brand of cute, Kouichi managed to be effortlessly cute as well.

 

She was a serious, charming girl with a silly side only brought out in full in the company of friends. She was a little paler than Kouji, but she'd just gotten over a cold not that long ago. Dark eyebrows, a soft face, plump lips, and soft, dark hair. It was a shock she didn't have hordes of admirers. 

 

Takuya’s entire yellow shirt appeared to have went darker with sweat, now a strange shade of mustard. His hair, if reluctantly, was tied back into a low ponytail.

 

Tomoki looked the worst of the trio, bent over panting and hair sticking up in all directions. He'd never really done well with the heat after their stay in the Digital World.

 

“No. I’m fine.” Junpei smiled, sweat trickling down the back of his neck.

 

Takuya shrugged and turned his attention to Kouji.

 

“What about you, mystery man?”

 

Kouji dug through his sweat pants pockets for his wallet, opened his mouth and finally turned to his sister.

 

“Nee chan can you please get Junpei and I a sundae to share?” Kouichi’s face flushed with happiness and she nodded.

 

“Sure thing, Kouji.” Takuya fumed, arms flailing around exaggeratedly.

 

“Are you kidding me? Do you not trust me with your wallet? I thought we were best friends!” Kouji and Takuya had a mini stare off for several moments.

 

“I would trust Shinya in a candy store with my wallet more than I would trust you.”

 

It’s tense for about six seconds before they all laugh. Takuya bends over to flick Kouji in the forehead with a gloved index finger.

 

“I’ll remember this.”

 

In the distance Junpei watched in absent amusement as Kouichi blocked her two most rowdy companions from their friendly squabble.

 

"Come on, now! They'll be all out by the time we get there slowpoke!" Izumi laughs at the affronted look on Takuya's face.

 

Takuya’s attempts to ram into Izumi ended up only colliding with Kouichi’s side.

 

Mostly friendly.

 

Tomoki giggles at their antics, doing his best to trip up Takuya and join in on the fun.


When the others return they all eat their ice cream together, laughing at nothing at all. 

Takuya had gotten himself a chocolate and hot fudge ice cream cone. Tomoki preferred frozen yogurt to ice cream and had three scoops of blueberry and vanilla. Izumi and Kouichi split what looked like a mix of raspberry sherbet, vanilla frozen yogurt, and strawberry ice cream. They shared a spoon and laughed together as it steadily melted in the heat.

 

Kouichi had gotten them a chocolate and vanilla sundae with bananas, caramel, and nuts. They both got their own spoon and Kouji insisted he finish "this thing" with him.

 

Eventually the others took off for the night, Takuya walked Tomoki home, soccer ball in hand. The girls gave out hugs and Kouichi pressed a quick kiss to her twins cheek as they parted. They always walked home together, their homes within a short walking distance to each other. Kouichi took Izumi's hand and swung it between them.

 

"I bet you can't avoid all the cracks in the side walk while you're holding my hand." Izumi giggled.

 

"You're on!" Before they were fully out of sight, Junpei watched as Kouichi did her best to avoid every crack while Izumi tugged her from side to side.

 

Only Kouji remained, watching fluffy clouds drift over head. And soon enough the sun cast long shadows over the park and receded again. 

 

Through it all they lay there in companionable silence. Kouji’s familiar form a reassuring presence at his side.

 

When he looked over at the other boy a feeling of sympathy overcame him. The sun seemed to have flushed his cheeks pink.

 


 

As with all long termed love, Junpei felt heart break plenty. Just as often as Izumi made him feel like he was floating, she left him feeling like he'd sink to the ocean's deepest depths.

 

He was seventeen and she sixteen. They'd both grown into their awkward adolescence. Izumi emerged a beautiful butterfly and he, as himself.

 

“I don’t know why she doesn’t like me. We’ve known each other since we were kids. I’m a boy and she’s a girl… it’s all there… right?”

 

Kouji crossed his arms over his chest, eyes locked onto a fixed point Junpei didn’t have the energy to trace.

 

His long hair shifted as he drew further in on himself.

 

“She’s not… you're not entitled to her just because you've known her the longest. She has her own feelings independent of you. And I get the feeling that maybe..” he trailed off, expression carefully schooled.

 

He cuts himself off and continues to push for his already established point.

 

“You know that right?”

 

The laugh that forced itself from his lungs was hollow. A question with a question. Classic Kouji.

 

“Of course she isn’t. She’s wonderful and I’m not. I just don’t understand…” Kouji refused to look at him and that hurt.

 

“All my life I thought I’d find a nice girl to marry. Preferably a childhood friend like you see in movies.” Kouji frowns, posture statuesque.

 

“You guys are the only friends I've ever really had. True friends. I don't have a lot of options…”

 

Junpei bangs his head off of his desk once, a dull thud resounding.

 

“I just… there's plenty to not like about me, I can admit that I'm self aware enough. I'm average looking, I'm nice enough but I'm not as outgoing as I want to be, I get too nervous talking to pretty girls… I'm just average. It hurts... not being too close to too many people because... Sometimes it feels like she avoids me even in platonic situations...” Junpei takes in a deep, shuddering breath.

 

"Sure, I want her to like me. But it doesn't even feel like she likes me."

 

He'd... gotten more friends over the years but it was still hard to fully connect with any of them compared to the others.

 

"Plenty of people in our year think you're attractive." Kouji says, but Junpei just scoffs. There wasn't any way he could be oblivious to a girl thinking he's cute. He's too aware of the way people look at him day to day. 

 

“And she doesn’t even think I’m funny. I can tell.” Junpei smushed his face further into his folded arms. The desk was cold against his chin, soothing his burning face.

 

Kouji was quiet from where he leaned against a desk just to the right of him.

 

The silence spanned several moments. Perhaps several minutes or hours. Junpei wasn’t sure and in all honesty it didn’t matter in the grand scheme of life but it mattered then . He’s sure Kouji must have left him to sink deeper into his teenage despair.

 

The thought almost upsets him more than the idea of Izumi never returning his feelings.

 

“Well I think you’re funny.” the words were soft, coupled with a hesitant hand settling against his shoulder.

 

Junpei stared at him for a long moment, breathless as tears welled up in his eyes. Before he knows it he’s laughing, the cloud of angst clearing around his heart.

 

Kouji’s looking down at him with soft blue eyes, the faintest of smiles tugging his corners of his lips up.

 

“Come on. Come home with me tonight, you can eat dinner at my place.”

 

They walked home, Junpei cracking jokes as they went along.

 

Kouji laughed in that soft startled manner that never failed to make his chest warm in the best possible way.

 

Kouji pushed his door open, bracing against the ritual onslaught.

 

Akira tackled him with all the exuberance of a puppy. Her tail swung back and forth like the world’s fastest metronome.

 

“Yeah, yeah. I’m home demon dog.” He smiled at his childhood pet, despite the harsh words not a hint of malice existed in him in that moment.

 

“I brought your second favorite person too~” blindsided by her excitement she froze, at attention, sniffing the air.

 

Junpei laughed as she bounded over to him, dropping his bag off to the side to open his arms up for her.

 

She leapt up and he caught the medium sized dog in a careful embrace. He held her against his chest like a baby, her paws over his shoulders as she licked his cheeks and neck. And ear, that really tickled. 

 

"I missed you Aki chan! Have you been a good girl while I've been gone?"

 

She full body wiggled against him and let out a series of muted groans and grunts that weren't quite barks.

 

Kouji took his bag for him and they entered the house, Junpei carrying Akira. It was her second favorite way to be held, and left her bounding around with the exuberance and attitude of a young puppy.

 

Kouji's step Mother greets them from the kitchen, she's still dressed in her work clothes and checking the oven to see how the fish Kouji's Father put in earlier was fairing. 

 

Everyone washes up for dinner and Junpei entertains the Minamoto family throughout, joke after joke and Kouji and him share how their day went.

 

Kouji was never one to put his elbows on the table at home, but tonight he propped his chin in hand and hung onto every word Junpei said. He felt bad for his friend in that moment. He must've been more tired than he cared to let on and Junpei venting his insecurities must've taken what was left out of him for the day. 

 

 

“Junpei?” Junpei’s eyes find Kouji’s body in the dark. He’s laying on his back too, long inky black hair a halo across his pillow.

 

“Yeah?”

 

He’s quiet for a long enough time Junpei’s almost certain that he’s fallen asleep until his next few words break the silence blanketing them.

 

“Earlier you said you always expected this and that to happen in life. I never took you as the kind of guy to be complacent in life after that summer day.”

 

Junpei laughs, rolling onto his side, head resting on his fist.

 

“Just say you think I’m a big softie for being a romantic at heart already and be over with it.”

 

“I never said that. I just remembered when we were little and you would follow her around like a puppy.”

 

“I guess I did, huh? I used to dream about… never mind that.” Akira snores peacefully beside him, leg twitching every great while.

 

“You never really talk about her or what you like about her.”

 

"Well," Junpei begins, blushing in the darkness.

 

"I love how smart she is, how she doesn't hesitate to speak her mind most of the time, the soft side she only lets show around our friend group. I like her long hair." I like the way she laughs at my jokes. Except Izumi didn't, he'd just gotten upset about that earlier, and he'd feel very stupid blatantly contradicting himself in front of Kouji. 

So he concluded his explanation with a simple "I like that she's my friend."

 

 


 

 

 Junpei felt only joy the day Izumi finally was able to fully love him in return. 

 

He was seventeen and she sixteen.

 

“Junpei I need to tell you something.” Junpei looked up at her, head tilted.

 

“You can tell me anything.” The park bench was chilly under his thighs, seeping into his clothing. Summer and the warmer months would be upon them soon enough, he could see it in the trees and feel it in his toes.

 

Or maybe that was frostbite.

 

“You can tell me anything too, Junpei.” he hadn’t seen her stumble since they were little kids but the way she carefully toed around the conversation gave him the impression she was on the verge of tripping.

 

“Izumi chan just say it. When have you ever refused to speak your mind?” She shrugged, back turned to him.

 

“Remember that time you told Takuya his fly was down and it made you mad that he just went around like that in public with us?”

 

“Not my best moment but come on! That was ridiculous. Just zip up!”

 

“And what about that time you straight up told Kouji you honestly forgot he and Kouichi shared a birthday. So you had to e-excuse yourself,” he’s laughing harder than he has any right to be in all honesty. “To the bathroom and we all heard you jump out of the window.”

 

She laughed, shoulders bobbing up and down.

 

“Hey! Not cool! Not cool at all! I’m not here to talk about my blunders-”

 

“Izumi chan we literally saw you run past the front door. We could see you through the window you were a blonde and purple blur.”

 

They dissolved into peels of laughter and the amount of time it took to recollect themselves was longer than either of them would admit after the fact.

 

“But seriously. I need to talk to you. Talk to you about how I feel.”

 

Junpei’s eyes narrowed at her stiff form. Was there something going on at school?

 

“How you feel?”

 

“Yes. About you.”

 

Junpei’s head spun and he was reduced to repeating what she said, unthinking and tongue numb, he couldn’t believe himself.

 

“About me?”

 

“I need to get it off my chest. I’ve been meaning to tell you how I thought about you for the longest time now. But there was always something stopping me. I had a secret and you deserve to know.”

 

His heart hammered a violent tempo in his chest, the rumbling of thunder in the distance.

 

His cheeks flushed and he couldn’t look at her any longer.

 

There was no way she was confessing now?

 

Dio santo. Look: I’m in love.”

 

Junpei’s heart stopped beating.

 

“H-huh?”

 

“I’m in love and I can’t… I can’t have your feelings nipping at my heels.” with those words Junpei’s heart sunk to the pit of his stomach.

 

“Oh.”

 

“I’m actually in a relationship.”

 

“Oh… who is he?” For a brief moment his mind stumbled to the image of Kouji and Izumi strolling through the park arm in arm.

 

He mentally recoils.

 

Izumi flips her hair over her shoulder, the shimmering of butterfly wings reflecting flaxen sunlight.

 

“Kouichi chan.”

 

Sharing ice cream sundaes sticky and sweet in the summer heat, sharing clothes, sharing a heartbeat. Inside jokes and pinkie swears and smiles like crescent moons.

 

His head spins with the newfound revelation and had it not been for the park bench under him he’s sure he would’ve dropped to his knees.

 

“You can do that?” Izumi quirked a fine brow.

 

“Do what?”

 

“You know… A girl can..?” Izumi cocked a hip to the side, arms crossing over her chest.

 

“Yes, girls can like girls.” Junpei hung his head between his knees, suddenly sick with relief.

 

“I didn’t know that. Man am I relieved though.”

 

Izumi’s footsteps were so light he didn’t hear them until her purple sneakers were in front of his eyes.

 

“Why’s that?”

 

“I...” Junpei swallows, suddenly shy. “thought you were going to tell me you were dating Kouji.”

 

Izumi barked out a laugh.

 

“No. Never, wrong twin… Maybe in Takuya’s dreams.” Junpei lifted his head to stare up at her.

 

“...Inside joke. You weren’t there at the time and Kouji’s too embarrassed to let me bring it up any time he’s around.”

 

“So let me get this straight: you’ve never liked me and you never will?”

 

“No. Never.”

 

Sunlight peeked through the gaps of the Sakura trees. A gentle breeze blew them around, several brushing against Izumi’s cheek.

 

It wasn’t like anything he had ever imagined on his worst days. There were no great mutual confessions of love between Izumi and him. There were no wedding bells to chime. No red strings to pull on.

 

Izumi stood there unmoving against the breeze, expression unchanging.

 

Her fierce green eyes tore through his soul.

 

“I’m so happy for you, Izumi chan.” her shoulders slumped and a happy blush spread across her cheeks.

 

“Really?”

 

“Of course. I wasn’t expecting it… I didn’t think it was allowed, you know? But you always look so happy with her.”

 

Izumi toes the ground below her, scuffing her white and lilac sneaker up.

 

“I am. I really am.”

 

“I thought you and I had to be together. It’s… less pressure that’s for sure.”

 

“If it makes you feel better I used to think like that too, not with you obviously. Takuya was the subject of my repression crush.” Izumi perched on the edge of the bench beside him.

 

“T- ahhahha- Takuya?! No way.” the confession startles him and he’s unable to contain her laughter.

 

Izumi smiles her charming smile, teeth pearly white.

 

“I know. I know. It was awful.”

 

“What changed?” Izumi’s expression turned wistful, green eyes softening to a gentle bedding of moss.

 

“A lot of things. Looking back it started after we left the Digital World. She said I was the best friend she ever had. I told her she was my best friend. But I didn’t fully realize until later on.” Junpei leaned towards her, stars in his eyes.  “Hey now, it wasn’t anything mind blowing.”

 

“I still want to hear about it!”

 

“Remember when we were twelve? It was Kouji and Kouichi’s birthday and they were celebrating together. Takuya said something so stupid it made her snort peach soda out of her nose. She was wearing the green hoodie I got her. She was so pretty.”

 

“I know we’re young but I want to marry her someday.”

 

“That’s wonderful, Izumi chan!” Izumi curls up against his side, reluctant to leave despite the cold.

 

He wraps her up in a half hug and sighs. This felt nicer than any marriage daydream he’d had. This was real and she looked so relieved and happy. Like a weight was fully lifted from her and she could soar once more.

 

They watch their breaths appear in foggy clouds in front of their flushed faces. The soft sounds of early morning life serenaded them. Junpei was wont to interrupt the silence, but

 

“Izumi chan…?”

 

“Hmm.”

 

“Thank you for telling me. I’m… I’m really glad you felt comfortable enough to confide in me…”

 

“Oh, Junpei. I… I’ve always trusted you. But I just couldn’t like you like that. I couldn’t… I won’t break your heart and accidentally lead you on.”

 

“You were just sparing my feelings until now, right?”

 

“Yeah.” Izumi whispers, green eyes refusing to meet his.

 

“You didn’t do anything wrong. It’s, it’s funny but I feel like I really know you now. Like I was looking at your reflection and thinking that was actually you as you really were.”

 

“That’s how I felt about myself for years.”

 

Junpei presses a friendly kiss to the top of her head, gentle like a person handling a bird with a broken wing.

 

“You won’t ever have to feel like that again. We all love you so much.”

 

Izumi sighed, snuggling closer to him.

 

“You’re right… I don’t think I’ll ever have to feel like that ever again.”

 


 

Junpei could still feel how itchy his skin was when he fully admitted to himself his interests laid outside of Izumi.

 

He was eighteen and she seventeen. He'd come to terms with her sexuality and was happy to say with complete sincerity that he loved her dearly. As a sister.

 

It was probably the most liberating feelings outside of Digimon Evolution. To be so close to one of his dearest friends without anything painful in the way- Junpei couldn't say he'd ever been happier. But with that happiness a new feeling of dread welled up in him. His feelings for Izumi had transformed into something sweeter like honey, and at the same time a realization came to him that blue was his favorite color for a reason. Between the two ongoing states of mind Junpei's certain he's gotten whiplash from it all. 

 

He's sitting on Kouji's bed, clammy hands gripping Kouji's sheets. He's hunched in on himself a little, cheeks flushing. He feels dizzy and near euphoric.

 

Kouji's curled up a little, half leaned on his side, supported by his elbow and forearm. He'd ditched the uniform jacket and tie when they got home, white uniform shirt taking in late afternoon light. His long black hair is tied back in a careful french braid, several pieces of shorter hair framing his face. His jaw's sharper than his sister's and he's developed a habit of biting his lips when he's focused on something. 

 

"That girl. Uh," Junpei racks his brain for the name of the girl in their sister class. "Jun, she really seems to like you."

 

Kouji blinks slowly up at him. As if he can't believe he started a conversation about girls that wasn't about Izumi.

 

"So?"

 

"Well, don't you think you should have an idea about what you'll do if she confesses to you?" Junpei's skin prickles and he knows even though he's turned away from Kouji that he's looking at him.

 

"She already did."

 

"W-what?" Junpei asks, heart thundering in his chest. He feels like he'll explode at any second.

 

"I turned her down. She doesn't even know me."

 

"But-" Junpei lamely begins, he can't think of anything else to say. And he knows Kouji can sense it.

 

"But what, Junpei? I'm not going to date everyone that asks me out. I'm not obligated to return their feelings."

 

“She’s not… you're not entitled to her just because you've known her the longest. She has her own feelings independent of you. And I get the feeling that maybe..” 

 

Junpei bites his cheek nearly hard enough to draw blood.

 

"But, don't you think you should date a little?"

 

Kouji sits up and moves closer to Junpei.

 

"Do you... think I should be... dating? I didn't think you were so invested in my... love life."

 

"Yes. No. I don't know, Kouji. Don't you ever just- don't you ever feel like you're missing out on something?"

 

Junpei can feel the heat radiating from his palm before Kouji even lays his hand on his shoulder. It's electric.

 

"Are you okay?"

 

"I don't know."

 

Kouji wraps his arms around Junpei's chest, loose enough that he could easily break away, fragile enough he could feel just how anxious Kouji was.

 

Kouji never hugged Takuya like this, the only person other than him he'd hug was Kouichi. Junpei allowed himself to savor the embrace for a moment before he steeled his nerves. It was now or never.

 

After this he wouldn't ever have to wonder.

 

"Kouji, what if there was someone you knew that liked you, really liked you?"

 

"What's this about?" Junpei separated from him and turned earnest eyes onto Kouji.

 

"What if someone you knew really liked you. Would you at least listen to their confession?"

 

"I-"

 

"Kouji, please stop me if I'm wrong. We can forget this ever happened. Your friendships too important to waste... I just, I don't think I'm wrong but I can't go on wondering." Junpei turns to him fully, he wipes his sweaty palms on his pants as subtly as he can, and takes Kouji's hands into his own. Kouji's frozen in place, blue eyes wide. "I've been agonizing over this for awhile... I want things to be clear between us."

 

"You're so smart, you're kind to everyone even if they can't tell because they don't take the time to get to know you, you laugh at my stupid jokes, we have similar interests, we went through the Digital World together- we bonded- all of us- in a way most kids can't say they did. You always listen to me and you're comfortable enough to tell me what's bothering you most of the time. Your trust is invaluable..." Junpei takes in a deep breath, cheeks flushing.

 

"I just... I want to know if I could trust you just as much. I want to... Kouji, I want to trust you with my heart."

 

"You're such a fucking sap." Kouji says, voice thick and eyes moist.

 

"You finally admitted to that!" Junpei laughs, this is actually happening and Kouji isn't laughing at him. Isn't disgusted by him.

 

"You're an idiot."

 

"I'd like to be your idiot, would that be okay with you?"

 

Junpei's eyes flick down to Kouji's lips and he's biting them, worried red. 

 

If there's ever been any question of if he wants to kiss boys its answered now.

 

"Yeah. Okay, yeah."

 

He can't help the dopey grin spreading across his lips.

 

He's leaning forward before he can even decide if it's the right move to make and Kouji's there with him. Eyes fluttering shut, and a hand reaching out to grip his pant leg. He feels Kouji's shaky exhale puff against his lips and wonders if this elation if what Izumi's always gotten to know with Kouichi.

 

When Kouji kisses him he sees white and flowers behind his eyelids, bees buzz in his ears.