Chapter 13

Chapter 13

            The beeping stopped, and I could sense Taichi still sitting on the bed behind me.  I decided (frantically trying to come up with a course of action that wouldn’t get me pounded into the ground or worse, lost me Taichi’s friendship) that faking unconsciousness and pretending it never happened was a really good idea.

            Even though I was mentally panicking and wishing I could roll over and tell him the truth, I forced my breathing to even out and concentrated on keeping it that way.

            “Yama?”  I heard him ask hesitantly, his voice sounding a little panicky and hoarse.  Glad I wasn’t the only one freaking – though for entirely different reasons, no doubt.  I kept on with the breathing, lying there limply.  “Are…” he cleared his throat, “Are you awake?”

            When I didn’t answer, I heard him mutter, “Shit, what now?” then felt his weight leave the bed.  Soon I heard some rustling around followed by hurried footsteps as he practically ran from the room.

            The second I heard the bathroom door close down the hall, I sat up and stared blindly down at my now very unpleasant and uncomfortable pants.

            The water went on, and that was my cue to book.  Grabbing my pillow, I zipped out of Taichi’s room and into my own, blessed sanctuary.

            My legs fell out from under me and I dropped face first onto my own bed.  Burying my face in my pillow, I let out a full-voiced scream of humiliated pain, lust, and soul-wrenching grief as the reality of it all poured over me.

            My best friend – unaware of how I felt about him and in love with someone else, himself – had just jerked me off in our supposed sleep, giving me the best damn orgasm I’ve ever had (even if my past experience with them has been only with my own hands), and it was not only unintentional but now also totally unmentionable!

            Fortuna, you fickle bitch!  Do you just hate me or is there some other reason you decided to make me absolutely miserable?

            I cursed every force of nature, every deity I could think of for several minutes.  All the while sobbing it all out into my pillow until I’d done a good job of soaking the poor abused thing.

            What was worse, was that I was going to remember every single sensation, every feeling that had occurred for the rest of my life.  It would always be there, in the back of my mind.  I don’t think I can live with that – though I guess I don’t have much choice.

            I heard the water go off, and forced myself to sit up and calm down.  Taking several deep breaths, I thought about what to do next.

            Taichi was leaving.  He’d be gone for a week.  Plenty of time for me to have a breakdown and get over it (or at least build up enough walls and a decent mask to hide behind).

            So I would go put on some coffee and make breakfast after I did a quick clean up job of myself while Taichi go ready and packed up the last of his bag for the week.  Then I’d feed him, pretend nothing happened, and send him on his way.

            “And if he mentions it?”  A nasty, unwelcome voice wondered in my head.  It was my very own inner bitch, who only comes out when I’m trying to hide from myself.  Growling at it and threatening to cut off its supply of dark chocolate (my one vice), I told it I would deal with that somehow if it happened.  Yes, I was relying on Taichi being far too embarrassed himself to bring it up.  So the fuck what?

            Well, Fortuna and her twin sister, Fate, are equal opportunity bitches, and I swear they’re out to get me.  It’s a bloody conspiracy!

            I listened at the door until I heard Taichi vacate the bathroom, then slipped in as fast as possible.  I was clean and dressed in less than twenty minutes – a new Yamato record.  I haven’t been that quick since I was a kid.

            I already had the coffee brewing and was just mixing a batch of pancakes when Taichi appeared.  I went about putting together breakfast nervously as he bypassed the kitchen to drop his duffel bag and backpack at the front door.  When he came in, slowly making his way to the counter where he sat on a stool, I could feel his eyes burning holes into the back of my head – me pretending to be very busy watching my pancakes cook on the griddle and pouring coffee regardless of his attention.

            “Good morning.”  He finally broke the silence that was nearly chocking me.  Taichi sounded a tad unsure, but otherwise I couldn’t detect any hint of anything else.  He sounded perfectly normal.

            Plastering my very best morning smile on my face, I turned and brought him a plate of pancakes and a mug of coffee.  “Good morning.”  I managed in return with as much false cheeriness as I could muster.  I set the food in front of him and turned away to get toppings for his pancakes.  “What do you want with that?  There’s regular syrup, strawberry syrup, whipped cream, butter…”

            “Butter and regular syrup, thanks.”  I grabbed it from the fridge and put it on the counter for him.  “Yama…”

            “Hmm?”  I gave him my back and a non-committal noise of acknowledgement, slowly buttering toast for myself (not that I was going to be able to eat it with my gut twisted into all these knots).

            “Matt,” I flinched, “about earlier…”

            My inner bitch raised her ugly, fat head and smirked triumphantly at me in an ‘I told you so!’ kind of way.  I hung my head and gripped the counter, unwilling to face Taichi with my utter humiliation.

            “What about it?”  I asked, unable to keep my embarrassment and the tension it caused out of my voice.

            “I, uh…there isn’t really time to talk about it properly, since I’ve got to get going right away…” he said, though I couldn’t read his tone at all, which only served to worry and bother me more.

            This is it. I thought numbly.  He’s going to turn me away as gently as he can then run off to camp and let me stew in my own misery.  So…I decided to make it easier for him.  He couldn’t reject me if I got there first, right?

            “There’s nothing to talk about.”  I stated neutrally.  “We’re both guys.  Teens running on a cocktail of hormones.  It happens.”

            Silence.  Then, “So you’re okay?  We’re okay?”  I felt rather pleased with myself at that point.  He didn’t call me on that flimsy veneer of logic and I felt sure he would drop the subject, and we’d be fine.  After all, I had a week to wrestle myself into submission and get a hold of my emotional reigns again.

            “We’re good.”  I said firmly, reaching for the coffee pot again.  “Don’t worry about it.”

            Again, silence.  I poured my coffee, inhaling that wonderful, soothing scent desperately.

            “Then why won’t you look at me, Matt?”  Came the quiet, subdued question.  I nearly dropped the coffee pot.  With a shaking hand, I put it back carefully on the hotplate and reluctantly turned to face him.  I really had to fight to keep my face blank, but I found I could not look him in the eye.  And of course he called me on it.  “You still aren’t.  Look, I’m sorry.  For what it’s worth.  It was an embarrassing way to wake up.  I…I didn’t mean…”

            I closed my eyes and swallowed back the pain that welled up.  Of course he hadn’t meant to.  Neither had I.  But it happened.  There wasn’t anything else I could say, so I nodded and whispered, “You’d better hurry and eat, Taichi.  You’ll be late.”

            For one brief second, just as I opened my eyes, I thought I saw a stricken expression of loss flash over his face.  But then he closed up better than Digitamamon, nodded stiffly, and proceeded to wolf down his pancakes at a speed that should have made him ill.

            I leaned against the counter, sipping my coffee, even as it churned in my stomach, and looked everywhere but at my greatest weakness.  Oh, he kept flicking assessing glances at me the whole time, but he didn’t say another word.

            It didn’t take him long to finish.  Before I knew it, he was putting his dishes in the dishwasher and heading for the door.

            “Thank you for breakfast, Matt.”  He said as he passed me.  It hadn’t escaped me that he wasn’t calling me ‘Yama’ anymore.

            “Sure.” was all I could manage.  I followed him, watched him pull on his shoes and grab his jacket from the coat closet.  “Have fun, and good luck with the scouts.”  That, at least, I could say with sincerity and honesty.

            “Thanks.”  Taichi pulled open the door after putting on his backpack and picking up his duffel bag full of his equipment.  He paused in the open door, and glanced back at me over his shoulder.  “We’ll have a better talk when I get back.”  He said, sounding more like an order than a suggestion or even a promise.

            Then he was gone, before I could form a reply – confirmation or refusal.

            The sound of that closing door was a hammer on my fragile heart.  It sounded like it splintered into pieces then shattered into dust.

            I was now alone.  For one week.  And somehow, I had to figure out how to deal.


            The only word I can use to describe the rest of the day was ‘melancholy.’  Even the weather felt that way.  The storm had passed, but the sky was still gloomy and dark with clouds.  I wallowed in misery and depression for two whole days – and cleaned the entire apartment from top to bottom until every surface gleamed so brightly one could almost see their reflection.

            When Dad stopped by on Sunday to see how everything was going for us on our own, he was shocked at the spotlessness.  He’d never seen it so clean.

            “What happened, Yamato?”  He asked me after he filled me in on his new job, his new co-workers and staff, and life in Kyoto.

            “Nothing.”  I replied automatically, looking around the room.  “Just a little disagreement with Taichi.  I’m sure we’ll work it out when he gets back from camp.”

            “Matt…son, you know better than to try and fool me.”  Dad eyed me, concern in his eyes.  “You don’t clean like this unless something’s really bothering you.”

            I sighed and curled my legs under myself, huddling in one corner of the sofa defensively.  “Maybe it is, but I can’t do anything about it while Taichi is gone.  And I really don’t want to talk about it, Dad.”

            He sighed, too, running a hand through his hair.  “I know.  I don’t want to intrude on your personal life, Matt.  I just worry about you, that’s all.  You know you can talk to me about anything, right?”

            I cracked a very faint smile for him.  “Yes, Dad.”

            “Good.”  He paused, frowning indecisively.  “Just answer one question, then I’ll leave it alone.”

            Warily, I stared at him.  “What?”

            “Why haven’t you told him how you really feel?  He’s a great guy, Matt, and I already think of him as one of my own kids.”

            My jaw nearly unhinged when it dropped open.  I gasped in shock.  How the hell does my father know about that?!

            “What?”  I croaked.

            “What?”  He echoed, looking confused and a little flustered.  “Why are you so surprised that I’ve paid attention to your life, Matt?”

            “But…this is different!  This…I…you…”  Great.  Everyone meet Ishida Yamato, stuttering idiot.  I mean, come on!

            It really threw me because I really hadn’t known Dad paid that close of attention.  I had told him, a long time ago, that I was bi-sexual because, well…he tried giving me the ‘birds and bees’ speech not long before I started dating Sora.  I had to break it to him that we kids these days knew way more about sex than he had at our age, and that I’d already dated both guys and girls (pre-Sora) – not that it lasted long or anything actually happened.  Dad was surprisingly cool with it.  It didn’t bother him at all.

            “Son, I’ve known you’ve felt more for Taichi than you admitted to all along.”  Dad confessed, looking sheepish.  “He’s always been good for you – a friend, rival, or whatever – and I could see you spending your life with him a lot easier than ever could with any of your other friends.  I hoped you would have the guts to tell him once you figured it out.”

            Groaning, I dropped my head into my hands and desperately tried not to loose it.  When I felt I had some semblance of control again, I glanced up.

            “I only figured it out recently, okay?  And it hasn’t been a good time for that sort of discussion with Taichi.”  Those were my excuses and I’d stick stubbornly to them with my every breath.  “And why the hell haven’t you said anything sooner?  You can’t just drop a bomb like that on a guy!”

            “Because you should have come to me on your own, but since you didn’t, I decided to let you know it was okay.”  Dad smiled, watching me flail silently across from him.  “Learn from my mistakes, Yamato, and grab love when you find it.  Then, don’t let it go.”

            When he left that evening, I still hadn’t told him anything, but at least I knew he was okay with the possibility – even though there wasn’t one.  That was day three.

            I had two practice sessions with the band before the concert, which went off with very little complication, and I felt it was a good performance.  My band, however, pointed out that ‘good’ wouldn’t get us far, and that I’d had better ones.  Day four sucked, thanks.

            Now I was heartbroken and guilt-ridden for letting my band down.  I wasn’t dealing very well with any of this.

            None of the smaller gigs we played went any better than the concert.  Then again, they weren’t worse, either.  I tried!  I really did.  But I lost my performing spirit somewhere, and I couldn’t seem to find it no matter what I did.

            Day seven arrived bright and sunny.  I barely even noticed.  By now I was a barely functioning zombie.  I’d hardly slept all week because my subconscious tended to dwell on that fateful non-dream, and I could only lie in bed and want.  Crave.  Need.  Cold showers didn’t work either.  I swear they’re a complete myth.

            Today I had to do something about this because Taichi was going to be back the next day.  I had to be able to turn off my emotions or something – anything! – or else…I would have finally found something that would come between us and break us apart.

            It was some time around noon, and I was sitting out on the balcony – on the floor, not a chair or anything.  I couldn’t seem to breathe inside anymore, and everywhere I looked I found Taichi, so I ended up outside, leaning against the partition and staring out at the city beyond without really seeing any of it.

            Takeru found me there.  Apparently he’d called, sent me a message via D-Terminal, and even called around to everyone (when I didn’t get back to him) looking for me.  This, by the way, he grumbled and scolded me for even as he dragged my sorry ass back inside.  I didn’t put much of a fight up, though, and hardly said a word otherwise.

            It was bad of me, wrong of me, to do this to him and I knew it, but I couldn’t find it in me to care.  Worrying about me would hurt him, but he’d be fine.  After all, he was loved and he loved in return.  Openly.

            Ah.  I had enough of a brainstorm then to realize I was jealous of him.  He had what I wanted most, and he could tell Hikari he loved her.

            “Matt, what the hell is wrong?  Why didn’t you call me back or answer the door when I knocked?”  Takeru demanded, dumping me on the sofa.  I barely reacted.  A numb, lethargic fog seemed to be weighing me down, and any fight I’d have left in me drowned with my emotions.  Lying on the sofa I stared blankly up at my little brother, who frowned and took a good, long look at me.  “Gods, Matt…look at you.  What happened?”

            Blue eyes, so much like my own but for a coupler shades darker, peered into me and found no resistance.  Whatever he saw in me made him go pale, and his hand reached for my hair.  He gently brushed it out of my face and with an aching voice, asked me again, pleaded with me, for answers.  “Please, Matt…I can’t help if you don’t tell me what’s wrong, if you don’t tell me what’d done this to you.”

            I closed my eyes painfully.  I wanted to tell him, because I hated to see that look on his face – especially when I put it there.  But…my voice didn’t want to work.  Opening my eyes, I tried to make him understand just by staring back at him.  I don’t know what it was, but it felt like there was something actually holding my voice back – holding me back.  I guess my attempts at subliminal messages wasn’t enough because he only took my hand and held it tightly between his own.

            “Have you eaten yet today?” he asked.  I shook my head, confused.  What did that have to do with it?  Besides, my appetite took off with my emotions a long time ago.  “Matt!”  He chided me, releasing my hand.  “Stay here, and I’ll make you something.  Don’t worry,” he added when I shook my head again in refusal, “it’ll just be some soup.  And tea.  You’ve got to eat, Yamato.”  Takeru rushed off to the kitchen.

            I could hear him banging around, obviously being serious about making me eat something.  And although he probably figured I couldn’t hear him, or maybe wasn’t paying attention, I suddenly realized he was talking to someone on the phone.

            Sighing, I rolled over onto my other side, facing the back of the sofa.  I shouldn’t be surprised that he was calling in the cavalry.  Poor kid probably had no idea what to do with me.

            “Yeah, it’s me.”  I heard Takeru say.  “No, I found him.  No he’s not.  I don’t know what happened, but he’s a wreck, Hikari.  I’ve never seen him like this.  No.”  There was a long pause where I assumed he was listening to her.  “Is Sora home, too?  Oh, good.  Maybe you both should come over.  I don’t know what to do here.”  Pause.  “He won’t tell me.  Uh huh…actually, it sort of reminds me of that time you were pulled into that other dimension where the Dark Ocean was.”  Another long pause.  “Okay, well hurry over, then.  Door will be unlocked so just come in.  Thanks, my Light.”

            A few more minutes of banging around and he was coming back into the living room carrying a bowl of noodle soup and an oversized mug of chamomile tea.  I made the effort to roll over again, but that was it.

            Something must have been on my face – like open hostility – because Takeru sighed, setting the food down on the coffee table.  “Don’t look at me like that, Matt.  If you won’t take care of yourself, then I’ll take care of you.  So sit down on the floor, here, at the table and eat.”

            Passively, I obeyed.  I couldn’t really taster anything, didn’t really feel a difference between hungry or not, but I ate.  Takeru watched me critically for a moment, then proceeded to resume the inquisition.

            “Let’s play twenty questions – only there’s no limit to the number I can ask, and you just have to nod or grunt or something for ‘yes’ and shake your head for ‘no.’

            I looked at him, and blinked slowly.  He frowned, but persisted.

            “Are you sick?”  I shook my head, not really sure.  Something was wrong, but I didn’t feel ill.  “Are you injured?”  No.  That much I knew – unless being broken hearted counts.  Takeru looked relieved though.  “Okay, then you’re not in shock or something, you’re just what?  Depressed?  No, never mind.  I can see that you are.  Have you felt like this for long?  Say…a month?”

            Like this?  No.  There’s depressed, and then there’s depressed.  I looked down at the soup bowl and blinked, realizing I’d actually eaten all of it without noticing.  I pushed the bowl aside.

            “Want more?”  Takeru asked hopefully (no pun intended).  I shook my head and his face fell.  “Well, at least you had something.  Have you felt like this for…two weeks?”  No.  “A week?”  I thought about it, then made a ‘so-so’ motion with my hand.  I’ve been a wreck all week, but it hasn’t been like this until today.  “Okay.  But was it this bad all wee?  Because you seemed alright every time I talked to you.”  Takeru watched me, his concern deepening.  “So basically something made you fall into this funk about a week ago and it just got worse every day.”

            Yeah, pretty much.  Uh oh…I knew that look.  Takeru is way too smart and he knows me far too well.  He was putting the pieces together.

            “The only thing that happened is that Hikari had that accident, and Taichi went to camp.”  His gaze pierced right through me.  “I highly doubt it was Hikari that put you in this condition, but that means…Taichi?”  Takeru asked, his voice incredulous.  He grabbed my hand.  “What did he do, Matt?”

            I shook my head and sighed, trying to tug my hand free.  It wasn’t Taichi’s fault.  Not consciously.

            Takeru wasn’t letting me go, and he was seeing way too much for my comfort.  He got down on the floor beside me and made me look at him.  Whatever he saw made tears well up in his eyes, and suddenly I wasn’t quite as numb anymore.

            My little brother was in pain, and no matter how crappy my life was, I’d always try to fix it.

            Now I could feel my own eyes water.  I raised my free hand and rested my palm against his cheek.  “Don’t…” I croaked.  “Don’t…cry for…me.”

            “Matt…big brother, you can’t expect me not to when you’re like this and I’m totally helpless!” he exclaimed, drawing me into his arms and attempting to hug the stuffing out of me.  “Please, please tell me what Taichi did or said that’s done this to you!”

            “I…can’t!”  I wouldn’t.  There were some things he didn’t need to know.

            “Why?”  he demanded, pushing me back enough that he could see my face.  “Yamato, I‘m not a little kid anymore!  Stop treating me like one!”

            “Not…that.”  I rasped in denial, pleading with him to understand.  “Just…too personal.”

            He frowned, then his eyes went wide.  “He…you…”  Like I said, Takeru’s no fool.  He got the general idea.  To my utter disbelief, he actually scowled.  At me!  “Wait a minute…if you two…then where’s the issue?”

            Say what?!  I glared.

            “I mean, Matt, you love him.  Always have.  Hikari and I have a long-standing bet on how long you two could stay in denial.”

            “What?!”  Yikes.  That high-pitched screech came from me?

            Stricken, Takeru hurried to placate me.  “It was a joke, Matt!  The bet part, not the part about you being in love with Taichi.”

            “Not funny.”  I growled, starting to struggle to get away from him.  How dare he make fun of it?  I was dying here, and his making jokes at my expense.  If this is what I got for confiding in Takeru, my mouth was staying shut.

            “I’m sorry.  I am.  That was stupid of me.”  The boy can grovel when he wants to.  And he still wasn’t letting me go!  Damn it Takeru…  “I just don’t understand.”

            “It’s because he still hasn’t told Taichi his feelings, Takeru.”

            Sora’s voice informed him, causing the both of us to nearly snap our necks looking up so fast.  I guess we didn’t hear her – or Hikari – come in.  Taichi’s little sister hobbled around the sofa and dropped down beside Takeru and I, reaching out to plaster her palm to my forehead.

            “It’s not too late.”  She said mysteriously, her eyes going unfocused.  “It hasn’t taken hold yet.”

            “Hikari?”  Sora sat down on the couch near us, frowning in confusion and worry.

            “The Darkness.”  Hikari explained, still doing…whatever it was she does when she’s like this.  And she didn’t have to explain to us, Chosen Children and Bearers, what ‘the Darkness’ was.  “His found a door and began to come through.”

            Takeru nodded slowly.  “His depression.  His negative emotions opened the door and let it out.”

            I blinked.  No way.  Oh, shit.  That’s what this was!  Now that they mentioned it, I was feeling an awful lot like I had in that ‘cave’ once, just before the battle with Piemon.  The realization that what was wrong with me wasn’t entirely my own fault was enough to make me start struggling against it, to push it back into the corner of my soul where it belonged.

            To step out of the Dark and back into the Light.

            Hikari’s other hand shot out and flattened against my chest, right over my heart.  Immediately I could feel warmth, happiness, and even love.  But almost instantly, whatever was loosed inside me reacted and slapped back.

            Anger – unrelenting anger – welled up, jealousy overflowed, and words I would never have said otherwise came out of me.  Hurtful, mean words that were directed at each of them.  I could see the pain in their faces and eyes, saw how I had the power to hurt them so easily.  And that Dark part of me laughed, taking pleasure in that power.  But I couldn’t seem to control it, couldn’t halt the flow of hostility.  It was like I was watching from somewhere outside of myself.  It was what I imagine is rather like being possessed.

            Through it all, Takeru somehow kept me pinned, physically restrained.  Who knew my little brother had gotten that strong?  But I was grateful, from my abstract point of view, because if I’d harmed any of them physically I would never forgive myself.  And if I’d harmed Hikari…  I’d let Taichi beat me into the ground before he killed me.

            Hikari, thankfully, is just as strong as Takeru.  She is her big brother’s sister – no doubt.  At one point she actually started glowing, her aura seeming to flare like a star.  It nearly blinded me, but I could still see her silhouette, her eyes and the brightly shining Crest over her heart as she fought off my Darkness.

            Suddenly the world seemed to stop, and I could hear their voices.  I fought against the heavy weights that kept me from taking control of myself again, trying to reach out to them.

            “I know you can hear us, Yamato!  You have to fight it!  We can’t do it alone.  And I know you know what’s happened!  So fight, damn you!”  Hikari commanded, in a voice I’d never heard her use before.  “Because I don’t want to have to explain to Taichi why you were willing to give up!”

            More venomous comments and accusations came out of my mouth, almost in a panic, as if the Dark knew it was losing its grip on me.  I saw Hikari grimace, then turn fierce with determination.

            Then Takeru’s voice was in my ear, a plea and a command all at once.  “Where are you, Yamato?  I know you aren’t the one saying all that crap, and I know you’re in there somewhere.  And if you’re not fighting back as hard as I know you’re capable of, I will happily kick your ass!  Big brother or not!  Taichi will just have to wait his turn because I get first dibs!”  By now he was really struggling to keep me pinned, but he somehow managed to do so and meet my eyes.  His were dark, determined blue, and even he was glowing faintly now.  A relieved smile flashed briefly across his face and he gave a sharp nod.  “Yes.  There you are.  Come on, Matt.  Are you going to let it win?”

            Hell no.  I understood.  And I should have known better.  I let my guard down, forgot that I am a Bearer – a Chosen Child.  I forgot, in the wake of my self-absorbed, self-pitying emotional state, that while we’d fought against the Dark and won, the Dark still existed, and was still poised on the edge ready to surge forward and steal away from the Light.  I forgot that despite the end of our adventures, as a Bearer, I was still responsible for keeping the Dark held back.

            I’d forgotten and the Dark found a toehold in me.  And it used it.  What was happening to me was my own fault.  However…it was a mistake I could – would – rectify, and one I would never make again.

            Because no matter what, holding back the Dark took precedence over everything else.  And if I gave in, not matter the state of my relationship with Taichi, the Child of Courage would never forgive me, and I would never be able to look him in the eye again.

            “N-no…”  Yes!  I said that.  Me!  I tried again, and as speech came back, so did the rest of my body.  “No!”  My body was fighting against the hold Takeru had on me again – only this time it was really me, and my struggles were with my own daemons.

            I could hear the malicious whispers of the Dark in my head now.  It spoke of betrayal, it spoke of disloyalty and broken trust.  It even tried warning me that the others would never forgive me for the things It had said.

            “No!”  I growled, closing my eyes and focusing inward.  I could feel the parts of me where each of my friends resided, their respective attributes that reached out to me despite the shadows seething around me.

            And, in the place somewhere deep in my very soul, I turned toward the Darkest part of me and smiled – all teeth.

            “You’re wrong.”  I stated, staring without fear into the abyss.  “No matter what, they’re still my friends.”  I could feel my Crest start to burn, and instantly began to feel better.  “I may have forgotten…but the truth never changed.”

            Suddenly I was looking up at the ceiling in my living room, three very anxious Chosen Children peering down at me.  I let out a gasp, frantically trying to suck in air.  My chest felt like I’d had Garurumon sitting on it.  Somehow, I’d won, and I was all the way back in control.

            Shaken, my hand shot out and gripped a fistful of my brother’s shirt.  I clung, my eyes wide – and welling up with tears rapidly.

            “Keru…?” I questioned in a hoarse rasp.

            “Matt?” he returned, staring right through me, obviously trying to make sure it was really me.  Then he smiled, and a trickle of tears slipped down his cheeks. “Hey.”  He greeted me softly.  “Welcome back, big brother.”

            Too exhausted to care how very un-Yamato I was being at the moment, I gave him as hard a tug as I could muster.  Startled, he collapsed forward into my arms and I curled into him, shivering almost violently.  I felt him wrap around me protectively in a full-body hug, and I buried my face in his neck, my breath hitching on a sob.

            Hikari slid down behind me and cuddled up against my back.  It was her hand on my head, stroking my hair, that undid me.

            With Sora watching over us, her mere presence casting a comforting blanket of love over all of us, I let go.  I cried.

            I wept for all the nasty things I’d said to them just now in a fit of guilt.  I wept in regret and remorse for allowing myself to have ever forgotten what it truly meant to be Chosen.  And I cried out all the fear, sorrow, pain, and angst that had been building all week over that incident between Taichi and I the morning he’d left.

            I knew I was going to have to face not only Sora, Hikari, and Takeru to beg for their forgiveness but eventually I’d have to face up to Taichi, too.  As much as I’d like to keep this little screw-up of mine between the four of us, I knew one of them would spill to our leader.  That was inevitable.

            Why?  Because I knew he’d felt something a few minutes ago.  He wouldn’t know exactly what, but he’d know something was wrong with one of us.  He might even know it was me.  And when he got back from camp, he would start asking what had happened.  Chances were that Takeru might be able to avoid telling him, but Sora would eventually fold (she still can’t refuse him a damned thing, even when she’s mad at him), and Hikari probably wouldn’t even try to hide it.

            That confrontation was going to occur all too soon for me.  I was not ready for it, and I was in no condition to deal with the other issue (of Taichi and myself) either.  I was going to have to escape somehow – just until I’d gotten myself back together again.

            But for now, it was time to face the music with my brother, Sora, and Hikari.

            The tears slowed to as top, and not long after I stopped shivering.  My breathing was still pretty ragged, and my heart was pounding a beat in my head (oh gods, the headache!) as I slowly pulled my not-so-pretty face out of Takeru’s neck and sniffled.

            “It’s okay, Matt.”  I heard Hikari say quietly, reassuringly.  She was still stroking my hair.  “Everything’s alright again.”

            “You’re an idiot, Ishida Yamato, but we still love you.”  Sora added, her own damp face watching me from on the sofa.  She’d stretched out on it and lay there keeping the three of us on the floor company.  I looked up at her, ashamed of myself.  Some of the things It had said to her were downright cruel.

            And there I go, already trying to distance myself from my own actions.  I say ‘It,’ meaning the Darkness in me, but the truth is that It is me – no matter how much I’d like to pretend it’s not there.  We all do, and we all have a Darkness in us that we mostly ignore.  This time, however, I wouldn’t sublimate it and pretend it never happened.

            I pried a stiff-fingered hand (stiff from clutching at Takeru’s shirt for too long) from my brother and reached up to Sora.

            “I’m sorry.”  I whispered.  “So sorry.”  I blinked furiously as my vision wavered and started to darken.  “All of you…sorry.”

            Her fingers entwined with mine and she gripped my hand.  I heard Sora’s voice distantly, distorted.  “It’ll be okay, Matt.  Let it go…”

            As much as I wanted to put things to rest and apologize until I was blue in the face, my body decided for me.  I was truly exhausted in mind and body and heart, and I slipped into unconsciousness almost gratefully.



Relevant Episodes:  Season 01, episode 51-52.


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