Chapter 15

Chapter 15

            The nice thing about the Digital World is the relatively balmy, temperate climate in most areas.  Needing warm clothes, jackets or coats, or blankets to survive outside with no real shelter is relatively unheard of.

            Which is why falling asleep on the beach that night with nothing but my jeans and shirt on and a funny, wolf-like Digimon cuddled up to me was a perfectly safe thing to do.

            The next morning, I sat up and stretched, rubbed the sleepiness out of my eyes and looked around with a yawn.  I also devoutly wished for coffee, but settled for water and the bag of rice crisps I’d brought along.

            Gabumon wasn’t around when I’d woken, but it wasn’t long after that he reappeared from the forest.

            “Good morning, Matt!”  He greeted me cheerfully.  “I wondered if you’d sleep all morning.”

            Now that he mentioned it, I did feel rather well-rested, compared to any day in the last month or so.

            “Thanks for letting me.”  I replied, running my fingers through my no doubt disastrous hair.  “What time is it, anyway?”  I glanced at my watch.  Wow.  After ten-thirty…  That’s pretty impressive, even for me.  Sighing, I looked at my partner curiously.  “What did you have planned to do today?”

            “Nothing really.  Besides, now that you’re here, I’d rather spend the day with you, then anything, Matt.”  Gabumon answered with a toothy smile.

            We spent the day roaming around the island, my partner giving me an enthusiastic tour of the work the Digimon had put into rebuilding.  By evening, we’d seen most of the place, and we returned to the lake.  Once again, I spent the night under a canopy of stars and an uninhabited, lonely beach.  The solitude was welcome, and I could feel something in me ease, gradually loosening the tension that’s had a grip on me for over a week.  Or maybe longer.

            I fell asleep to Gabumon’s gentle snores, even though there was an ever-present knowledge, in the back of my mind, that Taichi would be home now, would likely have demanded some answers about what went on in his absence, and was probably seething at my carelessness.  And under all that, he was probably worried about me and silently freaking out.  I decided that, sometime tomorrow when I worked up the courage, I’d send him an email, as he would probably have discovered his D-Terminal by now.  I still wasn’t ready to go back, but at least he’d have some peace of mind knowing where I was.


            It was midday.  The sun was high in the sky, shining bright and hot.  A puff of cloud would occasionally float languidly across the blue, blue sky.

            Because it was actually quite hot that day, I spent the morning cooling off by swimming in the lake.  Even Gabumon enjoyed a nice dip in the cool water.

            When I’d dried out (sitting on the sandy beach until I wasn’t dripping anymore) I got dressed again and decided shade was a good plan.  I didn’t relish a sunburn, what with my blonde hair and fair skin.

            So I found a large old tree that stretched itself upward to the heavens so high I couldn’t quite see the top of it from the ground.  Gabumon and I helped each other to climb it, until we were perched on one of the thickest, strongest branches, with plenty of foliage to shade us from above and hide us from anything below.

            Stretching my legs out on the branch, my back to the tree trunk, I leaned my head back and gave a sigh.  I’d found a measure of contentment I hadn’t felt in a very long time.

            Gabumon stretched himself out on a branch a little above and to my right, and asked, “Are you alright, Matt?”

            I glanced up and smiled.  “Yeah, pal.  At the moment, I’m great.”  My smile faltered a bit and I sighed sadly, staring at nothing.  “Gabumon?”

            “Yes, Matt?”

            “Can I stay here?”  I asked wistfully.  I really was happy, more than I’d expected, and I hated the prospect of having to return to my own world, where there was nothing to give me even a bit of the contentment I’d found here.

            “Oh, Matt…” the little ‘Mon sighed just as sadly.  “I wish I could say ‘yes’ as honestly as I want to, but…we both know you can’t.  Not forever.”

            I closed my eyes, thinking a nap was in order.  “I know.  But…if I could have, if I had that option…I think I would stay.  There’s nothing waiting for me in my world.  Not really.”

            “I don’t think that’s so.”  I heard him reply quietly.  “I think you just haven’t found it yet.  But it’s there.”

            I yawned.  “Maybe.”  Conceding, I fell silent as the warm day and my tired body and mind pulled me under into sleep.  I’d completely forgotten my plan to email Taichi, too.

            I have no idea how long I dozed for, but I woke almost instantly when I heard a very familiar beeping emanating from my Digivice.  Frowning, I pulled it off my backpack and looked at the small screen to see what it’s issue was.

            “What’s the matter?”  Gabumon asked, sleepily.  He rubbed his eyes and joined me on my branch.

            “My Digivice started beeping.”  I waited, watching the screen, with a resigned sense of the inevitable.  Sure enough, a second blip came up on my radar not far from the dot that indicated my own position.  I groaned and let my head thunk back against the tree trunk.  “Oh, damn it.”

            “Matt?”  Gabumon laid a paw on my leg, comfortingly.  “One of the others?”

            “Resisting the urge to bang my head on the tree, I made an annoyed noise and fought off the beginnings of panic.  It could be any of the others.  I told myself over and over.  But somehow, I knew I was lying to myself.  Only one person would even consider intruding on my solitude so blithely and his name is Yagami Taichi.  Drawing my knees up to my chest I buried my face in my arms and tried not to whimper pathetically as I stated dully, “Taichi,” in answer to Gabumon’s inquiry.

            Gabumon made a distressed noise, obviously not sure what to do with this situation.  I raised my head and laid a finger to my lips, silently asking him not to make a sound, as – sure enough – Taichi’s angry, annoyed, and very worried voice reached us up in the tree from somewhere below.

            “Ishida Yamato!  I know you can hear me, damn it!  Get your sneaky, cowardly ass out here so I can yell at you properly!”

            I scowled down at him, unseen by my tree’s foliage, and barely restrained the scathing reply I had for his name-calling.  Even if it was true.

            Some frustrated mutters and cussing followed a moment of silence where I suppose he was listening to try and hear me somehow.  “Goddamn it, Yamato!  I know you’re here!  Digivice radar aside, I can feel you!”

            “Matt…” Gabumon tugged on my sleeve, whispering to me.  “I know you don’t want to, but he’s not going to go away, and neither are your problems.  Talking to him can only help.”

            “Et tu, Gabumon?”  I hissed back, wounded.  But it was more because he was right and I was still in avoidance mode.  I looked down and could see Taichi’s brunette head pacing back and forth at the base of my tree, arms waving expressively as he cursed my name and existence fluently.  I glanced back to my partner and whined, “Do I have to?”

            “Yamato…” he growled back sternly.  I winced and slung my backpack onto my shoulders again, preparing to climb down.

            “Fine.”  I knew I was pouting and at this point I just didn’t care anymore.  “I’m going.  But you probably don’t want to hang around for this, pal.  It’s liable to get nasty.”

            “I’ll leave if you want me to, Matt.” He said.  I leaned over and hugged him.

            “I don’t, but you should anyway.  This is my problem and there’s really nothing more you can do.”  I said, burying my face in his fur for a moment.  “Thanks for everything, Gabumon.”

            “Anytime, Matt.”  He hugged me back and gave me a smile.  “It’ll work out somehow.  I know it will.”

            He’ll never know how badly I wanted to believe that.

            Shoring myself up, I began the climb down.  “Let’s go.”

            Taichi must have heard the rustling of the leaves and branches because he stopped, looked up, and glowered as he waited for me to descend.

            We hit the ground and I straightened, making a big show of dusting myself off.  Gabumon glanced back and forth between Taichi (still glowering) and I (still avoiding) and heaved a sigh.

            “Hello, Taichi.”  He greeted the Child of Courage, then said, “Don’t be too hard on him.  It’s been a rough week.”  before he wandered off into the forest.  I flushed with shame and embarrassment, and finally worked up enough courage of my own to at least glance at my furious best friend.

            “You know, we were having a perfectly peaceful mid-day nap before you so rudely interrupted.”  I had to open my stupid mouth and speak so cavalierly.

            “A nap?!  You’re some piece of work, Yamato!”  Taichi snapped angrily.  “What the hell were you thinking?  How could you get so depressed that you let your guard down and forget who you are?  And then to just run off like that, without telling anyone?  Are you really that selfish?”

            Indignant, I raised my eyes to meet his and glared.  “Leave me alone, Taichi.  I told Takeru, and Izzy.  I asked them not to tell the others or you because I needed some time to myself to think and put myself back together.  So excuse me if that offends you somehow!”

            “Yeah right.  It’s a convenient excuse, but it won’t work on me.  You’re running away, Matt.”  His temper seemed to deflate a little under his uncertainty, worry, and…hurt.  “Again.  But I won’t let you!  Not this time.”

            I growled a few curses of my own under my breath and turned away.  I had to walk off some of this manic energy or I’d turn it on him – and God knows he doesn’t deserve it.  “Yeah, well, tough shit, Yagami.  There’s nothing you can say or do that I haven’t already heard from the others, let alone myself.  If I want to beat myself up for my utter fail as a Chosen Child, that’s my choice.  I think I can handle it well enough on my own without any help from you.”  I started walking heading for the lake.

            Taichi came up beside me, shoulders hunched, and hands shoved deeply into his pockets.  He matched my pace and followed along.  “You’re not a failure, Matt.  I never said that, and I never would because it’s not true.  I just want to understand what happened, and I’ve been frantic for the last three days worrying about you.”  We’d reached the tree line and he stopped, grabbing my arm and spinning me to face him.  “Can you understand what I felt?  Damn it, Matt, I promised we’d talk when I got back, and all week I could feel something was way off with you.  And then, in Thursday, we were in the middle of a scrimmage game during our free time when I dropped like a rock in mid-run!  If Daisuke hadn’t been there to tell Ken what the problem seemed to be, they might have had a really hard time explaining to the coaches and counselors why I shouldn’t be rushed to the nearest hospital.”

            I could feel the blood draining out of my head slowly.  Oh my god…I’d known all of us felt something wrong, and maybe they’d even known it was me, but to get that much reaction out of Taichi – from so far away – was not a concept I’d considered.  Taichi seemed to know I was getting the picture here because he nodded once, sharply.

            “Yeah.  We felt it.  Daisuke suddenly got dizzy and nauseous, and even Ken didn’t feel so hot for a while, but I passed right out.  They got me back to our cabin and I slept the rest of the day.  When I came to, they told me what seemed to have happened, that they’d messaged Hikari and Takeru to inquire but neither was able to tell them anything except that you were depressed about something and your Dark side tried to break out.  I went nuts!”  He shook me hard, trying to emphasize (unnecessarily) his fear and concern.  “And then I get home, and you’re nowhere to be found, no note, nothing!”  His glare turned hard and angry, and I flinched away, though I couldn’t really move thanks to his grip on my arms.  “Did you really think you’d get away with hiding my D-Terminal and that I wouldn’t find you?”

            I broke free, defensively angry (though not at Taichi).  I didn’t like how deliberate he was making the whole thing sound on my part, but as far as he knew there wasn’t much else to say otherwise.  And I had hidden his D-Terminal.  Hugging myself, I couldn’t meet his eyes again as I began the painful process of explaining myself.

            “When I left, I knew you’d come after me the moment you got home, and I wasn’t ready to deal with you yet, so I hid your D-Terminal to slow you down.  I told you, Taichi, that I came here to put myself back together, and for that I needed some peace and solitude.  I couldn’t get that in our world.”

            Taichi studied me closely, and seemed to find he had to agree.  None of us can find the kind of peace we have here anywhere on our world.  He nodded after a moment.

            “Fine.  Forget the D-Terminal and your sneaky ways.  What was that depression for Yamato?  If it was about what happened before I left…” Taichi trailed off, having seen the answer on my face, an answer that continued to hurt badly enough that I couldn’t hide it.  “Why, Matt?”  He asked, looking and sounding so confused and concerned it made my heart hurt.  It also hadn’t escaped my notice that I was still ‘Matt’ or ‘Yamato.’  Not one ‘Yama’ from him yet, which I guess was because he was still angry – or he was trying to distance himself from me, somehow.  I sighed.  Probably it was both.

            “I don’t want to talk about it.”  I tried, but at his glare I winced and followed up with, “However, you’ll never leave me alone until we do talk about it.  Not that there’s anything to discuss…”

            He blinked at me incredulously.  “Nothing to discuss?!  I jerked my best friend off in our sleep, and there’s nothing to talk about?!”

            I blushed furiously and had to turn away completely.  Gee, the beach looked inviting again today…  I bent down after kicking off my shoes and pulled off my socks, then picked up my footwear and trudged barefoot through the sand closer to the water.  “What’s to say, Taichi?  We’re hormonal teenaged males, and we responded to the presence of another person in bed.”  I dropped my bag and footwear on the sand and faced the angry Child of Courage.

            Taichi followed me, stumbling here and there as he took off his own socks and shoes.  “If that’s all it was,” he growled in obvious frustration, “if it was as simple as that, then why are you depressed about it?  And why, Yamato, does it make you unable to look at me, or talk about it, or laugh it off as that simple?”

            “Because!”  I was beginning to lose what little calm I had, and my voice was rising.  I couldn’t tell him the whole truth, yet there was no other plausible excuse to offer.  Not this time.  And he was beginning to wear me down to the point where I would tell him the truth because I was just so damned tired of holding all of it in, of hiding and lying to him.

            “’Because’ is not an answer, Ishida!”  He shouted, his temper fraying again.  He stepped up to me, getting in my face this time as he demanded answers.  “I didn’t buy that hormone excuse last week, and I still don’t!  Talk to me, damn it!  I said I was sorry, and that I didn’t mean to…”

            “I know!  I know that!”  I shouted back.

            “Then what?”  He grabbed for me, probably intending to shake the answer out of me, and I just snapped, still trying to hide from him.  I struggled when his hands closed on my arms, and before I knew it we were fighting in a way we hadn’t for a very long time.  Punches were thrown, a lot of swearing and growling and angry-type noises blistered the air, and the next thing I knew I was flat on my back, a conflicted, angry Bearer of Courage straddling me, pinning me down and glaring heatedly down at me with a fist pulled back, ready to strike.

            Déjà vu…

            I went dead limp, exhausted in every way.  Broken, I simply stared up at him in surrender, and gasped out the answer I never wanted to tell him but no longer had the will or energy to hide.  I was going to lose him if I tried keeping it from him any longer anyway.  At least when he left me after this, we’d both know why.

            “Because…you didn’t…mean it!”  I panted emotionally, my eyes starting to burn.  “Because I…thought it was a dream…that I’d only have that in a dream…and it wasn’t a dream…and you didn’t mean it!”

            Taichi froze in shock, eyes huge and jaw dropping open.  He stared at me for several minutes, his fist unclenching and slowly falling back to his side.

            “What…what are you saying, exactly?”  He asked in a stunned, low voice.  His face, which I’d focused on to try and keep myself stable, went blurry as tears gathered, and overflowed to pour down the sides of my face.  Defeated, I let him have it – the bald, unvarnished, naked, and soul-wrenching truth.

            “I want you.  I need you.  You’re my best friend but it’s so much more than that to me.”  A sob masquerading as a laugh tumbled out of my mouth.  “Pathetic, I know.  I fucking fell in love with you, Taichi!  I love you…” I couldn’t say any more, already choking on my tears and emotional trauma.  So I lay there and cried, knowing he was lost to me now.

            Absolutely floored, Taichi hovered above me, at a loss for what to do – or say – as his mouth opened then closed several times.  Finally, a strange look crossed his face, something I couldn’t interpret.

            Before I could muster my voice to ask him to say something – anything! – Taichi suddenly leaned down and pressed his lips firmly to mine.

            I think my heart stopped.  I know I suddenly stopped breathing.

            And the sudden roar in my ears when my pulse started up again made me close my eyes against the dizziness.  He was so warm…

            Taichi pulled back and my eyes flew open as what he’d just done registered.  Oh no…  Oh gods, no…

            “Don’t!”  The plea was desperate, hoarse and nearly unintelligible.  In my head I was begging him not to do this to me, not to kiss me and leave me with that memory for the rest of my life.  I couldn’t deal with it.  However, Taichi always does whatever he wants, and it was no different now.

            He swooped in and captured my lips again in a swift – oh god – demanding kiss.  I whimpered, feebly trying to push him away by his shoulders.  I ended up digging my fingers into them, instead, through his track jacket and shirt, when he pried my mouth open insistently and refused to back down.  I…was too weak and devastated to keep trying to get away, unable to deny him, unable to let this go, so I gave in, closed my eyes, and kissed back.

            A low noise from him made me open them again, and Taichi pulled away enough to look into my eyes.  I didn’t know what was going on, what to do or say, so I just stared back in confusion.  Suddenly he cracked a tiny smile, and whispered, “Yama…” in such a husky, seductive way I shuddered in delight.

            He didn’t give me time to say or do anything in response.  His mouth descended on mine again, and this time it burned me right through to my ripped and torn soul.  Dimly I registered my arms moving to curl around his shoulders and neck, but my attention was captivated by the claim Taichi was making to my mouth with lips, and teeth, and at last his tongue.  He plundered my mouth – owned it – and stole my breath and my sanity away.  Heat burned any resistance in me away, and every nerve in my body sang a chorus of pure, lust-induced need.

            I wanted to crawl inside him.  I wanted him inside me.  I was going up in flames and I didn’t give a damn.

            I kissed back, meeting his tongue stroke for stroke, parry for parry.  One of his hands found my hair, tangling his fingers in a handful as he tried to hold me captive while he devoured me.  I moaned into his mouth and wiggled under him, trying to press more of myself against him but he was holding himself too high above me.  Instead, I ran my hand down his back, feeling muscles tense as I passed, and barely managed to get my fingers on his ass – which felt incredible to my sensitive digits through the soft, smooth material of his track pants.  A low moan came from deep in his throat and he yanked himself away from me, panting and staring down at me with glazed eyes gone dark like chocolate with lust.

            I blinked at him, feeling more than a little dazed myself.  What the hell was he doing?  What was I doing?  Confusion, anger, and a severe slap of pain made my whole body go cold.  And I began to panic.

            “There is…so much we have to say to each other, Yama…so much to talk about…”  Taichi said in that husky voice of his that did wicked things to my hormones despite my panic.  Wait a minute…  ‘Yama?’

            “We’ll talk later, but…I think the first and most important thing is…” Taichi kept speaking and I realized he wasn’t really looking at me as he did.  And the blush that was making him lobster-red was really endearing.  He was also quite fidgety, like he didn’t quite know what to do with his hands.  “Uh, well…you know that guy I like?”

            Ouch.  That was a knife to the heart that was being twisted viciously.  I turned my head away, every part of me tensing up.  “Yes.  Rub it in some more, Yagami.”  My tone came out absolutely bone-chilling frosty and hurt. “I know I’m not what you want.  So if you don’t mind, fuck off and leave me alone to wallow in my misery!”

            Fingers grabbed my chin and forced me to look back at him.  “Baka!  Do I look like I’m trying to be a cruel bastard?  I’m trying to tell you that the guy I like is you, you supreme, self-absorbed asshole!”  He yelled at me, eyes blazing like twin suns.  Me?  I just gaped like a fish out of water.

            Taichi’s expression abruptly softened, all the tension in him – and subsequently myself – leaking out of him.  His fingers gentled on my face, his thumb almost absently brushing over my lower lip.  There was nothing but affection in his gaze – affection, admiration, and a wry amusement that made him chuckle.

            “What’s so amusing?”  I demanded gruffly, crossing my arms over my chest and trying to look indignant, even though I was flat on my back with a very sexy Taichi straddling my waist and staring down at me.  I don’t think I pulled it off.

            “Just that we’re the two biggest morons ever.  I know what my excuse was for not telling you sooner.  Despite being the Child of Courage I was too afraid to say anything for…all kinds of reasons that are probably really stupid and ridiculous.”  Taichi sighed and rubbed at the back of his neck sheepishly.  “Maybe…it was my opposite aspect.  But…I love you, Ishida Yamato.”

            He…he…did he just say what I thought?

            “You…you…” I stammered pushing myself up on my arms.  Taichi smiled tentatively, looking very unsure of himself all of a sudden.  “Really?”  I could not believe I was getting my greatest wish.

            “Absolutely.”  The smile widened.

            “For real?”  My own mouth was twitching into a smile.

            “Absolutely for real.”  Now he was grinning.

            Joy.  That’s the only word I could use to describe what filled me at his words.  I sat up so fast if you blinked, you missed it, and threw my arms around Taichi’s neck.  He gave a startled yelp at the abruptness and I returned the kiss he’d give me earlier, plastering my mouth to his and not hesitating to kiss the shit out of him.

            It took him all of five seconds to get with the program.  His arms banded around me in return, one hand sliding fingers into my hair again (making me wonder if I’d found a kink for him already), and responding to the kiss with equal fervor and passion.  Gods it felt so good to do this, to explore and touch and taste, to memorize everything I could to imprint him into my memory permanently.  Mine. I thought, letting my tongue tangle with his.  It was totally possessive of me, but I couldn’t care less.  He was mine, finally, after all the heartache and depression, and the angst.  I let out a strangled moan and broke away, panting for breath, and clung to him desperately.

            “Tai…” his name poured out on a litany of gasps as a I shook uncontrollably with emotion.  I wasn’t the only one, though.  I could feel the tremors running through Taichi just the same.  “Tai…love you…”

            “Oh, Yama…” he breathed and suddenly we were kissing again.  This time it was slow, thorough, and devastatingly blissful.  What was more, I could feel him, his heartbeat seeming to fall in sync with my own, his breathing matching mine.  It…felt very much like it does whenever we Jogress our Digimon partners, and I drank in the warming, soothing sensations like I’d never tasted water and was dying of thirst.

            However long we remained like that, kissing one another with all the emotion we had to give, we eventually stopped by some unspoken agreement.  I leaned my forehead against Taichi’s and smiled, at peace with everything for the first time in…years, really.

            “You okay?”  I asked, running my fingers through his wild mane of hair.  It was surprisingly soft.

            “Oh yeah.”  He sounded a little giddy. “You?”

            “I’m a little delirious, but otherwise I’m perfect.”  I hummed happily and snuggled closer.

            “I hate to ask,” Taichi sighed, “and to ruin the moment, but will you come home, Yama?  Besides the fact that we have a lot to talk about, and I really think we need to make up for lost time and…practice our make-out skills…” I muffled a snicker against his neck, “Well, besides that, you left a lot of worried people behind.  We need to let them know you’re okay and that everything else is fine now.”

            I nuzzled his throat with my nose and lips, distracted by the scent of him.  His hands came up to find mine and linked our fingers together, pulling them in between us to hold against his chest.  Reluctantly, I backed off and met his gaze to answer his question.

            “As much as I’d rather stay here with you for a lot longer,” I gave a pout that made a rather interesting gleam enter Taichi’s warm brown eyes as they dropped to focus on my bottom lip.  Did I feel bad for teasing?  Nope.  “You’re right.  I’m probably going to get my ass handed to me by Sora, but…”

            Taichi grinned, snickering. “It’s your own damned fault, Yama.  You disappeared under her watch.  Hikari isn’t too impressed with you either, though she’s a little more forgiving because you at least told Takeru.”

            “I’m a jerk.  I know it.”  I hung my head and Taichi leaned in, drawing my eyes back up to his.

            “Hey.  They’ll forgive you.  I think you can find some sufficient way of making it up to them, too.”  Taichi pointed out, shifting off my lap to the side but dipping his head to kiss me deeply one last time.  It kept the fires burning, that’s for sure.

            Tugging on my hand, he hoisted me to my feet.  “Let’s go home, Yama.”  That gleam turned into a glint that made me squirm in anticipation.  “I’ve got plans, and you’re the key figure in them.”

            I’m pretty sure my grin was bordering on stupid as we collected our footwear and my bag and he nearly dragged me to the nearest place for opening a Digital Gate he could find with his Digivice – which turned out to be a really old, bulky computer monitor.  As the gate opened and we were pulled in, I had the small regret that I hadn’t said a decent goodbye to Gabumon.  Then again…my partner probably knew, somehow, that I’d be back soon.

            We Chosen can’t stay away for long, after all.


            The gate didn’t spit us out where I’d expected.  It wasn’t even from my laptop.  And you’d think by now we’d be experts on traveling between worlds…

            There was quite a bit of startled noise and voices, and a lot of “oomph!”s and “oww!”s and “ack!”s from those voices.  Taichi and I landed in a huge Digidestined pile, all tangled up together with…  Izzy, Miyako, and…Mimi?  I stared into the Child of Sincerity’s face from two inches away and said in surprise, “Meems!  Hi!”

            “Matt!  Oh, I’m so glad to see you looking better!”

            “Uh…guys?  You’re squishing me!”  Izzy informed us from somewhere under the rest of us.

            “Oh!  Sorry, sorry!”  Taichi scrambled off the top of the pile and hauled me off by the shirt.  We were gentlemen and helped the ladies up, then gave Izzy a hand off the floor of…  Well, what do you know?  My living room.

            …With the remaining five Chosen standing or sitting around the room watching with amusement, surprise, and even relief.  Oh, and one source of frostiness (from Sora, of course).

            Takeru moved around everyone and the furniture and threw his arms around my waist to hug me in welcome.  “Matt?”  I heard him murmur in my ear, voice worried and questioning.  I wrapped my arms around my little brother and buried my face in his hair, hugging him tightly.

            “I’m fine, Keru.  Everything’s good, I promise.”  I said quietly, trying to reassure him.  He pulled back enough to look me in the eye, and he searched my expression and eyes to see if I was trying to hide anything from him.  I smiled, and he grinned back.

            “Welcome home, big brother.”

            I ruffled his hair affectionately and he laughed, turning to face the room but staying tucked against my side with his arm still circling my waist.  I left an arm draped around his shoulders as I faced the others, smiling at them in an apologetic, sheepish sort of way.

            Before I could say anything though, Takeru and Hikari spoke up first.

            “Thanks, Taichi!”  My little brother said gratefully to my…boyfriend.  I blinked, as the reality of it hit me for real (even if I didn’t really like the term ‘boyfriend’ since it didn’t sufficiently describe our relationship), and looked over at Taichi with what I’m sure was an absolutely goofy expression.

            He blinked at me, looking just as stupid as me, and then looked over at Takeru.  “Uh…you’re welcome, Takeru, but…what for?”

            Good question, Taichi.  I glanced from him to my brother.

            “For bringing Matt home, but more for…” he paused, looked up at me, and smiled, “For making him happy.  Truly happy.”

            I blushed, right to the tips of my ears.  Though we hadn’t discussed whether or not to tell our friends and/or family about our new relationship, the point was now quite moot.

            “So,” Takeru continued, apparently not happy with the shade of red I’d turned (as in not enough), “I guess I should say ‘welcome to the family!’  And do I get to start calling you my brother-in-law?  ‘Cause…”

            I slapped a hand over his mouth, clearing my throat loudly and trying not to meet anyone’s gaze directly.  Hikari was giggling next to her brother and a less wrathful-appearing Sora, and she looked up at Taichi to take in his own embarrassed face (although I don’t think he was quite as embarrassed as me).

            “Well, if you get to call Taichi your brother-in-law, then I get to do the same of Matt, Takeru.”  She decided, glancing at me with an impish grin.

            “Whoa!”  Daisuke cried, his gaze darting back and forth between Taichi and I.  “They finally got together?  About damn time!”

            Ken clamped a hand over Daisuke’s mouth and smiled benignly.  “Ignore the tactless one, please.”

            Everyone was quite suddenly speaking all at once, offering their congratulations to both Taichi and I.  Somehow our friends had pushed and nudged us toward each other until we were side-by-side.  The shock of the fact that they all apparently already knew how Taichi and I truly felt about one another – or actually thought we already were together and just keeping silent for now – was enough to make me fairly speechless.  Not to mention extremely stupid and foolish for not realizing it sooner myself.

            How humiliating is that?  Everyone seems to have known for far, far longer than I would have guessed.  Well, there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway, so no use dwelling.

            Next thing I knew, Sora was standing in front of me, hands on hips, face neutral.  It made me very nervous, but I somehow resisted the urge to hide behind Taichi.

            I tried a small, hopeful smile.

            Sora frowned.

            I wiped off the smile and hung my head like a little boy about to be scolded by his mother for sneaking cookies from the cookie jar.

            “What do you have to say for yourself?”  This was what one would call ‘tough love,’ I suppose.

            “Uh…I’m a huge jerk and I’m sorry?”

            “Damn right you are, Yamato.”  I winced at her tone, and nearly jumped out of my skin when Taichi’s hand skimmed my hip as her arm slipped around my waist, resting on my other hip possessively and protectively.

            “Cut him some slack, Sora.  He had reasons for running off.”  Taichi said, attempting to defend me.  Honestly, though, I didn’t know if I liked his defense.  “And I honestly don’t think he’s gonna do it again.”

            I shook my head fervently, agreeing.  Sora sighs, then smiles tremulously at us.

            “I’ll forgive you, Matt, but only because I’m so happy the two of you finally talked to each other and found what I’ve seen for way too long now.”  She drew the both us down to hug us at the same time, one arm around my neck and the other around Taichi’s.  “Congratulations, guys.  I know you’ll be happy together.”

            I shared a glance with Taichi and we hugged the Child of Love – our mutual best female friend – back tightly.

            “Thank you Sora.”  Taichi said quietly, before letting her go.

            “For everything.”  I added in a whisper as I pulled away.  Sora sniffled and gave me a quick peck on the cheek, smiling brightly as she stepped back.

            Joe wandered up to us last, and was studying each of us with a critical eye.  I blinked at him, confused for a moment, and then I remembered that we probably looked like hell thanks to our little fight on the beach.

            I gave him a sheepish grin.  “Don’t worry, Joe.  It’s not as bad as it probably looks.  No blood or broken bones, I swear.”

            He pushed his glasses up his nose and eyed us.  “Uh huh.  Well, I’ll just say congratulations, then, and remind you to ice those bruises.”

            We grinned at him, nodding obediently.

            Good old reliable Joe.


Relevant Episodes:  Nothing specific this chapter!


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