I’m not sure how long we lay there for, but neither of us felt any rush to get up and go our separate ways. It had been, after all, a long time since we’d had the opportunity to just hang around together. We were best friends and as close as we could get, as such, but these days we hardly had any spare time for each other. It occurred to me then, that I missed him – missed his noisy, endearingly clueless, never-say-die attitude in my everyday life. Then again, he’s matured a great deal in his teenage years and has become a lot quieter and more circumspect than he was in his rash youth. But this hasn’t altered my view of Taichi. If anything, it’s just made us closer because I have changed, too.
Eventually he let out a huge sigh and sat up with a stretch that briefly raised his shirt up to show off his flat but toned stomach. I felt a curious warmth and tingling sensation but ignored it and just watched him with sleepy apprehension. Taichi was always worth watching, and no one would ever claim that I didn’t have an appreciation for beautiful things – and Taichi is beautiful in that athletic, golden, spends-a-lot-of-time-in-the-sun kind of way. Though, admittedly, he doesn’t think of himself that way and doesn’t pay much attention to his appearance.
But that’s alright because I more than make up for that. I digress… Can you blame me?
Anyway, he sat up and stretched while I practically drooled over him. He turned and looked down at me with a questioning expression.
“Hmm?” I looked up at him and met his gaze lazily.
“You were looking at me strangely.”
“Was I? Sorry.” I pretended not to know what he was talking about and he let it go.
“I feel a craving for ice cream!” Taichi commented, rolling to his feet and dusting off his pants. “I think I’ll get some for Kari, too. Want to come to the store with me?”
I got up, too, and shrugged. “Sure I could use a snack.” I followed him out of the playground, then out of the park, toward the market that was near both our apartment complexes. We walked in and went to the frozen food section, and spent a few minutes staring at the endless variety.
“I don’t know what to get Kari.” Taichi grumbled and pulled out his cell phone to call her. “Hey, it’s me. I…what? I’m at the store with Matt. We’re getting ice cream, that’s why I called. Huh? Oh.” He scowled and I would have hugged him had we not been in the middle of a somewhat busy grocery store. “Tell Mom I’m fine, I’m with Matt, and I’ll be home in half an hour or so, then go hang out in my room, Kari, if she’s bugging you. I’ll talk to her when I get back. Uh huh. Let me deal with her, okay?” There was a long pause where he listened to his sister then smiled a little – that small, soft one that only Hikari could seem to get out of him, and I knew he’d be fine.
“Tai, get her the Rocky Road.” I pointed at the container behind the frosty glass doors. He rolled his eyes at me.
“No, Matt wants to get you Rocky Road.” I guess Hikari heard me over the line. “Something chocolate? How about Fudge? Cookie Dough?”
I swear his eyes lit up at that suggestion. I grabbed two small tubs of the Cookie Dough flavoured ice cream for them, and a small tub of lime sherbet for myself. At Taichi’s raised eyebrow, I shrugged and said, “What? I want to try something different.”
“I didn’t say anything.” He grinned at me, teasing, and I just tossed one tub of ice cream at him. He barely caught it one-handed. “Okay, sis. I’ll be home soon, we’re just going to pay for this. Get some spoons ready!” He hung up and put the cell in his jacket pocket as we went to stand in line at the cashier.
When we finally got to our neighbourhood, and were preparing to go our separate ways, I stopped walking and reached out to lay a hand on his shoulder and squeeze. “Hey, pal. It’ll work out in the end. And if you need me…”
Taichi raised a hand and laid it over mine, letting it rest there, fingers curling around mine.
“I know. But thanks for reminding me.” He turned his head and let his cheek brush my hand before releasing it and I pulled it back from him, blushing a little. That had been a tad affectionate in a new way – but then again this was Taichi and he didn’t hide his emotions well. Not from me, anyway. Not that I understood that gesture…ah, hell.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Taichi.” I gave him an easy smile and watched him walk off, heading for his building, ice cream in hand. I was worried about him, but I knew if he needed to escape, he’d either call or show up on my doorstep.
I made my own way home slowly, enjoying the peace and quiet. It felt good not to be in a rush for once. Life was a little too hectic these last few months, with school and practicing with my band and playing gigs…I barely had time to breathe sometimes.
I took off my shoes at the door and made my way inside, calling out, “Dad! I’m back!” There was no answer – though I hadn’t really been expecting one. Dad’s not around much anymore since he got a promotion at the TV station.
I put my ice cream in the freezer for a little while, since it was melting, and checked the phone for messages. Sure enough, there was Dad, telling me that he wouldn’t be home for a couple of days. I sighed and glanced at the counter, where he’d left me some money for groceries. At least I wouldn’t starve.
So I settled in for a relaxing, quiet night at home with my sherbet.
Ugh. Too much ice cream last night.
I rolled out of bed feeling rather gross the next morning, and decided a shower would help. I love my showers – and have been teased plenty for them by my dearest little brother, Takeru, and by Taichi.
Speaking of, I wondered how things went last night. He hadn’t called or shown up out of nowhere, so I assume it had been calm enough.
After my shower, I was eating my breakfast (hoping that I’d feel better after I ate real food) when the doorbell rang. I shoved my bowl of cereal away and went to answer it.
“Taichi! Hey, Hikari. And Takeru, too.” I greeted the group at my door. “What are you all doing here?”
“Well, we’re on our way to the amusement park, and we figured you’d come with us if we stopped by.” Takeru grinned at me. “Otherwise you’d be still in the shower, no doubt.” He dropped his hands down on Hikari’s shoulders and squeezed. I saw how she leaned into him just a little more than she usually did.
I rolled my eyes at my brother and Taichi laughed. I noticed the strain behind the sound and made a mental note to ask him about it later.
“Har, har, Takeru. Come in for a few minutes, guys. I just have to clean up breakfast and find my keys and wallet.” I led them in and went back to the kitchen.
“How’s Dad, Matt?” my little brother inquired, filling the silence. Ever since Mimi gave me that American-ized name it had stuck, and they’ve all called me ‘Matt’ since – or Yamato, but that’s usually when they’re mad at me. Come to think of it, it’s like my friends are my parents, calling me by my whole name when I’ve done something.
“He’s fine, I guess. I haven’t seen him for a couple of days. He left a message last night saying he wouldn’t be back for a few more days.” I shrugged and Takeru sighed.
“Too bad. I was hoping I could come over and stay a day or two to spend some time with him while I’m on break.”
“Don’t put the idea aside yet. It may work out.” I dropped my dishes in the sink to deal with later and wandered over to the living room to find my keys and wallet. “I know Dad would love to have you here, ‘Keru.”
“You could still come over and stay with Matt, couldn’t you, Takeru?” Hikari asked. He nodded.
“Yeah, I could.” He shrugged. “We’ll talk about it later, huh, Matt?”
“Yep. Got my stuff! Let’s get going!” I led them back to the door and stepped into my shoes. Taichi tossed me a light suede jacket from the hall closet and I raised and eyebrow. It’s still chilly out there. You get cold easily so take a jacket.” He responded blithely.
“Uh…thanks.” I slid it on and ignored the snickers from my little brother and the smothered giggle from Taichi’s little sister. They obviously found something amusing, but I was sure I didn’t want to know.
“Shut up, ‘Kari!”
“I didn’t say anything!”
“Because you’re funny!”
Well, at least the sibling arguments hadn’t changed. And obviously Taichi knew what they found so amusing.
“If you’re both quite done, can we go?” I interrupted, ushering them out the door.
“Yeah, yeah…quit shoving, Matt!” Taichi complained. I just laughed, closing and locking my door before joining my friends for the walk to the amusement park.
Takeru and Hikari were walking ahead of Taichi and I at a fair distance – just far enough that we could see them but not hear them. Not that our beloved younger siblings couldn’t take care of themselves…well, being a protective big brother never dies.
Since they were out of ear-shot, I glanced at Taichi sideways and decided to get him to vent before we met up with the others. When he was in a dark mood (rare as that is) it tends to make the rest of us gloomy too. It was weird, but then again, we were Digidestined and we were connected in a way no one else on the planet was. We’d learned that through that the fight with Apocalymon.
“How did it go last night, pal?”
Taichi frowned. “Not well. Listen…I need to ask a huge favour…”
“Anything, Tai. You know that.” I slowed my pace and he matched it, not looking at me. “Tai?”
“You’re too good to me sometimes, Yama.” He sighed and finally met my gaze. “Would it be alright if I moved in with you for a while? I’ll pay for food and stuff, and even rent! I was going to get a job anyway, to save up for my own place for me and Hikari if she wanted, and…”
“Whoa! Tai, stop!” I grabbed him by the shoulders to give him a firm shake. “Cut it out, please, and listen to me, okay?” He snapped his mouth shut and stared at me expectantly. “Thank you. Now, you keep quiet and listen to me.”
Taichi gulped in a huge breath of air and let it out in a deep sigh, then nodded. For once he listened to me and didn’t say a word.
“You don’t have to pay me or Dad back for anything. He thinks of you as one of his own sons you know. Here’s what you can do: you’ll come stay with me for a few days, and when Dad gets back we’ll sit down with him and tell him what’s going on with your parents. I’m sure he’ll understand completely. Okay? One step at a time, Taichi.”
“Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. Thanks, Yama.” He gave me this crooked smile that told me he really wanted to cry but was fighting not to. “You always know how to set me straight and make me use my head. I’m sorry I got all weird on you.”
“Nah.” I waved it off, grinning. “That was just normal Yagami Taichi to me. So!” I thumped him on the back and started walking again. “Let’s enjoy our day out with our friends, pal!”
Taichi caught up to me and tossed an arm around my shoulders in a short glomp – nearly knocking me off my feet. “You bet! I’ve been looking forward to it!”
“Ack! Taichi!” I laughingly complained and finally earned that true grin of his from him. I relaxed now, because I knew he’d be okay if he could still smile like that.
“Ugh…that’s it! No more roller-coasters!” I came out of the washroom complaining to Izzy, Joe, and Iori, who’d all come along with me to make sure I survived.
“You going to live?” Joe studied me critically. “You’re awfully pale, Matt.”
“I’m okay. I just need to stay off roller-coasters or things that go upside down.” I rubbed my stomach in an attempt to soothe. “I swear Taichi is trying to kill me.”
Izzy patted me on the shoulder sympathetically. “I know how you feel, Matt. After last time I was here I swore I’d never do that again.”
“There’s a reason you’re the Child of Knowledge, Izzy.” Joe quipped, earning a mild scowl from the red headed computer expert, and a laugh from me. IT even got a smile out of Iori – good. He’s too serious sometimes.
We walked back over to the roller-coaster to meet up with the others.
“By the way, Matt,” Izzy said after a few minutes of silence. “I’ve been meaning to ask if you knew what was wrong with Taichi lately. I’d noticed he’s been in a sort of…mood and that’s been very unlike him.”
Oh boy. I’d wondered if any of the others had noticed yet, and apparently they had. And of course they’d come asking me about it.
Joe nodded and Iori looked serious – more than he usually does. “I’d noticed, too. He’s been quiet – for Taichi – and the other day I saw him in the park all by himself, just sitting on a bench in the rain without an umbrella or anything.”
I frowned. That I hadn’t known. Was he running off to be alone a lot more than he’d let on? I came to a determined decision right then; Taichi was moving in with Dad and I that very night.
“Yeah. We’ve talked.” I said quietly. I wasn’t sure how much to say. “There’s…some tension at home. He’s going to come stay with me for a while.”
The three boys stared at me, a little shocked.
“What’s going on, Matt? Is there something we can do?” Izzy stopped walking and the rest of us stopped, too.
I knew why he was asking. Taichi…has done so much for all of us. So whenever we get the opportunity, we all try to do something for him, as if we could ever make up for all the selfless, sacrificing things Taichi has done – for us Chosen, the world, and the Digital World. Being the leader is a tough job on anyone, but in Taichi’s case it was even more so. And next to me, Izzy is closest to Taichi.
“You’ll have to ask him about it, Izzy.” I replied. I met his eyes and tried to convey that I understood his concern and that I was on top of the problem. “For now, I think all we can do is make sure that he has fun and is kept distracted for the day. He really needs this.” I glanced at Iori, catching his gaze. “Hikari, too.”
I saw his eyes widen a little, but he simply nodded.
“Miyako mentioned Hikari was staying with her for the rest of the spring break.”
“Really?” I smiled, somewhat relieved. “That’s good. Taichi won’t worry about her so much while he’s at my place if Hikari’s not at home either.”
Joe set a hand on Izzy and Iori’s shoulders. “Well, it sounds to me like Matt’s got things under control, so let’s just do like he said and make sure Taichi – and Hikari – have fun today. They know where to find us if they need help.”
“Thanks Joe.” I smiled at him and he just shrugged, returning the smile.
“Hey, if anyone at all can help Taichi, it’s you.”
We started walking again, and just as we got to the roller-coaster the others were getting off.
“Hey!” Miyako and Mimi bounced over to us first, completely unfazed by the roller coaster. “Are you feeling any better, Matt?” Mimi asked, studying me just as critically as Joe had.
“I’m okay, Meems.” I gave her a smile meant to reassure. Apparently I wasn’t convincing enough though, because she gave me this look and laid a palm to my forehead.
“Are you sure? You looked awfully green when you left. Maybe you should eat something.”
I must have turned green again at the mention of food (and my guts flipped over unhappily in a clear warning) because Joe hastily rescued me.
“He’ll be fine, Mimi. He just needs to stay off roller-coasters and wild rides for a while.” I gave the doctor-to-be a grateful glance.
“Well, if you say so.” Mimi gave in reluctantly, but she didn’t mention it anymore. We all tended to listen to Joe on matters of health.
“I had eaten too much ice cream last night and I was feeling it this morning, too, Mimi.” I added. “I wasn’t feeling one hundred percent this morning when I got up anyway.”
“Ah.” Now she was all understanding and sympathy. Miyako, too.
“I’ve done that before, so I totally get it, Matt! Don’t worry!” Miyako struck a pose and declared, “We’ll keep you away from the stomach grinding rides like the Zipper and the Graviton!”
I felt my stomach lurch at the thought and replied a little weakly, “Thanks, Miya.”
Taichi and the others jogged up to us and he nearly knocked me over with his sudden glomp. “Ack! Taichi!”
“Matt! You okay?” He asked. “You should have said you weren’t feeling well earlier. I wouldn’t have made you go on the roller-coaster again.”
I sighed and leaned into him just a little in acceptance of the apology I heard in his voice. “I’m fine. Don’t worry about it, Tai. Or me.”
He let go of me and walked beside me as we all started moving on in search of a different ride to go on. “Okay, but you’re feeling better, right?”
I nodded, reaching out to give his hand a quick squeeze. “You can buy me a Sno-cone, though.” I gave him a side glance and saw him brighten up.
“Hey yeah! Good idea. I’ll be right back.” Taichi dashed over to the nearest concession booth to get us Sno-cones. Sora, Izzy, Takeru, and Daisuke followed him to get snacks of their own and/or for one of the others. I figured ice and flavouring wouldn’t bother my upset tummy, out of all the foods one can find at an amusement park.
“So what are we doing next?” Ken asked while we waited. I didn’t really care so I said nothing.
“How about playing some games?” Hikari suggested, pointing in the direction of all the game booths. “We should each try to win a plushie or something as a souvenir.”
“Aren’t those games rigged?” Iori asked, skeptical.
“I haven’t got any place to put a plushie in my room.” Joe complained. He actually looked a little sad about it. “I’ve got all my shelves filled with books.”
Mimi and Miyako, on the other hand, were sparkling madly. “Plushies!” They chorused, squealing in girly delight.
Ken rolled his eyes and Hikari giggled.
I leaned against a metal railing, smiling to myself slightly over it all. It was nice to know that even though our lives had…diversified and we’d all gone our own way to some extent, some things never changed. We were a closely knit group of friends, maybe more since we were connected in ways most other people could not fathom.
Taichi and the others returned, distributing Sno-cones, ice cream (ugh!), and other treats amongst the rest of us. The Child of Courage stayed next to me as we all began walking again, this time slowly while we enjoyed our snacks.
“How’s the cone?” He asked, watching me eat some of it. “I wasn’t sure what flavour to get you, so I picked something blue.”
I shrugged, touched that he remembered my favourite colour. “I’m not that picky, Taichi. But this is good.” And so far my stomach wasn’t complaining. Joy!
“Good. If you didn’t like it, I was going to go get you a different one.”
I rolled my eyes. “Well, thanks. I appreciate the thought.” He smiled at me and ate some of his own, something that was a mix of orange and red. “What flavour is yours?” I asked curiously.
“The orange is tangerine and the red is called ‘dragon’s blood’ so I really don’t know. But it’s good!” Taichi held out his cone to me. “Wanna try some?” He offered. Not even thinking about what I was doing or how it may have looked I set my hand over his holding the cone and guided it to my mouth to take a small bite from the red side and let go. I made a humming noise as the ice melted in my mouth and I swallowed.
“Not bad.” I commented, licking my lips of the little dribble that escaped. I noticed he was watching me intently, a small gleam in his eyes I couldn’t identify. But I didn’t really think about it or pay much attention to it. “Want to try mine?” I offered him my cone and he did as I had, guiding my hand up closer to his mouth and taking a bite. Some of the blue flavouring dripped down his chin before he could catch it with his tongue and again, without thinking, I wiped it away with my finger and licked the stuff off. “Like it?” I asked with complete oblivious innocence.
He looked a little startled, but it passed so quickly I wondered if I’d seen it. Taichi nodded and smiled. “Not bad.” He echoed my response.
“So what was the blue stuff called?”
A grin. “’Wolf’s bane.’ The other reason I picked it.”
I laughed. “Ah. You know me too well, Yagami.”
“That so, Ishida?” He winked at me the little mischievous brat! I gave him a mock glare and nodded.
“Nobody but you, Taichi.”
His grin faded into a softer, considering gaze and he looked forward again, saying quietly, “Same, Yama. Same.”
For a couple of hours after that the group and I made our way through the games booths, steadily acquiring a small army of plushies – most of which we donated to the girls of our group, particularly Miyako and Mimi. Hikari excepted the ones Takeru and Taichi won, and Sora only took one other from me that she hadn’t won herself.
Taichi, of course, had the need to tease me about it.
“Are you sure you two aren’t dating again? ‘Cause it’s so sweet I think I’m getting a cavity!”
I wrestled him into a headlock and messed up his wild mane of hair for that, laughing as he squirmed and viciously tried to tickle me to let him go. Sora just rolled her eyes at us, this small, fond smile on her face.
Sure, Sora and I were close. We’d dated early on in high school. But shortly after the whole thing with Mr. I’m-never-going-away-no-matter-how-many-times-you-blasted-Children-defeat-me (aka Malomyotismon), she had come to me and explained that she’d come to the conclusion that she and I were not meant to be. We had a long talk, and by mutual agreement, we broke up.
But we’re still close and we’re still good friends. And Taichi, who was closer to Sora than any of us, had seemed…relieved when he found out. At the time, I hadn’t paid attention.
Now, however, looking back on it all, I really did miss a hell of a lot of signs.
“Hey, Matt!” Takeru’s voice broke into my reflective reverie and I blinked at him.
“There’s a fortune teller’s booth over there! Hikari and I want to try it, but we’re almost out of tokens, so…”
Taichi snickered and handed over some of his own for his little sister. I sighed and dug out some of my own for Takeru. “You know those are totally fake, right? It’s a waste of tokens.”
“Oh come on, Matt!” Takeru rolled his eyes at me. “It’s just for fun! You and Taichi should try it, too!” He dashed back over to Hikari before I could say anything else.
I scowled after them, then glanced at Taichi and groaned at the bright eyed sparkle he had for an expression. “Not you, too, Tai!”
“What?” He asked innocently. “It does sound kind of fun, Matt.”
“Didn’t you have enough of prophecies and stuff in the Digital World?” I complained as he grabbed my hand and dragged me in the direction our siblings had gone.
“This isn’t like that, Yama, and quit being such a wet blanket!” Tai complained.
We had to wait while our siblings went inside the shed-like booth to have their fortunes told. When they came out they were practically beaming sunshine, smiling from ear to ear.
“Must have been good news!” Taichi laughed as they blushed but nodded. “So what’d the fortune teller have to say?”
“Can’t tell you, Tai!” Hikari batted her eyes at him cheekily and laughed at his pout. “We can’t! Everyone knows that to reveal fortunes like that can jinx them or make good fortunes not happen!”
“That’s right.” Takeru added, nodding sagely.
I huffed. “They’re going to get married, have a few kids, be successful in their careers, and live happily ever after.”
“Matt!” All three howled at me in admonishment.
“What? We all knew that much already anyway.” I smirked as Takeru and Hikari blushed and turned to walk away.
“We’re going over this way. Catch up when you’re done here, okay?” Takeru waved over his shoulder at us.
“So do you want to go first or shall I?” Taichi asked me.
“I don’t care. What do you want to know, anyway?” I inquired, curious despite my skepticism.
He thought about it. “A couple of things, actually. Wait here, Yama. I’ll go first, then.”
I shrugged and leaned against a light-post as he went inside.
Relevant Episodes: Season 01, episodes 48-50; Season 02, episode 37, and the 4th Digimon movie.