We bought a lot of paint. Four big cans of it in two different colours. I was sure there’d be enough for mine and Taichi’s rooms, but better to be safe than sorry. Since classes didn’t start again until Wednesday, we decided the best day to get the painting thing done was Sunday – tomorrow. That way the paint would dry fast enough that we could move my stuff back in and add furniture and stuff to Taichi’s before we did have to go back and life returned to being hectic and stressful. As soon as we get back to the apartment, Takeru started hogging the phone while furiously typing text messages and emails on his D-terminal.
Multi-tasking. Digi-destined style.
It was after one in the afternoon when we got back, and while Takeru organized this painting party of his, I busied myself baking cookies. Taichi sat at the counter and watched me with amusement.
“He bakes, too. You’ll make an excellent wife to someone, Matt.” He teased. I paused in my vigorous mixing of batter long enough to level a glare at him.
“It’s a survival skill, Taichi. You really ought to learn to cook and stuff for yourself, you know.” I ignored his snickering and began rolling out dough. He rolled his eyes at me.
“I do know how. You think I’d survived this long on my mother’s cooking?” It had been an automatic joking response, but I looked up in time to see his face fall and shoulders tense. Wiping my hands quickly, I reached across the counter and laid a hand over his fist where it rested.
“Hey.” I waited until his eyes met mine. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to bring that up.”
His fist uncurled and grasped my hand tightly. “I know. Don’t worry about it, Yama. I can’t just ignore her presence in my life, after all.” He gave me a weak smile. “I’m okay. Really.”
I nodded and squeezed briefly before I let go. “I know it’s hard, but I really think after talking to your Dad today something good will happen.” I went back to cutting out cookies and placing them on cookie sheets.
“I hope you’re right, Yama.”
Trying to lighten the mood, I figured being my egotistical self was the best way to go. So I snorted indelicately before replying, “Of course I am. I’m always right.”
Success! I heard a muffled, “Yeah, sure.” And some badly concealed chuckles.
I was putting the second sheet of cookies in the oven when the doorbell rang. I glanced up and said, “Hikari. Let her in, would you?” Taichi was already up and heading for the door.
“Wow, does it smell good in here!” Hikari exclaimed as she appeared behind her brother a few seconds later. “Do I get to sample, Matt?”
“Of course.” I bent and gave her a brief peck on the cheek in greeting. “At least someone can appreciate my efforts.” I drawled, beginning to scrape cookies of the first sheet onto a cooling rack. I caught Taichi making faces at me and waved the flipper in my hand at him threateningly.
Hikari laughed at our antics. She looked relieved to see her big brother acting more like himself, and I winked at her to let her know I was doing my best. Her smile softened and she gave me a barely perceptible nod of acknowledgement.
Takeru appeared behind her and he wrapped his arms around her in a surprise bear hug. “Hey, Light of my life! Are you refereeing these two again?”
“Nah.” Hikari blushed prettily at the endearment, but made no move to escape his embrace. “Matt’s making cookies and I think I may eat them all because they smell really yummy!”
“You’ll share, won’t you?” He pouted at her and she giggled.
Smiling at them fondly, I dumped the cookie sheet in the dishwasher and decided we needed tea and milk for these cookies.
“Well, I did say Matt was going to make a good wife for someone someday.” Taichi’s grin was evil, and I glared at him again in dread. “After all, he cooks and bakes, he cleans, he does the shopping, and the laundry…”
“Yagami…” I growled, feeling the blush rise up my neck.
“…and he always tries to look his best.” Taichi ignored the steam coming out my ears. “There’s only one question left that I’d want to know the answer to.”
My beloved little brother angled a curious – and not a little amused – look at him. “What’s that?” That’s it. No cookies for Takeru. I absolutely dreaded Taichi’s response because the one thing my mind went to along his line of reasoning was not one I thought our younger siblings needed to hear – let alone me. And that was: uke or seme?
“Well…” He began mischievously. I growled again, fully prepared to throw the nearest handy object at him. “…that is…does he…”
“Finish that and I’ll drown you.” I threw my oven mitts at him and reached for the cookie flipper. My face flamed.
Laughing raucously, the brat practically sang, “…do windows, too?” Brown eyes sparkled in mirth as he looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Why Matt! Whatever was going through your mind?”
I could see quite clearly that he knew exactly what I’d thought he was going to say, and I stuck my nose in the air in a supreme snit. “No cookies for you, Taichi.”
Our siblings were trying not to fall over laughing at us, and Takeru pulled Hikari toward the living room, shaking his head. Taichi came around the counter to corner me, picking up the dishcloth. I eyed him warily, unconsciously pressing back into the counter as he raised it and brought it near my face.
“What are you doing?” I watched his face instead of his hand, wondering at the slight stain of pink that was peeking out under the tan of his skin, fascinated by it. He was standing so close to me, practically leaning over me as the cloth gently touched my cheek than my nose.
“As cute as it is, you have flour all over your face.” Taichi replied softly, gently wiping the stuff away. My eyes went from wide to half-closed unbidden as his hand seemed to linger. Staring into molten, honey-brown eyes, I couldn’t seem to think properly anymore. “Matt?”
“Uh huh?” I managed to respond absently. Wow, does he have thick, long eyelashes. And there’s specks of gold in his eyes. I’d never noticed that before. So gorgeous…
“So do you?” I heard his low voice from a distance, like we were on opposite ends of a tunnel. He dropped the cloth on the counter behind me someplace, and his arms trapped me between them, him, and the counter. Swallowing thickly, I made a questioning sound.
“Huh?” I gave my head a shake. “Do I what?” Was it me or was he leaning in like…like…oh god! Was he going to…? I sucked in a breath, trembling partly in fear and partly in anticipation.
“Windows.” Taichi stopped leaning into me and flashed the wickedest, most shit-eating grin he could. “Do you do windows, Yama?”
Did I hear that right? I blinked, then stared in shock.
I did. He was trying not to laugh in my face at whatever expression I must be wearing. The little… Death. I went from nervous lust, to shock, to vengeful fury in a mere five seconds flat. For this, he would not only be denied cookies, but oxygen because I was going to strangle him.
He must have caught on because he danced quickly out of reach and dodged expertly when I lunged at his throat. Laughing in pure elfish delight he began trying to placate me and my temper.
“Okay! Okay! I’m sorry! Cool down, Ishida!” He ducked the cookie flipper I sent flying at his head. “Hey!”
“Death!” I snarled at him. “Death!”
“Yama…your cookies are burning…” He pointed at the oven, which was enough to distract me so he could make his escape. Howling, I dove for my oven mitts on the floor and tried to rescue my cookies. Taichi – wisely – disappeared to the relative safety of the living room and our siblings.
Thankfully, they didn’t get too crispy (the cookies, that is). Grumbling and stomping around the kitchen, I finished with the baking and cleaning up just as the doorbell rang again. I left the kitchen to open the door and admit Mr. Yagami.
“Matt.” He greeted me, almost warily. There must have been something in my expression that warned him off.
“Mr. Yagami. Please come in. Taichi and Hikari are in the living room with my brother.” I let him pass me and gestured in the direction of the living room – which I noted had gone very quiet. “I’ll be right there.”
He nodded and went to join his kids, while I called my brother in to the kitchen to help me carry out the tea, milk, and cookies for everyone. As we set things out on the coffee table and poured drinks I noticed Taichi staring at the floor between his feet, while Hikari looked very much like she didn’t know what to do with her male family members. Once Takeru and I had finished serving everyone, I sat on the sofa beside Taichi and waited for someone to start things off. Thankfully, it was Taichi who took the initiative.
“Alright. So you wanted to talk to me?” He made it a question in an attempt to not sound too defensive.
Mr. Yagami cleared his throat and nodded, looking very uncomfortable. It seemed (to me) like he didn’t know how to deal with his children anymore. “I want to know what’s going on, Taichi. I want to hear from you what happened that was so dire that you would leave home so abruptly and pull your sister along with you.” He studied his son in confusion and a little bit of anger. “I’ve heard what Hikari has said, and all your Mom will tell me is that you’ve been so rude and disrespectful lately.”
Taichi snorted disdainfully at that and I silently agreed with him. “She kicked me out, Dad. I told her I was going to as live with Matt for a while until I could get my own place, and she…” he had to pause and collect himself. “She told me not to come back.” We listened as the Child of Courage lived up to his attribute and explained it all – from her paranoia to the way she’d been acting recently. I could see how much it was hurting him, and I had to catch myself a few times from simply gathering him into my arms and squeezing him to death. Hikari frequently looked shocked at some of Taichi’s revelations – things she obviously hadn’t known about.
When he fell silent, his father looked stunned and deeply saddened. Hikari was crying silently, and Takeru looked s helpless as I felt to do anything about it.
“I…don’t know what I can say, Taichi, except that I’m sorry.” Mr. Yagami shook his head dazedly. “I honestly had no idea things had become like this with your mother.” His face was pale and stressed. “I guess…I don’t pay enough attention to things at home.”
He guesses? I frowned, but kept my mouth shut. For Taichi’s sake. Bad enough one of his parents thinks I’m a bad influence.
Taichi stayed quiet. I glanced at him, noticing that he was trying really hard to keep his emotions in check. Hikari saw it too, and did the one thing he needed most that only she could do.
She got up, went over to him, and crawled into his lap, her arms binding around his shoulders tightly and her face burying into the crook of his neck and shoulder. I saw him shiver, his eyes closing painfully, and suddenly he was squeezing her back and hiding his face in her hair. I heard a sob, muffled, and my chest ached for them. But at least Taichi was finally able to release all that emotion and loneliness that’s been festering inside him for so long.
Glancing at Mr. Yagami, I could see that he looked positively helpless and lost. He seemed to know perfectly well that he would not be welcomed in his children’s moment, and I half-wondered when the last time he spent any time with them had been. I was beginning to see that our leaders family was not the picture perfect, model family that we’d all assumed it to be, because whenever we’d seen them together (until recently) there were no indications of anything that would say otherwise. But now I could see there were deeper, less evident scars and issues amongst them, and I wondered why I hadn’t seen it before.
Taichi was shaking with the force of his quiet sobs. Hikari may have been sitting in his lap, but it was obvious that he was in her arms rather than the other way around. His little sister was trying her best to soothe him, letting him cling to her and cry while she stroked his hair and murmured quietly in his ear. And true to her name, I could feel her Light flooding the room and blanketing us in comfort and calm and caring. I met my little brother’s gaze and he smiled sadly. Takeru’s blue eyes so much like my own, held a peaceful, intensely wise knowledge in them that belied the innocence and naivety he is often underestimated for. Some sort of agreement must have passed between us because we were moving as one before I realized it to curl our own arms around our closest friends and fellow Chosen. Leaning my head on Taichi’s shoulder, I felt him shift an arm from around Hikari and wrap it around my middle, his hand fisting in my shirt. I closed my eyes and hoped he could understand what we were all trying to tell him in our big, puppy-pile of hugging Digi-destined.
Everything will be okay, Taichi. I know it will…
I love you, big brother. Please, don’t be sad anymore…
I’m here, Tai. No matter what. Always…
I felt his arm tighten as a final ragged sob erupted from him and we all pulled back a little so we could all breathe. He was looking around at us as if he couldn’t believe how much we cared about him. I rolled my eyes and gave him a shaky smirk.
“Stop beating yourself up, Yagami. You know – know – that you mean the world to us. So just accept it and move on.” I ordered, wagging a finger under his nose. Hikari was giggling as she climbed off her brother and squeezed herself in between him and Takeru. The four of us were squished onto the sofa now, but I don’t think any of us minded.
Taichi wiped at his cheeks and eyes furiously, actually smiling freely for the first time in forever. It was a shadow of his old smile, but it made my heart soar to see even that much of him again. “I don’t deserve it. But I’m not stupid enough to turn it away. Thanks, guys.”
“Don’t make me hit you, Taichi.”
“I’m trying, Matt.”
Hikari looked at her father, who appeared to desperately want to say something but was holding back, unsure of his welcome among us. “Daddy…fix this. Please? I know Mom is having issues but what she’s done to Taichi is unacceptable.”
“Hikari, sweetheart..” Mr. Yagami sighed and ran his hands through his hair. “I know. I really do see the problems and I know something has to be done, but…I don’t know how to deal with this.”
“Mom needs help.” Hikari responded, leaning against Takeru comfortably. “Professional help. She needs to talk to someone about her fears and paranoia, and maybe then she can learn how to deal with it all more effectively.”
“Yes, but…who?” Mr. Yagami stood and went to the balcony doors to stare outside. “Her issues are about you kids and everything that happened when you…”
“Saved two worlds, travelled back and forth between them, made friends with Digimon…” Taichi had a flare for sarcasm that sometimes outdid mine.
“I was going to say ‘had your adventures,’ but yes.” Mr. Yagami glanced back over his shoulder. “You don’t have to get sarcastic about it.”
Taichi’s expression was neutral – carefully so – but I could feel the tension in his body squished against mine.
“So you think it will be difficult to find a professional who would believe the tale of our ‘adventures’ enough to actually help Mom, rather than just writing her off as loony and admitting her to the nearest psych ward?” Hikari sighed in understanding.
“It’s true.” Takeru frowned. “Despite everything that happened and how well covered it all was by the media, there are still a lot of people who don’t believe it happened, and many more who have deliberately forgotten it all to return to their lives as they’d been before. And psychologists and such are uniquely averse to believing in such things as an parallel universe with strange creatures.”
“Exactly.” Mr. Yagami nodded.
Taichi shrugged negligently. “Well, whatever you do for her, I’m staying here with Matt, until I can get my own place,” he clasped one of Hikari’s hands in his own. “In the meantime, Hikari can stay with Sora, then came to stay with me, if she wants.”
“I don’t have any problems with that, if Matt’s father and Sora’s parents don’t mind.” Mr. Yagami agreed easily. “It’s probably best if you kids aren’t around for a while until I figure out how to help your mother.” He pulled out his wallet. “Do you need any money? Because honestly, Taichi, I’d prefer to see you putting all your concentration into school and soccer, and not have the added stress of getting a job.”
Taichi squirmed. I knew he didn’t want to take anything from the man, but he didn’t want to refuse the gesture of caring either. “No, I’ve got enough for at least a month, thanks anyway.” He finally answered. His father’s expression was sad and disappointed, but he seemed to understand.
“Wait! Taichi, what about that summer soccer camp? Don’t you have to let your coach know for sure if you’re going when we get back to classes?” Hikari asked.
“Yeah. Coach told us about it just before classes ended for the holiday.” Taichi explained about it, some of his excitement about it returning some animation to his expression. “Scouts, Dad! University team scouts! It could be a big break for me…but…” his face fell again.
“Mom freaked out about it being another camp, Daddy.” Hikari finished explaining when her brother couldn’t seem to say anything more. “He didn’t even get to tell her about the scouts before she was flat out forbidding him to go.”
Mr. Yagami looked appalled. “I’m so sorry, Taichi. I wish…well.” He gathered himself together and gave his son a smile. “Of course you’re going. I’d be an even worse father if I refused to help my son get further in life when the opportunity arises. So you find out all the details and let me know, alright? When it is, how much, where it is, if you need any equipment or whatever…”
Taichi stared at his father, like he couldn’t believe he was actually going to be reasonable, let alone supportive. Then he was suddenly pushing himself away from us and the sofa, and moving to toss his arms around his father’s strong shoulders. Mr. Yagami blinked in surprise but soon was hugging his son tightly. Hikari was smiling tenderly at her family and snuggling closer to Takeru, who held her and watched silently. I grew a little misty-eyed, too, I admit.
Once we’d all settled down a bit, I insisted we all have our tea and cookies. As I munched on my second (I didn’t enforce my ‘no cookie’ punishment on Taichi), I had an idea about who might know of a counselor or psychiatrist who could help Mrs. Yagami.
“Taichi, do you think Joe might know someone your mom could talk to?” I asked carefully. He frowned thoughtfully and reached for his third cookie.
“We wouldn’t have to tell him details, but we could ask him.” I suggested. Taichi nodded slowly.
“It…doesn’t matter if you tell him everything, Matt. The others will find out anyway.” He glanced at Hikari. “Does it bother you if we ask Joe?”
“Not at all.” His sister patted him on the knee fondly. “I actually don’t know why I didn’t think of that.”
“Dad? Do you mind? You can trust our friends not to go talking about it outside of the group.” Taichi glanced at his father.
“No. It’s fine, Taichi. I trust your friends. They’ve helped take very good care of you and your sister for so long now, after all. And I could certainly use some help finding someone for your mother.”
I reached over to the side table where one of our cordless phone handsets rested, handing it to Taichi. “Do you want to talk to him, or shall I?” He took the phone and got up.
“I will. I’ll just…go into your room, though.”
I nodded and followed him – for moral support. Once there, I took a seat on my bed beside Taichi. “If you want, you could just ask him to came over. It might be easier to talk face to face.”
“Yeah. I was thinking that, too. If he’s got time…” Taichi shrugged and dialed Joe’s number. He had a point. The guy had very little spare time with all his classes and stuff. Then again, it was Joe we were talking about. He isn’t the Child of Reliability for nothing.
“Hi, Mrs. Kido, it’s Taichi. Yes, ma’am. Is Joe home? If he’s not busy, can he come to the phone? Okay, thanks.” Taichi glanced at me. “She’s gone to see what he’s doing.”
“I still don’t know why he’s really going through all that studying to be a doctor. I don’t think he really wanted to be one.” I made a face at the idea. “Even if he is good at it.”
“Who knows? At least he’s got goals. And it’s a fairly solid career.” Taichi snickered evilly. “Pays well, too, which he’ll need to keep Mimi in designer everything and her luxury lifestyle.”
I gave a half-hearted, “Taichi!” as a scolding for being mean to Joe and Mimi. “We both know she’s not that much of a diva.”
“I know, I know. Oh! Hey, Joe. No nothing’s wrong and no one’s hurt.” We both rolled our eyes at that.” Yeah the painting thing’s still on. Actually, I called because…” he paused to swallow thickly and clear his throat. “Well, I need some advice from someone in the medical profession. A referral of sorts. What? No! No, honestly, Joe! I’m not sick and neither is Hikari or any one of the others. If you have some time, you could come to Matt’s and I’ll explain better. You can? Are you sure? I don’t want to interfere with your… Okay! Okay! Sheesh.” I blinked at the flush that crept up his neck and even tinged his ears pink. I could hear Joe’s voice – though not his words – and it sounded like he was giving Taichi a piece of his mind. I grinned. Someday maybe Taichi would learn just how much we all care for him and how far we’d go or how much we’d do for him.
“I’m sorry, alright? Okay. See you in a few.” Taichi hung up and huffed, still flushed in embarrassment. Somehow I managed to refrain from snickering. “He’s coming over.”
“Cool. We’d better go save some cookies for him.” I stood and stuck out a hand in offer, not even thinking about it. Taichi gave me a curious look but took it and let me pull him to his feet.
As I turned to start for the door, I was tugged to a halt. Turning back to Taichi, I asked, “What?”
His thumb was gently rubbing back and forth over my knuckles absently, and his eyes were watching me closely as if searching for something. “Taichi?” I asked again, concerned and confused. “What is it?”
“Yama…this probably isn’t the best time or place, but…” he looked down at his feet for a moment, shuffling them in a nervous kind of way. His nerves were making me nervous, a few hundred butterflies fluttering upward from my stomach into my throat and making my heartbeat madly in my chest.
“Tai…whatever it is…” I assured in a voice that I didn’t recognize. Can my voice really get that husky and deep? Taichi didn’t seem to notice – or if he did, he didn’t indicate it.
“Um…I just want to…I want to tell you what your support and friendship has meant to me through all this and I can’t seem to…find the words.” He held up his free hand and waved it at me when I opened my mouth to protest. “No! Don’t. It’s not that same argument that I mean. I only wanted for you to understand that…” Taichi glanced away and growled in frustration at his inability to find the words to communicate his thoughts and feelings. “…that I’m grateful, and honoured, and…proud.” Now his eyes met mine and the full force of his courageous spirit burned fiercely into my own eyes through that warm gaze. “Proud to be someone that you consider worth all the trouble and proud to be someone you trust enough to open your whole life to without hesitation.”
“I…” Staring at him in shock and dumbfounded embarrassment, I felt tears begin to burn and an ache settle in my chest. Did he really value himself so little? Was all that self-confidence really little more than a mask? And then it hit me. Despite everything he’d done in life, everything he’d accomplished or suffered with the courage that made him the Chosen of that attribute, he was by far the one out of us all that was most lost and insecure, and for all his abilities, skills, and talents, he had never really felt he belonged anywhere. He never really considered himself worthy of his position as our leader, or as my best friend, or even as Hikari’s big brother.
“Yama?” There was a tremor in his voice that shocked me back to paying attention to him and when I looked all I could see was the raw, revealed fear and uncertainty in his eyes, in his expression…hell, in his whole body. He sounded very much like he was afraid he’d crossed some line with me and now I would turn away. Well he was about to learn otherwise, if I had to smother him with affection to do it.
Not that I had issues with that or anything…
“You idiot.” I grinned – probably the most ridiculous looking one I’ve ever grinned – and yanked him forward into my arms, crushing him in a hug that probably squished several vital organs against each other. I had a feeling I knew exactly what he needed so I attempted to give it to him. Reassurance, acceptance, and the simple comfort of human touch. I poured it into him with all the love and trust and welcome I had, one hand slipping under his shirt to find bare skin and stroke soothingly up and down all over his back while the other hand stroked and carded through that wild hair of his. A huge shudder rocked his body into mine and suddenly his arms came up to curl tightly around me, threatening to crack a rib or three. His breath was hot and damp where it gusted from him with his face buried against my neck.
As tremors of release wracked him I held on and vaguely noticed we were rocking slightly in place. His hands were clutching desperately at my back, with fistfuls of my shirt clenched in his fingers as if he feared I would disappear if he let go. Dear god…how long had he been suffering this terrible, soul-wrenching need for? And why the hell hadn’t I noticed sooner? I was going to fix this, even if it took my every breath and every minute of my life from now until I died.
And I started in a way that came so naturally it should have scared the absolute crap out of me, but didn’t.
When the shivers finally stopped, and he all but crawled into my clothes with me when he snuggled as close to me as he could, I gently placed a palm to either side of his head and drew him away just enough that I could lean in – without a second thought or hesitation – and tenderly press my lips to his in a kiss that was totally non-sexual yet one which rocked me right to the core. It was soft, and gentle, and it was no more or less than Taichi’s full mouth pressing against mine with such chaste and deep affection that something in my very soul went calm and totally peaceful…then suddenly flared so hot and bright I was sure a star had just been born somewhere. My skin was humming with this emotional energy, and from the sounds Taichi was making he was feeling all this, too – probably more acutely.
I don’t know how long we stood there for, pressed together from lips to feet, but we did finally separate, with only enough space between us that one could barely slip a broom handle through easily. Our hands were still linked, fingers entwined comfortably, and we were smiling at each other with what had to be a sickeningly sweet amount of pure sappiness. The feelings rushing through me were achingly familiar until I realized…this was exactly the same as when we did the whole Jogress thing with WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon, the DNA Digivolution that merged not only our digital buds but our very beings, too. I could remember the feel of our heartbeats pulsing as one, our breaths as one constant, singular rhythm, and thoughts running down the same track. What I felt now was the same thing only more intense somehow.
Suddenly Taichi began to snicker, then to laugh. There was such joy in the sound that I couldn’t help laughing, too. We practically chortled ourselves out of breath, falling against one another in a mirth with no real origin. When it finally rolled to a close (sides aching and eyes leaking), our gazes met and held with ease and relief. Taichi gave me a rueful, apologetic smile, looking at me with an amazingly shy expression, and I shook my head, drawing him in for another affectionate hug.
“Idiot.” I repeated fondly, ruffling his hair.
Relevant Episodes: Not this time!