Taichi and I found our siblings and his father at the door when we finally left my room. Takeru blinked at us, then gave me a questioning tilt of his head and slight hand gesture directed at Taichi. I just shook my hand and mouthed ‘later’ at him.
“Are you leaving so soon?” Taichi asked his father, not noticing our silent exchange behind him.
“Yes. I’m afraid I have some business to get done before I go home.” The poor man looked rather exhausted. “I’ll try to talk to your mother tonight, kids, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
“It’s alright, Dad.” Taichi gave him a small smile. “I don’t expect her to change overnight. Joe is coming over soon, and we’ll talk about finding a counselor or someone.”
“That’s fine. Let me know what you find out.” Mr. Yagami pulled out two business cards from his pocket, handing one to each of his children. “If you need anything, call me at work – anytime, okay?”
“Yeah, sure.” Taichi nodded, though I knew well enough he probably wouldn’t. “Thanks, Dad.”
“Well, you kids take care of each other, and stay out of trouble.” Mr. Yagami said gruffly, letting Hikari give him a giant hug. He and Taichi eyed each other for a second, then did that manly, split-second, barely-there hug, complete with back slapping and handshakes.
I somehow refrained from rolling my eyes at the two Yagami males – neither of whom would ever admit to being a lot more like each other than they thought.
Mr. Yagami left without much further ado, and we kids – age notwithstanding – returned to the living room to clean up the cookies and tea.
When that was done, I started making more tea while Taichi restocked the cookie plate for Joe’s arrival.
“Guys, Hikari and I are going to go out for a while, and we’ll stop to get some snacks and drinks for the party tomorrow. Did you want anything?” Takeru asked as he and Hikari went by the kitchen.
Taichi shook his head, but I poked my head into the fridge to inspect its potential for supper that night. “Um…pick out something for supper, Keru. Something I can make stew with.”
“Okay.” Takeru waved and followed Hikari out the door. “We’ll be back in a while.”
I glanced around and saw everything was ready for whenever Joe showed up, so I tugged my best friend into the living room. We ended up flopping down on the sofa – me sprawled half-sitting over most of it with Taichi leaning his back against my chest and taking up the rest of it, with his legs draped haphazardly over the edge.
“How are you doing?” I asked quietly, my fingers running through his hair and massaging his scalp lethargically. I was also selfishly enjoying the contact, because I figured there would be few opportunities like this.
He wiggled back farther, snuggling into me even more and heaved a great big sigh – of contentment. It made me smile.
“I’m good. Better…y’know…not perfect, but better.” Taichi murmured. He let his hand rest on my leg, just above my knew, and squeezed. “Hey, Yama.”
“Thanks for letting me…emote all over you like I did earlier. I honestly wasn’t expecting to suddenly breakdown like that.”
I closed my eyes and let my chin rest on top of his head. “You’ve been bottling up all these emotions for so long now it’s a wonder you haven’t exploded.” I rapped my knuckles on his bicep. “No more of that, Taichi! I’m always here, and you can just emote away whenever you need to.”
“What would I do without you?” He wondered. As I didn’t really know how to respond – and because I somehow don’t think he meant to ask that aloud – I kept quiet, my arms simply folding around him and just holding him. We lounged there in a nice, companionable silence until the doorbell rang. I reluctantly untangled myself from Taichi and got up to go let Joe inside.
“Hey, Joe. Come on in.” I shut the door behind him and waited until he’d taken off his shoes and jacket before motioning him to the living room.
“Matt.” Joe greeted me in return and led the way. “Something smells good.”
“Cookies. I’ll grab the tea and be right there.”
Even from the living room their voices carried enough that I could follow the conversation in the kitchen.
“Taichi,” I heard Joe say, his tone pleasantly surprised for some reason. “How are you? You look…better. Uh, not that you were bad looking before, but…” Taichi laughed (which made me grin and note that I really loved that sound) and made a reassuring reply.
“Relax, Joe. I know what you meant. And I’m good. Like you said…better.”
I carried the tray of tea and cups out to join them, setting it down on the coffee table. “I’m taking good care of him, Dr. Kido. I hope it meets your approval.” I grinned, teasing, and winked at Joe. Adjusting his glasses, Joe nodded sagely and accepted the teacup I passed him.
“Very much. Thanks, by the way, for getting me out of the house. I hate to admit it, but I think if I’d spent one more minute studying I may have blown a fuse.” He sipped carefully then heaved a sigh of relief, leaning back in his seat on the sofa chair.
“Wow. Coming from you, that’s almost scary.” Taichi’s eyes were wide, but there was laughter there.
“That bad, Joe?” I asked, much more sympathetic than Taichi-the-jock ever would be. “Maybe you should consider taking fewer classes at a time, just so you can manage your time a little more easily.”
“I wish I could. But if I want to qualify for med-school next year, I have to do things this way.” He sighed and flashed a rueful smile. “Don’t worry, Matt. I’m used to hard work when it comes to my brain. I just need to get through these exams, then I’ll be able to relax again.”
I nodded, and we sat in silence for a bit while we munched on cookies and Joe drank his tea.
“So,” Joe finally spoke up first, brushing crumbs off his pants. “What was the advice you were looking for, Taichi?”
I watched our leader out of the corner of my eye while I tied the coffee table (on the pretense of looking busy and not overtly hovering). Taichi nodded to himself as if he had been sharing himself up for the conversation and was now ready for it.
“It’s…a long story, Joe. The short answer is that…my Mom needs a good counselor or psychiatrist or something.” Taichi drummed his fingers on his knee, the only outward sign of his agitation. Even his eyes were calm – a tad sad, maybe, but not full of barely restrained emotion like they had been only this morning.
Joe blinked a few times, surprised. “Uh…okay. I know a couple personally, and I know of a few others, but…maybe you should explain why because I can’t recommend just anyone, as one may specialize in a way to help her or be more qualified.” He paused and studied both Taichi and I thoughtfully. “Is this something to do with why you and Hikari moved out?”
“Yeah. The truth is, Joe, things were getting just that bad, and I didn’t feel good about leaving Hikari there to cope alone.”
“Of course.” The Child of Faith agreed. “Tell me about it, Taichi, and I’ll do my best.”
So Taichi took a deep, cleansing breath, and explained the entire situation to the bluenette – who didn’t say anything or interrupt with questions until Taichi finished, simply listening and allowing him to get it all out.
“I’m so sorry that you’ve had to deal with all that, Taichi.” Joe leaned forward, resting his forearms on his knees as he spoke. “And I agree that she needs professional help.”
“Thanks, pal. Do you think any of these shrinks you know will be able to help?”
“Quite possibly. I can talk to the ones I’m thinking of, see what they think, and if they’re willing to try then I’ll refer you.” Joe offered. “That way at least you won’t have to repeat the story over and over, and your family will remain anonymous until I find someone.”
“Oh, yeah! I hadn’t thought of that.” Taichi smiled. “We’d really appreciate it, Joe. I’m supposed to let my Dad know when I find someone, but I know he wasn’t looking forward to the possibility of trying one person only for it not to work out and have to find another.”
“It’s no problem, Taichi! I’ll just make a few phone calls tomorrow…oh. Make that the day after.” Joe smiled sheepishly. “I forgot about the painting party.”
“Yeah, sure. Whenever you get the time, Joe.” Taichi was quick to assure him. “I will owe you so big for this.”
Joe shook a finger at Taichi and scowled at him proceeding to thoroughly scold him and remind him that any one of us would do much, much more for him without batting an eye. I left Joe to it, cleaning up and taking the empty cookie plate and cups to the kitchen. He maybe one of the most mild-mannered people I’ve ever met, but he will absolutely chew you out if you do something he thinks you’re an idiot for doing. And as often as I do it to Taichi, I think he’s getting less and less likely to listen. Coming from Joe, maybe he’ll finally learn.
As I collapsed back down on the sofa, Taichi got up and sauntered away, tossing a “Be back! Bathroom break!” over his shoulder. When he’d disappeared down the hall, I looked back toward Joe and caught the almost speculative expression on his face as he studied me.
“What?” I demanded, a hand going to my face.
“It’s nothing, Matt. I was just…considering something.” Curiosity, a rare thing for Joe, lit his eyes behind his glasses. I frowned at him.
“I ask again: what?”
“Um…don’t take this wrong, but…are you and Taichi…” he hesitated, “I mean, do you two…”
I raised both eyebrows and managed a, “Joe!” in a rather croaky, squeaky, what-the-hell?! kind of voice. My face felt hot, and I just knew I was blushing, damn it!
“It’s no big deal if you are or not!” Joe hastily waved his hands at me, obviously trying to backtrack. “I shouldn’t have asked! Sorry!”
“I…” Trying to fight off my blush and pretend I wasn’t flustered was a lot more difficult than it used to be for some reason. “NO, Joe. We aren’t anything of the sort.” I couldn’t seem to look him in the eye, either. “He doesn’t like me that way.”
Uh oh… There must have been something in my voice or on my face because Joe was suddenly watching me very closely, and in a shrewd voice, he observed, “But you like him that way.”
I wanted to glare at him and deny it strenuously, but all I could do was slouch, blush furiously, and mournfully whine, “Pathetically, hopelessly, yes.”
One eyebrow went up. “And you haven’t told him…because why?”
Now I glared. “Because I needed time to come to terms with it first, and because he isn’t really in an emotional state to be dealing with me right now. Not that it’s any of your business…” I added in a low grumble.
“Did you consider that maybe what he needs is you?” Joe asked, eyeing me. “That perhaps knowing that he has you and what you feel for him could heal things that wouldn’t otherwise heal?”
I opened my mouth to reject that idea, then snapped it shut again when I heard the bathroom door open and feet padding back down the hall toward us. Instead I shot Joe a warning look of, “Keep it to yourself or die horribly.”
In return, he flashed me a reassuring smile and said quietly just before Taichi appeared, “Just think about it, Matt.”
Taichi dropped down next to me and sighed loudly. “So! What shall we do?”
“Actually, I should probably go home and get back to studying.” Joe grimaced and reluctantly got to his feet. “At least I’ll feel like I accomplished enough that I won’t feel too guilty for coming to the party tomorrow.”
Oh, Joe. Never change, pal.
The next day was as cheerfully hectic as per our usual Digidestined get-togethers. Bathrooms were painted in under an hour (hey, there were eleven of us, after all) and the rest of the time we spent watching old animes and commenting on how many of the various characters looked amazingly like many of our Digimon acquaintances.
At one point, I grabbed up the empty popcorn and chip bowls to go refill them in the kitchen. As I was dumping kernels into the air popper, Sora came into the kitchen carrying a bunch of empty soda cans.
“Hey.” I greeted her, motioning to the counter. “Just set them there for now and I’ll put them in the recycle bin later.”
“Alright.” She obediently placed the cans these and leaned against the counter, watching me open more chip bags and refill bowls. “I wanted to ask, Matt, how things are really going. I know Hikari said they’d talked to their Dad, and that was going to do something, but…”
Shoving about under the air popper to catch the fresh kernels, I turned to face her and folded my arms. “You want to know about Taichi, is that it?” She nodded, and I sighed. It was ridiculous and unfounded, but I had these twinges of…resentment and jealousy. I didn’t like her asking and it annoyed me because there was no reason for my reaction. None at all. She had every right to ask, to be concerned. He was her oldest, closest friend, after all. And I knew for a complete and utter fact that she didn’t want a relationship with Taichi the way that my emotions were raging at her for. Once, a long time ago, yes. But no longer. So what the hell was my problem?
Shunting my thoughts off to some deep, dark corner to deal with later. I answered her in a calm, steady voice. “He’s better, Sora. And I think that no matter what may end up happening with his mother from this point on, he’ll be fine. He’s made decisions and ultimately they’re the best ones he could make.”
Sora nodded and smiled at me in relief. “Yes. I did notice there was something much lighter about him today. I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t imagining it. And if you say he’ll be fine then I knew it’s true.”
I blinked at her, momentarily surprised. “You do? I mean, why?”
Now she giggled and lightly patted me on the arm. “Because, clueless wonder, you know Taichi best, and you won’t let him not be okay. No one, not even Hikari, has the influence that you do with him. Besides which,” she grinned and winked at me, “I know exactly where your heart lies, Ishida Yamato. You can’t pull one over on the Child of Love.”
I felt the blood drain out of my head very quickly, leaving me light-headed and pale as I stared at her with mild – going on full out-panic. “Shh!” I hissed at her, glancing past her to make sure none of the others were paying attention. “Look, whatever you think…”
“Aht! Don’t, Matt.” Her face sobered and her warm eyes hardened. “Don’t you dare deny it. Not to me – and never to Taichi. I’m not trying to play matchmaker, here. In fact I would never interfere in the natural progression of real love between two people.” Sora moved to stand closer, her voice dropping in volume, conscious of our friends only a few feet away. “But when I see it, and I see someone try to deny what they fell – especially someone I care about – then I will make a point of…”
“Sticking your nose in?” I interrupted, my voice dripping sarcasm and why amusement. “Look, this isn’t the time or place to be talking about this.” I turned away, suddenly so embarrassed I couldn’t look her in the eye. I busied myself with the popcorn machine. “I’m not…’denying’ anything, alright? I’m just not ready to be announcing it to the world – let alone him. Right now, I’m just his best friend.”
There was silence for a moment, then she asked, “You do know you can talk to me about it, right? We did work out our own…past issues, didn’t we?”
I spun around and grabbed her hands in mine, horrified at the uncertainty and fear colouring her voice. “Yes, of course we did, Sora! Gods, that isn’t it at all!”
She squeezed my hands. “Okay, then please talk to me, Matt? Not right this minute, but later? You know I love you and I just want to see you happy – and I know he can do that, just as you do for him.”
I sighed deeply, closing my eyes for a moment before I opened them again and gave her a small, reassuring smile and final squeeze of her hands, letting go to pick up bowls of snacks. “Thanks, Sora. And yes, we’ll talk about it. Later.”
Satisfied with that, she helped me take everything back out to the others in the living room.
Over the next couple of weeks, things settled back down into their normal routines. We went back to school for the last leg of our high school careers, beginning the dire, stressful task of studying our brain cells dead for final exams and entrance exams – university was right around the corner for most of us Chosen, after all. While neither Taichi nor I knew exactly where we wanted to apply or for what program just yet, we still planned to take the exams with everyone also. Taichi continued his soccer practices and games (since he was counting on a scholarship) but I decided not to take any new gigs or concerts until after exams were done. It would have been just too much, and would have jeopardized my ability to perform with my exams. The band didn’t have problems with it, either – they had their own exams to study for.
When Dad dropped in again, back from his conference or whatever, he came bearing furniture, now stuff for Taichi’s room. There was a big bed (a double, which Dad’s reasoning said was for the future as a guest bed once Taichi left), a desk and chair, a bookcase, and a couple of closet organizer things.
“I was on a lunch break, just walking to stretch my legs and get some air, when I found this place that was closing out. Got some great deals!” Dad beamed at us as a couple of burly delivery guys hauled it all inside and down the hall to Taichi’s room. “There’s probably still a few odds and ends to pick up yet, boys, but after Taichi’s settled in we can figure it out.”
I just smiled and kept out of the way. Taichi had that confused, disbelieving expression on his face as he watched. It was the one that meant he still didn’t quite get that he was family and worth the effort. But…he didn’t complain or protest, which was a step in the right direction.
Once the delivery guys were gone, Dad took care of supper while Taichi and I started unpacking his stuff and setting things up. When the bed was made with brand new sheets and blankets, I dropped down onto it with a heavy bounce.
“Ooohhh, I’m so jealous.” I moaned in a petulant voice. “You’re going to be sleeping in comfort, in this big, comfortable bed, and I’m stuck with my little twin bed that my feet hang off the end of.”
Laughing, Taichi stretched out beside me making relaxed “ahhh!” noises. “Luxury, Yama. But hey, you can always drag the futon out if your bed gets that uncomfortable.”
I rolled my eyes and swatted him with a new pillow. “Gee, thanks.”
A few days later, Joe dropped by with a list of psychologists, counselors, and psychiatrists for Taichi.
“I marked the three I most recommend.” He’d said, pointing them out. “I talked to them and I think they’re probably your best choices, Taichi.”
So Taichi thanked him profusely and turned the list over to his father. By this time, Mr. Yagami had managed to talk his wife into at least attempting to talk to someone. She was not, however, willing to talk to or see Taichi yet, as well as refused to allow him to come home. Hikari, yes. Taichi, no.
I knew he was still hurt by his mother’s treatment. She was acting as if he’d either died or never existed, after all. But he seems to have resigned himself to it, and rather than trying to force the issue with her, he’s just doing what he could to make sure she got help and so that Hikari, at least, would no longer be estranged from her home and family.
“I’ll never go back,” he said one night, “but at least Hikari can.”
It was nearly a month after the painting party when Sora finally managed to corner me…ahem. I mean, managed to reconcile her busy schedule with mine in order for us to get together for that ‘chat’ I’d gone and promised her – my own bit – mouthed fault, I admit.
Taichi was gone to a game with another school one day after school, so he wouldn’t be around , and for one blissful evening I didn’t have any pressing homework or studying to do. Apparently neither did Sora, because she simply latched onto me in the hallway after school and dragged my protesting self unceremoniously away.
We ended up at a nice little café just a few shops down from Sora’s mother’s flower shop. Ordering ourselves big, tall glasses of ice cold sodas, I settled into my seat in preparation for the inquisition I knew was coming.
Sighing, I folded my arms over my chest, leaned back in my seat, and said, “Go ahead. Shoot.”
Sora frowned at me. “Matt, you don’t have to act like I’m your dentist about to do a root canal on you.”
“You know I’m not big on talking about my feelings, Sora. And contrary to what you seem to be thinking, I’m not this repressed, love-sick moron pining away in denial.” I replied evenly.
She eyed me. “Maybe not – and I wasn’t thinking anything of the sort, anyway. But I know you pretty well, Yamato, and even I didn’t quite see this coming. I should have, looking back on everything, but I didn’t.”
“What do you mean? I’m not that obvious am I?” Dear gods! If I was, then what must Taichi think? Then again, he hadn’t acted any differently with me… Sora shook her head and rolled her eyes at me.
“No, silly. Not that any of us would care if we did. In fact I think you’d discover how overjoyed we’d all be.” The brunette grinned at my flabbergasted expression. “I should have figured it out because I know you both so well, and because I…am who I am.” Her grin went soft as her hand came up to brush across her chest, over the spot where her Crest and Tag once hung from around her neck.
“Ah.” I got it. Feeling a little foolish, I shrugged. “Still, Sora, I don’t see what it is you want to talk about. So you know I’ve figured out some new feelings concerning my best friend.” I paused as the waitress delivered our drinks before going off to serve someone else. “So what? I’m not going to do anything about it, so there’s nothing to talk about.”
“And that’s it right there.” She waggled a finger at me. “You’ve bought a clue, but you aren’t going to tell him? Why? Nerves? Or is it something more?”
I grunted and swirled ice cubes around in my cola with the straw. “Of course I have nerves. But I have enough o Taichi in me to not let that stop me.” I was only lying a little bit on that score. My nerves topping me were not the same ones for the reasons Sora was probably thinking of, after all.
“Then what? Does he know you’re bi?” She asked, voice very low.
“Yes.” I answered, my voice not changing. I didn’t care if someone overhead.
“Maybe I should be your dentist.” Sora grumbled, scowling at me. “It’s like pulling teeth.”
I just smiled an amused, innocent smile at her. I could practically hear her teeth grinding. So I’m a stubborn son of a bitch. Sora knew this a long time ago.
“Come on, Matt! Help me understand.” She tried pleading nicely. “I really believe that you telling him and being with him now, in the situation he’s dealing with these days, is the best thing that could happen to him and really make him happy again. The same for you.”
I downed half my soda in an attempt to avoid answering, but the Child of Love would not be denied and was glaring at me with her own stubborn-as-a-mule expression.
“Look,” I began, knowing when to give in graciously – and hoping she’d drop it after. “I only recently came to grips with it. And I haven’t felt like recently has been a good time to drop this particular bomb on him, especially with what he’s going through. He’s got enough stress and things to think about without having to deal with a best friend proclaiming love and lust for him.”
“And I still say that nothing but good would come of you telling him.” She shot back. Her wise, warm eyes studied me carefully, seeing right through me. I squirmed uncomfortably under that gaze, because I knew she was listening to whatever little inner voices came with her attribute, the ones that could loosely be termed ‘instinct.’ “There’s something else. You have reason to believe he might not be receptive, otherwise you wouldn’t be quite so…secretive.”
Damn. I gave her a weak version of my Ishida glare, as I couldn’t come up with the strong one in the face of her abilities. “Fine. You want to know? He’s got feelings for someone. He told me about it. Not who, but I’m sure it isn’t me.” My glare slowly morphed from weak to actual anger. It was all aimed at me, though, and not at Sora, whose own expression became sympathetic and full of contrite apology. “Tell me, oh Chosen of Love, how do I tell him I’m in love with him when I know he won’t return it?”
“I’m sorry, Matt.” Sora started to apologize but I shook my head and kept talking.
“But you know, as long as I keep his friendship, it’ll be enough. Nothing will come between us, not even this because I won’t let it. And I want him to be happy, too, Sora.” My eyes bored into hers, willing her to understand. “Probably more than anyone else – save Hikari. Since I do, I sincerely hope whoever the lucky bastard is, he’s smart enough to take Taichi on, and worthy enough of Taichi’s affections.” My hands fisted on the tabletop in voluntarily, so hard my knuckles turned white and cracked threateningly. “And if he hurts my best friend, I’ll kill him.”
Sora blinked at me, somewhat shocked. “Only if you got to him first. I think all of us would want a piece. But forget that…” she raised a questioning eyebrow at me. “Him? Taichi’s got a thing for a guy?”
Now I blinked. Oops. Taichi was gonna bust my balls but good if he found out I spilled to Sora. Flushing, I hastily informed Sora of that. “Yes, but for the love of…me, please keep it to yourself! He finds out I leaked that info and I won’t live long enough to tell him anything!”
Sora gave me an insulted look. “Of course not. You know better, Yamato.”
My answering smile was sheepish and very embarrassed.
“How do you know it isn’t you, then?” She went on with her interrogation. “I mean, he told you it’s a guy, but he didn’t tell you who, exactly…”
I frowned…because she had a point. That was all I really knew for sure. Then again, my instincts when it came to Taichi never spoke of anything other than deep friendship. I had enough of Sora in me to know when friendship bled into something more. Which is precisely what I told her.
“I’d know the difference.” I insisted. “Besides, if it was me, then he had the perfect opportunity to tell me when we were talking about it in the first place.”
Sora considered that for a moment, thoughtfully sipping at her soda. Then she sighed. “I can’t really say for sure one way or another. But Matt, sometimes it’s easier to see things in others than it is to see things when it pertains to ourselves.” She reached across the table and squeezed my arm. “I get why you don’t want to tell him, and I’m sorry I pushed.”
I shrugged. “You were worried. It’s okay. Now you know, so please, Sora, just let it lie? Time will tell all.”
She nodded in agreement, giving me a final pat. “True. Just…don’t give up hope, okay? Besides,” a wicked gleam entered her eyes. “If he lets you get away he’s an idiot.”
Laughing in wry amusement, I ordered another soda.
Relevant Episodes: None!