Another short story from Visions! *crowd boos and I hang my head in shame* Actually, I don't think this one is too bad. A creative new plot and a little bit of romantic fluff. ^-^
Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon or any of the characters.
My Hero, Too
The moon was full in the digital world. I shivered as the wind blew its icy cold breath through the air. Gabumon opened one eye and edged closer to me. I was grateful for the warmth of his fur. Still...
"Thanks," I whispered. "But I'm ok. Go next to TK."
"But Matt, there's no room," said Gabumon, drowsy. He fell back asleep. I glanced over at my brother and grinned. The sly kid had manuevered his way next to Tai's sister. They were snuggled together and TK had an arm drapped protectively over her. I watched as his lips move: "...don't worry, Kari...I'll protect you..." I smiled, amused. A Romeo and his Juliet at the age of six.
The fire cackled and I leaned back against a rotten log. Hands behind my head, I let myself relax. But I didn't close my eyes. I couldn't--it was my turn to keep watch. I sighed and my thoughts went to my friends and our 'mission'. When would I finally be able to go back home? I pulled out my harmonica but decided against playing at this time of night. I didn't want to wake anyone up.
"No, go ahead and give us some music."
I started in surprise at Sora's voice. She sat up and rubbed her eyes. "I don't mind if you play," she said, yawning. She gestured to everyone. "And they're all too tired to care if you do. I bet they won't even hear you."
Encouraged, I lifted my instrument to my lips. It was a relief to play. A string of notes echoed in the night and continued on for a few minutes. They were depressing and dark. I didn't expect anything different to come out. I lost myself for a couple of minutes in my music before stopping.
I heard a soft clapping sound and remembered Sora was still awake. I looked up to meet her happy eyes and blushed.
"You have talent," she told me.
"It's nothing," I replied modestly. I ventured a question. "Why'd you wake up?"
For a moment, she seemed sad and troubled. "The wind...it was so cold that it woke me up."
I could tell she was lying and told her so. She glared at me angrily. "So what if I am? What does it matter to you anyway?" She bit her lip and looking instantly remorseful.
"You're right. It doesn't matter to me," I replied coolly, hurt and slightly puzzled at her touchy reaction. I resumed playing and the notes sounded more melancholy than ever. Once again, Matt, you've proved why you don't deserve your crest, I told myself bitterly.
We sat in silence, not quite meeting each other's eyes. I heard her take a deep breath.
"Look, Matt. I'm sorry. Today's just a tough day for me."
"It's alright," I muttered. "You don't have to apologize."
"But I do," Sora insisted. "I shouldn't have acted like that. It's just that...well, today's the day my dad died. He's been on my mind all day. I couldn't even sleep without thinking about him."
I offered my sympathies. "If you wanna talk about it..." I trailed off, hesitant to continue.
"There isn't much to say. He was a policemen and one day he died." She lowered her head. When she looked back up, I saw she had been crying but I thought it odd that I had not heard her.
"He must have been a great guy," I mumbled. I tried to comfort her, a strange task I was not experienced in.
"Yeah, he was. He was really nice." She was sitting crosslegged in front of the fire with her face in her hands, staring into the red flames. "Really nice..."
"Are you sure you're ok?" I asked, a bit worried. Her expression was so downcast. She was obviously very upset. I wished desperately for Tai to get up and talk to her. He knew her better than I did.
She shook her hand and pasted on a fake smile. "I'm fine," she tried to assure me. "Since we're on the subject of parents, why don't you talk about yours?"
I became uncomfortable. But I felt compelled to talk. She had shared about her dad and it was only fair for me to do the same. "My dad's ok, I guess."
"And your mom and TK?"
"My parents our divorced," I said flatly. "TK lives with my mom across town. I don't see him that much. I live with my dad and well, let's just say he doesn't really pay attention to me." My tone was much more bitter than I wished it to be. I tried to make amends. "I mean, my dad's just too busy-"
"I understand," Sora interrupted quietly.
"Do you?" The words came out of my mouth in a mean way. I regretted them immediately.
"Yes, I do." She stared at me sadly. "My mom loves me. I know she does but sometimes, she just pushes me aside." She laughed harshly. "Sometimes I wonder if she cares more about her flowers than me. Can you imagine, of all the soccer games I've played in, she's only been to one of them?"
"Really?" I cursed myself for my stupid tongue. Idiot, idiot, idiot..
"Yeah." She sighed. "But I guess the soccer field reminded her too much of my father."
"Your father played soccer?" I asked, curious. "Is that why you play it?"
Sora nodded. "He used to take me and Tai to the park every Saturday and teach us how to dribble and shoot goals."
"Tai knew him, too?"
"Uh-huh. Sometimes my mom would join us and it would be like a family outing."
The stars twinkled brightly overhead as I pondered this new information. I felt a deep profound pity for Sora and yet, I felt like she was kin spirit. Living with only one parent that acted distant and seemingly uncaring. A companion in misery, I mused.
Despite my resolve of being aloof and insociable, I wanted to know more. "When did he die?"
"I was in fourth grade at the time."
I was shocked. "Last year? How?"
She didn't answer so I invented possibilities in my head. Shot during a stake out or maybe even killed in a stand off with criminals... I snapped out of my imagination phase to notice Sora staring morosely into the fire once more.
"So how was your fourth grade year?" she asked sorely.
Her question brought back painful memories. I didn't want to answer. "Far from perfect," I replied, trying to be as vague as possible.
"Did you have a bad teacher or something?"
"No. My teacher was nice."
"An embarassing moment during the school year?"
"No. People thought I was cool."
"Was that the year your parents got divorced?"
"No. They separated when I was in first grade."
She stopped her onslaught for awhile. She studied me closely. "What happened last year, Matt? Why won't you talk about it?"
I shrugged. "Just don't want to. It's not something you'll wanna hear." Actually, it was something I didn't want to tell. I didn't want to reopen old wounds and experience the guilt again.
"Try me," came Sora's steady reply. "Friends can tell friends anything." She bugged me until finally, I gave in.
I cleared my throat nervously. "You can't tell anyone about this," I warned her in an ominous whisper. I leaned across and offered my hand. She shook it, sealing our deal.
"I won't tell a soul," she promised.
I began my story. "It was sometime in July during the summer. I went to the beach. Alone." I began to relive the moment. Everything was so clear in my mind--I had memorized every detail on the day I had believed was going to be my last. The bright, golden sun...the sound of the waves crashing on the beach...the seagulls flying in the blue sky.... "My dad was working at his television station. He wouldn't be back 'til nightfall. I walked around for a couple of hours, thinking and thinking, trying to make a choice."
"A choice? About what?" she asked, quizzical.
"About my life," I answered, strangely calm. "I never saw TK anymore. Or my mother. I didn't have any friends. At school, I was known as a troublemaker. I waited until late afternoon, when noone was around and all the lifeguards were gone. I climbed onto a tall hill of rocks." I hung my head in shame.
I heard Sora mutter to herself. "Oh my God," she breathed. "Oh no. No, no, no, no..."
I continued on. "It was about twenty feet high and the water was getting very violent. I took a deep breath and I...I jumped. I tried to commit suicide. I would've died that day if it hadn't been for some man. I didn't see him but he sure saw me. He jumped right in. By that time, the waves had pushed me far away from the shore."
My voice became choked. "I swallowed so much water that I could barely breathe. I was about to go under again for the last time when he reached me. He pulled me to shore and we both collapsed onto the sand. I fainted. When I woke up again, I was in the hospital. Later, I learned the guy had died."
At that, I gave myself completely over to guilt. That man had died because of me. I didn't even get a chance to go to his funeral. I hugged my knees to my chest and looked up to see a pale Sora stumble to her feet. Her face was completely white as she stared at me with utmost loathing before running off. She tripped over Tai's sleeping form but picked herself off and ploughed into the forest.
Wide awake, Tai stared baffled as he watched her disappear. He leaped to his feet quickly. "What did you do, Matt?" he asked me accusingly.
"I...don't know. We were just talki-"
"What did you say?" His tone was demanding and resentful.
I was so bewildered at the moment that I babbled everything to him. "...and the guy died. That's the end and she just ran off. I don't know what happene-"
I didn't get a chance to finish. Tai's fist slammed into my face and I staggered back in disbelief. What was going on? "What was that for!?" I nearly screamed. I saw TK stir. I lowered my voice. "What's wrong with you, man?"
Tai didn't reply. Rather, he just glared at me and ran into the woods after Sora. I was about to chase after him when I remembered that if I left, then everyone else would be defenseless. I rushed over to Joe's side and shook him awake.
"Your turn to keep watch," I said urgently. "Get up."
He grumbled but complied with my request. Sitting up, he noticed that Sora and Tai were gone. He grinned, eyes half-closed. "Where'd the lovebirds go?"
"I'll go find them," I replied hurriedly. "Just watch over TK for me, will ya?" Without waiting for his answer, I raced off. I sprinted pass trees and bushes with confused thoughts going through my head. Why did Sora run off like that? Why did Tai punch me? I stopped abruptly. Ahead, Tai and Sora were talking. I moved closer, hiding behind tree trunks. Their words reached my ears.
"...I hate him!" Sora clenched her fists in fury. Hated who? Realization dawned. She hated ME.
"Sora, you don't mean that!" pleaded Tai. "I'm pretty angry, too. But you can't HATE him. You have the crest of lov-"
"Shut up!" she said. "You don't know what it feels like." She walked forward only to have Tai block her. She tried to sidestep him but failed. "Get out of my way, Tai!" she said furiously. "I need some time alone."
"But you can't go out there by yourself. You might get attacked or something."
"You wanna a fight? Cause that's what you're going to get if you don't move!"
I saw Tai clench his teeth in frustration. "Sora, how 'bout we just go back to camp and talk it over with Matt?" he said calmly.
"No," Sora replied, in an equally calm voice. "Now. Get. Out. Of. My. Way."
"No. You're acting unreasonable."
"Fine, have it your way."
I watched, stunned, as Sora tackled Tai to the ground. She raised a quivering fist over his head.
Tai gazed openly into her eyes. "Can you really hurt me?"
It seemed like an eternity before Sora finally responded. "No," she whispered, barely audible. She got up. Her shoulders shook violently. She was crying. Tai stood up slowly and hugged her.
A beam of light shot toward them. I gasped when I realized it was coming from me. I looked down. My crest was glowing brightly. Tai and Sora looked in my direction. I gulped nervously and walked out into view. Tai blushed at being caught in an embrace with a girl but Sora turned pale again. She refused to meet my eyes. I looked to Tai for help and an explanation. He released Sora and took her by the hand. He led her to the stump of a tree and they sat down. I followed.
"Mr. Takenouchi was a really cool guy," began Tai, causing me to feel more confused than ever. What did Sora's dad have to do with anything?
"I met Sora on my soccer team in the beginning of third grade and we became good friends. We lived close to each other. Every Saturday her dad would take us to the park and play soccer with us. He used to give really good tips, too." Tai's face became sad but it was nothing compared to the expression on Sora's face. He continued. "Last summer, he died. Sora's mom and my parents never told us how. But we found out from our neighbors." He paused to pat Sora on the shoulder comfortingly.
"So how'd he die?" I asked impatiently.
"I think the month was July. He was at the beach for police duty...."
My heart stopped in horror.
"...when he saw this kid on the rock. The kid jumped in and, well, he jumped in after him..."
"No way," I muttered, refusing to believe. "No way."
"Yes way," Tai said grimly. "Mr. Takenouchi rescued the kid alright. And he died as a result of it."
"But he was really young. I saw his face before I passed out. He looked like he was only thirty-five or something," I protested.
"He told us he wouldn't be able to play soccer with us anymore. He was going to quit his job as a policemen and work with Sora's mom in the flower shop instead. It was less strenuous. He had been diagnosed with a heart disease only a few weeks before...
My own words came back to me: 'the waves had pushed me far away from shore'. Exactly how far was it? One mile? Two miles? Three? Whatever the distance, it must have been able to put an enormous strain on the heart. A strain that must have resulted in death for Sora's dad.
I felt a sob erupt from my throat. I had caused the death of the father of one of my closest friends. "I'm so sorry," I choked. The immense guilt was coming to conquer me again. "I didn't know. You have the right to hate me."
I felt Sora's eyes on me and looked up to meet her tear-stained face. "I don't hate you," she said quietly. Her voice trembled slightly. "I don't hate you," she repeated. She wiped at her eyes. "I just miss him so much. Everything changed after he died. My mom buried herself into her work and ignored me. I stayed out 'til midnight once and she didn't even notice. I didn't want to go to the park on Saturdays because it always made me cry. I loved him so much. Every night, he would tuck me in and we would say our prayers together. My mom would watch us and she would smile. And I always wanted to be like him, to grow up and follow in his footste-" She stopped and it seemed like she would burst into tears. She smiled weakly at me. "He was my hero."
Her smile wobbled dangerously and disappeared. Loud, soul-shaking sobs rang through the air and she weeped unceasingly. Tai took her into his arms and tried to comfort her.
"It's ok," I heard him whisper soothingly. "It's ok..."
I felt a wetness on my cheek as I reached for her hand. "Sora, he...," I whispered; my voice was hoarse, "...he was my hero, too."
We stared at each other for a couple of minutes. Calmer now, she leaned her head on Tai's shoulder and her gaze went to my neck. My crest was shining. For some reason, I pulled out my harmonica and began to play. A string of melodious, beautiful notes echoed in the night. I continued to blow softly until I noticed that Sora was yawning. Tai smiled at her and hugged her closer. She grinned peacefully up at him and then at me.
"Matt, you have talent," was the last thing she said before she closed her eyes.
What do you think of that, eh? Not bad, bad, or good? Review!