Disclaimer: Digimon (or at least the ridiculous and unfortunate dub we poor Americans are forced to cope with) belongs to Saban.
Time Frame: Somewhere in the future, as related by the epilogue of episode 50. TK and Kari are married. I'm probably bending some continuity somewhere, but I don't really care.
Warning: Absolutely, positively, 100% NOT Takari! If you can't stand things that aren't Takari, you need to stay far, far away from this fic! *wanders off muttering what the world is coming to when you have to warn about a thing like that, but someone yelled at me last time, so...*
Need a Lift?
It seemed to Kari that there had never been a time when it wasn't raining. Logically, it must have always been raining somewhere on Earth, but lately it seemed like it was raining in Japan all the time. All the young woman could remember or think about was puddles on the road, water in her shoes, the sky grey and dreary, and even everything damp indoors from the moisture. Her car radio wasn't picking up any music now, just the occasional crackle of static and a bland-voiced announcer talking about continued unseasonal downpours and warning about floods and crop damage. In front of her, the windshield wipers flipped and flopped in a vain attempt to create a clear view for her.
*If I wake up one more day and look out my window and see rain, I think I'm going to go crazy,* she thought.
She had already been told by others that her personality had been changing lately, more and more as the rain continued to fall. She'd caught herself snapping at the children at school, raising her voice and shouting until their faces screwed up into tears, and she had to steel herself to keep from crying as well. Afterwards, there would be hugs and apologies, and the little ones would go back to their playing and coloring, but she couldn't be comforted so easily. She had always been so patient when she had first begun teaching; why was she losing it now?
"You're getting burned out," one of the other teachers had advised her. "Take a vacation. Ask your husband to take you away somewhere for a while, so you can work out whatever it is that's bothering you."
So, here she was, out in the country in her little car in the driving rain, on her way to TK's summer house. Her childhood friend had enjoyed a lucrative career as a novelist, and his first international bestseller had financed their honeymoon in Paris. Perhaps she should have asked to go there instead of our here, away from everything. She had loved Paris - the bright lights, the shows, the excitement. The middle of nowhere might be fine for a writer, but Kari felt the need for more stimulation in her life.
She shook herself, trying to clear away such gloomy thoughts. Just thinking things like that made the wet world look even darker than it already was. No, wait - it really was darker all of a sudden. It was quieter, too, Kari realized, and the windshield wipers had paused in mid-sweep. The radio had cut itself off. Her headlights had gone out. Then, as the car climbed a hill, the entire machine slowed, sputtered, and stopped, leaving Kari sitting in a cold, rain-enclosed metal box. She tried the ignition. Nothing happened.
"What do I do now?" she asked. Her voice was almost inaudible over the clatter of rain. Somewhere in the distance, thunder rolled, and there was a far off-shimmer of lightning. She shivered a little but forced herself to stop and think about her options. The nearest town was miles behind her, and it was many more miles to her destination, so there was no chance of walking anywhere. She hadn't the first clue as to how to go about repairing her car. There were no other habitations for miles around. She reached for her purse, finding it still clammy from the rain she'd been forced to dash through on her way to the car. Its contents, she was dismayed to find, were soaked as well. Her cellular phone proved to be inoperable.
"Oh... Blast this rain and everything to do with it!" she shouted, beating her fists on the windshield. "I'm stuck. I'm stuck out here in the middle of nowhere, the sun's going down, there are no people for miles around, I don't even have anything to eat... What am I going to do now?"
No answers were forthcoming. Kari sat there for a while, staring helplessly out the window and seeing nothing but sheets of silver. A sob worked its way up out of her chest, caught in her throat for a moment, and then finally spilled out, and she buried her face in her hands and cried.
She hardly noticed when her ears caught a rushing noise that wasn't related to the falling rain, or when a light swept briefly over her. What did finally jar her out of her misery was the sound of a car door slamming, and she looked up to see that someone had parked a battered jalopy next to her car, and a figure was coming towards her. She looked up hopefully.
"Hey, lady, need some help?" asked a friendly male voice. A face pressed to her door's window. "Hey! Wow! What do you know? I wasn't expecting to see you out here!"
Kari stared. She rolled down the window to get a better look. "Daisuke? Is that you?"
"The one and only!" he replied. "Long time no see, Kari! How are things?"
"Wet," said Kari, "and you're going to get yourself soaked standing out there like that. Couldn't you pick somewhere dryer to talk? I'm getting rain in my car."
"Sorry! It's just been so long since I've seen you... What are you doing way out here? Did your car break down?"
"I guess so. I was just driving along, and everything stopped. Have you got a phone handy? I could call someone."
"I left mine at home. Sorry," Daisuke replied. "Man, the one day you think you don't need something... Want me to have a look under the hood? That old hunk of junk I drive breaks down so often, I've gotten to be a pretty good mechanic. I've practically got a whole garage in my trunk."
"Be my guest," Kari replied.
Daisuke went away again, vanishing almost immediately into the downpour, and Kari hurried to roll the window up as water sprayed into the car and onto her arms and face. A few moments later, her hood went up, and there were some vague mechanical clunks. Then Daisuke came back and knocked on the window.
"Try the ignition," he said.
Kari turned the key. Nothing happened, not even the faintest noise.
"That's what I thought it was going to do," Daisuke sighed. "Did you have your headlights on?"
"I don't even have to ask about the windshield wipers."
"And they all cut off?"
"That's what I thought," said Daisuke. "Sound's like your battery's dead. I bet your alternator's shot. It's supposed to recharge your battery, but if it quits working, and the car stalls out, you're stuck."
"Can you fix it?" asked Kari anxiously.
"Nope." Daisuke shook his head apologetically. "You're going to have to have the part replaced."
"Great," Kari sighed. "Now what am I supposed to do? I'm supposed to be home by now."
"How far away is home?"
"About thirty miles from here, I think. Why?"
Daisuke sighed. "Nothing. I thought maybe if it was just a little way, I could give you a jump start and you might make it, but thirty miles in this mess with a dead battery... no way."
"You mean I'm stuck out here?" asked Kari.
"Of course you're not stuck! I'm here," Daisuke replied. "I'll just give you a lift and you can call home and the towing company from there. I'll even get you dinner. How's that sound?"
"Oh, I couldn't impose on you like that..."
"You're not imposing," said Daisuke. "You're my friend. I'm not just going to leave you out here in the rain to maybe catch pneumonia. Besides, I'm running a restaurant now, so I don't have to pay for meals anymore." He grinned.
"All right, you've convinced me," she said. Daisuke held the door for her as she clambered out of the car, dragging her purse and shopping bags with her. Then, while she stood there trying to keep a hold on her belongings, he wrestled with his car's reluctant door until it finally opened, and she climbed inside. He slammed the door, scowled at it, opened it again, and gave it another slam that made the car rattle. Then he wandered around to his own side and climbed in, finding Kari struggling to find room for herself and her belongings amid the mess.
"Oops," he said, grinning sheepishly. "It's been a long time since I cleaned in here. Just throw everything in the back seat."
"Thanks for doing this for me, Daisuke," she said. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't come along."
"Stuff happens for reasons," said Daisuke with a shrug. "That's what I keep telling myself, anyway."
"What does that mean?"
Daisuke shrugged again and turned his attention to his driving. Kari, at a loss for anything else to say, contented herself with looking around, particularly at her rescuer. It had been a long time since she'd seen Daisuke, not since they had both graduated and gone on to other things. She had invited him to her wedding, but he had sent back his regrets and said he'd had other plans. The refusal had left her feeling faintly uneasy, though she was not sure exactly why. Perhaps, deep down, she had wondered if perhaps she had hurt his feelings when she'd married someone else... but that was silly, of course. It was a childhood crush, and had probably blown over long ago. She had even heard that he'd gotten married himself some years ago. Glancing over at him now, she reflected that whoever the girl had been, she was lucky. The boy had grown up well, still showing the hardened muscles of an athlete through his wet clothing. There were the subtle things, too - a glint of humor in his soft brown eyes, an easy smile, a ready laugh, the kind of things that it took knowing a person to recognize. Time seemed to have mellowed him out a bit, too, steadying his once-wild nature.
"You're looking good these days," she heard herself saying. "What have you been doing lately?"
"Keeping busy," he said offhandedly. "Just opened up a new restaurant a ways away - I was just coming home when I saw you. I just hope things don't get too busy for me."
"I would have thought keeping busy would be a good thing, if you were running a restaurant," Kari remarked.
"Yeah, but I like to have some time to myself, you know? I've been volunteering as a soccer coach at one of the local schools. I'm good at it," he added, with a touch of his old pride.
"I'll bet. You were always good at soccer."
"Well, it's not just that. I like working with the kids. I can relate to them, being young like that and getting picked on and all. Being a kid was never easy."
"Sorry? What for? You've got nothing to be sorry about."
"Well... I guess I wasn't always very nice to you when you were young. I remember you were always following me around, and I was always ignoring you or brushing you off."
"Aw, forget it. It's all over now, anyway... So, what have you been doing? Everything okay with you?"
"It's fine," said Kari, a little too quickly. "I'm on vacation right now. I was on my way up to our summer house. TK's already up there, working on his latest book."
"Yeah, I think I read one of his books, but I'm not into that heavy stuff. I'm more into the action-thrillers and stuff."
"Yeah, me too," Kari replied.
"You don't read your own husband's books?"
"Well, yeah, I read them! It's just... you know."
"Yeah. Hey, look, here's our stop!"
They pulled into the parking lot of a cheerful-looking little building, it's large front windows brightly lit, shining a golden glow that warmed even the cold, dark evening. The lot was nearly full, and the twosome had to park in a far corner make a wild dash for the front door, dodging puddles as they went. A brass bell chimed over their heads as they entered, and they were instantly wrapped up in the warm air of the restaurant, heavy with the scent of something delicious. Kari became acutely aware that she hadn't had any dinner yet. Davis saw the look on her face and grinned.
"I knew you would be hungry by the time you got here," he said. "You can go into my office and make your phone calls, and I'll rustle us up something to eat, okay?"
Kari nodded and headed for the door marked Authorized Personnel Only. It led to a paper strewn office done in comfortable shades of tan and yellow. The pictures on the wall were of people familiar to her, a collage of the lives of the Digidestined. She paused to look them over, feeling something pricking at the back of her mind. It took her a moment to realize that everyone was there but her.
*Where did I go?* she wondered.
Still puzzling, she walked around to his chair and picked up the phone, and stopped with her hand hovering halfway to the handset. Sitting in a gilded frame was a photograph of herself. She remembered when it was taken, back at the graduation party they'd had before they left high school. Everyone had been in high spirits, determined to enjoy their last hours together to the fullest. It had been a wonderful night, and she had danced with everyone until nearly dawn. Someone must have been there with a camera, for here she was, caught forever in Daisuke's arms, both of them laughing and looking so happy...
*Why are you keeping this, Daisuke? Don't you know we can never be like that?* she thought. She stared at the picture some more. *I don't think I've looked that happy in a long time.*
She sighed and picked up the phone, dialing a familiar number. It rang a few times, and then an anxious voice answered, "Hello?"
"TK, it's me, Kari."
"Oh, there you are! I was worried about you," he said. "Where are you? What happened?"
"My car broke down," Kari explained. "I got a lift into town, but it might be a while before I can get back home. Why don't you go ahead and order the kids a pizza or something?"
"Sure, I can do that... but what about you?"
"I think I'll work out something," she replied. "I'll come home as soon as I can though, okay?"
"Sure, honey. I love you."
"I love you, too."
She hung up the phone. Then, reaching for the phone book, she looked up the number for the towing service. Calling them was a great deal less stressful than calling her husband.
Just as she was finishing, there was a knock on the door.
"Hey, Kari, you okay in there?"
"Yeah, everything's fine. I'm just finishing up."
"Good, 'cause our food's ready and I'm starving. Nothing like hot soup when it's cold and wet outside. You want to eat here or upstairs?"
"There's an upstairs?" asked Kari, stepping out of the office.
"Not for ordinary customers," Daisuke replied, "but I've got an apartment over the restaurant. That's where I hang out most of the time, when I'm not working. You can go up there and dry off a little, if you want, and we can talk in private."
"Sure. I think I'd like that."
They went up, Daisuke balancing a tray with hot soup and a basket of rolls and some cookies and drinks, Kari trailing along behind. The apartment looked like the interior of his car and his office: everything that was necessary was there and in more or less working order, but everything else had been tossed about in reckless abandon. Daisuke tried to clear some extra space on the kitchen table and wound up knocking a stack of papers onto the floor. He made a face and went to work trying to pick everything up.
"Sorry about the mess. I've sorta let the place go a little," he said.
"I see," said Kari. "What about your wife? I thought you were married."
Daisuke's expression shifted to something Kari couldn't quite read, but it didn't look happy. "I was, for a while. It didn't work out very well."
"Oh," said Kari. "I'm really sorry... What was she like?"
Daisuke's eyes turned and locked onto hers.
"Like you," he said softly.
"What? It's the truth."
"Maybe it is, but what's the point? There's no chance for us now, so why even think about it?"
"You've gotten awfully touchy all of a sudden," said Daisuke. "Sit down. Eat something. You'll feel better when you're not cold and hungry."
Kari sighed and did as she was told. "Sorry. You're probably right. I've just... I've just been stressed out lately. That's why I'm on this stupid vacation in the first place."
"You don't sound like you've been having a lot of fun," said Daisuke, dropping into the chair next to her.
"I haven't," said Kari. "Something's wrong, something more than just the car breaking down and the rain and everything, and I don't know what it is. I'm just trying to figure it out."
"You want to talk about it?"
"I don't know what there is to talk about."
"Just anything. I'll listen. It might help you figure out what's wrong if you had someone to talk to."
"I wouldn't want to bother you with my problems..."
Daisuke laughed. "Hey, listen, Kari - has there ever been a day when I wouldn't listen to every word you said? You can tell me anything you want."
"Well... I don't know where to begin. I've just been feeling so down lately, like there's no point to anything anymore. I wake up and I wonder, 'why am I bothering?' There's nothing exciting happening anymore. I mean, I love my kids and I love my job, but these days I just start yelling at everyone for no reason..."
"And what does TK have to say about all this?" Daisuke asked.
"Nothing. I mean, I haven't really told him," said Kari. "I don't think he knows anything
"Humph. Some husband."
"Don't say things like that!"
"Why not? You'd think he would notice if you were unhappy," said Daisuke. "He doesn't sound like he's being that great to you."
"He's a good husband. I don't have any complaints. He's always been a good father, and he's been kind to me, and he's a good provider, and... and..."
"And do you love him?"
"I don't even know anymore!" Kari exploded. "We have a workable relationship, okay? A lot of people don't get it this good. I should be thankful for what I've got, but..." She looked down at her bowl of soup. "It's like a bowl of soup. It's warm and it's comfortable and nurturing, but really... there's nothing exciting about a bowl of soup."
Daisuke nodded, saying nothing.
"I get up every day knowing what to expect. I know he's going to be right there, I know what he's going to do, everything is predictable. I'm bored. After you've been to the Digital World and fought monsters and put your life on the line, it's hard to go back to the ordinary. I can't live with just doing the same things over and over, day in and day out." Kari looked up at her friend again. "I guess I need some adventure in my life again."
"Aren't we all supposed to grow up and act mature after a while?" Daisuke asked. "I mean, look at me? Who would have ever thought that I'd be this successful business-type?"
"Well, are you happy with it?"
He deflated. "No, not really."
"See. There it is. Something's missing."
"Well, I don't have your problem, anyway. I know what's missing. I'm all alone here,
except for Veemon. I don't have anyone here I'm really close to."
They looked at each other for a moment, silent, thinking. Daisuke smiled a little.
"Hey, I tell you what I'll do," he said. "I'll kidnap you and hold you for ransom, how's that? That'd be an adventure. I'll take you to the Bahamas or something, or some little island with no name where it would be just the two of us, and we'll eat coconuts and swing from vines. How's that?"
Kari giggled. "Daisuke, cut it out. That's not funny!"
"You're laughing, aren't you?" he retorted. "You know, you're still just gorgeous when you smile."
"See, that's what I mean! You can't go saying things like that. No matter how much I'd love to..."
"Love to what?"
"Love to start all over again, but I can't. I'm already committed, and I can't back out now. It would hurt TK the kids. It hurt him so much when his family split up, I can't do that to my own family."
"Even if it's for the best?"
"I never stopped loving you, Kari. Not for one day."
"It makes no difference. I'm married."
"Why? Why did you have to go and marry him? You don't love him."
"Yes, I do."
"Then why all this...?"
"I don't know!"
"Yes, you do," Daisuke replied. "You thought you wanted to marry that handsome, successful guy that everyone told you was your perfect match, instead of that kid everyone picked on in school who was scratching out a living selling noodles on the street."
"It was what everyone expected. What else was I supposed to do?"
"So you took the easy way out... and now it's gotten too easy for you. Someone should have told you perfection is boring."
Kari sighed. "Maybe you're right, but there's nothing I can do about it now."
"There's always something you can do. Just decide what you want and go for it," said Daisuke. "If you want excitement and adventure, go looking for it! That's what I'd do."
"I know you would. There was never anyone who loved adventures as much as you."
"So, what do you really want?"
Kari looked into his eyes. "You, I think."
Daisuke didn't have time to get out more than that one syllable before she leaned over and kissed him, making any more speech impossible... not that he would have wanted to say anything more anyway. He let the kiss deepen, pulling her into his arms, and she didn't resist. When it ended, she was half-lying in his lap, looking up into his eyes. A small, wistful smile played across her face.
"Yeah, I think that's what I wanted," she said.
"I just wish you could have done that when it would have done either of us some good," Daisuke replied. "Come on, get up, pack your things. We've got to get out of here."
"What? Why?" Kari asked.
"Because you said you didn't want to wreck your marriage," Daisuke replied. "If you're going to keep doing things like that, I can't keep you here."
"No buts. Either you go home now, or you call TK and tell him you're not coming home tonight. Make up your mind."
"I'll go home."
Kari began gathering up her things, while Daisuke watched in silence. He was still silent as they drove out into the night, with the rain still pouring down. Visibility was next to nothing, and Daisuke kept his eyes on the road ahead, staring grimly at the few feet of grey pavement that showed up in his weak headlights. Kari sat in the dark and fidgeted.
"Daisuke... I'm sorry about that," she said at last. "I don't know what came over me."
"It's all right."
"I just... I just don't know what I want to do right now. I don't want to hurt anyone."
"You never want to hurt anyone. That's what's so great about you. I just don't want to see you hurt yourself."
"TK never kisses me like that."
"That's his loss, then."
"I wish things were different."
"So do I."
"What are we going to do?"
"I have no idea. What are you going to do?"
Kari opened her mouth, but no answer came out. Just then, the car gave a choking sputter, and Daisuke just barely had time to guide the vehicle off the road before it died out altogether. For a moment, they could only sit there in the pitch blackness. Then Daisuke began to laugh.
"What do you know?" he said. "The car is dead!"
Kari giggled a little. "Looks like I'm stuck again. What happens now?"
"Well, seeing as how I forgot my phone again, and we're out here on a back road in the dark in the middle of a rainstorm... I guess we sit here a while."
"I guess we do," Kari replied. "Hey, Daisuke, is this an adventure?"
"It might be. Why?"
"I think it might be a sign of something."
"It's too bad you don't have your phone right now."
"Why's that? Do you want to call the towing service again?"
"No... but I think I might have liked to call and say that I'm not coming home tonight."
The night was pitch black, the roads empty, the sky blotted out by clouds. Alone in the night, two people had never been gladder that it was raining.