Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon, its' characters, or any other franchise I might mention. Enjoy!
The tension between Kouji and Satomi occupied my mind as the next few weeks passed and the weather grew colder. Admittedly, it hadn't been quite so bad since the anniversary, making me wonder if Takuya was right and I really did just need more time to get to know them.
Still, that didn't stop me from playing the...What was that word...Middleman to Kouji and Satomi, and occasionally Dad, too. It didn't stop me from occasionally feeling like an outsider, either.
It had been just over two months since the accident. Dad and I had been going through Mom's stuff one box at a time and clearing out the things we couldn't use. It had taken a long time for me to get to this point without breaking down...I really had come a long way since she'd died. We had taken the last box out of storage that morning, mostly letters. I really felt bad about reading my mother's mail, but there wasn't much point in throwing them away without reading them I simply skimmed through them a little.
The name "Satomi" caught my eye at one point. Satomi? What was this? I took a closer look.
This letter was addressed to one of Mom's older friends, one she'd met when I was old enough to remember, so they wouldn't have known anything about Kouji. The envelope it had come in had 'Return to sender" marked on it, which baffled me until I saw the date on the actual letter. Just over three years ago. That particular friend had moved around that time, and hadn't told Mom until later. Wait, three years ago? That was when Dad and Satomi had gotten married, right?
"...I just found out Kousei is getting married again. Her name's Satomi Uehara. I looked her up and called her. I didn't want to deal with Kousei and his lies, so I said I was Tomoko's 'cousin,' Motoko..."
Mom didn't have any cousins by that name. In fact, she didn't have any cousins. I wondered if Dad knew that. Satomi evidently didn't. Not for the first time, I wondered if he'd told Satomi Mom had died, too. I was too polite to ask her myself.
"...I was a bit scared at first, but I wanted to see what kind of mother she'd make. She's actually a really nice person. It really surprised me. Then again, I don't think Kousei would marry anyone if they couldn't handle being a mother..."
That part had to be about Kouji, I thought.
"...But Satomi's definitely up for the task of being a mother. Even if we just talked for a while on the phone, I can tell that much."
I had to force my hands to stop gripping the letter. Mom had felt that Satomi would make a good mother. Maybe if I showed it to Kouji, he wouldn't feel that Satomi was trying to replace Mom. I opened the door to my room and went across the hall to Kouji's. He wasn't going to Aikido class today, therefore he'd be in his room, probably doing homework.
I knocked on the door. "Kouji?"
"What is it? I'm kinda busy."
"I need to talk to you, it's about Mom."
There was some grumbling, and my brother opened the door.
"I found out that Mom actually called Satomi when she married Dad..."
I barely had time to register the blue blur that shot out the door and down the stairs.
"Kouji? Hey! Wait up!"
Satomi's workroom was downstairs. That was where she worked as a computer programmer, one of those jobs that didn't require more than a computer and a reliable internet access. Even as I pounded down the stairs, I could hear Kouji's shouting.
"...You talked to my mother. You knew she was alive, didn't you? You're no better than Dad is!"
"Kouji!" I managed to burst into the workroom just in time to find my brother staring down at a stricken-looking Satomi. "You took off before I could tell you the rest. Mom called Satomi, but she didn't use her real name. She thought Satomi would make a great mother, that's what I was trying to tell you."
He glared at me, I glared right back. The tense silence was broken by a muffled sob. We both turned to see Satomi with tears in her eyes. She was crying...
This was my fault. If I'd told Kouji about what Mom had said before he'd gone downstairs...
Wait, why was I blaming myself? Admittedly, I had been the one who accidentally started this mess, but Kouji had been the one who had taken it out on Satomi before I could tell him everything.
Kouji glared at Satomi and turned to walk out, no doubt trusting me to smooth things over.
I moved faster than Kouji and out the door, closing it. Then I leaned my full weight into keeping it closed. The doorknob in my hands rattled furiously.
"Kouichi, what are you doing?"
"I'm tired of playing peacemaker with you and Satomi! I'm not letting you out until Satomi stops crying!"
"Every time Satomi tried to do something nice for you, you just ignore it. I've had enough! She's a great person, even Mom could see that! Here!" I wedged Mom's letter under the door. "Read it for yourself."
There was a frustrated pause and the doorknob stopped rattling for a minute, long enough for the letter to get pulled the rest of the way under the door. Silence reigned for a moment.
"I thought there was something funny about the woman that called me that day," Satomi's voice quavered a little. "She knew too much about you for a mother's cousin."
There was an awkward silence on Kouji's part. The doorknob rattled some more, but I held on. As much as I didn't like eavesdropping on them, I couldn't let Kouji get out of this one.
"I wish I could've met her face to face. If I'd have known she was alive, I'd have taken you to see her myself. It was your father's idea for you to call me 'Mom.' I don't want to replace her...I never did."
The doorknob relaxed. There was a long silence before Kouji finally spoke.
"I...I owe you an apology, Satomi. Not just for blowing up at you like that..." He took a deep breath. "It's because ever since Kouichi came here, I've been letting him play the son in the family. Every time we did something...Fun World, the anniversary...I just stood by and let him make you happy. I thought you were trying to replace Mom...But, I...I was letting Kouichi replace me."
"Kouji!" There was a pattering of feet, and a "Oof" from Kouji. At a guess, I'd say she hugged him.
"Nobody could ever replace you. Not even Kouichi."
"R-really?" It sounded like Kouji was getting choked up, too. Good, he needed it. I decided that my job there was done, so I let go of the doorknob and headed back to the living room. Raiko was there. Well, this was the time of day Kouji usually walked her, and I was done with my homework. I picked up Raiko's leash.
"C'mon, Raiko...Let's get some fresh air."
When we came back, Kouji was waiting for us by the front door.
"Feeling better?" I asked.
"You might say that." He paused. "Kouichi, I want to apologize for making you go through all that. I was just so mad at Satomi...I was such an idiot."
"You were, but it's over now, right?"
"Right. No more making you the peacemaker, big brother. I promise."
I smiled at him. "Apology accepted. Now are you gonna stand there all day? That homework isn't gonna do itself, you know."
"Don't you still have to study for that math test tomorrow?"
I cringed. I'd forgotten about that. He smirked at me.
"Honestly Kouichi how did you get past your math tests before you met me?"
"Mom helped. She was great at math..."
"That skill must've all gone to me, then. C'mon." He led me and Raiko back into the house.
Dinner that night was definitely not like any night I'd had since I'd come to live there. Kouji and Satomi...Well, they didn't exactly talk any more than they normally did, but he smiled a lot more than he usually did, and he offered to help Satomi clean the table. Even Dad noticed the change.
"You two seem to be getting along better. Did something happen?"
Kouji and Satomi looked at each other, then he grinned at me.
"Let's just say we finally had some time to really talk." I turned a nice shade of red. Dad looked at me.
"I see...Did Kouichi have anything to do with it?"
"You might say that," I mumbled.
I woke up in the middle of the night feeling a bit strange. Almost like I was needed. Kouji was having a bad dream...I don't know how I knew that, probably because of what Kouji had said that time when I was sick, that we were connected. I got up and crossed the hall and looked down at my sleeping brother. Sure enough, he had tears leaking from his closed eyes. His body was sweaty, and he twitched and mumbled softly, like he was dreaming. I moved to gently shake him awake, hoping he wouldn't reflexively punch me or something.
"No, Satomi, don't..." Kouji gasped and his tear-filled eyes popped open. He just lay there panting, looking up at me for a moment before relaxing.
He nodded. "Satomi was the one who got hit by that car, not Mom..." A shudder rippled through his body. "It was only a dream...Sorry I woke you, big brother."
He was still hurting from the dream, I could feel it. There had to be something I could do to help. Maybe I could get into the bed with him, just this once...? Assuming he didn't kill me just for trying. I pulled aside the blanket.
"Kouichi, what are you doing?"
I didn't say anything until I was under the blankets with him.
"When I was little and had a bad dream, Mom would let me share her futon. I think you need the same thing."
I rolled over to grin at him.
"Just this once, all right?"
Kouji's eyes widened, and then he smiled back.
"Just this once."
Author's note: So, this was in fact the second draft of the last chapter. The first one wasn't exactly G-rated. Basically Satomi manages to get hurt and Kouji is the one who finds her...A bit more cliched in my opinion, besides I wanted to keep this story K+, so I had to make another final chapter. It probably needs some more polish, but it's better than the other one.
Anyways, it's surprising how far I've come from the first chapter. Like I said then I mostly wrote it as a way of dealing with the death of a friend's mother, then it became an actual story. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for Kouji's view of these events...Which will come when I get the "plot bunnies" to cooperate with me. They keep giving me a middle, not a beginning...Curse you, plot bunnies!