Disclaimer: Digimon isn't mine. Don't sue me. Please?
Author's Notes: Thanks for the reviews, guys. Please review as much as you possibly can! It makes me feel like I should continue writing. Which you all want me to do. So yes. :)
Also: I recommend re-reading the last part of chapter 7 if you haven't in a while, just to refresh your memory. Otherwise, you might have forgotten where this left off. Enjoy!
The sky was filled with heavy storm clouds, all threatening to burst at any moment. Yamato had a perfect view of it all and wondered when they would finally give in and explode, drenching everything in sight. He was laying on his back in the middle of a park, hands fisted in the partially-frozen, dead grass on either side of him. Everything that had led him here was still fresh in his mind, replaying over and over again without his consent. Tai's voice, the shocked look on his face, the constant accusations shouted at him—it was impossible to sort any of it out.
All he knew for sure was that Tai had finally said what he was feeling. After holding it all in for Yamato's sake, he had finally just let everything that had been on his mind come crashing down on top of Yamato. In one way, Yamato was happy. It meant that Tai really had been thinking about their relationship, which meant that he cared. Even if it wasn't in the same way that Yamato cared, it was still better than nothing.
Unfortunately, that small amount of happiness was inconsequential when compared with the sheer level of frustration and sadness and guilt that came along with it. His emotions were so mixed up he couldn't make any sense out of them at all. They were a weight on his chest that he could never really escape from. Every time he breathed they only pressed down harder, crushing against his ribs and forcing all of the oxygen out of his lungs. He was constantly gasping for air, struggling to find some way to simply inhale, and everyone was passing him by without a second glance. They didn't understand what he was feeling.
They couldn't understand. No one could. Tai would never understand why Yamato didn't just confess when he was confronted. He had said that Yamato was always lying to him, that he never trusted him with anything important, that he didn't understand where other people were coming from, that he was afraid of him. Yamato wasn't afraid of Tai. He just didn't know how to tell the brunette that.
Everything wasn't as simple as Tai made it out to be. It couldn't be that simple, thanks to Yamato and his stupid crush. If he had only thought of Tai as a normal friend, then maybe he could solve some of their problems. But as it was… well, he wasn't going to take any action that revealed how he really felt. Even if he told Tai an edited version of the truth, it still wouldn't matter. Tai would find out that he had been lying eventually. And then he would be screwed. Again.
Right after that thought, Yamato felt the first small raindrop hit his cheek. He concentrated on it, on the way it fell down to the ground slowly, leaving a cold trail behind. More and more drops fell on Yamato as the rain began to come down harder and harder, but he made no move to get up. He just let them wash over him, focusing on that feeling of being completely covered with an unstoppable force.
He knew he wasn't being fair to Tai. He didn't need Tai to tell him that. What Yamato needed from Tai was something the other boy would never give him. All Tai had ever offered him was friendship.
Now, though, it seemed as if Tai wasn't even offering him that much anymore. The only thing Yamato was sure of was that Tai wasn't willing to let their friendship continue as it had been going. Tai wanted total honesty; he wanted access to Yamato's life that no one had ever been given before.
Yamato couldn't give him that. No matter what, Tai could never find out certain things about Yamato's life. Besides the obvious stupid crush that Yamato was sure would pass if he only gave it enough time, he didn't want Tai finding out just how alone he really was. Tai couldn't know just how little time he spent with his father and with Takeru. Tai couldn't find out about Yamato's recent excursions in accidentally injuring himself, either. He had an awful feeling that Tai would take it the complete wrong way. Not that he was sure what way Tai was supposed to take it, but he knew he didn't want to have to deal with the consequences.
That was really the whole problem. Everything boiled down to one simple fact. Yamato just didn't want to have to deal with the aftermath of Tai becoming closer to him. If Tai discovered all the things that Yamato really didn't want him knowing, they'd almost certainly become closer.
And then what? Yamato swallowed thickly. Did he really think Tai could ever care about him? They were best friends, and he'd do well to remember it. They would never be anything more, and so Yamato would always have to keep Tai at a distance. It made perfect sense to him, but how to explain it to Tai? He couldn't very well just come out and tell Tai that he had a crush on him.
No, Yamato thought as a shudder ran through him. That was probably the worst thing that could happen. He would just have to think of some way to get Tai to forgive him.
Except that Tai was totally right in being upset. Yamato was being an asshole to him. He was keeping him at a distance. But that was the only way to keep Tai close to him. Yamato didn't know of any other way for them to remain friends. It was either this careful balance or nothing.
Then Yamato felt a prickling all across his skin—a tingling sensation that made him turn his head to the side in one swift motion. Tai was standing there, and Yamato couldn't find it in himself to be surprised. He was breathing heavily, slightly bent over with his hands on his knees. His hair was plastered to his head, short brown strands sticking to either side of his face. Yamato had only one thought in that moment.
Tai had been looking for him. He had been running around, trying to find him, and hadn't stopped even when it started to rain. It seemed too dramatic, somehow, like something out of a cheesy romance novel. Maybe he should expect Tai to profess his undying love for him.
The thought was less humorous the more he thought about it, and Yamato ended up with that awful clenched feeling in his chest again. It really wasn't something he could joke about yet. Maybe in a few years, when he moved on from this awful crush, but for right now the only way to deal with it was to pretend it didn't exist.
Only that didn't matter so much right now because Tai was standing up. He walked towards Yamato slowly. So slowly, in fact, that Yamato felt like a wild animal who had escaped. He swallowed and pushed himself into a sitting position. Even if he wasn't feeling well enough to stand yet, he didn't want Tai to see him in such a pathetic state.
Tai's voice was closer than it should have been. Yamato looked over and found Tai kneeling next to him, looking at him with concern. Yamato couldn't recall when Tai had gotten that close, and he shivered suddenly. It was a quick spasm, hardly noticeable, but Tai swallowed and moved a little closer.
"What are you doing?" Tai's voice was so quiet Yamato could barely hear it. Then he cleared his throat and spoke a little louder. "You're soaking wet."
Yamato averted his eyes, resorting to staring at the ground again. He felt like he was always staring at the ground when he was with Tai. There was no way he could look into Tai's eyes sometimes, though. Emotions poured out of them too fast for Yamato to process, and it left him confused and irritated. It was better to stare at the ground and not get lost in that chaotic mix of unknown feelings.
There was weight and warmth over his shoulders, and Yamato lifted his hand to feel the edge of Tai's jacket. He clenched his hand around the material, gripping the worn, wet fabric tightly.
Tai moved even closer and reached an arm around Yamato's shoulders. His chest tightened even further and it was almost impossible to breathe. Then Tai's hand clenched and he pulled Yamato up against his body, one arm around his shoulders and the other landing lightly on Yamato's thigh.
"Here." Tai's voice was so close it was a rumble in Yamato's ear. He could feel the vibrations against his temple, where his head rested against Tai's neck. Yamato shivered again. Tai swallowed and Yamato's head moved slightly from the movement. "Just… let me…"
Yamato closed his eyes and leaned against Tai. The arm around his shoulders tightened a little. Everything in that moment was right for Yamato. The small voice in his head that screamed at him constantly to just tell him already was quiet. All the normal worries and fears that circled around in a never-ending cycle were suddenly gone. Even the rain melted away, leaving Yamato feeling simply content.
"You know I…" Tai spoke into the silence, words punctuated by the constant sound of rain crashing against the ground. "I don't know what to do. It's like, every time I do something, no matter what, it's always the wrong thing. I just…" Tai swallowed again and leaned his head down a little, pressing his lips gently against the top of Yamato's head.
"I'm sorry." The words were muffled by Yamato's hair. Tai lifted his head up and cleared his throat again. "I don't know what to do anymore. I'm sorry."
"Tai…" Yamato reached out, grabbing onto Tai's arm and squeezing. "It's not…"
Yamato struggled to think of what to say. Everything was too inconsequential, too insignificant. He wasn't sure he knew the words that meant what he wanted to say. So he remained silent, unsure how to proceed. The pressure of Tai so close to him brought him some measure of comfort, though, and that at least was enough to make him feel at ease.
"I… You shouldn't be out here," Tai said suddenly. "You're freezing. Here, come on." Tai leaned slightly away from Yamato, taking his arm away as he did so. Yamato squeezed his eyes shut tightly. "Look, we can talk about this inside, can't we?" There was silence for almost a minute before Tai stood up and took a few steps away from him. "Fine." The tone of his voice made Yamato look up. Tai was looking away, off to the side somewhere, and Yamato couldn't see his face clearly. "If you really don't want me to be around, that's fine." Tai's voice broke and he cleared his throat quickly. "I'll go. But at least get yourself somewhere warm." He turned away and scuffed his shoe on the ground. "I don't want you getting sick. So just-"
"No," Yamato whispered. Tai stopped speaking, though, so Yamato knew he had heard. "It's not that, Tai. I just don't… I mean, I can't…"
"Matt," Tai said, softly. Yamato stopped trying to figure out what to say. Tai was holding his hand out, palm up. He opened his mouth to say something else but visibly hesitated, deciding in the end to remain silent. Yamato wondered what he would have said, but in the end it didn't matter.
Yamato stood up, slowly pushing himself up off of the wet grass. Tai's jacket fell heavily on him, and he realized with regret that Tai was now standing there shivering. Yamato moved closer to him and began to shrug the jacket off his shoulders.
"No, you keep it on," Tai said. "I'm not really that cold anyway."
Yamato nodded and settled it on his shoulders again, silently thanking Tai for the excuse to keep his jacket on a little bit longer. He walked over to where Tai was standing and put his hand over the other boy's. Tai immediately tightened his grip and shifted his hand until their fingers were entwined.
"Let's go," Tai said. Yamato nodded. They began walking side by side, heading towards Yamato's apartment, hands still connected.
Yamato stared at his door with a mixture of relief and regret. He wanted to spend more time with Tai, but he felt like he wasn't himself. Maybe a few hours alone would do him some good, would give him the time he needed to process everything and feel normal again.
"So, uh, here we are…"
Tai's voice startled Yamato out of anything else he might have been concerned about—just for one instant. Then everything came rushing back, and Yamato blinked in confusion. He wanted Tai to be comfortable, but he still wasn't exactly sure what that fight had been about, and even when he thought he had it all figured out, another possibility seemed to come up out of nowhere. Possibility after possibility flooded through his mind, and in the end the only thing Yamato could think was that he obviously had no idea what was going on. Tai didn't like him in that way, and everything else at this point just seemed unimportant.
But he had come so close to losing Tai… it had been so close. Yamato could still feel a sharp echo of fear running through his veins at the thought. Everything might be unimportant, everything but this, and all Yamato knew was that he had to figure out what he was going to do. He couldn't lose Tai, but he couldn't stay close to Tai either. This constant attention from Tai only made everything worse, but at the same time it was the only thing keeping him going.
"Ah," Yamato said, and it really was such a non-statement that he couldn't blame Tai for shuffling nervously foot to foot. He knew this couldn't be easy on Tai, almost losing his best friend for reasons he had absolutely no way of understanding. But still, the very idea of being close to Tai now, of inviting him in and trying to make up by watching a movie or listening to music or doing some other mundane activity that wasn't at all what Yamato wanted to do… it was just too much.
"So, uh, I guess I'll just… um, go," Tai said, and it was almost a question but not quite.
Yamato's shoulders relaxed slightly; he hadn't even known they'd been tense. Tai swallowed and turned around, not waiting for anything before he started walking away.
Even as a slow, sick feeling crawled up Yamato's throat, he knew it was for the best. Tai couldn't stay, and if he couldn't stay then he would have to leave, and that was so obvious that it seemed counter-productive and just plain ridiculous to ask him to stay a little longer.
What would they even do, anyway? Stand outside his fucking apartment door and make small talk? Stare at each other and wonder what to say next? No, that was stupid; he was being stupid and he had to stop it. They would see each other tomorrow, for God's sake. It wasn't as if a whole night would destroy what they had only so recently repaired.
Yamato thunked his head against his apartment door and sighed. It was better for both of them. Tai wouldn't want what Yamato wanted to offer, and Yamato didn't know how to do anything other than offer. Offer what, he wasn't entirely sure. He had imagined pressing his mouth over Tai's—sometimes softly, sometimes with so much force that they had ended up falling over into a tangled pile of limbs and laughter—but everything else beyond that point seemed vague and nebulous. He had an idea of how two bodies fit together, drawn mostly from his dreams and snatches of conversation picked up here and there, and he knew he wanted to try something like that with Tai, but the mechanics of the entire situation completely eluded him. Some of what he had heard around his school had actually quite frightened him, and the idea of letting another person's tongue enter his mouth was just plain gross. If having someone else's tongue enter him was gross, then he couldn't even begin to imagine what anything else would feel like. He knew he wasn't ready to do anything serious yet, but he knew he was ready for something, and even if it was only holding hands, at least it would be better than this nothing that he dealt with every day. And he knew, he knew that Tai didn't want him like that, but even if he did…
Fuck it, even if he did, how the hell was Yamato meant to tell him what he wanted when he didn't even know himself?
The key clicked the lock open, and Yamato closed the door behind him with an almost-silent thunk. The empty apartment reminded him sharply of the other reason why Tai couldn't stay. For right now, all Tai had was the knowledge that Yamato was lying about something, but he had no idea just how many lies Yamato had been telling him. The fact that his father had missed Thanksgiving was just one in a whole series of lies, and it really was for the best that Tai had left, after all.
Yamato shrugged his jacket off with a dejected air and reached up to hang it on the coat hanger when he gave a start. Rolling his eyes, Yamato retracted his hand and opened the door again, checking briefly to make sure he had his key before shutting it and running through the hallway, down the steps, and out onto the street, pausing only briefly to curse the rain. He spotted Tai not too far down the road, walking slower than he should have been in this weather.
"Tai!" Yamato called out as he ran just that extra bit faster. Tai didn't even stop, and either the rain was loud enough to drown out his voice or he just hadn't been loud enough, but either way meant the same thing. Yamato narrowed his eyes—it was so like Tai to be annoying and not hear him when Yamato was running after him in the fucking rain.
"Tai!" Yamato yelled again, and this time Tai turned and blinked at him, a somewhat confused expression on his face. Yamato twisted his foot a little bit to stop running directly into him, but the ground was slippery and he had the worst luck on the planet ever, somewhere some god was having a really good laugh at his expense, he was sure of it. He crashed into Tai practically head first, but luckily Tai had taken the sudden weight and just moved back a step, otherwise standing perfectly still.
Yamato leaned on Tai just long enough to regain his balance before pushing off of him, and Tai still hadn't moved from his position, although so many emotions were flickering across his face that Yamato didn't even bother trying to figure them out.
"… Sorry," Yamato said, then quickly outstretched his arm, pushing Tai's jacket towards its rightful owner. "Here. You forgot this."
Tai blinked and looked down at his jacket, then back up at Yamato. "You ran out into the rain to give me back my jacket?" His voice was strained and Yamato shifted uncomfortably.
"… Yeah, so?" seemed like the best and only response he could give, so he gave it and tried not to seem too uncomfortable, nervous, edgy.
Tai blinked again and reached out, taking his jacket from Yamato's hand, and Yamato noticed the lack of skin-to-skin contact more than he wanted to.
"Thanks," Tai said, and suddenly his mouth twisted and he frowned. "Matt…"
Yamato immediately stiffened and stepped back half a step. "What?"
"You're not wearing a jacket," Tai said, so exasperated that Yamato had to crack a smile. Tai scratched his head and let his hand drop. "You were at your own house, too, you can't even say that you didn't have—" Tai cut himself off abruptly and scratched his head some more. Yamato's smile grew a little softer.
"See you tomorrow?"
It was the only offering he could make, and Yamato waited half a heartbeat in a state of certainty. There was no nervousness now, not after Tai had acted like that, and his smile really couldn't have gotten any softer when Tai looked up at him and grinned, but somehow it did anyway.
Mondays were normally something to loathe, to despise far above and beyond any other day of the week simply because they signaled the end of the weekend, the only days that he could normally spend entirely with Tai, and the beginning of yet another week in which he'd be stuck living a life he really wasn't thrilled with. This time, though, this Monday was different. The past weekend had sucked so much that it was almost funny, in that hysterical sort of way, and Yamato could only be grateful that it was over. As for the beginning of the week, well, even though his life hadn't really changed in any drastic way, Yamato knew that he had come close to losing Tai.
And that thought stopped him in the middle of the hallway, one hand on his open locker and the other pulling out his Biology textbook. The near-miss he had worried him more and more as time progressed. Tai had forgiven him for some reason that he suspected had a lot to do with guilt and not so much to do with actually understanding why Yamato couldn't be completely honest with him. Still, it was a new week and Tai was still his best friend, even though all evidence pointed to the fact that Tai should have dropped him after their fight. But for some reason Tai was willing to stay friends with him, and the only thing Yamato could do was hope that he wouldn't screw it all up again.
Yamato shook his head quickly and threw the damned Biology text into his backpack. He grabbed his Algebra book and threw that in too, double-checking to make sure he had the notebooks he needed and his homework before shutting his locker and spinning the dial quickly.
Koushiro was standing there and Yamato jumped slightly backwards, almost banging his head on his locker out of sheer shock.
"Fuck it, Koushiro, just say something when you're standing there," Yamato said, pulling his backpack on and rolling his eyes.
Koushiro looked slightly abashed and said, "I apologize, I didn't intend to frighten you."
"You didn't frighten me," Yamato protested, and then sighed. "Whatever, let's just go."
"All right," Koushiro said. "I can't wait for today's lecture to start. I heard we're going to be starting a new unit on marine animals. It's all very exciting."
Yamato walked past Koushiro, stalking towards their classroom with a scowl. "Is it?"
It was impossible not to pause outside his classroom. Yamato's feet had made the decision for him, and it seemed that they were not going to listen to him no matter what he did, which was quite ridiculous because it wasn't as if he and Tai had parted on bad terms. It wasn't as if he really had anything to worry about when he next saw Tai.
Yamato walked into his classroom and immediately noticed Tai sitting as his desk just like he always did. This was going to be fine, this was going to be normal, and there really wasn't anything to freak out about. Yamato walked over to his own desk and dropped his backpack onto it, completely prepared to act normally to Tai no matter what he said.
It was so normal; it was so easy for Yamato to respond.
"How was bio?" Yamato gave Tai a look and he grinned. "Just asking."
"It sucked. Just like it always sucks."
"Well, you're here now. Away from the evil biology."
Then class started and, as far as Yamato was concerned, things were all right.
"So Matt," Tai started, as soon as Algebra was over. "When are you going shopping?"
Yamato kept on putting his things away but raised an eyebrow at Tai. "Shopping?"
Tai blinked at him and then said, "Oh. You already got it."
Yamato shrugged his backpack on and waited for Tai to finish shoving his textbook into his bag. "I already got what?"
Tai pulled his backpack over his shoulder and strode out of the classroom, Yamato right beside him. "Uh… T.K.'s birthday present?" Tai's voice seemed to scream "duh" at him, but all Yamato could do was blink.
"What day is it?" he asked, and the urgency in his voice was enough to make Tai pause before he answered.
"No, you stupid… I meant the number, the date," Yamato said, and he swallowed nervously.
"It's only the second, Matt," Tai replied. "Relax, you've still got…"
Yamato's stomach slowly rolled over, and his lips thinned. A pressure that was almost too much to stand was slowly crushing his insides, and he swallowed thickly.
"… Three days," Tai finished. His eyebrows lowered a bit and he gave a small smile. "Relax, Matt, no need to stress."
"I…" Yamato couldn't think straight; he could barely put one foot in front of the other.
Tai's eyebrows drew together and the smile dropped off his face. "Matt?"
"… I need to go to class," Yamato said, and he walked away, leaving Tai to stare after him and wonder what had just happened.
Yamato got through third period somehow and ended up dropping into his desk and putting his head into his hands during his fourth period study hall. Even his music class just before hadn't been enough to cheer him up, and he usually looked forward to that class as one of his only sources of learning how to improve his musical ability. Today, though, all of that had been shoved aside in the wake of a much more pressing concern.
Yamato let his head fall onto his desk. He had forgotten Takeru's birthday. He had actually forgotten his little brother's birthday. There were so few things he had to remember for Takeru, and this was one of them.
What present could he buy that would make up for this? There was nothing. Nothing. The only thing he could hope was that Takeru never found out.
Panic rose up in Yamato's chest and he clenched his eyes tightly shut. This was absolutely not happening. First he'd almost lost Tai, and now he was about to lose Takeru. He tried to calm himself, tried to breathe steadily, slowly, but in the end he could only gulp down a few shallow breaths and hope they were enough.
Yamato's head snapped up. Tai wasn't in his fourth period class, and Yamato knew he wasn't hallucinating the brunet's voice. But when he saw Tai sitting down next to him, he realized they were in the cafeteria. His eyes drifted to the table. A tray of food was lying there. He didn't even remember leaving study hall.
"Are you all right?" Tai asked, cocking one eyebrow at Yamato. "You're not still upset about the present thing, are you?"
"No, I'm not—I mean, I'm all right, I'm not upset." The words stumbled out of his mouth, falling over one another in their haste to escape.
"Because you seem kind of out of it."
"Well, I'm not."
Tai frowned a little and scratched the side of his nose. "If you say so."
Yamato looked back down at his food and started eating. He had just made up with Tai; the last thing he needed now was for Tai to start interrogating him again. All he needed to do was to act normal.
But, his recent resolution was to be himself. He was still unclear on the details of just exactly what that meant. Maybe it included being honest about his feelings? Well, but he was being honest about his feelings. To himself. All that would happen if he told Tai would be that Tai would start worrying about him and trying to cheer him up. He didn't want to be cheered up. He had forgotten Takeru's birthday. He didn't deserve to feel better about it.
Still… what if being himself meant that he should just do what he wanted to regardless of what anyone else wanted? He had been trying to go along with everyone else, and that hadn't really worked out for him, so maybe he should just try a new tactic. Ignoring his own wishes hadn't led him anywhere at all.
But he knew that he had to ignore some things he wanted. He had to put some people's desires and needs above his own. So what if that meant that he couldn't do what he wanted to all of the time? Some things were just more important than getting what he wanted. Takeru and Tai were more important. Period.
But if he was almost-lying to Tai sometimes, about little things that didn't really matter, even if it was for Tai's own good, did that really mean he was being himself? Was it okay for him to almost-lie to make Tai feel better? Was it okay for him to almost-lie to keep Tai as his friend for longer? And was almost-lying to Tai okay at all, given their recent fight?
It was what he wanted to do, to keep Tai, but he didn't want to do it at the same time. He wanted Tai to just accept him for who he was, completely. But that was impossible. So, what did he do when he had two equally strong, conflicting desires? Which one did he go with? Which one would be more in tune with his resolution?
And, did his resolution really mean that he had to give up his old life entirely? He liked his old life. Or, at the very least, he was used to it. He had a schedule, a routine that he performed every day. At least now he knew what he was doing. If he suddenly decided to change the way he lived, what would happen? Which part of his life would change first? Or, would it be all at once without any time to get used to anything at all? Maybe it would be like a box of cards. He would have to upend his whole life, letting everything scatter to the floor. Then, he'd have to pick up one piece and put it away first before moving to the next one. If he fixed each small part of his life one at a time, maybe it wouldn't be too overwhelming.
But what needed to be fixed? There were good, valid reasons why things were the way they were. Takeru lived with his mother because of those reasons. His father was able to provide him with food, shelter, and clothing because of those reasons. Tai and him were best friends because of those reasons.
He wasn't able to put into thought just what exactly the reasons were, though. Of course, Takeru lived with his mother because of the arrangement their parents had made when they had divorced. His father was able to support Yamato financially because he was away all the time, working constantly. Tai and him were best friends because of their experiences together in the Digiworld and in the real world, and they stayed best friends because Yamato wasn't stupid and didn't try for anything more.
What could change? Was Yamato willing to force Takeru and his mother apart so that he could spend more time with his brother? No. Did he want to stop his father from making money so that he didn't have to be alone so much? No. Was he willing to confess to Tai and possibly—definitely—destroy their friendship? Hell no.
So where did that leave him? He made a vow to change, and he wasn't willing to change any of the most important things in his life. So what, should he start eating less ice cream or something? Was that the only kind of change he was able to actually follow through with?
Yamato glared up at Tai. "What?!"
Tai jerked back suddenly. "Uh… I was trying to get your attention."
"And… what?" Tai repeated, frowning.
Yamato rolled his eyes and looked pointedly at Tai. "What do you want? Why were you trying to get my attention?"
"Oh. Lunch is over," Tai said, gesturing to the rapidly-emptying cafeteria.
Yamato stood up, slung his backpack on, and reached down to his tray. Tai cleared his throat and glanced meaningfully at Yamato.
Tai pointed at the tray. "You didn't eat anything."
Yamato looked down briefly. He thought he had been eating, but the food on his tray looked basically untouched. He shrugged and picked up his tray.
"I wasn't hungry," he replied before dumping his meal into the garbage. Yamato walked out of the cafeteria before Tai could follow.
The school wanted to give the art students a broad range of topics to cover, everything from sculpting to painting to drawing. It seemed like they thought that, when presented with an overkill of materials, a student might find at least one thing that piqued his or her interest. Today, the teacher handed out pieces of glass to each student, along with etching knives. Apparently, glass etching was some sort of fine art that no one ever really learned about, but their teacher wanted to change that.
Yamato stared at the small piece of square glass lying on the table in front of him. They had a pattern to follow that would make some sort of floral design on the glass. It was supposed to look elegant, but Yamato grimaced at the thought of spending an entire class period carving flowers into glass.
The etching knife was right next to the glass. It had a small, wooden handle with a sharp, silver blade. Yamato picked it up and held the tip to the glass, sliding the pattern closer to try and figure out where to begin. The pattern was incredibly intricate, and Yamato scowled as he realized they would probably be working on this for a few classes.
Laying the knife back down on the table, Yamato picked up the pattern and inspected it thoroughly. There were swirls in the leaves and stem that led up to a massive flower. The petals took up most of the design, and they each had various smaller patterns inside of them to make the whole thing look overly complicated. Plus, the only people Yamato could ever imagine appreciating these designs were elderly women who collected this sort of useless crap.
Still, completing this counted towards his grade. With that in mind, Yamato picked up the knife and began etching the end of the stem. He carved the stem from the end all the way up to where the first leaf began before it became hard to tell which lines connected where. At that point, Yamato grabbed the pattern and brought it almost right against his face, intent on seeing the lines as clearly as possible.
Once he was sure he had the next part memorized, Yamato put the pattern back down next to the glass. He held the knife right above the glass to begin etching again, but his right hand felt sort of strange. Yamato glanced at his hand in time to see a small drop of blood fall from his palm onto the clear glass.
He quickly turned his hand over, dropping the etching knife. On top of his older cuts that were almost healed, a small, fresh line of blood was forming. It was almost directly in the middle of his palm, and Yamato belatedly realized that he had forgotten to put down his knife was he had held the pattern up to his face to examine it.
It was such a stupid thing to do, really. Forgetting to put down the knife. The teacher had repeated herself at least four times to be careful, and still he was a klutz. Another drop of blood formed and the only thing Yamato thought was, how stupid.
He didn't want anyone making a fuss over this, so he picked up the knife, intending to go back to work. Once it was in his hand, though, he realized that the cut didn't even hurt. It hadn't hurt when he had done it, and it didn't hurt now either. Had it hurt before, when he had cut himself? Accidentally? He couldn't recall.
It was so easy to press the blade into his skin; it was over before he even thought about it. Then, afterwards, Yamato stared at the small cut, his mind completely blank, except for one small thought that quickly vanished.
Yamato dropped his backpack in the locker room and began changing. His mind was blank. For once, all the thoughts that usually plagued him were just gone. There were no circular arguments, no reasoning and accusations, no second-guessing and constant worrying, no visions of the future or of every possible outcome of every possible situation, each worse than the last. There was just… nothing. His mind was clear.
It was good. Great, actually. He was happy. Without the worrying that forced Yamato into mind-numbing paranoia, he found that he worked quicker and more efficiently. At least, he had felt more connected to his art project than he normally did, and even walking down the halls he noticed more. People passing, talking to each other, signs posted on lockers, classroom doors opening and closing… he knew it all happened every day. He knew that nothing was different today than it normally was. Still, he felt connected, like he belonged here, or, perhaps more accurately, like he was actually alive.
Every day was the same thing. He would go through the motions just to get by. But today, for some reason, he felt different. New. Alive. It was as if purpose flooded through his body, but not for any particular reason. It was just that things were sharper, more in focus, now that his mind was clear.
Yamato heard Tai's footsteps and was amazed that he could distinguish between Tai's steps and everyone else's. He turned around as Tai rounded the corner, smiling.
"Hey, Tai. How was class?"
Tai stopped in the middle of the locker room and stared at Yamato. He opened his mouth, closed it, and peered closer at the blond.
Yamato's smile widened and he rolled his eyes. "What is it? Do I have something on my face or something?"
Tai took another step forward and dropped his backpack on the floor. "Uh… are you… okay?"
Yamato grinned. "Yeah, I feel great."
Tai gave a small half-smile, a puzzled look still crossing his face. "I don't know. You just seem kind of… not yourself."
Yamato shrugged. "I don't know. I feel fine."
"But… well, I mean, that's great," Tai said. He reached over to his locker and began changing, oblivious to Yamato's grin widening at the sudden show of skin. "It's just that you're smiling."
Yamato raised an eyebrow. "So what, I don't smile?"
"Well, I mean, no… well, sometimes… normally not." Tai shrugged his gym shirt on and waved his hand a bit. "Not that it's a bad thing—"
"Good, 'cause you're making it sound me smiling is a disaster," Yamato replied, still grinning at Tai's flustered behavior.
"No, it's good, I mean I like it," Tai said. He blushed a little and scratched the back of his neck. "You just don't smile all that often. And you're, you know…"
"What?" Yamato asked, feeling completely at ease with this conversation.
Tai looked away and whispered something.
"Naked," Tai hissed, going scarlet.
Yamato laughed and shook his head. "Tai. I'm not naked. I'm wearing pants."
"But you always change at, like, light-speed so no one sees you!" Tai drew on his gym pants and closed his locker, twirling the combination quickly.
"So I feel like going slower today. Is that a problem? Is there some reason you want me to have a shirt on?"
Yamato practically cackled with delight when Tai's face went even redder. "N-No reason," he stuttered. "But it's just weird, is all. I mean, I'm fine with it. Not that, you know, I want to see you or anything. It's just, you know, I don't care. Either way, I mean."
Yamato nodded at Tai's explanation, silently congratulating himself on flirting somewhat successfully with Tai. He had never really tried before, but it seemed to be working. At the very least, it was amusing as all hell to watch Tai incoherently babble.
"Anyway, you're trying to distract me!" Tai accused, pointing at Yamato forcefully.
"Is it working?" Yamato asked, leisurely reaching inside his locker to pull out his gym shirt.
"Yes!" Tai shouted. "I mean, no! Argh, just stop it!" Yamato laughed as he finished getting changed. "You didn't even get mad when I asked you if you were feeling okay. You always get mad when I ask you that!"
Yamato shrugged and closed his locker, spinning the dial with practiced ease. "Look, Tai, I'm just feeling good right now, all right?"
Tai titled his head slightly and said, "But you were so upset at lunch. I just don't get it."
"Can't you just be happy for me?" Yamato asked, the smile finally sliding off his face. He did feel good, but the more Tai talked the less he thought he could hold on to this state of not-thinking.
Tai immediately looked contrite. "I—of course. Of course I can. I am. I'm happy for you, Matt. I want you to be happy."
"You're always saying that."
"That's because I mean it."
There was a silence that felt thick. Yamato knew that, if he had been thinking like he usually did, he'd be overcome with contrasting ideas that would completely take over his mind right now. Normally, he would wait until Tai spoke next and hope that Tai would let him off easy. Now, though, Yamato felt calm. What he wanted to say was clear in his mind, and it was easy for him to say it.
"Well, I'm happy, Tai. So, be happy for me, okay?" Yamato walked past Tai towards the gymnasium, punching Tai lightly on the shoulder as he passed.
Just before he left the locker room, Yamato heard Tai's footsteps following his own. He smiled and walked into the gym, confident that he was starting to really keep his resolution.
Tai was walking beside him, his footsteps moving just a moment out of synchronization with Yamato's own. They each carried their own backpacks, plus Yamato held a small bag with a video game inside. Shopping for Takeru had turned out to be quite easy, since Hikari had told Tai that Takeru had been moaning about how much he wanted this Playstation 2 game for months now. One stop at the local video game retailer later, Yamato had Takeru's birthday gift and was already heading home.
Overall, he felt quite good about the whole day. Sure, the beginning of the day had started off the same as usual, but by now he was really feeling relaxed. None of the stress and nervousness that normally accompanied him existed. Instead, Yamato felt comfortable.
He didn't have to think about anything, and he loved it. If this was what not thinking about things felt like, he knew he'd have to keep on feeling this way. There was just this enormous sense of relief that seemed to permeate him through his core. It was as if there had never been anything to worry about in the first place.
Even now, walking home with Tai, Yamato didn't feel the mixture of nervousness, tension, and dread that normally coursed through him. His body felt lighter. It seemed like he was even walking faster. Everything looked clearer, more defined—even the leaves on the trees they passed seemed to stand out more today than they ever had before.
This couldn't just be some trick. Something had changed inside him. He didn't know what it was, and he didn't really care. The only thing that mattered now was keeping this feeling alive for as long as possible.
"Are you okay?" Yamato asked, noticing that Tai was rather silent.
Tai grinned. "Normally it's me asking you that."
"Well, you're not running off at the mouth like usual—"
"—so I figured something must be up," Yamato finished, ignoring Tai's protest.
Tai was quiet for another minute, during which Yamato noticed that the leaves were almost entirely off of the trees. It really was the beginning of December. When had that happened?
"I guess I'm just wondering what's up with you," Tai said, quietly.
"What do you mean?"
Tai shrugged. "I don't know. I'm happy you're happy, but…"
Yamato glanced over at Tai and repeated, "But?"
"You just seem different."
"And that's a bad thing?"
Tai shrugged again. "I don't know… I've seen you happy before, but not like this."
"So what, I'm the wrong kind of happy?" Yamato laughed at Tai's hurt expression. "Come on, Tai, don't be like that. You do know you sound ridiculous, right?"
"I guess," Tai said.
They lapsed into silence pretty easily, and Yamato felt no need to continue the conversation. He could tell Tai was unsatisfied, like he wanted to say something else, but Yamato felt no need to help his friend out. Even Tai's discomfort wasn't really affecting him all that much. He didn't enjoy seeing Tai upset, but he didn't feel the need to fix things like he normally would have. Instead, he just had this vague notion that things were fine, that everything would fix itself and he wouldn't have to worry about anything at all.
Once they reached Yamato's front door, Tai cleared his throat and looked in Yamato's general direction without making eye contact.
"Uh… so, I guess I'll see you later, then."
Yamato rolled his eyes at Tai's discomfort. "Do you want to come in or what?"
Tai's eyes shot up to Yamato's. "What?!"
"Do you want to come in?"
"I… you mean, you're inviting me in?"
"To your apartment?"
Yamato rolled his eyes again. "You've been in here before, Tai. God, you're such a freak sometimes."
Yamato unlocked his door and walked through it, kicking it open behind him so that Tai could follow. He threw his backpack on the couch, took off his shoes and coat, and walked towards the kitchen.
"Want something to drink?"
"Uh… a coke?"
"Sure," Yamato replied. He grabbed two glasses, filled them both with coke, then walked back to the living room and handed Tai his drink.
Tai looked like he was having some sort of internal struggle, and Yamato waited patiently for whatever outburst was coming next.
"So, uh… where's your dad?" Tai asked, swirling the coke around in his glass.
"He's at work," Yamato replied.
"But I thought he was here. You know, for Thanksgiving?" Tai was looking at Yamato directly now, eyes scanning the blond's face carefully.
"He was," Yamato lied. "He had more work to do, though. I think he should be home soon."
Yamato recalled that he hadn't wanted to lie to Tai any more, but it was so much easier to lie. Anyway, telling the truth would cause a fight, and there seemed to be no real reason to do that. Lying was easy, and he was good at it. Why shouldn't he do it?
Then he remembered he had wanted to keep Tai out of his apartment, but all the reasoning behind that seemed hazy to him now. Had he ever had a good reason? As long as Tai didn't find out about his dad, there was no harm in letting him come over, right? Even if Tai did find out, he was a nice guy. He'd probably just forgive and forget, as the cliché goes.
Everything was so easy and clear to Yamato now. He would lie because it was easy and he could do it, but if Tai found out, well, no real harm done. Even if Tai got mad, so what? There were plenty of people he could be friends with. Tai was just someone he happened to hang around with. There was no real reason to it. And sure, Yamato liked him, but there were always more people to hang out with and get crushes on, right? Everything just seemed so clear and easy. Why had he been having problems at all?
"So, is that what you were worried about?" Yamato asked, grinning. "Because you really shouldn't have been worried."
"Yeah. No, I…" Tai trailed off as he stared at his glass of soda. He immediately looked alarmed and slammed the glass down on the nearby table.
"Tai?" Yamato looked over at Tai's glass and noticed a smear of red on the edge of it. He sighed as he realized it was probably from his hand, and now Tai was going to have a fit about it when it really wasn't a big deal at all. Couldn't he just relax?
"Let me see your hands," Tai demanded. Yamato held his hands out, palms up, towards Tai. "Shit, Matt, your cuts re-opened," Tai said, cursing and heading towards the bathroom.
"Oh, no, these are new ones," Yamato said, looking idly at his hand. There was a crash from the bathroom and Yamato briefly wondered what had happened.
"What?!" Tai shouted, stomping towards Yamato. "What happened?"
Yamato shrugged. "I cut myself in art class."
Tai blinked. "You—what?"
"Cut myself. In art class."
"What do you mean, you cut yourself?" Tai's face darkened. "Was it an accident?"
"Yes," Yamato said, surprised that Tai would ask. "Well, the second time I was thinking about it, but it just happened before I could stop it, and—"
"Wait, what does that mean?"
"Are you saying you did this to yourself intentionally?"
"So, you were thinking about it, how?"
"I was just thinking if it had hurt, and you know, it really didn't."
"I mean, there was a little sting, but nothing really—"
Yamato looked up at Tai, who was now standing in front of him. "Yeah?"
Tai stared at Yamato for a minute before his shoulders slumped. "Did you want to do this to yourself or not?"
Yamato looked at Tai and had a second to wonder the same thing before he heard a small clinking noise coming from the front door. Both boys turned to look as the front door opened, revealing a tall man wearing a long, brown trench coat. He had short, messy brown hair and thick lines under his eyes that stood out even from this distance.
The man's eyes met Yamato's and then flicked to Tai before settling back on Yamato.
The happiness and simplicity that Yamato had been feeling for the last few hours suddenly disappeared, leaving a jumble of conflicted emotions behind.
Author's Notes (part 2): Thanks a lot to everyone who reviewed: Ice Princess Xia, Echelon, timothyology, ts (thanks for the site! I'm trying to download them now, but it's taking forever ;.;), Sailor Red, Kaiya5, Yumi-Ulrich4ever, Dragonborncrystal, yamachi, chikara28, Moppy, Black-Dranzer-1119, ryuu-takahashi (I thought the Japanese didn't have Thanksgiving, but eh. I'm just doing a conglomeration of both American and Japanese holidays. HAHA! -.-;;), CircleKV12, Lunar Kasumi, firedraygon, elephant-chimes, Crossing Infinity, Lady Ifrit (OMG I love your name), CaramelAriana, Faithful Reader, shru, everfire, fallin' from grace, the c goat, Miyavi Fangirl, LemurianCitizen, Shadow of ZAFT (awesome name), XxSweet MitsukaixX, Shadow Vampiress, .Verbal.Rape. (your name owns my life), ineXpressible, DragonBlade65, CSMars, Moonpop, Happiness's Deceit, d. thomas, Lies-and-Truth, Marenda, Tabrina, theatrephunk, and C.B.7!! All of your comments are greatly appreciated! I suck at replying to reviews, so I do apologize about that. But whenever I need to get really into the fic to write some more, re-reading your reviews is what gets me going! So, thanks a lot and keep it up! You guys rock so hard. loves upon
Please review if you can! The longer the better! I know it's a little annoying, but it's really great motivation for me. Plus I just dug out my Taito doujinshi, so you know that helped too. :)
I am actually going to try to start replying to every review I get, starting from the ones with this chapter. So… hopefully it will work and I won't stop like the loser I am.
And a quick question for anyone who knows the answer: which season 2 kids are in Kari and TK's grade? I thought it was just Daisuke and Ken, but now I'm thinking Miyako was in their grade too? Just checking. :)