This chapter is a developing chapter. In order for things to happen later on in the fic, I have to have this chapter, thus making this chapter seem unproductive and un-answering of any questions that have already risen or may arise by the end of the chapter. Most everything that happens will be answered by the end of the fic, so please bear with me.

I, personally, am not too happy with this chapter. I think it is too squishy, so I want honest reviews. Do you think I take Yamato way too OOC, or maybe there is too much nonsense? Do tell me.

(Standard Disclaimer Applies)




Yamato sat on the floor beside his front door and pulled on two pairs of thick white socks. Morning sunshine filtered into the bare apartment through the balcony windows, yet the light could only stretch so far, and it left Yamato in the dim shadows to finish getting ready for school. Except for the sound of the refrigerator buzzing the kitchen, the apartment was quiet.

A long, darker shadow fell over Yamato, and he glanced up and back to see his father standing over him. He frowned upon noticing the man's unshaven face and untidy hair, but went back to what he was already busy with, saying quietly, "You need to start getting up earlier. You'll be late for work."

Masaharu grunted something incoherently before asking, "Do you work tonight?"

"Yes," Yamato answered, reaching for his shoes.

It seemed as though that was all Masaharu wanted to know, because he turned slightly to leave, but stopped, his eyes still on Yamato. He watched silently as Yamato finished with his shoes and stood up, grabbing his bag and throwing it over his shoulder. Their eyes met briefly before Yamato turned to leave, his hand resting on the doorknob.


Yamato paused, waiting for Masaharu to continue. Masaharu stared at his son's back, contemplating how to put his thoughts into words. He watched as Yamato turned his head slightly so that he could barely see his son's hopeful expression.

"Yamato, I…" he started again, but Yamato turned around to face him completely and he faltered. A sudden feeling ran through Masaharu, telling him that this was not the right time to bring up such a topic, and he quickly thought of something else to say.

"I will be working late tonight, so I won't come home till after you're asleep, if I come home at all. Don't bother making dinner before you leave."

 Masaharu could see the disappointment that flashed across Yamato's face as he nodded reluctantly, turning to leave once more. As he turned the doorknob, he hesitated, as if waiting for Masaharu to stop him again, but no such thing happened and he finally stepped outside, closing the door gently behind him.

For a little while, Masaharu stood in place and stared at the door, wondering if he should have continued, wondering what would have happened if he did. But that was not what had come about, and he convinced himself that he had done the right thing in leaving the conversation to a later date.


The sky was a soft morning mix of blue and gray, and the white snowflakes continued to fall, though their drifts were lazier now than they were so many nights before, and, even though the sun beamed brightly, the air was still overwhelmingly cold. It was going to be a bright day. The clouds were moving quickly across the sky, opening more and more of it for the sun.

Yamato watched the ground before him as he walked, listening to the sound of the snow crunching under his shoes. He liked that sound; it reminded him of the same crunching noise that gravel made when he walked down the country road his grandmother lived on. He wanted to listen to it, needed it to block out the noise of his father's voice that echoed in his head.

"I will be working late tonight…"

Was he lying when he said that? Yamato wondered as he stopped to stare at the sky. Where have you been, Dad? You haven't come by Akira's recentlyYou need to tell me…

The falling snow speckled Yamato with white spots. Sighing, Yamato wrapped his arms tighter around his body and resumed his walking, shaking his head to rid his hair of as much of the snow as he possibly could.

No, he wasn't lying. Why would he need to? Yet

"Good morning, Yamato-kun."

Yamato frowned to himself, wondering who lived near him that knew him and why this person was greeting him so early in the morning when, obviously, he was thinking about something important. He stopped walking and began to turn around, but one foot slid from beneath him and the other just slid.

Once he had hit a growth spurt, Yamato had become accustomed to the tingly sensation of falling, and the abrupt stop of when his rump met the ground, that came with being tall. He tended to flinch before he ever hit the ground now, the thoughts of the pain more motivation than the pain itself.

However, this time Yamato felt himself being stopped, not by the icy ground beneath him, but by a hand clinging to the front of his jacket. The world had been spinning while he was falling, so somewhere along the way he had chosen to close his eyes. Now he opened them slowly, adrenaline coursing through his body even now because only the heels of his shoes were on the ice.

Yamato leaned forward, rocking back onto his feet and gripping tightly to the forearm of the person who had caught him. "You know," he said when he felt stable enough to let go and attempt to balance on his own, "I really hate ice. Good morning, Yagami-san."

"They haven't salted the sidewalks yet, I guess," Taichi said, leaning over to pick Yamato's bag from a pile of snow where it hand landed whilst Yamato flung his arms about. "And, please, call me Taichi."

Taking his bag from Taichi, Yamato brushed off the snow that clung to it. "And what are you doing here, if you don't mind my asking?"

"I live near here," Taichi answered.

"You do?" Yamato asked doubtfully, remembering that Taichi had turned the opposite direction at school.

Taichi shrugged. "Well, not yet, but I will in a couple of weeks. We've already started moving our stuff into the new apartment, and I came by to pick up something that I left in there the other day. I saw you walking by and decided to walk to school with you. After all, I'm going to need to know the quickest route to school every morning."

Yamato folded his arms and frowned at Taichi, eyeing him analytically. "You made all that up, didn't you?"

Grinning, Taichi stretched his arms, placing them behind his head, and began to walk down the sidewalk, Yamato following him but still giving him a disbelieving look. "Yep. Thought a morning story would wake you up. You looked pretty out of it when I saw you."

"Whatever," Yamato said with a roll of his eyes. "I happened to have been thinking something important, but I'm sure you've never suffered an honest thought before, so I understand how you couldn't tell the difference."

"Harsh. Is that any way to thank the person that saved you from busting it only moments ago?" Taichi asked.

"Why are you really here?" Yamato countered.

"Honestly? I forgot my school shoes at a friend's house last night. My dad dropped me off on the way to work this morning to get them," Taichi said.

"Why aren't you walking with him?" Yamato asked, narrowing his eyes since he still did not believe Taichi.

"What is this? C-X debate?" Taichi laughed, giving Yamato a wide grin. "His school starts an hour later than ours," he held his hand up, stopping whatever Yamato planned to say. "And, before you ask, I know him through soccer, and that's the honest truth. Really, Yamato-kun, I'm not trying to stalk you."

For a moment, it seemed as thought Yamato did not believe Taichi, but then he nodded and finally turned his attention back to the ground as they walked.

"So…" Taichi started, "What were you thinking about?"

Yamato shrugged indifferently. "Things."

"Just things?" Taichi asked. At Yamato's glare he quickly changed the subject. "It feels like the air is getting a little warmer."

"Oh, that reminds me…" Yamato slung his bag around in front of him and unzipped it, reaching for the light blue scarf that was folded neatly within. He pulled it from his bag and held it out for Taichi to take. "Thank you for lending it to me."

Taichi looked at the scarf, and then at Yamato. "You can keep it if you want."

"No thank you. I have plenty," Yamato said, shoving the scarf into Taichi's chest with a smile. "Besides, it's a shade lighter."

Finally taking the scarf, Taichi slung it loosely around his neck, returning the smile. "Ah, you figured it out."

"Yes, I did," Yamato said, zipping his bag and pushing it back over his shoulder again. "I have to admit, you're very perceptive."

"Only sometimes," Taichi answered with a short laugh. "And only with some things. Eyes are my specialty. I notice them before I notice anything else. Some people have mean eyes, some people have soft eyes, and some people have distracted eyes… It all depends on the person, really."

"Eyes, hm? I think I notice teeth first," Yamato said thoughtfully. "You can tell a lot about someone because of their teeth."

"Is that so?" Taichi asked. "What can you tell about me?"

Yamato nearly laughed outright when he looked up to see Taichi grinning really big, but he settled for an amused smile. "Well, it looks like you had braces at one point in time, and you don't smoke."

Taichi raised an eyebrow. "That's pretty good. Of course, the smoking thing is easy. I wouldn't be any good at soccer if I smoked."

"But I don't know if you're good at soccer," Yamato replied.

"That's true…"

They were almost to the school gates already, and the sidewalk was getting more crowded with students waiting outside for the bell to ring. Yamato slipped through the crowd, carefully avoiding everyone, and was surprised to find that Taichi followed him instead of drifting away to one of the social groups.

Yamato settled himself by the wall near the school's cement steps, leaning against it like he usually did when he waited. Taichi dropped down onto the ground, sitting beside him, resting his hands behind his head and closing his eyes.

"You said you weren't going to the play, right?" Taichi asked suddenly, turning his head slightly to look up at Yamato.

"Yeah. Why?" Yamato replied, eyes drifting over the crowd of chattering students.

"Just wondering if I'd have any company," Taichi said. "I have to go to support a few friends that are in it."

It was a weird feeling for Yamato, having someone to talk to while he waited. The year before, both he and a friend waited every morning in the same spot by the steps for the bell to ring, but after his friend graduated, Yamato was left alone. Not that he minded. It was easier to not struggle to make conversation with anyone.

Yet, with Taichi, Yamato did not feel like he was struggling.

The bell rang, and, all at once, the mass of students began herding toward their classes. Yamato pushed away from the wall, Taichi hopped to his feet, and again they were headed in different directions. But, before he left, Yamato had to know one thing.

"Hey, Taichi?"

Taichi paused and turned to face Yamato. "Yes?"

"What kind of eyes do I have?" Yamato asked curiously.

A grin spread across Taichi's face. "Haven't you ever looked in the mirror, Ishida? Your eyes are blue."

"That's not what I meant!" Yamato snapped, narrowing his eyes into a glare.

Taichi simply laughed and began to walk away, stopping only one last time to say, "And I never had braces."


"You look a little young to be serving alcohol."

Yamato gave a cold, sideways glance at the man currently sitting at the bar closest to him. The guy had been making snippy, annoying comments all night toward Yamato, tempting him to poison the alcohol. He was dirty, grungy dirty, like he had not had a shower in two weeks, and he certainly smelt like he hadn't, too.

"Yes, sir, I do, but looks can be deceiving," Yamato answered politely but dryly.

The guy coughed a, "Yeah," and took another long drink from his glass, slamming it back on the counter with enough force to startle a few of the other occupants when he was done. He wiped his mouth the back of his hand and dug around in one pocket for some change to pay for his drink. He eventually pulled some out, tossing it onto the counter before coughing into his hand.

As Yamato moved to scoop up the change, the guy reached out with the hand he had just coughed into and snatched Yamato's wrist, jerking Yamato toward him. His dirty fingernails dug into Yamato's skin and he smirked a yellow-toothed smirk. His eyes narrowed on Yamato. "Now, don't you feel dirty, kid?"

From across the tavern, where he had been playing cards with a few of the usuals, Akira noticed the abrupt movement at the bar from the corner of his eye and shifted slightly to see what was going on. He was startled by what he saw and immediately left the card game to rescue his favorite employee, who was looking scared out of his wits.

"Hey!" Akira shouted, grabbing the scruffy man roughly on the shoulder. "We don't tolerate that kind of behavior here. I think it's time for you to leave."

The man laughed hoarsely and let go of Yamato, standing up and stretching. "I believe you're right."

Yamato, after having drawn his hand back close to his body and backed away from the counter, rubbed subconsciously at his wrist as he watched, with everyone else in the tavern, the man leave. He could feel his heart pounding in his ears, but collected himself as Akira turned to face him.

"What happened? What did he say to you?" Akira asked, his expression both worried and angered.

Yamato shook his head, closing his eyes for a moment. "He's just some jerk trying to cause trouble."

"What did he say to you?" Akira repeated.

Yamato waved him off. "Nothing important. I could hardly understand him anyway."

Akira nodded reluctantly, a frown on his face. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Yamato answered, turning around to the sink behind him. He turned on the water and grabbed the soap resting nearby. "I'm fine."

*  *  *

Masaharu glanced over the top of his newspaper at Yamato, who was currently washing his hands for the fifth time in the past three minutes. Actually, there had only been a small break in the washing of hands when Yamato needed to stir whatever was cooking on the stove, but soap had only been applied five times since the washing began.

Shaking his head in slight confusion, Masaharu decided to continue reading. At least, he tried. He kept shooting looks in Yamato's direction, trying to figure out why, all of the sudden, his son had decided that the kitchen was too dirty to so much as breathe in. After watching Yamato squeeze soap onto his hands for a sixth time, Masaharu finally laid his paper on the table and leaned back in his chair.

"Yamato," he started, but realized he had not grabbed his son's attention. Sighing, he tried again, a little more sternly. "Yamato!"

Yamato jumped and spun around, "Yes?"

Masaharu motioned to the water that was still running behind Yamato, and he quickly spun back around to turn it off, snatching up a towel to dry his hands. When his son was facing him again, Masaharu decided to continue. "If you're trying to win a Mr. Clean contest, then you already have everyone beat with your normal habits. I approve of being clean, but is there some reason you insist on washing your hands so damn much?"

"I…" Yamato looked down at his hands, which were red from the intense scrubbing. "I guess I got lost in thought and forgot what I was doing."

"Oh, I see," Masaharu said, frowning uncertainly. He sighed, shaking his head, and picked up his paper once more. "Okay then. Try not waste anymore soap."

With a nod, Yamato moved to the stove and checked to make sure nothing had burned. It was almost ready, being only a serving for one person. He was not hungry, but could hear his father's stomach grumble every now and then.

Glancing at Yamato again, Masaharu noticed something very pink stuck to his refrigerator. He squinted his eyes to read the small writing on it. "Bastion? Is that what that says?"

"Huh?" Yamato followed his father's gaze to the flyer. "Oh, yeah. It's a play our school is putting on. I was planning on going to it."

He had been passing one of the trash bins at school that was overflowing with pink and decided to rescue one of the flyers. The play itself did not appeal to him much, but it would be nice to get out, since he was either cooped up in school, his apartment, or Akira's tavern. Besides, Taichi would be there and that would give him someone to talk to.

Masaharu nodded, rubbing his eyes to get rid of the pink dots that suddenly appeared. Once everything was finished cooking, Yamato made a plate and set it before his father. He removed his apron, hung it by the refrigerator, and, resisting the temptation to wash his hands again, started to leave the kitchen in favor of his room where he could sleep.

In the doorway, however, he stopped and stared over his shoulder at his father who was eating and still reading the newspaper.

Masaharu noticed Yamato's eyes on him and looked up from the newspaper. "Yes?"

"Do you…" Yamato hesitated, eyes darting to the floor. His voice came out small and quiet when he spoke again. "Do you think I'm dirty?"

"What?" Masaharu asked, furrowing his brow in confusion.

Yamato shook his head frantically and hurriedly left the kitchen, his voice drifting behind him.

"Nothing. Just forget it."

*  *  *

With an unenthusiastic expression, Yamato studied the school auditorium's steps in front of him, and then the pink flyer he held in his hand. He still had not decided whether he wanted to go to the play or not. He would miss a couple of hours of work, but Akira had told him that was no problem since he, in Akira's opinion, needed time off anyway.

Yamato's eyes drifted around the front of the building. Most people, even though the day was not as cold as the ones before it, had gone inside. There was a small group right outside the doors, and Yamato spotted Taichi in it, standing farthest away from him. The group seemed to huddle around Taichi, all leaning in to catch his every word.

How does he draw people to him like that? Yamato wondered. He considered leaving, since Taichi appeared to have plenty of "company" already, but he didn't feel much like going home yet, or to Akira's, and began to walk toward the group. Walking up the steps, he could hear whatever it was that Taichi was saying that had the group of people so absorbed.

"-of course that would be a major blow to pride."

The group laughed, but the statement meant nothing to Yamato, given that he had not heard everything else. Taichi glanced in Yamato's direction, offering him a wink that went unnoticed in the group. Yamato smiled briefly in response, staying in the back of the group and leaning his shoulder against one of the poles holding up the awning.

With a graceful toss of his hair, Taichi had the attention of the group again. "Anyhow, let's get inside before the play starts, even if my bum is too numb to sit down any time soon. It's freezing out here!"

A murmur of agreement and small laughter broke through the group and they began drifting toward the auditorium doors. Taichi waited patiently where he was as the group moved indoors, as did Yamato. His stare was fixed on Yamato, and he only broke it to answer someone's question.

As the last person disappeared inside, Taichi moved away from his spot toward Yamato, a soft smirk on his face. "You actually came."

Yamato couldn't help but smile as he stared back at Taichi, but he shrugged in an indifferent manner. "Yeah, well, I didn't feel much like going to work today."

"Of course not. Work is no fun," Taichi said, grinning. Grabbing Yamato's jacket sleeve, he began to go down the steps, clearly not heading to the auditorium. "Come on. The faster we get out of here the better."

Swatting Taichi's hand away, Yamato paused on the last step, confused. "What about the play?"

"You really want to see it?" Taichi asked, arching an eyebrow.

"Well…" Yamato hesitated, shifting uncomfortably. "No, I don't, but didn't you say you needed to support some friends?"

Taichi rolled his eyes. "They should know by now that I don't stick around for things like this. Besides, I can't sit still that long unless I'm asleep." He tapped his foot impatiently, hands on his hips. "Now are we going to go do something fun, or what?"

"Sure, I guess," Yamato said with a sigh, following Taichi down the icy sidewalks toward the bus stop.


The mall was hardly crowded, unusual for a Saturday afternoon. The soft hum of voices and the warmth of inside washed over Yamato as he stepped through the sliding glass doors and, closing his eyes, he breathed in the warm air, happy to be out of the icy wind. He heard a soft chuckle, but did not open his eyes, offering only a small smile.

"You look like you could use something warm, yeah?" Taichi asked. "Coffee, maybe?"

Yamato sighed a quiet, content sigh, and slowly opened his eyes to meet Taichi's. "Mm… How about hot cocoa instead?"

"If that's what you want."

"Yes… Except," Yamato reached into his coat pocket, frowning when his fingers only brushed the cloth lining. "Except, I don't have my wallet with me."

"Ah, no problem. It's on me. I'm the one who made you come here," Taichi said, waving away any protests. "You just find a place to sit, and I'll do the rest."

Nodding, Yamato casually strolled toward the benches placed in the cross section of the mall. He dropped onto an empty one, all the while surveying the mall with a sort of childish awe. He seldom went shopping at big malls, but he enjoyed them when he did. Of course, he didn't have any money with him, but then, he was not planning to buy anything either.

Taichi walked toward him a couple of minutes later, a foam cup in each hand. He handed one to Yamato before sitting down. As he sipped at his steaming coffee, he watched Yamato take equally small sips of his hot cocoa. Taichi was amused with the way Yamato seemed to bask in the mall's heat, and he grinned when Yamato glanced at him.

"Not much for cold weather, are you?"

With a thoughtful, "Hm," Yamato wrapped his icy fingers around his warm cup, smiling to himself. "No, not really."

"That's too bad. You miss out on all the winter fun," Taichi said, and then laughed out right at the flabbergasted expression on Yamato's face.

"Winter fun? You call icy sidewalks and freezing wind fun?"

"Not everyone has balance problems like you do, Yamato-kun, and most people wear coats or other such warming items," Taichi teased, earning himself a sharp look. Pretending to ignore it, he took another sip of his coffee before continuing. "Loads of fun things happen in the winter, too, and if you really get to thinking about it, you wouldn't have met me if it hadn't been for those icy sidewalks, and then where would you be?"

"At home in a nice warm bed?" Yamato offered.

"You'd be at your job," Taichi stated firmly. "As far as being warm goes… Well, I'll buy you a coat today."

Yamato frowned, looking down at the gray coat he was wearing, and then back at Taichi, folding his arms over his chest. "I have a coat."

"Yeah, but I don't like that coat," Taichi said, eyes wandering distastefully over Yamato's coat. "It's too… bleh."

"Thank you for your kind words," Yamato said huffily, though he had to agree with Taichi. He really did not like the coat, but it was the only one he had.

"What?" Taichi said defensively, but then raised a cautious eyebrow. "You don't have some sort of emotional attachment to it, do you? I mean, no dead aunt bought you that before she died, right?"

"No, I do not have an emotional attachment to my coat," Yamato replied flatly. He felt a little guilty for saying that, since Akira was the one who got him the coat, but he could not help it if the man had no taste!

"Good," Taichi mumbled, interrupting Yamato's thoughts, "Because I'm getting you a new one."

And, with that, Taichi finished off the last of his coffee.


"Ohh, I like this one."

Yamato glanced over the clothes rack to see the coat Taichi had found, eyes widening a little. "Isn't that a girl's coat?"

Taichi, who had been holding the cream-colored coat up to his own body, hung the coat over one arm and gave Yamato a calculating look. "Do you do anything besides got to school and work all the time? I mean, honestly, why would a girl's coat be in the men's section, hm?"

"Well… I don't… Just shut up," Yamato growled, viciously pushing the coats on the rack in front of him down so he could get to a certain one. "I don't know why you want to waste money on buying me a coat anyway."

"Because that dreary gray one you insist on wearing does not flatter your body type in the slightest," Taichi said plainly. "Come over here and see if this fits."

"My body type?" Yamato questioned, raising an eyebrow, hand in mid-push.

"That coat is meant for someone short. You are not short, now come here," Taichi snapped authoritatively.

Yamato studied the coat Taichi was holding. "It's kind of long. Won't that go past my knees?"

"No, probably about mid-thigh since you're tall, but we won't know if you don't come over here…" Taichi tapped his foot impatiently, pointing to the ground beside him. "Here. Now."

With a sigh, Yamato slowly began walking over to Taichi, eyeing the coat warily. He felt more like trudging, but Ishida Yamato did not trudge in public. Trudging was only allowed in the mornings for the short distance between his room and the bathroom, and that was only if his father was still fast asleep.

The cream-colored coat was quite heavy, Yamato noticed, and it had milky white buttons that went most of the way down, just barely stopping before the end of the coat. The bottom of the coat belled out slightly, and the inside of the coat was a soft, fuzzy material. However, none of this was what Yamato liked most about it.

Taking one of the straps that dangled from either side of the coat, Yamato slapped Taichi across the arm with it, receiving a satisfying pop and a startled cry from Taichi. "You know, I really like this coat."

Taichi rubbed his stinging arm. "Only because you can turn it into a weapon."

"Mm… exactly," Yamato said, smiling mischievously and swinging the strap. "Although, it is awfully heavy. I'd only be able to wear it on very cold days."

"Then we'll get you two coats. That one, and then one to wear when it's not so cold," Taichi said, having recovered from his abuse. He turned to the coat rack as Yamato started to protest.

"Taichi… I really don't think you should do that. It's bad enough you want to buy me one coat," Yamato said, seizing Taichi's arm and turning him back around.

"Relax already. I told you I don't care, so accept that, would you?" Taichi replied earnestly. He frowned at Yamato's guilty expression, but it turned into an amused grin when Yamato jerked his hand away, as if abruptly realizing he was still hanging on to Taichi's arm. "You really are a weird one, you know that right, Yamato-kun?"

"Whatever," Yamato mumbled halfheartedly, and began to switch back to his gray coat while Taichi searched for another one.

Taichi laughed and pulled a cinnamon-colored, light coat from the rack. "How about this one? Like it?"

"Yeah, I guess so," Yamato answered, lifting one of the sleeves so he could see the front better. "I like the color."

"Good." Taichi took the cream coat from Yamato and swung both coats over the crook of his arm. "Let's go buy these and get out of here. I still want to show you my favorite stores."

While Taichi went to buy the coats, Yamato wandered back into the traffic area of the mall to look around. A crew of men were stringing Christmas decorations across the mall's tall walls. Most of the stores had already been decorated, little Christmas trees in every window and wreaths hanging in every doorway. And, of course, there were lights everywhere: blinking ones, sparkling ones, colored and plain ones. It was a sight to behold.

Taichi appeared beside Yamato and followed his gaze to the Christmas decorators. "Wow, I guess it is already that time of the year. These past few weeks have gone by fast…"

"Yeah…" Yamato faced Taichi, a smile present on his face. "Where do you want to go now?"

"Well, we have to visit the candy shop at least once, but we can do that on our way out." Taichi hummed thoughtfully to himself, swinging the bag that held Yamato's two coats back and forth. "I need to go by the music shop and pick up my order, so we could quickly go by there right now, if you don't mind."

"That's fine," Yamato answered, and they began to walk with the flow of shoppers. "What is your order?"

"Just some stuff for my guitar."

"Oh? You play?" Yamato asked.

"Well…" Taichi smiled sheepishly. "I try to. I'm not very good at it. Take a left here."

Yamato did as told. "You're learning then?"

"I'm taking lessons, but I'm not sure about the learning part. I only seem to be getting worse. I'm thinking about giving it up," Taichi said a bit regretfully. He stopped in front of a store. "This is it. Come on inside. It's a pretty cool place."

With the guitars that lined the walls, the drum sets, keyboards, and various other musical items, Yamato had to agree. Taichi went straight to the front counter and began talking to a man behind it, while he ran a finger around the rim of one drum and then tapped on it lightly, a childish glee running through him at the quiet, hissing sound it made.

Wandering deeper into the store, Yamato eyed the many different guitars curiously. There were so many of them, and what was the distinction between some of them? Like bass and steel, electric and five string? How were they different? Most of them certainly looked the same.

Yamato ran his finger down one of the strings and then, glancing left and right to make sure no one was around, lightly tweaked the string. A soft, low hum sounded only for a quick second, but it was enough to thrill Yamato, making him grin in delight. He tried the string above the one he had just plucked, and then the one above that one. He continued until he had heard all the strings.

"Enjoying yourself?"

Spinning around, Yamato clasped his hands behind his back, blinking innocently at Taichi. "What do you mean?"

Taichi just grinned and turned to the employee standing beside him. "Can he look at that one?"

The employee nodded and went to remove the guitar from the wall. Yamato was beside Taichi in an instant, his face expressing his worry.

"I don't think that's a good idea. What if I break it?" Yamato asked, wringing his hands together.

Taichi rolled his eyes. "You won't break it."

"What if I drop it?" Yamato's eyes were now on the approaching employee and the guitar in his hands.

"You won't be able to drop it if you're sitting down," Taichi replied. He grabbed Yamato by the shoulders and directed Yamato into the nearest chair.

The employee held the guitar out to Yamato, who just stared at it blankly.

"How am I supposed to hold it?"

Taichi laughed a little, hiding his face in his hands, and the employee grinned widely, apparently rather amused by Yamato's nervous confusion.

"Hold this part in your left hand, and just let it rest in your lap," the employee said helpfully, carefully letting Yamato take the guitar from him as he gave more directions. "Don't hold it too tightly, though. Yeah, that's good. Now press your finger… no, wrong finger. Press this finger – this finger – against this string, and… no, look where I'm pointing, that finger. No you'll have to-"

"Yamato," Taichi said firmly, setting the bags he still held in his hand down and moving around behind the chair, "if I can do this, then you can. It's not as hard as you're making it."

Taichi slid his arms around Yamato's and directed his hands to the right spots. "Open your palms flat against mine and I'll show you what to do."

Yamato nodded slightly, letting Taichi guide his fingers over the strings. He was again filled with delight whenever Taichi showed him how to pluck the strings to get the right sound and how to tune the guitar, every now and then asking the employee if he was right and getting approving nods. Within a few minutes Taichi let go of his hands and let him try things on his own.

"You like the way that feels?" the employee inquired, pulling up a chair and sitting in front of him.

"It's a little… awkward," Yamato admitted.

"Awkward? Can you tell me why?"

"Well, my right hand isn't as strong as my left," Yamato said, glaring at the mentioned hand accusingly.

"Oh, I bet you're left-handed, aren't you?" the employee said, comprehension dawning on him.

"Yes. Does that make a difference?" Yamato asked, confused.

"Does it make a difference which hand you write with?" Taichi countered, leaning against the back of Yamato's chair.

"Well, yeah, it does." Yamato tilted his head back to look at Taichi. "I guess I didn't think about that. Can I just flip the guitar over then?"

"On some guitars it doesn't matter, but this isn't one of them," the employee said, grabbing Yamato's attention again. "Let me get you a left-handed guitar, and we'll see how you do with that one."

Yamato handed the guitar back to the employee a bit reluctantly, plucking a string just once before the guitar was taken to its place on the wall. While the employee searched for a left-handed guitar, Taichi dropped into the chair he had pulled up, flashing Yamato a quick smile.

"See? It's not that hard," Taichi teased. "You were doing better just now than I did when I first tried, and I was using the right hand. I mean, you were doing better when you had your hands in the right places."

Yamato shrugged. "I'm usually pretty good with my hands."

"Well… your hands make you seem graceful," Taichi said, grinning playfully at Yamato. "Your feet, however… that's a different story."

A glare was all Yamato could give in response before the employee returned, kicking Taichi out of his chair and handing Yamato the guitar.

"This one should be a little more natural to you. Yeah, just twist that… Good, now test a chord," the employee directed, impressed by how fast Yamato was learning. He grinned when Yamato looked up at him for more instructions. "You should take lessons."

"I…" For a moment, Yamato wanted to ask where to sign up, but then his eyes dropped to the floor and he blushed lightly. "I don't have the time. Besides, I would probably drive the instructor crazy."

"No, Taichi-kun drives him crazy. You would be a dream," the employee whispered loudly behind his hand, laughing when Taichi mumbled something under his breath.

"Yeah, yeah, I know I'm bad. You don't have to rub it in," Taichi said louder, giving the employee a good swat on the back of the head. He walked around to Yamato's side, gently laying a hand on his shoulder. "I'll be back in a moment, okay? You stay here and play a little more."

Yamato nodded and Taichi, with one last glare directed toward the employee, left. Yamato played three soft notes, his eyes finally roaming over the guitar in his hands. It was beautiful, in his opinion. Black with a deep shade of violet… the instrument was downright lovely.

"I'll go get you a headset so you can listen to yourself play without worrying about everyone hearing you, okay?" the employee said, rising from his chair. He disappeared for a moment, but came back with some headphones and a small piece of paper in his hands. He handed the paper to Yamato before he began connecting the headphones to the guitar. "That's the place my friends and I practice at. You should come by sometime to sit in and listen. Hearing all the music together might make you a little more interested in taking lessons."

An address, three days, and some times were written on the paper, and Yamato looked over them curiously. It would be fun to see what could be done on the guitars, but… "Thank you for going out of your way, but I doubt I'd be able to go. I don't have much free time."

"Just consider it. You can," the employee smirked, "bring Taichi with you, too."

Flashing a mischievous grin, he clipped the headphones over Yamato's ears, chuckling lightly at the slightly confused expression that graced Yamato's face, and walked off, leaving Yamato to do as he pleased.

After fixing the headphones so they did not catch his hair, Yamato re-positioned the guitar in his lap and started to play the few notes he had learned earlier. He combined them into a short melody, and then began trying different notes, attaching the ones that sounded good to his simple song. His fingers slid easily over the strings.

"You're so graceful sometimes that you make me feel like a hulking brute."

Yamato smirked upon remembering Akira's words. Graceful, huh? Taichi thinks my hands are graceful, but I bet that doesn't count.

Glancing down at his hands, a sudden shiver ran through Yamato and he had the urge to wash them. Taichi had distracted him earlier, but now the dirty feeling that bothered Yamato so much returned, along with a nauseous twisting in his stomach. Swallowing uneasily, Yamato tried to shake the feeling, and started to play guitar once more.

It was a little while later, when he was imitating one of his favorite songs as best he could, that he felt someone pulling the headphones down so they hung around his neck. A small, plastic bag dangled in front of his face, and he glanced over his shoulder to see Taichi standing behind him, grinning.

"Didn't startle you, did I?" Taichi asked, handing the bag of candy to Yamato.

"You always appear out of nowhere. I'm getting used to it," Yamato replied distractedly. He was too busy studying the contents of the bag. "I thought we were going to go by the candy shop on the way out."

"Well… We're about to be on our way out and I thought you would like a little more time in here," Taichi explained with a shrug. He helped Yamato remove the headphones and held the guitar while Yamato stood. "I hope you like what's in there," he said, gesturing to the candy. "I got a little of everything."

Yamato leaned over to pick up the rest of their stuff that still sat on the floor. "Actually, I'm not much for sweets, but my father would probably appreciate it."

"As long as it is put to good use," Taichi said. He set the guitar down carefully on the chair Yamato had been sitting in. He checked to make sure they had gotten everything that was theirs before motioning for Yamato to follow him out.

"Why are we leaving so soon?" Yamato asked, a bit disappointed.

"I told my mom that I'd be back early today, and I have just enough time to take you home, run to a friend's to get some stuff, and get back home in time for what's considered, by her, to be early," Taichi said with a sigh. "Sorry to cut out so quickly. You could actually stay longer if you wanted."

"No, I don't like crowded places unless I have someone with me," Yamato said, tossing hair out of his eyes. "You don't have to take me home, you know. I can go by myself. That would get you home faster."

Taichi shrugged. "You're on the way to my friend's house anyway. It's not a big detour."


"I still can't believe you bought me those coats."

Yamato stepped off the elevator, digging in his pocket for his keys with one hand and taking the shopping bags from Taichi with the other, his voice echoing faintly into the empty hallway. Despite that it was indoors, the hallway was quite cold, though not nearly as cold as the bus had been or like it was outside. Still, it made Yamato shiver.

"You could have gotten something you wanted instead of buying me something," Yamato said, their footsteps the only other sound in the hallway.

"Most of the things I want I can't buy with money anyway," Taichi answered, entertained by the annoyed expressions that were passing over Yamato's face as he searched for his keys.

"Oh? I always thought they sold combs brushes at department stores," Yamato taunted. His fingers brushed against cold metal and he pulled out his keys, glaring at them.

Taichi's hands flew to his hair. "Hey! That was uncalled for. Just because I'm not a nit picky perfectionist…"

"I'm not a perfectionist," Yamato snapped good-naturedly, giving Taichi a playful shove. He slipped the key into the lock and began to twist, grabbing the door handle and pushing up. Catching Taichi's puzzled expression, he mumbled, "Sometimes the lock sticks."

"Maybe you should-"

"I know what I'm doing." Yamato swatted at Taichi's hand, which was on its way to take the key from him. He set his bags on the floor before trying again, this time pressing a little harder on the door. "So, what is it that you want that you can't buy with money?"

"Oh, you know," Taichi said, sighing and leaning against the wall beside Yamato's door. "Things about my personality, mostly. My sister says I can get too loud and obnoxious, my mother says I never do anything useful, and my father says I never take anything seriously. I'd like to be able to change those things. And if I could buy my way out of my fears, then I would want to."

"You want to be quiet, useful, serious, and not be afraid of things? Those are pretty good wants, I guess. Stupid door," Yamato grunted, kicking the base of the door spitefully. He was about to shove his body against the door, but an arm slipped around his waist and he felt Taichi's warm breath tickling his ear. He froze.

"Most of all, Yamato-kun, I want you," Taichi said softly. When Yamato turned his head to look back at him, he leaned closer and brushed a gentle kiss over Yamato's mouth, simultaneously reaching with one hand to twist the key that was still in the lock even though Yamato's hands had both fallen to Taichi's arm around his waist.

The door lock clicked and Taichi took the key out, pulling away from Yamato. Yamato slowly turned around to face Taichi, his eyes first on the ground but gradually lifting to meet Taichi's soft stare. Taichi picked up the shopping bags from the floor, and then took one of Yamato's hands delicately in his own, dropping both the bag's straps and the key in said hand, his eyes never leaving Yamato's.

"I'll see you at school on Monday," he said quietly, and leaned in to give Yamato another gentle, short kiss before he began to walk toward the elevator, grinning madly as soon as his back was to the still surprised Yamato.

Yamato watched Taichi walk to and get in the elevator at the end of the hallway, blushing when Taichi gave him a wink just before the doors closed. He numbly turned to open his front door, stepping inside and dropping the bags wherever. He leaned against the door to close it, still somewhat in shock.

A small smile crept its way to Yamato's face, and he found himself wanting to giggle insanely. He felt warm and wanted to run through the apartment cheering. But then, a face made its way to his mind and he abruptly remembered why that would not be a very good thing to do, his smile fading into a small sigh, his eyes dropping to the floor to stare at his shoes.





Again, please excuse the amount of time it takes for me to get these chapters out. Now that school has been released, I should have more time, hopefully.

And remember, everything that happened in this chapter happened for a reason. Well, most everything.