I don't own Digimon
The moment things changed.

It was a brutal storm for early October. Kari sat at the very top of the gym bleachers, holding a watery cup of hot chocolate close to her chest and sipping it slowly, like a rare, delicious tonic. Outside the dingy window the streetlights smeared the wet streets with green and red color. The gray snow was piled up high against the curb. Only a few lonely souls were foolish enough to go tromping about; their shoulders hunched up to their ears like turtles stuck halfway out of their shells. The image made her smile.

When the street emptied, she turned back to the interior of the gym. The bright lights reflected off the slick hardwood. And the crowd simmered with warm contentment as they watched the final two minutes. It had ceased to be a game midway through the first quarter. Kari tried to figure out what TK's stats were, but she had stopped counting rebounds and assists after he reached a triple-double, and then stopped paying attention almost entirely after he scored forty points.

He was at the free-throw line again. He flipped the ball to himself a couple times, his fingers massaging the air as if trying to coax its cooperation. He brushed the golden hair out of his eyes, then in one quick motion his knees dipped, arms stretched and extended, and the ball arced through the net with barely a rustle.

"And that's sixty-five points for number thirty-four, TK Takaishi!" The announcer told the crowd, who responded with a chorus of claps and whistles, Kari's, if not the loudest, then the most genuine by far.

The coach finally pulled him out, though it was obvious to Kari that he was still fresh. He went to the bench, and after bumping knuckles with his teammates, pulled on his warm-up jacket and immediately turned to the stands.

Kari made herself small, wanting to see how long it would take him to find her. But TK knew exactly where to look, and he gave her a little wave, and the slightest teasing of a smile. She shot him a wink and a thumbs-up in return, a kind of giddy excitement bouncing around inside her. She had to force herself not to look around the stands and see how many girls were fixing her with looks ranging from heartbreak to murdering envy.

After the final buzzer sounded she waited for him in the hallway, amusing herself by watching the crowd slowly filter out of the gym. It was an excruciatingly slow process. The other teenagers ambled out in small, flirting mobs. The older women stopped every few steps to gossip, while their husbands waited by the door telling crude jokes and laughing much too heartily.

"You ready?" His easy voice broke through her thoughts. His hair was wet and dark as barley from a quick shower. His eyes looked a deeper blue, like they had soaked up the water.

"Yeah," she answered with a yawn. "What time are we supposed to meet everyone else for dinner?"

"About nine-thirty." He pulled a thick sweatshirt on over his warm- ups. "You want my jacket?"

"I'm fine," she said, tugging on her own light coat.

"You're sure?" He pulled his hood over his dripping hair. "It's pretty cold out."

"I'm fine," she stated firmly, already heading for the door.

They made it three steps into the cold before she wanted his jacket, which he draped around her shoulders with a smug grin. It was his letter jacket, a bold navy blue with his name spelled out in gold on the back. It was so big on her it looked like an overcoat, and he felt a sort of flushed, silly pride to see her in it. She was shining again; glittering like a star in the cold. He could almost see the overflow of light spilling out of her mouth, making her eyes the rich color of coffee and cream.

"What?" she asked, catching the embarrassed smile on his face. She felt her own mouth curl up in a shy grin.

"Nothing," he answered. But his eyes explored her in a way that made her shiver with unexpected warmth.

She hooked her arm around his as they hurried to his apartment, trading jokes and small talk, watching their breath turn to crystal fog in the freezing air. In contrast, the lobby of his building was so warm it made them drowsy, and she leaned against him during the three-floor elevator ride. The apartment was dark, with only the frosted white glow of the streetlights pooling by the windows. His mother had left a hastily scribbled note on the counter.

"TK & Kari, I'm sorry but there's been some mild crisis at the paper that's going to keep me here most of the night, so I'm sleeping at Jana's rather than fight my way back across town, Her number's in the rolodex. Kari, your parents' hotel number is on the fridge, they want you to call after dinner. You can have my bed and don't you dare let TK make you sleep on the couch!"

Kari laughed to herself as she thought of his mother; long golden- brown hair, elegant laugh lines around her mouth and light blue eyes that always seemed to know more than you did. Kari had always imagined that she had been wild as a teenager, flying through the world like a forest sprite, hair garnished with flowers and streaming behind her like a comet's tail, a cold bottle of beer in her hand, and several handsome young men wrapped around her finger. Kari knew she would never be like that; she was too light to ride the north wind like a wild horse.

She watched TK as he shed the layers of clothes until he was wearing only a T-shirt and basketball shorts. He had that energy, she knew. It was swirling inside of him like a tornado in a bottle. Every once in a while it broke free, as terrible and beautiful as a thunderstorm. She chuckled to herself knowingly.

"What are you laughing about?" he asked, throwing himself down on the couch. His eyes bore into her, daring her to tell the truth.

"You're stupid face," she stuck her tongue out at him. She reached over and turned off the little kitchen light she had used to read the note; the darkness felt warmer. She took off his jacket and her coat, hanging them neatly on the coat rack. TK felt a blush creep into his cheeks at the flattering way her school blouse and pair of faded blue jeans fit her.

She walked over to the couch and nudged him with her forearm. "Scoot over."

"Why should I? You just said I was stupid."

"I said your face was stupid, dummy, now scoot over." She started to poke him in the stomach where she knew he was most ticklish.

Laughing uncontrollably, he squirmed against the back of the couch. She climbed up after him and tried to press her advantage. "I've got you now, Takaishi!"

He curled his body and brought his knees up against his chest, when she tried to go around this barricade, he grabbed her by the wrists. A mess of shiny brown hair fell over her face, and she shrieked with laughter as she tried to shake free. They wrestled for a few moments, a tangle of arms and legs. Then he managed to twist her around so that she was under him, his hands pinning hers above her head, both of them laughing so hard they shook.

"Who's got who now?" he teased.

The moment things changed.

She looked into his eyes and suddenly saw something in the depths she had never noticed before, scared, anxious, and hungry. A tingling rush spread through her chest and she knew what was coming moments before he finished putting it all together. She relaxed, letting her body sink into the couch, soft against him. He stared down into her eyes and saw the permission and welcome he never knew he had been asking for. His arms felt slack. The universe hushed.

He bent to her. Their eyes fell closed and their lips touched, neither daring to breath. An eternity later they separated, staring back into each other's eyes, trying to fall in. When they kissed again it was harder, ravenous. They explored, discovered, captured. Her hands slipped down to the hem of his shirt and slowly pushed it up. His lips trailed down her jaw to the hollow of her neck. She smelled like strawberries and fever. He felt her body arching under his, the mad pace of her heart. He fumbled with the buttons of her blouse. Slowly, clumsily, their clothes fell to the ground like wilted flower petals.

When he heard her gasp, her fingers digging into his shoulders, he forced himself not to move, deathly afraid of hurting her. She moved her right hand to the back of his head and sifted his hair like spun gold through her fingers, while her mind tried to make sense of all the feelings crashing like icebergs inside her. After a deep breath, she gently pulled him back down to her. He kissed away the sparkling tears that had gathered like snowflakes on her cheeks. They moved together slowly, then building speed and rhythm until they were trapped in a whirlpool that spun always faster. Battering, bruising, stripping them bare, wearing them down like water carving rock, until finally in a last blinding rush it released them, drained and beaten, to the darkness.

They shivered as the sweat cooled, their limbs quivering. He brushed away the hair that stuck to her forehead in damp little curls. The light was gone from their eyes; everything had been poured into the terrible beautiful whirlpool. He took a thin afghan from the back of the couch and wrapped it around them. They fell asleep, clinging to each other like lost children.

The moment things changed.

They dozed until a quarter after nine. Something in a dream startled him awake, and after a few minutes of staring at the slender, delicate face pressed against his shoulder, he saw the digital blinking of the microwave clock and began to panic.

"Oh, God. Kari, wake up." He gently shook her until her eyes blinked open. "It's almost nine-thirty. We're late!"

Her eyes widened with immediate understanding. If they were late, their brothers would assume the worst and come looking for them. Wildly, they groped for their clothes in the dark, pulling them on as they sat side by side on the couch. There was a dull, throbbing ache in their chests, like something had been broken long ago and never fully mended. They didn't look at each other.

When they got up to leave, she paused at the coat rack, studying his letter jacket. She felt an obligation to slip her arms through the leather sleeves, the embroidered gold letters stretching across her back. It seemed larger and heavier than a few hours before, she felt like a child wrapping herself in a carpet.

He watched her, guilt and regret suddenly oozing inside him. "Are you okay?" he whispered.

"I'm fine," she answered, surprised by the hardness in her voice. "Why would there be anything wrong with me?"

A twinge of wounded anger suddenly pricked the back of her eyes, making tears form. Did he think she would break? Did he think she was fragile, like a tiny porcelain angel? Then she saw the way his eyes were creased with hurt, and immediately she felt ashamed.

"We better hurry," she said.

They jogged the four-and-a-half blocks to the restaurant. The night had grown colder. The wind was angrier, raw, as it whipped at their faces. No sound passed between them except the huff of chilled breath.

They were the last ones to arrive. The others were gathered around a large table with two seats saved in the center, as if a banquet were being given in their honor. They put on fake smiles as they were teased and chided for being late, dreading the moment when too suggestive or accusing a comment would draw out the shame and defeat for all to see. But the words never materialized, and everyone was soon lost in joyful conversation and the ordering of dinner. The restaurant was warm and comfortable, and a breeze of contentment seemed to be flowing just beyond their reach. Neither was hungry, but they ordered for appearance sake, TK getting a burger, Kari just a salad.

"So, how'd you do tonight, little bro?" Matt asked, almost causing TK to choke on a sip of water.


"Your game."

"Oh, we won."

"How many points you score?"

TK's mind went black. The game seemed years in the past.

"Sixty-five," Kari answered for him.

For the rest of dinner they managed to answer questions and add little touches to the conversation, hollow smiles pasted to their faces. But they weren't truly there. They were submerged within themselves. They stared all over the restaurant and the people inside; the world had changed. It was dimmer, duller, like a coat of dust lay over everything. It had grown old, and so had they. Their youth was lost to the whirlpool along with everything else. The universe would never regain its gleam; they looked at it through tarnished eyes.

Only two of the others were observant enough to notice the vacant looks. Sora, sitting between their brothers, watched them with caring and pity. The world had lost its luster for her as well; her heart had torn in two different directions. But she knew it was not gone forever, the stain could be wiped away. And she prayed that TK and Kari would find that out soon.

Davis had been watching them for so long that when he finally understood what had happened, it was almost a relief to feel the last unbroken part of his heart tinkle and crack. He smiled the broadest and laughed the loudest all through dinner, anxious to chase away the pain, too proud to let it show.

Dinner ended, and slowly everyone began to drift away. TK and Kari walked slowly back towards his apartment. The night was still bitterly cold, the wind biting, but it felt like they would be just as cold wherever they were. They were silent, mourning what they had lost. The most painful thing of all was that it seemed like a monstrous chasm full of fire and ice had opened up between them, a deep gash full of pain.

He tried to convince himself that the fear and pain weren't real. He reached out and tenderly took her hand in his. She looked at him with surprise. Eyes of dark brown staring into deep blue, and for a moment it felt like everything horrible had been washed away. But the moment faded, wiped clean by the cold, and after a few minutes it was only awkward, so they let their hands fall away. There was no use in pretending. When they got back to the apartment he announced that he was going to take a shower.

"You took one earlier," she challenged.

"Well, I feel like taking another one." He stared at her through the dark, waiting for her to say something else. He felt cold inside, wounded. He wanted to scream and shout and hurt. But she just stared back at him until he turned away. He walked past the windows and through the slants of silver streetlight. He could feel her eyes on him, and with that in mind he slammed the bathroom door as loud as a gunshot.

She couldn't help jumping at the sound. And immediately her eyes welled with tears. She hated him, then a second later she felt lost without him. It felt like something in her heart was leaking out, something green that hissed and burned like acid. She made herself wipe her eyes then she went over to the refrigerator and took down the note with her parents' hotel number. She took the cordless phone and stood in one of the sharp bands of streetlight. The dark didn't feel warm anymore. It was cold as ice, but at least it gave her someplace to hide. The phone rang twice before her father's drowsy voice answered.

"Hey, Dad." She tried to make her voice cheerful and bright. "We just got home from dinner, probably watch a movie now and go to bed."

"Okay. That's nice, sweetie." There was a sound like he was blowing his nose and then he asked, "Is TK's mom there?"

A nervous tingling filled her stomach. "No. She got called into her office for an emergency. She won't make it back tonight." She bit her lip and waited for the suspicious question or comment she knew would come.

"Well, alright then," her father yawned. "Just have her call us when she gets in tomorrow."

Her shoulders fell. They trusted her, trusted them. "I will," she said softly.

"Oh," her father exclaimed, a last thought before surrendering to sleep. "I forgot to ask how TK's game went."

At that moment she heard the bathroom door open, and turned to see him in the doorway lost in a haze of steam and soft yellow light. His body was red as sunburn. He had turned up the hot water almost to scalding and tired to see how long he could stand under the stream without moving, a self administered penance. His eyes creased with sorrow and regret, and his mouth was half-open, ready to pour out his heart as soon as she put down the phone.

The pain in her heart turned to venom, and there was ice mixed in the tears that came to her eyes. She stared deep into his. "He won," she told her father before hanging up.

His heart stung. "Goodnight," he said in a low, broken voice. He shivered suddenly at the cold that seemed to settle in his bones. He shut off the bathroom light and then stomped down the hall. She heard him shut his bedroom door.

The next thing she knew, there were trails of warmth running down her cheeks and she covered her face as she coughed and sobbed. She didn't want this. She couldn't stand it. The cold seemed to be coming from inside her, drifting out of her eyes and the ends of her fingers. It felt like nothing would ever chase it away.

Strength and pain and heartbreak mixed inside her. And she found her feet following the familiar path to his door. A part of her wondered if she was trying to climb out of the abyss or just sink further into the depths. Another part of her didn't care.

"TK." Her voice trembled as she opened the door, somehow knowing that he wouldn't lock her out. She heard the rustle of sheets in the darkness, and saw the outline of his form turn to look at her.

He didn't say a word, didn't move as she stepped quietly to the bed and slid between the sheets, the length of her body brushed against his, her breath touching his cheek. They sat in the silent spell of dark for a moment, and then he leaned over and placed his mouth over hers, soft and supple.

Neither one of them could bear to stop.

Winter came, still, serene, and gilded in ice. The cold flared and flustered and finally settled at a degree that made them shiver only slightly as they walked the streets. Word spread, and he and she became a they in their friends' eyes.

They hardly spoke anymore, no more secrets shared or jokes told. Except in the dark, where they created their own language, built piece by piece. It was a strange beautiful language, made of soft purrs and tender little birdsongs, of secret silken sighs and scents, touches and tastes. They shared more secrets than ever in the dark, riding the whirlpool, delving through its heart to find that one joyous moment of warmth just after the release. They would hold each other tight, trailing kisses along each other's shoulders and lips and eyes, pooling the warmth between them until it faded and the chill settled like sweat cooling. They lived through November, December and January. By February they were almost broken. Another abyss opened before them, and they were too afraid to fall in again.

"I envy you," Miyako told her one day. They were sitting in the mall sipping designer coffee. All around them were cardboard hearts and cherubs, red and pink streamers covered the walls like icing. At their feet were bags with shiny new shoes and dresses for the next night's dance. "It must be nice to know that TK will always be there for you." The older girl sighed wistfully. "What's love feel like, Kari?"

She had to stop herself from saying that she didn't have a damn clue. All she knew about was heartbreak, and loneliness, and cold.

"It's warm," she said, thinking of the fleeting moments in the dark after the storm. "It's a warmth that fills you so completely that it feels like nothing can ever hurt you or scare you." She gave her friend a little smile that only she knew was sad.

"Come on, the game's starting soon."

They walked to the gym and took the usual spot at the top of the bleachers. For forty minutes they watched him move the ball up and down the court like a hurricane. He was fearless on the hardwood now, reckless even. He took on players with six inches and forty pounds on him and came out on top. And after every basket he met her eyes. When the other girls glared at her she held their gaze without blinking until they couldn't help but look away.

That night was frigid and wet, a heavy wind howled through the streets. The warmth had already faded and she lay in his bed staring out the window. It occurred to her how much the dark and the cold were a part of them now. When was the last time they had laughed and meant it, when was the last time they had fallen asleep in each other's arms. Something inside of her softly broke apart and her tears began falling on the pillow. She couldn't stand it anymore. The thought of her life without him was unbearable, but the life they shared now was destroying them both.

He had been staring at her back when he saw her shoulders jump. Immediately he had her wrapped up in his arms. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry," he kissed her ears and her eyes.

She turned away from him and looked back at the frosted window. "It's going to be cold tomorrow. I can feel it."

"I'll keep you warm," he whispered, his voice small and vulnerable.

She turned back to him and saw the tears sliding slowly down his cheeks. She knew that he meant it with all his heart.

"I promise."

All at once they were crying together, holding each other tight because they were afraid to let go. In their own secret language they began to understand what they had lost months ago, of the long nights of mourning for that which they could never regain. And as a fresh new light came to their eyes, melting the cold with new warmth, they began to see in each other's eyes, what might await them in the days to come.

The moment things changed.