I don't own Digimon -----------------------------------------

His knees hurt. He stared up at the ceiling that was fuzzy with shadow and felt them throb and burn. Beside him, she mumbled something in her sleep that sounded like 'quadrants and vectors', then threw her arm across his chest and nuzzled against his shoulder. He sighed and gently rubbed her hand. His right knee was starting to hurt more than the left.

He looked over at the nightstand. The digital clock was blinking 1:08. If he could just manage to fall back asleep until six, he could go down to the field house, fill the whirlpool up with ice water, and soak for two solid hours before practice

He closed his eyes and tried to relax. He listened to the soft rhythm of her breathing, and thought about the upcoming summer break when they were going to borrow his brother's beach house for a week. He wondered if she were really going to buy the little black bikini she had been teasing him about.

All at once his knees tightened and it felt like every ligament and tendon was trying to twist and tear. "Oh, Christ," he gasped. He slid away from her and stretched his legs over the side of the bed. Sweat broke out on his forehead. He clenched his teeth and fought the urge to massage the kneecaps. It only made the pain worse.

The sudden absence of his form and heat caused her eyelids to flutter and open. She blinked as her eyes adjusted to the darkness. "Whas wrong?" she slurred, her voice husky with sleep.

"Nothing," he answered, taking a deep breath. "Go back to sleep, Kari."

She sat up, furrowing her eyebrows and yawning. She had worn one of his T- shirts to bed and it was sliding down her shoulder. She pulled it up only to have it slip immediately back down. She covered her eyes with her hand and was still for a moment.

"Your knees!" she said suddenly, as if solving a mystery.

"They're fine."

"Dammit, TK!" She threw back the covers and crawled across the bed towards the door. Her feet hit the ground and she stubbed her toe against one of their backpacks, resulting in a string of curses as she stormed to the kitchen. She was angry about being woken up, angry at him for not waking her up, furious with the basketball coach who tortured him with endless reps of hang-cleans and suicide sprints, who pushed him just because he was willing to be pushed.

She composed an enraged tirade for the whistle-blowing tyrant as she removed the ice packs from the freezer and squinted in the dim light to pick out the ibuprofen from the medicine drawer. She grabbed towels from atop the stove and went back to the bedroom.

His shoulders were hunched and tense and the bed sheets were scrunched up in his hands. He took the three dull brown pills she thrust at him and swallowed them with a sip of warm Gatorade from the nightstand. The pain was already lessening as the sinews stretched and relaxed.

"No ice packs." He tried to stand, as she knelt beside the bed.

"Just sit still." She put a hand on his stomach and steered him back down, then used the towels to wrap the ice packs around his knees.

"Do your shoulders hurt? How about your back?" she questioned.

"They're fine, Mother," he snorted, ignoring the sudden sharp twinge between his shoulder blades.

"Have it your way." She crossed her arms and stared him in the nose, the only part of his face she could clearly make out in the dark. She was not irritated with him, but had the vague sense that she should be.

"You should take off practice tomorrow, maybe a couple days. I'm sure your coach wants you to be rested for the tournament."

He sighed and leaned back on the bed. "The team captain can't miss practice."

She bit her lip, and then with a long sigh slid across the bed to lie next to him. She reached out and ran her fingers through his hair.

His coach had tried to make him sit out a practice the previous week after it had taken him almost five minutes to get up from a hard fall. He had sat on the bench for half-an-hour clenching his fists and grinding his teeth before he bolted up and rejoined the scrimmage. The coach didn't try to stop him. She had heard about it from the breathless mouth of another player's girlfriend.

"You have to be careful with your knees, TK," she whispered.

"I know."

They both knew that he was deathly ashamed of how he had acted as a child. How soft and sensitive, how ready to cry at the drop of a hat. As an eight- year-old he had soaked up all the disgusted looks and sharp words until he had begun to harden. Thirteen years later there was very little that could make him cry, nothing that could make him admit weakness. Something drove him, something he thought he had to prove to his parents, to his brother, to his friends, to himself, to her.

Her eyes drifted closed. Stillness filled the room. Then she felt the mattress shift, heard him grunt as he got out of bed. "Now what are you doing?" She cocked open an eye.

"I'm too awake," he said, pulling on a gray T-shirt with his number seven on the back. "I'm going to go try and finish that Writing essay."

She closed her eye and frowned. "Your knees are going to start hurting again if you don't stay off them."

She didn't need to see him give his 'who gives a shit' shrug, one of the traits he shared with his brother. He gingerly shuffled to the door holding the ice packs to his knees.

"Don't whine to me if you hurt later," she warned gruffly.

"Sleep tight." He closed the door behind him. She heard the floor groan under his weight and the creak of the computer chair.

"He needs to sleep," she whispered to herself. So did she; her Trigonometry exam was the next morning. She let out a long sigh and rubbed her cheek against the pillow. She pulled the covers around her tightly, then changed her mind and stretched out towards his side of the bed. She grabbed his pillow and hugged it to her chest. She breathed in the lingering breezy scent of his shampoo and thought of soothing things. Nothing worked. She was awake. With an aggravated growl she threw back the covers and got out of bed. Squinting in the dark for the treacherous backpacks, she opened the door and leaned against the frame.

His hair was golden in the glow of the little desk light. He had his feet propped up on a chair from the dinning table and sat sideways from the screen. He still had to look at the keyboard to type. She could hear an illegible din leaking from his headphones and his head was just barely bobbing in time. His brother had recently toured the United States with his band, and had come back from Texas and Oklahoma with a sudden infatuation with southwest country music that quickly spread to his younger sibling. Of late she had been forced to endure the drawls and twangs of Pat Green, Corry Morrow, and Cross Canadian Ragweed at all hours of the day and night.

A sudden curiosity lingered in her mind, and she crept up on him slowly. She was almost close enough to read the words on the screen when he stretched, leaned back in the chair and saw her. "Jesus!" He startled so violently that the chair almost tipped over backwards. He fumbled for the mouse and hurriedly minimized the page.

"I thought you were going back to sleep," he accused, taking off his headphones.

"Well thanks to you, I can't," she shot back.

They glared at each other for a moment. Then a sly grin broke out on her face. "Well, are you going to let me read it?"


"Oh, come on."

"You can read it when it's finished, edited, and graded. Maybe." He shifted in the chair sheepishly.

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. "At least tell me what it's about."

"Oh," he sighed wearily and ran his hands through his hair. "It's just another one of the embittered old hag's formula exercises. We have to think of the first time we heard a song and then write about what was going on right then or something like that."

"You should write about one of the songs we heard last weekend." She smiled wickedly. "And what was going on right then."

Oh, yeah," he laughed. "I can just picture myself standing in front of my class and reading; 'the first time I heard this song, my girlfriend and I were, uh, expressing our love in the backseat of a car'."

She burst out laughing, the breathless, musical laugh that always made him laugh too. He noticed the way her shirt slipped delicately off her shoulder, and an interesting thought entered his mind only to be immediately rushed out. Just that afternoon she had sent him to the store with a shopping list that had 'tampons!' scribbled at the bottom in a different shade of ink. He could still hear the sales boy snickering.

"Well," she gasped, finally bringing her laughter under control. "If you did write that, she might get nervous and quit riding you so hard."

"I doubt it," he smirked. "The damn witch would probably just start right in on my punctuation and word choice."

His Writing teacher was very fond of him. Her earliest memories were of the horror and devastation of World War II. She had grown up poor in the awkward but revolutionary time following the conflict. When she was seventeen, she became a prostitute for one night. Then she worked in a garment factory, went to school, became an emergency room nurse, married, had children, taught elementary science, watched her husband die of cancer, went back to school, became a writer, and finally a teacher at the University. She had long ago ceased to be impressed by flowery language and false, overblown sentiment.

The Writing teacher had initially dismissed him as another lazy, witless jock, but she soon came to be impressed; even slightly jealous of his immense wellspring of talent and imagination. She rode him because he was still unsure of his ability, still suspicious of his gift. And he was gifted. He could make words flow and chime like music. He could touch souls.

"She takes off so many points for the little crap." He shook his head in disgust.

She nodded her sympathies, and then made a point of switching her gaze back and forth from him to the computer screen.

"Don't you have a Trig test you could be studying for?" he asked.

Her shoulders slumped. "You're really not going to let me read it?"


"You're not even going to open it back up until I go sit over on the couch."


"I hate you."

"I hate you too, sweetie."

She made a show of grumbling to herself as she sat down. She quickly made herself comfortable, propping herself up on a pillow and wrapping snuggly in an old afghan from the back of the couch. She leaned over to pick the television remote off the floor as he resumed his clumsy tip tapping on the keyboard.

As children neither of them had much enjoyed staying up late. They associated it too deeply with bad things; she with hospitals and sickness, he with yelling and doors slamming shut. But together, in their very own apartment, late nights possessed an almost giddy feeling of secrecy and magic.

She flipped through the channels until she came to the old-movie station; 'Bringing Up Baby' an old-fashioned screwball romance with Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Her eyes lit up.

"I've seen the beginning of this movie three times this month," she explained. "And every time I've fallen asleep and missed the ending."

He looked up. "What about that trig test?"

"Oh, please," she groaned. "I've been studying for it all day and if I have to look at one more problem I'm going to throw up."

"What if-" he began. But she raised a finger and shushed him It was one of her favorite scenes, Grant's timid zoologist opposite Hepburn's absent- minded socialite. She already knew it by heart.

Grant: "Susan, what am I going to do with a leopard?"

Hepburn: "But, Daaavid, my brother George sent him from South America. He said the leopard's name is Baby; he's perfectly tame, and he likes dogs. I wonder if he means he eats dogs, or is fond of them? George is so vague at times."

Her love of photography had grown to include movies, especially old movies, black-and white. There was something in the texture, the shadows, the light on the actors' faces, some delicious richness that she could almost feel. She was recently enamored with Frank Capra and Yasujiro Ozu. She adored John Ford.

"It's almost to the part where I always fall asleep," she said, propping herself up slighter higher on the pillow.

He tried to think of a trigonometry question to quiz her with, but gave up when he remembered it had been three years since he had opened any sort of math book.

"I saw Ken today," he told her. "Miyako's having a party at their place Friday night and we're expected to make an appearance. Apparently, she's decided to re-establish herself as the Queen of the University party scene."

"Oh, God, not again." She made a face.

Miyako's parties were legendary. There were only three or four a year, and each one featured a fully stocked bar and several ice-cold kegs. Beforehand, word would be carefully circulated that only a select group of people were to be invited, this would naturally insure that nearly the entire student population would show up, and be in an especially good mood about being 'let in'.

"We're leaving as soon as we've said hi and had a couple drinks," she informed him. It had been nearly three months since the last party and she still gagged at the mere thought of rum and coke.

"Sounds fine to me," he agreed. He had hurt his back carrying her home. They forgot to lock the front door that night, and the next morning found the Queen herself passed out on their couch. They all went out for pancakes.

"Are you about done?" she asked, realizing it had been some time since she heard him typing.

He sighed and glanced over the screen. "Yeah, I guess."

"How are your knees?"

"Dunno." He had actually managed to forget about them. He flexed them carefully, stiff but no pain, maybe only an hour in the whirlpool. "Well, I guess they're okay."

Her face brightened. "Come watch the movie with me."

He eased himself up from the chair and tossed the spent ice packs into the kitchen sink. She got up from the couch and let him lay down first before curling up in his arms and wrapping the afghan around them both.

"Okay," she said. "This is definitely the part where I always fall asleep."

Hepburn had accidentally run a poultry truck off the road, and Grant was trying unsuccessfully to keep the leopard named Baby from going after a pair of expensive swans.

Five minutes later they were both sound asleep.

When he woke up a while later he blinked and stared confusedly at the screen. Grant and Hepburn were embracing atop rickety scaffolding as a Brontosaurus skeleton crashed down around them to the floor of a museum. 'The End' came up in large, silly letters.

He found the remote and turned off the television, then with some effort managed to disentangle himself from her arms and stand. He picked her up, forgetting until it was too late about his knees, but they only stung for a second. She mumbled a few syllables and slung her arms around his neck.

He paused by the computer and nudged the mouse with his elbow to disengage the screen saver. He leaned forward carefully and read the opening lines of the essay. "The first time I heard 'Annie's Song' by John Denver was on a mixed cd my best friend gave me as a birthday present. She made me listen to it, and at first I thought it was okay but sappy. Then I looked at her and saw something different in her eyes, and I realized she was saying she loved me."

For a long moment he studied the sleeping face pressed against his shoulder. He wanted to kiss every part of her, but settled for briefly brushing his mouth over hers.

A second later her lips moved, searching for him. She gave a little moan but didn't open her eyes. "Miss the end?" she whined softly.

"Sorry," he whispered. "We'll rent it this Saturday and stay up all night if we have to. I promise." He yawned and carried her back to the bedroom.

An hour later his shoulder started hurting.