All I own is the plot. Flames will be mocked with extreme prejudice.

Constructive criticism is always welcome. I hope you enjoy reading this.

This is a very recent repost. I discovered today that Word Documents

should not be uploaded to ff.net. I rewrote this in a pure text editor

(Edit) and I am hoping that it looks a little better now.

I Took The Road Less Traveled By

Takeru Takaishi looked deeply into the beautiful, chocolate brown

eyes of Hikari Kamiya. She gazed back, blushing slightly. A warm, pleasant,

but constricting pressure on his chest caused his breathing to be hindered

somewhat as he leaned forward and placed his lips gently against hers. She

returned the pressure, and soon they were both wrapped up in ignorant bliss,

unaware of any of their surroundings.

Slowly and as one they staggered over to the couch and sat, contacting

each other in every way they could. Their kissing became more and more

feverish as they explored each other in ways they never thought about before.

Suddenly he became aware that he was on top of her, with his hands clutching

both her wrists above her head. She was breathing in short, ragged gasps and

slowly relaxed her body so that she sunk further into the soft couch.

TK had been waiting for this moment for the last

four years of his life. Slowly, carefully he lowered himself onto her and

let the night take him where it may.

**********

Beep...Beep...Beep...

The alarm clock was ringing. TK sat bolt upright, his face and body

dripping with sweat as his mind lingered on the dream which had recurred so

often now, and which he so desperately craved to be reality.

Pushing a wave of his blond hair out of his face, he closed his blue

eyes again and carefully imagined the perfect face of the girl that he cared

for more than anything else in the world. Kari. His best friend. They had

known each other since they were eight years old, and been best friends since

the moment they met. He loved everything about the brown haired, brown eyed

girl, from the way that she could make him laugh in the most desperate of

situations, right down to the way her eyes sparked when she was angry.

A sudden slight shift in the air took away the little body heat that

still hovered just over his bare arms and chest, and with a shiver he was

brought back to reality. He glanced at the clock; half hoping that he had

mistakenly set his alarm several hours early. This dream, while fulfilling,

was hardly restful.

He groaned, realizing that he was five minutes late due to his little

daydream, and hopped out of bed. He cast his eyes around the room, looking

for something to wear that wasn't too dirty or smelly. Most of his clothes

were scattered about the floor, and he quickly scooped up a pair of pants and

a shirt that he knew he had only worn once since they were last washed, and

jammed them on.

He went through his morning checklist. Breakfast? No, he would buy

something at lunch. Shower? No, he took one every day after basketball

practice anyway. School Bag? The homework he had wasn't due for another few

days, and he hadn't even touched his backpack the previous day after getting

home. Hair? He generally wore it messy anyway, so no one would notice that

is wasn't combed.

Satisfied, he finished dressing, grabbed his stuff, and bolted out the

door. He was grateful that his mom was away for a couple of days...she would

have definitely tried to waylay him and chide him for not having breakfast and

going out with his hair in "that condition".

His mind turned briefly to his older brother Matt and his father who

lived on the other side of town. Matt was the one who had once told him:

"Yeah, I never get much done in the morning. I like to sleep until the last

possible minute." He smiled at just how much he was becoming like his brother,

and hurried on.

TK arrived at school with only seconds to spare. He had just sat down

in his History class when the bell rang and the teacher called roll. Stifling

an urge to yawn, he rested his elbows on the desk and placed his head in his

hands. His mind, now relaxing once again, focused back onto the face of his

crush.

TK closed his eyes, and lifted and shook his head violently. It was

going to be another one of those days. Every time he had the dream he always

spent the rest of that day in a kind of longing, painful trance, unable to

focus on reality, and unable to truly live. He felt trapped within his own

mind, wanting so desperately to escape, yet wanting so fervently to be trapped

there forever.

"Hikari Kamiya" the teacher called. There was no response. TK looked

around. One seat back, two to the left. That was where she always sat. It

was empty. A curiosity welled up within him, where was she? Kari never

missed class, was never late. No one else, however, thought much of it. The

teacher continued reading off the names. He reached the end, and put the list

away.

"Well then," he started, "to continue where we left off yesterday. As

you will remember the..."

The door in the back of the class banged open. In came a very

flustered Kari, looking slightly frazzled and turning a light shade of red.

"Sorry I'm late" she gasped, quickly getting to her seat and getting

out her notes.

The teacher smiled. "Nice of you to join us Miss Kamiya. Do you mind

explaining your tardiness?" A smile was fully formed on his face now. He

loved teasing his students, but he rarely disciplined them unless they were

actually being disruptive.

"I...um...overslept" said Kari, blushing a little bit more now.

"I see." said the teacher. "Well, as long as you're well-rested, I

don't think there is any reason to mark you tardy this time. Just don't make

a habit of it."

He turned back to the whiteboard and continued his lecture. TK looked

back at her and grinned. She gave him an embarrassed sort of smile and

quickly looked away and began taking notes. The rest of the period passed

without interest, and when the bell rang the students all filed out into the

halls.

He met up with her outside of the classroom and walked a ways with her.

"So," he said, "the infamous Kari has finally become a mere mortal like the

rest of us?

"Very funny" she snapped at him, though her eyes were not angry. "I

just had a busy night last night."

"What happened?" he asked, seeing a slightly troubled look steal

across her.

"Jordan called."

The effect of these two simple words on TK was profound. Though he

hid it well from Kari, he had always hated the fact that Jordan had gotten to

her before him. Jordan had been her boyfriend for several months now, and

though TK knew that he wasn't a bad guy or anything, he still felt that Jordan

should have stayed his distance.

"Anything wrong?" he asked, trying to discern whether the call had

been good or bad.

"I don't know" she mumbled, "He wanted to talk to me after school

today. He said that he didn't want to say this over the phone.

TK put on a smile. "Well, usually something like that means it's good

right?" he asked, trying to ignore the gaping emptiness that was filling his

chest. "Anyway Kari, you know that if you ever have a problem you can always

come to me, you know?"

His heart melted as she smiled up at him. "I know TK, thank you."

She reached forward and gave him a quick hug around the middle, and departed

for her next class. TK stood rooted to the spot for a minute as he watched

her hurry away. Then, coming to his senses, he went to his locker and grabbed

his books.

Sadly, today he would not see her again. She was not in any of his

other classes today, and he had basketball practice while she had photography

club. Also, that meeting with Jordan was likely to keep her late into the

evening.

His next class, English, came and went. It was lunchtime now, two of

his three classes for the day were over, and he was extremely hungry. He

bought his lunch (assuming that like they told him, it was indeed food) and

sat down with a couple of his basketball teammates to eat.

"Hey TK." His friend Nathan was talking to him. Nathan was a junior,

a year ahead of him. Most of TK's immediate friends were older than him.

Starting back when he was eight, he had always hung around his older brother's

friends, and now he was the only sophomore on the varsity team.

"Yeah?" TK responded.

"I just found out that we have a substitute coach today. Coach

Ketshaw came down with something."

TK groaned audibly. Substitute coaches always seemed to think that he

needed to prove to them that he had really earned his spot on the team, and

they worked him extra hard to see if he had. He pulled himself together. "I

guess I'll sleep really well tonight,? he lamented, shoving another sporkful

of the unidentified substance into his mouth. The others laughed and slapped

him on the back.

All too soon the rest of the day was over. His last period (Geometry)

he had all but tuned out, this time focusing not on Kari, but on his impending

practice. He complained loudly to himself as he trudged down to the gym.

"Why does my life have to be like this? I sure didn't ask for any of these

things to happen."

As expected, the coach put TK through his paces. He ended up having

to do twice the warm-up exercises that everyone else did, making him exhausted

before he even began the real practice. The only thing that kept him going

were his friends on the court giving him a word of encouragement here and

there. They too had experienced excessively enthusiastic coaches before and

knew what he was going through.

Finally, the two-hour practice ended. Soaked with sweat from head to

toe and feeling that nearly all life had left his body, he stumbled home. He

yawned widely as he opened his front door, discarding his backpack at the

entrance. Too tired to even think, he collapsed on the living room couch and

fell fast asleep.

No dreams visited him this time, at least none he could remember. The

next thing he knew, he was wide-awake and lying in a slightly uncomfortable

position on the couch. He glanced at the ornate clock on the mantelpiece.

8:47. He had slept for almost five hours.

Breathing in deeply, he coughed and sneezed simultaneously. He

smelled horrible. He had forgotten to take a shower when he got home. Going

to his room, he stripped of his clothes and grabbed a towel. He felt fully

awake now; he knew he wouldn't get to sleep until at least one or two in the

morning.

Thinking about what he was going to do in the meantime, he clambered

into the shower and turned on the hot water full blast. Twenty minutes later

he emerged smelling, in his opinion, a whole lot better.

He re-entered his room and opened his dresser. He pulled out the only

two things left that were clean. A pair of shorts and a tank top. "I may as

well do something productive today" he muttered as he gathered up armfuls of

his laundry and dumped them into the washer down the hall. "I guess it

wouldn't hurt for my room to smell a little better either."

It was quite cool out, but in the interest of getting a little fresh

air, he opened his window and turned on a fan. In a few hours, most traces of

smell would have vanished. He left his room and closed the door behind him.

No sense in making the rest of the house cold as well.

Feeling better now than he had all day, he went to the kitchen to look

for something to eat. He finally came across some old TV dinners and popped

three of them into the oven. Normally he would have decided on a little less,

but his unsatisfactory lunch coupled with the absence of breakfast and his

exhausting practice made him feel much more than a little hungry.

He went back to the living room and prepared to turn on the TV when he

heard a knock on the door. Surprised, he wondered to himself who could be

coming over at this time of night. He went to the door and flung it wide to

reveal...Kari.

It was raining lightly outside, and she had obviously been out for

quite a while. She was soaked all the way through. She might have looked a

little funny to him, with her hair messed up and her clothes hanging off her

at weird angles stiff from the rain, except for her face. One glance wiped

away any humor left in him. Her eyes were pooled with tears and there was a

little mud and grime on one of her cheeks.

She was looking at the ground when he opened the door, but as soon as

she realized that he was there, she flung herself forward and buried her head

in his chest, sobbing.

"Easy Kari, easy." said TK gently, confused beyond measure, "What

happened?"

Her voice was punctuated with sobs as she spoke, her voice muffled by

TK's chest. "H..he...Jordan...he...b..b...roke up..with....m....me..."

This statement was followed by another fresh outbreak of tears and

wailing from the girl in his arms. Only one thought penetrated his mind as he

heard what she said: 'I've got to cheer her up.'

Slowly and quietly he broke their embrace and looked down into her

eyes. "Kari" he said, "you're soaked. Here, follow me; we'll get you warmed

up first. He led her into his mother?s room, first stopping by the hall

closet to grab another towel. Once there where he found some dry clothes that

looked like they would fit her.

"Here," he said, tossing the assorted items onto the bed, "dry off and

change into those and then we'll talk."

She gave him the smallest of smiles as he exited the room and closed

the door behind him. As the door snapped shut, a million wild thoughts and

images raced through his head. "No!" he thought desperately, "No! This

definitely isn't the time. She needs her best friend right now, not someone

else who is after her."

Forcing himself to remain calm, he began slowly pacing the hall, back

and forth, until he heard the door open again. He turned, and found himself

looking at her once again, although this time she was different. He had

always thought of her as being so strong, so sure of herself, but now she

stood there in clothes that were slightly too big for her, and with her hair

very ruffled, she looked once again like the little eight year old girl who

had become his friend.

Once again she came toward him, although now she wrapped herself

around his arm and pulled him toward the living room. Once there they sat

down and a slightly uncomfortable silence fell between them. After about a

minute, TK broke it.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

She shook her head, causing her hair to whip up around her face. 'She

is so beautiful,' he thought, and then he gave himself another mental kick.

"Here," he said, picking up the remote, "let's watch something for a while.

Both her arms still wrapped around his left one, he turned on the TV

and began flipping through channels. After a bit he came to something that

seemed perfect. A documentary on cats. Kittens were possibly Kari's favorite

animals, and he had to admit, he thought they were pretty nice too.

Fifteen minutes passed as they sat in silence, watching the show.

Every couple minutes he looked down at her, curled up next to him, and saw her

eyes shining with happiness. All thoughts of her evening previous to now were

currently wiped away, her mind on the cute and fuzzy creatures on the screen.

Finally she spoke.

"I remember when Meeko was that little," she said quietly, "Tai

thought it would be fun to see if she would enjoy being put on a high shelf."

She giggled a little. "When he finally took her down, she clawed at him until

his hands and arms were all covered with scratches. They stayed away from

each other for a while after that." She giggled again and TK laughed at the

thought of her older brother losing a fight to a kitten.

"Yeah, I remember back before my parents got divorced, Matt found a

stray dog. He wanted to keep it really bad, so my parents let him. It only

lasted three days though, the dog slept in his room, and it peed on all of his

stuff. Matt has never liked animals since, recounted TK, thinking back as

well.

Kari laughed. "Our older brothers don't do very well with animals, do

they?" she asked, looking up at him now.

"No, not really," he replied, feeling a sudden warmth spread through

him as he looked back at her. "Which is really interesting considering that

Matt just started a band with some friends, they call themselves the Teenage

Wolves."

"That is funny," she smiled. "I didn't know he started a band, how

long ago did he do it?"

"Only a couple of months ago." said TK dismissively. "You know, I

kind of wondered why Tai never joined. Matt would definitely let him. They

have been friends even longer than we have."

Kari looked in some surprise at him. "Tai?" she said, suppressing

laugher, "Singing or playing in a band?" The laughter inside of her finally

burst, sending her into a hysterical fit. "Yeah right! Tai is completely

tone deaf! My parents and I have to plug our ears every time he takes a

shower; he sounds like a dying animal!"

They both laughed for a while, eventually starting up the conversation

again. For two hours they talked. Sometimes it was their brothers, sometimes

it was school. They covered the latest fads, revisited old memories, and

finally they got to sports, where TK recounted what had happened to him only

today.

"That's awful!" exclaimed Kari, "Does that really happen whenever

someone new is there?"

"Yeah," said TK, "but on the plus side I definitely get a workout.

That might actually be one of the reasons I stay on varsity, I constantly have

to push myself to prove that I belong there." He paused a second before

continuing. "Anyway, I was so tired when I got home that I fell asleep

without even taking a shower." He grimaced. "I'll never do that again, I

smelled like a fish that had been rotting for days by the time I woke up."

She sniffed his arm playfully. "You don't smell too bad now," she

grinned, "maybe only like a fish rotting for a few hours.? He playfully

pushed her away, and she rolled away from him and suddenly her eyebrows

creased. "Wait a minute, I do smell something bad."

It took TK only a split second to realize it too. "The oven!" he

yelled, and he leapt off the couch and dashed for the kitchen. He tore open

the oven and, grabbing a nearby potholder, he yanked out the previously frozen

dinners. What remained was only a charred mess.

He groaned and slumped against the counter, kicking himself for not

setting a timer. Kari soon followed him in, a questioning glance on her face.

TK chucked the now inedible dinners into the garbage and recounted

what had happened.

"How did you forget?" Kari asked as his face twisted with a mix of

amusement and anger.

"Well," he said, "you came over and I wasn't really paying attention

to anything else."

"Oh," she said, and her face fell.

TK decided that if they were going to get anywhere, now was the time

to do it. "Kari, what happened tonight?" he asked quietly. "Why did Jordan

break up with you?"

Kari's face saddened again. "He just told me that he didn't think our

relationship was going anywhere, she said, dejected. "He told me that he had

found someone else who he cared about more.

TK's insides now burned with anger. 'How dare he be so cold to her!

How dare he...' But Kari had seen the look on his face and stepped toward him

and wrapped her arms around his middle once again. "Don't worry TK," she said,

"I'm all right now. You cheered me up."

Their eyes locked together, and TK saw with a small start that she was

lying. Neither of them were any good at lying to each other, and everything

from the way tears were pooling in the corners of her eyes again to the way

she was clutching her hands together behind his back told him that she was

still keeping herself bottled up.

"Kari" he whispered, placing his finger under her chin and tilting her

head upward, "you don't have to hold back with me. I understand."

Warning bells were now screaming in his head again; they were much too

close, and this was much too similar to a romantic moment. "But maybe," he

rationalized, "maybe she needs someone closer than a friend right now."

He slapped himself mentally. That was just his overactive imagination

getting the best of him again. He really needed to keep his mind under better

control. But before anything else could happen...

"Mmph!" he let out in surprise as she launched herself onto her toes

and her lips connected with his. It was beyond anything he could have

expected. Both their mouths were closed, but just the feeling of her warm

body against his and her soft lips pressing against him drove all rational

thoughts out of his mind.

He returned her kiss now, and soon they were both wrapped up in

ignorant bliss, unaware of any of their surroundings. Slowly and as one they

staggered over to the couch and sat, contacting each other in every way they

could. Their kissing became more and more feverish as they explored each

other in ways they never thought about before. Suddenly he became aware that

he was on top of her, with his hands clutching both her wrists above her head.

She was breathing in short, ragged gasps and slowly relaxed her body so that

she sunk further into the soft couch.

TK had been waiting for this moment for the last four years of his

life. He looked once again into her eyes. She seemed to give an imperceptible

nod, seemed to say that it was all right.

But he couldn't do it.

The moment that he had been waiting for the last four years of his

life was now within his grasp, and he couldn't do it. All the things that

they had been through. All the precious moments they had shared. Every

single moment he had ever spent with her flashed before his eyes as he looked

at her, frozen to the spot.

This was someone who meant more to him than anything else. And here

he was, about to take advantage of her in her moment of weakness, when she was

most vulnerable, when all she really needed was a friend.

He awkwardly clambered off of her, and she sat up, her eyes filling

with tears yet again.

"Aren't I even good enough for you?" she cried. "Am I so horrible

that even you won't take me?

His heart felt like it had been crushed under a million pound weight.

"No, no that's not it at all," he whispered, pressing his hand to her cheek.

"Believe me Kari, I've dreamed about this for a long time. I've loved you

ever since I was old enough to feel love. But this isn't right. This isn't

what love is." He smiled again. "This is what love means."

For the second time that night, he pressed his lips to hers. This was

not a kiss of passion, it was a kiss that carried with it everything that he

felt and every bit of comfort that he knew how to offer.

They stayed that way for a long time, finally separating after what

seemed like an eternity. Kari once again threw her arms around him and this

time cried herself to sleep.

TK picked her up and carried her over to his mother?s bedroom where he

deposited her on the bed and pulled the blankets over her.

"I love you,? he said softly down to her, his hand lingering on her

shoulder. "I really do."

He left her there, glancing back only once at the door and casting an

eye over her thin frame before shutting the door and going back to his room.

It was very cold in there now, and after closing the window and shutting off

the fan, he clambered into bed.

As waves of sleep and happiness flooded over him, he closed his eyes

and prepared to drift away.

He knew that the dreams would no longer come to him, knew that now they

were now completely meaningless. He had done what was right, he knew it, and

drifting into the dream world, he found her again, his own personal light in

the darkness, and as long as he held her close, nothing would ever be wrong

again.