Disclaimer: The characters, items, places etc of Digimon are property of Toei Ltd. These objects are used without permission for entertainment only, not for making money. No infringement is intended.
Caution, heavy angst within. Matt and Tai are 17 in this fic, and TK and Kari are 14. Oh yeah, I'm sure you all know, but just in case, 'baka' is 'idiot/fool' in Japanese.
By Nanaki Lioness
"Man, why did we come here again…?"
TK and Kari sighed, pushing Tai into the crowds of people standing outside the open-air auditorium in Odiaba. Most were girls, holding up banners and screaming at the top of their lungs. Some were chanting, some were in tears, and other ecstatic. The ones who were chanting were saying the same name over and over, the ones in tears were mostly excited, unable to keep their emotions in check, and the ecstatic ones were jumping up and down, waving their arms, an air of happiness around them. The banners all read near enough the same thing; they all had praises and declarations of love written all over them.
Tai thought it was stupid of them so get so worked up.
He blinked and turned back to TK. "We've come tonight to give Matt some moral support, remember?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot." TK and Kari swapped a look that said 'baka'. "Do we really have to go through all these girls? Can't we go in the back way? You are Matt's brother after all, they should give you admission heh…"
"Tai, stop complaining," Kari scolded lightly. "None of us have seen Matt for about two months now. And I'm sure he misses us. Being a famous rock star can't be easy."
"Oh sure, earning all that money and having screaming girls who worship you yell your name…sounds like a hard life!"
Kari slapped her brother lightly and continued to push through the crowds with TK. Tai reluctantly followed. This was not his idea of a fun night out. It wasn't that he didn't wish Matt success, because he did, and he had missed his friend…but all the fan girls put him off the idea of the concert. He would have much rather have gone to the soccer field and practiced.
A red carpet was rolled out in between the crowds, and barriers and security guards stopped the audience from jumping the band when they arrived. Kari and TK had managed to push their way to the front of the barriers, and Tai reluctantly followed. He mentally noted that, apart from TK, he was virtually the only guy here.
"You're Takeru, aren't you?" A girl asked TK, who grinned.
"Yeah. I'm TK. Matt's little brother."
The girl screamed and asked for his autograph, simply because he was related to Matt. TK complied, giving Kari a sideways look that Kari had to laugh at. TK claimed to hate being asked if he was related to the 'famous Yamato Ishida', but Kari knew he secretly enjoyed the attention…most of the time.
Only a few moments later, a limo pulled up and stopped by the beginning of the red carpet. A door opened, and a bodyguard got out, but when Matt stepped out, the audience began to scream his name, and the pitch went up in some girl's screams by a couple of octaves.
Tai's eyes widened as he saw his friend. He looked…wrong. He was dressed in a black suit, his blond hair pushed behind his ears and just above shoulder length. Some make-up artist had put glitter into it, which shined under the flashes of various photographers, fans and media. His sky blue eyes were accented with eyeliner and long lashes with mascara, but their depths were empty. Although he looked stunning, which was all that his fans wanted, there was most defiantly something missing. He was smiling, but Tai could tell it was faked. Yet all these screaming fans didn't know the difference, and each thought he was smiling for them.
Matt began to walk up the red carpet, clasping at outstretched hands of eager fans, wanting just a touch from their idol, and he complied with all he could. When he neared Tai, the chestnut haired boy shouted his name. A few girls looked at his strangely, but he didn't care as he attracted his friend's attention. Matt smiled, for real this time Tai was glad to see, and held out his hand to his friend. Tai reached out and shook it, grinning.
"Nice to finally see you again."
"You too," Matt said softly before moving on slightly to reach TK and Kari.
"Hey little bro," Matt greeted, actually stopping, which was brave as quite a few girls nearby tried to reach out and touch him.
"Hey Matt." He gestured to Kari. "Me and Kari are dating!"
"Congratulations. So does this mean I might be related to Tai one day?" Matt pretended to reel in horror before throwing a grin across to his best friend, who had managed to move up to where TK and Kari where. "Just kidding Tai." He leant forward and gave TK and quick hug, which caused the cameras of the fans and media to flash non-stop, with cries of how sweet brotherly love was. Matt pulled back quickly though, as the fan girls were moving in, since he had got so close to the audience.
With a wink to TK, Kari and Tai, he joined his bodyguard again and began the walk up the red carpet again.
"I asked him to marry me once, but he never replied…" one girl standing close to Tai said to herself, entering a dream world where those nearby knew she was thinking of her and Matt in a church, with some perfect white wedding.
Tai cast his eyes back to Matt, who had nearly reached the stage. His smile was fake again, and his eyes vacant once more.
I wonder what's wrong with him…?
It was about thirty minutes later when the concert started. The lights went out, and being late evening meant they were plunged into semi-darkness as the stage curtain opened. A spotlight was upon Matt, who stood, guitar in hand and microphone in front of him, head bowed.
Tai, who had ended up quite close to the front, was close enough to see that Matt was dreading this.
What's changed in these two months that makes him hate doing this? When he first started out, singing was his life…he'd do it anywhere…but now…
Matt lifted his head, glancing around the audience. His eyes met with Tai's, and Tai was shocked at the sheer amount of pain he could see. Matt smiled smally, and then turned his gaze to TK and Kari, who were close by. He grinned at them and began to speak into the microphone.
"Hello Odiaba!" He yelled, causing the audience to yell 'hello' and various other things back, and then quiet down as he began speaking.
"Firstly, I just wanna say congratulations to my little brother for finally getting himself a girlfriend." He smiled at TK, who was blushing. "Good work, TK, make sure you keep hold of her!" He winked to Kari. "And keep him in line Kari. He needs it!"
He then turned his gaze to Tai.
"I also want to express my surprise at seeing my best friend here. Hey Tai!" He grinned and began strumming a few chords on his guitar before launching into song.
Just about everyone in the audience was singing along, but Tai was deep in thought. He had to get to Matt and they had to be alone; no screaming girls, no band members, no bodyguard…no-one. He had to get to the bottom of this, and quick.
After about an hour, the band took a break. The girls all left the auditorium to get snacks from the nearby indoor snack bar, and to try and bribe the security guards into letting them get backstage.
Kari and TK had got drinks, talking about the performance to one another. Tai stood nearby, still thinking.
A girl ran past Kari and TK then, squealing in delight at simply being there, pushing past Kari so hard the girl ended up flinging her drink forward and all over Tai.
That snapped him out of his reverie, and he glanced down at his soaked attire.
Kari was on the floor, TK helping her up, and Tai gave her a look that asked if she was okay.
"I'm fine Tai," she stated. "But you'd better get dried off."
Tai nodded and sighed, heading off to the men's room to dry off, thinking of the songs he had just heard. He had to admit that Matt had certainly earned his fame; his songs were powerful, his voice a joy to hear, and his guitar playing on chord every time.
He pushed open the door to the men's room and blinked in surprise as he saw somebody next to the mirror, applying eyeliner with an unsteady hand. Black was streaked down his face and his eyes were tinted red, two obvious signs that he had been crying.
Matt turned and tried smiled at Tai, who was staring at him in shock.
"Hey Tai," he said softly, his voice shaking.
Tai shut the door and locked it, realising that he had just found his sanctuary. No girl would be coming in here, and nobody could now he had bolted the door anyway.
"What's going on?" He asked, getting straight to the point. Matt didn't answer, turning back to the mirror and steadying his hand to finish off his make-up. "And why the heck are you wearing make-up, anyway?"
Matt capped the eyeliner liquid pen and put it back into a small bag he had with him, and began to wash the black from his cheeks.
"I don't know." His voice was steadier now. "My make-up artist told me that it 'brings out my eye color', whatever that's meant to mean." He ran a hand through his hair and showed Tai the glitter that the brown haired boy had already spotted. "She also said this would look good too. I don't think so, but hell, it's only my life, not as though I get a say in anything…"
"So what's going on?" Tai asked again, sensing the melancholy in his friend's voice. "I can see there's something wrong with you, Matt, very wrong. Firstly, when you were on that stage, you didn't want to be there, that was clear! And then I find you in here, and you've obviously been crying, so-"
"Tai, don't start."
"No Matt!" Tai found himself getting angry. "I'm not going to be able to talk to you again after this, not without your bodyguard nearby, or some fan girl trying to bed you…"
Matt had to laugh at that. "You wouldn't believe some of the letters I've had. I worry about some of these girls, I really do!"
"I'm sure you have every right to! But Matt…really, what's going on with you? You used to love singing…but now you seem to hate it!"
"I don't hate it, Tai," Matt explained. "I love it as much as I used to, if not more! It's just…no-one listens anymore! Nobody seems to care about the lyrics or the feelings behind them…just what I'm going to be wearing the next time I show up or how my hair will be styled, or anything but the actual lyrics and what they mean…"
"Is that what's getting you down?"
Matt nodded slightly.
"That and a million other things…"
Matt shook his head. "Tai, I appreciate the concern, but just…leave it, okay?"
"No!" Tai marched over to his friend, who had turned away from him. He grabbed his shoulders and forced Matt to look at him, which he reluctantly did. "Matt, I don't know what's happened since you've been away, but you've changed, man!"
Matt averted his eyes. "My career happened, Tai. I thought I'd love this, but I hate it! I hate the way I get treated sometimes; like I'm something special, or like I deserve special treatment-"
"Hey," Tai interrupted. "You're Matt Ishida! You are something special to those girls out there. You do deserve special treatment, the best in the world in their eyes! Anyway, that has to be expected with fame. But why are you complaining about that?! I sure wouldn't!"
Matt sunk down to the ground, resting his back against the wall. Tai sat down cross-legged in front of him, waiting for him to explain.
"Tai…it's not just that…I'm grateful for every fan I have, but…" he sighed, resting pulling his knees to his chest and resting his arms across them. "But they don't see me for me. You wouldn't believe the amount of marriage proposals I've had! Girls send me candy and write me songs…they send photographs of themselves to me! Tai, one girl sent me lingerie! Her lingerie!"
Tai would have laughed at that if it hadn't been bothering his friend so much.
"I don't want any of that! I just want them to look at me and see someone passionate about their music, not somebody they want to wed."
"Matt…" Tai shook his head, sighing. "Of course you're going to have fans who like you for your looks…I mean, what's not to like? You're stunning, Matt, always have been!"
Matt raised a finely curved eyebrow at that comment.
"Stop looking at me like that! I'm just trying to make you feel better! Matt, there are people out there who like you for music. You're a great looking guy though, beautiful even, so there are always going to be people after your blood. But look past all that and see the fans who like you for you and your music."
"That's just it, Tai…there aren't any."
Tai grinned and punched his friend gently. "Then don't be so damn pretty and maybe you'll lose some screaming fan girls."
"Why'd you call me pretty?"
"Huh?" The question threw Tai out for a moment.
"Why pretty? Why not 'handsome'? Or anything else associated with guys and not girls?!"
Tai backed up a little, realising Matt looked angry.
"Chill Matt! Look, you're wearing make-up! You have long hair! You have the features of a girl, you always have had! I don't mean that to offend you, but take a look in the mirror, man!"
"I do…" Matt whispered. "Every morning…and I wonder what horrible things the make-up artist is going to do to me, or if I'll look good enough for the fans, or whether I should just put my hand through the mirror and hope I slit my wrist on the damn glass!"
"What do you want to do, Matt?" Tai asked, a little shocked at his friend's outburst. "Stay in the music business, or get out?"
"I can't get out, can I?!" Matt said, his eyes filling with tears. "I'll be well known no matter where I go! Even if I end it all now, people will still know who I am!"
Tai sighed deeply. He had to help his friend, but he had no idea how.
"Tai…sometimes it just gets to much…I go to bed so sad that I feel like I'll die from being so depressed…and then when I wake up, I feel disappointed that I haven't…" Matt lowered his head into his arms. "And then I have to go out and act like I'm on cloud #9 all day, else the media will all make up stories, or some girl will kill herself because her idol's depressed…"
Matt looked up at Tai, tears making tracks down his face, streaking the eyeliner he had re-applied not long before down his face. "I just want to go home…is that too much to ask?!"
Tai didn't reply. There was nothing he could say.
"I don't want to go back out there…" Matt whispered. "I can't bear it!" He looked at Tai, desperation written all over his features. "Help me, Tai! Don't make me go back out there!"
Tai stared at his friend. This was not Matt. Cool, calm, 'I'm too cool' Yamato Ishida, in tears at the though of going back out on stage? It just didn't fit.
"So what do you want me to do?"
"Call one of the band members, tell them I'm sick…" He pulled a cell phone from his small bag and handed it to Tai. "Please!" He near screeched at Tai's hesitation.
"Matt…what about those girls?"
"They can have their money back and free tickets to the next concert, if I do another one…anything, just please help me!"
Tai put the phone down, shaking his head as Matt stared at him in disbelief. "No. You have to face up to this. Either you do it, or you don't."
"No! Matt, look at you! Look at you!" Tai shook him by the shoulders. "This isn't you, Matt! Now snap out of it!"
Matt didn't reply, realising he had got a bit hysterical.
"Sorry…" he murmured. "I guess I just need a break…" He sighed deeply, not seeming to notice the silent tears coursing down his cheeks. "A long break, somewhere where people appreciate my music, and they listen…"
"Matt, people listen. Maybe those fan girls don't, but the people who matter do. Your parents, your friends, TK, me…" He tailed off for a moment. "Matt, we all listen. We all care. Did you know that I've bought every single song you've ever released? I have your album too, Matt! Because I wanted to help you get somewhere in this career! And because, when I miss you, I only have to put it on and close my eyes and it's like you're there…things just aren't the same without you around and if you have to be away, then I want you to be happy damn it! If you won't sing for those girls out there, then sing for those who care! TK's out there, Kari too, and they want to hear you sing because they love to listen! Sing for them! And if you won't, then sing for me…"
Matt stared at his friend, who had stopped speaking and turned his gaze away. He had no idea that he felt so strongly.
"I…I don't know what to say…thank you, Tai…"
"Don't thank me," Tai whispered, his eyes closed as he repressed tears. "Please don't. You don't need to. I listen because you're my best friend. I do everything I do for you because you're my best friend." He stopped, mentally cursing himself as he felt a tear slip down his cheek. He was rarely so sentimental, especially when he came to expressing how he felt. I do it because I love you like the brother I never had…
He felt an arm round his shoulders and looked up to see Matt, smiling softly.
"I have to thank you," he whispered. "For being there. For being my friend. For just being…Tai."
The two looked at one another for a moment, an awkward silence falling upon them.
"So…are you going to or shall I?" Matt said.
"Going to what?" Tai asked innocently.
"Hug me, damn it!" Matt said, grabbing his friend in a tight embrace. He found tears gathering in his eyes, and he let them fall without worrying who might see. He had missed his friends a lot, but Tai had made him realise just how much.
Tai smiled slightly. He had missed Matt more than he cared to admit, and he had had no clue that his friend had been so unhappy. But now…he was overjoyed that he had helped shift Matt's depression.
They let go of each other, Tai grinning sheepishly.
"Matt, the whole reason I came in here was to dry myself off. Kari accidentally threw her drink and me, and I was soaked. And now you are too!"
Matt laughed, feeling his clothes. "Nah, just damp. Don't worry about it." He stood up and smiled. "Thanks for that Tai. I guess I needed someone to talk to."
Matt's cell phone rang just then, and he dived into his bag to pick it up. "Hello? Oh hey." He pulled the phone from his ear as the band's drummer yelled over the noise of the crowds who were backstage. "Too bad. They'll have to see me after the concert. I'm sure they can wait. Let them go back to their dreams."
Tai assumed Matt was referring to a bunch of annoyed fan girls who had gone backstage to find Matt missing.
"Does it matter where I am? Heh, somewhere they can't come to. No, I haven't left the building, don't sound so panicked! I'm in the guy's bathroom if you must know. Yes, the whole time. Re-applying my make-up. Don't laugh! Look, shut up, I'll be back shortly."
Matt hung the phone up and dropped it back into his bag, pulling the eyeliner out again.
"This is the third time this evening I've had to apply this," he said with a sigh, wiping the smoky tear tracks from his cheeks before starting work on his eyes again.
"I'd offer to help, but I'd probably jab you in the eye," Tai said. Matt laughed.
"It's your fault I'm doing this anyway. If you hadn't got all sentimental on me, I wouldn't have cried in the first place and ruined it all."
Tai grinned. "Actually, you wrecked it yourself twice over. I just helped the third time. Next time I'll keep quiet and spare your make-up then, hmm?"
Matt grinned, putting the eyeliner back in the bag. He straightened himself out, and looked into the mirror.
"How do I look?" He asked. Tai smiled at him via the mirror, and their eyes met. They had reached a deeper understanding that day, and had tightened the bond between them that had begun to fray in absence.
"Stunning," Tai replied. "Now go out there and knock them for six, brother."
The last word slipped out without Tai even noticing, but Matt did. His eyes widened as Tai realised and slapped a hand over his mouth.
"What did you say…?" Matt asked, as if it needed confirming.
"You heard." Tai was blushing a deep red. He hadn't meant to say that at all, but that didn't mean that he didn't feel it.
Matt stared at him. "I don't believe you. You keep that up and you'll wreck my make-up again!" He stepped forward, grabbing Tai in a friendly hug and ruffling his hair. "Let's go. The band will kill me if I'm late back." He grinned. "Brother."
Tai didn't say a word. He simply smiled.
Looks like things are brighter already. And hopefully it'll stay that way this time.
Author's Notes: Okay, don't ask where this came from, I have no idea! It's a Matt/Tai friendship fic, in case you couldn't guess, 'coz there are simply not enough of these about. I'm a Taito fan, but this one just has to stay friendship, I feel…
Not much to say; heavy on the angst, but when am I ever not? ^_^ But shock horror! It has a happy ending. Sort of…I think? ^^'
Feedback appreciated; e-mails to Nanaki_Lioness@hotmail.com and/or reviews below if you're at fanfiction.net. Thanks!