Title: Dancing Lessons
Focus: Kimura Kouichi, Chiaki
Timeline: Approximately three years from the end of Digimon Frontier.
Summary: Chiaki needs to learn to dance before Valentine's Day. Kouichi has offered to teach her, but will dancing be the only thing that goes on between them?
Additional Notes: Warning! Not everything in this fic is what it seems to be. There will be two obvious couples in this fic, but there will be others that will not be so obvious. For those who are still confused, at the end I will provide a list of the couples mentioned in this fic. And please, do not cheat by skipping the story and scrolling right down to the author's note.
They had appeared practically overnight, sticking to places like hallway and cafeteria walls. They popped up on restroom doors and above drinking fountains. Smaller versions slipped into lockers, to flutter to the feet of unsuspecting students when the lockers were opened the next morning. It was as if some weird growth had infected the entire building, and no one could ignore it.
The high school was holding a school dance the weekend of Valentine's Day.
"A Valentine's Day dance! I can't wait!" gushed one girl. She and her friends were standing by one of the posters, taking some time to gossip between classes. "I wonder who will ask me? I hope it's Kouji-sama!"
Her red-haired friend snorted. "Minamoto-san? I doubt it. He's all wrapped up in that blonde girlfriend of his." The first girl pouted, eyes reflecting her disappointment behind her glasses.
Over by his locker Kimura Kouichi couldn't hold back a small laugh as he overheard the girls' conversation. Ever since they had come to school to find the place flooded with advertisements for the dance, it was all anyone could talk about. He had a sneaking suspiscion that the topic would be broached more than twice when he met with his friends in the park later. With another chuckle and a shake of his head, Kouichi closed his locker door and headed for his next class.
"Oh! Kimura-san!" Kouichi stopped when he heard the voice call his name, and he turned to see one of the girls hurry over to him. The other girls were still standing by the poster, watching their friend with interest. "Um, you heard about the dance on Valentine's weekend, right?"
"Yeah. It's kind of hard to ignore," Kouichi responded with a small smile.
The girl smiled back. flipping her long violet hair over her shoulder. "So, I was wondering, maybe you and I could go to the dance together?"
Kouichi had to give her credit, he really did. "I'd like to," he said, then continued before she could possibly shriek with happiness "but I've already got plans for that weekend. Sorry. Maybe the next dance?" With that he walked off to his next class, leaving the girl staring after him in surprise as her friends hurried over to ask what had happened.
"See? I told you..." Kouichi could hear the red-head tell her friend before he got out of earshot.
After school let out Kouichi hurried to the local park where he and the other former Legendary Warriors constantly met. Even though most of them lived in different districts and went to different schools, after their adventure in the Digital World it had been difficult for them not to keep in touch with each other. When they couldn't meet with each other in person, they were either talking on the phone, talking in a private chatroom that a friend of Junpei's had set up for them or else exchanging constant emails. It was easier for the twins to stay in contact with each other, especially after Mrs. Kimura accepted a job that let her move closer to her other son. Fortunately whatever animosity there had been between Mr. Minamoto and his ex-wife had dissipated after eleven or so years and the two of them were able to stay friends. Then when the older members of the group had started high school Fate, God, Ophanimon or whatever decided to intervene and enroll them at the same school. Although it meant a longer bus trip for Izumi and for Junpei, it definately made things easier, and Takuya, Izumi, Junpei and the twins were able to strengthen the bonds of their friendship easily.
As he neared the park, Kouichi noticed that he wasn't the first one there. Someone was already sitting underneath the tree that the six Legendary Warriors had unofficially claimed as their own when they started these meetings, back against the trunk and hands clasped behind his head. "Well isn't this a pretty picture? Good thing to know you're such an attentive lookout in case we ever get attacked."
Junpei opened one eye and grinned. "Hey Kouichi."
"Hey yourself," the other boy said as he sat down beside his friend. "Been waiting long?"
"Nah. I just got here a few minutes ago. Where's Kouji?" The twins commonly walked to these gatherings together.
Kouichi shrugged. "I think his last period class ran over."
"Either that or he got mobbed by our female classmates who haven't figured out that he's got a girlfriend," piped up a familiar female voice.
"Hello, Izumi," both boys chorused, Junpei looking up at her with a beaming smile. She returned it as she sat down across from the two boys. "So were they really mobbing him?" Kouji's twin asked.
Izumi nodded. "And from the looks of things he wasn't too happy about it. I would have gone over to help him out, but the hallway was too jammed for me to get through. You'd think that they were doing that on purpose."
"Who knows what girls are thinking sometimes?" quipped Junpei. He cringed when Izumi sent a glare his way. "I'm sorry; I didn't mean it like that!" Kouichi couldn't help but laugh at the repentant look on his friend's face, nor the way Izumi's glare melted into a cheerful smile.
"Ticking off Izumi; always a great way to start a meeting," Takuya's voice preceded his arrival at the meeting spot. The former Warrior of Fire appeared a second after he had announced himself, backpack slung over one shoulder. The others laughed, even Izumi and Junpei.
Kouji showed up about three minutes after Takuya did, dusting off his jacket and grumbling to himself. "I swear, if I see another girl it'll be too soon!" he exclaimed as he approached. His gaze then shifted to Izumi, and he gulped. "Uh, no offense Izumi."
The blonde merely smiled sweetly at him. "None taken, Kouji."
"Girls mobbed you after school, huh?" Takuya asked as their resident kendo expert sat down beside Izumi. The five of them had now formed a somewhat shaky circle, with one spot left open for their youngest member.
Kouji rolled his eyes. "That is an understatement," he corrected. "It was like every girl in our grade - no, the entire school - somehow figured out where my last class of the day was, and they were all lying in wait to ambush me as I got out."
"And never mind you've got a girlfriend already," Izumi added. Kouji nodded in agreement.
"Who's got a girlfriend already?" a young voice piped up, heralding the arrival of the final member of their little club. Tomoki ran up to the group, dropping into the space between Kouji and Takuya, panting from his exertion. "Sorry I'm late," he apologized.
The others waved off his apology since it was no big deal. "What kept you, anyway?" Junpei asked.
The fifth-grader blushed. "It's...kinda silly," Tomoki responded. "You guys probably don't want to hear about it. So, who's girlfriend are we talking about?"
"Actually we were talking about Kouji getting mobbed by girls at our school today," Kouichi replied, grinning as his brother shot him a mock-glare. "The high school's holding a dance on Valentine's weekend, and so just about every girl in the school wanted to ask him to go with them despite the fact that he's taken."
"You guys are lucky. I wish my school was doing something like that," Tomoki pouted.
A twinkle lit Takuya's eye. "Why Tomoki," the older boy said slowly "is there a girl in your grade that you have a crush on?"
Tomoki flushed pink. "No!" he denied.
"You're blushing," Izumi teased in a sing-song voice.
"Am not." Now his cheeks were bright pink, and he focused his concentration on staring down a blade of grass in front of him.
Kouichi pretended to examine the boy from where he was sitting. "He certainly looks like you did when you and a certain blonde started going out, Kouji," he smirked.
His twin rolled his eyes before joining in. "Was this girl the reason you were running late by any chance, Tomoki?"
"No!" By this time Tomoki's face was bright red and he was biting his lip to keep from either laughing out loud or reading the rest of them the riot act.
Junpei laughed. "Okay, okay guys. I think we've teased him about this enough." To the younger boy he said, "We're sorry, Tomoki. We just want to make sure this girl is good enough for you, after all."
"Junpei!" Tomoki's features returned to their original color as he finally laughed out loud and the others joined in. He knew his friends meant well despite the fact that they were embarassing him. When he was able to get his giggles under control the former Warrior of Ice asked, "So are you guys all going to this dance?"
"I am," Junpei, Izumi and Kouji all said at the same time, prompting another round of laughter.
"I'm going," Takuya added. "There's a girl in our class that I've been wanting to ask out for a little while now, and this seems like the perfect opportunity."
Izumi turned her attention to the oldest of the twins. "What about you, Kouichi? Who are you going to the dance with?"
The bluenette cleared his throat. "Actually, I'm not going to the dance. I'm afraid I've got...plans for that weekend. Sorry guys, but you're going to have to count me out this time." The others looked disappointed and murmured their understanding...except for Kouji. He just focused a skeptical gaze on his brother.
There's got to be some other reason besides "plans" for Kouichi not to go to that dance, he thought to himself. But, it is his business. If Kouichi's got his reasons then he's got his reasons. I won't question them.
The meeting wrapped up after forty-five minutes, during which time the six kids discussed many things including what their friends in the Digital World could be doing at this time, Mrs. Kimura's new boyfriend, Tomoki becoming "Uncle Tomoki" (which prompted more teasing) and, of course, the dance again.
As he walked home from the park, Kouichi couldn't help but think of the real reason that he wasn't going to the Valentine's dance: dancing. It wasn't that he couldn't dance; in fact Kouichi was a great dancer. He was just too good. His grandmother had taught him when she had been healthy enough to get around on her own, and he had picked up steps from movies on television. The last dance he had gone to was a mother-son function when he was eleven - about two weeks before he had met Kouji, in fact - and he had been the center of attention almost the whole night. While some would have been flattered by the attention Kouichi was uncomfortable. He would much rather have preferred to stood on the sidelines all night. Thus the reason he didn't want to attend the dance on Valentine's day.
Kouichi was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he was barely aware of the other people moving and jostling around him as he walked. And he certainly didn't notice the other person heading straight towards him, not until they had bumped into each other.
"Whoa!" The impact sent Kouichi reeling back a couple steps, and he stuck out his arms a little to keep his balance. "Oh, jeez I'm sorry! I wasn't paying attention to where I was going," he apologized.
"No, it was my fault. I was the one who should have been watching where she was going," a young girl's voice contradicted him. Kouichi for the first time noticed that he had collided with a girl his age, and an attractive girl at that. She looked at him, and her eyes widened. "Wait a minute...Kouichi?"
Kouichi blinked at her, puzzled. "How'd you know my name?"
"I'm Chiaki...Konaka Chiaki," she replied by way of introduction.
Chiaki... For some reason the name sounded familiar to him, and Kouichi racked his brain trying to think of where he had heard it. Then it clicked. "Chiaki? Angemon's Chiaki?"
"Yeah!" The two of them laughed. "Wow, this is so weird. I guess you guys got back from the Digital World okay."
"Yeah, we did," Kouichi answered. Most of us more okay than others, he couldn't help thinking. "So, how have you been doing? The others and I kind of wondered what happened to you guys after you left aboard that Trailmon."
Chiaki grinned. "I'm fine. I'm in high school now, ninth grade."
"Me too," Kouichi said. "What high school?" She rattled off a familiar name, and Kouichi's eyebrows almost raised completely off of his head. "Really? That's where my brother and I go to school too. Heck, all of us older kids from my group go there."
"I know. I've seen you guys around a few times," Chiaki said. "Terou and Katsuharu go to that high school too. That is really strange."
He grinned. "God, Fate, Ophanimon or Whatever," he quipped, and she giggled. Kouichi decided that she had a cute giggle. "So, I guess the next question, naturally, is if you're going to the dance on Valentine's weekend."
Chiaki sighed. "Well, I want to, because there's someone that I'd really like to ask. There's just one problem."
She bit her lip, cast her gaze down at the toes of her shoes. "I...don't know how to dance. And since I don't know how to dance, I don't want to go to the dance and make an idiot of myself in front of my date."
For some reason Kouichi couldn't stand seeing the sad look on her face. So he surprised both Chiaki and himself by saying, "Why don't I teach you?" She looked at him in shock. Kouichi blinked; now what had made him do that? Still the offer was now in the air, so he went ahead. "I mean, I know how to dance and it's not very hard to learn. Just a few simple steps, and I guaruntee you'll be able to move on that dance floor with the best of them."
"Well...sure! Thank you very much!" Chiaki replied.
"Great!" Kouichi grinned. He glanced at his watch, and blinked. He was supposed to have been home a while ago. "Anyway, I've gotta get home or else Mom'll start to panic. I'll try to catch you at school tomorrow to work out what times you can come over. Is that okay?"
Chiaki nodded. "Yeah, that's fine. See you tomorrow, then!" With that she ran off, brown hair flying behind her. Kouichi watched her receding form for a moment before hurrying off in the opposite direction.
Chiaki sighed as she sat down at the end of a lunchtable, well enough away from a group of girls that were gossping about - what else? - the dance. She had been on the lookout for Kouichi all day, but so far hadn't seen him. She hoped that he hadn't forgotten about his promise. Sighing again, she reached into her lunchbag. I hope Mom didn't pack me ham and cheese again. It's good, but not three days in a row!
"Chiaki-san!" She lifted her head when she heard her name called from halfway across the room. At the other end of the table the other girls stopped their talking as Kouichi hurried over. He bent over the end of the table, panting. "Sorry," he apologized, catching his breath. "This is the first chance I've had to try and track you down."
"That's okay," Chiaki assured him. She pulled her day planner out of her backpack. "I'm pretty much free every afternoon after school this week. How about you?"
Kouichi pulled a Palm Pilot out of his bookbag and consulted it. "Tomorrow afternoon's no good for me; I've got an appointment, and Mom decided she wanted to drag me with her while she ran her other errands." He grimanced. "But the day after tomorrow I'm free."
"Great! We'll meet then. Um, my place or yours?" Chiaki looked up at him.
"How about my apartment?" Chiaki agreed. "Okay. My place, the day after tomorrow after school. Sounds good. Oh by the way, who were you planning to invite to the dance?"
Chiaki blushed. "Oh, no one...special," she replied quietly.
Kouichi nodded. She must be planning on asking out Terou, or one of those other guys that she was in the Digital World with. He shouldered his backpack. "Well, I've got to get going. I usually eat lunch with Kouji and his girlfriend, and they're probably wondering where the heck I am. See you later!"
"Bye Kouichi!" It wasn't lost on Chiaki that her farewell wasn't a solo; she turned around to see the other girls at her table looking at her in surprise and happiness.
"Oh, Chiaki you are so lucky!" one of them squealed. "Kimura Kouichi actually talked to you!"
"Is it true that he's actually going to give you dance lessons?" asked another girl. Chiaki obligingly answered all of their questions, and when lunch was over she noted that she never did get to her ham and cheese sandwich.
"Yeah, they're going to the afternoon showing and then a late dinner afterwards," Kouichi said over the clatter of dishes as he stood at the sink, up to his elbows in water and suds. "I've got a good feeling about this guy, Kouji."
"That's great." Kouji's voice sounded a bit tinny in the receiver; his twin guessed it was because he was on his cellphone. "So, how about you? Any plans this week?"
The elder twin lifted his hands out of the water and shook them to get the soap off before snatching a towel from the rack. "Well, I've got that appointment tomorrow and Mom's dragging me shopping with her afterwards."
"Should we bow our heads in a moment of silence?" Kouji quipped.
Kouichi rolled his eyes. "Very funny; you know our mom isn't as bad as some girls when it comes to shopping." A shiver ran down his spine, and he had no doubt the same thing had happened to Kouji. "Oh, guess who I ran into yesterday - literally?"
"I don't know...Cherubimon?" The remark was meant to be funny, but Kouichi couldn't help the slight thread of fear that ran through him in that second. Then it was gone.
"Nope," Kouichi replied. "Do you remember those four kids we met in the Digital World? The ones that were hanging around with Angemon?" Kouji responded that he did remember. "Well, I met up with Chiaki - the only girl in the group - yesterday on my way home after our meeting. I guess she and the two older boys go to our high school as well."
Kouji sighed in mock frustration. "That's it; I'm going to have to have a talk with our school's registrar."
Kouichi laughed. "Anyway, I invited her over here the day after tomorrow."
"Oh, really?" Kouji's voice took on the tone of someone who was perhaps more interested than he should be. And it wasn't lost on his twin.
"Now don't start that," Kouichi warned. "Chiaki's nervous about the dance, and I'm just giving her some tips. It's nothing more than that."
"Sure, Kouichi." Now Kouji sounded skeptical.
Kouichi sighed. "Oh, cut it out Kouji. She's probably going to invite someone like Terou to the dance anyway. Geez, ever since you started dating you've become such a matchmaker. If you're not trying to pair me up with somebody you're trying to do it to everyone else in our group."
"I am not!" Kouji protested.
Kouichi looked up at the ceiling in thought, careful not to drop the phone that was cushioned between his ear and shoulder. "Now, what was the name of that matchmaking old lady in that musical Mom had us watch? Yenta? Yeah, that was it. You're turning into Yenta!"
Kouji groaned. "I am not a Yenta," he protested. Kouichi merely grinned as he leaned against the kitchen counter, continuing to tease his twin.
Chiaki stood nervously outside the door of the Kimura's apartment, smoothing the imaginary wrinkles in her skirt and hitching up the strap of her backpack when it began to fall off of her shoulder. She had been anticipating this since she had found the note Kouich had slipped into her locker that gave her directions to his apartment.
Just as she raised her hand to knock, the door opened. Standing there was an attractive woman with long hair the same color as Kouichi's. "Oh! I'm sorry; I didn't mean to surprise you like that," she said. "You must be Chiaki. I'm Kouichi's mother."
Chiaki bowed politely. "A pleasure to meet you," she said.
Mrs. Kimura nodded. "You can go right on in; Kouichi is in the living room. I was just on my way out to do some errands. Have fun, you two!" she raised her voice on the last sentence.
"Okay, Mom!" Kouichi shouted from the living room. Telling Chiaki it was nice to meet her, Mrs. Kimura headed out the door and on her way. Chiaki hesitated a second before walking into the apartment. She took of her shoes, slipped her feet into the slippers at the doorway and went in search of Kouichi.
Just like his mother had said, Kouichi was in the living room. He was sitting on the sofa reading a book. When he heard Chiaki enter he lowered the book, and she was surprised to see him wearing a pair of glasses. "I didn't know you wore glasses," she blurted out, then cringed wishing she'd kept her mouth shut.
Fortunately Kouichi didn't seem to be bothered by her question. "Yeah," he confirmed. "I had an...accident about three years ago that gave me a pretty bad head injury. As you can see I pulled through, but my injury was bad enough to have an effect on my vision. Fortunately I only need the glasses for reading." He set the book aside and got to his feet. "But anyway, I'm glad you could make it. Are you ready?"
"As I'll ever be." Chiaki offered him a weak smile.
Kouichi smiled. "Don't be nervous. It's not like there's going to be a test or anything." Chiaki nodded. "Okay. The first thing we've got to do is get some stuff out of the way so we have enough room to move around. You don't mind giving me a hand, do you?"
Chiaki shook her head. "Of course not." Together the two teenagers moved a coffee table and an easy chair against the wall, and carried a smaller table into the kitchen. Kouichi picked up Chiaki's backpack and set it on the couch to get it out of the way. "I didn't know you liked frogs," he said to her, noticing the Keropi patch and the frog-shaped keychain that dangled from one of the zipper pulls.
"Yeah," she answered. "Frogs have been my favorite animal since I was a little kid. I like to collect them, and I've even got a pet frog at home."
Kouichi nodded. "I think we're ready to start. Now, have you been to any dances before?"
"Just a couple wedding receptions," she answered.
"Good; we've got a place to start from then." He walked over to the stereo and turned on a CD. As music filled the room Kouichi started to dance. Chiaki's eyes widened; he was good at this! He looked at her and grinned. "Feel free to join in any time," he said. Biting her lip Chiaki began to follow his lead, trying to copy what Kouichi was doing. It wasn't as easy as it looked, and Kouichi had to correct her a couple times. But the music was catchy and it had a good beat, and soon Chiaki was having too good of a time to be nervous anymore.
"I'm not kidding! She marched up to the guy, practically planted her finger on his chest and told him that she wasn't going to date a wimp, and if they were going to the dance together then he had better find some other way to ask her than sticking a note in her locker!"
Chiaki nearly choked on her soda as Kouichi related his tale. It was later in the week, and the two of them were taking a break from another dance lesson. People were quickly pairing up for the dance and one of their classmates had received a note in her locker from a boy asking her to go with him. Her reaction had been quite interesting, especially to those who had been there to witness it.
"It's not that I don't believe you, Kouichi," Chiaki said when she was able to speak again. "It's just...it doesn't surprise me that she would do something like that. Frankly, I'm surprised that they're still going after that." The two teenagers shared another laugh. As silence lapsed between them, Chiaki ran her finger on the edge of her soda can. "Kouichi?" she asked. "What happened in the Digital World? After the guys and I left, I mean. Were you able to defeat RhodoKnightmon and Dynasmon, and save the Digital World?"
Kouichi sighed and leaned back in his chair a little. "Yeah, we were able to defeat them, but then we had a bigger problem on our hands and his name was Lucemon." He described to her the Chosen Children's encounter with the fallen angel Digimon, and the last battle in which he had been defeated. "At least, that's as much as the others have told me about it," he finished.
"You weren't there?" Chiaki asked, puzzled.
"Nope. Technically, I guess you could say I wasn't really in the Digital World at all." Kouichi then told Chiaki how he and Kouji had been separated by their parents, and how he had learned about his brother from his grandmother and tracked Kouji down to the subway station. "When I fell down those stairs, Cherubimon was able to...I don't know, grab my spirit or something and bring it to the Digital World. I had no idea at the time that doctors were trying to keep my body alive in some hospital. Not until I woke up there, anyway."
"Talk about your out of body experiences," Chiaki remarked, then giggled at her accidental pun. "So was that the accident? The one that made you need glasses now," she clarified when he looked at her "Was that it?"
"Yup, that was the one. Small price to pay for helping to save a whole world, though." He nodded as if to reinforce what he had said.
There was another pause and then Chiaki asked, "Have you ever gone back to the Digital World since then? Or heard from your friends...what were their names again?"
"Bokomon and Neemon. And no, we haven't," Kouichi responded. "When Kouji and the others got back their digivices turned back into cellphones. And none of us has been able to get back to the level of the station where the Trailmon were at. Not that we don't wish we could. I know I'm not the only one who's been wondering how everyone in the Digital World is doing."
The pair sat in silence, thinking about the adventures they had had in the Digital World, good and bad, and the friends that they had made there. Then, to Kouichi's surprise, Chiaki reached over, covered his hand with hers and gave it a gentle squeeze. He looked over at her in surprise; blushing, Chiaki pulled her hand back and mumbled an apology.
Kouichi cleared his throat and stood up. "I think we've been on break long enough. Why don't we get back to the lesson?"
"Okay," Chiaki agreed. She was still blushing as she tossed her empty soda can into it's appropriate receptacle and followed Kouichi into the living room.
"Kimura residence, Kouichi speaking," Kouichi said into the receiver of the phone. His expression brightened at the voice on the other end. "Hey, Kouji! How're things going?"
"Can't complain," his twin replied. "Dad gave Satomi her Valentine's Day gift early. He's taking her to some bed-and-breakfast place near the mountains for the weekend, and it's definately an 'adults only' kind of thing."
Kouichi laughed. "Don't worry, Kouji. You can spend the weekend here; Mom and I won't mind."
"I knew you were going to say that. Why did I even bother calling?" Kouji asked rhetorically, joining in his brother's laughter. "Say, Takuya, Junpei and I are heading to the mall the day before the dance to pick out some gifts for our dates. You want to come?"
The elder twin shrugged, even though his brother couldn't see the gesture. "Sure. I've been thinking of getting a little something for Chiaki. Compensation for having to put up with me as a teacher."
"Compensation, or something else?" Kouji teased.
"Oh come on, Kouji; not this again!" protested Kouichi. "I told you once before, Chiaki and I are just friends. I'm justing helping her out."
Kouji mm-hmmed before he said, "Yeah, but now you don't sound so sure of yourself."
Kouichi opened his mouth to offer another retort, but then closed it. He had to admit, he had enjoyed spending time with Chiaki and wasn't looking forward to the end of the dance lessons. Truth be told he actually felt a little bit jealous of the guy that she was going to the dance with. Do I like Chiaki that way? he asked himself.
"I thought so," Kouji's voice sounded in his ear, reminding Kouichi that he was still on the phone. The younger twin had apparently taken his brother's silence as an affirmative answer. "Well, I'll let you go. Talk to you later, Kouichi."
"Yeah, later." Kouichi hung up the phone then dropped his hands into his lap. His last lesson with Chiaki was the next day, and suddenly he was a lot more nervous about it than he had been before.
Kouichi's nervousness hadn't gone away by the time the lesson rolled around. The entire time he found himself thinking back to his phone conversation with Kouji. In fact, he was thinking about it again when Chiaki asked if anything was wrong. He snapped out of his reverie and realized the CD that had been playing had finished.
"Oh, no-nothing's wrong," Kouichi replied. "You're getting really good, Chiaki. Whoever you're going to the dance with is going to be very impressed." And also very lucky, a little voice inside his head sniped.
Chiaki bit her lip, suddenly interested in the carpet. "Um..."
"It's Terou, right?" Kouichi guessed. Chiaki shook her head, and he tried again. "Katsuharu then? How about Koushiro?" Kouichi was aware that he was rambling.
"Actually, the person I wanted to ask to the dance was you," Chiaki replied. "I saw you in the hallway at school one day and remembered you from the Digital World. Teppei and Katsuharu already had dates to the dance, and I wanted to go with someone I knew and you were the first person I thought of. I just wasn't sure how you'd react, plus I know I'm not a good dancer. That's why I was so surprised when you offered to teach me how to dance." Kouichi blinked, surprised. He was so surprised that he couldn't think of anything to say in reply to Chiaki's confession.
For Chiaki, his silence was answer enough. "Guess I know now. If you'll excuse me, I need to get home. My parents are waiting." She collected her bag and coat, and headed out the door.
The sound of the door shutting seemed to snap Kouichi out of his stupor. He dashed to the door and opened it, then stepped out onto the walkway in time to see her turn the corner in the direction of the stairs. "Chiaki!" he called out, but she didn't turn around. Cursing, Kouichi punched the wall.
Way to blow it, nagged the little voice in his head.
"Oh, shut up," Kouichi grumbled to himself, and went back into his apartment.
"I can't believe I was that stupid!" the blue haired boy lamented.
"We know; you've said it two times already," Takuya responded. The four older boys were walking through the mall shopping for gifts for their dates. At first Kouichi had decided not to go on the shopping expedition, but after hearing how the last lesson with Chiaki had gone Kouji, Takuya and Junpei had practically dragged the other boy out of the Kimura apartment. The three of them were now dispensing advice on how best to handle the situation.
"Look, if anything you ought to apologize before Chiaki finds someone else," Kouji said now after shooting Takuya a dirty look for the remark the goggleboy had made. "If you don't, you won't know what you're missing."
Kouichi sighed, shoving his hands in his pockets. "I don't know. I mean, what if she doesn't want to talk to me?"
"You won't know unless you try to talk to her," Junpei pointed out. He turned his head and all of a sudden called out, "Hey, here's a good store to try."
The sight of four young teenage boys entering a popular accessory boutique was certainly one that didn't happen every day. But the former Warriors didn't pay any attention to some of the Looks and giggles they were getting from other female customers as they browsed the merchandise.
Kouji picked out a few elastic hairties, some with baubles on them and some without. "Think she'd like these?" he asked his friends.
Junpei glanced over his shoulder from where he was standing by the younger twin, debating over which hair comb to get his own date. "I don't know," the older boy said. "Doesn't she have enough things in that color?" Kouji smirked and backhanded Junpei in the shoulder before picking out four of the hairties and going up to the counter to pay for them.
Kouichi watched the other three boys from his vantage point near one of the necklace racks, giving the carousel a spin every so often. The pendants of the necklaces flashed in the light as they spun slowly by. Kouichi almost did a double-take as he saw one necklace go by, and spun the rack back so he could get a closer look at it.
It was a simple chainlink necklace of silver. Suspended on the chain was a silver charm shaped like a frog; it looked like the tiny amphibian was hanging from the necklace by one of its front feet. Closer examination revealed that the frog's eyes were tiny blue rhinestones. Almost immediatley he remembered the conversation from the first dance lesson, and Chiaki mentioning her love of frogs. He also recalled Ranamon, and the connection he had felt between Chiaki and the Warrior of Water even though she had never held the Human and Beast spirits of that element. Taking the necklace off of its hook, he flipped the tag over so he could get a look at the price. Fortunately it was in the price range where he could afford it and still get lunch at the food court.
Kouichi's mind was made up. Taking the necklace up to the counter he said, "I'd like to buy this, please."
In the end Kouji, Kouichi and Junpei walked out of the boutique with purchases, the older boy finally deciding to get both hair combs for his date. Takuya grumbled about not finding anything for his.
"Don't worry, you'll find something," Junpei assured him. "There are other stores in the mall, you know. But right now, how about lunch?" The others agreed to the plan and headed for the food court.
As the foursome looked for a place to sit after getting their food a familiar voice called out, "Hey guys, over here!" They looked in the direction of the voice to see Tomoki sitting at a table with his mother. When he realized he'd been spotted, the younger boy waved his arm.
"Hey, Tomoki," Takuya greeted him as they sat down with their lunches. "What're you doing here?"
"Buying a Valentine's Day present for Shiuchon," he replied, blushing. "I asked her to go out to dinner with me and my parents the night of the dance, and she said yes."
Junpei grinned. "All right! Way to go, Tomoki; we knew you could do it." The others threw in their agreement.
Mrs. Himi smiled; it was obvious that her son's friends had played some part in helping Tomoki get up the courage to ask Shiuchon to dinner. "So, are you all going to the dance?"
"Yes ma'am," Kouichi replied, as did his brother, Junpei and Takuya. He carefully glanced at the others to see if they were wondering what made him change his mind about the dance. Instead Tomoki, Junpei and Kouji appeared to have ganged up on Takuya.
"All right, goggle boy. We've been wondering this since you mentioned it at the meeting: who are you going to the dance with, and when did you ask her?" Kouji asked.
"If you must know, I asked her out two days ago," the former Warrior of Fire replied.
Junpei arched an eyebrow. "Okay, so who is she?"
"Your date!" Tomoki exclaimed. "Who else?"
As the four boys tried to milk Takuya for information Kouichi looked in the other direction, as if to convey that he didn't know these people. As his gaze swept over the mall it landed on a familiar figure - Chiaki. What is she doing here? Kouichi wondered to himself. Before he could look away her eyes met his, and he knew that he had been seen. The two stared at each other for a few seconds, then Chiaki turned her gaze away and stepped into a nearby store. Kouichi turned his attention back to the food court and slumped in his seat, more depressed than he had been earlier.
The digital clock on Kouichi's cellphone read 6:37. The dance started at seven, and ideally the brothers would have to leave before a quarter to if they wanted to get there on time. And they still had to pick up Kouji's girlfriend. He watched the time change to 6:38 before putting the phone back into his pants pocket and knocking on the bathroom door. "Come on, Kouji, how much longer are you going to take?"
"Keep your shirt on," his twin hollered back over the sound of the hairdryer. "I want to make sure my hair is just right."
Kouichi snorted. "What does it matter? You're just going to be covering it up with that old bandanna of yours anyway." The door to the bathroom opened, and Kouichi ducked in time to avoid the towel that his twin had thrown at him.
"For your information, it's a new bandanna," Kouji retorted, stepping out of the bathroom. Kouichi threw the towel back at him and he caught it, but not without one end of it whipping him in the face. Going back into the bathroom but leaving the door open he asked, "Are you sure you want to go through with this? I mean, what if she found someone else to go with?"
"I'm sure," Kouichi answered firmly. "I'll be there just long enough to give her the necklace, maybe compliment her on how she looks, then I'm on my way back here for some rest and relaxation."
Kouji sighed as he gave himself one last check in the mirror. "Okay, if you're sure." He stepped out of the bathroom. "How do I look?"
"Stunning," his brother deadpanned. "Can we go already?" The twins headed for the door, pausing long enough for the boys to grab their Valentine's gifts and for Kouichi to leave a note for their mother, who was out on a date of her own. Then they headed out the door.
It was a little after seven by the time the twins and Kouji's girlfriend got to the gymnasium where the dance was being held. Junpei was standing outside when they arrived, and he said that he'd been made to watch for them. "Takuya and our dates are already inside," he said.
"So who'd Takuya end up coming with?" asked Kouji. Despite the boys' interrogation techniques Takuya had refused to divulge the identity of his date to the dance, suffice to say that it wasn't Chiaki.
"He swore me to secrecy. All I can say is that you need to see it to believe it," Junpei responded. Kouji and his girlfriend walked in, but Kouichi hung back. The butterflies that had been lying dormant in his stomach were now flying around like they were on a sugar high.
His nervousness didn't escape the older boy's notice, either. "Hey, don't sweat it, Kouichi. Take your time, okay? I'm going to head in."
"Yeah, okay." The older boy headed into the gymnasium.
Not five minutes later Izumi stepped out. She wore a knee-length dress of lavender that had pink accents on the edge of the skirt. In her hair was one of the hair combs that Junpei had given her. "Listen, Kouichi. I haven't seen Chiaki around in the gym anywhere, so maybe she's not here yet. Do you want to come in, or do you want to stand out here and wait?"
"I think I'd better wait out here," Kouichi responded. "Better than going in there and getting jumped by somebody." Izumi giggled and went back inside to her friends.
Time went by slowly as Kouichi waited for Chiaki to show up. Bored, he slumped against the wall and slid down to a sitting position on the floor, occasionally tapping the box with Chiaki's necklace in it against his knee. Maybe this wasn't such a hot idea, he thought to himself.
"Excuse me, but don't you need a date to get into this dance?" a voice above him asked. Kouichi looked up in surprise.
Chiaki was standing in front of him, dressed in a nice skirt and blouse with her hair pulled back into one French braid. Her expression was one of amusement. Embarassed, Kouichi quickly pulled himself to his feet.
"No, I'm not- I- what I mean is...I was waiting for you. To give you this." He held out the box. As Chiaki took it he said, "It took me a little while to figure it out, but...I really do like you, Chiaki. I mean, as more than just a friend. But, if you don't want anything to do with me, especially after the way I acted a couple days ago, I understand completely."
"Why would you think that I wouldn't want to have anything to do with you?" she asked, confused.
Kouichi looked at her. "Well, you wouldn't look at me at the mall the other day. And I practically blew it at our last dance lesson when I didn't answer you right away."
Chiaki sighed. "I'm sorry about how I acted, both of those times. I guess I misunderstood your reaction that afternoon when I told you that you were the one I wanted to come to this thing with."
"Yeah, well my 'fish out of water' routine obviously wasn't the best response I could have given," he muttered, and the two of them laughed. "What about at the mall?"
"Well," Chiaki bit her lip and pulled a box out of a pocket of her skirt. She handed it to Kouichi. "Actually I was kind of surprised to see you at the mall, because I was buying you something. Sort of...compensation for having to put up with me as a student." The pair shared another laugh, and proceeded to open their gifts.
Kouichi removed the lid from his box to reveal a keychain. The ring itself was gold-colored. The charm on the keyring was made of some type of heavy metal and destined to look like the head of a lion. It instantly reminded him of his Human and Beasts spirits. "Chiaki, this is terrific. Thank you," Kouichi said sincerely.
"You're welcome," she said. Kouichi couldn't hold back a smile as she pulled the frog necklace out of the box. "Do you like it?" he asked hopefully.
"I love it!" Chiaki exclaimed. "This is perfect!" She held the pendant up to the light, watching it reflect in the eyes of the frog. Then she turned back to Kouichi and asked shyly, "Um, would you put it on for me?"
"Sure, but it would probably look better on you than it would on me," he cracked as he took the necklace from her. Standing behind her, Kouichi slipped the chain over her neck and clasped it in the back. Turning around to admire his handiwork he said, "You look very nice tonight, Chiaki."
The brown-haired girl blushed. "Thank you."
With a teasing smirk and comical bow Kouichi asked, "Miss, would you do me the honor of allowing me to be your escort to the dance?"
Chiaki giggled. "Why, sir, it would be my pleasure," she replied with a curtsey. He offered her his arm, and together they walked into the gymnasium.
A slow song was playing and there were several couples out on the floor dancing. Among them were Kouji and his girlfriend, Alice. Casually she lifted her head from his shoulder. "Well, look who finally made it in," she remarked, catching sight of the pair just entering the gym. Kouji looked up in time to see his brother and Chiaki step onto the dance floor and join the others who were dancing. It was obvious that they were oblivious to everyone but each other.
"It's about time," Junpei remarked as he and Izumi passed by Kouji and Alice.
"Yeah," agreed Kouji. He then added, "I was right about those two, wasn't I?"
"Your brother was right too; you are turning into a Yenta," Alice teased.
"I am not!" her date exclaimed. His protests, however, went ignored.
Over at a group of chairs that the former Legendary Warriors had claimed for themselves, Takuya and his date sat watching the other couples dancing. The girl pouted as she saw Kouichi and Chiaki out on the floor. "I thought he had other plans tonight and couldn't come to the dance."
Takuya shrugged, tucking an errant lock of purple hair behind her ear. "Plans change," he replied. Then he cupped his hands around his mouth and hollered, "Go Kouichi!"
Out on the floor the couple in question heard Takuya's shout, and both of them blushed furiously. "He hasn't changed much, has he?" Chiaki commented.
"Not really," agreed Kouichi. "Just you wait; I'm going to get back at him." Chiaki giggled. "You know, the others and I meet every week or so at the park to get together and talk. Why don't you, Teppei, Terou and Katsuharu join us sometime? We'd like to know what you guys have been up to since the Digital World."
She grinned. "I'd like that."
The slow song ended, and the DJ put on another tune with a more upbeat tempo. Kouichi spotted Kouji and Alice, and Junpei and Izumi nearby, and Takuya's date pulling him to the dance floor. The pair shifted gears, and Kouichi couldn't help but feel a little bit of pride as he saw the ease with which Chiaki carried herself as they danced together. "You're a pretty good dancer," he complimented.
"Thanks," Chiaki replied, blushing. "I had a great teacher." And they continued to dance as the night went on.
Author's Note: For those of you who weren't completely clear on all of the couples, here's a rundown: Tomoki/Shiuchon, Kouichi/Chiaki, Takuya/Miyako, Kouji/Alice and Junpei/Izumi. And to those of you who didn't read the story and cheated by scrolling down to the end and reading the author's note...shame on you!