Disclaimer: Digimon Tamers does not belong to me! Neither do Ryo, Ruki, or any of the Digimon.
Ruki should have known that her day was going too smoothly. It was the weekend - no school to get in her way. There hadn't been any Digimon appearances in almost a week, the most recent being a flock of Birdramon who had taken almost no effort to discourage. Most of them had gone home quietly rather than make a fuss, and the one who remained stayed only because it had struck up a friendship with a local child. Those were the new rules: any Digimon who was able to find itself a proper partner to keep it under control was welcome to stay in the real world. Ruki and the other Tamers had been the first to receive written permissions, once their partners had returned to them.
She almost smiled as she admired her reflection in a storefront window. Her mother had actually complimented her on her outfit today, and it was no mean feat to find something Ruki's mother approved of that Ruki herself felt like wearing. Summer vacation was in full swing, and Ruki's choice of clothing today was a purple tank top, a few shades darker than her eyes, and khaki shorts. Instead of her usual ponytail, she'd opted to keep her hair out of her face by means of a folded bandana. It was simple enough that Ruki wouldn't feel silly wearing it, but apparently stylish enough to pass muster.
"Clothes are more trouble than they're worth," she said to herself, adjusting the strap on her shirt. "Life would be easier if I had fur like Renamon."
She continued up the street, keeping a steady pace, weaving in and out among slower-moving travelers that blocked her way. She was on a mission. It had come to her attention that a local comic shop had picked up a crate of limited edition cards, and her mother had given her a generous loan to buy some. Still, at the rate word got around, it was possible that Ruki might get there and find they were all sold out. The idea of someone else getting first choice of rare cards and using them against her in the next tournament was almost more than she could stand.
There was a knot of people in her way, in the form of a large number of people trying to crowd their way into a movie theater. Ruki tried her best to shove her way through them, and was just considering making a dash to the other side of the street in spite of the oncoming traffic, when she heard a voice.
She looked up. Sitting a short distance away was Ryo. He was resting on a bench, his chin propped in his hands, looking quite unlike his usual jaunty self.
"Hey, Ryo," she said. "What's your problem?"
"I'm trying to figure out how to get home."
"Don't tell me you've forgotten how to get home," she said.
He rolled his eyes. "I am not nearly that stupid."
"Oh, yeah? Then why do you need to figure out how to get home? Don't your feet work anymore?"
He colored a little. "It's not my feet that are the problem."
"Well, what is?"
Ryo looked left and right, as if he was about to impart a precious secret that couldn't be trusted to common ears. He beckoned her closer, and she took a few steps closer and leaned down so she could hear him better. Cupping his hands to his mouth, he whispered, "It's my pants."
"Your what?" she exclaimed, loud enough to make a few people look around and stare at her. Ryo glowered at them, and they looked away again.
"Yes," he said. "If you must know, I was down at the comic shop, getting some of those new cards-"
"That's where I'm going. Do they have any left?"
"I sneaked a look in the back, and they have tons. They're just saying they don't have many to get people excited. Anyway, that's not the point. Are you listening to me or not?"
"No, not really."
"Look, the point is, I got a few packs, and then I stopped to look at something else, and I accidentally dropped them behind a display case," Ryo went on quickly, before she could walk away. "I didn't want to leave them there, so I bent over as far as I could to try to grab them, and, well..."
"You split your seams," she finished. "I've been telling you for ages you were getting too big for your britches, and you didn't believe me."
Ryo glowered. "You have no sympathy."
"Nope. That's what you get for buying those fancy designer jeans. You ought to get some like mine. They're meant to stand up to anything."
"Oho!" said Ryo, grinning. "Are you saying you want me to get in your pants?"
"That's it, I just lost all interest in helping you out," said Ruki. She began walking away.
"Oh, c'mon! Can't you take a joke? I won't make any more, I promise!"
"What's the statute of limitations on that promise?"
"As long as I can resist. Were you going to help me?"
Ruki leaned casually against a nearby wall and stared thoughtfully up at the sky. "Maybe. Maybe not. Where's your partner? Can't Cyberdramon just fly you home?"
"You know I can't be dragging him into town all the time. It's not safe," said Ryo. "Do you remember what happened the time I let him into that shopping center?"
Ruki paused a moment to recount that episode in all its shocking detail. That had been quite a day, and she wasn't likely to forget it any time soon - largely because she never forgot anything that embarrassed Ryo. It was probable that neither he nor his descendants for the next few generations would ever be allowed in that store after that particular incident.
"Well, okay, then, forget that idea," she said. She thought about it a while. "I guess I could help you, but... I dunno. I really wanted some of those cards before they're all sold out. Maybe I'll just let you sit here on this bench until I get back."
"Have a heart," he begged. "Look, I'll give you mine, okay? Help me out and I'll give you some of my cards."
"You aren't in any position to bargain, you know. You want me to do you favors, you've gotta pay up."
"All right, all right, you can have them," said Ryo. "After you help me. I don't trust you."
"Now you're using your head. Here." She whipped her bandanna off her head and handed it to him. "Here. Tuck that in back, so you won't be showing your behind to all of Tokyo."
Ryo grimaced at it. "It's pink."
"It's not pink, it's purple. I don't wear pink."
"Well, you were wearing this, and it's pink."
"No, it's not. It's lavender. That's a shade of purple."
"Well, when I wear this shade of pink, it's purple," she said. "My mom bought it for me. It keeps my hair out of my eyes. Do you want to go home or not?"
He sighed, took the bandanna, and tucked it into the back of his pants, creating an effective curtain for the offending tear.
"There you go," she said. "Much better."
"I feel ridiculous."
"Think of it this way - maybe you'll start a new fashion trend," said Ruki dryly. "Now, come on."
"Where are we going?" Ryo asked, following along beside her.
He gave her a look. "The point is to get to my house, Ruki."
"So go, if you want to. I was just going to offer to sew your pants back together, but if you really don't mind walking halfway across the city with a pink flag on your butt..."
"You said it was purple."
"I said it was purple when I wear it," she answered, "but you're wearing it now, so now it's pink."
"Who made you the fashion expert?"
"My mom. You coming or not?"
"I might as well. I'm beginning to think I would have been safer asking anyone else but you for help."
"Come on. It's not far."
They walked a short distance, Ruki setting a brisk pace, with Ryo slinking along behind her. A few people, recognizing the famous card-players and Tamers, turned their heads to watch them. At least one pointed at the pink bandanna and whispered something to her friend. Ryo groaned inwardly.
Thankfully, it really wasn't that far to Ruki's house. Ryo darted through the front gate with relief, and even found the presence of mind to look around admiringly, once he'd reached the safety of her front porch.
"This place blows me away every time I come here," he said. "A real palace for you, princess."
Ruki rolled her eyes. "My mom is the princess. I'd just as soon camp out in the back yard."
They went inside, and Ruki made a quick check of the premises. Her mother was at work, of course, and a peek out the window showed Ruki that her grandmother was outside working in the garden. Ruki knew from experience that she could and would happily spend hours out there, pulling weeds, or whatever it was she did.
"You're in luck - we're on our own," she said.
Ryo gave a theatrical sigh, resting a hand over his forehead in a mock-swoon. "My fondest wish granted!"
"Ha, ha. You're funny. I was just thinking, it would be a little tough to explain to my mom why you're hanging around with no pants. Grandma would listen to explanations, but Mom would get hysterical first and ask questions later."
"Run by that bit about me standing around with no pants one more time."
"Well, how do you expect me to fix them if you're still wearing them?"
"You can sew?"
Ruki gave him a cold look. "I'm not helpless, you know."
"I know, I know, but sewing is so... feminine."
"Who says I can't be feminine once in a while?"
"Touche," said Ruki. "All, right, all right, you want to know the truth? I tore my clothes up one too many times and got sick of running to my grandma every time I destroyed my favorite pair of jeans, and I hate having to go buy new ones. So I got her to teach me to sew. It's easy. Even you could do it."
Ryo drew himself up. "I'll have you know, I can if I want to. How do you think my clothes survived all that time in the Digital World? I didn't know before I went, but I do now."
"But sewing is so feminine."
Ryo stuck his tongue out at her.
"Hey, what goes around, comes around. Now, let's go to my room and get you out of those pants."
"I always dreamed you'd be saying that to me, someday," said Ryo dryly. "Hey, now you'll get the answer to the question the whole world is wondering."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?"
"Does he wear boxers or briefs?"
"I couldn't care less."
"Come on, admit it - you know it crossed your mind."
"Believe me, Ryo, the less time I have to spend thinking about your underwear, the happier I'll be."
"Don't you even want to know what color they are?"
"You're no fun."
"Get inside," she said, pointing at her room. "I'm going to get some supplies."
Ryo complied, slipping through the door and closing it behind him. A few minutes later, he opened it again, just long enough to drop a neatly folded cloth bundle in the hall. Ruki returned, picked it up, and studied it. Sure enough, the pair of pants had a sizeable rip in the back seam - she could have easily put her hand through it. She smiled a little, imagining Ryo trying to make it home holding his pants shut with one hand. Settling down next to the door, she put the clothing on her lap and began threading a needle with tough blue thread.
"You'd better not be messing those up," said Ryo from behind the door. "Those are designer jeans, you know. They cost a fortune."
"If I was as vain about clothes as you are, living with my mom would be so much easier."
"I'm not vain. I just want to play to my strengths."
"Fine. You play dress-up, and I'll play cards."
"Hey, you haven't proven you can beat me, yet," he said. "Hey, want to play a game of strip poker? You've already got a head start."
"If this is winning, I'd prefer to lose."
"Are you saying you'd rather take your clothes off for me?"
"Are you saying you'd enjoy it?"
Ryo skipped a beat. "Ack! I don't think I can answer that one without leaving myself open for a pounding... and you've got me at a disadvantage. I'll pass, thanks."
Ruki said nothing, only smiled smugly at having scored a point over him, and went back to her sewing. She was actually quite good at it; she'd always been talented with her hands. Even as a small child, she'd been more interested in jigsaw puzzles and building blocks than the dolls her mother had tried desperately to interest her in. She had already covered a third of the tear. Behind her, she could hear Ryo, apparently bored by her silence, bumping around her room.
"Don't you break anything," she warned him.
"I won't, I won't," he called. Ruki heard a muffled whump. "Hey, Ruki, guess what?"
"What?" she asked guardedly.
"I'm in your bed... in my underwear. What images does that bring up?"
"Scary ones. Get out of there before I strangle you with this thread."
"Geez, touchy!" he said. "Are you that uptight, or are you just repressing something?"
"I'm going to repress your pants down the garbage chute in a minute."
"All right, all right, I'll shut up already. Some people just can't take a joke."
"And some people take their joking too far. If Renemon were here, I'd send her in there to teach you some manners."
"Where is she, anyway?"
"Out and about. Just because we're partners doesn't mean we have to spend every minute of every day together. She's got a life of her own."
"Yeah. Come to think of it, didn't I see her hanging out with Impmon at the park the other evening?"
"Maybe so. She does that some times."
"Think they'd make an item?"
"What? No!" said Ruki. "Well, maybe. But if they have, they haven't told me about it, and I think Renamon would tell me if it was serious."
"Yeah, you're probably right."
Ruki nodded, satisfied that he had agreed with her, and tied off her thread. She held the pants up to admire her work. She could no longer see daylight through them, which she considered a definite improvement to the state they'd been in a few minutes ago.
"There - all done," she said. "Told you it would be easy."
"About time," said Ryo. He stepped out into the hallway to have a look at them. Ruki had a look at him.
"Why do you have little hearts on your boxers?" she asked him.
Ryo blushed. "They were a gift, okay?"
He grinned wickedly. "A fangirl. Why, are you jealous?"
Ruki flushed. "No."
"Oh, well," said Ryo. "Actually my mom gave them to me for Christmas last year. I just wanted to see what you'd say."
"You have a dirty mind, Ryo."
"Yeah, and you've been matching me point for point all day. You must have a dirtier one."
"No, just a better one."
Just then, a door opened, and Ruki's grandmother walked by, carrying a trowel and a gardening fork. She looked down at Ruki, who was still holding Ryo's pants, and at Ryo, who was still doing without. He turned his baby-blue eyes to her and grinned innocently. Ruki just sighed. Her grandmother raised her eyebrows.
"I'm assuming," she said, "that there is a good explanation for this. I'm also assuming I probably don't really want to know."
"You don't," said Ryo.
"It's completely innocent, Grandma," said Ruki.
"Mostly innocent," Ryo corrected.
"He ripped his pants and I said I'd fix them for him," Ruki said. "That's all. And I regretted it before I even started, and I probably won't ever do anything like it again."
"Well, I suppose that's all right," her grandmother replied. "I'll just let you finish up, then." She walked away, looking rather as if she were trying hard not to smile.
"That just puts the cap on my day," said Ruki. "I get to be embarrassed in front of my family."
"You did say, better your grandma found us than your mom," Ryo reminded her.
"I guess I did. I jinxed myself. Anyway, here." She threw his jeans at him. "Spare my eyes and put these back on."
"If you insist," said Ryo. He held them up and admired her work. "Not bad, not bad. I can hardly tell anything happened to them. We might make a girl out of you, yet."
"Just put your pants on, Ryo."
"All right, all right. Have it your way. I was getting comfortable like this." He wriggled back into his clothes and buttoned them back up. "Good as new. Thanks, Ruki. Under all your talk, you're a pretty decent girl."
"Oh, go on," she said, rolling her eyes.
"Anyway, here's your bandanna back," he said, offering the scrap of cloth to her. She pinched it between two fingers and made a face.
"I am not putting this back in my hair," she said. "Not after it's been touching your butt. I'm going to have to wash this. Twice."
"That's not nice."
"Do you want to put it on your head?"
"Now that you mention it... no."
"Well, there you go."
Ryo tossed off a salute. "Well, thanks again. Now I'd better get back home before my dad strips a thread - I told him I'd be home an hour ago. Later!"
"Ah, ah, ah! Not so fast!"
"What?" Ryo asked, gazing blankly at her.
Ruki held out her hand in a "gimme" gesture. "Aren't you forgetting something?"
Ryo grinned sheepishly. "Would you believe me if I said I forgot?"
"Darn." He reached in his pocket. "Well, deal's a deal. Here you go."
He handed her three shiny new packs of cards, still in their glittery wrappers. Ruki took them and made them disappear into her own pockets with a speed that was almost magical.
"Now you can go," she said.
"I should be glad to get out of here," he said, "but I'm not. It's been... interesting. See ya around, Ruki!"
"Later, Ryo. Have a nice walk home."
As Ryo sauntered off, secure in the fact that he was no longer treating everyone behind him to a view of his little-red-heart-dotted boxes, Ruki wondered if she ought to tell him that he'd neglected to zip his fly. She thought not. A smart boy like him would figure it out... eventually.