Disclaimer: Digimon wasn't mine ten chapters ago, and it still isn't. Oh well.

Author's notes:
-This chapter is dedicated to Johin. She really helped me work through everything that was wrong with the last chapter to make it better. The new version of that chapter was posted at the end of August.
-A huge THANK YOU to all the reviewers of this story. I know that I don't always respond to reviews since I often don't know what to say or (as was the case since last chapter) I end up too busy, but I always appreciate each and every review that I get. I reread reviews often, so don't be surprised if you end up getting a reply to a review left months ago!
-I am so, so sorry that this chapter took so long. I just graduated from college, and that last term was horribly busy. I wanted to have the chapter done in time for Christmas, but I had trouble finding inspiration again. So here it is, as a rather late Christmas/New Year's gift!
-As a reminder, I'm using the American names when referring to the TV show of Digimon, and the Japanese names when referring to the "real people."
-This here is a Taito. No lemon/lime, but there will be fluff. So if you don't like male/male pairings, don't read it!

--

The Eleventh Pieces: Playing for Keeps

It was good to see Takeru again.

The little boy from the dreams and his sole picture was gone, replaced by a young man, lanky and tall and handsome, but something of the little boy he'd once been still shone through the older exterior. He was still undeniably Takeru.

"I've really missed you," Yamato said again, hugging Takeru tighter. His brain, which had seemed to stop the second he'd seen the boy standing in the Yagami family's kitchen, was slowly catching up with him. "What are you doing here?"

Takeru pulled out of Yamato's arms, but Yamato grabbed his hands, unwilling to break physical contact, lest Takeru vanish. "Hikari and I are friends," Takeru explained. "I ran into her and her friend—Sora?—recognized me. I've been looking for you, oniisan."

"But what are you doing here, in Odaiba?" Yamato attempted to clarify. He didn't want to question Takeru's presence in the kitchen, but for his brother to be in Odaiba at all seemed too good to be true.

"I live here again. We moved back, mom and I. I don't think she wanted to, but her office needed her here."

Yamato glanced at the others in the kitchen, looking for some sort of reassurance that he wasn't hallucinating. Sora and Hikari were smiling warmly at the brothers. Taichi had a smile on his face, but something darker was flickering in his eyes. Still, it didn't seem that Taichi's expression was one that he would've given a crazy person, so Yamato cautiously let go of Takeru's hands, silently praying that his brother's presence was not a dream. When Takeru was still there after his hands had been released, Yamato let out a small sigh of relief and tried to relax. "So… you're back?" he asked quietly. "For good?"

"Unless mom gets transferred again… yeah. I'm back." Takeru smiled and laughed lightly. "Actually, I'm kind of hoping that mom and dad will get back together. Maybe we could set them up…"

Yamato suddenly felt cold, color draining from his face. He quickly turned away from Takeru. "That can't happen," he said, trying to keep the ice out of his voice. He'd suspected before that Takeru had never been told about the accident, but with the suspicion confirmed, it was going to be hard to tell him…

"I-I know that they weren't on good terms the last time we lived here, but they've had time apart, and maybe…"

Yamato turned to Takeru again, drawing him back into a hug. He took a deep breath and braced himself for what was to come. It was hard for him to say it, but he knew it would be worse for Takeru to hear it. "Takeru…" he said softly, his voice wavering slightly, "dad is dead."

Takeru stiffened in his arms. "…What?" the younger boy choked out.

"He died a little over a year ago," Yamato explained. "I'm sorry, Takeru."

A few drops of moisture dampened Yamato's shirt as Takeru buried his head against his brother's chest. There was a pause, and then the floodgates opened and Takeru began to sob.

Yamato squeezed his eyes shut and simply held his brother closer.

--

Jealousy was a funny thing, Taichi had decided. A funny, illogical, and cruel thing.

Yes, the thing he'd felt rear its ugly head upon Takeru's appearance was definitely jealousy. Takeru was now sobbing against Yamato's chest, and instead of feeling glad that the brothers had been reunited or feeling sympathy for the young man who had just found out that his father was dead, Taichi only wanted Takeru to be somewhere other than in Yamato's arms.

Logic reasoned that they were brothers, and they hadn't seen each other in years. Jealousy bit back that Takeru had only been in the room for all of five seconds before Yamato had initiated physical contact. Yamato never initiated physical contact with anyone.

Taichi didn't want to be there any longer.

Sora and Hikari were still standing at the kitchen's entrance, worried looks on their faces. Taichi quietly crossed the room to where they were and whispered, "Let's leave them alone."

"But…" Sora began to protest.

Taichi cut off her objection, "The only one here that understands what Takeru is going through right now is Yamato. We're just in the way."

Sora and Hikari shared a look and then nodded slowly, allowing Taichi to usher them out of the kitchen. As he left, he gave Yamato one last glance.

He knew he was jealous, he just didn't know why.

--

Takeru had finished crying, but made no move to pull away from his brother. He held Yamato's shirt clenched in his hands, and the shirt was wet from his tears. He sniffed softly, trying to find a voice with which to speak.

"Yamato," he eventually managed in a hoarse whisper, "I think you should talk to mom."

"I have nothing to say to her," Yamato said curtly. Takeru winced slightly at his brother's tone.

"But…" he protested weakly, looking up at Yamato, "if dad's dead, why aren't you living with us? Why—does mom know?"

"She was at the funeral," Yamato replied in the same frosty tone as before.

Takeru looked down again, resting his forehead against Yamato. "So… why?"

"She doesn't want me, Takeru. And I don't need her."

Takeru shook his head. "That's all wrong; it has to be! Please, oniisan, just talk to her… for me?" he pleaded, trying his best not to cry again. "I want all of us to be together again… but I guess that's impossible now, isn't it?"

Yamato sighed lightly. "I'll… I'll talk to her. But not now. Not today."

"Okay," Takeru said, nodding slightly. "Thank you."

"Don't thank me yet. I don't know if she and I can even have a civil conversation."

"But you'll try, right?" Takeru asked hopefully.

"I'll try, but I can't guarantee that she will," he said bitterly.

Takeru frowned. "Yamato…" he warned.

"Sorry," his brother muttered. "I'll be on my best behavior; I promise."

"When will you talk to her?" Takeru asked, pulling away.

Yamato looked away. "I don't know. Later. Sometime later."

Takeru bit his lip, thinking. "How about… How about next weekend? Would that be enough time?"

Yamato was silent, but nodded his consent after a moment. The silence was broken seconds later by the ringing of Takeru's cellphone. He answered it quickly, startled. "Hello?"

"Takeru," his mother's voice came, "I just got home… Where are you?"

"I'm at Hikari's; sorry, I forgot to leave a note," Takeru answered.

"That's fine," Natsuko said sweetly. "I just wanted to maker sure everything was all right."

"Everything's fine, mom."

Takeru glanced up at Yamato, who was frowning. "Can you stay for dinner?" Yamato asked softly.

Takeru grinned at his brother. "I'm going to have dinner over here," he said into the cellphone. "I'll be home later tonight."

"Okay, dear. Have a good time."

"I will. Bye mom."

He heard the faint click of Natsuko hanging up the phone, and he closed the cellphone, pocketing it. He glanced at the two plates on the table—one had been polished off, and the other hadn't been touched. Yamato moved to the table and silently wrapped the uneaten food from the second plated, putting it in the refrigerator.

"Didn't you already eat?" Takeru asked.

"Taichi did, but he's always hungry," Yamato explained, retrieving fresh food from the refrigerator.

Takeru watched Yamato set the ingredients on the counter and pull out utensils. "You cook now?"

Yamato smiled. "Yeah," he answered. "I always cooked for dad—he was hopeless in the kitchen, and you can only eat out so often before you get sick of it." He looked at the food spread across the counter. "If Sora is still here, could you ask her if she'd like to stay for dinner?"

Takeru nodded and headed out of the kitchen. He found Sora with Taichi and Hikari in the living room. Sora and Taichi were speaking to each other in harsh whispers, but they stopped as soon as they noticed Takeru.

"Are you okay?" Hikari asked gently.

Takeru nodded. "Yeah." He looked at Sora, who was frowning at Taichi. "Sora," he said, getting the girl's attention, "Yamato wants to know if you'd like to stay for dinner."

Sora smiled. "I'd love to. I haven't had Mattie's cooking since before…" she trailed off, shifting uncomfortably.

"…since before dad died?" Takeru queried softly.

"…Um… yeah…" she confirmed in a small voice, dropping her eyes to the floor.

Taichi stuffed his hands into his pockets. "I'm going to talk to Yamato. I'll let him know that Sora's staying." He quickly shuffled towards the kitchen, disappearing from view.

The frown reappeared on Sora's face as she watched Taichi leave, and Hikari crossed the room to where Takeru stood. "Are you sure you're all right?" she asked softly.

"I can't say I'm happy, but… I'm over the shock," he replied. "But I'll be fine… Even thought dad's not here any more, at least I found Yamato."

--

"Sora says she'll say," Taichi declared as he entered the kitchen.

"Okay," Yamato confirmed, glancing up from the meat he was cleaning. "Thanks."

"Sure." Taichi looked down at the ground and then sat at the table silently. He wanted to talk to Yamato, but was at a loss for words… There was one question at the front of his mind, but he was afraid to learn the answer.

Yamato's back was turned to Taichi, and the brunette watched him as he went about preparing food for the five of them. After several silent minutes passed, Yamato spoke softly, "I want to thank you for leaving us alone after I told Takeru about dad. It… made things a little easier. Neither of us needed people watching that."

Taichi bit his lip, staring at the table. He couldn't tell Yamato that he'd taken Sora and Hikari and left for his own sake rather than for the sake of the brothers. He's left to stop the jealousy that had been gnawing at his insides, but it hadn't even worked… He had still known that Yamato was with his brother, comforting him, and that unsettling feeling refused to die down, even while Sora had been trying to convince him that the brothers needed them in there for comfort and support. Or so she had claimed, at least—when he'd asked, she didn't have a response for how their presence was supposed to be comforting to the blondes.

And now, Yamato was thanking him for a selfish action. The jealous feeling had finally died down, only to be replaced by guilt. "No problem," Taichi finally mumbled in reply. He was silent for a while longer until he worked up the courage to ask the question that had been on his mind since the revelation that Takeru was Yamato's brother. "…Are you… are you going to live with Takeru and your mom now?"

Yamato made no reply, continuing his preparations. After several silent minutes, Yamato slid the food into the oven and turned to Taichi. "As long as your parents don't mind… I'd like to stay here with you." He looked down to study his socks, missing Taichi's smug, triumphant smile. "I've missed Takeru so much, and living him again would be like a dream, but that woman would make it a nightmare. My mother and I can't stand each other; I'd rather go back to supporting myself until graduation than having to live under the same roof as her."

Taichi's grin wavered. He hadn't won over Takeru after all… But still, Taichi told himself firmly, even if it's just to avoid his mom, he said he wants to live here… with me.

"I'm sure mom and dad won't mind," Taichi assured Yamato. "They like you."

Yamato looked back up and gave Taichi a dazzling smile. "I hope you're right," he said.

Taichi was stunned. He'd never seen Yamato smile like that before, and the smile replaced any lingering jealousy and guilt with some odd, nervous feeling that he couldn't quite name. He wanted to look away, to hide the blush he suspected must have been creeping onto his face, but he couldn't manage to tear his eyes away from the blonde. Even when Yamato turned his back to Taichi in order to clean up, the brunette couldn't look away from him, and again couldn't find anything to say.

But he was desperate to say something, anything. "So…" he started, grasping at words, trying to find a topic of conversation, "you… you and Takeru are brothers. I feel like I should have seen it earlier; you two look just like each other—Hikari even pointed out before how similar you look."

Taichi suddenly looked down at the table, clamping his mouth shut. He may have wanted to talk to Yamato, but he hadn't wanted to ramble… especially about Takeru. He didn't want to talk about Takeru at all, really, but he just had to go and bring Yamato's little brother up again.

Brilliant job, Taichi, he thought sullenly. Just brilliant.

Yamato finished his cleaning and joined Taichi at the table. The blonde was practically glowing now. "I'd always worried that I wouldn't recognize Takeru," he confided, lacing his fingers together. "That even if we met on the street, we wouldn't know each other any more, wouldn't recognize each other, and would miss each other completely. Of course, I was also afraid that we'd never see each other again at all, but the fear we wouldn't recognize each other was greater. I'm…. I'm so glad that I knew it was him."

A small smile crept onto Taichi's face in spite of himself. He may not have wanted to talk about Takeru, but Yamato was being so very honest and open with him that he couldn't help but be happy. But there was one other question that was starting to bother him more and more… He knew Takeru's mom. Not as well as Hikari did, or Takeru, but well enough to know that she wasn't the person Yamato had described her to be. Takaishi-san had always seemed really nice… Taichi wanted to ask about the apparent bad blood between her and her eldest son, but he didn't want to spoil Yamato's exceedingly good mood, so he chose to remain silent. He'd take Yamato's word for it for now.

…Still, there had to be more to the story.

--

It was nearly midnight by the time Takeru finally decided he had better head home. Sora had left shortly after dinner, saying that she had to help her mother close their flower shop, but Takeru stayed as long as he could just to talk with Yamato in an attempt to make up for lost time.

"You shouldn't walk home alone," Yamato said, blocking Takeru's path to the door.

Takeru shook his head. "I'll be fine, oniisan. It's only a few blocks away, and I have my cellphone."

"But… it's dark…" his brother protested.

Takeru laughed. It felt so good to have Yamato worry over him again, even if it was unnecessary. He hadn't realized just how much he'd missed Yamato always being there until seeing him again… "Really, I'll be fine. I can call mom and have her pick me up if you're that worried."

Yamato frowned at the mention of their mother. "I can just walk you there…"

"And walk back by yourself?" Takeru questioned, a smirk tugging on his lips. If it was being alone at night that Yamato was so worried about, he had his brother cornered.

Yamato opened his mouth to protest, but Taichi interrupted, "I'll go with you two. That way, neither of you'll walk home alone."

Takeru nodded in assent, and Yamato smiled at Taichi in thanks. "I'll come, too!" Hikari chimed in, getting up to join them.

"No way; you're staying here," Taichi quickly declared. Then, with a teasing smile, "We'll be back in an hour or so. Don't stay up waiting for us."

Hikari stuck her tongue out at her brother, but didn't protest. She waved goodbye to them as the three boys headed out of the apartment and downstairs to the street.

"So…" Takeru started, still wanting to talk with his brother more. He would have stayed at the Yagami apartment longer if he could have, but he had school in the morning and didn't want to worry his mom. "I've heard about what you've been up to since we moved, and all about the bet you two made to become friends—"

"It wasn't a bet, it was a promise," Taichi cut in, protesting.

"I agree with Takeru; it was a bet," Yamato argued. "One you almost lost."

"I did not almost lose it! You're the one who got the date wrong!"

"Wrong date or not, I would have never spoken to you again if you hadn't been so damn persistent. If you hadn't shown up on my doorstep when you did, I'd hate you. I'm not sure why I forgave you, really…" Yamato trailed off loftily.

"Gee thanks," Taichi pouted. "Nice to know you care."

Yamato laughed, and Takeru continued, "Anyway, I heard about all that, but I still want to know more! It's been so long that your tastes are bound to have changed… What do you like nowadays? What're your hobbies, and that kind of thing?"

"My likes?" Yamato questioned, thinking. "I like music still. And I like cooking a lot. And ice cream, and windows."

"And me!" Taichi volunteered.

"And annoying brunettes who don't know when to quit," Yamato deadpanned. Taichi stuck his tongue out at Yamato, who simply laughed again.

Takeru smiled at the two friends as they started bantering again. It was a side of Yamato that he hadn't seen before. He and his brother had been close, but not in the teasing way that Hikari and Taichi were; Yamato had never been like this with any of his friends when they'd been young. His smile grew, and he found himself laughing along with Taichi and Yamato as they continued teasing each other. Before he knew it, they'd arrived at his building. Yamato remained in the lobby, but Taichi followed Takeru upstairs.

"I'm back!" Takeru called as he opened the door and stepped inside. He knew his mom would still be awake; she always waited up for him when he was out late. Within seconds, Natsuko appeared in the hallway.

"Welcome back," she greeted, smiling. "Oh, Taichi, it's good to see you again."

Taichi smiled at her. "Nice to see you, too. Sorry we kept Takeru so late."

"Oh, that's fine. I know how much he enjoys being with you and Hikari," she said sweetly. "You didn't walk here, did you? I can drive you home…"

"Thank you, but I'll be fine. I've got a friend waiting for me downstairs," Taichi said smoothly. "It was nice seeing you again. Bye Takaishi-san, bye Takeru." He waved and walked away, returning to Yamato.

"Did you have a good time?" Natsuko asked Takeru once he'd closed the door behind Taichi.

Takeru smiled, thinking about everything that had happened that day. "Yeah," he replied. "I did."

--

Closing the shop had taken much longer that night than usual; it was just after midnight when Sora and her mother finally headed to their rooms above the shop.

"Oh, I'd almost forgotten!" Toshiko said, pausing in front of her bedroom door. "One of your friends stopped by this afternoon with a package for you. I put it on your desk."

"Thanks, mom," Sora replied with a smile. She'd been with Hikari all day, Taichi and Yamato had been together, Koushirou wasn't speaking with her, and she couldn't remember any of her out-of-town friends saying they'd be in Odaiba. Who else would've come over?

Entering her room, she crossed over to her desk, where a small, flat box wrapped in brown paper sat. Pulling off the paper carefully, she was greeted with a CD case that featured a cute illustration of Biyomon on the cover. Curious, she turned on her computer—a pretty white and pink Pineapple laptop—and popped the CD inside. She checked her email as the software was being installed, hoping to have received something from Koushirou. She sighed; there were no new messages.

The program starting running as soon as installation had finished, and Sora stared at the screen in surprise. She grabbed the CD case to see if there was some sort of manual that would explain this, but no luck. This had to be Koushirou's doing.

An animated rendition of Biyomon was on her screen, with a speech bubble floating above its head. "Hello Sora!" it read.

Sora hesitantly clicked on the Digimon, which ruffled its feathers at the action. She pressed a letter on the keyboard, and it popped up in a bubble underneath the greeting.

'Hello,' Sora typed.

"I have a message from Tentomon," Biyomon said. "Would you like to hear it?"

Sora blinked. Message? 'Yes,' she typed.

"Tentomon says, 'Koushirou-han says he's sorry, Sora.'"

"Kou-chan…" Sora whispered, choking back a laugh. "That's just like you, isn't it? Can't even let us apologize to each other in person…"

'Let Koushirou know I forgive him,' she typed, smiling. She blinked away a few tears that were starting to form in her eyes. 'And tell him that I'm sorry, too.'

"Okay, Sora!"

Sora leaned back in her chair and smiled. Everything was going to be okay again.

--

Closing notes: Finally up! Since there's nothing cliffy in this chapter, I'll leave you with this thought: doomsday is coming. Discuss.
Also, for those of you who like Kingdom Hearts, I might have a KH2 AkuRoku fic coming up soon. It kills me to start something else before I finish A Million Pieces, but the idea just won't leave me alone. Anyway, review if you'd like, and I'll see you next chapter!