Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: This story is dedicated to Takato the Dreamer, who stuck with me until the very end. Cheers!
"What? What's wrong?" I asked, alarmed. The color had drained from his face and the phone had slipped from his fingers; he swayed on the spot and had to hold the edge of the counter. His knuckles turned white with the force of his grip. "Yama?" I approached him and held out my hand. He jumped when my fingers brushed against his, and turned panicked eyes to my face.
"Tai," he whispered, unable to say anything else. He had turned slightly green and I wondered whether he was going to be sick. I frowned and picked the phone off the floor, pressing the play button as I held it to my ear.
"Good afternoon, Mr. Ishida. This is Dr. Takanowa from the Medical Board. I'm calling to inform you that there have been several reports about inappropriate behavior concerning one Taichi Yagami. For now, he has been assigned another physical therapist and, suffice it to say that you will not be receiving any new patients. Your presence is also required at a hearing one week from today, at 2 p.m. I will see you then; we will be discussing your future. Good day."
"Oh shit, Yama, shit," I cursed. "I'm sorry! I didn't mean for this to happen." He was still in shock and I doubted that he even heard me.
"What am I going to do?" he asked, a plea evident in his shaking voice. "How am I going to explain this? How do I explain us?" I watched him, unable to offer any words of reassurance. This was my fault.
"I'm sorry, Yama, I'm so sorry," I said, they were the only words that came into my head. "I'm sorry." I reached toward him to give him a hug—something, anything—but he shied away from me.
"No, Tai. They're right. This is—this is wrong." His face twisted as he said those words and, though I knew he was lying, they still hurt. He continued, his eyes focused on something beyond me, "We can't do this."
"What?" I asked loudly, "What do you mean? Yama, why can't we?"
"Don't you see how this will look to them?" He shook his head, fiercely. "I can't lose my job, Tai. I can't!" And then Yamato crumpled to the floor in a tight, trembling ball. "We can't be together." I could see the effort it took him to say those words, knew how much it cost him, and it made me angry that this is what it would take for him to keep his job.
"No," I shook my head. "No. I didn't flip my entire world upside-down for you just to have you tell me that we can't be together." I put my hand on his shoulder. "I got you into this mess. I'll be damned if you have to get through it without me."
"Tai, they're probably going to call you in. Ask you questions—about me," he winced and pushed his face deeper into his arms, so his next words were muffled, "about us." He looked up at me and put his hands on my cheeks. "I can't make you—I can't make you answer those questions for me." I didn't answer but placed my hands on top of his.
"Come on, Yama, it'll—it'll be okay. We'll get through this. Somehow." He didn't answer, just rose unsteadily and walked back to his room, leaving me alone in the dark.
"Yamato! Yamato, don't think you can just walk away from me with that look on your face and not expect me to ask you what's going on. I can tell something's wrong, dammit," Sora shouted as she pounded angrily on the door.
"Sora?" She gasped and whirled around, clutching her chest.
"Jesus Christ, Tai, don't sneak up on me like that!"
"What's going on?" I asked. "It's a little early to be shouting, don't you think?" She growled angrily, flipping her bangs out of her eyes. Her eyes jumped to the door—as if, by glaring at it, she could burn a hole through the wood.
"There's something wrong with him. I came by, like he asked me to, and when he answered the door, he looked like someone had died. I just about had a heart attack—the way he looked, I thought you had died or run off again or something. And then, when I asked him if he wanted to talk about it, he gave me a completely fake," she raised her voice, presumably so he could hear her from the other side of the door, "smile and told me nothing was wrong." She pulled a disgusted face and ran her fingers through her hair. I frowned and moved toward the door. "Like I'm stupid enough to believe him," she muttered.
"Yama?" I called softly, as she stepped to the side to give me room. "Are you there?" I sighed, "come on, Yama, open the door." There was a pause and the doorknob turned. He stepped out and my jaw dropped; his golden hair was styled neatly today, as opposed to its usual fashionable disarray and he was wearing a black suit that made his skin appear even paler.
"Hey," he whispered. I saw panic in his blue eyes, though he was trying very hard to hide it. The week had flown past; it was time for his hearing and I knew that he was absolutely terrified. We had spent the past seven days in the house; Yamato was too nervous, too anxious, to keep his mind on anything. I was as supportive of him as I knew how to be, was there for him any time he needed me. His agitation often took over at night; the dark and quiet left too much room for thought and his mind supplied him with the worst-case scenarios. I laid awake, hearing his tossing and turning, hearing the whimpers that escaped from him until I couldn't handle it and entered his room, shaking him until he snapped out of whatever nightmares he was having. I ended up sleeping with him six of the seven nights since he'd received the message; it was innocent—he often fell into a deep, dreamless sleep once I'd climbed onto the bed with him—but I was glad that my presence could offer him such comfort. There was little I could say.
As he walked by, I grabbed his hand and tugged on it. His brow furrowed just a bit but he bent toward me and, by stretching my neck, I pressed my lips against his and he reacted in a way I did not expect; his hand threaded in my hair and his mouth was crushed against mine. I could sense his desperation, his need, so I ignored Sora's presence and pulled him closer to me. Vaguely, I realized that this was the most passionate kiss we'd shared; our previous ones had been chaste—almost hesitant, on my part and cautious on his. He ended the kiss and buried his face into my neck, breathing deeply.
"Tai," he breathed. "Oh God, I'm so scared."
"Everything will be fine," I reassured, not completely confident in my words. "You'll see. We'll all have a big laugh once this is over." I glanced at the clock on the wall and noticed it was fifteen to two. "Shit, Yama, you have to go," I slid my hands to his chest and gently eased him away from me.
He nodded and set his jaw, looking like a man who was heading for his death. He walked stiffly and I followed him to the front door, which Sora held open.
"See you later, Tai. Thanks for coming by, Sora," he whispered, not turning to look at me. I nodded though he couldn't see and watched as he drove away, my heart clenching painfully inside my chest. Sora shut the door and heaved a sigh as she placed her hands on her hips.
"What do you want to do?" she asked. I shook my head but she growled, "Don't give me that. You're not going to mope inside all day. So, I'm going to repeat myself and you will have an answer ready." She paused for a moment, then, "what do you want to do?"
"Let's get out of here," I muttered. "I don't know if I can just sit here and wait. I'll jump out of my fucking skin."
"Okay then, let's go." We moved out into the sun, not saying anything. I could sense her watching me with questions in her eyes but I ignored them—she could wait a little while. It wasn't until we were seated in a private area of her favorite café that her patience wore thin and her curiosity burst forth.
"I want to know what exactly is going on, and I want to know now." I winced. When she used that tone of voice, it meant certain death if I didn't comply. "Please?"
"We're together, me and Yama," I mumbled, avoiding her gaze. Even though I wasn't looking at her, I could feel her satisfied smirk, though she dropped it in favor of bombarding me with questions.
"How'd it happen? When did it happen? What's going on with you two now? Where'd Yama go? Why was he so upset?" Her last question was concerned, subdued.
"I don't know how it happened," I answered truthfully. "It just did. And it was last week, exactly one week ago today. I was walking…"
"Wait, you can walk now?" she shrieked. "And why the hell did I not hear about it until now?"
"I was walking," I continued, ignoring her questions, much to her displeasure, "and I tripped and kissed him. It wasn't an accident," I said softly, ducking my head. "And, since then, we've been—together."
"Why wasn't I informed?" she asked, her anger and hurt palpable.
"Because, people saw my accidentally deliberate kiss. And Yama's in deep shit because of it. I didn't want to tell you guys what happened because I knew—I knew you'd be happy for me but it wasn't fair to Yama. He's going to lose his job, Sora. He loves being a therapist and now he's going to lose his job. Because of me. Because of what I did." I bent over the table and clutched my head, wracked with guilt.
"It's not your fault," she whispered.
"You don't understand! It's all my fault!"
"Stop it, Tai," she said firmly, "what's done is done. Okay? Besides, I'm glad you finally had the guts to admit it."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Oh come on," she scoffed, "you can't honestly say that you didn't know you were attracted to him from the moment you met." My mouth opened to voice my protest but I shut it again when I realized that she was right. She smirked widely, crossing her arms in self-satisfaction. I could feel my cheeks warming with my embarrassment but figured that I very much wanted to preserve my dignity by not arguing with her any longer.
"Fine," I mumbled, slightly sheepishly, as the warmth grew on my face. She nodded and, eyes amused, leaned toward me across the table.
"So? What's it like?" her voice was lower, easily lost amidst the happy, busy noise of the bustling café. She was curious, I could tell, but that only made me more self-conscious and I shrugged.
"It's…different," I answered, lowering my voice as well. "I guess it's not that much different from kissing a girl."
"Except that you're kissing another guy," she threw in, as if I needed the clarification. I merely rolled my eyes at her. Our conversation was slightly interrupted as we were served and my half-hearted hopes that she would be distracted from her interrogation went unfulfilled.
"Well?" she asked, through a mouthful of food.
"Well, what?" I muttered almost sullenly.
"Come on, can't a girl ask for details about her best friend's relationship?" she looked at me with wounded eyes. "I'm beginning to think you don't want me to know about it?" The eyes became, if possible, more wounded, as if they would fill up with tears any second. "Why wouldn't you want to tell me, Tai? I'm your best friend." And her lip started trembling.
That did it. No matter how many times she unleashed her kicked-puppy routine on me, I couldn't resist. It always broke my resolve, no matter what I said, no matter how cold-hearted I tried to be, I could never refuse her anything when she did that. The thing was, given my current worries over Yama's hearing and the very public area she had oh-so conveniently chosen to carry on her inquiries, I was not pleased that I was falling for it for the thousandth time since I'd met her.
"What do you want me to tell you, Sora?" I asked, sounding more irritated than I'd meant to. "That I've never felt this way for anyone before? That I would do anything to see him smile? That I want to protect him as best as I can? Because I do. I do, even though I'm starting to sound exactly like one of those clichéd romance movies you hate to watch." A surprised silence followed my outburst and I watched her stare at me with an open mouth.
"Well? Are you just going to stare at me like that all day?" I muttered grumpily, looking away and crossing my arms.
"I'm just…wow," she shook her head, as if clearing it. Then suddenly, she was beaming at me, her smile wide and her face alight with happiness. "Good for you, Tai," she said, with so much sincerity that I knew she wasn't just making fun of me.
"Thanks." We finished eating in silence and, once I'd paid, we left for the park which was quickly becoming one of my favorite places to spend time.
Later that evening, Yamato came home. He didn't say anything to me or Sora, just walked into the house in a daze. He shut the door of his room and there was silence.
We exchanged significant glances. Sora jerked her head in his direction before standing. I waved vaguely at her as she left while I approached the door.
"Yama?" There was no reply. "Yama, I'm coming in now." I opened the door and wheeled inside. He was standing in the middle of the room, his expression shuttered and dark. I didn't like it; he was only a few feet from me but with that look on his face, it felt like he was miles.
"Hey," he said quietly, in a wooden voice.
"How'd it go?"
"Not good." He looked at me, and his face had despair written all over it. "They took away my license. I got fired. It's—it's a mess, Tai. I don't know what I'm going to do."
"Hey," I said, frowning, "it's okay. It's going to be okay. It'll work itself out." I took his hand. "It'll be okay." He laughed humorlessly.
"And what are we going to do? I'm not allowed to practice here anymore."
"Then we'll move," I said. The words took me by surprise but I meant them. Our lives had been turned upside down the day we became more than friends. Maybe it was time for us to start over, find somewhere we wouldn't be judged for loving each other.
"What?" he whispered, looking incredulously at me. "Move?"
"Yeah. I have some money saved up, and I know you do too. I've always wanted to see America. You can go back to school and get your license again. I'll get a job."
"No, Yama. It will work out. We'll make it work out. I swear."
"Tai, we'd be leaving everyone behind. What about them?"
"They'll visit us. And we'll visit them." I met his gaze and his slowly growing smile, and I knew we'd do it. We'd do it and it would work out. It had to.
Five years later…
The doorbell rang.
"Get the door, will you, Tai?" Yama called from the kitchen. "I'm up to my elbows in food. The least you could do is move your lazy ass."
"Hey! You love my lazy ass," I yelled back.
"Hey guys," I said, opening the door. Dai, Kevin, Sora, and Kari barreled in, giving me hugs as they entered the house.
"Dude, no wheelchair!" Dai whooped.
"Nope. Haven't needed one for ages," I replied. My back still hurt every now and then, and I wouldn't ever be well enough to play professionally. But I lived with the best physical therapist I could ask for, and Yama had helped me strengthen the muscles I needed to make up for a weak back.
"How are you doing, Tai?" Kari asked, smiling widely as Sora hugged me.
"I'm great. The team's awesome. I think we've really got a chance to go to nationals."
"Team?" Kevin asked.
"Yeah. I coach a high school team. And I love it." I did. I wouldn't ever play professionally but I made my peace with that.
"Hey everyone," Yamato said, coming into the foyer.
"Lookin' good, Ishida!" Dai whistled. Kevin elbowed him in the ribs and I shot him a filthy look before moving to wrap an arm around Yamato's waist.
"Careful," I warned. "This one's mine."
"Whatever, Tai," Yama said, rolling his eyes even as he grinned. "Why don't you stop being an idiot and show everyone their rooms?" I stuck my tongue out at him.
"Need any help, Yama?" Sora asked.
"Sure," he said and led her to the kitchen. The rest followed me.
That night, Yamato and I lay in bed, each of us lost in our own thoughts. I thought he'd fallen asleep when he suddenly shifted so he could look me in the eye.
"I love you, Tai. I love you so, so much."
"Forever," I agreed. He hummed in pleasure and kissed me.
When I first met him, just the thought of kissing him was weird. Now, I was hopelessly in love with him. And the prospect of forever by his side, sharing life together, was more than I could have ever asked for.