A/N: First of all, wow...just wow. I REALLY fail at life. lol I haven't updated this in about four years, if not more, and for that I'm sorry. I was just distracted by real life (you know, that annoying thing that always gets in the way?), and I didn't have much time for writing like I did in college. I know that's no excuse, and I probably lost the majority of my readership, but I want you to know that I DO want to continue this. Taiora is the first couple I ever shipped (about 14 years ago!), so I have a special place for them in my heart.
Anywhos, you guys will FINALLY find out Sora's secret in this chapter, so hopefully it's not too disappointing. Sorry for making you wait so dang long! I know if I were you, I'd be pretty darn upset! But with that said, enjoy! ;)
CH 10: The Truth Hurts
Safe. That was the one word that resounded over and over inside Sora's mind, and as she tucked her head beneath Tai's chin, she knew then that she wouldn't have done anything differently. Tai, she realized, had always fully understood her. And what's more, Tai actually loved her.
With tears coming to her eyes, she clutched his lithe frame until he gave a groggy, yet laughter-filled, "Ow... What have you been doing all night, lifting weights?"
Embarrassed, Sora released him and looked up into his amused gaze, his hand brushing back her hair as he kissed her forehead.
With a lump forming in her throat, she feebly choked out, "Oh, Tai, I...I don't deserve you..."
"Hm?" Pulling away in confusion, he couldn't help but grin as he teased, "What, so cuddling is above and beyond what you deserve? Don't be silly, Sora."
"No, it's just that I...I..." Trailing off, she bowed her head and swallowed back her nausea. She had to tell him the truth - it wasn't fair to keep him in the dark any longer, and he deserved to know what had inevitably destroyed their relationship as children.
But with Tai staring at her with such warmth - such love - she was finding it very difficult to form her thoughts into words. How could she break his heart? How could she even think of destroying what they'd worked so hard to rekindle?
Releasing a breath she wasn't aware of having held, Sora took Tai's hands in hers and smiled weakly. By now there were tears in her eyes, and she wilted beneath his gaze as he immediately grew concerned.
"Sora? Hey c'mon, what's wrong? You don't regret what's happened between us, do you?"
"No," she miserably choked out, "never that, I just...just..."
"Oh, Tai... This is all such a mess!" Burying her face against his chest, the redhead wept with a bitterness attributed to her long-kept secret. With her hands curling in between them, she sniffed and managed to whisper, "I'm sorry for everything, Tai... I never meant to hurt you. I know I should've chosen you over Matt, but I was so scared!"
Beyond confused, Tai forced her to return his gaze as he demanded, "What's all this about, huh? You're not making much sense, and you're beginning to scare me..."
"It's always been you, Tai," Sora answered just as cryptically. "Always. I never loved Matt - at least, not in the way a woman should love a man - but I chose him since I didn't want to put you through any pain." Now placing her hands on his shoulders, her eyes grew sorrowful as she confessed, "The week I chose Matt, I found out something that drove me away from you. I never wanted to tell anyone since I was afraid they'd tell you everything, but somehow Matt was able to guess...and since he seemed so calm about the whole thing, I just went ahead and decided to be with him, instead. I knew that Matt wouldn't care too much if I...if I were to..."
"What?" Tai pressed, his features almost haggard due to his nerves. "C'mon, Sor, this isn't fair... Stop being so goddamn evasive!"
Bursting into fresh tears, Sora covered her face and wailed, "Oh Tai, I'm dying! Why do you think Matt and I never had children? I love kids, but I could never bring them into the world when I had such a close expiration date!"
Tai felt as if a ton of bricks had been dropped onto his chest, his breathing heavy and labored as he accused, "No... You're lying..."
"Oh Tai, I wish that were true, but-"
"You're lying, damn you!" Now leaping out of the bed, Tai felt his chin tremble as he fought back the tears that so desperately yearned to escape. Sora...dying? It didn't make any sense!
Desperate to prove her wrong, he choked out, "How can you be sick when you seem so healthy? I've never seen you weak in my life!"
Sora gave a feeble laugh. "Remember in high school when I used to faint and get sick every once in a while?"
Tai faltered, suddenly remembering. "Well yeah, but-"
"That was a symptom - I had to take medication to keep up my strength. I...I have a rare blood disease."
Tai couldn't believe what he was hearing, his tone strained as he demanded, "Well why the hell did you want to keep this from the people who love you, huh? That's not fair!"
Sora swallowed. "Well, I...I didn't want to hurt anyone..."
"Are you shitting me? Sora, it hurts far worse to know you lied to me! I mean, c'mon! All this time I could've actually been spending time with you instead of holding you at arm's length! You cheated me of being with you!"
Sora winced, her bottom lip quivering. "W-well yes, but...but would you have really wanted to marry a terminally ill girl?"
"I've never loved anyone but you," Tai feverishly assured her, "so I really wish you'd have let me decide what I can and cannot handle."
Sora ducked her head and pressed it against her palms. Oh God, how could she have been so blind? She gave up her one chance of true happiness, and for what? A stupid hunch?
'No,' Sora dejectedly realized, 'it's because I was afraid Tai would turn me away...that he wouldn't love me anymore.'
Feeling her lover's hands on her shoulders, she raised her tear-stained gazed and felt her heart clench at the mixture of love, sorrow, and hurt in his eyes. "Tai, I never meant-"
"Shh," he gently cut in, wrapping her in his arms as he pressed his cheek to hers. "This won't be so bad, you'll see... Heck, maybe you'll even get better! And then when you've regained your strength, we can go anywhere - and I mean anywhere in the world you want!"
Sora laughed, yet it was devoid of all mirth. "Oh Tai, even in the grimmest of times you're such an optimist... I've always loved that about you."
"I've always loved that about me, too," he teased, desperately hoping to lighten the mood. Now stroking her cheek, he murmured, "I'll always be here for you, ok? Never doubt that."
Interlocking her hand with his, she gave a tearful, "I know you will," and pressed her forehead to his.
"Tai? You in here?"
Craning her head to listen, Kari frowned when her big brother didn't come out to greet her. He'd left his front door unlocked which, in itself was a tad odd, yet his car was out in the front lot, so she knew that he had to be home.
"Tai? C'mon, I know you're in here..."
There came a low and feeble moan in response, followed by a sniff that immediately brought a pang of fear to Kari's breast.
Rushing toward the noise in question, she soon found herself standing inside her brother's bedroom. The premises were ransacked - an overturned bookcase here, and a pile of clothes there - and Kari's heart clenched when she beheld her brother sprawled out across the floor.
"She's gone," he moaned, "oh God, she's gone!"
Dropping down to her knees, Kari scooped Tai into her lap the best she could and stroked his hair, her brows furrowing when she noticed the tears streaming down his cheeks. "C'mon, big brother, what's wrong? Who's gone?"
"Sora," he whispered, his eyes so blank that his sister was frightened. "She...she's dying..." Upon hearing his own declaration, Tai dropped his head back into Kari's lap and sobbed anew, his hands fisting her skirt like a frightened child.
The desperate choking noises he made scared Kari, and she pressed her lips together as she tried her best not to cry. "I...I'll admit that I suspected, but I didn't want to say anything in case I was wrong," she mumbled, closing her eyes and heaving a breath. "You see, um...when we were at the hospital, I overheard her talking to a nurse about her medication."
Tai quivered, not seeming to have heard her. "What am I going to do, Kari? I can't lose her..."
Kari lowered her gaze, feeling powerless since she knew she couldn't feed him with lies to keep him hopeful. Still stroking his hair, she then decided to take a different approach. "Do you still love her?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
There came a sniff, then Tai miserably choked out, "More than anything else on this earth."
Kari sighed. "Then there's nothing else to do but stand by the woman you love... Fate will take care of the rest."
Somehow seeming appeased by this, Tai relaxed in Kari's arms and closed his eyes, his own nerves causing him to lose consciousness almost instantly.
A/N: Originally I was going to include Matt and Mimi in this chapter, but I decided I'd kept you guys waiting long enough. If I'd tried to add more to this chapter, it would've taken forever. lol