Disclaimer: I don't own digimon.
A/N: Last Chapter! I'm sorry if you think it's really horrible, but it was hard to write, so I hope I did a good enough job. It's hard to create a spark between characters who aren't a favorite couple of yours. This chapter is lameness and total sap. You'll have maple syrup running out of your ears when you're done. Thanks everyone for your reviews, and I'm really glad you enjoyed it!
Love and War
Rika pushed her way towards the front of the huge crowd that had gathered in the park and frowned. Everyone was there to watch the digimon tournament, which had started a few hours ago, and they seemed to be enjoying the competition. Unfortunately she had a sneaking suspicion most of them were only there to see Ryo.
Of course. They would never miss an opportunity to watch their hero in action!
Ryo was currently competing in one of the two semifinal matches, and it looked like he was well on his way to making the final round.
Why am I not surprised? Well, I did have a feeling Ryo and I were going to end up facing each other in the last match, and now, because of him, I'm going to end up working twice as hard to win my title back!
At first she had wanted to face Ryo in the final round, but now she was having second thoughts. Defeating Ryo would give her a chance to prove to him that she was the better Tamer, and it was also a perfect opportunity to spark his interest in her again. That was something she had to do, even if it killed her, otherwise she would never work up enough courage to tell him how she felt. Unfortunately she had a feeling all of her efforts were going to end up being for nothing, and that was why she was starting to second guess herself.
He didn't seem that interested when he found out I was competing in the tournament this year. If only there was a way for me to tell him how I feel before we have to face each other in the tournament. That way we could clear the air between us and have a great match. Yeah right. If I tell him how I feel, I'll end up ruining everything. He'll probably tell me he doesn't care about me in the same way, and I'll end up looking like a total idiot!
She had flattened Kazu in the first semifinal round, which had taken place earlier that day. That had left her no choice but to face Ryo in the last match.
I should be happy about the fact that I've made it this far, but I'm not. In fact, I'm starting to wish I'd never entered the tournament to begin with. This whole thing is going to end in disaster!
She had a sudden desire to turn around and run away from the park as fast as she could, but she made herself stay where she was. After all, she could not give Ryo the satisfaction of seeing just how much he had upset her.
"And the winner is...Ryo Akiyama!"
Rika glanced up at the slightly raised platform where Ryo had been sitting across from his opponent during the match. The Legendary Tamer was now standing, and he had an arm raised in victory. He smiled at the crowd, which was filled with his admirers, and they started to chant his name. Even the announcer was beaming at him!
"Pathetic," she muttered, glaring up at the announcer.
"The final match has been decided!" the announcer shouted into his microphone. "It's going to be the Legendary Tamer, Ryo Akiyama, versus the Digimon Queen, Rika Nonaka! Ladies and gentlemen, this is one final round you're not going to want to miss! Our two competitors will have twenty minutes to prepare themselves for their last match, so I suggest you all grab a bite to eat before the competition gets underway again. It might be a long time before we see another final like this one, so make sure you're back in time for the action!"
"Thanks a lot," Rika muttered, glaring at the raven-haired boy who had just been defeated by Ryo.
"Hey, Rika? I really think you should talk to Ryo before you face him in the final round otherwise you won't be able to concentrate on playing your best," Jeri said softly in her ear.
Rika jumped in surprise and turned to look at her fellow female Tamer. She had almost forgotten Jeri had come with her to watch the rest of Ryo's match. Takato and the others were still somewhere at the back of the crowd, and she was glad. They would have only made things even more difficult for her.
"Sorry, Jeri, but I don't think I'm going to be able to do that," she said softly.
"You don't really have a choice anymore," Jeri murmured.
Rika frowned and stared at her friend in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"I think Ryo has already decided you're going to talk to him, whether you want to or not. Look. He's heading this way."
Rika jerked her head up and found herself gazing into Ryo's eyes. Jeri was right. Ryo had stepped off the raised platform and he was making his way through the crowd towards her.
She felt a sudden stab of panic and started to back away from the platform. Unfortunately Jeri seemed to realize what she was doing because her friend grabbed her arm to stop her from leaving. She opened her mouth to say something, but the words died in her throat. Ryo had just stepped in front of her, and she found herself unable to look away from him. His light blue eyes were burning with emotion, and his face looked very serious.
"Rika, I need to talk to you before our match starts," he said quietly.
She jumped in surprise and stared at him.
Has he been thinking the exact same thing I've been thinking? Impossible. There's no way he could feel the same way I feel...
She was about to tell him to get out of her face, but Jeri suddenly gave her a push, and she nearly stumbled right into him.
"Of course she'll talk to you," Jeri said, beaming at him. "I'll go keep Takato and the others busy. That'll give you two a chance to talk without being interrupted."
"What?" Rika shouted, her face turning red. She glared at Jeri and gave Ryo a suspicious look. "Who said I wanted to talk to him?"
Jeri laughed and winked at her. "I'll see you later, Rika. Have a good time!"
"How can you do this to me?" she shrieked, giving her friend a dirty look.
Jeri did not reply. Instead, she headed off towards Takato and the others, pausing only long enough to wave.
Rika glared at Jeri's back and crossed her arms. "Some friend."
"Come on," Ryo said quietly, ignoring the group of screaming girls who had gathered around him. "Let's find some place quiet where we can talk."
"Why? Obviously you have better things to do with your time! Your fan club is waiting for you. I'm sure you don't want to disappoint them!"
"I don't care!" Ryo said stubbornly. "You're the one I want to talk to, and I'm not going to wait any longer!"
He grabbed her hand, and she found herself being pulled away from the crowd. His fingers were warm against her skin, and she blushed. "Will you let go of me? I'm perfectly capable of walking on my own two feet, thank you very much! Why does everybody keep dragging me around all the time?"
"If you weren't so stubborn, we wouldn't have to drag you around!"
Rika glared at him and froze when she realized they were standing at the edge of the forest in almost the exact same spot where they had been sitting with their friends yesterday. She leaned against a tree trunk and studied Ryo's face. He looked very serious and a little bit uncertain.
This is definitely not normal Ryo behaviour. What does he want to talk to me about?
"What do you want?" she asked quietly.
Ryo sat down in front of her on a fallen log and rested his chin in his hands. "I was going to wait until after the tournament to tell you this, but I think it's better if I tell you now. Besides, I can't wait anymore."
Rika hesitated and slowly sat down next to him. "What is it?" she asked, her heart pounding with sudden excitement.
I can't believe it! Is he really going to tell me he does care about me after all?
Ryo smiled at her and reached out to take her hand again. "I'm sorry I haven't been able to spend that much time with you since we came back from the Digital World. It's not because I don't want to. I do. It's just...something always comes up. I know you think I like having all those people following me around, but I don't. I just want to spend time with you and the others. You guys are my real friends, and nothing is ever going to change that."
Rika felt her heart fill with disappointment, and she let out a sigh.
He only wanted to apologize for hanging out with his fan club instead of us. I should have known this was going to happen. I'm so stupid! How could I have ever thought he was about to reveal his true feelings for me. He's never going to care about me in the same way I care about him...
Ryo suddenly squeezed her hand, and she looked up at him in surprise. Somehow he had moved closer to her without her realizing it. The warmth of his skin made goosebumps break out on her arms, and she leaned against his side. It felt...nice.
"Rika, what's wrong?" he asked, looking concerned. His blue eyes had grown cloudy, and he seemed a little anxious.
She felt a sudden wave of sympathy for him and gently ran her fingers across the back of his hand. It must have been hard for him to spend so much time away from his friends.
"Nothing," she said softly. "Listen, Ryo, as much as I hate to say this, I'm sorry, too. I should have made more of an effort to hang out with you, but you know me. I have too much pride and not enough common sense."
"Now that's something we can definitely agree on!"
She glared at him and punched him in the chest. "Shut up, Ryo! I'm trying to apologize here, and you're not making this any easier for me!"
"Sorry," he replied, looking amused.
She rested her cheek against his shoulder and smiled when she felt him jump. He was obviously surprised by her sudden affection, but she chose to ignore that. She was never going have another chance to get this close to him again, and she was going to make good use of it. "So, I guess it's safe to say we're friends again," she said quietly. There was no enthusiasm in her voice, and she did not even try to smile. Friendship was the last thing she wanted with him, but it did not look like she was going to have any say in the matter.
Well, I guess friendship is better than nothing.
The thought did not cheer her up very much. If anything, it made her feel even worse.
Ryo's eyes filled with sudden sadness, and he gently placed a hand against her cheek. "What if I don't want to be friends?" he whispered, gazing deeply into her eyes.
She jerked away from him and let out a gasp. "What do you mean by that?"
No way. This isn't possible. He can't be saying what I think he's saying...can he?
Ryo continued to stare at her and did not reply.
"Well?" she demanded.
"Rika, how do you really feel about me?" he asked quietly.
Rika felt her face heat up, and she stared at him in horror.
He knows! I can't believe this! How did he find out? I know Jeri didn't tell him. This can't be happening! It just can't! What am I going to do? I'm never going to be able to show my face in public again, and what about Ryo? What if I've lost him for good this time?
She tried to run, but Ryo caught hold of her arm and pulled her against his chest. She struggled in his arms for a moment and finally collapsed against him. Her eyes filled with tears, and she hid her face against his shoulder to hide them.
"I hate you," she whispered, her voice trembling.
Ryo wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his cheek against the top of her head. "I knew I couldn't have been imagining things," he said softly into her hair. His voice was shaking, and he seemed unable to believe what was happening between them. "Last night, I felt something between us, and I know you felt it, too. This isn't something we can just ignore."
Rika's eyes widened in shock, and she slowly looked up at him. "What...what are you saying?" she whispered, feeling confused. Her heart was pounding so fast, she was amazed her rib cage was still intact. She knew Ryo could feel her heart beating, and she could feel his. The sound rang in her ears and made her unable to think straight.
Ryo gently took her face in his hands, and he smiled at her. Their foreheads touched, and she swallowed a gasp. She could feel his warm breath against her skin, and it made her knees feel weak. It was a good thing she was sitting down. If she had been standing, she would have ended up falling on the ground.
Ryo placed a finger against her lips and shook his head. "No," he whispered. "I want to explain a few things first. When I look at you, everyone else around me fades away. You have this effect on me that I can't even begin to describe. I love everything about you, including the way you argue with me all the time. You make me laugh, and you make me smile. You make me feel things I've never felt for any other girl. I can still remember the day I first laid eyes on you. It was at the digimon tournament a few years ago, remember? I thought you were the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen, but most of all, I loved your confidence. You never back down from a challenge, even when the odds are against you. Ever since that day, I haven't been able to stop thinking about you. I knew then I was falling in love with you, and there was nothing I could do to stop my feelings from completely overwhelming me. I'm sorry, Rika, but I had to say something now, before our final match of the tournament. I don't want it to end up tearing us apart."
Rika stared at him in shock, and her whole body began to tremble. She quickly pulled away from him and did the only thing she could think of. She slapped him hard across the face.
Ryo slowly raised a hand to his cheek and gazed calmly into her eyes. "What was that for?"
"That was for making me love you," she whispered, her voice shaking.
All of the emotions she had been trying to hide from him earlier seem to be bursting out of her, and there was nothing she could do about it. She felt Ryo's arms go around her again, and she slowly looked up at him.
"I should have expected that," he said dryly. "Well, I suppose it could have been worse. You could have kicked me right between the legs!"
Rika blushed and hid her face against his chest. "I was tempted to!" she muttered.
Ryo hugged her tightly and gently ran his fingers through her hair. "No surprise there. Hey, Rika? Did you really mean what you said earlier?" His voice sounded uncertain again, and she could feel his heart beating against her chest.
"Yes, and it's all your fault!"
"Of course it is," he said softly. "I know you might not think so, but I meant what I said, too."
Rika smiled and gently placed a hand against the back of his neck. His skin was covered in goosebumps, and she knew then that he was being serious.
"Why didn't you tell me all of this a long time ago?" she asked softly.
"I wanted to, but I thought that if I did, you'd never want to speak to me again," he whispered, his voice trembling slightly.
She smiled at him and gently wrapped her arms around his neck. "Jeri knows how I feel about you."
Ryo started to laugh, and he shook his head. "That explains why she's been acting so mysterious lately. I can't believe she didn't tell me!"
"I made her promise not to."
Ryo smiled slightly and wrapped his arms around her waist. "I made Henry and the others promise the same thing. Kazu was actually the one who convinced me to talk to you!"
"You're kidding!" she shrieked, pulling back and glaring up at him. "Those boys knew, and they didn't tell me? When I get my hands on them-"
"Forget them," Ryo whispered softly in her ear. "Right now I want to talk about us."
She rested her head against his chest and frowned. "What is there left to talk about?"
This must be a dream. Any minute now I'm going to wake up.
Ryo held her tightly in his arms, and she closed her eyes. The warmth of his body was comforting, and it made her smile.
Please don't let this be a dream...
"Rika, I really care about you, and I want things to work out between us," he said quietly. "Do you think we can start over again?"
"Yes," she whispered. Her eyes began to fill with tears again, and she hugged him tightly.
There are always second chances, Ryo. We just have to make sure we don't let them pass us by.
Ryo let out an obvious sigh of relief and managed a shaky smile. He had been holding his breath, and it was only now that she felt him start to relax.
"You don't know how long I've waited to hear you say that. I might have a lot of fans, Rika, but none of them will ever bring me as much happiness as you do."
Rika slowly got to her feet and held out a hand to him. He took it, and they stood under the trees with their arms around each other.
This is really happening. How did I get to be so lucky?
"We'll work things out," she whispered, gazing into his eyes.
"Do you know how badly I've wanted to hear you say that? Do you know how often I've dreamed of hearing you say you love me?"
"Yes," she murmured. "I know because I've wanted to hear you say the same thing."
Ryo kissed her cheek and hugged her tightly. "Listen, Rika, I know we're still pretty young, but I have a good feeling about us."
She shivered at the touch of his lips and sighed. "Me, too. I guess only time will tell, but somehow I just know everything's going to turn out alright. There's only one thing standing in our way."
Ryo raised his eyebrows and gave her a look. "What's that?"
"We still have to compete against each other in the tournament."
Ryo nodded and gave her a wicked smile. "You're right. Let's make this a real challenge. If I win, you have to be my girlfriend!"
Rika crossed her arms and glared at him. "Fine, but if I win, then you have to be my boyfriend!"
He smiled at her and gently touched her cheek. "Everyone's a winner," he said softly. "I accept your challenge, and may the best Tamer win."
She stared at him for a moment, and a small smile slipped across her face. "Well? Aren't we going to make this challenge official?"
"How are we supposed to do that?" he said dryly.
She smiled innocently at him and shrugged. "I don't think a handshake is what either one of us has in mind. I was thinking something more along the lines of this!"
Before he could say anything, she leaned over and gently kissed him on the lips.
"May the best Tamer win," she whispered softly, pulling back slightly so she could gaze into his eyes.
The feel of his lips against her own was the most amazing thing she had ever experienced, and in her heart, she knew the kiss she had just experienced was one memory that was never going to fade away.
"You read my mind," Ryo whispered in her ear.
He pulled her close again, and they sealed the bargain with another kiss.
"Remind me to thank Kazu later," she murmured. "He's never going to let me hear the end of this!"
"No kidding!" Ryo laughed.
Rika closed her eyes and let the warmth of Ryo's body wash over her. For the first time in her life, she was almost looking forward to losing. In the end, she had gotten what she had wanted all along, and that was more important than any tournament. It did not matter who won their match. They were both going to walk away from the tournament as winners, and that was the best part of all.