Summary: Yamato realizes that he's been keeping Taichi and Sora apart and runs away to rural Japan. His timing couldn't possibly be worse. Taito/Yamachi.

Rating: R, for language and slash.

Pairings: Taito, past Sorato, slight one-sided Taiora, Takari, Kenyako, Jyoumi, Gabumon x Piyomon hints, and maybe a touch of Mimi x Michael, if you really squint. I do apologize for the Kenyako, I like it about as much as the next person (cough cough not at all) but I didn't feel like writing a romantic utopia fic where every character ends up with their soulmate, so I stuck with canon, for them at least. I'm also sorry about the Gabumon x Piyomon. I don't know where in the world that came from. I guess I felt like something should have come out of Sora and Yamato's relationship.

As for everyone's ages, Taichi, Yamato and Sora are all twenty-two in this. You can figure the rest out.

There's something different about the atmosphere today.

Yamato is focused on the world outside his window with an absent sort of glazed-over intensity.

The clouds aren't unusually low, nor particularly high, he reflects. They're just ... deeper. Thicker, maybe, and more textured than he's used to seeing in Odaiba.

Or New York or London, for that matter.

What he doesn't know is that clouds in higher altitude areas tend to form closer to the ground. This fact is unsurprising considering the increased proximity between the ground and sky at such heights. As a result the clouds are far denser; when close to the sky, water vapor doesn't have as far to rise. So the clouds can't spread out into the smaller, sparser clouds that are characteristic of lower altitude areas, such as most cities, which tend to cluster around bodies of water.

To be honest, Yamato himself doesn't give a damn about all this, he's no meteorologist after all, but it lends us a clue. A clue as to exactly where Yamato's train is headed, even if it gives us no insights as to why he's on it in the first place.

Still mesmerized by the clouds, slowly seeping pink and orange at the bottom edge where the sun has begun to set, reflecting yellow light onto the tips of the mountains, he almost doesn't hear the next announcement.

"End of the line, folks." The voice cuts across his distraction slowly, and Yamato blinks. He feels like he's coming out of a long nap, like he's not quite real yet, and he pulls his suitcase and his guitar off the rack with enormous lethargy.

The train is nearly empty, only one other passenger in his entire car, and the two step onto the platform in eerie unison. The station is just as empty. There's a newspaper pinned under the nearest bench, the wind flapping it against the pavement. The only other people in sight are the conductor, smiling and waving from the last car, and an old man and woman fast asleep on a bench, their shoulders touching.

The other passenger nods at Yamato shortly and strides off, businesslike. Yamato starts to run a hand through his hair, but stops because it's matted and tangled from being pressed against the train window so long.

He sighs. From here it's an hour drive to the house, and he hasn't rented a car yet.

When his grandmother had passed away, she had left her rural home to Yamato and Takeru, much to the surprise of their parents. But neither boy had been willing to go see the place, much less put it to use. It was an avoidance born of fear: fear that the empty house would remind them too much of her, and of their slowly dying childhoods.

But now ... now Yamato doesn't know where else to go.

Predictably, the car rental place closes at five. So he rents a cheap hotel room on the far side of the town and collapses on his tiny bed, hoping that sleep will come easily.

It doesn't. His mind can't help but replay everything in that annoyingly repetitive and circular way.

It's spring, and the afternoon sunlight hits the swirls of gently cascading cherry blossoms so that they cast tiny dancing shadows on the cement path of the park. The space between Sora and Yamato as they walk is a deep trench hundreds of miles long.

It's a long time before Yamato gathers the will to speak.

"Sora, this can't go on."

A flash of auburn in the corner of his eye as she turns her head to look at him properly for the first time that day.

"What do you mean?"

"You know perfectly well what I mean."

A pause. Their feet slap the pavement together, keeping perfect time in a strangely sombre march.

"I waited up for you," he says finally.

She stops walking altogether.

"What?" she says, her eyes frantically studying his face. "What - no, it was never anything like that - I had to study, Yamato -"

"It doesn't matter," he says, his voice harshly cruel.

But he pauses after he's said it and lets out a sigh. "I mean," he says. "I mean, when was the last time we did anything together?"

Sora is silent, conceding the point, urging him to continue.

"We haven't seen each other for two weeks," he reminds her gently. "What kind of relationship is that?"

"A low-maintenance one?" Sora offers, but she doesn't look hopeful.

"It's not a relationship at all." He sighs again, a whoosh like the air being let out of a balloon. "Come on, you have to see that neither of us want this anymore. We haven't tried for the past year, for God's sake."

"I want it," Sora says quietly, looking almost hurt, and Yamato is surprised at the answer.

"You want-" he says. "You really want to continue this charade?"

She shakes her head. "No," she says. "I want us back."

Yamato looks at her and thinks of days long past, of boxes of Christmas cookies and gentle backstage kisses. A painful knot of feeling rises in his chest.

She is silent again, her plain eyes boring into his own. Then, "I loved you."

Loved, he thinks, and then he knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that it's over. He reaches out and caresses her small face anyway.

"I loved you too," he says softly. "But it was a long time ago, and we were just kids."

"Not that long ago," she contradicts, but she's smiling a sad smile of agreement. "Maybe we were too young to really know."

"Know what?"

"What love is."

Yamato stares at her, but she's no longer looking at him. Instead her eyes are unfocused, her face turned away from his. She's beautiful, caught in this moment of pain.

"Do you love him?"

He doesn't quite register the question until it's already made its way out of his mouth. The bitterness in his voice surprises him.

"Hmm?" says Sora. She doesn't turn her head.

"Taichi. Do you love him?"

She still won't look at him.

"He loves you, Sora. Can't you see that?"

"Yamato - "

A strangled sob escapes his throat to hover in the pale June air like some still, sad butterfly.

"And you love him."

Silence speaks volumes, Yamato knows, and Sora's is no different.

"I don't know, Yamato, I ... just don't know anything anymore. I'm confused, and ..." She trails away into nothingness, biting her bottom lip.

Yamato blinks in the silence, the fall of his heavy eyelids conveying surrender more effectively than any words ever have. Standing in the park on a spring day, all he feels is his own sorrow.

"I should have seen it," he mutters. "I should have - how could I - I hurt my two best friends ... I'm such a jerk, I'm such a selfish, stupid, emotionally stunted moron, he's loved you all this time, and I never - I never ..."

"Yamato?" Sora's voice is quiet and hesitant. Her face turns up to his, her sadness written on her brow. "You never what?"

"I never even let you in," he whispers. "I never once let down my walls for you, Sora, I'm so sorry. You deserve better."

His voice suddenly stronger, "You deserve Taichi."

Now Yamato's throat is threatening to release that same sad white butterfly of a sob. He chokes it back angrily, taut in his stiffly laundered bed, tears blurring his view of the bumpy pop-corned ceiling.

Other memories run through his mind, too, an incessant torrent of regret and sadness; Sora clinging to Taichi and not him as Diaboromon moves toward them, giant grins across both their faces in a backyard soccer game, the casual exchange of familiar glances, knocked shoulders and brushed hands.

He should have broken up with Sora a long time ago.

It seems so obvious, now that he knows. And it's true, everything is clearer in retrospect. No wonder Taichi hasn't called him in years.

He's done the right thing, he knows, coming here. He is unwanted, he is unnecessary, and he is in the way. Taichi and Sora are his best friends, and he wants nothing but their happiness. So he gets himself out of their way, because he doesn't want to distract them with his own unhappiness, and he knows that he can't watch them together, not without crying or locking himself up or screaming or something. He has no clue how Taichi did it for so long.

So he's run away. He's a coward and there are some things he will never be able to confront. Being alone in the face of their happiness is number one on that list.

He's never going to get to sleep at this rate, he realizes, flipping over onto his side again. He has to stop this obsessing. So what to think about?

If he were anywhere else, he'd get out his guitar or his harmonica and start messing around, but he's in a hotel room and he has a feeling that the other patrons wouldn't appreciate that kind of thing. He's not really in the mood to get kicked out. Though it would be fitting, for an unloved loser like him.

No. He's here to get away. He will not think about this anymore. Tomorrow - tomorrow a new life starts.

He buries himself further in the sheets and begins to sing one of his songs in his head, carefully thinking through the chord progressions as he goes. It's reassuring, and soon enough he is asleep.

He has tiny fleeting dreams of other people's faces.