Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.
"Duuude…" Kazu waved one hand in front of Takato's face, causing him to jump in his seat in surprise.
"You okay, Chumley?" asked Kazu, giving his friend a quizzical look. "You looked like you were lost ever since you woke up—not that that's anything new, but you looked even more lost. If that's possible."
"Uh…I'm just…" Takato nervously gulped and scratched his cheek. "…tired?"
Kazu furrowed his brow at him, obviously not believing a single word he just said.
"Right, chumley. And Kenta won the grand championship title from Ryo. Seriously, what's up? I had to call your name three times to get your attention. Usually when you're in la-la land I only have to do it twice."
"Um…it's nothing…really," Takato placated. Kazu did not look convinced, but conceded him his right to privacy.
"All right. If you say so. Hey. You going to be in the park today?"
"Yeah," Takato nodded. I'll be there."
Kazu smirked. "I'll hold you to it. Just make sure that you're not too deep in your brain when Ms. Asagi calls on you, otherwise you're going to stay after school again."
"I'll be sure to remember that," Takato muttered in response, his spirits rapidly deflating. Glancing up at the clock, his crimson eyes perked up in surprise. "Lunch time already?"
"What do you think I was trying to get your attention for?" asked Kazu. "C'mon. Let's grab some grub…unless you want to be stuck waiting in line…"
Takato laughed a little as he got up from his seat. As they headed towards the door, Jeri Katou passed by them, making her way back from the girls bathroom.
"Oh! Hey, Takato. Kazu finally got you to wake up, I see."
The brown haired girl giggled at him, setting off a small firestorm in his cheeks. Slinging an arm over Takato's shoulder, the visor-wearing Tamer proceeded to steer his friend towards the cafeteria.
"Easy there, Chumley. I know you like her and everything, but if you're not careful you'll end up embarrassing yourself. You always do after all…"
"I—wha…? Hey!" Takato sputtered, trying to fight down the blush that burned upon his cheeks.
"Admit it, Chumley. When it comes to girls, you can't go two steps without tripping over your feet."
"Like you can do better?"
"Ayaka!" exclaimed Jeri in surprise as the coppery haired, pig-tailed girl fell into step beside them.
"I was waiting for you to finish washing up so that we could go down to the cafeteria together."
"Sorry," apologized Jeri. "I wanted to be with Takato and…um…" Jeri looked down at the floor, her amber-colored eyes fidgeting a little in agitation and embarrassment. Ayaka raised a sardonic eyebrow.
"Remind me again what it is you see in him, again?"
"Uh…you girls do know that we're standing right here, don't you?" asked Kazu, his arm still slung over a speechless Takato's shoulder. "You know…like…listening?"
"And who said that you could eavesdrop on a girl's private conversation?" shot back Ayaka.
"Do I even have to answer that? I mean, you're walking next to us! 'Course, with the way you yell, sometimes I think the whole world could hear you…"
"C-C'mon you guys," interceded Takato, wanting to avoid an argument between his two classmates. "There's no reason to argue. Can't you just cool it?"
Ayaka muttered something under her breath as Kazu eyed her warily before finally nodding in agreement. Smiling, Jeri turned to her pigtailed friend.
"What's that look for?" asked Ayaka pointedly.
"Nothing. Well, except that Takato just answered your question."
"Say wha…?" this from Ayaka, Takato, and Kazu, all at once as they all looked at her in confusion. Jeri ignored them, instead contenting herself with walking on ahead towards the cafeteria, humming happily to herself.
"Um…" began Takato carefully as he watched the girl move away from them. "What do you think she meant by that?"
"Don't look at me, chumley," said Kazu. "I don't understand girls."
Takato glanced over at Ayaka to see if she could be any help. Ayaka merely shrugged.
"Sometimes I don't understand her," she said simply.
"So what's got Ayaka in such a bad mood?" asked Kazu in-between mouthfuls of his sandwich. Jeri shrugged.
"I don't know. I'm a little concerned about it.
"You don't exactly get along very well with people, Kazu," said Takato. Kazu snorted.
"You mean I don't get along with girls. Not my fault if they can't handle my personality. I tell ya, all that advice that adults give about 'just being yourself'…it's not as cracked up as they say it is. I'm myself all the time. But…well, then again, at least this way I know who my real friends are. You guys accept me for who I am."
"Unfortunately," chuckled Takato, prompting Kazu to give him a glare.
"Ah well. I sure hope Kenta comes back soon so that he can take the load off me. His partner goes a long way towards keeping Ayaka from thinking bad thoughts about me and getting on my case. I never thought that having a partner like that would be useful like that. It's like bug repellent, only better because it makes sure that Kenta is likely to have a girlfriend by the time he graduates from high school."
"Wouldn't that make it more like an insect attractor?" asked Takato.
"If it keeps Ayaka from getting angry at me, I don't care what you call it." Kazu groaned. "Hurry back, Kenta! Ayaka's killing me today. That and I need someone to get test answers from…"
"He sits on the other side of the room Kazu. You know, right behind Ayaka."
"As long as Guardromon's by my side, I'll take the risk."
"I'm not sure that you really get what I'm saying…"
"Well, maybe things will be better tomorrow," said Jeri. "Ms. Asagi said that Kenta came down with a cold. Maybe he got caught in that rainstorm yesterday."
Takato nodded. "Yeah. Guilmon and I had to wait it out at the playground before heading home. Rika too."
"So she finally got around to challenging you for a rematch? Oh, man…I wanted to see that… Chumley…why'd you have to have detention yesterday?"
"Actually Kazu…we didn't."
Kazu gave Takato a disbelieving look.
"Did anyone tell you how badly you stink at jokes?"
"You do all the time," Takato sighed. "But I'm telling you the truth. We didn't do anything. We just…I don't know. Talked, I guess."
"Really?" asked Jeri, sipping at her drink. "About what?"
"Well actually, I tried to talk," admitted Takato, "but she didn't want to."
"That's nothing new," said Kazu, waving him off. "No offense, you guys, but Rika's not exactly a 'people person'. When we were in the digital world, she spent half the time blowing me and Kenta off. And yelling at us. She kicked me once while I was sleeping and…" Kazu paused and his face knotted into an expression of disgust. "…Erm…yeah. She kicked me. …I'm going to go back to repressing that."
"Forget about it."
Shrugging off his comment, Jeri looked over at Takato with a curious gaze. She thought about her conversation with Rika from yesterday, finding it interesting to note that she had stayed long enough for the rainstorm to hit, which, if she remembered correctly, was around the time that Takato had been let out of detention.
"Oh, yeah," said Takato, turning to Jeri. "Um... Sorry about yesterday, Jeri."
Jeri blinked. "About what?"
"About being made to stay after school. You said that you wanted to talk to me about something."
Jeri nodded, a little taken aback. She forgot that she had wanted to talk to him yesterday, but she had had so much on her mind after her talk with Rika that it completely slipped her mind.
"It's all right," she replied, taking a bite out of her sandwich. "I had to go home early anyway, so we wouldn't have been able to talk for very long."
"Maybe if chumley here can stay out of trouble you won't have to wait as long," muttered Kazu sarcastically between mouthfuls.
"Well how about after school today?" asked Takato, ignoring his friends comments. Jeri thought about it for a moment before smiling and shaking her head.
"It's okay. It wasn't anything important."
"Oh." Takato looked a little crestfallen. "Okay."
"I'll be right back," Jeri said as she finished eating her lunch. Getting up she left her two friends to return her lunch tray to the cafeteria. Takato watched her go for a second before breathing a heavy, dejected sigh. Kazu leaned back in his chair and placed his arms behind his head, eying his friend thoughtfully.
"This is what you get for getting out of the club, buddy."
"Remember last year?" asked Kazu, chuckling a little. "When you said that you 'needed a girl'? You were out of the club."
"I didn't mean it like that," replied Takato, frowning a little.
"I know. You needed to meet with Rika because you had just become a Tamer, right? Don't really know why since from what you told me she had been trying to load Guilmon then…"
"I didn't know who she was then. The first time I saw her was…er…never mind." Takato groaned. "Man, is it just me or is there something weird going on with every girl I know?"
"I dunno. They're all nuttier than grapefruit, chumley." Kazu glanced at his friend as he rolled Takato's comment around in his head. "Something up?"
Takato stirred his fork around in his ramen.
"I don't know how to answer that. I don't know if I should. It's just…I don't know. Ever since Hanami, both Rika and Jeri have been acting funny. Maybe I'm just thinking about it too hard, but I can't seem to get it out of my mind."
"Kind of like how I stepped on a thumb tack barefoot once," nodded Kazu in understanding. "It's always there. Gotta hand it to ya, a lot of things after Hanami just seemed weird—heck, even during it. Rika getting into our Frisbee game…I can't remember the last time she joined in on anything we were doing that didn't involve taming or cards." Kazu grinned. "I still remember when Rika was holding your hand after she tackled you."
"K-Kazu! She wasn't…!"
"That's not how it looked to us, chumley. Didn't Terriermon call you a lady killer or something?"
"Take it easy there, bud. I'm just messing with you. There's no way that Rika would have a thing for you…even if she held your hand and you happen to like her singing…"
Takato's eyes shot wide open at that, taken off guard by the admission. It took Kazu a second to realize what he just said and he rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment.
"Oh yeah. I forgot that I wasn't supposed to mention that. Guess that my bribe to Guilmon was pretty much wasted."
"Uh…whoops. Forgot that I wasn't supposed to say that either…"
"Ohhh…man!" Takato hid his face in his hands. "I told Guilmon not to tell anyone that!"
"Why the big secret?" asked Kazu. "She's not bad at it, is she? Guilmon said that she had a nice voice, but this is Guilmon we're talking about…"
"No! It's not that! She has a nice voice! It's just…well…how can I put it? It's something that's private for her. I only found out by accident. It's not my place to tell!"
"I think I get it. It's like Kenta's poster of Kari from 02, right? Come to think of it, we promised that we wouldn't even talk about it…"
"…Right, Kazu," replied Takato in a deadpan tone, grateful that his friend understood his position at least this much. "Look. You can't tell anyone about that. If she finds out that you know…"
"She'll pound you into the next stone age?"
Takato leaned his head into one hand, feeling a bubble of worry in the pit of his stomach. The memory of their last moment together at Hanami, where she had sung him her song at the park, came to mind. It had been a moment that felt special to him in ways that he couldn't describe, and it was perhaps the one thing that he felt he wouldn't share with anyone. It had been a moment between the two of them only, and no one else. A moment when Rika dropped her guard for a friend. It reminded him of all those times he had seen Rika smile or heard her laugh. It was something special that was meant to be treasured and treated with the respect it was due.
"Somehow…I get the feeling that her hurting me would be the least of my worries. I might even lose her friendship."
Kazu raised an eyebrow at that, surprised.
"It's that serious?"
"Pretty sure," replied Takato.
"Man…I'm going to have to get a hold of Kenta and fill him in. He might blab. He can't keep a secret to save his life you know."
Takato breathed a sigh of relief, though worry still nibbled at his insides. "Thanks Kazu."