Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon. (Is anyone else tired of saying that?)

A/N: Well, it's finally here! Just a quick note. This is a side story to 'Following the Footsteps of Destiny', and if you have not read that story, don't worry, this story will still make sense to you, but before you insult me on my choice of names, please visit my forum to find out why I picked them. After you've done that, you are free to insult me as you please. This story is dedicated to Kouji-wolf who asked me to write a Ryoko story and to FallenArchangel (who I see has changed his name) for asking me to write a Taysuke/Ryoko friendship story. This story is also dedicated to my grandmother who passed away on Sunday February 24th. She really understood the importance of family and friendship better than anyone. Goodbye for now, Grandma. I will miss you.

What Makes a Hero

"Ryoko! Hey, Ryoko, wait up!"

Eleven year old Ryoko Ishida stood over his already full backpack in the middle of the sidewalk trying unsuccessfully to shove two of his three library books in-between the rest of its already overflowing contents. At the moment, he had his back turned towards the elementary school, but at the sound of his name, he quickly glanced over his shoulder and let out a soft groan. One of his closest friends, eleven year old Takara Kamiya, was hurrying down the street towards him, and the oldest of his twin cousins, eleven year old Makiya Takaishi, was right behind her. Both of them looked determined to speak with him, but it was Mickey's presence that had triggered his rather unenthusiastic response. Normally, he would have greeted both Mickey and Takara with one of his usual reserved smiles, but under the circumstances he didn't really feel they deserved what, coming from him, would have been considered a friendly greeting. He knew what they wanted, and he had already heard what he was sure they were going to say to him more times than he could count in the last three days, but that didn't seem to be deterring them in the slightest. He could handle Takara's nagging easily, since she was always scolding him for something, but it was a different story with his cousin. He had never managed to figure out why, but for some reason Mickey always had a way of making you feel guilty and ashamed of yourself, even when you were sure you weren't the one who deserved to be punished. That was exactly how Ryoko felt now, and it was irritating him because no matter how hard you tried to get around it, Mickey was unfortunately usually right.

What happened is not my fault! Well, at least not completely...

"And just where do you think you're going?" Takara demanded, placing her hands on her hips and frowning suspiciously at him.

Ryoko stuck his nose in the air and glared at his two friends. "Listen, guys, in case you've forgotten, I don't really have time to talk right now. I promised my parents I'd clean my room this afternoon, since the three of us are going out for dinner tonight, and if I don't get it done before we leave, my mom is going to throw a fit. Not that I care, my dad's cooking is way better than any restaurant, but she's been bugging me about my room for over a week, which is totally unfair because most of the stuff lying all over the floor isn't even mine! I mean, half of those video games scattered in front of the television belong to Daichi, not me."

"Are you sure?" Mickey asked, scratching his sunny blond hair and frowning in confusion.

Ryoko gave the older twin a dirty look and crossed his arms over his chest, his expression stating quite plainly just how annoyed he was. Clearly Mickey had been on the verge of lecturing him, but his sudden outburst had caused a distraction that was good enough to interrupt the older twin's train of thought, at least for the moment. "Yes, I'm sure! You know I don't like fighting games! As a general rule, I prefer role-playing games, since you actually have to use your brain to play them. I'll leave the games where you do nothing but beat the stuffing out of your opponent's character for Dai and Matty, thanks. I think this is my mom's way of punishing me for my week's worth of detentions. Well, that and making me eat out for dinner instead of getting a decent meal at home. Oh, and that stack of books sitting in the corner of my room belong to you, Mickey!"

Mickey blushed and proceeded to gaze shyly at his green and white sneakers. "I'm sorry, Ryoko, I'll pick them up tomorrow as soon as I have a chance."

"While you're at it, you'd better tell your bother to come pick up the three soccer balls he left in my closet! Maybe I'm missing something, but why in the world does he need three soccer balls? He also left his digital camera on my desk. You know which one I mean. It's the really expensive one Aunt Kari and Uncle T.K. got him for Christmas last year. He might want to pick that up, too. And, Kara, you left at least twenty CDs in my room! How many times do I have to tell you-"

"Never mind that right now," Takara interrupted, tugging irritably on her long, chestnut ponytail and waving aside his protests with a flick of her wrist. The stubborn look on her face made Ryoko wince, and he quickly backed away from her, just to be safe. "You haven't spoken to Dai for three days now! Don't you think it's time you quit giving him the silent treatment, and it wouldn't hurt to apologize for being so rude."

"You're only making yourself unhappy by refusing to speak to him," Mickey said reasonably.

Ryoko's mouth dropped open and he stared at his two friends in disbelief. "Apologize? You want me to apologize? Have you two gone completely nuts? Why should I be the one to apologize? I didn't do anything! Daichi's the one who kicked that soccer ball through our classroom window the other day and then had the nerve to blame me for it! Now I'm stuck with that week's worth of detentions and it's all his fault! My dad was furious when he found out."

"Uncle Matt didn't yell at you, did he?" Mickey asked anxiously, his amber eyes growing dark and shadowy.

Ryoko let out a deep sigh and slowly shook his head. "No, he never actually yells at me, so to speak. He just got really quiet, and I could tell he was really disappointed in me."

"But he knows it wasn't really you who kicked that soccer ball, doesn't he?" Takara asked, pulling up the hood of her bright green sweater in an effort to protect herself from the chilly breeze blowing through the streets of Odaiba. Mickey was also wearing a sweater, a dark blue hoodie he had obviously borrowed from Matty, and both of them wore blue jeans to cover the lower halves of their bodies. Ryoko, too, had chosen to wear jeans that morning, and he had a light blue jacket on over his black t-shirt. "I think he suspects what really happened, and when I told him it wasn't me who put that soccer ball through our classroom window, I could tell he believed me, but..."

"You didn't tell him you were insulting Dai before that soccer ball hit the window, did you?" Takara asked innocently, her lips twitching into a small smile.

Ryoko impatiently brushed a stray strand of golden hair out of his deep blue eyes and gave his female friend a cold look. "That's not the point! It's still not fair that I'm doing Daichi's detentions for him. Besides, he deserved every single insult I-"

"Please, Ryoko?" Mickey said softly, giving him a pleading look. "Dai hasn't been the same since you stopped speaking to him. I think he feels lonely without you."

Great, now I feel like a complete jerk. Thanks a lot, Mickey.

Ryoko felt his face turn red and he quickly lowered his eyes to the ground. "That's stupid. Dai has plenty of other friends; He doesn't need me."

Takara and Mickey exchanged meaningful looks, but before Ryoko could snap at them, the two cousins quickly looked away from each other and Takara let out a soft sigh. "Dai needs you more than he knows, Ryoko. More than even you know. I just wish he would realize it, and I wish you would realize the same thing about him. You don't really think he's that bad of a person, do you?"

Instead of answering, Ryoko ignored his female friend and turned to frown at Mickey. "Where are Sam and Matty?"

"They're with Dai. Matty thought he could use a bit of cheering up and Sam decided to tag along for moral support."

"Well, they're wasting their time. Dai's not going to listen to anything they have to say. Look, I really do have to get going. My parents might not have yelled at me about my detentions, but my mom might not be so generous if she finds out I failed to clean my room on top of getting detentions."

"So Aunt Mimi believed you, too?" Takara asked curiously, her hazel eyes filling with sympathy.

Ryoko nodded and made a face. "Yeah, but that doesn't mean I don't want to risk not cleaning my room. After all, I didn't bother going into detail about what really happened. What would be the point? I didn't even tell them it was Dai who kicked that soccer ball, though I think they suspect that's who really did it. I don't think they noticed the fact that I was a bit vague about what really happened, but you never know."

"Ryoko, your fights with Dai have gotten worse instead of better since the two of you were little," Mickey said quietly, "and you're wrong if you think you can hide the truth from your parents forever."

Ryoko blushed and gently pushed his two friends towards the elementary school. "Go on. Go meet up with Sam and Matty. I'll see you guys later, and tell Sam to pick up his chessboard! It looks too much like mine. I keep getting them mixed up, and he also left his sketch book."

"Um...actually, the sketch book belongs to me," Mickey mumbled, his cheeks turning bright pink.

Ryoko blinked at his cousin in surprise, but before he could say anything, Mickey grabbed Takara's arm and quickly dragged her towards the elementary school.

"Tell Uncle Matt and Aunt Mimi we said hi!" Takara called over her shoulder.

What in the world was that all about? I'll ask Matty. When Mickey starts acting weird he usually knows why, and the same is true for Mickey when Matty starts acting weird. It must be nice having a twin. It's hard trying to express your feelings in words, but for Mickey and Matty, most of the time words aren't really needed. That could be a huge advantage. Then again, it could also be a huge disadvantage.

Shaking his head in amusement and smiling to himself, Ryoko quickly started down the sidewalk, anxious to arrive home before his mother came to the conclusion that he was purposely trying to disobey her. He had just passed the park near his house when a flicker of something orange off to his right suddenly captured his attention. Turning in surprise, he found himself gazing at a small boy with bright, carrot-coloured hair, who was sitting by himself on an old wooden bench. The boy had his face buried in his hands, and although Ryoko couldn't tell for sure, he was quite certain he had just stumbled upon someone who was very upset about something.

Growing curious, Ryoko slowly moved closer to the boy and glanced quickly at his surroundings. At the moment, the park was completely deserted, except for the small boy sitting near the swings, and what sounded like stifled sobs could be heard just barely over the sound of the wind blowing briskly through the leaves on the trees surrounding the park. At first Ryoko was tempted to leave, (he really did need to get home and more than likely the boy didn't want any company, preferring not to be seen in such a vulnerable state of weakness) but a small spark of sympathy in his heart made him pause, and letting out a deep sigh, he turned back towards the park and quietly made his way closer to the boy's side. Upon closer inspection, he realized with some surprise that the boy was actually Takara's little eight year old brother, Taysuke Kamiya.

Unable to hide his shock and confusion, Ryoko came to an abrupt stop and stared at the younger boy with his mouth hanging open. "Tay? What are you doing here?"

At the sound of his name, Taysuke jerked his head up in surprise, and Ryoko found himself gazing into the younger boy's deep brown eyes. For a moment, the two of them just stared at each other in confusion, the younger boy looking unsure of whether or not he had really just heard someone calling his name, but before Ryoko could speak, Taysuke's gaze suddenly focused on his face, and he watched the younger boy's eyes widen in recognition. To his complete astonishment, instead of smiling and saying hello, Taysuke suddenly lowered his eyes to the grass and proceeded to gaze miserably at his hands. There was a faint blush on his cheeks, and he looked a little embarrassed about something, but try as he might, Ryoko could not quite figure out what was causing the younger boy to behave in such an unusual manner. "Ryoko, I didn't hear you come up."

It was then when Ryoko suddenly noticed the red tear stains on Taysuke's cheeks. He hesitated, unsure of whether or not he should intrude, but after a moment of tense silence, he slowly sat down next to the younger boy and draped his arm over the back of the bench, shifting slightly to find a more comfortable position. Turning slightly to face Taysuke, he gave the younger boy what he hoped was a cheerful smile. "What are you doing out here all by yourself?"

Taysuke shrugged and chewed anxiously on his lower lip. "Just thinking."

"About what?"

"Nothing really..."

Ryoko frowned and peered more closely at the younger boy's face. Taysuke had obviously been crying for quite a while, and judging from the way the younger boy was shivering in his gym shorts and t-shirt, it was obvious he had been sitting there for some time.

Why is he so upset? Did something happen today?

His thoughts must have shown on his face because Taysuke suddenly turned away from him in embarrassment, and growing self-conscious, the younger boy quickly brushed at the tear stains on his cheeks with the back of his hand. Feeling a sudden surge of affection for the small child sitting beside him, Ryoko quickly pulled off his jacket and held it out with an awkward, yet surprisingly sympathetic, smile on his face. Taysuke stared at it in confusion, but before the younger boy could say anything, Ryoko quickly dropped it into his arms. "Here, you'd better put this on. With only your gym clothes for warmth, you're going to freeze if you sit out here like that much longer."

Taysuke glanced down at his gym uniform and slowly looked up again, his big, brown eyes growing wide with shock. "But...what about you?"

Ryoko shrugged and gently pushed his jacket further into Taysuke's arms. "I'll live."

"Are you sure?"

"Go on, take it."

Taysuke hesitated, but Ryoko wouldn't take no for an answer. Reaching out, he quickly bundled the younger boy into his jacket and sat back with a satisfied smile on his face. His jacket was much too big for the small eight year old, but even so, Taysuke didn't seem to mind. If anything, he looked both surprised and grateful, and his small face was beaming with happiness.

"Feel better?"

Taysuke smiled shyly at him and snuggled deeper into the jacket for warmth. "Much better."

Well, it's a start anyway. Now if only I could figure out what's wrong with him...

Thoughts concerning the state of his room momentarily forgotten, Ryoko gazed curiously at the younger boy and propped his chin thoughtfully in his hands. He had always liked Taysuke, but since there was a bit of an age gap between them, he had never gotten an opportunity to spend as much time with the younger boy as he would have liked. On top of that, Taysuke wouldn't be attending the same school as him until the following year, which also created a bit of a rift between them. They had played together quite a bit when they were younger and still hung out together occasionally, though Takara was always with them when they did, so it wasn't as if they didn't know each other very well, but for some reason Ryoko suddenly felt as if there was something vitally important missing in their elusive friendship, and it was making him feel guilty for perhaps not paying as much attention to the younger boy as he should have in a way he could not fully explain. After all, Takara was like the sister he had never had, and the two of them were very close. Wouldn't it then make sense for Taysuke to be like the younger sibling he had always wanted?

Shaking his head at his own confusing thoughts, Ryoko quickly looked away from Taysuke and gazed uncertainly at his hands. All of a sudden he felt a closeness to the younger boy that he had never experienced before, and it made him want to understand what was causing his young friend so much pain and sadness.

He's obviously upset about something, but what if he doesn't want to tell me what's bothering him? Should I even ask? It's really none of my business...

Coming to a quick decision, Ryoko slowly slipped his arm around Taysuke and gazed directly into the younger boy's large, brown eyes. "You don't seem like yourself at all today. Since I'm here, why don't you tell me what's on your mind? I'm a good listener, and who knows? I might even be able to help."

For a long moment, Taysuke remained silent, his face a mask of sorrow, but just when it looked as if he wouldn't reply, the younger boy suddenly lifted his head and rubbed vigorously at his eyes. "Tryouts for my school soccer team took place this afternoon. There were a lot of kids who tried out, and a lot of them were really great, unlike...unlike me. I...I didn't make the team."

Ryoko watched Taysuke's eyes fill with tears again, and shaking his head, he gave the younger boy's shoulder a sympathetic squeeze. "I didn't know you were thinking of trying out for the soccer team. Kara definitely never mentioned anything about it."

Taysuke bit his lip and managed a weak smile. "She didn't know. I never told anyone I was trying out, including my parents. I told them I was going to be a little late coming home from school today because of something special we had going on for gym class. I was to call and tell them when it was over so they could come pick me up, but...I don't think I can face them right now."

"Hey, come on, Tay. I can tell you were really looking forward to being on the soccer team, but it's not the end of the world. You can always try out again next year when you come to my school. We have two teams, one for the younger kids and one for the older kids, like Dai. I'm sure, with a little more patience and experience, you'll make it onto the team easily."

"No, you don't understand," Taysuke mumbled, shaking his head and wrapping his arms tightly around his knees. "I love playing soccer, but...I'm not a very good player. I was hoping I would have improved enough to at least make the team, but obviously I haven't. Now what am I supposed to do? I didn't tell my parents or Kara I was trying out in the first place because I wanted to surprise them, but when they find out I didn't make it, they're going to be really disappointed. How am I supposed to face them again after this? They would have been so excited if I had made the team, but I'll I've done is let them all down. Unless maybe if I just don't tell them I tried out..."

Does he really think Tai and Sora only care about whether or not he's a good soccer player?

Ryoko smiled at the thought and wrapped his arm around the younger boy's shoulder. "Listen, Tay, do you honestly believe your parents and Kara only care about whether or not you're a good soccer player? I know they would have been really happy for you if you had made the team, but they're not going to think any less of you just because you didn't. I know both of your parents played soccer when they were younger, and your sister is definitely by far the best player on the girls' soccer team at my school, but that doesn't mean you have to be exactly like them. They're always going to love you whether you become a great soccer player or not."

"But...but I really, really, love playing soccer!" Taysuke protested.

"Then why are you giving up so easily? If you like soccer that much, then you know what you have to do, right? Why don't you ask Kara to help you practice, or you can even ask your parents. I'm sure all three of them would be happy to help you improve your skills. With their help, you'll definitely make it onto the soccer team next year."

"Oh, I couldn't!" Taysuke gasped, blushing furiously and hiding his face against his knees. "If I ask them for help, they'll know something is wrong and then I'll have to...to..."

Ryoko glanced at the younger boy and raised his eyebrows. "I take it you're not going to tell them what happened today?"

Taysuke slowly looked up and gave him a guilty smile. "I want to, but I don't think I can. Besides, it's not like they knew I was trying out to begin with, so if I don't tell them I didn't make it, it isn't going to make any difference. It's not like I'm lying or anything. After today, I...I just don't think I could handle seeing the disappointed looks on their faces."

I really shouldn't talk, since I'm also guilty of that sort of thing, but...

Ryoko crossed his arms and gave the younger boy a stern look. "You should really tell them, but if you're not going to then there's only one thing left for you to do."

"What's that?" Taysuke asked, looking a bit uncertain.

Ryoko leaned closer to the younger boy and gently ruffled his carrot-coloured hair. "If you're not going to surprise them this year with your not so good piece of news, then surprise them next year by telling them you made the soccer team."

"But...but I don't have anyone to practice with. I can't ask Kara or my parents, remember?"

Ryoko nodded and gazed thoughtfully at the deserted playground for a moment, his mind working quickly to come up with a solution that would solve Taysuke's small problem. "Why don't you ask your cousin Matty? He likes playing soccer."

Taysuke smiled slightly and quickly shook his head. "I don't think Matty would really be the best person to ask. I know he likes soccer, but he's never really been all that competitive about it, and because of that he might not take me very seriously. Besides, he might let something slip to Mickey, not intentionally of course, but if that happens, there's a chance the two of them might accidentally tell Kara."

"You're right. I hadn't thought of that."

"What about you, Ryoko? Do you think you could teach me how to play soccer?" Taysuke asked hopefully.

Ryoko shook his head regretfully and gave the younger boy an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Tay, but you know me. Soccer isn't really my thing. Don't get me wrong, I'll join in on a game of soccer with you and our friends after school or on weekends, and I guess you could say I'm a pretty decent player, though definitely nowhere near as good as some of our friends, but I'm not really the best person to ask."

"Oh." Taysuke's whole face fell and he stared miserably at his hands, his big, brown eyes growing dark with sorrow. He looked so vulnerable sitting there with his arms wrapped around his legs, in a coat that was several sizes too big for him, and the sadness in his eyes made Ryoko want desperately to find an answer.

There has to be someone who can help Tay out...

A sudden thought occurred to him, and it startled him so much he nearly fell off the bench in surprise. The answer was so obvious, he was surprised and a little embarrassed he hadn't thought of it before. Not only that, it was an absolutely perfect solution to Taysuke's problem. There was only one thing bothering him, and it was whether or not he could bring himself to mention the name of someone he had been trying only too hard to avoid for the last three days...

"Ryoko, is something wrong?" Taysuke asked anxiously.

Ryoko took a deep breath and quickly shook his head. "No, I was just thinking. Listen, Taysuke, you want someone to teach you how to be a good soccer player, right? Well, why don't you ask Daichi?"

Taysuke's mouth dropped open and he let out a gasp of shock. "Ask...Dai?"

"Tay, I've seen you play soccer before, and you're not a bad player. In fact, I think you're a really good player. All you lack is a little bit of confidence and training. Dai can help you with both of those things. Like I said earlier, my friends and I have played soccer with you and your friends, and even many of our parents before, and I can tell you have a lot of potential. All you need is a little bit of help. Why not ask Dai? He's the best soccer player I know. Well, maybe not the best. I'd say it's a tie between him and your sister, and since you won't ask Kara, Dai would be the next best option. Plus, he's great with little kids, and I bet he could teach you a lot."

"Oh, I could never ask Dai!" Taysuke gasped, his face turning pure white and his eyes growing wide with fear. "What if...what if he laughs at me?"

"Tay, Dai would never laugh at you. Never. He would want to help you, I know he would."

Taysuke suddenly moved closer to him, and Ryoko felt the younger boy snuggle under his arm for warmth. "I know you're right, but still...I don't think I could ask him. I'd be too embarrassed."

Ryoko gazed thoughtfully at the cars passing by on the street for a moment and permitted himself a small frown. Taysuke was a good kid, and now that Ryoko finally had an opportunity to spend some time alone with the younger boy, he wanted to make the most of it. It was strange, but Taysuke seemed to understand him in a way that many other people could not. Even his five closest friends, especially Dai, had trouble understanding him at times, but Taysuke didn't seem to have that problem. Somehow, Taysuke had always been able to see past his cold exterior in a way that the others still had yet to learn, and it surprised him in many ways he could not really understand. Not once, since they were little, had Taysuke ever accused him of being cold or unfeeling, and the boy had never been afraid to approach him or spend time with him. It was like Taysuke had always known just how vulnerable he really was inside, and that was something he was sure his five amazing friends, whom he cared about more than he would ever admit, were only now just beginning to learn and understand. For that reason alone, he knew he owed it to the younger boy to find a way to help. There was one thing he could do, but even thinking about it made him want to run in the other direction.

I can't believe I'm even considering it, especially after the way Dai framed me, but...for Tay...and besides, what happened with Dai was technically my fault...

"I guess I'll never be a good soccer player now," Taysuke said miserably, scrubbing hard at the still visible tear stains on his cheeks. "If I weren't so afraid..."

Mentally kicking himself for what he was about to do, Ryoko took a deep breath and turned to gaze directly into the younger boy's sparkling brown eyes. "If you want, I could ask him for you."

Taysuke stared at him. "You...you would do that for me?"

"For you, Tay? Anything."

Taysuke blushed and gave him a hesitant smile. "But...but Kara told me you and Dai aren't speaking to each other at the moment. She mentioned something about it at breakfast this morning. Is it true you got stuck in detention because Dai kicked a soccer ball through one of the classroom windows at your school a few days ago?"

Ryoko felt his face turn red and he quickly looked at his hands. "Something like that."

"You mean, you'll still ask him for me, even though you're not talking to him?"

Ryoko lifted his gaze and slowly nodded. "Of course I will. I can tell how important this is to you, and who knows? You might even get good enough to join the soccer club one day. Dai's in the soccer club, and I'm sure he'd love to have you on the team. I told you, Tay. For you, it's worth it."

"You mean it?"

"Definitely."

Ryoko suddenly felt Taysuke's small arms slip around his neck in a tight hug, and for the second time that day he nearly fell off the bench in surprise. Awkwardly, he patted the younger boy's back, but almost immediately his embarrassment faded away, and to his complete astonishment he found himself returning the hug.

"Thanks, Ryoko," Taysuke whispered happily in his ear.

Now I just have to talk to Dai. He's never going to let me forget this.

The thought made him wince, but instead of revealing his concerns to Taysuke, he quickly stood up and held out his hand to the younger boy. "Come on, Tay, I'd better bring you home. You shouldn't be out here all by yourself. Your parents would be really worried if they knew. Besides, if you do call them to come get you and they see you like this, they might suspect something. I'm actually supposed to be at home cleaning my room, but..."

"Your parents aren't going to get you into trouble, are they?" Taysuke asked anxiously, reaching for his green backpack, which sat next to the bench. "Maybe you should-"

"It's too late for me to start making excuses now; I'm already really late. The least I can do is make sure you get home safe."

Taysuke beamed at him and shyly took his hand. "You'll keep what we talked about a secret, won't you?"

"I won't tell a soul. Other than us, Dai will be the only other person who knows what is going on."

"I'll practice really hard. I want to give my family a really nice, big surprise next year."

"You will, I'm sure of it."

After all, Tay, you couldn't ask for a better teacher.

Smiling to himself, Ryoko led Taysuke down the street, and holding tightly to the little boy's hand, he made his way quickly to the Kamiya residence. He could feel the younger boy watching him, and without even looking, he was sure Taysuke was positively beaming at him.

Turning slightly, he discovered that he was right. The younger boy had an odd sort of look on his face, and although it wasn't anything you could really put into words, Ryoko could tell something had changed between them. It was subtle, and yet at the same time, it was somehow oddly significant. It was almost like Taysuke was seeing him in a new light, and although Ryoko didn't really know how to explain it, he couldn't help feeling as if it were his duty to live up to, and more importantly exceed, the younger boy's expectations. And although Taysuke's actions weren't necessarily hinting at anything in particular, it didn't change Ryoko's sudden desire to be a good role model in the slightest. "Hey, Tay? You're really lucky, you know that? I can't deny Dai's a great soccer player, and I'm glad you have someone like him to look up to."

Taysuke's expression grew suddenly thoughtful and he nodded slowly. "I know, but..."

The younger boy paused and Ryoko turned to look at him. "What is it?"

Taysuke blushed and Ryoko felt the younger boy give his hand a quick squeeze. "It's nothing, only...our heroes aren't always the ones who seem to fit the role the best. Sometimes, it's the little things that matter the most."

Confused, Ryoko desperately wanted to ask the younger boy what he meant, but instead he chose to remain silent. After all, as Mickey and Matty would say, sometimes the best way to communicate is without using any words at all.

The End