Red and White

Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. All Digimon characters are owned by Toei and A. Hongo and such. I am making no money from this fic. It is a just-for-fun project. The only bit I own is my own characters and the way the words are put together.


Chapter Nine

"Matt!? Are you going to get up today?" Masaharu yelled as he opened a cupboard door in search of something clean to make a coffee in.

Matt opened one eye slowly and scanned his room. He then shut it again purposefully.

"Mmm." He replied lazily.

The next thing he knew, his curtains were noisily drawn back and the morning sun shone arrogantly into his room. To this, he screwed up his eyes, moaned and swung himself over in the bed.

"I thought we were going to see a movie today?" Masaharu asked, coffee in hand. "Or are you and TK too old to be seen with your poor old Dad anymore?"

"No. Where's mine?" Matt opened his eyes a little and shielded them from the bright sunlight with his hand.

"Where's your what?"

"My coffee."

"In the pot, for when you get up, lazy-legs." Masaharu chuckled.

"Muughh… You're mean…" Matt faux-sulked, covering his eyes completely and slumping back down in the bed. Masaharu grinned.

"Mm-hmm, I'm as mean as they come." He agreed.

"Maaahh!" Matt replied loudly, to which Masaharu yelled, cheerfully

"Get up!"

Finally Matt did so, wrapping his dressing gown loosely around himself, not doing up the belt. He slunk out to the kitchen area where Masaharu dutifully rammed a mug of coffee into his hand.

"What time did you actually go to bed last night?" Masaharu asked.

"I don't know… Late sometime…"

"I went to bed at about 11.30- and you were still awake, yakking with Tai online."

"Mmm.." Matt drank from the coffee mug.

"I went to the board, too." Matt continued after a mouthful of coffee. Masaharu looked up from his own mug.

"Yeah?"

"Someone new was there, so most of us were talking to him. It was kinda sad."

"It's always kinda sad." Masaharu's face fell..

"He kinda reminded me of…me. And what I went through."

Masaharu was silent as his son continued.

"What made it worse was that he tried to do what I did, only his family and friends aren't as understanding as mine. He wanted to do it again, that's why I was up so late last night. His family don't know yet, about why he did it. He's too frightened to tell them."

"Did you make any progress with him?" Masaharu asked, genuinely concerned.

"I think so. He seemed a little easier about himself. I went into a private chat room with him and gave him my e-mail address and phone number.

"I hope he contacts me.

"Don't want anyone to have to go through that on their own."

Masaharu didn't answer, just shook his head.

"Maybe I can help- I don't know, maybe talk to his parents and try to explain for him… It's not easy…"

"I know." Masaharu replied. "But don't upset yourself doing it. It's not as if your over your own abuse yet."

"Why, what'll you do- cut my internet connection?" Matt grinned slyly. Masaharu raised an eyebrow and smiled into the mug he was still holding.

"Maybe."

"You wouldn't dare!" Matt cried, horrorstruck.

"Yeah, and what would you do about it?" Masaharu prodded playfully.

"Leave school and get a job of my own to pay for it!" Matt poked his tongue out at his father. Masaharu raised an eyebrow again.

"Now that I know you woudn't dare." He replied. "Mom and I would have you for breakfast."

"Talking of breakfast…" Matt said, putting the coffee down on the side and looking in a cupboard behind him.

"Dad…?" Matt asked, incredulous. "Did you actually go grocery shopping this morning?"

"Seeing as I've been up three hours longer than you, is that really a surprise?" Masaharu asked, putting his mug in the sink.

"We never have groceries in the house! Are you sure you're feeling okay?" Matt poked his head around the cupboard door and raised his eyebrows in an expression of shock. Masaharu walked straight out of the kitchen and replied, good-naturedly,

"Go back to bed- give that sharp tongue of yours a longer rest!"

"Mnn! Meanie." Matt poked his tongue out at his father's back.

Today was an especially good day- but Matt's relationship with his father had improved vastly over the last eight months. He had made a special effort to be there for his son. He hadn't worked much in the way of extra hours at the TV station for months. He'd become a good listener- through sheer patience. Even though to his own mind he could never really know what his son had gone through, he had an understanding of it- and it showed every time he dealt in any way with his child.

From Matt's point of view, Masaharu had risen greatly in his esteem. Though he had never harboured any real anger at his father for his childhood, and spending many nights without any form of parental company- he'd never really been at peace with it, either. Masaharu, in an instant, in a moment of desperate need, of mandatory understanding, had changed his child's entire view of him. Matt finally felt… protected. He'd rarely ever felt protected or defended by his father. He'd only ever occasionally felt loved or comforted. It wasn't because his father hadn't cared before. It was only that he'd never known quite how to show it.

But, with a wall behind him and his son's potential death in front of him, Masaharu had learned quickly- and they were skills he would never forget. They were skills he would never allow himself to forget- not now that he knew them.

Even TK had noticed a pleasurable change in his father. He was much more affectionate- and finally his sons were aware that they really did come before the TV station. In truth, they always had- but their emotionally difficult father had had a hard time showing it.

Matt was gazing blankly at a bagel for a long time before he felt his father's hand on his shoulder.

He no longer needed to say anything. He no longer needed to ask the mandatory question. Matt knew now that 'the hand' asked it, instead of words.

"I'm okay." Matt smiled. "Just thinking about Aki."

"The boy from last night?"

"Yeah. I hope he's okay." Matt cut the bagel in two and rammed it into the toaster.

"You worry too much about others, and not about yourself." Masaharu warned.

"But…I wish I could do something. I know what it's like, I've been there…"

"I know. But, what could you do? If he's too afraid to tell his parents, what makes you think he'll let you talk to them?" Matt sighed deeply.

"I don't know." He looked at his wrists, which were just visible underneath his pyjama and dressing gown sleeves. The scars were pinker now, less angry. They had purple tones to them, but at least they weren't as aggressive as they had been. For a moment, Matt's mind flashed back to the wrists, covered in red.

"I just wish…" he mumbled.

Masaharu didn't offer any words of comfort this time. He knew that. whatever he said, it wouldn't make Matt feel any better. He walked over to the refrigerator and took out the cream cheese. He offered it to his son, who took it.

"Should I call TK, and get him to come around so we're ready to go?" Masaharu asked, a soft, encouraging smile on his face. Matt smiled, despite his inner concerns and nodded.

"Yeah."

"Maaatt!! Aren't you ready yet!?" TK yowled from outside Matt's room. Matt plucked twice more at his hair with the gel and stood back from the mirror.

"Yes, I'm coming, I'm coming!"

"You'll be in a theatre! It's not as if anyone's gonna see you!"

Matt opened the door suddenly and plucked TK's hat off, hiding it behind his back.

"Yeah, so?" He asked, grinning all the while as TK tried to get behind him for the hat.

"Give it back!" TK pouted, leaping forward for the hat.

"Matt! Stop tormenting your little brother! Give him the hat back." Masaharu instructed, without looking up from his third mug of coffee and his newspaper. Matt rolled his eyes and plopped the hat back on TK's head- messily.

"Sometimes you suck." TK pouted, sorting out the mess that was his hat.

"And the rest of the time?" Matt prompted, smiling wickedly.

"Mm. Acceptable." TK replied nonchalantly.

Matt tutted and threw him a peace offering of a chocolate bar he'd alsohad hidden behind his back. TK caught it easily and grinned, opening it without a pause.

"Make that 'cool'." He said, through a mouthful of chocolate bar.

"That's better." Matt replied, straightening his shirt.

"Okay, I'm ready." He announced, to which his father pretended to pass out in his coffee.

"Not funny." Matt scowled as his brother proceeded to act the same way.

"I don't think you should have that chocolate bar. You're hyper enough already." Matt scolded TK. TK screwed his nose up.

"But it's almost finished now!"

"I'll be out in the car when you two have stopped bickering." Masaharu said and stood, taking his casual jacket from the back of the chair.

Matt poked his tongue out at his little brother and raced after his father, slamming the door behind him- answered gratifyingly by a plaintive whine. He grinned wickedly.


"I can't believe you two spent most of that movie throwing popcorn at each other!" Masaharu exclaimed as they left the movie theatre. "And worse still, at anyone who got in the way!"

Matt grinned.

"You mean you, because you were sitting between us!"

"Not only me! Did you see the look on the face of that young woman two rows in front of us? I could feel her eyes burning through me in a dark movie theatre!" Masaharu grimaced. "I thought you were going to get us all kicked out!"

"Who, us? But we're little angels, Dad- nobody would suspect us of anything!" TK grinned sweetly and clutched his father's arm for a moment.

Masaharu raised an eyebrow.

"Just as well I know you both better then, isn't it?" he replied, a smile curling the corner of his mouth. Matt stopped and put a hand on his chest.

"Dad! I'm hurt!" he said, in tones of mock-injury.

"Yeah, right! Get there in front where I can see you, danger-boy" Masaharu grinned and pulled his lagging son to the front.

"Danger-boy!?"

"Yeah, Danger-boy."

"Hmph. Danger-boy…" Matt muttered as he walked in front of his father. Suddenly, he remembered something.

"Dad, I'm going to go shopping this afternoon."

"I didn't think you were a shopping kind of a guy." Masaharu raised his tell-tale eyebrow.

"Sometimes." Matt replied cryptically.

"Sure. Want a ride?" Masaharu asked, as they approached the car in the parking lot.

"Sure." Matt replied. "Not one to turn down a ride, much."

"Can I come?" Asked TK, finally finishing his third ice-cream.

"Depends- how much sugar have you had today?" Matt asked.

TK appeared to count mentally for a few moments and replied,

"Not much."

"You liar!" Matt exclaimed. "You had three ice creams, two Coke's and a bag of candy- you've had plenty! And the chocolate bar I gave you earlier! And whatever you had at Mom's because you were hyper before you got here!"

TK leapt head-first into the car's back seat and Matt covered his face with his hand.

"See what I mean? Right now, you ought to be in a little cage thing, bouncing off the walls."

"Aww, that's not nice, Onii-chan." TK pouted.

"No, it's not is it?" answered Masaharu. "Matt, you can sit in the back with him."

"What, with Hyper-Mad TK!?"

"Yup."

"Argh… crap." Matt muttered quietly as he got ito the back seat with his brother.

"And when you take him shopping, don't let him have any more sugar. His kidneys will collapse." Masaharu called back to his eldest as he got into the driver's seat.

"Who said I was taking him?" Matt replied.

"Me." Masaharu grinned back via the rear-view mirror. Matt rolled his eyes.


"If I buy your lunch, you have to have Diet Coke. Okay? No more sugar." Matt insisted. TK pulled a face.

"Yuck."

"Yeah, well, if I give you any more sugar, Dad'll kill me. Do you like having an Onii-chan?" Matt asked playfully. TK pouted.

"Most of the time."

"Then don't let me see you ingesting anymore sugar. Or one of us is going to be an only child." Matt replied as they got into the McDonald's food queue.

"One of us?" TK replied.

"Yeah. I might kill you, or Dad might kill me."

"You're mean." TK grumbled.

"No, I'm not, I'm concerned for your health. You've had way too much sugar already. And how did you get away with making Dad get you three ice-creams?" Matt questioned.

"Practice." Grinned TK.

"Damn. I need to get in on that act." Matt murmured as they approached the desk.

Fifteen minutes and half a meal later, TK was much calmer. Apparently, he'd had no real breakfast, and so the sugar had gone straight through his system.

"What are you shopping for?" TK asked Matt, finishing his last mouthful of Quarter-Pounder with Cheese.

"I want to get something for Dad." Matt replied, doing away with the last of his Fillet-o-Fish. TK looked confused.

"But his birthday's not for ages yet." He said, uncertainly.

"Yeah, I know, But he's done a lot for me over the past few months and…I just wanted to get him something."

TK nodded.

"Do you know what you want to get?"

"Not yet."

TK glanced down at Matt's wrists, which were slightly visible from underneath the long-sleeved top he wore. The sleeves had risen slightly and his wrists were garnering stares from passers-by in the restaurant. TK reached out and pulled down the sleeves again gently. He'd become used to protecting his brother recently, especially from the stares of strangers.

"You know, you don't have to do that." Matt said gently, knowing that his brother had done it with the best of intentions. He knew TK would never cover his scars because he was ashamed of being with a brother who had tried to commit suicide. TK looked up from the sleeves worriedly.

"I'm not ashamed of them anymore." Matt said softly.

"You never should have been." TK smiled back. He shrugged suddenly and grabbed his Diet Coke, swigging a mouthful.

"Eww…" he screwed up his face.

Matt laughed.

"Eh, maybe you should have had something else…?"

"McDonalds don't do anything else that's sugar-free. You could have gotten me Coke, but no-oo…" TK play-whinged. Matt poked him and said,

"Shut up, and let your onii-chan decide what's good for you."

"It's very hard to stop my onii-chan doing that!" TK grinned.

"But you'd miss it if it wasn't there, right?" Matt emotionally prodded. TK shrugged and whipped the straw around in the Diet Coke.

"Meh, I guess so."


TK yawned. Now that his sugar-rush was wearing off, he was tired and a little grouchy. He gazed blankly at a shirt whilst Matt looked through the gift section of a local men's clothing store. Matt soon turned to TK and screwed up his face in a 'let's go' motion. TK looked up groggily and Matt rolled his eyes, taking his brother by the arm and walking out of the shop.

"You okay?" Matt asked, as he lead his brother to a nearby bench.

"M'tired." TK replied, looking down at the floor as though the weight of his head prevented him doing anything else. Matt sat down next to him and asked,

"Do you want to rest here for a minute?"

"Yeah." TK replied, yawning again.

Matt sat, leaning forward, elbows on his thighs and TK propped himself up on his brother's shoulder.

"See? Now this is what you get for eating all that sugar, all at once." Matt scolded gently. TK frowned, his eyes closed.

"Shut up." He replied, non-maliciously.

They were quiet for a moment, and TK reached up and put his head in his arms on Matt's lowered back. Matt looked around curiously at his brother, but didn't do anything but smile.

"So you haven't found what you're looking for yet?" TK asked dozily.

"No. There's lots of stuff here, but none of it's right."

"So, what areyou looking for?" TK reiterated, dopier still this time.

"I don't think I'm going to know until I actually find it." Matt sighed in his reply.

A few minutes later, Matt sighed lightly and said,

"Come on, Teek, let's get going."

He waited for a reply from his brother, but none came.

"TK?" Matt craned his neck around so that he could look at his brother- who was sound asleep on his back. Matt smiled softly.

"Not just yet then, huh?"

He moved gently, more concerned about letting his brother's head drop off his back than he was about waking him up.

"Teek? Come on TK, you can't sleep up there." Matt called, trying to reach round and support his brother's head as he attempted to sit upright. TK awoke for a second, grumbled incoherently and allowed Matt to guide his head onto his chest instead.

"If you're gonna sleep, sleep there." Matt instructed gently. TK didn't make a single protest.

"How can I tell I'm not going to be able to get what I want today?" Matt sighed, albeit with a small smile on his face as he tucked some loose strands of hair behind TK's ear.


TK blinked his eyes open and found himself staring at the outside of stores- sideways. He immediately sat up, trying to focus on the ecru-coloured trousers he'd been laying on.

"Okay?" Matt asked. TK looked at him blearily.

"Have I been asleep?"

"Yup."

"How long?"

"Only about twenty minutes or so. You feel any better?"

"Yeah. A bit." TK rubbed his eyes.

"Come on. I won't drag you around too much longer. A couple more shops and we can go home." Matt stood slowly, trying to awaken his butt- which had gone numb against the wooden bench under the weight of his brother's head.

"Mmm." Replied TK. He gazed around blankly for a little bit.

"I promise?" Matt prompted. TK nodded. He looked so forlorn and disoriented suddenly that Matt did something he hadn't done in a while- because the last time it had been rejected and his feelings had been hurt. He held his hand out to TK.

TK smiled and took it.

He let it go soon afterwards, but the fact that he'd taken it as he always had when he was little, was enough to make Matt smile happily.

As they walked past store after store, and Matt was thinking about calling it a day, he stopped abruptly outside a jeweller's window.

"Waagh!" said TK, as Matt grabbed the edge of his collar.

"Look!" exclaimed Matt, pointing through the glass.

"What?"

"There!"

There, at the very front of the window, was a small tie-pin. It was in the abstract shape of two figures, one bigger and leaning down, and the other smaller, reaching up to the bigger one. The figures were joined together by a fragile bond of gold.

"That's it. That's what I've been looking for." Matt smiled. Then he saw the price tag and grimaced.

"Ow… That's expensive…"

"It is… Do you have enough for it?"

Matt was already counting his yen- right down to his change.

"Probably not." He looked dejected. TK bit his lip.

"How much do you have?" he asked.

"15,421 yen. And that's everything I have. Including our bus fare home. It's everything I saved." Matt leaned his head on the glass sadly and sighed.

Disturbed at seeing his brother so despondent, TK started rifling through his own pockets.

"What are you doing?" Matt asked as he heard the rustling of paper. He was surprised when he turned to find TK holding out 3,000 yen's worth of notes to him.

"What's this for?"

"You can give it back to me when you've got it." TK smiled shyly.

"You're lending me the money to get it?!"

"Sure! You didn't even think to ask me, did you?"

"No… I…" Matt blushed. He didn't like asking anyone for money- especially his little brother. He was such a prudent saver that it was almost embarrassing to not have enough.

"Mom gave me my allowance this morning. And I know that's what you want to get." TK looked back at it through the window. He turned back to Matt and discovered the yen notes still in his own hand.

"What are you waiting for!? Go and get it!" TK waved the notes and laughed at his brother's reticence. Without another word, Matt grabbed the notes, hugged TK and raced into the store.

TK stood for a moment, dazed by his brother's sudden and unusual show of public affection. Then he smiled discreetly and decided he quite liked it- even though for the sake of his cool he would say that he hadn't if anyone asked.

TK looked through the window and watched Matt's movements as he spoke to the salesperson behind the counter. He wiped his hot breath off the window as the salesperson approached, pretending not to be interested in what was going on in the shop.

As soon as the man had moved away again, TK gazed back inside and smiled at the look on his brother's face. It really was the item he'd been looking for.

Matt came out of the store a few minutes later, still smiling. He held out his hand to TK, offering him the change from the transaction.

"Look at that! There's even enough left to get us home." TK grinned.

"Thanks TK." Matt said gratefully. TK shrugged.

"Sure. You've done that for me plenty of times. It's nice to be able to do it back."


Matt saw his brother home- even though there was no need to, TK was feeling a lot better after his sugar abstinence. Then he returned to his own home, to prepare dinner and check his e-mail.

Sitting down at his computer, he booted up and waited for his desktop to load. Opened Outlook Express… connected to his server…

And received two e-mails. One of which was junk mail, telling him how easy it was to enlarge his penis, one of which had a subject heading of 'I need someone to talk to'. With a grunt of disgust, Matt deleted the fist message and opened the second one.

It was, as he'd suspected, from Aki.

'Dear Matt.

'I'm glad you offered to talk to me about what happened- you're the only one who did. All the people at the board last night were really good and all, but… They can't help me. You can't help me. I know you've been where I am now, which means that you made the same decisions as I have about dying. That it's best for everyone, that there's not any other options. I know that you tried to tell me that there are last night, and you did a good job. It just wasn't good enough.

'I saw him again today. He just crossed the street in front of me. I was too scared to move, and then he turned around and smiled at me, as if to say 'I've had you once, I can have you again anytime. Just watch me. Just wait for me.'

'There's got to be something else. There's got to be somewhere out there where stuff like this doesn't happen, where people don't just go out and hurt people for the sake of it. Maybe if I die I can find that place. My parents don't know what to do with me, my sister's always around me because she's scared I'll try to kill myself again.

'You know what? Maybe she's right. That's exactly what I want to do. I'm sitting here right now, in front of my computer, with a razor blade and twelve packets of aspirin. Do you think that'll be enough?'

At this point. Matt found himself wiping tears off his keyboard drawer.

'I can't keep being this afraid. There was a time when I was frightened of dying, but I'm not anymore. Surely then, dying can't be as bad as all that? After all, those people who come back from near-death experiences, they all have good things to say about it. Maybe I should just give it a chance.

'But I wanted to thank you for trying to help me. You're the only person who's really tried, in all of this, to make me feel better. You haven't told me that I'll 'get over it' or that it's easy, because you know it's not. It's like when people tell you to smile, because it could be worse- how the Hell should they know? They don't know what's happened to you in your life, or why you're not smiling. Sometimes smiling is hard.

'Sometimes too hard.

'Thank you for trying to make me smile again.

'I'm sure I'm not someone you know well enough to be upset over, but if you were going to be… Don't. I'll be in a better place.

'See you later.

'Aki.'


When Masaharu opened his front door, he could hear a harsh bubbling sound coming from the kitchen.

"Matt? Are you home?" Masaharu called. He walked into the kitchen area and confusedly turned off a pan of water that had been set to boil on the stove. And boil it had- almost through the bottom of the pan. Masaharu could tell by the white lines on the inside of the pan that it had originally been full of water.

"Matt?" Masaharu's voice became worried. He moved deftly around the table and chairs in the front room and walked straight to Matt's bedroom door. He knocked only once before he entered.

"Matt…" Masaharu said sadly as he laid eyes on his son.

Matt was huddled in a corner of his bedroom, eyes red-raw, half his face buried in his raised knees. In his hand he held a small, brown fluffy thing.

"MuMu again?" Masaharu tried his hand at a smile. Matt just sniffed. Masaharu walked over to his son and crammed himself in the corner next to him.

"What is it, Matt? Tell me what's wrong."

Matt lifted his face off of his knees and sniffed, wiping his face with the heel of his hand. His eyes filled with tears again.

"'S nothing we can do, is there?" he forced, gulping in a deep breath.

"About what, son?" Masaharu asked, confused.

"Aki." Matt breathed quickly for a moment, trying to to descend into tears again.

"I don't know. What do you want us to try?"

"I want us to try and make him not-dead." Matt wept.

"Why? What's happened, Matt?" Masaharu asked warily- knowing that if what it sounded like was true, his son would be devastated all over again.

"He sent me an e-mail…" Matt trailed off. He stood unsteadily and led his father to the computer screen, which had long ago switched to power-save mode. Matt pointed weakly and Masaharu leaned on the desk to get a look at the e-mail. He tapped the mouse and the screen jumped into life.

Masaharu read with a feeling of sadness and dread in his stomach. To get his point across more deeply, the boy had even written his letter in red. It was stark against the background of white that the screen offered.

"You know, most people who make threats like this don't carry out the act." Masaharu said, taking his son's arm gently and leading him back out to the front room.

"But I can't even find out, Dad!" Matt exclaimed, stamping on the floor like a spoiled child for a moment.

"You don't have any details for him?" Masaharu asked gently. Matt shook his head- then pushed it into MuMu.

"I donff wan iff to be beff…" Matt mumbled into MuMu. Masaharu lowered his arms and said,

"What?"

"I said I don't want him to be dead." Matt said sadly.

"Me either. But…" Masaharu began as he sat his son down in a chair. Matt lay down on the table with his head in his crossed arms.

"And this is going to hurt…" Masaharu continued as he sat in the opposite chair, "We're probably never going to know."

Matt nodded, his fingers going to his eyes.

"I really thought I could help him." Matt whispered. Masaharu reached out and placed a reassuring hand on Matt's arm.

"From what I read, it seems that you did. You can't save people, Matt, they have to do that themselves. All you can do is point them in the right direction and hope they don't wander off the path."

"But I wanted to save him."

"Want to or not, it's something they have to do. I'm not pretending that the situation he's in is an easy one- we both know it isn't. But if… if he doesn't accept the map to salvation that you offer him…" Masaharu trailed off.

"Then he can't be saved, right?" Matt offered. Masaharu nodded.

"Salvation sucks." Matt breathed deeply again and covered his eyes.

Masaharu was silent as he sadly listened to the irregular breathing of his son. Quiet tears fell onto the table. Matt slid his hand out gently, wiping them away with his fingertips.

"Do you think you could eat something?" Masaharu asked. Matt forced a smile.

"You're still trying to ply me with food, aren't you?"

"Yup."

"No. I'm not hungry."

"Sure?"

Matt nodded. Masaharu put his hand on Matt's head softly until Matt brushed it away.

"I'm okay."

Masaharu nodded, knowing that his son had just told him a lie.

Masaharu busied himself in the kitchen preparing his own dinner. Every now and then he glanced up at his son, who hardly moved from his position- arms spread wide on the table like Christ on the cross.

The phone rang.

Matt didn't move to answer it- and in honesty Masaharu didn't expect him to. He was too upset to speak to anyone, anyway.

Masaharu made his way over to the phone and grabbed it gruffly- angry at it for disturbing his son's fragile peace.

"Hello, Ishida residence?"

"Um…hello? I-is Matt there…?"

Masaharu didn't recognise the voice.

"Depends. Who's calling?"

"Um…d-do I have to?"

"Well…yes, really you do." Masaharu scowled.

"Um…I-I-it's Aki…"

Masaharu's eyebrows shot up.

"Yes, he's here and he'll want to speak to you. Just a second." Masaharu swung around immediately and waved the phone at Matt.

"Matt-chan, quickly. It's for you and it's important."

"Must be. You haven't called me Matt-chan for years." Matt sniffed and got up. "Who is it?"

"Quickly, quickly, just answer it before the poor boy loses his gumption." Masaharu hurried Matt out of the chair and he scowled at his father as he took the phone.

Poor boy?

"Hello? Who is it?" Matt asked, trying to take the tears out of his voice before speaking.

"Matt?"

"Yes, who's there?"

"It's Aki…"

"Aki!?" Matt exclaimed, his breathing quickening.

"Yeah. Sorry."

"No…No! Don't you dare be sorry!"

"I couldn't do it…" Matt heard the boy's voice crack at the other end. Masaharu noted his son's look of concern, even though he couldn't hear what was going on at the other end.

"Aki…Oh, God, Aki… I'm so proud of you…I know how much you wanted to do that…" Matt could feel himself tearing up again.

"I wanted to, I really did… But I remembered you saying that, that it just made it worse for you and harder and… and I didn't want to die…" Aki wept.

"No, you did the right thing, Aki, you did the only thing. I'm so proud of you…You did so well…"

"I-I'm sorry about the letter, I just wanted you to be there on the boards and you weren't and…and then I wanted to die and I just wanted someone to know why and I knew you'd understand…" Aki was crying so much that Matt could hardly understand him.

"It's okay, Aki, it's all right. I'm not angry at you or anything, it's okay. I was upset, but now it's okay…" Matt tried to soothe him gently. He heard a door click open in the background and a female voice, worried and high pitched.

"Aki? Is that your mom?" Matt asked, an idea forming in his head.

"N-no, 'ts my sister…" Aki stuttered. The female voice came closer to the phone and Matt heard,

"Aki? Aki, what's wrong? Who are you talking to? Tell me, baby brother…"

Matt felt a pang in his heart- he was someone's little brother, too. Seemed everyone was these days.

"Aki…I know your sister's worried… She probably wants to talk to you- if it was my little brother, I'd want to know straight away…" Matt said softly, trying to soothe Aki's desperate weeping.

"D-do you have a little brother, Matt?" Aki asked, sniffing.

"Yes, I do. His name's TK." Matt answered.

"Huh. That explains a lot." Aki sniffed, trying to stop crying.

"Do you get along with your onee-chan okay, Aki?" Matt asked.

"Sure." Aki's voice disappeared for a moment, then returned.

"I wanna talk with her." Aki sniffled.

"Sure you do. I understand that." Matt said gently. He paused for a moment and then asked,

"Aki, is your mom there? Or your dad?"

"Mama's here…"

"Okay, Aki, if you go and talk to your onee-chan, because I know you want to and I know she's worried, can I talk to your mom?"

"Why?" Aki became defensive immediately.

"Because I think she needs to know what happened to you. My best friend's mom told my dad- and it was the best thing anyone ever did for me."

"No! No, I…"

"Don't be ashamed, Aki. You didn't do anything wrong, nothing you did lead to that man treating you the way he did. You were not in the wrong. Your mom needs to know, because right now you're not thinking straight. Okay?"

Masaharu was sitting down at the table in the middle of the room, listening to his son repeat words he'd tried to drill into his head a million times. He smiled gently as tears filled his eyes.

"I don't…I don't want her to think-"

"Any less of you? I know, Aki. I know. I'll try to make sure you sound as sweet as always, okay?" Matt smiled, and the smile travelled through to the listener on the other side.

"'Kay…" Aki conceeded eventually.

"Okay? Is that okay?" Matt wanted confirmation before he broke all the rules of confidentiality.

"Yes." Aki confirmed.

"Okay. Go get your mom." Matt said gently and encouragingly.

Aki disappeared for a while. Matt could hear him crying again and heard the sounds of his sister shushing him and calling for their mom. He waited patiently until, at Aki's repeated request, his mother walked towards the phone. Matt could hear her footsteps and prepared himself.

The phone clacked and clanked as she picked it up.

"Hello? Who is this?" her voice was sharp with anxiety.

"Hi, are you Aki's mom?"

"Yes, who are you?"

"Okay, uh… I know this is going to sound really strange, but please, hear me out. First of all, my name's Matt and I really need to talk to you about Aki…"

Masaharu listened as Matt relayed the boys's story to his mother. There were a few long pauses, and Masaharu recognised these as being the points in Aki's story which were too like his son's own.

He winced when he heard the words,

"I know, because it happened to me."

Hurtful words, but also ones to make him proud.

I know, because it happened to me.

And it wasn't pride in the fact that it had happened to him. It was pride in the fact that his son had started to accept it, that he could even speak about it without turning into the tearful mess he once would have done.

Masaharu stood up finally, as his son's voice became distressed. He walked calmly across to Matt and placed his hand on Matt's shoulder. He held out the other hand for the receiver.

Matt gave it to him hesitantly.

"Hi, I'm Matt's dad. I know this is all a lot to take in right now, but it's important that you do…" His hand didn't leave Matt's shoulder until Matt took it down himself, and clutched it. He gazed at it hard, as though it might suddenly change into something else.

Eventually, after passing over helpline numbers and contacts (which were still kept by the phone) Masaharu finally ended the phonecall. As he put the receiver back onto the cradle, Matt stepped forward to hug him.

"All right?" Masaharu asked gently. Matt nodded.

"Today was a really good day up until the last couple of hours. Now it's a really good day again." He said, tiredly. Masaharu stroked his hair lightly.

"I'm really proud of you." He said. Matt looked up.

"Why?"

"You really dealt with that well. You were as strong as you could be, for as long as you could be. And when you couldn't be strong anymore, you let someone else take control. Sometimes that's important."

"It is?"

"Mm-hmm."

I love you, Dad.

"Oh! You just reminded me!" Matt exclaimed suddenly, and left the protective quarter of his father's arms to dig in his bedroom for something. Masaharu watched, curious. Matt re-emerged, cradling something in his hands.

"This is for you."

"What?" Masaharu asked, a little confused.

"It's something to…thank you… For being a good dad." Matt looked away, but Masaharu could plainly see he was blushing. He smiled as Matt handed him a small box.

"You know, you don't have to buy me stuff. I'm just doing what Dads should do." He said, as he opened the box.

"Yeah, but recently, you've gone above and beyond the call of duty." Matt waited anxiously for his father's response to the gift.

Masaharu wasn't sure what he had been expecting, but he knew he hadn't been expecting this.

This, aside from anything else, was probably ridiculously expensive.

It was also a beautiful and touching gesture from his eldest son that he wasn't prepared for.

"Wow…" was all Masaharu could muster at first.

"Do you like it?" Matt smiled nervously. Masaharu looked up and nodded.

"It's wonderful." He traced the delicate line between the parent and child with his finger

"Of course, you know it's too expensive." Masaharu chided gently. Matt shrugged.

"So long as you like it."

"I do." Masaharu stood and enveloped his son in an all-encompassing hug.

"Thank you. You know, it's too much of a treasure for me to ever wear, though. I might lose it." Masaharu worried. Matt rolled his eyes.

"There's no point if you're not gonna wear it!"

"Okay, I'll wear it! But only on really special occasions." Masaharu clutched the small box in his hand.

"So you like it?"

"I do."

"Good." Matt breathed an internal sigh of relief.

"But you're still the best gift I've ever been given. You and TK." Masaharu smiled softly.

"Argh, you're gonna get all mushy!" Matt covered his face with his hands. Masaharu laughed.

"No I'm not! I'm just saying what's true, is all." He smiled as his son tried to stifle a yawn.

"Tired?" Masaharu asked. Matt nodded.

"Hungry?" Masaharu tried his luck. Matt closed one eye tightly and wagged his finger at his dad.

"Worth a try." Masaharu shrugged.

The End

Many thanks for reading :) I hope you enjoyed my story :)