Summary: All it took was for him to look at her. Just once. And like that, Sora's willpower would evaporate into thin air, leaving her completely vulnerable to Yamato again. Even after everything that had happened between them, Sora still cared for him. A Sorato.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Akiyoshi Hongo, creator of the Digimon concept, as well as various broadcasting networks. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Notes: This chapter has been updated (as of October 2011) to reflect my changed writing style – so if you're re-reading, you might notice a few tweaks. But thanks, as always, to Trisha for being a sounding board for all my ideas.
Under the Surface
Chapter I: Back to the Beginning
"Are you done yet?"
Taichi leaned close over the stove, obstructing Yamato's view of his skillet. While another person might have felt uncomfortable with Taichi's blatant disregard for personal space – especially considering their proximity to an open flame – Yamato merely nudged his best friend firmly with his elbow. "Not quite," Yamato answered, flicking the gas dial up to high heat. "Be patient."
Taichi heaved a heavy sigh. He pushed away from the counter and walked aimlessly around the kitchen. "This better be worth the wait," he grumbled.
"It usually is," Yamato replied absentmindedly as he used a pair of chopsticks to slide a cut of beef around. It sizzled, and Yamato inhaled in the delicious aroma of cooking beef that wafted upward. "Just sit down. The steak will be done on its own time, whether you keep pacing or not."
"Sit down? Where?" The brunet began cracking up. Yamato glanced around to see that Taichi was shaking his head at the kitchen and adjoining dining area. "When was the last time you and your dad cleaned up the apartment? When the dinos still stomped around on the earth? I'll need a shovel to find a place to sit..."
Yamato pretended to aim his chopsticks at Taichi's head, who gamely feinted to the side in reflex. "For your information, me and my dad have been busy, what with the station's new management and the music festival coming up for the band. And honestly, you're one to talk – when was the last time your room was clean?"
"Er…" Taichi cocked his head to the side and furrowed his brows as he tried to think. "I… don't… know." He quickly moved onto the defensive. "But hey, at least I keep my mess in my room – I don't leave crap all over the living room like you do – "
"Only because your mom threatened to have you neutered if you did otherwise." Yamato smiled smugly, which intensified when Taichi winced.
With as much dignity as he could manage, Taichi leaned against the counter and crossed his arms. "I hate you."
"You say that now, but you'll be singing your praises when you eat this."
"Yeah, I know. Damn you and your delicious food, Ishida. It's the only reason why we're still friends."
Yamato snickered at that before shaking his head. "Do you know when Sora's coming?"
Taichi boosted himself up so that he could sit on the counter. "Nope. She said that she needed to go somewhere after practice, but I dunno how long it'll take her. She did happen to mention that we should start eating without her if she's too late. So if you're just so happening to be taking a long time with dinner because you're waiting for her…" he trailed off meaningfully.
"You're a pig."
"Shut up, you can eat just as much as I can. Don't even try to lie; you kept up when we went to that buffet place last time."
"Just because I can eat as much as you doesn't mean that I always do. I know how to restrain myself; you don't. I'm not a pig, and you are."
"I just have a healthy appetite, that's all," his best friend protested.
"I wouldn't call it that – it's downright alarming, watching you eat."
Taichi shrugged. "What do you expect? I'm an athlete. I need lots of food to keep me fueled."
"Keep telling yourself that." Yamato's attention briefly moved to his dinner preparations, and he focused on checking the beef filets. "Nearly there."
"Awesome." Taichi coughed. "By the way, man, I've been meaning to ask you something."
Yamato set down his chopsticks and moved to the sink to wash his hands. "What's up?"
"What's the special occasion for dinner today? It's been a while since… " Taichi paused and frowned. He tried to continue. "I thought that you and Sora – " He stopped again. Then, he shook his head, looking embarrassed. "Well, you know what I'm trying to ask."
"I know." Yamato dried his hands slowly, giving him time to think of an answer that would satisfy Taichi's question while side-stepping the other, unspoken question in the brunet's curiosity-laden words. It wasn't, after all, something that Yamato enjoyed thinking about.
Much to the shock of their mutual friends, Yamato and Sora had broken up earlier in the year after almost two years of dating. Although Yamato wished that he could say that they had parted amicably, their breakup had been anything but friendly. Their parting was bitter and angry, and neither one of them even considered attempting to maintain the friendship they used to share. Instead, they pretended that the other didn't exist; when they happened to cross paths, it was with icy determination that they ignored each other.
Thoroughly bewildered and at a loss, the Chosen Children and Digimon had at first left the two to their own devices. After a month, Gabumon tentatively proposed that Yamato move on from the past by trying to rebuild his friendship with Sora. The proposition had been vehemently rejected, and the Digimon respectfully left the subject alone… for a while, anyway. After that failed first attempt, Gabumon began to recruit reinforcements, enlisting the aid of Takeru, Taichi, Jyou, and even Hiroaki to nudge Yamato in the direction of reconciliation.
It took several long months of persistent coaxing before Yamato and Sora had their first civil exchange – beginning the arduous process of becoming friends once more. It was hard: there were some things that neither one of them had forgotten, things that had driven them apart. Still, the hardest obstacle – conquering the ill feelings that they used to harbor against each other – had been passed. Now, it was a matter of figuring out just what kind of form their friendship would take.
Yamato was hyperaware of Taichi's eyes on him, and so he finally answered while checking his boiling soba noodles – a pretense for him to speak without having to make eye contact. "Actually, I don't know what the occasion is. Sora caught me before school and suggested the three of us could have dinner together," he continued as he drained the noodles in a strainer. "She wouldn't tell me why, but I offered to cook."
Before Taichi had a chance to ask any further questions, a knock on the door alerted them both to someone's arrival. Yamato checked his watch. "That's Sora. Dad's not due for a few more hours."
Taichi nodded and hopped off the counter. "I'll get it. You finish cooking those steaks already!" he called over his shoulder as he left the kitchen.
Yamato only shook his head in response, even though Taichi couldn't see him anymore. He picked up his chopsticks to check the beef, but he couldn't help but hear snatches of Taichi and Sora's enthusiastic greeting from the hallway. He paused altogether when the sound of their easy laughter echoed, making him feel –
Yamato took a deep breath, gathering himself.
He flipped the steaks again, carefully noting the time; it would be a waste if they became well-done.
Heavy footsteps marked Taichi's return to the kitchen. "Sora smells horrible," Taichi announced at once. "Plug your nose if she stands too close."
"Knock it off. Don't be such a jerk." Sora punched Taichi's shoulder, making the football player yelp in alarm. Speaking over his protestations, Sora apologized loudly, "Sorry I'm late, Yamato. My business took longer than I was expecting."
"Don't worry about it," Yamato said, waving his hand. He noticed that genuine relief flashed across Sora's face and that her shoulders relaxed visibly at his words, and he felt a pang of guilt at the sight. Had she feared his reaction? Pushing the thought aside, he went on to add lightly, "And if you stink, it isn't strong enough for me to smell it."
Sora rolled her eyes. "Obviously, Taichi's never thought to smell himself after his own practices," she said dryly, ignoring Taichi outright. "He makes me smell perfumed in comparison."
"What are you trying to say?" Taichi demanded huffily, offended by her insinuation. "Is there something wrong with my body odor to you? I'll have you know," he continued before Sora could reply, "that my musk drives all the girls at school wild! I get swarmed every time I walk out of the locker room!"
Grinning at their exchange and subsequent bickering, Yamato turned around and went back to dinner. With some luck, Sora kept Taichi's attention occupied long enough for Yamato nearly finish cooking without further interruptions. When their banter winded down, he asked them, "I'm almost done, so can you guys set the table? All the plates and stuff are in the dishwasher."
"Sure," Sora agreed immediately. "But…"
She hesitated. "You have a lot of… stuff. On your table."
Taichi snorted at her caution. "Is there a table underneath all that? I'm not so sure."
"Shut up," Yamato retorted automatically before he answered Sora seriously. "Can you shift some of the stuff to the floor? I'll clean it up later."
He turned around to glare at Taichi. "And if you keep complaining about how much I need to clean up, I'll give your dinner to Gabumon. He doesn't mind when I make the effort to cook a meal for him."
"Fine, fine!" Taichi held his hands up in surrender, although he added quickly, "But the only reason why I was complaining in the first place was because I didn't want to make a lady like Sora sit on the floor to eat her dinner. That's not a very good display of manners to a houseguest."
"Oh, so now I'm a lady?" Sora's tone was pointed, but good-naturedly so. "What happened to my smelling bad?"
"Well, ladies can stink too."
Exasperated, she began, "Yagami Taichi – "
"All done, Yamato!" Taichi announced, intent on escaping from a probable Sora-lecture. He hurried over to Yamato's side. "Want us to carry the dishes out?" he volunteered. "Damn, that smells totally mouthwatering. Can I bring you to college with me? I'll let you have half of my dorm room and everything in exchange for being my personal chef – "
"If you want me to be your personal chef, I'm going to require a lot more than just half your dormitory space as payment," Yamato cut across Taichi dryly.
Sora interjected, "And now would you stop being such a nuisance, Taichi, and carry the plates to the table like you offered? You'll have no one to blame but yourself if the steak gets cold."
"Oh. Right. The lady has a point. Eat first, negotiate payment later. Do you need a bed, or will a sleeping bag be enough for you?"
Yamato placed a plate in Taichi's hands. "Taichi? Shut up. Again. For the hundredth time."
"We're only up to a hundred?" Sora commented mildly as she assisted in carrying another plate to the table. "What's the time period?"
"Just for today."
"Mmm, okay. That makes sense."
Taichi huffed. "I hate you guys and I'm going to start eating without you."
Yamato joined them at the table with his own plate and shook his head. "By all means, go ahead. If you start early, maybe we'll all finish satisfying our appetites at the same time."
Sora giggled. "If you wanted us to all finish at the same time, you should have given him a half-hour head start, not just a few minutes. Right, Taichi?"
"Hmm?" Taichi looked up, his mouth already full of beef and noodles.
"Never mind." She frowned. "You need to work on your table manners."
"For the hundredth time today," Yamato said, raising his eyes heavenward.
Taichi kicked him under the table. Before Yamato could retaliate, Sora tapped her fork against her plate. "Guys? No physical violence at the dinner table."
"Yes ma'am," they chorused simultaneously – though Yamato still managed to aim a decent shot at Taichi's calf – before they turned their attention to eating.
The meal was an enjoyable one. The food was good – much to Taichi's delight, encouraging him to redouble his efforts to recruit Yamato as a personal chef – and the conversation flowed easily for a majority of the time, mostly revolving around school and events in the Digital World. It wasn't until after they had finished eating and were just relaxing that Yamato remembered the mystery of Sora's desire for a dinner at his place. "So, Sora," Yamato began, during a lull in the conversation, "you never did mention why you wanted us to eat dinner together tonight."
It took her a moment to process Yamato's question, but the confusion on her face was quickly replaced by understanding. "Oh, I forgot all about that – let me go grab my bag. I'll be right back," Sora said, pushing her chair back and leaving briefly to the hallway. When she came back, she held a colorful brochure in her hand. "This is what we'll be doing this summer!" she announced.
Yamato and Taichi looked at each other wordlessly in their own confusion before leaning forward together.
"Do you remember how the school told us about that 'career camp' for third years at the beginning of the trimester? Well, the official brochures came into the office today, so I stopped by after practice to pick some copies up for us." Sora went on to say, "Koushiro and I both thought it would be an interesting and helpful way of spending our summer – and it's actually pretty affordable for what they're offering."
"May I see that?" Yamato reached out to take the brochure from Sora's hand and perused it while she continued to explain what the camp was to Taichi.
Evidently, the camp took place over the course of two weeks in summer break. It offered classes that students could attend to explore the disciplines that they were planning on pursuing for their university focus. Turning the brochure to the back, he scanned the listed classes and was gratified to see that the camp offered a full orchestra opportunity. He was suitably intrigued: considering the fees of the camp and comparing them to the cost of standard lessons, it really was reasonably priced….
"I don't know, Sora," Taichi was saying, the skepticism in his voice making Yamato look up in curiosity. "'Career camp'? Do we really need to go through that? It doesn't sound like a fun way to spend the summer if you ask me. Besides, I already told Daisuke and Ken that I'd help coach them on their football this summer. I can't just ditch them; they're really counting on me to help them out."
"You see them all the time anyway," Sora countered patiently. "I'm sure they'd find a way to occupy themselves if you left them on their own for two weeks. Anyway, this is important. This could really help you figure out what you want to do when you go to college. And I don't just mean you, really, I mean all of us."
Taichi pouted. "But we don't need to figure out what we want to do – I'm going to be a football star, you're going to be a tennis star, and Yamato's going to be a rock star. Why waste our time?"
"Come on, Taichi, you know we already talked about this," Yamato reminded. "It's good to have back-up plans for something as big as our futures. And it won't be a complete waste of time; there are lots of different classes at the camp, and we could learn a lot of useful stuff. Plus, it's pretty cheap. What's the worst that could happen?"
"We get sucked into another dimension to save the world – again?" Taichi deadpanned, though the effect was somewhat ruined by his waggling eyebrows.
Though Sora giggled, she shook her head quickly afterward and affected a stern expression. "Back on topic, please. Koushiro took a brochure too," Sora told Taichi, "since he found out that they offered computer programming classes. So even if you already know what you want to do, it's still a good opportunity to learn more."
"So Koushiro's gonna do it for sure? I thought that he was going to be taking summer college courses with Jyou." Taichi frowned, clearly doubtful.
At that, Sora shrugged. "Computer programming isn't really a class that you need to be in a physical classroom for, though. I think his classes are mostly online… knowing Koushiro, he'll probably do his classes while he's at camp."
"You know, I think I'm going to go too." Yamato set the brochure down on the table. "I don't think my dad would mind fending for himself if I went, since I'll pay for it on my own. And I think it'll be cool to try out the full orchestra class that they're offering at the camp."
"What, you too?" Taichi's expression became nervous as he realized that he was the only one left undecided. "But why would you need to take lessons? You already have a band, a manager – "
Yamato spun the brochure across the surface of the table at Taichi, making it land in his lap. Leaning back in his chair, Yamato stretched his arms out above his head to relieve the soreness in them."But I've never had formal training before. I'll be learning something new. And I wouldn't say no to the chance to perform with a symphonic orchestra, either. I've never done anything like it before. It would be a cool experience."
"I thought you'd like it," Sora remarked quietly, clearly pleased with Yamato's approval of the camp.
Their gazes locked briefly, and Yamato was taken aback slightly by the open warmth in her eyes as she looked back at him. But then she ducked her head, flushing slightly – and he looked away as well, swallowing hard as he did so. Clearing his throat, he directed to Taichi, "It wouldn't hurt to check it out, man. Who knows, maybe you'll find something besides the Digital World and football to interest you."
Oblivious to Yamato and Sora's exchange, Taichi merely made a face as he flipped through the brochure. "What are you going to be doing there, though, Sora?" he asked as he read. "Are you just going to pick a random class to go to for the whole two weeks?"
It was a well known fact among the older Chosen – Jyou, Taichi, Yamato, Koushiro, and Mimi – that Sora was still undecided about what she wanted to do in the future, and, as such, hadn't figured out what she wanted to study in university yet. Jyou was prone to harassing Sora (with the best intentions at heart, of course) into choosing a major sooner rather than later, but the others let her be so that she wouldn't rush into a decision that she would later regret.
"They have this option at the camp for people who are still undecided," Sora answered Taichi's question slowly, running a hand through her short auburn hair almost nervously. "I'm going to be doing that. I'll get to try different classes the first few days to see if there's anything that sparks my interest. When I find a class I like, I'll join it officially and stay there for the rest of camp. That's one of the reasons why I really want to go."
"What are your other reasons for wanting to sign up?" Yamato asked curiously.
"Well, I just thought… it would be nice if the four of us could do something together like summer camp again." She smiled wistfully. "You guys remember. It was at summer camp that we first met the others. It's where we all were when we got our Digivices and went to the Digital World for the first time. Can you believe it's already been six years? I'd be fitting to we go back to camp for the last time before we become adults, even if not everyone else can make it with us."
Taichi and Yamato both considered Sora's words. "That's a good reason for going," Taichi conceded. "I... I didn't think of it that way before."
Sora shrugged easily. "You don't usually think at all. I'm used to it," she replied airily. "So you'll go, Taichi? Or at least think about it? It won't be the same without you."
He glanced back and forth between his two best friends. Taichi sighed. "I don't think I really have a choice, do I? I guess I'll go," he said. "You guys are right, it wouldn't hurt to at least try other things out beside football and make a backup plan. My parents would be okay with going… probably say something about me making a responsible, mature decision." Taichi groaned. "Who would have thought that the day would come?"
"Not you, apparently," Yamato said dryly. Taichi scowled and leaned forward, his mouth already opening to shoot back a response, but Yamato cut him off when he heard the jangle of keys. "Hang on a sec, I think my dad's back," Yamato said, shushing Taichi with a wave of his hand, and strained his ears to listen. His friends obligingly fell silent, listening as well.
He was rewarded with the familiar squeak of the apartment door as it swung open and close, followed by footsteps trudging into the apartment. "Hey Yamato, you having some friends over for dinner?" Ishida Hiroaki's voice called from the doorway.
"Yeah, Dad – Taichi and Sora," Yamato called back.
"Okay." Hiroaki stuck his head in the entryway of the dining area. "Taichi, Sora. Haven't seen either of you here in a while. How've you kids been?" he asked genially. If his father was surprised to see Sora in the kitchen, he hid it well – his face only showed warmth and welcome as he looked at her and Taichi both.
"I've been good, thanks," Sora said, politely bowing her head in greeting.
Taichi, familiar with Hiroaki's lax attitude about formalities, patted his stomach exaggeratedly. "I'm much better now, since Yamato's fed me."
"Well, that's a relief – you know how we've been worrying about you not eating enough," Hiroaki replied wryly, making the three teenagers laugh. "I'll leave you to your meal. Come around more often: Yamato's only makes good food for me to eat for dinner when we have guests over," he instructed, causing Taichi and Sora to both laugh again.
Sora promised, "We'll keep that in mind."
"Yeah, you don't have to tell me that twice!" Taichi grinned brightly in answer.
Yamato rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Dad, for volunteering my services without asking. By the way, I already have your dinner ready, so you can eat whenever you want."
"I'm going to need to wash up first, so just leave it on the stove for me. Will you two be staying much longer?" the man directed to the guests. "It's getting late; I don't want your parents to worry."
"Oh, it is getting late," Sora said with surprise, checking her phone. "And it's a school night too."
Taichi nodded, standing up. "Yeah, we should get going."
"Well then, good night, Taichi, Sora," Hiroaki said, moving away from the entry.
The three busied themselves with cleaning up their meal after Hiroaki left, gathering the dishes and transferring them to the dishwasher. After he added the last load, Yamato turned to his friends. "Do you guys want me to walk you to the bus station? It's already dark out."
"Nah, it's fine." Taichi shook his head. "It's not that far away. And I'm man enough to protect Sora! No worries."
Sora shoved Taichi roughly. "As if! If we got mugged, you'd run away before you'd stay to fight. You're a useless bodyguard."
"Hey, I'm a football player, you're a tennis player. We both do a lot of running in our cardio workouts – so you'd run away too!"
Yamato and Sora exchanged a glance before shaking their heads at Taichi together as they walked to the door. "Well, text me or something when you guys arrive home to be on the safe side. I want to be sure that you get home safely."
"Yeah, yeah. See you tomorrow at school." Taichi slung on his backpack and nodded while opening the door.
Sora slid her feet into her shoes and picked up her tennis racket. "Thanks for the dinner, Yamato, it was delicious."
"Oh right – thanks for feeding me, man. Think about the personal chef idea some more?" Taichi asked hopefully.
Yamato chuckled and punched Taichi in the arm in response. "Idiot. Night, guys."
They waved at him goodbye before walking down the stairs of the apartment complex, and Yamato stayed on the balcony until he saw their figures disappear into the night.
Hello, everyone. I hope that you all enjoyed this first chapter (whether it's the first time you've read it or not), which is the exposition of my Digimon "novel" here on FF. Please leave a review on your way out – that's the only way this particular author gets paid for her work.
Still here? Awesome.
If this is the first time you've read "Under the Surface," I'd like to give a heads up if you've been intrigued enough to have made it this far. I'm an extremely slow writer, largely due to the fact that I am a graduate student in a demanding program that requires me to be at school for more than twelve hours a day. As a result, it takes forever for me to edit anything of considerable size.
This shouldn't discourage you from following the story's progression. I may take a while longer than you'd like to update, but I can at least promise to never abandon my stories. I've been working on UtS in particular for years, and I love it enough to write it to the end.
In any case, I'm continually trying to become a better writer, but it's difficult to know where to improve if I'm not getting any feedback. So if you'd like the quality of what you're reading to get better and you're feeling generous, please leave a review. I would love to hear your thoughts whether they're good, bad, or somewhere in between.
Thanks for reading! I hope to see you all again in a future review.