Still Preparing

When Tai got home from his day out with Sora, there was a light blinking on his answering machine. One new message. After setting down his keys and wallet on the counter in the kitchenette by the door, he slowly made his way over to the machine and pressed the play button.

It was Matt's voice that greeted him, although sounding stressful and worried, when the tape began to play. The message was simple, a short little way of putting things out there, something they had both been avoiding for three weeks now. And Tai was somewhat grateful to hear his friend's voice again, but there was something about it that scared him, probably the fact that he had no idea how to respond to his friend's words.

"Uh, hey, I guess," Matt's voice said. "Listen, we've got to talk some time. We've been avoiding it for too long, and we need to come to terms with whatever the hell happened before. And you have a lot of explaining to do. So call me back, okay?"

The machine beeped to signal that the message was over, and Tai stared at it, not sure what to do. He knew that the two of them needed to talk desperately, but he was still a little afraid to hear what his friend would have to say on the matter. Well, far more than a little, really. He was terrified, scared out of his fucking mind.

For a moment, he blamed himself, mentally berating himself for even thinking that putting the moves on his best friend was a good idea. But, then, he realized that that wouldn't change anything, and it certainly wouldn't make anything better. Besides, would he even be Tai anymore if he never did anything rash and courageous? Sure, he had grown up since being in the Digital World, but that didn't change the fact that he would always act, to an extent, on impulse—and, a lot of the times, that ended up saving his life.

No, and he certainly didn't want to have any regrets, anymore. Regrets just made him feel bad about who he was, and feeling bad about something that you can't change is even worse. So he wouldn't regret what he did.

It hadn't even been much of a kiss anyway, no matter what Sora had said, but, then again, she got all her information from Izzy—damn Izzy!—so that must've been where the faulty information had come from. Or, wait, was he the one that had given the faulty information? He may have been a bit too animate when explaining the kiss to Izzy in the first place. Okay, so maybe it was his fault. Oops.

But that didn't help anything. Matt still probably hated him. Or was disgusted by him. Or something like that. Except… well, that didn't make complete sense because Matt had kissed him back. Maybe it was just the passion of the moment or something? Well, it could have been if there had been much passion in that moment. But, no, everything had been rather simple and straight forward.

And now Matt wanted an explanation. What was he supposed to say? That he had a crush on his best friend? That much had been made obvious, he hoped, because, otherwise, Matt had some serious mental problems that he needed to see a psychologist about. But what else was there to say? It's not like his feelings for him had been that long founded, but that didn't make them any less substantial.

But there was a little consolation in the idea that Matt was actually finally ready to talk. If Sora's postulation that Matt had been avoiding him because he was trying to figure out his own feelings were true, then that would mean that he had figured them out, that he knew how he felt on the matter. At least he knew there would be some sort of ending to this problem instead of just drawing it out and out, spreading it so thin that Tai hardly knew where he stood anymore.

It was a minor consolation, but consolation nonetheless.

With that in mind, he pushed himself toward the telephone again and forced himself to pick it up when he reached it. He hesitated, holding the receiver in his hand, ready to dial Matt's number but still afraid of the consequences. Finally, after holding back too long, he couldn't help but press down the numbers.

He silently hoped he was doing the right thing.

Matt picked up his cell phone halfway through the third ring, saying, "Moshi moshi, Ishida Yamato here."

For a moment, he was too afraid to respond, but he forced clear his throat and made his presence known. "Uh, hey, Matt," he said quietly. "I got your message."

"Good. I was afraid you weren't going to call. Listen, can we meet somewhere to talk?"

Tai nodded, despite the fact that Matt wouldn't be able to see. "Yeah, I guess. Where?"

"Why don't I just go to your place?"

No, that was a bad idea, Tai decided, very bad. There would be no means of escape if he really needed to. No way for him to leave without looking like a fool, which probably would have happened wherever they met, but this was bad.

"Yeah, all right, I suppose," he said instead.

"Okay, I'll be there in a minute," and he hung up the phone.

In the ten minutes before Matt arrived, Tai spent all the time trying to decide if he wanted to walk out now, leave before his friend arrived, avoid all the problems. No, he repeatedly told himself, you can't walk out. He wouldn't be the Bearer of the Crest of Courage if he did that. He refused to be a coward. But he still wasn't prepared for the meeting by the time Matt arrived. He still desperately wanted to run away, maybe scramble out a window if there was no other means of escape, except he lived on the fifth floor, so the window would have been a bad idea.

It took him several minutes to get up the nerve to even open the door, no matter how many times his friend rang the doorbell, and, by the time he reached it, Matt was already discovering that he had left the door unlocked. Shit. Stupid Tai. He should've made sure that he locked it.

He still wasn't ready yet.

His hand was poised in front of the doorknob whenever Matt opened it, about to open it for him, but he had been too late. Slightly embarrassed, he took his hand back and pulled it through his messy hair sheepishly. "Uh, hey," he said, avoiding eye contact.

And Matt couldn't help but roll his eyes. "Hey," he said, stepping inside without needing to be asked, shutting the door behind him. He led the way through the apartment, glancing around for a place for them to sit and discovering that the only plausible place was Tai's bedroom. Everywhere else was a mess.

When they were situated, Matt sitting on the edge of the bed and Tai leaning against the doorframe, Matt tried to say something. "Look, I—"

"No," interrupted Tai immediately, slowly finding his bravery. "I want to talk first. I, um, I just wanted to say that I'm sorry. I'm sorry I kissed you. It was totally out of line. And you shouldn't have found out that way that I have feelings for you." He finally looked up, staring his friend in the eyes. "I don't know what exactly you wanted me to explain, but I'll answer any questions you have, I guess."

Matt smiled at him from the bed and patted the seat beside him, speaking as he did so. "I shouldn't have let you just walk away after that," he admitted. "I should have stopped you, talked to you about it then instead of ignoring you." As Tai made his way over and sat down next to him, he finally said, "And I should have known by then how I feel in return. I shouldn't have had to think about it so much to realize."

Surprise, to say the least, was written all over Tai's face. He was startled by this admission and could hardly believe the words, even as Matt reached his hand out to grasp his and squeeze it gently. But, after a moment of shock, Tai smiled and squeezed back.