A/N: I've kept everyone waiting… I'm sorry. I said this story would be up in the beginning of summer. I'm such a liar. The reason why this took so long was because it required me to do actual research… I mean… I needed to look at maps of Japan and everything. I also had to figure out whether or not I wanted to use Yen or just stick to what I know and use dollars. I finally decided to use dollars…. I mean, I've already Americanized the heck out of the boys, might as well go the whole way, right? But if it seriously bothers people, like you don't think you will be able to enjoy the story because I say something costs 5 instead of…. Like 500 Yen. I'll change it. If you don't like the dollars I'll change it to Yen in the following chapters… however, know that it'll take me longer to write because I actually have to convert currency.
Anyway, this really is a continuation of the Stop Light series….. but I'm going to try and make it so people can still enjoy this without having to read Stop Light and Crosswalk. But be warned, I do randomly refer back to Crosswalk and Stop Light.
Read, Enjoy and leave a Review!
The Road Trip
Moving Right Along
The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. – Lao Tzu
The boys had been officially on summer vacation for about two days, fourteen hours, twenty-five minutes and 45 seconds (approximately) and definite plans had still not been made about the road trip they had all promised they were going to take. The original plan was to leave the first day of summer, but their plans kept being postponed by the small fact that they still didn't know where they were going. The only thing they knew for certain was who would be going. It wasn't too difficult, since Tai's father's car could only seat five and with luggage, they would really only be able to fit four into the car. So, even though the plan had been to include many people, in the end it was only Tai, Matt, Izzy and TK. Matt thought it was for the best since he could barely spend an afternoon in the presence of Davis, much less hours locked in a car with him.
After much postponing and schedule rearranging, the boys had finally been able to meet at Tai's home to make some absolute, definite, concrete, we're-finally-going-to-do this plans about their road trip.
"Why are you so obsessed about going to the beach?! We live near a beach! We can go anytime!"
"I want to go to a different beach! One that's like exotic and full of-"
"Don't say girls. We're not going on this thing to pick up girls, Tai."
"Well, of course you aren't! You have a girlfriend! What about the rest of us? Think of the rest of us."
"Izzy, are you at any point planning on picking up girls on our road trip?" Matt said, rolling his eyes. Izzy didn't even bother looking up from his laptop, he just continued typing as if nothing had been asked of him. Which was just as well since nobody was actually waiting for his response.
"We're not going to pick up any girls, just maybe…. Look at them for a while, right TK?" Tai said nudging the younger boy who was seated on the floor beside him. TK, however, was engrossed in a travel book and he completely ignored Tai's attempts to include him in the argument.
"We should go to a festival somewhere, that could be fun," TK said absently as he marked something in the book with a highlighter. Matt smiled at his younger brother's lack of attention. Tai made a face and fell back onto his floor looking defeated. The boys had been looking things over for awhile and they had several maps and travel books scattered about on the floor. Izzy was sitting in Tai's desk chair and researching on his laptop. Matt was sitting on Tai's bed, not actively doing any research, but doing his duty by arguing with Tai over road trip ideas. Despite hours of talking, fighting, snack breaks, looking at maps and more arguing the only thing the boys had succeeded in was creating a mess.
Suddenly there was knocking on Tai's bedroom door. Tai sighed and threw an arm over his face.
"Go away," he called from his position on the floor. "We're busy."
"Tai," Kari's voice called through the locked door. "Can I come in?"
TK was now looking up from his travel book and at the door. He glanced to Tai quickly and then back to the door.
"No, Kari. The road trip is for men only. You can't come," Tai said, sounding overly annoyed.
"Can't I at least come in? I'm bored."
There was a brief pause. "TK, can you let me in?" Kari asked, her voice becoming overly sweet.
"Don't do it, TK." Tai said sitting up and giving the boy a warning glare.
"Please, TK?" Kari pleaded through the door.
"What's the big deal? Why can't she come in?" TK asked quietly, trying to find common ground in the situation.
"Because she can't come and I don't want to hear her whine about it."
"I'm not whining!" Kari shouted through the door. Tai abruptly stood up; jumped over a particularly large map they had spread out on the carpet and ran into the wooden frame with a loud bang. Kari made a short yelp on the other side. Tai grinned broadly, unlocked the door and opened it a crack.
"What are you yelling about out here?" Tai asked trying to sound annoyed.
"You startled me!" Kari accused. Tai rolled his eyes in response.
"Girls!" he exclaimed with another eye roll, "they'll jump at anything. Now go away or I'll let TK read your diary." Tai quickly shut the door in Kari's face.
"You don't have my diary!" Kari shouted as the piece of wood nearly closed on her nose. Tai went back to sit on the floor by TK.
"Tell yourself whatever you want," he called tauntingly.
"It's in my room!"
"Are you sure? You'd better go check." Tai said as he began flipping through a travel guide. There was a moment of silence and Tai grinned to himself. Kari's footsteps were then heard walking quickly away, the words 'stupid jerk' could just barely be heard. For the first time Izzy looked up from his laptop.
"Tai, is there a reason why you are acting particularly malevolent towards your sister today?" He asked flatly. Tai raised an eyebrow and looked confused. Matt snorted trying to suppress a laugh.
"It means mean, Tai," Matt said, rolling his eyes.
"It means mean? Means mean, means mean…" Tai trailed off, apparently finding the phrase amusing.
"Stop that," Matt ordered, "Answer Izzy's question."
"What was the question again?" Tai asked, looking over his shoulder at Izzy. Matt broke in before Izzy could say anything.
"Why are you acting so mean to Kari today, idiot?"
"Because she's going to miss me… and I'm not an idiot."
"That doesn't even make sense!" Matt said as he chucked a travel pamphlet at Tai's head. Tai ducked easily.
"It doesn't need to make sense to you!" Tai near shouted. He grabbed the book that TK was holding and threw it at Matt's face. Matt ducked, but it skimmed across his shoulder and then hit the wall behind him with a loud thud.
"What are you doing?!" Matt demanded angrily, "That thing is heavy!"
"You threw something at me first!"
"It was only three pages thick! You practically threw an encyclopedia at my face!"
"Stop fighting!" TK suddenly blurted. Both Matt and Tai looked startled as if they were surprised to find other people in the room with them.
"We weren't really fighting, TK." Tai said reassuringly.
"It wasn't a serious fight." Matt added. TK sighed and shook his head as if to clear it.
"I know. It's just we've been stuck in this room for hours and we haven't even decided where we're going. You guys just keep arguing about it. I've gotta go home soon and we haven't figured anything out," TK crossed his arms and gave them both a stern stare.
"TK's right." Izzy said. "We really need to make a decision about where we are going and when."
Tai threw his arms up in the air and flopped back down on the floor with a sigh.
"Ugh, this is too hard. I say we just leave tomorrow and then drive and we'll end up wherever we end up. Never mind all the stupid planning."
"Tai," Izzy looked flabbergasted, "we can't just leave without a plan."
"Why not?" Tai shot back, looking irritated.
"My parents won't let me go if we don't know where we're going," Izzy said quietly, absently brushing something off of his keyboard.
"Mom said the same thing. She wants to know exactly where we're going," TK added somberly.
"Just lie. Tell them we're going to…." Tai paused and, without looking, let his hand drop onto the open map beside him. He then squinted to see where his fingers had landed. "…Toyama? Toyama…. It's not even that far from us…. Yeah, tell them we're going to Toyama." Tai, then moved to get a better look at the map. "At least it's on the coast, which means there will be a beach."
Matt raised an eyebrow, "Tai, there's nothing even in Toyama…. Is there?" Matt directed this question at Izzy, who slowly shook his head.
"They have… rice fields and…. I know they have a well known pharmaceutical industry…. That's about it I think."
"A well known pharmaceutical industry? Well hell, I think we've found a winner," Matt excalimed, clapping his hands in fake enthusiasm.
"Toyama is just a cover for the fact that we don't know where we're going, Matt." Tai grumbled, "We not actually going there."
"They're going to know it's a lie. Why on earth would we decide to road trip to a bunch of rice fields?" Matt countered.
"It's by the beach! They'll think we're going to the beach!" Tai sat up looking irritated. "Why are you arguing with me so much today, anyway?" He added, giving Matt a frustrated stare. Matt blinked, looking surprised, but then he quickly gathered himself.
"If you would stop acting like an idiot, I wouldn't argue with you."
"You're the idiot, Matt."
"Guys…" Izzy tried to break in, but he was ignored.
"If you weren't so stupid we would have decided where we're going and I wouldn't have-we wouldn't…. we could have left already!" Matt's faltering words caused Tai to look at him suspiciously. If he knew Yamato Ishida, something else was going on. Something that Matt was avoiding talking about and something that was making him more irritable than usual.
"What…?" Tai trailed off, unsure of what exactly he should be asking his friend. Matt shut his eyes and shook his head.
"Forget it. We can say we're going to Toyama or whatever. Just as long as we actually go somewhere." Matt stood up, "It's getting late, I should go. TK, are you coming?" Matt asked as he moved to the door. TK nodded and moved quickly to follow his brother.
"I should be going to. Mom wanted me home early." Izzy said, packing up his laptop to go. Tai looked upset that their trip planning was being put to an end to so early, but he didn't argue. Perhaps they would be able to come up with a destination tomorrow. Tai got up to walk his friends out. When they got to the door to Tai's apartment, Tai caught Matt by the elbow.
"Call me later," and he gave Matt the most serious look he could. Matt hesitated, but then nodded and shuffled out the door. Tai said a quick goodbye to TK and Izzy and then watched them walk down the hallway; Izzy trailing a few paces behind the two brothers.
Matt walked TK most of the way home. He rarely walked TK all the way to his door. Matt had never said anything about it, but TK knew it was because of their mother. Lately, it seemed, his older brother's relationship with their mother had dipped to an all time low. TK didn't know why, he wasn't even sure if there was one actual reason. It was as if their relationship was just slowly breaking down more and more over time. Usually Matt just made sure TK made it into the building safely and then he walked home alone. This time Izzy was with him for a while, but he too, soon went his own way home.
When Matt entered his apartment it was almost six o'clock and he was sweating from his long walk outside in the summer heat. A look around revealed that his father was not yet home. Matt knew he should probably start trying to make something for dinner, but he didn't feel like cooking over a hot stove just yet. Instead, he plopped himself down on the couch and shut his eyes, trying to relax after the day of failed planning and bickering with Tai.
Call me later.
Matt groaned in protest at the sudden memory. Obviously, his friend wanted to have a conversation about why he was being so overly irritated today. Matt didn't feel like talking, but he figured he should probably call….he said he would after all. Might as well get this over with, Matt thought as he pulled himself off of the couch. He just needed to reassure Tai he was fine and apologize for his actions earlier. It would be quick and easy. Matt made his way to the portable phone that was resting in its charger. His hand was an inch from it when he noticed the answering machine light blinking. He paused for a moment, messages on the landline were usually for his father and they were usually boring and left by his father's coworkers. If someone wanted to call Matt, they would call his cell phone. But Matt was slightly curious so he went ahead and pushed the play button. A feminine electronic voice sounded.
"You have… one… unheard message."
There was a pause and then with a loud beep the recorded message began to play.
"… Hey Matt and Uncle Hiroaki. This is Takako…. I know it's been a long time. Um, Mom told me I didn't need to call you guys, but I don't know if…. I don't know if TK will call you or what. Anyway, mom's still too upset to call anyone so I got stuck making all the phone calls, which totally sucks, you know? Well, as you know, Grandma was in critical condition this morning…."
Matt suddenly felt the bottom of his stomach drop out. What was she talking about? As you know? He didn't know anything about this. He felt like his head was filled with a sudden buzzing and he struggled to hear what his cousin was saying. But for a moment he couldn't make sense of it.
" …It happened about two hours ago. She's going to be cremated…. I know you two weren't that close, but I wanted to make sure you knew about it…. Ah, I have to go, mom's calling me." The answering machine beeped loudly and Matt stared blankly for a moment. He wanted to replay the message just to make sure he had heard correctly; it had to be some sick joke. Why would his cousin joke like that? And if it wasn't a joke, how could his cousin just leave him a message like that? What kind of sick person leaves that kind of message for someone to find. Someone who thinks you don't really care, came the thought. Of course she thinks I don't care. I've never gone out of my way to call anyone on that side of the family. I never had a great relationship with my mother's mom… Do I care? Matt then felt like something was crushing his chest, making it difficult to breath. Do I care? Matt asked himself. Alone, in the growing dark of his apartment, Matt found that he didn't know the answer.
Matt was sitting on the floor of his living room. He didn't know at what point he had sat down or how long he had been sitting there on the floor. He just felt so dully numb. For a while all Matt could here was the strange buzzing noise, filling his head and making it impossible to concentrate on anything for too long. His cell phone ringing slowly roused him from his stupor. He pressed the phone to his ear without even bothering to check to see who was calling.
"Hello?" His voice sounded strangely detached.
"Matt, it's me."
"TK…" Matt stated, hearing the pain in his younger brother's voice.
"Our cousin called here…." TK trailed off and Matt heard him sniff loudly.
"I know, she called here too," Matt was surprised at how formal he sounded.
"Is dad there? Can I talk to him?" TK asked as he sounded like he was beginning to cry.
"Dad's not here," Matt said flatly. "Are you alright?" Stupid question, stupid question…
"I'm just…. Mom's not here yet. She's still at work." At this, TK sniffled louder and his breath was hitching. Matt stayed quiet for a moment listening to his young brother trying not to cry loudly on the phone.
"Do you want to come over here?" Matt asked bluntly. There was a pause on the other line. "So you won't be alone." Matt added. TK hesitated.
"Yeah… if that's alright."
"Of course it is. I'll see you in a little bit."
It was around seven in the evening when Tai was walking briskly to Matt's apartment. Despite the sun setting, it was still uncomfortably warm outside. Tai paused to wipe his brow when he was about a block away from Matt's building. He wanted to pause for a moment longer, but something twisted nervously inside him. He had been feeling uneasy ever since the call he had received from Matt; even though Matt had really only said one thing: "You need to come over now." This had, quite frankly, freaked Tai out. Matt never liked admitting it when he needed someone and yet that is what he had done. Tai began walking with more urgency.
When he finally got to Matt's door, he only knocked once and the door was flung open to receive him. Matt was standing there looking, frazzled and, Tai noticed, strangely pale.
"Were you serious about leaving tomorrow?" Matt asked abruptly. Tai blinked for a moment.
"The road trip…. Can we leave tomorrow? Maybe we can even leave tonight. We could get to Tokyo before it gets too late. We could just find a hotel and continue driving in the morning." Matt had a hint of desperation in his voice that Tai hadn't heard from him in a long time.
"Why?" Tai asked looking confused. Matt didn't answer Tai and instead turned away from the door and began walking quickly towards his room. Tai figured this meant he should come in. He kicked his shoes off by the door and then followed Matt inside. He paused in Matt's doorway and watched his friend pacing around his room. Every once in a while he would grab something and throw it into an open suitcase on his bed. Tai watched Matt for a moment with wary curiosity. "What's going on Matt?" Tai tried. Matt paused in the middle of shoving a shirt into his suitcase. He looked up at Tai and just stared at him for a moment.
"My band's breaking up," Matt said flatly.
"What? When?" Tai asked looking surprised. Matt turned his attention back to his suitcase.
"It's been a couple of days. We had a fight and we decided the band wasn't what we all wanted anymore. We just decided not to do it anymore."
"I'm… sorry, Matt, what was the fight about?" Tai asked quietly.
"My lack of dedication to the band," Matt said scoffing. "Apparently, injuring yourself repeatedly at a crosswalk, being grounded from even having band practice and then telling them you're blowing them off this summer to go on a road trip, can cause fellow band mates to become really pissed off at you."
"Oh," Tai commented weakly.
"That's why I've been in a bad mood lately, sorry about fighting with you earlier."
"Don't worry about it… So… Is that it? You want to leave because your band's breaking up?"
"Then why?" Tai asked as he ran a hand through his hair. Matt suddenly became very still. His jaw twitched uncomfortably and he looked Tai directly in the eye.
"I got a call… well, a message from my cousin… she said my grandmother died today. TK's upset; he's coming over right now." Matt then went back to packing his suitcase. Tai stood for a moment, blinking, wondering if he had heard correctly. Matt never spoke about his extended family. In fact, Tai had never really heard Matt talk about his grandmother. Tai didn't like that. Weren't they supposed to be best friends? Tai quickly pushed those thoughts away; it wasn't really the time to be wondering over his friend's lack of communication. Matt keeping things to himself wasn't exactly something new.
"Why do you suddenly need to go right now? Why can't you wait?" Tai asked, noticing Matt's packing was becoming more fervent. He paused and again looked directly into Tai's eyes.
"I didn't cry Tai. I didn't even feel like crying. TK was sobbing on the phone, he could barely even talk…. And I don't even feel sad about it," Matt took a deep breath and was silent. Tai stared at him for a moment. In Matt's eyes Tai could see a deep fear resonating and the desperate need to leave… the need to run. He needed to get away now and he needed help in doing so. Tai swallowed and cleared his throat.
"I'll go pack my stuff."
To be continued….
A/N: Hopefully the next part won't take forever. If you're reading this and you know my writing style, you know I like to have the drama and the humor all mixed together in one nutty little story. This part wasn't too big on the humor, hopefully the next part will be…. Now, be a responsible reader and leave me a review.