Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.
From the Heart
Chapter: 6/ Seeds of Feeling
"Hi, Grandma, I'm home from school," announced Rika as she pushed open the gate and stepped into her family's front yard. In response, a woman with graying, brown hair stepped out onto the porch, smiling at the red haired teen in greeting.
"Welcome back," Seiko Hata said, giving her granddaughter a nod. "I take it that you had a good day?"
Rika smirked as she closed the door behind her, not bothering to ask why her grandmother had asked that question. Rika had long since come to acknowledge that the elderly woman could tell more from a glance or the sound of a tone how a person felt, no matter how hard they tried to hide their emotions. As a result, Seiko had taken to being the sounding board for whatever happened to be on Rika and Rumiko's minds, often bringing them together whenever it was something that involved the two of them and allowing them to work it out. All in all, it was a far better system then what had gone on two years ago, with the house quiet and the air stiff with tension whenever Rika's mother happened to be around.
Which suits me just fine, thought Rika, turning to face her grandmother. I stopped liking that kind of quiet a long time ago.
"Yeah, it was a good day. Didn't get as much homework as before and the teacher took it easy on all of us today. I kinda wonder if it had anything to do with today being White Day though."
"Does that make it bad, then?"
"Nope. Far from it; it's just about the only reason why I can tolerate the holiday…at least as far as today is concerned. Next year it'll probably be different."
"Then all is well," agreed Seiko with a nod. "And Renamon…?"
Rika's face didn't lose her smile as she cross the yard over to the porch and began to head towards her room. "She's around. She's just…keeping watch as she calls it. Don't know why." Rika narrowed her eyes as a suspicion flickered through her mind, but she brushed the thought away roughly. Although she enjoyed her partner's silent guardianship and constant presence, there were times where she felt as though the vulpine digimon could be too much of a 'mother hen' when it came to her person.
After all, I don't think that I need a lookout for when those two goofballs show up. And I'm pretty sure that they don't need a chaperone either…
As Rika pushed open the door to her room and tossed in her bag, her nose caught a whiff of a powerful aroma that had filtered in through the kitchen. Raising an eyebrow, Rika turned to her mother with a curious eyebrow raised.
"Are you making cookies, grandma?"
"Since you told me that Takato was coming over today I thought it would be best to have some snacks ready for the two of you."
Rika grinned rather uncertainly.
"Well, we haven't exactly made any plans or anything. As far as I know we're just hanging out. Not that I don't appreciate the gesture, but you didn't have to go to all that trouble."
"Oh, it was no trouble at all," replied Seiko, continuing to smile. "Even if the two of you don't happen to eat them, I still enjoyed making them. After all, Renamon helped make them while you were at school. I must say, she is uniquely gifted."
Rika was half-tempted to make a crack about her partner getting fur in the cookie dough, but the thought of trying something that the vixen made prevented her from doing so. As far as she was concerned, anything that Renamon did was good. Still, Rika had to wonder as to why she would go to such lengths for a get-together like this. It was just her and Takato hanging out, nothing more.
A memory trickled through the girl's mind as she thought, and Rika furrowed her brow.
"This wouldn't happen to have anything to do with it just being me and Takato with no one else around, would it?"
"Well, the last time you had only him here you didn't have him stick around long enough for me to bake any cookies. Besides, Renamon thought that this would be good to make up for 'lost time.'"
"Hold on. This was Renamon's idea?"
"No, it was mine. But that was the reason Renamon gave when she decided to help out. I thought that was what she was referring too. Besides, it's not often that you decide to hang out with one of your friends. Outside of Jeri you tend to travel in a group."
"It was Takato's idea," grumbled Rika, stepping into her room. Sensing the girl's mood, Seiko's expression softened.
"I didn't upset your day, did I?"
"Huh? No. It's just…it almost feels like everyone's trying to imply something."
"Well, you're both growing up," understanding what her granddaughter meant in spite of her mincing of words. "I would expect that it would be the natural course of things. Your mother and I went through the same thing, you know."
"Is everything all right, dear?"
Rika stepped out of her room, her wardrobe having changed from her school uniform to something more informal, opting for the jeans that had been her preference of style for time out of mind, and a turquoise blue colored t-shirt. Situated on the right breast of the shirt was a small, purple-heart that had been her trademark for two years; the only 'girly' thing that she ever allowed on her clothing, and her good luck charm for battle.
"Just thinking," Rika replied, checking her hair band to make sure that it was still in place. "Anyway, I'll be in the garden. When Takato comes by could you send him there?"
"Of course. Are you going to be weeding, or are you thinking about planting something again?"
Seiko could have sworn that she saw a small twinkle in Rika's eye as she put her hands in her pockets and headed out towards the backyard.
"I guess that all depends on Gogglehead."
Seiko raised an eyebrow before allowing a small smile to grace her features.
Takato jumped at the sound of Renamon's voice snuck up behind him. Turning, Takato found himself staring into the fox's cool, blue eyes as she surveyed his reaction. Takato swallowed as his heart rate began to calm down. It didn't seem to matter how many times he had been involved in fighting hostile digimon or how long he had known her; Renamon's ability to surprise him and catch him off guard never failed to catch him off guard.
"Hi, Renamon," greeted Guilmon happily, not in the least bit affected by the vulpine digimon's surprise. "We're almost there. We're on time! I made sure that Takato didn't get distracted, just like I promised."
Takato gave his partner a strange look.
"Uh…did you guys think that I would get distracted?" he asked, pointing at himself. Guilmon nodded.
"Yeah. I told you that earlier when we went to get Rika's fl—Mmmph!"
Guilmon was abruptly cut off when Takato wrapped his hands around the reptile's mouth and clamped it shut.
"Guilmon!" Takato hissed warningly. "I told you, it's supposed to be a surprise!"
"Mmmph. Frry Tkffoomn."
Takato smiled and let go, knowing that his partner was apologizing.
"Don't worry about it, boy. Ah…Renamon?" Takato looked over at the golden furred kitsune and scratched the back of his head anxiously. "I don't suppose that you could…?"
"…Not tell Rika about what Guilmon almost gave away?" Renamon asked, a surprisingly playful tone in her voice. "Of course."
Takato breathed a sigh of relief.
"So what are you doing here?" the boy asked. "Um…not that I'm not happy to see you, it's just weird for you to show up at a time like this."
"Understandable," said Renamon with a nod of her head. "I just wanted to keep an eye out for you two and make sure that you had the right address."
"Hey!" Takato bristled. "I come here almost all the time. How can I possibly forget how to get here?"
"I suppose that there's something to be said about that," mooted Renamon, still not losing her teasing tone. "I seem to recall you finding your way here even when you had amnesia."
Takato frowned, remembering the incident that Renamon was referring to. Almost a year ago, a digimon that had bio-emerged struck Takato with an energy beam that had temporarily knocked out his memories. In spite of this handicap, he had managed to function almost normally with the only exceptions being that he didn't know who he was, who his friends were, or anything involving digimon. Seeing Guilmon had left him rather frightened, leading him to be chased by the confused dinosaur until he wound up in Rika's neighborhood, where Renamon found him banging on the gate and wanting to be let in. It had been far from his best moment, but the whole incident left everyone with the impression that even without his memories there was very little difference with the Gogglehead that they knew and the one that showed up at Rika's home; a fact that Kazu still teased him about on occasion.
Even though he didn't know that there was something wrong with me at the time when everyone else thought something was going on, thought Takato as he fought down the heat of embarrassment from the memory. Seeing this, Renamon looked over at Guilmon, deciding that a change in topics was necessary.
"Guilmon. Would you like to go somewhere with me? I believe that it would be within Takato and Rika's best interests that we not be around to distract them."
"Ohhh…but why?" asked Guilmon in a disappointed tone. "Then it would be like we're double-dating again."
Renamon couldn't help but let go a chuckle at the two partners' reactions, making Takato look at her with wide, surprised eyes as he wasn't used to hearing her laugh in any setting.
"Even so," continued Renamon, "I'm sure that our partners would appreciate it if they didn't have to worry about us watching them."
Guilmon was silent for a moment, taking in what Renamon had said to him before finally coming to an understanding.
"Ohhh…you mean kind of like what Takato tells me about eating with my mouth open, right? Yeah, no one wants to see that…"
"…Right," agreed Renamon, deciding that a quick close to the conversation was the best course of action here. "Though it could better be said that there are things that people can only say to each other when they're alone."
Takato, who was feeling like he was being talked over, bristled slightly.
Renamon placed a hand on his shoulder, immediately silencing the boy. Blinking up at the vulpine digimon, Takato was surprised to see a small smile grace her muzzle.
"I see that you're wearing your goggles again, Takato," Renamon commented.
"Uh…yeah," Takato replied, not at all sure how this conversation kept taking such bizarre twists and turns. Renamon nodded, apparently satisfied with its presence.
"Good," she said approvingly, and with that she turned towards Guilmon, leaving Takato to scratch his head in confusion as to what was 'good' about his wearing goggles when he was going to see Rika. For as long as he could remember she had derided him about his sense of fashion ever since they first met. Before he could even ask Renamon anything, the kitsune took hold of Guilmon by the arm and the two vanished together, leaving Takato alone in the middle of the street.
I'm really starting to think that the universe is playing a joke on me, thought Takato feeling more than a little out-of-sorts about the encounter. Nonetheless, Takato tightened his grip on the bag containing Rika's gift and resumed his walk down the street. The silence surrounded him on all sides as he approached the gate of Rika's home, and after taking a deep breath, Takato knocked on the door.
As he waited for an answer, Takato cast his thoughts about him, wondering about the strange dichotomy of his relationship with Rika, and just what exactly it was. It seemed as though their friendship had changed since Valentine's Day when they experienced their 'moment' in Guilmon's hut. The occasional furtive glances that they had given each other…Terriermon enjoyed teasing him to no end about them. And then there was Jeri's advice to him when he asked for her help about what to get Rika…
We are just friends…right? Takato barked an apprehensive laugh, trying more to calm himself than anything else. Yeah. Just really close friends, that's all. It's just like I tell everyone. There's nothing between us.
Yet for some reason, Takato felt as though today's meeting was going to determine what fate had in store for the two of them in the future.
The clack of the door being opened broke Takato out of his thoughts, and for the moment all worries were swept away as his gaze fell upon Seiko Hata. The woman smiled at him, and Takato felt himself calm down right away, leaving a part of him to wonder what he would have done if it had been Rika who answered instead. The question, much like his worries, were blown away as Seiko began speaking, leaving him with little time to dwell on it.
"Afternoon, Takato," said Seiko.
"Hello, Mrs. Hata," replied Takato, bowing his head in greeting. "Is Rika home?"
Takato felt like kicking himself for asking such a question as Renamon had already informed him that such was the case, but asking seemed to be the best and polite way, to start things off.
"Of course. She asked me to send you out back once you stopped by. By the way, I'm making some cookies for the two of you to share. They're best when they're eaten when freshly baked."
Takato laughed, understanding what she meant by that. From his experience at the bakery, bread was always at its best when it had been just popped out of the oven. It was the reason why customers rarely took to the day-old bread.
"Thanks, Mrs. Hata. I'd be glad to try some."
"Good. Now I should go check on them, and you'd better go see to my granddaughter. You don't want to keep her waiting."
"Um…yeah," Takato mumbled, beginning to feel a little bit embarrassed by the way Seiko had made that sound. It was as though Rika had gotten dressed up in some manner in preparation for a date.
She wouldn't treat it that seriously…would she? Almost against his will, an image of Rika wearing makeup, wearing a dress, and carrying a small purse came unbidden to his mind and Takato immediately shook his head to get rid of it. It seemed too surreal for him to possibly believe, even with the advent of digimon being a fantasy turned reality. That, and he was certain that Rika would beat him into the ground for even harboring such an image of her.
In the end, there's only one way to find out for certain, thought Takato as he made his way towards the backyard where he eventually found his friend crouched in her garden, digging around in it.
Rika tore out weeds from her flowerbed with a determined tug, smiling in triumph for each and every one that she uprooted before tossing them into a nearby bucket.
Try and take over my garden will you? Rika laughed softly in her mind as she went back to work. Not while I'm on the watch, you won't!
Continuing with her task, Rika's lavender gaze wandered over to the packet of seeds that she had placed on the border of her garden. The Momoirobara. She had been thinking about giving them a go with the next stage of her planting. Granted, it was the reason why she had bought them, but whenever she thought about them she set them aside, or simply didn't get around to doing the deed, focusing instead on weeding out the unwelcome plants that continued to invade her flowerbed. She had good reason for doing so. Everything that she put into the garden she did so with great care and deliberation, wanting to get the meanings behind the flowers to correspond with how she felt. Any hesitation meant that she needed to think some more before she added a flower. She had a small box next to another one that held extra digimon cards that contained a sizeable number of seed packets that had been stored away for safekeeping from the previous year; holdovers from previous uncertainties that required further thinking. Some would be used this year, and others would remain in the box until such a time that they were needed.
The sound of grass rustling beneath a foot caught Rika's attention, and a small smile appeared on Rika's face.
"So you're finally here, huh, Gogglehead?" the red haired Tamer teased, closing her eyes and imagining a startled Takato standing behind her.
"Huh?" came the response that confirmed her suspicions. "How did you…?"
"Grandma and Mom would have called out to me first," replied Rika before Takato could even finish his question. "And Renamon's a lot quieter than you are." The girl's smile transformed into a grin as she got up and dusted off her jeans. "Plus Renamon told me that you and Dino-boy arrived so I figured that it wouldn't be long before you made your way back here."
Takato laughed and sheepishly rubbed the back of his head.
"So much for the surprise…"
"Which you know I hate," smirked Rika before noting the absence of something. "Where's Dino Boy?"
"Um…Renamon took him somewhere…she didn't say where, but she thought that we should be left alone for some reason."
"I…see." Rika frowned slightly before deciding to change the subject. She'd have a talk with Renamon later about her sense of 'discression.' "So…what do you want to do?"
"I…haven't actually thought about that yet," admitted Takato, shifting in obvious discomfort of having been put on the spot. "Your grandmother wants us to have some of the cookies that she's making so I kind of figured that we could stick around here until they were done."
Rika grimaced slightly, but nodded in agreement. As much as she didn't like the feeling that she was being set up by her grandmother, especially with something as childish as cookies of all things, she didn't want to let all of her hard work go to nothing. After all, those cookies were worth a setup just to have and Rika often had a hard time saying no to them.
Even though mom keeps telling me that they'll spoil my figure, Rika thought in bemusement. Not like that stops her from diving into them either.
Takato coughed, and Rika took note of the sound of rustling plastic from the hand that hid behind the boy's back. Rika sighed mentally.
And I just told him that I didn't like surprises…
"So…um…what were you doing before I got here?" asked Takato, trying for conversation. Rika tilted her head to one side.
"Just working on my garden," she replied, deciding to humor him and play dumb to his rather inept attempts at hiding what she believed to be her White Day present. Although Rika wasn't too keen on the idea of his gift of 'obligation' she had to admit that she was mildly curious about its contents. Although she was sure he didn't know, she had noticed his persisting presence at or near the flower shop that she so regularly frequented, inspired no doubt by their conversation earlier in the week. She wondered what sort of flower or seeds he would get her to represent what he thought of her or something to that affect. "Mostly thinking about what I'm going to plant next." Rika scowled at the flowerbed. "A lot of weeds are in the way…"
"Anything I can do to help?" asked Takato. Rika raised a sardonic eyebrow at him, causing the boy to fluster a bit. "I can do it. I won't crush anything, and I'm usually the one on-call for keeping the plants in order at school."
"Well…" Rika glanced at her garden in consideration.
"Do you at least know how to use a shovel?"
"Hey! Come on…"
"Just kidding," Rika grinned. "You can help if you want. In fact, I could probably use some help on this one."
"Why's that?" asked Takato, cocking an eyebrow. Rika didn't reply, instead giving Takato a long, considering look before returning her attention to the garden. Furrowing his brow Takato followed her gaze, trying to understand what she had said. As he thought it over his crimson colored eyes fell upon the packet of Momoirobara seeds that he remembered seeing Rika buy earlier in the week.
"Are you thinking about planting these?" he asked, stepping over to where the packet lay and picking it up.
"Maybe. I don't know. I don't always plant the things that I buy. Everything in this garden represents something that I feel for each of you guys. I like to make sure that I know for sure what I feel before I plant something."
Takato nodded in understanding. He remembered Rika explaining the concept behind her garden earlier in the week. Thinking about it, a smile bloomed across his face.
"I'll bet that whatever it is you plant, it'll be really nice looking. You've always been passionate about the things and the people that you care about."
"Not when it comes to certain rabbits," smirked Rika, causing Takato to chuckle lightly.
"Not unless you count being angry at them as passionate," he replied.
"I'm starting to think you know me a little too well. Anyway, this garden's not getting weeded any faster."
"Right," Takato nodded, absently setting his bag on the ground as he stepped towards the flowerbed. "Just tell me where you want me to start."
"We can start here," said Rika, pointing to the spot that she had been digging around in earlier. "There are some weeds there that have deep roots, not to mention there are some rocks there that I want to get rid of."
"Got it," said Takato, digging his fingers deep into the soil where Rika had indicated. Rika's hands followed his, and both dug downwards, neither showing any hesitation at the dirtiness of the job, instead losing themselves to the task. After a few minutes Takato pulled out a rather large, palm sized rock and set it to the side, his eyes wide with amazement before narrowing in concentration and returning back to the dark earth. Words were exchanged as they worked, mainly from Rika as she pointed to a particular spot that she wanted to work on or avoid, or in response to Takato whenever he asked a question. Time passed with neither of them taking much notice. So engrossed were they that they didn't notice the gentle dip that the sun was taking above them, transforming the sky from a light blue hue to a blazing, golden color.
Seiko Hata smiled as she watched the two Tamers work in the garden. She had been just about to call them in to have some of the cookies that she had made as they were finally done baking, but one look had changed her mind.
It would be a shame to interrupt them while they're so hard at work together, thought Seiko. I'll leave them be for now and keep their cookies warm.
Turning, Seiko went over to the batch of cookies and left the two friends to their task.
As Takato worked, he began to learn a few things about the arrangement that Rika had set up for her friends, and a few things about how she felt about her friends. It seemed she took her flower arranging quite seriously, and spoke honestly when she planted. As a result, he was somewhat surprised when he found a sprouting plant that she told him represented a negative feeling in addition to the positive ones.
"I don't want to just look at the good things," Rika said to him when he had asked her about this particular detail. "I'm not criticizing anyone, but I want to view the whole picture. I want to look at one of the beds, like Terriermon, and know that I'm looking at something that gives me the feeling of him. So if for any reason someone's not around I can remember what it was like when they were there. Like this." Rika pointed to a flower with pink, spider-like petals that had grown to maturity. Takato recognized it as a Red Spider Lily. "This one is part of the group that represents Leomon."
"What's it mean?"
"Never to meet again," replied Rika, her eyes softening a bit.
Takato looked at Rika, somewhat surprised by the choice.
"Why would you want to remember something like that?"
"Because it makes the picture look more whole. Nothing's missing. Nothing's left out. Have you ever looked at a particular spot on a picture, and thought about how ugly it looked, only to think about how strange it would be if it was missing from the whole thing? Leomon sacrificed himself to save all of us. I don't want that to be forgotten. Do you remember how this place looked when you stumbled across it the first time?"
"Yeah. It looked…really nice," he answered truthfully. When he had first seen it words had failed him, and at times when he thought about it they still did. The garden had been quite the colorful arrangement of blues, yellows, reds, and many more colors, all of various shapes and sizes. On its own, he wasn't sure what to make of the Red Spider Lily, especially now that he knew its meaning, but when juxtaposed with the others it seemed to add something. He didn't know what the other flowers meant, but judging from the colors used, some of which were orange, yellow, and white, he got the impression of what they were trying to convey. They seemed appropriate, and Takato was left with memories of the fallen lion warrior.
It left him wondering what flowers Rika had picked out for Impmon.
"I'm still working on Impmon's," said Rika upon his voicing this question. "I'm finding his to be a little hard to figure out. I'm going to have to talk to him more. Before this I wasn't too keen on having a conversation with him. You know how he gets."
"Are you worried about how you're going to portray him?"
"A little bit, yeah," admitted Rika. "It's funny. After Renamon and I biomerged for the first time I've felt kind of protective of him, so I guess I don't want to make him look like a total bad mon. This is why I take my time. I want to make this garden without reservations."
Takato nodded in agreement while he felt himself grow a tad bit nervous. Glancing out from the corner of his eye at the bag that he had placed on the ground, he suddenly had doubts as to whether or not the gift was a good idea. After all, he had bought the seeds without any knowledge of what their meaning was. Could he have picked the wrong meaning?
There's really no turning back now, is there? Thought Takato.
"Hey, Gogglehead," came Rika's voice, snapping him out of his thoughts. "You mind giving me a hand here?"
"Huh?" Takato blinked as he looked over at the girl and noticed that she was digging after another rock in the soil. It looked as though she were having some trouble with this one. "Oh, sure."
Both Tamers set to work on the rock, digging around it so as to allow themselves more access before going under it.
What is this thing? Wondered the goggle-wearing Tamer, pushing his fingers beneath the rock and pushing upwards. The stone lifted slightly in protest, but otherwise refused to budge. A boulder?
"You ready?" asked Rika, repositioning herself so that she would have more leverage. Takato did likewise before nodding. Together the two pulled and pushed, working the stone closer to the surface before it finally broke free. Takato laughed as he nearly fell over from the effort.
"This thing is smaller than the last one," noted Rika with an annoyed look on her face before tossing the rock to the growing pile that she had started. Breathing a sigh, Rika ran one dirt encrusted hand over her forehead, wiping away some sweat and leaving a smear on her skin. Takato stared at the red-headed girl, and noticing this she looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Nothing," said Takato, leaning back and smiling. "I just never thought I'd see you get this dirty outside of a battle."
Rika smirked. "I'm not afraid of a little dirt when it's worth getting dirty."
Silence fell between the two friends for a moment before Takato finally spoke.
"So, how many of the others do you have left?"
"It's not something I'm going to be 'done with', Takato," replied Rika. "But I have done enough for Henry, Kazu, Ryo, Guilmon, Kenta, Renamon, MarineAngemon, Terriermon, Lopmon, Suzie, Leomon, and Jeri; just about everyone except Guardromon, Cyberdramon, Impmon and his partners, and you."
"What about you?"
"What about me?" asked Rika.
"Well, shouldn't you have something for yourself there too? I mean, wouldn't the picture be incomplete without you there?"
"I'm right here, Gogglehead," Rika snorted.
"I don't mean like that…"
"I know what you meant," cut off Rika. "I was just teasing. I swear, sometimes you take me way too seriously. Anyway, to answer your question, I'm not sure I could put together a flowerbed that describes me and be honest about it."
"Um…maybe I can help you with that?" asked Takato tentatively.
"Is that why you have that bag there?" Rika pointed to the bag lying on the ground at the edge of the garden. "Or did you get that just for White Day?"
"Uh…" Takato scratched the back of his head nervously. "I actually did get it for White Day. I kind of worried about it because I know that you don't like this sort of thing, but I really wanted to show my appreciation for what you did on Valentine's Day. I'm sorry if you don't like it…"
"Why wouldn't I?" asked Rika. "You didn't get it for me because you felt obligated to, did you?"
"Well, no, but…"
"Then don't worry about it. I gave you your chocolate because I wanted to show how grateful I was to have you as a friend. In this case, it only makes sense for you to want to give thanks."
"W-Well…it's just that…um…"
Rika looked at the boy and offered him a smile. She had an idea that he was worrying over nothing, just as he always did. Sure she knew that he had no clue about the meanings behind flowers, but she trusted Mrs. Suzuki to pick one out to best fit whatever meaning he wanted to convey. How bad could it be?
Well, this is Takato we're talking about, mused Rika sarcastically, but she immediately brushed the thought aside, continuing to look at him expectantly. Seeing her resolve, Takato swallowed nervously, picked up the bag and handed it to her. Taking it into her hands Rika opened the bag with the sound of rustling plastic and reached in.
Seeds, huh? Kinda simple, but I bet he thought it would be better to grow something straight from the beginning rather than get something already mature. That's just like hi…"
Rika's violet eyes grew wide in surprise as she turned the packet over and read the name printed on it.
Wha…? No way. What is this…? Why…? Does this mean…?
Rika looked up at Takato and back at the seeds, words for once failing her for the first time in her life. Although she could be considered an amateur as far as recognizing flower meanings, she knew enough to get the basic ideas represented in them. The ones that Takato had gotten her, Wasurenagusa, a plant that had five blue petals and otherwise known in the west as the 'Forget-me-not' had a meaning that was all too clear to her. That of 'true love.'
"Huh?" Now it was her turn to blink in confusion.
"Why what?" asked Takato, tilting his head to one side, his own confusion starting to grow.
Rika swallowed, feeling uncharacteristically nervous.
"Why did you…" Rika paused, wondering why she was even asking such a question. Of course Takato would have his reasons. He undoubtedly wanted to say something specific to her when he bought them, and flowers were a universal method of delivering messages involving a person's feelings. Mrs. Suzuki, the store manager, would have chosen the perfect flower to convey that message. Rika focused her attention on the packet, for once wishing that she had her hair down so that she could hide the growing redness in her face. What was she supposed to say? What could she say?
How can I, when I don't even know how to react to this? Sure, after that…'moment' we had at Guilmon's home I started to think that…maybe he felt something…and I know I did too, but I didn't think that…that he'd do…this. This is…this is just…crazy! It's…
Rika realized with quiet humor that this was something that only Takato would do, as he had done so often in the past.
He always does this. Does something that catches me by surprise. Just when I think I have him figured out he goes and does something really stupid or corny that makes me change how I see him.
Still…I get the feeling that there's something missing here. This is…as much as I hate to admit it, not 'Takato' enough. Maybe if this was from Ryo I could believe it. But Takato…
Frowning, Rika had to remind herself that her friend had gotten these seeds from the shop that she frequented. That had to be the only explanation. She had seen Takato hanging around the vicinity enough times to pick up on what he was trying to do. Mrs. Suzuki would have certainly helped him…
Or maybe I should just go with the flow for now, and see what he does.
Takato in the meantime was scratching his head in confusion, trying to figure out what it was about the seeds that had caused such a sudden reaction in Rika, and why she had clammed up all of a sudden. It wasn't at all what he had expected. She was never one to really get embarrassed over things except on occasion when something happened that made her feel uncomfortable. As far as he knew, gifts did not fit in that category, and with the exception of their little incident on Valentine's Day she hadn't been uncomfortable handing out chocolates. Surely a thank-you present wasn't that distressing…was it?
"Um…Rika?" began Takato, hoping to break up the heavy silence that had fallen between them. "If you don't like them I can just…"
"Huh?" Rika's eyes flashed angrily and her hand tightened around the packet. "No! I…um…" Rika's face visibly calmed while simultaneously gaining a deep blush that left Takato completely dumbfounded. "…I like them. It's just…it's a little abrupt I think. I wasn't really expecting anything like this…"
"Why?" asked Takato, his confusion only increasing. "These flowers…they…" Rika's blush deepened and she shifted uncomfortably. "…Is this…really what you think of me?"
Takato scratched the side of his head, not wholly understanding what she was getting at.
"Well…I thought of you the first time I saw them, and I thought that their color matched you. Plus they…um…they looked really…uh…really pretty."
That last part Takato only just barely said above a whisper, not at all certain how his friend would take the admission. Past experience had taught him to be wary around the girl, as she tended to not react well to anything other than praises to her skills as a Tamer, particularly anything that had to do with her looks. He saw enough of her reactions to Ryo's jibes to know that, leaving him with a sense of wonder as to why she never clobbered him for his comment on her shirt from two years ago in the tunnels. Now that he thought about it, the fact that she didn't react negatively surprised him.
As Takato continued to try to figure out why Rika was reacting this way, he watched in utter fascination as her blush darkened considerably, her grip on the packet tightening all the more.
This is…completely…ridiculous! The girl screamed in her mind. Where does he come up with this stuff? It's stupid! And I…
Rika blinked as a thought occurred to her. Hold on a minute…
Looking down at the picture on the packet, Rika ran her eyes over the blue petals, admiring their color. Disassociating herself from their meaning, Rika saw that on their own, yes, they did look rather pretty. And while she herself was never vain about her looks she knew enough that even she drew more than her fair share of looks on the streets, something that only increased in number as she grew older. Presently her mother mentioned being jealous of her looks, and recently approached her about entering the fashion business alongside her. As expected she had turned it down and Rumiko hadn't argued about it as she would have done in the past as their relationship had become much more understanding in the past two years, but it had only served to drive the point home. Takato saw this, and thought of her.
Blue…just like my digivice. And…'pretty.' Rika pursed her lips together, not sure if she liked the direction that her thoughts were going, and for an instant she wondered which one she preferred more. In the end, her desire to know the truth won out and she looked Takato in the eye.
"Takato," she began slowly. "Do you know what these flowers mean?"
"Not really," admitted Takato freely, though he still had an anxious look on his face. "I had wanted to find out, but Mrs. Suzuki wasn't in today so I…um…went about it the best that I could. I didn't make you mad, did I?"
"Let's just say that you really took the Gogglehead award this time," laughed Rika. "I mean it. More than usual, you were a serious…Gogglehead."
"Okay…what did I do?"
"It's…nothing," chuckled Rika. "Nothing serious. It's just…out of all the possible flowers you had to choose the one that meant True Love." Rika watched with great satisfaction as Takato's face bloomed with a red color that reached all the way to his ears. Rika could only wonder how much their tips were burning right now.
"Ah…um…" Takato stammered, trying desperately to find something to say about the situation…and failing. "…Rika…I…"
"It's okay, Takato," Rika said, smiling down at the flowers before looking up at the boy. "I really like them."
"I…I should have been more ca…" Takato stopped, not certain how Rika would react if he finished that sentence. Rika smirked, knowing what he meant anyway.
"Like I said, Takato. I like them. If anything this makes the gift even better. It has you in its meaning. You chose it, so it has your meaning in it." Rika raised the packet in consideration. "I think I've got just what I need to start your part of the garden."
"B-But the meaning…!"
"Is you, just like I said," said Rika, running one finger along her chin in contemplation. "But if you're worried about the actual meaning, I can use half the contents and," Rika eyed Takato playfully, "save the rest for another time."
If Takato's face hadn't been red before, it most certainly was now. In fact, it defined red in ways that her hair never could.
Rika couldn't help but laugh again.
"You can be so hopeless sometimes, you know that?" Rika chided, resuming her work.
Time passed as the two Tamers resumed their work, though Rika had long since given up on trying to make Takato stop feeling embarrassed about the gift he had bought for her. The boy, if nothing else, was determined to blush his way through the remainder of their time together, something that was only made worse when Rumiko got home to find them together eating the cookies that Seiko had baked for them. Fortunately, Seiko managed to get a hold of the woman before the situation got out of hand, dragging her off so as to leave the two teens unmolested. Eventually the time came for Takato to go home, as the ringing of the Nonaka family phone by one Mie Matsuki proved, and so it was that Takato and Rika found themselves heading towards the gate.
"S-Sorry for…um…about earlier," apologized Takato as they walked down the path towards the front door. Rika raised an eyebrow.
"What? About the seeds? Didn't I already tell you to not worry about that? If anything," Rika chuckled lightly, "it helped me get something started for you. I know what I can add on from there."
Takato rubbed the back of his head in embarrassment, still not sure how to react to that. In spite of his good intentions he had wound up causing the two of them to be embarrassed, though it had turned on him in short order and he believed that he rightly deserved it. It just felt odd that Rika had chosen to reward him for it.
Actually, I'm not sure if I can call it a reward, thought Takato. But it's definitely something, and she seems quite taken with it. I guess it balances out. I just wish that I didn't mess this up just like I always do.
Rika pulled open the door and stepped to the side. Her eyes rose up and met Takato's. For a long moment the two of them stood there, looking at the other until Takato blushed and forced himself to look away.
"Sorry," he muttered again, and Rika sighed, shaking her head.
"You really need to get a hold of yourself. One little mistake and you act like you've just doomed the whole world or something. I just told you that it's not a big deal, and if anything you've helped me. You've helped make that flower unique."
"I know," said Takato, furrowing his brow and shifting on his feet. "I just feel like I should have gone about it better. Planned better. Rika," Takato looked back up at his friend and pulled his hands into fists, "why did you plant those seeds that mean 'trust' next to the one I got for you? They don't seem to fit."
"Just because you don't know the meanings behind flowers does not mean that you can't be trusted," replied Rika. "I think pretty hard about these things, and I know you well enough by now to know that anyone's trust in you is not misplaced even if your feet are."
"Gee, thanks," muttered Takato sarcastically.
In the brief pause that followed, Rika leaned against the door and closed her eyes.
"You know, Takato, even though you caught me by surprise…" Rika paused as she measured her words carefully. "…I can definitely say that what you did wasn't a bad thing. It really got me thinking about how I felt about you." Opening her eyes, Rika refocused her attention on Takato. "Things have been weird between us since Valentine's Day, haven't they?"
I don't think weird even describes it, thought Takato, though he didn't say that out loud.
"Yeah," he agreed. "About what happened then…um…" Takato again shifted his feet, fumbling around for an answer. What came to him instead were Jeri's words from earlier in the week, about making his feelings known through the gift that he bought. He had tried to make his feelings known, but instead caused a great deal of confusion for the two of them. Rika was able to shrug it off by the looks of things, but himself?
"How do you feel about Rika?" came the voice of Jeri once more.
I just don't know anymore, thought Takato. I just don't know…
Seeing the boy wrestle with his emotions Rika let go of the door and walked over to him.
"You're thinking too hard again," she said, reaching up and giving his forehead a flick with her finger. "If you keep doing that your brain is going to explode, and then your Mom would be upset. That and," unconsciously Rika reached out and touched his fingers with her own, their tips brushing lightly together before moving away, "so would I."
Takato felt his face heat up once again as his body stiffened from her closeness. It took all of his willpower to not fidget or break eye contact with the girl.
Distractedly, Takato realized that the sun still hadn't completely set.
"Ohhh…" came the voice of Guilmon from by the gate, causing both Tamers to jump in surprise and blush ferociously. His crimson eyes wide, Takato saw his partner standing in the open door, his golden eyes holding a forlorn look in their depths. "I wish that I had some popcorn like people do in the movies. Or better yet…bread shaped like popcorn…"
"Honestly," mused Renamon as she phased into view next to the dinosaur, "you have some of the most peculiar eating habits…"
Rika scowled at Guilmon before closing her eyes and giving a light hmmmph.
"All right. I think that's enough for tonight. You guys had better get moving before your mom decides to skin you alive for coming home late."
"Uh…yeah," agreed Takato. "Right."
Takato broke away from his friend and exited the gate, Guilmon drooping his ears in disappointment, though over what Takato didn't know. Or maybe he didn't want to know.
"Well…ahem," Takato cleared his throat nervously as he turned back to face Rika. "It's definitely been a barrel full of laughs, but I had fun."
Despite all things considered…
Rika again leaned against her doorway, and for an instant Takato had a flashback to earlier in the week when he had asked her if she had any free time this weekend. The expression on Rika's face was calm, but long experience in her presence had taught him to see the telltale signs that she was nervous about something.
"You said that you thought it would be a good idea to have a flowerbed about me with the rest, right?"
"Um…yeah." Takato's eyes lit up briefly as he processed her question. "Did you want some help with that or something?"
Rika closed her eyes in contemplation.
"I'll let you know about that. Just be on call for when I am, okay?"
"Sure?" The word was out of his mouth before he knew what had happened, and Rika's face seemed to visibly relax, and a small smile graced her lips.
"Good. Good night, Gogglehead."
With that, Rika turned and headed into her yard, closing the door behind her with a gentle click. Takato stood there, feeling somewhat dumbstruck before Guilmon's tugging on his pant leg snapped him back to attention.
"Is everything all right, Takatomon?" the dinosaur digimon asked in a worried tone. Takato looked back at the gate and after a second he nodded.
"I think so, boy. I think so."
Rika leaned her head against the gate, listening to the voices of her two friends on the other side as they began their trek home. The smile that she had given Takato remained on her face, and in spite of the fact that Renamon was there watching her, she found that she didn't care.
I think…I think I know exactly what Jeri saw in him, she thought quietly to herself before pushing her head away from the gate and turning her face towards the sky where the first stars of night began to appear.
Stupid Gogglehead… the red haired Tamer grinned.
A/N: After many weeks, this story is done. I hadn't originally planned to work on it for a couple more weeks, but a trip that my Mom and I made to a local flower shop gave me a little inspiration, and this is what came out. Funny how things work I guess. Anyway, thanks go out to Blazing Chaos, milesprower06, Frozen Twins, Pyro the Harbinger of Chaos, co426e, dbzgtfan2004, Ruki44, DarkDremora4, Rainbow35, ArcticPhoenix91, Saiyan X, Nolaquen265, lol, The Digital Typhoon, nemesis96730, rukatoitsumademo, Enekk, Chaos Blademaster, 2tailakitsune, and jaredhimself31 for reading and reviewing this story and for putting up with the rather long delays between each update.
Until the next story,