Regards go out to ProcurerFaith, as always, for helping me out as she usually do. You rule, sweet ^^
Warning: Angst! Character death! Not-at-all Christmassy events, yet it's a Christmas fic! Want to proceed? Be cautious…
So Here It Is… Merry Christmas…?
By Nanaki Lioness
I don't think I've ever been more terrified than the moment I realized that we weren't going to be able to stop. Sure, I trust Mr. Ishida, but I didn't trust the guy heading straight at us. On our side of the road.
Maybe I'd better back up a little. It was December, a week in, and us Digi-destined kids had decided to do a bit of Christmas shopping. Matt's Dad offered to pick us up (or rather, did so when Matt phoned him up and begged him to) and take us to our respective houses. Izzy and Joe hadn't joined us; Izzy was planning on shopping online, and Joe had already bought everything he could possibly need in September. So it was just me, my sister Kari, Matt, TK and Sora. Mimi, of course, was still living in America, though she had promised to visit just after Christmas.
So as we were driving home, it started raining. Nothing unusual for December; there was already ice on the roads and mist in the air. It had turned dark hours before; we all wanted to do a bit of shopping in the dark, because of all the lights in the city. Odiaba looks really magical at Christmas, with light-snowmen, reindeer, angels and, inevitably, Santa. Lots of tinsel, spray snow and Christmas carols completes the picture.
As you can probably tell, I'm a very Christmassy person. Except for the year Meiko ran up the centre of our tree and pulled it down, trying to catch the little fake robins Mom had put up the top. Mom threw them away after that and used snowmen instead.
Anyway. Mr. Ishida was driving really carefully because of the weather; I remember Matt saying once that his uncle had been really badly injured in a road accident before he was even born. I guess that unnerved the guy a bit; it would me. He had his lights on full beam as often as possible, and the wind-screen wipers working overtime to keep his vision clear.
And then there was us; Kari and Sora sitting in the back, me and TK sitting in the seats directly behind the driver and Matt in the front. Of course it was Matt in the front; it would never be any other way with him and TK. Heh, me and Kari used to fight over who would get to ride in the front on the way to school. Or, rather, I would always want to and Kari would (rightfully) protest.
And then we saw it. Matt and his Dad simultaneously saw it first, and we weren't far behind; a car, overtaking and straying onto our side of the road. And staying there.
Mr. Ishida braked as hard as he could- I know he did, because the seatbelts he had made us all wear tugged really tight around us and stopped us jolting forward too hard. Mr. Ishida was trying to steer away as well as trying to brake, which was proving difficult seeing as he didn't have ABS brakes. I remember Mom telling me about Dad's new car. She said it was really cool 'coz it had Automatic Braking Systems or something. It means you can turn the wheels and steer at the same time or something.
However, Mr. Ishida's people carrier didn't do that, so we were going to hit the car head on. Funny that; how you know it's going to happen, and that you can register it, but there's nothing you can do about it. Well, except scream of course. And scream we did.
It wasn't as climatic as I thought it would be. Big crash, lots more screaming, the force of being thrown forward very hard… I closed my eyes anyway, just in case.
"You okay kids?" I heard Mr. Ishida ask. Four voices saying 'yeah', mine making the fifth put my mind at rest completely.
And then it happened. As if one car wasn't enough, we heard a screech behind us of brakes being applied and wheels skidding across ice. Stupidly, we all looked round before realizing another car was going to hit us. Except this one was going a lot faster, and skidding completely out of control. The driver, a terrified young woman we could see, had obviously not seen us in time to brake adequately.
Kari and Sora looked the most panicked and, as I closed my eyes tightly, I could hear a scuffle of what I figured to be them trying to jump forward onto mine and TK's seat. At least, I hoped it was. I didn't want to think that anyone was trying to jump into the back to help.
So the lady hit us, pushing us forward into the original car that had caused the accident. I could feel something digging into my back, and I could hear more shrieks of terror- mostly from Sora and Kari, my mind mentally realized- before everything went eerily silent.
It was a few moments before I realized that the world had stopped moving for me. Everything was silent, including the other people I was traveling with. That worried me.
I wanted to keep my eyes shut and stay curled up until someone came to get us, but I couldn't. I had to know. So I opened them and wished I hadn't immediately.
Okay, I couldn't even see TK. He wasn't sitting in the seat, which wasn't that badly damaged it seemed. I figured perhaps he had gotten out the car; after all, I had been knocked semi-unconscious for a minute or so, so I wouldn't have known.
So I looked forward. I could see Matt; curled up in a position not unlike mine before I moved.
"Matt?" I called, hoping for a reply.
He uncurled, glancing up into the rear view mirror to see me. He had a cut on his forehead; bright red against stark, pale white.
"Tai? You're okay?"
"Dad's unconscious. He hit the steering wheel kinda hard wh-"
Matt tailed off, and I didn't like the look on his face. I glanced round at what he was looking at, afraid of what I would see.
And rightfully so, seeing as what was left of the back of the car was currently what was digging into my back. Sora and Kari were in there somewhere.
Sora and Kari were in there somewhere.
Matt seemed to be having the same thought I was, but I could see his eyes straying to the vacant seat next to me.
"Where's TK?" He questioned, sapphire eyes narrowed in confusion.
"I don't know. He wasn't there when I looked."
"He can't just vanish," Matt said, looking even more bewildered.
"Maybe he got out?"
Matt didn't reply, his worried gaze turning to his Dad. He shook him gently, trying to rouse him. His hands felt round his father's wrist, and he looked slightly more relieved to realize he had a pulse.
"He's just been knocked out," I told him. "He'll come to."
I could almost see his mind working at that moment; he wanted to know where TK was, and if Sora and Kari were all right. So did I, but I figured we should at least report the accident. I pulled my mobile phone from my pocket, dialing the emergency number.
"Hello, can I report an accident? Huh? Yeah, that's the one. How do you know? Reported? Do you know who by? Oh. Okay."
I was hoping they would have said a teenage boy, so I could assume it was TK, but they said it was a female passer-by. I made a mental note to thank them if I ever found out who it was.
"Is an ambulance on its way? Good, we need one. Oh, there's two girls trapped somewhere in the back of the people carrier. We can't see them and the back of the carrier's kinda crushed badly. And one of the guys here seems to have disappeared; we don't know if he jumped back there or if he got out or anything. Yes, we're in the people carrier involved. Um, six of us. Two of us are okay, the driver's unconscious and I dunno about the others. Okay. Okay. Thanks very much."
I hung up, sighing deeply.
"Already reported, eh?" Matt asked.
"Yeah. Not by TK either, before you ask. An ambulance is on its way, so they'll be able to tell us if Sora and Kari are okay, and if TK got out or whatever."
"Why would he get out the car?" Matt asked, not facing me.
"Maybe he thought he'd call for help?"
"But he didn't."
"He may not have had the chance, Matt."
"He may be in the back with Sora and Kari."
I could hear the concern in his voice, but seeing as my little sister was in there, I could match it too.
"Kari's in there for certain, you know."
Silence for a moment.
"Sorry, Tai," I heard him say quietly. "I didn't-"
"Hey, forget it. I know you're worried."
The tell-tale sound of sirens in the distance alerted us to the windows, looking out of them to see if we could spot them. Sure enough, a few seconds later, two ambulances and two police cars drew into view. Two people from one of the ambulances and one from one of the police cars came over to us, opening up both mine and Matt's doors. We both got out, Matt walking round to the back of the carrier.
The car that had been behind us was imbedded into the back, and we could see the young driver was slumped over the steering wheel. Blood was trickling down the side of her face, pooling onto the dashboard. A medic was currently opening her door, and we both looked away; we didn't want to know if, when he pulled her face up, her eyes would be open, terrified and glassy with loss of life.
"You boys alright?"
We both turned, seeing a police officer looking sympathetically at us.
"We're fine," Matt answered for the both of us. "My Dad…"
"He's okay, son," the officer interjected. "He's unconscious, but he'll be fine. We're concerned about the welfare of any passengers who were on the backseat."
"My little sister Kari, and our friend Sora," I answered. "And we don't know where Matt's little brother is. He may be in there, too."
"How young are your siblings?"
"Both of them are thirteen."
"Oh. When you say little, I thought you meant infants or small children."
"It's an affectionate term," Matt said off-handedly, glancing at the medic who was currently laying the lady driver onto a stretcher. He closed his eyes tightly and sighed as he noticed a sheet-like piece of material being drawn over her body and face.
"Why don't you both go and sit in the police car? We'll see what we can do concerning the remaining three passengers."
We did as instructed, opening the back door and letting ourselves in. Neither of us said anything for a while, content with watching what was going on around us.
"Never thought we'd ever be sitting in a police car," I joked quietly after a while. The silence was beginning to get to me.
"Nah," Matt agreed, smiling slightly. "I always figured you would, one day."
We laughed for a moment before returning to the somber silence.
"Matt, you know TK's probably all right," I said softly, knowing that worry for his brother was what was causing most of his melancholy. "He's probably out looking for help." I laughed a little. "Probably couldn't find a payphone."
"He has a mobile."
I sighed, not knowing what to say.
"Tai, I'm sorry." He made eye contact with me for the first time, and I could see pure fear in them. He can be so expressive at times without even realizing. "I understand you're worried about Kari just as much I'm worried for TK-"
"Stop trying to explain yourself," I interrupted. "I understand. Besides, Sora's there too."
"I know, I know. I haven't forgotten, no matter how worried I am about TK."
We glanced over at the medics who were carrying Matt's Dad on a stretcher to the ambulance in front of us.
"You know, they probably have one ambulance for the living and one for the… You know…" I said, not wanting to say 'dead'. It seemed inappropriate.
"Makes sense. One goes to the A&E and one goes to the morgue."
More silence. We strained our eyes through the misty windows, which I cleared with a stroke of my coat sleeve. I almost wish I hadn't.
A stretcher. That's what was being taken over to the people carrier. Matt looked set to get out the car, but I held him back by his coat.
"Let them deal with it."
He did as I said, sitting back down again and looking past me over to the scene. Too many people standing in the way meant we couldn't see who was being pulled from the wreckage, but we did see the white sheet covering them on the stretcher as they stood clear.
"Oh God…" I heard Matt said softly. Regardless of who it was, someone we loved had died. Our suspicions were further confirmed when the stretcher was taken to the ambulance behind us; the ambulance for the dead.
Matt got out the car then, and I wasn't far behind him. The police officer who had sent us there noticed, and strode over.
"I wouldn't go over and look," he said softly. "It's a mess back there."
"Who was that?" Matt asked, pointing to the ambulance which now held the body of someone we knew.
"Red haired girl, that's all I can tell you. She was very badly injured, beyond recognition mostly. She would have… Died instantly…"
"Sora…" I said quietly.
The officer said nothing for a moment.
"Go and sit back in the car," he said eventually. "I'll come and get you when we have further developments."
We did as we were told, too speechless to do anything else. Neither of us said a word, our eyes straying back to the wreckage.
"I can't believe Sora's dead," Matt said softly. "Only an hour ago we were shopping with her." He laughed dryly. "Heck, an hour ago we were buying Christmas presents for her."
I wanted to tell him to shut up, because hearing that hurt. I didn't want to think that one of our closest friends was dead. She lived through the Digi-world; I guess I assumed that meant we were kinda immortal or invincible or something.
"What are we gonna do with them?"
The words were out of my mouth before I even realized. Matt looked at me for the first time since we had got back in the car, and I could once again see his emotions within his eyes.
Matt didn't reply for a moment.
"Well, just because she's gone doesn't mean she shouldn't have them," he said eventually. "We'll take them to her…"
He didn't want to say 'grave'. Neither did I.
"Resting place?" I supplied instead.
Matt lowered his head, nodding. "Yeah. Resting place."
A knock on the window alerted our attention, and we wound it down.
"We've found someone else, a young girl," the officer said.
"Kari!" I said, quickly feeling elated.
"She's in a bad way. Medics are currently trying to save her, but I don't think there's much hope. Her heart… It's already cut out once. We got her back, but it doesn't look good…"
Okay, losing Sora was one thing, but my little sister? Never.
"Do you think she'll be okay?" I asked, dreading the answer.
"Honestly, I don't think so. Sorry, son."
"…Can I see her?"
"I wouldn't recommend it."
"Can I see her?" I repeated, harsher. I didn't care how badly injured she was or how distressed seeing her would make me; I just had to see her before she slipped away forever.
The officer sighed and nodded, motioning to where the medics where knelt down around the stretcher Kari was now lying on. I ran over, noting that Matt stayed behind. He obviously didn't want to get involved; either that, or he couldn't bear to see.
"Kari…" I breathed softly as I stepped up behind the medics; one of them stood and let me through to see her properly.
She was in a bad way, that was for sure. Her hair was matted with blood, and her face was littered with heavily bleeding cuts. Her clothes were soaked through, obviously from cuts all over her body. Her left side was the most badly cut; it seemed as though her left hand was completely crushed, though I couldn't be sure through the blood. Her eyes were closed, and her breathing was shallow.
I wanted to turn away. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. Instead, all I did was stand up and step back, letting the medics continue trying to save her.
"She's gonna be paralyzed down her left side…"
I looked round to see Matt, who was behind me gazing sadly at Kari.
"I figured," I said softly, looking back at Kari. I didn't want to take my eyes off her in case she passed away without me seeing. I wanted to see her until the end. "She'll probably be brain damaged, too. If she lives, that is."
"You never know, Tai. Don't give up on her whilst she's still breathing."
I shook my head. "No. It doesn't look good. You can see that yourself."
And almost as though to confirm what I'd said, the medics panicked and started shouting to one another. We were pushed out the way, and I knew it was happening.
"Kari!" I yelled, stepping forward. "Kari, I love you!"
Matt pulled at my arm, and no matter how much I resisted, I couldn't reach her side.
"Matt, let go! She needs me! She needs me! I want to be with her when she dies! I want to be by her side!"
It was then I collapsed, shock finally overtaking my system. Matt grabbed me before my knees touched the ground and pulled me vaguely upright.
"Let me be with her!" I said, sobbing a little with tears I didn't realize were being shed until I couldn't speak past them. "Let me go!"
Earlier that day, I had wanted to be by her side as she unwrapped Christmas presents. Now, I wanted to be with her as she died. That was just wrong. It didn't fit into the image of a wonderful Christmas.
"She's gone…" Matt said gently. He hadn't taken his eyes off of the medic's actions the whole time. He had just seen what I didn't know; they had covered her with one of those dreaded white sheets.
"Yes, Tai. She's gone. Look for yourself."
I did so, standing myself up and watching her being taken away to the ambulance. The ambulance Sora was already in, along with the women who had been driving the car behind us. It also appeared the man who had been in the wrong was also in that ambulance; after all, we realized that the force of the car behind us hitting his car and the people carrier would have probably have killed him instantly.
"We've found another!"
Past my tears, I realized they must have meant TK. Matt's attention was immediately peaked, so for his sake I dried my tears and walked over with him to the people carrier again.
"Teenage lad," one of the medics shouted.
"TK…" Matt said so quietly I could barely hear.
"He's in a bad way!" Another medic yelled. A stretcher was being bought over, and we moved out the way.
"Is he alive?!" Matt called, sounding frantic.
"Yes!" The medic called. "He's alive, his pulse is strong! I need some help up here! Let's get him out!"
Matt stepped forward, like he was acting upon the plea for help, but my subconscious mind made me grab him and stop him.
"He means other medics," I said. "Let's go and sit back in the police car. We're just in their way here."
And so we walked back over, my eyes drifting to the back of the open ambulance. I could see stretchers in a row, with white sheets over the bodies lying upon them. It made me feel a little ill, especially as I realized that there was a small sheet covering a small body there, too.
"Look, Matt…" I said, alerting it to his attention. Tears re-filled my eyes, and this time it was for the small innocent child that lay there as well as my friend and sister.
Matt looked, and turned away as he realized what I meant.
"Just another innocent kid," he said, and I could see his eyes straying to the direction of TK.
"A little kid," I stressed. "That sheet's tiny… That kid's p-probably about four or f-five…" My emotions were certainly getting the better of me, I realized. I'd never felt so strongly for someone I'd never met before.
"Let's go sit in the car…" I heard Matt said quietly. He was leaning against the ambulance, and I noticed for the first time the tears in his eyes.
So, I wasn't the only one affected, after all. Except, it looked all wrong on Matt; he was the strong one. He could show nothing on the exterior and be hurting so bad on the inside I'm surprised sometimes he didn't get torn in two. Sure, he's one of the most sensuous people I know, but not like this. Never like this.
"What is it?" I asked, and for once he didn't deny that there was an 'it' that was bothering him. "TK?"
He shook his head, running a shaking hand across his eyes. He gestured behind him with his free hand.
The ambulance; or rather, its contents. I should have realized before that he wasn't shallow, and that just because his brother was hurt didn't mean he didn't care about anyone else. I stood for a moment, observing my friend. He was still rubbing at his eyes, and it was then it hit me just how… Well, perfect, he was. Tears and sadness were so out of place on his flawless features it was unreal.
"Quit that," I said, even though with the tears on my cheeks, I was probably the world's biggest hypocrite then.
He turned and raised an eyebrow at me.
"My sister and my friend are dead," I said, looking at the ground. "I have a right to cry."
"My friends are dead," he countered. "And it could well be my brother soon, too. I have just as much right to be upset as you do."
"Then why don't we both quit it and go and sit in that police car?" I suggested sensibly. To tell the truth, seeing Matt upset was unnerving me. That was a job for Joe, or for Mimi.
But, then again, and it had always been that way; it had always been Matt. He was the sensitive one, the one who felt the pain of others and whose own pain was always amplified. He had told me he had been through a stage of depression recently, a few weeks back. I wondered off-handedly if this would make it worse. I didn't understand depression; it was a subject I had never experienced therefore never understood.
Again, I wondered if these rare moments of sadness on Matt's part were really that rare at all. After all, as we walked back to the car, he seemed damn good at hiding his tears.
"Do you do that a lot?" I found myself asking. Damn my fragile mind at the moment; it wasn't letting me think before I spoke.
"Yeah, I guess. It's not something I talk about."
He had understood what I meant, at least. And he didn't seem offended, either. Maybe something good would come out of this after all; it appeared Matt was going to explain this depression thing a bit better to me. Maybe he'd even let me help him.
"Maybe if you talked a lot more you wouldn't have to be so depressed."
He laughed. I really didn't understand this depression thing, 'coz to me, that made sense.
"Doesn't work that way, buddy."
Silence. Okay, maybe he wasn't going to talk. My mind wandered back to Kari, and tears immediately sprang to my eyes again. Sweet, innocent carrier of light had been taken; had been cruelly subjected to a painful death from a man who couldn't keep his eyes on the road. A man who also killed what I assumed to be his own child, too.
And himself. Part of me wondered whether he deserved it, and the other half chastised myself. No-one deserved death.
Matt's voice again. He never cared about himself, only about others. Once again, I could see his eyes look past me towards where TK was, but he bought them back again.
"Why don't you go and see how he is?" I said, avoiding the question. I kept my eyes to my knees as I felt Matt's eyes on me, studying me. And then he did so, getting out the car and half-walking half-running to where TK was laid out upon a stretcher. Much like Kari had.
Kari. Oh God…
Alone for a while, I felt my control slipping. The young toddler who I had taught to climb onto sides to steal cookies. The little schoolchild who I had helped with her homework. The teenage girl who I had helped to get back at guys who hurt her, and who I taught some valuable lessons of life to. That girl was gone now, never to return. Never to spend another Christmas at home with her family, excited about the presents she had given and was to receive.
Christmas was certainly never going to be the same again, that was for sure.
I heard the door open again and Matt re-entered, holding a carrier bag in his hand. He seemed a bit happier, at least.
"He's stable," he said. "They're going to take him to the hospital with Dad. We need to go, too; they want to check us over and make sure we're really okay. Plus, shock kicks in a couple hours after something like this. We may feel fine, but apparently we won't be later."
"Doesn't surprise me. Good news about TK, though."
I could hear his sentence in the air. 'But it's a shame about Kari and Sora…'
"What's in the bag?" I asked instead, dispersing the conversation.
"Oh, they recovered this from under TK's seat…"
I took the bag from him, knowing that Kari had placed a bag under the young boy's seat as we got in. Opening it, I almost choked. Inside was a CD that I had asked Kari for about two months ago. She had obviously remembered, and bought it for me for Christmas. I knew it was for me; partly because of instinct and partly because I was the only one of our group who was a fan of the particular band, too.
"Yours…?" Matt asked softly. I nodded, placing it to the ground in front of me in the bag. It felt like that shock thing was really starting to hit me, along with a fresh bout of tears.
"S-she's gone…" I sobbed. "Really really g-gone… Her and Sora, both of them…"
"I know," Matt agreed. "It feels all wrong, knowing that they've lived through so much already… And they were so young…"
"It's not fair!" I yelled, and then I didn't say any more. Tears rendered my jumbled words incoherent.
I have no idea what came over him right then, but Matt reached out and hugged me. Maybe it was for his sake too, I dunno, but it took me by surprise. I guess that just upset me more, and I soon found myself crying into his shoulder.
At some point, the police officer got back in to drive us to hospital. He was halfway there when I finally let Matt go, settling for resting on what was now his damp shoulder. He didn't protest; didn't even flinch. Well, until I started drifting off to sleep. Then he poked me the rest of the journey and told me to wake up. He was saying something about shock victims not sleeping, but I couldn't hear. My mind wanted to shut down.
We were escorted into the hospital by the police officer, who gave a quick run-down. I heard that; two RTA victims to be treated for shock, one RTA victim for concussion and one RTA victim for serious but stable injuries.
"What's RTA?" I asked feebly, my eyes barely open and my mind not registering.
"Road traffic accident," Matt replied, an arm round me to keep me supported. "Keep awake, Tai."
I felt myself being led down the hospital corridor by Matt and a nurse. I didn't- couldn't- register what was going on around me, so I was grateful for the support.
From the on, things went a little hazy. I don't remember much at all; all I know is, when I awoke, Mom and Dad were by my side. I raised a hand to get their attention; I was too worn to talk.
"Tai…?" My Mom said softly, taking my raised hand.
"Mom…" I said almost inaudibly. "Kari…"
"I know," came the soft interruption. "We already know. It's morning now, Tai; nurses have been monitoring you all night. You were in shock, baby. How do you feel now?"
"Okay, I think…"
I didn't really know how to answer that question. I thought I was okay, but I couldn't quite tell. My mind was still clouded with sleep and shock.
"Your friend Matt," my Dad said after a moment. "His father woke up last night. It appears he's going to be fine, save a few cuts and bruises. But, the lad… TK? He's not so good."
That gained some more of my attention. Last night, TK had been stable.
"He was okay," I said quietly. "What do you mean 'not so good'?"
"Exactly that. His blood pressure dropped about an hour or so ago, against everyone's predictions. He's in a bad way."
"What was he even doing back there?" I said to no-one in particular. "He would have been fine if he'd have stayed still."
"The doctors are also getting worried about Matt," my Dad continued.
Bad to worse. First TK, now Matt?
"Why? What's wrong with him?"
Dad grinned, which seemed out of place. "He's stubborn."
"That all? We all know that already!"
"He's been by TK's side since his blood pressure dropped. Before that he was with his father and yourself. He hasn't slept all night and shock seems to be kicking in, and he won't take their advice and rest for a while."
"So nothing serious, then?" I said, relieved. I couldn't handle the idea of any more deaths.
"Not in comparison."
I heard the door open quietly, and a familiar face peeked round the door.
"Speak of the devil," I murmured quietly.
Seeing I was awake, Matt made his way into the room. "Glad to see you're finally with it," he said, smiling a little though I could see instantly that he was worn out.
"And you should be in bed," I scolded gently. "You look tired."
Matt grinned a little. "I am," he confirmed. "I was just checking you're okay. And when they tell me TK's okay, I'll get some sleep."
"What's up with the little guy?" I questioned.
Matt shrugged. "They're not giving me much info, so I don't really know. Mom turned up about two hours ago, and they've told her more than me."
He made it sound like that was a bad thing, but knowing how protective Matt was of TK- and how frosty his relationship with his mother could be- he would see it that way.
"So do you know why he was in the back in the first place?" I asked, curious to know.
"To see if he could save Kari and Sora," Matt answered. "He told me that when he was awake. He didn't talk much, but he seemed okay, he really did…"
It was then I realized just how fragile Matt was, because the pain in his eyes was crystal clear, as were the tears that rested in them. When you're tired and frustrated the last thing you are is strong. That takes a lot of energy, which Matt quite obviously didn't possess at that time.
My Mom and Dad took that as their cue to leave, Mom kissing my hand before letting it go. They left quietly, closing the door as they exited. I tapped the side of the bed my Mom had just left, and Matt took up on the offer to sit.
"TK'll be fine," I reassured as he sat down. "He's probably just in shock, only he's not conscious to register it, as such."
"Yeah, I know… Doesn't stop me worrying, though."
In the time it took for my parents to leave and Matt to sit down, he had regained his composure and was smiling wearily again. Maybe he wasn't as tired as I assumed.
Either that, or he was trying very hard to be strong. The latter, knowing Matt. The evening before had been a time to provoke memories; firstly it had been Kari, and now Matt. I guess my mind was susceptible to thoughts right about then, after what it had gone through. If my life had been longer than sixteen years so far, I could swear it would have flashed before my eyes as the car hit us from behind. That is, of course, if I hadn't blacked out.
Thing is, I remember one evening when we were studying for our finals. I live closer to school than Matt, and he was staying at my place for the exam week so we could study together and then get to school at the same time- if we were going to be late, we'd said, we'd do it together.
Anyway, we were sitting on the floor of my room with notes and textbooks and who knows what littered just about everywhere, studying until about midnight. We called it quits about then as a rule, and tidied everything up a bit to get to bed.
Thing is, when I'd wake up to the alarm in the morning, I'd usually find Matt fast asleep on the floor with a pen in one hand and a textbook as a pillow. That happened every single night until Thursday. At that point, he'd been staying up nearly all night for what would be five nights running. I had no idea why he was worried, to be honest- he was predicted excellent grades as it was. But yet, he seemed to be, because I said to him as we packed up at midnight to actually get some sleep and not stay up studying.
I was expecting denial, or to be told where to go. I expected hit to hit me, not so much that it hurt, but enough to get his point across. I did not expect him to burst into tears and explain incoherently that he had to do well so he wasn't a complete failure. I don't remember much of it, only it was all nonsense. I told him so as well, which got me the smack I had been expecting to start with.
We stayed up until about three, just talking. After he'd calmed down, Matt told me that his Dad was expecting him to do really well and that he didn't want to disappoint him. It took me the three hours to convince him his Dad would be proud if he passed or not.
He aced all his exams with top marks, anyway, but I think we both gained a lot from that conversation. I learnt that when he's worn out, he won't bother with that act of being strong. And I think he learnt that studying isn't the most important thing.
Right now, as he sat on the edge of my bed, I found myself thanking whoever was responsible that we were both living to have more of those conversations. I kinda liked them.
"How's your Dad?" I asked, breaking the silence.
"He's good. A bit cut and shaken, but he's good."
I nodded, satisfied. Now, if only TK could pull through, then Matt would be fine, too.
"Why don't you see how TK is?" I questioned.
Matt shook his head. "They won't tell me any more. He's just… Well, sleeping, I guess. They sent me out when he went all funny."
'All funny'. I could have laughed at that expression if the situation hadn't been so serious.
"When will they let you back in…?"
"When it goes one way or another, I guess."
And that was that. I knew not to question more on the subject with an answer like that.
"You know, we haven't had a conversation like this since we finished our exams in the summer," I pointed out, the sudden need for nostalgia taking over. "We've both been so busy we haven't really talked… We haven't met up, ya know, just the two of us- only in a group. Like today."
I looked up then, confused. I'd only been making a point, not an accusation.
"Don't be sorry. There's nothing to be sorry for. I wasn't trying to make you feel bad, Matt."
"I know that," came the reply. "But, it just highlights what I've been telling myself the past couple of months. I've been meaning to arrange to meet up and go to the movies or something, like we used to, but I haven't had time. Band rehearsals seem to take up all my time these days."
"How's that going?" I asked, closing my eyes. I was still so tired.
"Good. We're planning a Christmas and New Year concert… I was going to give everyone tickets as a kinda Christmas gift."
"That'd be nice…"
"Well, it may very well be a memorial concert yet."
I smiled a little, too tired to respond further.
"Shall I go?" Matt asked, and I could feel the weight on the side of the bed lift as he stood up. "You look really tired. I don't want to keep you up."
"Am tired…" I murmured. "Thanks, Matt…"
"No problem, buddy."
And then he was gone, probably going back to TK or his Dad. I didn't know; my body cast me into deep slumber immediately. I had absolutely no clue what would greet me when I woke up.
And, I think that was a good thing, seeing as what greeted me when I woke up was manic, disturbing and too damn loud for my sensitive ears to handle.
My mind soon clicked that the noise was coming from outside the room, and it was a very agitated voice I'd recognize anywhere.
"What do you mean by 'pulmonary embolism'?! What the heck is it?!"
"If you calm down, Master Ishida, I can explain-"
"I'm not going to calm down! Is he alright?! Is he okay or is he dying?!"
"I really think you should calm down-"
"I really think you should shut the hell up and tell me straight! Is he dying or not?!"
I rose from the bed wearily, making my way over to the door. I focused my tired eyes onto Matt and the doctor who was trying to reason with him.
"Matt, let the guy talk… " I said, my words slightly slurry with sleep.
"Tai?" He spun and looked at me, concern etched on his features. I probably looked a sight; I was leaning onto the doorframe and I know I looked tired still. "Why did you wake up?"
"You," I said, grinning a little.
"Don't worry. Just listen to the guy and you might understand him a little more."
The doctor looked grateful before turning to Matt, a sympathetic look on his face.
"A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot situated in the region of the heart. It's potentially fatal."
"So he's dying…?" Matt asked once again, but without the anger.
"He's not dead yet…"
"But he will?"
The doctor looked grim. "If the clot goes through his heart, then yes, he will die."
"And what's the chance of that happening?" I interjected.
"Very high," the doctor answered truthfully.
"Then go back and try and save him…" Matt said, falling back against the wall as though his knees had given out beneath him. The doctor did just that, and I reached out to him. Yet, I found myself falling; my legs didn't want to support my body. Matt grabbed me and pulled me back into the room.
"Nu uh," I said as he tried to make me lie down. "I don't want to."
"No, not yet." My brain had started functioning along with the rest of my body, and I was now talking and thinking coherently. "I'm hungry-"
"I'll get you something to eat. Lie down."
"And I'm thirsty."
"I'll get you a drink, too. Just lie down."
"And I need to pee."
Matt opened his mouth, but closed it again. "I can't do that for you," he said after a moment, looking defeated.
"Matt, I'm honestly fine. Just go back to TK; I can look after myself." I grinned a little. "Besides, I don't want to eat hospital food. I'd rather starve first."
"If you insist…" Matt said, glancing at the door. His worry for his little brother was transparent as glass.
"Yes," I answered. "Go on. He needs you."
Almost instantly, Matt was up and to the door. He turned for one second, and hesitated. "Did you want something to eat?" He asked.
I laughed and shook my head. "I've got two legs haven't I? I can do it myself."
Matt smiled gratefully and was gone again, leaving me to sit down and sigh. I wanted to see TK myself, but I had a feeling the nurses would throw a fit if I went wandering around the hospital when I was supposed to be resting.
So I did just that; lying back down as Matt had wanted me to, feeling my eyes shut again. I found myself wondering how much sleep my body could possibly need before it claimed a little more from me, leaving me oblivious to the events around me.
Thing is, I don't remember getting out of bed during my slumber. All I know is, when I woke up, I was in TK's room. Matt was with me; grasping TK's hand and looking extremely worried. I said something that was supposed to be 'what's up', but it came out more 'wassa'…
"What was that?" Matt asked, not taking his eyes off TK.
I had so many questions that needed answers, but I could barely talk. I managed to see one thing, though; the most important.
"He's… He's not good at all…"
I could see tears in Matt's eyes, and I cursed myself for not being more alert to comfort him. Not that he would let me, anyway, but I at least wanted to seem helpful.
"The… The blood clot'll probably go through his heart… It'll kill him… He's getting so much weaker, that when it happens, he won't fight and it'll just…" He tailed off, and I didn't blame him.
"How did I…?" I said, not able to finish the sentence.
"I carried you here."
"TK… Well, if Dad can't be here and Mom's talking to doctors… I don't want him to be alone when he goes… I know there'll be doctors and nurses all crowded round and all that… But…"
I understood what he was saying. Not just TK, but Matt didn't want to be alone when the unthinkable happened either. Just like me; I hadn't wanted to be alone when Kari died, and Matt had helped me. Now, I realized I would probably have to do the same for him. Fate could be so unkind.
"I know," I said softly. I was starting to wake up a bit more now, which was good. I felt a little more useful.
"Tai… How do you think it felt…?"
I didn't want to even acknowledge that.
"Painful," I said bluntly. "I don't want to think… I don't want to know Kari was in pain, but I know she was…"
"TK was stable when he came in here," Matt said, sounding suddenly stubborn and annoyed. "What did they do to him?"
"Tried to help him," I said rationally.
Matt didn't reply, gazing at his brother with so much affection in his eyes I felt moved. He really didn't know how expressive his eyes were.
I stood up from the chair I had been placed in, happy that I didn't collapse on the floor. Matt looked up at me, startled.
"Relax," I said, grinning. "I'm just going to find Mom and Dad. I don't want them to be worried."
"I already found them and told them," Matt said, looking back at TK. "I told them you were fine, and to go home and get some sleep. Took a bit of persuading, but they did eventually."
"Oh… Thank you…"
Part of me hadn't wanted to thank Matt. I felt so cold and so helpless, unable to do a thing for the young life lying before me. I also knew that I couldn't do a thing for Matt, either. I needed my Mom and Dad more than anything right then. I needed a hug.
"How's your Dad?" I asked, stretching and feeling relieved again that I'd stayed conscious and upright. I figured the shock was wearing itself through.
"He's fine. Sleeping right now, and probably will for a while."
I didn't want to be in that room. I was feeling too much for Matt, knowing how I had felt when Kari had died. I hadn't had time to get used to the idea; it was thrust upon me and I had to deal with it. Matt on the other hand had all the time in the world to think over the rights and wrongs, maybes and possibilities, and all the other junk that I knew his fragile mind would be going through. The tension could have been sliced with a knife, and the atmosphere was so clouded I was surprised I could focus.
Yet, all that paled into insignificance when TK started to shake; the monitor he was hooked up to starting beeping rapidly. Matt jumped up and stabbed at the panic alarm button a dozen times before people came in to help.
"What's happening…?" Matt asked, stepping back a little and finally letting TK's hand go. "What's wrong…?"
"Could you please vacate the room, please?" A doctor asked, not unkindly but firmly. Even Matt knew better than to argue, stepping out the room with me not far behind. We closed the door, and Matt looked through the small glass window of the door. Inside, someone indicated to a light above the main window to the room, which Matt pulled. Light illuminated above the window, and we could see through it then.
Matt was frantic at that point. His Mom came running up, and he turned to talk to her, but he couldn't put any sentences together. I don't think I've ever felt as sorry for him as I did then.
"I know, Matt," she said, pulling him into a hug, which he fell into with ease. He must have really needed it, because he and his Mom don't get on that well; not well enough to favor physical contact, anyway. But, then again, this was an entirely different situation all together. "He's not well at all, son…"
Matt said something incoherent again before breaking down into harsh sobs, pulling from his mother to fall against the glass and watch the activity inside.
"He was stable!" He sobbed the sentence I had hard from him many times that day with pure venom in his words. "How can he go from being stable to dying?!"
And then any words he uttered from then on were torn into nothingness by the strength of his sobs; he couldn't speak, could hardly breathe. I was beginning to get worried that he would pass out from lack of oxygen.
However, his mother took control of the situation quickly; she guided him to some nearby chairs and made him sit down. No matter how badly he wanted to be looking through the window, she wasn't going to let him.
That soon knocked him out of his hysteria; he calmed down to an acceptable level, and she let him join our side at the window again.
"Matt, I don't think he's going to make it," I heard his mom say quietly. Matt didn't respond, stubbornly keeping his eyes trained on the scene before him. "And you know, your father doesn't know yet."
"How am I ever going to tell him…?"
"Don't tell him. Just let him find out when he realizes TK's not around anymore."
The comment was harsh, but I felt it was meant to be sarcastic. However, Matt's voice held no emotion, so it was hard to tell.
"TK's his son, Matt."
"And I didn't really mean it. Don't take it to heart."
You could honestly feel the ice between the two of them. It made me shiver, and want to shy away. However, I couldn't pry my eyes off of TK. He wasn't shaking anymore, I noticed. That was a good thing.
But, then again, the doctors had stepped away as well. That might have been a good thing, too. Fear and doubt tugged at my heart.
And then they turned and walked to the door, and I could see him. Pale and sweat soaked, eyes tightly closed... He almost looked as though he was in a restless sleep, yet his lips were blue. In fact, he had lost all color and depth altogether.
I realized I was staring at a dead body.
I think Matt realized that too, because when the ashen-faced doctors opened the door and fixed us with a look that screamed 'I'm sorry', he turned and bolted down the corridor.
"Matt!" I yelled, quickly setting off after him. "Matt, wait!"
I caught him up quickly; he may have longer legs, but I was the more athletic out of the two of us. And besides, I'd had plenty of sleep; he'd had none.
I grabbed his arm and pulled him to a stop. He didn't try to resist at all, and I dragged him back to my hospital room. Once inside, I pushed the door shut and forced him down onto the bed.
"Calm down," was my first words, quickly followed by: "Lie down, rest up, and shut up."
Sure, it was probably harsh. But, unlike me, Matt looked as though he was going to either scream or hit everything in sight. I'd much rather confine him to one room and let him trash that and myself than take it out on the doctors.
"What did they do to him?!" Matt asked, completely ignoring my earlier requests. "He was okay, so they must have done something…"
"Not really," I stated. "I remember when my aunt was sick. She came in stable, and then her blood pressure dropped and she had a blood clot, too. Except hers went into her lung, and she was okay…"
I could see his mind working, saying the words 'why couldn't TK's have gone in his lung'. I felt so sorry for him, but I couldn't let him leave here and throw another fit.
Matt didn't say anything for a while; he just stared into nothingness, drying tears from his eyes. I kept my distance; I didn't want to run the risk of him flipping out at me.
"Why couldn't he just keep to his side of the road?" Matt asked after a while, and I could see that he was going to tip over the edge at any moment. I took another step backwards. I knew very well that if he had suspicions that anyone had hurt TK, then that person would witness 'protective Matt'. And trust me, that's not pretty. I'd seen him before, in the Digiworld when we were eleven, protecting TK as though his life depended on it. But, in recent years, I hadn't seen that side of Matt much at all. In fact, he'd been so much more laid back in recent years it was hard to tell if it was really the same guy. I half-figured the depression Matt had mentioned might have something to do with that.
"Because he's an idiot."
"Doesn't help to know that."
"I know that. But he was."
Matt simply shrugged, tears re-filling his eyes. He finally decided to lay down, curling his hands into fists and covering his face with them.
I didn't know whether I should attempt to comfort him, or whether I should leave. However, my mind was made up for me as I felt someone standing behind me. Turning, I realized that it was Ms. Takeishi.
"Matt…" She called softly, but he didn't reply or indicate he had heard her. She walked across the room to him and tried to shake him.
"Get off!" Matt said, his voice scratchy. She looked hurt, but did so.
"I… I haven't told your father. He's awake now, Matt, and he wants to see you."
"I don't want t-to see him…"
Both she and I heard that catch in his voice, and I think my heart ached as much as hers. Sure, Sora and Kari's deaths had hit me hard, and I was hurting too, but I knew how to handle it. Before, Matt hadn't been so caught up in it all; his Dad and brother were fine. He lost a couple of friends, but I can confirm that the pain of losing Sora was very different to losing Kari. Not that I didn't love Sora as much, because I love all my friends, but it was just… Well, different. I guess Matt figured he could have just got on by distancing himself from the incident; after all, he wasn't that close to either Sora or Kari.
But now… He was having to face it, and it was blindingly obvious he didn't know how to.
Matt's Mom pulled at me to follow her out and let Matt be, which I did so. I pulled the door shut, not daring a glance back at my heartbroken friend.
"His Dad doesn't know. I asked the doctors to let us break it to him… His temperament's very much like Matt's in times of crisis; he's liable to break everything in sight." She sighed softly. "He… He once said that if anyone ever took his kids away from him, that he'd be waiting for them to kill them. He said he'd happily take their place in jail because… Because he would feel justice had been done…"
She took a moment to collect her composure, and I couldn't help but feel slightly awkward.
"But… There's no-one to kill here because he's already gone, and because it was an accident... A terrible, dreadful accident that should never have happened, ever."
"He needs to know," I said softly. "TK's his son."
"I know, Tai… I just know he'll react badly, blame himself and…"
She didn't continue, and I didn't want her to. She was already making life more difficult for herself, and I didn't want her to.
"Tell him," I said, smiling for her sake. "Just explain to him that the people who died today were not people killed by him. He did his hardest to prevent it, really he did. And deep down he knows that, too."
Silence for a moment, and then an embrace that took my by surprise.
"Thank you, Tai…"
And then she was gone, filled with renewed vigor to tell her ex husband about the death of his youngest son. I smiled, feeling slightly proud that I had given her the confidence to do so. Horrible task that it was, it had to be done.
I was then given a choice. I could follow her, and give her some support. I quickly ruled that one out; this was something that needed to be done by her and only her. I could wait outside for Matt to come out to me. I ruled that out, too, because I'd be waiting an eternity. I could call my parents, but I didn't want to worry them.
Last option; go back in to Matt. That didn't seem particularly appealing, either.
So I compromised, and stuck my head round the door. Thankfully, he appeared to be fast asleep. I thanked whoever responsible, simply because resting would give him the strength to carry on.
Everything between then and now ended up a complete blur. The only thing I remember is the funeral. Or rather, make that a plural; 'funerals'. All three were held on December 17th; so close to Christmas it wasn't funny. While everybody was out shopping for their loved ones, we were burying ours. That really did suck.
It was raining, and the sky was a yellow-pink color; a tell-tale sign of overdue snow. Everybody dressed in black casual clothing; thick, wooly jumpers and jeans. None of the deceased would have wanted suits and the like.
The three graves were side by side, and we gathered around all three in a big circle. It was something I'll never forget; so many people united by not the spirit of Christmas, but by grief.
As the service was drawing to a close, it began to snow. I figured it was some kind of symbolism, but I had to admit it did make the dismal day slightly brighter. As the three terrifying holes were being filled, and the last of the mourners were departing, snow began to mix with the soil. It was really something beautiful.
Across from me, I caught Matt's eyes before he turned and walked away. He seemed calm and collected, and he was clutching a white rose in his hand. I'll never forget the way he simply threw it over his shoulder as he walked, as though it was worthless. What he never saw was the way it fell into the hole he had been standing next to; TK's grave.
If he could have seen that, he would have cried. I'm half glad he didn't.
And so that brings us to now; Christmas morning. Kari's presents under the tree, untouched, and I'm experiencing my first Christmas as an only child. It's not a feeling I enjoy. But for the sake of my family, I'm trying to make an effort as they are for me.
We're going to family later, my grandparents. Staying here is too painful. I wonder how they'll broach the subject? Or whether they'll just avoid it completely? Time will tell, I guess.
Matt and his Dad are spending Christmas with Ms. Takeishi. Apparently, it'll be the first Christmas his parents have spent together since they divorced, though I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing.
Sora's Mom is spending it alone. Matt and I both made an arrangement to visit her later; grief-filled as we may be, Christmas is not a time to be alone when you've lost the only lifeline you have.
Hell, Christmas isn't a time to be spent alone, full stop. Kari and I used to bake mince pies and take them round to the elderly people round here on Christmas day, who were alone. It was always well appreciated. I wonder if I can talk Matt into doing it with me, instead. After all, the world doesn't stop simply because those we love have died.
I think… I think we can make it through Christmas. After all, it's only two days in a year. All that build up, for two days; it hardly seems worth the hassle. After all, if we hadn't had been Christmas shopping, TK, Kari and Sora would still be here, as would the others who lost their lives.
But… It still has its magic. Those who aren't here to share it with us now only make it more special. After all, Christmas gives us the perfect time to remember and reflect. I'm not one for that normally, but this year is different.
This year, I think I will.
Author's Note: *sighs* Last year, we had fluffy lovely Taito for Christmas. This year, we have completely-non-festive, not-at-all-Christmassy Christmas fic. Make sense? Thought not.
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed it, sad as it is. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a happy new year, and enjoy yourselves! ^_^
Feedback below or to Nanaki_Lioness@hotmail.com is appreciated *grins*