Disclaimer: I, of course, do not own these lovely characters. I just needed to borrow them for a bit to make sense of what was done to them.
She always thought this moment would be more stunning: the meeting of eyes, a sharp intake of breath and the sudden beautiful realization that she is in love. Like in a fairytale.
Or maybe it would be the slow growth of love that she can feel and witness blossom around her.
Instead, her very best friend smirks at her and she briefly, fleetingly thinks how nice it would be to kiss him. This damning epiphany has none of the beauty and joy she had thought it would on that far off distant day she found love. No, it doesn't blossom so much as it crumples, bringing everything she has ever known down around her.
The complete annihilation of her life happens so mildly that, looking back, she can't even begin to pinpoint when that line between friendship and something more began to blend and blur until she finally slipped into the abyss of the in between.
She looks again at him and is nearly crippled by the realization of what exactly this means. Things will never be the same again. She almost wants to cry.
Tai will never be the same again. Her perceptions of him have changed and she's not quite sure what to do with them, now.
He's always just been her best friend, a scruffy whirlwind of scabbed knees and wild hair that blew into her life when they were only five. She had only been a tangled mat of red hair and dirty fingernails herself.
He had smiled hugely at her and made fun of her hair, brown eyes happy and mouth always laughing. She had laughed right back and made fun of his hair, too. He invited her to play soccer with him. They became Tai and Sora, best friends. Since that day, nothing has really changed much. It was that simple.
Except now, when everything has changed. And it's all infinitely more complicated.
Logically, it's only natural considering the things they have seen and done together. All best friends are there for each other. It's part of what being a best friend means. But they have had to support each other through things no normal child should ever experience.
At eight years old, she watched as he protected his baby sister with his own body in the midst of a battle none of them understood, ready to sacrifice even at a young age. They'd moved and later been reunited in school. She's beaten (and been beaten by) him in soccer. She's witnessed him broken and sobbing, hand on his cheek, smile finally stolen from his face by his sister's near death. Since nearly the moment they first met, she knew that he would never willingly let anything happen to Hikari, to her or to anyone he cares about. She knows how it killed him to have a hand in Hikari's sickness, knows his vow to never do anything to hurt her or anyone he loves ever again.
And he has fulfilled that vow time and again since that moment.
Tai has seen her broken, too. He saw her cry when the other boys made fun of her for being a girl in the boys' soccer club. He'd earned a black eye and split lip for punching the boy that dared make fun of her hair and tomboyish personality. He held her when her father left and acted the part of punching bag and outlet for hours afterward. Days, even.
Who would have thought all that would change one extraordinary day at a summer camp she had forced him to go to by swaying Hikari to her side? It had been normal enough—her playing on his soft side with his inability to deny his sister, him secretly wanting to go anyway.
Instead, now they are here, in a different world that none of them understand where they have to adapt to survive. They have had to change, but their relationship has only grown stronger. It had to. All seven have become closer than before, but for she and Tai, closer can't begin to describe it.
Tai faced his deepest fears to save her, protect her. It is an honor he has bestowed thus far upon only one other person: Hikari.
Sora left the group to face the Digital World on her own in order to search for him, refusing to believe he was dead.
They are each other's support, talking late at night when everyone else is asleep and they are huddled around the campfire for warmth. He tells her, and only her, how scared he is not only for the others, but for the world and what happens if they fail.
She believes that's too much to put on just one person's shoulders. Sure, there are seven of them to share the burden, but Tai seems to take so much to spare the others. He's grown so much.
And yet…it is the familiar, warm, open, chocolate brown eyes that turn to her, sparkling against an alien backdrop of stars, and take her breath away. It is pure Tai that shoots a challenging smirk at her before leaping off the cliff, daring her to follow. He doesn't know that she will follow him anywhere.
It is just Tai that she wants to hold, to kiss, that causes the shift in their relationship, the shift that she can only just now feel.
She can hear him laughing all the way down, until the inevitable splash cuts it off. Half laughing, half almost freaking out, Sora runs to the edge and peers over, loudly whispering, "Tai! Shhh! You're going to wake everyone up!"
'And they all desperately need their sleep,' Sora wants to add, 'you and me included.'
It's her turn for watch, which is why she's awake, and he's obviously gone mad from lack of sleep and stress combined with random attacks and long bouts of walking. Honestly, it looks like he hasn't slept for days, and she's noticed a certain loud snore absent from the usual harmony of the others' sleep murmurs.
She worries about him.
He's laughing now, though, and light-hearted. He's the free-spirited Tai that's been smothered under his leader persona for so long. Don't get her wrong, Tai as a leader is still caring, and it seems so right, like it completes who he is. But he is also missing some of the before, the reckless courage, the eagerness always for fun, a certain innate essence of Tai.
Right now, at this very moment, he is back. He is completely and utterly Tai, leader and all. She knows he's doing it for her, but she can return the favor. And it's not like she's going to send him back just yet.
Sora laughs quietly as he resurfaces, shaking water from his head like a dog. It fails to defy gravity like it normally can and flops down over his head. She shakes her head affectionately.
Stepping back from the edge of the precipice, Sora strips off her shoes and socks and stuffs them with her helmet near his shoes and goggles. Taking a deep breath, she shakes off whatever these feelings are that have so subtly crept up on her and throws herself off the cliff with a lightness she hasn't felt in days.
Of course she lands right next to her best friend, and of course she douses him with water to which he, naturally, retaliates with a laugh.
A water-fight ensues and Sora feels like they're in the carefree years gone by with no war, no strange world, and no worries. Just them.
At that moment, it doesn't matter what those other feelings may mean, because they will always be here, like this, together. Tai and Sora. Sora and Tai. Best friends, forever.
They continue to play like the kids they are but don't often have the chance to be, darting and splashing like Gomamon's fish friends up until the end of Sora's watch, laying back and drying until halfway through Tai's.
Sora allows the night sounds to lull her into a semi-conscious state, only aware of the safety and contentment she feels in the warmth next to her and the unfamiliar skies above.
How strange that the thing she knows best and something completely foreign mix to create such feelings within her.
And, oh boy, what feelings.
The distance between them now feels unfathomable to her, even though she can feel his fingers brushing hers and his hair tickling her cheek. She somewhat painfully remembers the fact they used to be able to sit like this for hours in comfortable non-silence (Tai can't stand the quiet), but now…now she keenly feels that something more lingering in the air between them.
It's more impenetrable than silence will ever be. She doesn't know if she can handle that, the idea that something might happen to damage their friendship because of her stupid, sudden realization that, oh hey, she may just be in love with her best friend.
Sora knew she loved him, but she didn't know she was in love with him. And that complicates things.
Or maybe it doesn't. Not yet. Nothing can be done about what may or may not be there when there is a world to save. She doesn't really even know what she feels. She has time to figure this out.
And, Sora smiles, even if there is a world to save, with all kinds of new friends, it's nice to know her oldest and closest friend will still steal time for her to be just a kid again, not a Digi-Destined. She had thought that carefree kid had disappeared with Tai and Etemon not so long ago.
So, in a way, she's undeniably grateful that this night happened because now she knows that, though the future is uncertain, Tai will always be there to remind her of the past and of who she is. He'll be there to watch over her forever, wait and see.
Content and still smiling, Sora succumbs to her much-needed sleep, her breathing even and deep, her hand wrapped lightly around the familiar one of the boy next to her.
As she curls onto her side, moving unconsciously towards the warm presence beside her, Tai smiles softly and considers her.
He's known for years that they are something special together. Sora was the first girl he could willingly stand. She is still the only girl (Hikari doesn't count, she's not a girl, she's a sister) he will happily spend days just talking to and being around. She's the only girl he actually wants to do that with.
So, yeah, something special.
It doesn't matter, either, how long it takes her to realize it, because he knows. Oh sure, it will be hard if she takes too long, but Tai still knows. And she'll figure it out; he did. Sora's a heck of a lot smarter than he is.
Now, Tai isn't sure about a lot of things. He knows he's not the smartest. Chances are that when Izzy (or even Joe) starts talking, he will eventually lose all track of the conversation. He acts on instinct and courage and pure will to succeed.
Sora, well, she's just as passionate as he is, but she's level-headed, smart, and a lot less reckless. She balances him out. He makes her act her age and have fun. Together, they are unstoppable (as many opposing soccer teams have found out). They are an adventure waiting to happen when they're together, and they're always there for each other.
Hell, he walked through a wall of fire for her and would do it again in a heartbeat, just knowing she'd be waiting on the other side. More likely than not, no matter how hurt he gets, she will patch him up again with a lecture and a kind word.
And although it will most likely be so much harder than walking through a wall of fire, Tai will wait. He won't wait for most things, but for Sora he thinks he'll wait forever.
Tonight, stealing just an hour for her to be a kid, he's done his job, has been her balance. They'd been able to revel in the past for just a bit without her having to worry about being the stand-in mother of the group. It's telling that she returned the favor, making him forget to be the reckless leader that is ready to jump in to save everyone but himself.
Tomorrow everything will be back to normal, with Sora worrying and Tai forging ahead and this will just be another night of the past.
So Tai finishes his shift, watching over Sora, over them all, and then he takes Hikari and TK's shifts as well. They won't be happy, but they're the hope and light of the team. They need sleep to remain the energetic, optimistic children they are.
And above them all, the stars twinkle of choices and destiny; of what's meant to be and what's going to be; of the courage it takes to love, the love that friendship needs, and the hint of the in between that lingers in the heart, not easily quenched.
So even though they will never date, even though they will never marry, Tai and Sora will always be together, always be just that little bit more. They love each other like no one else ever could. They listen to each other, not just to what they are saying but to what they are not. To what their hearts are saying.
So when Sora marries Matt and Tai is the best man (though Sora wanted him for her maid of honor), they know that this isn't the end for them, not really. It's just something else they will experience (separately) and go through together.
A/N: So I tweaked it just a bit, with some personal experience coming to light that made it a bit easier to fix some of the parts I wasn't happy with. I'm still not completely satisfied, but this is an older work and I don't know really how to make it better anymore. I wanted to reconcile what I wanted for these two characters and what actually happened, and this story was my way of doing it. It's not perfect, but it may just be good enough.
I also just want to mention this is partly inspired by Moments in Our Lives by Orchida Falls, Play Like There Are No Rules by dreamcruiser, Paint the Sky Goodbye by Pied Piper, Oniichan by BenignUser, Unexpected by dorkiss, Contact by Veranda, all the Digimon Adventure episodes, the movies, and probably a billion other things. If I stole anything from those places, I'm really sorry. It was unintentional. If I didn't...well, I highly reccommend them.