Title: Struggling to Breathe

By: silentstar01

Category: Digimon

Status: Complete

Chapters: 1

Author's Note:

Well, I wrote this in a fit of angst after listening to several depressing songs. Not sure if a sequel will be coming out, or if this will be changed to a chapter-fic, we'll see. This one-shot is also (semi-) inspired by David Archuleta's "A Little Too Not Over You."

This one-shot is different from what I've written, because it's told from the perspective of a major character and not a main character. Just wanted to test myself if I can do it. ^.^

Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon

Struggling to Breathe

Kari and his little brother, Matt realized, were confounded idiots. It was surprising considering that they were considerably intelligent—only when it came to academics.

He never realized—nor wanted—to be the narrator of their little drama, with all the subplots and the twists and turns that were so readily available in the dramas his girlfriend Sora delighted to watch. (Particularly in dramas that featured what's-his-face Yamapi. What kind of name was that?) However, since the two people in question were unusually closemouthed about it, very unusual since they were known to be very social people, he had taken it upon himself to tell the sad tale.

All the needless drama had started when Kari had started going out with Daisuke, a goggles-totting soccer fanatic who had with an alarming single-mindedness pursued Kari ever since they had met, enthusiastically supported by Kari's older brother—and his best friend—Tai. Though it was commonly known (to everyone else in their circle, apparently) that she harbored feelings for her childhood friend, and coincidentally his younger brother, Takeru, though she didn't know that those feelings were requited.

After the public affirmation of their relationship, it seemed that a tornado had descended upon their lives. Takeru suddenly joined the varsity basketball team, to the coach's delight, and threw himself in his studies, quickly taking a top place in the school. Though he tried to be subtle, he would avoid the frequent after-school gatherings, using basketball practice and his studies as excuses, because it was for certain that Daisuke and Kari would be there.

It was around half a year when Takeru, in a rare request for a meeting, had abruptly told him that he was leaving Odaiba, and Japan. He had been offered a chance to study abroad, at the offer of one of their mother's friends, as a present to him, and he was taking the chance, as it was very costly to study abroad.

***

He quickly looked up from his cup of cappuccino, frothy with the fresh whipped cream, to stare at the carefully impassive expression on his younger brother's face. "Abroad?"

"Yeah." Takeru fiddled with the cup handle of his mocha, studiously avoiding his older brother's eyes. "I've been offered a chance to study elsewhere, even to go to college."

"I see…what does Mother have to say about this?" Matt asked.

"Mom's also coming. She's been offered a job as a potential anchor in the same area."

"Hmm…that's convenient," Matt murmured. A little too convenient, in his opinion, but he wasn't going to ask. He knew from experience that Takeru was as close-mouthed as a snapping turtle, and it wasn't pretty if he was prodded too many times.

"It's a good opportunity," Takeru said. "I can't exactly expect my basketball skills to help support me."

"It's true that studying abroad can boost your career," Matt agreed, "and it takes a lot of money to be able to study abroad." He regarded his brother through the fine mist of smoke emerging from his cup. "Is that your only reason for going abroad, I wonder."

"What do you mean?" Takeru looked guarded, an expression not very familiar or comfortable on such an open face, which meant that something was up, and Matt was certain that he could determine the reason for Takeru's sudden decision to leave his home.

"I mean, it's only been a while since you've joined the varsity basketball team, and now suddenly you're going to go abroad? It's really not like you to be this impulsive."

"Matt, when I joined the basketball team, I didn't know that I would be given this kind of offer," he retorted.

"But you really have no reason to just accept," Matt protested. "Your prospects are really good here in Japan; you could easily go to a really good university here in Tokyo. It's not as if you've never been to the United States."

"..." Takeru took a sip of his drink, faintly grimacing as the taste of the cool coffee sliding past his tongue, and decided that cool or cold coffee wouldn't suit him.

Matt sighed, and lowered his cup. "I do know that no matter what I say or do, it's ultimately your decision. All I can do is support your decision like a good brother."

"Thanks." Takeru looked relieved, as if a burden was lifted from his shoulders. They sat in companionable silence, until Takeru fidgeted.

Matt inwardly sighed. He just knew that there was more to the story than his little brother had let on. "What is it?"

"Could you…keep this a secret from anyone? Just until after my flight."

***

So his little brother left for the United States with little fanfare, and Matt kept his promise in not telling anyone in their group until he left, which resulted in him getting hit from all the girls (except for Kari), and words of protests (except for Daisuke) from the guys in the same group. He did receive a phone call from Takeru after he had reached New York, and they e-mailed each other quite regularly—at least, in the beginning.

In his messages to him, Takeru always wrote with a forced cheerfulness, chatting about his new school, friends, and studies, as well as the places he visited on the weekends. He would often ask after their friends, Ken in particular (personally, he never understood why they were so close; on the other hand, he could in an obscure way). Matt noticed right away that Takeru rabidly avoided any mention of Kari and Daisuke, much less about their relationship.

Strangely, back in Japan, things were not look as rosy for Diasuke in regards to his relationship with Kari. While she had not been outwardly angry at Matt for failing to mention that Takeru would be gone for at least a year, if he would ever return, she didn't seem to react to it at all. She just nodded with an absentminded thoughtfulness and went about her business. To anyone else's eyes, it would seem that she never had any kind of relationship with Takeru.

However, it was clear that with Takeru, he wasn't adjusting as well he let on.

***

"Hello, Ishida residence."

"…"

"Hello?"

"It's me."

"Takeru!" Matt exclaimed, looking quickly at the clock. It would've been two or three in the morning over there. "Why're you calling me so early?"

"No particular reason." Takeru fell silent, and Matt waited him to start talking about what he wanted to talk about, having a strange feeling that Takeru wasn't feeling himself at the moment.

"How are things over there?" Takeru asked.

'Ah, we're going to have that kind of conversation,' Matt said knowingly. "Nothing much happened. Oh, right. Izzy got some kind of prize, even though he's only in university."

A chuckle. "Well, Izzy's always been a prodigy in everything he does."

"How long has it been since we've talked, I wonder," Matt mused aloud. "Your voice is deeper than the last time I heard it."

"I take it that it's a good thing," Takeru said, a faint smile in his voice.

"My little brother's growing up," Matt gushed in a high falsetto voice, smiling when he heard a snort across the line. Well, at least Takeru didn't lose his sense of humor.

"Really, Takeru," Matt said after a few moments of silence, "what's going on?"

The voice on the other line was silent.

"Takeru?"

"It's like…something's sitting on my chest," Takeru said abruptly.

"What?" Matt asked, startled.

"…"

"Takeru!"

"I gotta go." The line went abruptly dead.

***

After that strange phone call, light-hearted e-mails continued to flow into his inbox, but phone calls became fewer and fewer, as if Takeru wanted to distance himself from him. He always avoided his questions if he was really all right, saying that he was fine, but Matt knew better.

Back in Japan, things weren't the same without Takeru (this was to be expected, since he was a close friend). Everyone was sad without Takeru, but life moved on, even for Matt, who was his brother. However, Kari became quieter, more withdrawn into herself as time passed and the younger people in their group prepared for their university entrance exams. Even though Daisuke was as enthusiastic as ever, having caught the girl of his dreams, Kari didn't seem to reciprocate his starry vision of "the perfect relationship."

Still, it came as a surprise when she abruptly broke up with Daisuke nearly a year after Takeru left.

After their breakup, the group dynamics changed yet again, which had just started to settle down into some kind of semblance of order after Takeru's departure, this time the tension between Daisuke and Kari making group gatherings a tad too uncomfortable. Everyone—perhaps maybe Daisuke, maybe not—knew that the decision to end the relationship was probably rooted in Kari's relationship—or lack thereof—with Takeru. By the time he left their relationship was never clearly defined.

So the younger members of their group began in earnest studying for their university entrance exams, and it wasn't before long that another year passed without Takeru.

***

"Kampai!"

"Guys, congratulations on all getting into the colleges that you wanted!" Sora said, lowering her glass.

"Though it's a miracle that Daisuke got into a university, too," Tai joked.

"Hey!"

"Oh, loosen up, Daisuke. We're celebrating!" Mimi said. She was back in Japan as a foreign exchange student, and her lightheadedness lifted the group's spirits in light of the recent drama of Daisuke and Kari' breakup and Takeru's sudden departure.

"I'm surprised that you all are going to universities not far from each other," Joe said.

"But that's a good thing, isn't it?" Izzy asked. "It'll be easier to see other then."

Matt was quiet. "I wonder if Takeru's going to college, too," he murmured.

Everyone was quiet. Matt looked up, startled. "Sorry," he said, feeling bad for bringing up such a subject, especially in front of Kari.

"Did you get anything from him lately?" Sora asked him gently.

Matt shook his head, anxiety making its ugly debut in his head. "Nothing for a few weeks," he admitted reluctantly. Takeru usually sent him an e-mail every one or two weeks, but it had been nearly the end of the fourth week without a peep from him, and he was getting worried.

"He must be busy, since he is preparing to go to college in the United States, too," Ken said.

"Yeah, I guess."

"Do you think that he'll come back here?" Miyako asked.

"I don't know," Matt said, knowing full well that the chances of Takeru staying in the United States to continue his studies were very good. Even though he didn't like it, he knew that his younger brother was running away from a certain person in Japan.

"Wasn't he just supposed to study in the high school?" Sora asked.

"Takeru was never really specific about it," Matt said.

***

And it was true. Even to his only older (in reality, his only) brother, Takeru was never direct, and never gave a satisfying answer to Matt's probing questions. It was clear that Takeru wasn't deliriously happy, and Matt knew why.

He never quite understood Kari and Takeru's relationship. While it was clear that they were more than friends, they never took that last step to see if they could be more. If was as if they were too afraid to destroying their close friendship to try anything else. It didn't help that both Takeru and Kari had the tendency to avoid confrontations, though Takeru could be frankly frightening if pushed too far.

In his e-mails to him, Takeru never asked after Kari; it could be that he assumed that everything would be fine for her now she was in a relationship with Daisuke. Kari in turn, never asked about Takeru, only listened (what seemed to him) attentively whenever he said anything new about Takeru in the United States.

Whenever he thought about the two of them, Matt didn't know whether to sigh in exasperation or knock their two heads together. He knew that sometimes he wasn't the most sensitive person on the planet (Sora could attest to that), but he knew that his little brother and his best friend's little sister were very much in love with each other. If it was apparent to even him, then it was certain that it was very obvious for the people around them (well, except for the two people in question as well as Daisuke, the lovesick swain, and Tai, the neurotic older brother).

It was inevitable that even the e-mail messages came at increasingly longer intervals, then it was expected that e-mails would come once every few months. Just as Takeru was (presumably) being busy with school, Matt was also becoming busy, having signed a contract with a recording company while completing his studies in journalism (just in case he wanted to follow in his father's footsteps). The food in the two-person Ishida household was as bad as ever, and Tai was still a soccer fanatic as he always had been since they were little. Life went on.

Before Matt knew it, five years had passed.

***

"Hello, Ishida residence." Matt was very annoyed. What kind of person would call him at three in the morning? When his brusque greeting was met by silence at the other end, he felt his hackles rising. "Hello?"

"Matt."

The voice was unmistakable. "Takeru?" he asked incredulously. It had been so long… "What's up? Is something wrong? What happened?"

"Actually…I'm in Japan."

"Seriously? How long have you been here?"

"…Two weeks."

"Why haven't you called?!" Matt exclaimed, incensed that his little brother wouldn't consider calling him the moment he came to Japan. "Are you staying at a hotel?"

"Yes."

"Where is it? Don't even try to run away."

***

As he drove to the hotel where his little brother was staying, Matt wondered why he felt so uneasy. Takeru had sounded so distant when he had called him. While this was to be expected, considering that they didn't see each other for five years, but Matt realized that Takeru could have changed in ways he could never imagine.

He was surprised when he was told by the receptionist that the room he requested was occupied by a Todd Longman-san. As he took the elevator to the top floor, where the luxury suites were located, the mystery just got more complicated in his head. Why was Takeru not using his name? And why was he occupying in a clearly very expensive suite in a pricy hotel?

The door to the suite, he found, was open, and he let himself in.

He found his little brother on the terrace, still against the night sky, a tall, lean figure that was clearly inherited from their father. The silver-blond hair, that was from their mother; Matt had acquired the deeper shade from their father. His back was to him, and Matt observed his back for a few moments.

He had grown thin in the time he was living in the United States. Sure, he was always lanky like he had been, but this was gauntness usually associated with exhaustion, as if he was working himself to death with the cursed obstinacy that helped their parents with their respective careers, even after their divorce.

"Takeru."

The figure turned, and an older, leaner version of his younger brother stood in his place. Gone was the open, bright face of the younger brother he had remembered. In his place was a stranger. When Matt saw him, a shiver went inadvertently down his spine. This was not the bright, open Takeru he knew. This was a completely different Takeru, someone not to be treated like he had always done in the past.

Then, quite unexpectedly, Takeru smiled. "It's been a long time."

***

Yes, I am EVIL. I know. But I feel like that this was a fitting end, an end which the reader can read between the lines and make up his/her own ending. I am still debating if I'm going to write a sequel (even if I do, if I'm going to make it a happy ending), or if I'm going to write another fic concerning the Takeru/Hikari pairing. We'll see. ^.^