title: penny on the train track
pairings: takaishi takeru x yagami hikari
notes: I sat through a few episodes the other day. These guys were adorable. Oh, title is a ben kweller song.
(One day I'll write about Yamato the astronaut. Pfft.)
The first time they meet, she is sick in bed.
Spring doesn't just mark the beginning of things, it's an introduction and a continuation, overture spilling into interlude.
Groggy and drunk on sleep, they flex rotten muscles experimentally, re-learning, remembering.
Takeru slings a leg lazily out of bed and walks to the bathroom, all without opening his eyes. It's muscle memory that pulls him up and pushes him forward, that puts one foot in front of the other; A round of movements that tie up into a neat little loop.
Takeru is young and naive. (Caring, but a total crybaby.) He's soft and loud in the way that children are.
Just a boy, such a boy.
Today, he's out of the house, tagging along with his brother. They are out visiting one of his friends for a school project-The Four Guardian Spirits of Kyoto. But that's just the cover story, mostly they're there to hang out, play video games and munch on crisps.
He doesn't remember much of it, not the before or after, only the in-betweens.
There's an image of her branded in his mind.
Face flushed, eyes bright and gaze hazy with fever-
He remembers sticking a curious head through a door, remembers a little girl, pale and sickly, pillowed beneath layers and layers of blankets, a folded towel on her forehead, and beads of sweat running down.
He likens her to a flower. Paper-delicate, petals so easily bruised with a careless touch.
or, or, or-
A mummy, he thinks. Wrapped neat and cozy in linen and bandage.
It's a mis-con-cep-tion, he remembers. The ancient egyptians weren't fascinated with death. They loved life, obsessed to the point that they wanted to keep on living even in the ever after. And he imagines jewels adorning the sarcophagi.
And then the reverie breaks, and he ducks like a turtle retreating deep into it's shell the minute she shifts beneath heavy blankets and lifts tired eyelids. He stumbles over his feet and crashes to the floor with an loud 'oomph'.
She laughs. Light and lilting, a lullaby drawing you in. It collapses into a wracking cough, crumbles like the stories of empires past, the weight of it expediting it's downfall.
It's more an impulse than anything else, and when he regains his bearings enough to realize what he's done, he's already crossed the threshold. Is already poised by her bedside with a glass of water raised, and an expression creased in worry.
Inertia pulls him forward, gravity drags him down.
There is no dialogue. And the minute he hears his brother call for him, he hastily makes for the door without a backward glance.
Her back is propped against a pillow, and a half-empty glass is in her hand. Hikari just smiles at he zips behind the door and vanishes.
Their first encounter is a conversation of smiles.
Hikari remembers his eyes, the pretty shade of blue-on-green, the look on his face and the tinge of his cheeks as he ducks behind the door. She remembers the sound of his footsteps, quiet and even and sure on the tiles of the floor, and the worry behind his smile- squiggly in an endearing sort of embarrassment- as he picks up the glass of water by her nightstand and holds it out.
She tells her brother.
"A prince?" An eyebrow is raised in apprehension, before a conclusion is drawn.
And then, a snarl.
Flowers and mummies and sirens-
He goes home that day with his mind in a whirl.
At dinner he tells his mother. Yamato chokes on miso soup, spluttering and coughing all over their mahogany table and an old tee. Poised with her chopsticks an inch from her mouth, his mother just laughs.
"A mummy, huh?"
At seven, Takeru believes that life is a song and a story and a jigsaw puzzle all at once. Everyone's got a verse to sing and a role to play, and he doesn't know what life's got in store for him, but he knows it'll be interesting all the same.
It was the never-ending summer.
That summer he learnt of love and courage, friendship and light and the bottom of pandora's box.
He learnt that it didn't matter where in - or out- of the world he was, summer was always summer. The cicadas still screeched high and unceasing in the air -never mind the absence of insects- and the sun still hung high and scorching at midday, still managed to bleed into the night. Even the crunch of gravel still felt the same under his heel.
But that was before.
Now they're in a castle or a tower or a spire. An uppercut onto the heavens. It's a prison of brick, bone and data.
His heart is beating non-stop. A jack-hammer in his ribs he's surprised hasn't already jumped out of his chest. His palms are beyond clammy, and he's only barely aware of the stinging sensation in his eyes. From sweat or tears, he doesn't know. Doesn't care.
It's not what's important. He had to protect Hikari-chan. Just had to. It was the task they entrusted to him. Something precious he refuses to relinquish to darkness. A duty, a selfish desire, and an uncontrollable impulse all the same. Because. Just because. It was her and that was all the rationale he'd need.
They are huddled together, bodies close, breath fogging. Even in the castle air, there lies no warmth.
There are no words exchanged. Their language is the desperation in their eyes, the fervent grip of sweaty palms, and their shivering legs even as their knees are drawn all the way up to their chest.
Back then, when pretend had been pretend - no comrades lost or blood shed or a world to save - there were games. Cowboys and pirates, mobsters and monsters.
He tiptoed every time he passed by the closet, convinced of the terror therein. He gave black-beard the stink-eye at every opportunity, certain he'd stolen his stash of candy. He set out gummy-worm bait when his goldfish went missing.
The monster in the closet turned out to be a moth-eaten woolly sweater. The dastardly pirate turned out to be Mr Noah, their new neighbor who had a penchant for braiding his beard. The loch ness monster turned out to be the Yagami's cat.
Right now, with a dyed-in-the-wool psychopath at their heels and everyone else either incapacitated or gone -just gone- Takeru can only grip Hikari's hand tight, tighter and surer than anything ever before and pretend.
There are no sudden revelations, only an understandings reached.
(It's a little thing called headway.)
Hikari's a lot of things. She's smart and polite. She's punctual and diligent and kind and trusting, too much so for her own good.
(Point to take note of: that's not all there is to her. There are idiosyncrasies and there are flaws. There always are. It's what makes things that much more interesting.)
Two people - three if you count Gatomon- know this better than anyone else.
Before, when she was still a little girl - with pretty hair and brittle bones - there had been her brother. He stood up for her and protected her and did anything and everything he could for her. Because she was his sister, and nothing else mattered, not limitations in strength, or knowledge or simply that he was utterly useless in the field of expertise.
(He once thought sanitary pads were a kind of elbow guard.)
Back then, there was the darkness.
(It's always been there, always will be, but this was the kind that lurked and loomed, beckoning and ensnaring all the same.)
The first time the darkness called her, she answers.
Later, when danger is averted, they're at the side of the beach- toes digging deep into sand, and eyes fixed upon the setting sun of a dying afternoon.
The wind howls from dark waters, and idly, she rubs at her skin, trying to smooth down goose bumps. Its all convection currents, she tells herself -a temperature gradient and simple physics in motion- not a monster beneath the depths.
Lost in her thoughts, he's the one to break the silence.
"I couldn't do a thing in the end, Hikari-chan."
She looks over to him, expecting a lot of things, but not a frown. And it's that look again. Always the same shadow in his eyes she can detect, but not discern. She sighs.
She shakes her head, and her expression is one of inexhaustible resolve, "That doesn't matter."
"You came, didn't you?" Her lips quirk up at the memory. "On a white horse and everything."
He laughs, she relaxes.
Ah, they're back on familiar territory.
"Where is Patamon, anyway?"
Ah, he's running away again.
A sigh, then a shrug.
"No clue. He and Gatomon can't have gotten far though-Oh! There they are."
She gestures to the far side of the beach.
He quirks an eyebrow, "Is he trying to head-butt a coconut?"
He gets up first- dusting off grains of sand- then offers her a hand, she takes it.
The trudge to their digimon is slow and languid.
His mouth is set in a grimace, "Nothing's changed, has it? From back when we were kids."
She tucks a wayward strand of hair behind her ear, says, in a tone of voice that's somehow both soft and loud all the same, "It's cause we still are, Takeru."
Then she leans over -leans close- so much so that their noses are an inch from contact, "And don't (ever) say that like it's a bad thing."
He can feel the warmth of her breath and the determination set in one such small frame, to say that he is flabbergasted would not be an advantage of his stupefaction, she makes a grab for his hat and succeeds.
He blinks out of his reverie, looks to shoot her an appraising look, but she's already speeding off and away from him. She keeps a hand on the hat to keep the wind at bay.
There is a smile on his face, and a glint in his eyes. For now, they are young.
They're older now, smarter if not wiser.
They have long since learnt that one does not equate the other.
It's been a long day.
Hikari Yagami tilts her neck slowly, left to right, working out kinks and stretching aching tendons -lowering built-up tension in the nerves and bones and everywhere.
She loves her kids, loves her job, her family, friends, life, but she'd be lying if she said she was anything short of exhausted.
In a hand is a sheaf of papers to grade. In a desk drawer is a photo - yellowed and torn and stained with time - on her face, the expression, though weary, is serene.
She's unerring in her work, careful upon meticulous. Every so often, she'll pause to scrawl an encouraging comment or a tiny caricature of a smile.
Somehow, she isn't at all surprised when someone raps at her door.
She doesn't say who is it? but come on in.
And she doesn't need to turn around to see the tuft of spiky blond hair peeking out from beneath a cap, or the sheepish grin.
"How'd you know I was coming?'
She pauses to sip her huge, warm mug of hot cocoa. She lays it down on the table, and a drop slides past the rim, stains the desk- a half-moon smear of chocolate brown.
Her smile only widens whens he hears this, "I didn't."
That was a lie.
She doesn't however, expect the scarf draped across her eyes, or the hand hoisting her to her feet and subsequently, into his arms.
"Well, I bet you didn't expect that."
"Takeru!" She calls out in indignation, swinging an arm wildly, hoping it'd make contact with that infuriating smile of his. A sheaf of papers is still in her hand.
To her -mock- frustration, he catches it, and plants a kiss onto the back of her palm.
"I still have papers to grade."
"It's a weekday."
"At least let me take my coat."
"Oh." And he inclines his head to murmur in her ear.
A swat. A thump.
"Hey, you'll only crumple the pages that way."
She knows he's smiling, can already see the slight crinkle of his eyes and the pearly whites of his canines even through the fabric of the scarf.
A small smile's creeping onto her face, and she knows she should be - at least the slightest bit - mad at him, but she isn't, and she hates herself - a little - for it, even as a smile creeps across her face.
And he just keeps on walking, one foot in front of the other, until they're out the door.
Cause old school Digimon rocked!
And...uhh...how was it?