Posted from Vacation in Hawaii! For my mom's birthday we all took a 10 day vacation to Hawaii. The first four days were in Maui, which I have to say I liked a lot better there on Oahu. This is day eight, and I will admit I am ready to go back home now. The sun and sand is fun and all, for a couple days, but I really want my pets, and my own bed, and the rainy, chilly weather we always have at this time of year back home. Just a couple more days, we're heading back on Monday.

I would like to send a thanks and give credit where credit is due to FallTigerKisa, who gave me part of the idea for this chapter, as well as inspired another aspect of the first section from our conversations. To avoid spoilers, I will mention exactly what at the end.

Word count: 4032

I do not own Digimon :'(

Chapter 24: Cigarettes and Cotton Candy

Whatever was in the girl's hands had to be amusing, judging by the way she was trying to contain her giggles. It was obviously her brother's, since he panicked when she nearly dropped it, and it wasn't until the blonde got closer that he realized it was a phone. He also determined it had to be a picture—or pictures—because even as he approached the table he didn't hear the sound of a video.

He was still several table lengths away when the brunette noticed him. "TK, over here!" she shouted, waving an arm enthusiastically. Her other hand was half hiding the mirth creasing her face in a large smile, the object of her amusement tucked away in her closed fist. At his sister's jubilant chorus, Tai flinched and turned to face the younger blonde. He gave the boy a sheepish smile that made him wonder if he really should look at what his girlfriend—and it was still a little foreign to call her by that title since they had officially started going out a few weeks before—was so excited about. Still, he was already headed over to the table to eat his lunch so he might as well take the second to see what was so amusing as he went to sit down.

Placing his tray on the table, TK took a step around the chair in his way towards the two brunettes. The older one, the one who the phone actually belonged to, gave him a worried look and shook his head, both up in front of his chest and waving back and forth in an X as if to tell him he didn't want to do that, but the smaller blonde just tilted his head to the side a bit in question and continued forward. Grabbing his sleeve and practically jumping up and down in anticipation, Kari thrust the object out towards him. "Look at what Sora and Mimi got your brother in," she squealed, a very satisfied smirk on her face.

The screen was shoved in front of his face before he could look away. At the last second TK had decided he probably didn't want to know just what the thirteen-year-old was fangirling over, but by that time it was too late. The small image on the three by five centimeter screen was burned into his mind. The blonde subject was very familiar but the outfit… not so much. He could honestly say he had never expected to see his brother in anything frilly, lacey, or without pants; and he was a little embarrassed later to admit that the dress was actually very flattering on the older male. None of that thought process mattered at the moment, though, for the initial shock was all that was necessary to overload his mind and make him faint.

Stunned by her boyfriend's reaction, the absolute glee on the younger brunette's face melted away into confusion. The only thing her suddenly blank mind was able to come up with was, "Takeru…?"

He nearly choked as he pulled the toxic fumes into his lungs, a perfect metaphor for the shame he was feeling. He knew he should have been stronger than this, but he couldn't change his actions now, and he slowly exhaled the smoke and tapped the ashes off the end of his cigarette. When he was able to maintain his composure the patches worked pretty well, but with the added stress of a particularly difficult physics test coming up he finally lost it and reverted to his old habits. If Tai caught him with a lit cigarette again then the brunette would just get one more burn scar when he irately decided to put it out with his own skin.

Snapped out of his stupor, Matt quickly snuffed the glowing end out on the rail. Double checking to make sure it was really out, the blonde tossed it in a trash can just inside the door and headed down the stairs two at a time. In all honesty he was a little surprised. He had been absent from lunch for nearly ten minutes, and normally if he was gone for more than five his overly obsessive boyfriend was running up the stairs to yell at him. The only time he had ever managed to gat away with it, after the other boy knew, that is, was the day the cafeteria lady accidentally burnt some cookies and it became a free for all. His lover had been distracted by the food just long enough for him to make it back, although he did get chewed afterward and warned that he would not be so lucky again.

So where was his brunette now?

Opening the cafeteria doors, Matt was quite surprised to find he couldn't find Tai. That mop of brunette hair was usually very easy to spot, especially since their entire group usually sat at the same table every day, but he couldn't see it. Come to think of it, he couldn't see the table, either, through the virtual mob of teenage girls loitering around the area. Their presence almost completely deterred him from approaching, the musician being used to having to run from screaming fangirls on occasion, but a nagging feeling in the back of his skull kept telling him he needed to.

As he drew closer to the table he could start to pick up on the conversation going on, and he was using the word 'conversation' loosely. It sounded more like an all out assault than anything decent and civil. A bleach blonde female seemed to be the ring leader of the attack and was doing most of the talking, with only a few quips from the rest of the group, and if not for a redheaded girl she would most likely already be upon her intended target. The wild-haired brunette was shrinking farther back in his seat in an attempt to distance himself for her verbal barrage, but he wasn't really able to flee because the entire table was surrounded by the blonde's entourage.

"What is going on here?" Matt demanded once he had fully taken in the scene, this foreign group of girls encasing his obviously defensive friends. The other blonde spun around immediately and squealed, launching herself at the teen idol with both arms out wide in the same instant. Already expecting that reaction, Matt had braced himself, although it almost wasn't enough to keep him standing.

Although she was a tiny, lithe thing herself, her grip was anything but light. Whether she secretly worked out or she went into Fangirling Mode and gained super strength he wasn't sure, but getting out of her grip would not be an easy task. The more he tried to wriggle out of her grasp the harder she held on, even going so far as to rub her face on his chest in her affections, which only succeeded in making him shudder. "You won't believe what that… that… boy is saying," she cried, bringing one sleeve up to wipe off her tears. That was all the time Matt needed to slip out of her arms and a couple inches closer to the table. "That crude, vulgar barbarian had to be taught a lesson," she continued, hostility lacing her words as she pointed an accusatory finger at the spiky-haired brunette. "To actually claim that you two are together, to say that he has touched you in places I can only dream about—" that last sentence was accompanied by a scowl from the musician, one of those "did you seriously say that?!" type scowls "—he had to be taught a lesson."

Sighing and shaking his head, hands on his hips, walking around the table until he was standing just a foot away from his lover's seat, Matt turned back to the girl and said, "I don't know just what he has been telling you, and we will have a long conversation about what is and isn't appropriate to say in front of others—" that last bit was directed at the brunette again with the same scowl as before "—but I can clear one thing up for you…" Grabbing the front of the soccer star's shirt, Matt lifted him up out of the chair until they were standing even. Then, making sure Tai had his balance, he swiftly leaning in and captured the other male's mouth, tilting his head to the side slightly and parting his lips when the athlete's tongue ran along them asking for entrance. The mob of female fans was stunned into silence, jaws slack and eyes wide, as they watched their idol kiss another boy. Sora couldn't help but snicker at their dumbfounded looks, which earned her a glare from their leader that did nothing but make her laugh a little harder.

Ending the kiss a moment later, the blonde couldn't help but smirk and whisper just quiet enough that only his partner could hear him, "Yuck, cafeteria food."

Sporting a strange, lopsided grin of his own, Tai replied with, "Yuck, cigarette smoke. We'll talk about it later," he added when the older male flinched, a sad, understanding smile on his face. He may not have any personal experience on the matter, but it didn't take a professional to tell that his lover was trying to quit, and was simply hitting a few bumps and snags along the way. "Are you going to finish this?" he added, motioning ever so slightly with his head towards the make-shift mob that was rapidly regathering themselves.

Turning back to the girl who had previously found it appropriate to cling to him like a monkey to a tree, he asked, "What's your name?"

Straightening the imagined wrinkles out of her clothes, the girl promptly replied, "Rene."

"Well then, Rene, I do believe that this should clear up any misunderstandings about my relationship with Taichi," he stated, pulling out the chair next to the one his boyfriend had once again taken a seat in. "If not, you might want to get your head checked, because something up there isn't working right."

Paying them no more heed, Matt sat down and pulled his lunch out of his bag. Waiting a few minutes to make sure no stragglers were still around, Matt finally turned to the rest of their group and asked, "What brought them over here in the first place?"

"Please don't remind me!" his little brother blurted out instantly, grabbing his head and resting it on the table. This got both his girlfriend and Mimi laughing, while Sora tried to contain her giggles to better answer her friend's question.

"Nothing important, really," she started, looking away from the smaller blonde so she could keep her composure. "Just a conversation we were having about you."

"What did Taichi say?" he questioned, sending an accusatory glance in the athlete's direction.

"Nothing over PG-13, I promise!" the brunette replied, holding both hands up defensively. The look his lover was giving him showed that he didn't believe a word he was saying.

"He didn't say anything bad," Sora confirmed, taking her own chair and flipping it around backwards before sitting down. "I mean, nothing more than we already know, at least, and he didn't go into any detail or anything. That group just didn't like to hear that their pop star enjoyed climbing in bed with another man, even if it was true."

Another glare directed at his lover. "Hey, I didn't go into specifics!" Tai defended. "I just said that you enjoyed it as much as I did that night we got back from the fair grounds."

"He might have also mentioned what you were still wearing," Kari piped in. The smirk on her face grew as Matt's face grew to a deeper and deeper shade of red.

Turning on his boyfriend, he blurted before the younger male could stop him, "What does she mean you told them?" Tai opened his mouth to reply, but was cut off again as his lover continued on his rant. "You promised me you wouldn't say a word about! Gods, it's bad enough that they know I wore that on our date, they didn't need to know I kept it on afterwards!"

"Yamato!" he finally shouted, getting the blonde's attention before he dug the hole any deeper. "I didn't tell them that," he stated once he got the other male's attention, his own cheeks tinted slightly pink.

"I said he might have told us," Kari giggled, one hand covering her mouth and the other fisted in the shoulder of TK's shirt to keep him from falling out of his chair. "Looks like TK fainted again," she commented absently, pulling him back up straight and resting his head on the table.

"And it looks like his brother is about to follow suit," Sora added, pointing to the older brother who was trying to hide his crimson face behind his golden hair. He didn't even try to respond, instead choosing to take a large bite out of his onigiri so he wouldn't have to. A round of laughter passed over the table, and then everyone divided off into their own conversations. Neither boy doubted it would come up again, at some time, in some form, but for the moment their friends were letting it drop.

The rest of lunch flew by, with the musician finishing his homemade lunch just a few minutes before lunch ended. "Tai, give me your phone," he said, holding a hand out to receive the item.

"Hmm?" the brunette asked around the remains of Sora's lunch. Whenever any of their friends had food left over it went to walking bottomless pit, so this was actually his third helping of… mashed… potatoes…?

"I don't have angry birds on mine, so give me yours," he clarified.

"Oh, ofay," he mumbled around what most of them tentatively called food, shifting his weight so he could more easily access his pocket. Fishing it out and dropping it in his boyfriend's hand, he went right back to the tray in front of him.

"Thanks," Matt said affectionately before turning back to the device in his hand.

The next set of events all happened in the span of 2.77 seconds. A feeling of dread washed over Tai, a very specific detail about his phone suddenly coming back to the surface of his mind. .14 seconds later Matt hit the on button on his phone. It took the screen .45 seconds to light up, displaying the bright, new background Tai had chosen. Matt wasn't looking at the camera, so he obviously didn't remember the picture, but he did recall getting the cotton candy for the two of them when they were at the carnival. Tai must have snapped the picture when he wasn't paying attention. Another .09 seconds passed before he lost his grip on the phone and .23 seconds later it clattered on the table. The words that the athlete was about to say was lost in the next 1.04 seconds when he slumped down as far as he could in chair. By that time the blonde had recovered, and in the next .82 seconds he had turned to his lover with an embarrassed scowl on his face, which really did a lot in diminishing its ferocity.

The two stayed like that for next several seconds until TK broke the silence by saying, "I'm not looking, Kari, I'm not falling for that again."

The girl giggled at her boyfriend. "But it really does look good on him," she remarked, giggling again when she watched his ears turn red. Looking back up at the other red-faced blonde, she added, "That's what made him faint the first time. I guess seeing his brother in a dress was really quite a shock."

Matt could only groan and fall face first onto the table. He would have landed on the phone had Tai not skillfully snatched it up first, not that he was planning on falling on it in the first place. He didn't even bother telling the other boy to delete the photo. The damage was already done, he had shown it to everyone and probably sent it to at least Sora and Mimi, if not the others as well, so removing it from one device would not have any effect. Besides, all he'd have to see is the brunette's pouty face when he told him to get rid of it to destroy his resolve, and he wasn't going to let their friends see just how whipped the soccer player had him. So instead of arguing about it he would simply ask the brunette to put something else as his wallpaper. Later.

"You should tell me, you know," Tai started suddenly a couple minutes into their walk home, drawing a confused look from the other male. "When it gets hard, quitting. I could taste it on your kiss today at lunch. I'm your boyfriend. My job is to help hold you up when you just can't quite do it yourself."

"I'm sorry," he whispered guiltily, stopping and staring at the ground.

Stopping as well, he placed one hand on the blonde's shoulder and one under his chin, lifting his face until they were look at each other. "Don't be. Just let me help you," he said. Waiting patiently for the confirming nod, which did take a moment for him to receive, a loving smile spread across his lips. "Well, I did hear of something that apparently actually works pretty well. From what I have read, electronic cigarettes are actually a pretty good tool to use to quit. They also don't taste like a campfire and you can get them in different flavors, such as cherry, or cotton candy—"

Stifling a laugh, Matt asked, "What is it with you and cotton candy?"

A comical grin on his face, Tai replied, "What's wrong with cotton candy? It's sweet, and fluffy, and made of nothing but sugar."

Chuckling under his breath and discretely leaning into the younger teen, he said, "We'll have to look into that together. What made you look them up, anyway?"

"Last week when I caught you on the roof," Tai replied, sliding one hand down the blonde's back and around to the opposite hip, pulling their bodies closer together as they walked. "You looked like you were beating yourself up as much as I could, so I left you alone, but it made me realize I couldn't just stand back anymore. I needed to help you with this, and the patches don't seem to completely work so I looked up other methods."

"Thanks, Taichi," he cooed, closing his eyes and letting his lover guide him. It felt nice to just let the world melt away, to not have to worry about his problems or the way society viewed their relationship, to be just him and the man he had chosen to spend his life with, alone—

"Tai, Matt, wait up!" A shout broke the peace and serenity the musician was trying to wrap himself in, and turning around he glared at the two approaching figures. One was completely oblivious to his scowl, the other seemed to nod his apologies at the interruption. It was the clueless one who had shouted. "Can we walk with you for a bit?" Davis asked, falling into stride beside his mentor before even getting an answer.

The two older teens untangled themselves and switched to simply holding hands, giving each other similar, amused looks before returning to their uninvited guests. "Don't you live in the opposite direction, Ken?" Tai asked to the shy bluenette who seemed to be debating whether he should try to hide the fact that his hand was firmly encased in the cinnamon brunette's or not.

"I'm staying over at Daisuke's place," he replied in his usual quiet tone, a barely noticeable smile touching his features. "He saw you two turn down here and since his place is in this general direction he decided we needed to catch up to you guys."

"Hey, I have a question for you two," Davis blurted out suddenly, right when Tai was about to say something back to Ken. "What's sex like?" He was the only one who took the next step, revealing that not even his boyfriend was expecting him to ask such a straightforward and embarrassing question. Coming to a halt as well, he added, "Well, you two have done it, right? Or have I been misinterpreting all the vague references you guys have been throwing around?"

Tai was the first one to return to his senses, albeit his face was still mimicking a beet. "You two are too young to be thinking about things like that," he lectured, wagging one, tanned finger at his miniature counterpart. "I mean you guys are still only thirteen! You shouldn't even consider sex until you are our age, at least." Matt also reminded Tai that he had tried, although unsuccessfully, to jump him at fifteen, but since it would ruin the point he was trying to get across.

Raising his hand slowly, arm shaking from embarrassment and face redder than the older soccer star, Ken remarked, "I'm actually twelve still… for the next two weeks…"

"I wasn't going to try anything!" Davis defended, sticking out his lower lip in a pout. "I didn't mean for you to take it that way—I'm way too young for that adult stuff—I was just curious."

Sighing and shaking his head before rustling the smaller athlete's hair, Tai started, "Just so long as you don't plan on trying it anytime soo—oof!" He was elbowed in the ribs by his partner. "I'm not going to tell him anything, geez!" Turning back to his smaller clone, the brunette asked, "Hey, wanna race to the end of the street?"

"Yeah!" Davis replied with equal enthusiasm. "Ken, you judge who wins so I know that Tai doesn't cheat. On the count of three. One. Two." Long pause. "Three!" And the two took off at full speed, leaving their boyfriends behind.

Watching the two take off, Matt couldn't help but say, "Sometimes I wonder why I had to choose him."

"I wonder the same thing some times," Ken replied, watching his own boyfriend for a second before looking up at the blonde who had this strange, possibly-confused look on his face. Suddenly realizing just how his sentence could have been taken, he added, flustered, "A-about Daisuke, not you and Tai."

Chuckling under his breath and messing up the bluenette's hair, Matt said, "I knew what you meant, just had to mess with you." Their partners had made it down to the end by this point and were turning back around to return, just like a boomerang, Matt thought. When they were halfway back down the street the blonde remarked, "In a couple years, when you two are older, come back to me and I'll give you some pointers. Trust me, you'll need them."

Thinking for a second that he was still talking about the choice they had made, he realized what Matt was referring to just about when Tai beat Davis back, and his face tinted pink once again. The four continued walking again, but it wasn't two steps later that Ken curiously asked, "By the way, when was your first time?"

Not even thinking, Matt blurted, "When Tai turned sixteen." In his mind he was thinking of how it would relate to his lover's earlier rant about how old they should before they consider doing X rated things. It didn't seem to take into account what else might be inferred from that, such as…

"So your present to Tai was your body?" Davis snickered. Matt's face raced right passed beet red to stop at Firetruck red, which in turn made the two brunettes burst into laughter. Ken at least had the decency to keep his giggles quiet, but that also could have been because the comment embarrassed him, too, and he didn't want to draw attention to himself.

It was at that point that Matt decided he really needed to think more before he spoke.

I kind of think that cotton candy is a good metaphor for innocence. It's sweet, and fluffy, and chock full of sugar... I just think it fits. So the Cotton Candy in the title doesn't only stand for Tai's love of cotton candy (and cotton candy flavored things), but also for Davis and Ken's innocence.

FallTigerKisa is the one who gave me the idea of electronic cigarettes, and told me about the different flavors. "New kink for Taichi?" :P The thought of putting the picture of Matt in his dress on Tai's phone came up when we PMed back and forth, so those are the two aspects that came from her. Arigato.

As always, reviews are luffed and appreciated.