Chapter Seven

"Hikari?"

"Takeru! You answered!" She sounded relieved.

"Of course I answered," he said flatly, as if it was so obvious he would. In reality, there was a large smile plastered across his face. But he didn't want her to know that he was excited. He didn't want her to realize how much he had missed her.

"Oh, right," came her reply.

Her voice was a bit muffled; she was probably chewing on her lip. All girls did this when they were nervous, but when Hikari did it, it was so much more irresistible. His imagination went into overdrive with reveries of her as he waited patiently for her to continue.

"Well. . . How've you been?"

He paused, deciding how best to answer. "Just fine."

"Just?" Hikari knew him well enough to realize that the 'just' was intentional. Takeru never used words that were unnecessary.

"Yes, just. As in nothing exponentially exciting has happened, but nothing too sad has happened either." True, he missed Hikari dearly but he didn't want her to know that, either. He was hiding a lot from her lately. "I'm getting by, is what I mean," he added a bit more kindly. After all, he didn't want her stressing too much.

"Well, I've missed you," she said, her voice quieter than usual. "I've just been getting by, too. Life can be incredibly hard without your best friend."

"Can it now?" he said, arrogance ringing in his tone.

She laughed softly, making his smile stretch farther. "Yes, Takeru. It can. So when can I see you?"

"Whenever, as long as you want to," he said. He didn't want to force her out of excitement; nor did he want to get his hopes up if she was just going to flake on him for her boyfriend.

"I want to," she said firmly.

Takeru let out an audible chuckle. He could hear her breathe out in relief now that she knew he wasn't upset with her.

"Hang on, then." There was a rustling of papers as Takeru searched for his planner. "I'm free on Tuesday, two days from now."

"Hmm . . ." His heart sank as her hesitation became evident. However, she agreed to two days from now. "It'll be our day."

"Okay, Hikari. Sounds wonderful."

"Agreed."

The sun shined across the crystal waves, the soft crushing sound providing a pleasant soundtrack as he waited at the bus stop. The sea breeze wafted through the restless leaves of the trees overhead. For a moment, Takeru took off his hat, allowing the wind to work its way through his fair hair. He smiled to himself. To a passerby, he may have looked a bit mad. But in truth he'd never felt more at peace.

Since childhood, Takeru had always had a greater appreciation for—well, everything. Sweet mornings like this were enough to make him happy for the rest of the day. Some called it naivety, but he just thought of it as gratitude. Though, simply saying "it was a nice morning" would be a lie. There was a bigger factor contributing to his happiness today, and it came in the form of one Hikari Yagami.

Two days ago, she had called to apologize for being so out of touch with him as of late. She had recently acquired a boyfriend, who also happened to be a subtle, though amicable, rival of Takeru's. It had been a bit tense between them, given Takeru's hidden feelings for his best friend. But rather than guilt her with a profession of his feelings, he decided it'd be best to take a back seat and let her happiness take over.

He didn't tell her this in the phone call, of course. Instead, he attempted to act nonchalant. The phone call itself was short, as there was some unrelieved tension that couldn't be solved in just a few sentences. But he supposed that was what today was for: forgiveness and reconciliations between old friends.

Nervously, he checked his phone for the second time. She had said to meet her at the bus stop in front of the school at half past eleven. It was currently eleven twenty-two.

Takeru let out a sigh of frustration, which was echoed by his backpack. He nearly jumped as he remembered what—or rather, who—was inside. Quickly, he opened it. "So sorry, Patamon."

"You promised me fresh air! Then you shoved me in a backpack. You could have at least left me snacks."

"Sorry, buddy, I'm just a bit—"

"Distracted. It's okay, Takeru!" Patamon smiled at him and nodded. "At least I'm out now!"

Takeru smiled in thanks. He fished his pockets for a stick of gum and gave it to Patamon. "Will this hold you over?"

His digimon made a face, as if to say Takeru was crazy. "Never mind. I'll just pick something up with Gatomon when we go scavenging!"

The blonde smiled and nodded in agreement. Though most of the real world had digimon now, very few were used to seeing them in public yet. That, combined with habit, always provoked Takeru to travel with Patamon in a knapsack. Admittedly, the little guy never really minded so long as he wasn't left in there for too long. At least that way he wouldn't have to walk or fly.

But because of the covertness of having digimon, Patamon rarely got to go out. So when Takeru asked him if he wanted to see Gatomon, Patamon jumped at the chance. The two were as good of friends as Takeru and Hikari were.

As Patamon stretched his wings, Takeru watched him fly around with admiration. He made it look so easy. "You should try it some time," commented the digimon as he flapped his ear-wings.

Takeru shot him a dry look. "I'll be sure to do that once my malting season is over and my wings are ready."

Patamon paid the jibe no heed and continued to float through the air, rather pleased with himself. Takeru chuckled at his innocence, then reverted back to his thoughts.

"Takeru!" someone called. His head snapped upwards in that direction. It was Hikari, cradling Gatomon in her arms and running towards him excitedly.

He stood up and motioned for Patamon to land. As he walked towards her, Patamon nestled himself one Takeru's head.

"Hey!" he said in greeting. Awkwardly, he helped up his hand. What, are you going to high-five her or something? he chastised.

Hikari, however, had other ideas. Wasting no time, she placed Gatomon on the ground and turned to hug him tightly. He felt his muscles relax as he wound his arms around her shoulders. There was a bit of hesitation as he held her; it wasn't too tight, as if scared to find out she wasn't real.

She smelled wonderful, though. Her usual Hikari scent: a warm mix of jasmine and vanilla. It was gentle on his nose and filled his lungs completely. In his elation, he traced small circles on her shoulder.

He had no idea how long the hug lasted, but he saw her shiver as she pulled away. Judging by her smile, though, it was a good kind of shake. Pleased with himself, he gave her a wide, genuine grin.

"It's so good seeing you," she gushed. Her eyes shone with eagerness and excitement. She was happy to see he wasn't upset with her. But he could never stay mad at her.

"Same to you," he agreed lamely. He was distracted. Takeru continued to watch her with his boiling blue eyes.

He was convinced she was nearly perfect. He admired the way her caramel hair turned a pale gold as the sun swept it across her pale complexion. Her tiny frame was just small enough to cradle with the promise of never letting go, but she was strong enough to hold her own. She had a large, willing smile that cracked so wide it almost didn't fit her face. But the gentle sincerity of her happiness overpowered the disproportion. Of course, Hikari didn't fully achieve perfection, but he didn't mind. She wouldn't be as beautiful. As they say, there was something beautiful in the broken.

Under his gaze, Hikari fidgeted uncomfortably. A slow, peach blush spread through her cheeks and she bit her lip, the corners of which had turned up slightly in a shy smile. He could tell she was flattered, in addition to any discomfort.

"You're staring, Takeru," she murmured.

He attempted to blink away, but he couldn't. His eyes had gone unfocused and he couldn't change his line of sight. It was as if he was seeing through her physique, to something real. He smiled sheepishly, still unable to stop admiring her because he had zoned out*.

"It's fine, just hold still," she said, rummaging through her back. At last, she pulled out her camera. "You're cute when concentrating." Hikari giggled quietly.

The flash from her camera snapped him from his preoccupation. He walked closer to her as she loaded the picture, and he looked at it from over her shoulder.

Takeru let out a bark of laughter. He thought he'd looked rather ridiculous—it was a bit dramatic after all. The sea winds were still blowing at his hair, and surely enough, he was staring into the camera with blue intensity. His eyes looked like they were seeing beyond.

Hikari pushed at his shoulder lightly. "Don't laugh! I like it!"

She placed the camera in her bag and went to sit on the bus stop bench. Her nose was in the air, being quite pleased with the picture she had taken.

Just as Takeru was walking to sit by her, the bus began pulling against the curb. A sense of giddiness washed over him. Ever the gentleman, he held out his hand to help Hikari back up. After, he called for Patamon and Gatomon to join them. Filled with adrenaline, he followed Hikari into the bus.

"This is to Highton View Terrace, correct?" Hikari confirmed, giving the driver her pass.

The man nodded. "You visiting the TV station or something?" That was why most tourists went.

"No, we grew up there," Takeru supplied. "A lot of fond memories."

The driver shrugged; it really didn't matter to him.

Takeru and Hikari both made their way towards the back of the bus. Patamon and Gatomon had just made it as the door shut, panting. A young girl gasped as she saw the orange digimon fly in, also letting out a squeal of delight. Patamon took this in great stride, causing Takeru to groan. He should have put that bat-thing in his backpack.

Hikari, who was already sitting by the window, tugged on his hand and gestured for him to join her. Sighing, he sat down. The trip would be an hour or so, but Hikari was more than enough company for him. Besides, they had a lot to talk about.

Despite the need for conversation, however, the first fifteen minutes of their bus ride was filled with silence. The topic of speech wasn't exactly a public one, so they were both waiting for the bus to empty. It was lunch hour, so the driver was making his rounds picking up and dropping off workers for lunch breaks. The seats fluctuated between full and empty, usually somewhere in between.

It wasn't until after the fifth stop that the bus ceased picking up passengers, and they still hadn't left Odaiba. Impatiently, he checked his watch. Each minute of silence made him all the more anxious.

At last, only Takeru, Hikari, their digimon, and four others remained on the bus. The other civilians were a ways away from the kids' seats near the back of the bus. They were definitely out of earshot.

However, Hikari still did not speak. As he watched her, she just stared out the window as if she didn't notice. A serene, small smile graced her face.

He knew full well what she was doing. Hikari had an awful habit of blaming herself for everything. But when it came to someone else blaming her or revealing her faults, she astutely ignored them. She said it was because she already knew she was faulted, and couldn't bear to be knit-picked. That she wasn't strong enough to take it.

Takeru knew she was just in denial. The caramel-haired girl was plenty strong. People often mistook her for a fragile thing, but he knew all the better.

Besides, he was expecting an apology. Had she not just spent the last few weeks pushing him aside for her boyfriend? His eyebrows furrowed into a scowl.

Just to annoy her, he decided to open the conversation with the following hushed line: "You shouldn't have called me cute."

More than anything, she didn't like being told what to do. Being someone who rarely did anything mean, Hikari didn't enjoy being corrected. She tried so hard to please people—she really did, and Takeru could admit this—so when they corrected her it made them seem ungrateful.

Slowly, she turned to look at him, confused. A flicker of annoyance was evident in her eyes. "And why not?"

"Because you're dating someone," he said smugly. He crossed his arms and straightened his back—a universal stance of arrogance. Though, what did he have to be arrogant about, exactly? She wasn't dating him. He silenced his mind and tried to allow himself the small victory of his little jibe.

At last, a look of hurt fell upon her face. She didn't say anything.

"You shouldn't call your best friend cute. It could be misleading—I might misinterpret your intentions."

Hikari fidgeted with her fingers. Guilt began to weigh upon Takeru. He wanted her to become angry, not sad. That was her usual way. She must have felt that it was really her fault.

Still, he continued to needle her. "What were your intentions Hikari?" He was no longer simply referring to her comment about his aesthetics; he was thinking about the bigger picture. "What did you mean?"

"By what?" she asked innocently. From the way her shoulders tensed, Takeru knew she was just being evasive—she knew exactly what he meant.

"By now? Here, on this bus? Or three weeks ago where you'd call me until three am? Or one week ago, where things changed and you did a really good job of disregarding me. What'd you mean by any of that?"

"It wasn't to hurt you. Or lead you on. Like you said earlier, don't misconstrue things—"

"Considered them misconstrued," he said rather snappishly. He folded his arms across his chest for good measure.

She sighed. "Takeru, can we not? This isn't how I wanted to spend my day with you—talking like this."

"I didn't want to, either. I wanted to hang out with my best friend, like I had wanted to for the last how many weeks." He looked down at her, feeling anger, regret, and hurt all at once. "But this conversation—it's unavoidable, isn't it? We can't get away from it. That's half the reason we're even here."

All of what he had said was true, yet he did feel a bit vulnerable—and perhaps whiny—admitting to it. But he knew he had gotten through to her. He wasn't going to beat around the bush: their friendship was in dangerous waters and ignoring the rapids wouldn't do them any good.

Her eyes were bloodshot as Hikari stared at him, unblinking and searching. She sniffled and then turned away, dabbing at her eyes. They were subtle tears for a subtle girl. Again, Takeru felt bad. Maybe it had been his fault—maybe he had deluded himself.

He had misconstrued their friendship. In the past, she may have never been flirting with him. It was all in his imagination. He felt the bruise on his ego worsen—they were best friends, but that was it. He had always thought that there was something more, but there wasn't. But he couldn't admit any of that to her without explicitly admitting to her that he liked her.

Now feeling uncomfortable at their exchange, Takeru set his jaw tight and stared straight ahead. Hikari looked out the side window. He wanted to talk this out, but he didn't want to force the conversation on her. Not when she was already breaking. No matter how angry he got, he had to be fair.

As the minutes passed, the bus drove on. After twenty minutes, the bus driver picked up his walkie-talkie and announced that they would be approaching Highton View Terrace in less than four minutes.

Hikari stood up and smoothed her clothes before reaching up into the overhead shelf to claim her backpack. Even as she stepped over Takeru, she avoided his gaze.

Girls were always pretty after they cried, Takeru reflected as he watched her. She was standing on the tips of her toes, trying to reach for her things. Her amber eyes were dark and glossy and her eyelashes entertained tiny droplets of tears. Hikari bit her lip as she finally pulled her backpack free, her slender arms moving to cradle her possessions. Yes, even in this bare simplicity, she was beautiful.

Finally, she looked down at him. The bus halted and she lurched forward a step, but otherwise kept her composure. "If you really had misconstrued things—If you had honestly thought I was flirting all along, why didn't you do anything about it?"

A/N:

Sorry it's been so long! I haven't been writing much as of late but here's some of what was Chapter Seven. It's actually supposed to be more comprehensive—with Tai & Sora parts—but we'll save that for another day, yes?

Thanks for bearing with me! I know it cuts off at a weird spot but I thought it was high-time I uploaded something, eh?

X

Bottled Fish

*do you ever get this? I zone out when staring all the time and you just can't possibly look away! Ahhaha and that last paragraph is me paralleling again. Maybe I should do that less often.