Tai woke up to the smell of pancakes. Pancakes that his mom had decided to make with marshmallows and chocolate syrup. As delicious as the idea sounded, the boy knew it would be a disaster. So, he grabbed Matt's hand and pulled him into the bedroom. They were met by their Digimon who were complaining of being hungry. Granted the boys were more upset by how they were going to hide Agumon, who'd Digivolved in the middle of the night, rather than feed them. Tai ended up escorting Matt out with Agumon hiding behind the both of them. Mrs. Yagami had begun to insist Matt stay for breakfast, but Tai said Matt was allergic to pancakes and flashed the blond a look that basically said, 'Run for your life.' All the children met in the park not too much later anyway. Today they decided to search for the eighth child. Seeing as how their Digivices couldn't track over long distances, they were going to have to split up to cover more ground. Matt went with his brother, the girls went off together, Joe stayed behind to make phone calls to other kids, and Tai paired up with Izzy. Matt and TK went down to the docks where Izzy had claimed to have picked up the child's signal the night before. And while Mimi and Sora strolled through residential areas with Biyomon and Palmon, Izzy and Tai were left to wander the crowded city streets. Tentomon and Agumon didn't have the most convincing disguises, with Tentomon in a large jacket and hat and Agumon mostly hidden under a parka save for his long snout poking out from under the hood, but it was the best they could do. Izzy's eyes were locked on the Digivice, and he frowned at it. "This is really quite strange. Last night I was able to detect the eigth child's Digivice as it moved past me at a puzzlingly fast trajectory, but now the Digivice isn't even reacting to yours, and you're located right next to me. Their functionality in the real world is alarmingly sporadic."
"It's like finding a needle in a haystack," Tai groaned. A loud thumping was heard coming up from behind them. Tai looked over his shoulder to see a large group of children running after an ice cream van. "Quick, Izzy, see if any of them give off a signal!"
Izzy pulled out his Digivice, holding it up and keeping his eyes on the screen. But even as all of the children passed, no red light started to blink. "Negative," he said, sounding disheartened.
Tai pat the kid on the shoulder. "We just have to keep looking." After a while, the pair came to the soccer field where Tai's team practiced and had their games. Across the street was the local library. "This is convenient," he said and pulled out his own Digivice. "I'll scour the field while you go canvas the library. We'll meet at the bench over there when we're done. Okay? I'm gonna check all the locker rooms and stuff too."
Izzy nodded. "Alright." He looked up at the library. It was a few stories, but he figured it wouldn't take that long. "We'll meet there in... what do you think, ten minutes?"
"Yeah. I can't really go near the girl's side, so hopefully we don't miss the kid in there. The guy's locker room isn't that big either. Ten minutes should be plenty. I'll see you in a few, Izzy, good luck!" Tai sprinted off down the stairs to the field. He stood on the sidelines, staring at his device, but got no response.
When he ran off toward the bunker which lead down into the locker rooms, a few kids on the field recognized the big brown bush of hair. They all gestured to each other and followed after him. "Hey, Taichi," one of them snapped when they were all down in the locker room. Tai spun around only to smile at the sight of his team mates.
"Oh, hey guys," he laughed. "What's up?"
"Uyeda said he saw Ishida leave your house this morning. Like, early this morning. And that Ishida showed up at your house yesterday afternoon." Tai swallowed.
"What's the Ishida kid's name? Yamato?"
"He calls himself Matt."
"He's really popular with the girls, isn't he?"
"Yeah, but he always ignores them. He blew off my sister once to go wander the town, and he came and watched the game from the sidewalk."
"Why? Who was he there to see?"
"Isn't it obvious?" One of the boy's snorted, pointing a finger at Tai. "Him."
Tai tried to laugh the accusation off. "You guys are crazy. I barely know the guy. He was only at my place because his dad knows my dad, and Mr. Ishida needed a place for Matt to stay last night since he wasn't gonna be home."
"Right," scoffed Masa, who seemed to be the leader. "The girls may not see it, but we can tell he's a flamer. Just like you. Were you two fagging it up last night?"
"No!" the brunet snapped viciously. "Just back off..."
Agumon had hidden himself behind the lockers before the other boys came down into the locker room, but he didn't want to just hide while the kids picked on Tai. He didn't quite know what they were talking about, but he could hear in Tai's voice that this was bad. He was torn between Tai's order to hide and his need to protect the boy, but when one of the kids in the group stepped forward and pushed Tai to the locker room floor, Agumon's insticts chose for him. "Leave him alone!" the Digimon barked, running out from behind the lockers and standing in front of his boy, putting his fists up.
"What the hell is that thing?!" one boy shouted from somewhere in the back.
"Some kid in a costume," Masa laughed. "You gonna fight Tai's battles for him?" he asked in a mock baby tone.
Tai stood up from the floor, rubbing his arm and scowling. "Agumon, don't. He's not worth it."
The ring leader frowned. "What did you say? I'm not worth it? No... No, you see, Yagami, you're not worth it. You're not worth anything. Why coach kept you on as team captain, I have no clue, but I know it was a mistake. We can't have some fairy boy leading around the field. We'll get our butts handed to us."
Tai flinched at the words. "Shut up, Masa!"
Agumon clenched his hands tighter, looking ready to pounce at the word. "Tai's a great leader!" he said, feeling the need to argue and protect Tai even though he wasn't quite sure what the confrontation was really about. He looked over his shoulder at the boy, his huge green eyes pleading to be allowed to scare the boys off. "Are you sure I can't...?"
Tai shook his head. "No, you're too strong. You'll hurt them. You are not allowed to attack," he said firmly.
"Too strong for us? That's a laugh." Two boys rushed forward and grabbed Agumon by each arm and threw him into a locker. With the Digimon trapped in its little metal prison, Masa was free to approach the other boy. "Now admit it. Confess to all of us that you were fagging it up with Ishida last night."
Tai clenched his teeth. "I'm not a faggot," he growled.
Masa just sighed. "Fine. Team, let's show our captain what we think of lying little queers."
"Ready when you are." One of the boys said, cracking his knuckles. There was a cheer from the other boys, drowning out Agumon's banging on the inside of the locker, desperately putting dents in the metal door to try and get free. But no matter how dented the locker became, the lock held tight.
The cheering died after about ten minutes. Each boy stood back, their target curled up on the floor. Tai was covered in bruises and cuts, some even welting. One of his shoes was in the corner. Both his shirts were ripped and torn, the blue one barely even hanging on. The yellow shirt was turning a bright orange in some places where the blood soaked in. He coughed, causing little flecks of red to stain the grey tile. Masa stepped forward, looking down on the team captain. "Admit it." Tai was silent. He refused to break. Masa kicked him viciously in the gut. "Say it!"
Unable to hold back, tears started falling over Tai's face. "I... I'm a faggot..." he whimpered.
"That's right." Satisfied, the team left their fallen mate on the cold floor.
It was silent for a time, before Tai called pleadingly. "Agumon..."
Agumon finally busted through the locker door with a strong headbutt. His poncho tore apart on the fractured metal as he scrambled to get out of the locker. "Taichi!" The Digimon was immediately over at Tai's side, the pupils of his green eyes wide with shock. He looked around desperately, before quickly saying, "I'm gonna go get Izzy!"
"No!" Tai grabbed Agumon's ankle. "Y-You can't go out there like that." The boy got on his knees and crawled to another locker. He opened it and couldn't help but grin at his luck. It was unlocked, and inside was a large red hoodie. "Here, put this on," he instructed. As the Digimon got dressed, Tai hauled himself to his feet. "O-okay... Let's g-go."
Agumon frowned up at the boy, wishing he was taller so he could sling Tai over his shoulders. He did his best to help Tai up the stairs and onto the field, where Izzy and Tentomon were already looking for them, since they'd taken far longer than the alloted ten minutes. "Tai!?" Izzy shouted, running towards the two. "Tai, what in the world happened to you!?"
Tai just shook his head trying to offer a grin. "Nothing, Izzy. I'm okay. D-Did you find anything in... in the library?"
"Tai, I'm not stupid. What happened?! You need medical attention!" Izzy insisted, lifting a piece of torn, bloody fabric in his hand with wide eyes.
"No, I'm okay." Of course it was a bold-faced lie, but Tai didn't like people fretting over him. Brown eyes looked up and his eyebrows knitted together with confusion. "Tokyo Tower is... bending?" He pulled out his mini-scope and used it to look up at the top of the tower. It was there that Tai saw SkullMeramon fighting with Togemon and Birdramon. "Digimon!" he shouted. "The girls need our help!"
Izzy looked hesitant to let Tai get off without telling him what happened, but he turned to Tentomon. "Alright, get us up there, Tentomon. Ready to Digivolve?"
"Right away!" the red bug buzzed. Tentomon Digivolved into Kabuterimon and had the children climb onto his back before flying toward the tower. SkullMeramon shot his Metal Fireball at them when they got close enough, but it hit a corner of the tower, forcing Kabuterimon to catch the metal structure and hold it up.
Tai knew he and Agumon had to fight now. So he looked at his little orange dinosaur friend, clutching his Digivice. "Time to f-fight..."
"This time, I'm gonna protect you, Tai!" Agumon said determinedly. He leapt onto the tower, and promptly Digivolved into Greymon.
But as he fought, Izzy gasped loudly. "Tai, his Nova Blasts are just being absorbed into SkullMeramon's flamed-based body and making him stronger! If Greymon doesn't Digivolve again, he's going to jeopardize the fight!"
Tai hissed. "Greymon... Greymon, you have to Digivolve again!" he called. "Use your courage, Greymon! Use your want to protect me- Ah!" Tai clutched his sides. All the shouting and adrenaline pushed him. His chest was hurting like crazy and more blood soaked his clothes. "Fight, Greymon! I know you can do it!"
Greymon looked over his shoulder, and clenched his fists. Watching Tai was all he needed to Digivolve to Ultimate. MetalGreymon was soon grappling with SkullMeramon, and the fight raged on until MetalGreymon threw his opponent off the tower and managed to defeat him with a well-aimed Giga Blaster. He turned back into Koromon, falling from where he had been floating in the sky until Kabuterimon caught him. "Tai, Tai!" the pink Digimon fretted, leaping over to his boy. "Are you okay?"
Tai tried to smile for his little Digimon, but it didn't work this time. He ended up slumped against Izzy's back. Purple and black spots danced in his vision while his body turned warm and numb. "I... I don't think I feel so great..."
Izzy looked over at Tai, frowning deeply. He leaned down to talk to Kabuterimon. "Remember the hospital we passed leaving the house, Kabuterimon? Take us there." He sat up again, watching Koromon sit in Tai's lap, looking worried and guilty. "What happened, Tai?" Izzy asked.
"I got a-attacked, that... that's what," he said wearily. "Masa and the t-team cornered me in... the locker r-room. Beat me... up."
Izzy's dark eyes widened. "Oh, Tai... why?! Wh-what was their motivation?! They can't simply get away with that!"
Tai's whole body shivered and his shoulders shook with unshed tears. "B-Because I'm... I'm..."
Izzy sighed quietly, shaking his head. "Is it because of you and Matt?"
The boy nodded. "I prob-bably do deserve it..."
Izzy shook his head as he tapped Kabuterimon to make sure he was going the right way. "No, you don't, Tai."
"They couldn't possibly... hate me that m-much... if they weren't right." He started to cry. "I am a f-f...fag..."
Izzy turned around, looking completely lost. "Izzy, what's he talking about?" Koromon asked, nuzzling against Tai's arm with a whine. "How could they possibly hate Tai? He's the best kid I've ever met!" Izzy was left speechless, biting his lip.
Tai started to cough again. Blood splattered over Koromon's face. When Tai stopped, he gasped when he saw what he'd done. "Oh... Oh man. I'm sorry, Koromon." The boy tried desperately to wipe the blood off the little Digimon, but it just smeared with the rest that was on his gloves. "Koromon... I... I feel sleepy."
Koromon looked desperately guilty, and he murmured, "I-I'm sorry I didn't protect you, Tai."
He shook his head. "You did, Koromon. You jumped in... to save me. Thank you."
"But I didn't!" Koromon barked. "Or you wouldn't be like this!"
"Koromon," Izzy said, looking at the ground. "We're landing. You guys need to be quiet and stay in the trees while we go inside."
"Izzy... I don't wanna be here." Tai tried to sit up and look back in the direction they came from. "The eighth kid... is still out there... somewhere. W-We have t'fi-find him. Hospital time will... will only slow us d-down."
Izzy frowned, slinging Tai over his shoulders and sliding down Kabuterimon's back. "Everyone else can take care of that, Tai. You need to see a doctor."
The second Izzy walked through the automatic front doors, a nurse bolted up from her seat behind the desk. "Oh my-!" She ran around and took Tai off the smaller boy's shoulders. "What on earth happened to him?!" she asked and began pressing the call button from a doctor.
"I-I'm not quite sure." Izzy said. He didn't want Tai to have to explain himself if he didn't want to. "But I found him like this, and he needs to see a doctor right away, ma'am."
"Well of course he does!" she gasped. "Anyone who does this to a child should be arrested!" A doctor and three other nurses came down the hall with a stretcher ready to take Tai to a room. "Who are his emergency contacts?" the first woman asked as the others ran back down the hall with Tai.
"I-I suppose his mother?" Izzy said, biting his lip. "Mrs. Yagami is her name, and... Oh!" He searched around in his pockets until he produced a crumpled piece of paper that Tai had scribbled his home phone number onto, handing it over to the nurse.
She took the paper and nodded. "All right, thank you. Please have a seat right over there. You can see your friend when his parents arrive." The woman hurried back around the desk and dialed the number given to her.
Not five minutes later was the Yagami family in the car and speeding toward the hospital. Yuuko was nearly in tears. Luckily her husband had come home for lunch, so he could drive. He just pulled around a corner when his wife suddenly cried, "Stop!" The vehicle screeched to a halt. Yuuko rolled down her window and called to the two blonds on the sidewalk. "Yamato?!"
Matt looked up, stopping his little brother with one hand. "Yes?" he asked, looking surprised when he realized it was Tai's mother, and she was in tears. "What's the matter, Mrs. Yagami?"
"Were you with him? Did you see what happened to him?" she asked, voice pleading. "Did you see who hurt him?!"
"What?" Matt jumped, looking confused. "I-I'm sorry Mrs. Yagami, but what're you talking about?"
She burst into tears again, burying her face in her hands. Susumu leaned forward so he could be seen through the window. "Taichi is in the hospital," he explained. "Someone attacked him."
Matt's eyes widened, feeling a cold sweat break out on his body. This could be bad. Really bad. Did he get in the way of a Digimon fight!? One of those wild Digimon could kill him! "D-do you mind if we come?" he asked shakily, pulling TK over to the side of the car.
"Of course," Mr. Yagami said. "Get in."
Kari opened the back boor of the car to let the brothers in. TK got in first and smiled at the little girl who seemed to be his age. "Hi, my name is TK," he said.
"I'm Kari..." the girl said, trying to look pleasant, but worry was obvious on her features. She was thinking the same thing Matt was, and as the car sped towards the hospital, both of them were fretting over what exactly had happened.
TK pat Kari's arm. "Tai will be okay. He's strong."
When they got to the hospital, Mrs. Yagami was the first one inside. "Where's my baby?" she cried as her hands slammed down on the receptionist desk.
The nurse jumped slightly. "Ma'am, please calm down. Are the Yagamis?"
"Yes! Yes, we are!"
"Your son is doing fine. He's in good hands. Luckily this young man brought him in just in time."
Yuuko looked over to the seating where the nurse pointed and gasped. "Koushiro?" She recognized the boy as one of their downstairs neighbors. "Koushiro, you were with him when it happened?"
Izzy scratched at the back of his head. "N-no, ma'am, I found him just afterwards... We got here as fast as possible, but I didn't see what happened..."
Matt slid over to where the boy was sitting, frowning deeply. "Was it a Digimon?" he whispered.
"No... it wasn't," Izzy murmured with a frown.
"Please, I want to see him!" Mrs. Yagami cried. Mr. Yagami came up and held his wife's shoulders, trying to calm her down. The nurse nodded and lead them down the hall. The kids were allowed to come as well, but only Kari could actually go in as family. Matt, Izzy, and TK would have to wait their turn. Though the trio didn't get a chance to see Tai, they could hear Mrs. Yagami breaking down into fearful sobs.
Matt bit his lip, turning back to Izzy as they waited outside the room. "So what was it, then? If it wasn't a Digimon..."
"It was a bunch of kids... on Tai's soccer team, apparently," Izzy said with a frown.
Matt visibly paled at that. "Oh, no... Izzy, i-it's not what-"
"Save it, Matt. I know- I've known. But he's really broken up about it..."
"Oh..." Matt looked down at his feet.
"Taichi, sweetheart, please tell us what happened."
As much as his mother begged, Tai just kept smiling at her. "It's no big deal mom," he kept insisting. "I just had an accident."
"This isn't an accident!" she practically screamed at him. "Somebody hurt you!"
Kari walked over to her brother's side, frowning and putting her small hand on top of his. "Big brother... there's a time for secrets and a time when you're more important, y'know."
Outside, Matt was clenching his free hand into a fist. "Izzy, do you know where those kids went?"
"No Matt, why?" the redhead asked quizically.
Tai just kept smiling. That's what he always did. Smile. If he smiles enough, then everything would be okay. Everyone would feel better. That's what his smile did. It helped others to feel better. Only... This time it wasn't working as well. Yuuko kept crying and Susumu tried to convince his son to talk. Even Kari was latched onto his hand and looking at him with big soft doe eyes. After nearly an hour of their son not talking, the Yagamis decided they needed a break. They would get coffee from downstairs and then come back. In the mean time, the other children were allowed in. The three boys shuffled in. Izzy was just frowning concernedly, able to gather that Tai had refused to speak by the worried wails of his mother. Matt was immediately at Tai's side, not really sure what to say. There was silence before he murmured, "I... guess you were right to worry."
"I wish I wasn't." An IV drip fed blood into his left arm. His hands were bandaged from defensive wounds. Tai's bushy hair was now held up by the ace wrap around his head rather than his normal goggles. More bandages were secured around his chest and his right leg was set up in a splint beneath the sheets. "It was really stupid of me to go in there," he said. "I kept telling myself that you were right, and that I was worried over nothing, but then they cornered me. Practically the whole team was there. It felt like they had been waiting for me or something." Tai shivered. "Uyeda told everyone he saw you leave my house this morning after you slept over. I... tried to convince them I wasn't what they thought I was. I told them we weren't fagging it up, that we weren't queers, but..." He cried now. "They were right. That's exactly what I am."
Matt looked guilty, feeling his heart sink when he saw that Tai had started to cry. He stepped closer to the boy's bed and wiped away his tears, kissing his forehead gently. "I'm sorry, Taichi." Izzy blushed awkwardly, looking at the door.
TK looked up at his brother with wide, curious eyes. "Matt, how come you just did that?"
Matt swallowed slightly, looking at Tai and then back at his brother. Well, Tai's little sister knew. It was only fair. "Because Tai's my boyfriend, TK."
This only seemed to confuse him more. "Your what? Boy friend? Well... yeah... but, Izzy and Joe are your boy friends too. You don't kiss them."
"That's... not the same thing, TK," Matt said, laughing awkwardly. He scratched at the back of his head, looking at the ceiling. How to put it...
"I don't get it. Only families kiss each other, and mommies and daddies." TK tugged on Matt's shirt insistently. "How come you kissed Tai? What's that mean?"
"Um, well... B-because we... love each other," he said quietly, looking over at Tai. "Right?"
Tai nodded. "Right."
TK just frowned. "But I love Tai too. So does Sora, Mimi, Joe, and Izzy. We all love Tai. Tai loves all of us too."
The brunet sighed. Kid sure wasn't making this easy. "TK... Your brother and I love each other in the same special way that moms and dads love each other."
TK seemed to think this over, his little face scrunched up in deep concentration. Finally a little light bulb seemed to go off. "Ohhhhh..."
"Yeah, like that." Matt said, nodding his head. He wanted to take Tai's hand, but he was too wary of those bandages. Izzy was looking at the floor, still silenced with the awkwardness of the situation. "Does... that make sense, TK?"
The blond child nodded. "So which one of you is the mommy and which one is the daddy?" he asked innocently.
Matt coughed slightly, shrugging his shoulders. "I uh, dunno."
"Mommies are girls," TK said matter-of-factly. "Which one of you is gonna be a girl when you grow up? I don't think it's gonna be Tai. He likes sports. Matt, you have pretty eyes, like mommy. So I bet it'll be you." He pouted. "Aw man, that means you'll be my big sister instead. Just don't kiss me and leave lipstick all over my face like Aunt Laura, okay?"
"I'm not gonna change into a girl, TK..." Matt groaned, his face turning red. "I'll still be your big brother."
TK threw his hands up in the air in the cutest little frustrated fashion. "Then I just don't get you two!" he huffed. "What's left? Two daddies?"
"Well, yeah, basically," Matt said, nodding. "That's pretty much exactly it, TK."
"Oh..." TK climbed up onto the bed and sat there, staring at his shoes. "Well, that's okay. Why did those boys beat Tai up, then? Do they not like dads? Don't they have dads? Maybe their dads are mean to them, but Tai's not mean. Why would they do this, Matt?"
"We don't... really know, TK," Matt said quietly. "I don't know what their problem is. They probably have some reason, but I doubt it's good. Some people just don't understand."
"Because being gay is wrong, and they want to make sure I know it," Tai mumbled as he rolled onto his side. "I'm starting to think I believe them."
"But, Tai!" Matt stammered, looking over at the boy with wide, surprised eyes. "How could you possibly believe them!?"
"How can they have so much hatred for something that only a handful of people think is right? You didn't hear the things they said to me, Matt. All the things they called me... It hurt..."
"It doesn't make them right because they can make you hurt, Tai..." Matt said, sitting next to the boy with a frown. He hesitantly touched Tai's shoulder, looking genuinely worried.
Brown eyes settled upon the girl who had been standing next to the bed in silence the entire time. "Kari... Take TK and go to the playroom down the hall, okay?"
Kari was watching with big, sad brown eyes, but she nodded and took the other boy's wrist, leading him out, Patamon following after them and perching himself atop TK's hat before he walked out the door. "Do you want me to leave?" Izzy asked.
"You seem pretty uncomfortable," Tai mumbled. "If you don't want to be here, then you don't have to be."
"Sorry.," Izzy said, bowing his head slightly. "I'll be outside." The redheaded boy stepped out of the room, leaving Tai and Matt alone, save Tsunomon, who was still nestled in the crook of Matt's arm.
Tai was silent for a few minutes. He was trying to hold back tears, but the pain killers the doctor gave him was making any sort of effort really hard. "I've never been so embarrassed in my entire life," he whispered sadly.
"I... I'm sorry, Tai." Matt said again, looking at the crisp white sheets.
"After every game, you know what I hear?"
"They're all in the locker room, showering, and then I come in. 'Backs to the wall, guys. Here comes the curry queen. Protect your ass,'" he choked painfully.
Matt swallowed dryly, murmuring, "That must be hard to deal with."
"'Don't get too close. You'll catch his queer.' They write 'gay boy' inside my underwear so I have to go buy new pairs so my mom won't see. They call me a trick and bet on how easy I am. I just..." Tai shook with a quiet cry. "I don't feel like I can do it anymore. I can hear them laughing and shouting at me. Hitting me and kicking me. Just wailing on me. One of them... One of them... he..."
"...He what?" Matt pried quietly, his voice barely above a whisper. He couldn't imagine having to go through that. His was such a well-guarded secret that he'd never dealt with anything like this.
Tai bit back a sob. "He stuck his finger in my mouth and asked me how I like it. He scratched my tongue and shoved it all the way back in my throat. He said he bet I liked it, like a guy's dick."
Matt clenched his fist, a growl forming in his throat. "And these are all the same guys that did this to you today?"
"Y-yes..." Tai nodded, sobbing quietly.
"Then they're going down."
Tai gasped, looking over his shoulder suddenly. "Wh-what?"
Anger was evident on Matt's features, and his fist shook. "Anyone who does this to you deserves a taste of their own medicine."
"M-Matt, no... Don't. There's like... ten of them. You'll get hurt. Please..."
"I'll fight them one by one if I have to!" Matt hissed, his eyes dancing like enraged blue fire. "There is no way I'm letting them get away with this!"
Tai shook his head. "They already have, Matt. They've gotten away with it for almost a year. Don't get yourself into trouble with them. They aren't worth it, right?"
"They may not be, but you are." Matt said, looking down at the other boy. "It wouldn't matter if you were hurt like this by a bunch of kids or adults or even Digimon. Whoever they are, I'm going to make them pay."
"But the team-"
Tai started to protest, only to be cut off by his father. "So is that it?" Susumu asked. "Your soccer mates beat you up because..." He looked between his son and the blond sitting in the bed with him. "Because you like this boy?"
Matt's eyes went wide, and he looked over at the door, only now noticing that Tai's father had returned. "M-Mr. Yagami! I- uh..." Matt's throat went dry, and he found himself at a loss for words.
"Son..." The man looked almost saddened. "Why didn't you come to us sooner?"
"That's right," said Mrs. Yagami who stepped out from behind her husband. "We could have been helping you."
"Y-You mean you don't hate me now?" the boy asked.
"What? Of course not!" Yuuko cradled Tai's face in her hands. "You are our son. We could never hate you. While I think you're still a bit young to be deciding on these feelings, I'm not going to tell you that you're wrong."
Susumu stepped forward. "And while it may not be what we expected, we're hardly disappointed." Matt smiled, though he felt very awkward and out of place. At least both of Tai's parents were okay with it. With everything the boy was going through... it was definitely comforting to know his family was supportive.
Yuuko smiled at her son and then at Matt. "Well, Yamato, you seem like a very nice boy. Are you nice to Tai?"
Matt looked surprised, scratching at the back of his head sheepishly. "Uh, yes? I'd like to think so."
"Good." She looked back at her son. "Taichi, are you nice to Yamato?"
The boy rolled his eyes and grinned. "Yes, mom, we're nice to each other. Sometimes we fight, but guys do that."
Yuuko nodded. "Well as long as neither of you come home with a black eye."
Matt laughed nervously, nodding. "Of course not." It was then that a thought suddenly came to his mind. Since it was as if no time had passed while they were in the Digital World... it must've seemed like they got together during that one day they went to camp but got sent home. He hoped that Tai's parents didn't think this was something that would be over just as fast as it started...
"Good," she said again, nodding. "The nurse told us on our way back in that visiting hours were just about over. If you'd like, we can drop you and your little brother off at home. Koushiro is coming as well. He lives in the same building. You met him at camp right? Well, just know that you're welcome at our place anytime. I'll even make you boys snacks."
Matt nodded, standing up. "Yes, we did. Thank you. My brother and I don't live in the same place, though, if you wouldn't mind dropping us off at my mother's house. I'd rather see him get home safe, and then I'll walk to my dad's."
"I can take you to your dad's place, also," Susumu offered. "I don't mind."
"If you're sure," Matt said, nodding thankfully. He then turned to Tai, offering a small smile. "I'll see you later then, okay?"
Tai reached out and took Matt's hand, giving it a squeeze. "Don't worry about me. Keep playing the game for me, okay? Tell the others I'll be back in soon." His parents looked puzzled for only a second or two. They figured it must be some game all kids at camp came up with. Really, the Yagamis were just glad their son had made some more friends. They knew Tai had the ability to draw people to himself and they were glad of that.
Yuuko leaned over to kiss her son on the forehead. "Your dad will be back once we're done dropping everyone off. I'll put Kari to bed and then I'll come in a few hours after so your dad can go to work."
"Okay, mom. Thanks."
Matt just nodded, holding Tai's hand for a moment before he reluctantly let go. "Yeah, don't worry. I will." With that, he let himself be lead out of the room by Tai's parents. Izzy was right outside the door, and they all then set off down the hallway to get TK and Kari and head home. Though worry had set heavily on Matt's mind, and rage still flickered in the back of it, the acceptance from Tai's parents had given him momentary ease.
"Sorry," Izzy said again, his hands in his pockets.
"It's not your fault," Matt murmured, looking over at Izzy as he took the hand of his little brother, who'd been instantly wanting his brother's support.
"I should have guessed that the act of splitting up would jeopardize us."
"I said it's fine," Matt said firmly. "Don't blame yourself, Izzy."
"If you insist," Izzy said, brushing back his red hair. "Well, we have a kid to find, right?"