A/N: This is probably a weird story to read – it's definitely a strange one to write but I SOO SOOO SOOO wanted to write Matt & Tai on two sides of a war. Yolei comes in this part – this is KenxYolei because I hate stories where every character is in a gay relationship. Most of the other characters in this story will probably be hetero relationships too.
Oh, btw – TK will definitely be straight.
There is no MattxTai action in this part. According to the plan, that's next in Chapter 5
Tai pulled his threadbare coat tighter around himself as he walked down the dimly alley towards his home. It had been another fruitless day of wandering, hoping maybe someone would hire him for some menial labor with no luck. Unable to face going home empty handed to the gaunt faces of his mother and sister, he went through the butcher's dumpster and picked out the bones and entrails that were thrown out. He wrapped up his meager findings in some newspaper and hoped that his mother would be able to do something with them.
A couple of months passed since Matt proposed to him – the civil war finally started two weeks ago. At first, Tai was thrilled that the Japanese masses were fighting back against its oppressive government. Then more concrete concerns began to set in – like finding work and putting food on the table. Matt had been right about one thing – construction work came to a dead stop as soon as the war began. A lot of small businesses also shut down. Of the few businesses still left, none were hiring, especially not someone like Tai. He was as much the poster-child for the rebels as Matt was for the government - no business wanted to be labeled rebel-sympathizer and risk being bombed.
Tai had almost reached the pawn-shop when he noticed the strange figure stumbling into the dark alley behind him, away from the busier main road. The person was wrapped up in several layers, a scarf wound around their face – Tai couldn't tell if it was a man or a woman. But the figure was having a hard time staying standing, collapsing at the side of the building just at the mouth of the alley.
He heard the whistles before he saw the army soldiers run past the mouth of the alley – obviously they were looking for someone – probably a rebel. Most likely the stranger passed out in the alley – and judging from how many soldiers were running around, the rebel must have been someone important.
He had two choices: he could ignore the person and go inside – lock the doors and hope that the soldiers would not bother him or his family. But if the soldiers found the rebel hiding in the alley, there was no telling what they could do to everyone who lived there. This was one of the poorest neighborhoods, populated by the darkest people in Odaiba – there would be no protests if the army burnt the whole place down. His other choice was to help the rebel. Ofcourse if he was caught, he would be killed on the spot, no questions asked.
Tai was galvanized into action as he saw one of the army soldiers stare a little too long into the alley. They can't find a rebel here! He thanked the dim lighting and stayed close to the shadows as he made his way to the slumped body near the mouth of the alley. As he got closer, he saw the long straggly purple hair hanging out from below the cap and got a clearer look at the pale face; it was a woman. The rebel let out a little moan of pain as Tai dropped by her side.
"Quiet," he whispered almost inaudibly. "The soldiers are right around the corner."
He lifted her slight frame into his arms and slinked towards his apartment as quietly as he could. He paused at the back-door to the pawn-shop, checking to make sure no one else was in the alley before he slipped noiselessly inside. He climbed as silently as he could to the second story apartment where his sister waited for him on the stoop, kerosene lamp in her hand. The woman in his arms had passed out by now but her hands were still wrapped around a big gray bag she clutched to her chest.
"Who is that Tai? What is she doing here?" Kari's voice was a harsh whisper as she saw the bundle in her brother's arms. She quickly shut the door behind them.
Tai gently lowered the woman to the couch then turned to look at the terrified faces of his mother and sister.
"I don't know who she is but army soldiers were looking for her. You know I couldn't let them find her here – both of you remember what happened to 33rd Street when they found that rebel leader hiding there."
"So what are we going to do with her?" His mother asked.
Tai didn't know and he admitted it. He reluctantly moved onto the other topic that needed to be addressed: "I had to go through the butcher's dumpster tonight." He pulled out the ratty newspaper containing almost inedible meat and gave it to his mother. She would know he hadn't found work today either. The 12th day in a row.
Mrs. Kamiya took the package from him and silently got to work in the kitchen. With gunshots outside, they could not afford to draw attention to themselves by turning on lights. Instead, the drapes were tightly closed and there were 2 kerosene lamps burning in the house. One in the kitchen where Mrs. Kamiya used the entrails and bones to make a thin stew. The other in the living room, where Kari fumed silently as she and Tai tended to the rebel woman's injuries.
She was dirty and scratched up but mostly unharmed, except for a deep gash on her leg. When they had stripped her of her clothing to clean her wounds, Tai could tell that she was thin but relatively well-nourished. She was younger than he first thought – looked to be about Kari's age, 19. Her pale face was pretty; her natural light purple hair was the sort of thing President Purple would call 'uniquely beautiful'.
"Why is a Foreign-Jap like her running from the army soldiers?" Kari voiced his thoughts exactly. They'd both have to wait till morning for answers though because there was no way the woman would wake up now, passed out as she was from exhaustion.
Their mother called them to eat in the kitchen and the three made a quick meal out of the entrail stew and the last of their bread. Mrs. Kamiya took some stew over to the girl afterwards and forced some down her throat as Tai and Kari looked through her bag to see if they could find out who she was. There was no identity card in there or on her person. But they found building plans with detailed bombing guides and lists for future air-strikes, with the government seal on them.
So this girl had stolen war plans from the army – no wonder they were chasing her. Tai and Kari shared a look between themselves. This was no ordinary rebel. They silently agreed to keep that detail from their mother – no need for her to worry when there was nothing she could do.
The next morning, Tai woke at sunrise to the smell of warm bread in his nostrils; he knew he must be still dreaming. His family had not had breakfast in months. But when the enticing aroma wouldn't leave after a few moments, he got out of bed and went to the kitchen to see what was happening.
He was almost sure he was hallucinating. His mother was slathering delicious strawberry jam onto thick slices of nutty bread.
"Tai, you're awake!" There was a lightness in his mother's voice he hadn't heard in a while.
"Wow mom – where did that come from?" He looked pointedly at the heat still rising off the bread.
"Ermmm… that was from me… to say thank you for what you did last night." Tai was momentarily startled by the voice coming from the living room.
"You're the one who brought me here, right?" The young purple-haired woman was sitting up in the sofa, smiling gratefully at him.
"Yes – I'm Tai."
"I know. Your mom said you found me in the alley and carried me up. Thank you. You probably saved my life." They looked awkwardly at each other for a second before the woman extended her hand forward for a handshake.
"I'm Yolei, by the way."
"So why is a Foreign-Jap like you acting like a rebel?" The question came from Kari, who came out of her room to stand in front of the couch and look down suspiciously at Yolei.
"Not all of us Foreign-Japs agree with what the government is doing." She took a moment to compose herself and then told them her story. "Before the war started, I fell in love with a Japanese man who worked in my dad's lab. We were secretly married. My dad works for the army and was not happy about our relationship when he found out. He fired my husband, and locked me in the house – he tried to force us to stay apart and told me never to see him again. But we were able to communicate through a friend who was a courier."
She struggled to keep her voice steady. "The other day, I overheard my dad talking to one of the Commanders in the army about bombing a rebel base in Hiroshima. I was so frightened - the last message I received from my husband came from Hiroshima. So I snuck into my dad's office two days ago and stole whatever plans I could find. I ran away from home."
"Dad didn't take long to figure out what I did because within a couple of hours, there were 'Wanted' signs of me everywhere. Ken, my husband, told me in one of his messages that there is a safe-house somewhere in this neighborhood that I could come to if I was ever in danger from the army. I must get to that house and get the plans to the rebels as soon as possible so they know what the army is planning."
"Hey here's some delicious breakfast thanks to our guest," Mrs. Kamiya's voice was forcedly cheerful as she brought over the dish piled with bread. Tai could feel his mother's eyes on him as she turned to hand him a slice, willing him not to do anything stupid or make any promises.
Nothing else was said about the topic at breakfast; instead Yolei told them stories of her childhood – and her marriage.
After breakfast, Tai went to his room to change into something he could wear out for the day. He was surprised when his mother entered the room after a perfunctory knock, not waiting for him to respond.
"Don't you DARE think about joining the rebels," Her eyes were blazing with anger and then softened with pain. "Kari & I already lost your father – we can't lose you too."
"Mom…," Tai came up to his mother and wrapped his arms around her. She sobbed into his neck and clutched at his shoulders, trying to make him stay. He knew he had to make her understand that this was the only option left. "We don't have any food – we don't have any money. No one is hiring you for cleaning or laundry. There is no job-site that will take me. If this keeps up, we're going to starve. Or Kari will end up on the streets selling herself for a crust of bread. Please don't ask me to watch us go through this."
Mrs. Kamiya calmed down for a second. "You have another choice." She looked up into his dark face. Her daughter may have been more conventionally attractive but her son was something special. His huge dark eyes stared at her out of his narrow face with his high cheekbones and heart-shaped mouth. She understood why Yamato Ishida would want him. She took Tai's left hand in hers, pressing her fingers against the ring and tried to get him to see reason. "Don't deny Matt anymore. I know it will kill your pride to do this. But please… this is for all of our survival."
Four months later, Mrs. Kamiya was just finishing up a batch of laundry when she heard a knock on the door. It was the middle of the day so it could not be Tai; Kari had recently found some work in a production line at a steel factory so it was not her either. She dreaded admitting it to herself but knew she had no choice but to answer the insistent knocking.
"Hello Matt." The blond looked exactly as he had the last time she had seen him. Dressed in army greens, tall, broad-shouldered but slender with long arms and legs. He looked like the picture of health. So unlike the rest of the people in this neighborhood. His hair, skin and eyes were not the only reason he stood out.
"Mrs. Kamiya, I'm sure you know why I have come. I know Tai probably won't be home but I could not wait…," He looked around hopefully.
She took a deep breath and readied herself. "Tai has joined the rebels." Her son would not be happy with what she had done but she knew that if Tai was caught by the army, Matt would be his best chance at survival.
Matt did not react. "I see. And when did this happen?"
"Two months after you joined the rebels, there was a young woman who was running from the army – he helped her escape and has not returned since." She left the part about him routinely bringing back supplies for them and their neighbors out. There was no need to help the army catch him.
She hoped fervently that her instincts had been right about Matt not hurting her or Kari. Not only had she known this boy since he was child, Matt also desperately loved Tai and would not do anything to alienate him.
"Well… Mrs. Kamiya, the right course of action would have been to report this to the army ages ago. However since you have not seen him for many months and since you have not been harboring a rebel yourself, I suppose we can let this small incident slide for once. I won't be taking up any more of your time then." He turned around to go but just before the door shut behind him, he whispered.
"Tell your son he is fighting against the inevitable."
TK could see the anger radiating off his brother and commander as he came down the stairs from the shabby apartment building. "What happened?"
Matt didn't even bother to look at TK. "Order a constant guard around this house. Set up a standing order for any dark-skinned brunette rebel to be brought to my tent immediately following capture," He clenched his fists. "I want him caught by the end of the month."