Irises and Daffodils
"Tai, wait up!"
I turn around and grin at Yamato as he hurries to catch up with me. He smiles back and brushes that fringe of his out of his eyes with his free hand, the other holding onto his bag to keep it from falling off his shoulder.
"I need to talk to you," he says, the smile fading from his face. Whatever he wants to talk about, he seems to be quite serious about it. That alone is enough to stir my curiosity - he isn't really one to talk about serious stuff with other people if he can help it.
"You're talking to me now, aren't you?" I reply, only to raise one eyebrow at the way he darts his eyes around at the other kids dawdling in front of the school. You'd think the place would empty faster just before a weekend, but there are still plenty of people hanging back.
"Can we go someplace more private?"
I pause with my mouth open, about to invite him back to my place for the afternoon. Something about his manner makes me want to choose somewhere else for this little discussion he has in mind. Besides, Kari will probably be home - and that kinda blows the idea of getting any privacy there.
"How about the park?" I suggest instead, and he nods in agreement.
We start walking, and his pace seems rather slow today, 'cause I have to keep waiting every few steps for him to keep up with me. A bit unusual considering his legs are longer than mine are, even if I do normally walk somewhat fast by most standards.
He isn't in the mood for light conversation, either. Any and all attempts I make are responded to non-verbally or with one-word answers. I give up after a bit and watch him from the corner of my eye - only to catch him doing the same to me.
"Sorry," he says, cheeks flushing a little.
"What's up, Matt?" I press, but by that point we're just a zebra crossing away from the park, and he heads across without looking back at me. "Hey!"
I'm almost surprised that Fate doesn't step in and hit one of us with a car just to torture my curiosity more. We both make it into the park relatively safely, however, and Yamato half-turns to face me, pointing out a grove of trees.
"There?" he asks.
"Sure," I shrug. I'd sit down right here if I thought he'd go for it.
He takes his time walking over there, enough that I'm tempted to yell a him to get a move on, but I know better than to deliberately annoy Yamato - at least when I want to get sensible answers out of him.
"Alright," I drop my bag to the ground and follow right after it. "We're here. Start talking."
The look he gives me speaks volumes of exasperation, but he stops short of rolling his eyes. He lets his bag slide down off his shoulder until it makes a neat landing in the grass by his feet, then folds himself down cross-legged beside it.
And stares at the ground in front of him.
"You know," I say, after five or so minutes have passed, "I think I see your problem here. Yeah, it's all so perfectly clear now, you described it so well, I wonder why I never saw it before - "
"Alright, enough already." He has a nervous half-grin on his face, but soon loses it again. "I'm sorry, Tai. This is just kinda hard for me to say."
"I'll say," I laugh. "You've apologised to me twice in the last ten minutes, and I never would have believed that possible before today. If this is harder for you to say than the word 'sorry', then I know it's a big deal."
There's that half-smile again, right on cue. There it goes again, also on cue. Now if only he could get his lines right without a prompt...
Okay, so that's a start.
"I wanted to tell you how much our friendship means to me," he says, still focused on the grass in front of him.
"It means a lot to me, too," I inform him when it doesn't seem like he's going to say anymore. "You're one of the two best friends I've ever had." No need to tell him who the other person is - he knows it's Sora, although we haven't been quite as close lately...
"I would never deliberately do anything to ruin our friendship," he continues on, almost as if I haven't spoken. His blue eyes lift from the ground to meet my own, and they're filled with an intensity that I've come to expect of him after he's bottled up whatever emotion it is for far too long...
My eyes widen as I suddenly realise just where he might be going with this. There are two possibilities that spring to my mind, and either way -
"Taichi," he breathes, his voice so low I can barely make it out. "You mean more to me than just a friend - even a best friend."
What am I supposed to say? What the hell can I say when my best friend tells me that he loves me?!
I look helplessly back at him - and it seems my expression says enough on its own. He bows his head again and goes back to staring at the grass.
"You don't feel the same way." It's a simple statement, but I can hear the ache in the words. Damn, I can practically feel it.
"I'm sorry, Yamato," I say - and I mean it, I really do. "I just... don't think I could ever care for you in that way. I'm sorry." I'm repeating myself, I know, but I just don't know what else to say. I know damn well how much he's hurting right now, and there's nothing I can do to make it better.
"It's okay - "
"No, it's not okay!" I interrupt him emphatically, kneeling and leaning forward to grasp both his shoulders. He looks up at me, startled, and I can see the growing distance in his eyes - distance that's hurting him, hurting me...
What's worse, though, is the fear I sense in him - fear of me, of how I'm reacting...
"Matt," I sigh, taking the time to breathe deeply and calm down a bit. "Don't tell me it's okay when I know how much it hurts." He looks askance at me, and I'm suddenly reminded of a time back in the Digiworld when he and I were fighting because TK was lost and Matt didn't think I knew how he felt...
He didn't know about Kari at that point in time, and now...
"I - " I can feel myself blushing, damn it. "I kind of had a similar conversation with Sora a while back," I confess. I don't have to say any more than that, thank goodness, because I can see he understands. I let go of his shoulders and settle back down again.
"Tai..." His voice contains way too much compassion for someone whose heart I've just broken. I couldn't even look at Sora without getting bitter for at least a week after we'd had that little talk, even though she'd been really kind about it all. Yamato's a far better guy than I could ever be. Either that or he wasn't nearly as optimistic about his chances as I was - and believe me, optimistic wasn't in my vocabulary that day.
"I'd wondered," he continues after a moment, "about the two of you."
I shrug. "To tell the truth, I'd kind of wondered about you, too," I tell him, then frown as a thought strikes me. "Are you gay or bi, if you don't mind me asking?"
He blinks. "Gay."
"Cool. That's what I thought, but I wanted to be sure."
He stares at me with this funny twist to his mouth, like he's tasted something strange.
"You're really okay with that?"
"With you being gay?" I shrug again. "Why shouldn't I be?"
"The fact that I love you doesn't make you the slightest bit uncomfortable?"
"Actually, it's kinda flattering." He blinks again, I grin. "Hey, I've got the hottest guy in school after me - why shouldn't I be flattered?" I chuckle as a wave of red washes across his face, but sober up quick smart, because there's something that I need to know. "Will you be okay with this?"
He looks me squarely in the eye. "Will you still be my friend?"
"Always," I promise, smiling slightly and offering him my hand. He responds in kind and grips my hand firmly.
"Always," he repeats, and his relief echoes my own.
But at the same time, I can't help feeling...
I blink. Where was I? Oh yeah. Yamato. Our friendship.
"It's Sora, isn't it?"
I'm on the verge of denying it, but one look in his eyes and I give up on any attempt at subterfuge. "Yeah. We've kind of drifted apart since... you know." He nods briefly. "I don't want that to happen to us as well." It's bad enough losing one best friend, but to lose both? I don't want to think about it, but suddenly it's a very real possibility.
"It won't, I swear," he declares, in that manner which says it had better not happen or he's going to kick some arse one way or another. Might well be mine, come to think of it. I almost grin. "But Tai, you're talking about it like there's nothing you can do to fix it."
Uh oh. I can see this one coming.
"You need to talk with her, Taichi. Who knows? Maybe she's missing you, too."
"What if she isn't?" I protest, and he rolls his eyes.
"Oh, come on." He stands, and drags me up to my feet. "We're going to see Sora."
"Yes, now," he copies my tone exactly, and I let him lead me off down the road, stopping him only to change our course bearing from her apartment to her mother's flower shop because that's where I know she'll be...
Man, I can't believe I did that.
Anyway, she's rather surprised to see us both - a happy surprised, which bodes well for me. For us.
Only trouble is, now that we're here I can't think of a single thing to say. Lucky for me Yamato's waxing eloquent today and is willing to help me out. It's the sign of a true friend.
"What would you recommend to give a close friend as a sign of that friendship? After you've drifted apart somewhat?" he asks, poking around the various flowers spread all over the room. He's such a lifesaver. "Tai wants to know." I'm going to kill him. He looks across at me and grins, despite the fact I'm glaring daggers at him. I can't keep it up for long, though.
"Tai?" Sora reclaims my attention. She looks like she wants to say more, but she holds herself back. Instead, she turns to fuss at a bunch of roses.
"Yellow roses are commonly used to signify friendship and remembrance," she tells us, not looking at either of us.
"That sounds good."
"Of course, they can also be used for jealousy..."
"Not so good." Eh, I think I'm in trouble here...
Or maybe not.
Without another word, she picks out a purply-blue and yellow flower and hands it to me.
"Iris," she informs me, her eyes bright. "'Your friendship means so much to me'. It can also mean faith, hope, or wisdom and valour. It's a kind of promise."
"I see." I don't really - I mean, how is anyone supposed to get all that out of one weird-looking flower? But it does mean more or less what I want to say...
Keeping the one she'd given me in hand, I reach over and pull out a couple more, handing one each to Sora and Yamato.
"I'm sorry for, well, avoiding you, Sora."
"I haven't exactly been going out of my way to find you," she says apologetically.
"No, really, it's all my fault."
"Oh, enough already," Yamato cuts in with a grin. "Just don't give up on each other so easily again."
"You're one to talk, Mr. Will-You-Still-Be-My-Friend?!"
"Well..." He shrugs, cheeks faintly flushed.
"Oh, you finally told him?" Sora suddenly asks of Yamato - and we both stare at her.
"You knew?" we both burst out together, turn to gape at each other, then stare at her some more as she smiles ruefully.
"Yeah, I knew," she says quietly. "It was one of the reasons I never..." She stares at the floor, blushing.
"Never what?" I ask. She glances up at me swiftly, then over to Yamato, then back down at the floor.
"What is it?" Yamato prompts in a concerned tone.
"I - " She breaks off, blushing some more, and picks a daffodil our of a bucket. She stares at it a moment before handing it to Yamato, who raises one eyebrow curiously. "In this case - " she clears her throat - " a daffodil stands for... unrequited love."
We all stare at the blindingly yellow flower some more.
I can't help it. I start to laugh. They both look at me like I've gone crazy.
"Think about it," I tell them. "I love you, Sora, but you see me as a brother. You love Matt, but he's gay. Matt loves me, only I'm straight. Did we get our wires crossed or what?"
I see Yamato's lips twitch into an anxious little grin, and Sora begins to chuckle nervously behind her hand. It isn't long before we're all laughing together - laughing until we cry. Well, Sora and I are crying - Yamato's doing his best to pretend that he's just got a speck or two of dust in his eyes.
It's kind of painful, the three of us there together and yet not together, but at the same time it's also soothing. I may not like it much, but I can live without Sora's heart being mine alone. I don't think I could live without her - their - friendship. Sora's like the better part of my heart, Yamato the better part of my soul. Trying to live my life without either would like slow suicide, it seems.
I don't want that happening to me.
I don't want it happening to them.
Still holding my iris, I take their hands in my own, clasping theirs between my own. We all glance at each other, then Yamato adds his remaining hand on top of mine, and Sora places hers atop his. I gaze at our joined hands and smile. Three irises and one daffodil between us.
"Best friends, always," I promise, and they both echo my words and my smile - and my sorrow.
Always is a long time, but I believe we can make it - together.
Or not at all.