A/N: After watching Toradora! for the second time, I couldn't quite help myself from writing a fic about them. The story will delve on the first year Taiga came home to Ryuuji, and the obstacles they have to undertake and the ghosts they have to face before getting married.
Disclaimer applies to other chapters:
I do not own Toradora! Whatever events that will take place in this story come from nothing more than my imagination. I haven't read the light novel, and I haven't read the manga. Everything I will be writing here is based purely on the anime.
The First Day of the Rest of Their Lives.
There is something in this world which no one has ever seen.
It is soft and sweet.
If it is spotted, I'm sure everyone will want to have it,
Which is why no one has ever seen it.
For this world has hidden it quite well, so that it is difficult to obtain.
But, there will come a day when it is discovered by somebody,
And only those who should obtain it will be able to find it.
That is all.
Takasu Ryuuji had always considered himself quite patient – almost to the point of over-tolerating – when it came to everything concerning his future. Perhaps his lack of aggressiveness was what made his homeroom teacher worry so much about his career assessment form when he was in his second year in high school. He did not understand how she could demand a person to figure out the rest of his life in a matter of minutes, more so write it down on a stupid piece of paper. And when he finally did open up to her that he was not financially capable of entering a college after graduating, she had been more than adamant about convincing him to change his mind.
The truth was, Ryuuji never really thought about getting into a college, especially when it didn't really sit well with him that his mother showed the potential of starting odd jobs on top of her night job. And he didn't even want to begin dealing with that. His family was poor, and so he never really made any assumptions about Ya-chan's insistence on a "fabulous" life after college.
He looked across the table to the tiny, light-haired girl hacking her way through a plate of pancakes with a vengeance, and felt, for once, how happy it would make him if he were able to give this wonderful creature the "fabulous" future she deserved.
Aisaka Taiga never demanded anything from him. Majority of the time she was spoiled, and more often than not she was greedy, but she was never, never selfish. She was the kind of person who preferred putting her friends before her own feelings, even when it hurt her the most. The truth was, Ryuuji wasn't at all aware of what had happened the night before they ran away a year ago… Minori had said a lot of things he couldn't quite understand, and then, it was just so very Taiga to have acted on her own and run away to her mother's place a day after they finally find out they were actually in love with each other, and had in fact been in love for a time now. They had kept in touch through text messages and random phone calls, but Taiga being Taiga, she hadn't actually been elaborate when it came to her life with her mother.
She did mention, however, that she had been living with her mother and her mother's new husband, along with a half-brother. When he had asked her if she was having fun, or how her day was, she would end up finding excuses to cut the call short, or turn the tables around and interrogate him about his day, and his life. It had been frustrating, but Ryuuji knew how Taiga could be quite secretive about family matters, and insistent on solving her problems alone. She was good at running away.
It was a blessing Ryuuji was an expert at chasing after people, or so Ami had very articulately pointed out to him once upon a time.
He guessed that was why he had been a bit angry at Taiga when she didn't even give him a chance to chase after her when she'd decided to leave him. And it was so like her to appear on his graduation day, acting as if they hadn't been apart for a year. He had found her in the broom locker, plotting a surprise attack on him. But he already knew her too well. The first time he'd had a major encounter with her, she'd rolled out of the same broom locker. She was clumsy and had placed an empty love letter in his bag by mistake. A small piece of said empty love letter now covered a hole she had personally left when she broke in and entered his house in the middle of the night. The more he thought about it, the more he felt like smiling. This led to that, but only the gods could know how they ended up falling in love with each other in the process. Or was it really a mystery? Everyone seemed to have known it – Minori, Ami, Yusaku – everyone. Except Taiga and Ryuuji themselves. And it took all three of his friends to show them the hard way that they were made for each other.
"If you think I'm giving you any of these pancakes if you give me puppy-dog eyes, think again, Ryuuji," Taiga growled as she stuffed a generous amount of pancake into her mouth, maple syrup dripping down her chin. She quickly wiped her face with a paper napkin.
Ryuuji rested his elbow on the table, chin on his hand, and gave her a rueful look. "You can have your pancakes. I just hope you'd have room for dinner."
She brightened at that. "What's for dinner?"
It was also very Taiga-like to assume that she would be having a free meal at Ryuuji's place. "Whatever you want, so long as this time you'd come over. Ya-chan would be so happy to see you."
Taiga's smile widened, her cheeks puffing up in the way Ryuuji remembered it, reminding him of a very happy hamster. "I've missed Ya-chan…"
He raised his eyebrows at her. "It's your fault for disappearing for a year without saying goodbye properly. The least you could have done was stay for dinner." He was not blaming her. He knew that talking about something that happened a year ago would only make Taiga angry, and the last thing Ryuuji wanted was to argue with her. He was surprised, however, when her hand put down the fork on her plate and she looked up at him grudgingly.
"Sorry," she said quietly, the red on her face deepening. She began playing with a long lock of her hair absently. Then, as if in denial of emotions that came close to embarrassment, she turned to him quickly and bared her teeth. "If you're so keen on complaining – "
"I'm not complaining," Ryuuji cut her off gently as he reached for the one hand she had placed near her plate. She made a move to swat him away, but he caught her tiny fingers between his long ones and squeezed before letting go. She quickly hid her hands underneath the table. "I'm not complaining, Taiga. I'm just saying that I wish – before you come up with any huge, drastic decision in your life from now on – that you'd let your family know before you rush in head first. Ya-chan was worried about you." He looked away, his turn to be embarrassed. "I was worried about you."
Taiga was silent for a few moments before she started hastily shoveling more pancake into her mouth. She was looking for an excuse not to talk. Yes, she was an expert in finding excuses for everything. And then she would run away when she got stumped. Just like that day a year ago. She had disappeared, leaving a mere letter in her apartment, and a paper bag full of important documents and a lone sock that nearly drove him crazy when he couldn't find its buddy. It was annoying that she could assume he would understand her motives without an explanation. But what made him wonder more was the fact that he did understand.
"Don't ever disappear from me again," Ryuuji whispered hoarsely.
Taiga noisily chewed on her food, swallowed hard and pointed at him with her fork. "I did what I had to do," she snapped.
"We could have done it together," he reasoned.
"I… I can handle it on my own."
"But you don't have to. You should have known better when I asked you to marry me," Ryuuji said forcefully, and he snapped the fork from her, gently resting it on the plate. He once again snatched her hand, this time not letting go. "And I should have known better when you agreed. Fine, if you want to run away again by yourself. I just want you to know, that if you do, I will chase after you. And I will catch you. And I will bring you back. Even if it involves throwing you over my shoulder."
That had blood rushing to Taiga's face in a hurry. She tried to pull her hand free, but Ryuuji wouldn't let go. "I'm sorry…" she said again. Then she nodded. "I'm counting on you, then. To bring me back, I mean. If I ever do… you know… run away."
Ryuuji had not expected her to give up so easily. Taiga never gave up without a good fight. Was it going to be like this from now on, he wondered? A part of him felt kind of disappointed. He was counting on a good argument, actually. He gave her hand a squeeze. "I've missed you," he said silently.
Taiga's eyes widened and she kicked his shin from under the table, making Ryuuji bite down a scream that almost escaped his mouth as the pain zigzagged through his leg, straight to his brain. Taiga pulled her hand from his grip. "Idiot! Can't you think of a better place to say romantic things instead of a coffee shop? Anyone could be looking…" she looked left, then right, as if expecting people to be pointing at them and laughing. Unfortunately for her, they were the only ones in the coffee shop at the moment.
Ryuuji had to smile down at her. It was a wonder how a person could stay the same, yet different, in a span of a year. Right now, all he wanted to do was stare at his girlfriend for hours to make sure her face was imprinted in his brain. He had been waiting for this for a year. He could not even believe she was here in front of him right now.
"Don't stare too much. You're making me insecure…" Taiga protested.
"Of course." Ryuuji looked down at his wristwatch – at his grandfather's wristwatch – and sighed. "The supermarket has a half-price sale until six. If we hurry, we might be able to get our hands on a few good pork chops. How do pork cutlets sound to you?" He looked up from his watch and was surprised to see Taiga looked at him with glassy, round eyes. "What?" he asked uncertainly.
Taiga, as if in a trance, slowly smiled at him and said, "Pork cutlets… sound wonderful."
"Great. I'll make the best cutlets you've ever tasted in your life." He noticed Taiga had somehow lost weight, especially in the face. It was not going to be a surprise if he found out that she had not been eating as much while they were apart. God forbid she had been eating noodles out of those Styrofoam cups… The thought of the lack of any nutritional value of those horrible things nearly made him shiver in horror.
"Ryuuji?" Taiga suddenly spoke, this time it was her turn to reach out for his hand.
"Hm?" he asked, looking down at her, puzzled.
Taiga squeezed two of his fingers tightly, then looked up at him with those large eyes of hers and said quietly, "I missed you too."
And that was all it had to take for Ryuuji to melt in his seat as memories of last year washed over him like a warm blanket.
It doesn't matter how long it would take. Our families were never that perfect to begin with, but I promise you, now that I know you're willing to spend the rest of your life with me, I will do everything – everything – in my power to make ours perfect. Or maybe not exactly perfect, but I promise it will be complete.
Uncharacteristically feeling bold, he leaned down and brought her hand to his lips for a light kiss. And uncharacteristically, Taiga didn't pull away, she didn't protest, and she didn't curse.
Instead, she blushed. And it reminded Ryuuji of how a sunset would look like after a storm.
Until he felt her kick him in the shin again painfully, and it reminded him of how Taiga never liked public displays of affection. While Ryuuji had grown up with a mother who was never at all stingy with hugs, kisses and the occasional cuddling, Taiga grew up mostly by herself, deprived of parental affection that she didn't even know she wanted. Aside from that one night when she rarely showed her thirst for intimacy when they shared their first kiss, it was no surprise for Ryuuji that Taiga was uncomfortable with affection that could possibly be seen by others.
But in reality, Ryuuji didn't care. He was holding her hand after a year of being apart, and it would take more than a kick in the shin to have him let go.