No matter the consequences, we did our job. I have to remember that.
The trek back to the real world is uneventful. Izzy is there to greet us and we're all able to shuffle out of the lab and into Joe's van before anyone notices something is wrong with us. I get an earful from our resident medic, who reminds me of all the times I've done something rash and deliberately dangerous just for the sake of doing so. I assure him that wasn't my intent at all, and that I'm just glad to be home. Hey, one out of two ain't bad.
Matt's in luck, his ribs aren't broken, though they are badly bruised. Joe's diagnosis is for him to take it easy. Which will screw up a number of things, including band practice and any attempts at getting past third base with Sora. It's the little things in life you appreciate.
I'm kidding. I'm fine. It's not that big a deal. Besides, I have enough on my plate.
Speaking of which, she's there to greet us as well; looking tired and worried and generally not pleased with our little adventure. She keeps back with Izzy while Joe gives us a quick look over: a checkup here means no trip to the hospital which means no public record of a digidestined returning from the Digiworld looking like we've been through the grinder. Many people still view us as children, and if they saw their children coming home with knife wounds and the like…
At least we're coming home though.
Joe tells me to change the bandage at least twice a week, keep it out of strange lotions or chemicals, and in general, take it easy for the next few days. Wounds from the Digital world heal slow, but they usually heal completely, and unless I pick at it I shouldn't scar. Izzy asks a million questions at once; the largest of which being where is his cross-dimensional clunker phone. I… honestly don't remember what happened to it. He's rightly peeved.
"You're both big stupid jerks!" She tells us between tears after Joe officially gives us an all clear on his rush job diagnostics exam. She slaps us both, hard across the face, before she embraces us; me first hard beneath the ribcage, and then Matt, softer, delicate, with her head buried in his chest. We're both probably looking as silent treatments from her for a month or so. Totally deserved.
Matt sooths everything over the way only he can with her, and we plan our next move. For now we head home and try and pretend nothing happened. But we're going to have to have a meeting about this. MAGAMI needs to give us answers, children need to be mourned, and a mutated Digifreak needs to be found.
We don't talk about Rei. To anyone.
Joe says he'll drive me over once my arm is properly bandaged, and for that I thank him. Sora takes Matt home, fussing like a wife for her husband. Matt and I share a glance before he disappears in the back of her car. No words need to be said.
I call my parents on the way over and let them know I'm coming to visit. As usual, there are a million questions at once. Typically, I don't come home unless something has happened so they're right to worry. But I tell them, quite simply, that I've had a long day and don't feel like riding the train all the way to the other side of Tokyo just for kicks. It's not a complete lie, so I feel better about myself. Dad tells me he'll leave the door unlocked.
It's pretty late when I get to my parents home. I tease Joe a little before I wave goodbye – he's gotten a cute girlfriend with glasses who rides bikes for a living. It's hilarious watching a grown man squirm. And then I make the long climb up to the apartment I grew up in.
My parents are sitting at the dinner table when I greet them, anxious of course. I tell them that I dived headfirst into some bushes after a soccer ball and a stray limb pierced my arm. They don't believe me, but they don't pry any further. At this point they simply assume that: A.) all my scrapes and bruises come from the Digital World. B.) That as long as there is a modem around me I will somehow find a way into it. And C.) There's nothing they can do about it.
I suppose it could be worse. At least they don't know about me Rei.
I sigh. Things in our world are about to get really complicated.
I pass my sisters room without even the inkling of going in and teasing her. I flop headfirst onto the couch in the living room and close my eyes. I'm too tired to have any real fun tonight. I'll probably hide a fake roach in her drawer tomorrow morning or something.
At this point I remember the quiz tomorrow, and let myself groan, once.
I sit up and pull out the notes from my back pocket. They're dusty, wrinkled, torn and barely legible. I sit up and try to read over them anyway. A part of me wants nothing more than to close my eyes and forget this world. A world of boring people living boring lives. A part of me… a large part of me tells me that I've got nothing to worry about, that one little quiz isn't going to kill me. That there are so many other things I could be doing instead of what I should have done that first night I decided not to come home and go on an adventure. A part of me says that I shouldn't grow up.
I ignore that part of me.
Real or not, I let my emotions get the best of me. And it cost me a friend. It cost me Rei. I can't afford to do that again. I wince from the pain, but I look over my notes anyway. Tomorrow I'll tease my sister. Tomorrow I'll thank my parents for letting me come over. Tomorrow I'll take a quiz. Tomorrow I'll call Sora and preempt her nagging with an apology. Tomorrow I'll thank Matt for being the best friend a guy can have. Tomorrow I will truly mourn Rei.
Heck, tomorrow I may even eat lunch with Ami Kitajima.
All these thoughts can wait till morning. Right now, in this moment, I am recovering from a battle and studying for my class. I've been granted another day of in this place, in this world I still call home. I don't have to chase down adventure. Life is enough. And I have all the time in the world.
My name is Tai Kamiya. I am the Digidestined of Courage.
And I am practicing patience.