I do not own Digimon.
My Title is from a Shakespeare quote, because I like quote titles. :)
A Full-er Summary:
Kari goes to work in a wealthy home to pay for online college courses and befriends her boss's son, TK, who is attending University nearby. When her mental health begins to deteriorate, he steps in to help, but it's soon clear that he's fighting some of his own ghosts as well. AU. Takari. Rated T for discuission of depression, suicide, and other depressing topics and maybe some moderate language.
Kari pulled her hair back as she walked downstairs and tied it quickly into a loose, messy bun. She glanced at the clock in the living room: 10 AM. It was a lot later than she normally got up, but she had been up too long the night before; it was getting harder and harder to sleep. She pushed the thought from her mind and ducked her head as she passed the decorative mirrors in the hall; no need to make things worse. She turned into the kitchen and stiffened at the sound of an unfamiliar voice.
"Yeah, it's just number seven now, then… Yeah, that'll go over well." The voice chuckled. It was a boy, and he was taking pauses between each phrase, talking on the phone.
Her son. Kari had forgotten that he was coming today. Something about this job made her lose track of time, but she remembered now; his mother loved to talk about her boys. He would be coming home for weekends the rest of the summer, until his fall semester of college started, but he had stayed over with a friend her first week, so they had yet to meet.
Anxiety began to pool in her chest, and she could feel her breathing becoming rough in her lungs. She wanted to go back upstairs, to avoid him for as long as possible. She closed her eyes. That's stupid, Kari. He's on the phone; you won't even have to talk to him. The nervousness eased, but it scared her a little how quickly it had come on this time. It won't be a big deal, anyway; he's in college. It isn't like he's going to have to do anything with you.
She slipped into the kitchen quietly and checked the note on the fridge for her. The usual cleaning and cooking plus a small reminder at the end: Takeru should be in sometime this morning, so his bed will need fresh sheets, and you can make the whole pound of pork in the fridge for dinner tonight. Kari swallowed. She would need to marinate the meat for dinner now, and that meant staying in the kitchen. Don't be stupid, she told herself. He's still on the phone. She grabbed the vegetables and ground pork from the fridge and a cutting board from a cabinet and turned around.
"You can't do that, though, if x is…" She glanced briefly over at the boy before getting a knife from another drawer. "I know, but…" His blonde hair hung in his eyes as he held the phone between his shoulder and his chin and studied the thick textbook in front of him. She set a cutting board on the counter, and he glanced up at her. She had seen pictures of him all around the house as she cleaned, and he looked the same: tall, with broad shoulders and strong arms, and handsome, with messy blonde hair that looked good that way. His eyes were more noticeable in person, though, a deep, ocean blue. She tried not to think too hard about it. "I'm sorry; do you need me to move?" he asked. Her eyes darted away from his, and she shook her head quietly.
"'S fine." She began to cut up the cabbage and toss it into a large plastic bag to be marinated with the meat. He returned to his conversation.
"Divide by… that doesn't work, though." The blonde sighed and gripped at the hair at the back of his neck as he studied his paper. His knuckles turned white at whatever his friend's answer was. She glanced over at his book.
"You missed the inverse," she whispered unthinkingly. He looked up at her, and the anxiety she had fought off rushed back.
"What?" Her voice shook a little as she answered.
"Th-That's sine inverse, not sine, s-so the derivative would be one over the square root of-" Why had she said anything at all? Her fingers were trembling again, and her breath came too fast. He scribbled something onto his paper and returned to his conversation on the phone. Good, he thinks you're an idiot now.
"We missed the inverse, so the derivative, yeah," he repeated into the receiver, and she tried to calm herself down as he punched a few numbers into a calculator. She returned to slicing cabbage, concentrating on the speed of her breathing, which was quickly growing out of control. Panic attacks don't make good first impressions, stupid.
"How did you know that?" The volume of his voice startled her, and combined with her already fraying nerves, it made her jump a little. The blade in her hand slit into her finger.
"Ow," she breathed. Idiot, she thought. Stupid, stupid, idiot. Her face flooded with heat.
"Jeez, I'm sorry. Let me get you a band aid." His warm shoulder brushed hers as he walked around her to the bathroom, and she shivered in the air conditioned kitchen. Stupid, stupid, she chanted mentally, rinsing her hand in the sink until he returned. "Here, hold still." He took her wrist in his hand and grabbed a paper towel from the counter to pat it dry. His skin was rough and his grip gentle, warm. She bit her lip as he carefully applied the bandage to her broken skin, and more heat burned her face. Stop it; you look like a mess today and you're acting like a lunatic. "What a lousy way to say hello. You're Hikari, right?"
"Yeah, you're Mr. Takai-" He grinned, amused, and his smile lit up his eyes.
"TK," he cut her off. "You work for my mom, not for me." His eyes dropped to where he was still holding her wrist. "I am… really sorry about your hand," he added. She blushed when his grip loosened and his warm fingers brushed over her arm as his hand dropped away. His gaze remained fixed on her face; he was the kind of person who was confident and comfortable enough to hold eye contact with anyone without feeling awkward. She, on the other hand… Her eyes busily studied her bandaged hand.
"It isn't your fault. I just didn't realize you were off the phone."
"Still…" He reached over and tossed the dirty knife into the sink. "Why don't you let me cut vegetables for a little while?" He smiled at her, but she shook her head.
"I can't let you do that. I'm fine, and-" He rolled his eyes at her.
"My mom won't care, if that's what you're worried about." He walked over to cabinet and fished out a fresh cutting knife from the drawer.
"It doesn't matter; I can't let you do my work for me and still-"
"You just saved me about an hour of frustration. I think that it'd be fair to let me feel good about doing something for the nice girl I just met and immediately injured." You upset him; why can't you say the right thing?
"I-I'm sorry." He smiled when she felt worry cross her face.
"Don't be so serious, okay? I already cut your hand open; I don't want to make you cry, too." She smiled a little back, but she was uncomfortable with how close he was to the truth.
"I guess we could both work on it."
"Deal." He grinned, and when they both had a pile of vegetables in front of them, he repeated his question. "How did you know what to do?"
"I, um, took an AP course last year." She shifted uncomfortably and bit her lip when he looked over at her.
"Pardon my presumptuousness here, but what exactly are you doing in my kitchen, then? Shouldn't you be getting ready for college?"
"I-It's just a money thing. I'm taking a few online courses in my time off."
"That's got to take forever, though, getting your degree that way." She shrugged, trying not to highlight the differences between them. He'll think you're whiny.
"It's better than nothing. You're in school early, though. Do you have a major?"
"Yeah, Journalism. These go in here?" He gestured to the plastic bag, and she nodded. He moved on to green onions.
"You write, then?" He smiled with the corner of his mouth, making him squint a little and bringing attention to his blue eyes again.
"Just straight facts? Or do you do creative writing, too?"
"Both, I guess, but just the facts in public or for my teachers. What major do you have in mind, though?"
"Elementary and Special Education." He made a noise like he was in pain, and she looked over at him. "What?" she asked defensively.
"That's like majoring in do-good-ery. People like you make the rest of us look bad." Her throat felt like it was swelling up.
"I-I don't think that way. Not everybody could be…"
"I know, I just…" He drifted off and smiled over at her again, shaking his head. She tried not to think about it too hard. He's friendly; he probably smiles at everyone, Kari. You're not anything special. "It's a great thing to want to do, but it's got to be difficult to take in online classes. Don't you need internships and stuff?" She nodded.
"Yeah, I'm saving for that."
"Now I really feel bad." She looked down at the green onions and then back at him.
"Don't. At all. It's not a big deal, and your mom has been wonderful about working around my class schedule and everything." She felt nervous again. She wished that she hadn't mentioned money at all. He seemed to sense that she was uncomfortable and changed the subject.
"Do you live around here?" She shook her head.
"Not really. Like two hours away?" she answered, dumping the rest of the cabbage into the bag and walking over to the cabinet to find spices.
"Do you have friends around here, though?" She shook her head, and he frowned a little at her. "You don't think you'll get lonely, all by yourself with my mom?" She shrugged and felt heat rush up neck when his eyes remained on her.
"I'm not a very social person, anyway, and I'll have a lot of work to do, so…" She drifted off as she measured out ginger and soy sauce.
"Well, you're welcome to hang out with my friends and me whenever," he paused then added, almost tentatively, " what are you doing today?" She could feel herself biting her lip again.
"Just dinner and house stuff, getting your room ready."
"W-Would you maybe want to skip my room and watch a movie with me in the living room over dinner?" For some reason, his eyes didn't meet hers when he said this. "I mean, you can skip my room either way; despite whatever my mother may have told you, I'm not completely helpless." He smiled over at her now, a little too brightly, like he was trying to cover nervousness. Don't be stupid, Kari. She smiled back.
"Y-Yeah, if you're sure you want me to." She stammered nervously and hoped he didn't notice, but he just grinned. Idiot, idiot, idiot.
"Over dinner, then?"
"Y-Yeah, sure." She could still feel her voice shaking as she mixed the pork in with the vegetables. He set his knife down and took a few steps backwards, towards the door.
"Cool. I've got to go run some errands, but I'll see you later. Do you need anything?" She shook her head, and he smiled at her one more time before turning away and disappearing down the hall.
Like a spring had been stretched tight over the course of their conversation, all of her anxiety snapped back on her when he was gone. Every awkward pause and stammered word was thrown back on her. Stupid, clumsy… There were tears in her eyes already, blurring her vision. She swallowed hard and blinked rapidly, fighting the burning in her eyes. There was a heaviness in her chest, a weight. She set her hand on the corner of the counter and leaned into it until it hurt, closing her eyes at the feeling. The memory of his smile made it worse, his friendliness made everything more painful. Like she wouldn't have felt guilty enough, he had to be nice. He shouldn't have to waste time talking to you. The pain in her palm worsened, and she bit her lip. Stop, you don't have time to cry.
"Hey, would you like some coffee?" TK asked, ducking his head back into the room. "I'll probably stop on the way home." Her eyes snapped open, and she nodded faintly, smiling at him again and settling nervously back onto her heels to relieve the pressure on her hand.
"Y-Yeah, that sounds good, thank you," she answered, her voice hardly wavering.
"No problem... Are you okay?" He furrowed his eyes at her, the blue darkening a bit. Stupid. She tried to appear confident this time, putting a little more effort into the painful smile. Her words were still a little breathy.
"Yeah. I'm fine."
"Your hand isn't hurting, is it?" Her heart skipped a beat, and terror rushed into her veins as she moved her palm from the counter's edge. How could he know…? He doesn't, stupid. He means your cut. She blinked at him for a second and then glanced down at her bandaged finger. The faint burning under her band aid was the last thing on her mind. But… He hadn't believed her right away. Everyone believed her. She answered sincerely this time, her voice unusually steady.
"No. No, it's fine. It was just a scratch; don't worry about it."
"Okay, let me know if it keeps hurting, all right?" She nodded weakly, and his grin was back. "I'll see you tonight, Hikari!"
I think that the main narration will all be from Kari's POV, but there will also be mostly very short TK chapters interspersed. Because I think that attempting to follow Japanese traditions, etc. will just show how little I really know about them, I'll be using American holidays and school breaks, and I haven't really specified any locations. I hope nobody hates me for that, but I really think it's for the best that I don't spend all my efforts focused on those things.
Thank you so much for reading, and I'm grateful to hear anyone's thoughts! If I'm ever really factually inaccurate or make glaring grammar errors, feel free to let me know so that I can correct it!