Introduction

For those of you who read Once Upon a Fairy Tale, this is another story in my so-called Perhaps Universe, i.e. a way for a diehard Takari shipper like me to come to terms with the Adventure 02 epilogue and see how it can coexist with Takari.

You can view this story as another version of Once Upon a Fairy Tale, though this one has been much harder to write, and it didn't help that my computer caught a virus so I lost the first draft of Perhaps Love. I hope you enjoy it! If not, let's pretend there's a much better version floating somewhere in the Digital World.

Reviews will be very appreciated.


Early Winter

Her

Takeru Takaishi and Hikari Yagami. Everyone knew that they would one day end up together. Hope and Light, Angemon and Angewomon, Yamato and Taichi. The patterns fit together perfectly, as if by destiny, and who could argue with that? Even their romance reads like a classic love story. Takeru asked her out in their second year of high school, she'd said yes, and that had been that. They had never dated anyone else before, and they would never date anyone else after.

They applied to and got into the same university, he proposed senior year, and a week after graduation they got married in a small, intimate ceremony. During their wedding reception, Miyako had gotten more than a little drunk and cornered Hikari while she was getting a second helping of strawberries.

"You are so lucky!" she slurred, dribbling champagne on her lavender bridesmaid gown. "This is like a fairy tale! You and Takeru are made for each other. I always knew you would end up together. Always, even when evil Digimon were chasing us down."

Hikari had laughed. "Don't be silly," she said, though her friend's words filled her with a warm glow, an assurance she didn't realize she needed. "We were just kids then."

"Nah-uh," Miyako insisted. "It's true! He was always looking out for you and protecting you and staring at you all the time. It's so obviously love."

Hikari had been pleased, if not entirely convinced, but the conversation was cut short when Miyako threw up on the grass and Ken came over to help his girlfriend clean up.

Now, lying on her bed with Takeru asleep beside her, Hikari wonders. She is twenty-six years old, no longer a girl who believes in fairy tales and destiny. The arguments that once sustained them now sound so childish. Yes, her crest and Takeru's crest were special, integral to the fabric of the Digital World, but surely the makers of the crests had more than romance in mind when they were created. Yes, they both had angel Digimon and older brothers, but so did other Chosen Children around the world. And yes, Takeru did watch out for her more than he did for any of the other Chosen Children, but he had made a promise long ago to Sora and Taichi to protect her.

Takeru cares about her, of that she is sure. They had been best friends practically their entire lives, there was bound to be affection involved. But love? There is no passion, no spontaneity. He had never looked at her the way he looked at Catherine, the French Chosen Child on whom he had a brief crush, or Satoko, the cheerleader he used to like in junior high, or even the way Daisuke once looked at her before she gently turned him down. As her best friend, he used to talk of his dreams and showed her drafts of his writings, but as her boyfriend and then husband, he is so guarded and careful. Their kisses and lovemaking are measured, controlled, as if he does not want to share too much of himself with her.

If he does love her, he doesn't love her for the reasons that everyone cites. Sometimes she wonders whether he loves light only because he hates darkness. She represents everything that he hates, the darkness that once destroyed Angemon, the darkness that threatened the Digital World time and time again. When he looks at her with those blue eyes, does he see Hikari, or does he see the Chosen Child of Light? Does he see her for who she is, or who she is not?

Marriage isn't based on passionate love, Hikari is well aware, yet can marriage survive on love born of friendship, duty, and a long-destroyed crest?

It is only after Takeru falls asleep that she can convince herself that he loves her beyond destiny and obligation. He likes to murmur her name in his sleep, in a tone never used when he is awake. When he has nightmares, he always holds her hands with both of his own, as if afraid that she will slip away. And in the mornings, she always finds herself pressed against his chest, his arms wrapped around her so tightly that she cannot disentangle herself without waking him.

Hikari treasures these brief moments and hates her alarm clock for breaking the spell every morning.

Him

Since he was little, Takeru has known that love is fragile and painful. He still has a vivid memory of the night he and his mother moved away. He remembers the stricken look worn by his father, the bitter betrayal on Yamato's face, and the seemingly interminable car ride to their emptier new home. He and his mother wept the entire way, though for different reasons.

His parents had loved each other, had admitted as much even after the divorce, yet they had allowed their marriage to fall apart and stay broken because it hurt even more to stay together.

As a boy Takeru didn't understand the nuances of his parents' story. He only knew he would never, ever fall in love. Then he met Hikari Yagami.

It wasn't love at first sight. After all, they were only eight years old. But he felt an immediate connection to her, not just because she also had an angel Digimon and an older brother. She was different from the girls he had known up to then, different even from Sora and Mimi, both of whom he admired. She was so calm, so accepting of the Digital World despite having spent the least amount of time there. She was always thinking of everyone else, worried about causing trouble for her older brother at the expense of her own safety. Of the Chosen Children, he felt that she embodied her crest the most.

Through the course of their adventures, he and Hikari naturally became best friends. Takeru made a promise to himself that he would protect her, just as the older children protected him. Thus he almost felt miffed when Taichi and Sora asked him, on separate occasions, to protect her. Hadn't they noticed that he'd already been doing exactly that?

He couldn't pinpoint the exact point at which friendship turned into love. He was a boy, after all, and boys weren't supposed to be introspective. He did realize that she was more than a friend, however, when the Dark Ocean summoned her for the first time. He'd felt the same blind panic he'd felt when Angemon died in the fight against Devimon. He also had to deal with the guilt that not only did he not take care of her, he'd pushed her into the darkness by yelling at her. After he found and rescued her, there were so many things he wanted to tell her – apologies, even confessions – except he didn't have the right words, so he settled for a hand on her shoulder and a smile she returned.

It took five more years for Takeru to ask Hikari out. They had been friends for so long that it wasn't worth risking the friendship, especially if she didn't feel the same. She was so kind and gentle to everyone that he didn't want to misconstrue her every gesture, as Daisuke was prone to do. In the interim, he had crushes on other girls – pretty Catherine, feisty Satoko – yet they were only crushes. Sure, he had the typical boy fantasies about them, but he knew that the only girl he ever wanted – no, needed – was Hikari. He had been so nervous when he finally worked up enough courage to ask her out, and had never been so relieved when she told him yes.

None of the other Chosen Children had been surprised, acting as if it had all been a matter of time. At first, he found the attitude pleasant, even flattering. He felt a warm glow knowing that out of the billions of people in the world, he found his soul mate at the age of eight. It wasn't until his wedding day, after he'd slipped the wedding band on Hikari's finger, that the enormity of what they'd done came to light. To the outside eye, he and Hikari were perfect together, destined to be together. What nobody could understand that perfection weights heavily on his shoulders.

Hikari means too much to him. Their marriage means too much to him. He is careful not to retread his parents' footsteps, careful not to become too close, careful not to let his own weaknesses drive her away. He hides his imperfections and fears from her, even if it also means shutting her out of his inner world. He is also afraid to show too much affection, to show exactly how much he loves and needs her, because he doesn't know if he can stand the knowledge that she doesn't reciprocate, or she doesn't reciprocate with the same intensity.

It is only at night that he dares to gather her close. He has nightmares regularly, sometimes of Angemon dying, more often of Hikari leaving. He takes comfort in knowing that when he wakes in a cold sweat, she will be there, her hands tightly clutched in his. And he would fall asleep again listening to the quick, steady beat of her heart, not realizing that she too might still be awake.

Her

Once, in a wasabi-induced contemplative mood, Tailmon decided it was necessary to enumerate Hikari's frustrating personality quirks. One of them is that once she boards a certain train of thought, it is impossible for her to get off, even if the train is speeding toward a less than desirable destination. Another one is that she prefers keeping her pain and hurt to herself, until they eat away at her sanity so completely that she loses a clear grip on reality.

Perhaps Tailmon is right. Once the idea that Takeru is unhappy with her settles in her mind, she cannot get rid of it, or the misery and guilt that follow from the realization. She starts rummaging through past memories, teasing out premonitions of trouble from photographs and videos of them together. And pretty soon, she starts thinking about it. Divorce, that is.

At first she does not allow herself to consider it seriously. The word holds so many dark connotations, evoking images of broken families and tearful children. When she was younger, she used to crawl into Taichi's bunk bed whenever she heard her parents argue, afraid that in the morning her brother would be all she had left. Not to mention, Takeru's parents had divorced, leaving behind a mental scar that never fully healed. Most of all, divorce would mean losing him forever.

Hikari loves Takeru in the same way girls love boys in cheesy manga. There are so many reasons that it would take days to enumerate. She first met him as the blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who sent his guardian angel to protect her on top of Tokyo Tower. He had watched over her when she fell sick and wiped away his own tears so she wouldn't cry in Piemon's castle. Three years later, he somehow defied time and space to rescue her from the Dark Ocean. He was always by her side, a constant as much as Taichi and Tailmon, that he might as well be the Prince Charming of her girlhood dreams come to life, complete with a flying golden horse.

If she leaves him, she would miss his off-tune singing in the shower, his lack of cooking abilities outside of omelets, his random collection of headwear. She would lose the one person who would sit in an uncomfortable position for hours just so she could get the lighting right for that one perfect photograph, who would only laugh when she accidentally ruined his favorite shirt demonstrating new finger-painting techniques she wanted to teach to her kindergartners.

The worst part of all, they would still have to be friends. She would have to run into him and his new girlfriend, whoever she will be, whenever there is a Chosen Children reunion.

She makes up her mind, however, when she comes home from work one day to find him watching some French movie. Onscreen, the hero and heroine are locked in a passionate embrace. On the couch, he is staring at the screen with an oddly intense look. As Hikari studies him, he lets out a sigh that sounds forlorn and wistful. Then he notices her and his face relaxes into an easy smile.

"Hey, welcome home," he says, coming over and brushing his lips against hers. Their hug lasts under two seconds. "How's work today?"

"Everything is good, and you?"

"Pretty good," he answers, not noticing as she turns away so he won't see her face crumple. She will never be his heroine.

That evening, when Takeru goes to the bedroom to work on his manuscript, Hikari lugs her hot pink laptop to the living room. After making sure that both Patamon and Tailmon are engrossed in the random game show playing on television, she pulls up the search engine and types out a search for divorce lawyers in Tokyo. With her usual meticulousness, she researches each of the lawyers before deciding on one particular one. She inputs the phone number into her cellphone.

It would be the last course of action. Divorce in Japan can be quite straightforward, if both parties agree. Yet after years of knowing Takeru, she has the feeling that he would protest, if only for her sake.

Hikari takes a deep breath. Courage, that is what she needs. She would talk to him. Make – no, help him understand. "You'll see that I only want you to be happy," she whispers, knowing that she would need to convince herself first.

Him

The day has gone by well, although Takeru knows at once that something is wrong when he returns home to find Hikari nursing a mug of black coffee. Both of them prefer their caffeine in the form of tea or soda, and the only coffee that could be found in their kitchen cupboards are instant coffee samples given out in grocery stores.

"Hey, I'm home," he says, when she doesn't look up at the sound of the door closing. He bends over and gives her a kiss, careful not to linger too long on her lips. "How's the coffee?"

She meets his eyes and smiles. "Oh I'm sorry, I didn't hear you come in," she says. "I was thinking." She glances down at her mug and grimaces. "Or maybe not."

He laughs and pulls up a chair beside her. "I can finish it, if you don't want to," he says.

"No, I'll finish it," she says, snatching the mug and practically chugging down the remainder of the coffee. He winces on her behalf. Instant coffee should never be consumed black.

"Where are Patamon and Tailmon?" he asks.

"Visiting the others in the Digital World, I think Tailmon said. Probably won't be back until tomorrow." Hikari gets up. "Dinner is in the kitchen. Do you mind eating a bit early today?"

"That's fine," says Takeru, eyeing her with some concern. "Is everything all right?"

Hikari does not answer. Alarm bells go off in Takeru's head, though he tries to quell them as he helps her set the table. Her cooking has gotten better over the years, thankfully proving that she did not inherit Yuuko Yagami's cooking abilities. Then they sit down to eat, facing each other across the small four-person table. Usually, this is when they catch each other up on their day, and it should be Hikari's turn to start today. However, she remains quiet. It also doesn't help that neither Digimon is here to break the ice.

Takeru realizes that he has to say something. "I submitted my manuscript to the editor today."

"Manuscript?" She looks momentarily confused. He hasn't shown it to her since they started dating. "Oh, right, the book you are writing about our adventures. That's great, I'm so glad."

"Yeah, I'm eager to hear his feedback. How is your day?"

"Good," she says, not volunteering any more information.

Silence relapses. Hikari is clearly not herself today. Usually, even when something is troubling her, she would put up a pretense of normality over dinner so she won't alarm Takeru and the Digimon. Today she does not even try. Did something happen? Is she feeling all right? Just as terrible possibilities are running through Takeru's mind, Hikari takes a deep, audible breath. Apparently she has been mentally practicing what she is about to say.

"Takeru," she says. "I'd like to move out."

He blinks, caught off-guard. "Why?"

"I need some time alone." She bites her lip. "I think we should get a divorce."

It takes a moment to fully register her words. The chunk of fish he just bit into fell out of his mouth and chopsticks clatter onto the floor. "A divorce," he repeats. "A divorce. Is this some sort of a joke?"

Now it's her turn to blink. "No," she says, as surprised as he is by his harsh tone. "I'm sorry, I spent so long thinking about what to say – and I still mess up."

He doesn't feel like he belongs to his body anymore. He feels like he is watching Takeru and Hikari Takaishi sitting at their kitchen table, just as he watched Hiroaki Ishida and Natsuko Takaishi from afar over twenty years ago. This can't be happening. This just has to be one of his nightmares and he would wake up and Hikari would be in his arms.

He pinches himself. The kitchen does not fade away. "If you don't mind," he watches himself say, very politely. "Have I done something wrong?"

"No," she says immediately. "No, you haven't."

The emphasis on you is not lost on Takeru. He pushes his chair back, exasperated. Hikari has always been unfailingly polite, even during arguments. In fact, if this were a normal disagreement, she would've apologized by now, whether or not it is her fault to begin with, and pretended that it was over. Except it is far from over.

Hikari abandons her own rice bowl, which has been barely touched throughout dinner. The words come rushing out. "I've been thinking about this for a while," she says, looking down at her hands. "I think – I think this decision – I think you would be happier with someone else."

"You don't think I'm happy with you?"

Her eyebrows rise. "Are you?" She is genuinely serious.

"Of course I am," he says. "Aren't you? We've been together since we were in elementary school."

She frowns and he realizes that his words don't make sense. Marriage is quite a bit different from chasing down evil Digimon.

"I love you," he says. Perhaps if he said it quietly, gently, the aftermath might've been different. As it were, he snapped at her almost aggressively, shattering the awkwardly polite atmosphere.

"No!" The word bursts from her as if it had been pent up for some time. "No, Takeru, don't you see? You don't love me. You push me away, you keep me at a distance. You love what I symbolize, you love me like a friend, but that's not the kind of love that keeps us together."

He opens and closes his mouth a couple of times, like a goldfish out of water. Now is the time to explain, you're wrong, please understand, but all he could come up with is, "I promised Taichi and Sora to take care of you."

Immediately he knows that that was the wrong thing to say. Her expression is a mixture of weariness and bitter triumph. "I know you did," she says, obviously making an effort to keep her tone even. "But that was twenty years ago. You shouldn't stay with me out of obligation…right?"

Right?

The last word seems to echo in the small kitchen. He knows that this is his chance for some eloquent speech, that he needs to say something to make Hikari stay, to explain that she has read the situation completely wrong, except he cannot. He is frozen, trapped in his own nightmare. As an aspiring writer, he could almost appreciate the irony. He caused the very thing that he tried to prevent. Perhaps Yamato hadn't been completely crazy when he told Takeru, in one of his darker moods, "Ishida men are cursed to be alone."

Not that his older brother ever backed up his claim. As far as Takeru knows, Yamato is now happily married to Sora, about to celebrate their five-year anniversary.

She sighs, her old gentle self again. "I'm sorry," she says. She moves as if to take his hand, before he snatches it out of range. "Of course you need time to think this over. Nothing is final. I haven't contacted a lawyer or anything."

Takeru doesn't quite see the silver lining. That just means she is hoping they can settle it quickly and quietly, without the strain of going to family court.

"Takeru," she says, sounding a bit alarmed. "Are you all right?"

No, of course not! But he lifts and lowers his head, a small nod that seems to satisfy her.

He remains still as a statue while she clears the table, puts away the leftovers in the fridge, and washes the dishes. He almost finds amusement that even under these circumstances, Hikari could be trusted to do the chores. After the clinking of the dishes quiet, he hears her go into the living room to have a muffled conversation on her cell phone.

Then the mirth fades, because she is buttoning up her winter coat. There is a suitcase in the corner of the room, which he hasn't noticed until now. She takes the handle and comes over to him. He feels a light touch on his shoulder.

"I'll be at Miyako's," she says.

He looks at her sharply, feeling a fresh wave of betrayal.

Hikari reads his mind. "Miyako doesn't know yet, I just called her to ask if I could stay over tonight." She sighs, obviously thinking through the enormity of the road that lies ahead. Namely, telling all of their friends, human and Digimon, as well as their families. "But I will just be a phone call away, if you need me."

I need you now. He opens his mouth, but cannot make a sound. She comes over and drops a kiss on his forehead. He closes his eyes, knowing that when he opens them, she will be gone.


TBC