Disclaimer: I still don't own them. well this is my last taiora... I've been wanting to write a few fics for other series for a while now, so I think I am going to do just that. I hope you all will still read my fics, even if they aren't digimon. Who know's if I'll ever be moved to write taiora again, but one thing I do know... taiora is a part of me. Like a lot of things. I love taiora and will always love it. I'll never not be a taiora fan, just like I will never not be a writer. Some things are just a part of you... can't change them, and never should try. I began writing a few years ago because a special girl motivated me to do it. I kept writing because of you... I never dreamed I would get so many wonderful reviews even though I still feel I don't deserve it, I've met a lot of incredible people through my writing, and I am grateful beyond words for that. Angel, Kari, whit, frootloop trouper, boom bubble, and many other incredible authors and incredible people. I hope you all don't give up on me in a few of the other series I want to try writing for. ^_^ hopefully you'll like a few of em. Here is a few I am planning on doing: card captor sakura... outlaw star... Jackie chan adventures... and who knows what else will inspire a fic or two from me.

I hope this story is worthy of my last taiora. As always there are aspects I don't like, but as a whole I really enjoyed it. It is an epilogue to the season 2 epilogue. (You knew I couldn't leave that alone. A taiora author is a stubborn creature who will never give up on the pairing, no matter how bad that show ended.) Heh heh heh ^_^ well I guess this disclaimer now has enough sap to warrant the making of pancakes, so I'll stop now before you become stuck to your keyboards ^^

thanks for reading, and I look forward to seeing what you have to say about my new stuff.

Later...



Let me know what you think at: logan91235@aol.com













When Adventures End.

By Logan













Sunlight pooled over the oaken furniture with a polished luster of gold. The rays filter in through the window like beams from a prism and cast the tiny particles of dust into view as they wafted on the still air like snowflakes from a clear cloudless sky. The apartment was spacious, stretching out with tributary hallways adorned with both paintings and photographs into bedrooms, baths, a large kitchen in immaculate condition with hanging spices, and a room filled on four walls with shelves adorned with the crisp spines of many books ranging from Aesop's fables to Dante's Divine comedy. This home was frequently perfumed with flower cuttings which sat in simple, yet elegant vases around the apartment. The decorum was one of simplicity, yet the home radiated a warmth that could not be bought in any department store or any catalog, regardless of how clever and exclusive the item may be. This was an expensive home without doubt, but its furnishings and its general aura radiated a sincerity lost on those who can buy without quandary.

Sora walked through her home in a slightly agitated state. Tidying up several of the spots of clutter, straightening ajar photographs and passing a large full length mirror several times. She was not vain, and believed her virtues to not lie in her continence, but instead inside. Her hair was longer then it had been as a child, now swaying to her shoulders in coppery locks that often was confined to a loose tail. She wore makeup, but very little. She never indulged in it unless the situation was sufficiently important, and even then she felt baroque and far too flamboyant, but today she wore a slight dusting of azure over her eyelids and a faint blush to her lips and cheeks. She wore a loose blue blouse which was tucked into a pair of her old blue jeans. Formality bothered her, and thus she rarely wore dresses or suits. She wouldn't have relied on the outfit or the makeup to attract men, she didn't need it or them.

Sora Takenouchi, formerly Ishida, divorce survivor though at times it felt as though she had indeed been pierced by a bullet and failed to notice, and thus have the common courtesy to die. She didn't show how battered she was, but she hadn't buried it either. She had grieved the loss of her husband and sole custody of her children, shed her tears and found her redemption in the written word which reasserted its love in her heart along with tooling around in a garden. She had survived by seeking spiritual sustenance in the most abundant of springs. The springs which run cool with the waters of good friendships, and some of the finer things that life offered. Her books were her refuge from a cold world, she thirsted for more and never grew tired of their presence. Among her more treasured volumes were those written by Takeru.

Little TK had been crushed when Kari went off to an American school and found an American boy. College had brought her many things, not all good. The father of her son had proven to be a drunk, and left her with David alone. She proved capable of dealing with life's blows and upon returning to home, she had overcome. She had lost touch with TK, and was stunned to know that the mother of his son had been killed by a drunk driver. TK had suffered way too much, but from the depth of his pain came a new depth to his writing. He had lost hope, and then found it again in Kari. They were dating now, picking up where they left off in highschool, and now his books were best sellers the world over; his critics said his writing gave hope to all those without it, Sora agreed wholeheartedly.

His books were treasures to Sora, and she kept theme amongst her favorites on the shelves. The apartment was perfect and it took some effort to stop straightening it out of compulsion. She sat in her favorite chair, a black leather recliner, and pulled up her copy of Wind in the Willows. The book had been her favorite as a child, and even now she looked to it for solace while some look to whisky. She found that books serve better then booze. Her gaze shifted from the accounts of the mischievous toad and the noble badger to the photographs which sat on her table. Laying the book on her lap she lifted the group photograph taken at the anniversary of the digidestined. There they sat, on a grassy field the three generations of digidestined. It was a good day... as good as they came back then.

Sora's arm was around her husband, he smiled broadly and she held her youngest boy who was grinning broadly. Tai's son was holding hands with her daughter. It was enough to make Sora smile in spite of herself. Jessica looked like her father. Blond hair and blue eyes, TJ was his father's son, tai to a "T". The crush had been building since both of them were in diapers, now they e-mailed. Sora had come to understand that email had turned into a far more romantic tool then roses nowadays. Jessica and TJ were both too young to be seriously romantic, but Sora recognized the seed, and the fact that both of them were more then willing to risk cooties to preserve their friendship. It was adorable in many ways, but also sad in others.

This picture predated when Sora's life took the nosedive, but it occurred years after tai hit rocky bottom. He reminded her of Badger, strong and courageous. He had never married, but not for lack of wanting to. He had put his energy into the ambassadorship which he still held. Along the way he had met a woman named Laura, who stole his heat. She was a translator to the united nations, and had met Taichi there. Lunches became common between them, and eventually living together followed.

Sora remembered the call she got when an ecstatic tai had informed her that Laura was pregnant. He was beyond elated as he had dropped the phone several times while telling Sora and matt how he was going to become a daddy. Sora was genuinely happy for him. That changed in two days when tai had appeared at her doorstep soaked with rain and tears.

Matt had been in florida for a briefing on an up and coming mission for NASA. Sora had not been expecting tai, and was stunned when he showed up looking worse then she could ever remember seeing him. He had asked Laura to be his wife... she had told him that she was leaving. Tai's heart had broken too many times. Once was of Sora's doing, which she still ached over, and the other was Laura's. She had never explained to Taichi why being asked to marry had triggered her ending it after being so happy. She wasn't bitter or cruel to him, just final about no second chances. She allowed him to be a part in the pregnancy, birth, and all that followed. Sora almost hated the woman, and Sora didn't believe in hate. The memory of Taichi collapsing into her arms and sobbing was far too vivid in her mind. He had shuddered and been lighter then a feather while she held him and guided him to this very sofa.

His hair had been cut short, and with the rain, it matted to him and hung dead. He was a grown up, but he had been a child in her arms that night. Badger was broken and left powerless. She held him all night as he cried till tears could no longer come. Sora was willing to give herself to tai that night. She was prepared to commit adultery and betray her husband if it could have made him feel better seeing Taichi so lost was unbearable, and that justified any sin if it's ends were a tai without this burden of grief. Maybe she wasn't the good and decent woman she had thought herself. She was so ready to break the most sacred of vows of marriage for the most sacred of friendships. He had looked at her and known the offer, but then looked away. Tai had kissed her shoulder and whispered thank you to her. Sora never completely understood why he had thanked her in that voice of wispery regrets and an even more secretive tone of longing. they never spoke about it again, but both of them thought of it.

A few years later tai's world was healing through the magic of his son, and Sora's ended. She couldn't recall who said it first, just that it tore her heart out. It was on a sunny Saturday that they decided their marriage was dead. They were divorced within the month and Sora said goodbye to Matt and her life. The last good memory she had was from this picture, being together again made her feel strong; like she did when they were the digidestined. Tai flew down the day the divorce was official. He technically lived in new York, but his home was, as he said, the plane. He said that since he felt that he lived at all the places he went. He had found his place as an ambassador and loved the job. His residence was the world, both digital and human, and that spoke to Sora.

She supposed that it could be construed that tai was sniffing after her now that she was back on the market. Anyone who got that impression was an idiot. He was there because she needed him like he had needed her. they sat in complete silence for two hours in her living room. Asking how she was would have been pointless since it was obvious and so vast that any attempt to bridge it with words would prove fruitlessly cataclysmic. They sat and held their coffee cups which had grown cold and stared off into empty shadows. Sora knew that an offer stood for her now. She felt unsexy and plain, even ugly. Tai was willing to make love to her if it would change that perception and make her feel she had gotten back at matt for what she suspected had been going on since their love had grown far colder then the coffee. She didn't take him up on it, more for his benefit then hers.

Tai had always carried feelings for her that surpassed the constrains of mere friendship, she knew that there was no such thing as even remotely casual sex which could pass between them. even if the act were to be done only in the sense of therapy for battered pride and a crippled psyche, the act of making love to her, and yet knowing that there would be no idealistically romantic love behind it would hurt tai in a way Sora had, thankfully, never done. She lusted for tai in some ways, and repulsed herself in that aspect of her own darker inner nature. She had always been opposed to sex for the sake of sex, loveless and mechanical, with all the poetry of plumbing. Pleasure without depth had never before appealed to her, but never before had she had so much in herself to doubt. Fear of inadequacy and crushing stress had brought out a side to her that in its animalistic, carnal nature, could use tai as a thing to assuage her doubts in herself, at the cost of birthing a world of doubts of his own. And the really sick thing is that he knew all this and still offered. She wanted to do the irresponsible thing take him into her bed and into herself, but instead, kissed his cheek and whispered thank you. Just as tai had once whispered to her. Tai nodded in understanding, and the moment was forever banished from their lips, but eternally bound to their deepest "what if" scenarios that played back only from within the mind's eye.

She didn't hate matt... not even if he was having affairs. She didn't blame him for their marriage's collapse. She accepted it, and survived it, with a borrowed strength and a generous donation of courage.

Every time tai came back to town they had a tradition. It was a simple one, not elaborate in any extent, but it was a nice one. He would come to town and spend his first day there with Sora alone. They would always go to a coffee house and get two cups to accompany a breakfast pastry, usually a croissant or coffee cake. They would talk about the year and current projects yet to be undertaken. Often enough their children became the subject of the dialogues, tai loved Sora's kids like his own. and Sora had fallen hard for Taichi junior, who came to be known as TJ. Growing up was hard in a lot of respects, but some of its rewards made the transition worth it a hundred times.

She put the book back on the table without reading a word more then she had last time she sat down with it. She focused on the picture. Tai more precisely. He had grown up well. His hair was cut short and his features had grown broad. His shoulders were almost like slabs of granite to Sora, while he maintained his spry athletic frame, he had grown enough muscle and filled out to the point where his body looked every bit as domineering as his spirit was. Tai inspired confidence and strength, you could look at him as a boy when he was sure of the correct corse, and regardless of how risky that corse, you would follow him. Now he looked like a man, a handsome man with charisma and a deep well of strength that all could draw upon without depleting it.

Among tai's new attributes, he was now wise. The ambassadorship had shaped his mind and heart to a new congruity. He was one of the best ambassadors of the time, he didn't favor any one land or world over the other. all were equal in his eyes, and that made him great. He wasn't swept away with a lust for vengeance when outrages had rocked the world, just a keen sense of justice that was not tempered in cruelty or malice, but transcended both as justice should. He saved the world more now then he had as a boy, tai had found his place and was doing good within it.

Sora returned the photo with more then a few what if scenarios running through her mind. She had taken one road as a teenager which led her here... now she wondered what life would have been like if she had given a batch of cookies to a different boy on a Christmas long ago.

She was broken from her thoughts by the melodious chime of her doorbell. She sucked in a whispery breath as she turned to the door which stood at the end of the room. She walked a little faster then she normally would to get to the door. And as she addressed the latch became aware that her palms were perspiring a little. She unlocked the door and dabbed her hands against her jeans. She didn't use the peephole, she knew who it was. Sora held her breath as she turned the nob over and tugged the door open.

Tai smiled broadly and his face glowed with warmth which radiated from his dusky skin and chocolate eyes. Sora practically squeaked as she was seized and pulled into a hug capable of turning coal to diamond. Tai laughed happily as he spun her around in that hug which was now returned. He relinquished her to her own two feet, but did not let go of her shoulders.

"Hey Sora." he spoke through his grinning lips.

"Hey yourself." she could smell his earthy cologne. Tai was dressed in a black t-shirt with faded and slightly torn jeans. He dressed in suits too often he had told her, and the time he spent with good friends should be spent in unpretentious comfort. He carried with him a small brown suitcase which she remembered had been a present from his son last Christmas. He lifted it up and followed her inside. Tai didn't own an apartment here and so he usually stayed with either Kari or Sora. Both were happy to have him.

"You look good Sor."

"Thanks, I read about you last week. The advisory board on the Raidramon issue." tai smiled a little.

" its grueling work, but worth it just to prove that highschool government teacher wrong about me." he chuckled but grew somber. "Things worked out well. Could have been a lot worse." recently a group of digimon had come to the conclusion that humans should not be allowed to take residence in the digital world. There were only twenty Raidramon, but they were a very vocal faction. Their attacks on human colonists were not bad, a few injuries, destruction of property. But the attack had stirred anger from the human world. The result was human attacks spearheaded by human factions for control and isolation of the digimon. People had begun lashing out on digimon in blind retaliation for the attack and also on humans with digimon partners.

Tai had immediately responded to the incident and offered a very powerful speech on the virtues of tolerance and resisting the urge for vengeance. Taichi had aided the digital world's leaders in dealing with the faction. He also was among those who dealt with the human aggressors. Tai had been predicting a flare up with bigotry on both sides for a while now, thus he had spearheaded an advisory council to prevent further escalation of digimon hate groups. They had managed to prosecute the majority of the movement's leaders and appeased the digital world that humanity was willing to make great efforts in the interest of united worlds peace.

"We came way too close Sora, the bullet just missed by an inch." his eyes told the severity of the incident.

"You've really gotten good at politics tai. You're practically a national hero here."

"So you think I'll be in line for the peace prize?" he smirked.

"You're a sure-win. Though your fashion sense might put them off." she poked a finger through one of the holes on his jeans.

"Hey! I like these jeans, they have character."

"If you ask me really nice I'll design you something." she smirked playfully.

"Thank you, but no... I don't have either the courage or the income to get a Takenouchi original's worth of character." he laughed. she smiled at him almost in a blush.

they sat next to one another and held hands.

"Sora... why did you quit? You loved fashion. It never made sense to me for you to retire when you were just becoming famous."

"I did love it, but that was another life."

"Hardly... Divorce isn't death, you're still on life one."

"To a degree, it just doesn't make me happy anymore. I made enough money to live comfortably for as long as I want. And I am planning on releasing a new piece every year or so. The fashion world is into that kinda thing, makes my designs more popular and exclusive."

"You've become a really shrude business woman." he replied.

"It keeps my kids in cloths." she shrugged.

"Heh, TJ is part beanstalk too, I think I am going to need to learn to sew. They don't pay ambassadors enough to keep him in style." he laughed softly.

"I can recommend a great fabric..." she smirked.

"I was thinking burlap sac."

Sora loved tai's visits. He could make her feel what it was like to be a kid again, that understanding that life is not a tragedy but a treasure, a world brimming with possibility. His humor and wit sparked attraction, and his gentleness sparked something else. She would never act on it though. Acting blindly usually results in a lot of bad things, most of which Sora had barley survived already. She was still however drawn to him, though she was also strong enough to resist that pull . The ache could be denied, the loneliness filled with her books and her garden, she could survive with the hole in her heart, emptiness is preferable to being whole with pain. She became aware of her own silence and turned to find Taichi smiling sadly to her. he wasn't voicing his feelings just as she wasn't, they were content within the shared silence.

Minutes passed until tai yawned loudly and stretched. He turned to Sora and rose from his seat. She followed him with her eyes from the seated position. Stretching again he rested his arms behind his head and leaned down to face her.

"Sora, lets go for a walk."

"A walk?"

"New York traffic is bad enough to justify walking to the UN building instead of a car or a cab. I suppose I got into the habit of doing it. I don't like being crammed up in an apartment for too long. Not to be rude of coarse..." he amended sheepishly.

"You make my apartment sound like a can of sardines, it's a lot bigger then almost any other you could find."

"Oh, well its not that. God my place is a hole in the wall to yours, but I have a little energy to burn and well... come on Sora, take a walk with me. How about we go for coffee? I saw a little place a few blocks away on my ride over." he spoke in a man's voice, but still held that childish quality that bent her to his will.

"And here I was thinking you've grown up." she chuckled.

"Getting old doesn't mean you have to sacrifice all of the character traits from childhood. I had the soccer ball surgically removed from my brain, I think that is enough of a compromise for growing up." he laughed softly and rubbed his short hair with a touch of longing for the haircut of his youth which he would prefer till death as he said.

"How old are you tai? Just so I can keep up... thirteen or thirty-two? There are times I could believe either."

"I'll take that as a compliment... the world can make you old fast, I like to keep people guessing." he ran his fingers through his hair and grinned cutely at her.

"I bet the women just swoon for you Kamiya, with charm like that."

"I don't break out the charm for just anyone... only super-models and ex-fashion designers get the full dose." he laughed.

"I am truly blessed" Sora smirked sarcastically. Ultimately she proved incapable of resistance and had soon risen to her feet in search of her purse. Tai didn't gloat, just grinned.





**********



The street was bathed in amber gold as a warm sun shone down over the bustling avenue. In a hundred directions there was commotion as men women and children dressed in everything from suits to shorts made their way in a busy world. The sound of cars swishing down the streets mingled with the voices from the sidewalks in a chorus of wordless speech.

Sora trailed half a step behind tai as he lead the way to the coffee shop that was just down the street. His hair was tinted in gold while his dark olive skin became a bronze of gold and deep molasses shadow. He would glance back at her through the corner of his slightly almond eyes periodically as they talked of pleasantly trivial things. the one threat with conversations with tai was that things became intense and almost taxing, as gab shifted to heavy and somber dialog. Sora enjoyed those talks too, but they would come naturally soon enough and so it was wise to take pleasure in small natural doses, instead of rushing the subject and skipping over the foreplay of the tai experience.

They came to the coffee shop. It was positioned between a hardware store and a small clothing outlet. It was comprised of weathered bricks hued in natural reds and browns accentuated by smooth wood painted in a deep evergreen. People sat outside the structure around small round tables on wire chairs. They decided to sit inside and enjoy the air conditioned aroma of coffee beans and the auditory bliss of the sound of foamy cappuccinos being poured out in low and sultry hisses of steam. They found a table near the front window and sat. the waiter came and took their order before vanishing away behind the counter and off to the back store room where the large ceramic mugs were kept in preparation for the day's business.

"Thanks Sora."

"Oh well it's good to get out, I think I spend a bit too much time at home."

"Well some people are like that. Nothing wrong with it, its not like you're hiding in there." his voice carried off with an unintentional accusation. Sora didn't rise to arguing it, but instead meet it.

" I just prefer being alone sometimes. I'm not agoraphobic, but I have my books and my garden. I've always been like that I suppose, even when I worked, I did it from home."

"Not always, you were a nature nut when you were young."

"I suppose I got all the nature I needed when we were trekking through the digital world."

"I know what you mean... to think they have reality shows about that kind of thing. It makes me laugh to think people actually are happy to spend months in the wild." he laughed softly as he scratched the back of his head.

"But you'd do it again in a heartbeat." she smiled.

"Not even that long.... I miss a lot of it. The digital world is the whole reason I gave up soccer in favor of politics."

"How so?"

"Being a.... hero. I got addicted." his voice whispered of awe.

"In the digital world I got to do some really incredible things. we fought and saved lives, made peace... I fell in love with doing good." he paused to take a sip of his coffee, which had been placed before them a minute prior.

"It can become so addictive... that look someone gets in their eyes after you do something for them that they couldn't do for themselves. I just couldn't give it up... being an athlete star is great, you have money to give to charities and can market yourself to good causes, but that's only if you are one of the best and even then, you are an entertainer, not a hero. The older I got the more I realized that I had to find a path where I could do the things I did in the digital world." Sora listened to him and to that faint timbre of pride in his voice.

"I was the leader of the digidestined... the digimon respected that. I was in a special position, so I would become a very valuable delegate to earth. It was hard work, but I managed to get really good at it. I understand the basics of it all, and those are the really important things for being the ambassador to earth to a civilization that has had virtually no contact with humans, it also helps me relating a entire world of strange creatures to a world of people who are always on the edge of self annihilation. The two worlds have a pretty big set of stumbling blocks... digimon have trouble grasping the complexity of how a human can love and hate all at the same time. It just isn't natural for them to be able to wrap their brains around how we are all both good and evil at the same time where digimon are one or the other." he paused to take another sip.

"You said you understood the basics of how to relate the two?" Sora questioned, loving this tone to tai's voice that made it smooth and as sweet as vanilla.

"Yeah... the basics to all diplomacy... its pretty much common sense. To be good at the job it has to matter to you. You have to legitimately love the work and fight hard to make it work. It takes a lot of courage too, they sometimes walk a very thin line between success and total collapse, it takes bravery and wisdom to keep pushing and know when to give.

You have to understand the nature of both species. As a somewhat objective opinion, we are the more bizarre of the two. Humans hold grudges... we want revenge for old wrongs, and we go overboard in turning justice into a bloodbath, but we also have art and literature. Humans dream, we have this unyielding desire to reach for the stars and explore all things. Digimon are different, they are more animal, thus they find a balance better then we can. But they are missing some of our better attributes, they have mates who they love, and they have feelings and thoughts, but they are different from what we feel. It's not to the same intensity we humans have. We can learn so much from each other, gain so much.

We have to preserve peace... in both species. Peace is the most precious, and yet most fragile thing. That's why I love what I do... I am still a hero.. Still fighting for the most worthy of causes, forming a bond that can bring us both so much good." Sora was smiling at him softly.

"You sound like you have a few lifetimes under your belt. Almost like a preacher talking about god... with such reverence and wonder"

"I've watched two entire worlds embrace each other in times of tragedy, and stand together in times of need. I've seen the beginnings of a friendship that could change the very nature of two species... you're right to say its like that, seeing the beginnings of real peace is just as much a miraculous thing as seeing god."

"You've become a great man Taichi..." she whispered with all the conviction he shared over his job as ambassador.

"You've always been a great woman Sora... I'm just finding my place now, you've had yours since you were a child."

"And what is my place mr ambassador?" she smiled warmly enough at him to accelerate his heartbeat.

"You're place isn't as much a job. Its how you are.. How you have a limitless reservoir of compassion. Its people like you that are the real heart of making peace work, people who can fight the bad and share the good in themselves." he smiled at her and she averted her gaze, almost afraid that she would loose herself in a schoolgirl blush. It was hard to keep the requisite distance from tai. She could loose herself in those feelings he stirred far too easily.

"Oh can it Kamiya, you're still paying." she grinned as he groaned.

"I'm not brave or suicidal enough to attempt skipping out on the bill with you Sora."

"Good to know that you really have gotten as smart as you are charming." she laughed and absentmindedly touched his hand. He cast a quick glance down to their touching hands and stopped laughing. Sora grew silent as well and withdrew her hand. He drew in a breath that came in a faint tremble of determination. He closed his eyes in a seeming act of mustering strength and solidifying his determination.

"I love you Sora..." his voice was hauntingly close to a whisper. He hesitantly looked up to her and found her frozen in a face of shocked impartiality. The moment was a decade easy, rapidly approaching a millennium and on the way to being an eternity of awkward and hateful silence. His hand was clammy and trembled faintly. The mask of placidity broke into a smile that nearly made him jump into a triple back-flip capable of moving the most stoical collaboration of Olympic judges to shedding tears.

"I love you too tai..." his heart wasn't pounding now, it was crashing against his rib-cage like the hammering of giants. "You're one of my best friends." she continued with a small smile that masked a grimace. His smile faded away to a ghostly apparition of what it was. She smiled nervously and her eyes conveyed a message tai could read all too well. His heart had been soaring, now it was plummeting to the runway in a ball of flaming twisted metal.

"best friends?" he replied numbly.

"Yeah..." she smiled nervously at him. He looked at his empty cup. Its bottom was moist with the last few drops of the beverage that now left a bitter taste in his mouth regardless of the cream and sugar. He took a slow breath and looked up at her eyes which shown with a faint sorrow.

"I'm glad you know that Sora. Your friendship is very important to me." he smiled at her with one of his happy tai smiles, but she knew that she had just hurt him. More then just hurt him. He reached into his wallet and pulled out enough for the bill and a generous tip to the blond teenage server. He got up and stretched before looking down to her.

"That was really good. How is it you live so close to a place like this and don't come here all the time?" she returned his grin hesitantly and to a lesser extent. They left the coffee shop and made their way back to Sora's apartment in a slow walk.





**********



The street seemed even brighter, but to Sora it was a harsh light far too revealing. Tai was a good person, a better person then she. She didn't want to hurt him anymore, but he couldn't say things like that. He couldn't ask her to love someone like that again. She had loved matt, and that had grown cold and left her scarred, she couldn't fall into the same trap with Taichi. He was too important to her to be lost like that. She depended on his visits for more then she would ever admit to. She loved him like he loved her, but she could love him like she could love a star; unattainable but constant. He would always care for her, and that was enough to abet her. she watched him on the sidewalk, his hair was bathed in gold and his skin shone with the ethereal luster of saffron bronze. He was trying to banish the memory of the coffee shop from his mind and the air between them with pleasant banter of happy things.

"It's great out here! I feel charged."

"You're solar powered now?"

"How can you not be out in this weather? New York gets so cold and bleak, I would give anything for this climate."

"Forget solar powered... I think you are more like a lizard talking about his basking rock." she chuckled as he stuck his tongue out at her.

"You really do need to get out more Sora." he glanced up from the street and up to the sign as it changed from stop to walk. He stepped off the curb and began to cross. He was half way to the other side when he turned to face her. she was farther back and closer to the curb, but could hear him easily over the quieter voices of pedestrians and the temporary lull in traffic. He stretched his arms out to the sky and distended each digit out as if to further his contact with the warm sun and gentle breeze which carried a floral scent Sora could not quite place. He closed his eyes and looked up to the heavens with a smile on his face that bore no pain from earlier, testament to the healing powers of a warm sun and a cool breeze. Sora smiled in spite of herself upon looking at him. God she could love him so easily. His voice infected her with contentment.

"What's the point of living if you can't feel alive?"

"I'm aliv...." she was drowned out by a shrieking of breaks. Her eyes had a moment to widen with terror as she saw the red Ford shoot past the line of braked cars and into the crosswalk. She watched as it skidded on brakes which plumed outward with thick white chocking smoke. The shrieking brakes sputtered and wailed in a shrill banshee scream that heralded a far worse noise. The sound was somewhat that of a softball making contact with a bat in a loud and almost wet crack of thunder.

It hit tai in the lower abdomen as he was scrambling out of the way. The impact slung him away and through the air with surreal force and a seeming slowing of time. He hurtled several feet across the asphalt before making contact in a heavy thud which was followed by a roll which would be silent if not for the slapping sound of his limp arms which struck the concrete as he went. He came to rest on his side in a crimson pool which glittered with horrifically gossamer sparkles of light.

There was no noise at first. Just her heartbeat as she found herself dropping her purse and breaking into a dead run for him that was so slow it almost went backwards. Tai was cut in dozens of places, each bled. The sound of her erratically frantic and loud heart was joined by the first scream which carried over from one of the bystanders no doubt. The closer she got the more aware she became in the condition. His arm was sprawled in an unnatural position that guaranteed it was broken. His leg might be as well, though it showed no unquestionable signs of being crushed. By the time she got to him the screaming from the crowd was deafening. It was the scream of a lone woman, a scream that chilled Sora to the bone. She fell to her knees before him and turned him to back. His eyes were closed, thank god, she was sure she couldn't have survived if they had been glazed and locked in the distant stare of death. He was not locked in a look of surprise, nor agony. His eyes were closed and his soft lips were untorn and perfect. His forehead was cut badly as was his cheek which had been skinned horribly in the skidding halt. Already she could see the makings of a dozen bruises which would turn his olive skin black and sickening yellowish browns.

The blood that oozed from his cheek rolled back into his hair and left it matted, while the larger gash on his brow bled down into the indentation of his eye socket which pooled at the corner in a reservoir of crimson, then followed down the side of his nose, down to his lips. Sora felt her eyes burn with scalding tears as his lip was painted red. The blood at his nostril trembled faintly with shallow breaths. As her own tears were falling she touched his lips with her fingers. They were warm with blood. The screaming grew louder as the agony Sora felt dammed itself under its own pressure, leaving her numb and feeling completely hollow inside.

She knew it wasn't shock because she wouldn't be so clear if it was. Tai was growing fuzzy, but what tears must be obscuring, her ears did not: she heard that screaming clear as crystal. It was deafening, and she felt her head throb from it. It started growing dark around her, tai began fading into a shadowy haze as the screaming grew louder and louder now coming from all directions. She vaguely felt arms around her, saw the blue and red strobe of lights, heard the muffled howl of sirens, and the whispery calls of paramedics. The screaming continued until the world was black around her and spun in a dizzying whirlwind. Then she realized that the screaming she was hearing actually was her own. she collapsed.







**********



hospitals are voids of reality. They are sterile and controlled, white and neutral, and all who pass through their thresholds are thrown off kilter by their own apprehension of a place erected for the ill, the injured, and the dying. The subtle knowledge that so many lives have ended in both violent spasms and silent passings within these walls permeates the visitor, leaving them just off enough to be uncomfortable.

It had been three hours since the accident, but it seemed more like three years. Tai had been rushed to surgery and Sora swept along with him, though she was not given any way of gauging how bad it was. She assumed that the silence was a far darker testimony than any she could be given by paramedic or nurse. The surgery was long and the silence of the waiting room grew so overpowering that Sora found herself shaking with apprehension.

After long enough to torture her to the end of sanity and close enough to the precipice of madness, a man came to her. he was dressed in scrubs that thankfully were not splattered with the grim paint of his trade. He was an older man with broad features that broadcasted strength despite his advanced age. His eyes seemed sunken under the shade cast by the ledge of bone which sloped back to greyed silver hair. He looked tired and strained both physically and emotionally.

Sora held her breath as he came to her. he offered her his hand along with his name. She barely caught his stationary hand and completely missed his name. He sat down next to her without reclaiming his warm and callused hand from her own.

"Mrs. Takenouchi..."

"He's dead isn't he?" she croaked in a voice broken by a sob. He blinked at her in surprise by her suddenness and then managed a warm smile worthy of any grandfather.

"Mr Kamiya went through a lot. But he's alive and though there are no guarantees, he is through the worst of it. I have a lot of faith that he's going to make it through this alive." he squeezed her hand.

"He took the impact to his lower abdomen, it banged him up inside pretty bad, but his organs didn't rupture and there was minimal internal bleeding." Sora sensed something being held back.

"However, the problem came from when he hit the ground. His lower back was bruised badly, and it pinched the spinal cord to an extent. We put him in a body cast which will restrain his movements that could pinch it worse. I have to inform you of the possibility that the damage to the spinal cord could have a permanent effect."

"He'll be paralyzed..." she whimpered bitterly.

"That is a possibility... but we won't be able to tell the extent until he is out of the cast."

"Oh god.. This can't be real." she said not to the doctor, but more to herself and whatever higher power might be presiding.

"Mrs Takenouchi, is there anyone we can call for you? We would like to make this as easy on you as possible.." she cut him off with little concern for being rude.

"I have called his family.. They are all coming. And I would like to be billed, so can we arrange that?" she was shaken to the point of detachment. In a way clinging to what she could control in the face of a world of things she couldn't. The doctor looked down to his chart and scratched behind his head.

"I'm sorry miss Takenouchi but mr Kamiya's bill has already been taken care of." she looked up at him with perplexity.

"But how, his sister hasn't even gotten here yet?"

"About an hour after we faxed his new York doctor for his medical history we received a call. It would seem that Europe has volunteered to pay his medical bill." Sora almost gaped.

"Europe? The continent?"

"His doctor works heavily for the united nations. I suppose he must have informed some of mr Kamiya's friends in the UN. From what we understand several of those friends were world leaders. Needless to say, this is somewhat unorthodox." he was almost amused by the fact, but kept it in check.

"When can I see him?"

"Mr Kamiya should.."

"Please call him tai, he hates being referred to as mr Kamiya."

"Alright, Tai should be able to have a visitor in a little over an hour, he came out of surgery a while ago, but the medication he is on is pretty powerful. He needs his rest and won't be awake when you go to see him."

"It doesn't matter that I'm not family? I mean, I am so grateful that I am allowed to see him, but I'm not a relation." the old man's face cracked into a soft smile as he squeezed her hand again.

"It would seem that he had your name listed under family on his medical records."







**********



Sora looked over at him as he lay there in a sleep of drugged oblivion. He didn't dream, and that was perhaps a blessing for the pain would most likely coagulate into a nightmare of both broken hears and broken bones. He had a endless spring from which to draw inspiration for nightmares. His heart was signified by a soft chirping of a cardiograph and his breath came in soft puffs which echoed with shallowness.

His body was incased in a plaster shell, suspended in places to facilitate a correct position for bone to mend and to restrain him from inadvertently crippling himself by a seemingly innocent movement. His cast terminated at his collar bone, leaving his head and neck supported by the mound of pillows. He seemed pale to her, not mearly white, but almost translucent. She harbored an irrational fear that he was in fact growing transparent, and would soon be as clear as water, then as glass, and finally as clear as air, and would disappear altogether. His brow glistened like wax with perspiration. She carefully reached over the tubes and wires which monitored and regulated him and stroked his cheek. He was clammy and damp, and most likely completely incognizant, but Sora hoped that at least in some way he was comforted by her presence.

"God he looks rough." Kari said miserably as she stroked his bandaged cheek. She had arrived thirty minutes ago and immediately fallen into the dejected mood which hung across the room like a tarp of misery.

The school teacher had grown a vague resemblance to her brother past adolescence. Their skin tone and hair color was very similar and a faint semblance was shared in their cheekbones and noses. Her hair was braked back and it flowed to the midpoint of her back. She wore a yellow sweater that would seem sunny in any other setting.

"Tai's a fighter.." Sora replied, trying to broadcast more faith for Kari then she could for herself.

"How are you handling it Sora?" she looked up and smiled a little at her longtime friend.

"I'm doing ok, just a little pissed that he decided to jump into traffic just to get me out of my apartment. Your brother goes to any length to get what he thinks is right." she chuckled softly.

"You're full of shit Sora." Kari smiled as she reached over and squeezed his hand.

"I know.. Where's TK?"

"He's at home with the kids..."

"Do they know? About tai?"

"I didn't tell them how bad it is. They think he slipped in the bathtub or something like that. TK's doing all he can to try to keep them thinking that way until we have to tell them one way or the other."

"He's going to be ok Kari... you know he will... it's tai." she was almost Kari's sister in so many ways, though no blood was shared between them, and no interlocking family trees connected them, they were as much sisters as any to ever share a womb.

"Did you call Laura, Sora?" she probed as gently as possible.

"Yeah... she's on a plane right now with TJ. I'm not sure TJ should see his dad like this. It'll be hard to convince him tai's going to be ok. Kids worrie."

"One thing being a teacher has taught me, is that kids are tougher then they get credit for. He'll be ok.. TJ is a Kamiya, we don't bow down to things really easy." Kari smirked.

"I've noticed... I don't think I've ever ran across a gene-pool with quite so many bullheaded members."

"Hey watch it, you Takenouchi's aren't known for your composure either. What a world it would be if you and tai ended up together. your kids would be a nightmare." Kari laughed, but fell short as Sora stared down at the carpet.

"I'm sorry Sora, I didn't think.."she looked up and waved it off.

"No, it's fine. I sometimes wonder about the road less traveled. If I picked the right one. I would never trade Jessica or Collin, but tai has always had a place with me." she paused and looked at her shoes. "I've put him through a lot, but I know through it all, he'd cut his wrist for me. I sometimes wonder if I should have gone with tai that Christmas, the one when matt and I became official. Who knows, you and I might have been sisters."

"Sora, regardless of what your history is with my brother, we are sisters. And we're going to get through this like family." she reached over and squeezed her hand. The two sisters sat together in an uneasy lull with only the faint beeping to keep them spiritually afloat.





**********



after visiting hour had passed Sora reluctantly returned to her apartment. She had called a taxi to take her home, but strangely she could remember nothing of it. The world seemed hazed and faded to a swirling blur of stunned Consternation. Her apartment felt less like a sanctuary now, and far more like a cell. She knew that she could take no solace in her garden, and no book she could think of would be able to lessen the very real grief she felt with pleasant fictions.

The apartment was a symphony of shadows collaborating in a spectrum of dozens of warm and cool greys. The hued spines of her books were just as the petals of flowers in her vases, ashen and grey. She didn't reach for a lamp's switch, the darkness was a grim companion to the sorrow which she nurtured within. Her pain was all she had to remind her that she had not been killed when tai fell... aside from the ache within her chest, she felt nothing but the cold emptiness of a long still grave. Masochism was the only validation of life she could muster.

She walked across the familiar hall in darkness, coming to a stop at the clear glass sliding door which led out to her terrace garden. She slid open the door and stepped out onto the terra cotta tiled balcony which was nothing but a pool of warm greys in the distant light of the moon. She could feel the gentle nightly breeze as it tousled her hair, though she felt no comfort from such tranquility. The distant city was aglow with golden radiance and the faint shimmering lights from every illuminated window and distant street lamp. The city was ablaze like a giant Christmas tree with thousands of twinkling lights. It was not merry... She breathed in the nightly air, which was scented with the fragrance of her flowers from their garden. The city scape offered no complacency to assuage the turmoil which held her. all she could think about is tai and how she longed for him to have longer visiting hours so that she could stay with him, she felt some obligation to sit beside him, though it could not be explained by her rational mind. She didn't feel guilty over his accident, but she did feel guilty over the things leading up to that accident. A life of unintentional pains was hers to own up to, and now as she smelled the hospital on her, it was unbearable.

She turned and walked from balcony to the master bath at the far hall. She dared to flick on the light which cast the blessed shroud of murk off of her and left her far too exposed under harshly revealing light. The woman who stared back was not pretty, Sora never believed her virtues to lay in her face, but she did recoil from the woman who stared back at her. her hair was stringy and flat while her eyes were banded in dark circles, the makeup applied earlier looked eerily like a doll's painted face since the color had drawn out of her cheeks through this hellish escapade. Reaching over, she turned the nob for the hot water which began filling her bath with churning translucent water. With slow and frail motions she undressed and dropped her discarded cloths in a pile on the cool tiled floor. She looked up at herself in the faintly frosted glass. The haze of steam was rapidly obscuring the edges of the pane, she watched its progression across the reflection like the London fog.

She looked too skinny, each rib seemed easily visible through her ivory skin which seemed like china under the harsh light of the fixtures and the even harsher perspective she saw herself through. She looked at herself with scrutiny from the valley of her navel to the sloped mounds of her breasts. She was still somewhat in shock, though still operating under limited faculties she could feel the return to reality approaching far too quickly...

Her eyes turned tword the tub which was now almost full, then shifted back to her nude reflection. The condensation had blurred everything to her navel, and she watched as the nebulous haze glided up her abdomen, past her chests, leaving only a pastel blend of pinks and pale flesh tones. The caressing trek of the haze could almost have a sultry quality, but instead it seemed more like a burial shroud to her. she met the gaze of her reflection in an eerie communion just as the reflection's face vanished behind the mask of cloud. She stared at the haze for a moment before turning to the tub which now shimmered with glossy undulations.

Taking in a hissing breath of both leisure and pain she submerged herself into the searing ly hot water. She welcomed it, the heat was another extension of the validating pain she had come to depend on in this time of tragedy. She sat upright in the large tub which made her feel vaguely like a child being bathed in a veritable swimming pool. She drew up her knees and folded her arms over her breasts and lay her head against her forearms which smoldered with tiny tendrils of steam from the water. Copper hair fell down her shoulders which hid her eyes from the light. And only then, in the privacy of her apartment, which seemed somehow more empty, could she cry. The tears came in spasmodic sobs at first. And then, after the body-wracking bawling subsided came the soft and weary weeping which carried her through the bath and on into the long night without stars or hope of dawn.







**********



Tai blinked the haze from his eyes as he slowly awoke. The world was far too bright having spent so much time in a sleep without intermission, and now awake to the noon sun, it was blindingly bright. He groaned faintly as he tried to focus his eyes. After some effort they happened to clear on a coppery mass of hair which was at the edge of his bed. He tried speaking, but found his throat dry as chalk. There was no pain, but the scratchiness of his voice without the soreness was perplexing to him. He felt confused an unsure as he attempted to take in his surroundings. Focusing on his words he managed to croak out Sora's name. Her head flew up and a squeak of seeming delight took her as she threw her arms around his neck with a forced gentleness that was a show of restraint.

"You're awake!"

He rasped again, and she lowered a straw to his lips. "It's water" he nodded and drank the cool liquid until his voice came more easily.

He tried to turn to better face her, but panicked when he found he could not move. His eyes flashed with fear as Sora stood and took hold of his head with both hands on his cheeks.

"You've got to stay still tai, you're in a body cast." she radiated a force to her words which demanded compliance. He fought the urge to struggle and once more focused on words which came with greater ease now, thanks to the cool water.

"God... I was scared for a second." he smiled nervously as she smiled sadly at him, she decided to put off telling him. She was just happy to have him awake. He was fuzzy she could tell, but he seemed coherent enough to reassure her that the doctor had not missed any damage to his brain. He was still Taichi, and even if that looming nightmare did come to pass and he was rendered incapable of walking again, he could still talk, still comfort. She took strength in that blessing for she knew that if tai had lost himself in the accident, she wouldn't be able to cope with a shadow of the person he would be.

"How are you feeling?"

"Numb..."

"They have you on some serious pain medicine, you got banged up pretty bad."

"Sora.. am I ok?" he struggled with the words which slurred despite his effort. She drew in a soft breath and leaned down to him. Their foreheads touched, and their eyes met.

"You will be..." she might have been lying, but the thankfulness that he was whole where it counted was enough. He smiled at her as best he could through his thin lips. His smile was what she needed far more then rest a bath or the coffee which had come to be the fortification which held her to consciousness. Tai was her strength, wether she wanted that or not. She had always needed him, his approval and support. He could have done so much if he wanted. If he had advised her to not divorce matt she would have fought to reclaim the splinters and dust of her marriage, but he only held her as she chose her for herself. It occurred to Sora that tai could probably have won her back when it all started. If he had threatened to no longer be her friend when she began dating matt he could have stopped it all cold. She would have been mad at his ultimatum, but she would have bent to it without question. Tai was too important to be lost. That simple truth, that he could not be allowed to be taken, was the only source of her strength now. If he left, she would not be able to cope.

He trusted her, even though she withheld the possibility of his paralyzation; this fact both made her heart soar and made it break. He didn't deserve to be lied to, to be betrayed. But the lie was as much for Sora's own benefit, she was now locked into the infantile faith that if the fear was not given words it was not given power. If she believed hard enough that fairies are real, Tinker-bell would be ok. She now employed this childlike faith so that tai's spinal column would mend and be as new.

"God tai, you scared me a lot." she finally voiced the unarguably biggest understatement of her year. He smiled weakly back at her and reached for her hand, which grasped back at his own.

"You should know me better." she wanted to kiss him right then.

"I can't take that kinda thing tai. I almost lost you... I need you too much to loose you, it's hard enough you live so far, but knowing that the next call won't come and that there won't be another visit.... I couldn't live like that. You're too much a part of me." she thought, but found she only had strength to squeeze his hand.

She became aware of a nurse who had entered. The woman was large and had well groomed black hair which seemed to have almost a plastic quality, like the sheen of doll hair. Her eyes too were glassy and seemingly artificial. She made no attempt at speech, simply walked over to the machines with short steps and began analyzing them. she spoke to them suddenly, without even turning to address them.

"I see mr Kamiya has woken. A doctor will be in to see you momentarily." she scratched out a few records on tai's chart, then departed with a suddenness that seemed almost unreal and left the two of them awkwardly back to reality and out of the moment.

"Nice nurses here..." he blinked

"Only the best for a celebrity like you."

"Think she wanted an autograph?"

"Maybe later..." she chuckled a little at him as she messed his hair. Sora turned to the door and sobered lightly at what she saw.

A woman with long golden hair stood at the threshold. She wasn't really smiling, but instead focusing on the scene with such attention that the emotion behind could not be easily discerned. She had blue eyes that seemed to sparkle against the ivory tone of her skin and the scarlet of her lips. Her hair was pulled back in a braid with bangs of amber tucked behind her ears. She was dressed in a casual businesswoman's suit which broadened at the shoulders somewhat and emphasized a seeming independence and strength of character. It was a rosy tent, and purveyed a warmth along with the aforementioned aura of professionalism. She smiled a little and spoke in a hushed voice.

"Tai.." she stepped forward and entered with only a little hesitation.

"Hello Laura." he smiled with as much confidence in his condition as he could muster. The woman looked at Sora and grinned. Sora replied with a hesitant and notably lesser smile.

"Daddy?' a meek voice piped from behind Laura's leg. A small boy with a mantle of chestnut hair peeked out. He was a perfect effigy of tai when he had been that age, though the circumstances had subdued the adventurous boy and left the similarities only physically obvious.

"Hey TJ!" tai cried out with all hoarseness in his voice forgotten. He smiled broadly at his son who abandoned his mother's leg and rushed to his father. The boy hopped atop the chair Sora had sat on and peered down at his father's face with a cocked head. He was so cute that Sora almost felt her knees buckle. The boy's eyes sparkled with tai's light.

"Daddy, are you feeling bad?" he reached out and touched his father's cheek with his small hand.

"How do I look?" tai replied with a smile.

"Like crap." he replied.

"TJ! Watch your language." Laura gaped as she entered .

"Sorry mommy."

"I bet I do look like it, but I feel ok. Doesn't even hurt." tai reassured.

"Then why are you in a cast?"

"Well the doctors saw how puny my muscles were and decided they should put some on for me. This is really just a giant plaster mold, when they pull it off I'm going to have bigger muscles then those super-heros on your undies."

"DAD!" the boy gaped in horrified embarrassment that turned him beet red.

" oh I'm just kidding squirt. It's all playboy models right?" Laura held her face in her hand as she shook her head.

"Darn right!" the boy laughed.

"What are you teaching your son tai? He's going to grow into what Davis was at that age." Sora chuckled.

"SORA!" the boy flew around and slung his arms around Sora's shoulders. She laughed and scooped him up and spun him around like an airplane."

"About time you remembered I was here. I was starting to think you replaced me." she squeezed him and released him back to the chair. He smiled cutely at her.

"Corse not, you're one of the coolest of daddy's friends! And you give the best presents!" he chirped as Laura chuckled with embarrassment.

"You liked the new playstation huh?"

"It is soooo cool!"

"Well birthdays are important, plus the new one is really cool." TJ smiled and nodded vigorously in agreement.

"Guess I should have gotten hit by a bigger car..." tai croaked and the boy immediately turned and began lavishing attention on him along with a dozen questions asked at such rapidity that the little Kamiya was the equivalent of a machine gun.

"He sure has a fast attention span." Laura smirked as she walked tword tai.

"Hey tai, you feeling ok?"

"I am now. TJ is a cure all."

"He has that effect.. But it's paid back when you try and put him to bed for the night."

"I'm not that much trouble mommy..."

"You're full of it dear."

"Thanks for coming Laura." tai said.

"We had to, plus TJ wanted to see kari and the others."

"She'll be here in an hour." Sora replied.

"He was also hoping your daughter was here... he's ready to propose I think, he's got a ring and everything." she laughed.

"MOM!!!!!" he nearly fell off the chair.

"Ring and everything huh? Can I be your best man?" tai whispered. The boy snuck in close and whispered back.

"Sure ya can. I got the ring out of a gum-ball machine. It's also a whistle." he smiled.

"Wow, a man of class." the boy puffed out his chest and nodded profusely.

Sora turned to him. "They'll be here in a week and a half, they are with their dad right now. I hope you two will be in town that long."

"Will we mommy?" he turned to Laura.

"I have to be in France by then. But maybe if it's alright with you, TJ could stay a while. He doesn't spend enough time with his dad."

"I'll make up one of the kid's rooms as soon as I am back home. I suppose TJ would prefer jess's room. That way when she comes down they could cuddle together for all those cold japan nights." TJ was blushing furiously as tai laughed.

"That's just mean Sora, you shouldn't go getting his hopes up. Plus he's a Kamiya, you might find him curled up in there anyway."

"I'll feed him to my Birdramon."

"She wouldn't eat me... she likes me." the boy smirked in triumph. He turned to his father and knocked on his body-cast.

"Can I sign your cast daddy?" tai smiled.

"Sure you can... plenty of cast to go around." TJ fumbled through his pockets and came up pen-less. He looked beseechingly at his mother and Sora. Shaking her head under the effect of the boy's imploring gaze, Sora withdrew a black pen from her purse and tossed it to the boy who grinned in triumph as he turned to his father with a look of crazed glee which could rival any mad scientist ever to dwell in a castle which was retrofit to accommodate the latest in playing god technology. He immediately went to work near tai's stomach with his tongue protruding through his lips with concentration.

"He really knows how to charm the girls." Sora laughed softly as Laura smiled.

"I know what you mean. He makes out like a bandit every Christmas." Laura replied with a frictionless grin that made her look more pristine in the strangely brighter room. Sora never quite knew how to relate to the woman. She seemed unreal in many respects and left Sora without a legitimate opinion of her. on one hand she had hurt Taichi for completely enigmatic reasons, yet she always seemed to care for him without limit. The fact that she would drop everything and fly across the globe to see him was proof of that, especially given the fact that she had a job which was beyond demanding. Her eyes had a shine to them that Sora's didn't, that always had effected her. she looked so less damaged then Sora. This was true in many respects, Laura was not a destined. She had never been asked to kill for a greater good. She also had not suffered a divorce that tore the heart, realizing that whatever she had once had with matt was lost had broken something deep within Sora, and she resented anyone who had not known the distinct kind of pain of knowing that something you had once cherished had grown cold and atrophied to a loveless husk. Sora walked the line between envy of her innocence, admiration of her light which shimmered in the pools of her eyes, and loathing for the fact that she had hurt tai.

"You look great Sora."Laura had turned to her and made the first step into a conversation that as per the aura of the woman, would leave Sora off balance.

"Thanks Laura, it's good to see you again." she tried to cut the conversation short, yet found that the ethereal blond had some form of a purpose behind her attempt to chitchat since she rebuffed the finality of Sora's tone.

"I was wondering if you could show me where the cafeteria is? I have jet-lag and would kill for a cup of coffee."

"The hospital coffee could kill..."

"I was raised in new York, it'll take a lot worse then this place to bring me down. Come on Sora, we've never really had the time to sit down and talk. You know, woman to woman. I feel like I know you from all tai has talked about you, but I don't think you and I have ever really sat down and actually talked one on one."

"B-but I can't. I'm playing nursemaid, he can't even scratch his nose on his own. and he looks really silly when he tries." she attempted to joke her way out of it by tickling the sarcastic humor which tended to settle as the atmosphere whenever she and tai were present. No avail.

"Thanks a lot Takenouchi." tai glowered as best he could.

"Oh don't be silly, TJ is on duty. He can take care of his dad right honey?" she turned to the boy who was grinning broadly.

"Of corse I can! Just bring me back some coffee. Lots of cream and sugar!"

"It'll stunt your growth.... you'd look really funny being only three feet tall, but with hair like yours. You'd be mistaken for a hedge." Laura chided with motherly humor that bore no whisper of malice. It still was met with glares from both senior and junior Kamiyas accompanied by a unanimous "hey!"

Laura turned to her and lowered her voice as to keep it from carrying too audibly.

"Tai and TJ never get to spend enough time with each other. TJ is crazy about you, and he would be bouncing back and fourth between the both of you if you stayed. Just come with me for half an hour and let them spend some one on one time, you know, male bonding." Sora sighed in defeat. She turned and made her way to her purse, which she retrieved. She turned to tai and shared a brief glance with him that was completely oblivious to all eyes, except the pair of limpid blue, framed between cascading tendrils of golden hair. Sora turned to find the gaze on them for only a moment before it shifted to her with a smile of warmth and friendship. Sora was unnerved by the gaze for the simple clarity and directness of it. She felt examined and utterly naked under those eyes so similar to matt's, but with a far more endless depth of halcyon comprehension.







**********



coffee in hand sora sat in awkwardness as Laura sipped from her mug with pleasant lethargy. From what tai had told her, Laura was a person who lives entirely in the moment. She made minimal plans for the future and instead focused on taking pleasure from the moment and savoring it as she now savored the warmth and bitter sweet flavoring of her coffee. Sora tasted hers and found it not worthy of such indulgence, even though she took hers far darker and stronger then Laura favored for herself. Finally Laura looked up at Sora with the ethereal gaze of her sapphire eyes.

"Tai has always talked about you. Always very flattering." she smiled a little, and though Sora tried, she could find no ulterior spite in it. So much about her was angelic in origin, she reminded Sora of what angewomon would look like if she had been born human.. A ceaseless grace and deep tranquility.

"He has good things to say about everyone, he's that kind of person."

"Oh you're right about that, but not like he talks about you. He's always cared about you, more then any of the other digidestined." she let her words drift over to Sora like mist over a still lake, their meaning permeated her just as water might. She was silent.

"He stays with you when he is in town... even with his sister living so close." Sora cut her off.

"Kari has a full-time family, with their kids, that's a full house. I've got space almost all the time, it's a simple choice." Laura smirked.

"Don't be confrontational Sora. I'm not here to start problems for you." Sora smirked with far more bitterness then the coffee could radiate.

"Then leave well enough alone.." she shook her head.

"Tai deserves to be happy. You deserve to be happy. I know I don't know the whole story from when you all were kids, I know I wasn't a destined, but I can see that you make each other happy.. Why is it you both feel the need to punish each other?" Sora glowered now as she spoke with venom dripping from her tongue as she savored each syllable of her reply. She had wanted to say this for far too long.

"Laura... you are the one who hurt tai. I don't begin to fathom why you left him, why you broke his heart the day he found out he was going to be a dad. You can sit there and try to play match-maker slash psychiatrist to me? If you cared so much about him being happy you wouldn't have ripped his heart out like that. You weren't a destined... and you do not know the story from when we were kids. Don't even think you can." she was stunned by the hate in her voice as she found herself drawing quiet after cutting so fiercely with her words. She looked up to Laura and found all serenity gone. She was looking at Sora with eyes that shimmered with tears and hurt.

Laura drew in a slow breath and steadied herself, though she did not regain her tranquillity. She smiled sadly to her coffee.

"Proof that you love him I suppose... you must have been hating me for a long time now."

"I.. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say it like that. I'm just really on edge Laura... What happened to Taichi. I would never mean anything that cruel." she stammered.

"I've had that coming for a few years now. What I did to tai... I suppose I'm just lucky you didn't slap me, or throw your coffee in my face." her humor was just as bitter as the coffee. Sora was silent with whatever snide remarks could come to her mind.

"It's still no excuse."

"You know what I like about you Sora? You don't BS people. I've always respected that in you. You're witty and self reliant, but other people have those gifts... not as many are as real as you.. They all tell you what you want to hear and if they are brutally honest, it's always with emphasis on the brutal. You're not like that.. You don't censor the truth, but you aren't cruel about it."

"You don't call what I said cruel?"

"You love tai. As a friend or as more; you can't argue that. Just like I can't argue how I've hurt him. I deserved worse then you said." Sora couldn't hold the hate she felt for this supposedly perfect woman who had lanced tai's heart.

"Tai is a special person, one of a kind... and I know what it says about me that I put him through that. But I should have ended it before TJ, I was lying to myself for so long, but having him try making a family... that was where it all became undeniably clear." she looked down at her coffee with no further desire to drink of it, only to stare at the shimmering lights reflected in the murky sheen of hazel brown liquid.

"I grew up with parents who didn't love each other. it was no way to raise a child. I love TJ too much to condemn him to what I grew up with. He'd loose something, just like I lost something...

You know tai's parents stayed together until they were in theat car accident? They married and stayed married, loved each other their whole lives. That's why Kari and tai are so great, not as much the staying married, but the staying in love part. If I had married tai that wouldn't have been possible."

"How can you say that? Tai loved you! And it's obvious you love him." Sora questioned with forced silence in response to the frustration she felt at hearing this half thought out logic.

"I love him sure.. Probably never going to be able to replace him, he's one of a kind. But I couldn't live with a ghost."

"Excuse me?"

"If I married him I'd be living with a ghost... Tai has always been in love with you Sora. He never told me outright, but you pick up on these things. he gets this smile..." she shook her head and looked at Sora with a faint sad smile.

"I know that if I married him it wouldn't matter. He'd love me of corse, but not like he'd love you every day we were together. it wouldn't matter how great a wife I was, how terrific a mother I would be. Nothing I could ever do would make him love me like he loves you. You would be a ghost that would haunt me whenever tai and I would be together.

I know myself well enough that I couldn't handle that. Knowing that you'd always be better. Wondering if when he touched me, kissed me, or made love to me, he would be thinking about you even just a little. I'd loose it.

I'd grow to hate you for always being better. I'd learn to hate him for keeping you just that much closer to his heart. God I could even learn to hate TJ, he looks so much like his father." she was crying now. Sora hesitantly reached over and touched her cheek. Laura took her hand and held it for comfort. She no longer seemed like a serene angel, more like a scared child. Perhaps the child she had always been, just deeper down and closer to her core.

"You'd never be able to hate TJ Laura...."

"Oh no? My mother learned to hate me when she realized that she wouldn't ever be more then she already was. She learned to hate me just like she hated dad... that family ruined me for life. I've spent years trying to distance myself from that house... I will not ever let TJ know what that's like." the force to her words made Sora's hands shake.

"I was content living the lie up until I found out I was pregnant. That's when I knew I had to cut tai loose or end up becoming my mother. I hate myself for doing it. But I would loathe myself if I didn't do it." Sora felt the truth in Laura's words, and in that cleansing truth, washed away years of hatred for this now profaned angel who seemed just as messed up as anyone else.

"I'm scared for him..." Sora suddenly croaked out after a seeming eternity of silence.

"Did you hear what might be wrong with him?" she looked up at Laura and found her eyes downcast.

" I called the hospital while TJ was getting our bags from the baggage claim. They told me..."

"It doesn't seem real... thinking he might be in a wheelchair for the rest of his live. He always seemed so..." she was cut off by Laura.

"Invincible..."

"Yeah.. It's like nothing could ever happen to him. And if this does happen, he might loose something inside. I'm afraid he would just give up." her worst fears were given words under this theme of sharing nightmares. Strangely, Laura seemed the perfect person for this brand of dark and terrible honesty.

"Tai isn't the kind to abandon hope. Mr courage is too strong for that."

"Tai is strong for other people... but this is something only he would face. he couldn't force himself by reasoning that giving up would be letting everyone else down... when its himself on the line, he's not so stubborn. It's too possible that he could give up." Sora felt an icy not in her stomach at that thought. She had given up. Become content with her books and her walls, but the idea that tai could do that would be unbearable. Laura spoke with an eerie reverence that seemed to be a force of nature not a collection of words.

"That's why he can't face it alone Sora. You've always been the one he fought hardest for... the one he's always loved best. He can't be allowed to loose that spark. Tai is vital in too many ways. For god's sake he is the reason we have peace with a race of beings capable of destroying us a hundred times over! He's always bringing out the best in people around him. It would be such a loss if he were robbed of that." the fact that she still loved him was evident in her words and her tone.

"You've got to save him from that Sora."



"I would do that regardless... I could never allow him to give up. I can do that as a friend, Taichi and I have done the pining for each other thing since we were kids. It wasn't meant to happen. I had a crush on him... he didn't feel that way about me. He fell for me, I was with matt. Sometimes you have too just accept that some things were not meant to be and let them stay like that." She looked at Sora with a fierceness of will, as blue ice met red fire in a battle of the eyes.

"That is bullshit if I ever heard it. If something means anything to you at all then you have to fight for it. Regardless of if it is possible. I know he loves you... and I know you love Taichi Kamiya the same way. He's your ghost, always haunting you."

"How could you assume I am in love with him? We don't even know each other Laura." her eyes shimmered in the faint light with stunning hue. Laura stared back with ethereal eyes of her own.

"You know how I mentioned that tai always had this smile when he was thinking about you or talking about you? Well you get the same smile." Sora looked down at her cool coffee which reflected her image back upon her. she touched the glassy surface with her fingertip and let the ripples cleanse her image away to squiggling ripples of light.

"Why does this matter so much to you Laura?"

"Because I hate what he has become.... such a great man, but so alone."







**********



as she and Laura were exciting the cafeteria they found Kari entering the hospital. She was early, but that was to be expected. Her face exploded into a gleeful smile as Sora told her that tai had finally woken. The three went back to his room, along the way Laura was silent about the dialog she and Sora had shared. Sora too remained mute and content to leave the nature of what was said unspoken. Kari was first to the room and almost childlike as she greeted both her brother and her nephew.

Laura adapted to the situation, making conversation with both Kari and Taichi. She was fast to acclimate herself, Sora noted, but now she could tell that there was no deception in her smile. By telling Sora about her childhood she had opened Sora to the true core of the woman. Sora no longer was the slightest bit envious of her, instead, there was almost pity. But as much pity as she felt for Laura, she felt a new respect for her once-over. She thought back on a lesson taught by her books. No good character, no matter how portrayed, is ever what they seem at first glance. Beyond each facade lays another of ascending complexity and depth. The most valuable lessons for the real world are often found within the rich ebony print of the written word.

Sora walked over to tai's bed and reached over to touch his bruised cheek. He blinked at her, while Kari's gaze grew more inquisitive and Laura's secret smile grew a little. She didn't know why she was moved to touch him, she hadn't found a solution to the tai problem. But the compulsion to touch him was overpowering and all consuming. He took her hand and squeezed it with a tai smile.

"I'm so proud of you Kamiya... behaving so well while I wasn't here to babysit." TJ giggled.

"I hear all your nurses love you."

"Well it's just do to the cast... women can't resist a guy under three feet of plaster and bandages. You were checking up on me?"

"You better believe it. So what's your secret?"

"Oh, its easy... resist the urge to throw bedpans at them. and never fake a cardiac arrest just because you're lonely and want attention." Kari chuckled.

The others continued talking while Sora enjoyed being overlooked in the conversation. She had never been the outspoken leader of the group. Always had she been content working behind the scenes to ensure that the group functioned, and even after the situation grew into everyday life and not mortal combat, she still preferred to be the silent observer in the group. They allowed her this not out of rudeness, but understanding of her true nature. Some were loud, others silent, mearly another way of being.

She listened and laughed with them as they spoke of many things, most humorous. Sora understood the need for humor here... tai's situation was far to serious without the anesthetic quality offered by a laugh. Sarcastic wit often was portrayed as mean spirited, but sometimes it served as a much needed haze to soften the harsh edges and cruel realities while still showing them. tai was laughing and that made her feel warm through her entire being. Laughter is hope that the gloom has limits, and that the storms of sorrow must inevitably pass. Time passed and Sora basked in the sunlight of their laughter, only piping in now and again.

It was half an hour later that the reminiscing had finished. Over the corse of that time tears of laughter were shed, and TJ had crawled into Sora's lap. She looked at Laura, feeling awkward that he had chosen her for a pillow over his mother. Laura smiled and nodded that it was alright. Sora held the boy as he dozed in her arms, growing to love him more and more with each time he readjusted himself against her. he felt like her own children did in her arms, some motherly instinct that was more pure and sweet then anyone could ever know unless they knew a child's love.

"It's starting to get kinda late. Who's hungry?"

" I would kill for a nice greasy cholesterol-rich cheeseburger with fries." tai salivated.

"Sorry tai, green jello for you... doctor's order." Sora chuckled.

"Health-Nazi" tai scowled.

"I'm kinda hungry..." TJ mentioned with reluctance to leaving his father.

"Well how about we go get something"

"We'll come back though right?" he padded over to his father and peered at him.

"Well it's getting a little late honey... how about you and Laura stay the night with TK, I, and the kids. We can come back tomorrow."

"What about Sora?"

"I'm not very hungry. It'll give me a bit more time to get a room ready for you once I go home." she smiled reassuringly to the boy and he nodded in acceptance. He walked over to her and hugged her. Sora returned the squeeze and relished the time spent with TJ. He was such a sweet child, and so special. She waved goodbye to them as they left the room. Tai watched them leave with a smile, it faded as they passed the corner. He stared after them for a second before turning his attention to the distant window which glowed with golds and oranges. His eyes fixed on a distant place beyond that window and maybe beyond that gold and orange sky.

Sora turned to him and lost the last lingering traces of her smile and her good mood. He looked transformed from what they had seen mere minutes before. His lips were pulled back into a snarl of forced stolidity. His eyes however betrayed him with a sadness that pooled across his gaze and left him almost ancient looking, but undoubtedly disheartened.

"Tai?"

"It just kinda hit me..."

"What did?"

"I almost never saw TJ again... I almost died today." his words were haunting, and Sora wondered how long he had forced that smile as to not worry the others. Sora was special, both blessed and cursed to know the truth behind some of tai's big goofy grins.

"You've made it through close calls before tai. It's part of your style."

"Not like this Sora... this is different." he opened his hand for hers and though he was immobile from his wrist down, he summoned great strength in his squeeze of her warm grip. She looked down on him and into the shimming dark pools of his endlessly deep chestnut pools.

"How is this different?"

"I... don't think I made it through all the way. I know it's bad Sora..."

"What makes you say that?" she whispered with a growing feeling of dread that tai's comprehending tone was born of more then just post-accident apprehension. She had steeled herself for the worst, but apparently she had underestimated just how bad the worse is.

"The fact that my best friend is hiding something like this from me." she tried to deny, but found herself only capable of the word "how?" interlaced with a deep guttural sob that resonated through the icy echelons of her spine with compounding frigidity and up to her voice box with such compounded arctic cold that a three letter word took more effort then scaling any cliff only to leap from its summit into a rocky brine of sharded ice stalagmites and churning frosty black water.

"I know they have me on some powerful meds Sora, but I feel different."

"Oh god Taichi please don't be saying this" she thought the rattling icy voice of her shaking mind. He didn't sense the need for silence and continued with the deadly momentum of a locomotive as it chugged down a set of tracks that ultimately terminated over mid air.

"I feel numb only in half of me. Like I was up to my waist in freezing water which only numbed my lower half." he sounded miserable as he proceeded with that slow, but damnably persistent dialog into a truth far too harsh for any lighting, no matter how concealing or flattering it may be.

"I don't think I can feel my feet... or anything else lower then my waist." the color had drained out of them both,

"Sora, I'm scared of the truth, but this just feels weird... wrong. Like a part of me isn't there..."

His hand had been warm when he first took hers, now it seemed unnaturally cold. He looked up to her with beseeching eyes that pierced her as if each orb were a spear. They had a sobered clarity to them that terrified her since she knew this was the fall of the deception she had used to shield both him and her.

"They aren't sure tai... there's a possibility it's nothing but pinched nerves making you feel that way. Just you being immobile in the cast, that's making it seem numb." she was so close to crying that a wrong breath could break loose the dams which held back seas of tears. She ached for him even more knowing that he had suspected this and still put on the brave face for the others. He was so brave, braver then he should ever be asked to be. He closed his eyes in preparation.

"You may be paralyzed." she watched him as he held his breath. She had expected wailing, maybe seizures of a kind, he cried. That was worse. With his eyes sealed tightly behind his clenched lids, tears pooled at the corners and then rolled downward on the slope of his cheekbone to the pillow which slowly moistened.

Sora lowered her face to his hand and kissed it, he didn't respond, just lay there with shuddering breaths that seemed empty of so much, but what terrified Sora most is the possibility that they may potentially lack hope.







**********



The hospital bent over backwards for tai. Visiting hours were non existent to Sora after tai asked that she be permitted to stay for as long as she wanted. They gave her a spare bed in the room and she brought her things. she had been borderline agoraphobic before, scared of the world beyond her apartment. Now she didn't even drift back to her books. She ate with tai and slept within feet of him, but in all aspects it wasn't tai who she remained sentinel to.

TJ had temporarily moved in with Kari under the assumption it was because Sora was taking care of his father. When he came to visit, tai would put on his act and the child would be fooled. The same for the others. All but Sora were lulled to security by the goofy tai grin, the same grin which had once swept Sora into it's assurance, but now would never again.

He spoke to her seldom when they were alone for the first four nights. Sora could do nothing to assuage his pain, all it seemed she could offer him was the absence of the solitude which had crippled her in a time off trauma, and left her damaged in a way that can mend, but never heal. He stared out his window often, though most likely not at the lolling stretches of grassy park and well manicured trees. His gaze shifted off beyond that panorama, to a world he believed he would never again touch. Sora was waiting for counselor duty, but until tai spoke with readiness to receive her, she could do nothing but suffer with him in the stillness of their little room in this building of tile and stucco which smelled of death, both of body, and of spirit.

It was on the seventh day that he spoke. They had ate their breakfasts in silence, and as tai looked out over that same view, now bathed in the yellowish gold of morning he spoke to her in a voice of sadness that reverberated in sympathetic rhythm to any broken heart's beatings.

"I'm never going to be able to pick up TJ again." he spoke soft, and it was only by luck that Sora heard it.

"I won't be able to walk with him, give him driving lessons when he gets his learner's."

"Tai..."

"I'll never be able to walk through the digital world again... I'm dead. If I'm trapped in a chair. I can't live my life like I have." she sat beside him.

"There's hope tai... this may be nothing at all. just a close call like the other times."

"It's not a close call." he insisted miserably.

"I'll miss so much... I wish that I had died in that accident. Better to die then live like this." his voice sliced the air with contempt, be it for god, be it for the driver who ran the red light, be it for any and everything. Sora turned to face him with eyes that gleamed with a rage she had never known. A rage that had not come to the surface when she found condoms in matt's pockets that were not relating to her. not in her childhood, not when her father left, not even when she buried her mother on a bitter November morning.

"Bastard..." she snarled and their eyes met.

"How can you talk like that?! You would give in like that? Just wish to die! To leave us!?!"

"I can't be a cripple Sora." tai had never talked about people with disabilities like that. He probably still wouldn't. He would look at the man with a prosthetic leg and see a person of just as much strength and quality as any other, but in himself he saw a incapable crippled man who would be better left in the ground then in a chair that offered no rest, and only misery.

"If you are paralyzed tai, it won't end. You will still be TJ's daddy, still ambassador to the digital world."

"I'd be an embarrassment to TJ. A old guy who can barely bath himself. and I couldn't go back into that building... not like this. The other delegates would pity me! Everyone would! They'd talk about me in the past tense, give me a desk and never let me go off world again, not even go on trips to other countries on business. I can't be pitied Sora! I'd cut my wrists before then!" he yelped as her hand crashed against his cheek with a loud slap that made his teeth chatter and his face sting like fire. She had held that back as long as possible considering any jerk like that risked further injury to his spinal cord, but if she didn't, then the injury would be more grievous and cost him his very soul.

"If you ever say anything like that again to me Taichi, I'll leave this room, and I won't come back. You always seemed like such a strong man, and I do pity you, not because you may be stuck in a wheelchair, but because you gave up like this. You arrogant little shit!" she thundered.

"How dare you talk about killing yourself! Especially to me! My mom did that after daddy finally left her, and a part of me can never forgive her for taking those pills. If you ever even think about something like that just because you are paralyzed I swear to god I will hate you." tai looked at her in shocked silence.

"You'd leave Kari all alone? You'd make TJ grow up without a dad? You'd leave me Taichi? Just like that?" she was crying, tears of anger and love and sadness all mingled into brackish jewels which fell from her eyes and to the floor.

"I... I can't be less then what I am. I wouldn't be me."

"You'll always be you, tai... you aren't your legs. You are your heart and your mind... you are your love, not your body." he blinked at her.

"Sora I.." she cut him off.

"I love you tai. And not like a friend." her words came fast, but they hit tai with an impact far faster then any bullet could travel. The impact knocked him into disbelief as he looked at her.

He mustered words slowly, but eventually they came. "You... you can't tell me this now Sora. God, why couldn't you have said that earlier. Days, weeks, hell a year! I'm no good to you now. We couldn't have anything normal." his tone held a desolation the likes of which Sora had not heard before, something that was emptier then open space, and twice as cold. She knew that her future with tai depended on what was said next. She had taken a great strive in blurting out the fact that she did love him, but to pull him from the precipice she would have to speak directly from the core of her being. She would have to dredge as deep within herself as she could to find words for tai. Past the hurt and fear matt had left her, and into the heart of a long history she shared with the young ambassador. To save tai, she let down every emotional wall she had constructed over her hard existence, exposing herself completely to him. With no more deliberation then a short breath, she followed her instincts.

Sora took her hands and pressed them to his cheeks. He stared up into her as she looked down at him. He was at her mercy in more ways then just a body cast. He had been in love with her for years, a lifetime of years. And now as he lay there before her, hers to do with as she chose in both body and mind, she exploited his weakness.

Leaning down to him she kissed him on the lips. Tai's eyes were wide as she softly pressed her lips to his. She was gentle, her lips were as soft as the wings of a butterfly fluttering against his own. she took her time and kissed him with such gentleness that it almost had the substance of silken shadows gliding over the flesh. He had dreamed of those lips for years on end, their taste was beyond his imagination, he would have liked to deepen the kiss, but was still off-guard and frozen by its suddenness. She leaned back an inch and spoke in a whisper of words, her eyes shimmering in the light like jewels beneath crystal water.

"I need you tai. I don't need you because you can walk. I need your smile. I need to be able to hold you at night; I've always needed that. I love your mind and your heart... and I have just been too scared till now. Now that you are close to losing what I love about you. If you have to use a wheelchair I will be with you. If there is any hope of you walking, any hope at all... you and I will fight for it. And even if we lose, I'll still have you, I'll still be able to touch you." she was crying and her tears were falling on his cheeks, he didn't mind.

They stayed like that for a while, looking at each other in a silent communion that was almost prayer, had it only been directed skyward instead of to the other's gaze.

Tai wasn't overly religious, he didn't read his bible or go to mass, his religion was mearly an understanding that there were things in this world that could only be explained by faith in something greater. God could be a being, either as Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or how any other religion saw him, he could simply be the axis which all creation existed upon and within, he could be all of those things all at once, or even something beyond. But as tai looked into Sora's ruby gaze and the beauty of the light portrayed therein he knew that something of limitless greatness existed, for no chemical quagmire had been the origin of that light which radiated through her. Sora was his proof in something that could never be touched, but always felt. He was on the edge of true despair, she had been his salvation. The promise of her love, his redemption. He felt that with her at his side he could deal with the grim fate possibly dealt to him. He thought back on the years upon years which he had spent in lonely devotion to her held in context to this moment when the years ended. He could still taste her sweetness upon his lips, it made him feel like a teenager again. He was vaguely aware of tears in his eyes, not tears of joy per say, and not tears of sorrow. He wasn't sure exactly why he was crying. But in some ways he felt that the tears were of release. Tears that had waited so long to be shed.

"I've loved you for so long Sora."

"In a way, I have always loved you too tai.."

"It hurts loving someone like that, being so close."

"It's scary too, finally being let in."

"Terrifying."she smiled softly and leaned down on him again. Their second kiss was still soft and yet also lustful. Her lips closed over his bottom lip and gently sucked it before slowly allowing it to slip through her mouths's pleasureful suction. Tai was immobile and thus completely at her mercy. He liked it. The kissing softened the hard world around him and soon made it go away. He found his head arching up to meet her mouth and tongue with delicious agony. Sora was a drug that cured a world of malice and cold. Reality had no power over her love, and after years upon years of seeking her warmth, he was finally bid inside to bask in it. Her hair fell over him like cascading waterfalls of copper silk which shined like amber and smelled of jasmine. His eyes were as hot with tears as if he had sought god his whole life only to have every faith he placed validated with divine surety. Sora had been a dream and a quest to him, but now as he finally had her he found her as both dream and quest, but really neither at the same time. A quest's adventure ends upon the destination, a dream is no longer a dream once realized. Having Sora tell him these thing was more then any dream or journey, and knowing that they were finally together as he had dreamed did not even begin to diminish the want he felt for her. the sense of completion she lent to his life. He kissed back and returned her murmurs.

"I love you Sora, I always have loved you..." knowing that Sora would truly be with him seemed to be the only source of hope he could cling to capable of supporting him in the midst of this tragedy. He could take strength from her and more vitally, hope.

"Will you be ok tai?"

A pause, then a smile. A smile that could only be born on his lips, and though exaggerated, it wasn't just for her benefit.

"I have you.." he sounded like he did as a boy with hushed yet utterly unmistakable happiness, Sora thought.

"I owe you years. Years, tai... that's a lot to make up for."

"We can start today... Once I get better we need to work twice as hard making up for the time we missed. Oh Sora, I have so much to show you." he had a boyish glint of eagerness to the future which loomed before them. He still was afraid of a life without use of his legs. But Sora knew that ultimately the lessons taught in her books would guide them to triumph in the face of whatever fate had in store for them.

Hope can conquer despair.

Joy defeats sorrow when given the chance.

And love, when pure, can be the vessel to triumphing over anything.

Their hands locked, and a warmth radiated out through them to the room, and soon, the smell of death and despair was indiscernible to them, overpowered by a faith in a future that held all the promise for them that it had back when they were just children starting out on a journey.







**********



tai sat alone on the sunbathed terra cotta patio. The world was bathed in amber under the glowing jewel which hung low in the twilight sky. It had been a hot day but now as night advanced across the sky in a chariot of pinks and violets the air grew cooler. Soon the cobblestone streets and antiquated brick buildings would be bathed in the silver of street lamps and strung lights. Tai loved Rome, it was a meeting place from urban sprawl to a rich antiquity which still beat as the heart of Rome. Sculptures still stood in squares while dilapidated, and yet still beautiful, buildings towered overhead with gothic reminiscence to the ages of long ago.

Tourists often flocked across Europe in a mad rush from one place of historic significance to the next without truly taking in the majesty of the place. Sampling large gorging swallows of the past without taking the time to sit back and taste of its flavor always mystified tai. He went to the museums, and at times, only saw a fraction of the galleries, but he came out enriched with an experience that could be lost to anyone who rushed through... life was like that.

In the spirit of this lethargic process of cultural osmosis, he sat back in his chair and took a long sip of his iced tea. It was cool and sweet on his tongue, just the remedy for a torrid day such as this. He looked down to the brown book of warn leather. It had a rubber-band as a page mark and a black ballpoint pen clipped to its side. Tai had kept a journal on all of his trips for the last few years, he wasn't completely sure why, but it was a source of comfort to him.

Across from the small café was a beautiful fountain. Marble fish swam in splashing tides around nude women carrying large water gourds which gurgled with translucent water all frozen in the perpetual stillness of stone. It was far taller, and much more ornate then anything you would find in the US. And it had a far different beauty from any shrine or artifact that would be native to the japan of long ago.

Both had beauty of corse, the united states had a industrial and modern beauty that was exhibited in its architecture, always sweeping upward into the heavens. Their cities shimmered with artificial stars and a music of chorused urban sounds. Tai loved America for its attitude tword life, an optimism that could inspire any man to the possibility of success.

While japan was far more cramped with metropolitan growth, it had a more subtle flavor beneath the sprawl of its bustling metropolis, a minute touch of rich culture. The cities gleamed with technological splendor that was the pinnacle of the world, but if you stood there long enough, just breathing the air, you would eventually detect a faint aroma of sandalwood and incense from the long forgotten temples and shrines which though now gone, still were a part of japan.

Wether rows and rows of evergreens, or groves of pinkish white cherry blossoms, tai loved so much of this world for so many different reasons. And as he took another refreshing sip of his iced tea he glanced down on his journal.

He had been lucky. The accident had done damage, but not permanent. It took months and months of physical therapy that sprained and agonized him, but with Sora's brutal encouragement, he kept fighting. He knew he wouldn't have been able to do it without her, knew that he would have lost his way had he been forced to go through such grueling and excruciating therapy without her love and her ironclad determination for him to walk again. She pushed him every step of the way, and in the end he survived and overcame his atrophied legs and atrophied belief that he would be able to walk again.

He walked with a limp, usually during cold weather. But the fact that he walked was more then he could have ever asked. Since the accident he had traveled considerably more then previously. Doing more and more for the UN then he had before. It was said that tai's accident had awakened a new zeal to life. That was partially right, but he had always had a zeal for life. The accident had taught him how quickly it all could end. And so he took the old phrase "seize the day" to new heights. Now he seized everyday with a childlike enthusiasm, and every night with the same. seize the moment, seize the second.

In the distance a group of young boys ran down the street, he could hear their footsteps clapping against the cobblestone and their laughter echoing off walls and buildings with a tune that the London symphony could only dream of reproducing. They were locals, olive skin and dark black hair. He followed them with his gaze as they shot around a corner and left only the fading sound of their clapping footfalls. He could smell herbs in the air, bitter to the taste, but flavorful on the open air.

He unclasped his pen and turned to the next blank page.

"I'm in Rome again, it never changes. That's what I like about it I think. Knowing that there are constants in this world is a comfort when so much isn't constant. Governments fall to the wayside, are replaced, and end the same way. War, peace, rebellion, terrorism, and treaties... they all come and go over and over again in an endless repetition. Rome doesn't change in all the ways that matter. It still feels the same as it did when I first came here, almost as if no time has passed. I remember when I first saw it, painted in the golds of sunset, and here I sit, in that same golden radiance from all the years past. I'm older now, but the city seems perpetual in its beauty.

Rome was like this before I was born, and it will be the same as it is today long after I am gone. I like that, the idea that all our problems and our pains are just a drop of water in an ocean. Fights, betrayals.... they all are truly insignificant and as short lived as a candle's flame, burning as if it would go on forever, but then being nothing but smoke. It gives you the impression that all the bad things die, but all the good things live on.

I read through some of my pages in here, I sound old. Strange to hear yourself talking, and realize that time has passed and the morning has come, and gone for you. I'm not a kid anymore, but I still feel like it sometimes, Like I never lost that part of myself. I'm a man now, but I still feel like a kid... I guess that's a blessing, I don't ever want to loose that awe over how big the city is, or how massive it's impact is. The day I walk into the Sistine-chapel, and don't feel tiny, is the day I know that I lost something within myself, something that will mean I am old, not in body, but in spirit. I prey that day never comes."

"Hey tai, you going to finish anytime this month?" Sora yelled from the fountain. Tai looked up and smiled at her. Rome is a good experience on a person. It broadens horizons. Sora thrived in travel. She was still the book reader that tai loved, but now she was like him, a person without country of origin, but one who lives everywhere. She was a perfect companion, and he treasured being able to share the world with her, treasured her insights and her responses to van Gogh's "Starry Night Over the Rhone" which she loved, to Picasso's cubist masterpieces, which she did not love.

She was smiling at him and it nearly took his breath. Her hair hung long, and cascaded over her shoulder like a sunset of spun copper. She was golds and oranges under the sun's fading glory, which cast pools of translucent shadow over the pout of her lips and the accentuation of her cheekbones. She looked radiant in this light, like an angel of flame with a pluming, fiery, mane. Her eyes glowed in the sunlight's last gleaming with a radiance that was almost akin to animal eye shine, though not menacingly feral, but breathtakingly wild. Her smile was warmer then the day, and it pierced him with a pleasant heat that both was arousing and platonic all at once in a glorious symphony of sensation.

He almost would have grabbed her and whisked her off to their room to make love again. The light's aura made her seem more smokey and sultry then she normally was. If he took her now he would almost feel like a virgin again, hesitantly reaching out to touch her with trembling hands. But as tempting as that idea was to him, he wanted to enjoy her in a less lustful manner now. She tickled his heart just as much as his libido, and today he enjoyed watching her dip her fingertips into the fountain, talk of non-romantic things, while being positively adorable without even knowing it. He was enamored with her for a thousand reasons, and the sex was just a small part of it.

"Yeah I'm coming! Give me another five minutes alright?" he yelled back to her.

"Ok, but we don't want to miss out!" tai had promised her that they would go exploring the area's bars tonight. Unlike some of the more seedy places in town, this area was alive at night with activities above the waist. They had strung lights across rooftops, loud music, and dancing. It was like marti gras in some ways, though not quite as wild. They were looking forward to soaking up a bit of the culture tonight, and since Sora insisted they freshen up first, he was running the risk of making them late.

He looked at her again as she leaned back and watched a group of girls walk by. They were dark skinned and very pretty. She waved to them, and they waved back. Sora wasn't able to speak the language yet, but she was getting there quick. But language isn't that important when you can convey yourself as Sora could. Tai offered to marry her after his accident, she had told him to wait. Tai understood. She might be scared of marrying again, getting hurt... But in a way it was a promise for the future. Tai had waited his whole life for her, this was minor compared to that. No rush...

"I think back on the digidestined. We were all so young, so sure that this was our big adventure and that it would never end. Ya know... it never did. The adventure changes as we change, life is the greatest challenge ever to be faced. Men climb mountains and jump from planes, but that kind of test is nothing to the test of moving on when you have been crushed by your own heart. Fast cars and stunts can't equal the rush of hearing that you are going to be a parent. Of hearing your child's voice. Bungee jumping doesn't make you loose your stomach like slipping into a bed and making love to the girl you have dreamed of since you were a boy, hearing her whispers, feeling her all around you and inside you in a way you never felt before. My adventure was life, fighting the despair and preying for the future.

I guess I keep this journal to remind me of all that, as a tangible thing that can remind me of how far my journey has taken me. A little boy lost in a strange and exciting world, having adventures there, and then beginning new adventures in an even more strange and exciting world. I've waited so long for the kind of love that makes my knees shake, and now that I have it, the journey hasn't ended. I guess there are no endings, no epilogues to a story, because stories never end... they just keep on going and changing, growing more rich, and enriching the stories of others.

One day when I am gone these journals will belong to my son TJ. I hope he understands them, and learns from them. and if he takes anything from them, I hope it is the courage to see that life isn't hopeless and without love. It can seem like that, worse then that, but with courage we can fight for dreams and never loose faith in our futures regardless of how bleak they may seem."





"Hey goggle head! Come on!" Sora called to him with a smile that would last forever.





"you are hollow, we all are. we try to fill the void inside ourselves with synthetic joy, but it is only illusion. we search for the missing pieces, but we are eluded, for the parts we need to exist lay not in possessions, they exist in those we love."

By Taichi Kamiya




"Ok, I'm coming Sora!" he called out to her as he closed the book.