::Note:: The much awaited next chapter of Matt and Tai's marriage is FINALLY here! I know it's been a very, very long time since I updated this fic, I just haven't had the inspiration to do it. But, for all of you who have been waiting, here you go! It's still not done, but I promise that it will finally be completed some day soon!
The next night, after sitting for hours in a small, quiet waiting room, a nurse finally arrived to inform Matt the surgery was over and he could see his husband again. He leaned on the edge of a bed in the recovery room, the curtains drawn around Tai's bed. The injured athlete was still groggy from the anesthesia and feeling sick to his stomach.
"I'm gonna puke..." he moaned, shifting uncomfortably. He leg was wrapped up to hide the stitches; he was dressed in only his underwear and a hospital gown, and there was some sort of solution dripping into his arm from an IV hanging overhead. Matt ran his fingers through Tai's bangs and looked down at him, ready to hold a container under his mouth if he needed to throw up.
"Do you want me to go get the nurse?" he asked.
"No, I'll be fine," Tai said.
He closed his brown eyes for a moment, taking deep breaths to calm his stomach. Matt surveyed the scene before him once again. Along with the IV, Tai had a clip on the tip of his index finger that was hooked up to a machine beside them. The screen showed his heart rate, blood pressure, and a few other statistics, but Matt was not quite sure what they meant. He had been given morphine to take away his pain, but the effects of all the medication on his system were what caused the most discomfort. Tai rarely got sick, and his body was having trouble handling all the foreign substances.
"Are you going to be ok now?" Matt asked, setting the container he had been holding back on the floor.
"Yeah..." Tai took another deep breath and sat up a bit. "I just wanna go home."
"One more night, angel," Matt soothed, rubbing the brunette's stomach gently.
"Are my cats ok?" he asked.
"Sora stopped by to feed them this afternoon, they'll be fine," Matt said.
"I worry about them more these days since they're getting older."
Matt smiled and shook his head, wondering how Tai could still be concerned with his pets after all he'd been through in the last twenty-four hours.
"Those two are the healthiest and most pampered felines in all of Japan, Tai," he laughed.
Just then they saw a head of blue hair peek through the door, and Joe's face came into view, his glasses falling down off his nose. He looked rather nervous about something... of course Joe very frequently looked nervous. This time, though, his face was extremely grim, as if he was about to announce someone's death.
"Joe, are you just going to stand outside the door all night?" Matt asked, leaning back in the chair a bit to get a better look at his friend. Joe fumbled with the lower corners of his white lab coat and fidgeted in the doorway before walking in. He pulled up a stool next to the hospital bed and sighed deeply, looking down at Tai. Tai raised a thick, brown eyebrow and stared up at Joe.
"Are you ok there...?" he asked, trying to sit up a bit in bed with Matt protesting and keeping him lying down.
"Um, yeah, well," Joe sighed again. "This is going to be really hard to say, but I have to do it. I feel like you should hear it from a friend."
"Hear what; is everything ok?" the overprotective Matt demanded.
"Ok, I hate to say this, but everything is not ok. I was just talking to one of the doctor's that assisted with your surgery."
"And?" Tai asked. "I thought everything went fine, that's what they told Matt."
"Apparently you failed to mention you were a soccer player though," Joe said.
"What are you talking about, that's how I got hurt in the first place. Didn't they know?"
"Tai, you realize that as far as muscle injuries go, yours is pretty severe, right?" Joe said, rolling his stool a few inches back from the bed when he caught a glimpse of Matt's face. His icy blue stare told him that he was liable to get a punch in the face if he didn't get to the point quickly. Matt wasn't the type to sit through long explanations when the news concerned his husband.
"They told me it was a grade three tear or whatever," Tai said. "But the operation was supposed to fix everything." He waited for a response but Joe just kept the same grim expression on his face. "Wasn't it...?" Tai asked.
"By severe I mean really severe. As in... career ending severe...." he said softly, looking down and scuffing his shoe against the floor.
Tai's eyes widened and he shot up in bed before Matt could stop him. "Career ending!? Are you trying to say I can't play soccer anymore!?" he shouted. If he had not been hooked up to IVs and monitors he just might have grabbed Joe by the collar at that point.
Joe held his hands up in front of him in defense, looking panicked. "You'll have to wait until the surgeon gets back to you!" he said. "But from what I've heard I don't think there's any way you'll be able to run like you used to." Tai stared at him, totally dumbfounded. He swallowed with difficulty, feeling tears start to well up in his eyes. "You can still play soccer just... probably not professionally," Joe finished.
Tai leaned back against the mattress and looked down into his lap. His eyes overflowed, and small droplets rolled down his cheeks as he sat there. Matt reached up to lightly brush a teardrop away, but he had no idea what to say to comfort his partner. After his family, soccer was Tai's entire world. There was nothing he loved more than to be racing down the field, dribbling the ball to score that last minute, game winning goal. All the sweat, adrenaline, thrill of winning, pain of losing, all of that together was one of the truest joys he could imagine. It was everything to him, and now it was being snatched away.
"This is unreal..." he sobbed. Matt wrapped his arms around his husband and held him to his chest, petting his hair lightly and rocking him.
"Joe, are you sure about this?" Matt said.
"They're probably going to be in here to discuss it with you any time now. Your injury will heal eventually, but it would be dangerous to play soccer again. The damage might be permanent next time; you wouldn't be able to run at all."
"Yami..." Tai whined, clutching at the blonde's sweater tightly. He squeezed his eyes shut, making more tears leak out. Joe bit his lip uncomfortably. Never, in all the time he had known him, had he seen Tai reduced to such a state. He had never even seen their brave leader shed a tear.
"I think I'd better go now," he said. He got up and pushed the stool back where he had found it, then exited the room quickly. The pair was left alone again, Tai completely in shock and Matt not knowing what to do. The brunette was such a happy person who truly loved life and rarely let anything bring him down. Now, though, he was faced with something he cherished being gone forever, and Matt had no words to comfort him. All he could do was hold him close, assuring Tai of his promise to always be there for him. They had made the vow to stay together for better or for worse, after all. Now was the worst....
"I heard the other day at school that Mrs. Toshi is trying to get a petition signed to have Tuesday and Shinji taken away from you. I never thought she would go this far..." Kari sighed. She was sitting in the Ishida's living room that afternoon, a week after Tai had returned from the hospital. The situation with the anti-homosexual school board did not seem to be getting any better. She had come to visit to give the couple an update and also to see her ailing brother, who also did not seem to be getting any better. Things were progressing as they should be physically, but emotionally Tai was the lowest anyone had ever seen him.
"I can't believe this!" Matt growled, blowing his blonde bangs from his eyes. "I can't belive this bitch is trying to get our kids taken from us. Can she even do that!? I mean, is that legal?"
"I don't know," Kari said. "You'd have to ask Cody about all the legal aspects."
"Don't worry. I will..." he grumbled, staring angrily out the terrace window at the city.
"How is Tai doing?" Kari asked with worry. The past few times she had seen him, he did not even want to talk for more than a few minutes.
Matt sighed deeply and glanced over at the bedroom door. The children were sitting on the bed with their father, not really understanding why he had been so sad, but trying to comfort him anyway.
"He's depressed. I've never seen him so down. I don't know what to do." Matt ran his fingers through his hair repeatedly, something he always did when he was upset or thinking deeply. "He doesn't want to talk about soccer at all."
"I never imagined Tai not wanting to talk about soccer..."
Matt sighed once again and continued staring at the door. Inside the bedroom, Shinji was at the foot of the bed creating a new masterpiece in one of his coloring books. Tuesday was laying on the bed next to Tai, her little hands playing with his fluffy hair.
"Daddy Matt said you can't play soccer anymore," she said.
"Yeah..." he sighed. He knew she just wanted to be with him and give comfort the best she could, but he just wanted to be alone. Nothing could make him feel better at this point. He could not tell his daughter to go away though; being rejected like that by her own father would hurt her terribly, and he could not bring himself to do that.
"Why not?" she asked, still twirling his hair around her fingers.
"Because my leg is hurt..."
"Is that why you were crying?"
Tai blinked and looked at her. She must have still been awake when he broke down again and cried into Matt's shirt for almost an hour the night before. One of the last things he wanted was to look weak in front of his children, and he felt embarrassed that she had heard him sounding so pathetic. "Yeah, that's why."
"I thought grown ups didn't cry," she said.
He pulled her into his lap, careful of his still aching leg and held her. "Everybody cries, even grown ups," he told her. "Sometimes it takes a lot to make grown people cry though..."
"So you're really sad a whole lot?"
"Yeah, a whole lot."
"Daddy Matt always sings to me when I'm sad. Does he sing to you?" she asked.
"Ok. I'm gonna sing you a song," she said, getting out of his lap and standing up on the big bed. She danced around in a circle on the bed while she sang, "Ooki na kuri no ki no shita de, anata to watashi, naka yoku asobimashou, ooki na kuri no ki no shita de." Then she plopped back down on the bed next to her father and grinned at him. "We sang that song at school," she said.
Tai brought her into his arms again just as Shinji climbed up onto the mattress and made his way across the bed with a paper in his hand and a crayon hanging out of his mouth. "Shinji, don't eat that."
"I not!" he said, giggling and crawling into Tai's lap, nearly pushing his sister off the bed. "Daddy dis is you and your leg's broke," he said, showing him a lovely portrait of Tai drawn in crayon with what appeared to be a giant concrete block for a leg, but Tai assumed it was a bandage.
"That's great, Shinji. I'll ask Daddy Matt to hang it up on the refrigerator for me, okay?"
Shinji got up and started hopping around the bed chanting, "Fidge-a-lator, fidge-a-lator, fidge-a-lator!"
"No, Shinji, it's fidge-UURR-ator," Tuesday corrected him, causing Tai to smile for the first time all week. He gathered up his children into his arms and kissed their heads.
"Thanks, you two."
"You're welcome, Daddy," Tuesday said, although she was not quite sure what they had done. Either way, she could tell that her father was happy by the sparkling in his brown eyes and the famous grin he was flashing at the two of them.
That night when the children were tucked into bed and the house was quiet, Matt sat behind Tai in bed, brushing his thick mass of fluffy hair. It hadn't been tended to in days and was a complete rat's nest, to put it mildly. Matt was taking extra care not to pull too hard at the monstrous tangles that had formed there, and so far had avoided causing Tai any pain.
"I am so tempted to just cut this all off..." Matt mumbled.
"You're right, I wouldn't. But, you really need to remember to brush your hair once in a while," he said, spraying some of the detangler he normally used on Tuesday in his husband's hair.
"Why bother when I can have you do it for me...?" Tai replied, almost giggling. This was an extremely pleasant surprise for Matt. Tai had been nothing but glum and quiet since he had returned from the hospital. Deciding to let the horribly knotted hair stay as it was for a bit longer, Matt wrapped his arms around the brunette and pulled him closer against his body. Tai glanced up behind him and smiled contentedly.
"What brought on this sudden change of mood?" Matt asked, running his long fingers up and down Tai's bare chest. He was wearing one of the blonde's pajama shirts with every button undone. The sleeves were a bit too long and only his fingers were sticking out from the cuffs.
"Talking to the kids for a little while cheered me up... and I've been thinking."
"You thought? Taichi, congratulations!" Matt teased.
"Yamiii..." Tai grinned up and him and shoved him playfully before settling back into his narrow lap.
"Ok, in all seriousness now," Matt said, holding his husband closely to his body. "What have you been thinking about?"
"I'm thinking about going back to school, but I wanted to talk it over with you."
"Going back to college?"
"Yeah, I only need a few more courses and I can get my veterinary degree." He snuggled against Matt while he talked, feeling the bass player's roughened fingertips stroking the back of his ear. "I gave up on being a vet when I got accepted into the pros, but now I'm suddenly glad I've got something to fall back on."
"I'll support anything you want to do," Matt said, happy that after a week with no luck in cheering the normally happy Taichi up, an afternoon alone with his children had done the trick. "Especially if you want to sell your cats."
"Matt!" Tai sat up quickly and turned, still amazingly flexible despite his injured leg (much to Matt's delight...), and smacked the blonde across the face with one of the pillows. "Stop hating my cats!"
"Well they hate me too, it's a mutual hatred."
"Only because you're mean to them!" Tai said, bashing him over the head with the pillow again.
"Quit it! You're going to mess up my hair," Matt laughed, shoving the pillow away from him.
"Don't want your precious hair messed up, huh?" Tai said with an evil grin, eyeing Matt's perfectly groomed locks.
"Don't you dare..." he said, narrowing his eyes at the little brunette leaning in towards him.
"Oooh, it's like a magnet, my hands are just getting pulled in!" Tai said, clutching on to the ends of Matt's hair.
"Stop!" But it was too late, Matt's flawless hairdo had been destroyed and was sticking up in every imaginable direction. "Well, you're back to normal..." he groaned.
After long weeks of agonizing physical therapy and much complaining, Tai was finally back on his feet, or attempting to be at least. He still couldn't walk for more than a few minutes without having to sit down and rest. He also refused to use the crutch the doctor had given him, saying it looked stupid. Because of his temporary handicap, he and Matt had switched places when they took the children to the park. While Matt was normally the one sitting on a bench keeping a watchful eye, Tai was now forced to sit and be left out. As he watched Tuesday and Shinji enjoy themselves on the playground and drive Matt crazy expecting him to keep up, he sighed and longed to get up and play. Though it may seem strange for a thirty year old man, Taichi loved to play! In fact, he and Davis were the only ones who never tired of playing with the children, they still had not outgrown their love of games though their childhood days were far behind them. It sometimes annoyed their spouses when the two were acting considerably immature, (though Ken would never say so and they both loved them just the same) it was an absolute delight for Tuesday and Shinji that their daddy was just like a big kid.
"Daddy, come push me!" Tuesday yelled, still too little to propel herself on the swings. Her legs were futilely pumping back and forth.
"Just a second, Tuesday!" Matt said, who was impatiently waiting at the bottom of the slide for Shinji to come down. The little goggled-headed boy was hesitantly standing at the top, still trying to judge what was the exact right way to go down.
"Please, daddy I wanna be pushed now!" Tuesday whined, she had not been making any progress in swinging for the last five minutes. "Please, please, please, please, please!"
"Shinji just go down the slide," Matt said, sighing deeply from the bottom.
"Daddy I wanna be a sno-order, peas?"
"He wants you to pretend he's going down on a snow board, Matt," Tai translated from the bench.
"Okay, go ahead and snow board then, Shinji. Just, please be quick about it. Your sister is about to burst a blood vessel over there." He eyed his daughter who was about having a fit trying to make her swing move.
"You haf to 'nounce it!" Shinji demanded, getting ready to go down.
"What? Shinji just go!" Matt shouted, growing very tired of waiting.
"Matt is so boring..." Tai mumbled before standing up and putting his hands in front of his mouth like a megaphone. "Boarding next is the spectacularly awesome world champion snow boarder, Shinji Ishida! AND THE CROWD IS GOING WILD!"
Shinji giggled from the top of the slide and finally slid down into Matt's outstretched arms. Of course anyone with a brain would have known a world champion snow boarder couldn't make his death defying trip down a mountain without an announcer.... Matt, apparently, had no brain when it came to playing pretend.
Matt set Shinji down on the baby swing and buckled him in before pushing Tuesday. She smiled broadly for the first few moments of being pushed but then frowned and turned around to look at him.
"Daddy, say something funny," she said.
"Tuesday, I thought you just wanted to be pushed."
"You're a boring pusher..." she whined, and skidded her feet along the ground to bring the swing to a stop. She hopped off and ran quickly through the grass to go play on the monkey bars, leaving Matt wondering what the heck he had done wrong this time.
"What do these kids want from me?" he groaned, hitting his head against the metal bar of the swing set.
"Daddy why you hit your head?" Shinji asked from the motionless baby swing.
"Because apparently I suck," Matt said.
"You're not playing with them, Yami. You're just... doing stuff." Tai told him, keeping one eye on Tuesday on the other side of the playground.
"Well I thought I was playing! I don't know what they want me to do." He sighed again and began pushing Shinji on the baby swing.
"Try to act like you're having fun," Tai advised, and would have continued if it had not been for the ear splitting scream coming from the monkey bars. In the split second he had taken his eyes off her, Tuesday had managed to fall. Ignoring the pain in his leg, he joined Matt in running over to their injured daughter.
"Tuesday, what happened, are you okay?" Matt asked frantically to the sobbing little girl.
"I hurt my leg!" she wailed, tears streaming down her face has she uncovered the hands she hand clasped over her knee to show them.
"You're okay sweetie, there's nothing there," Matt said when he had examined her leg.
"No! Look harder!" she said, still sobbing and hiccuping. Both men leaned over and spotted the tiniest scratch possible on her knee.
"Tuesday..." Matt sighed and rolled his eyes while Tai leaned down and kisses her knee.
"All better?" he asked.
She nodded and threw her arms around the brunette's shoulders, rubbing her face against his shoulder and drying her eyes on his shirt. Matt sat down in the sand under the monkey bars and shook his head fondly.
"Daddy Tai when is your leg gonna be better?" Tuesday asked, playing with a tuft of his hair.
"Soon, don't worry. I'll be running around before you know it."
She kneeled up a bit and whispered in his ear, "Daddy Matt's not a fun player..."
"Shhh, he'll learn."
Just then they were disturbed by another shriek and looked up to see they had left Shinji stranded in the baby swing across the playground.
"Oops..." Matt said, getting up to retrieve him. "Well, at least he can't run away from there."
That evening, the Ishida couple lied in bed together after settling the kids down for the night. Matt was lying on his side with a book propped up in front of him, reading who knows what as he usually did before he slept. Tai was busy staring at the ceiling since Matt was too enthralled in his book to talk to him. The next day, we would be visiting the collage he had been to years before to discuss continuing his animal sciences classes. If all went well, in a few years he would be a veterinarian and could open his own animal hospital. He had always adored cats especially, and would have gone on with his studies if he had not been accepted into the professional soccer leagues.
Matt scoffed lightly at something in his book and Tai rolled to his side, looking at the back of his husband's head and reaching out to strokes his blonde hair lightly.
"What?" Matt asked, not even rolling over.
"Nothing, just playing with your hair."
The silence in their apartment was shattered suddenly by an ear splitting scream from the children's bedroom. Both men were out of bed in and instant and down the hallway to check on them. Tai kneeled down by Tuesday's bed when he saw she was sitting up and crying and Matt leaned over the crib to see if Shinji was all right. The little boy was somehow still sound asleep.
"Must have inherited the sound sleeping from Tai," Matt mused, raising one eyebrow when he had concluded his son was fine.
"Tuesday, what's wrong?" Tai asked, pulling the sobbing little girl into his lap and rocking her back and forth gently. She hiccupped and wiped her eyes on the sleeve of her pajamas while she clung to him tightly. Shaken out of sleep by a nightmare, she could barely even stop crying long enough to speak yet.
"Did you have a bad dream?" Matt asked, sitting lightly on the edge of her bed and ruffling her hair.
She nodded and moved over into his lap, trading fathers so she could be near both of them for a little while. Tai inched closer and wrapped his arms around both Matt and their daughter; and the three of them sat on the small bed together quietly while Tuesday calmed down.
"Tell us what happened," Matt said as he rubbed her back gently to ease her sobs and help the tears to stop flowing.
"I had a bad dream.... Somebody was taking me away from you," she sniffled. Tai and Matt looked at each other with worry for a moment. Could she know more about the situation with the school board and Mrs. Toshi than they thought? Perhaps it was only a coincidence, or maybe her subconscious was telling her something was wrong, even though her fathers had not discussed it with her directly.
"Tuesday, it was just a dream," Matt soothed. "Nobody is ever, ever going to take you away from us."
"We promise," Tai said. "You're our little girl forever. You're safe here, okay?"
Tuesday nodded and clung fiercely to both of them. She did not want them to leave her alone tonight.
"Can I come sleep in your bed?" she asked. They both nodded and Matt picked her up from her bed to bring her into their bedroom. Tai turned on the baby monitor, since Shinji would be alone in his crib. When they had turned the lights off again and cuddled into Matt and Tai's cozy king size bed, Tuesday fell back to sleep right away.
"Do you think she knows what's going on?" Tai whispered once she had dozed off.
"I don't know.... I haven't really said anything to the kids because I didn't want to scare them, have you?" Matt asked.
"No, maybe she just figured it out on her own. I think she knows a lot more than we give her credit for."
"She's definitely got a lot going on under those little pigtails. We should talk the whole thing over with her tomorrow, she deserves to know."
Tai nodded and yawned. He snuggled into his pillow and held hands with Matt, their arms draped over Tuesday to meet in the middle. After quick kisses goodnight and a bit of tossing and turning, both men fell asleep and all was quiet in the Ishida home once again.
The translation to Tuesday's song in English:
Under the big chestnut tree, you and me, are playing happily, under the big chestnut tree.
A Japanese children's rhyme I found on the Internet