Sometimes it can be super easy to mistake friendship for love. To think that unspoken feelings are being returned because a hug lasted for too long, or because a flirty joke seemed to be a little too serious, or because a friend held your hand a little while you slept. And, boy, some other times? It can be really easy to do something bad in return, thinking it was ok, when really...
My point is: yesterday, I did something pretty bad.
"Get your head in the game!" somebody shouted at me that morning. I was running off course, a rolling soccer ball leading my feet way over the side-lines.
"Er, whoops. Sorry guys," I chirped, before anybody could drill me. "I must have dosed off. These guys are so bad that they're making me sleepy!" And, really, they were pretty bad. A group of Koromons would have brought a better game than they did.
"If you say so Tai. But I don't want our team to lose, just because you thought the opposition were unworthy of you being awake," Sora said, with a smile that said she found it funny, and a voice that said was going to hit me if I didn't quit goofing off. She can get way too serious about soccer. Seriously. I thought girls weren't supposed to care about sports?
Anyway. After we had mopped the floor with the other team, which was a piece of cake, we all went to get changed. Matt came and found me before I could even stick some pants on.
"Is there actually a brain under all that hair?" he prodded, a wildly attractive smirk on his face. "Or did it just choose a lousy time to take a nap out there?"
"What's got you in such a good mood?" I threw some of my soccer uniform at him and he ducked out of the way.
"Watching you play fills me with joy, that's all."
"It's not cool to be sarcastic."
"You're thinking of smoking," he replied, and ducked out of the way of an oncoming sneaker. "Sarcasm, on the other hand, is totally cool."
"Whatever you say Matt."
"So what happened?" he asked. "Did you forget where the goal was?"
"No. I was just thinking about how pretty you looked today, out there in the stands."
He crossed his arms. "I thought you said sarcasm wasn't cool?"
"Yeah, well, maybe you convinced me otherwise."
"Huh." He smirked again. "Or…maybe you weren't really being sarcastic."
"Sure, you wish." Well, I wish he wished.
Matt threw my things back at me. I packed them up and we left, and I wrestled with him a little on the way out. He usually tells me to bug off when I do that, but that time he just threw me into a door a little. So I guess he's got used to it.
We met up with Sora later and wandered around the city centre together, reminiscing again about last summer's adventures. Sora told us about a dream she'd had recently. It was about Biyomon being the super-secret final dark master that we had never defeated. Sora wanted to return to the digital world and stop the new fluffy overlord; but she couldn't because the garden was getting out of control and, c'mon, somebody had to stop it.
Matt, when asked by Sora, said that he couldn't fully remember his dream from the previous night. But what he could remember had been pretty intense, so he didn't wanna talk about it anyway. I wasn't sure what kind of dream could have made him act so secretive. But then again, I would have acted all secretive, too, in his place. 'Cause my last dream? It was about my favourite blondie. He was showing me his new underwear, which had Gabumon's face printed on the front, and we were both really happy about it.
I've, heh, been thinking about Matt in his underwear a lot lately. And not just in my sleep. I mostly started doing it after we returned from Digiworld. We had this strange conversation at the time, and it kinda sorta put ideas in my head. I remember what we talked about more clearly than what I ate yesterday.
"Hey, Tai?" Matt had said, sounding a little uncomfortable about something.
"What?" I asked suspiciously.
"Do you, uh," he began, and then he stopped. "This might be a little sudden. But do you remember that big fight we had, back when we were going after the dark masters?"
I smirked at him. "You mean that one where you flipped out and tried to kill me and Agumon?" I think I can still feel the bruises from that fist fight.
"...Yeah," he replied.
"What about it? We forgave and forgot, right?"
"Sure. It's just...uh, ha!" he started smiling at me like a freak all of a sudden. "Never mind, it was stupid. You won't care."
"C'mon. Don't say that. I wanna know."
He thought it over for a while. "Well, if you're sure," he said, trying to be cool and indifferent. "I just wanted to tell you that I - hah, you won't really believe me, but - I was sort of tricked into fighting you. By a talking tree."
I stopped and laughed all over him when he said that, and then he started to laugh with me. "A talking tree huh?" I said, "That's the lamest excuse I've ever heard."
"Maybe," he smiled, shoving me a little, "but it's still true!"
"Really," he tried to assure me, "It is."
We walked down a busy street and towards this wonky looking bench. "Are you sure you're not losing it?"
I sniggered at him. "Positively insane, more like..."
He stopped laughing with me when I said that. "...Look, Tai." He was wearing his serious face. "Everything that happened back then...it was my fault. And you won't hear me making any excuses about it, so get real. I just wanted to tell you about what happened."
"Sure, ok then. Go nuts."
He looked at me with this sideways warning glance, and I answered with an apologetic one. Then he started telling me all about this tree Digimon who convinced Matt that he needed to change for the better. In order to change, the tree said, Matt had to defeat his rival. And...then Matt started telling me about some lake, and I got all confused.
"Wait. I was...in a lake?" I asked, scratching my head. "When?"
"When I looked into the lake, my reflection was...you. I mean, you were looking back at me. Get it?"
"Oh. Kind of? Maybe," I said. We sat down together on the bench. It was real hard to get my butt comfortable. "What happened next?"
"Cherimon told me that my rival – the one in my heart, he said - would appear in the lake." He placed his palm to his chest, and sighed. "And whoever that person was, was stopping me from becoming better. So...when I saw you in the lake, I just kind of lost it and decided that I had to fight you."
"So that's why you and Metal Garurumon suddenly want to kill me?"
"Um hum." He nodded at me, awkwardly. "I just wanted to tell you, I guess, 'cause...well, I'm not sure. It doesn't change anything. But it seemed important to tell you about it."
I smiled at him. "I wonder why I really showed up in your reflection…" I asked.
"Because we're rivals. Weren't you listening?"
"But…we're not rivals."
"What do you mean? Of course we are."
"I don't think so," I argued. "Not really. We're too different. See, you're like an omelette," I told him, "And I'm like ketchup. We're both tasty. But not in the same way, you know? We're not rivals for anything because we're not competing for anything."
"I don't understand," he told me.
"Look," I slowed down and tried to explain. It felt nice being on that side of the conversation for a change. "At the time, I said that you were jealous of me - that you wanted to be the leader, or some crap like that. And that was stupid. Because the truth is that you wouldn't cut it as a leader. You would hate being in that position. Right? And you knew it. You're much better at, heh, telling the leader to shut up when he's wrong."
Matt laughed a little.
"So there's no rivalry there, that's for sure."
"And...uh, what else is there? Why else are we rivals?"
"I'm not sure. I just. It always seemed like that's what we were."
"See, even you don't know," I said. "You know what I think? We wanted the same thing - to save the world! - but we were on the same side as each other. We were helping each other to do that. So...this whole rival idea can't be right."
"Maybe, but...I don't know. I'm not convinced."
"Well I am," I replied with a wide smile.
"Ok." He smiled back. "So what was the lake showing me then, if it wasn't showing me my rival?"
"I dunno. Maybe it was an optical illusion?" I said. Really, though, I wanted to say 'there's another reason I could have been in your heart'. I mean, doesn't love come from the heart, instead of rivalry? Maybe that's what the lake was showing him. It made me feel good to think that. I figured I should maybe kiss him, then, and see how he reacted. But I didn't.
Matt looked pretty uncomfortable next to me. I wondered if he was thinking about the same thing that I was. I never found out, though, 'cause he shook it all off in that pretend-carefree way that he does, and started talking about something totally off topic.
"You should spend the night with me tonight," I later interrupted him.
"I'm not sure I can, Tai. My Dad's expecting me…"
"C'mon. It's important to me. Think about it like this: we're, err, securing our friendship." I nudged him in the ribs a little. "We don't want to let it slip away, along with the memory of some summer adventure that we can't get back, right?" Boy, when did I become so poetic? I rock. "We should hang out all night, and then again tomorrow. You know why?"
"…because we're best friends?"
"Exactly," I tell him.
We spent the night in my bedroom after that, hanging out with Kari. She asked Matt stuff like, "How's T.K. doing?" and "Will you bring T.K. with you next time you stay over?" Matt assured her that he would, and sometime after that she went to sleep. Me and Matt stayed up a little longer, talking, and then we fell asleep on the floor. After the summer we had shared in Digiworld, we were pretty good at sleeping on anything.
I woke up at some point in the pitch dark and my hand was in his. I wasn't sure if Matt was just being friendly, or if, maybe, I really was in his heart, like the tree-mon had said, but either way I knew for sure that he was starting to get into my heart. I didn't talk to him about it when we woke up, and he didn't talk to me about it either. I figured that he was probably just too nervous to bring it up. Coward. He left my apartment pretty early that morning after telling me a little about one of his dreams.
And then, three weeks later, there we were, talking about dreams again, this time in the city with Sora. Before we knew it though, that short trip had turned into a daylong excursion, and it was starting to get cold. We decided that it was probably a good time to go home.
"It was really cool to see you Sora. I'll catch you at soccer practice right?" I said before she left.
"I'm not sure when I'll see you. But I hope it's soon," Matt offered, and Sora smiled.
"Me too. I'll see you later." And then she departed, gone as quickly as the evening had appeared.
"I should get home too," he said.
"Nope," I argued. "You should spend the night at my place."
"Oh. Er…sorry. I can't," he said. I was happy to hear that he was sad about it. "I'm going to be with T.K. tonight."
I acted all nonchalant and said something like, "That's too bad."
"Maybe some other time?" He gave me a hug when I nodded. I thought it was weird that he did that. But he said it was just what best friends do sometimes. I liked that idea, so I agreed with him, and hugged him back even tighter. We stayed like that for longer than I thought we would, and when I mentioned it he let go and got all nervous. And then he left.
When I arrived home later I found takeaway leftovers on the counter. I assumed my mom had ordered it because she had burnt dinner again.
"You know…" I said, narrowing my eyes at her. "Ever since the new pizza place opened down the street, you've been burning meals a lot more often."
"Really? I had no idea."
"Yeah, I bet," I told her, thinking that Matt would have been very proud of my sarcasm if he had heard it.
"I wouldn't complain if I were you…" Kari whispered.
"Yeah," I sighed, sitting down on the couch. The cat ran away from me when I tried to stroke her. "Fine. I hope you get the burnt leftovers you little-"
Suddenly, I was interrupted by the phone ringing. I picked it up.
"Cut it out Tai," Matt scolded through a laugh, later that evening. I was covering his eyes so that he couldn't see what he was doing on screen.
"…you play this game too much," I eventually told him when his name appeared on the TV anyway, stating that he was the winner.
"I'll take that as a compliment. Will you let me go now?" he said, coolly.
I removed my hands and he smirked. "I never had you pegged as a video game geek," I said.
"I'm not." He shrugged. "But you start to get pretty good after beating your little brother every other night."
"Hey! You don't beat me that much," T.K. argued.
"Hah, maybe not. You're starting to win a lot more lately..."
"And don't you forget it!"
Matt snickered and turned towards me. "T.K. must have been getting secret practice while we were in Digiworld or something."
"Let me get this straight," I lamented. "You're both better than me?"
"I am, too," Kari chirped in, sweetly taking the controller from my hands and challenging T.K. to a match.
"Yeah. But don't worry Tai. Kari's better than me, too…" T.K. admitted, taking Matt's controller from him.
I motioned to Matt that I was hungry and we left to go find some snacks in the kitchen, leaving our siblings to duke it out. "It doesn't matter if you're no good at that stuff," Matt assured me. "You can do other things better than us, right?"
"Right." I agreed. "But…maybe you should bring that game around more often, anyway. Just so I can get some practice."
At some point that night everything got dark and it was already time to go to sleep. T.K. and Kari were sharing the spare room that night. Me and Matt were in my room on our own. We were supposed to have a bunk each but we both just curled up on the bottom bunk instead, mumbling sleepily to each other about whatever people talk about when they're only barely awake. He dozed off faster than I expected him to. The last thing he said before he did, though, was, "You mean a lot to me."
"Crap, Matt. You're gonna make me blush." I laughed, sheepishly. If, er, sheepishly is the right word. I don't really know what it means. Ah. Who do you think I am, Izzy? Anyways, Matt didn't respond to me so I drew up close and said, "You mean a lot to me too."
His breathing sounded distant, but his chest was filling and deflating so close to me that I could feel it with my hands, if I had wanted to. And I did want to. So bad. I stared up into his closed eyes, and looked down at his fully dressed body (sleeping in our day clothes was another talent we must have picked up in Digiworld.) I put my hand in his, and we were back to that time three weeks ago. His hand was cooler than mine, and I wondered if I would eventually heat him up, or if he would eventually cool me down. I squeezed a little, and tried to memorize all of the little details about his hand that I could, afraid that it might disappear into a million bits of data, or something, any moment now, if I wasn't careful.
I wanted to kiss him, too, I decided, when I looked back up at his face. But I was afraid to. I lay there, quivering, my lips half pressed forward as if deciding whether to meet his or to just pout. I watched his eyes. They stayed closed, even when I whispered his name, "Matt…, Matt?" I wished he was awake to hear me, but then I also hoped that he wouldn't wake. I leaned forward another inch.
My heart was racing, even faster than it was when Metalgreymon destroyed Etomon that time and we were pulled through that dark, dimensional rip. I leaned forward the rest of the way, telling myself that being a coward was stupid, and I kissed him carefully, barely. I pulled back but he didn't move, or wake up. I breathed out shakily, and leaned in one last time. I made contact, and blue specks flickered in front of me in the dark.
Matt looked confused – and a little afraid? "What are you doing?" he asked, his voice more uncomfortable than I ever knew it could be.
"Well," I started.
"Did you just…?"
"No. Er, maybe. I-"
"That was…" he started, and then he shuffled away and started apologising for falling asleep. He climbed up to the top bunk and didn't get under the covers. I think he was awake for a long time after that. I wanted to apologise, to tell him not to leave me, that it was a joke. Anything that might make him come back to me. But I didn't, and so he didn't.
He went home in the morning without saying much to anyone. And I've been laying here, since then, thinking about it all, going over and over in my head what happened. I can't stop thinking that he might tell someone, or that everybody might start avoiding me, and it makes me feel pretty sick.
"We should talk," I say to Matt much, much later, when he agrees to meet up with me.
"Yeah," he replies, "Probably."
"I'm sorry for what happened. I'm. I'm really stupid and I wasn't thinking straight. And I'm sorry." I place my hands on his shoulders and he doesn't move away. "You still wanna be friends…don't'cha?"
"Of course," Matt says. He looks me straight in the face and it's strange. For once I'm the one who finds the eye contact hard to deal with. Suddenly I wish I was back in my room. "I don't wanna say it's a big deal. But, it's just, what you did…it wasn't a good thing."
"Yeah I know," I agree. "I'm sorry."
"I like you."
"I know, I'm sorry. I'm really sorry," I keep apologising, before halting in my tracks and removing my hands from him. "Wait…what do you mean?"
"I don't really get it. And I'm not sure how to deal with it. But I am sure that I like you. I want to do things like hold your hand, and play video games with you, and sleep with you. And even kiss you."
"But…how can I, now? You stole my - my first kiss! - and I wasn't even really awake for it." He steps back, as if struck by the sudden revelation. "I didn't want that. I've been imagining it for so long. Since Digiworld. Since we became friends. And I don't want to sound picky, Tai. But that wasn't even close to what I had in mind."
"I know. I just, I wasn't sure if you-"
"Then you shouldn't have kissed me," he interrupts. "If you didn't know how I felt then you shouldn't have done anything."
I don't know what to say, but the first thing that comes to mind is, "Crap. I'm such an idiot."
"You are an idiot," he replies. And I can tell how much he means it. "I wanted you to be my first kiss. But I didn't want it to happen like that. And now...I'm not sure if I want you to kiss me again."
I swallow a need to let out another apology, and instead tell him, "That makes sense."
"We're still friends. You're…my best friend. But," Matt says, looking at his feet now. "I need time to think about all of this, before we talk about any of our feelings again. Ok?"
"Ok." I nod. "Thanks, Matt."
"For not - you know - hating me."
He looks surprised. "I couldn't hate you Tai."
"Even after what I did?"
"Yeah," he says through a small, courageous smile. It makes me feel horrible, even though it should make me feel happy. "We all make mistakes. And I know how sorry you are. So it's ok."
We talk for a while longer, and the conversation moves on to our Digimon, and the other Digidestined, and school. I'm pretty sure that I've blown any chance I had with Matt. But, at this stage, I'm lucky that he wants to be friends at all. So I'm not going to waste what we have by wanting more. What we have is already so great. We talk into the evening, our arms dangling at our sides, our hands close enough to touch at a moment's notice. But that moment probably isn't going to come.
Sup! Long time no see, fandom.
This fic started out as an idea that I had for an original story. But I decided, since I've not uploaded anything on here in so damn long, that I should just make a Taito out of it. And that's what I did! I hope you all enjoyed it. I would love to hear some feedback - because, depending on whether or not you liked this, I will or will not add the next chapter. If it wasn't your cup of tea, or if it just wasn't very good, then I'll probably not upload any more. On the other hand, though, if you wanna see what could happen next, then I may present you with more ficcy material to look over. So please give me your thoughts!
All the best everybody. Catch you later!
Jan 2014 - About the next chapter thing...see, I did have it finished way back when I posted this original piece. But I totally lost faith in it. And now I just don't have the energy/desire to change it. Maybe I will some day. Maybe not. I don't know. At any rate, I really hope that you're not too bothered by that. I'm sorry if you are. But I know you won't hold it against me. You're cool, right? Right. Anyways, thanks for all of the sweet reviews that you gave me. It was much more than I was expecting, and I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Feb 2014 - I've marked this as complete because I don't think that I'll be coming back to it, after all. Sorry. Once again, thanks for all of the support and interest! I really do wish that I could be motivated enough to put all of that positive energy to some kind of good use. But I can't. Anyhow. Stay cool, be happy, eat tasty things - tasty things are important - and keep spreading the Taito love. Hopefully I'll see you around.