I'm still not quite sure how it happened. After our mother died and T.K. moved back in with dad and me, she started hanging around all the time.  Sora claimed men without any feminine influence became impossible.  Well, that was reasonable enough.  Then we found ourselves dating, I don't remember any of the dates though.  And after graduation we got married, I guess it seemed the logical next step, and everyone expected it.  I think we were happy for a while, it's hard to remember now.  We don't hate each other, we just don't talk, or spend any more time than necessary in the same building.  Of course, I have to pick her up from work today because we're all getting together for dinner this evening, the original Digidestined, that is.  And we'll smile, and chat, and Tai'll convince us all that we should act like we were still twelve, and we'll get banned from holding reunions at another restaurant.  Tai's really the glue that hold's the group together, he's gained such a command for words I think he could tell a brick wall he could run through it and it would work because the wall would believe him.  But he's also why we plaster on our smiles when we show up.  He's the only one of us that's alone, yet he seems obsessed with making sure the rest of us are happy.

        Sora sighs and leans against a column.  "Look, I know it's our friends, but we get together like this every few months.  I'm sure they won't mind if I miss once."
        I suppose she's right, and I can't find the energy to really care, but still.  "It's the only time we all manage to see each other."
        "Well they can catch me online or wait a few months to see me again."  She's started tapping her foot; she's about to get annoyed with me.  "Besides, James and I need to get this assignment completed tonight."
        I admit defeat.  "Well, don't overwork yourself," I tell her as I slide back into the car.
        She's grinning now.  "Don't worry, I won't."  There's something odd about her grin, besides the fact that she never smiles anymore, except at Tai's parties.
        I'm halfway to tonight's party when I realize none of her coworkers are named James, or anything close that I might have misheard.  I find it mildly disturbing that this revelation doesn't worry me, I think it ought to.  Ah, there's the restaurant.  Tai throws fantastic parties, though none of us have figured out where he gets the money to do so.  Looks like he's gone all out this month.
        "The 'Digital Reunion,' sir?  Right this way."  I think there was more starch used in preparing the maitre'd's uniform for tonight than I've used in my entire life.  The room he leads me to is much larger than our group needs, and the decorations are almost grotesquely flamboyant against the restaurant's air of somber respectability.  But they're nice all the same.  Trust Tai to convince a joint like this to stick glitter digimon confetti all over the walls.  And I catch a glimpse of a Etamon piñata at the far end of the room.  The seating arrangements are clear thanks to the standard six-inch origami digimon of holographic paper this time.  I nod to Izzy and Joe.  Mimi has their wives trapped to one side with a new album of baby pictures, not that they seem to mind if the cooing noises they're making are any indication.  She seems to have left her husband behind tonight.  T.K.'s also here with his latest girlfriend.  Strange to think that until mother died I was figured as being the player of our family, yet I'm married to my high school girlfriend and he seems to have a new lady every week.
        "Matt, I'd like you to meet Crystal.  Crys, this is my brother Matt."  And they all have stupid names.  Though I suppose she does look like a Crystal.  "Where's Sora?  Is she coming later?"
        "She's not coming at all.  She said she has work to finish."  My voice sounds surprisingly bitter to my ears.
        "Better find another way to tell Tai."  Maybe I sound worse than I thought.  Oh well, I'm too tired to really care tonight.  And I don't want to think about Sora.
        "Everybody, look!"  Hikari squeals as she rushes into the room with her boyfriend in tow.  Actually, judging from the glitter on the hand she's waving in the air I suppose he's her fiancé now.  "Bob-kun finally asked me to marry him!"  Yep, fiancé.  "Hey, where's Tai-oniichan?"
        Her question makes me wonder how I'd failed to notice that our host is still missing, normally he's the first one here.  From the expressions on everybody else's faces I'd guess they're thinking the same thing.
        A thump from behind Kari provides an answer, and we all laugh as Tai stands and dusts himself off, apologizing for being late.  Somehow we're at the table and the places for Mimi's husband and Sora have disappeared so completely it's like they weren't there to begin with.  I'm just glad I don't have to sit next to an empty chair.
        Tai grins at me; it's nice to see someone with an honest smile.  "Hi, Matt.  How is Sora?"
        I shrug.  "She's very busy with work."  His expression starts to get worried.  "So what are you doing these days, Tai?"
        He bites his lip and stares down at his plate.  "Oh, odd jobs here and there, you know how it is."
        "No, I don't."  I've been a recording technician since my band broke up.  Wait a minute, Tai's blushing.
        "Well, basically nothing interesting."  He stammers, still staring at his plate.  I smile, I'm sure the, well, whatever it is that we've been served is absolutely fascinating.  It does taste good.  "Hey, Mimi, how's the new baby?"  Avoidance, Tai?  That's different.
        "Oh, she's just so sweet you wouldn't believe it."  Now Mimi's off, that's a good fifteen minutes of no conversation for anybody else.
        And a pea just landed in my wine glass.  Who did that?  Izzy's grinning, I can't believe he's started it this time, but retaliation is necessary.  Or maybe I should work on my targeting at home, that one splashed his wife.  And she just got Tai, on the nose.  That's the signal for an all out pea war.
        In only twenty minutes, T.K.'s girlfriend has stormed out, Kari's desperately trying to get the noodles out of her hair, and Tai's hunting for a clean bit of napkin or tablecloth to get the sauce out of his eyes.  It's funny to watch him groping around.  Joe and Izzy got off easy, while Mimi and their wives seem to have food fight repellent auras.
        I'll let Tai grope around a minute or two more before I give him the napkin I stuffed in my pocket at the beginning of the battle.  The same way I always do.  His face is growing scrunched and I can tell he won't be able to keep his eyes closed much longer.  I catch his shoulder and he turns, holding out his hand for the napkin.  I break tradition and choose not to give it to him, instead wiping his face myself.  He stands rigid as I do so, only flinching slightly at the chill when I dunk a corner in a water glass to clean the last bit from his eyelashes.
        His eyes blink open and he gulps convulsively.  I've never seen him so pale.  Suddenly, he's on the other side of the room, waving a stick and a bandana.  "Piñata time!"
        T.K. manages to go first and takes off a leg with his hit.  Mimi gets an arm and Izzy dents the head.  The others might as well have not picked up the stick given how badly they miss.  My turn, something I'm allowed to smack the tar out of.  I take the blindfold and stick from Joe and turn to the piñata.  Of course Joe spins me around as soon as I have the blindfold on.  I must have a nasty expression on my face as I raise the stick, because I can hear everybody moving back out of range.  Which noise allows me to locate the piñata reasonably well.  My swing meets resistance for a moment, then it's clear.  I suppose I got another leg.  A fair sized crash puts paid to that idea.  Lifting the blindfold I see the bottom half of Etamon lying in a spray of candy on the floor.
        Tai's grin from across the circle shows a hint of strain.  "Feeling a little aggressive, Matt?"
        I shrug and grab a piece of candy, T.K. and Mimi are already stuffing their pockets.  It's some of the new Digimon candy, of course.  I bite the head off of Birdramon with relish.
        "Sacre bleu!"  Sounds like dessert just arrived, along with waiters to kick us out of the restaurant.
        Wow, I trip as I enter our apartment, hopefully Sora's not home, if she is that crash'll have wakened her and she'll ream me out.  I may have some pent up aggression as Tai suggested, but his parties always leave me happy.  No sign of Sora, good.  I think I'll crash on the couch tonight, the bedroom's just too far away.  Maybe I shouldn't have gone to the bar with everybody after the restaurant threw us out the back door.  Oh well.
        "Get up, Matt, we need to talk."  Someone's shaking me.  I don't want to get up yet.  I - oh shit.
        Sora's voice reaches me through the bathroom door.  "We both know this isn't working anymore.  It's been ages since we've even slept in the same room, let alone had sex."  Does she have to bring up serious topics while I'm worshipping the porcelain god with a head fit to burst?  "I want a divorce."  Fuck.  The tile floor is cold as I sit down heavily upon it.  "Would you hurry up and come out of there?  It's very annoying talking to the door."
        Out, right.  I guess there's no escaping it, though I swallow some aspirin and splash cold water in my face before I slouch out and return to the couch.
        "You look like hell."  Thanks, I think I could figure that out myself.
        I actually look at Sora for the first time today.  "You look thoroughly fucked.  I suppose that was your business with James, whoever he is."
        She shrugs.  "Of course."  She's completely unrepentant.  "That's why we need to get divorced.  I'm not happy with you, you're not happy with me.  And I am happy with James.  We have, in fact, been seeing each other for several months."
        All I can manage to do is nod along with her.  I'm definitely out of focus, and I don't know whether it's shock, the hangover or the drugs at this point.  "But what about..."
        "Oh, it would probably be better if you got custody, your job leaves you more time to spend with the kid.  Though I will want to be able to visit."  She's already thought the whole thing out.  How long has she been planning this?  "Look, think about it today.  I need to get to work."
        Think, yeah right.  What am I supposed to think about?  Maybe whether to make a fuss for forms sake or just let it happen.  Happen sounds easiest, I don't have to think then.


        I'm sitting on a bench watching Megumi play.  She's right, I do have more time for a kid than she does.  But how's the divorce going to affect her?  At least it won't be splitting up siblings, like it was for me and T.K.  And there's no real animosity between me and Sora, we might even be able to be friends again.  That would make things a lot better for the kid than how we've been.  Wouldn't it?
        "Ii desu ka?"  Who?  It's Tai, with an impossible looking ice cream cone.
        "Doozo."  He sits and grins at me.  I have to laugh, there's mint ice cream dripping from his nose.  I've never seen him at this park before.  "How long does it take you to get over a hangover?"  Talk about irrelevant.
        His tongue tries for the mint ice cream before he answers me.  "Don't know, I've never been hung over."  Another lick at his cone and now he's got chocolate mixed with the mint.  "How are you?"
        "Oh, fine."  I shrug.  "The divorce will be final in two weeks."  Tai twitches and my view is partially blocked by a flying blob of pale green.  It's damn cold as it hits my lap.
        There's ice cream in my lap, and in Tai's lap, in his hair, on his face, and all over the ground.  The cone in his hand is very definitely squished.  He's shaking.  I put my hand on his shoulder.  "Tai, are you okay?"
        He stares at me, his eyes seem huge.  "Why?  Why are you getting divorced?  I - I thought you and Sora had a perfect marriage?"
        "Come on, let's get cleaned up."  I drag him from the bench and over to a drinking fountain.  "We barely even talk any more.  The only time we're together is for your parties."  I shake my head sadly.  "Really, it's been over for a couple of years, we were just too stubborn to call it quits.  But now Sora's found someone else."  Another shrug, there's really nothing else to say.
        He turns to brush ineffectually at the ice cream on his pants.  "But what about you?"
        "I get Megumi-chan because I've got more free time."  I hand him a packet of tissues.
        "But what about..."
        "Romance?"  I laugh.  "You're certainly one to talk about that.  Maybe I'll copy you and be a happy bachelor.  Goodness knows I haven't been a happy husband."
        "But I'm not happy alone!"  He shakes his head, spraying ice cream around.  "I'm not happy, I'm just stuck."
        "Tai, what do you mean?"
        He backs up.  "I'm really sorry, I've got a meeting I need to get to.  See ya around."  A quick wave and he runs out of the park.
        Megumi catches my hand as I start to follow him, "Daddy, why are you covered in ice cream?"


        Another season, another of Tai's parties.  And, of course, all that's been sent out is a location and a time.  He hasn't been on any of the chat programs at the same time as me since I told him about the divorce, so I'm even more in the dark than usual.  As I look at the tiny manga shop matching the name on the invite I wonder where the mistake was.  I step inside and catch the clerk's attention.  The little man, who looks like he predates manga by at least a century, grins widely and ushers me to a door at the back.  The door opens on a narrow staircase leading down.  I look at the old man and raise an eyebrow.
        His grin is huge as he nods to the stair, "They are down there.  Kamiya-san said he was running out of ideas, so I said I would help."
        I shrug and start down the stairs.  There's a curtained doorway at the bottom.  I push the curtain aside with some hesitation.  OK, this is impressive.  I'm frozen in the doorway, probably gaping like an idiot, but this is a basement!  It's not supposed to look like some hidden grotto, complete with waterfall and koi pond.  Mimi's sitting on a blanket by the pond with her coterie of wives around her, Hikari's actually joined them.  Mimi's husband is chatting with Jyou and Izzy.  Bob looks like he can't figure out where he's supposed to be.  And Tai's sitting on a rock to the side.  He looks terribly pleased with us as he surveys the room from his perch.
        "Have you completely lost your ability to make up your mind?" Sora's voice from behind cuts into my reverie.
        I shrug and step to the side.  Everyone except Tai gasps as Sora walks in on a stranger's arm.  I take the opportunity to size him up, this is the first time I've seen James.  He's obviously American, and quite ugly to go with it.  I'll never understand women.  But I'm glad their relationship is open now, and I'm separated form it.
        T.K. is hard on their heels, alone for once.  He stops next to me as Sora leads James off for introductions.  "Good grief, oniichan, he looks like an overweight toad."
        "You're exaggerating," I smile, "a little."
        "Wow."  T.K. has an expression of absolute wonder on his face now, "You really are relieved it's over.  You haven't smiled naturally in years."
        I think back, the last time I remember being truly happy before the divorce is about three years ago when I won some incredibly stupid bet with Tai.  I got plastered that night and Sora screamed at me the next morning, but it was worth it.  Tai paid for the sake as his forfeit.
        Continuing that line of thought I wonder where Tai's disappeared to.
        Hikari walks over to us, "Matt, when did this happen?"
        I shrug, "I've been told it's been happening for a while.  It's a relief that it's in the open and I'm free."
        "Oh."  She sighs, "I guess I'll have to redo the invitations then."
        Tai and the old man emerge from a hidden entrance on the other side of the room.  "Ta dah!" Tai grins and holds up an enormous picnic basket.  The old man shakes his head as he spreads out another large blanket.
        Amazingly enough, the basket, like it's twin which the old man brings out, proves to be filled with sushi and rice balls rather than some exotic cuisine.  Even more amazing is that we all manage to mind our manners with the more familiar food.
        Mimi turns to me, "What happened?"
        I raise an eyebrow and look down at her, "Nothing for ages, so Sora got bored."
        Across the blanket Sora shakes her head and leans against James's bulk.  The others snicker or blush.
        Jyou refills his wife's sake cup and leans back against a rock, "So, Hikari, since we know how close mouthed your brother can be, do you know why we're in a basement instead of the usual five star?"  Goody, he and Izzy take turns trying to figure this out, and they're no closer than when we graduated.
        "I'll repeat what I've said before," Hikari sighs and Bob pats her on the back, "I don't know any more than you.  I don't even know where he makes his money."
        "But surely he's said something to your parent?"  Jyou sounds determined to get to the bottom of this riddle today.  "How about you, Matt?  You're his best friend out of all of us."
        I just spy Tai slipping out of the room again as I answer, "The most I have is he said he had to get to a meeting one time when we ran into each other in the park.  And now you've driven him away again."
        "What?"  Everyone peers around.  Was I the only person paying any attention to Tai?  It's quite a change from how he used to be the centre of everyone's attention.
        They're all watching the door he brought the picnic out from, and just to be annoying I don't tell then he left through the entrance curtain.  Hikari starts over to the door.  I grin as I see Tai peek around the curtain.  He steps out quietly, hefting a bright blue balloon in one hand.  I have to cover my mouth to keep from laughing too early, especially with the twinkle in his eye when he notices I've seen him.  He pulls his arm back and Hikari nearly hits the ceiling as the balloon splats into her back, to say nothing of her shriek.
        I join Tai immediately while everyone else gathers around the buckets the old man brings out from the other room.  Hikari has a particularly vindictive glint in her eye as she tests the weight of a green balloon.
        Tai doesn't hesitate and lobs another balloon, now I know where our bucket is, soaking Jyou's chest.  Hikari starts the return barrage.
        They run out of balloons first, though I think they're wetter than we are.  Unfortunately, they've decided to rush us.  Tai steps in the bucket, tripping me as well.  We stare at each other a moment in shock before the horde tosses us under the waterfall.  Tai starts howling with laughter, so I tickle him.  He's trying to push me away, but he's still under the waterfall and the water streaming down his face has him blinded.
        I see the old man handing out towels and leave off.  I start climbing out only to have Tai tackle me from the side.  As we both topple back underwater I hear the others laugh.  I'm starting to get cold, so I pin him against a rock and glare.  Tai's laughter fades into panic as he tries to squirm free.  I'm not feeling so cold anymore.  Something brushes against my ankle and I startle, loosing my grip.  Tai seizes the opportunity to flee the pond.  I turn my glare on the hapless koi, who ignores me.
        "Aniki, get out of the pond.  Dessert's ready."  Reality intrudes in the form of T.K., holding out a towel.
        I join my towel wrapped friends as bottles of warm sake and trays of sweets pass around the circle.
        Mimi's warbling old drinking songs with the rest of us joining her occasionally, Tai's rejoined us from the corner he was hiding in, and we're mostly dry.  I think this has been the best party yet.
        I vaguely notice Jyou and Izzy helping their wives up to leave, Sora and James are already gone.  I start to get up to leave and fall on my face across the cleared blanket.  The old man plucks the sake cup from my hand and pats my shoulder, "You may sleep it off here, Yamato-san."  I think I nod before my eyes close.
        I'm still on my face when I wake and there's a warm weight on my back.  At least I don't feel as shitty as last time.  When I open my eyes I can see Hikari and Bob curled up against the wall.  She's just waking up, herself.  She scans the room, stopping when she looks at me.  I watch, confused, as she starts to giggle softly.
        Normally I'd get up and glare down at her, but I'm feeling far too comfortable to move in spite of the thing on my back.  Given the increase in her giggling, I don't think a glare works when you're sideways.  "What?" I finally growl.
        Hikari makes a visible effort to control her giggles, though now I hear Mimi giggling behind me.  "Oniisan thinks you're a pillow," Hikari finally says.
        What?  I twist around to see.  Yep, that's Tai's head falling off my back.  I sit up as Tai blinks at the ceiling.
        "Huh?  Santo-san?  Did Mizuki-san call again?  I told her I'd have the pages done by Wednesday."  Tai tries to roll over and bumps into my leg.  I hold my breath as he gropes out blindly, "Whuzza?"
        I swallow before answering, "I normally call it my leg."
        Tai jerks upright and stares around like a startled rabbit.  "Oh shit!"
        Hikari's woken Bob up and is ushering him and T.K. out of the room while Mimi does likewise with her husband.  Tai's sitting hunched over like he expects to be flattened.  "Tai, is there some reason for me to punch you?"
        Well, now he's glaring at me, "I don't know, is there?"
        I lean back on my elbows and arch an eyebrow, "I can't think of one."
        Tai swallows.  Then he gets a look of determination, so very Tai. "How about I give you a reason?"
        I blink as Tai crawls forward and straddles my lap, "What?"
        A brittle smile, "Just something I've wanted for years."  That said, he grabs my face and... Holy Shit!
        My arms slip to the side and we break apart as I fall backwards.  Everything just got seriously surreal.  Tai's lying on my chest, eyeing me nervously and I'm wondering when the corny music's going to start playing.  "You... you..."
        "I kissed you."  Tai whispers.  "Now do you have a reason to punch me?"
        Punch him?  Right, that's what I should probably do.  Damn I can't think.  He's starting to pull back as I turn my head to the side.
        "Matt?  Some sort of reaction might be good."  Tai's voice floats down to me.  "Matt, soy or do something!"  He's starting to sound desperate.  "Matt, I don't care if you kill me, just don't ignore me!"  Sorry, ignoring sounds like a really good option right now.  If I don't acknowledge it it didn't happen, right?  I stand up and dust myself off.  "Ma...att!"  Tai grabs my head, pulling it down to kiss me again.
        That's too much.  "Get off!"  I push him back and he slips on something with a ripping noise.
        Mimi walks in as Tai's ass hits the ground.  "I left my bag behind.  My manga!"  She pushes Tai to the side to get his foot off the badly torn manga.  "It's ruined!"
        Tai looks like he's having trouble with the change of topics.  I scoff, "What's the big deal about a manga?"
        "It's from the first printing, it was a short run because they didn't expect it to be so popular."  Mimi's glaring at both of us now.  "Did you boys have to fight again?"
        I try to look innocent and point at Tai, "He started it."
        Tai's gotten an odd expression on his face, "Mimi, Santo-san has the reprint upstairs, and the reprint has the pages they skipped in the original."
        "You read shoujo manga, Tai?" I sneer.
        "This isn't just shoujo, Matt," Mimi giggles, "it's yaoi."
        "It's what?"
        Tai grabs Mimi and her bag and hauls them both upstairs.  I stand for a moment in the middle of the room and try to figure out when I walked into the twilight zone.  The koi steadfastly refuse to clue me in, so I grab my jacket and walk slowly upstairs.
        Mimi's still pouting about her manga as Tai tries to push a new copy at her.  He growls in frustration.  "Santo-san, a pen, please."  The old man's expression is complete shock as he passes Tai a pen.  With a flourish he scribbles something on the flyleaf and hands it to Mimi.  "Autographed beats out first print, right?"
        "But..."  Mimi opens the manga carefully and stares at the writing, "'To an old, crazy friend, Taiko' and that's me!  You signed this and drew me!  But..."
        "Jyou and Izzy'll be so jealous," Tai says dryly.  "You guys found out how I'm making my money first."  He folds his arms across his chest in challenge.  I snort and leave the store.  "Wait, Matt, please!"  I ignore Tai running after and head down the street, turning up my collar against the icy drizzle.


        It's been a week and I still see Tai's face every time I close my eyes.  I can't even get drunk to block it out cause I've always gone drinking with Tai!  Best friends aren't supposed to climb into your lap and kiss you.  It's just not how the world runs.  Of course, Tai never ran on the same track as the rest of the world to start with.
        And the noodles are boiling over, again, so I really ought to focus on completing dinner for Megumi and myself.  I turn the burner down just as Megumi wanders into the kitchen.  She stretches her arms out, "Up, daddy."  Cooking dinner while giving a  five year olda piggyback ride is a feat in and of itself, but one I've had too much practice at.  She tugs my hair around and blows in my ear, "Why're you so sad, daddy?"
        I use my free hand to ruffle her hair.  "I'm not sad, I've got you here to keep me happy.  And aren't you getting too big to ride piggyback?"
        "You can still pick me up."  She throttles me lightly.  "Why don't you answer the phone when it's one of your friends?  I'll talk to my friends no matter what."
        "Down, munchkin, I need both hands to serve up."
        Megumi slides down my back obediently just as the phone rings.  She looks at me a moment, then rushes to answer it.  "Moshi, moshi.  Yes, Tai-san, daddy's here, and he's glaring at me."
        "Megumi, it's time to eat."  I take the phone receiver from her and slam it on the cradle.  "Come on."
        "Daddy," she puts her hands on her hips, "that was rude."
        "The table, now."  Megumi obeys reluctantly.  We sit down to dinner and Megumi starts telling me about her friends.  I've nearly finished when I realize she has been detailing every offense her friends have committed, and how they're much better friends since they apologized.  I sigh, "Megumi, how was your day with ojiisan?"
        She pouts slightly before changing topics.  "Well, he still wants to know when you're getting a real job."  She smiles, dad asks her that question every time she spends the day with him.  "And we went shopping, and Santo-san gave me candy like always, and Taichi-san was there, and he's looking even sadder than you are.  Did you two fight?  Okaasan said you fought all the time when you were young.  Were you really young?  And if you fight you should make up because then everyone's happier.  And sometimes you have to apologize first even if they started it, because they're scared.  And my plate's clean, may I have dessert?"
        "If I give you dessert will you be quiet for ten minutes?"  Megumi can be impossible sometimes, sort of like me only louder.
        She tilts her head to the side in thought, "Are you and Taichi-san going ot make up and be friends again?"  She comes around the table and worms her way onto my lap.  "Daddy, isn't Taichi-san your bestest friend?"  I nod reluctantly.  "Then you shouldn't stay mad at him.  Make up!"  She pokes me in the chest to emphasize her point.
        "Munchkin, what if I can't be friends with Tai anymore?"  I hug her.
        "Then you'll both be sad and that's no fun."  She giggles, "Only Taichi-san can make you laugh about being covered in ice cream."
        "From the mouths of children," I sigh.  Her comment makes me remember the mint and chocolate dripping down Tai's nose, and a wish forms that I had licked them off.
        "Daddy, can we got to the park tomorrow afternoon?  The one where Taichi-san dumped ice cream on you?  Sa-chan and Go-kun are going to be there.  Pleaase."  She looks up at me pleadingly and I nod.  "Promise, daddy?"
        "I promise.  Now get up so I can fetch dessert."


        I watch Megumi run off to join her friends before leaning back to stare at the clouds.  There's a rabbit, and an ice cream cone.  And there's even one that looks like Tai's old goggles.  Argh!  I have got to stop thinking about Tai.
         "Please don't rip your hair out, Matt."  A dark object blocks my view of the clouds, a dark object known as Tai's head.
        "What are you doing here?"  Real good Matt, it's a public park, anyone could be here.  I sit up and turn to face him.  His left hand holds a huge ice cream cone.
        Tai studies his feet, "I was ordered to appear and make up."
        I scowl towards the swings, "That imp is far too devious for a five year old.  I received a lecture on friendship at dinner last night."
        "Matt," Tai sighs, "can we talk?  You've been avoiding everyone.  I didn't mean to drive you away."
        "Then what the hell did you think you were doing?"
        "I love you, you dope!  I've been in love with you for years."  He pauses a moment, his hand is nearly covered in melted ice cream but he hasn't noticed yet.  "And I'm tired of 'Kari and T.K. pitying me cause they figured it out.  Well, I did something about it.  Now it's your turn to make a decision.  But don't shut out everyone else because you're pissed at me!"
        "What the hell gives you the idea I'm pissed at you?  I couldn't care less about you."
        Tai looks past me, "Um, Matt, your dad's here."
        I turn and see Megumi run over to dad.  The both of them turn towards us and make shooing motions.  "I think we're being told not to argue in front of the kids."
        Tai absently licks his ice cream cone and I can't help watching his tongue, "Your daughter is scary."
        "We're still being shooed away."  I walk to a bench concealed from the play area by bushes.  "OK, we're being forced to talk, say your piece and get it over with."
        "I said my piece already!"  Tai sighs.  There's ice cream dripping down his nose.  I think it's strawberry.  "Weren't you listening back there?  I said the fact that I love you isn't a reason to cut out the rest of our friends."
        Maybe it's cherry.  "Is that strawberry or cherry?"
        Tai looks at me blankly, "What?"
        "On your nose.  Did you know you always get ice cream on your nose when you have a cone?"
        "Matt," Tai's looking upset, "what does it matter what's on my nose?  You haven't paid attention to a thing I've said!"  He slaps the side of my head lightly.  This wouldn't be so bad except he's forgotten about his ice cream.  A blob of chocolate lands on my head and starts dripping down my face, there's mint on my shoulder, I'm not sure where the strawberry, or maybe cherry, landed.  Tai's got an expression of shock, and I know where the strawberry landed, it's dripping down his face.
        I reach out and wipe a bit off his nose, "It is strawberry!"  I'm grinning like an idiot, but I don't care.  "My first guess was right."  I laugh outright and plop down on the bench, grabbing Tai's hand to pull him down beside me.  "Do you know, last night Megumi said you're the only person who can make me laugh about being covered in ice cream.  And then you go and cover me in ice cream today."
        Tai's a little bewildered, "Matt, you've lost me, completely."
        "She also said if you fight you have to make up, then you become better friends."  Everything she said last night is finally making sense, I need Tai.  He and Megumi are the people I mask myself the least for.  And I want him behind that final mask.  The shock and fear when he kissed me are mouthing compared to the loss I've felt this week while thinking I wouldn't see him again.  I look him in the eye and hope he'll understand.
        Tai reaches out tentatively and wipes some ice cream from my face.  "Do you believe that, Matt?"  I nod.  "Will I get punched again if I kiss you?"
        "Only if you leave."  He leans forward as I say that.

        A giggle interrupts us and we pull apart.  Tai looks like he wants to sink into the ground.  He turns my head.  Dad and Megumi are watching us.  Dad looks like he's trying hard not to laugh.
        Megumi pipes up, "Daddy, why is Taichi-san sitting on your lap?"
        Tai starts to get up, but I lock my arms around his waist.  "Because I'm taller, so he fits on my lap better than I'd fit on his."  Dad starts howling with laughter at that.
        Megumi puts her hands on her hips and pouts at dad, then turns back to us, "So you and Taichi-san aren't fighting any more?"
        Tai gives up and relaxes against my shoulder, chuckling softly, "No, we aren't fighting anymore."
        "Good."  She comes over, climbs onto Tai's lap and wraps an arm around each of our necks.  "Everything's better as friends."
        I groan under the extra weight, "Dad, help!  I'm getting squished here."  He just laughs at me.