Disclaimer: Okay, Digimon doesn't belong to me. But Tera, Elijah, Aaron, Natalie and Taylor do so don't use them without my permission or I'll....do something you'll regret! Yeah....damn I'm a dork. Anyhoo, if you wanna use those guys (because shockingly I have had a couple of requests) just email me, tell me what your using them for and I'll let you, probably. Okay, now that everything is disclaimed and claimed, on with the fic.
A/N: Okay I know schools are different in some places and I realize the two different school situations brought up, which haven't really been talked about at all, may be confusing to some. Here's how it works where I live:
Elementary school: Kindergarten thru fifth grade
Middle School/Junior High: Sixth thru eighth grade
High School: Ninth thru twelfth grade.
TK, Kari, and Rei go to Alice Vail Middle School, they are all in 8th grade.
Tai, Matt, Tera and the rest of the gang go to Rincon High School. Taylor is a freshman (9th grade), Matt, Tai, Sora, Aaron and Tera are sophomores (10th), Natalie is a junior (11th and long live the juniors!!! Woohooo!), Elijah is a senior (12th).
It rained everyday for a week, something she had never seen since coming to Tucson. The days were frozen and gray, the air constantly wet and frigid. It was a kind of cold that soaked her to the bone and caused her to shiver, despite layers of clothing. Her breath rose in sharp white clouds in front of her face, and her nose became red. She blew onto her hands as she pushed her way up the portable ramp, past students running out for lunch. She stepped inside to find it empty, except for a young woman with curly back hair sitting behind the teacher's desk.
The sound of her footsteps made the young woman, who was twenty-three years old, look up. She smiled warmly at her visitor. "Afternoon Kari," she greeted cheerfully. "Are you going to join me for lunch again?"
Kari nodded. "Afternoon, Ms. Leonetti. I thought I'd come in and study, if you don't mind."
The teacher shook her head. "No, I don't mind at all. I'm glad to have the company. Besides, it's too cold to be outside right now." Kari nodded and sat down at the table adjacent to the desk. "What class are you studying for?"
"Yours," Kari answered softly, as she dropped her book bag on the floor and pushed her damp hair out of her eyes. "I'm having a bit of trouble understanding the material, again." She pulled a 'Spongebob Square Pants' folder out of her backpack.
"What's the problem?" asked 'Little Leonetti', as she was called around campus. The teacher stood up from her desk and stepped over to Kari. Peering over Kari's shoulder, she studied the papers Kari had pulled from the blue and green folder.
For a moment, Kari was overcome by the power of her teacher's sweet perfume and the warmth of her presence. Quickly, she snapped out of her stupor. "Oh, uh, you know, conjugation and some of the spellings and slang and - I just don't get it at all!" She hit her forehead with the palm of her hand in frustration.
"Calm down," Leonetti cooed with a sweet laugh. "You're frustrated, and it's not going to help. Now let's see, do you have sheet 9.6? I handed it out yesterday." Kari reached into her bag and pulled out a packet. "This is a review of all we've covered. Did you look over it at all last night?"
Kari blushed sheepishly. "No, I was too busy trying to catch up on all the other stuff that I can't seem to get right."
Ms. Leonetti laughed. "It can be a pain. Well, here's what we'll do. I have to run my attendance to the office, but then we can spend lunch reviewing."
Kari nodded eagerly. "Thank you, Ms. Leonetti."
The teacher turned back to her desk. "It's no problem," she smiled as she picked up the class attendance. "I'm glad--" She was cut off as the heavy door opened and then slammed shut. A dark skinned girl with dark hair, almost blood red, stood just inside the stuffy portable. "Riley," the teacher smiled. "What a nice surprise, I wasn't expecting you until sixth period."
"I know, I just came in to get the homework I missed last week, on the 15th," she excused, her voice light and casual as she bounced into the room, her footsteps causing the hollow tile floor to groan. Her eyes flickered to Kari briefly. "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."
Ms. Leonetti glanced at Kari with an apologetic smile. "You don't mind, do you?"
"No," Kari spoke up quickly. "Go ahead."
The young teacher went behind her desk to a green file cabinet and rummaged through it. "You missed a test actually." She turned back to face Riley with a hand on her waist.
"I made that up, remember?" Riley answered. "I got sixty-nine."
Ms. Leonetti nodded. "Oh, I remember. Sixty-nine, that's not so good." She turned back to the file cabinet.
"I still wasn't feeling good." She laughed, "I was kinda still hopped up on cough syrup." Ms. Leonetti pulled some papers from her cabinet. "Thanks Miss."
"No problem." She picked up her attendance and looked over at Kari. "I'll be right back." Kari nodded and the teacher left. Kari looked to the package of sheets she had pulled from her backpack.
"You're Kari, right? TK's friend," Riley asked suddenly, interrupting Kari's silence. It startled Kari, and she refused to lift her eyes from her paper.
"I'm not sure if that's what you'd call us anymore," she answered.
"What're you in here for? What class do you have?"
"I'm in second period."
"But I thought that's ESL. English as a second language?"
"It is," she answered, conscious of Riley standing behind her, looking over at her papers. "I'm learning it."
"But I've heard you speak. You speak English really well."
"I have you all fooled," she joked. "I only speak it well because I have a translator in my ear. It's this weird technology," she lied.
"Cool." Riley was silent for a moment. "Does TK have one too?"
"Wow." Again she was silent and Kari held her breath, hoping she'd leave. But no, instead she sat down in a chair beside her. "I don't see you hanging out with those guys you used to anymore."
"So, what do you care?" She snapped with as much venom as she could.
"I dunno. Do you always eat lunch in here?"
"Yeah," she replied exasperated. "Why?"
"No reason, I just haven't seen you around... You don't like me, huh?"
She looked up from her papers. "Why should I?"
"Is it because I'm going out with TK?"
"Why should I care if you're going out with TK? I'm done with him, obviously." Riley looked a little taken aback. Kari looked away shaking her head. "Sorry. TK and I... it's over, don't worry about offending me."
"I'm sorry about my friends and the way you're treated, okay?" Riley apologized. "Guess you're not the psycho goth from hell that we call you."
"Really depends on my day." Riley giggled softly. "Listen, don't worry about the way I'm treated. I'll worry about that. It's not like it was your own fault or anything."
"But doesn't it bother you that people call you 'that goth girl'?"
"Not until you brought it up right now," Kari joked. "It didn't bother me when I hung out with Helen and those guys. You know the goths. But then it just started to get annoying, the whole 'hating everything' thing. I got tired of them. Now, I just try to ignore it. It's been working so far."
Riley nodded. "That's understandable. The guys I hang out with get annoying a lot. Preppy girls." She laughed and Kari noticed how sweet it sounded. Innocent almost. "I'm not a preppy girl." She sighed and stared down at her shoes. "I only did it to try to get TK to notice me, since that's the group he hangs out with. All the jocks and preps."
"That was stupid," Kari said brashly. Riley's eyes widened. "TK is no prep and this whole jock thing is because he can play a little ball. Believe me, he wouldn't hang out with those guys if he didn't have to. He's not a big sports guy."
She shook her head. "Yeah, he's pretty quiet. When the guys talk about what's going on in the world of sports, TK just kind of zones out." She shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "You went out with him, right?"
"I think it's been established that I have," Kari answered softly. This was not the conversation she wanted to have.
"How did you deal with-with...um-" Kari looked up at Riley in confusion. "With his leukemia?"
"Not very well," she replied bitterly. Riley's face dropped and she bit her lip, chewing on it as she puzzled over what Kari had said. "Listen, Riley, getting advice from me can only turn out bad." She turned to fully face Riley."TK and I ended very badly and it wasn't because of his leukemia, though that did play a part in it." Riley didn't look relieved. "Do your friends harrass you for going out with someone who is sick like TK?"
Riley looked away. "How'd you know?"
"That's the kind of people they are," she said a matter-of-factly. "That's the only reason you'd ask me. Me of all people." And Kari did something that amazed even herself; she set a hand on Riley's shoulder. "There is no dealing with cancer. You don't deal, you just stand by him and ignore what happens with him."
"Are you warning me of something?"
"I'm just saying, if you truly care for him, you won't have to deal." She removed her hand as the door opened and Ms. Leonetti stepped in.
"Sorry I kept you waiting," she apologized as she shed her wet jacket. "It started raining."
Kari shook her head. "It's no problem."
"Kari?" Kari looked up at Riley. "Can I have lunch with you tomorrow?"
Kari froze, like a deer in headlights. Finally, she stammered her reply. "S-sure."
"Thanks," Riley grinned and stood up, setting a hand on Kari's shoulder. Kari tensed under the touch.
"Damn pussy, getting your friends on me!" Jacob yelled as Steve and Alec held him back. "Face me you little ass!"
"TK, just walk away," Steve snapped, throwing Jacob backwards to the ground.
"Run you damn pussy!" Jacob screamed before Alec jumped on him and socked him in the face. "You're gonna pay."
The sound of the television buzzed in his ears as he stared up at the dark ceiling. Well, at least he wasn't the only one who couldn't sleep. Pushing himself out of bed, he crawled down the ladder from his bunk and walked downstairs. Slowly, his eyes adjusted to the light pouring from the living room. Elijah sat on the couch, the remote control in hand. He padded inside. The light from the TV, the only light in the room, made him squint. Damn, it was bright.
"Hey, TK," Elijah greeted sleepily.
"Hey, what are you doing up?"
"Couldn't sleep," Elijah shrugged. "You?"
"My stomach's all funny from the chemo."
Elijah hit mute on the remote control. "How's your face?"
TK touched his cheek. "Sore."
"Why's this guy always beating up on you?"
"I got him kicked off the basketball team," TK answered. "He was doing drugs, I told the coach, he was off."
"So he's just a sour ass," Elijah laughed. TK shrugged. "Well, you probably just feed his anger when you don't fight back. He's looking for a fight, that's the only reason he keeps going after you. Duke it out once, and either he'll be done with you or scared of you."
"How do you know?" TK asked.
"Because I know," Elijah answered cryptically.
"That's a little vague."
"He ain't picking a fight for no reason. He wants a challenge, so he can say he kicked your ass and not have to deal with a bunch of people mouthing off to him because you didn't fight back," Elijah explained. "That's his reason to fight, everyone's got one." Elijah leaned forward. "See, when you fight, there's always a reason behind it. You just gotta figure out what fuels the fire and put it out. That gives you an advantage."
TK stayed silent for a minute, turning the new information over in his head. "I don't."
"Have a reason," he answered.
"Sure you do, everyone does. I mean, sometimes it's this huge thing that always keep you going, and sometimes, like that guy, it's just some small thing that sets you off."
"I don't got a reason," he repeated.
"Sure you do," Elijah smiled, sitting back like that was that.
"Tera," he answered without hesitation. "And Natalie," he added after a pause. "Like I said, big things."
"I'm always second rate," a new voice announced to the room. They both looked up to see Natalie standing in the door frame, dressed in a spaghetti strap shirt and pants with ducks on them. Her bottom lip stuck out. "I can never get first, can I?" She smiled softly, indicating she was joking.
'Damn she's hot,' TK averted his eyes as he unwittingly blushed.
"Oh, but baby, you know I want you more than her. You'll always be first rate in the sack."
"And you can keep fantasizing that I am," she growled playfully as she collapsed into Elijah's lap. She glanced over at TK. "You're going to pervert poor little TK's innocent little mind."
"Believe me, it's far from innocent," TK joked.
Natalie gave a fake shudder. "Nasty thought. Just lie to me kid." She turned back to Elijah, who had snaked his arms around her waist. "Are you going to go to bed soon? I don't want you up too late." TK watched, intrigued by the amount of concern in her voice.
Elijah stroked her face with his large cocoa colored hand, his gray-blue eyes twinkling in the light of the television. "I will. TK and I were just having a nice talk about manly things."
She giggled. "Manly things? This can't be good." She stood, pecking him on the cheek. "I'll leave you two with your testosterone. Goodnight, TK."
"Night," he called after her as she left the room. He looked back at Elijah, who was following Natalie with his eyes. "Manly things?"
Elijah laughed and shrugged. "Well, you know." He pulled himself into his wheelchair, which had been beside the couch. "I better go to bed, I fear her wrath. G'night TK. Don't dwell on this whole reason thing. You have one, but you can't force yourself to figure one out. You'll just have one. Like poof."
TK nodded. "Goodnight Elijah."
"Hey," Riley looked up from her book at the soft greeting. Kari stood in the doorway of the portable, chewing on her lip nervously.
"Hey Kari!" Riley smiled back at her. "What's wrong?"
Kari shook her head, "I didn't actually think you'd come."
Riley pushed her book away and fixed her eyes on Kari. "Why not?"
"Well you asked to have lunch with me. That's explanation in itself." She nervously took a step inside.
"Apparently it's not. Explain it to me?"
"Forget it," Kari snapped as she marched over and sat in a desk three rows away and four seats behind Riley.
Riley swiveled in her seat to face Kari. "What are you, bipolar? One minute you look like you're afraid I might attack you, and then the next you're snapping at me like I just killed your pet hamster."
Kari shook her head. "I dunno." Riley looked perplexed and a bit intrigued. "No, I'm not bipolar!" She snapped harder. "I don't know why I keep snapping at you. But forget it, okay?"
Riley threw her hands in the air. "Fine with me! Jeez, I was friggin' trying to be friendly." She stood up, picking up her book and sandwich, and Kari watched, unsure, as if she feared Riley's leaving. But instead of leaving, Riley shuffled over to Kari and dumped her sandwich on Kari's desk, taking a seat on the desk in front of it.
Kari glared. "You don't give up easily, huh?"
"Not a chance in hell." Riley grinned a wide smile and pushed her blood red hair up into a ponytail. "You're bitter, and mean, and kinda fun."
"Are you fucking high?" Kari snapped, still unsure what to make of the girl voluntarily sitting so close to her.
She sighed. "Kari, Jesus, don't you ever let your guard down? I'm just trying to joke with you. Besides, you may have more in common with me than you know."
"And what do you know about me?"
"Not a damn thing," she shrugged. "I said maybe."
"Persistent and annoying. Is there anything you can't do?"
"Run one mile in under seven minutes. I'm supposed to do that in PE today, but there's no way in hell I'll be able to make it," she shook her head in exasperation and bit into her sandwich.
"Oh, I know. I have to do that in sixth period."
"What's your average time?"
"Six thirty. Yours?"
"Seven forty. I'm not a runner. I can't beat my average, I'm lucky if I can get close to my average."
"Running isn't so bad. I like to run. But when it comes to some of the sports we have to do, I'm a total klutz."
"Basketball, baseball, shot-put."
Riley laughed. "I love shot-put, it's not a real sport. See, now those are the sports I can play. Soccer and volleyball, hell no!"
"Soccer is the only thing I can actually help play. With volleyball, I can play, I just don't like to. We didn't play it in Japan, so I'm learning. The coach says I'm good, though."
Riley smirked. "Well, it seems I can add something to the list of things I can do!"
"Start and hold a conversation with Kari Yagami. That's gotta be a school first."
Kari looked dismayed, unsure how to respond. Dammit, Riley had gotten her to talk, freely, without snapping, retracting or refusal to speak, and she had done it without Kari even noticing. Kari smirked. "Well, you got me," she shrugged and grabbed the second half of Riley's sandwich and examined it.
"I wouldn't do that."
"You won't like that," she smiled slightly.
"I'll be the judge of that," she snapped as she bit into the sandwich. "Hmmm..." She chewed for a moment, considering the taste. "Peanut butter, banana and chocolate?"
"Good guess," Riley nodded. "You like?"
"It's interesting. My brother used to make something like this. But he put coconut on it too," Kari examined the inside of the sandwich as she continued to eat.
"A brother, eh?" Riley laughed. "He older?" Kari nodded. "Hey, is he Yagami...Taichi?"
"How the hell did you know that?" Kari snapped, anger searing through her at the mention of her brother's name.
"He was in the newspaper. The Rincon high school paper," Riley excused, waving her hands in front of her trying to get Kari to calm down. "My sister goes there. There was a story about exchange students. Your brother, TK's brother and a couple of other people were highlighted in it."
"Really?" Kari asked, struck with a sudden interest.
"No, I like making up really elaborate stories so you won't kill me," Riley snapped sarcastically. "Here, I brought the paper for TK. My sister saw, what's his name, Yamato, and said he looked like TK. I guessed it was his brother." Riley reached into her blue backpack and rummaged through it, finally pulling out a small newspaper. Kari took it and looked over the front, looking for the article. "It's page nine, entertainment or something. No wait, features, that's what it's under." Kari flipped through the pages and found 'Features' written in big bold letters beside Rincon Echo at the top. She scanned the article. Tai, Matt, Sora, and someone named Jenny Xue. (I love ya Jenny!) "So is it true what it says?"
"Is what true?"
"You and your brother are orphans from Japan. Did your folks really die in a robbery?"
"They didn't fucking print that!" Kari's eyes scoured Tai's profile.
"Yeah, that's what your brother put for why he came to Tucson."
Kari shook her head in dismay. "He won't talk to me about it, but he'll tell a goddamned newspaper." Her breathing became uneven, and her hands began to shake as she clenched them into fists, then let them open again. She jumped from her seat suddenly, knocking the desk over, and ran from the room. Riley watched her leave, stunned and confused.
Sorely, she sat down on her bed, carefully letting out a breath of exertion. It was so hard to move.
"Kari." Gennai stood at the open door to her room, looking relaxed, but serious.
"Hi Gennai," she mumbled, trying to relax, but she couldn't.
He stepped inside. "How was school?"
"It was okay, I guess," she lied with a shrug.
He looked doubtful, but didn't say anything. "Can I see your arms?"
She groaned inwardly as her stomach muscles clenched involuntarily. But she nodded, and painfully removed her outer shirt to reveal a tank top she had become accustomed to wearing under her shirt. That way he could check her entire arm, shoulder to fingers without her shirt in the way. He inspected the skin, ignoring the aging scars and she forced herself to breathe normally. He checked both of her arms, then let her go.
"Okay, you passed. I hope this will be a trend from now on." Kari nodded. "Have you seen Tera?"
Guess he's doing rounds, she thought as she pulled her shirt back on. "She's out back with Taylor and Matt."
Gennai shook his head in irritation. "Funny, because she was supposed to be inside resting." He turned to leave, but glanced back at her. "Are you feeling alright? You look sick."
"I think I may be coming down with something," she lied with a grimace. "There's something going around at school."
"Well, just get some rest, maybe you'll feel better. If not, I'll take you to the doctor's tomorrow," he smiled sincerely and she attempted to return it. "Just lay down. Dinner will be ready soon. I'll call you to see if you're up for it. If not, we'll bring something up to you." Kari nodded and lay back on the bed, closing her eyes. Gennai's footsteps echoed down the hall as he went down the stairs. When she could no longer hear them, her hand began to trace invisible lines on her stomach.
"Hey, stupid!" Tera's voice suddenly echoed in her ears and she jumped. Tera stood over her, looking tired, but annoyed. "Why'd you tell on me? Gennai wasn't supposed to know I went out."
"I didn't know it was a secret," she snapped. She eased out a labored breath, holding her stomach painfully.
"What's wrong with you?" Tera gave her a look of annoyed concern.
"Nothing." She caught hold of the hem of her shirt and held it down.
"What's on your stomach that you don't want me to see?" Tera questioned, intrigued.
"Nothing." Before she could stop her, Tera grabbed Kari's shirt and hoisted it so it revealed Kari's stomach. Deep, angry red lines ran across the pale flesh. Kari kicked Tera away. "Bitch."
"Fuck. That looks like it hurt."
"More now than when I did it. Are you going to tell Gennai?"
"Don't friggin' 'but Tera' me. Gennai's gotta know. You messed up. Rules are rules." Tera's voice went small. "When'd you do it?"
"Over my brother."
"Damn it! You really gotta talk to Tai. He causes you more problems than you need." Kari shrugged. "Come on, we gotta go see Gennai."
Kari groaned and sat up. She was in so much trouble. "Hey, how did you get in here without me hearing you come up the stairs?" she asked as they exited the room.
Tera laughed. "I came in through the window. Didn't want Gennai to think I was outside." She gave Kari a comforting smile and pushed her out of the room to find Gennai.
Don't dwell, don't dwell, don't dwell... The words rolled over in his mind a hundred times over. But he couldn't help himself. Elijah's words had struck a chord that he had long forgotten. He was alone. Long ago, he had abandoned every friend, every reason and all family. Why?
And why did he suddenly want it all back?
Don't dwell, don't dwell, don't dwe-
"TK!" The cry interrupted his thoughts as he stared down at the food on his lunch tray. He looked up to see Kari, disheveled and out of breath, standing over him. His friends looked at her, getting ready to pounce. "TK!"
He snapped out of his trance. "What?"
"Hey girlie," Josh laughed. "What'cha-"
"Shut the fuck up, retard! Does it look like I was fucking talking to you?!" She snapped, effectively shutting him up. TK stared at her in shock; Kari had never raised her voice to any of them. "I'm not dealing with your bullshit today." She grabbed TK's arm. "Come on."
He stood up and let her drag him out of the cafeteria. "Where are we going?" he asked as they emerged from the school building.
"To Ms. Leonetti's portable."
"Why? We came from there two periods ago, did I forget something?"
He smiled at the name as a dreamy look dawned on his face. "What about her? Why didn't she come get me?"
TK stopped, midstep. "What did you say?"
"She'll tell you." Before she could say another word he took off, running as fast as his legs could take him down the wet pavement of the PE track. She ran to keep up with him as he splashed through puddles and up the portable ramp before crashing into him as he stopped in the portable doorway.
Riley sat on the table holding an ice pack to her cheek , a jacket wrapped around her shoulders. A puddle of water formed under her. "Rei?"
She looked up. "Dammit Kari, you said you wouldn't get him."
"I lied," Kari barked from behind TK.
He stepped over to her, but she lowered her face. "What happened? Kari said you were hurt."
"She lied!" Riley snapped.
Kari stepped up. "Quit being a bitch and show him!" she snapped.
"Whore," Riley growled at her before raising her face to TK.
"I fell into a mud puddle."
"A mud puddle gave you bruises?"
She gave a hopeful smile. "It was a sharp puddle." He caught her arm, looking at her more seriously and she sighed, "I guess you're not as dumb as you look." TK didn't laugh as he stared at her bruised face. She was drenched, her clothes covered in mud and her hair soaking wet.
"What happened to you?"
"It was Jacob." She pushed him away. "He was waiting for me outside my class, said he wanted to talk. So we started to walk out behind the portables, toward the east side of campus, by the parking lot. Eric was waiting there and they jumped me. They said it was to get back at you, for Steve jumping Jacob."
TK growled, a dangerous sound coming from deep in his throat. "This is my fault."
"No," she shook her head. "I mean, I shoulda known better. It was Jacob of all people and I went-"
"It's my fault," he cut her off. His icy eyes ignited and Riley just stared at him, unsure of what to say. But before she could say anything, TK turned and stalked out of the portable and down the ramp.
She looked over at Kari, shivering all the while. "Where's he going?"
Kari shrugged, "To find Jacob, probably."
Riley jumped off the desk, shrugging off the soaking jacket. "I told you not to get him," she snapped as she dashed passed Kari and out the door. Kari followed her.
It was raining outside again, and a few monitors were herding the students from inside. The braver ones among them ventured onto the football field where the G.A.T.E. kids, off in their own little smart kid world, were playing the most vicious game of football ever. TK tore through the game avoiding an enormously tall girl dressed in all black as she zoomed down the field. (A/N: That was dedicated to Jakey, despite the fact that she ever actually got the ball, the damn whore!) Kari and Riley took the more cautious route and went around the game, barely sliding past Fred the monitor as he tried to grab them to get them inside.
Jacob and his friends were sitting against the fence in the shade a huge tree that grew on the other side of the fence. Jacob stood over the group, a bottle of Powerade in his hand, unaware of TK hurtling toward him until he was slammed to the ground. "What the fuck?!" He screamed, surprised to be on the wet ground as the rain came down on them in waves. "Listen Takaishi, I was happy underneath my tree where I wasn't getting we-"
He was cut off by TK's fist slamming into mouth. "Too bad asshole."
"What the fuck is wrong with you?" Jacob screamed between TK's punches.
TK slammed his fist down onto Jacob's nose. "If you have a problem, you come to me you asshole! What the fuck is wrong with you, going after my girlfriend?!" His fists sailed, madly, uncontrollably down onto the other boy's face. "You wanted me to fight? You wanted my attention?! You got it!"
Jacob's nose and lip bled, but the red liquid washed away with the falling rain. Jacob's group had scattered at the first sign of trouble and now only Kari and Riley remained watching the two. Both were petrified as TK went violently crazy.
"What in the hell are you doing?" The voice suddenly boomed over the rain, but as Kari and Riley jumped TK and Jacob took no notice, both continuing to wrestle in the mud. Fred had appeared. A huge black man who struck fear through students around campus with the threat of sitting on them, he waddled, literally, over to the boys. He grabbed TK by his shirt and Jacob by his arm and wrenched them off the wet ground. "We don't fight on this campus." He glanced over at the two girls. "Let's go. You're coming down to the office too. We'll have a nice call to all your parents."
TK stood over the stove, stir-frying dinner. It was his turn to cook, as it would be every day for the next week; it was part of his punishment for fighting and getting caught. Kari sat in the corner of the kitchen, splitting pea pods for him, part of her punishment. The school had tried to suspend her on two accounts; one because she had not gone in when it started raining nor had she listened to the monitors, and two, she had stood watching the fight, a huge offense at their school. But to be perfectly honest, her presence annoyed Fred because of the reputation she had built with the goth kids, and he was looking for a reason to kick her out; she was a troublemaker, after all. Gennai had seen that and raised hell with the principal, easing her punishment to two days after school detention. Gennai had worked out TK's punishment to only a single week suspension, unlike the usual month Jacob got.
"How many more do I have to do TK?" Kari whined from her seat as she chewed on a pod.
He turned to her. "How about for every one you eat you do five," he grumbled.
She looked down at the bowl in her lap and then to the plastic bag that held the unsplit pods. "I don't think there are enough for that deal to work."
He rolled his eyes. "Then that should be enough. Just finish what's left in the bag. And don't eat anymore!" He turned back to the stove just as the door to the kitchen opened, Elijah wheeling himself in. "Hey Elijah," TK greeted as Elijah wheeled himself to the refrigerator. He grunted in response. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing!" Elijah snapped as he pulled a soda from the fridge.
TK looked over at Kari, taken aback by Elijah's harshness. "I'm sorry. Are you mad at me?"
"Leave me alone, TK!" Elijah turned and wheeled himself out of the room, leaving TK to figure out what he had done wrong.
Elijah wheeled himself back to his room, kicking himself mentally for snapping at TK like that. TK hadn't done anything, and he had flipped his lid. He slid into his room and just sat there, rubbing his forehead.
"Why'd you snap at TK like that?" a voice asked. He looked up to see Natalie in the doorway, her hands on her hips, staring at him sourly.
"I didn't mean to. I just got...touchy," he reasoned.
"Ya think?" she snapped in disgust. "When I walked in on you two the other night, he was talking to you. He doesn't friggin' talk to anyone, and neither do you." She stepped inside, closing the door softly. "Why'd you yell at him?"
Elijah shook his her and she walked over and sat on his bed. "I...Natalie, go away."
She looked startled at his request, then frowned. "No. You're not sending me away, Elijah."
"You told Sora, right?"
"Told Sora what?"
She sighed and shook her head. "Not...everything. I mean, I kinda just left it at I lived on the streets. I didn't actually tell her what happened."
"No, nothing about that. Elijah, why are you bringing that up?" She bit her tongue and looked away from him. "Dammit Elijah, do you still hold that against me?"
"No! Damnit Natalie, stop jumping down my throat every time I ask you about it!"
She jumped off the bed, fury burning in her chest as her eyes burned with tears. "Then don't bring it up!" His jaw clenched as he stared up at her. "It's not really any of your business to bring up anyway!"
"Maybe it is," he snapped.
"It wasn't your kid. You have no right."
"Damnit Natalie, just go!"
"Elijah, I don't know what your problem is today, but you have no right to speak to me like that, and you had absolutely no right to talk to TK like you did. Whatever you have stuck up your ass, get it out!" She stomped past him and walked to the door. "I'm not cleaning up your friggin' mood swings this time, Eli." She slammed the door behind her.
"Elijah?" Elijah looked up from the papers spread across his bed. TK was standing in the doorway. "Natalie told me to come talk to you earlier."
"She did?" Elijah shook his head. 'I thought you weren't cleaning up my mess this time.' "Yeah, come on in, I guess." TK stepped inside, looking small and sickly, his head covered in short blond hairs that grew randomly, most of the color gone from his skinny face. "Awful late to be up."
"I still don't feel good. How about you?"
Silence passed between them as TK shifted his weight uncomfortably. "What'cha looking at?"
"Death Certificate. It was my father's." Elijah held it out to TK and TK hesitantly took it. He read it over. "This is for today."
"Today, ten years ago," Elijah corrected. "Sorry I snapped at you earlier. I've been on edge today. I didn't go to school or anything."
TK shook his head. "It's okay, don't worry about it." He stared past Elijah. "Is that your dad?"
Elijah looked to where TK was staring, at a picture on his nightstand of his father dressed in full firefighter uniform, wearing a huge toothy grin on his dark face. "Yeah, that's him." He picked up the photo and handed it to TK.
"I didn't know my dad all that well. When my parents divorced, he took Matt, I went with my mom, and they denied each other visitation rights. They were pretty spiteful people."
"Sounds like it."
"Elijah?" The pair looked up to find Tera in the doorway, rubbing her eyes with one hand like a little child, looking sick.
"Hey Te, what's wrong?"
She gave a tired moan. "I can't sleep."
"Have you been having trouble sleeping a lot?" She nodded. "Take that stuff the doctors prescribed."
She frantically shook her head. "No Eli, don't make me. Not the anti-depression stuff again."
"It's to make you sleep."
"Tera, don't fight with me on this!"
"Hey Tera." All three looked up to see Natalie coming up behind Tera. "Don't fight with your brother. It's late and you woke me up, so it's not going to be long before you get Gennai up."
Tera looked sheepishly at Natalie, "Sorry Natalie." Natalie held out her hand and touched Tera's forehead, but Tera flinched and moved away at her touch.
"Come on, I'll get you your medication." Tera looked like she was about to argue, but stopped herself and nodded obediently. Natalie turned to leave and Tera looked back and forth between her and Elijah before following her to the kitchen.
Elijah shook his head. Natalie hadn't even met his gaze. TK glanced at Elijah. "You and Natalie fighting?"
"What makes you say that?"
"My powers of observation," TK shrugged.
"Well, they're correct. We are."
They fell into an unsteady silence. TK opened his mouth, then closed it, unsure what to say. Then, his chest swelled and he announced, "I fought that guy yesterday. The one who's been harrassing me. I found a reason."
Elijah looked at TK fully for the first time and noticed something different about him. "Oh yeah, what's that?"
"My girlfriend." He looked down at his shoes, almost like he was disgraced to say it. "The guy beat up on her."
"He what?! Now that's a sick bastard," Elijah shook his head. TK only nodded. "I-I killed a guy once." Elijah confessed suddenly. TK just stared. "He had…raped my girlfriend. I shot him."
"Natalie was raped?!" TK burst.
Elijah stared down at his hands. "No, it was a different girl. Before Natalie, before I came here." He looked at TK. "I was in a gang before I came here, back in Vermont, and in Oregon. I've been in three major gang riots, I lived through a gang war, I've knifed three guys, killed one. All before I was 16." He shook his head with a small smile. "It's damn intoxicating knowing you can do that."
TK nodded. "It is." Elijah looked at him funny. "Fighting. It's…intoxicating." It came out sounding more like a confession than a statement. "When I was hitting Jacob, I couldn't stop. I felt like a monster afterwards, but I just couldn't stop. It felt good."
"You vented, congratulations," Eli smiled sadly. "But that intoxication…no, I got myself shot and paralyzed."
"You said it happened on Christmas."
"Christmas Eve. For the second year in a row, we were spending it in the emergency room because of friggin' Tera. She OD'ed on top of pneumonia. So I walked out and went out with some friends who never went home. I dragged my girlfriend out, and we just walked around." He looked spaced out, like he was reliving the event. "We got jumped. Some asses drove by and shot at us. I got shot in the back, my girlfriend and both my buddies died. And it was my fault. Those asses, they were friends of the guy I killed. They got me back."
TK's brow furrowed. "So, are you saying I'm going to get shot?"
Elijah chuckled and shook his head. "No, what I'm saying is, don't let the ability to vent make you start picking fights." TK nodded. "Hey, you wanna see something cool?" He asked, trying to lighten the mood. TK nodded again, still looking worried. "This was awarded to my father." He held out the medal Cedric had brought down to him. "Cool, huh?"
"Natalie?" Tera whispered as she sat on Natalie's bed, sinking into the soft mattress. Natalie looked up at her, obviously tired and upset as she clicked off the main light and turned on a nightlight. It glowed with a pale light that illuminated their faces. "What are you and Elijah fighting about?"
Natalie sat down beside Tera and moved under the blankets. "What makes you think we're fighting?" She reached out and pulled Tera over, but Tera wouldn't move, her small hands gripping the edge of the mattress.
"Because you didn't talk before. You wouldn't look at him. You two have been fighting. What about?"
Natalie leaned against the headboard of her bed and ran her fingers through her ebony hair. "I'm not completely sure."
"He asked me if I had told Sora about what happened to me and why I was here. I said I had told her part of it."
"The part that doesn't need to be censored."
Tera moved from her position on the edge of the bed and climbed into Natalie's lap. "I don't feel good Natalie." Natalie wrapped her arms around Tera and held her tightly. "Go on."
"Well, he asked about my…abortion. I snapped at him. He holds it against me, I can feel it whenever he brings it up. And I don't understand why he does, it's none of his business."
"It's not," Tera whispered. "He was mad at you?" Natalie nodded. "Are you mad at him?" She nodded again.
"I don't like talking about it, Tera. It just makes me feel…dirty." Tera nodded absently; she was falling asleep as she cuddled against Natalie. "Tera?"
"Elijah was having a nightmare and he cried out 'Lilly'. Who's Lilly?" She brushed hair out of Tera's face; her forehead was warm from a slight fever. "Do you know, sweetheart?"
"Lilly was E's girlfriend. The one who got shot," Tera explained.
"Are you tired?" Tera nodded. "From the medication?" Tera didn't respond. "Just sleep, babe."
Natalie leaned her head back against the headboard. Was this her life? Playing pseudo mother to this little girl, while avoiding her past through the cover of the little princess? What was the alternative? Back at home. Back with her mother and the yelling and the insults and the constant burning sensation in her stomach. She snuggled closer to Tera.
Or would it be on the streets, where months upon months were spent running from the cops and learning what it truly was to survive?
"What was it like?" Tera whispered suddenly. "What was it like having to stand on the corner and sell yourself?"
"Tera, not now. You need rest."
"No, Natalie. I almost did that. Twice…" She pulled away from Natalie. "I went so far as sitting in someone's car after they had pulled over to pick me up, just for a hit…just for a hit."
Natalie choked. "You what?!" Tera buried her face in Natalie's shoulder.
Natalie sighed. "It was degrading. And it was pointless. I was…being a prostitute just to buy food that I'd end up…throwing up later. But I was so hungry sometimes."
"You got pregnant."
"Yeah. You know this story, Tera. That's how Gennai picked me up. I was in the clinic."
"He called me a whore. He did it, and I stopped, and I realized what I was doing. I told him I was a cop, and he believed me. I got out saying I had to phone back up and he sped away. I was so high that night."
'Oh god…' Tears soaked her nightshirt from Tera's tired eyes. "They called me whore. Why are you thinking about this now, Te?"
"Because I've been thinking about a lot of stuff lately."
"Is that why you're not sleeping?" Tera nodded. "You're tired now, though, so sleep." Natalie rocked Tera slightly.
"Don't break up with Elijah," Tera whispered.
"Why would we do that?"
"I just don't want you to go away. Because you would."
Natalie kissed Tera's forehead. "I'm not going away." The minutes marched on and Tera stopped talking, though she didn't sleep. Half an hour…an hour…an hour and a half. Four o'clock came and Tera's breathing evened and her body became dead weight in Natalie's arms, who was staring at the ceiling, remembering. She would have had a little girl. She would never have known the father's name.
She would have had something…
"Hi, is Riley there?" She asked into the phone as she sat on her bed, her hand gripping hard to the blanket underneath her.
"One moment. I'll get her." There was the sound of rattling as the phone was moved around. "Riley?" The low voice of a sour sounding man echoed over the line.
"Phone." The sound of the phone being passed rattled in Kari's ears. "You better not be on long."
"I won't, sir."
"You done packing?"
Kari strained to listen to the muffled conversation. "Almost, sir."
"Five minutes. You got five minutes. If you're on any longer, I'm shipping you off one day sooner."
"Yes…sir." Seconds past and footsteps faded into the background. "H-hello?"
"It's Kari. I was just calling to see how you were. You haven't been in school since Tuesday, and TK says you won't take his calls."
Her voice became high and hushed. "TK called?"
"Riley, what's wrong?"
"I can't talk right now." Her voice got lower. "If I could meet you somewhere… I could tell you."
"Uh…sure." Kari hesitated at the invitation, she was supposedly grounded. How would she get around Gennai? "I'm probably free Saturday."
"No! Tomorrow, I can't get out any other time. I'm sorry to ask you this, but can you ditch?"
Kari hesitated again. Gennai was gonna kill her. "Yeah, I can."
"Oh shit, I gotta go!"
"He's coming." Her voice suddenly changed. She stopped talking in hushed tones, as her voice seemed to relax and yet tense at the same time. "Right, that's the only thing for Spanish. It'll probably be on the final."
"Well, if you don't understand it I can meet you tomorrow in front of the school, before class. We can go over it then."
"Tomorrow, right. School." Kari stopped trying to understand, it was easier that way. Then without warning the phone clicked off, ending the conversation. Kari stared at the receiver, finally replacing it in complete puzzlement.
Kari sat outside the school, 'The Used' blasting from her headphones. She had borrowed the CD from Elijah a week ago and she instantly became obsessed, refusing to give it back, much to his annoyance. She leaned against the brick library, avoiding the stares of other students who were surprised to see her out in the daylight. She was the 'lone goth girl', after all. The alarm on her watch went off; 8:50. School started in five minutes. She was seriously starting to doubt that Riley was ever going to show up.
A sharp kick to her outstretched legs proved her wrong. She looked up, squinting at the burning sun, at Riley. She looked tired and distressed. Her hands shakily clutched to her backpack straps, her knuckles white.
"What's wrong with you?" Kari asked in greeting, offering her usual sour disposition as she pulled her headphones to settle around her neck.
"Come on," Riley whispered in the same hushed tone she had used on the phone. "We better go if we want to get out of here before the bell rings."
Kari stood up and followed her off campus. Luckily for them, there were no monitors out front. Most of them were patrolling the halls for any threats or fights, as they were common at the school. Poor Gennai, Kari shook her head. He kept trying so hard to get them away from the violence and drugs they had left in Japan, but they still got stuck with Alice Vail, the scum of middle schools, as their school.
They walked towards Broadway; Kari following silently as Riley stared at the ground. "Where do you want to go?" Kari asked.
"Do you wanna just talk?" Riley didn't answer. "Well, we can go to Barnes and Noble. They have a cafe in there. I'll buy you a cup of coffee. You look like you could use one." Riley nodded as they walked. "Do you want to give me a preview? That way I can steady myself."
"Hey! RILEY, KARI!" Riley jumped at her name and Kari looked over her shoulder to see TK running after them. Riley looked like she wanted to make a break for it, but Kari grabbed her hand, an action that shocked herself more than Riley, and pulled her back towards TK. He caught up with them; huffing and holding his blue hat to his head. "Where…are you…guys…going? School's about…to start," he panted.
"We got smart and realized we were never going to get an actual education at Vail so we're going to go enroll in one of those alternative schools."
TK rolled his eyes at Kari's statement and looked over at Riley who stood behind Kari, not looking at him. "Hey, Rei. What's going on?"
"Why don't you join us TK?" Kari asked, despite herself. "Riley was just going to tell me."
Riley pinched her hand hard. "No," she whispered for only Kari to hear. "I can't."
Kari ignored her. "Come, TK. Come for the field trip."
TK sighed as he stepped towards them again. "This is my first day back from being suspended. Gennai's going to kill me. You too, as a matter of fact."
Kari turned and began walking again, pulling Riley alongside her. "It's better than me doing it instead." TK kicked her hard in the back of the knee. "You're an asshole TK."
For the rest of the walk, they were silent. It was mostly through neighborhoods, avoiding the main street, Rosemount, seeing as Fred the monitor drove up and down the street looking for ditchers. That man had too much time on his hands. TK kept glancing over at Riley, who refused to talk to him or Kari. Kari just walked forward, staring ahead into space. She couldn't believe she had made that last comment aloud and in front of Riley and TK.
Finally, they reached the Broadway and Rosemount intersection, and hustled across it, into the large bookstore parking lot. TK hustled them into Barnes and Noble and to the back of the store where there was a small, quaint cafe with the aroma of coffee drifting around it. Kari maneuvered Riley into a seat at a table in the corner as TK sat down across from her. "What do you guys want to drink?"
"Coke," TK replied.
"Hot…tea," Riley replied as she set her bag on the table beside her.
"Alright, TK pay up." Kari held out her hand as TK groaned and handed her some money. She left the table to order and TK stared at Riley, who buried her face in her hands, her elbows resting on the table.
"Rei? Why won't you talk to me? Or look at me. Or return or answer my calls?" he asked desperately.
"I never got them," she whispered. "My…my guardian never gave the phone to me, or said you called."
"The guy who answered?" She nodded behind her hands. Kari returned, a bottle of coke under her arm and two steaming cups in her hands. She set one in front of Riley then sat down beside her, handing TK his drink.
"So Riley, what's up? How come you haven't been to school in a week?" Kari asked, blowing on her coffee.
"I-after the fight, I got into a lot of trouble. They called home, you know for watching the fight and everything. My guardian, the guy you talked to, he kinda wigged on me. He's sending me away." TK felt the air being sucked from his lungs as Kari just stared.
"Wait, why?" Kari furrowed her eyebrows. "I mean, it was two days of after school detention. I've served worse and gotten lighter sentences."
"My guardian doesn't like me. I…uh…got kicked out of my old school for fighting and drugs, so now that I'm getting in trouble all over again, he's sending me back."
"Back where?" TK asked.
"I dunno," she shrugged. "Where ever they take me this time. I'm in the foster program, I just keep getting shipped around, you know." She shook her head. "Since Mr. Glails came to get me from school, he's had me literally locked in my room and he only let me out yesterday."
"He what?!" TK snapped. Riley stared down at her tea. TK reached out to take her hands, which rested on the tabletop, but she jerked away, knocking her bag over and spilling the contents across the ceramic floor. Riley stared in horror as a silver digivice clattered a foot away.
Riley and TK froze. Kari stood and stared. "Is that a Digivice?"
Riley jumped from her seat and dove for the items on the ground. "I have to go. This was bad."
TK jumped and grabbed her as Kari pulled the Digivice from her hand. She studied it. "It's one of the original ones, like ours."
Riley fought against TK's hold. "Lemme go!"
TK held tightly. "Riley, do you know what that is?"
She stopped struggling. "'Course, I do. Who doesn't?"
Kari held out the device. "Is this yours?" Riley didn't answer. Kari reached into her pocket and produced her own digivice, identical to Riley's. (Kari's and TK's 'vices didn't change for this story, k?) Riley stopped and stared. "Thought you were special or something, eh Rei?"
"You're DigiDestined too?" Her eyes flashed back and forth between Kari and TK.
TK nodded, "We were the originals." Suddenly her legs buckled from underneath her and she fell, supported only by TK. They both toppled to the ground.
"Oh god," she began to sob.
"I'm so afraid to carry this thing, but I absolutely can't leave it at home. I lied before. I'm not being sent away for getting in trouble, I never got kicked out of school. My foster dad found this. He's sending me to a reform school because he thinks…I don't know what he thinks, but it's bad." TK stared between Riley and Kari as he sat on the floor, Riley crying into his chest. Kari stared down at the pair in shock. "He found it after the fight, after I had come home. He came into my room to discuss punishment and he found it lying on my dresser. He locked me in my bedroom."
"All week and weekend?" Kari heard herself ask. Riley nodded. She met TK's eyes and mouthed, 'What do we do?'
"What if…what if we called Gennai?" TK asked her. Kari looked doubtful and Riley pulled away.
"Gennai?" she repeated, stumbling over the name. "Who's he?"
TK glanced up at Kari then back down at Riley. "Well, he's our guardian. He'll take care of you." He looked up at Kari again. "Call him."
"He's going to kill us for ditching," she cut in, not moving.
"What? Shall we wait until after school?"
"No!" Riley cut in. "I wasn't supposed to go out. My foster dad doesn't know I went out. My sister's covering for me in case he gets home before I do. I wasn't supposed to leave so I can't stay long! I don't want you to call anyone."
"Why not?" Kari asked. "Are you scared of him? What? What's the worst he can do? Lock you in your room and ship you off? Well, he's already doing that. And Gennai, god, the worst he can do is call your dad and say no to helping." Kari shrugged. "Either way, you can't get more screwed then you already are. Lemme call him. Meet him. And either turn tail and run home, or let Gennai help. Because he will." Kari looked away; the sincerity in her voice began to affect her brain as she sniffed back a tear. Someone who actually put up with her shit was going away. "But make up your friggin' mind because we're attracting more then a few stares." She ended in her usual bitter way.
Riley blinked at her brashness. "You really should be a motivational speaker."
"Call him," TK repeated. This time Riley didn't argue.
Kari walked off toward the pay phones in the farthest corner of the store, by the bathrooms. She dialed the cell number Gennai had given them and leaned against the wall, listening to the soft ring. "Hello?"
"Hey Gennai, it's Kari."
"Kari? What's wrong? You're supposed to be in school."
She laughed timidly. "It's a funny thing that I'm supposed to be…because I'm not."
"I have a good reason, I swear, don't ground me. Could you just come down to the Barnes and Noble by our school and pick me, TK and Riley up? Riley's in trouble."
"What kind of trouble?"
"Please Gennai," she pleaded.
"…Alright. I'll be there in about ten minutes." Kari hung up the phone and walked back to the table in the café. TK and Riley were back in their respective chairs. Kari sat down beside Riley.
"Gennai's on his way," she announced, gripping her coffee. "If I'm gonna get grounded some more, I'm going down caffinated," she added, as she sipped the brown liquid.
TK nodded. "Good idea." He drank his coke as Riley stared down at her tea. She felt numb and disoriented, still not fully understanding Kari and TK's confession. TK watched as her as he gripped his cold bottle. "Have you ever been? To the Digital World I mean?" He finally asked.
"Once. You know, when it appeared in the sky. The first time."
TK and Kari exchanged glances. "How many people did we miss?" Kari snapped.
Riley looked between the pair. "You two were there?" They both nodded.
"Wait…" TK rubbed his forehead, trying to understand what she was saying. "So what you mean to tell us is you were one of the original American DigiDestined? Like with Taylor and Natalie and Aaron?"
"And Tera and Elijah." Kari added.
Riley stared. "Y-you know them?"
"Know them? We live with them!" TK replied.
"Kari, TK!" They both jumped in their seats at the sound of their names. Timidly, they looked up to see Gennai standing over them, worry in his dark eyes. His eyes took in each of their faces before resting on Riley's. "Kaleigh?"
Her eyes bulged and she stopped breathing. "No one calls me that anymore…"
"Wait, who's Kaleigh?" Kari spoke up.
"Gennai?" Riley stared up at him. "You can't be Gennai…he was old. He's gotta be dead by now."
Gennai chuckled. "I can assure you I'm not dead. Kaleigh, how'd you get here? I've been trying to track you down since you went home from the DigiWorld."
"I-I changed my name. To my mother's maiden name and I disappeared, sorta," she explained. "You've really been looking for me?"
"Yes!" He glanced around the table. "So you're Riley?" She nodded. "What's this about? You're in trouble?"
"It's my foster dad…he found out I was a DigiDestined and he freaked out on me. He's sending me to a reform school," she explained as she continued to stare at Gennai. "TK and Kari shouldn't have called you…it's not for you to worry about-"
"Sure it is," Gennai cut her off, his voice stern. "It's my job to make sure nothing happens to you. I'll take care of this," he said sincerely. Suddenly, she jumped from her chair and hugged Gennai tightly, burying her face in his chest. "Let's go back to the house and we'll settle it," he suggested as he pulled away from her.
"I gotta call my sister!" Riley erupted suddenly.
Gennai pulled out his cell phone. "Go ahead." She stepped away from the group to use it. Gennai turned back to TK and Kari, still sitting in their chairs, confusion etched on their faces as they stared at Gennai. "Well," he started, smiling slightly.
"What just happened?" TK demanded.
"Kaleigh, or, Riley was one of the original American DigiDestined. After they came back, it took me forever to track them all down, but I never found her. Like she said, she changed her name and disappeared."
"How come Tera and the others never talked about her before?" Kari asked, scratching her head. This was all too weird.
"I dunno, I think it was more they tried to forget. Their time in the Digiworld and some events after their return weren't things they wanted to remember. Losing one of their own falls under that category. It hurt to know that I couldn't find her, so it was kind of an unspoken agreement not to bring her up." He looked directly at Kari. "Kind of like when someone dies and you can't bear to talk about them." Kari nodded in understanding.
"How can you help her?" TK cut in.
"I don't know. I'll have to get the entire story, but it'll be okay TK. I'll help her."
Riley stood in the 'girls room' of Gennai's boarding house, gazing around while Kari sat on one of the bunk beds. "How many of you share a room?"
"Four. There's ten of us all together. Elijah and Natalie get their own rooms downstairs," Kari explained. Kari watched Riley standing stiffly, gazing around the room, at each bunk and at the walls decorated with posters and picture frames. It reminded Kari of when she had first arrived, stiff and uncomfortable. "You can put down your backpack if you want. No one's going to steal it…although TK could be a klepto (you know, someone who likes to steal stuff) I'm not sure." Riley giggled and let her backpack slip off her shoulders and fall softly to the floor. "So Kaleigh, huh?"
Riley stared at the floor. "I don't go by that anymore."
Kari just rolled her brown eyes in annoyance. "Obviously. That's pretty good, changing your name and disappearing like that. Wish I coulda pulled something like that off. It woulda probably saved me from being stuck here."
"Is it really that bad here?"
Kari thought for a minute. No, it wasn't, it was the best thing that she'd had in a long time after her parents had died. "No," she replied, her voice somewhat lackluster. "I make it bad for myself." She shrugged her thin shoulders. "Old habits die hard."
Riley opened her mouth to reply, but the slamming of a door downstairs made her freeze. "Gennai, we're home," Elijah's voice echoed up the stairs, and footsteps approached the stairs.
Riley turned to Kari. "They're coming! I can't do this, not now! I-"
The door opened to the room and Tera came in followed by Taylor. She stopped and looked between the two girls, squinting her eyes in a sort of recognition of Riley before turning away and setting her backpack by her bed. "You're home early," Tera commented.
"Yeah," Kari shrugged. "I had a problem at school. I didn't want to be there. So I left."
Tera leaned against her bunk bed, arms crossed and a huge grin on her face. "Nice, ditching school on top of being grounded, on top of some major probation." Kari grimaced at all her offenses, she really did make her own life a living hell. "And yet, somehow, you're alive and you have friends over. I think Gennai's too lenient with you kids nowadays."
"She's not my friend," Kari snapped. Riley looked at her in alarm. "I mean, well, I-fuck it. Tera, this is Riley. Riley, Tera. And that's Taylor." She gestured to Taylor sitting on her bunk, next to Tera.
Tera reached out to shake Riley's hand. "Oh, you must be TK's girlfriend. He must not be a very good one if he left you with Kari. That's a break up waiting to happen." Riley chuckled a little. "Have we met before?" Tera squinted at her face again.
"Um…well, I-" Riley stammered.
"'Course you have!" Kari cut it. "She's a DigiDestined. Just like you. Kaleigh, you remember her."
Tera pulled her hand away from Riley's suddenly. "What?!" Riley stepped back avoiding her hounding eyes and Taylor's shocked face. "You're joking!"
"I don't joke," Kari snapped sarcastically.
"Y-you're serious?" Tera reached out and grabbed Riley's arm, forcing Riley look at her. She gave a small grin. "Kaleigh?"
"Don't call me that, please," she shook her head and kept her eyes away from Tera.
"Riley...ha! Damn." Tera tackled her into an overwhelming hug, and before she could help herself, Riley hugged her back, burying her face in Tera's shoulder
Elijah sat on his bed as Natalie stood by the closed door, watching him. "So," he started. "Gennai found Kaleigh."
"Yeah," Natalie nodded. Silence enveloped the room. "I thought you called me to work this out, Eli. We've been fighting for a week. Over...nothing."
He gazed around his room before returning his eyes to her. "Here's how it's going to work out," he began, his voice detached but angry. "I'm leaving."
"I'm leaving, and you and me - we're over."
Okay, I'm typing this author's note with a bad headache and I kinda have no depth perception. What did you all think? After I sent this chapter to my wonderful wonderful beta, Cherry Seraphym, I was already to dissect it when I got it back. I was going to take out the Riley subplot, but I decided against it, just to see if I can pull it off.
You know what's freaky? Waking up one morning with scratches up and down your arms, bruised knuckles with the inability to move two of them and having no recollection of the previous day. That happed to be a week ago. I realized the next day (after my friend tried to ask me about what happened with me) I had punched a pole. Lemme just say, don't punch a pole!
Anyway, there's my advice for the day.
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