Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, but I do own Riley, Tera, Taylor, Elijah, Natalie and Aaron.
A/N: LAST CHAPTER!!! Okay, I've had this ending planned out since I started this story, but with all the things that got changed and added I got so afraid I'd have to trash it. But ha, it came out alright. I want to thank you all for reading this and sticking with me even when it was crap and even when it wasn't. Wow, I started this sophomore year; I'm a senior now. This is weird. But anyway, thank you all again and please enjoy!
"Tera, can I speak to you for a moment in my office?"
Aaron's hand momentarily faltered from it's constant drumming on her knee as they both looked up to see their aged and worn guardian standing in the doorway of the living room, watching them. Tera pushed herself into an upright sitting position as Aaron abandon her leg and tickled the bottom of her bare foot. "Sure thing, Gennai," she giggled, as she kicked his stomach and jumped off the couch.
"Bitch," Aaron called, wheezing painfully as she left the living room, with Gennai behind her.
He followed her back to his office and shut the door softly behind him as she flopped down into the seat in front of his large wood desk. She held herself straighter then she had in the past few months and grinned softly as he made his way to his seat behind the desk. His movements were slow, not with age, but from being in no hurry to start the meeting. Her grin faltered, she was definitely in trouble.
"What's wrong Gennai?"
He sighed. "Tera, sweetheart, you astound me so much. You've grown up so well and I thought there was some real hope for you. I put so much faith in you. I didn't think things would go this way." His voice sounded grieved, like something died. Like she died.
"What did I do, Gennai?"
The sound of his desk drawer opening pulled her attention from his sullen face and to his hand reaching in his desk. He set a small candy tin on the desk between them and her breath caught in her throat. "Do you know what's in there, Tera?"
She choked to force an answer, but it came out weak and inconceivable. "Aspirin."
His fist slammed against the top of his desk and she jumped in her seat. "Don't you dare lie to me! Tell me what is in that container!"
"Why do you have it?" She didn't answer. "Tera." Again, nothing. "Tera, I can't look away this time. Your probation is over, so I'm not obligated to call the police, but I just can't do this anymore. The get clean programs obviously didn't work and I can't waste anymore of their time and money, or my own trying a lost cause like you."
The words struck her like a ton of bricks. 'Lost cause like you.' That's what she was? A lost cause?
"I'm sending you home," Gennai continued, interrupting her thoughts.
She jumped from her chair. "Gennai, please," she screamed with harsh desperation in her voice, backed by tears. "I can't go home. I can't."
He stood, looming over her, staring with aged angry eyes, and his body leaned over the desk toward her. "Well, I can't give you anymore chances!"
"God damnit!" Jumping back, she stomped both feet on the ground, feeling a rush of anger pulse over her that she fought to keep in check with the tears that kept fighting to river down her face. "Fine, fine!" The words started as a growl, but the second word exploded from her. "I don't care!"
"Tera, I know you're angry, but you brought this on yourself. You knew the rules, you knew your position."
"And I knew I was a waste of time!" she screamed suddenly, interrupting the speech he had worked on for hours. "I told you not to bother. I told you not to mess with me! I told you I couldn't be fixed, but you promised! You promised something different. I wasn't a waste of time!"
"I don't care! Don't speak. Don't do anything. You're a liar, Gennai." She stomped her feet again, and the echo of the hollow wood rang in the room. "I brought this on myself. Well, I happen to like this Gennai." She kicked the chair she had been sitting on and it clattered to the floor, smashing against the side of his desk and denting the wood. Withdrawing a silver DigiVice from her pocket, she stared at it softly, clutching it in two hands as if debating to herself about relinquishing it. "I never wanted to be a DigiDestined anyway," she whispered, tossing it across his desk. "I didn't need the responsibility of that stupid monkey anyway."
The door slammed behind her before Gennai could get another word in.
Tera sank back; falling away from the open dresser drawers that sat spewed in front of her. How had he found it? Why would he have gone through her dresser? He had never done so before. Questions swirled around her head as she tried to sort through them and search her clothes for anything amiss, as wet tears clouded her vision and dripped down her face. How could this have happened? She was careful!
The door to the room opened behind her and she swallowed back the tears that continued to fall down her cheeks. "Tera?" Taylor's soft voice whispered into the room as she stepped in. "Y-you didn't come back to the living room and I heard all these doors slam. I wanted to make sure you were okay." Tera held her breath until she heard the door click shut.
"It's nothing, Taylor," she whispered calmly.
"Aaron wanted to come up, but I think he was afraid of pissing you off," she added.
"I'm fine, Taylor. I'm just looking for something."
"F-for what?" Taylor's voice grew an octave, as she stepped forward to look over Tera's shoulder.
"I-I had drugs in here," she admitted painfully. "Gennai found them and I don't know how. He's sending me home." Tera stood and brushed past Taylor to sit on her bed. Their eyes never met as Taylor stared at the dresser in soft horror and Tera felt blinded by tears.
"What? No, he can't," her eyes widened, and her body grew tense as she froze in the spot she stood. "He said he wouldn't."
If Tera heard the last sentence, she didn't respond. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I just... I'm really scared this time," she confessed, while attempting a smile. It brought neither any comfort.
"Tera, I'm sorry," Taylor whispered.
Tera collapsed her head into her hands and her body shook against her consent. "Don't be, kiddo. It's not your fault."
"Y-yes it i-is."
Tera raised her head, staring into Taylor with blood shot eyes. "What?"
"I-I gave Gennai the drugs. I found them when you were sick, the night you cut yourself real bad. I got scared and gave them to Gennai."
"How could you?" Tera heard herself whisper. Her entire body suddenly felt numb and cold. Taylor had betrayed her.
"I-I got s-scared! I didn't know what to do, I thought you were doing drugs again. I thought Gennai would try to help you. N-not this!"
Taylor watched Tera jump off her bed and instinctively took a step back. "That's what you thought?!" Tera growled. "You were retarded enough to think all of his threats were bogus?!"
Taylor took another step back, blindsighted by tears that flooded into her eyes. Tera never got this angry, she never called her those names that everyone else did. Tera never. "Please don't call me that, Tera," she whispered.
"You thought that when he said he'd delete Apemon he was doing it for fun?" Tera stepped toward her again, and Taylor stepped back to keep space between them, but Tera was faster, and brought herself toe to toe with Taylor before she could back away far enough. Her heart pounded harder until she thought it was going to rip out of her chest. Unexpectedly, Tera shoved her back and Taylor tripped, tottering to keep her balance. "This was my last hope, Taylor!" Tera slammed her backwards into the door. "You should have talked to me first! You should have asked! But no, I'm going home!" She grabbed Taylor by the front of her shirt and shoved her back, harder then before, and Taylor pushed herself into the door and closed her eyes, waiting for the next attack. Suddenly, she was on the floor and Tera stood over her, fuming and shaking as she watched her. "I hate you," she whispered softly before stalking out of the room.
He watched her from the living room entrance, anger pulsing through him as he stared at her, and she sat unaware, staring at the phone in her hands. Finally, he entered pushing his wheels across the floor. "Tera!" She jumped to her feet at the interruption, fear radiating off her and the black cordless that had sat in her lap clattered to the floor. She held herself tense, as if waiting for an attack, bloodshot eyes staring at him with apprehensive stress and he had to wonder: drugs or tears? "What are you doing?" He knew his tone sounded harsh and he didn't care. There was something acutely screwed up about his stepsister.
Her eyes fell from him before she started talking. "I-I was talking to my dad." Her eyes darted everywhere but him. "Gennai said I had to call him and tell him what happened. Gennai already told him I was going back, bu-but I had to tell him why."
"Do you like being a perpetual screw up?" She flinched. "How long have you been doing drugs? Before your parole was over? Where'd you get it?" he demanded, staring her down with harsh blue-gray eyes. She didn't answer as she avoided his eyes, and his anger seized a hold him. Before she could blink, his hand struck her across the face and she fell backwards on her butt. Her hand slowly touched the red hand print on her cheek.
"Elijah?!" A harsh angry voice broke him from his own angry haze just in time to see Natalie rush passed him. "What are you doing?!" she demanded, as she dropped to Tera's side. But Tera pushed her away.
"Stop it!" the smaller girl snapped as she pushed away from Natalie and to her feet. "Fuck you, Elijah! This is none of your business! This is my deal. Fuck you."
Elijah blood boiled as Tera attempted to stalk by him to the exit and he grabbed her in a bone crunching hold. "Tera!"
She kicked his dead leg. "Fuck you!" she repeated, tearing herself from his hold and running from the room.
"What was that all about?" Natalie demanded.
Elijah's eyes stayed at the doorway where Tera had gone running through. "She's doing drugs again. Gennai's sending her home."
"What?! She's going home?" Elijah felt something throb in his chest and his hand slammed against his chair. Natalie stared at the doorway. Then at him. "That didn't give you a reason to hit her." Elijah glanced at her. "Did you see the mark you left? You do realize how much stronger you are then her!"
"I was mad," he growled. "She shouldn't have been doing drugs."
"You just made everything Taylor's dad did to her okay. You were mad, so you swung? That's how it works, huh?"
"She should know better! I didn't raise her like that!"
"You didn't raise her, Eli! You're her brother. Not only that, you're her stepbrother. It's not your job to raise Tera." Natalie stepped towards the door. "When you've calmed down, you owe her an apology."
"No," he growled forcefully. She stared at him. "I'm tired of her shit. She should have gotten her act together. I don't care anymore. I'm not talking to her anymore."
"Don't be a baby."
"I'm not. I'm tired of her. Let her deal with her shit this time. I'm not sorry." Natalie caught his arm and he stopped, shaking his head. "I can't this time, Nat. I'm not going to waste time trying. It's been too long. She doesn't want to get better. Let her go home and land in jail again."
"She tried so hard."
Elijah just shook his head once again. "It's done. I'm done. Gennai's done. Tera's going home. Let it go, Natalie."
"When does she go home?" she asked softly, pulling away.
Natalie looked surprised. "Why so soon? There's only a week left of school. Is she not going to finish sophomore year?"
"Classes are done. That's the end of it." He wheeled himself from the room, but stopped at the door, rubbing his hand over his forehead. "I'll..." He sighed. "I'll apologize to her later."
"She loves you, Eli," Natalie whispered.
Elijah didn't look up. "I'll apologize to her later," he repeated before wheeling away.
A knock sounded at her door, and for a second a prickle of fear slid down her back. Elijah. Her face throbbed, and her heart thudded frantically in her chest, but she would not be bullied.
"Fuck off!" she screamed, surprised by the harshness of her own voice.
The knock persisted, followed by, "Tera, it's Kari."
Hesitating slightly, Tera tossed away the cold cloth she held against her cheek and opened the bedroom door. Kari stood glossy-eyed and pale in the dark hallway. Her eyes found Elijah's hand print blazed into Tera's face and her mouth dropped. "What's up, kid?"
"They were my drugs, weren't they?" Kari demanded. Tera flinched and grabbed the younger girl by her arm, hauling her roughly into the room and slamming the door behind her. "They are, aren't they?"
Tera rubbed her forehead, feeling a headache coming on. "No, it was my drugs."
"You're a god damned fucking liar!" Kari shrieked. Tera shot her a look that mixed of annoyance and pain and Kari felt everything drained out of her. "Tera," her voice cracked in a whimper. "You don't do that anymore."
"I lied," Tera brushed off with a shrug. Her face went unreadable, but Kari felt mocked.
"Listen, kid, I'm a damn drug fiend. I like the scene. I like the kick. I like the pain that goes along with it. You're the exact same way. Don't tell me what I won't and wouldn't do."
"The drugs are mine," Tera insisted, her voice rising in mockery.
"Ecstasy is too soft for you," Kari murmured, behind a glare.
"Ecstasy is too soft for you!" Kari repeated, louder.
"A drug is a drug," Tera quipped, smirking.
"Tera, please!" Kari pleaded and Tera's face went unreadable again. "Why didn't you just tell Gennai it was me?"
Tera sighed. "Because what's the point in getting you in trouble for something you've given up. You can't prove you've been clean for five months. Besides, out patient rehab will still admit you with a whole lot of therapy for kicks, and we've seen how well therapy works for you." Tera dropped the stiff stance she held, losing the cocky hold on her shoulders until they slumped in exhaustion, and Kari let out a sharp breath. "Besides, I kept the drugs. I violated my probation." She shrugged. "I'm tired of all this anyway."
"All what?" Kari injected.
Tera rubbed her forehead. "I-I can't think straight. Go away."
"Kari, what do you want?!" Tera cried. "You're not in trouble, I'm not going to tell on you. You're in the clear. I've got stuff to deal with, stuff that doesn't involve you."
"I don't get it!"
"I-" Tera stopped, closing her eyes before glancing down at her shoes. "I wanted to take them," she got out, looking back up at Kari. "I want them. It's my own fault. This doesn't have anything to do with you, okay? Don't worry about it, this is my battle."
"Tera, I'm sorry." Her voice uncharacteristically broke.
"I am too." Kari stiffly watched Tera, suddenly overcome with an impulse to embrace the older girl, but that would have been too much affection, too personal. With a shake of her head and a small smile Tera hugged her instead, wrapping her arms securely around her waist as Kari leaned into her.
"Gennai, can I talk to you for a minute?" Aaron asked, as he stood awkwardly in the doorway of Gennai's study, a letter in his hand.
Gennai glanced up from the laptop at that in the center of his desk that he sat poring over. "Sure, Aaron, what's up?" he asked as his eyes returned to the computer, the distinct clicking of keys taking up the silence in the air. After a moment of just clicking, Gennai glanced up waiting for Aaron to speak.
"I got the reply for the abroad program," Aaron stated.
"What did it say?" Gennai urged, pushing down the screen of the laptop as if sensing this needed his full attention.
"I got denied."
Aaron shrugged, tossing the letter on Gennai's desk. "They don't think it would be good for my condition if I were to travel."
"You've got to be kidding me!" Gennai demanded as he snatched up the letter Aaron had dropped in front of him. "This is outrageous! Blatant discrimination!"
Aaron shrugged half-heartedly. "Whatever. Just means I've been blacklisted by one more government agency. Two steps closer to being deported." He laughed, but Gennai just shook his head in anger.
"I can't believe this."
"Maybe they don't want HIV in Japan. Maybe they don't have it there and they want to keep themselves pure."
Gennai did not acknowledge the joke. "Who's the director of this program? I have a few words for him." He went for the phone.
"Gennai, don't," Aaron jumped in, slamming his hand over the phone. Gennai blinked, startled. "Let's not get into another fight, alright? Let it go. It doesn't matter anyway. If they don't want me, I'm not going to force myself upon them."
"I don't want to fight this. If we fight, we're just bring attention to ourselves." He glanced at the door. "Tera might find out." Aaron shook his head. "I can do without that. Let's just let it go."
Gennai crossed his arms. "She should know." Aaron glanced away. "She gave you HIV, she needs to know."
"We'll see." Aaron turned towards the door. "Just let it go, Gennai," he called, before shutting the door. He stood in the hall for a minute, feeling oddly blank. With a shrug, he let go of the doorknob and walked towards the living room.
The TV sat blaring some movie he couldn't identify. Everyone was in the living room, an occurrence that had not happened in a while. The movie wailed with gunshots and screaming, shaking the living room. Stepping into the room, he walked to the couch where Tera sat at the end, curled into a tight ball. He squatted down next to her, leaning in close to her ear. "What are you watching?" he whispered as he glanced over at Matt and Taylor sprawled across the floor, side by side.
"The Matrix Reloaded."
"You hate that movie."
Elijah glanced over at them, glaring as if they were interrupting the movie. Aaron dropped his eyes, slightly fearful of Tera's older brother who had been on a rampage all week. "I can't be alone. Believe me, there are a hundred things I'd rather be doing." Aaron nodded and held out his hand.
"Let's go, I need to get out of here." She took his hand as she grabbed her shoes off the floor and he pulled her from the room, feeling Elijah's eyes burn into the back of her head. He snatched up Natalie's keys from the hook by the door and pulled Tera out the front door, slamming it closed.
"Where are we going?" He didn't answer as he stuck the key into the passenger's side door and unlocked it. "Aaron," she persisted as he pushed past her, walking around to the driver's side.
He gave a shaky sigh. "It's just been one of those weeks," he admitted.
The front door opened and Natalie walked out, arms crossed and barefoot, her face soft, but unreadable. "Your brother's freaking out. Why don't you tell me where you two are going and when you'll be home, and I'll pretend that you both had planned on going out and had told me you were taking my car."
Aaron unlocked the driver's side door and opened it. "I don't know, but we'll be back before she has to leave tomorrow. I can't guarantee it will be before curfew tonight." He got into the car and slammed the door.
"Tera," Natalie beckoned the younger girl back to her and Tera followed her command. "What's going on?" she asked in a low voice, out of earshot from Aaron.
Tera shrugged. "I don't know. Is alright if we borrow the car? You don't have to lie to Eli, but please can we go out?" she begged, desperately.
Natalie kissed her cheek. "Be safe tonight. There's some money in the glove compartment if you need gas."
"Thanks." Tera turned to go.
"Tera," Natalie called again. Tera stopped and turned back and for a moment the Natalie's words died in her throat. Finally, "Please. I'm not pushing for answers on what you're going to do tonight or when you'll be home, but please come home. Please come back tonight or tomorrow. Just make sure you come back."
Tera nodded. "I will," she agreed before climbing into the car. Natalie watched as Aaron threw the car into reverse and left.
Aaron shifted the car into forth gear, speeding forty-five in the residential area. "Aaron, what's wrong?" Tera demanded as she gripped tightly to the seat.
He focused forward on the road. "Why are you taking drugs?"
She didn't speak for a minute, just watched him drive. Watched him avoid looking at her. "Because it's been too hard lately, and I needed something to make it alright."
"I don't." She was sick of this argument.
"You do!" They pulled to a stop at a red light, emerging onto a busy street. He turned to look at her. "I know you better then that. I know you on drugs. You haven't been on drugs. You're lying to everyone," he challenged. "And I want to know what's going on."
The light changed and he peeled out. "Aaron, slow down." His gripped tightened on the wheel. "Aaron, I will tell you. But please, pull over somewhere. If you keep driving like this, we're going to die." Without acknowledging her, he took a sharp left at the next light, throwing her into the door. "Aaron, take it easy. You're going to snap Natalie's car in half."
They had entered a residential area again, but that didn't stop him from pushing forty. A park came into view, deserted and dark as evening descended. He pulled over, jerking to a halt. "Is this cool?" She nodded. "Alright, come on." They exited the car, her shoes still in her hand as they stepped into the long grass. He held out his hand. "Let's go to the swings, okay?" There was something hopelessly childish in his voice; she only nodded in response, as they laced their fingers together.
They sat down on two bright orange swings that sat side by side at the edge of the sandbox playground. He sat and kicked at the dirt underneath his swing as she swung back and forth slightly. "So are you going to tell me what's going on with you, or do we have to fight some more first?" he asked, lifting his eyes to meet her own.
She shook her head. "The drugs were Kari's." He opened his mouth to say something, but she pushed on before he could get anything out. "I took them away from her back in December, but I never took any. I wanted to, but then I got so sick and then I moved out of my room and I forgot about them. So your right," she conceded. "I wasn't on drugs."
"Why didn't you tell Gennai they weren't yours?"
She gave the dirt a hard kick, feeling the sand slide over her foot and into her shoes. "I don't know. This lame sense of responsibility. I could have given them to Gennai in December or I could have thrown them out myself. Kari's been clean, there was no point in getting her in trouble to save my own ass, which by all rights deserves to get kicked out." She stared at the ground as he watched her. "I'm scared, and my dad's on the verge of killing me." She looked at him as she swung back and forth. "I'm not going home, Aaron." His expression didn't change, just remained blank. "They're putting me on a plane, but airports don't allow non-passengers in the terminal. I'm not getting on that plane."
"I know," was all he could whisper.
She stopped swinging and suddenly there were tears in her eyes. "Do you hate me too? Because everyone hates me. Elijah said I'm a screw up and he hit me." She gestured to the bruise on her cheek, but it drew all the attention without any aid from her. "And my dad has already got some rehab- juvenile-hall-jail set up for me. I'm not going home to that. The streets are better then that anyway." She rubbed her hand over her eyes. "Do you hate me too?"
He laughed bitterly. "You have to ask that?" She shrugged, but he wasn't looking for a response. "You're stupid. You're always looking for the easy way out."
She jumped to her feet. "This isn't the easy way out! This is far from easy," she scoffed. "Does this look easy?" He didn't speak, knowing he had said the wrong thing before. "It's not easy."
"Has Taylor talked to you at all?"
"No," she spat the word bitterly.
"She's sorry. She feels really bad." Tera rolled her eyes, but didn't respond further. "She's your best friend, Tera! Don't do this to her!"
"I don't give a shit about Taylor. My 'best friend' is sending me home. Maybe she should have thought things through before going through my drawers."
"She did that for me." She just stared at him. "You needed clothes, I asked her to get them for you." Tera shrugged. "You're acting just like your brother."
"Fuck you," she snapped. "Aaron, Taylor is the least of my concerns right now. However sorry she feels, she can keep it to herself because I don't want to hear it. I don't care in the slightest, and besides, Matt can do the friend thing. She doesn't need me. She got better, so it's okay."
"You got better."
"I'm still sick."
The streetlights flickered on, igniting them both in an orangey light. She looked sickly and saddened as her words lingered between them. "Let me go with you."
She gave a half-hearted laugh. "Never. This is where you belong. Besides, you're going to Japan. If you go with me, you don't go there. That's too much to give up for me."
"I'm not going."
For a moment, an urge to tell her everything flooded his senses, but it passed as he watched her and she watched him. There was something about her, washed out in the lamplight, paled from stress and slouched from all the fight sucked from her. Somehow in the midst of her weakness, looking broken and sick, he found her beautiful. He held out his hand. "Come here." She did, taking his hand and standing over him. He stood, catching her mouth on his as he came up. Her body stiffened as he pressed against her, one hand twisted with hers and the other gripping her wrist. He pulled away. "Let me go with you."
"I-I can't," she choked, as he slid down her neck. "Aaron, s-stop."
He kept his face hidden in the crook over her neck. "You can't just walk away from this. I want to be with you. Please, let me go with you." He ended with a kiss to her jawbone.
"I'm going to live with my mom."
He pulled away abruptly. "What?" She didn't answer, just pulled away, staring at the ground. "Your mom? Doesn't that require speaking to her?"
"I have. She calls sometimes. I met her once." She rubbed her head over her forehead. "She wants to be a part of my life. She wanted me to live with her since she found out that I was living in a boarding house. I'm going to stay with her."
"Does she know this?"
"So she's agreed to take you in as a runaway?"
"She wants me, Aaron. That's all I need." He shook his head and buried himself in her neck again, just resting his forehead against her skin. Her entire body stiffened as her breath caught in her throat, but he leaned into her. "Ask me again."
A gush of warm air rippled across her neck. "I never asked." Her hands moved up his back, one twisted up in his hair while the other wrapped around him in a lazy hug. "I'm going with you," he stated as he felt tears roll onto his shirt and she left herself break into fierce sobs, letting her body go slack into him.
"Taylor, get up." A voice called to her harshly, but she couldn't tell where it was coming from, as she buried under blankets, face hidden under her hair and buried in her pillow. A rough push brought her out of sleep, squinting into the darkness of the room. Tera stood over her. "Wake up."
"I'm awake," she forced out, her voice thick with sleep, and rose in volume with cautious anxiety as she raised herself into a sitting position.
Tera put a finger to her lips. "Shh!" she shushed her. Taylor bit down on her tongue. "Come on, I want to talk to you." Tera stepped away from the bed, waiting for Taylor to follow, which she did readily.
Bare-foot and half-asleep, she followed Tera out of the girl's bedroom and down the stairs. Her heart thudded painfully in her chest, as her palms sweated in a mix of fear and anxiety. Tera had not spoken to her in three days, but now she was pulling her out of bed in the middle of the night. She squinted as they stepped into the lighted kitchen, where Aaron stood at the refrigerator, riffling through it. He glanced up at them and with a look of distant understanding, he shut the door and left, momentarily stopping to kiss Taylor on the cheek before leaving.
Tera turned back to her, leaning against the counter with a look of lost hesitation. The silence was unbearable and, miserably, words found their way to Taylor's mouth. "Do you want to hit me?"
"What?!" Tera demanded, startled by the question.
"Before, when you looked like you wanted to hit me, you really wanted to. You can hit me if you really want, but don't be mad anymore, Tera. I don't want you to hate me anymore."
Tera shook her head. "Never in my life have I ever or will I ever hit you, Taylor. I didn't mean a thing I said before. I don't hate you and, and you're not retarded." She lowered her gaze. "I can't believe I really said that," she growled to herself in a low voice.
"It's okay," Taylor excused, her voice growing shaky.
"No it's not, Taylor! Things like that aren't okay. You're my best friend! It's not all right that I ever said anything like that! Or the way I treated you." Tera took a deep breath. "It's not your fault. You did the right thing, because I can't say I wouldn't have taken them." She rubbed her head. "Damn it, this is why I stopped doing crap like this, I'm fucking tired of always saying I'm sorry."
Taylor glanced at the clock, reading 4:48, then back at Tera, standing awkwardly in the bright lights of the kitchen, still dressed in her jeans and shirt from yesterday, face puffy from crying, and suddenly everything made sense. Taylor launched herself at Tera, hugging her in a fierce hug as Tera wrapped her arms around her, kissing the top of her head.
They stood there, just like that, fully entrapped in each other's arms, until Tera began to push her away. "Go to bed, kid," she whispered down to her, touching her forehead with a kiss. Taylor shook her head ardently. "You shouldn't be up. I'm sorry I got you up."
"No," Taylor gurgled out through watery tears.
Tera pushed her away. "Goodnight, Taylor."
"'Night, Tera," Taylor sighed and turned from the room, leaving Tera to stand alone in the kitchen. Passing through the dining room and out past the living room, where Aaron sat on the couch watching TV. He didn't look up as she passed by, and she didn't say anything before she walked away, up the stairs and back into bed.
It took ten minutes before she heard the sound she had been expecting since she had left Tera in the kitchen. A car pulled up out front, and quietly the kitchen door opened and closed before the sounds of a car driving off gave way to silence. With a harsh breath of air puffing out her lungs, she turned on her side and waited for the sun to rise, when everyone would find them gone.
Kari stood at the doorway of the kitchen, a silent presence in the room of Elijah, Taylor, and Natalie, the remaining American DigiDestined, as Gennai paced back and forth, on the phone with Elijah's mother, carefully trying to explain that Tera was gone and would not be flying back. Aaron and Tera were gone; they had run after stopping home briefly to clear out their things. No one had seen them; the only thing that had given them away was a call from a friend who had dropped them off at the bus stop at five that morning.
With an angry sigh, Kari made a move for the door, as the floor creaked under her, and six pairs of shining teenager eyes stared at her as she left. The dining room door swung shut behind her as she made a break from the stuffy room to the living room, where Sora sat on the couch. "Sora, where's Tai?" she broke out, her heart thudding in her chest.
The red head glanced up at her, briefly studying the desperation in her face. "He had a soccer meeting."
Kari rubbed her forehead. "Where's Riley?"
"She spent the night at her sister's, remember? What's wrong?"
Her desperation grew. "Wh-where's TK?"
"He's in his room. What's going on?" But Kari didn't hear the last part as she ran up the stairs, and barged into the boys room, where TK stood, half dressed in only his boxers.
"Kari!" he yelled in a cracking, puberty induced voice, as he made a grab for the blankets covering Matt's bed. Kari whirled around, shielding her eyes.
"Sorry," she choked out. "But honestly, it's not like I haven't seen you half dressed, Mister let's streak through the school to piss off the teachers."
"That was different! What do you want?"
"Well, first I want you dressed." The sounds of him moving about behind her reassured her that her request was being granted. "And then I need to talk to you."
"Well you said I could, didn't you?!" she demanded.
"Yes, of course. But why?"
"Because Tai's not here and neither is Riley. And Tera's gone and it's my fault."
"Okay, you can turn around." She turned and TK stood in front of her, dressed in a sports jersey and cargo shorts, looking skinny as a rail. "What's all this about? What do you mean Tera's gone?"
"Sh-she and Aaron ran this morning. They took their stuff and left."
"Running before the execution," he laughed to himself, shaking his head as he picked up a prescription bottle on the dresser. He looked back at her. "That sounds like their own doing. How is that your fault?"
"The drugs she was getting sent home for were mine!" she exploded, tears bursting from her eyes.
She scrubbed at her eyes as he stared at her, watching her cry. "They were mine, and she took them away from me. Gennai found them, she didn't tell him they were mine. Gennai would have sent her home and it was my fault she was saving my ass!"
"I got her kicked out of her home."
He didn't say anything for a minute as she sobbed and scrubbed at her face until her cheek were rubbed harsh red. Finally, he moved, slowly, then he launched himself at her, tightening her in tight arms, until she uncharacteristically broke down against him.
"It's not your fault."
"IT'S NOT YOUR FAULT!" he screamed and she shook. "It's not your fault, it's not. Tera must have had good reason for not telling on you."
"What are you saying?!" she demanded, pushing him away. "It was her fault?"
"NO!" TK spat back. "Not at all what I'm saying, damn it. Just listen to me. Quit crying." She quieted. "It's not her fault, it's not your fault. Don't try to always assign fault. Tera chose the drugs and chose to run, and she chose for you to not fuck up what you've got going on here, all right?!" He grabbed her in a crushing hug. "Understand?"
"Yes," she sobbed. "But that doesn't make it easier."
He softened and embraced her again. "Yeah, that happens. You just gotta work through it. Don't fuck it up." She scrubbed at her eyes again. "I'm sure everything will work out for Tera." She dropped her head onto his shoulder, and wet hot tears soaked into his shirt. "She knows the streets better then us." He ran his hand up and down her back. "She and Aaron will be fine."
"God, I hope so."
He brought his mouth to her ear and in a low voice whispered, "That's what you have me for." Something warm surged through her chest, as she fought the urge to burst out laughing in his face.
She sighed into his shoulder. "You are a wonder, TK, and somehow you make it better. I think I'm in love with you, Takeru Takaishi."
"God, I hope so," he mimicked, laughing as he did. "Tera left to give you a chance. You've got a clean slate from this point on. No one knows, just you and me. And it will always be like that."
"Forever. Hope and Light, ya know? They just go together like that." She hugged him tighter, overcome by frustrated exhaustion, pressed tightly against TK as they both held onto each other, and two small crests, pink and green, began to glow.
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