"So tell me, why Davis Motomiya?" Matt inquired of his friend, Tai, as he slipped off his school shoes at the shoe lockers of Odaiba High School. A passing student brushed roughly past him in the crowded narrow aisle, nearly causing Matt to lose his balance. He shot a half-hearted glare after the other kid.
"Why Davis what?" Tai shouted over the noise of the crowd of homeward bound students.
Matt turned his attention back to his friend and stepped closer, not wanting to broadcast their conversation. "For leader of the new DigiDestined." He'd been meaning to ask Tai this question for a while now, ever since his recent jaunt into the DigiWorld to help Gabumon, when he'd finally met the kid in person. He hadn't been impressed, to say the least.
Tai shrugged as he pulled out his sneakers from his locker and tossed in his school shoes. "Good choice of headwear and role model?" he grinned. Great, he'd caught Tai in one of his funny moods.
"You can't choose a kid as leader to save the DigiWorld just because he idolizes you!"
Tai laughed that cocky laugh of his, plopping down on the bench that ran down the aisle in order to pull on his new, but already scuffed, blue-and-white sneakers. "C'mon, Matt. The kid plays soccer. How bad can he be?"
Matt rolled his eyes. "Soccer, yeah, the ultimate judge of human character."
"Well, some people like it." Tai grinned cheekily and tossed two envelopes at Matt, which he automatically caught. It took only a glance to see what they were. They were pink and white and covered with hearts. Fan letters for the rakish new star player of the high school soccer team.
Matt shook his head, amused and temporarily side-tracked from his questioning. As long as Tai was determined not to be serious, Matt could easily beat him at his game. "Chicken feed," he scoffed, tossing the letters back with exaggerated disdain. "Check out the master, Tai." He opened his own locker, spilling out the expected pile of scented pastel stationery. He scooped up the roughly eighteen letters, twenty cards, and three boxes of chocolate, dumped them in Tai's lap, and raised a challenging eyebrow. "How's that for music appreciation?" he asked with a smirk.
"Woohoo! Go, Matt!" someone beside them called. Matt turned to the schoolmate with a slightly embarrassed grin, having momentarily forgotten that others might be watching as well. Another boy farther down the aisle whistled loudly. General laughter filled the area around them.
Tai, used to this daily exchange, laughed ruefully along with the others as he carefully deposited his perfume-and-chocolate-scented load on the floor beside Matt's schoolbag on the bench. "Yeah, yeah, you win. I know. Hey, can I have some of this chocolate?"
"Sure, help yourself."
Being lead singer in a rock band definitely had its perks. At first, Matt had been a bit overwhelmed by the letters and candy he had received from various fangirls, but by now he was getting used to it -- and starting to enjoy flaunting it. It was kind of weird being the object of obsession for half the girls at school, but it was also definitely kind of cool. "Hey, don't forget," he warned. "Those have been with my shoes all day."
Tai shrugged, already tearing a box open. "Chocolate's chocolate," he grinned unconcernedly. He popped a piece in his mouth and picked up the small card that had been taped to the box lid. He stared and stopped chewing. "Hey, these are from Davis's sister!" he exclaimed around his mouthful of chocolate and walnuts.
"What?!" Tai held up the card for Matt to read, where was written: "To my Matty, From Jun" with curly hearts around their names. Matt groaned as Tai burst out into laughter. "Oh, shut up, Tai." Tai only laughed harder.
"She called you 'Matty,'" he managed to say while gasping for breath.
"Yeah, yeah, yuk it up, Tai."
"I, *gasp*, I am!"
Matt rolled his eyes. "Hope you choke on that chocolate," he grumbled as he huffily threw his school shoes into his shoe locker, exchanging them for his soft suede leathers.
Jun Motomiya had been practically stalking him for the past week. Correction, she definitely had been stalking him. He could swear that if he were to leave the country or run away into the wilderness, she would find out somehow and try to tag along.
He supposed it was somewhat flattering to be the object of such devotion, especially by an older girl, but damn, she was nuts. It was already the joke of the whole freshman class how she smothered him with cards (and now chocolate, too, it seemed) and followed him around at every chance. Luckily, though, she seemed content simply to stare at him from afar with adoring eyes. She hadn't ever tried to maul him or trick a date out of him or anything. Yet.
He couldn't really blame Tai for laughing. The situation was kinda ridiculous. But, he thought, as he watched Tai wipe tears from his eyes, it'd be nice if his supposed best friend would at least attempt to show some sympathy at his plight.
When he judged that Tai had calmed down enough for semi-intelligent conversation (intelligent for Tai, that is), he said, "Seriously, though. Why did you choose him to be the leader?"
"What?" Tai looked genuinely confused, tossing another piece of that stupid chocolate in the air to catch with his mouth.
"Davis!" Matt said in exasperation, snatching the airborne sweet before it reached its goal. "Why did you choose Davis to be leader? Geez, Tai, you have the attention span of a flea."
"Just kidding, okay? Why do you have to be so serious all the time?" Tai grabbed the candy back and popped it in his mouth while his exasperated friend rolled his eyes at him. "If you keep that up, you'll turn into Joe," he said with a taunting grin. His eyes widened dramatically and he pointed at Matt's head with a trembling finger. "Oh my gosh! I think I see a blue hair already!"
Matt refused to take the bait. "You going to answer the question?"
"All right all right!" Tai shrugged, crumpling the now-empty chocolate box in one hand and tossing it up and down. "Why Davis, huh? Just felt like the right thing to do at the time, I guess."
"You gave him your goggles, Tai! You told me that you've had those since Kari was a baby. I hope you didn't give them away on just a whim."
"Of course not!" Tai exclaimed. Some girls next to them turned to stare at the outburst, and he waved them off with an embarrassed blush. "Not exactly," he amended, in quieter tones.
Matt rolled his eyes and waited for Tai to explain himself.
"I just had this feeling..."
"Uh huh. And did you stop to think through this feeling of yours before making your decision? This is important, Tai! You're choosing this kid to save the world, for crying out loud. You can't just rely on--"
"Hey, I got us through our last adventure this way, didn't I?" A bit of heat in that statement.
Matt held up his palms defensively. They hadn't had a real fistfight in a few years, but that didn't mean that the old fires weren't still there. He didn't want to start something, just wanted to make sure what Tai had had in mind when he'd 'passed on the torch' to some random kid who happened also to get the crest of Courage. "I know, I know."
"I have known him for a year," Tai added, tone more friendly.
"Only as a soccer buddy."
"Exactly! On the team, he's dedicated, he's creative, and he's a leader."
"You mean he's stubborn, he's rash, and he doesn't work with the group."
"Hey, I trust my feelings."
"Your feelings are fine. Just excuse me when I say that I don't always trust your judgments of character."
"Yeah, fine, I understand. I mean, when I first met you, I thought you were a stuck-up jerk, and actually... Oops, wait, you are a jerk. Looks like I was right after all!" Tai dodged Matt's swipe, chuckling, the brief moment of anger past and forgotten. Matt smiled, relieved.
But he wasn't about to give up. "C'mon, Tai. Seriously."
Tai absently slammed his locker closed, a frown of thought on his face. "Well, it's not like I had much of a choice at the time. He was the only DigiDestined who showed up who could pick up that first DigiEgg."
"You're not seriously going to tell me that you gave him leadership as a first-comer prize!"
"Of course not," Tai retorted. He sighed, as if forcing himself to think logically required an effort beyond bearing. "If you're really going to make me come up with an answer..."
"I guess it was because he reminded me of myself..."
"We've been over this."
"Let me finish! He reminded me of myself, yeah, but he also reminded me of you. Like, it was weird. One minute, he was all hotheaded and self-confident, just like me. And then the next minute, he's all worried and scared to just do anything, just like you used to be."
Matt raised an eyebrow at the less than flattering description, but he let it pass in favor of the more interesting thought that Tai had raised. "So what are you trying to say?"
"Well, I've got a theory."
"You have a theory?"
"Yeah! It might not be as good as one of Izzy's, but I think it makes sense."
"So let's hear it," Matt prompted with cautious interest. He'd be the first to say that his best friend had a few screws loose under that wild hair of his, but he also respected Tai's ideas much more than he let on. "But if it involves time machines or some sort of sci-fi gene splicing, I'm bailing," he couldn't help adding, rolling his eyes as he imagined his and Tai's far descendants deciding to come pay them a visit.
"Nope, I'm not that imaginative." Tai stood up to fix Matt with a concentrated stare, the one that Matt had labeled in his mind as Tai's 'leader look,' the one that made other kids pay attention to him whether on the soccer field or in the middle of a DigiWorld forest. "Look, have you noticed? The new kids, it's like they're mixes of us. Davis is you and me; Yolei is Sora and Mimi; and Cody is Izzy and Joe. Remember? After they came back from the Digital World with the kids, both Sora and Izzy said that Yolei and Cody reminded them of themselves when we all were kids. It's uncanny."
"Hm." Matt was genuinely interested now. "So you're saying that there must be some qualities that a kid has to have for him to be chosen as a DigiDestined? That it's not just because we happened to be around as witnesses when digimon had some major battles in our world?"
Tai blinked. "Uh... I guess. Actually, I hadn't thought that far. I just thought it was interesting that our personalities seemed to match so well. And I was trying to explain why I felt that Davis should be the new leader."
Matt scratched his chin thoughtfully. "So... Basically, you wanted him to be leader because he seems to be a mixture of you and me."
"Yup." Tai grinned. "Because we, Matt, are the ultimate team!"
Matt grinned. "I guess you do have a point there."
"Exactly! You put the two of us together and we could handle just about anything the DigiWorld threw at us. Remember how we creamed Piedmon and Myotismon? The two of us beat them together. So imagine if we were the same person."
"You know," he said after a moment. "It sounds really cool on the face of it... but if Davis really is a mix of your personality plus mine, then that kid must be--"
They both said it together: "--really screwed up." They laughed.
"Actually, I thought about that, too, later," Tai said, sobering. "I mean, it was like he had all the bad qualities that both of us had. It made me kind of nervous sometimes."
"Really?" Matt was somewhat surprised. "So did you ever regret your choice?"
Tai shook his head. "No. I think Davis has what it takes. He just needs a little time. Think about how long it took for you to get your act together."
"Gee, thanks, Tai." But he understood what Tai meant. Unlike the well-adjusted, self-confident to the extreme, go-get-em leader of the first DigiDestined, Matt had had a lot to work through in his head before he could really be a part of the team -- be a part of Tai's team -- and feel like he truly belonged there.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
It was probable that Davis was currently working through some of the same problems that Matt had. Looking at it that way, it was harder to blame him for being such a jerk. Sometimes, he still wondered how the rest of the group had put up with him.
Still, there was one thing that bothered him immensely about the kid. He shrugged uncomfortably as he scooped up his schoolbag from the bench, dumping the rest of the fan letters inside and tossing another box of chocolate at Tai, which the boy received gratefully. He started heading out to the exit, pausing a second to wait for Tai to gather his things as well. "Maybe he has what it takes and maybe he doesn't, but I still don't like how he badmouths his sister," he admitted out loud, once Tai drew even with him.
To Matt, family was the dearest thing there was. Never in his worst moments had Matt ever willfully put down or hurt his own brother. For Davis to say such negative things about his own sibling, especially in such a serious situation, was just wrong.
He remembered the shouted words on that mountain clearly: "It's my sister, and if I want to call her names, that's what I'm gonna do." He had seriously wanted to punch Davis in the face for that. If it hadn't been for TK restraining him, he might very well have done so.
Tai laughed, and Matt, startled out of his reverie, stared at him, the reaction very much not what he had expected. Tai smirked. "So you don't like him badmouthing your girlfriend, huh?"
Matt was confused by the remark for a couple of beats. Then he flushed in understanding. "NO!" he shouted. "I didn't mean it that way! That's not what I meant!"
Tai was still chuckling, with an annoyingly knowing look on his face. "Matt and Juuuuun, sitting in a tree! K-I-S-S-"
"Stop that!" Matt shouted in panic, as titters rose from the surrounding students who, like themselves, had yet to head home. He made to shove a fist at Tai's arm, but the big-haired, grinning boy dodged neatly away.
"Aw, c'mon, you know you like her! You want me to set up a date for you sometime?"
"Tai, you are such an idiot," Matt hissed, briefly considering the benefit versus cost of just slamming a fist into Tai's nose. Luckily for Tai, he opted to keep quiet rather than draw more attention to themselves.
"Look," he said, lowering his voice, "I just wonder, how can someone who doesn't even care for his own sister lead a group of kids to save the world?"
Tai shrugged as they jogged down the steps from the school and headed towards the main gate. "I think he cares. Probably. Maybe. They're just not so lovey-dovey like you and TK are."
Matt felt himself flush. TK had grown up a lot and Matt didn't hover over him now like he used to. He'd realized that his little bro could take care of himself. (TK had learned from the best, after all, right?) And he'd grown up himself too so he didn't need to look after TK as some stupid excuse to prove himself anymore. But the two of them were still pretty tight. They'd both been real glad when their mom had decided to move to Odaiba. But hey, it was embarrassing for Tai to say so. Thankfully, he didn't have to scramble too far for a come-back. "Oh, like you and Kari aren't 'lovey-dovey'?"
Tai grinned, perfectly at ease. "That's different."
"She's a girl."
Matt didn't quite get that but he let it go in favor of getting back to the point. "You really think Davis gives a flying flop if anything happens to his sister or not? Or more importantly, one of the other kids?"
"I think so, yeah. I mean, look how he's always trying to take care of Kari. I know he has a huge crush on her and all, but it still means that he cares about other people, right?"
"Yeah, I guess so."
"And look how attached he is to V-mon, after just a few days together. And how mad he gets at how the other digimon are being treated by the 'Digimon Emperor'. Shows he has heart."
"Hm." He still wasn't convinced.
"Matt." Matt looked up, surprised at Tai's suddenly serious tone. "You remember that time in Myotismon's cave, when we were trying to open the gate back to the real world and I had to pick the last card? And that choice could mean destroying us all?"
Matt gulped, remembering. "Yeah," he said.
"You remember what you said to me then? What you all said?"
"Oh c'mon, Tai, that was years ago."
"But you remember, don't you? I know you do."
"I remember you passing the buck to Izzy pretty quick," he grumbled.
A pause. Then Matt gave in. "I told you to stop freaking out and just make the choice. I said that I was sure it'd be the right one, and we'd stand by you no matter what. Or something like that," he finished lamely.
"You meant it, didn't you?"
Matt looked away, embarrassed. "Yeah," he said.
"Don't you trust me still?" Earnest chocolate-brown eyes stared into his own.
Matt sighed, admitting defeat. "Yeah. Yeah, I do. It's just that," irritably, he hitched his bag higher on his shoulder, "I can see all the faults that we had inside him and the other kids, and I can remember the mistakes that we made back then and how we just barely made it through alive. I don't want to see any of the kids get hurt."
Tai nodded, an unexpectedly understanding expression in his features. "I know how you feel, Matt. Especially with TK and Kari in with them. I worry about them, too. But you have to remember -- we made it! And so will these new kids."
"How can you know that?"
Tai shrugged, customarily nonchalant and confident. "I just do. Besides, they've got us to back them up this time. And they've got their families next to them. And don't forget, Kari and TK have the experience that we didn't the first time around. I'd say they actually have an advantage over us when we were alone in the DigiWorld without a clue."
He had a point, Matt had to admit.
They stopped in front of the main gates to the school.
"I just hope it's enough," he said. "I have a feeling things will get ugly soon. Maybe worse than it was for us."
"It will be enough, Matt. Because it has to be."
They both stared at the ground for a while, thinking on things in past and future, on friendship and courage and what children were and were not capable of, and what consequences those actions or non-actions could have for two worlds combined.
Matt shook himself and smiled at his friend. "Hey," he said, "I don't have practice today. Want to hang out somewhere?" What with his rock band and Tai's soccer team, they really didn't see enough of each other lately.
Tai shot back one of his trademark devilish grins. "You want to come over to my place? I can make my master omelets."
"Don't forget who taught you that," Matt reminded him. He remembered that time three years ago by the hot springs of the Digital World, when the seven of them had made a meal out of a refrigerator full of eggs. Talk about weird experiences to tell your grandkids.
"Yeah, but what makes a master is to improve on a recipe learned."
"What improvements? Ketchup?"
Matt laughed. "You nut."
Matt wasn't sure if he wanted to try any of Tai's other recipes (especially considering how Tai's mother cooked), but he had to admit that Tai did make a mean omelet -- even if he never put anything but more eggs inside. That had been all that Matt had had to work with when he'd taught Tai how to make the dish.
"Well? Final offer! You coming or not?" Tai prodded.
"Sure," Matt shrugged, flaunting his patented I-am-too-cool look, grievously marred a split-second later by a huge grin, which Tai answered in kind. "Why not?"