I do not own Digimon, nor any other franchise I may accidentally mention. Enjoy!
I had the bizarre feeling that someone was following me.
It wasn't like I was in a deserted place. I was on a busy street full of people in the middle of the afternoon, on a bright spring day. Besides, I wasn't the type of person who went out of his way to attract attention. I kept to myself, usually burying myself in a book. People didn't bother me when I was reading. That was how I liked it.
So, why did I feel like someone was following me? Why would anyone want to follow Kouji Minamoto, the class bookworm?
They were probably some students from my school, hoping to play some kind of prank on me. I had been the victim of several pranks, but none in the past few months. I increased my pace, hoping my pursuer, or pursuers, would take the hint and leave me alone...
An unfamiliar male voice, most likely the one who was following me. If he called me by name then it the polite thing to do was respond. It wasn't like he'd actually done anything yet, and if he did there were a lot of people around to witness it. I reluctantly slowed down and let him approach me, shifting my gaze to the ground as I did.
Footsteps approached from behind, then moved around to my front. I could see that the boy was a kid around my age, wearing faded jeans and slightly battered white sneakers but I didn't look at his face. Eye contact isn't something I'm good at.
"Wow, Grandma was right!" The boy said. "You really do look like me."
I looked like him? What did he mean by that? I warily looked up at him, past the gray shirt, but as I did any rational thoughts I had completely left me.
He looked like me.
I'm not saying that he bore a faint resemblance, we looked almost exactly alike. Same face, same dark hair, same blue eyes. There were differences, though. His hair was much shorter than mine, barely peeking out from the blue baseball hat he wore. Mine wasn't quite long enough to touch my shoulders at its' longest. There were other differences, too. His skin was tan, probably from spending time out in the sun. While I wasn't exactly pale, I tended to spend a lot of time inside, reading. The eyes were bright and confident, while it took me a lot of courage just to look anyone else in the eyes. A sharp grin covered his face, while the best I could do under any circumstances was a shy smile.
"Wait 'til Mom sees you," he said enthusiastically. "She'll be so happy..."
I finally managed to find my voice.
"Who are you? Why do you look so much like me?"
The boy's eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"Oh, guess Dad didn't tell you about me? Sorry, I got a bit carried away there. I'm Kouichi Kimura, I'm your twin brother."
It felt like the earth had suddenly opened up and swallowed me. At that point I wouldn't have minded that happening. It felt like some kind of sick joke. A twin brother? Had I fallen into one of my own fantasy books, where things like this actually happened? I wanted to deny it, but my tongue wouldn't work. He looked so much like me...But, how was this possible?
"When Mom and Dad divorced, they split us up too." Kouichi continued, oblivious to my shock. Mom and Dad...Divorced? Wait, Mom was alive?
"I went with Mom, you went with Dad..."
"Hold on," I held up a hand to silence him. "Are you trying to tell me that...That my mother's still alive?"
My mother had, according to Dad, died in a car accident when I was two. While I had felt sorry that I had never known her, the truth was that I had long since moved on. Dad's current wife Satomi was a good person who might not be my real mother, but she was just as wonderful a person who I cared for like she was my mother.
"Well, yeah." Kouichi's face showed confusion for a moment. Then as comprehension set in it quickly replaced by sheer fury.
"He told you she was dead? That miserable coward! First he abandons Mom, then...Ugh!"
He took a deep breath and calmed down a little.
"Look, Mom's still alive. I want you to come meet her. She'll be getting out of work soon...You're not busy, are you?"
"C'mon, let's go meet her." Kouichi turned to go, only to realize I wasn't following him. "Kouji?"
I took a step backwards, then another. Then turned and ran, not stopping until I reached home.
I didn't quite slam the door behind me, then turned to lean on it as I got my breath back. It took a minute for my racing heart and scattered thoughts to calm down. Kouichi probably wouldn't follow me home...If he'd taken the time to follow me rather than Dad or Satomi, chances were good that he didn't want to talk to either of them. In fact, given his reaction when he'd found out that I was told Mom was dead, he most likely blamed Dad for everything. So he wouldn't take the chance that I might be the only one home...Which I wasn't. Satomi was in her workroom working on some computer programming. So I was safe...
"Safe." From the brother who wanted me to meet my mother...I sighed. I really was a coward, wasn't I? I headed upstairs to my room before Satomi could find me.
Chibi, my pet canary, squeaked a protest as I walked in and closed the door behind me and slumped down in my bed, leaning my face into the pillow. What could I do? Was he telling the truth about being my brother? Probably. What reason would he have to lie to a complete stranger like me? And his name was Kouichi. "First Light." I had always wondered why my name was written as "Second Light." The one time I had asked Dad why my name was written that way, he'd said I was named after my grandfather on my mother's side...But if he'd lied about Mom being dead, chances were he'd lied about me being named after my grandfather, too. And then there was the fact that the boy looked so much like me. If it weren't for his shorter hair, tanner skin, and different personality, we would have been identical.
I buried my face into my pillow. My family...What could I tell Dad? It wasn't like I could ask him about this boy who looked so much like me and claimed to be my brother. It was an awkward subject, even if I could dig up the nerve to talk to him about anything. Besides, what was I supposed to say? "Hey Dad, there a strange boy outside who says that he's my brother and Mom's still alive." No, that wouldn't work.
I couldn't tell my stepmother, either. I didn't want her to worry about me...And if I told her about Kouichi, she would get angry at Dad for not telling me, which would wind up with them arguing. That was the last thing I wanted to happen.
That just brought me back to my original question. What could I do? It wasn't that I didn't want to meet my mother, but it felt like a betrayal. Betraying what I couldn't say. Satomi, Dad...Maybe even myself. But if I didn't go see my real mother, wouldn't that be betraying her and Kouichi?
Chibi started singing, a pleasant warble that drew my gaze from the pillow underneath me to his cage. He was a gift from Dad on my last birthday, an unexpectedly drab brown and streaky bird whose loud singing, far louder than any of the other canaries, had caught my ear in the pet store. He was completely content with his cage, didn't like being disturbed by any others even if it was with good intentions like to feed him or clean his cage. He knew there was a big wide world out there, he just didn't want to go out and see it.
Maybe a bit too much like me.
I turned to look beyond Chibi, to the rotating frame displaying the picture Dad had taken of the three of us last month. Satomi had her arms around me as we smiled for the camera. On the other side of the frame was a picture of my mother...My real mother. I buried my head back into the pillow. I couldn't talk to her or Kouichi, I couldn't talk to Dad or Satomi...
What could I do?
"Kouji, is something wrong?" Satomi asked at dinner that night. "You hardly touched your food."
"I'm all right," I lied. "I'm just not hungry tonight."
"Are you sure you're not sick?" Satomi gently brushed a cool hand against my forehead.
"I'm not sick, Mom." I had promised my father when they had first married that I would call her "Mom." That didn't stop me from thinking of her as Satomi, instead of "Mom." And to make it more complicated, what was I supposed to call her now that I knew my real mother was still alive? I tried to summon a smile at the concerned expression on her face, in spite of my stomach roiling from having to lie to her.
"Maybe you're right." She took her hand off my forehead. "You don't feel sick."
"He's all right," Dad said. "If he's not hungry, he's not hungry. Right, Kouji?"
I could only nod.
"I hear your school's got tryouts for the Go team next week." I flinched. It was all I could do to interact with others on a daily basis, but to actually talk to my fellow students?
"Dad, I told you I'm not interested."
"You like Go, don't you?"
"I'm not that good at it."
"Kouji, I'm not forcing you to do it...I'm just saying that you might like it, and it might make you a better player."
"No, thank you." I glared down at my food and irritably took a big bite, hoping Dad would take the hint and leave me alone. Not that he ever did...It seemed every time we talked he would try and get me involved in something. Go this week, the week before that had been the book club. The week before that it had been the school play. Honestly, it drove me crazy.
"Anyways, I made reservations for dinner at that ritzy American restaurant for Saturday..." Dad was talking about his anniversary with Satomi, which was coming up in two days. I was planning on getting flowers for her, even if Dad hadn't given me the money to do it. Had it only been three years since they had married? It felt like a lifetime.
The next day I had scarcely left home for the library when I saw Kouichi heading for me. He fell into step beside me before I could object.
"Look, I'm sorry about yesterday. I forgot Dad didn't tell you anything about me...At least I had a few days to get over the shock."
I ignored him.
"Maybe we can start over again? Exchange phone numbers or something?" He pulled a battered phone out of his pocket and held it up suggestively. I kept my eyes firmly on the sidewalk in front of me. If I didn't talk to him, he would just go away. It worked with my classmates, there was no reason that it wouldn't work with my brother.
"C'mon, I'm your brother aren't I? We're family, we're supposed to talk to one another."
I stifled a sigh and stopped.
"Listen, I know you're pretty into this whole family thing, but I'm hardly the only one in my family. If you want to find someone to talk to, you should talk to Dad or my stepmother, not me."
His eyes darkened. "Don't bring that liar into this. He's the one that kept us apart."
"Oh, really? Where were you all these years? How come you only just showed up now? I don't recall Dad forcing you to stay away from me."
He stopped short, eyes blazing.
"I was just trying to follow my grandmother's last wishes and find my brother because I was hoping that could make my mother happy, all right?"
I stared at him.
"That's all? 'Find my brother and make Mom happy?' Nothing in that sentence about what the brother thinks, nothing about his family...Just 'Make Mom happy.' You aren't gonna get your happy ending by just making Mom happy, Kouichi."
"Well, how would you do it, genius? Bring Dad into it? Put Mom through even more pain?"
I stiffened. How could I bring Dad into it when I couldn't even talk to him? I turned back to the sidewalk and kept walking. The library wasn't very far...I could bury myself in a book and Kouichi would get bored and walk off without asking me any other questions I didn't know how to answer.
"Where are you going?" Kouichi yelled behind me. "You really are a coward, aren't you?"
"Maybe I am a coward, but at least I admit I am..." I stopped and glared at him. "You can't even talk about your own father without blaming him for everything that happened. Not everything is Dad's fault, you know."
And I turned and headed for the library. Kouichi didn't follow me inside.
The next day, Dad and Satomi's anniversary, started out normally for me. I had to return some books to the library, so I bundled them all into my backpack and stepped out. This time I peered around the wall which surrounded our yard. Sure enough, Kouichi leaned against a nearby telephone pole out of sight from the windows, obviously waiting for me to come out. I groaned. Brother or not, this was going a bit too far...I turned went back inside. Maybe if I waited long enough he'd get bored and go home.
My library plans were set back for several hours, and by the time Kouichi had wandered off, it was late afternoon. I managed to make it to the library before it closed, and took some more books out in addition to bringing the old ones back. Then it was off to a floral shop to get some flowers for Satomi. I paused outside the shop, trying to remember how much money Dad had given me when I felt a hand descend onto my shoulder.
"You're not gonna get rid of me that easily, little brother."
I stiffened. How had Kouichi found me? He was the last person I wanted to deal with at that moment.
"Look, we can't just keep avoiding each other," Kouichi continued. "I know this whole brother thing is a big shock for you...But you deserve to meet Mom more than anyone I know."
"What about Dad?" I turned to look at him. "What about my stepmother? Doesn't she deserve to meet you, even if Dad doesn't?"
He blinked, then suddenly stopped looking at me.
"That can wait until after you meet Mom."
I sighed. "Kouichi, you don't get it! Our family isn't just you, me, and Mom. It's Dad and Satomi, too..."
"Yeah? Have you even told them about me?"
I hesitated. The truth was that I couldn't.
"You haven't told them. And you have the nerve to tell me I deserve to meet them..."
My gaze hit the ground under me. I couldn't tell them. I couldn't visit Kouichi's mother. I couldn't make up my mind. What did I want?
The jangling tone of my cell phone reached my ears. I picked it up, looking at what looked like a text message of some sort. That was unusual. I didn't know too many people who sent me texts. Then again, I didn't give my phone number out to too many people. It wasn't much of a message, either. "Do you want to start," followed by "yes" or "no" options.
"Kouji Minamoto." An unfamiliar female voice. "This is a game to decide your future."
"My..." Who was this? What was this? How did she know my name?
"What is that?" Kouichi leaned over me so he could see. "Is this some kind of a joke?
I normally didn't bother with these types of things...It probably was some kind of a joke, anyway. But it was a distraction from Kouichi and my family. I reluctantly selected "yes."
"Please go to the Shibuya station at 6 PM. And then take the elevator to the basement." The voice cut off and my phone went dark. Shibuya? But, Satomi's flowers...I looked at the clock on my phone. I didn't have a lot of time to make it, and it wasn't like I couldn't give her the flowers the next day, she and Dad would probably stay out very late...
I turned and started jogging in the direction of the nearest subway station.
"Wait, you aren't gonna do it, are you?" Kouichi was right behind me.
I ignored him.
"Oh, for..." Kouichi kept pace with me. "Wait up!"
"Why should I wait for you? You didn't get that message."
"My phone's off, and even if it were on, I'd still be going with you. Besides, there's a good possibility that it's a prank, or worse...I'm coming with you, little brother."
I wanted to argue with him, but I had a feeling that it would be futile. Besides, at that point I kind of needed my breath for running, not talking. By the time we arrived at the train station, I was panting and leaned against the wall as I dug up money for the ticket.
"I only brought enough money to get myself home..." Kouichi glanced at me. "You got any extra? I kind of need it."
"Maybe you should just go home, then." I found my money and put it into the ticket machine.
"Kouji, I told you I'm coming." He sighed. "Maybe I can get a ride off one of my friends when this is over."
An odd sound made me look up. The lights on the ticket machine were acting rather strangely, lighting up in random places. Still, it spat out my ticket. Just after I pulled it out, a second ticket popped out.
"Huh?" Kouichi peered over my shoulder and pulled the second ticket out. "A ticket? Whaddaya know? Guess I'm supposed to go with you...Although we won't be going anywhere if we miss the train."
I swore under my breath and took off for the train, with Kouichi on my heels.
We actually made the train with about thirty seconds to spare. By that point, my lungs were burning and if there was a seat available, I would have taken it. It was just at the point where people were getting out of work however, so there were no empty seats nearby. I slumped against the wall by the door and hoped my breath would come back quickly. Kouichi on the other hand stretched, then turned to me.
"Good little run...You aren't in good shape, are you?"
I glared at him. Maybe not for running, but I did do a lot of walking. I wasn't that out of shape.
"I play a lot of soccer, so I'm in great shape." Kouichi said it with a smug smirk. I wished the ticket machine had only given out one ticket.
There was no way of getting away from him on a crowded train, At least, not physically. I pulled my backpack off and grabbed one of the library books out and buried myself in it. Kouichi tried talking to me a bit more, but eventually gave up to pull out his phone and fiddle with it. I couldn't tell if he was sending text messages or seeing if he could get the same message I had however.
Two stops later at Jiyuugaoka, there was another last-second entry. A boy about the same age as Kouichi and myself managed to stagger in about two seconds before the train's door closed. He leaned back against the door with a loud groan of relief, then looked up at us. I sneaked a peek out from behind my book to see Kouichi looking down at him curiously. Good, maybe he could keep my brother busy, so he wouldn't bother me!
It was about this point that phones started going off all around the train. Mine went off too, but it only had the second part of that odd call, in text form this time. The part about taking the elevator to the basement. On the other side of the book I was holding, I heard the boy who had just jumped on yell in frustration.
"Ohhh, that's impossible!"
I wondered what he was yelling about. As I turned to look at him, I found myself locking eyes with Kouichi. My brother cracked a grin, no doubt at the boy's expense. I simply went back to my book. After all, it was hardly any of my business.
The train pulled into Shibuya not too long after that. I briskly stepped off the train, dodging around the other boy. Kouichi followed me off the train as I looked for the elevator.
"You really don't have to do this, you know." Kouichi said. "There's still time to catch the train back home before Mom gets back from work..."
He clearly wasn't taking the hint. I wasn't ready to meet Mom yet, nor was I ready to tell Dad and Satomi about him. I just wanted to be left alone.
The elevator opened and I stepped in. Kouichi joined me, but as I pressed the button and the doors closed there was a sudden yell, and at the last second before the doors fully closed a boy came leaping through, knocking Kouichi to the floor.
"Ow..." Kouichi groaned. "Get off me!"
"Sorry!" The other boy said cheerfully, pulling himself to his feet. I recognized him as that boy who had gotten on the train at the last minute earlier. "Hey, did you guys get that weird message, too?"
"Only the second part," Kouichi glanced at me as he stood up again. "My brother's the one who got it all, I'm just following him."
"You got it, too?" The boy looked at me. I pulled my book out again, with the hope that he would stop talking to me. That was when the elevator suddenly went from a normal elevator crawl to what felt like being shot of a cannon. I was close enough to the elevator's wall that I was flung against it, while Kouichi and the other boy managed to keep their balance.
"Where the heck are we going?" The boy yelled. He had a point, I realized. The glass in the back didn't show the familiar metal that usually surrounded an elevator. Instead all I could see was dark stuff. I couldn't say whether that stuff was earth or from an absence of light, but it unnerved me.
The elevator came to an abrupt stop with a very loud crash! This time the other boy fell over on to his backside.
"Oww..." I heard him exclaim, but my attention wasn't on him, it was on the elevator doors as they slowly opened. Outside, I could see a vast underground train station of some kind. A dozen or so trains waited on tracks which radiated out into tunnels, while a larger number of kids went in and out of them. How big was this place, I wondered. And more importantly, what was it for?
"This is...Is this the reason everyone was called?" The other boy asked from behind me.
"It's time to decide." The female voice from earlier said over my phone. I hadn't heard it ring...I picked it up to see an unfamiliar symbol on the screen. "Will you go, or turn back?"
Should I go? True, I had no idea where those trains would take me. I also wanted to get home and read my books...
"Well, here we are." Kouichi stepped up to stand by me. "I wonder what this is all doing here?"
I glared at him. I hadn't wanted him coming with me, I hadn't wanted him coming at all. I wasn't ready for a brother, and while I was happy that the woman who had given birth to me was still alive, I was more used to Satomi as my mother. I was running away from the problem and I knew it, but at that time I was desparate to get away from Kouichi. I turned and headed for the only train I could see which didn't seem to have people on it. I could hear Kouichi behind me calling my name, but I really didn't care.
The train was quiet. The first real peace I'd had since leaving the library. I sat down on the plush seat and put my face in my hands. I couldn't run away forever. What was I supposed to do?
I pulled my backpack off, then lay back on the seat and looked up at the ceiling. Kouichi was so eager for me to meet his mother...And what did I do? Took off at the first chance. I really was a coward.
"Kouji?" Kouichi's face appeared in my field of vision. "You okay?"
I closed my eyes. I felt the seat sinking down by my head and realized that he'd sat down.
"Look, I...I'm sorry I'm putting you through this. I'm not very good at this 'brother' thing, am I?"
I didn't know how to respond. And wasn't that the problem? I couldn't do anything.
"I want to be your brother, but I don't know how." Kouichi's weight shifted a little, probably leaning back against the seat. "All I really know about you is that you like books...What do I have to do to make you happy?"
"I don't know." I whispered as the train's doors closed and it started to move. "I want to be your brother, too...I want to make my parents happy...I want to be left alone...I...I don't know what I want."
I felt his hand on my shoulder.
"Let's just take this one step at a time, okay? Maybe we both need some time to get to know one another."
I opened my eyes and looked at him. Kouichi was looking down at me with that sharp, confident grin. Completely the opposite of me...In fact, the kind of person I'd avoid if he wasn't my brother. But he was, wasn't he? And he was at least trying, which was more than I would have done, if the situation were reversed and I was the one who had to tell him I was his brother, and his mother was still alive...
"It'll take a lot of time..." I closed my eyes again. "Nobody said this would be easy. I'm not good at talking to people, and my reaction to anyone trying to talk to me is to grab the nearest book and start reading."
"Yeah, I noticed. Not that that's a bad thing or anything."
My eyes opened again. Was he complimenting me?
"If you read books a lot, you probably know lots of stuff. I never had the patience for anything besides comic books myself." Kouichi adjusted his hat slightly. "And being quiet means you're a good listener. At least, that's what Mom says. I'm pretty bad at that sort of thing."
I felt myself blushing a little. "I can listen, at least. If they have anything worth listening to...That's a different thing."
He laughed. "Good point."
We were both silent for a minute.
"I wonder where the train's going?" Kouichi finally asked.
"Don't know..." I sat up to look out the window. All I could see was the tunnel we were going through.
"Well, it doesn't matter, does it?" Kouichi shrugged. "We're together. We're taking the first steps to being a family again...Right?"
I smiled shyly. "Right,"
Author's Note: Here I go again...I'll make this brief. The AU here is that the twins reversed their birth order, so "our" Kouji is Kouichi, and vice versa. Free imaginary cookies to anyone who figured that out!