Friendship: Yagami Taichi and Ichijouji Ken
Season/Timeline: Digimon Adventure 02, after episode 31 Opposites Attract and before episode 32 If I Only Had A Heart.
Summary: Ken wants to apologize for the things he's done.
Note: This refers to Digimon Adventure events, as well as the episodes where Archnemon had control of Digmon and Stingmon. Wormmon calls Ken 'Ken-chan', but they aren't dating. That's what he calls Ken in the original, and I use it because I think it symbolizes the tight bonds between them. There are no romances here.
For: SilvorMoon, Winter Holiday 2002.
Ken ran his hand over Wormmon's head gently, massaging in between his antenna. From the soft purr that came from his partner, it was easy to figure that the small caterpillar enjoyed the attention. Ken liked being nice to Wormmon. It made him feel so much better than being cruel to him ever had. Even now, he still couldn't figure out why he'd been such a pain.
Seeing him fighting us was one of the worst feelings ever. The ex-Kaiser shuddered at the memory. Archnemon's flute had taken complete control of the minds of both Digmon and Stingmon, and turned them against their partners and friends. Iori seemed to be dealing with it fairly well, or at least Ken thought so. He wasn't really close enough to the other boy to be certain.
He sighed quietly as he leaned back against the wall and stared out at the view provided by his balcony. Is this how everyone in the Digital World felt when I had someone they cared about under my control? The thought was quite disturbing.
"Ken-chan?" Wormmon looked up at him with those huge blue eyes. "What's wrong?"
"I was just thinking about when Archnemon was controlling you and Digmon." Ken replied quietly. "I didn't like having you on the other side. It was all wrong."
The small Digimon shuddered. "I hated it too. It was worse than I'd ever imagined having an Evil Ring on would be like. I didn't want to be fighting you, but whenever I heard the music, I just had to."
Ken stroked between the antenna again, doing his best to calm his partner down. "I'm glad I never put one of those things on you. I don't think I could live with myself now." Of course he'd never had to. Wormmon's loyalty and love for his partner was so great he probably would have willingly walked into Hell for him, without even being asked.
His thoughts wandered for a few moments over all the things that he had done, all the Digimon he had spiraled and ringed. It was a very long list. He'd caused so much pain and suffering, and the Chosen had still been willing to forgive him, or at least not hunt him down and chop his head off.
After what I did to Agumon, I'm surprised Yagami hasn't shown up to beat me up in person. He's always been kind of hot headed, from what I've seen. Ken had to be honest, a part of him had almost been expecting the elder Chosen to show up at any moment to extract his revenge.
He ran his fingers gently across the slick skin of his partner, then frowned. I had MetalGreymon fight him. Attack him, his own partner. I wonder if he felt anything like I'm feeling now. I've really only had Wormmon for a little while compared to him, and if half the stories I heard about what they did three years ago are true... The magnitude of those few short hours when he'd been the master of MetalGreymon, how they must have felt to Taichi, started to crash in on him, and he shook like a leaf.
"Ken-chan?" Wormmon looked back up at his partner, not liking how he was shivering. "Are you okay? You're not still thinking about that, are you? We made it through just fine, you know."
"No, it's something else." Ken closed his eyes, shivering. "I put an Evil Ring on Agumon. I tortured him, made him go to SkullGreymon over and over, and then when I had the Spirals..."
Wormmon looked down. "I remember. I was the one who let him out of the fortress."
Ken blinked for a moment in surprise, then smiled a bit, patting his partner on the head. "I should've known it was you. No one else would be that brave around me back then."
The caterpillar shivered in delight at Ken's praise, then ducked his head. "I was kind of doing it for myself, though. I wanted you to pay attention to me, not to him. So I wasn't being brave, I was being selfish."
Ken chuckled a little. "It doesn't matter. But I still feel bad about what I did. I...I think I'm going to go apologize." It was something he'd never really thought that much about doing. Sure he'd said a few things to the younger ones, but he'd put the older Chosen into so much danger as well. The way he and his subordinates had treated Gabumon, Gomamon, Piyomon, and the rest was simply inexcusable. The very least he could do was say he was sorry.
Wormmon blinked up at him. "Apologize? But we know it wasn't your fault, you were all confused back then."
"Maybe, but I don't care." Ken was adamant about this. "It's something I really have to do anyway. I think it's right."
The small bugmon shrugged, or at least shrugged as best one could do when one had no shoulders. "If you say so, Ken-chan. When are you going to go?"
"Right after this." Ken steeled himself and picked up the phone, dialing a number after looking it up in his address book. When did I get these? Oh, I remember. It caused a faint shiver for him to think about that. Before his identity had been revealed to the Chosen, he'd been thinking seriously about taunting them via the phone, to let them know he was superior to them no matter where they were, and it had been a minute of effort to find out all their phone numbers.
As the Yagami phone rang, Ken kept a tight grip on the device in his hand. He wasn't going to chicken out. He wasn't a coward by any means, but he had never actually talked to the male Yagami face to face, and he wasn't sure how Taichi would react to hearing from him.
"Moshi Moshi, Yagami residence." It was Taichi! Well, at least he didn't have to risk talking to Hikari. There was nothing wrong with the girl, but he wasn't certain how to tell one of his supposed teammates that he was calling to apologize for something he'd done while he was the Kaiser. Most of them appeared ready to avoid the fact that those days had ever happened. Well, Inoue does seem to have a tendency to put her foot in her mouth every now and then, so maybe it's a good idea we don't talk about that. Ken remembered with a faint twitch of the lips. Every time she'd tried to talk to him the other day when they'd been in the Dark Ocean, she'd said something embarrassing, and usually about his days as the Kaiser.
He did his best to settle himself. "Yagami-san, this is Ichijouji Ken."
"It is?" Taichi definitely sounded startled. "Um, Hikari's not here, I guess you wanted to talk to her about the Digital World or something..."
"No." Ken shook his head in the timeless fashion of those on the phone, even knowing that the other couldn't hear them. "I wanted to talk to you. If...that's all right."
The noise Taichi made was probably one of surprise; Ken didn't know him well enough to say for sure. "Sure. Do you want to come over or what?"
"If you don't mind. What I have to say, I'd rather say in person." Something else occurred to the Child of Kindness. "Do you have a computer with a Digital Gate set up? I might want to go to the Digital World, and take you with me." He winced at how that sounded. "To talk to a Digimon there."
Taichi definitely sounded curious, and confused. "Sure, we have one, Koushirou set it up just the other day. What's all this about?"
"I'll tell you when I get there. I don't mean any harm, Yagami-san, I really don't. I just have to talk and get something off my chest." Ken hoped that the older Chosen believed him. He did happen to mean it, after all.
"When will you be over? No one else is here right now, so we can talk freely for a while. Hikari's off shopping with Miyako, and my mom and dad are at work."
Ken glanced at the clock and calculated when the next train to Odaiba would be by. "I should be over in about half an hour, as soon as I can catch a train."
"All right, just knock, I'll hear you." Taichi still sounded a little mystified, but not upset or anything. Ken hoped that the elder Child of Courage was as forgiving as his successor. The last thing that he wanted now, other than to lose Wormmon again, was to be ostracized by the Chosen. Weird. I really don't think I deserve such friendship, but I think I'd die if it were permanently denied to me.
It was easy to figure out why, though. Even though he didn't deserve it, there was a part of him buried deep down that wanted to deserve it, and wanted to have it. If they ever pushed him away forever, the tiny part that wanted and yearned for forgiveness and acceptance would just shrivel up and blow away, and he definitely didn't want that.
He pulled on his jacket and picked Wormmon up, tucking him carefully under it where no one would see it. His dad was still at work, and his mom was down at the restaurant putting in some of her time. He wrote a quick note telling them he was going out for a while and would be back later. A definite perk of being himself was that he could get away with things like this. Even after everything, they trust me. Of course they don't know everything I've done. Would they still trust me then? Guess I'll never know.
"Ready, partner?" He peeked down at Wormmon, who looked back at him out of the jacket. The caterpillar might not quite understand why Ken was doing this, but in this, as in everything, he supported his partner.
Taichi peeked out the window again, trying not to let his curiosity overwhelm him. The last thing he'd ever really expected was to get a phone call from Ichijouji Ken saying he wanted to come over and talk to him.
It was definitely an unusual request. I wonder what he wants. There was nothing he could think of that either of them might need from the other. Taichi knew he didn't spend as much time with the younger Chosen as he probably should have, but he didn't think that Ken, right now at least, was ready to start forging stronger ties.
He paced away a little, casting a glance at the computer in one corner. Why would Ken want to go to the Digital World? He went there regularly enough as it was, so why would he want to go with him? There were just too many questions unanswered.
A light knock interrupted his reverie before he really got into it, and he hurried over. "Who is it?"
"Me." Ichijouji Ken's voice was famous throughout Japan, so Taichi had no problems recognizing it. He opened the door quickly, and they exchanged respectful bows.
"Please, come in," Taichi motioned him in and shut the door behind him, curiosity eating him alive now. "Is there anything I can get for you?"
Ken hesitated for a moment as he unzipped his jacket and let Wormmon crawl out. "I don't know if your sister tells you much about what we do in the Digital World these days..."
"Generally more than I want to know sometimes," Taichi rolled his eyes at the thought of some of the stories he'd heard. "What do you mean in particular, though?"
"One of the last times we went there, Digmon and Stingmon...Wormmon's evolved form," Ken's eyes touched his partner for a moment, then returned to Taichi. "They were put under the control of this weird female Digimon who has been hanging around, Archnemon. She forced them to fight us against their will."
From the dark and sad look in Ken's eyes, Taichi could see just how much that had hurt the ex-Kaiser. He still didn't quite get what Ken was doing here talking about that, though. "I know that had to be painful." He didn't like to think that much about SkullGreymon. He had enough nightmares.
Ken nodded slowly, then lifted his head to fully meet Taichi's brown eyes. "The reason I'm here...I wanted...I wanted to apologize for what I did to Agumon when I was the Kaiser. Having Stingmon turned against me made me realize just how much it had to have hurt you when I did that, and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I had to say something. So..."
Taichi blinked. This was not what he'd been thinking about. Ken wanted to apologize? The brunette knew that the other had been sorry for what he'd done, the stories Hikari had told of their experience in the Dark Ocean had been incredible, especially with the description of Ken's heartfelt and shattering cry of pain, but it had simply never crossed his mind that Ken might be sorry for what he'd done to Agumon in particular.
"I...I don't know what to say." Taichi shook his head in surprise. His mind seemed to have come to a complete halt, though there were those who probably would have said that was it's natural state. But never in his hearing, of course.
Ken dropped his eyes, feeling as if someone had just unmoored his stomach from it's proper place. "I know you don't accept it. You don't really know me. I hardly know myself. I know I can't forgive myself, either."
"Hey, I didn't say that!" Taichi shook his head. "I just wasn't expecting this, really. No one's ever apologized to me for that before."
Ken kept his gaze down. "It's only what's right. I hurt Agumon so much and I liked causing him pain." He shuddered violently at the mere thought. "I didn't think he was anything real, nothing that could feel, so it didn't matter to me, and the way he was screaming and howling was just all part of the game."
As he said that, he heard the last thing he would have ever expected to hear right then: Taichi was laughing. He looked over at the older Chosen to find him snickering rather maniacally. "Y...Yagami-san?"
"Look, you can call me Taichi, we're both Chosen, so we're friends," Taichi told him bluntly. "I know we don't know each other that well, but we're teammates for life, so we're going to get past that. I didn't know Yamato that well when we first got to the Digital World, and now he's my best friend. So I think we can call each other by our first names, if you don't mind."
Ken smiled just a little bit at the implicit offer of friendship and forgiveness. "If you say so, Ya...Taichi."
"Good." Taichi grinned and motioned them both to sit down on the couch, Taichi leaning back as he did so, in order to keep an eye on his new friend. "I bet you're wondering why I'm laughing like an idiot, right?"
Ken nodded slowly. "I didn't think I'd said anything that funny, really."
"Well, you did and you didn't." Taichi closed his eyes for a moment, thinking back three years. "It's kind of a combination of what you said and something I thought once."
Ken looked fairly confused, one hand coming up to pet Wormmon absently as his partner crawled up one leg to settle in his lap. "What do you mean?"
"You said that you thought it was just a game, right?" Taichi glanced over at him for confirmation, and Ken nodded, looking confused. "There was a time when I thought something a lot like that."
Ken looked even more confused. "Okay, I really don't get it, Yagam...Taichi. When did you ever think something that silly?"
"It was back when we first found the Digital World. We didn't know what it was at first. I mean Digital World' doesn't really say that much to a pack of eleven year olds, after all." Taichi chuckled at the memories. "Then once we found out more, I got the notion that nothing we did there mattered, that nothing we could do could ever hurt our real selves."
Taichi shook his head and Ken just found himself gaping. The thought that this collected young man in front of him, who had led his team to a powerful victory over the likes of Piemon, Vamdemon, and Apocalymon, had once been as stupid as he had been, was rather shocking. "You...thought that? Impossible!"
"Nope, very possible." Taichi grinned. "I got some reality slammed into me pretty hard, though."
Ken looked curious, then his hand sped up it's strokes on Wormmon. "How? I mean...it wasn't like I had it, was it?"
"No, but it was close." The elder Child of Courage thought back. "I'd been making a total ass out of myself, running around as if I owned the entire Digital World, and nothing anyone could do could ever hurt me, no matter what." He glanced over at Ken with a slightly raised eyebrow. "Sound familiar?"
Ken turned a deep shade of red and stammered something incoherent. Taichi continued on with his story. "We went to go save this Digimon called Datamon. That turned out to be a big mistake. He was holding Sora's Crest, like he'd said he was, but he was also a very nasty Digimon. He kidnapped her and Piyomon and hid with them deep in the pyramid he had been imprisoned in. I was freaking. It was the first time I'd ever really lost any of my team, and there was nothing I could do. I started to go after them, but Koushirou stopped me and finally got it through my head this wasn't a video game and that I could really get hurt if I didn't start to think instead of act."
Ken listened in fascination. "Really?" All manner of awe filled his voice in that one word.
Taichi wanted to laugh, but kept it stifled down this time. "Really." He couldn't get over how young Ken looked right now; as if he were five years old and wanting story time. "We did get Sora back...I think you probably noticed that at some point."
The ex-Kaiser grinned a little. "I think I might have. So I guess you learned your lesson."
"Yup. And so did you. We're Chosen Children, Ken, we aren't saints or gods or angels or anything like that. We make mistakes and sometimes we get hurt or other people or Digimon get hurt. What's important is learning from those mistakes, so we don't make them again. I bet you'll never get so puffed up you think you're better than us all, will you?"
Ken shook his quickly. "Never!" The thought of it made his skin crawl. "I really am sorry. I...I can't say I didn't want to hurt anyone, but I know I don't ever want to again."
"Everyone makes mistakes. We go on. You should talk to Tailmon sometime. If you think you were irredeemable, she was raised by Vamdemon." Taichi shuddered; he'd heard the feline Digimon whimpering in her sleep at some of her nightmares still.
The blue-haired Chosen shivered as well. He'd heard a few rumors and things about Vamdemon during his reign as the Kaiser, and if even half of them were true, he didn't ever want to face up to that demon. He'd probably collapse of a heart attack on the spot. Then he recalled something else. "I want to apologize to Agumon too. That's why I wanted to know if you had a Digital Gate."
Taichi nodded at once in understanding and led the way over to the computer. "I was wondering. Now's as good a time as any, at least for me. You?"
"No problem." Ken sat up, gathering Wormmon into his arms as he did so. "Oh, I don't think you've really met my partner yet, have you?"
"No, I haven't." Taichi smiled politely at Wormmon. "I know your name, we just haven't met. It's nice to fix that, Wormmon."
The caterpillar blushed a tiny bit. "It's nice to meet you, too, Yagami-san. I've heard all kinds of stories about your leadership. You're a legend."
Taichi couldn't help but flush a little. "Thanks. I'm not that great, though."
"That's not what some of the Digimon say." Wormmon told him honestly. "You're wonderful!"
The brunette grinned, then turned on the computer, remembering the sequence of keys that Koushirou had told him would call up the gate. "It's good to know I've got a good reputation." He stepped back as Ken pulled out his D-3 and held it out.
"Digital Gate, open!" He ordered, and the gate quickly opened. Taichi grabbed his own Digivice and the three of them were downloaded into the Digital World.
It was easy to recognize the place, since he'd come here at least once or twice a week to visit with Agumon. This was where his partner guarded the Digital World against any harm that might come to it.
"Taichi!" The clawed Digimon rushed over towards them, and threw his arms around his waist. "I missed you!"
The brunette grinned, hugging him back. "I missed you, too, buddy. I brought someone to see you."
Agumon peeked over, then blinked, his green eyes going wide in surprise. "Why did you bring him?" There was more shock in his voice than anything else, and Ken looked down in shame. It was better than he'd expected, but it still hurt a little.
Taichi patted his partner on the head. "Because there's something he wants to say to you."
Agumon peered at the former Kaiser, who looked quite abashed. "What?"
"I...I'm sorry for what I did to you with the Evil Rings and Spirals, Agumon." Ken apologized, pure sincerity in his voice. "I was a complete pain, and I should never have done it."
The orange Digimon folded his stubby arms and tried to look intimidating. "That's right, you shouldn't have. You were mean and you hurt a lot of Digimon." Ken lowered his head even more, looking remarkably like a schoolboy who had been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Agumon wasn't quite finished yet, though. "But you did more than any of the other really evil Digimon did: you figured out you were wrong, and you stopped. Taichi wouldn't have brought you here to me if you he didn't trust you, and I trust him. So you're not all bad."
Ken peeked over at him and essayed a weak smile. "Thanks, Agumon."
"Besides, it was doing that which helped Daisuke figure out the Digimental of Friendship." Agumon pointed out. "And that came in really handy."
"Depends on your point of view," Ken murmured, remembering several humiliating defeats with a wry grin. "But I guess it did work out for the best in the end, anyway."
Taichi nodded firmly, then patted Ken on one shoulder. "Everything tends to do that for us. You're a Chosen Child too, remember?"
Ken smiled a little then glanced at his watch. "I can't stay that much longer. My parents will be home. I left them a note, but I'd rather be back there in person. They missed me a lot while I was gone, and I don't like worrying them."
"Well, can you stay for dinner, at least?" Agumon motioned to a stream that ran not too far away. "That's full of fish, so it's what I usually have."
The former Kaiser was about to make his polite excuses when he saw just how longingly Wormmon was staring at the river. He doesn't get to socialize that much with other Digimon, even now. We live way over in Tamachi, and Daisuke said that their partners hang out a lot while they're at school. "Well, I guess I could be a little late. All right, we accept your offer of dinner."
Taichi grinned. "And if you want, I can tell you more stories about how silly I was when I was your age." His eyes sparkled with amusement at the way Ken seemed almost to light up at the thought of more stories. "You look pretty happy about that. You like hearing about us old fogies?"
Ken shook his head quickly. "You're not old! You're not even fifteen yet!" He grinned a bit sheepishly then. "I just like hearing about heroes, I guess. If I can't really be one, the least I can do is talk to one."
"You are a hero, Ken-chan." Wormmon told him. "You're my hero. You've done a lot of great things, and I just know you're going to do more."
His partner stammered a bit, completely at sea for a moment. Wormmon had always had a wonderful opinion of him, sometimes even better than the one he had of himself, but that had been kind of unexpected. He looked around, doing his best to change the subject. "Is there anything we can do to help?" He wasn't going to be a lazy guest, that was for sure.
"Gather up some firewood," Agumon instructed. "I'll take care of it once you get it all, but we're going to need something to cook the fish on."
Taichi pulled a pole from behind a tree and checked it over. "I'll get the fish. I've done it enough times."
As they scattered about to do what needed doing, Ken felt his heart strangely full and at peace. He knew that he had a long way to go until he had really made up for the sins of his past, but for the first time, he really began to believe in his soul that he would do it one day. One day, he really would feel as if he could call himself a Chosen Child, and deserve it. One day.