Author's Note: Ultimately I think I like how this turned out. It's not my best work, but I like that I wrote it over the course of this last crazy year. Looking back as I put it up, it really does go through the stages of having a meltdown. This last part in particular feels very satisfying because I know I never would've recovered without a support network, even though it's still really hard to feel like a burden. But that's the beauty of Digimon! Even though everyone's different, they all contribute their own thing and no one's dead weight. Anyway, here's hoping you all enjoy it as much as I do! Also, let me take this opportunity to refer you to Aftermath, which may be my best work.
Once again, the dark twin sat bathed in firelight, his shadowed features speaking far too obviously of defeat and misery. He hadn't said a word since Koji, reluctantly, explained the entire ordeal. Not to his brother and not to the other Digidestined. Shame burnt so intently in his chest he couldn't even meet their eyes. The others didn't seem terribly keen to talk to him either. They watched, suspicious of his torn clothing and bruised back. Of his pale skin and blood shot eyes.
Koichi couldn't blame them; he didn't want to be around himself either. Even the briefest version of events painted a painfully clear picture: it had happened again. After all his brave declarations he'd tried to kill them all again. After all their time together, all the hard earned trust they'd managed to cultivate, the friendship, he'd still sought power and given into corruption. For what? To keep his brother safe? To take his place in the fight? Just like he'd wanted to take his place in their father's home. Take his life.
He remembered the beginning now, the chasm of seething darkness and the arcs of energy like mantis arms piercing his back. Monsters sinking deep into his flesh and soul. He remembered the agony, screaming, and the feeling of being invaded on the most personal level. The sensation of his mind being torn open and inside out. Koichi remembered the violation. And he could still see the visions of paranoia, like nightmares of his brother dying over and over in a thousand different ways. They dripped with tar, so obviously false to the waking self and yet so convincing in the arms of sleep. None of that was real or even a sick version of what had actually happened. Simply dreams to keep him occupied as Lucemon used his body to tear their team apart. And it had worked.
He'd let it happen.
The final moments were also clear; like waking up. Waking up in someone else's body, or perhaps the desecrated remains of your own. In his mind he'd impaled Koji with those cursed, boney wings, carrying out the task Lucemon had so desperately wanted. Severed their connection as brothers forever. Even though Koji said that hadn't happened he remembered it vividly. See the blood spreading in a dark red circle from the point of impact, feel the wing tip as if it were his finger inside the hot wound. He also remembered fighting back, realizing what he'd become and rejecting it once more. Pushing the evil out like a sliver of glass imbedded deep in his skin. The pain lingered, an awful cramp of taught muscles that stabbed him in rhythmic pulses. Justice.
"Koichi." He jerked away from Izumi's voice as if she'd struck him, curling into himself. She sighed through her nose, looking to the others for help. They all sat in a line on the opposite side of the fire, staring at the twins in a painful silence. She couldn't take it anymore. "Koichi, please. We need to talk about this."
"No we don't," snapped Koji, his anger igniting at Koichi's side. "Leave him alone."
"No, Izumi's right," Junpei cut in, rubbing his hand together nervously. "This needs to be cleared up now, before it can do anymore damage."
"You're going to let this thing interfere with being a team? This is exactly what Lucemon wanted!"
"And he did a damn good job of it," Takuya shot, his own anger flaring. Izumi reached over and grabbed his hand, giving it a calming squeeze.
"I'm not saying right now," she tried diplomatically.
"No, it has to be now," Koichi said in a low but clear voice. The movement of air across his tongue brought forth the fresh flavor of copper and he shuddered, turning to the side to spit lingering blood. Silence dropped like an actual weight, making even the fire seem colder.
"Koichi, you're not recovered yet," Koji insisted, his voice as soft as it could be. He placed a hand on his brother's shoulder, causing the dark twin to wince and instantly regretting it.
"It has to be now, before… before… I don't have the words to say how sorry I am. I can't…"
"It's alright," Izumi soothed. "We understand, really."
"But you don't. I tried to hurt you. I wanted to hurt you. There's this… this thing inside me that I can't control. It's not safe to be around me, I can't pretend otherwise. I understand. You should just leave me here."
"We're not going to do that!"
"This is what I am. I thought if I walked away from Cherubimon it would end but it hasn't. Please, I don't want to hurt you anymore."
The words fell from him, as if Izumi had broken a dam and let the flood of regret out. Koichi trembled, unable to process his own emotions.
"Hey buddy, give yourself a break," Takuya said, taken aback. "That wasn't you, we get that."
"And you did fight it," Tomoki added, his small voice punctuating the night. "You came back to us, that's really what's important."
"Don't act like I didn't betray you. Don't pretend you're not afraid of me."
"Well sure we are." Junpei received a series of dirty looks from basically everyone, but shrugged them off. Koichi looked up for the first time, swallowing as he met Junpei's eye. The Warrior of Thunder struggled to hold his gaze, shifting awkwardly. "Duskmon is terrifying and if we take anything away from this experience it should be that he's still a part of you."
"He is… I can't help that."
"But so what? We all have demons and we've all had to face them. You just… You've gotta be more careful. And you need to trust us. We make our own choices and we can handle ourselves. If you think your crazy switch is going to flip you've gotta let us help."
Izumi gave Junpei a small, sideways smile. Koichi just blinked at him, frowning. He looked so conflicted, so small and bewildered it was almost difficult to remember Duskmon's cruelty.
"But I do trust you…"
"Yeah, it kinda seems like you don't."
"We're your friends, Koichi" Izumi cut in. "It's just some of the things you said… well… We're not judging you, we just need to know that you understand that."
"I…" Koichi trailed off, dropping his gaze once more to the dirt. Koji pursed his lips, reaching over to rest a hand on his twin's knee.
"About what you said," he started, trying to find the right way to phrase it. "When you were- you said I didn't need you, but that's not true. I do need you, just the way you are. I couldn't fight without you."
"Man, we all need you," interjected Takuya with a forced smile. "That's what being on a team is; we have to look out for one another."
"I've never been part of a team. Ever since I can remember I've had to be strong on my own. My mother… she's needed me to be strong. I want to believe you, but I feel so useless. You say I'm important but I don't understand how."
"This is new to all of us," sighed Junpei. "You think anyone would've had me on their team before now? I had to use magic tricks and chocolate to get people even talking to me. So I get that it's hard; we just have to figure it out together."
"You're not alone anymore," said Koji, catching his twin's eye. "Neither of us is alone anymore. Everyone here is your friend and you're not useless to us. All any of us want is for you to believe that."
Koichi swallowed, the echoes of Lucemon's corruption still whispering in his mind. But Koji was so earnest, and there was no blame in anyone's stare. Just concern. Worry. About him. They cared for him and, with sudden clarity, he realized that he cared for them too. He needed all of them because they were his friends, which meant they could need him. Koichi told himself, firmly, that he wasn't useless to them. Silencing the doubt in his mind, he nodded, his lips stretching into a little smile.