Alright, straight to the point: people, I am so sorry for not getting this up. For a while I was rather stuck as to how to end it, and then… well, The Abomination (also known as real life) simply got in the way. I didn't curse TKTakeru for closing The DigiPort because he cites The Abomination and I can understand what It does to people, so I forgive him. (Quick shout-out: All the same TKTakeru, hate to see your site go. It was one of the best out there… we'll all miss you.) :'(

Back on track: not only is it The Abomination but also the unfortunate fact that I have inherited—from the human side of my genealogy, I think—a terrible tendency to procrastinate and a horrible memory. Ai! *smacks head* Those library books—overdue for the third week! *shuddering sigh* Please find it in your heart to forgive me. *holds out arms in begging stance*

Even so, I am afraid that I cannot promise to post on a regular basis. Yet again, The Abomination. Too bad it's an abstract concept so I can't put an arrow through it. _ Also, I might get an idea and write out enough that I simply must post it. I hate wasting anything (except maybe time… what an oxymoron), especially paper and inspiration. Inspiration is fleeting and very precious to me. So if I post anything new while in the middle of a WIP, please don't think I've given up on that story. It's just something I like and want to get out of the way so I can continue.

Just one note: As you can also read on my bio page, my policy is that all of my work will be SLASH-FREE. You heard me, SLASH-FREE. Meaning no yaoi, no yuri, and nothing similar or relating to. After reading these two chapters some of you may receive an impression of KouKou yaoi. I am telling you right now, that is NOT what it is, and I am deeply sorry for misleading you. People, it's called brotherly love! Brotherly love and incest are two different things! Again, I am not homophobic but I will say this: I believe that incest of any type is sick and wrong. Which explains why the coupling I loathe the most, with all that I am, is KouKou. Please, if you at any time perceive said coupling in this work, know that there is no such thing in this story, or any that I will write. Okay, rant finished.

O_O Phew, that was long… I've wasted enough time O.O;; so without further ado, I present you the second part. See previous chapter for disclaimer if a) you're really curious or b) you're a vampire lawyer. :P

~~~

Part Two: Between Brothers

"KOUICHI!"

"Aah! No! Please!" he shrieked. "I'm sorry! Kouji, I'm sorry!"

"Kouichi, wake up! Snap out of it!" the voice ordered.

Kouji had vanished. Panicked, Kouichi had whipped his head around only to feel a pair of thin hands seize his shoulders and shake him roughly. He thrashed and struggled, shutting his eyes against whatever this new threat might be, but something else had wound itself tightly around his legs and was not about to let go. It reached up to grab his wrist…

"Stop! Leave me alone!" he wailed in terror, throwing his arms up to shield his face as his eyes snapped open.

Kouichi's breath came in short staccato gasps and his palpitating heart gave a jolt as he realized that a dark shape was looming over him. Something with a pair of piercing eyes, glinting threateningly in the gloom.

"Get a…" His sentence was cut short both by sudden realization and a hand gently covering his mouth. Strong, slender fingers eased his forearms down from their defensive stance before another cool palm laid itself across his forehead, sweeping the obtruding bangs out of Kouichi's vision.

"Shh… calm down, Kouichi. It's just me. I'm fine, you're okay. We're both safe, 'kay? Calm down."

Kouichi had already reached the truth, but the soft, reassuring quality in that rough voice did more than a little to relax his throbbing heart and slow his breathing.

"K-Kouji?" he mumbled through his brother's hand.

"Yeah," was the grunted response as Kouji took his hands off his hitherto slumbering twin. "Shh."

Kouichi's eyes began to gradually adjust to the darkness, and he could hear the other boy stumble a little as he groped his way around the room, looking for something. Kouichi tried to visually follow him, absently wondering what he was up to. He was answered moments later as Kouji found what he was looking for and the blinds opened just a chink or two. There was a just-noticeable twilight tint to the ebony sky outside; the stars had begun to flee from dawn's not-so-distant approach.

The twins studied each other in the half-light. Kouichi managed to disentangle himself from his blanket and sit up with some difficulty, and looked up again to see Kouji looking back at him with one delicate eyebrow arched. The younger's hair hung down past his shoulders in a mass of unkempt, sleep-tousled threads, and his eyelids drooped with drowsiness. He unsuccessfully tried to stifle a huge yawn, which all served to rather amuse the elder.

"And what do you find so funny?" growled Kouji; the other's attempts to hide a grin were failing pathetically.

"You look so strange at night, did you ever realize?" Kouichi replied innocently, unable to fight down a chuckle. "Imagine—sleek, cool Kouji Minamoto, Warrior of Light, getting up in the middle of the night and tripping over things in the dark… Ophanimon must've had a real good reason to give you the Sprits of Light instead of Darkness!"

"Yeah, yeah, very funny," Kouji retorted good-naturedly, returning a rueful smile before his shadowed face faded into a grim, contemplative frown. "Which is exactly what your dream was not."

"M-my dream?" Kouichi repeated, momentarily confused.

Right when recollection clunked into place, Kouji crossed the room and crouched down next to him, favoring his brother with a kind but probing glance. "I… I heard you calling out in your sleep a little bit," he said rather awkwardly.

Kouichi's heart sank as he remembered. It was had been so awful… He reached up to scratch a slightly itchy spot on his cheekbone and was horrified to feel his fingertips come in contact with moisture as they touched on a half-evaporated tear track.

He dearly hoped the dim predawn illumination concealed the color rising in his face. He felt like such a fool: he'd been talking in his sleep and even crying like a little child! What Kouji must think of him now… he would never live this down. Kouichi let his chin sink to his chest in shame, not wanting to meet his brother's eyes, but he could feel Kouji's intent gaze on him.

An acutely uncomfortable silence hung in the air between them.

"So…" Kouji finally broke the ice after a minute, lowering his eyes to his hands. "Well, if… if you wanna talk about it, or you wanna leave it… do whatever you like. Whichever's best for you." He shrugged noncommittally. He found himself thinking of the time right after he had met Kouichi; when they were all waiting to head for the Rose Morning Star and the twins had sat apart on the Trailmon, unsure what to do or say. Takuya had slipped into Kouji's compartment to offer a listening ear and found himself posed with the ambiguous question of what brothers were supposed to do. Having been raised as an only child, Kouji had frankly been at a loss at what it meant to be a brother, and Takuya's rather rambling advice provided only marginal help. Now, squatting next to his newfound twin and putting forth the same offer, he found himself wondering if Takuya had felt as awkward and wrong-footed as he did now.

For his part, Kouichi was at war with himself over whether or not to confide something so personally disturbing to the sibling he'd only known for several months. It wasn't that he didn't trust Kouji—God no, they quite literally trusted each other with their lives. But… this involved his twin's death. There was no knowing how much he'd cried out for Kouji to hear; but whatever he didn't know, he didn't need to know as far as Kouichi was concerned. It was just a dream, after all.

"Nah," he sighed, shaking his head. "Bad dream, s'all. Sorry for waking you up."

Kouji fixed him with one more searching look, as though he suspected some hidden reason behind the evasive answer. Finally he turned away and stood up with a sigh. "S'okay," he grunted as he picked his way around some objects strewn across the floor to close the blinds. "Well… 'night, then."

"G'night," Kouichi replied, his voice as heavy as his heart. He felt profound shame in being unable to describe a simple dream, no matter how disturbing it might have seemed at first, to his own brother. The waned light swallowed by blackness as the blinds clicked shut seemed to reflect his heart. After all, it was just a dream… a simple, meaningless dream…

Meaningless…

"No."

Kouji, already sitting back on the edge of his bed, was just about to swing his legs up onto the mattress when he froze at hearing Kouichi speak.

"I… I've had this dream before… I'd forgotten all about it till now…" Kouichi mumbled, unaware that he was voicing his thoughts aloud. But the words were not lost on his twin's ears.

Kouji slowly lowered his feet back to the floor, carefully digesting this new bit of information. He actually knew much more than Kouichi suspected. If the kid had had this same vision before… Kouji was the last one to believe in omens, but all the same he took it as a bad sign.

Kouichi himself viewed it no differently. "If I've had it once—no, twice before… maybe it's not so—"

"Hey. Kouichi?"

The addressee jumped slightly. "W-what?"

Tiny cracks of grey still worked their way in through the window, doing nothing to conceal the other's piercing stare from the other side of the room. "You had this dream before?"

Kouichi silently cursed himself for thinking aloud. It was such a terrible habit… "No, forget it," he said roughly. "I've had it before, so what? It's just a dream—it doesn't matter."

They were more alike than they realized as Kouji mentally slapped himself for being so tactless—acting more like Takuya than himself. He knew, even if Kouichi didn't think he did. Of course it was a touchy subject; what was the sense in bringing it up when it could wait for morning?

"Okay, sorry…" he muttered, unsure how to end it right. But Kouichi didn't hear him, lost in the own tumbling cycles of his mind. He shivered involuntarily as he remembered. Tripping on the bandanna… thrashing against the invisible ropes… screaming without making a sound… Kouji's lifeless weight in his arms… his empty eyes… It had all seemed so real. Far too real.

He knew he didn't want to go back to sleep with these images haunting his mind's eye. He felt torn between the urges to bury it in secrecy and to spill everything forth to a sympathetic ear. Maybe he should still keep it to himself… but what if it came back again? Kouichi now remembered sprinting through those trackless wastes on two occasions, and—he shivered again without wanting to—finding the same thing, though such details as the bandanna and the restraints were hazy and in-substantial. The very fact that he had dreamed it twice was enough to ruffle him quite a bit; this third rendition of the same scenes was downright unnerving. No ordinary, meaningless dream returned with such frequency, and it was becoming very plain very quickly that this was not one of them—there was no reason for it not to come back. In his mind the boy promised himself that if it did repeat, he would tell someone. Maybe Mom, maybe Kouji. He didn't know yet…

Kouichi unconsciously clenched his fists. Seared most indelibly into his memory, with even more cruel clarity than the images themselves, were the emotions. The thoroughly corporeal emotions that rent his heart: the desperation, the anguish, the guilt, the self-loathing, the grief, the despair. If he were to go through all that again…

"No." He wouldn't. No more would he suffer in silence. He would tell Kouji.

The Minamoto twin started yet again at the sound of his brother's voice. "Huh? What? What is it, Kouichi?" His hoarse whisper masked just the faintest note of slight impatience at the Dark Warrior's prolonged indecision, but whatever molecular, inconsequential amount of resentment he harbored was swept away by concern and almost-relief. Was Kouichi finally going to break the ice?

Basic etiquette and tact caught up with him right when he opened his mouth to ask. If Kouichi wanted to talk about it, let him; he had no right to force it out of him. Even with the room just a shade lighter than pitch black as the slowly-lightening sky managed to filter in through tiny cracks in the blinds, Kouji doubted that it would conceal him, since he could clearly see the outline of his twin on the ground; he turned away to hide another jaw-cracking yawn. Personally he wouldn't mind some additional shut-eye right about now, but he had his morals and priorities and if Kouichi wanted to open up now about this thing that bothered him so much, Kouji was more than willing to sit up and lend an ear. He was loath to admit it, but he found it rather unsettling himself.

Kouichi was thinking along the same lines. He was quite convinced now that his fright had woken his roommate from a sound sleep; Kouji had not done nearly as good a job of hiding his tiredness as the younger twin thought. The dream still nagged at the back of his mind, but Kouichi tried to force it back there. He highly doubted he'd be able to quickly fall back to sleep, but if Kouji still needed some, he was not about to keep him up with something so silly—or, actually, somewhat serious. However, out of politeness he was going to save it till daylight.

"No, it's fine, it can wait till morning. You can go back to sleep, Kouji. Sorry for waking you." He was in lieu of getting resettled in his futon when a reply to the negative issued out of the darkness.

"Kouichi, if you want to talk about it right now you don't have to hold back on me. I'm all ears. It's okay. I mean, you don't have to if you don't want to… but if you wanna tell me about it now, go ahead, I'm listening."

Kouji heard the other shift slightly and face him; they could just make out the outlines of each other's faces. "You—are you sure?" Kouichi confirmed uncertainly.

"Sure as anything," Kouji reiterated. "Anyways, I'm still on a sort of caffeine high, so don't worry about me being… being sleepy," he half-lied, pausing to fight down a third yawn that threatened to show him up as an oxymoron. He resisted the urge to rub drowse-bleary eyes. The fact was, while he'd had only a little bit of Pepsi the day before, he had been sleeping rather lightly to begin with.

"O-okay…" Kouichi agreed hesitantly, just able to define the wry quirk of a half-smile his twin was gracing him with. He couldn't help returning it. "Well, I guess I'd feel a little more comfortable if there was some more light—don't worry, I'll get it," he added hastily as Kouji immediately moved to cross the room again and reach the window. Easily picking out the plastic rod as the darkness lifted ever so slowly on the sky, Kouichi stood up and grabbed it. "Now you've got nothing on me just 'cause I'd like more light in here," he warned sternly, trying and failing to keep the impish grin off his face. "I'm not afraid of the dark, I love the dark; I'm the Warrior of Darkness, so there!" He gave the rod the smallest of twists; the blinds opened a crack. Both of them noted that they seemed more to decrease the darkness than admit light.

"Yeah, that'd be something," Kouji snorted. "Fearless, enigmatic Champion of Darkness, Kouichi Kimura, afraid of his own element! Why Ophanimon picked you for the Spirits of Darkness…" He sighed and shook his head in mock disgust. "There, see, that's payment for dissing my spirits!" With some of the gloom lifted, Kouichi could now clearly see the mischievous upturn of his brother's lips and felt a small portion of negativity fade from his own heart. It took a lot to bring the light-heartedness out in Kouji, although Kouichi found that he could do it much more easily than some and even then it took effort. Too bad no one told Takuya or Izumi that, he thought amusedly as he turned and plopped back down on the edge of his futon.

"Alright," he sighed when Kouji carefully seated himself next to his twin on the edge of the futon, "let's talk." His voice was light, but now that they were settled, the seriousness of the situation weighed in, and the pair spent the next few minutes sitting side by side in awkward silence.

It was Kouichi who spoke first. "So… how much do you know about my dream?"

Kouji shrugged in a non-answer. "Some," he said evasively, not wanting to intimidate or embarrass his brother by revealing just how much he knew. He was about to tack on a half-lie about initially paying him no mind when he faltered at the look the other boy was giving him: a deep, penetrating glare. He knew it all too well; it was an expression he himself liked to wear when his tolerance for white lies and platitudes was running very low—when all he wanted was the absolute truth. Before his experience in the Digital World and if he were speaking to anyone else, Kouji would have readily given them what they wanted, most likely peppered with a sizeable amount of sarcasm. But he'd changed. He'd learned to respect a lot of people, not the least of whom was his twin. Kouichi had a lot more insight than most; he'd be able to see right through him.

"Kouji," the elder twin said, his voice low and intense, "what do you know? I want the truth."

The addressee sighed, distractedly running his fingers through his long raven-hued hair. "Well, this is the truth so don't lynch me for it. I…" he hesitated, but Kouichi, still impaling him with that intent stare, nodded for him to go on. "Er… it's about me, I know. And… something bad happens. Really bad." He was trying to stall for as long as he could, though he knew the jig would soon be up. In actuality, from the moment he had first heard Kouichi moan, deep concern overrode his reserve and he had lain wide awake, listening to his twin writhing and crying out for a long time before Kouji had finally gotten up to shake him from his nightmare. But for what he hoped to be a very short time being, he'd dance around the fact: he wasn't sure how well Kouichi would take to the revelation. "It—it really upset you," he finished lamely, unable to meet his brother's eyes.

"Are—you're sure that's all you heard?" Kouichi pressed after a pause. It slightly surprised Kouji that he sounded not only demanding—but slightly… apprehensive, like he needed reassurance. Still, he balked, fearful of offending him.

But he wasn't prepared for what his twin had to say next.

Kouichi sighed deeply. "Come on brother, we've been through this before—in the Digital World, and just now. Except the roles are reversed this time. Back when I first joined you, when you freed me from Cherubimon, I felt so treacherous and unclean and unworthy of friendship that I couldn't bring myself to trust any of you—even my own brother! After being so deceived and used to do such awful things, I'd thought I could never trust or be trusted again.

"But you, Kouji, you and Takuya and the others changed all that. You all got me to open up. You helped me realize that even though I tried to-to hurt you—to kill you all—you wouldn't hold it against me. You made me see that I didn't have to be alone. Even when I couldn't forgive myself, you forgave me—you risked your life for my sake. You purified my Spirits, so that I could protect you as well. Why? Why did all that happen? Why did you accept me? Because there was trust between us, Kouji. You told me yourself what being twins meant—when one of us feels pain, the other suffers right along with him. That's why you know what I'm going through right now—and you've been in the same position. In the Digital World I made the mistake of hiding what Crusadermon told me—the truth about my presence there—from you. I was afraid that the knowledge would hurt you. But what came out of that? When Lucemon scanned my data, you almost gave up. You thought I was dead, gone forever. You didn't know that my body still clung to life in the real world; that I still had a chance. I tried to protect your feelings and only hurt you more in doing so."

Kouichi's fingertips seemed to burn against his cheek. Kouji found himself unwillingly making eye contact as the Kimura twin turned his face back to himself.

"I trust you now, Kouji. I can tell you just about anything without having to fear. But why can't you trust me the same way?"

He stared deep into Kouji's eyes, panting slightly from expounding such a long lecture.

Kouji wrenched his gaze away and stared at his bare feet where he knew his heart was sinking, inclining his head so his long tresses hung in front of his face to hide his guilt and shame. Kouichi's words, though softly spoken and not meant to wound, had a keen edge. They cut all the more deeply because he knew that his twin was right. He'd been such a fool, a damnable fool. He'd already begun to feel rotten for keeping secrets between them, but now he'd gone and just about broken their sacred trust. He knew that he died in the dream, what was wrong with admitting that? Even though Kouji had been able to tell Kouichi had hoped he didn't know… but excuses were worthless.

"I—I'm sorry, Kouichi," he whispered almost inaudibly. "You're right. I'd… I'd thought that you wouldn't want to be reminded of that part—I mean, the part where… where I died. I mean, you were yelling and crying in your sleep and all, but… I'm sorry. When I wanted you to be honest and you asked the same from me, I just had no right to hold back. I'm sorry. That's all I can say."

There was a painful silence. Kouji jiggled his foot to give himself something else to think upon besides his guilt, but the sadness still weighed heavily in his chest. Then unexpectedly, Kouichi spoke up. "I ought to apologize too. I was hoping you didn't hear, so I wouldn't have to tell you. So much for no secrets…" he said, smiling ruefully and finding it mirrored in Kouji's face as well.

It was amazing how, despite the sensitive seriousness of the whole situation, they could find some humor in it after all. "Well, we're both working on it, aren't we?" Kouji commented wryly. "We're so used to being only children, not having to answer any bossy siblings, and here we are trying to half-hide embarrassing details from each other. If we're twins, we haven't spent nearly enough time together to act like it!"

"Oh please!" Kouichi rolled his eyes, quite sure now that Kouji was able to see him do so. "What, you're suggesting that we play each other's shadows now? I thought you were the stereotype-basher—"

"—actually that's Izumi's job—"

"—we're allowed to have our differences, you know," Kouichi plowed on as if the muttered interruption had never been uttered. "As much as I prefer this to only-childhood, I treasure my individuality, thank you!"

"I never said—"

There was an abrupt pause as both of them suddenly realized just what kind of random turn their conversation had taken.

"Er… ahem," Kouji finally harrumphed in what he dearly hoped was a back-to-business tone. It failed completely as Kouichi lost control at last and snorted with a just-suppressed giggle. That giggle increased in volume and number as his twin turned and favored him with an eyebrow arched very high. Kouichi was altogether incapacitated as his face cracked into a mad grin. The utterly appalled look that Kouji now turned on him, with both eyebrows nearly disappearing into his bangs and twilight eyes huge, accented by his crow-black hair spiking in every direction, only sent him bubbling into full-out hysteria.

"What in the hay is so funny?" demanded a very indignant Kouji.

It was a pure miracle that Kouichi managed to gather enough breath to speak. "Y-you!" he gasped. "Th-that look on your face—geez, you always try to be so serious and now look—!" He could say no more as yet another gale of laughter took him.

It was a very bizarre sight for Kouji to behold: his Dark Avenger of a brother, bent over nearly double on the edge of his futon and shaking helplessly with insane giggles. The younger one rolled his eyes, but his disgusted sigh was chopped up as his brother's mirth spread to him.

"Shut up already, baka! Dad and Satomi will hear!" he tried to hiss, but it was completely broken up. Alas for Kouji! Maybe it was just a thing with twins or siblings, but Kouichi's merrymaking was contagious.

Before they knew it, both of them were pitching forward, desperately trying to muffle their laughter in the bedclothes.

At last they calmed down enough to sit up and form coherent sentences. "What was that all about?" Kouji asked in half disgust, half quirky amusement.

"No idea whatsoever," Kouichi replied, the image of frank innocence. "Maybe all my feelings were so bottled up that they just came out—although not in the way I would've expected…"

"Too true," muttered Kouji, garnering him a sharp dig in the ribs from his brother's elbow.

"Shut up!" Kouichi shot back, the crazy smile returning to his face. But this time he didn't burst out laughing.

Then they just sat there, side by side, watching the few streaky clouds in the sky slowly brighten into a glowing peachy hue outside Kouji's window. The chinks of rosy golden light gradually sifting in between the blinds substantially brightened the small room and warmed their hearts. Inexplicably, Kouji felt… glad. Content. Happy, not in a giddy way, but in a way that made him feel cozy and comfortable. For a moment he just couldn't quite put his finger on it, but he quickly realized why he was in the mood to relax and smile: Kouichi. The minute of insane chuckles they had shared had felt magical. That word would have been his last choice to describe anything, but he picked it for lack of any better label. It was a strong sense of brotherly love… yes, that was it. For the moment, all he cared about was just sitting there with his brother and watching the dawn. All he felt was this incredible love for the person next to him, and overwhelming gratitude to have met him. It was a rather foreign feeling, but Kouji decided that maybe he liked it.

He glanced to his right to see Kouichi smiling slightly at him. And he knew what went through his brother's mind: the very same that was cycling through his own. From the slight shadow hidden behind his eyes, he was worrying about something else, that much was evident. But both were content to simply be together, like they were meant to be as twins. As Light and Darkness.

Kouji scooted imperceptibly closer to him, and they continued to watch the sunrise. The younger's eyelids still drooped with sleepiness, and yet he didn't really feel the need for sleep.

"You know, this feels kinda okay now," Kouichi mumbled to the air. "I mean… I feel kinda okay."

Kouji turned to raise an eyebrow at him, but the tiny smile on his lips and knowing glow in his dark eyes gave him away.

"So… you still wanna talk about—er, your dream?"

The pleasantly warm feeling in Kouichi's soul slipped just a little bit, but he quickly reassured himself that he had someone to trust. "Well… I guess you already know a lot about it. But I was just thinking…" It took him a second or two to remember just what his concerns had been. "Oh yeah—um, you know, I've… had this dream before…"

Kouji nodded earnestly at him as he trailed off, all seriousness now. "Go on."

The good, positive feeling had definitely slipped now, but Kouichi pressed onward at his brother's encouragement. "I know I'll sound insane for this, but… I've had this dream three times now. Three times. No normal dream keeps coming back like that. I was just thinking…" Embarrassed despite himself, Kouichi glanced at his feet. "I mean—I—well, what if it's not just a dream? I mean, after the Digital World and Cherubimon and everything, I guess we've all learned that pretty much nothing's impossible."

Kouji nodded his grave concurrence. Sometimes he lapsed into a highly uncharacteristic daze when contemplating his time spent in that realm; often he had a hard time believing that it hadn't all been this insane grand dream. Yet another reason to be grateful for Kouichi. His brother was living proof that it had all really happened.

Kouichi let the silence stretch before he finally continued, taking comfort in the golden aura of the dawn bathing him. Quite a contradiction, he mused disconnectedly. Kouji really does have one up on me—my Spirits might have been of Darkness, but at the same time I draw strength from the light. Or maybe it's just that whole Light-Darkness yin-yang thing.

"Anyways… I know it sounds real stupid, but for a while I was afraid that I was having a—a vision. Seeing things as they might turn out to be. Seeing—" he gulped hard—"your death."

Geez, I'm getting paranoid, senile or both! he groused inside himself, shooting down his own theory. He didn't bother looking up to see Kouji's reaction. "Nah, never mind. That's just stupid. Forget it."

Kouichi was slightly startled to feel a thin, firm hand settle on his shoulder, and lifted his head to see Kouji looking back at him, his face deadly serious. "Hey, no secrets, remember?" the twin of Light said quietly. Something about his soft tone made Kouichi sit up.

"I would've been skeptical myself," Kouji admitted, "but you're right—after the Digital World, you can expect pretty much anything to happen. To tell you the truth, I don't know what to believe. Maybe it's a vision, maybe it's not. I know I'm no psychic."

He could offer no more that would have been absolutely useless. In fact, Kouji was still slightly skeptical—he couldn't help the parts of his old personality that remained. Kouichi, having a vision? A vision of Kouji's death? As he thought it through, Kouji realized that it did indeed seem a little farfetched, but then again, he didn't know exactly what Kouichi had seen. All he knew was that he died and Kouichi was freaked. What didn't make sense was that according to his brother, this dream kept returning. No dream did that. Not unless all those hyped-up destiny stories held some shred of truth and this dream actually meant something. Foretold something.

Next to him, Kouichi was reaching the same conclusion. "It's awfully farfetched…"

"And yet anything is possible…"

They shook their heads in unison. "This is giving me a headache," growled Kouji.

Finally it was Kouichi's turn to raise an eyebrow. "Now this is more like the pessimistic wolfboy I used to remember."

Kouji slightly shook the shoulder he held, a mischievous gleam in his eyes. "What, you want the old Kouji back? The Kouji who snapped at everyone to leave him alone, didn't know what the term 'look on the bright side' meant and had no clue what being a brother was supposed to be like? Is that it?"

"Heck no!" Kouichi laughed. "I think you're alright now. Anyways…" he glanced down and then back into his brother's eyes, "…I just… thanks. Thanks for listening to my babyish night-frights and insane ideas. I… it means a lot to me," he finished sheepishly. He was acutely aware that there was no hiding the pink tint to his cheeks now.

Kouji grinned fully, which was still something one didn't see every day. "Hey, isn't that what brothers are… for?" He was just as sharply aware of his inability to stifle the face-cracking yawn that stretched out his sentence.

"You are sleepy!" Kouichi accused. "And you sat up to listen to my blather?! Go get some sleep before you're a bear tomorrow morning and blame me for it!"

Kouji playfully shoved his brother back onto the futon before stiffly getting to his feet to close the blinds. "You got that right!" he snarled over Kouichi's startled laughter.

With a click the room was sealed in darkness again. Darkness with a little light mixed in. The kind that nightmares feared and fled from. Kouichi could still clearly see his brother's face, and rising, he stopped Kouji on the way back to his bed. "I—I just wanted to say thanks again. It really does mean a lot."

Kouji rubbed his blearing eyes and smiled, clapping Kouichi on the shoulder again. "Anytime. I already said it, that's what brothers are for. Hey… thanks for coming over. I—" he paused, fishing for the right words—"I'm not an expert on siblings yet, but I think I finally get an idea of what Takuya was trying to tell me that one time. What it's like to be a brother, you know?"

Kouichi reached out his own hand to lay it on his twin's shoulder in turn, brushing off the long, wayward strands of frazzled black hair as he returned the smile. "Glad to be of service, ototo-chan."

Said younger brother scowled playfully at him. "Oh, shut up and get to sleep already!"

Snickering, Kouichi turned and flopped down onto his futon, pulling the light blanket over him. Now that all fears were laid aside, he felt like going back to sleep again. Deep down he still harbored doubts, but what would come would come. He heard a slight rustle as Kouji got resettled, and then all was still.

Kouichi smiled into the half-darkness. Yes, he could understand what Kouji was saying, even if the other couldn't quite get the words out. It felt good to be a brother. Presently he drifted off with a cozy feeling in his heart, and they both slept away the dawn.

~~~

I realize that the ending might come across as cruddy. I think so too. Once I get the chance, I'll see if I can revise it.

*raises hands in a guilty position* Alright! I admit it! Emotional mush! Often I hate it myself, but I love it when it's tastefully written to supplement the story. Whether all that… stuff I wrote lives up to the standard is for you to decide. But it's true—there are some times when you're with your family or friends or both, and you're having a good time together and you want to remember it forever. It's called taking joy in loved ones. Yet again, it's brotherly love, NOT yaoi, got that?

Now, I recall promising some ideas and details about a possible continuation in the last chapter. Here it is:

It has been said now that Kouichi has had this dream before. What it it's not just a dream? What if it's a vision—of things to come? It doesn't stop there. The nightmare returns, again and again, except now he's seeing the deaths of all the Chosen. A new enemy has risen, and it will devour and conquer the Chosen one by one, tormenting Kouichi not only by sending him these macabre visions, but also by leaving him the last one standing. I may end up making Katsuharu, Chiaki, Teppei and Teruo join the ranks of the Chosen, but that's up in the air.

O_O I know, it's kind of clichéd. But it's just an idea; if you have better ones, please send them in! Or if no one requests a continuation, I may just leave it here—so I can concentrate on 'Drifters in the Night Sky'. :o)

Now for the responses:

Akino Ame: I'm glad you like it. Wow, you even snapped at your sister? Poor sister, I take the blame. ^^; I've never heard of Noir before, what's that like? As for the exhaustion thing… it's not a Herculean struggle or anything. *shrugs* I just do what I do, write whatever comes to me. I get writer's block now and then, and I might get tired out sometimes, but that happens to everyone I guess. I'm not the best or anything, I just do what I do. I'm honored that you think so highly of my work, though. ^^ There's a similar fic out? Goodness, I must see that. Even if you say it's boring, I'd like to check it out.

Anrui Miyamara: Thanks for pointing that out, the Chosen/DigiDestined thing. I've fixed it on the previous chapter. I had not been aware of that, again, thank you! There may have been others for the Digimon that I missed, but in reality I'm just not in the mood to be a nitpicker. I looked over the spellcheck and I think I caught the error—motion-less vs. motionless, I believe it is. It's heartening to know that you and others like the emotion; I was beginning to fear that I put in too much and people would blow it off as melodramatic, or boring. By nice words I'm assuming you mean word choice; thanks! I'm still developing/expanding my vocabulary a bit, but it's a good thing to know that at least it makes sense and enhances the story. I hope this chapter's good enough for you.

A reader: Well, it didn't turn out THAT sad, did it? ;) Although if I continue it, expect more tear-jerkers to follow. *devious grin*

miss-lily-lupin: Glad you like it! ^^ But I am SO sorry I took so long to get this up. By the way, does your penname come from Harry Potter? Just curious. ^-^

So now I will return to working on 'Drifters in the Night Sky'—it's coming really slow ___, but it's coming, never fear. :o) But I am the kind of writer who would rather let my inspiration take me where it will; I think my writing turns out best that way. Remember, inspiration to anything is precious to me. Therefore I might also have my Lord of the Rings fanfiction up soon. If you see that, don't freak out! It's short enough, which is more than I can say for DitNS. Plus, in a while I might also complete my semi-prequel to this fic, in which Kouji takes Kouichi to meet his father and stepmother. Don't worry, that one's a one-shot.

My new policy is to have a maximum of two WIPs out at one time, either one long and one short or two shorts. I'll be working on other things if I think they're good enough for either my FF.net or FP.com monikers, but I'll only post two at once on either account. Therefore you'll know that I will still be working on Drifters in the Night Sky.

See you at the next crossroads!

~Strider