Disclaimer: Digimon is owned by Saban and Toei and a bunch of other people too, probably, of
which I am not one.

The Peace of a Child
By: SilvorMoon

Ken Ichijouji lay perfectly still in bed, awake behind his eyelids but trying as hard as he
could not to be. As long as he could be asleep, he didn't have any responsibilities. There was
nothing he had to do or be. He could just lie there and pretend that the events of the last few days,
or months, or years had been nothing but a bad dream... but of course they hadn't been, and
nothing could change that. Then again, there were good moments - the moments when he had
realized that the numbness inside was starting to thaw, that he was getting a chance to make his
life better than it had been before, that his family and his partner still loved him. At his side, he
could feel the slight movement of Wormmon's breathing. Since their reunion, Ken was allowing
his Digimon to sleep in his bed, as if he was a cat instead of a caterpillar. They were both so glad
to be together again that being apart was almost intolerable... one more good reason for not
wanting to get up and go to school.

"Ken, honey, it's time to get up!" his mother called.

"Just a few more minutes," he muttered, pulling the blankets up over his head.

"Your breakfast will get cold," she persisted. "Come on, honey. I know these last few
days have been difficult, but you still have to go to class."

"I thought they were planning on being more understanding," Ken said to himself. He
sighed. "Guess there's no getting around some things."

Laboriously, Ken dragged himself out of bed and began the process of trading his pajamas
for his school uniform. As he was pulling his shirt on, he noticed a movement under the blankets,
and turned to see Wormmon come creeping out, yawning and blinking sleepily.

"Good morning, Ken," he said. "Are you planning on going to school today?"

"Looks like I have to," Ken sighed. "That's the law - if you don't have a good excuse, you
have to go to school, and I've missed months already. I may never catch up on my work."

"You will," the caterpillar assured him. "I know you. You're good at that kind of thing."

Ken smiled a little, touched by his partner's wide-eyed faith in him. True, he had always
stayed several chapters ahead of the agenda, so there would really be less work ahead of him than
there looked like there should be. He was so used to doing schoolwork, he could probably do
what little was left with his eyes closed. Unfortunately, that didn't make the prospect any more
appetizing.

"I'll manage somehow, I guess," he said. Then, impulsively, "Come with me to school
today, Wormmon."

"Me?" Wormmon repeated, shocked. "But I can't go to school! What if someone saw
me?"

"I'll tell them something. I'll tell them you're a toy - a get well present. I'll keep you
hidden. I just don't think I can get through another day at school without some moral support,
and I want you with me."

Wormmon gazed into Ken's eyes for a moment, seeing that lost, almost desperate look
that still surfaced there from time to time, and he capitulated. He was so used to Ken being strong
and dominant, how could he refuse when Ken was practically begging him for help?

"All right," he said. "You know I'll always be here when you need me. That's my job."

Ken smiled again, this time with relief. "Thanks, Wormmon. I needed to hear that."

"Ken?" That was his mother's voice, calling uncertainly from the other side of his door.
"Are you up? I thought I heard you talking to someone."

"Just playing the radio, Mama," Ken answered. "I'll turn it off if it's bothering you."

"That's all right, dear. I just wanted to make sure you were coming." There was a sound
of footsteps as she walked away again.

"That was close," said Ken. "If she came in here, I would have had a lot of explaining to
do. I want to be honest with my parents, but I don't know if they're ready to hear about the
Digiworld. I don't know if I'm ready to talk about it."

Wormmon watched Ken with concern as the boy completed his grooming and began
gathering up dusty schoolbooks, stuffing them halfheartedly into his satchel. The caterpillar's
private opinion was that Ken didn't look fit to go anywhere. He wasn't sick, exactly - not in the
usual sense - but he certainly didn't look well, either. His eyes looked haunted, and his face was
pale with some hidden tension. *The last thing he needs,* the caterpillar thought, *is
to go back to school and get any more stress dumped on him, not after everything else he's been
through.*

The thought wandered through his mind as he huddled in Ken's backpack, hidden from the
boy's parent's view as the family ate breakfast, peeking out at all of them through a small opening
in the zipper. It wasn't terribly comfortable, but Ken had stuffed an old sweater in the pack with
him so he at least wouldn't get battered around by all the books. It continued as he rode out of
the house and into the sunshiny streets. The human world was so fantastic, full of trees and
buildings and machines like Wormmon had never seen before, and yet Ken was walking along
with his eyes on his shoes as if he was going to an execution. This, Wormmon decided, was
wrong, but what was he going to do about it. Nothing, of course, except sit by and offer what
support he could.

They reached the gates to the school. Ken went to a private institution for particularly
intelligent children, and even so, he had captured all the top grades in every course. School had
once been his life, but now... now he could barely bring himself to walk through the gates. He
stepped slowly through the portal and onto the sidewalk that cut through a neat, grassy lawn. As
he walked, his footsteps became slower and slower until finally, halfway up the walk, he finally
ran out of willpower. He staggered off the walk and collapsed into the shadow of a nearby tree.
Other students dashed past them, up the path and into the school without seeing there fallen
comrade.

"I just can't do it," Ken said shakily. "I know I have to, but the thought of going back in
there again is just making me sick."

"You'll be okay, Ken. Just take it slow and easy," Wormmon soothed. "You've always
been strong. You'll push through this."

"I know," said Ken, but without much conviction. "I know I could. I know I
could go in there and go right on doing what I've been doing - breaking every record and
putting every other kid in there to shame. I could, but I don't want to anymore. That was how I
was in the bad days, when all I cared about was being better than everyone else, when I was
trying to live up to Sam's image. I lost my soul in there, Wormmon, and I'm so scared that if I go
back in, I'll lose it again."

Wormmon nudged the aperture in the knapsack open so he could crawl out on to Ken's
lap. No one was noticing them right now, anyway; the students passing by were so intent on
getting to their classes that a herd of Unimon probably could have gone by without distracting
them. They were also getting fewer and fewer as the clock ticked closer to eight and the
beginning of classes. Ken hugged his partner; Wormmon could feel him trembling.

"You really are terrified," the caterpillar said in surprise. "You look like you did when you
started hearing voices."

"I am terrified," Ken whispered, "but what am I supposed to do?"

"Why don't you just skip school for today?" Wormmon suggested.

Ken blinked. "Say that again?"

"Skip school," Wormmon repeated. "You aren't going to learn anything in this shape.
Your parents will never know. Everyone at school thinks you're still home recovering. You can
get away with skipping one day. Maybe you'll feel better if you take some time off."

"I... I could," said Ken slowly. "I don't have to go to school today."

He let that thought sink in. He didn't have to go to school. He didn't have to prove
himself to anyone. He didn't have to be the best anymore, or try to live up to anyone's
expectations. He was free to be imperfect if he chose. The reality was a breathtaking. He had
found his heart again when he'd found his companion, but he still had to look for the personality
he'd allowed to be suffocated under tons of schoolwork and extracurricular activities. Now he
could finally go looking for it. He sat there and thought about all this, watching the last
latecomers running through the doors, terrified of being late, while Ken gloried in the prospect.
The doors closed. A distant bell rang. Silence descended. School had just begun, and Ken was
sitting outside the school with no intention of going in. He grinned.

"Would you look at that?" he said. He stood up and cupped his hands around his mouth to
amplify his voice. "Hey, you all in there! Look at me! I'm Ken Ichijouji the genius, and I'm
skipping school today! I'm going to be a delinquent today, and I dare any of you to stop me!"

There was no sound inside the building. If anyone had heard his dare, they weren't going
to take it. Ken allowed himself to imagine them all, sitting in their desks doing busywork and
wishing they were free like Ken was.

"Come on, Wormmon," he said. "Let's get out of here. I've got a day to myself, and I
don't want to waste it!"

Laughing, he sprinted down the sidewalk, feeling the wind rushing across his face and
tossing his hair. He pushed himself to go faster, reveling in his strength and speed.

*Free!* he exulted. *I'm free!*

*********************************

The first thing to do, Ken decided, was to go home for some supplies. He crept into the
apartment building, trying to avoid being seen by anyone who knew him (a difficult task, since
everyone in the city had seen his face on televison and in the papers) and rode the elevator up to
his own floor. There, he and Wormmon crouched behind a large potted plant while they waited
for his father to leave the apartment on his way to work.

*When was the last time I did something like this? I feel just like a little kid playing
hide and seek,* Ken reflected. *Of course, I never got much of a chance to be a kid. I
spent all my time trying to be like Sam. Well, now's my chance to make up for it.*

The door opened, and Ken caught his breath in anticipation. His father stepped out,
briefcase in hand, and began walking toward the elevator. The cover that had seemed adequate to
Ken while the hall was empty suddenly seemed transparent. The tree only protected Ken on one
side, and if his father were to turn around for any reason once he stepped past, the boy was sunk.
His father was only a few feet away now... He was passing right in front of him, close enough that
Ken could catch a whiff of fresh aftershave... He was safely past, and the elevator chimed as it
carried its passenger toward the ground floor. The boy and his Digimon heaved simultaneous
sighs of relief.

"One down," said Ken. "One to go."

They scooted over to the door of the apartment and tried the doorknob. Drats! His dad
had locked it. Ken fished around for his key and began sliding it gently into the lock, trying to
avoid the least rattle... the key slipped from his sweating fingers and hit the tiled floor with a
clink that echoed off the bare walls, making it sound to the nervous pair as if he'd dropped
a steel beam. They both jumped and looked around frantically, fearing detection. After several fast
heartbeats had gone by, enough to make their breathing return to normal, they realized the sound
hadn't been anywhere near as loud as it had sounded to them. Laughing nervously, Ken retrieved
his key and unlocked the door.

His mother was still in residence - he could hear her singing to herself as she did the
housework. He stood there a moment, listening to her, thinking in a nostalgic moment how she
used to sometime sing him to sleep when he had been very small. Oddly enough, the times when
he was sick or suffering nightmares involved some of his fondest memories of childhood, because
those had been the times he could command his family's full attention. The moment was broken
when she left off in mid-song.

"Oh, dear," she said to herself. "Looks like I'm out of detergent. That's funny, I could
have sworn there was some left. Oh, well, it looks like I'm going to have to go shopping."

Ken was not called a genius for nothing - it took no time at all for his quick brain to
process the implications of that remark. His mother was about to leave the apartment, and she'd
have to pass by him to do it. He cast around desperately for a hiding place, and his gaze fell on the
nearby closet. He dove inside and settled himself among the boots and winter coats, soundlessly
closing the door. No sooner had he done so, he heard his mother's footfalls coming nearer, and he
congratulated himself on a move well made.

"Now, where did I put my purse?" she muttered. "Hmm... did I leave it on the table, or..."
The footfalls left again, and there were sounds of searching.

Ken resisted the urge to smack himself. The purse was hanging right in front of him. His
mother was not going to leave the house until she found her purse, and the only way she was
going to find it was to find him, too.

"Out of the frying pan..." Ken muttered. "Great! What am I going to do now?"

"I don't know!" Wormmon replied in a panicked whisper.

"Well, we've got to think of something!"

A few seconds later, Mrs. Ichijouji heard the click of a closing door.

"Hello?" she called. "Honey, is that you? Did you forget something?"

Hearing no reply, she walked back into the front room.

"Hmm. There's no one here. Funny, I could have sworn..." She trailed off as something
caught her eye. Her purse was now hanging on the doorknob of the closet. "Oh, there it is! That's
funny. I could have sworn it wasn't there a moment ago."

She collected her belongings and headed out the front door. Her heels clicked on the hard
floor outside, gradually fading off into silence. As soon as she was gone, the closet door popped
open, and Ken all but fell out. He and Wormmon landed on the rug, where they released their
pent up tension in a torrent of hysterical giggling.

"I can't believe I'm doing this," Ken managed finally, wiping tears of laughter from his
eyes. "I haven't had this much fun since I-can't-remember-when."

"What are we going to do now?" asked Wormmon.

"Just pick up a few things," Ken replied. "I want to have the whole day free, so we've got
to make some arrangements."

Ken went back into his room and emptied his backpack, shoving all his books deep under
his bed, just in case his mother decided his room needed cleaning or something. He didn't want
any clues left that he wasn't in school, but he certainly wasn't going to lug around the offending
textbooks all day, either. Instead, he replaced the books with more useful objects, like some
portable food items and some spending money. Then he replaced the sweater and the caterpillar.

"All comfortable back there?" Ken asked. "Don't eat all the food, now. That's going to be
our lunch... dinner, too, maybe."

Wormmon only smiled, knowing Ken was teasing him. Ken hadn't teased him in years,
and it was nice. This idea was definitely paying off. Already there was a new sparkle in Ken's eyes
that he'd never seen before. He looked so alive and happy.

"I'm ready to go," Wormmon said.

"Great," Ken replied. "Let's go do some exploring."

************************

It was spring, and the people of Tokyo were showing it. Everywhere Ken looked, he saw
people in bright colors, swirling seas of greens and yellows and pinks, like a moving field of
flowers. Ken looked down at his own drab school uniform and felt out of place. He hadn't
thought about changing clothes while he was at home, but now he realized that it would have
been a good idea. Not only did the uniform look dreary, but it identified him as a student,
someone who should be in school. He suddenly felt collared. He wasn't going to escape the
school's influence as long as he was wearing its mark of ownership. He paused by a shop window,
looking at the mannequins who were all so much better dressed than he.

"Hey, Wormmon, what do you think?" he asked. "You want to go shopping?"

A few moments later, Ken had collected a new wardrobe for himself. One thing about
being a famous mega-genius was that it was highly profitable. He made enough money off of
television appearances and commercial endorsements that he was capable of buying almost
anything he wanted, but up until now, he'd seldom exercised the privilege. Now he had assembled
a small stack of bright colored clothing, very different from his plain grey suit. Warm colors like
yellow and orange would have looked awful with his blue hair and amethyst eyes, and blue had
been the color of the Digimon Emperor, but violets and deep greens suited him fine, and he was
very pleased with his selection. New clothes chosen for himself, by himself, that hopefully would
reflect himself. On a whim, he scooped up a blue bandanna, too, and headed for the checkout
counter. There, he paid for his trophies, and then headed for the nearest bathroom to change.

The Ken who stepped out on the street again looked like a new boy, attired casually in
indigo blue jeans and a violet T-shirt. The vivid colors matched his mood, and he admired his
reflection in a plate glass window for a moment before moving on again.

"Oh, I almost forgot!" he exclaimed, slipping down an alleyway and into the shadows.
"Hey, Wormmon, come out a minute."

Wormmon cautiously poked his head out of the knapsack and stared up at Ken with
curious eyes. "What is it?"

"I've got something for you. Look here!"

Ken smiled and pulled out the bandanna, tying it carefully around his partner's neck. He
was pleased with the effect - the blue perfectly matched Wormmon's sparkling eyes. The
caterpillar looked at it in surprise.

"Now you're dressed up, too," Ken said.

"A gift?" Wormmon asked. "For me?"

Ken nodded. "All yours. It's the least I can do."

Wormmon's eyes went misty. "You've never given me a present before..."

"If anyone deserves one, it's you," Ken replied, hugging his partner. "After all, if it wasn't
for you, I'd be in school suffering... or worse yet, I'd still be the Digimon Emperor." He
shuddered at the thought.

Wormmon blushed. "Thanks, Ken."

They moved on. It was strange, having this much freedom to move. Wormmon rode on
Ken's shoulder, under the pretense of being a stuffed animal, assuming a shoe-button stare
anytime anyone looked at him too closely. They traveled slowly, pausing at each bright display to
examine the wares, sometimes stopping to make a purchase. Ken bought a stack of books with
glossy covers and fantastical plots - nothing in the least bit educational - and a package of art
supplies. The two of them shared a picnic lunch sitting on a park bench, while Ken read to
Wormmon from his new books. They bought tickets to a cartoon movie, an unpopular matinee
that played for them alone, leaving them free to laugh aloud without a care.

*This is how life should be,* Ken thought as they stepped out of the theater into
the afternoon sunshine. *I never would have guessed how happy doing this would have made
me. Only a few days ago, I would called that movie a stupid waste of my time, never would have
read anything outside of a textbook, and never, never would have thought of buying
Wormmon a present. I'm changing so fast, I can't keep up with myself.*

"What do you want to do now?" asked Wormmon eagerly. It was clear that he, too, was
having the time of his life. After years of neglecting him, his partner was suddenly lavishing
affection on him, and he was loving every minute of it.

Ken glanced at his watch. "Well, it's about three o'clock. School will be letting out soon. I
guess I should be going home... but I really don't want to. There's still so much to do! I'm going
to call home and tell Mama I'm going to be late."

They found a pay phone and dialed the number. Ken listened to the phone ring, feeling a
bit giddy inside. Would his teachers have missed his presence? Would they have told his parents?
Would his mother have somehow deduced that someone had sneaked into the apartment? Had he
forgotten to lock the door or left a light on?

"Hello?" his mother finally answered.

"Hello, Mama. It's me, Ken," Ken replied.

"Oh, hello, Ken! How nice of you to call!" his mother gushed. Ken sighed in relief. That
was his mother - dear, sweet, and totally oblivious.

"Yeah, I just wanted to tell you that I'm going to be late getting home," he replied. "I
have so much work to catch up on that I've decided I'm going to spend a few hours working at
the library. Don't worry, I've got some money with me, so I can buy my own dinner."

"Are you sure? I don't want you to push yourself too hard, especially after all you've been
through lately..."

Ken smiled a little. "Don't worry, Mama. I promise I'll take a nice long break as soon as I
need it - maybe do some shopping while I'm downtown."

"Well, as long as you feel up to it," his mother relented. "We'll miss you at dinner,
though."

"We'll be together soon. I'm not going to abandon you again. I've had my fill of that,"
said Ken. "I'll come back tonight. Goodbye, Mama. I love you."

His mother's voice was a little choked as she said, "I love you too, son. Goodbye."

Ken hung up the phone with a feeling of deep satisfaction. "There! Everything is set!
We're free for the day!"

"Oh, good!" said Wormmon, squirming in anticipation. "I'm having fun."

"Me, too," Ken replied. He laughed. "You don't know how tempted I was to ask her if
she'd remembered to buy her detergent!"

That started Wormmon laughing, too. "Or make sure she found her purse?"

"Exactly!" Ken replied, grinning.

Wormmon giggled. "I think you still have an evil streak in you."

"Not evil. Just mischievous - like a kid," Ken replied. "Hey, would you like to go back to
the park? I feel like I want some breathing space."

"Anywhere you want to go is fine with me," Wormmon replied, "as long as I get to go
with you."

"Great! Let's go, then," said Ken.

And they went.

**************************

The afternoon sun had risen high and burned warm that day, making people feel drowsy as
they soaked up the golden rays. The sun had worked its magic on Ken and Wormmon, too. They
had settled down on a patch of soft green grass in a secluded glen to wile away the lazy afternoon
hours. Wormmon was stretched out full length on the turf, eyes closed in sleepy contentment. Ken
was lying perpendicular to him, his attention fixed on the sketch pad he had purchased, his hands
busy with his new colored pencils. Then he became still and held up the pad with a critical eye.

"I think it's done," he said. "What do you think, Wormmon?"

Wormmon opened one blue eye, then the other. He stretched his ten legs and scurried
over to see what his partner had drawn.

"It's me!" he exclaimed. "Well, sort of."

Ken eyed his drawing again and chuckled a little. "I guess it is. All right, so I'm not the
greatest artist in the world. It's just something I wanted to try. I haven't drawn any pictures since
I was little, and I wanted to see if I was any good at it. I guess I'm not. I'm tired of trying to be
perfect, anyway."

"It's not that bad," Wormmon protested. "I like your picture. Really."

"You like everything," said Ken. "You're just saying that because it's a picture of you."

"No, I'm just saying that because you drew it," Wormmon replied. "Anyway, I know you
could be a great artist if that's what you really wanted to be."

"Exactly," said Ken. "I just did this because I wanted to. It feels so good to be able to do
that! ...Hey, listen, do you hear that?"

Wormmon pricked up his antennae and listened. "It sounds like a bunch of kids playing."

"Yeah..." said Ken. "That's something I didn't get to hear a lot when I was young. People
were always more interested in Sam than me... and once he was gone, I didn't have the time to
play with anyone, except in competition."

"Let's go play with them," Wormmon suggested.

"Huh? What? No," said Ken, flustered. "Why would anyone want to play with me?
Besides, I'm too old for that now."

"I thought today was the day you were going to make up for not having any fun as a kid,"
Wormmon pointed out.

"Yeah, well... this is different," said Ken. "I wasn't talking about hanging out with any real
kids."

"Come on! It can't hurt to just watch them," Wormmon persisted.

"Oh, all right, you win," said Ken. "I guess it can't do any harm just to look."

He packed up his things and began heading toward the noise. What he found was a group
of about ten children of varying ages, organized into a ragtag soccer team. They had marked out
goals with fallen tree branches and kicking around an old soccer ball, to the accompaniment of
much laughter and shouting. Ken stood and watched for a while, enjoying the show. Their efforts
were almost comical compared to his soccer team back at school, but they honestly looked like
they were having fun, no matter who was scoring the goals. Suddenly, one boy looked up and
spotted him.

"Whoa!" he exclaimed. "Hey, everybody, look! It's him!"

Ken suddenly found himself surrounded by a crowd of children, and he stared at them all
like a deer caught in the headlights. For a moment, everything anyone was saying was lost in
general pandemonium, but finally, the first boy managed to push through and quiet everyone
down. He addressed Ken.

"I know you," he said. "You're Ken Ichijouji, aren't you? The one they call The Rocket?"

"Yeah..." Ken admitted reluctantly.

"Cool!" the boy cheered. "I've seen you on TV! You rock! Hey, you want to play with us,
Mr. Ichijouji?"

"Well, I don't know..."

"Please? Please? Please? Please?" chorused the children. Some of them were actually
jumping up and down in excitement.

*I can't play a real game of soccer against these kids,* Ken thought. *I'd beat
them into the ground!* Then he thought, *That sounds like something the Digimon
Emperor would say.*

"All right! All right!" he said. "I'll play with you. Just don't expect me to go easy, okay?"

There was a cheer, and the kids went about dividing themselves up into teams.

"You be the goalie, Mr. Ichijouji," said one boy.

"Call me Ken," Ken said. "And are you sure that's fair?"

"It's fair," said another kid. "You just watch. Darrel here is the best kicker in our school."
He indicated the boy who had first seen him, who had been chosen as captain of the other team.

"If you say so," Ken replied. "Okay, let's play ball!"

They took their places, and the game began. Ken, from where he stood at the far end of
the field, had a good view of what was happening. As the other children had asserted, the boy
Darrel was a good player, moving with a speed and ease that made him stand out from the other
players.

*He is good,* Ken admitted. *Give him a few years, and he'll be giving me
some stiff competition.*

Even now, the boy was putting on an impressive show. Shouting orders to his teammates,
he dodged and wove down the field, sometimes kicking the ball, sometimes just following its
progress, but always coming nearer to the goal. Ken watched him calmly. He wasn't usually
chosen to play the goalie, but he was confident that he could block any shot these kids could
throw at him. After all, Darrel might be good, but he was still just a kid...

The ball went by so fast Ken didn't even see it coming, just a blur as it shot past him.
Darrel's team cheered loudly, rallying around their leader.

"All right! Did you see that?" shouted one kid. "Darrel beat The Rocket!"

"So he did," said Ken, grinning sheepishly. "You played a good game, Darrel."

Darrel looked at him suspiciously. "You didn't let me win, did you?"

"No," said Ken. "I admit, I underestimated you. You beat me fair and square. Keep up the
good work. Maybe we'll even be on the same team someday."

"Whoa, cool!" they boy enthused. "Hey, Mr. Ichijouji... Ken... would you sign my soccer
ball for me?"

"It would be an honor," Ken replied. He reached in his backpack, careful not to dislodge
Wormmon, and fished out a marker. He scribbled his name onto the proffered soccer ball, and, on
a whim, marked a design next to his name.

"What's that?" asked the boy, studying the picture. "It looks sorta like a tulip."

"That symbol means kindness," said Ken. "Being a great soccer player is great, but it's
more important to be kind. I learned that the hard way."

The boy nodded solemnly and tucked the soccer ball under his arm. "Thanks."

"Any time," said Ken, smiling.

"Let's hear it for The Rocket!" someone cheered.

The next thing he knew, he'd been tackled by a dozen kids, burying him in a mass of
laughing children... of which he was only one of many.

Meanwhile, Davis Motomiya was taking a shortcut home through the park, and his
attention was caught by an unusual sound. He followed the noise and saw a teenaged boy
roughhousing with a bunch of younger kids. Everyone looked to be having a wonderful time.

"That's funny," said Davis. "If I didn't know better, I'd say that was Ken... but it can't be,
can it? Nah. Ken never looked that happy...."

*************************

The stars were glittering in the sky when Ken finally bid goodbye to his young friends and
made his way home, arms laden with the treasures he'd bought and a contented smile on his face.
Wormmon was draped over his shoulder, his antennae drooping sleepily but his eyes still bright.

"It's been a good day, hasn't it?" said Ken softly.

Wormmon nodded. "It's been wonderful. I wish we could do it more often."

"Well, there's always weekends," said Ken, "and holidays. I'm going to start using my
time a little better from now on. I didn't realize how much I needed a day to myself... well, a day
to ourselves."

"It's good that you learned something," said Wormmon. "You know, I think that's the big
difference between the way you are now and the way you were when you were a child."

"Oh? What's that?"

"Well, you've always been gentle at heart," said Wormmon, "and you're getting stronger
with each new day you move through. But now you're gaining something else, too. You're
gaining wisdom. It comes from knowing what's wrong and right, so you can purposely chose
what's best, the way you did today. With gentleness, strength, and wisdom on your side, I think
it's safe to say you'll never lose yourself again."

Ken smiled. "I think you're right. I think I am going to be able to go on now. But you
know, I think there are really four things that are keeping me from going back to the way I
was."

"Really? What's the fourth thing?"

"You! What else!"

Wormmon wiggled and blushed. "Just doing my job."

"And no one could do it better," Ken assured him. "Come on. I think my parents are
waiting for me."

They returned to the apartment building with considerably less difficulty than they'd had
the first time and rode the elevator back to Ken's floor. Ken paused in the hallway just long
enough to slip Wormmon back into his backpack before entering his home.

"Ken! There you are!" his mother exclaimed. "I was beginning to worry about you."

"It's all right, Mama," he replied, hugging her. "I promised I wouldn't leave again, and I
meant it."

"I'm glad," she replied. "I was hoping we could finally be a real family... So, did you have
a good day?"

Ken beamed. "The best! I haven't had that much fun since I was a little kid! Maybe not
even then."

"You had fun studying?" asked his mother dubiously.

"Well, I did say I'd go shopping," said Ken. "Mama, do you think Dad would mind if I
dropped one of my computer classes to take art instead? I'm really thinking I'd like to learn to
draw."

"Of course not, honey. You do whatever you want. You're father and I only want you to
be happy."

"Thanks, Mama," Ken replied. "And you know, I think it's going to happen. I think I'm
finally going to be happy."

That night, Ken washed his hair and slipped into his pajamas with a smile on his face. It
was still there when he and Wormmon turned off the lights and snuggled down under the
blankets. And when he fell into sleep, it was full of hopeful dreams of tomorrow, and he slept with
all the peace of a child.