Disclaimer: Neither me nor kale own Digimon, but if I did, I would put it back on TV where it belongs.

A/N: Y'know, this is really interesting, for some reason I picked up the game Digimon World 1 for PSX. Since then, I had sort of gotten back into the Digimon groove of my former days. Sad to say, I still suffer from writers block. The good thing that came about from all this is that I went back into my archives of unfinished fanfics and emails from my beta-reader. One curious thing I found was a file labeled "Stand by.doc." Curious, I opened it and remembered everything. In my death-throes of writing, I asked kale to write me a fanfic I could use as a back story for the next episode, but for some reason I just couldn't get myself to write. Well here's that back story, a little Taiora that I enjoyed then and still enjoy now.


By: kale

Taichi Kamiya exhaled a deafening snore as he suffered through the haze of a dream in which he unwillingly lingered, a somewhat painful dream in which two little elf-like creatures continuously frolicked about his head and insisted on jingling their bell-draped harnesses in his ears. It had been annoying him for quite some time, and was now on the verge of causing him genuine pain. With an incensed wave of his hand, the young man gave a wild swat at the annoying little fairies and their loud, stupid chimes.

In fact, the swat was so strong and violent that it sent him tumbling out of his bed to land on his face on the floor of his bedroom. The rather... unclean floor of his bedroom.

Tai groaned as he lay there for a few moments, his cheek sinking into the soft carpet and a trail of saliva starting to drip from the corner of his mouth to pool upon the ground. And despite the fact that he was at least marginally awake now, the aggravating sound of jingling bells continued to resonate in his ears and cause him a substantial deal of discomfort.

Against his better judgment, the young man cracked open one eye to survey the area where he had fallen. But just as he dared open that one eye, a searing pain like a red-hot iron passed through his brain and slammed it shut once again.

"Oh, man..." the young man whimpered, dragging his hand up from his side and clutching at his throbbing temples. "How much did I drink last night?"

And still the incessant jingling sound continued. The young man blinked, opening his eyes much more slowly this time. He found that as long as he took it slow, the pain wasn't quite so bad. And as he looked up, he realized... it was the phone.

"Sora!" the young man bellowed, his thick voice sounding raspy and muffled against the carpet. He waited a moment (maybe two) for a reply, one which was not forthcoming. After a few more seconds, during which the clarion noise of the phone continued to assault his senses, he sighed and tried again.

"Sora! Phone!"

This time the soft padding of tiny feet answered Tai's call, feet which walked calmly into the room and stopped right in front of the young man's face. It took a few seconds for him to count the feet, a couple more for him to recognize them as the mackerel-colored paws of his wife's cat, Peter. And how odd it seemed to the young man to be looking up at the cat as it plunked itself down on the floor right in front of his face and proceeded to thoroughly bathe itself. Thoroughly.

Just how much champagne did one have to drink to get such a horrendous hangover, anyway?

"Good kitty," the young man tried, desperate now. "Good kitty. Go get the phone. Go bring the phone to daddy, 'k?"

The feline turned its head to look quizzically at the other. Truth be told, Tai very rarely spoke to the animal, and when he did, the tone was almost never civil. And so the cat, not fooled by his master's disingenuous civility, showed him just what he thought of the request by continuing his bath... this time in the area just beneath his tail.

Tai shuddered as he gave the sight some thought, then sat up slowly. Trusting his ears, the young man managed to drag himself across the floor of the room to the area where it sounded like the ringing was coming from. He did manage, on the way, to get a fairly nasty rug-burn on the back of his legs, but it was better than trying to stand up and risking a fall in his condition.

The brown-haired young man found the cordless phone buried beneath a great pile of magazines, newspaper clippings and articles all devoted to him. On this page there was a picture of him in midair, leaping over of a crowd of frustrated defenders and striking a soccer ball with his head; on another page a headline screamed in loud captions, "The Great Wall of Tai-na!", beneath which showed him sliding between his hapless goalie and a perfectly executed shot by an opposing player to save a victory in a meaningless game some months back. Stupid American writers. What, did they see all Oriental cultures as one or did it just have to sound snappy?

Tai grumbled as he picked up the phone, careful not to look too closely at the daylight streaming in from the window of his room. " H'lo?" he murmured thickly, his head still throbbing painfully.

"Tai? Taichi Kamiya?" an odd, almost computerized sounding voice demanded harshly from the other end of the line.

The young man smacked his lips together, yawning and scratching his head. "Speaking," he replied, his voice coarse.

"Your wife, Mr. Kamiya..."

Tai moaned and slumped back onto his bed. Of course it was for her. Why on earth hadn't she answered it? "Hold on for a sec," he said, placing the phone down in his lap. "Sora!"

"No, Mr. Kamiya..."

"Sora! Phone!"

"Mr. Kamiya, we have your wife."

"SORA! Get the phone!"

After a few more minutes, the young man ceased his screaming. It was too much work anyway. "Can you call her back later?" he almost begged, placing the phone to his ear once again.

On the other end of the line, the caller slapped a hand to his forehead and rolled his eyes. "Mister Kamiya... we have your wife," he repeated once again, the attachment to his phone modulating his voice by way of a computer generated program. "We have your wife, and unless you do exactly... exactly as we say, you will never see her again."

Now Tai snapped wide awake, the sleepiness and pain falling from him instantly at the revelation. "What?" he demanded angrily, pulling the phone away from his ear and staring at it, as if he could see through the object to the speaker on the other side. "Who are you? What the hell have you done with Sora?"

"Who we are is inconsequential, Mister Kamiya. As for what we have done with your wife... I would think that that is less important than what we will do with her if you fail to acquiesce to our demands."

Tai was slowly working his way past anger through fury and well on his way to seething as he answered. "And what are your demands?" he snapped, grinding his teeth together.

"First of all, Mister Kamiya, do not even think to contact the police. We see everything that you are doing and know everything about you. If you attempt to contact the police, it will be the worse for your wife. Just do as you are instructed and things will be fine. Now, look out your window. Do you see the pool in the plaza across the street?"

The young man didn't need to look. He knew by memory the fountain across the street in the middle of the shopping district where children often tossed in small coins and made their wishes. "Yeah," he muttered darkly.

"Look at it!" the voice insisted, the exclamation slamming against the young man's throbbing brain like a bludgeoning cudgel.

Tai opened his mouth to retort, then thought better of it and moved to the window, peering between the shutters to where countless numbers of families rushed back and forth to a great many retail stores surrounding the fountain. The stores were of the highest quality, owing to the neighborhood in which they lived. Being the most famous and well-paid soccer player in Japan did come with certain perks, after all. "Okay," Tai almost spat back into the phone as he closed the shutters.

"You won't be able to do anything for your wife while you're so stinking drunk from your little party last night, Mister Kamiya. So I'm going to do you a favor. Right now, you're going to go over to that fountain and take a quick bath... say a good five minutes or so."

Tai frowned. Whoever the party on the other end of the line was, he'd obviously done his study. The truth was that he had gotten quite intoxicated at the celebration last night after his team's victory in the semifinal game for the Emperor's Cup, a game in which he had been taken Most Valuable Player honors and the latest in a long string of large, garish trophies. But still the young man frowned. "You're crazy," he snapped back, noticing the morning rime covering the face of the window. "It's freezing out there."

"Yes, isn't it though? Oh, and in addition to your bath and to remind you to keep a civil tongue when speaking to me next time, I'd also like to see you recite 'Mary Had A Little Lamb,' for your audience. Three times."

Tai almost exploded. He was quite possibly the most recognized sports figure in all of Japan, a veritable icon and role model for millions. There was no way in hell that he was going to-

"For your wife, Mister Kamiya... for your wife. And no police. Remember... we are watching."

Tai heard a distinct click as the other end of the line went dead, then slowly lowered the receiver away from his ear in disbelief. Sora...

In anger and frustration the young man turned and hurled the phone against the nearest wall, hearing it shatter as he raised his hands to his unruly hair and ran his fingers through it. A surge of emotions rushed through his head as he stood there silently for a moment. Anger. Fear. Frustration. And worst of all, perhaps, blame. He couldn't seem to recall, no matter how hard he tried, what his last words had been to his wife. Had they been in anger or inattention, as they frequently were these days? Or had they expressed the true love that he honestly felt for her, but mentioned much less frequently than he had in the days just after their marriage?

Kidnapped... As the young man pulled on a pair of only semi-dirty sweat pants laying nearby, he tried to think things through. While he was not rich, he certainly maintained a very comfortable existence for Sora and himself. Yet the distorted voice on the other end had made no mention of money... though that would certainly come in time. For now, he was evidently attempting to establish himself in a position of power in the negotiations by having Tai go to humiliate himself in public.

As he was thinking, Tai became suddenly aware that Peter had started to lick his nervously shaking fingers with his coarse tongue. "Get out!" he shouted, leaping to his feet and kicking at the animal, just missing a violent connection with its hindquarters. "You just had that tongue up your butt, for Pete's sake!"

The young man sniffled, feeling suddenly so very frightened for Sora. How he wished that his friends were here with him, but it was rare for him to see any of them these days. Matt, he was certain, was in the middle of some world tour somewhere with his band. Of all of his friends, the blond-haired young man was the only one who had grown up with fame and wealth to match his own.

Mimi still lived in America, and Izzy had moved there to be closer to her some two years ago. At the age when most men of his age were still taking classes at a university, Izzy was now teaching them at the M.I.T, which Tai understood to be one of the finest technological institutions in that country.

His little sister Kari, and that ever cute best-friend of hers, T.K., of course still lived nearby, but Joe had already begun his medical work with some world peace organization, gone in some distant part of the world. The younger pair would still be on a little vacation they took together for another couple days, and Joe was out of the question. The hospital at which he worked actively discouraged phone calls for their interns from anyone except close family with a verifiable emergency on their hands. The young man sighed. He would have to do this on his own.

Tai slipped on a sweater as he bolted out the front door, not bothering to comb his hair. Owing almost solely to his celebrity status, the messy shock of brown locks had become the style of the day for many status-seeking teenage boys, both in Japan and abroad. He also slipped on a loose-fitting pair of shoes over his sweat socks as he went. But then, just outside the door, a thought struck him as he looked down at those shoes. Sora... before she had left...

"For Pete's sake, Tai! Please let me wash those socks. You haven't changed them in two weeks and the smell is starting to wilt the plants!"

Women. What did they know about sports? He had tried to explain to his wife that his team had won five straight games with him in those socks, and he wasn't about to take them off and risk a loss in the most important game of the season just for her plant's sake. True, the smell was a bit rancid... well, almost overpowering if he was being totally honest about it, but if he could learn to breath only with his mouth for a few weeks, he didn't see why she couldn't.

The young man stepped out of his apartment building into the cool midmorning air, shaking his head as the temperature cleared his head somewhat. Thankfully the hangov-, or rather, the headache was starting to clear away as well.

As he made his way towards the gushing fountain, his brain worked frantically. Never once had he doubted that the mysterious voice on the other end of the phone would know if he were to attempt to contact the police. He had seemed to be aware when Tai had acknowledged the presence of the fountain outside his window instead of actually looking at it... and in any event, Sora's safety was just too important to risk if all that the kidnapper was to require of him was a little bit of public humiliation. He loved her too much for that.

Tai scowled as he stepped up to the fountain, but saw no way around this. This was, in all likelihood, his fault. Sora never offended anyone, or had done anything to make anyone want to kidnap her. He on the other hand... well, the truth was that he probably had enemies all over the whole of Japan. How many fanatical supporters of other teams had seen their dreams dashed because of his stellar play? After the news of the latest contract that he had just signed, how many knew of his financial security... which threatened to turn into genuine wealth if his play remained at this level for the next several years?

The young man rolled up the legs of his sweatpants, waited for a moment until the crowds were at their thinnest, and then waded into the splashing, frigid waters of the fountain. He inhaled deeply, catching his breath between clenched teeth as the water instantly soaked through his shoes and lucky socks to numb his toes and ankles. In all honesty... he hadn't really expected the water to be quite that cold.

Mothers with young children averted their eyes and compelled their broods forward as they noticed the evidently insane man stepping into the fountain. Several of the youngsters giggled and laughed as they watched him, but none for very long as their parents became anxious to get them away as soon as possible. Rolling his eyes, Tai trudged through the frigid pool and placed himself directly below one of the ornate fountainheads which gushed veritable gallons of the icy water down upon his wild hair.

The young man cleared his throat, begging with his eyes for the few bystanders that stopped to stare at him to continue on their way. And then...

"Mary had a little lamb

It's fleece was white as snow

And everywhere that Mary went

The lamb was sure to go."

Several jaws dropped open in amazement as Tai repeated the words, and a couple of men standing nearby were plainly laughing at him. He groaned inwardly, but continued his recital despite the looks and snickers directed in his direction. If he was brave enough to stand up to Etimon for Sora's sake, what was a little public humiliation? And so, peering at the crowd through the jungle that the wet tendrils of hair formed in front of his eyes, Tai continued to recite the nursery rhyme.

When finally the young man had said it three times, he sloshed his way back through the icy waters and stepped out of the fountain. Nearby, a little boy was staring in wide-eyed amazement at the grown-up who had just gone swimming in all of his clothes, and he pulled at the hem of his mother's skirt to bring her attention to the detail. Tai gave the little child a quick glance, then turned and shoved his way through the gathering of loudly guffawing men on his way back to his apartment building.

Sora... Sora had been talking about wanting to have a baby...

Tai was deep in thought all the while as he passed through the building on the way to their apartment. He had been brushing off her romantic advances rather brusquely during the past few weeks. After all, they could have a baby any time... the Emperor's Cup came around only once a year. And with that thought the young man started to wonder. Had he been ignoring the important things in his life for the trivial?

Tai stripped off the sopping wet shirt and tossed it lazily in a corner as he entered into the apartment, shivering with the cold. And then as the heavy sweatshirt hit the wall with a solid smack, leaving a watery stain on the white wall, Sora's words came back to him again.

"Tai Kamiya! Do you go out of your way to make a mess, or does it take too much time to walk three steps down the hall and put it in the hamper?"

Tai looked around guiltily, then walked over and picked up the sweatshirt, balling it up in his fists and flinging it down the hallway and into the half-empty clothes hamper. Perfect shot. Two points. T.K. would be appreciative.

It was then that Tai noticed that the sliding glass door which led out onto his balcony was ajar. Funny... he could have sworn that it had been closed when he had left. And now, as a frigid breeze wafted its way inside to caress his already too cold skin...

Just as he was about to pull the door shut, the telephone in the living room startled him from his reverie with its loud jangling. The young man leapt over the sofa in a single bound and grabbed for the receiver, veritably snatching it from the hook. "Hello?" he answered breathlessly.

"Ah, very good Mister Kamiya. So you do care something for your wife after all... there were some here who doubted that such was the case. I am pleased to see that I am once again proven correct. And such an excellent recital. The child whom you were staring at seemed to think that you had performed particularly well."

Tai clenched his fist, suddenly very angry for his lack of attention to detail. He should have been more aware of the faces in the crowd. Somewhere among all of those people was the man who had taken his wife... or someone who was working with him. The man's words had indicated multiple kidnappers...

"Now, Mister Kamiya, for your next task I want you to gather together all of your trophies and awards and plaques and place them in a large bag-"

Tai's lips curled. The monetary value of his awards was large, yes, but the sentimental value...

"-then take them down to the pier and throw them into the ocean."

Tai's mouth fell open. "W... What? Why?"

"Why, for your wife, Mister Kamiya. Oh, and on the couch right next to your hand you will find a cellular phone. Take that with you, please, so that you don't need to come back here for your next instructions. Now go quickly." And then the line went dead.

Tai leapt to his feet, alarmed as he saw the little black object right where the voice on the other line said that it would be. Somebody... somebody had been in his apartment! But how? The door had been locked...

The young man's eyes turned to the sliding door once again, and he rushed outside and looked down. Twelve stories down, all the way to the ground. Was it possible? Who was it that had taken her? Spiderman?

Tai angrily snatched a laundry bag from the counter as he went back in, frowned, then sat it back down and grabbed a larger one from the other side of the room. All of his trophies, the man had said. All of them. All of his dozens of awards and plaques. He looked down at his fingers. His championship rings. And the man had been in his house, and knew so much about him. He would know how many there truly were...

The young man angrily swept the mantel clear of his trophies, won over three years of impossibly good play. He paused as he came to the last... the largest. It had been laid in his hands by the emperor himself. The rest, they were probably replaceable. That one was unique. But then with a sigh of resignation, he swept it into the bag as well. As long as the demands were not too excessive, he would not risk Sora's safety by arguing or attempting a deception.

It was then that Tai noticed a picture laying on its face, forgotten behind the long line of garish, golden awards. Placing his sack to the side he picked the frame up, taking a deep breath and blowing away the thick layer of dust that had formed on its surface, then rubbing it clean with his hand.

The young man felt almost heartbroken... it was a picture of he and Sora on their wedding day, all those years ago. How long it had lay there, forgotten, to accumulate that much dust he wasn't certain. He had always loved that picture, and the way that the girl's eyes were almost glowing as she looked at him. She had been so... so gorgeous in her wedding dress. And he had been so happy...

A tear dripped from his eye onto the glass before he replaced the frame up upon the mantel once again, this time standing it up so that it would never again have the chance to be forgotten. A wave of massive guilt crashed over Tai. Was his current situation with Sora like that? Buried and forgotten behind the glories of his profession? When had that happened? Why had it happened? He loved Sora... loved her more than his job and his fame and all of the other things that came with it. Yet as he looked back over the last three years... yes. He had been paying too little attention to her.

Tai snarled fiercely as he stuffed the last of the plaques into the cloth bag. He was going to get her back. No matter what it took, no matter what the kidnapper demanded, he would have her back. And the first thing that he'd do would be to apologize to his wife. Apologize and beg her forgiveness. And if she was hurt... there would be hell to pay. After all, with the friends that he had, no one who made him angry was totally safe. Not unless you called having a giant, orangish, fire-breathing dinosaur tearing down your house around your ears 'safe'.

Pausing only long enough to get on some dry clothing, Tai departed his apartment once again, this time with the heavy cloth bag draped over his shoulder. Sora, I'm sorry. So, so sorry that I've let it become like this. Just be okay and... and I promise that things will change. Be like they were before...


Tai stood at the edge of the wooden pier, the large cloth bag dangling from his hand as he stared out at the foamy waves crashing against the sharp rocks on the shore. And once again, as he looked, his thoughts were of his missing wife. She had loved the ocean, had loved it when the two of them had been able to just forget about their responsibilities and jobs and to go down to the water's edge and just watch the same waves that he was watching now. In fact, it had been on such a date that he had finally worked up the nerve to propose to her.

She had seemed so happy, tears of joy filling her eyes as she had said yes. Maybe not as happy as he was, but she had been truly happy. At least, for the first year...

Tai forcefully pulled the championship rings off of his fingers and added them to the bag. Now all that was left to adorn his hand was the one Ring which was truly important to him... the one that should have been most important to him all along, if only he hadn't forgotten. He thought back over the past year... how many times had he broken her heart?

With a shout the young man took a step forward and flung the heavy bag out into the surf, watching it as it sailed, seemingly in slow motion to his eyes, out into the water with an enormous splash. The water in which it landed was quite deep, but the weight of the heavy objects therein quickly pulled it under.

With a sigh the young man suddenly realized that he felt quite a bit unburdened. Despite having lost those objects which had seemed to mean so much to him for the past years, he felt better. Winning the stupid things had become a goal unto itself recently, as if he would be disappointing everyone who knew and looked up to him if he didn't win the next one, one more gaudy and meaningful. And maybe he would disappoint a lot of people... but there was one person that he knew who wouldn't care if he never won another trophy for his entire life. And it was her opinion that would matter to him.

Tai blinked from his reverie as the phone at his side started to sound, and without even looking down the young man snatched it from his belt and held it up to his ear as he flipped it open. "Done."

"Very good, Mister Kamiya. You're doing a truly splendid job. Just one more task for you before we get down the most serious part. I want you to go to Odaiba Memorial Stadium, and there replace all of the material that you have posted around your locker with photographs of you and your wife. You know, I believe, the material to which I refer. And you must confess to everyone that you see there that you are indeed married, and express to them what you feel for your wife."

Tai had the grace to blush. While he had never actually denied his marital status to anyone around the organization, neither had he gone out of his way to clarify the fact that he was, indeed, married... and the material posted around his locker was almost, but not quite, pornographic. The honest truth, though he hated it now in light of the current situation, was that he had liked to have dozens of available and attractive young women fawning over him around each and every corner. Sora never came to his games, saying that she couldn't stand the crowds or the noise or things of that nature... but in all honesty, he had never tried to get her to come, either. Did she, perhaps, sense his reluctance to have her there?

"Precipitately, please, Mister Kamiya. Time draws short! Ouch..."

Tai pulled the phone away from his ear to stare at it. "What was that?"

"Quickly, please, Mister Kamiya. To the stadium."

And then the line was dead.


"Oww!" the 'kidnapper' protested, grabbing the back of his suddenly tender head with his hand as he glared at the one standing at his side. "What was that for?"

The stern, yellow-haired young man rolled his eyes in response. "You're supposed to be talking like a criminal, Izzy! 'Precipitately'? What the hell does that even mean?"

"A wave of the hand or tap on the shoulder would've been enough," the other groused sourly. "You didn't have to hit me. Besides, you almost broke this thing," he said, indicating the impossibly complex voice-modulation unit that he had screwed on to the mouthpiece of the phone. "It's kind of delicate."

Over the shoulder of the pair, a joyous cry escaped from the lips of the brown haired teenaged girl as she rode piggy-back on another blond-haired young man, this one slightly younger than his brother. "Whee!" the girl exclaimed, reaching down to slap her mount on the behind to get him moving faster.

The older blond whirled on his brother and sister-in-law. "Jeez, break it up already, you two! This is serious stuff were doing here! Kari, if you want to ride him, take him back to your hotel and do it right."

The newlyweds each blushed a dark red, T.K. lowering his bride off of his back slowly as they came over to join the others in the little 'control center' which Izzy had set up in apartment one floor directly above Tai and Sora's. On the couch nearby, Mimi was talking with Joe while Sora sat next to Izzy at the desk on which rested the high-tech equipment that he was using to modulate his voice. Matt, arms folded over his chest, looked around the room at the others. He was nominally in charge here. After all, it was he who had noticed how sad and depressed that the Sora was when he had stopped in for a surprise visit one night late last month.

Of course, his solution to the problem would have been to punch Tai in the nose then and there and tell him to start paying attention to her again. It had taken T.K. and Kari (who evidently could not bear to be kept apart from one another) to suggest the idea of the 'kidnapping'. Izzy had been persuaded to coordinate the crime, borrowing the necessary equipment from his colleagues at M.I.T and traveling halfway around the world to set it up. Mimi, of course, had come along, and (though he was entirely against the idea) Joe had been persuaded to join them after heartfelt pleas from both her and Kari.

"Izzy, this is almost done. Just try to keep that huge vocabulary under wraps until he gets finished with this, 'k? If he hears you talking like that, he'll know something's up. You okay, Sora?"

The red-haired young woman was resting her chin on her folded arms as she stared sadly out the window. "I... I just don't like putting Tai through something like this. I mean... I mean, that last time he actually sounded worried."

Matt grinned broadly, reaching down and placing a hand on her soft auburn hair. "That's the idea, isn't it? If he's not then we've all wasted a whole lot of time setting this up. Don't worry, Sora. He really does love you, and it's not going to hurt him too much to be reminded of it. In the end, it'll probably do him some good, too. You two were meant to be together; all of us know that. He just isn't happy this way, no matter how much he pretends he is. Sure, it might have been fun for him for a while to be idolized by hundreds of thousands, but that gets old fast. Trust me, I know. Like Kari said, he won't be really happy until we make him remember what he's got with you."

Sora looked up and returned a weary smile. It was so, so nice to think that they might all be right. She was somewhat ashamed of her inability to read Tai as she had always been able, but lately her own emotions had been getting in the way and causing her a lot of confusion. And also, there was the fact that Tai wasn't the easiest person in the world to read in the first place. If there was no challenge involved in what he was doing, he seemed to get bored so easily.

The young woman turned to Kari and T.K. as the newlyweds continued to play with one another, having usurped Mimi and Joe's seats on the couch. Once, at first, it had been like that with her and Tai. But then after a few months, her husband had seemed to decide that the wedding had been the end of that challenge, and had set himself up for another one by becoming the finest soccer player that Japan had ever seen. And-

"Hello? Izzy?" came a piping voice over the speaker box at the red-haired young man's elbow.

Izzy flipped a switch. "I'm here, Patamon. Go ahead," he responded, speaking directly into the microphone. Patamon and Biyomon were now the eyes of this operation, working as a team fluttering along, unseen, behind Tai. But they had to be cautious, If the brown-haired young man should happen spot them the gig would almost certainly be up immediately, as it would have been near-on impossible for the pair to explain why they were following him and why Patamon was outfitted with a hands-free communications headset strapped to his back and why Biyomon had a pair of digitally enhanced binoculars draped over her avian eyes.

Static came over the airwaves. Izzy had rigged an enhancement to the device, which had not really been designed to operate over such long distances, but a proper modification would have made it far too heavy for Pata to carry. So they had to make due with what they had. "Izzy, Biyomon says that Tai is doing what you told him to. I guess he-" a brief burst of static interrupted the digimon's report for a moment...

Izzy flipped a pair of switches. "- and put them all over his locker. We can't hear what he's saying, but most of his teammates that are there look surprised about something and the girls that he's talking to seem..." the little creature broke off for a moment, and Izzy caught snatches of another conversation. "What'd you say, Biyomon? Crestfallen?" The little digimon got back on the line. "-crestfallen. She says that she thinks that means that it's working."

"Okay guys, thanks. Keep watching him, 'k?" Izzy said, and heard Patamon repeat the words to his partner. Just as the young man flipped the switch to terminate the transmission, he thought he caught the heated reply of the bird-type digimon. "Who's he calling a guy...?"

Izzy turned to Kari, who was engaged in a rather rough tickling match with her new husband. With a roll of his eyes he cleared his throat. "Well Kari, this is your idea and he's your brother. Think he's had enough time to stew over this?"

The brown-haired teen looked briefly at Sora, compassion in her eyes. For her sake, and for Tai's, she hoped that they had done enough. Time to find out how well she truly did know her brother... "Right," she said, nodding and rising to her feet.


Tai held the phone close to his ear as he stood outside the darkened warehouse to which he had been lead, feeling more free than he had felt in... well, in a very long time indeed. No longer would he deny his wife. He had cleared up any misconceptions that he might well have encouraged in the past among the employees of his soccer team. His teammates, the staff... the cheerleaders who used to fawn over him in the past; all of them now knew of his wife and of his deep and unshakable love for her. No longer would he allow himself the shameful pleasure of watching women melt into veritable puddles of goo at his feet. There was only one woman for him, and that was all he needed.

"Well then, Mister Kamiya," the voice echoed at him as he stood stoically in front of the steel warehouse door. "It appears as though you do indeed love your wife. You see, we had to make sure of this before we made our final demand of you, to insure that you took us seriously. Now we invite you inside, so that you may acquiesce to our final demand."

Trap! the young man's mind screamed at him. Over the years of his life, the adventures that he had been a part of, Tai had developed an almost infallible instinct to tell him when something was not right... and this was definitely not right. Thus far the kidnappers had demanded nothing from him that would profit them anything. They had only seemed interested in taking away from him, but in a strange way had given back to him something that he had lost some time ago.

Would they kill him now? Had this entire kidnapping just been a way to make him appear erratic, perhaps suicidal, before they murdered him? As he briefly thought over the idea, the more it made sense to him. If he were to be found dead, perhaps shot, in this warehouse... alone, after what he had done this day, the police might well suspect that it had been some sort of psychosis which might well have ended in suicide. And there would be witnesses aplenty to prove it...

Tai shook off the thought and reached for the cold, smooth metal of the door handle. If this was what it took, so be it. He could not leave without giving up Sora, and he had had enough of putting his own life above hers. If he was right, and this was all some intricate plot to see him dead by some faceless, anonymous syndicate... well, that was a chance he would have to take. He had always known that he would, if need be, die for her. So perhaps that time had now come...

The phone that the young man had held up to his ear crackled into life, Tai having forgotten that the call had not yet been terminated by either party. And the words of his unknown tormentor... they sounded to him like those which had been converging in his own brain... words that only his closest friends were privy to. "Well, Mister Kamiya, the time has finally come. Will you give what you value most for her?"

Tai's blood ran cold but he did not answer, turning the knob and stepping forward into the inky blackness. "Sora!" he called out fiercely, no trace of fear in his voice as he heard his call echo back at him.

And then, at that same moment, an artificial light like the dawning of a new day exploded throughout the room, threatening to blind him as the metal door slammed shut at his back. The young man raised an arm to shield his eyes from the glare and called out once again, his voice breaking. "Sora!"

"Tai! I'm here!" he heard his wife's voice from the far side of the room.

Now the young man chanced to look up, still squinting his eyes against the dazzling light in the room. Sora was there, yes, on the far side of the warehouse. And surrounding her, two on each side, were four figures cloaked in long, brown robes. As Tai approached them slowly and silently, the one on the far left stepped forward. "Well, we all already know that you'd die for her if need be. The real question right now is, will you live for her, Mister Kamiya?"

"What the... Matt?"

"What, you were expecting yet another incarnation of Myotismon, maybe?" the tall blond answered from his position across the room.

Tai was still walking slowly forward, seemingly in a daze as one of the figures on the right took a stepped to Matt's side, at the same time brushing back her hood. "You see, Tai, we just couldn't let you keep doing that to yourself or to Sora. We all know how much you love her, and how much she loves you. And we're your friends, so when we saw the both of you so sad we had to do something to make you remember."


The figure beside his little sister came forward and took her hand. "Don't take her for granted, Tai. Real love, genuine love, is far too rare to be forgotten about just because it doesn't seem fun or challenging to you anymore."


And then the last figure stepped forward, pulling back his hood and looking from Tai to the others and back again. After a few moments of awkward silence, five pairs of eyes focused on Joe. The oldest of them all seemed to sulk a bit in response. "Okay, so? I'm the only one who didn't think of something clever or astute to say. I didn't think this was a good idea in the first place..."

Tai's teeth snapped shut as he clenched his fists, for a brief moment very angry at the others. "This... this was all a trick? Do you four know the hell that you've put me through today? I've been worried sick!"

And then Sora was in his arms, holding him tightly as she buried her face into his broad chest. "I think that was the idea, dear." She nodded to T.K. and Kari. "Their idea, to be more specific. And before you get mad, just remember that they all did this because they love you. All of your friends put aside whatever they were doing in their lives just to come here and to try to make you... well, to make us happy."

The brown-haired young man was still grimacing at his friends, trying his best to stay angry with them, but after a moment he sighed visibly, his shoulders sagging and his head bowing. "I guess... I guess I've been a real jerk for the past few months, huh Sora?"

As their four friends looked on, the auburn-haired young woman reached out and gently lifted up her husband's bowed chin. She nodded tenderly for a bit, then pulled him close. "Tai, I understand how important your career is to you, and I'm not offended that you like to spend time at it. Just please don't forget me while you're doing it. I love you, I love you so much it hurts sometimes, and when you turn your back on what we're trying to build together..."

Tai broke off her words by drawing her close and kissing her ardently. How smart his sister was. It took that little mischief on her part and the love of his friends to make him see what he really had with his wife. So his trophies were gone; so he'd made a fool out of himself in front of a few dozen people. And the fact that the cheerleaders knew that he was now off-limits... well, that was bound to be for the better anyway. In the end not one of those things would really matter. He promised them a long time ago that he'd die for Sora if need be. Now...

He broke off the kiss and looked for Matt. The answer, of course, had already been confirmed by the kiss, but Tai thought it best to speak it as well. "Yes, Matt, I will. I guess I really should have been doing it all along, but now that I think about it, yes. I most definitely will live for her, too."

The others nodded in satisfaction, but Sora still looked just a bit dissatisfied. Tai, just moments ago living with the fear that he would never again be able to look into her eyes, noticed the perturbed look at once. "Sora? What... what's wrong, dear?"

The other chewed on her lip. "It just occurred to me that Izzy would have told you to do just about anything today, and you would have done it, right?"

Tai blinked. "Izzy?" He paused. "Oh. Of course. 'Precipitately'." With a sigh, he continued. "Yes, Sora. Anything... I guess I really would have."

His wife wrinkled her nose. "It just occurred to me that that would have been the perfect opportunity to get rid of those socks. Or to have you get a haircut. Or give the cat a bath. Or-"

As Sora continued down a long... very long, list of improvements that she'd like to see made, and Tai sank deeper and deeper into the feeling that he would very willingly submit to each and every one, Kari grinned at T.K. Their plan had worked out almost flawlessly, saving Sora a broken heart and Tai a broken nose. All in all, it had been a honeymoon very well spent...