Disclaimer: Digimon does not belong to me. It belongs to Toei and Disney. The idea for this story belongs to me. All your base are belong to us.
Author's Note: This story takes place a few years in the future, so Daisuke should be assumed to be in his mid-teens, with all other ages adjusted accordingly.
Daisuke could tell by the thick swathes of sunbeams that were pouring through the cabin window that it was already late in the morning. Nevertheless, he was slow to want to awaken. He stretched carefully, yawned once or twice, and carefully blinked his sleep-blurred eyes a few times, trying to adjust himself to the unfamiliar sights and sounds around him. He was not, in fact, in his room back in Odaiba, or even back in the Digital World. Instead, he was in a neat little cabin, suitable for two people, or in this case, one boy and one Digimon, provided they didn't mind living in a small space. Such a thing was hardly objectionable, since they could see through the window that there was plenty of great outdoors just outside: ranges of picturesque mountains, unspoiled forests, and a glittering lake where vacationers were skimming across its surface in boats. Daisuke's cabin was positioned so that he could even, distantly, catch a glimpse of a little beach where children in brightly colored swimsuits were building sand castles or wading in the shallows. Birds chattered happily in the trees. Daisuke smiled.
Oh, yeah, that's right, he thought. I'm on vacation. Various memories of the last couple of days trickled through his brain: the invitation, his mad rush to pack, boating on the lake, the party at the main lodge, dancing with Hikari... he blushed and grinned foolishly.
Some weeks ago, the owner of this particular vacation resort had been going over his finances and realizing he wasn't making nearly enough money from the meager stream of visiting vacationers to turn a profit, or even keep his resort in repair. After several desperate attempts to draw more of a crowd, he'd hit on an idea: ever since the Chosen Children had rescued their fair city from the invasion attempts of assorted monsters, they had enjoyed a certain amount of fame. People came from far and wide to get a glimpse of them, so why not invite them to the resort? He had sent out letters to each of them, inviting them and their partners to stay a week free of charge. Since the summer holidays were near at hand and the months of free time needed filling up, they had accepted the offer eagerly. Most of the older Chosen Children had seen the humor in having a get-together at a mountain resort, even if it wasn't for summer camp.
Daisuke finally dragged himself out of bed, dressed in a desultory fashion, and began grooming himself for another day of excitement and adventure. He was humming happily to himself, if not completely on-key, still smiling. His partner (who, after all, didn't need to dress or brush his hair like Daisuke did) watched him from the foot of the bed.
"Musta had a good time last night," V-mon commented slyly.
Daisuke grinned. "Sure did! I mean, come on, I finally get Hikari to go on a date with me and you think I didn't have a good time?"
"She only went with you 'cause she couldn't have Takeru," V-mon teased.
Daisuke threw a plastic cup at him, which wouldn't be so bad except that it was still full of the water Daisuke was using to brush his teeth. Water went all over V-mon, the floor, and portions of the bed.
"Hey, watch it!" V-mon squeaked. "That's cold!"
"Sorry," said Daisuke. "Anyway, she had fun with me. She said so! Well, as good as said so."
"Cool!" said V-mon. "Maybe you'll see her at breakfast. I'd like breakfast."
Daisuke laughed. "You always want breakfast - and lunch, and dinner, and midnight snacks!"
"So let's eat already!"
The boy bowed to the inevitable and decided he was groomed well enough for a day of running around in the mountains, so the two of them headed off to the main lodge, where breakfast was being served. V-mon kept trying to scamper ahead, then looking back impatiently while he waited for his partner to catch up, but Daisuke was taking it easy. He wasn't particularly hungry, despite the fact that it was past the breakfast hour and approaching time for lunch, and he was more intent on enjoying the scenery. It was a perfect day, with a brisk cool breeze blowing and an abundance of sunlight warming the earth. It somehow seemed so much sunnier up here in the mountains than it did in the city, and Daisuke found himself wondering idly if it was because they were that much closer to the sun. He was so wrapped up in his musings that he didn't notice Taichi coming from the other direction until they had nearly collided.
"Oh, hi, Taichi!" said Daisuke cheerfully. "Nice day, huh?"
"Don't start with that," Taichi snapped. "You can't fool me!"
Daisuke blinked, trying to get his mind into the correct gear and having trouble deciding exactly what that might be. He might have had an easier time if it had been anyone but Taichi. He still had his minor squabbles with Takeru, was reamed out regularly by Miyako, and even Iori occasionally lost his temper with Daisuke's antics, but Taichi had never taken that tone of voice with him before. "I... can't?"
"Knock it off. You're not fooling anybody. I know what you've been up to," Taichi spat.
"Well, I wish you'd clue me in. I thought I was sleeping."
Taichi gave a mirthless laugh. "Sure. That's exactly what you were doing. Man, I can't believe you! I thought - I thought - geez, I thought I could trust you! How could you do this to me - man, how could you do this to her?"
"To who?" said Daisuke blankly. "Quit ranting and make sense!"
"Forget it," Taichi said. He turned on his heel and stalked off, with Agumon trailing worriedly behind him.
"What was that all about?" Daisuke wondered.
"I don't know," said V-mon, "but I think you'd better try to find out before you try to talk to anyone else."
"How am I supposed to find out what's going on if I don't ask someone?" said Daisuke, frustrated.
"Well, maybe you'd better ask someone who doesn't yell quite so much?" V-mon suggested.
They thought about this a moment.
"Right," said Daisuke. "Better find Iori."
Thankfully, finding Iori was fairly easy. The owner of the resort had kindly arranged that the whole group would have cabins more-or-less close together, with the boys clustered together on one side and the girls on the other. Daisuke vaguely remembered watching everyone else move in, and scoured his memory, trying to remember which one housed the youngest of the Chosen. After a few moments of careful thought, he walked up to the cabin on the end and knocked hesitantly on the door.
"Who is it?" asked Iori's voice.
"Umm... It's me. I guess," said Daisuke.
"Why? Aren't you sure?"
"I'm not sure if I want to be me today. I think I'm in trouble," said Daisuke. "I need some help finding out for sure, so I know whether to run off into the hills and become a hermit or something."
"Oh. Well, in that case, you'd better come in."
Daisuke opened the door and slipped inside - and nearly tripped over Armadimon, who was stretched out on the floor.
"Whoops! Sorry!" said Daisuke, hopping around to avoid falling over.
Iori regarded him with his usual cool stare. His room was, of course, as neat and clean as if he'd spent the whole morning cleaning it. Daisuke couldn't even see any signs of suitcases; the whole place looked less as if Iori had arrived there yesterday and more as if he'd been living there all his life. Daisuke's own room had a duffel bag in the middle of the floor, with various items of clothing inching out of it as if they were trying to escape. The clothes he'd worn yesterday were thrown over the back of a chair.
"Come in and sit down," said Iori, "and tell me what's on your mind."
"Well, it's like this," Daisuke said, picking out a convenient patch of floor. "Taichi's totally ticked off at me, and I have no idea what I did. Except I don't think I did. I mean, you haven't seen me do anything worse than usual lately, have you?"
"Now that you mention it, no," said Iori thoughtfully. "You're right, though, that is odd. Taichi hardly ever gets angry at you."
"I've never seen him this mad," Daisuke agreed. He frowned. "He said something about me doing something to him... and her, whoever she is."
Iori looked up at the ceiling, thoughtfully tapping a finger to his chin. "You didn't do anything while you were on your date with Hikari, did you?"
"What? Nah, no way! I just danced with her and walked her back to her cabin. The end."
Daisuke shrugged. "I went to bed. Wouldn't you?"
"I guess. And you didn't do anything else?"
"Well, I woke up and got a snack once."
Iori gave that the same grave consideration he gave everything else. "Well, I can't see anyone getting worked up about that."
"Me neither," said Daisuke. "So what do you think? What should I do? Taichi won't believe I didn't do anything, and I don't know what he thinks I did."
"Well, I propose to find out," said Iori. "Carefully, of course."
"Once we know, we can go about proving your innocence."
Daisuke looked surprised. "You're that sure I'm innocent?"
"Of course. You're a lot of things, Daisuke, but you're not a liar. I can't believe you'd do something to upset Taichi on purpose, either. This is probably all just a big misunderstanding. We'll get it smoothed out."
Daisuke beamed. "Thanks, Iori! You're the best! I knew I could count on you."
Iori offered one of his rare smiles. "That's what I do. You can hide out here a while, until we know what's going on, if you like." He climbed to his feet. "Excuse me. I'm going to go get to the bottom of this."
He walked serenely out the door of the cabin. Daisuke found his optimism - never very far away - being restored. You could always rely on Iori. These mountains would fall into the ocean before Iori would let you down. Iori would make everything all right...
Some hours before Daisuke had awakened, Taichi had still been in a relatively good mood. He had enjoyed himself at the party - lots of people had come to see the famous Chosen Children, and he'd found a very nice young lady to dance with, and they'd made plans to go hiking together later today. Most of his thoughts were occupied with that when he sat down to breakfast.
A few other members of the group were also arriving or already there, eating their pancakes and chatting amiably. Breakfast was an informal meal, and some people had either gotten up early and had theirs already, or were sleeping in and wouldn't be there until later, but there were still enough people left over that Taichi had a reasonable number of people to talk to. He took a seat between Jyou and Koushiro and reached for the syrup bottle.
"Morning, guys!" he said cheerily.
"Yep," said Yamato, in the slightly muzzy fashion of someone who has stayed up later than he's used to. He tried and failed to hide a yawn.
Takeru, who had skipped the dance entirely and was wide awake, laughed. "Must have been some party! I'm sorry I missed it." He glared down at his foot, which was swathed in elastic bandages, courtesy of an accident he'd had on the hiking trail. "Hope everyone else had a good time, anyway."
"It was all right," said Jyou, who had a girlfriend back in Tokyo and had only attended to make sure he didn't miss anything.
"Oh, I don't know," Ken mused. "I thought it was kind of nice, myself."
"That's because you draw girls like sugar draws ants," Gomamon teased.
"Hey, I can't help that," said Ken. "You know I wouldn't if I could do anything about it."
"So who was that girl you were talking to, then, huh?" asked Taichi. "I saw you. You didn't dance with anyone else all night."
Ken flushed and suddenly became very interested in his breakfast. Wormmon chuckled quietly.
A few of the other people at the table laughed... but not Miyako. She was being uncharacteristically quiet, and kept biting her lip and shifting uncomfortably as if there was something she couldn't quite bring herself to say. Hawkmon kept shooting her anxious glances. Eventually her fidgeting drew Taichi's attention.
"What's eating you?" he asked. "You look like you've got ants in your undies."
"Well...." she said slowly. "It's just that... I know someone else who had a good time last night."
"Is that all?" said Yamato. "That's what parties are for, after all. Why make a big deal out of it?"
She shot him a glare. "That's not exactly what I meant."
"Well, what did you mean?" asked Takeru. "It's too early in the morning for guessing games."
Miyako took a deep breath. "I mean, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathhouse, and when I came back, I saw Daisuke heading back to his cabin."
Ken blinked. "That can't be right. He left the party early. What was he doing out at that hour?"
"That's what I was wondering," said Miyako, "considering he was leaving Hikari's cabin, and his clothes were all messed up and his shoes were on the wrong feet."
"He what?" said Jyou.
"He was?" Takeru exclaimed.
"Hikari?" Taichi yelped.
Miyako nodded. "I saw him with my own eyes."
"There's got to be a logical explanation for that," said Koushiro doubtfully.
There was a small screeching sound. It was caused by Taichi jamming his fork so forcefully into his plate that its tines were bending.
"Then he can give it to me," said Taichi, "after I kill him."
Fortunately, Taichi had simmered down slightly by the time Iori found him. The younger boy found him standing by a deserted stretch of lake, throwing rocks into the water. Each one was hurled forcefully, sending up large splashes as they struck the surface. Yamato was sitting nearby, looking slightly bewildered over what he could do for his friend besides sit and offer his silent support. Iori walked up and tugged Taichi's shirtsleeve to get his attention.
"You might consider the safety of the fish," he said.
Taichi stopped just short of tossing another rock and looked down. Iori had moved so quietly that the older boy hadn't even noticed him.
"Oh," he said. "I guess you're right. It's just... have you heard what's going on?"
"Nothing conclusive," said Iori. "I know you're angry at Daisuke, but I missed some of the details."
Taichi's expression creased with fury. "I don't think I want the details. I wish Miyako had kept her big mouth shut."
"She's involved in this?" asked Iori, thinking, Well, that explains a lot.
Yamato stirred himself to walk over and join them. "Miyako says she saw Daisuke leaving Hikari's cabin late last night, and Taichi's working himself up about it."
"You shouldn't do that," said Iori. "You don't know he was doing anything wrong. He could have just been... visiting," he finished lamely.
Taichi raised his eyebrows. "Apparently whatever he was doing, it involved taking his clothes off. Miyako says his jacket was only half on, his shirt buttoned crooked, he'd lost his tie and his belt, and his shoes were on the wrong feet. How do you explain that?"
"I don't," said Iori. "I'm not going to explain anything. I didn't see a thing. Have you tried asking Daisuke for an explanation?"
Taichi flushed slightly. "I almost did. But he denied everything... but Miyako exaggerates sometimes, but she doesn't lie... but I never thought Daisuke would do something like this..."
"How about Hikari?" said Iori. "It takes two to tango, you know. Have you asked her about all this?"
Taichi ran a hand through his hair. "Funny, I haven't seen her all day. Geez, do you think we should look for her?"
"I think we should look for everybody," said Iori. "It's pretty obvious something is going on. I can see that. It's also obvious that none of us know the full story yet. I say, before we draw any conclusions, we get everybody's side of the story. Then we can put it all together and see if it makes any sense."
When Taichi hesitated a moment, Yamato said, "It would be a whole lot more productive than trying to brain all the fish in the lake."
"I guess you're right," his friend sighed. "I don't want to believe this about Daisuke, but when I don't have any other answers..."
"We'll get to the bottom of this," said Iori. "Come on, let's find the others."
Mimi was the first to see Hikari that morning. It was customary for Mimi to sleep late whenever she could get away with it, doubly so when she'd been to a party the night before, and she'd been among the last of the guests to leave. Now she was brushing her long hair and idly watching the rest of the world through her window. There wasn't a lot of world for her to see, but what there was certainly was pretty. Her cottage was the last in the row, and this particular window looked out on nothing more than some trees and a hiking trail. She hadn't expected to see anything more exciting than a few forest animals at this time of day. Instead, she saw a lone hiker coming up the trail... no, not alone, she had a large white cat with her. Mimi smiled as she recognized a friend.
"Hey! Hikari!" she called.
Hikari caught sight of her and waved. She jogged closer so they could chat in comfort, and Mimi stepped out onto the porch to meet her.
"You're up early," Mimi commented.
Hikari giggled. "If you call eleven in the morning early."
"Oh?" Mimi glanced at the sky, and then at her watch. "Oh! I guess it is. Oh, well!"
"Anyway, you're still right," said Hikari. "I was up early. It was barely sunrise when I got up."
"How can you get up so early?" Mimi asked. "Especially after being out half the night!"
"I left the party early, remember? I was in bed by ten, so I woke up really early this morning with all the birds singing. It was so pretty I decided to go for a nice walk. I've been all around the lake."
"That's too much walking for me," said Mimi. "I like it better down at the beach!"
Hikari laughed. "How about we go there later? I haven't had a chance to go swimming yet."
"I don't like swimming," said Tailmon, torn between loyalty to her partner and her natural aversion to cold water.
"You can chase fish or something," Hikari suggested.
The two girls continued to make their plans, completely unaware of the breeze that was whispering around them. They didn't give a thought for the fact that it was blowing in the direction of the other cabins, particularly the one next door, where Miyako was sitting at her window, feeling guilty over the effects of her news and wondering if she ought to have kept her mouth shut.
So, Hikari woke up early this morning? she thought, frowning a little. And she says she was asleep by ten... but I saw Daisuke after midnight. If he wasn't with her... where was he?
"So, what exactly is going on?" asked Sora, as Jyou led her to the chosen meeting spot. It was a circle of logs near the part of the campground where people with tents and trailers made their campsites. Normally it was used for fireside get-togethers like storytelling sessions and marshmallow roasts, but it didn't see a lot of use during daylight hours. That made it a good place to assemble twelve Chosen Children and their Digimon companions.
"I'm not totally sure," Jyou admitted. "Iori just said, get everybody together, so that's what I'm doing. What were you doing sleeping so late?"
"I didn't leave early like you did," she answered.
They reached the circle of logs, where most of the group was already assembled, looking distressed or interested or bored according to how much they knew and how much of a stake they had in it. Those who hadn't attended that fateful breakfast discussion were still rather in the dark - an order had been issued that anyone who hadn't heard any rumors shouldn't be told any, as it might affect their judgement later. In the middle of it all stood Iori, watching them all with his changeless expression. Daisuke sat next to him, fidgeting. He hadn't been told what the charges against him were, either. Iori had decided, and Armidimon agreed, that if they told him, it would be days before they could get him to stop protesting so they could have a proper discussion.
"All right, everyone's here," said Jyou, trying to find a place where he and Gomamon could sit comfortably. "Now what happens?"
"We're going to have a little talk," said Taichi. He shot a dark look at Daisuke, who cringed slightly.
"We're going to make an attempt to ferret out some facts," Iori said calmly. "Specifically we're going to attempt to find out what exactly happened last night."
"There was a party," said Mimi. "We already know that."
"I think they're talking about something that happened afterwards," said Miyako carefully.
"So this is like a trial?" asked Jyou. "There's twelve of us; that's enough to make a jury."
Ken smiled faintly. "Twelve Angry Men."
"Hm?" asked Hikari.
"It's an American play. I read it once - it was very good," he said. "It's about these twelve jurors at a trial, and all of them but one thinks the defendant is guilty, but the one left over manages to prove he's innocent."
"So what's this?" asked Gomamon. "Twelve Angry Mon?"
"Close enough," Ken muttered.
"Order in the court," said Iori. He didn't say it loudly, but nevertheless, his voice carried, and everyone settled down. "That's better. We're going to have... well, not a trial. Just a very structured discussion. A chance for everyone to tell their side of the story, so we can see if it all makes sense. I guess we should probably start at the beginning. Hikari, would you like to begin?"
"Why me?" she asked. "I don't even know what's going on."
"Well, it began with you," said Iori. "I just want to ask a few questions. You've got nothing to worry about."
"Oh. Okay." She got up and walked forward so she was sitting on a small stool that had been pulled up near the remains of a campfire. "What do you want to ask?"
"Just for the record... you went to the dance with Daisuke last night, correct?"
"Yes, that's right. Everyone saw us."
"Would you like to tell us how this came about?"
Hikari became thoughtful. "Well, it happened kind of like this..."
It's so beautiful here, Hikari thought, looking out at the shimmering lake. She had just arrived at the resort that would be her home for the next few days, and already she liked it. It reminded her of some of the better parts of the Digital World. I think I'm going to have fun on this trip!
She took a quick glance around her cabin. The owner of the resort had been generous enough to give each child a cabin of his or her own. It would be a nice place to spend a week, and she'd already put all her things neatly away, so that it felt somewhat like home. It wasn't where she wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon, though, and she stepped out into the warm sunshine that was pouring onto her front porch.
She was not surprised to see several of her friends milling around outside, comparing notes and discussing their plans for the day. Hikari sighted Takeru and Miyako chatting in the shade of a tree and went to join them.
"Hi, guys. What's up?" she asked.
"We're just talking about the party," said Miyako. "You know, the big welcoming bash."
"Yeah, I remember hearing something about that," Hikari replied.
Miyako rolled her eyes. "You remember hearing something about it? You act like you're not the least bit interested in it."
"I bought a new dress for it," Hikari offered, smiling a little sheepishly. "You're right, though. I could live without big parties. There are always too many people there, and they make me nervous. I thought I'd just go and have dinner and look around a little, and then go back to my room."
"Don't you even have a date?" asked Takeru.
"No," she admitted. "I didn't really think I'd need one."
"I've got one!" said Miyako. "Koushiro asked me."
"I haven't got one," Takeru said. "I'll be your date, if you want, Hikari. It'll be better than going to a party alone - for both of us."
"You're probably right," said Hikari. "Well, I don't know how good a date I'll be, but sure. We might even have fun."
"Glad that's settled," Miyako said. "I've been saying you two need to get together."
Takeru laughed. "Please! No offense, Hikari, but it would be too much like dating my sister... if I had a sister. But I don't mind going out as just friends."
"Well, whatever," said Miyako, looking mildly disgruntled. "So, what do you want to do until then, huh?"
"I thought about checking out some of the hiking trails," said Takeru. "I hear there's a really nice waterfall around here, and it didn't look far on the map. We could probably make it there and back and still have time to change for dinner."
"Waterfalls are wet," said Tailmon, twitching her ears. She looked thoughtful. "Do you think there are any fish up there?"
Hikari smiled. "It wouldn't hurt to look."
"I'm in," said Miyako. "What do you say, Hawkmon? Up for a little hike?"
"I prefer to fly," he answered. "Still, it could be an inspiring sight..."
"Well, that settles it!" said Takeru, grinning. "Let's hit the trail!"
They set out. However, they'd only made it a few paces before their progress was halted by the sound of running feet. Hikari stopped and turned around to see Daisuke rushing headlong up the path. He skidded to a halt just short of crashing into her.
"Whoa!" he said, and then, "Sorry! Couldn't slow down."
"That's all right," she said. "What are you in such a hurry for? Is something wrong?"
"No, no, nothing's wrong. Um..." He trailed off, looking slightly uncomfortable, and V-mon prodded him with his elbow. "Er... I don't suppose I could talk to you privately, could I?"
"I guess," she answered. She let him lead her a few yards away, where they were sheltered by some trees. She sensed more than felt that Miyako was straining to listen in on their conversation. "So, what did you want to talk about?"
"Well, er, it's like this..." he began. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, as if he expected to be dropped in the lake any second. "Can I - that is - would you... go to the dance with me?"
Hikari was quiet. Daisuke cautiously opened one eye, and then the other.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I really am... but someone else already asked me."
"Oh," he said, downcast.
"It's nothing personal," she assured him. "Maybe... some other time?"
"I guess," he answered, looking only mildly comforted.
"Anyway, I'm going hiking with some of the others. You can come with us, if you want. I'm sure we'd enjoy your company."
"Nah," he said. "I already promised Taichi and Yamato I'd share the cost of a boat so we could go out on the lake. Can't back out now." He gave her a wan smile. "That's the way it goes, huh?"
"I guess so," she answered, matching his wry expression. "Well, see you later, then."
"Later," he said.
He and V-mon shuffled off together, Daisuke still looking dejected, and V-mon muttering, "I told you you should have asked her earlier..." Hikari shrugged and went to rejoin Miyako and Takeru.
"What was that all about?" asked Takeru.
"Oh, nothing," said Hikari. If she told him, he might feel obligated to let her out of their agreement, and then he'd be the one with no date. She hated to go back on a promise to anyone, even if they agreed to it.
Still, the hike did much to clear her mind. The scenery was stunning, with every bend in the path offering some new sight: a moss-covered glen sprinkled with flowers, a laughing brook making its way to the lake, a cluster of boulders like ancient monuments. Once they startled a rabbit, and another time they were surprised to have clumps of bark dropped on their heads by a busy woodpecker. They were used to the Digital World's brand of natural wonders, but there was a lot to be said for the kind found close to home, particularly for a band of city-grown teenagers. The Digimon were equally impressed.
At first, the trail was smooth and broad, easy to follow. Some enterprising soul had lined the edges of the path with wooden planks to mark its boundaries and keep hikers from straying. However, the further they got from the main camp, the less reliable these became. After a while, they disappeared altogether, and the going grew rough and rocky. The trail looped and twisted around the mountain, sometimes climbing steeply and then diving downwards again. Progress was slowed somewhat, but the children and their partners weren't about to be dissuaded; after all, they were still young and agile, and the views they discovered grew more breathtaking the higher they climbed. They weren't about to be put off just because they had to climb up a few hills.
It was climbing down hills that wound up undoing them. Takeru, in the lead, was attempting to negotiate a particularly steep decline, when his foot snagged on a projecting tree root. He lost his balance and toppled, with his foot still caught fast, causing it to twist painfully. He slid down the hill backwards and landed in a dusty and bedraggled heap at the bottom. The Digimon, more nimble than their partners, flew or leaped down the slope to gather at his side, while the girls half-ran, half-slid down the hill after them.
"Are you all right?" asked Patamon.
Takeru shook himself. "Well, most of me is... feels like I twisted my ankle pretty bad, though." He grimaced.
"Can you walk?" Miyako asked.
"I don't know," Takeru answered. He attempted to get to his feet, gave a cry, and fell backwards again. "Okay, now I know. I'm definitely not making it back down that trail. Ow..."
"Well, it's a good thing you don't have to," said Miyako briskly, "seeing as how we've only got three Digimon here that can sprout wings."
"Why didn't I think of that?" he said.
"Because your foot hurts?" Patamon suggested.
In any other situation, Takeru would have laughed. Instead, he fished his D-3 from his pocket and held it up, prompting a flash of light as Patamon shifted to Pegasmon. The armored steed knelt so that Takeru could more easily climb onto his back, but it still took Hikari and Miyako's combined efforts to get him settled into place. Once he was situated, Pegasmon got to his feet, moving as carefully as he could to avoid jarring his partner. He leaped into the air, glided in a circle to get his bearings, and then began flying as swiftly as he could towards camp. A moment later, Holsemon could be seen soaring after them, carrying two girls and a cat on his back.
Even before they arrived, they discovered that they'd drawn a crowd. A number of vacationers, many of whom had only come because they knew the famous Chosen Children would be there, had seen the airborne shapes in the distance, and had stopped what they were doing to watch. When Pegasmon touched down in front of the main lodge, there were almost enough people there to obstruct his landing. Three of these were a set of teenaged boys, slightly damp from splashing each other while boating.
"Takeru!" shouted Yamato, shoving his way through the crowd. Gabumon burrowed through the sea of knees ahead of him, using his horn and claws to convince people that they would be better off not getting in his partner's way. Taichi and Daisuke followed in his wake, reaching Takeru's side at almost the same time Miyako and Hikari did.
"What the heck happened?" Taichi exclaimed.
"I'm okay," said Takeru. "I just hurt my ankle is all. It's no big deal." He attempted to dismount, landed badly, and had to hop frantically on one foot to keep from falling over. His brother caught him and steadied him.
"I think we'd better get you some first-aid," Yamato said. "There should be someone inside who can help. Come on - you can lean on me."
Takeru slung an arm over Yamato's shoulder and hobbled painfully up the steps that led into the main building. Pegasmon shifted back to his Child form and flapped off after him. The crowd, sensing the spectacle was over, gradually broke up until only the other Chosen were left.
"Think he'll be okay?" asked Daisuke, watching worriedly as the door closed behind his friends. "He didn't look so good."
"I think it's probably hurting him a lot more than he's letting on," said Hikari.
"He'll be fine," Miyako said positively. "It's just a sprained ankle, not the bubonic plague. The worst that will happen is that he won't be able to go dancing."
"Dancing?" Daisuke repeated, momentarily perplexed. "Oh, you mean the party. I forgot about that. Man, and I thought I had it bad just not having a date!"
"Well, now that you mention it..." said Hikari slowly. "Takeru was my date to the dance, and since it looks like he won't be going..."
Daisuke smiled slowly. "Hey, Hikari - do you want to go to the dance with me?"
"Yes, I think I would," she answered, smiling back. "Just let me tell Takeru about it first, all right?" she added conscientiously.
"Sure, no problem, I understand," he said. "Just let me know real soon, okay?"
"I will," she promised. "I'm going to go in and see him now. Do you want to come?"
"Nah. Gotta get cleaned up," said Daisuke, indicating his wet and muddy clothing. "Just let me know how everything is, okay? Tell Takeru I hope he's back on his feet soon!"
Hikari laughed a little. "I'll do that."
"Great! See ya!"
Daisuke traipsed off looking much more cheerful than he had before. Hikari could dimly hear V-mon chanting in a singsong voice, "Daisuke's got a girlfriend! Daisuke's got a girlfriend!" Daisuke didn't seem to be particularly bothered by this idea.
Hikari and Tailmon went into the lodge, made a few inquiries of the staff, and eventually found their way to a small office where a woman who appeared to be one of the lifeguards from the lake was busy applying elastic bandages to Takeru's injured ankle. Yamato and the Digimon were watching intently, but they seemed to be certain that he was in good hands.
"Hi there," Takeru greeted. "I was wondering if you'd show up."
"Are you feeling any better?" she asked.
"It's a little early for that," he said, "but they put some stuff on it that took some of the ache out... I'll feel a lot better when they're done putting on these bandages."
"I'm almost done," said the woman. She hooked the bandage in place and stood back to admire the result. "I think that will hold. Just keep your weight off that foot for a while, and keep the bandage on for at least the next three days. I'll get you a crutch so you'll be able to move around." She exited the room, presumably in search of crutches.
"So much for the wonders of the great outdoors," said Yamato. "You'd better stick to less strenuous activities for a while. You know, playing checkers or something."
Takeru pulled a face. "Guess I'll have to. Sorry, Hikari - looks like I'm not going to be able to take you to the party, after all. Hope you don't mind too much."
"I'll be all right," she replied. "Would you mind very much, though, if I went with someone else?"
"No, of course not. Why would I mind?" he answered.
"Well, I did promise..."
"You worry too much about trying to please everyone," said Takeru. "I sure don't expect you to hang around mope just because of me. You go have fun, and tell me what I miss."
"What about you? What are you planning on doing?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe I'll hang out with Iori for a while. He never was much a dancer," said Takeru with a laugh. Hikari smiled a little as well; she knew as well as he did that all attempts to teach Iori to dance were as successful as an attempt to teach a snake to ride a bicycle. He could master the patterns of kendo with his eyes closed, but he'd never gotten the knack of the wild gyrations his friends considered dancing.
"Well, I hope you two have an exciting time," said Yamato. "Give me a call if you need anything. Send Patamon after me, if you have to."
"I'll get by," Takeru told him.
"Okay, then. I'll come around later to check on you." Yamato waved to him as he wandered off.
"I guess I'd better be going, too, if I want to be ready for the dance," said Hikari, rather apologetically.
"In a hurry, huh?" he asked teasingly. "I thought that date of yours was just hypothetical."
"Well... Daisuke sort of asked me. Twice. So I figured I might as well say yes."
Takeru laughed. "I should have known! He's nothing if not persistent. Well, I'm sure you'll have an interesting time. You tell him from me he'd better treat you right... or I'll beat him with my crutch," he added, grinning playfully.
Hikari laughed. "Right. I'll let him know. Bye, Takeru. Feel better soon!"
She waved goodbye and headed off to her cabin to change out of her sweat-and-trail-dust stained clothing. It surprised her slightly to realize she was moving at a pace rather more brisk than her usual thoughtful walk. She smiled slightly.
I might just be looking forward to this...
"...and that's how it happened," said Hikari, wrapping up her tale.
"Is this important?" asked Taichi, sounding a little annoyed. "It's a cute little boy-meets-girl story, but what does it prove?"
"I never said it was going to prove anything," said Iori. "It's just good to know how the whole thing started. It's something to keep in mind. For example, it's important to keep in mind that it was purely an accident that Hikari went to the party with Daisuke at all."
"Sure, rub it in, why don't you?" Daisuke muttered. "I still don't know what all the fuss is about!"
"Then perhaps we had better call our next witness," said Iori. "Miyako, would you please step forward?"
"It's about time," she said. She got up from her place and took the place that had been most recently occupied by Hikari.
"All right," said Iori. "Would you please tell us, exactly as you remember it, what you saw at approximately one o'clock this morning?"
Daisuke began to look uncomfortable, as if it was slowly dawning on him what was going on. Miyako noticed this and seemed to relax slightly, as if she'd doubted until then that she was really doing the right thing. She took a breath, and began to speak...
You could probably have blamed it all on fruit punch. That was, at least, the indirect cause of the force that propelled Miyako from her warm bed at the chilly hour of one in the morning and into the dark streets. It was rather awkward that the small cabins they were rooming in did not have much in the way of indoor plumbing - the best you could hope for was a small basin where, with a bit of preparation, you could wash your face and brush your teeth. Anything more advanced was out of the question. It was very annoying when you were roused by a call of nature.
Fortunately, there was seldom ever a waiting line in the wee hours of the morning, nor was there anyone to see the lone girl in a robe and slippers shuffling up the path, yawning and blinking sleepily. She was able to take care of her business in short order and began picking her way back up the trail.
"I'll never get back to sleep now," she muttered, rubbing her toe. It was very dark this time of night, with only a few faint lamps illuminating the way, and she'd stumbled on a rock that seemed to have sprouted up out of nowhere.
She limped a bit further, muttering to herself, grumpily convinced that she was never, ever going to go camping again unless it was in a nice hotel somewhere with en-suite bathrooms, when she heard something. She had been hearing things ever since she'd arrived in the mountains, and hadn't fully gotten used to the noises of bugs and frogs and other creatures that inhabited this far-flung wilderness, but this was a sound she recognized. It was the sound of someone walking none-too-steadily up a path.
Who'd be out at this time of night? she wondered. Of course, it could be just another partygoer who'd drunk too much punch, but her city-girl instincts were telling her that she should not trust people who were wandering around late at night. She ducked out of sight behind the wall of one of the other cabins and squinted into the gloom, wishing she'd bothered to put on her glasses.
Gradually, a blurry shape became distinguishable as a human - a familiar one. She'd seen it only a few hours before, in fact, at the party. Of course, he'd been a lot better dressed the last time she'd seen him. His hair had been combed, for starters, and he'd been wearing a jacket. And a tie. And a belt. All three of those items appeared to be missing now. His shirt was buttoned crookedly, and was only half tucked in. Also - Miyako had to look more closely to be sure - his shoes were on the wrong feet. He could not have dressed himself any more sloppily if he'd tried... but he'd been perfectly groomed a few hours ago.
That's funny. I wonder what he's...?
A thought wormed its way through her sleepy brain: Daisuke was walking towards her, which meant he was walking away from the girls' cabins. And it was slowly starting to dawn on her just what he might possibly have been doing there...
"What?!" Daisuke yelped. "That - that's a lie! I didn't! I never!"
There was an equal amount of exclamation among the rest of the group who also hadn't been at the breakfast discussion. Mimi looked scandalized, Jyou looked faintly shocked, and Sora was looking bewildered.
"That can't be right," she murmured. "It can't be right..."
"Why not?" asked Koushiro, more curious than doubtful.
"Because," she said, "I went back to my cabin around midnight, and it's just across the way from Daisuke's. I could hear him snoring inside."
"How do you know it was him?" asked Miyako. "It could have been V-mon, for all you know. There's no difference between his snoring and Daisuke's."
"How do you know he was leaving Hikari's cabin?" asked Jyou. "You just said you saw him coming from that general direction..."
"He wasn't with me," said Hikari firmly. "We said goodbye around ten, and then I went to sleep. Wherever he went after that, it wasn't with me."
Taichi heaved a sigh of relief.
"You can't even be sure you saw him at all," said Ken logically. "You said yourself you weren't wearing your glasses at the time. It was late, you were tired, it was dark, you couldn't see very well - maybe you just saw someone else and thought it was Daisuke."
He looked around triumphantly, proud of himself for defending his friend. Daisuke gave a weak smile.
"Actually, that was me she saw..." he began.
There was a general outcry. It took a few minutes to restore order.
"Quiet down!" said Iori. The shock of hearing him raise his voice was enough to achieve the desired effect. They settled down.
"Geez," Daisuke muttered. "I can explain! Really!"
"So explain already," said Taichi. "What were you doing out that late at night?"
"Well, it's kind of hard to get down all in one sentence," said Daisuke uncomfortably. "Probably it was because I didn't pack my stuff very well..."
"I'm not following," said Taichi.
Daisuke sighed. "Then let me draw you a map."
"Daisuke, are you going to eat breakfast or not?"
"Just a minute, Mom! I'm not even dressed yet!"
"What are you doing in there?"
Daisuke rolled his eyes, even though he knew his mother couldn't see him through his closed door. "I'm packing. Duh."
"That's the best time to do it!" Daisuke grabbed a pair of jeans from his drawer, rolled them up, and shoved them into an already bulging bag. "I wanna get everything ready now."
"Have you made a packing list yet?"
"Mom, I'm just going to camp, not to Jupiter," Daisuke muttered. "Nobody will care if I forget to bring enough clean socks or something. Packing lists are for little kids."
He decided he had enough pairs of jeans for the time being and began rummaging through his underwear drawer, counting as he pulled out multicolored boxers and tossed them onto his bed. V-mon yelped as one pair spun astray and landed on his head.
"Hey, watch it!" he complained.
"What's wrong? It's not like they're not clean," said Daisuke. He nevertheless went to help his partner get them unentangled from his horns, and began stuffing everything into his bag.
"There! I think that's everything," said Daisuke. "Clean clothes, camera, comic books, shampoo, water pistol..."
"If you don't get in here right now, I'm feeding your breakfast to the cat!" his mother shouted.
"All right, all right, just give me a second!" Daisuke called back.
Quickly as he could, he stripped off his pajamas and scrambled into some more suitable clothing. His nightclothes were, as usual, crumpled into a ball and shoved under his pillow... and completely forgotten.
"So what's that got to do with anything?" asked Jyou. "I still don't get it."
"I left my P.J.s at home," said Daisuke. "That's the point."
"I think I see where this is going," Ken said. "It explains part of things, anyway..."
"Explains what?" asked Takeru.
"Why he wasn't dressed," Ken answered. "It doesn't explain what he was doing on the other side of camp, though."
"I'm getting to that part," said Daisuke, but not as irritably as he would have under other circumstances. It would take a lot to get him to snap at Ken. "It's just something you're going to need to know later. Well, everybody knows what happened at the party, right? There was a little accident, and then..."
"...and then the duck said, 'Got any grapes?'"
Hikari giggled. "That was almost funny."
"Hey, it made you laugh, didn't it?" he retorted, grinning.
"Okay, okay, it was funny," she said. "A little."
Daisuke beamed as if that had been the major compliment of his life, and she found herself smiling back. She had been amazed to realize she was having a lot more fun at this party than she had imagined she would. Daisuke was a good companion, listening attentively every time she spoke, and filling any silences with streams of jokes and crazy stories - about his soccer team, about V-mon, and generally about his world views on everything. Hikari listened, happy to have someone do the talking for her. She was not the most talkative girl in the world, and it made her uncomfortable to have to carry the burden of the conversation. His jokes were funny, too.
It was now nearly ten, and the party had been in full swing for some time now. Most of those present were out on the floor dancing, or else hanging about in convivial clusters around the borders of the room. The event was made more interesting by a selection of Digimon, not all of them belonging to the Chosen Children. Over the last year or two, the boundaries between the Digital World and the Real one had become gradually but steadily less difficult to cross, and while no other known humans had made it in yet, a few other Digimon had gotten out, and subsequently made friends with the humans they found in this strange other world. There was a theory that Oikawa had something to do with it. Other people just said it was about time. Now they were all wandering about, getting to know each other, as their human friends did much the same.
"Hey, I'm going to get something to drink," said Daisuke to Hikari. "Dancing's thirsty work. Do you want something, too?"
"Sure," she replied.
He grinned again. "Coming right up!"
He scampered off and disappeared into the crowd, and a moment later, Hikari saw him on the other end of the room, fighting his way to the punch bowl. When he returned, he had a plastic cup of Hawaiian punch in each hand. He offered one to her with an exaggerated bow.
"There you go!" he announced. "Nice and cold and everything."
She smiled and accepted the cup. "Thank you. That was very thoughtful of you."
He blushed and looked pleased with himself. Since there didn't seem to be anything else to say, Hikari raised her glass and took a slow drink. She hadn't realized until then how warm it was in the crowded hall, and the cold drink was more refreshing than she would have guessed. Daisuke drained his in two gulps and scowled at the plastic cup as if suspecting a conspiracy to keep people thirsty - by the time he'd made it all the way back to the other side of the room, he'd probably be as hot and parched as he'd been when he started. Hikari was sipping daintily at hers, and still had more than half a glassful left by the time he'd finished. She raised her cup to her lips, and...
... a dancer backed into her and jogged her elbow. Bright red fruit punch splashed over her face, her hand, the floor, and a fair portion of the yellow dress she'd been wearing. She gave a yelp as she was covered in cold, sticky drink.
"Hey, watch where you're going, buster!" said Daisuke to the careless dancer.
"Sorry!" he said, looking contrite. "I got carried away."
"It's all right. It was an accident," said Hikari. She looked woefully down at the front of her dress. Daisuke followed her gaze.
"Um," he said. "Do you think we could dry it off? I could get some napkins..."
"I don't know if this will come out," she said. "Not without a wash... or three. I hope it's not stained for good. I liked this dress."
"It's not your fault," she said. She sighed. "I think I might just go back to my room now."
"Are you sure? It's not that late yet..."
"No. I won't be able to have any fun like this, and I didn't bring any other good clothes," she said.
"Then I'll walk you home."
"You don't have to do that. I don't want you to miss all the fun on my account."
"Nah, I won't have any fun knowing you're stuck at home doing nothing."
She managed a smile. "Thank you. That's very sweet of you."
"No problem," he said. "Come on, V-mon. We're hitting the road."
V-mon looked mildly disappointed at being told he had to leave so early, but he followed loyally after his partner. Tailmon jumped into Hikari's arms and made comforting noises, ignoring the fact that she was getting fruit punch in her fur. They walked in silence back to Hikari's cabin and lingered a moment on the porch.
"Well," he said. "Here we are."
"I guess so," she said.
"Yep," he said. "So... yeah. It was nice, you know, hanging out with you and all tonight."
"It was," she said. "I had nice time."
"Me too," he said.
"Well, then I guess this is goodnight," she said.
"I guess so," he said. "Goodnight, Hikari."
Then, much to his surprise, she leaned forward and kissed him lightly on the cheek. Then she gave him one last smile and slipped into her cabin. Daisuke stood there a moment, thunderstruck. He raised a hand to touch the spot where her lips had briefly met his skin.
"Wow," he said. "Am I a lucky guy or what?"
He turned and ambled up the path, whistling cheerily to himself, pretending not to notice his Digimon's snickering. After Hikari had kissed you, why worry about a little thing like that?
As it turned out, Daisuke didn't think coherently about much of anything else for the next few hours. He returned to his own room, found his way out of his party clothes without paying too much attention to how he was doing it, heedlessly tossing his expensive new suit over the back of a chair, and began searching around for his sleepwear. It took him a while to remember that he had left his pajamas safely at home under his pillow, just as he always did.
Oh, well, it's just me and V-mon here, he thought. He certainly won't care if I sleep in my boxers, and nobody else is going to see me. It'll be cooler that way, anyhow.
He turned out the lights, crawled into his bed and pulled the blankets up over him, and a few moments later, felt the familiar weight of V-mon crawling in next to him. He wiggled around a little, trying to get comfortable on the unfamiliar mattress, with the unfamiliar night noises cheeping and buzzing and calling outside his window. It was no good; his mind was still whirring with the events of the day. Normally he could sleep anywhere, any time, but too much had happened for him to rest easily. He kept thinking about going boating with his friends, wondering about how Takeru was holding up, reliving his evening with Hikari, and contemplating whether or not she might go out with him again and what might happen if she did. Though V-mon dropped off within a few minutes, Daisuke continued to toss and turn. He was surprised to roll over and glance at his watch, which was glowing softly on his nightstand, and realize it was well past midnight.
I'm going to be a zombie tomorrow, at this rate, he thought irritably. Hm. Maybe something to eat will help me settle down.
He had nothing edible in his cabin, but that would be easy enough to rectify - there were snack machines near the bathrooms. He could go and buy something there. He sleepily crawled out of bed, and was mildly surprised by the shock of cool air on his exposed skin. He looked down at himself and realized his plan had a minor flaw in it.
Guess I can't really go roaming around the campground in my underwear, he thought, frowning a little. He looked around, trying to process his options while his brain was still lodged in the blurry state between sleep and waking.
His eye was caught by a beam of moonlight that was filtering through his window like a pointing finger. It struck the back of his chair, where he had casually flung his party clothes a few hours before. There was an idea - he could pull those on and save himself the bother of going through his badly- arranged suitcase in search of fresh clothing. He pulled on his slacks, tried and failed to get the shirt buttoned properly before giving up on that score, and shoved his feet into his shoes without looking at them. Thus attired, he found some spare change in his bag and shuffled out into the dark wilderness.
The boy's bathhouse was luckily not far from Daisuke's cabin, and he negotiated the walk in the dark without doing more than stumbling a bit on an uneven spot in the path. He kept his half-open eyes fixed on the his goal, the snack machine, its lights glowing temptingly before him. It took a while before he realized that there was something slightly wrong with the way it looked, something that did not bode well for his mission. There was a sheet of paper taped over the slot where he would have placed his money. As he drew nearer, he could see a message scrawled in black marker: "Out Of Order."
"Aw, man," he muttered. "What are they tryin' to do, starve us?"
He considered a moment. He vaguely remembered seeing another snack machine around here somewhere. Hadn't there been another one next to the souvenir shop? He was fairly sure there was. He'd have to walk most of the way to the other end of camp to get there, but it wasn't like he had anything better to do. Maybe some exercise would help him settle down. Resigning himself to a trip, he set out for the shop.
He was in luck - his memory had not failed him, and there was a row of vending machines ready and waiting when he got there. He plunked his cash into the slots, procured a handful of chocolate-coated delicacies, and began his trip home again. The candy was stuffed into his pockets. He didn't feel particularly hungry, and as he'd guessed, the walk had done more to settle his nerves than sugar and preservatives would have done for him. He was starting to feel genuinely sleepy, and his footsteps wandered as his thoughts began to drift. As he staggered down the path, he glanced up at Hikari's cabin and smiled dreamily. It was nice to know he was close to her. He wondered if she was feeling the same way he was tonight, or whether she had fallen asleep, and what she might be dreaming about now.
He was too busy fantasizing to notice that there was a pair of eyes watching him from the shadows.
There was silence in the fireside circle. Daisuke looked around, checking reactions. His friends' faces were registering varying levels of incredulity.
"Are you saying," said Taichi slowly, "that you guys let me get all worked up just because Daisuke got up in the middle of the night to get a snack?"
Sora seemed to be trying hard not to giggle. "It looks like it!"
"Well, we can prove it easily enough," said Ken. "Hang on just one minute."
He sprinted away from the gathering place and hurried up the path, with Wormmon bounding along behind him. A few minutes later, they returned, with Ken carrying, of all odd things, a rather wrinkled pair of slacks.
"Would anyone like to confirm that these are what Daisuke wore to the dance last night?" he asked.
There were murmurs of agreement from the crowd.
"All right, then," said Ken.
He turned them upside-down. Several plastic-wrapped candy bars spilled out of its pockets and pattered onto the ground.
"Hey!" V-mon protested. "You had candy and you didn't give me any!"
"After all the trouble it's caused," said Daisuke, "you can have it!"
There was an immediate scramble as several of the Digimon took this as a cue, and soon most of those 'mons present had converged on the candy.
"I think we can safely say that this has just been a misunderstanding," said Iori, smiling slightly. "Case dismissed!"
The group broke up. Many of those leaving were laughing - those who weren't occupied by the near-impossible task of prying their partners away from the last of the snack food. Taichi approached Daisuke, looking contrite.
"Hey, man," he said. "I guess I owe you an apology. I should have known I could trust you. I'm sorry I doubted you, Daisuke."
"That's all right," said Daisuke. "No harm done! Made for an interesting morning, anyway."
"I guess so," Taichi replied, laughing with relief.
"I'm sorry, too," said Miyako. "This mess was all my fault for jumping to conclusions. I should have kept my big mouth shut, for once."
"I forgive you," Daisuke assured her. Grinning wickedly, he added, "I probably would have thought about the same thing, if I'd seen you out running around last night."
Miyako aimed a smack at him, which he dodged, laughing. "Maybe I don't apologize!" she said.
The two of them ran off, shouting imprecations at each other, while V-mon and Hawkmon calmly divided the last of the candy bars between them and walked off. Taichi, Yamato, and Sora - the only members of the group remaining - smiled and shook their heads.
"What a day," Taichi muttered. "I sure hope the rest of this vacation isn't going to be like this!"
"Me, too," said Yamato. He yawned. "I'm exhausted enough as it is."
"You look exhausted," said Taichi. "Man, what were you doing last night? You're wiped out, and I know you left the party early... but... wait, Sora said she was out at midnight, and..." Taichi trailed off as his two friends started blushing and staring at the ground. "What the heck were you two doing out that late, anyway?"
"Um," said Yamato.
"Er..." said Sora.
Taichi shook his head. "Never mind, never mind! I don't want to know. I don't want to know what anyone was doing last night!"
With that, he turned and hurried up the road before anyone could tell him anything else. Yamato glanced at his girlfriend and gave her a half-smile.
"Maybe we should hire Iori as our lawyer?" he asked.
She smile slightly. "Maybe we should just take a lesson from Miyako and learn to stay quiet."
Laughing, the two of them hurried off after their friend.