Everything echoed: the nurses' footsteps on the tile floor, the wheels of hospital beds rolling down the halls, the clacking of needles as his mom knit her fourth scarf. It was reminiscent of the hollowness inside, the feeling of a body that had too much room, too much missing.
"Aren't you going to eat anything, Koushiro?"
Izzy tried not to look at his mother. He knew he'd find tears in her eyes. "I'm not hungry."
The muffled sob echoed just as loudly as her needles.
Izzy made an increased effort to focus on the tiny droning television buried in the wall. There was a soap opera on. The bawling woman had just discovered she was pregnant with some other man's baby. From the corner of his eye Izzy saw his father enter the room and put a hand on his mother's shoulder.
"You have visitors," he said. "And please eat your lunch." Mr. Izumi grabbed his wife's elbow and led her out of the room.
New footsteps echoed, coming close to his bedside. He finally turned his head to see his two friends hesitantly approach.
"Uh, hi Izzy…" Joe said. "My dad says you'll be able to go home soon."
Mimi was less composed in her greeting. She flung herself around him, squeezing the side of his face into her chest.
All the hollowness in the world couldn't keep the blush from Izzy's face. "That's great," he said emotionlessly when Mimi released him.
"Oh Izzy," Mimi whimpered. "Your dad is right, you have to eat. You look awful!"
Izzy humored her by picking up a piece of broccoli with his chopsticks and chewing it slowly. Despite starving for days in Animamon's prison, he just couldn't find enjoyment in it. "They say I've improved," he said, trying to ward off her tears.
"That's because the IV is pumping nutrition into you," Joe said, looking as stern as he could. "They're only releasing you because your parents arranged therapy. Not saying you don't need it, I think we all do." He cringed when Mimi elbowed him. Izzy noticed she had removed the bandages from her arm. Her skin was shiny and pink from the healing burn.
"You can't give up," Joe continued. "It'll be like we won for nothing."
"We're alive," Izzy said, picking up another piece of broccoli. He could only bring himself to stare at the florets.
"That isn't good enough!" cried Mimi.
"I could've killed you all. Digimon died because of me. Andromon…" Izzy mumbled to the broccoli. "I was careless. I never should've created that program."
"No one blames you for what happened," Joe said. "It wasn't your fault. Animamon would've come after us someday anyway."
Mimi dashed away angry tears and then plopped herself on the edge of Izzy's bed, crossing her arms and legs. "I'm not moving until you finish that entire meal!"
Izzy's foot nudged her from under the covers, causing her to tip over some. She still didn't budge. He looked at Joe, as if he could call her off, but Joe only sighed and sat down in the chair by his bedside. They sat like that for awhile. Mimi stole Izzy's chopsticks and occasionally shoved food down his throat.
"Hello." The aged voice accompanied a methodic knock and Dr. Kido (the real doctor) came in. He looked like a much older version of his son with cropped gray hair and a bit of stubble. His wrinkle lines deepened around his eyes and mouth as he nodded to Joe.
Mimi bolted to her feet and bowed politely. "Hello Kido-sensei."
The corner of Dr. Kido's mouth just barely lifted with a smile. "It's nice to see you back in Japan, Mimi. How long will you be staying?"
Izzy saw her eyes flicker to Joe. "My parents are expecting me home next week," she said.
"I hope you enjoy the rest of your visit with us." Dr. Kido turned his attention to Izzy and looked over his chart for a moment before speaking up again. "How are you feeling, Koushiro?"
"The same," Izzy answered.
"Good." Dr. Kido picked up his chart and made a couple of notes. "We'll be able to release you as soon as your weight is satisfactory. Keep force feeding him, Tachikawa-san."
Izzy collapsed back into his pillow, studying the bandaging on his wrists. When they had changed it earlier today everything had finally scabbed over, but there was still some nasty bruising. He had been in the hospital for five days.
He didn't remember ever leaving the digital world, but the others filled him in. Some of the digimon stayed behind to help with the wounded and to judge what would be done with the rest of Animamon's followers. When the children returned home (most of them beat up and in need of medical attention), their condition had been attributed to getting lost in the woods during a camping trip. Izzy's more extreme deterioration was blamed on his early separation from the group. It was a half truth. Luckily Dr. Kido was able to take over most of their cases, keeping questioning down to a minimum.
"Are you up for more visitors?" Mrs. Izumi poked her head in. "Oh, I'm sorry, Kido-sensei."
Joe's father dismissed her with a wave of his hand. "Just chatting, no routine exam. You can send the others in if Koushiro is up to it."
Izzy's eyes flickered up from his wrists and he nodded his consent.
"Yo Izzy!" There was the pretense of cheerfulness in Tai's voice, but it was heavily masked with concern. He and Kari stepped into the room and they both bowed respectfully to Dr. Kido. Part of Tai's face was still blistered and shiny with ointment.
"I'll leave you to your visitors," Dr. Kido said.
"Um, Kido-sensei," Tai said. He looked to Joe for a moment and cleared his throat. "I just want you to know that Joe..." He faltered and Izzy knew he was debating whether or not to give him more details. Tai flexed his right hand as if to make sure it was still there. "Well… he's going to be an awesome doctor someday."
Joe looked at the ground shamefully, despite the kind words.
Pride lit up on his father's face. His hand fell on Joe's shoulder and he gave it a squeeze. "I know," he said. When he left, there were tears in Joe's eyes and Mimi wrapped her fingers into his, looking just as proud.
"So," Tai plopped onto Izzy's bed, making it squeak, "How you feeling?"
Tai's eyebrows knit together, but he still forced a smile, which in turn made him grimace. His hand automatically went to his face, but Kari scolded him, successfully halting it. "Well, I've got something that should cheer you up," he said.
There was a bit of movement under Tai's coat and when he unzipped it, Motimon sprung out, flinging himself onto Izzy's face.
"Izzy! I've been so worried about you!" he wailed in his tiny nasally voice.
Something stirred inside the emptiness of Izzy's chest. "They say I've improved." It was his go-to line.
The bubbly tears that dripped out of the pink monster's eyes told him that he wasn't buying it. "Oh Izzy!"
Izzy pulled Motimon from his face and curled him into his arms in an effort to comfort him.
"Your mom said you aren't eating," Tai said. He actually looked angry with him.
Izzy swung the hospital tray with its half-eaten plate in front of Tai. "I'm fine."
"No, you aren't. You've got to snap out of this."
"This isn't something I can just snap out of, Tai!"
They all looked a little taken aback by his raised voice and Motimon's tears became a little more violent.
"I'm incomplete," Izzy muttered. "This is irreparable."
Kari, who had been strangely silent, stepped forward, pulling down the hood of her fur lined coat. She suddenly looked aged, way beyond her fifteen years, and yet, ageless. She placed her hand on Motimon and the digimon instantly calmed, though he still sniffled as he gazed at her bright eyes.
When her eyes turned on Izzy he suddenly saw the difference, the inexplicable presence of Light.
"What has been done to you is a great sin," she said. Everyone's attention was on her now and though Tai whispered her name they knew Kari was gone.
"Animamon was given a great gift, a power that, if used for good, could have healed thousands. Damaged and lost souls could have been restored, those corrupted by virus could have been cleansed, but all are given free will and he chose to use his gift for evil." Kari gave Motimon an affectionate pat before lowering her hand. "Where there is power, there is also weakness. Animamon's blindness was part of this balance, but he envied those with sight and used it as an excuse for violence. It is how you choose to live with your weakness that makes you who you are."
For some reason this made Izzy angry. Was this being telling him that he needed to accept this new state he was in… this half-life? "What choice are we given?" he asked.
"You can choose to accept grace and extend mercy or harbor bitterness and extend hate."
"Grace?" Izzy's eyes fell to where his hands were clutching the bed sheets. "Where is the grace in suffering?"
Kari – the Light - smiled softly. "It is hard for creation, human and digimon alike, to see past the hardships they endure. There are things you will never truly understand until the end," her slender fingers caressed Izzy's cheek, "but in this world, know this: that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame."
Suddenly there was something bright, a warmth that seeped inside him, and Izzy saw his past, his strengths and weaknesses, and his parents: both by blood and by love. It was different than Animamon's invasions of his mind. It was as if part of him were simply coming to the surface. Kari's hands were on him, touching his chest, filling the void of his lost soul.
Everything returned to him a violent rush. Not just the goodness of being whole again, but also the pain of death, the clarity of what had happened to the pieces that had been ripped from him. When the Light released him, he was gasping for air.
Kari's eyes, glowing with Light, burned into him. "Your soul is restored. Choose wisely how you will spend your life."
Then it was gone and Kari collapsed into the chair beside him.
She was dying.
The air stunk of decay and the voices around her were muffled. The feeling fled from her fingertips until the warmth of the hand that held hers was gone. Her chest ached, but whether it was from missing him or her heart stopping, she wasn't sure.
She tried to say something, but the breath hissed from her lungs, expelling silently from her lips. When the darkness took her she saw his face, covered in bruising and blood and staring at her with dead eyes.
Yolei woke up screaming.
"It was just a dream, honey. You're safe now."
"Yolei, please don't cry."
She opened her eyes to the concerned faces of her father and her sister, Momoe, whose pregnant belly had to be the size of a watermelon. Poromon was fluttering by Yolei's head, holding back tiny tears as he wiped hers away with a feather. Yolei sat up and pulled him tightly into her chest, stretching his wings with her trembling fingers.
"I'm ok," Yolei said breathlessly. She fumbled for her glasses. When she put them on, she could see her clock just past Momoe's head. It was late afternoon; she must've fallen asleep again. She wiped away her remaining tears and looked to her father. "Why aren't you at the Ai-Mart?" Her parents usually worked together Sunday afternoons.
"Your mother and I are alternating shifts for the next couple of weeks." Meaning they didn't want to leave her alone.
"You don't have to be here every time I have a nightmare… I'll be fine."
Momoe pushed back a piece of Yolei's hair affectionately. "The boy genius called while you were sleeping."
"That's the one."
"Can you guys give me a little privacy?" Yolei scoffed when neither of them budged. "I'm fine, go!"
"Let me know if you need anything," her father said, kissing her forehead.
Momoe repeated his action and her glasses slid down a little. When she took them off, wiping them clean, Yolei realized she was trying to hide her tears. She wobbled out of the room after their father, sniffling.
Yolei picked up the phone. It rang twice before Jun Motomiya's panicked voice answered, "Momoe, are you in labor?"
"Oh! Sorry, Yolei. I just saw your last name on the caller ID. So your sister didn't pop yet?"
"Not yet." Yolei noticed Poromon squirming in her hold and she loosened her grip. He came up for air, but otherwise didn't try to escape. "Um… is Davis home?"
"Oooh…" Jun almost cooed. "Yeah. One second. HEY DWEEB!" There was a muffled voice yelling in the background. "Its baby Inoue! No, on the phone, you idiot!" More yelling, then Jun's voice was further away saying, "You know I love you, right kid?"
"Yeah Yeah." Davis's voice was clear now. "Hello?"
Yolei's entire body relaxed with relief and Poromon rolled from her arms onto the bed before he took flight again. "Hey," she said, "I… uh, what're you doing?"
"Just hangin' out." There was a long pause. "You ok?"
"Yeah…" She swapped the phone to her other ear. "Are you?"
Yolei drew her knees into her chest and shushed Poromon when he started to ask her if she was going to say anything.
"Uh… Ken's here." There was a softer voice in the background. Davis sounded a bit reluctant when he added, "He says he tried to call you...You wanna come over?"
"Sure." Yolei pulled at her pajamas. She should probably take a shower and get dressed. "Is an hour ok?"
"Whatever. We aren't goin' anywhere."
Yolei nodded and her hand began twirling into her hair.
"Uh… see you then?" Davis asked after a moment.
"Oh, yeah, sorry." She untangled her fingers from a knot. "Poromon can come right?"
Poromon was looking at her like he was thinking the same thing Davis said. Yolei swallowed heavily. "Thanks, Davis."
Her voice had been so soft that she wasn't sure he had heard her until he awkwardly said, "I found your Street Fighter game!"
She smiled. "Good. I want it back."
"Only after I whoop your butt." His voice was a little shaky. "See ya soon."
Yolei took her time getting in the shower. She took in her room: there were clothes spread on her floor and the pictures of her family looked exactly like they were supposed to. Nothing was missing or distorted. She grabbed her D-Terminal from her nightstand.
"Who are you writing?" Poromon asked curiously.
"Nobody. Just looking." She scrolled through her messages and read over the last one from Davis. He had sent it at 2 AM last night.
It's cool. I'm still awake. Not doing anything. You having nightmares again?
Then at 2:30 AM he wrote: I'm alive. DemiVeemon checked. Hope you're sleeping.
Yolei had never responded. After his first reply her body had settled into exhaustion.
Once she finally showered, she threw on a few layers of mismatched clothing and tied her hair back in a ponytail, too lazy to blow-dry it. She tucked Poromon into her coat and stepped outside, immediately regretting her wet hair when a biting wind blew. It was cold for April.
"Yolei!" Iori had just walked out of his apartment, carrying Upamon in his arms. "I was just coming to see you."
Yolei pursed her lips. "You mean check on me…" Upamon and Iori looked at each other, knowing they had been caught. "I'm fine. I'm going to Davis's. You want to come?"
Upamon bounced in Iori's arms. "Yes! Yes!"
"Sure," Iori agreed. "Let me just grab a coat."
After the elevator dropped them off at the bottom of their building, Iori gave her a sideways glance. "Are you sure you're ok?"
Yolei huffed and adjusted Poromon's squirming body in her coat. "Yes."
"I'm worried about you."
Iori sighed, but her diversion was successful. "He still looked pretty bad when I visited yesterday. You should've come."
"I'm done with hospitals." And sickness and death, she thought.
They walked in silence for a minute. Even the digimon were quiet.
"Yolei, about what happened with Animamon-"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"I understand why you wanted him dead." Iori was watching her with green eyes that were now equal in height with hers. "It's ok."
Even though his persistence made her angry, something eased in her soul at his words. She stopped walking and squeezed him tightly, squishing Poromon and Upamon between them until their little voices protested.
When they arrived at the Motomiya's apartment, Yolei was still pushing away tears from beneath her glasses. Jun answered the door and grabbed her into a hug. "Oh honey," she soothed.
"I'm fine," Yolei said for what had to be the millionth time. An aroma of herbs and spices overtook her senses.
"Daisuke's destroying the kitchen," Jun explained, releasing her.
"It's called USING IT!" Davis yelled over the sound of pots and pans and something clattering to the floor.
Yolei and Iori slipped off their shoes and shed their coats, releasing their partners into the home. DemiVeemon and Wormmon greeted them and they all rushed to the kitchen to beg like dogs.
"I got enough for everybody. Chill!" Davis's white t-shirt was covered in stains and he was spooning a large ladle-full of noodles into a bowl. His fingers were struggling to work beneath the cast on his wrist and half of it splattered on the counter.
Ken was pulling more serving dishes out of the cabinets. He turned around to greet them with a soft smile. "Hi. Are you hungry?"
Davis turned away from his giant pot for the first time and Yolei saw that his face was flushed. "They better be," he said. He gave a short wave of greeting to Iori without taking his eyes off her. "I made ramen."
"You know, you've never made me any ramen."
"Well, when we get home, that'll be the first thing I do."
Yolei blushed when he held the first bowl out to her. "It smells good."
"No compliments 'till you taste it."
She plopped down at the messy table and examined her bowl. Toppings of nori, egg, and sliced pork were artfully arranged on a tangled mass of fine noodles. Davis had his arms crossed and the wet ladle was dripping on the floor as he watched her. Yolei managed to scoop a heap up with her chopsticks. She took a bite and actually closed her eyes. It was perfectly warm for a frigid day. Flavors of miso and spices exploded against her tongue as she slurped up the rest of the mouthful. The noodles were just the right consistency. She let out an involuntary 'mmmm.'
Davis was beaming. "Good, right?"
"It's ok," she teased.
Davis just kept staring with a stupid grin on his face. Ken nudged him with the next bowl and he snapped out of it, almost slipping on the soup that spilled on the floor.
"Me next! Me next!" cried DemiVeemon.
When everyone had their fill of ramen (Yolei finally had to quit in the middle of her third bowl), they all spread out in the living room, resting their full bellies. There was actually a bulge in DemiVeemon's stomach and he belched loudly before asking, "What's for dessert?"
Davis threw a pillow at him. "You pig. Where would you put it?"
DemiVeemon dodged the pillow and then hopped onto it. "In my mouth," he answered, looking at his partner like he was an idiot.
"My dessert side is empty!" Upamon shouted in agreement.
"My mom made some cookies," Ken said, gesturing to a package that was half-buried beneath ingredients on the kitchen counter. "Why don't we digest a little first though?"
The digimon pouted.
"I know what we can do," Davis said. "How 'bout I kick all your asses in Street Fighter?"
Unfortunately for Davis, his broken wrist was protesting enough to interfere with his gaming skills and no one seemed to go easy on him. "But Ryu always wins!" he whined.
"Not against Ken!" Wormmon said proudly, jabbing his multiple legs into the controller. He wouldn't choose any other character but the one with his partner's name.
"Ken's a pansy." Davis cringed as he forced the fingers on his bad side to go crazy on the joystick. "No offense," he said to the real Ken who only rolled his eyes in response.
"I play winner," said Yolei.
"Ugh," groaned Davis. "You just mash buttons."
"My button mashing has been whooping your butt."
"I have an advantage!" he said, shaking his injury at her. Ryu earned a KO for his distraction.
"A DISadvantage," Iori corrected.
Davis ignored him as he collapsed face first into the carpet, groaning and holding up the controller for Yolei to take. "You suck."
"No, you do," Yolei replied, grabbing the controller. "It's my game. I always beat you."
"Because you cheat."
"I don't cheat. I just use the best moves."
"You use the same move over and over. I can't even get my guy to stand up when you keep kicking like that."
Yolei nudged Davis with her foot to get him to move out of the way, but he didn't budge. "Wormmon doesn't want to play you," he said.
Wormmon had already chosen Ken again. "Yes I-"
"He doesn't play with cheaters."
"Shut up and move." Yolei started sitting down even though Davis was still in the way. She was almost on top of him when he finally scrambled to avoid being sat on.
His face was bright red. "You suck," he said again.
Yolei only stuck out her tongue in response before she chose Chun-Li and starting mashing buttons, obliterating the digital Ken.
Wormmon groaned. "You do cheat."
"Told you," Davis said. He had joined Iori and the other digimon in a game of Jenga. Every time Upamon or Poromon tried to remove a block, the entire tower fell over. DemiVeemon kept jumping on the pile, kicking the wood around with his tiny feet.
Ken chuckled. He had sat on a bench in front of a cheap keyboard. "Is your sister still trying to make it into Matt's band?"
Davis rolled his eyes. "There's probably inch of dust on that thing. Help yourself."
Wormmon dropped his controller mid-fight and crawled up to Ken eagerly. "Oh! Play the new song you wrote," he begged. He looked at the others proudly. "It made Mama Ichijouji cry."
"You play?" Iori asked Ken.
"Not usually in front of people… at least not for a long time."
Yolei could tell he was alluding to his time as the Kaiser, but as his slender fingers began to pass over the keys she couldn't see how the two could have ever been connected. The notes drew them all to silence. They were beautiful and ghostly and the anguish in them reminded Yolei of crying in his arms as they watched Davis's body burn on the funeral pyre.
Her eyes flickered to him to make sure he was still there, breathing. Davis's injured wrist was resting on his knee while his other hand stroked DemiVeemon's ears. He was staring into a void, obviously deep in thought. The very idea normally would have made Yolei snicker, but so much had changed since their abduction by Animamon. He fell into these moments more often now that they were home, his brows creased and cheeks taught. He looked older. After a moment, Davis must have sensed her watching him because his dark eyes turned to her.
The tears returned without mercy…just when she had felt normal again. Yolei put a hand to her mouth, trying to cover the sob, but it was useless. She stood up and ran to the bathroom, locking herself in. She tried to will away the images of Davis's mangled body, but she only found herself clutching her chest, still feeling the wound the creature had killed her with.
"Yolei!" Poromon's distressed voice called.
It took her a minute to speak. "I'm ok," she gasped. One look at herself in the mirror revealed the lie. She turned on the faucet to hide the sounds of her muffled sobs and splashed her face to hide the tears.
There were voices outside the door, all indecipherable from one another, saying the same words Yolei kept hearing since she came home. Are you ok? What's wrong? Please talk to me. Don't cry. She ignored them, trying to pull herself together so she could convince them that everything was fine, that she wasn't having horrible flashbacks or panic attacks every hour. She sunk onto the edge of the bathtub and buried her face in her hands.
She wasn't sure how much time had passed when the door clicked open. Davis stood in front of her with a coat hanger dangling in his hand.
"Jun takes too long in the bathroom," he explained as if his lock picking were they only thing that mattered. He didn't say anything else to her. Instead he stepped inside and said, "Just give me a minute," to whoever was in the hallway before closing the door behind him. Then, like he couldn't think of anything better to do, he plopped down on the floor in front of her and waited.
Yolei cried a little bit longer, but the tears slowly eased and she started to feel really stupid sitting there, sniffling snot while Davis just stared at her. "I'm fine," she said, wiping at her eyes.
Yolei was sure they had this exact conversation before. "I don't want to talk about it."
Davis shrugged. "No problem. I probably don't want to hear about it." He stood up and grabbed her glasses from the sink, tossing them at her.
Without sight, Yolei missed and they clanked as they fell into the tub. She groaned and bent over to pick them up. When they were back on her face she saw that Davis's cheeks had turned red again. "Why are you blushing?"
"Yes, you are."
"Forget it." Davis made a move to leave.
The panic rose in her chest again. She stood up, grasping where her wound had been. "I wish you hadn't saved me!"
Davis turned back to her, caught completely off guard.
"I keep seeing you die in my head," Yolei said. The fabric of her shirt wrinkled in her fist. "You just die over and over again and everything hurts. I can't breathe. I can't tell if I'm in a nightmare or if I'm awake." Her tears returned and the rest of her speech came out as blubbering. "I can't stop thinking about how it was all for nothing. I wasn't strong enough. I'm not strong enough to live without you. You were so stupid and I told you not to do it. You promised me you wouldn't do anything stup-"
Yolei hadn't noticed Davis move closer until his lips were against hers, cutting her off. His hands hung awkwardly at his sides. It only lasted a second, but Yolei still managed to notice the way his skin smelt like ramen and something distinctly Davis that she couldn't name. He stepped away from her in a state of shock, as if he were surprised by his own actions.
"Why?" she asked after they stood in silence for a moment.
"You wouldn't shut up," he answered.
Yolei stared at him and then all her tears boiled up in anger. She shoved past him so hard that he hit his back on the sink and then she stormed into the living room where everyone was anxiously awaiting her reappearance.
"Yolei, are you ok?" Poromon asked, fluttering to her.
"No!" She grabbed her partner from the air. "We're going home." She tossed on her coat and shoved him inside.
Ken had stood up and looked like he was going to say something. Everything about him was surrounded with fogginess – memories of spending the night in his arms, him helping her trudge zombie-like through the snow, his hand molded around her burning fingers while she died. He seemed frozen and sad, like he was sharing her thoughts. Yolei was about to belt out an apology for running away in the middle of his song when Davis shuffled out of the hallway, rubbing his back. Her entire body tensed and then in the kindest voice she could muster, she said, "Bye, Ken."
She stormed out of the Motomiya apartment and took deep gulps of cold air even though it hurt her lungs. Through the door she heard Iori say, "I better go walk her home," so she waited for him at the stairs. When he asked her what was wrong all she dared to say was "nothing."
The smoke drifted into the frigid air, disappearing as soon as the biting wind swept it away. Matt inhaled as he watched it, preparing another puff for its journey into the cold April day.
A sliding glass door rolled behind him and he turned to see his little brother's warm smile. Patamon was perched in his hair. "Did you steal another pack of Dad's cigarettes?" TK asked.
"No, he gave them to me," Matt said, flicking ash. "Is Mom here?"
TK nodded. "She's talking to Dad. I think she's afraid to let me out of her sight. And so is he." He poked the side of Patamon's belly causing the digimon to squeal.
"Not for a second," Patamon said diligently between giggles as TK continued to prod him.
"Not even in the bathroom," TK said seriously. His eyes looked a bit desperate.
Matt laughed. "Gennai almost had to put Gabumon on a leash to get him to stay behind. His leg will heal faster in the digiworld though. I told him I'd visit tomorrow."
"We'll go with you. I want to make sure the cleanup is going well," TK said. "How's your head?"
The healing cut began to itch beneath his bandage at the reminder. Matt rubbed it. "Fine. I still can't seem to shake feeling like I'm made of Jell-O, though." He took another puff of his cigarette and then extinguished the butt in the outdoor ash tray. He pushed himself off the chair he was sitting in and gestured for TK to come closer, which he did. Matt threw an arm around his shoulder. "Try not to look like you're helping me too much," he said. "Mom'll flip."
They managed to stagger into the house in what Matt thought looked like a friendly display of brotherly affection. His mother didn't fall for it.
Her voice raised an octave higher than its normal level. "You're still not walking on your own?" she asked.
"My legs just fell asleep."
"Mom, I'm fine. It's wearing off."
Natsuko Takaishi turned to her ex-husband. "You need to make sure he goes back to the doctor, Hiroaki. And I see our son has picked up your awful habit."
Hiroaki shrugged. "It helps the nerves."
"Are you nervous?" she asked Matt.
"I just want you to be healthy, Yamato," Natsuko said. She pulled him into her arms even though he towered over her now. "I love you so much."
"I know," Matt said softly, trying not to burden her with any of his weight. "I'm fine, though. Really."
"You're going to get cancer."
"I helped write an article on the affects of second-hand smoke," she said, releasing him. "I know what those things can do to you. What does Sora think? I bet she doesn't approve."
Matt felt his heart clench and wondered if the smoke really was affecting his lungs already. "She hates it," he said. TK looked at him from the corner of his eye, but Matt pretended he didn't notice.
"Good girl," Natsuko said. "Although if you're anything like your father," she turned to Hiroaki and almost looked like she was about to shove him playfully, but her hand dropped at the last second, "that probably won't make a difference."
Hiroaki sighed. "So, Takeru, how's your head feeling?"
TK drummed his skull with his fist. Patamon had to take off to avoid being hit. "Good as new."
"He still gets headaches," Natsuko said. Her eyes looked full of tears. "I'm so glad you're home. We were so scared."
Hiroaki put a hand on her shoulder. Matt noticed that his thumb slowly moved as if in a caress. "Patamon and ol' Gabu took care of them. Just like I said they would," he said. Patamon chirped his agreement. "Yamato is going to be fine and I'll make sure he quits smoking, ok?"
Matt's eyes narrowed. "But you just gave-"
"I'll just steal yours."
"Then I'll quit."
"Yeah right," said TK and Matt simultaneously.
Hiroaki cleared his throat. "You sure you don't want to stay for dinner?" he asked their mother.
She shook her head. "My column is due tomorrow and I haven't had time to… with the boys…" she pulled away from their father and embraced them both, squishing them together, "Please be careful."
"We're just having dinner, Natsuko," Hiroaki said. "I'll make sure Takeru comes back in one piece."
"Me too," said Patamon, saluting with his ear-wing.
Natsuko released the boys and after giving both of them a kiss she said, "I know you will" to Patamon and their father walked her to the door. She gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "Thank you, Hiro." The door clicked quietly behind her and his father's silence made Matt wonder what exactly happened between them while he and TK were reliving their past.
They ordered Chinese for dinner. Matt hadn't been up to cooking. They ate around the table relatively quietly. Their father seemed distracted and TK kept giving Matt raised eyebrows meaning, Are you thinking what I'm thinking? But Matt knew they wouldn't say anything about it later. TK was always afraid that actually talking about their parents getting back together would jinx it.
TK was feeding Patamon grains of rice with his chopsticks when the phone rang. Since Matt was still half an invalid and their father was in La La Land, TK left Patamon the rest of his plate (which the digimon buried his face in) and answered it.
"Hey Tai! Yeah, I'm having dinner over here. No, he's still hobbling around." TK grinned at Matt when he glared. "Wait, what?" TK's eyes widened and his face turned serious. "She did? Is she ok?"
Matt straightened and Patamon stopped stuffing his face.
"Oh, good. Tell her I'll see her at school tomorrow then. That's amazing news. So he's doing better?"
Matt mouthed, "Who?"
TK covered the mouthpiece. "Izzy," he answered. "I'll explain later." He uncovered it. "Oh, yeah, Matt was just asking what was up. You wanna talk to him?" TK walked back to the table. "Ok, here he is." He held the phone out to Matt.
Matt grabbed it. "Tai, what's going on?"
"Izzy's back, dude!" Tai's ecstatic voice announced through the earpiece.
"His soul. The Light glued him back together. He's still scrawny, but he's eating now. The Light took over Kari. It was awesome, I mean, I wish you were there. The stuff she said… Kari's fine, just tired. We're gonna stop by Davis's on the way home."
"That's great news about Izzy," Matt managed to interject. "Is everything else cool? You sound like you're on speed."
The line was silent and for a moment Matt thought they had gotten disconnected. Then Tai said "I want to talk to you about Sora."
Matt looked at his father, who was only half listening to TK explain about Izzy. Matt couldn't help but see himself in his aged face. "Now's not a good time."
"I'll only be a minute," Tai said. "Just give me that, ok, Matt?"
Something in Tai's voice made Matt force himself to stand. He waved off TK when he offered to help and stumbled to his bedroom.
"I'm listening," he said.
Another pot fell to the floor and a round of cussing ensued before it was thrown back into the sink and scrubbed for a third time. Ken had never known Davis to be meticulous and he was certain it was the first time he ever saw him clean anything. After he handed Wormmon another dried dish to put in the cabinet he watched Davis grab what had to be his tenth cookie and cram it down his throat. There were soapsuds on it and he gagged a little.
Cookie crumbs got coughed onto the countertop.
"Is he choking?" asked DemiVeemon, concerned. He had eaten about as many cookies as Davis had and was half-passed out on the kitchen table.
Ken shook his head. "If he's coughing that means he's still getting air. If you ever see him get quiet and turn blue you should probably head-butt his stomach."
DemiVeemon looked a little too excited about the prospect of saving his partner from death by cookie.
Davis sputtered up some more crumbs. "No way! Unless I frickin' do this," he grabbed his throat and a little water leaked from his cast, "I'm fine." He glared at Ken. "You'll have him attackin' me every time I'm in the bathroom."
The little blue monster giggled.
Davis returned to the sink and looked like he was about to start scrubbing again when his arms splayed onto the countertop and his head sunk down with a sigh of exasperation. "Ken, I'm stupid."
"And I'm a shitty friend."
"No way!" shouted DemiVeemon.
Ken put down the dish he was drying. "You know that isn't true."
Davis ran his hands over his face and into his hair as he stood up. "Don't defend me yet."
Something inside Ken twisted. He already knew what was coming and, despite everything he had done to prepare himself for this, he still wasn't prepared for the aftermath. "Yolei is in love with you," Ken said quietly.
Davis startled so dramatically that he slipped on soapsuds and fell flat on his backend, smacking his broken wrist when he tried to catch himself. The words that poured out of him were not fit for anyone's ears. Ken helped him up and when Davis finally stopped squirming in pain he began adamantly denying Ken's claim.
Ken shook his head. "It's ok, Davis."
"There's nothing ok about this!" Davis shouted. "Nothing is ok about any of this!"
"You weren't there. When you… I don't think she realized it until then."
"She woulda been the same way if you died, Ken. It doesn't mean anything."
"Maybe. But something changed before then and you know it."
Davis opened his mouth to argue and then, at what seemed a loss for words, ground his teeth. He collapsed into a chair, cringing at what was now probably a sore tailbone, and mumbled something Ken couldn't hear.
"Ohhhh… is that why she was mad?" DemiVeemon asked, having heard what Ken couldn't make out.
"I don't know," Davis groaned. "Probably." He looked ashamed when he glanced up at Ken. "I kissed her. I didn't mean to, I swear."
Ken sat down beside him, but he focused on his hands.
"You never told me you liked her like that, man. I mean, I could sorta tell, but you never said – that doesn't matter, I'm still an asshole."
"You're impulsive," Ken corrected. "You should follow your instinct."
"Like I did with Kari?" Davis asked. When Ken remained silent, he added, "See? I am an asshole. I don't even know why I did it. Yolei is a pain in my ass."
"You have feelings for her. I can tell."
Davis pulled at his hair. "I'm still not over Kari. How the hell did this happen?"
"You've been friends a long time... She needs you," Ken said. His hand rested on Wormmon when the digimon found his way to his lap. He recalled all the words Yolei mumbled to Davis's corpse, words he was never meant to hear. "We fell apart without you," Ken whispered.
Davis started fiddling with his cast and then his fingers attempted to dig under it to scratch an itch. "I'm sorry," he said finally.
Ken smiled. "It's ok. I'll be fine."
"I meant for dying on you," Davis said. His dark eyes tore themselves away from his cast and Ken could see through his lie.
"I'll get over it," Ken said.
Davis pursed his lips and then he grabbed another cookie. Ken did the same.
The sun was bright despite the temperature. A few kids were bundled up and playing soccer in the park. The season had started a few weeks ago and watching the kids shouting as they kicked the ball made Tai anxious to get back on the field.
"You have a game next weekend right?" Kari asked him.
"Yep," Tai said, turning back to her. She still looked a little dazed. "Are you doing ok?"
"I'm fine, just nervous."
Tai smiled and threw his arm around her shoulders. "I'm right here with you, kid."
He rubbed her arm when she shivered. It didn't matter how old she got or who her boyfriend was, Tai figured he'd always be trying to protect Kari from something, even if it was just the chill in the air. Even if she no longer needed protecting.
As they continued their walk, they passed by a familiar shop and Tai found his eyes searching through the glass.
"Do you want to stop?" Kari asked.
"No, it's ok."
"I don't mind."
"I don't know what I'd say to her."
"Say to who?" Sora's voice asked.
Somehow Tai had missed the sound of the door opening, but now he could clearly smell fresh cut roses. Sora was wearing an apron that sported her family name and was covered with smudges of dirt.
"You," Tai answered honestly. He started to rub the back of his head nervously and the fleece of his jacket caused his hair to expand with static. "I guess we're stopping," he said to Kari.
Kari smiled. "Hi Sora. Is your mother inside?"
"Yeah, business is pretty slow today if you want to say hi."
Tai swallowed nervously, knowing she was giving them privacy. When Kari disappeared inside he leaned casually against brick of the building. "Izzy is better," he said.
Sora smiled. "Mimi called to tell me. I'm so glad… Kari is amazing."
Tai nodded even though he knew Izzy's restoration was attributed to something much larger than his sister. He recalled the Light's words. "I'm not bitter anymore," he blurted oddly.
"Tai, you don't have to-"
"Yeah, I do." He pushed himself from the wall. "I know we all kind of made up, but I need you to know that. I'm ok. I want you to be happy."
Sora frowned. "I am happy. Izzy is going to be ok, we're all home and in one piece again."
Tai flexed the fingers on his right hand. "I mean you don't have to worry about me. You and Matt can-
Her eyes narrowed. "I'm not some object you can hand over."
"I know that. I didn't mean it like –"
"What if I don't want to be with anyone?" Sora was pulling at the pocket on her apron, but her eyes were on fire.
"Th-that's fine, but…"
Tai bit his lip and then grimaced when it pulled at his blistered chin. "I was talking to Biyomon."
Sora looked both shocked and a bit betrayed. "What? When?"
"Uh, Kari and I went to the digiworld yesterday. You know, to see how they were doing with the clean up. Anyway, I was talking to her. Don't worry, she just agreed with me. She didn't tell me anything secret."
Sora crossed her arms. "And what did she agree with?"
"We both think you're still afraid to love."
For a moment Sora looked so angry Tai thought she might clock him, but then tears filled her eyes. "That's not true," she whispered.
"I know you," Tai said, stepping forward. It took some self control not to touch her. "I think you're still nervous around Matt because you're in love with him and it scares you."
"I'm not scared," she denied, though her words were shaky.
"I don't scare you," Tai said. "I guess that's my problem." He smiled sadly and gave into the temptation to pull her into his arms. She didn't push away like he expected her to, so he planted a soft kiss on her forehead. "You're my best friend, Sora," he murmured. "That isn't going to change."
"Nothing is going to change." Sora shoved away from him. "Stupid Tai."
"Of course not," he agreed.
The climb up the stairs was warming her frigid limbs, but her heart was pounding from the effort. She still felt drained and hollow, but the trembling in her hands couldn't be attributed to her exhaustion or the cold.
Kari had barely spoken to Davis since he left the hospital with a cast on his wrist. She had messaged him on her D-Terminal a few times, just to make sure he was ok, but his answers were always short. Not that he had ever been a big writer. At school, he remained fairly elusive. They didn't have any classes together and he no longer waited to walk her home. Of course they hadn't walked home together since that day in the rain, but before Animamon had captured them he had still waited, hoping she'd show up. She had been the one avoiding him then – staying late after class to help her teacher or going out a different door. Now, the role was reversed.
Tai said it was Davis's way of letting go. He was the one who suggested they come here today.
Kari looked at her brother who had been quiet since leaving the Takenouchi flower shop. He didn't seem sad, just thoughtful. His hands were already digging in his jacket pocket as they ascended the last flight of stairs before the Motomiya's floor. There were footsteps coming down and when they turned the corner they almost ran into Ken. He had been staring at his feet.
"Yo, Ken!" Tai slapped him on the back fondly.
"Oh, hi," Ken said, looking a bit startled.
Kari grabbed him in a hug. When she released him, his cheeks were tinged pink. "How are you?" she asked.
He looked tired, but there was something else in his expression that she couldn't read. "I'm fine," he said. "A little full. Davis stuffed us with ramen."
Wormmon popped out of the bag strung on Ken's shoulder. "And Mama Ichijouji's cookies."
"Hi Wormmon," Kari greeted warmly. "So you're headed back to Tamachi?"
Ken nodded. "I promised my parents I'd be home by five. They aren't really happy about me being out of their sight."
"Understandable," Tai said. "Hey, we should tell him about Izzy!"
Kari was mostly silent while Tai gave Ken the details. It was strange to think of her body behaving under someone else's control, but it also felt right, like it was a part of her –a good dream she just couldn't recall. Ken was watching her when Tai finished and she realized that they shared more now than the pursuit of darkness. They had both been encompassed by the Light. Kari could see it in Ken now through the fatigue – Hope. She couldn't help but think that TK had saved them both.
"I'm so glad he's going to be ok," Ken said. A line on his jaw creased. "I'm glad Animamon can't do it to anyone else."
"You and me both, buddy," Tai said. "You guys were amazing back there. Thanks for saving my sis." He rubbed Kari's hair affectionately.
Wormmon blushed with pride and Ken said, "Of course."
They said their goodbyes and watched Ken disappear down the stairs, Wormmon bouncing at his side and gushing about how amazing it had been to DNA digivolve with Patamon.
"You ready?" Tai asked Kari.
Kari nodded wordlessly and he rapped his knuckles on the Motomiya's door. There was some shouting and scuffling and then the door swung open to reveal Jun, who instantly narrowed her eyes. Kari suddenly wished she could run away, but instead she stuttered, "I-is…"
"We're here to see Davis," Tai said for her.
Jun was glaring daggers at Kari, but she stepped to the side to let them in. The apartment smelled just like a restaurant. "Hey dork!" Jun yelled. "The little heartbreaker and her," she suddenly gave Tai a flashy smile, "cute brother are here!"
Tai's tan cheeks flushed and his voice squeaked when he said, "Hey dude," as Davis rounded the corner.
Davis shoved his sister away from the door. "Oh hell no! You are not flirting with Tai."
"Not yet." Jun winked before strutting down the hall.
"Sorry," Davis groaned. He actually looked a little ill. "She's insane… So what's up? Is Izzy ok?"
"He got his soul back!" Tai exclaimed. "It was the Light."
They both got quiet and Kari felt awkward. "It used me," she said to fill the silence.
"That's awesome," Davis said. "So… is that why you're here?"
"Do we need a reason?" Tai asked, rubbing his fist into Davis's hair.
Davis batted it away. "No, I was just wonderin'." He was purposefully avoiding Kari's eyes and she hated it. She remembered what it felt like to have lost him and all she wanted to do was throw her arms around him to make sure he was real.
Tai dug in his pocket for a minute and pulled out his old goggles. "We came to give you these back."
Davis accepted the goggles and observed them carefully, almost like he was making sure nothing had changed since Kari had taken them from him that day in the rain. She couldn't help but remember the cold chill of raindrops on her skin, his laughter and the game that led to their kiss.
"You don't look right without 'em," Tai said as Davis slid them onto his head.
"Are you ok?" Kari asked suddenly.
"No," DemiVeemon's voice moaned. They all turned to see him flailed onto the couch with a stomach three times the size of the rest of his body. "Too many cookies!"
Davis rubbed his own stomach and turned a bit green. "I lost count after the first dozen…" Tai chuckled, but Davis's face had turned serious. "I think I'll live though." He smiled warmly as he met Kari's eyes. "I'm ok," he added quietly.
"Are you sure?" she asked. "I haven't really had the chance to talk to you."
Davis lifted his cast in the air. "It's healing. It's just gonna take some time."
"Good," Kari whispered. It was the only word that didn't get stuck in her throat.
Davis turned to Tai. "I think I'm gonna have to sit out our game next weekend."
"Sucks. At least you make a good cheerleader."
"I'm a great cheerleader."
Kari smiled as they bantered; happy to have them both alive and whole again, even with their scars. They got cut short when Jun reappeared and pressed a piece of paper in Tai's hand. She mouthed 'call me' and Davis shouted, "He won't!" as she trotted back to her bedroom.
When they said their goodbyes Kari couldn't help but wrap her arms around him. Davis stiffened, but his good hand pulled her closer, lingering beneath her hair. "I'll see you at school," she said when they parted.
"Sure," said Davis.
The door closed and Kari felt Tai's arm fall over her shoulders. "Ready to go home?" he asked. Kari noticed him slip Jun's number in his pocket and he blushed when she squinted at him suspiciously.
"I'm ready," she said.
When they were about halfway home, Kari's D-Terminal buzzed. The message was from Davis.
Thanks for the goggles. I still think they look cuter on you.
Six Days Later
Her shoes squeaked on the court with each quick turn. Her legs were burning and her chest ached for air. Somehow, Sora was getting slammed. Usually being this ticked off made her game better, but instead each pop of the tennis ball only echoed her irritation. She was sloppy and she was losing.
"Ugh!" She screamed as her ball flew out of bounds.
"What's wrong, Sora? You're all over the place today." Her opponent and teammate, Michiko, threw the ball back at her and Sora caught it in her hand. "You better shape up before the match on Thursday."
"I will. My leg is just bothering me a little," Sora lied. She hadn't noticed her injury for days. "Let's go again."
Michiko was already packing up her racket. "No can do, I have a date!" She grinned widely before her eyes flickered to the bleachers. "Looks like you do too."
Sora's heart beat erratically when she found Matt sitting in the stands. His knee was bouncing incessantly. He strung the strap of his guitar case over his shoulder and stood, waiting for her.
Things between them had gone back to normal, as normal as they could be considering the circumstances. Sora chatted with Matt and Tai like they were all old friends again. Some part of her thought things could stay like that, but once in awhile her hand would brush against Matt's when he let her borrow a pencil or their shoulders would touch when they walked in the hall (Matt still wasn't very coordinated, although he was getting around fine on his own now) and her stomach would churn with butterflies. There was no reason for it and she hated that it kept happening because all it did was bring back Tai's hurtful words.
You're still afraid to love.
She had resolved that problem long ago. That wasn't it at all, but she couldn't stop wondering what made her best friend and her digimon think that it was.
"Good luck," Michiko whispered before she took off, winking at her. Sora was sure she could've easily served the ball right in her face if given the chance.
She wiped the sweat from her forehead and slowly packed up her things, trying to buy time. She hadn't been alone with Matt since they sat outside Devimon's hotel, sobbing in his arms after Tai had almost died.
"I thought you looked pretty good," Matt said behind her.
Sora turned to him and threw her duffle bag over her shoulder. "Shut up. I'm awful today."
"I guess I wasn't paying attention to the ball much," he admitted.
Sora flushed. "What are you doing here?"
Matt shrugged. "I was walking home from band practice." Sora narrowed her eyes, but he only said, "You going home?"
"I'll walk you."
The walk home with Matt was quiet. Once in a while Sora would comment on the beautiful spring day or how well everyone was healing from their injuries, but Matt mostly just nodded and said a few short sentences. He seemed deep in thought and Sora both dreaded and desperately wanted to know what he was thinking. She gave up after awhile and let her own thoughts wander.
Still afraid to love.
She had loved Matt, she had even told him that once – when they were together for the first time, when she was exposed and completely vulnerable, when she felt like there was no other way she could get closer to him than with words. She had been stripped of her defenses as much as her clothes.
Sora flushed and pretended not to notice Matt noticing.
"I talked to Tai," he said, breaking the silence.
Matt talked to Tai every day at school, so he could only mean one thing. Sora's cheeks went hot with anger. "And?"
Matt's fingers went to his pocket like he was searching for a pack of cigarettes, but he came up empty. "Damn it," he muttered.
"Ran out?" she asked bitterly.
"My dad made me quit."
"Good. He should quit too."
"He did," Matt said. His fingers started tapping against the strap on his shoulder. "He's been drinking a lot of coffee instead. It's awful."
If Sora wasn't so mad she would have laughed at the mental image. Mr. Ishida was already a bit high strung. "How long do you think that will last?"
"I don't know. Normally I'd say a couple of days, but he's been seeing my mom a lot more lately."
Sora softened when she saw a smile pull at the corner of Matt's mouth. "Really?"
He shrugged. "Maybe TK and I should get kidnapped more often."
Sora thought of her own parents. Her father was gone as usual and as usual it had her mother on edge. They had always been like that: together but not together. Most of the time she felt like she didn't have a father. Whenever he came home her parents acted like they were still in love, but her mother was really just miserable.
"We need to get the house cleaned," Mrs. Takenouchi said to her daughter. She was already polishing the silverware.
Sora bent over to pull her tennis shoe onto her heel. "It's already clean, Mom. I made plans to go out with Matt tonight."
"Your father is coming home."
Sora stiffened. "So what?"
"I want things to be nice for him." Her mother put away another polished knife. "It's what a good wife does."
"Dad doesn't care about the silverware."
Mrs. Takenouchi narrowed her eyes. "You'll have to tell Matt you'll see him tomorrow."
"Dad doesn't care about the house!" Sora slipped on her other shoe. "He doesn't stay long enough to notice it."
"Watch your tone and take your shoes off."
Her mother put down her polishing rag and gave her daughter 'the look.' It only further infuriated Sora, but she kicked her shoes off anyway.
"Fine!" Sora said. "But it won't make a difference. He could care less about us."
"Sora!" There was pain in her mother's eyes. "Your father loves us."
"Whatever." Sora stormed to the closet and grabbed the feather duster, almost knocking things over when she began dusting the near spotless surfaces of their home.
When Matt messaged her later to see what had happened, she ignored it, and when he asked if she was ok at school the next day, she said, "I'm fine."
He was looking at her now the same way he had then, like he had figured her out. It made her angry again.
"Did Tai tell you I'm afraid to love?" she spat.
Matt honestly looked surprised. "No."
Sora readjusted her duffle bag and it banged hard against her side. "So what did you talk about?"
"He told me he thought you…" Matt stopped walking.
She stopped after a few steps and turned back to him. "That I what?"
Matt's jaw clenched and his blue eyes bore into her. "That you still loved me."
Sora ignored the butterflies in her stomach. "So what? Was he handing me over to you?"
"No. He just said I should talk to you about it."
"So this was Tai's idea?"
"I guess…" Matt's hand tightened around the strap of his guitar case. "No."
A few people on the street passed them by and Sora started to feel very awkward standing there. She turned around and started walking.
"Sora, wait!" Matt caught up to her in two quick strides, but she wouldn't look at him. "Do you really think I wasn't going to talk to you about us? I would have anyway."
"Why? Why can't we just leave things the way they are?"
"You know I can't do that."
He clumsily bumped into her shoulder and Sora finally looked up at him. "You didn't bother talking to me before," she said.
"When you broke up with me?"
Sora didn't answer him. She turned back to the sidewalk, fighting the sting behind her eyelids.
"I'm sorry," Matt said. "I should've fought for you then." When she still didn't look at him he grabbed her arm and forced her to stop. She met his eyes again and he held her there.
"I don't know if Tai's right about what he said, but I'm afraid, Sora," he confessed. "I tried so hard not to mess things up between us. I wanted to do everything right, but I don't know what a good relationship looks like. I just know I don't want to lose you." He stepped a little closer to avoid getting hit by a bicyclist. "And I'm afraid of how much I still need you."
Sora bit her lip to keep it from trembling beneath his gaze. His words made sense – why he was always on his best behavior, why their relationship didn't seem to grow past sweaty palms and butterflies. Sora thought back to the times when their defenses were down and saw something deeper there – something that terrified her.
"I don't want to end up like our parents," she whispered.
Matt's hand trailed up her arm until it reached her jaw and lingered there. "Me either."
The crowd around them had thickened. Everyone was out enjoying the first real warm day of spring. A bell rang twice and someone shouted before Matt pulled Sora against his chest to keep another passing biker from slamming into her. His arms wrapped around her and he held her like he would never let her go.
Despite all the onlookers, Sora decided to stay there awhile.
There was a chorus of cheers so loud that Davis visibly grimaced and jumped up from his seat on the sidelines. "What the fuck ref? That shoulda been a foul!"
"The only thing foul is your language, son," the referee replied. Then to their coach he said, "Control your player's mouth or I'll make sure he sits out the rest of the season."
"Watch the mouth, Motomiya," his coach said lazily. When the referee was out of hearing distance he muttered, "Fuckin' prick."
Davis snickered, but was sent back to the bench with a glare. Coach called a timeout and Tai came trotting up to them, covered in sweat and looking depressed.
"This sucks," Tai moaned. "We're getting killed."
"Quit whining, Yagami. You sound like a girl. I expect more from our captain." Coach ignored Tai's pout. "It's that damn ref; his nephew is on that team. Biased bastard."
"He's an asshole," Davis agreed.
"Mouth, Motomiya, or I'll break your other wrist."
Davis rolled his eyes and didn't bother paying attention to their coach's pessimistic pep-talk (yes, there was such a thing). It wouldn't make a difference. They were getting creamed. Davis wiped sweat from his forehead with his palm and took a swig of water. It had gone from being a warm spring day to feeling like the middle of summer. He was starting to feel sorry for himself. Not only did he have to sit on the sidelines, but he was baking in the sun and his arm was starting to itch under his cast. He rubbed it uselessly on his leg and then held it in a salute as the team returned to the field looking no more inspired than before.
"You can do it, Tai!" Kari was shouting from the stands, but Tai only looked embarrassed. Sometimes she was too supportive. She caught Davis's eye and gave him a little wave which he began to return until he caught a flash of violet hair. His hand froze mid-air.
Yolei was following behind Izzy and Iori as they joined Kari and TK on the bleachers. Izzy looked ten times better than he did the last time Davis had seen him. His dark eyes flashed between normal and haunted, but Davis guessed they all had those moments nowadays. Yolei looked the same, still tired and stressed, but her normal attire of layers had been shed down to two tank tops and a pair of boy shorts. Her hair was pulled back and she kept flicking a stray that had missed the ponytail. She noticed Davis staring and began talking animatedly to Iori.
When the soccer ball was kicked out of bounds and rolled to his feet, Davis punted it.
"Thanks a lot, asshole," a player from the other team grunted. Davis bowed mockingly and got scolded by the biased ref. He could care less.
Yolei had somehow become a master of the silent treatment since he kissed her. It was surprising because usually she just yelled at him when he pissed her off. This new display of anger had Davis scrambling. He'd tried to talk to her at school, but she ignored him. He put a note in her locker, but he watched her stuff it angrily under a pile of books. He even came to her house once, but he could hear her telling her brother she wasn't home. The only time she communicated with him was over D-terminal. Every night, without fail, she'd message him to make sure he was still alive. As the days passed, his replies got shorter. Last night he decided not to answer her just out of spite.
The game dragged on and by the time the second half was called with a score of 5-1 (they lost), Davis was almost as drenched as his teammates. "Good try," he said to Tai, who only groaned in return and dumped his water bottle onto his face. His healing burn looked a bit irritated from the heat.
"Defense could've used some work," Davis said as he packed up his duffle bag.
"Shut up, Motomiya."
Davis smirked at his teammate and then finally allowed himself a glance back to the small crowd in the bleachers. Kari, Iori, and Izzy made their way down to the field, but Yolei and TK had lingered, chatting about something. Davis bit the inside of his cheek and barely noticed Kari approach them.
"They were a really good team," she said to her brother, trying to sound encouraging.
Tai shrugged. "I guess. We really could've used you out there, Davis."
Davis tore his gaze away from Yolei. "I'll tell my bones to heal faster."
Tai wasn't listening. He had slapped Izzy on the back and the redhead stumbled a bit. "Dude, I'm glad you made it. Sorry about the poor show."
"It's been awhile." Izzy forced a smile. "Kari's right though. Their striker had impeccable footwork."
"That's the ref's nephew," Tai said, looking a bit miffed.
"I thought he seemed a little biased," said Iori.
"See?" Their coach had overheard their conversation and was throwing his hands in the air. "Even the spectators thought so, you dick!" he shouted to referee, who ignored him. He went off muttering obscenities.
"Sore loser?" asked TK. Yolei trailed behind him. Her caramel eyes were so furious, Davis wondered if they might burn a hole through her lenses.
Davis didn't hear any of the following conversation. He was contemplating how best to sneak away from Yolei's gaze and then arguing with himself for wanting to run away when he should be the one pissed at her for ignoring him. He decided he'd play her game and pretend she wasn't there. They had all started to walk home and he had just made it around the bleachers when he felt Yolei's hand grab his arm.
He was all set to give her the silent stare down when she hammered both her palms into his chest, shoving him into the stands. The others disappeared into the street, leaving them alone.
"I can't believe you!" she hissed through her teeth.
"What?" he squeaked.
She hit him again. "You need to answer me when I write you!"
Davis clenched his fists. "You've been ignoring me!"
"You can't do that to me!" She shoved him in the shoulder and his back slammed against the side of the metal bleachers. His duffle bag fell to the ground. "You can't just do that!"
"What if I was sleeping?"
Yolei smacked him again with both hands. Davis was sure she was going to leave red marks on his chest. "You were not sleeping! You just let me think you were dead."
"I'm not dead! You see me every day."
Yolei didn't seem to hear him. "You," she shoved him again, "answer," and again, "me."
"Would you stop hitting me?"
"No! Why should I?" She was fighting tears. "You didn't keep your promise."
Davis grabbed her hands, but she easily squirmed out of his injured grip. He had to put up his arms to avoid a palm in the face. "Look, I'm sorry I was stupid. I'm sorry I didn't listen to you, but I wasn't going to just let you die!" He tried to grab her, but she flailed her arms.
"Don't do that to me again," Yolei growled, ignoring his apology. "Don't make me think you're gone."
"Then stop ignoring me!" Davis yelled back. "I'm sorry I kissed you, ok? I wasn't tryin' to piss you off."
"You think that's why I'm mad?" she asked.
"You kissed me to shut me up!" She shoved him again. "Who does that!?"
"I didn't know what else to say!" Davis said. Yolei's hand had lifted, but halted at his words, so he continued. "Things changed between us… I just… I don't know…"
When she just stared at him, he fumbled for more to say. "Ken likes you," he blurted.
"Ken. He likes you."
"Why are you telling me that?"
"Because you should know."
"But why are you telling me?"
Davis felt his cheeks light on fire. " 'Cause… he… I mean I… you…"
Yolei stepped back. "I already know, Davis. He told me."
Something plummeted in his chest. "He did?"
"Yes." She was staring him down. "So…?"
Davis moved to pick up his duffle bag, but Yolei's palm smacked his chest again. "Would you stop that?" he barked.
"Davis." Yolei looked like she might bite his head off. "Answer me right now."
"It doesn't matter."
"I don't know! I just thought you should know because Ken's my best friend and he deserves a chance. You don't owe me anything, ok?"
"What are you saying?"
Davis ground his teeth. "That I… geez, Yolei, why do you have to make me say it? If you and Ken are together, then that's great." For some reason his mouth kept running, maybe because he was afraid to hear her confirm it. "I shouldn't've said anything. It's just he told me that you… when I... I just wanted you to know in case… if you… I just thought it was the right thing to-"
He was cut off by her lips and wondered for a second if he was imagining it. It was almost as awkward as their first kiss. Yolei had no clue what she was doing. Her hands were balled into fists on his chest. Davis snuck his good arm around her waist to pull her closer and the fingers of his injured hand pushed the stray strands of hair from her cheek. She relaxed a little and he felt her fingers uncurl against him.
"Oh ho!" One of Davis's teammates shouted and they pulled away from each other. "And despite his injury, Motomiya scores!"
Davis gave him the finger. When they were alone again, Yolei started wiping her glasses clean, looking embarrassed. "You're all sweaty," she said.
"You suck at kissing," said Davis.
Yolei flicked his nose, hard. "Shut up, you jerk."
"Ow!" He rubbed his nose with the back of his hand. "So why'd you do it?"
She put her glasses back on. "You wouldn't shut up," she said. She was smiling.
"So you aren't with Ken?"
"Good, I really don't want to go through that again." Davis picked up his duffle bag and they started walking. "You know, we can work on that."
Yolei pursed her lips. "On what?"
"Your kissing." Davis stumbled sideways when she shoved him. "I bet my mom'll still let you in my room…"
Yolei bumped him with her hip. "Jackass."
"You love calling me that, don't you?" Davis threw an arm around her shoulder; purposefully placing his sweaty armpit on her bare skin.
Yolei didn't move. "Yes," she said.
It was hard to think that less than two weeks ago they had been trapped inside a world of their own memories, half of them injured or dead.
Today the sun was shining, everyone was alive and healing, and Kari's hand was pressed into his palm. TK couldn't help but smile, even when she tugged him to a stop and looked behind them, searching for Davis.
"We lost Yolei and Davis," she said.
"I don't think they want to be found," TK replied. When Kari's gaze snapped back to him, he was grinning.
"Oohhh," Tai exclaimed, matching TK's grin with a goofy one of his own. "That's going to be fun to watch."
"Would it be abhorrent for us to place bets on how long it lasts?" Izzy asked.
"Yes!" Kari said while Tai said, "A week!"
"Maybe two," Iori chimed in.
TK chuckled and Kari gave him the stink eye. "I don't know," he said to appease her. "I think they're both pretty serious… but it'll probably be an on/off thing."
"You're all awful," Kari said, obviously not appeased.
TK lifted their joint hands and kissed her knuckles. He ignored Tai's groan and whispered, "You're right. We'll just have to see."
Tai cleared his throat to get their attention. "So, you still up to a trip to the digiworld, Izzy?" he asked.
The redhead nodded. "Tentomon's anxious to go. It was almost impossible to leave the house without him today. My mother occupied him with some knitting. I'll probably have twenty scarves by the time we get there."
"Just in time for spring!" Tai laughed.
When they reached the Izumi home, Mrs. Izumi answered the door and immediately swept her adopted son into her arms. "I'm so glad you're ok!" she cried.
Izzy turned red. "I've been gone less than two hours." He patted her back reassuringly and when she let him go he was impaled by Tentomon.
"It felt like a millennium!" the digital bug said.
"Hello everyone, please come in," Mrs. Izumi said. She hurried to the kitchen where her husband was piling up an assortment of bento boxes into a big shopping bag. "I made you lunch."
One box was twice as large as the others. "The big one is yours, Koushiro," said his father.
"I'll make sure he stuffs his face," Tai said, throwing his arm around Izzy's shoulders.
Iori bowed politely. "Thank you, Izumi-san. It looks wonderful." TK and Kari followed suit.
"Thanks, Mom, Dad," Izzy said.
Both his parents hugged him tightly. It was easy to see that his mother didn't want him to go, but she held her tongue. "Please be careful," she said.
The five of them, plus Tentomon, piled into Izzy's room. TK held up his D-3 and the red gate to the digital world clicked open. He could see the strange digital trees and a green field shining beneath the sun of another world. "Everyone ready?"
Everyone nodded their consent and the portal sucked them in. As usual, they ended up in pile and TK picked his face off Tai's rear end.
"Wrong Yagami," Iori quipped, snickering a bit to himself.
TK dusted himself off and gave him a sideways look. "Who are you and what did you do to my DNA partner?"
"But he looks just like Iori!" Armadillomon's voice exclaimed.
TK looked up to see their partners waiting for them. The digimon had gone ahead, helping the new elecmon in charge of Primary Village deal with the sudden influx of babies being reborn after the battle with Animamon. Patamon flew directly into TK's face, wrapping his ear-wings around his head.
"I missed you, TK!"
TK gently peeled his partner away. "I missed you too. How are things going at Primary Village?"
"Great!" Agumon said while being attacked by one of Tai's noogies.
"It's terrible," Gatomon answered at the same time. She looked like she was about to pass out in Kari's arms.
"Gatomon isn't a baby 'mon," whispered Patamon.
"There's so many of them," she groaned.
Kari smiled and rubbed her ear affectionately. "It can't be that bad."
When they arrived, Primary Village was teeming with baby and in-training digimon. They stampeded to their partners like a living wave.
"I take it back," Kari said when each of Gatomon's limbs became magnets for tiny zurumon. Their little slimey bodies caused some of the fur on her coat to wither. There was an unpleasant odor, like burnt hair.
"These guys are the worst," Gatomon hissed.
"They eventually digivolve into Gazimon," explained Patamon.
"There's so many of them," Iori said sadly. "These were all Animamon's allies?"
"We think so," Agumon said. He started laughing as a couple of red Punimon began bouncing on his head. "And I'm pretty sure one of these little guys is our Elecmon!"
Izzy was staring silently at the babies and Tentomon buzzed by his head, concerned. "Are you ok, Izzy?' Tentomon asked.
"This is my fault."
"If I hear that again, I'm going to slug you," Tai said seriously. "You didn't do this. Animamon did."
"I supplied the ammunition."
Kari slipped her arm into the crook of Izzy's elbow and held onto his bicep reassuringly. "It's ok," she said softly.
Izzy stared at her for a moment before squeezing her hand in gratitude. "I keep thinking about those other souls…the digimon that died in Animamon's world. They can't come back."
"They're at peace now," Kari said.
It wasn't so much the words, but who they were coming from that consoled Izzy. TK smiled at her and she smiled back, warm and bright and finally free of the guilt that pulled her into darkness.
After the new elecmon helped them to settle down the babies, they gathered beneath the shade of an oversized building block to eat lunch. Kari fed half of hers to the punimon in her lap, so TK shared some of his tempura with her.
Suddenly Armadillomon, who had left them after he finished his lunch in one gulp, came bounding up to them, shouting "Come quick!"
Izzy stood up first, looking grateful for an excuse to keep Tai from stuffing the last of his food down his throat. "What is it?" he asked.
"Ya'll better hurry or you'll miss it!" Armadillomon answered evasively.
He led them to a tiny nest and inside a digiegg was hatching. A small metallic bar poked out from the shell and then finally the little digimon broke free. It looked like a metal computer mouse with shining red eyes.
Armadillomon grinned. "It's MetalKoromon!"
Tentomon buzzed by his partner, looking a bit emotional. "It's Andromon."
It was obvious by the expression on Izzy's face that he already knew. He knelt down and the baby scurried into his arms, twitching its long metal ears like antennae. They were all quiet while he ran a hand over its little silver body. "Thank you," he whispered.
A tiny spark of electricity zapped from its tail in response.
"Oh look, another one," Gatomon groaned. Just two nests down another egg was stirring. It was an off-white color covered in strange crimson designs.
Patamon fluttered over it and cocked his head to the side. "Whose egg do you think that is?"
"Elecmon would know," Agumon said, looking around, but the new keeper of Primary Village was occupied by a group of eager zurumon.
"I guess we'll just have to wait and see," said Iori.
The egg cracked, but only a tiny sliver fell away.
"Maybe we should help it out," Tai said, reaching forward to peel at the shell.
Kari batted his hand away. "No, it needs to do it on its own. To get strong."
After a bit of rustling the egg finally cracked away from a small round trembling body. The digimon seemed to be facing the wrong direction, like it was trying to burrow back into its shell. It was mostly white, but a strong red mark ran from its back to its front like a racing stripe.
"Poor little thing," Kari cooed, scooping it into her arms. It had two stubs for arms that were rubbing at its new eyes. Its closed lids seeped tiny tears. "It's ok, we won't hurt you."
Finally, its wide eyes opened. They looked like they should've been blue, but they were coated in a thin film of white.
"That isn't…" TK wondered.
"Cormon." The new elecmon had joined them. Two zurumon were still attached to his legs. "He's the baby form of Animamon."
Tai jumped to his feet. "What?! Kari, put that thing down right now!"
Kari cuddled the baby to her chest. "Tai-"
"We have to kill it."
Elecmon jumped in the way and his fur stood on end, sparking with electricity. The zurumon scurried away. "You'll have to go though me," he said.
"He's just a baby!" said Kari.
Iori stood beside her. "She's right. We can't just murder baby digimon."
"He's not just a baby," Tai argued. "He killed all these digimon." He motioned to the other babies around them. "He murdered our friends! He tried to kill you, Kari! Think about what he did to Izzy. He's too powerful."
"I'm with Tai," Tentomon buzzed.
Izzy grimaced, pulling MetalKoromon up with him as he stood. "He shouldn't be able to do that to anyone else."
"TK!" Kari turned to him, her eyes wide and pleading. "Please…He should have the chance to change."
Iori was watching TK carefully, as if he were waiting for the rift to grow between them.
TK's jaw clenched and he stared at the baby digimon. The reaper of souls shivered in Kari's arms as if awaiting his fate. So many thoughts ran through his head: he remembered the feeling of Animamon ripping his soul in two, the sight of Kari strangling in Animamon's arms, and then he remembered Tzedekmon.
May your soul find peace in the next life and may it only bring peace to those it touches.
"Let him live," said TK.
"You've got to be kidding me!" Tai snapped angrily.
"Kari's right. He should have a chance." TK stared at Cormon, narrowing his eyes. "Maybe in this life he'll remember mercy."
A gentle spring breeze whipped the smell of flowers and lush forest life around them as they watched their digimon play. Kari had coaxed the tiny Cormon out of her arms and he hesitantly bounced around with the other baby digimon. He had finally been coerced into playing a game of tag with the sly zurumon and hopping punimon. He was amazingly agile for lacking sight, but he did bump into things here and there. It was hard to believe that the timid little thing could grow into the same creature that had torn their souls from their bodies.
"Do you think I made the right decision?" TK asked when Patamon landed in his lap, looking a bit exhausted.
"Of course I do," Patamon said. "Animamon already paid for what he did. I don't think it's our job to worry about what might happen. We just have to hope that he learned from his mistakes."
TK nodded and turned to where Tai and Izzy (MetalKoromon seemed to have attached himself to his shoulder somehow) were kicking around a soccer ball. They had both accepted they were outnumbered and reluctantly agreed to TK's decision. Tai faked a tackle to Izzy's leg, but it barley scraped him. He was obviously going easy on him. Izzy's body was still a bit thin and ragged, with pink scars on his wrists. The skin on Tai's chin would probably never be the same. It was angry and red in the sun.
Kari's hand found TK's fingers and he suddenly felt lighter. Somehow they had made it - through Animamon's world, the pain of betrayal, death and life again. Their bond seemed stronger now, like it had been mended new through its brokenness.
A tiny shout drew TK's attention to the baby digimon. Cormon was riding Armadillomon's shell and his tiny little face broke out into a smile for the first time. It made TK think of all the people in his world, the humans who were once children, playing innocent games like Cormon did now, and how they grew up to be monsters of a different kind.
There would always be darkness in the world. TK squeezed Kari's hand and smiled gently at Iori when Cormon laughed. The best he could do with his life was look for the Light.
After over a decade, it is finally finished. There are so many people to thank, but those of you who have written reviews, sent me PMs of constructive criticism, encouragement, and undeserved praise cannot be thanked enough. I don't think I would have ever finished without your support. I hope that some of you will read the story front to back at some time and let me know if I've missed anything. I'll probably be editing things here and there forever, just because writing can never truly be perfected. If you have questions/comments you don't want to leave in a review, please feel free to PM me here or contact me via Tumblr. I'll answer (although not always immediately – I got a sweet baby girl that keeps me busy! ^_^)
Some tidbits you might want to know:
When I wrote about Ken's song on the piano, I listened to the song "Ow" by Stephan Moccio. Look it up, it's beautiful.
The little moment with Jun and Tai was my way of shouting out to Schnickledooger's fanfic, "No Girls Allowed" because it is frickin' awesome. Go read it.
The origin of my original digimon's names:
Anima – Latin for soul
Tzedek – Hebrew for justice
Cor – Latin for heart
There are three sentences that are not my own in the past chapters. All credit due to the new testament of the Bible.
"…the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining." 1 John 2:8
"And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it." John 1:5
"…that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame…." Romans 5:3-5
THANK YOU ALL AGAIN! I love how much we all still love this show after all these years. :D