Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, nor do I own Kibomon, Aiwemon, Velinemon, or Gessmon, who were created by RoyalKnightX, Shire Folk, Silver Kitsune Lunara, and Miss Anonymous hp respectively.

A/N: I've got another chapter done! Not much to say here as the chapter sort of speaks for itself with what's going on. As usual, enjoy!

Following the Footsteps of Destiny

Chapter 232: Living a Nightmare

Makiya 'Mickey' Takaishi

Server, Eastern Hemisphere, Digital World

Feathers.

There were feathers everywhere, drifting gently on the wind. As they floated to the earth, they gathered in a fluffy pool at his feet, caressing his skin as they made contact with is body, and reaching out his hand, several came to rest softly in his open palm.

Black and white feathers. They contrasted sharply with one another, and yet they didn't seem out of place falling side by side. It seemed right somehow to see them mingling together.

High in the sky the sun was shining, and the ocean in the distance sparkled a deep blue. It looked warm and welcoming, and he closed his eyes to relish the feel of the warm rays of light touching his skin and the soft feathers brushing against his cheeks as they continued to float down from the brilliant blue atmosphere hovering above him.

It was a wonderful feeling, and for a moment he lost himself in the sound of the wind and the smell of the ocean.

It's so peaceful here. I haven't been this peaceful in a long time. At least, that's what it feels like to me...

The soft sound of unexpected footsteps suddenly startled him, and opening his amber eyes he felt his breath catch in his throat. An angel digimon stood only a few feet away from him, and the celestial being was staring intently at him, as if waiting for him to speak.

"Angelicmon?"

The angel digimon did not answer, and immediately he knew this digimon was not Matty's partner, though they looked exactly the same. There was just something about his demeanor and the look in his eyes that convinced the young blond this was not the same Angelicmon.

And yet...he seems so familiar...

Wanting to strike up a conversation, he took a step forward and said, "You seem a little lost. Are you looking for someone?"

Once again the angel digimon chose not to answer him, and all of a sudden the wind picked up, causing the feathers at his feet to swirl into the air around him in a whirl of black and white. As the feathers continued to beat against him, they no longer felt soft and gentle as they brushed against his skin. Instead they began to sting as they beat angrily against his body, taking on the form of an aggressive tornado.

"Ouch!"

He quickly covered his face and hunched his back to protect himself against the sharp feathers that felt more like pointy needles than actual feathers, and peeking between his fingers he noticed that all of the feathers had turned pitched black.

What's going on?

Letting out a cry of dismay, he stumbled forward and landed on his knees at the celestial digimon's feet.

For some reason the angel did not appear to be affected by the swirling tornado, and as he watched in shock, the angel's gold and white wings turned pitch black, along with his hair and the outfit he wore. Though his green eyes remained the same, they no longer looked calm and serene, a hint of amusement sparkling deep within them. Instead they were filled with pain and sadness, and there was a sense of desperation in his gaze, as if he was silently pleading for someone to help him.

He knew this digimon, and almost unconsciously the name escaped his lips in a whisper. "DarkAngelicmon?"

The angel never had a chance to reply. The black feathers that had been tormenting the young blond suddenly engulfed both of them, and spitting a couple feathers out of his mouth the golden-haired Digidestined grabbed the fallen angel's ankle and held on as tight as he could.

He couldn't breath. The black feathers were threatening to suffocate them both, and catching a glimpse of what lay beyond the feathery storm, he felt his heart skip a beat.

There were black shadows everywhere, rising from the ground, their hungry violet eyes searching eagerly for prey, and in the distance the ocean turned black, the dark waters calling out to him to become one with the darkness...

xXx

Mickey woke with a strangled gasp, and jerking into a sitting position he struggled to breath deeply, his heart hammering painfully in his chest.

What...was that?

All around him the room was still dark, and checking the time on the glowing screen of his Digivice, he discovered that it was just after four in the morning.

Darkness at this time of the night was natural, and yet something didn't feel right. The blackness seemed too thick and suffocating, and as Mickey rubbed his eyes to clear his vision he felt an unpleasant shiver race down his spine.

His hands were shaking, and running them nervously though his sweat tangled blond hair, he took a moment to study the room a little more closely.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and there was nothing out of place, but even so Mickey could tell something was very wrong. That undeniable taint of darkness and a touch of evil that lingered in the air. It made his skin crawl and it was so strong he could almost smell and taste it.

It's the same feeling like last time. It's here. It's close. The World of Darkness...

Mickey gagged on the foul taste in his mouth, and climbing out of his sleeping bag he reached out a hand to Takara who was on his left, wanting to reassure himself that he wasn't alone. His fingers immediately came in contact with her shoulder, which felt warm and thankfully very much alive and safe, and turning slightly to his right he did the same thing for Sam.

Only this time his hand fell through empty air and landed on the other boy's sleeping bag with a soft thump.

"...Sam?"

Frowning, Mickey shifted closer, and reaching out both hands he felt the top of Sam's sleeping bag for any signs of life, but the bag was empty.

Sam was gone.

No. No, no, no, no...

Pulling back the top layer, Mickey frantically searched the inside of the sleeping bag, but it was a wasted effort. The bag was definitely empty, and sitting back on his heels, he stared stupidly at it for a moment, his brain unable to comprehend what was happening.

There could be a simple explanation for Sam's disappearance. Perhaps he had been hungry and had decided to make himself a late night snack. Maybe he had needed to use the bathroom and would return momentarily. Perhaps, like Mickey himself, the raven-haired Digidestined had experienced a bad dream and had gone to take a walk to clear his head before returning to bed. Maybe he was sleepwalking and would return shortly after getting his fill of the town.

Except Sam had never shown a tendency to sleepwalk before.

I'm dreaming again. I must be dreaming. This can't be happening. Not to Sam. Please...

There were so may simple explanations as to where Sam might have wandered off to, but Mickey knew in his heart that none of those applied tonight. Sam had been retreating into himself more and more all day, and the taint of darkness in the room was a clear indication that something more sinister had taken place inside Jijimon's hut.

The darkness had come for Sam at last, and judging by his current state he had been unable to resist its pull.

No!

A surge of panic that was so powerful it almost made him gag again shot through his body, and snapping out of his almost zombie-like trance he threw himself at his twin brother in terror and began to shake Matty roughly by the shoulders.

At first Matty refused to wake up, as he seemed to be caught up in some sort of nightmare of his own, and shaking him harder, Mickey whispered fiercely, "Matty, come on. Wake up!"

Matty's amber eyes suddenly popped open, and letting out an anguished cry he collapsed against Mickey, his chest heaving as he struggled to catch his breath.

"Matty?"

"I'm drowning," Matty mumbled sleepily into his shoulder. "The black feathers are going to kill me."

"Huh?"

Mickey froze, and pushing Matty slightly away from him he squinted at his brother's face in the darkness, not liking one bit what he saw.

Could we have been having the same dream?

"Mickey?" Matty mumbled, reaching up to rub the sleep out of his eyes.

Mickey blinked at his brother, having become momentarily distracted by the younger twin's obvious nightmare, and remembering why he had even bothered to wake Matty in the first place he felt another surge of panic shoot through his body. "Matty, wake up. You need to wake up."

"Why? What's going on?" Matty groaned, trying to focus on his face.

"It's Sam, Matty. He's gone."

"Huh?" Matty turned to gaze stupidly at his friend's sleeping bag, a frown on his face. "What are you talking about? He probably just had to pee or something."

Mickey took a deep breath to calm himself, and shaking his brother gently by the shoulders, he said quietly, "Look around you, Matty. I know you can feel it every bit as much as I do."

Matty paused to glance around the room, and almost immediately his amber eyes grew to twice their size. Mickey felt the younger twin tense beneath his hands, and for a moment they merely stared at each other, a deep sense of fear and understanding passing between them.

Matty didn't need to be told twice, and he didn't ask questions that would have done nothing but waste even more time. Mickey knew his brother understood completely, and scrambling out of his sleeping bag, Matty said simply, "Dai."

Mickey nodded, and pausing only to switch on a lamp the two of them tackled the goggle-headed leader, shaking him energetically to wake him up.

"What? What? Are we being attacked?" Dai mumbled, sitting up and wincing at the sudden light in his dark eyes.

"Sam's gone," Mickey said quickly, Matty echoing his exact words at the same time.

"Huh? Are you sure-"

"No, he didn't go to relieve himself and he's not after food," Matty interrupted, sounding impatient. "Get up."

To his credit Dai didn't try to argue with the younger twin. Though there was a hint of worry in his eyes, his expression was calm and his demeanor was that of someone who was determined to handle the situation in a timely manner. "Better wake up the others. It doesn't look like we're going to get any more sleep tonight."

Mickey had to admit he was impressed, and Dai's attitude immediately calmed him somewhat. Considering the circumstances that wasn't exactly an easy thing to do, and giving the goggle-headed leader an admiring look he went over to wake Takara while Matty proceeded to wake Ryoko.

"What's going on?" Takara asked, rubbing her eyes and giving him a curious look.

"Let's wake our partners first before we explain," Mickey said gently, giving her a sympathetic look. "And someone hand me Glowmon."

Dai took it upon himself to wake the digimon, and once everyone was alert and paying attention, Ryoko said, "What's wrong?"

"Where's Sam?" Glowmon asked, glancing anxiously around the room, as if expecting his partner to appear suddenly out of thin air.

"Sam's gone," Matty mumbled, unable to look at Glowmon.

For a moment there was silence, punctuated only by a small gasp of despair by Glowmon, and then Ryoko shot to his feet, his blue eyes flashing with obvious frustration. "I knew it. I knew something like this was going to happen."

"You mean because of the way he was acting earlier," Dai replied, also getting to his feet.

"Are you sure he isn't still around here somewhere?" Takara asked tentatively, a hopeful look on her face.

Ryoko glanced at her, and shaking his head, he said, "If you want to look for him around here be my guest, but you're going to find yourself coming up empty-handed."

Takara's face fell, and even though she looked like she wanted to argue with the golden-haired Digidestined, it was clear from her expression that she knew he was right.

Sam wasn't in the town of Modem anymore, and he wasn't going to be coming back any time soon unless they went looking for him.

Has he really drifted so far away from us that he didn't think to at least ask for help?

Mickey turned his attention to the small trembling digimon in his arms that Matty had place there only moments ago, and hugging Glowmon tightly to his chest, he murmured, "I'm sorry, Glowmon. I'm so sorry."

"Why wouldn't he at least take me with him?" Glowmon whimpered. "Why would he go without me when he needs me so much?"

Mickey didn't have an answer for that and the room fell into an uncomfortable silence.

When it became unbearable, Embermon took it upon himself to speak. "If Sam's not here anymore then where did he go?"

"I feel the darkness," Kenji's Halomon spoke up, his ears twitching. "The air is thick with it. There was something here, and whatever it was must have caught Sam's attention."

"The World of Darkness," Celestimon said slowly, looking to his partner for confirmation. "It feels like that time when Sam first got pulled into the World of Darkness."

"Yes, when he first found out the true identity of the Digimon Emperor," Mickey's own Halomon said sadly.

"So...is that where Sam is now?" Kibomon asked curiously. "In the World of Darkness?"

"If he isn't yet, I don't doubt that he will be soon enough," Alopemon said shortly, his expression mirroring that of his partner. "Come on. We need to wake Ken and the others."

"Alopemon's right. We've already wasted enough time," Aiwemon said simply, fluttering into the air. "We need to find Sam as soon as possible."

"But how are we going to find him if he's in the World of Darkness?" Velinemon countered, crossing her arms over her chest.

"We'll find a way, somehow," Dovemon said firmly, joining Aiwemon in the air. "Come on!"

The thought of telling Ken that his son had wandered off made Mickey's heart ache, but it needed to be done.

He saw Dai look in his direction, and taking a deep breath Mickey climbed to his feet, Glowmon wrapped securely in his arms. The little digimon was obviousloy hurt and very frightened at the moment, and doing his best to support Glowmon Mickey led the way to the back of the hut, the others following along reluctantly behind him.

All of the adults were sleeping in one of the back rooms, and entering through the door Mickey paused to gaze upon the sleeping adults and their digimon partners. The room was set up with several raised sleeping pallets, and on the one cloest to the door lay Ken and Yolei, their arms wrapped aorund each other and their digimon partners sleeping above their heads. Matt and Mimi were in the one beside them, and across from them were Cody and Rosa. Izzy and Tentomon had the final one across from Ken and Yolei, and by the looks of it everyone was sleeping soundly.

Which unfortunately was about to change.

Mickey didn't fail to notice the way all the others remained crowded around the door, leaving him to confront Ken, and coming up beside Sam's father he gave the raven-haired Digidestined's shoulder a firm shake.

Like Matty, and Mickey was quite sure he could add himself to the equation, Ken looked quite troubled in his sleep, and he woke quickly at the touch of a hand on his shoulder, his sapphire eyes searching for the source of what had awoken him.

"Mickey?" Ken murmured, shifting slightly to focus on him, his gaze clouded with sleep. "What are you doing out of bed at this time of the night?"

"Ken..."

Mickey wasn't quite sure how to tell him, and sitting up, Ken said, "What's wrong?"

I just...I don't have the heart to tell him. I can't...

Ken must have sensed his uneasiness because the former Emperor's eyes cleared and he glanced critically around the room, his sapphire gaze narrowing in the darkness.

Mickey was still struggling with how to tell him when he heard a sharp intake of breath from the former Emperor, a sign that the darkness had caught Ken's attention. He didn't have to say anything. In the next moment Ken looked at him again, and voice trembling, the former Emperor said in a tone barely above a whisper, "Sam's gone, isn't he."

Mickey nodded, his hand reaching out unconsciously to give Ken's shoulder a comforting squeeze. "You feel it too, don't you. The darkness is all around us."

Ken nodded, and Mickey winced at the terrible look in the raven-haired Digidestined's eyes. On the surface Ken seemed quite calm and in control of his emotions, but Mickey knew the former Emperor was on the verge of breaking down. He did not doubt that it was taking every ounce of inner strength that Ken possessed to remain composed. "We need to find him."

Mickey nodded in agreement, a sense of determination overtaking him. "You wake Yolei. We'll wake the others."

At his words the others quickly crowded into the room and began to wake up the rest of the adults and digimon, and Ken took it upon himself to wake Yolei.

"What's going on?" Matt demanded, having just been awakened by his son.

"Is there something wrong?" Mimi asked uneasily, her tone subdued.

"We aren't being attacked or anything like that, are we?" Gotsumon inquired, exchanging a look with Rosa.

It was Ken who answered, and as he did so he kept his gaze focused on Yolei and his hands on her shoulders. "Sam's gone missing, Yolei."

"What?" the lavender-haired Digidestined asked sharply, clearly unable or unwilling to grasp what Ken was saying.

"He's gone. Left sometime during the night."

"We think he might have gotten pulled into the World of Darkness," Matty mumbled, avoiding Yolei's gaze.

"No," Yolei replied, shaking her head in denial. "No, that can't be. He can't be gone. He can't be. He can't!"

"I'm sorry," Ken whispered, pulling her close and hugging her tightly against his chest. "I'm sorry there wasn't more I could do. I...I'm so sorry."

Yolei, who had always been a strong and stable presence in their lives, did not reply. Instead, she did something they had rarely ever seen her do. She sagged against Ken and burst into tears.

"Do you have any idea when Sam might have left?" Cody asked, climbing quickly out of bed with Rosa and moving to gather his possessions together.

"I was still awake around two-thirty, and he was here then," Takara said meekly, though there was a hopeful look on her face. "It's just after four now, so he's only been gone for about an hour and a half. If we make use of Dragermon we should be able to catch up to him pretty easily."

"The question is...will we be able to reach him?" Izzy interrupted, scrambling to get his things together.

"What do you mean?" Tentomon asked his partner.

"If Sam really is in the World of Darkness it's not going to be easy to reach him."

"We'll find a way," Armadillomon insisted. "T.K. was able to get there to rescue Kari. We know it can be done."

Mickey glanced at his D-Coder, and what he saw made him jump in surprise. Sam's glowing not was shining on his screen, though the signal was weak, and from the looks of it he was heading in the direction of the Spirit Chip.

"What is it, Mickey?" Gessmon asked, his beady eyes twinkling curiously.

Mickey held out his D-Coder, a sigh of relief escaping his mouth. "It's Sam. His signal is still showing up on the Digivices, and from the looks of it he's heading towards the Spirit Chip."

"The same thing happened the last time Sam got stuck in the World of Darkness," Matty reminded them. "We were still able to follow his signal. I wonder why. You would think being stuck in the World of Darkness would make his signal disappear from the Digivices."

"Are you sure he's in the World of Darkness?" Velinemon countered.

"No doubt about it," Ken said quietly. "I can feel it in my heart. And like Mickey said, last time Sam's signal still appeared on the Digivices, and we know for sure he was in the World of Darkness then."

"What do you think, Izzy?" Gabumon asked.

Izzy sighed, a frown on his face. "I have a few theories, but now isn't the time for them. We need to focus on reaching Sam. We know approximately where he is thanks to the Digivices, and that's as good a place to start as any."

"Right, let's get moving," Rosa insisted.

Once the adults had gathered their stuff together they all made their way back to the main room to pick up the rest of their belongings.

As Mickey was gathering his things together, Leomon, (who had the smallest room in the hut to himself) Jijimon, and Babamon suddenly appeared in the room, the commotion most likely having woken them.

Or maybe Jijimon and Babamon somehow know already. I wouldn't put it past them.

"Sam's gone. We need to find him," Mickey explained.

Jijimon nodded, and Mickey wasn't surprised to see that he did not look at all shocked by the news. "The old crone insisted it was going to happen. It's tough on an old digimon when his wife is always right."

"Go, Digidestined," Babamon said simply, gesturing towards the door. "Bring Sam back from the darkness. Only you can save him now."

"What happened?" Leomon asked, clearly confused.

"We'll fill you in on the way," Dai replied, sounding impatient. "Let's go!"

Mickey quickly followed the others outside, and pausing on the lawn he turned back to Jijimon and Babamon, who were waiting just inside the door. "We will. I promise!"

Outside the night was dark, and holding Glowmon tightly in his arms Mickey waited impatiently for Embermon to digivolve into Dragermon.

He wasn't going to let Sam get away with this. Somehow, he was going to bring his friend back into the light.