Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon.

A/N: I'm really sorry about the especially long wait this time around, but here finally is the next chapter! Hope you all enjoy it!

Following the Footsteps of Destiny

Chapter 244: A Dream Come True

Sam Ichijouji

Odaiba, Japan, Earth

Sam fell through the gate with what was becoming a familiar loud thud, and landing on his face he took a moment to catch his breath before making an attempt to glance more closely at his surroundings. He barely managed to lift his head and raise himself up onto his hands and knees before several voices were shrieking his name, making him jump in surprise. In an instant Miya and Nao were upon him, and they almost tackled him in their enthusiasm to find out if he was still sane and free of the darkness that had tried to claim his heart.

Miya attempted to help him into a sitting position, and grabbing onto his shoulders, she wailed, "Sam, are you okay? We were so worried! You left the others behind and you were all by yourself. We thought-"

"I'm fine," Sam interrupted, giving his older sister a reassuring hug, his arms going around her neck. "Really, Miya, I'm fine. You don't need to worry about me anymore."

I've never felt better. It's the most amazing sensation in the world. To feel so alive and refreshed...Nothing in the world can compare to this experience.

Miya pulled back to look at him, and the words she had been about to say died on her lips at the sight of his face. As she sat there looking into his eyes, her face changed and her own amber eyes began to fill with happy tears. "You really are okay, aren't you."

The tears began to dry up, and then they were replaced with a spark of excitement and a warm smile. Sam smiled back at his sister, and nodding, he said, "I am. Sorry for making you worry."

"I don't care about that. I'm just glad you're okay now. I can tell just by looking at you," Miya said softly, her voice shaking with suppressed emotion. "Welcome back."

Sam hugged her again, and then he smiled as he felt Nao hug him from behind. Turning, he ruffled his little brother's lavender hair, and beaming at him, Nao said, "I knew you would be okay. I was scared and really worried, but I believed in you."

Sam had to laugh, and wrapping an arm around Nao, who was clinging tightly to his waist, he said, "You always do, Nao...even though half the time I don't think I deserve it. It means a lot to me, though. Thank you."

More than you will probably ever know, Nao.

"It's good to have you back, Sam," Taka said cheerfully, smiling at him. "We missed the old you."


Sam looked over at the small group of teenagers that was made up of his cousins, and feeling a deep sense of fondness wash over him, he said quietly, "Is it really that obvious?"

"To us it is," Rumi replied, pushing up her glasses and giving him a meaningful look. "The change in your expression, and the sparkle in your eyes. We could tell as soon as we caught a glimpse of your face as you came through the gate."

"We kind of missed the old Sam," Renmi butted in, giving him the thumbs up. "It's nice to see he's finally put in an appearance again."

"I wasn't worried," Makku boasted, grinning at him and scratching his already disheveled red hair. "I knew you'd come through for us."

Sam had to laugh, and smiling at his older cousin, he said, "Thanks, Makku."

"For what?" Makku asked, tilting his head to side in confusion.

Sam hugged the little brother that was still clinging tightly to him, and looking over Nao's lavender head, he said, "I know you, Makku. I know what you're like. If anyone can keep up the spirits of the others, it's you."

"Ah well, you know...Noah was moping around because Miya was moping around, and it was getting a bit depressing. Somebody had to keep those two lovebirds from ruining the atmosphere in this place," Makku replied, winking at him.

"I...wait, w-what!?" Noah sputtered, turning bright red in the face. "I never...we...y-you can't just come out and say things like that! And I wasn't moping!"

"Chill, good buddy," Makku grinned, wrapping an arm around Noah's shoulders. "Wow, you totally just put the colour of my hair to shame. Is it just me or is it getting hot in here?"

"Makku!" Miya shrieked, grabbing the first thing she could find, which happened to be the unfortunate Glimmermon, and chucking him at Makku's head.

"Yikes!" Makku cried, catching the little in-training digimon and holding him protectively against his chest. "What's wrong with you, woman!? Digimon cruelty is unacceptable in this house!"

"Then keep your mouth shut!" Miya snapped back, blushing furiously.

"I think I just saw my life flash before my eyes," Glimmermon moaned, burying his face against Makku's chest.

The aforementioned red head looked at Noah, and raising his eyebrows, he said, "Good luck, buddy. My cousin, well...she's a lot like her crazy mother. You're going to have your hands full with that one, my friend."

"I heard that, young man!" Yolei shot back, attempting to pick herself up off the ground.

Makku merely winked at his aunt, not looking the least bit sorry to have offended her, and watching him interact with Noah, Sam raised his eyebrows and said, "Since when did you two become such good friends?"

"Not just good friends," Makku informed him, smirking and wrapping an arm around the still red-faced Noah. "We're best buddies. Didn't you get the memo?"

Seriously? Wow, I've really been missing out on everything that's been going on, all because of the darkness...The darkness I was able to conquer.

Sam was both amused and a little bit sorry for Noah, and shaking his head, he said, "Can't say that I did. I was a little busy trying to fight off the forces of darkness, so you'll have to forgive me for having been absent from the proceedings."

"Well, I wasn't exactly given much of a choice on the matter," Noah said dryly, giving the red head a meaningful look.

"Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, you know?" Makku agreed, winking at Noah.

Miya was staring at her cousin, completely flabbergasted over his behaviour, and giving her head a shake, she said to Noah, "Better you than me."

"My sentiments exactly," Sam agreed, laughing.

"Fine, forget you two!" Makku shot back, sticking his nose in the air. "Nao was always my favorite anyways!"

Nao beamed at the red head, and Sam just laughed, feeling more at home and at peace with himself than he had for a while now. This was how things were supposed to be, and deep inside his heart he couldn't be happier.

And it's all thanks to my family and my friends. How could I have ever doubted them?

Once everyone was seated, the focus turned to Izzy, and gazing at her father, Taniko said, "Tell us everything, Dad. We've been driving ourselves crazy worrying about Sam. And with you guys splitting up and being all over the place, it was hard to keep track of what was going on."

"The last thing we know is that Sam had disappeared, maybe into the World of Darkness, and that a group of you guys had gone after him," Ami spoke up, frowning a Izzy. "We saw all of you guys rejoin again as one group on the computer screen, and then we got that email from you telling us that you were headed for the gate."

"Care to fill us in on the rest of the story?" Ema demanded, pointing an accusing finger at Izzy.

"I figured it was best to wait until we got back," Izzy explained, not the least bit concerned about Ema's outburst. "But before I do, I would like you all to meet our five new digimon friends. That little rookie sitting next to Daichi and DemiEmbermon is Kibomon, and the four that Shadow is currently sniffing with enthusiasm are his friends, Aiwemon, Halomon, Gessmon, and Velinemon. They were a big help to us today, and we really appreciated their assistance."

"Wow, so you're Tal's digimon partner," Taysuke said, moving over next to Dai to inspect the little rookie.

"I am," Kibomon confirmed, allowing Taysuke to hold him. "It's nice to meet you all."

"Likewise," Aiwemon agreed, politely inclining his head.

"And you're Kenji's partner!" Rina squealed, reaching out to stroke Halomon's ears. "Now we have two Halomon's!"

Halomon smiled at her, and crawling into her lap he was content to snuggle against the little girl and rest his head on her shoulder. Velinemon took to Gatomon immediately, and the two feline digimon curled up together on the carpet for a nap, the soft murmur of their voices putting Sam at ease. Gessmon was looking painfully shy, but Patamon was quick to take the little rookie under his long ear and welcome him into the group.

It was like the five rookies had always been part of the team, and the thought made Sam smile. It was true, after all. They were all responsible for looking after the Digital World, and every member of their group was important, not just the digimon and those who were Digidestined. For every Digidestined to succeed at the task they had been given, they all had to do what they could for the team.

And now, it's my turn.

Introductions were made, and once everyone was settled and as comfortable as they could be in such a crowded room, Izzy began to tell the rest of the story of what had happened. He spoke about the World of Darkness, Glowmon's ultimate digivolution, and BlackWidomon's defeat, and the news that a mega digimon had been defeated had everybody chattering in excitement. He did his best to leave nothing out, and once he was done there was a brief silence as everyone took a moment to process what had happened. The only part Izzy had left out was DarkAngelicmon's impromptu visit just as they were about to leave through the gate, and Sam had a feeling he knew as to why that was.

He wants me to tell everyone because he knows. He suspects something happened in the World of Darkness...

"The Ruler of Darkness isn't going to be very happy with them," Tai finally spoke up, a thoughtful look on his face. "They've lost two Spirit Chips now and a member of their team."

"If you can call them a team," Mina agreed, letting out a deep sigh. "It'll be interesting to see what happens after this."

"So, Sam really did have the Spirit Chip of Compassion," T.K. said quietly, exchanging a look with Kari. "We were all right in thinking it would go to him."

"Yes, our suspicions were correct," Izzy agreed, "But...we've also only heard my side of the story. A lot happened in the World of Darkness that I wasn't present for. Perhaps it's time we hear the other side of the story."

"And we should hear it from the person who was affected the most," Mickey interrupted, his voice gentle.

And now it's time for them to know the truth.

Sam waited patiently as many pairs of eyes turned to look at him, and finding his father in the crowd he motioned for the former Emperor to join him. The man didn't hesitate to come to his side, and tucking himself under his dad's arm, he bowed his head and said quietly, "I was in a very dark place, and I couldn't seem to find my way out of my misery. I lost faith in everyone, but most of all...I lost the faith I once had in myself."

"Sam," Rumi murmured, the pain in her eyes indicating exactly what she was thinking.

Sam wasn't about to let himself be distracted, though. He was determined to tell them everything. They deserved at least that much after everything he had put them through. "Because I felt like everything I believed in was a lie, I could no longer bring myself to trust anyone, least of all myself, and...and I took that out on the most important people in the world to me. All of you."

"You're important to us, too," Ryoko replied quietly, and then blushed when everybody looked at him.

You might be able to fool Dai, but you can't hide what's in your heart from me, Ryoko.

Sam smiled, and acknowledging the words with a simple nod, he said, "There was one person in particular that I took out my fear and frustration on, and everyone in this room knows he never deserved it. Not from me or anyone else."

Most especially not from me.

Sam looked up into his father's sapphire eyes, and the former Emperor reached out to gently ruffle his hair.

Looking at his father now, Sam felt a wave of love and affection that compelled him to continue on with his story. The fondness and respect in his father's eyes motivated him to speak, and without looking away, he said, "The more I tried to convince myself of things that weren't true, the deeper the darkness grew around me. I was afraid of myself, afraid of what I could do if the darkness were to ever take me. And yet...ironically enough, my fear only made me more of a target. As I struggled to remember what was truly important, the darkness continued to haunt me, and the more I failed to overcome it, the harder it became to see what was right in front of my face the whole time."

"The one thing that could save you," Glimmermon said sadly from Makku's arms.

"Yes," Sam agreed, tightening his arm around his father. "My path to the light always seemed to be shining just out of reach in the darkness. I could not understand why Dad failed to tell me about his past. Did he not trust me? Did he believe that I would cast him away so easily? In frustration, I ended up doing the very thing I was afraid he believed I would do. I pushed him aside and allowed myself to be swayed by the words of others who were only trying to hurt me. And in doing so, I failed to believe in the words of those who wanted to help."

"You have no idea how much," Takara whispered, tears in her eyes.

Maybe not then, but now I do.

Sam paused, and gazing in turn at each person in the room, he said quietly, "Sam Ichijouji. There are many in this room who never had the chance to meet him, myself included. I was given his name, and along with it a set of very big shoes to fill. He was an uncle who was always a mystery to me, and yet he appeared to me in a dream a few days back. Dai and my other friends know this. I could say a thousand things to try to convince you, but I'll simply say this. In my heart, I don't believe it was an ordinary dream."

"The old tapes I got for you from your grandparents," his mother spoke up, her face lighting up with sudden understanding. "That's what you wanted them for!"

"What's this?" his father asked curiously.

Sam gave his father a smile, and nodding at his mother, he said, "I asked Mom if she could get me some old tapes of Uncle Sam. I had never had the chance to see him in person or hear him speak, since he passed away long before I was born. And yet...somehow he appeared to me in a dream as if he'd known me all my life. He spoke to me. He understood me, and it caught my interest. I needed to be sure, so I asked Mom for some old tapes of him. I...needed to know how he acted and sounded in real life."

"And he was the same," his father said softly, his voice tingled with awe.

"Yes, he was. The same voice, the same face, the same demeanor. It was without a doubt my uncle. Somehow I knew him, even though we had never met before...and he knew me."

"W-what did he say?" Miya stammered, gaping at him in shock.

"He tried to warn me that I was headed down the wrong path, and he attempted to guide me in the right direction. If only I had listened to him then..."

Things might have been different.

Sam took a deep breath, and speaking softly he spoke of his dream, doing his best to leave nothing out. When he was finished he could see that the members of his family had tears in their eyes, and getting control of herself, Miya manged to say, "I really wish I could have met him. It's just...not fair."

"No, it's not," their mother said quietly, reaching out to wrap her arm around Miya. "It's always hard, and though it gets easier it never really goes away. I know he would have been proud of all three of you."

Sam nodded, and gazing at his siblings, he said, "He called you both by name, and I could tell his words were sincere. More than anything he wanted to be a part of our lives, and I could tell he truly cares about us."

"He shouldn't be sad," Nao piped up, smiling beautifully. "Uncle's not really gone. He's still with us, and he's watching over us. I know he's here, so he shouldn't be sad."

"You're right, Nao," their father said, looking more at peace with himself than Sam had ever seen him look before. "He was my brother, and I loved him dearly, even if it was sometimes a rocky road."

"And he feels the same way, Dad," Sam said softly, wanting his father to understand the significance of his uncle's words. "Don't ever forget that. His words for you were every bit as heartfelt as his words for Miya and Nao."

His father nodded, and gazing into his eyes, the former Emperor said, "Thank you, Sam. I can't express how comforting your words have been to me. To know that my brother felt like that...It feels strange to suddenly feel so light, like a huge weight I've been carrying for years has suddenly been lifted off my shoulders."

"You really believe it was your uncle," Renmi spoke up, still attempting to grasp the truth of his words.

Sam nodded firmly, his face set. "Like I said, that was no ordinary dream. I do believe that was really my uncle, not just a figure born from my imagination, or from my sleeping brain. My belief in that was only strengthened for something that I'll explain later, but for now..."

Sam paused, and turning his gaze to the ceiling, he said, "That night in Modem...The darkness was calling to me, and the shadows from the World of Darkness came for me. By that time I was so lost that I could no longer ignore their call. Even though my mind was screaming at me to run, I couldn't turn away from them. To think that I was the one who created them, that they were shaped and molded by the darkness within my own heart. It's a humbling thought to know what truly lies deep within you."

Several of his fellow Digidestined shivered, and Sam smiled sympathetically at them for reassurance. He knew exactly how they felt, and he could understand their reactions even more so now that he had been a victim of the darkness himself. "I don't really remember going with them. There I was in Modem, and then the next thing I knew I was in the World of Darkness. Something happened before Matty and the others showed up, but I'll get to that later. While I was there I saw my own reflection in the waters of the Dark Ocean, and what I saw scared me in ways I can't even describe. I was dressed in the Emperor's clothes, and the expression on my own face frightened me. That was the last straw for me, and that was when things really got bad."

Sam went on to explain what had happened in the World of Darkness, and when he was done he was embarrassed to find that his friends and family were all gazing at him with new respect. Feeling as if he needed to respond, he blushed and said simply, "I didn't really do that much."

"All that light and that power," Kenzo replied, his expression serious. "All of that came from you. If that's not a testament to the strength of your own heart then I don't know what is."

Sam felt his blush deepen, and finding Matty's eyes in the crowd, he said, "I have you to thank for that."

"So, you got my email then," Taniko asked quietly, watching the younger twin closely.

A blushing Matty glanced at her, and nodding, he said, "We should be thanking you."

"What did that email say anyways?" Yolei asked, glancing curiously between the two of them.

Taniko raised her eyebrows, and glancing once more at the younger twin, she said, "I think Matty should be the one to answer that."

Matty's blush grew, and Sam smiled as the younger twin turned to look at him.

"I think you know," Matty said quietly, refusing to look away.

Sam thought back on what DarkAngelicmon had said about Mickey, about the Child of Innocence, and gazing at Matty now, he simply nodded in agreement. "I think I do."

"Is anyone going to tell the rest of us?" Noriko asked sarcastically, shaking her head in amusement.

Sam could see Mickey studying his brother closely, and speaking in Matty's defense, he said, "I think you'll all find out soon enough."

"I...it's hard to explain," Matty mumbled. "Even I'm still trying to sort it out."

"Maybe you are, but I'm not," Taniko replied, her dark eyes flashing.

Matty looked at her in surprise, and moving to sit beside her he reached out and took her hand in both of his. Leaning over he whispered something in her ear, and Taniko nodded, her face turning pink.

"Thank you," Matty said simply, giving her hand a squeeze.

Taniko was still blushing at his closeness, his blond hair brushing against her cheek, and giving him a shy smile, she said, "Don't thank me. It was all you."

Sam could tell the others were curious as to what was going on with Matty, and wanting to spare the younger twin from further embarrassment, he said, "When I finally came to my senses everything was so clear to me, and it was then that I could admit to myself what was truly in my heart. And I saw him again. My uncle. I know I did. He was there with me on the beach after I was able to send the darkness away. I saw him smile. He seemed proud of me. And I couldn't ask for a better compliment."

Thank you, Uncle.

"That's why you were looking towards the water," his father murmured, the former Emperor's voice quivering with emotion. "He was there watching us."

Sam nodded, his gaze never wavering from his father's eyes. "Yes, and it's thanks to him and all of you that I was able to find myself again."

"But most especially thanks to Matty," Mickey said softly, glancing sideways at his blushing brother.

Sam smiled in agreement, and turning to his father, he said, "Everything is okay now. If you can forgive me, that is."


Sam gasped as his father suddenly hugged him tightly, and whispering in his ear, the former Emperor said, "There's nothing to forgive. I'm just...I'm just so grateful to have you back and to see you so happy."

"Same to you, Dad," Sam agreed, beaming at his father.

"So we know now what happened in the World of Darkness...or do we?" Izzy interrupted, raising his eyebrows.

"There's more, isn't there," Mickey asked, picking up on what the computer expert was thinking. "There's something you're not telling us, which I think relates to what happened at the gate."

Sam slowly looked up at his friend, and taking a deep breath he prepared himself to answer. He had known this was coming, and yet even so he still wasn't quite prepared. He had realized from the beginning that they would see through the holes in his story, and now the time had come to tell them the rest of his tale.

"Before you guys showed up...something else happened to me in the World of Darkness."

"I thought so," Mickey replied, avoiding his eyes. "Something big, I'm guessing."

Sam nodded in confirmation, and gazing down at his hands, he said, "DarkAngelicmon wasn't the only digimon who had decided to put in an appearance when I was stuck in the World of Darkness. Another digimon who had a companion with him showed up, and it was a digimon who I think will be of great help to us."

"Who?" Dai asked curiously, scratching his head in confusion.

When Sam spoke, the words were barely more than a whisper. "The digimon we've all been hoping to find. DarkAngelicmon's old friend, Lucemon."