-by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei/Bandai does.


Takeru simply watched as three digimon played amongst themselves. Nahualmon, Mixcoatlmon's rookie form, had taken to following Ken around until the raven-haired boy eventually gave in and adopted the former codewalker as a secondary digimon. Oh, he and Ken had talked about the dubious wisdom of doing such a thing, but the snake simply did not have the emotional capacity to resent them for Demon's demise or to even turn against them. Ken's reasoning for taking in the snake was because it had nowhere else to go and was constantly drawn to him. Such a nice gesture was what he expected from the Child of Kindness.

The digimon played in the grass of the valleys of Hokkaido. Ken had set out to find Ryo since Ryo hadn't been responding to e-mails, and he hadn't wanted to let Ken go out alone. Not that his boyfriend could really be considered alone while being trailed by two digimon. And to be honest, the back woods of Hokkaido that the Akiyamas said that Ryo was camping out in were hardly any danger. Still, he wanted to be with Ken. That was all.

It had been several months now since the operation, several months now since the abduction that forced him to realize that he cared a lot more for Ken than he thought he would. He hadn't said anything about it yet, and was simply content with their relationship at the moment. Since then their friends had supported their relationship, even if a few of those friends did have moral problems with it. He did not worry too much about those few, however, as they made no attempts to preach to him or Ken and had simply wished to continue being friends. In a world where same-sex partners were still unusual, that was better than he expected.

Ken soon settled by his side on a fallen log and Takeru wasted no time in catching his boyfriend's hand and giving it a light squeeze. There was so much more he wished he could do with Ken, but that had to wait until the day Ken no longer feared such intimacy. He could wait, though. He had all the time in the world.

"No luck in finding him," Takeru asked as he laced his fingers between Ken's. There wasn't any real worry in his boyfriend's face, which suggested that Ryo could handle himself in the wilderness. That was good then, he didn't want Ken to worry.

Shaking his head at that, Ken simply waited until Takeru let go of his hand only to drape one around his waist. "He's probably out fishing. I haven't checked the river yet."

Takeru leaned back to lay in the grass, hoping Ken would take the invitation for what it was. "I don't suppose you'll be going out to check right now, are you?"

"No, not right now," Ken smirked down at the other boy. "I believe there's something else that requires my immediate attention."

"Like what," Takeru asked, feigning innocence as he did so. Ken knew his game well enough, however, and leaned over him with an equally false scowl. Soon enough the games were shuffled away and there was nothing false about what happened soon after.

With a genuine smile of affection for his boyfriend, Ken leaned down to take Takeru's lips in a kiss, not at all surprised when the blond's arms wrapped around his back to draw him even closer. Really, he enjoyed sessions like these far too much.

Takeru held his Ken close, relishing the physical contact as much as he enjoyed the kiss they shared. The kisses were gentle, almost as if he was afraid to hurt Ken and vice versa, but he needed them nonetheless. All he needed was Ken and everything Ken could give him. That was all that mattered.

They were so lost in each other's attentions that they did not notice the passage of time, and it wasn't until they heard a throat clear that Ken pulled off of Takeru and looked up, blushing slightly when he recognized the intruder.

"Keep focusing on that and you'll never notice an oncoming wolf or bear attack until it's too late," a familiar voice quipped dryly. Takeru looked up from his place in the grass to recognize Ryo with a fishing pole slung over a shoulder, a brace of various fish in one hand, and Savali fluttering close behind with a bucket of clean water. The bruises Ryo acquired from Demon had long since faded out, yet the streak of white hair from the alien device was still there.

Ken flustered slightly at this. He certainly hadn't expected anyone to discover them, not all the way out here. Unfortunately, Ryo was beginning to develop a knack for walking in on them. At least this spared him the trip to the river. "We need to talk."

"Has to be important if you've tracked me down all the way out here," stated the older youth as he began to resume his hike. "Tell me on the way back to camp."

With a silent glance at Takeru to make sure that the blond understood that he was going to take Ryo up on the suggestion, Ken soon followed the retired Tamer into the woods. It did not surprise him when he heard the voices of three rookie digimon pause as Takeru told them that they were moving on.

"Took a digital gate to the nearest computer, I presume?"

"Your parents didn't look too unnerved when we hopped out of your computer. I'm taking it you've told them about everything," Ken asked, particularly curious about how the Akiyamas handled knowledge of the Digital World. The last he heard about Toshio and Kumi Akiyama, they were not the most imaginative of people.

"Well, how else could he have explained me," countered the tsukaimon that fluttered at Ryo's side. "Creatures like me aren't native to the area."

The raven-haired boy took a moment to glance at the tsukaimon. "Why did you follow Ryo into exile, anyway?"

Huffing in disgust at the question, Savali turned up what he had for a nose and deigned to reply. "It was starting to get boring without anyone to play with." Once that was said, the tsukaimon darted ahead of them.

"That's his excuse," Ryo muttered with a hint of amusement in his voice. "You'll never get him to admit that he's become far too attached to his 'plaything', or that he's trying to lay low because a few of Demon's leftover minions are out for his head."

"Ah." Ken simply let conversation drop for a bit once they entered the camp area and Ryo laid the brace of fish out on a boulder. He merely watched as his first Jogress partner pulled out one of the blades of the Swiss Army knife and began to gut one fish at a time.

Takeru, thankfully, knew he had to talk to Ryo privately and had settled with their digimon far enough away to be out of earshot. He was quite grateful that he didn't seem to need to explain himself to Takeru.

"Will V-mon ever remember who he used to be," Ken asked as he watched the blade slice through a fish's pale underbelly. If he could remember what had happened back then, he was curious as to why V-mon didn't seem to recall anything. As his words were voiced, he noticed that the blade's progress became more ragged.

"The memory wipe was complete the moment I had to stick him under that digimental. I didn't want to do it, you know." The blade was then pulled away only to fall with a chop that severed the fish's head. "I didn't want to do any of it."

Ken paused in consideration as he mulled over the other questions. Asking if Ryo resented himself for what had to be done was pointless, Ken knew the answer already. Asking if he had struggled when the memory blocks were set in place would only be cruel. Asking why it was done would be pointless since he had inherited Ryo's estate in the Digital World along with all the documentation and personal notes that had been hidden in Ryo's desk.

Recently, however, he had stumbled upon a few very well-hidden files. There had been few written notes about the subject's activities, but there were far more photographs of a digimon that had been dead for a while now, probably taken from afar when she didn't realize that she was under observation. That file was what bothered him most of all.

"Ryo? Why the Arachnemon file?"

This elicited a short, strained laugh from the retired Tamer. "Have you ever gotten a good look at her, Ken? Didn't you ever think of why she might have looked familiar? Did you ever wonder why I refrained from confronting her while she was out doing Oikawa's deeds for him?"

"I've never considered any of that," Ken stated in a rather defensive manner. "I trust you're planning on enlightening me about it."

"You're a clever boy, think about it. Oikawa oversaw Kageko's operation, and when it failed he had the Dark Seed ripped out and her body disposed of. What do you think a man like that might have done with a cute girl like Kageko? White hair like Kageko's is a very rare occurrence in the natural world, after all."

Ken's eyes widened unconsciously as his mind followed Ryo's lead. Oikawa had lied to him about being the one who implanted the Dark Seed into him, so Oikawa might have lied about Arachnemon's origins as well. Oh, the man hadn't said anything outright, but there had been the stolen files Ryo still had hidden in the desk. According to one of the files that was a report to Oikawa's financial supporters, the man claimed to have created two digimon from the data of his own DNA. That had been dated after Kageko's death. Arachnemon had white hair. Kageko had white hair. Arachnemon had the same facial features as the girl he considered one of his few friends, but simply appeared much older. Arachnemon was most likely to have been created from Kageko's DNA, not Oikawa's. After all, Kageko had already been into the Digital World before, and who else could have been a better genetic donor and was so readily available?

All those times that he and the other kids had fought against Arachnemon and Mummymon, all those times and he hadn't even considered that she might have once been human. And Mummymon... Who had been Mummymon's real genetic donor?

The Child of Kindness sighed as he attempted to keep the swirl of rising emotions under control. "I'm glad that I didn't have a hand in her destruction."

"You're not the only one," Ryo added as he gutted another fish. He had hoped Ken wouldn't discover those files, but since he hadn't gone to any real lengths to hide them, this was mostly his fault. In an attempt to change the subject, he decided to ask about the odd digimon that looked like an Archaeopteryx and was playing with Patamon and Wormmon. "So, who's the new digimon?"

"Oh, Nahualmon? That's Mixcoatlmon's rookie form," the younger boy stated, grateful that the conversation had been redirected to less touchy subjects. "He didn't really have any place to go to since the Demon Corps was disbanded and he kept trying to follow me around. Takeru and I just thought it best if we adopted him for the time being. Besides, he doesn't have a reason anymore for going after me."

"And it's better to keep something like that out of the hands of anyone who would use it to get to you. Good idea," Ryo responded.

This brought a slight frown to Ken's face. "I wasn't thinking about the strategic aspects of that..."

"Perhaps you were, subconsciously." As Ken shook his head at this, the older of the two frowned slightly. "There's no point in denying your natural talent for strategy. So you abused it once, big deal. You can't beat yourself up over that, and it's pointless to try to bury that aspect of yourself."

"I'm not," countered the younger before he could fully think about his friend's words. The moment he spoke, however, he mentally rebutted himself for being so quick to deny it. "Well, not so much anymore."

"Good, keep working on that. So, are you guys going to stick around for supper or are you going to head back?"

Ken gazed thoughtfully at the rest of the campsite. He had never been as much a nature nut as Ryo, and would prefer to stay in a place other than a small tent that looked to be capable of holding only one person. "We should probably head back soon, we didn't think to bring any overnight gear. Besides, I doubt Savali would appreciate us eating his share of fish."

"Yeah, there is that," Ryo muttered idly as he pulled out the fishscaler part of the multibladed pocketknife and continued his work. "Anything else?"

Ken sighed as he stuffed a hand in his one of his pants pockets in an attempt to keep from fidgeting. This part was going to be difficult, but Ryo needed to know. "They've made me a Tamer in your place."

Unfazed by Ken's words, Ryo simply continued carving the scales from his catch. He had expected this the moment they exiled him. "You were meant to be a Tamer, you know. Your permanent bond with Wormmon simply threw a wrench into things, which was why you got the designation of a Chosen. I'm assuming the Holy Beasts are simply making an exception for you since I've been training you for the Tamer job anyway."

"That's what they told me," Ken offered. He was somewhat relieved that Ryo had seen this coming at least, it made things much less stressful than he imagined they would be. Ryo had been training him for this, but Ryo was also expecting to do so in hopes of having company. Now that Ryo was no longer a Tamer, he could only imagine what his friend was feeling. "Do you mind?"

"No, but do you think you can handle the politics that come with the job," Ryo asked as he dumped the bits of fish meat in a pan that had been set aside a while ago. Ken didn't respond to him, but that was hardly surprising considering just how little Ken actually knew of the Digital World's politics. "You know you can come to me if you have any questions, right?"

There was a pause as Ken considered the offer. He had only the faintest idea of what he would have to do as a Tamer, but since all the major evils of the Digital World were gone, he would be fine. Right? Regardless, it was not wise to dismiss any aid from someone with far more experience than himself. "Yes, I know. Thank you."

Once again a silence fell between them as Ryo washed his hands and the bloody blades of the Swiss Army knife in the bucket Savali brought from the river. Ken turned to observe Takeru, who in turn was watching the digimon play. Nahualmon started and nearly flew off every time the tsukaimon smiled sinisterly at it, apparently having never forgotten its previous encounter with Savali's puppeteer strings.

Something else nagged at him as his eyes caught with Takeru's. What it was, though, he wasn't quite sure. Some sort of premonition, if it could be called that, seemed to dance around his mind as a wisp of fog that could not be grasped. When Ryo seemed to be done with cleaning up the mess from his hands, Ken turned his attention back to his first Jogress partner. "Ryo? What happened to the Dark Seed after Jou removed it?"

"Oh, that." The former Tamer took a moment to dig into one of his pockets, dragging out the small bag of ashes once he found it. "It's not really in a state where it'll bother anyone anymore. Want to do the honors and scatter this into the wind?"

Taking the bag from his friend's fingers, Ken smirked down at the grains of dead matter. How long had he wanted to do something about the thing that ruined his life. how long had he waited for this opportunity? Well, he had it now at least, and there was a mountain close by. "You know, I think Takeru and I will stay for supper after all. I'm sure there are some nice winds up on that mountain's peak, and I'm sure you'd want to come along for the show."

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," Ryo said, grinning at the idea of seeing the ashes spread into the winds. He grabbed the pan and gestured Ken over to follow him to the campfire site. "Hope you two don't mind your fish with yams and mushrooms."

Ken simply shook his head as he watched his friend settle down to light the fire. The wood was damp, however, and it was a while before the telltale tongues of oranges and yellows began to lap at them. There was still something that bugged him.

Oikawa's financial supporters had to still be around, but where were they? Perhaps they still had Kageko's Dark Seed somewhere. It was a frightening thought, one he did not want to cling to for long. Would they do anything with it now that Oikawa was dead?

As if by divine intervention, Takeru derailed his train of thought with nothing more than a few words of concern. Smiling thankfully at the blond, he simply stated that he was fine, and began to explain that he and Ryo were planning to scale the mountain close by to scatter the ashes of the Dark Seed. Takeru replied that he would be glad to go along.

Once again the peaceful silence fell between them as their hands clasped together, Ken's fingers laced between Takeru's. And as their eyes met once again, Ken's thoughts settled on more pleasant matters. He could worry about everything else later, but now all he had to worry about was finding a more secluded area for far more personal purposes.


Ajora: A nahual is a sort of Aztec protective spirit, and an Archaeopterix is, of course, the feathered dinosaur much flaunted as the evolutionary link between dinosaurs and birds

Oh dear, looks like my plotbunnies have been breeding again since I started this. Which means, of course, yet another fic in this universe. I'm sure everyone's already figured out anyway since I left some plot threads hanging. "Knight of Swords" is currently in the works and "Foreign Sands", the Tag Tamers era prequel, will be worked on after that.