AN: TA-DA!! The end, the very last chapter, out after all this time. Are you excited?! I know I am! I hope each and every one of you reading reviews to tell me what you think of the ending!! I'm not going to do a closing AN because I think it takes away from the last line, the big THE END. ^_^ So I'll just go ahead and beg you now: REVIEW!! Please? Thanks!! Tell me what you thought of this whole monstrous thing!!! ^_~ Bye-bye, peoples!!
Disclaimer: The only thing I ever owned was the idea. To sue against an idea would be a sad, terrible waste of time and resources, especially as I am broke.
The center of the universe, the point when points became plotless, the place where only the spirit could reach, was black.
Dark, vacant, empty, boundless, vast, lightless.
It was cold, devoid of any form of comfort or warmth.
And still Friendship was determined to stay there with what was left of the Evil until either he or it crumbled. With Guardian Friendship by his side, he doubted he'd be the first to fold.
You miss them.
Friendship, standing in the center of the void, shot a glance at his Guardian. He clenched the chunk of rock in his hand tightly as he replied. "Of course I miss them. What does that have to do with anything?"
If you miss them…we could always go back.
"We can't. You know that. We barely had the combined strength to make it here. We'd never get back there."
Then we could wait. The Digimon leaned against his Deity's knees. We could release the Evil and wait a while. We'll both be reborn, you with them, there, and I here. We'll meet again eventually. Then you eight can be together.
"Release the Evil?" A small, ironic smile curved Friendship's lips as he stood, cape swirling around him, Evil clutched in his left hand, in the dark center of the universe. "Start this whole mess over again? No. What would it accomplish? Whatever name I'm reborn with, you and I both know it always ends up here, in this void, with us. I won't restart the game again. This is the way of things."
The problem with Friendship.
After a silent eternity of only a few moments, Guardian Friendship picked up his head, his magnificent, elegant ears cocked toward a noiseless sound, a growing presence.
Deity Friendship sensed it, too, and sighed. "Don't let them come here," he all but begged of his Guardian in a murmur, taking a step back. "I don't want them to feel this cold, too."
It is too late.
Warmth and color exploded in a supernova before him. When the light died, seven scowling Deities were there, their Guardians by their sides, looking cross.
"That was a cheap shot," Hope accused, arms crossed.
"There was no other choice," Friendship argued coolly, turning away slightly.
"Let us help," Love requested, and Sincerity nodded.
"Help how?" Friendship demanded harshly, clutching the Evil close. "Like this? Abandoning the future you had to come here and…and die?"
"It's what you did," Courage snapped, angry. "What makes you think you can just die every time it looks like things are gonna get tough?"
"I don't choose to die."
"But you could have prevented this," Light pointed out, shaking her head sadly. "God, Friendship. You didn't have to take all our power. It burned you out, didn't it?"
Friendship's expression was closed, tightly controlled. "It doesn't matter if I could have taken less power; what I took—all of it—got the job done." He held out the dark stone for them to see. "This is all that's left of the greatest threat to the Digital World that any of us can remember. This rock."
"So toss it away!" Reliability exclaimed. "Throw it into a black hole and leave it there! You might not be strong enough on your own or even with Guardian Friendship to come back to the living world with us, but we have the combined strength to drag you along."
"We won't go back without you," Knowledge said flatly. "We've let you suffer and let you suffer, both in this life and many before it. That was stupid and selfish of us. If we hadn't left our signs that first time, then maybe…but that's not important. What's important is that we're not going to leave you here. Never again."
"Please," Friendship begged, calling on the cool strength of his Guardian to sustain him, "please don't waste your precious energy on me. I'll…I'll just stay here long enough to neutralize the Evil, ok? Then I'll let myself get reborn with you. Ok?"
"How many lifetimes, Matt?" Hope asked, voice soft and sad. "How many lifetimes will I have to be an only child before the Evil is neutralized? I'm tired of living without you. I won't go back to Mom and Dad and Earth without you. I will not explain to them that I was standing in front of you with this wonderful ability to bring you back and I…let you talk me out of it. I won't. Don't ask me to. Don't make me decide between my world and my brother. Please don't be so cruel."
"I'm not," Friendship denied in a strained voice. The hand clasping the Evil to his chest was shaking. "I'm not asking you to choose. It's you asking me, T.K. The Digital World and future lifetimes or T.K. and my friends here and now? How can you make me choose?" His free right hand stroked Guardian Friendship's head in a motion that spoke of confusion. "Why would you make me choose?"
"Because we're selfish," Love said easily, smiling. "That's the real problem with friendship. People are selfish when it comes to their true friends. We want you with us always. We eight need each other. You bind us, Yamato/Friendship. What are we without friendship but seven strangers thrown together? Comrades and no more. It's not good enough. We need the eighth; we need friendship, desire it. We simply are not without you, Friendship."
"Let us be selfish," Sincerity begged, stepping forward a bit, hand clasped to her chest. "Allow us your company, in this life and many, many after it."
"The Evil," Friendship reminded desperately. They could not afford to be selfish. Even if he was needed, they simply couldn't afford it. The Digital World…
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Reliability assured, smiling broadly. "After all, if we bring you back, we'll be one up on our last attempt. Right? We'll have defended the world without any losses. Right?"
Friendship only swallowed, glancing around. Why didn't they see that they just couldn't…
Suddenly he was wrapped in the embrace of a smaller entity. Hope clung to him, face buried in the impossibly soft silk of his white shirt, trembling finely. "Hope is a selfish emotion, too. Hope is the selfish belief that everything's going to turn out all right for everyone that you love. So, you see, by the very definition of my soul I have to bring you back. Because I'm very selfish and I don't want to go back without you anymore. You didn't want to wake up and find anyone dead, right? Well I don't want to wake up and discover you're gone. I can't survive like that anymore. Please come back, brother. I can't live as an only child for even one more day, let alone lifetimes. Please, please. Just let us take care of you. Let us warm the cold of this place from your bones. Let us save you from your fate. Please."
Something in Friendship that should have died in the wake of the power he manipulated, something that had shattered, was suddenly repaired. In the silence that followed, the power of Deity Friendship rushed out to join with the other seven as a single teardrop fell.
We're going home, aren't we?
The teardrop landed on the small black rock that was the leftovers of the Evil. Fine black dust began crumbling away from the rock, which began to let off an eerie glow. In surprise Hope backed a few steps away even as Friendship held out his hand.
The rock fell away to reveal a tiny fairy-like creature that knelt, doubled over, on Friendship's hand, breathing heavily, left hand planted against the palm of the Deity's hand. Her right hand was curled around a minute staff. Her hair, eyes, and small dress were all black, though her skin was palest white. Two locks of black hair curled against either cheek. The remainder of her hair fell down her back to pool on Friendship's hand. A single back ovular gem was on her forehead, with a thin, elegant golden chain that draped from it dipping back into her hair. Two gossamer wings were folded against her back.
"Whoa!" Knowledge exclaimed, leaping forward. "What's that?"
After a moment of silence she looked up and glared around at the Deities and their Guardian Digimon. "Why should you care who I am? Don't you just want to call me the Evil? It's worked so far."
Her angry comments where wholly ignored as everyone stared at her in fascination. She was, tops, four inches tall. She had caused all this?
"You are the Evil?" Sincerity asked, sounding amazed. "You perverted the Basic Digimon and caused all this trouble?"
She stared back, resolute. "Yes."
Why seemed an appropriate question, but Love beat everyone to the punch by asking, very gently, "Who are you?"
The tiny Digimon took a deep, deep breath, still kneeling on Friendship's hand. Slowly she stood, using her dark wood staff to pull herself into a standing position. "I am Naisamon. Basic Digimon of Hate."
Then, as though it summed the entire situation up perfectly, Light said calmly, "Oh. Basic Digimon of Hate. I see."
"I wasn't always!" she exclaimed, almost in self-defense.
"We never thought you were," Reliability assured.
"Do you remember what you were?" Courage asked, blinking. If she did, it would probably save a lot of time.
She clutched her staff as close to her shoulder as she could, trembling finely. "Of course. How could I forget?"
"Then…" Friendship hesitated, looking up into the faces of his companions. Finally he smiled down at her. "What were you, small one?"
She took another deep breath. "I was the Basic Digimon of Chaos."
"No, no, wait," Knowledge broke in, though no one had spoken. "Chaos can be a good thing, right? I mean, it doesn't necessarily have to be bad. …Right?"
She scowled at him. "You're just like them," she hissed, taking a step back. A powerful black aura began to grow around her. "You're all the same."
"None of that," Light ordered flatly, and waved the gathering power effortlessly away. "Now, listen here. Don't get mad at us. We haven't done anything to you."
The unspoken yet hung in the air.
"You will," Naisamon accused. "You will all do the same thing."
"What's that?" Love asked as kindly as she could amidst her confusion.
"You will all hate me."
"Why?" Hope demanded, aghast. What a hopeless thing to say!
"Because I am Hate, because I was Chaos. Because of what I am and was and will be. I am always hated."
"Well, if you attack an entire world," Sincerity pointed out, smiling, "that's the sort of thing that happens."
Naisamon glared at her. "Don't patronize me! I didn't attack this world because I was Hate!"
"Then why did you?" Courage asked with more patience than he felt at the moment. For such a little thing, she was a spitfire.
"I…I attacked it because it hated me."
"Wait," Knowledge instructed, making rewinding motions with his hands. "Run that by me one more time."
Naisamon sighed, her shoulders slumping. "The world hated me; even my own sisters hated me. Why wouldn't I hate it in return? Why wouldn't the hate make me desire revenge?"
"You're not the cause of the problem," Knowledge said, sounding surprised. "You're the product of it."
"I'm confused," Reliability admitted, rubbing his forehead. They'd really only come here for Friendship; what was going on?
"Ok." Knowledge looked around, gathering his thoughts. "Ok. So let's say…let's say an entity is misunderstood. Let's then assume that the lack of understanding breeds fear, which in turn becomes dislike, which, when left unchecked, becomes hate. Ok. So. This hate is directed at an innocent creature, the one who is misunderstood. This creature, after many years of being hated, eventually absorbs all that hate. The hate has nowhere to go, because this creature is basically good and has never felt dark emotions. Eventually the hate poisons this creature's very being, changing it from something that was inherently good to something that is alone and confused and hurting. Which eventually becomes hate. Thus the birth of Naisamon, Basic Digimon of Hate."
"Not an Evil, then," Friendship murmured, studying the tiny entity on his hand. "A loneliness, but not evil. You're the greatest of the Basic Digimon that we created, aren't you? The gathering of our power. The addition of excitement and unpredictability in a world that was all monotony and similarities."
Naisamon could only nod miserably. "Why couldn't they understand?" she asked in a whisper. "Why couldn't even one understand? They all ganged up one day and banished me from the Digiworld. I had to stay out in space. But space was cold and lonely, and without me the chaos left in the Digiworld was born in the form of Myotismon and the like. I was supposed to be their mistress, the one they were accountable to. You planned it that way. Why couldn't they understand that?"
"The greatest things are the hardest to understand," Courage assured with a soft smile. "Even we ourselves are written off in our own world."
"Fantastic as you are," Naisamon breathed in awe, looking up at him, "you are not understood?"
"Fantastic as we seem to be," Love chuckled dryly, "who could attempt to understand us but we ourselves?"
"But even my own sisters," Naisamon choked out painfully.
"They through you out?" Light asked, arching an eyebrow.
"Well," the tiny Digimon amended, "no. They weren't actually there. But they didn't help me! That's what siblings do; that's why you decided to create us as sisters! Remember? So that's we'd all be there for each other!"
"As the greatest of your sisters," Sincerity pointed out, "how could you expect them to keep up with everything you did and had done to you?"
"They've been looking for you," Friendship said easily. "Meloremon told me. Without you actually on the planet, your memories have been wiped from their minds, but they realize something's missing. They aren't allowed to remember your name, but they remember that you exist. They're looking for something they can't remember, because you're that important to them. Are you going to leave them to search alone forever?"
"What can I do?" Naisamon demanded, sadness radiating from her. "The Digiworld banished me…"
"We are the first lords and ladies of the Digital World," Courage reminded her. He motioned at the eight Guardian Digimon standing patiently behind them. "They are the Base Digimon of the Eight Deities. They are to take residence with you once we leave for our original homes. You think the will of a few frightened Digimon can stand up to us?"
She sighed. "Even so…what am I to do? Just…go home and pick things up like nothing ever happened? Just…just…"
"Forgive them?" Reliability suggested. "What a wonderful, lovely, unpredictable, chaotic idea." Then he grinned.
"They don't deserve it," she said flatly, face dark and blank.
"No one ever deserves it," Friendship told her, cocking a familiar half-smile. "You wouldn't believe the number of times throughout the ages I've been a total ass. But these eight, my brothers and sisters and friends, always forgive me."
There was a pause. Then, almost hesitantly, Naisamon asked, "Always?"
"And…they would forgive…me? Even after all I've done?"
"Of course," Love assured, smiling as well.
"Because they love you. And Love is one of the few emotions that is wholly unselfish, totally forgiving, ultimately understanding."
"They are the only four Digimon who can totally understand you; you are one of the only ones who totally understands them." Courage grinned. "There aren't enough of you to waste time hating each other. You should forgive each other by default. They're all you have."
"What if I can't?" Naisamon was crying now; sobbing on her hands and knees, staff fallen by her side. The fact that she was still on Friendship's hand was an odd reminder of her size. "What if I've been Hate too long to go back? What if it's too late?"
"It's never too late. But it will take courage." There was more than one tone in Deity Courage's voice again. His eyes were glowing and his sigh shone from his forehead.
"I possess no courage."
"Then I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if I am tempted to Hate again?"
"Use the knowledge of your experience to make wise decisions."
"I possess no knowledge."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if I cannot remember what I was?"
"Use the sincerity of your feelings to draw upon the long sleeping memories."
"I possess no sincerity."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if I cannot forgive?"
"Use your love to overcome the boundaries of your heart."
"I possess no love."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if I lose my way?"
"Use your light to locate your path."
"I possess no light."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if I see no peaceful future?"
"Use your hope to believe in the possibility of the glorious future."
"I possess no hope."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if I cannot win the trust of those who would be my followers?"
"Use your steadfast reliability to draw them to your side."
"I possess no reliability."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
"What if…what if my sisters will not reconcile with me?"
"Use your friendship to remind them of the bond you five share."
"I possess no friendship."
"I lend you mind. Take it as a gift; use it as a guide."
Her voice rose in the crescendo of their power. "All that I am now you have given me; all that I was you created. What do you demand of me in return?"
"We request." Their voices were one enormous power, lighting even the darkness of the universe's soul. It swirled around her as they and their Digimon lost their forms to wrap around her tiny form. "We desire you to return to what you were, never to forsake yourself again."
"Will you strengthen me?"
"Do you demand this?"
"Yes. In the wake of our power, we adjure you. Hold true to us!"
"In the place of your power, I accept!"
"I am Naisamon! I am the Basic Digimon of the Chaos of Creation and Destruction!"
"So be it."
Their power spiraled to a climax before splitting. It formed eight pillars, which became eight Deities, behind which eight Guardian Digimon stood. Their power continued to pool around them as Naisamon gave a slight bow.
She was bigger now, about the same height as Deity Sincerity. Her dress fell a little under half way down her thigh. It was white and flowing, though she wore black knee-length boots. The gem on her forehead now sparkled with every known color, shifting mainly between the colors of the Deities. Her staff was now made of a white wood and was topped by an orb that shifted in the same manner as her gem. Rather than black, her hair and fathomless eyes were the darkest blue of the sky.
"My precious Deities and most respected Guardian Digimon." Her voice radiated their combined power. It was both gentle and loud, filling the space left to it by the eight fantastic auras. "Your power flows through me now and always, enabling me to connect with Central Fortress, where my sisters now hover in terror over your lifeless, cooling bodies. Because of the way you have saved me, no power is left in you to bring you back to the Fortress. Therefore, allow me, your humble servant and indebted devotee, to take you back with me. Please."
The eight traded dumb looks, first with each other, then with their Guardian Digimon.
Well, they were tired. And she was asking…
Anamnemon gasped and threw herself out of the Main Room of Central Fortress as an enormous power filled it.
The four Basic Digimon looked at each other in astonishment.
Were they back?
"Do not be alarmed, sisters," a wonderfully familiar voice murmured as a figure materialized before them. "To begin returning an endless debt, I brought them back. Per their request."
For a moment, the four were absolutely still, staring at the Basic Digimon before them. Their memories flooded back.
For a moment, the Basic Digimon of Chaos was afraid.
Then, as one, the other four Basic Digimon leapt forward, clinging to their lost sister desperately. "Naisamon!" they cried. "Older sister! We missed you!"
Slowly Naisamon smiled.
A miracle happened as the Digidestined began moaning and sitting up. Instantly the five Basic Digimon were at their sides, helping them up.
"Call a doctor," Joe rasped weakly, and there was a ripple of laughter.
"I want the number of whatever bus ran us over," Izzy said calmly, feebly, as he lay on the floor spread eagle staring at the ceiling. "I really think we could sue."
Another murmur of laughter.
The Digimon were all but dead from exhaustion. They were alive and healthy, but could not be woken up.
"But that's ok," Tai assured, pushing himself into a sitting position only to look around and lie back down. "Because as soon as I get a blanket and a pillow, I'm gonna be down for the count, too. On second thought, forget the blanket and pillow. Just give me a second." His eyes were already drooping closed.
T.K. dragged his tired attention from Patamon to Matt, who was actually standing, looking around in a very confused manner. The little brother allowed himself a smile.
Poor Matt probably didn't remember leaving the sick bay and coming into the room. Actually, at that point, the details were a bit fuzzy to even T.K.
"You ok?" he asked his older brother in a yawn, stretching as he stood. "Ow. I'm gonna be sore tomorrow."
"I seem to be fine," Matt admitted, studying his hands. His amazement buzzed down the spider web connection that still held them all linked.
"We actually noticed that, y'know, before. When you were dead. Again." Sora blinked. "What was my point? Oh, yeah. Becoming our Deity forms seems to have healed us."
Matt could only smile, relieved.
No one could tell, later, who it was that actually stepped off their sign first. It was a close tie between T.K. and Mimi.
Not that it mattered.
The instant they walked off their assigned location, a sharp snap splintered their connection, breaking their circuit.
A second later, Matt's eyes met T.K.'s. The older blond looked shocked, his eyes wide. Then, in a shower of blood, all his miraculously healed wound exploded back into existence. Shock was still blatant on his face as he dropped first to his knees, then onto his side.
He promptly passed out.
"Damn," Tai sighed, pressing a hand to his newly reborn shoulder wound. "And here I thought I wouldn't have to explain anything to my parents."
"Broken," Joe announced from his position next to Matt. "Again." He was feeling the blond's left arm.
Piatymon was sitting by Matt as well, trying to unknot as much pain as she could. It didn't appear to be going very well.
Suddenly Matt took a deep, shuttering breath and was assailed by body wrenching coughs.
"Time to go home," Sora said flatly, and the other six nodded.
"Ok." Izzy stood and rubbed his hands together. "Someone give me my laptop and we'll just get going now." Mutely Anamnemon fetched the requested device and handed it to him.
"Did you ever notice," Mimi began in conversational tones as she doctored Tai's wounds, "that the weirder things get the less weird it all seems in retrospect? I mean, Matt, who seemed fine a moment ago, is now suddenly very, very hurt. Izzy apparently is all set to go home but none of us know how and…that's ok. We all understand."
Tai only sighed again and shook his head.
Izzy tucked his laptop under his arm and smiled. "Ok, let's go."
"Go how?" Kari demanded. The where was easy: home.
"Well, we apparently had a hand in forming Central Fortress and, therefore, the entire Digital World, right?"
A communal nod from all the humans (except Matt).
"All right, going on that. If we created this place, why shouldn't we be able to just—zap! And be home?"
Then, "Wait a minute, what?" from Tai.
"It stands to reason," Izzy defended, frowning. "We created the things that created the power that creates the portals that suck us here, right? So, if a equals b equals c equals d, then a equals d and we should be able to create the portals. Right?"
"Don't even argue with the twisted logic," Mimi suggested, standing. "What do you want us to do, Izzy?"
He shrugged. "You shouldn't have to do anything. If my theory's correct, then all I have to do is…" He clenched one fist by his side, concentrating. Power fizzed around him. Then, in a sudden motion, he flicked his hand out, and a portal was born. "Ta da!"
They all only stared at him.
"We'll work on it over the summer," he promised, grinning.
"It works both ways?" Joe asked, astonished.
Izzy blinked at him. "Of course. See, if-"
"We'll work on it over the summer," Tai interrupted. "In the meantime, Matt needs some help."
"Right," Sora agreed, and steeled her will. "I'll go first." With one last deep breath, she leapt into the portal.
"Say goodbye for us," Kari requested, smiling at the Basic Digimon.
Kari and Mimi leapt through.
"I'll catch him on the other side," Joe promised and, with a quick wave at the Basic Digimon, was gone.
T.K. looked around the room, smiled fondly, and began trying to drag his brother to the portal.
Tai, seeing the discomfort the situation was putting both blonds in, went to their aid. "Take care of our Digimon," he almost begged. "Tell them we'll come visit."
The trio was gone.
Izzy only shot a dare devil smile at the Basic Digimon. "See you soon, ladies."
The Eight Chosen Children, controlled forms of the Eight Deities, were gone.
The five Basic Digimon blinked a moment in bewilderment after the portal had closed before smiling at each other.
Yes, the exit had been quick, but the hurry was necessary. Now, the five would busy themselves with taking care of the small forms of the Eight Base Digimon.
Because, after all, the Children would be back soon. And everything had to be perfect on that day.
When they arrived back in the normal world, they were in exactly the same position, exactly the same place they had been when they left.
How ironic that they had started the entire journey standing in a circle with Matt at their center.
As soon as the Chosen Child of Friendship's feet touched the ground, his knees buckled. Though T.K. tried to support his weight, he slipped all the way to the hard cement ground where he lay, breathing hard and shuttering in agony.
"We have to find a hospital," Kari said desperately, looking around. "Where's the nearest hospital?"
As they strained their memories, salvation found them.
"You send a kid out for two lousy cups of coffee and—T.K.?"
The little blond, exhausted, looked up at the sound of his name. His eyes widened in recognition when they fell on the man who was now jogging towards them. "D-Dad?"
"Hey, T.K.!" He was grinning and had obviously not noticed either Matt or the condition of any of the other children. "Long time no see, kiddo! What've you been up to?"
"Uh…that's a long story, actually…"
And then Mr. Ishida noticed Matt. For a moment he could only stare in mute shock. Then his eyes narrowed and he quickly strode over to him, lifting him easily into his arms. "His rheumatic fever's so much worse…what did you kids do?"
T.K. winced. "That's a long story, too…"
"No, no, don't tell me, let me guess: you just got back from the Digital World."
Izzy smiled weakly. "As a matter of fact…"
Joe took a step forward in an effort to explain only to stumble in exhaustion.
Finally Mr. Ishida's fatherly attention widened to include all of the children. He sighed. "You kids really went through something, huh?"
A drained communal nod.
"Well, I can't carry you all, and Matt seems the worst off, you understand, so if you can just follow me, I'll take you to the hospital. Then, while you're getting looked over and Matt's getting checked in, you can call your parents. Or you could give me your numbers and I could call your parents. Whatever works best." He shrugged and turned, heading in the direction of the nearest hospital.
The other children followed him in a dull stupor, vaguely grateful that they didn't need to think anymore.
Predictably, Matt was very quickly admitted to the hospital and, to the horror of those present, stuck in the ICU. Just for the night, the doctors assured, but still…
Predictably, the other Digidestined were suffering from intense exhaustion and various other assorted wounds. To the surprise of all gathered, each and every one of them was admitted to the hospital for over night observation.
Predictably, the parents were beside themselves with worry when they got the late night call from a man they barely remembered in all cases but one telling them their children had been hospitalized. They immediately rushed to the hospital, demanding to know what had happened to their babies.
Acute fatigue, cuts, scrapes, bruises, what looked like severe self-inflicted glass wounds in one case.
Though the doctors couldn't explain it, the parents traded one dark look and knew they could.
The Digital World.
They couldn't ask their children about it at that exact moment, but as soon as they were feeling better…
The question and answer session happened a day and a half later, when the parents entered the room their seven children had been put in to find the little buggers actually sitting up in bed laughing as they threw wadded up balls of paper at each other.
Instant silence reigned.
"Uh," Tai began, shooting a glance at the others, "hi?"
His mother strode over to him and whacked him gently upside the head. "Don't you hi me, mister! You're in big trouble!"
"Hey!" he defended. "We were saving the world, for crying out loud! Ma'am," he added as an afterthought. He grinned sheepishly.
"You kids have some serious explaining to do," Mr. Kido warned, sitting on the edge of his son's bed as he looked over various assorted medical files.
The seven traded a long look. Then, after a deep breath, they began to give the ultra-condensed edited version of what had happened.
All bouts of selflessness and masochism aside, their adventure hadn't really been…that…harrowing…really…
"How's Matt?" T.K. asked of his mother hours later while the parents all filled out release forms.
"He's…he's hurt, T.K." She smiled weakly at him and stroked his hair. "I can't lie and say he's fine, but…the doctors think he's gonna be fine."
"Has he woken up?" Mimi asked from across the room.
Joe sat up a little straighter. "Is that where Mr. Ishida is? With Matt?"
Kari looked at her parents, totally serious. "We want to go see him."
All the other children nodded and began standing, ignoring the fact that they were in their pajamas.
"Hey!" their parents protested, but something about the way the children looked stopped them from intervening.
One of the parents told them where Matt was, though none of them cared enough to figure out which parent.
Matt was asleep when they came in, hooked up to several machines that beeped and IVs that dripped. They could only assume the doctors weren't stupid enough to give him any sleeping medicine.
Mr. Ishida stood in surprise when the seven of them filed in. T.K. stood closest to his brother's head. Somehow, the father understood what the children wanted and backed off.
"He's stabilized," Mr. Ishida said, shrugging, his hands in his pockets, "which is something. But they don't think he's gonna wake up for a while. God, kids. What did you do?"
He wasn't expecting an answer and they didn't give one.
Seeing Matt's broken arm in a real cast was strange. The best they'd been able to do was a splint and strips of bed-sheets. The multi-prong star on his neck was pale, like an old, old scar that had healed many years ago. Bandages were plastered liberally all over him, patching up the cut on his cheek that they'd all had to ignore, wrapping his forearms and hands and all the other marks that were proof and reminders of his sacrifices for them.
"Don't worry," T.K. told his father in a voice that echoed ever-so-slightly with power. He smiled. "He'll wake up in two and a half days." Then he sighed and took a step back. He shot his father a rueful grin. "Sorry, Dad. Don't think Mom'll let me stay here and keep him company."
Mr. Ishida smiled back at him. "It's ok, T.K. I'm actually use to this by now. See, while we were living in the country-" But then he stopped, because the seven children were smiling in a wise way.
They already knew. That much was obvious.
"Anything he didn't tell you?" Mr. Ishida asked, sighing.
Another traded, wise look, that said, It's better if we don't tell him.
"Not really," Tai assured, ushering his team from the room. "Have a nice day, Mr. Ishida."
When Matt woke exactly two and a half days later, the totality of the Digidestined team was gathered around his bed. He smiled weakly up at them and moved one hand in the semblance of a wave.
They all positively beamed back at him.
"You're so lazy," Tai accused, grinning wickedly. "Only you could sleep for four and a half days like it was nothing."
The blond made another slight motion.
This is nothing.
They had all gotten very good at understanding his miming by now, and could read the good humor in his tired eyes.
Then a doctor came in and, though the Digidestined silently refused to leave the room, they did retreat to a corner.
At the doctor's request, Matt was allowed to go back to sleep soon after.
The rest of the summer passed by without consequence. Matt healed at a rate none of the parents could understand, though the Chosen Children were unsurprised.
After all, they had been slipping him energy whenever they could spare it by means of their almost nonexistent connection, which they had all been thrilled to discover was still intact.
Through it, they helped Matt heal.
While he was in the hospital, the seven taught themselves to teleport between the two worlds. They spent a lot of time in the Digital World, making sure everything was ok.
After all, they were responsible for it. Right?
Near the end of summer, the seven went to pay their last member a visit.
He was sitting up in bed when they entered. As soon as he saw them, his expression became desperate. "Tell me you brought me food," he begged, setting his guitar aside. Now that his cast was off, he spent almost all his time fiddling with different instruments his father brought to keep him entertained. "I can't take this hospital food any more. Please tell me you brought food!"
"My mom sent this," Tai said, pulling a brown paper bag from his backpack. "It's…I forget." He turned to Kari. "Something about beets?"
"And rutabagas," she agreed, and grinned when Matt made a face.
"Ok, any food but that."
Tai promptly threw the bag in the trash as T.K. produced a fast-food replacement, which Matt greedily snatched and began sifting through.
"French fries," he practically sobbed, clutching the bag close. "You saved me!"
Then the nurse came in.
The nurse, carrying a tray piled high with disgustingly nutritious food, narrowed her eyes at him. She was in her late thirties, pretty with black hair and green eyes, but just beginning to show the wear her job had on her. Obviously having Matt as a patient wasn't helping. "And just what do you think you're doing?"
He didn't answer. Instead, he clutched the burger-bag close and bent over it. "It's mine," he whined when she set the tray on a low table next to his bed and held her hand out for the food.
"It's not good for you."
"Starving isn't good for me."
"You don't starve, dear. We give you plenty of food. Now, give me that bag."
He did so reluctantly. "But it's mine, and that stuff-" he pointed at the hospital food- "is awful. Have you ever eaten that?"
"As a matter of fact," she smiled serenely, "yes."
"And I wouldn't feed it to my dog if I didn't have to."
"But it's good for you. You have to eat it if it's good for you."
"You don't eat it."
"I'm not sick."
"Me neither almost!"
She only smiled at him, waved at the others, and left with the fast food bag.
Tai was snickering. "Sucks to be you."
Matt scowled at him.
"Oh, come on. It can't be that bad!"
Silently Matt picked up his tray, cut off a strip of the dilapidated meat that was supposed to be roast chicken, and held it out to Tai.
For a moment, he hesitated.
Then Matt grinned evilly. "Go on, Courage. Take it."
With a scowl, he did, and popped it in his mouth. A second later, he began gagging, both hands wrapped around his throat. "I'm dying!" he choked, and everyone laughed.
Matt only sighed, poking at something they supposed was jello with a plastic spork. "I wanna go home," he said suddenly, and Tai stopped pretending to die.
"Dad says they're talking about letting you go next week," T.K. told his brother encouragingly.
"A week?" The older blond sighed again. "I don't want to be in here another day, much less a week."
Mimi patted his hand. "I'm sorry, Matt. I'm sure the time will fly."
"Meanwhile you guys have figured out how to pass between the worlds. You've probably been visiting the Digimon, haven't you?" Now the patient sounded thoroughly depressed.
"Yeah," Kari chirped, plopping on the hospital bed. "And guess what else we figured out how to do?"
Joe checked both ways down the hall and closed the door, locking it.
As he did so, Tai and Sora closed their eyes, hands clasped together as they pooled their power.
"Surprise," they chorused in multi-toned voices as light filled the room. When the light dimmed, a small figure hurled at Matt, latching onto him.
"Hi!" Gabumon greeted, smiling hugely.
Matt blinked down at him for a second. Then, slowly, he smiled.
"Ok," he admitted, petting his Digimon's head. "So maybe I can wait…just one more week."
The week ended up being more like a week and a half, but Matt bore it with a smile. Every time the seven visited their eighth member, at least one Digimon was snuck in as well.
As soon as he got home, Matt began petitioning to learn how to transport between the worlds.
"You've got to be in top shape," Joe said flatly. "That's nonnegotiable."
The statement didn't keep Matt from asking, though.
Eventually he healed enough that they showed him the idea behind going to and from the Digital World, and the remanding weeks of summer were spent there.
School started without any incidence. Matt was reintroduced to the school by many envious looks from the boys and many admiring whistles from the girls, all of which he took with a grain of salt, a desperate silent prayer, and a roguish grin.
Which made all the girls giggle.
The eight got together for a movie fest at T.K.'s mother's apartment the first weekend of the school year.
In reality, they had gathered to discuss the new threat facing their Digital World and what was to be done about it.
"There's someone attacking the Digital World again," Tai announced as their get together began. Everyone but Matt was present, but that was to be expected. He was doing recon. "This evil guy, what's he call himself? The Digimon Emperor?" A traded look of amusement before he continued. "He might seem like a pretty bad enemy to those new kids, but what do you two think?"
T.K. and Kari looked at each other a moment before shrugging. "No biggie," T.K. assured.
"Won't need the Power, that much is certain," Kari agreed, smiling as she passed a bowl of popcorn around.
"Gabumon seconds that," Matt said, materializing in the room. A ghost of a cape and the Sign of Friendship vanished completely as he landed lightly and straightened. He shrugged when everyone looked at him expectantly. "The Dark Spires aren't a problem. They're everywhere, but they're not a problem. If this thing gets out of hand, we could take care of it in a Digital day, no sweat. One good hard glare and those suckers go down like melting ice." He shrugged again.
"Should we just go take care of the problem, then?" Joe asked, frowning slightly at the popcorn as he took it from Mimi.
Tai shrugged. "Why should we?"
They all stared at him.
"Explain," Izzy requested, sitting back into his recliner.
"Well, it's a type of adventure, right? For those three, as soon as they're issued the challenge through the D3s, beating this guy, this Digimon Emperor, will be an adventure. If that's all it is, why deny them a good game? The Digital World is a wonderful place to test the limits of your courage, especially with a Digimon by your side. I think we should let them have a good romp in our playground."
"We could always step in if it gets too bad," Sora pointed out, taking a sip of her water and scooching over as Matt plopped down between her and Mimi on the couch with his guitar.
"It wouldn't hurt," Matt agreed, picking a song absently.
"What if it does get out of hand?" Kari argued, looking over the selection of movies everyone had brought over. "We step in and use the Power and shock those kids and raise all sorts of questions? Isn't that a little risky for a bit of shared fun?"
"I have an idea," Izzy proclaimed, grinning.
Somehow no one was surprised.
"T.K., you and Kari are in this new guy's class, right? This Daisuke character, who will get a D3 and the gifts of Courage and Friendship to use as tools?"
They traded a glance. "Yeah, so?"
"So. Join their group. Play along. Make yourselves D3s and pretend to struggle along side them. If things get out of hand, you don't necessarily have to use your full power, just enough to get yourselves out of a sticky situation." Then he grinned again.
T.K. and Kari looked at each other.
"Fine," Kari relented in a sigh.
"I'm game," T.K. chirped. "That's a nice song, Matt," he added, smiling at his brother. "Is it new?"
"Yeah," he admitted, looking surprised that anyone had noticed.
"Do you have a gig or something coming up with your new band?" the littler blond asked.
"Yeah. How'd you know?"
"You're practicing every time I see you."
A sheepish grin. "Oh."
"When is it?" Mimi asked.
"And why haven't we previously heard of it?" Sora added, elbowing him.
"It's a week after next Thursday, and I didn't tell you cause I keep forgetting."
"I swear, I just forgot!"
"Believe him," Joe assured, grinning. "It's cheerleaders."
"Again," the blond muttered, turning back to his guitar with a dark expression.
"Ok," Kari announced, standing up with two movies held behind her back. "Everyone, pick a hand."
"Right," they said unanimously, and grinned.
She made a face as she stuck the move in the DVD player. One hidden aspect of having been connected at one point: they were still, on some level, connected. Most times, whenever someone asked a question of the group, their minds clicked the second before they answered and it came out as the same thing at the same time.
And so they settled down to watch their movie, content for the moment. Eventually the problem in the Digital World would call for a type of their attention, but not much.
It was, after all, only a game to them now, as it was meant to be.
As they had created it to be.
After much time passed, a greater problem presented itself, and the 02 Children were exposed to the Power of legend and the ability of those who had stood silently behind them.
But that is another story completely.The end