Story Title: Scars
Warnings: angstyish, somewhat graphic, spoilers for many Frontier events
Pairings: None, subtext if you squint
Summary: To leave the adventure they had unscathed would have been a miracle. But, blessed as they already were, it was one they were not granted. The Chosen of the Frontier deal with the unspoken aftermath of their time in the Digital World.
Disclaimer: The characters, locations, elements, etc. of Digimon Frontier do not belong to me.
Sometimes he woke up screaming, yelling his lungs out until his mom ran into the room and hugged him close to her body and let him cry until all his tears ran out. She never asked any questions, never asked why, and he was grateful for that.
Other times he merely trembled in his bed, silent amidst the phantom pains echoing throughout his body. In the darkness of his room, he could safely curl up in his blankets until everything went back to normal and he remembered that it was just a dream.
That being eaten alive by Ranamon's Jealousy Rain was merely a dream.
He was never as thankful to Kouji as when he dispelled the acidic mist. What he never revealed to his friends was that the mist didn't start at his clothing; he could already feel it beginning to eat away at his skin in a horrifyingly painful manner. It seared his senses with pain, and it was made worse by the fact that he couldn't move, couldn't fight, couldn't do a thing about it. His evolution to Blitzmon managed to heal the damage already done to his body, but it didn't erase the fact that it happened in the first place.
Didn't heal the horrors that the event instilled in his mind.
When he dreamt, sometimes he thought he could feel the Warrior of Water's deadly attack working its way into his skin, melting his body bit by bit until it ate all the way into his bones, and sometimes he screamed himself raw when he swore he could feel the acid everywhere, scathing, biting, eating...
Because he could never forget.
And because he could never forget, he began to fear.
Fear, crippling fear which took away all conscious thought, halted him, and he could never move on. Because the acid represented his own weakness which he had yet to overcome—and didn't know if he could.
He could handle it most of the time. At nights, safe in his own house with his mom keeping him company, a silent presence which held him aloft, he could almost forget the pain which shadowed him, one among many, the deadliest of them all.
But once, while he traversed the rain and the mist in an effort to put the past behind him, he'd lost it.
The silky feeling of mist against his skin brought back the painful memories, and he fell to the ground with a soundless scream. Tears poured out of his eyes as he writhed on the ground, because he could feel it through his arms, through his legs, through his chest—the searing pain of disintegration beginning on the cellular level. Each minute pinpoint of pain that magnified as time passed—he could feel each one.
It was only Izumi's shocked tears and worried voice gusting over him like wind vanquishing mist which brought him back from the brink. As Izumi kneeled beside him, he looked into her pain-filled and horror-struck eyes and told her the truth.
The truth of his pain, the truth of his tears, and the only truth that he held away from his friends so close that they weren't like family, they were family.
She never knew that she wasn't alone.
Hah, that was the crux of the problem wasn't it?
On a superficial level, she knew what he was feeling. Sometimes she still remembered falling into the ocean as the Spirit of Wind left her; being at the mercy of the water with no air around her had left her with a slight aquaphobia—sometimes, she had to clutch onto someone or something as the events of that day surrounded her.
But it wasn't the worst of it; oh no. If it was, she could be happy. Her aquaphobia wasn't as deeply rooted as his nightmares.
It was the sting of bitter loneliness which still followed her. Even though she knew that she had her friends so close they were family—there were times in the deepest recesses of her heart she felt that they could leave. Sometimes, in her darkest moments, she wondered if they would always truly be there to stand by her when she needed them. Because if there was one thing that Ranamon did, it was to wedge her cruel words deep into her heart. The Warrior of Water had stripped away all of her confidence and bravado with which she held herself together and warded off the pain of the world—and her own weaknesses were laid bare before herself. She remembered the sickly feeling which burned through her stomach as she reflected upon herself, and the utter chill of solitary pain followed her wherever she went.
Looking into the water's mirror had never felt so sickening.
Ranamon took her strength and her power and then shattered it as if it was nothing—and she never recovered, leaving her to pick up the broken pieces which would never fit together again. Even with her strength as Fairymon and Shutumon and Susanoomon and as the girl behind them, she always carried that bitter pain in her heart, letting it grow and fester like a wound unhealed.
Which it was.
It showed even her interactions with other people, that hesitation to open herself to one more person, for fear of hurting herself further. The scars of her childhood which Ranamon tore open could not be fixed, not even in all the time afterward.
Now that she knew she wasn't alone, however, she felt she could reach out to another, their bonfire amidst everything else, who came back to them even with his own loss.
Because Takuya had his own pain, and maybe, just maybe they could find solace together.
Even now, when he looked back, his resolve crumbled.
So many mistakes, so many things he'd done wrong, so many places where things could've gone better.
All the losses—Seraphimon, Ophanimon, Baromon...
And Nefertimon's hurt the worst.
Staring into the Holy Beast's eyes and seeing the horror, pain, and hints of betrayal as she was scanned by the Royal Knights, a pain worse than the swift death she could have been given had he followed her wishes—very few things hurt him worse than that.
But, of all the mistakes, all of them, perhaps the one which hurt the most was the one of his own blunder, of his own weakness.
When he was all bravado and confidence, he had led them against Duskmon, despite knowing how much stronger the Warrior of Darkness was. He trusted in their ability to come out on top because they were the "righteous" side, because they had to protect the Digital World, so they had to win, and they would win.
He had never felt so cold when he realized how large of a mistake he had created. When the aftermath came and he thought that they all were—
He thought he'd killed them all, all because he was too stupid to be cautious. All because he all he had was bravado and he'd never come up against someone as strong as Duskmon.
All because he thought he was stronger than he was.
There was no one to pick himself up after that loss, where he could have lost everything to Duskmon, where the Digital World—
Who was he kidding?
The thing he was scared most of at that time was what would have happened if someone had been killed. Damn the Digital World; if Tomoki or Izumi or Kouji or Junpei had been killed in that battle, he would have died.
Because of his own weakness.
Because of his failure.
Because he couldn't even protect those dearest to him.
And the chill of his own failure and his own mistakes continued to haunt him. Because he could barely step forward without doubt, without second-guessing his own moves, because at the background of his mind was if he was making the right choice, if there was something else he should do. And his confidence shook with each step he took, because, no matter how much he seemed in control, he never really recovered from his own mistakes.
Because he couldn't see himself as either immortal or strong any longer, and, at his age, he didn't know any other way to live.
So continued to hide his growing weakness, hoping it would go away yet knowing it would not, and he was all the weaker for it.
Now that he knew he wasn't alone in his problems, however, he decided it was time for all of them to meet another, whom he knew was struggling with his own demons.
Because he knew that Kouji, having been forced into the light only to lose it, was hurt as well.
He knew of broken hopes, shattered dreams.
After all, all he had to do was look into a mirror and see them in himself.
He'd started out with nothing in that journey—nothing but a cold, solitary existence. But in that nothing, he'd attained his own sliver of peace and serenity by which he could survive. It wasn't the best of existences, and he was cut off from much of his emotion, but he had control over himself and his interactions, which somewhat made up for his inability to control his surroundings.
But, in the Digital World, his world began to change. It had first been when he'd seen Tomoki—he knew the boy needed help, and he'd acted before he'd even thought about it.
And the dam broke, because he'd gotten closer and closer to others, and he'd finally tasted the emotions he'd lacked in all the time beforehand, and, as slow as they'd come, they'd become his nirvana. He could feel the warmth of friendship, the soft comfort of care, the sweet taste of happiness, and the true, unadulterated serenity of being with others.
When he'd found his twin, the light to his darkness and the darkness to his light, he held hands with desperation and danced with desire, because suddenly there was something he desperately wanted, that he needed.
And when everything came together and fallen into his grasp, he learned yet another thing: love. He'd learned to love others in a way he hadn't before, a way so much deeper than what he felt for his father.
And then it all shattered before him.
The world he'd come to love as the stability which his father was never able to give—it was all destroyed in front of his eyes, despite reaching into the depths of his soul to pull out power which never before existed.
The brother he'd gained slipped between his fingers, and he had to watch as his brother swirled away in a mess of digicode, to what he was sure was his doom.
The people who'd come to stand around him were scattered like rag dolls, too hurt by the godly power of their enemy to even move, let alone fight.
All of it, all of the good emotion he'd come to embrace, stung like fire. It was like being punched in the gut and then mugged by your best friend.
He'd come to hope and trust and dream and believe, and it had all been taken away from him.
He'd gotten Kouichi and Takuya and Tomoki and Izumi and Junpei and the Digital World back, but he never got that ability to believe again. Because it hurt so much worse when you realize that you had something and it'd been ripped from your grasp.
Because those leave holes which hurt all the more with realization.
He'd lost the hard-gained ability to believe in himself and in the future. And the void left behind ached far more than lonely ignorance ever did.
When he found out that he knew he wasn't alone in his suffering, he thought that they all needed to be here.
And he reached out toward the one who broke out of the darkness, purified it, only to fall back in.
Kouichi needed them.
Death had touched him, and he'd feared it ever since.
He figured he was one of the few humans to ever see Death from both sides and lived to tell the tale. And, sometimes, when he felt compassionate, he was glad more didn't know.
The rest of the time, he cursed the fact he'd ever had the experience.
The feeling of having your soul ripped into pieces, bit by aching bit, the slow torture as you felt everything breaking apart...
He never, ever wanted to feel it again.
It hadn't been a slow process—it was far longer than he'd thought possible.
He felt his memories break away from him, slowly, until he couldn't even remember who he was. He lost more and more and became even more scared when he could feel his own thoughts slipping away as sand through his fingers. And the pain echoed throughout his not-body, firing directly into the part of him which remained eternal.
It felt much worse than any physical affliction—it was rooted into his soul, where there was no way to heal it. It was all in his mind, in his heart, in his soul, and on the bad days, he get aches all over which nothing could help, because they didn't exist where people could touch, because they permeated even his dreams. Pain all around him, inside of him, unable to be healed because it was in his very soul. Not even the false oblivion of sleep could erase the lingering fragments of such profound pain he couldn't describe it, only that it hurt so bad it was unbearable.
And with such excruciating pain came the numbing fear.
He was scared he wasn't better.
He was scared he could feel himself slipping away at times.
He was scared the pain would overwhelm him.
He was scared of death in a way digimon would never understand.
Because digimon, at least, could return.
He was pretty damn sure at the time he couldn't.
Still wasn't sure if it real.
Because he couldn't tell if he was alive or not, if he really existed, because sometimes the world swirled or blurred and he'd think that it was all happening again, the pain, the godforsaken pain which he would never be rid of.
And he was scared of moving forward, of it happening again, or both living and dying, because it hurt so much, the pain and the fear, because he never wanted to go through it again but he didn't want to feel anymore except he couldn't reach out for true oblivion either.
And so he was stuck in his own pain and his own nightmares and his own fears and wondering if he was the only one who had been hurt this badly that it still affected him now.
When he was tapped about his own pain by the pain of the others, he realized that there was one more they needed, the heart which had survived only by freezing parts of itself.
He knew that Tomoki would definitely need to a part of this.
All descriptions he'd come to adopt for himself. He wasn't like most kids—there were precious few to whom he could relate, and none with whom he could speak.
Because to survive in the Digital World, he'd had to freeze huge parts of his heart—his compassion, his empathy, and his emotion—so that he wouldn't falter.
Too many people had been hurt by his hands, too many people killed. Too often he'd had to summon the intent to harm, the intent to kill, the intent to obliterate in order to get by—and with a heart so full of kindness as his own, he'd had to distance himself from that kindness in order to live. Because if he dwelled on the blood, metaphoric or not, on his hands, then he'd have broken, because you can't expect an eight-year-old to kill and continue to kill and watch as others got killed not feel a single thing.
But he'd had to survive, had to live in order to walk into the future which was so necessary.
Because his pain wasn't necessary, not with the Digital World and the Human World at stake. They mattered so much more than his own pain and torment, than his own emotions at being witness to and dealing out so much death and destruction.
At watching numerous children get killed.
At watching whole cities be leveled.
At watching an entire planet be destroyed.
He didn't fear too many things anymore.
After all, after you faced down a god and won, there were very few things which could scare you.
But there was one thing he continued feared, feared above all else.
Because he'd seen his own darkness, seen the way he'd grown dispassionate.
Because he still couldn't unfreeze his heart.
Sometimes, he lay down at night and thought about all the death he'd seen. He'd look at the hands who killed Asuramon and wondered how he hadn't felt any regret. He looked at the hands which attempted to hurt so many, which succeeded in killing so many, and he shook in bed.
Because it was getting harder to feel.
Harder for him to feel the compassion he used to feel for all things, even his enemies, even Ranamon and Mercuremon and, at times, even Cherubimon in his darkest moments.
And that scared him.
Because he couldn't feel.
The chill of apathy began biting into his young soul, and he hated it. He wanted it to end.
But he didn't think he could ask others. Because he was so young, he didn't know who to ask or how to go about it.
Now that they asked... Now that they've shown their own pains and fears, he looked at Junpei and the lightning which could break even the darkest night and the thunder which could resound through the loudest din, and he thanked him profusely.
Because he wasn't sure how he'd go forward without them.
Six souls gathered together to heal. Because they were heroes and because they were children, they sought to hide their own pain from others. Though the Digital World offered them in many ways a chance to grow, it also cut deep scars into their hearts, leaving them as much broken as healed. Old wounds were replaced with new, and these wounds continued to grow and grow with each passing moment, because they were the wounds so deep no one but the closest would even recognize their existence.
There was no guarantee they'd heal. But, together, the six of them would move forward. Because that was all they could do, as friends and as a family—walk forward into the future with their shared pain in hopes that, together, they'd find a path to freedom from their scars.
Because you don't walk through a war unscathed.
But you can find people with whom you can share the burden of pain and fear.
And, sometimes, that's all you can do.
Note: Um, yeah, I'm honestly not too sure where this came from, but I felt it had to be written. Because too many things happened to these children for them to not become scarred, no matter what lessons they've learned, what things they gained.