In a Cold Season

Set during the Christmas season, most specifically after the exchange that takes place in the Daisuke to Ken no Kaimono Carol.

When Daisuke caught up to Ken, he had already crossed the street and was past the intersection of Fifth and Shibuya-ku. Night was beginning to set in, and the crisp breeze from an hour ago had already begun to pick up into a turbulent wind.

Near each building, Christmas lights set into various shop displays shone against the dusk-blue of a late afternoon sky. They gleamed brightly, and even if their glitter was more artificial than the glow of real stars in the sky -- either in the Digital World or this one -- there was something comforting about them, though exactly why was difficult to place.

"Hey, you." Ken said. "Did you finally catch up? It took you long enough." He was smiling, but his eyes were serious.

Daisuke bristled, dumping each bag unceremoniously on the pavement. "You bastard," he swore at Ken, although his words lacked any real heat. "Of course I did! The next time I go shopping, I'm never bringing you with me again." He stretched his arms, sinking down onto a nearby bench. Ken sat down next to him, crossing one leg over the other.

Daisuke's posture relaxed as Chibimon, who had been in Daisuke's backpack all the while, leapt out of the bag and into his grip, wriggling energetically. "Why, Daishuke? Is it because the others tricked you into going while they set up the deco--" he squeaked out while Daisuke attempted to cover his mouth, sputtering furiously.

"Hey, Chibimon, you--"

If Ken overheard that, he chose to save Daisuke some dignity by not bringing it up again.

Pointing out the flaws in Daisuke's logic, though, did not fall into that category. "Really?" Ken absently tucked a strand of hair behind his ear. "If I don't go with you, then how will you explain to Miyako-san and Takaishi-kun that you didn't buy everything they had on their list?" Near Chibimon, Minomon absently shared a piece of white chocolate that Ken had given him, lying warm and content within the folds of his undone scarf and his "Ken-chan's" hands.

"It's their fault to begin with. Who asked them to put down computer games, anyway?"

Ken shrugged, tactful as ever. "That's true, but there isn't much we can do about that. We'll just have to tell them that we couldn't buy them."

Daisuke laughed, catching on. "Or that we ran out of money." His half-snort still sounded somewhat petulant, but it was hard to stay annoyed with holidays coming up in two days and Chibimon bouncing up and down in his arms. And Ken sitting next to him here right now.

"Mm-hmm. Or that we couldn't bring all of them." Ken pointed to the list, which included every version of Katamari Damacy and Harvest Moon.

"Or that they didn't have any of those games in the store."

"I don't think they'll believe that, Daisuke."

Now Daisuke shrugged, grinning, all trace of his former bad mood erased. "Who cares if they believe us or not? If they can pull something like that on us, then we can tell them whatever we want! Serves 'em right." He flexed his fingers together behind his head. Then he scratched his head for a second, unsure of whether he'd phrased that how he'd originally planned to.

"We should tell them that a Digimon made out of green cheese ransacked all of Odaiba for a copy of Doom II. Or, wait! I know," Daisuke snapped his fingers. "We could--" The mischief in his eyes was contagious, and even without his former genius, it didn't take much for Ken to figure out that Daisuke's expression spoke of eventual mayhem and uncontrollable chaos.

Not that this was necessarily a bad thing.

Nor did he have to finish his sentence for Ken to imagine the kind of "payback" that Daisuke would plan. "I guess you have a point," Ken started, uncertain, "but they'd probably try to get revenge on us for it."

Then he put a hand to his chin. "Although," he finished, expression turning slightly wicked, "we could probably beat them at their own game if it came to that."

Daisuke swung an arm around Ken's shoulder. "Of course we could, Ichijouji!"

"Coming up with a plan, that's just like you," he added, and Ken tried not to flush at the easy affirmation. Daisuke was still smiling, of course, but Ken couldn't help but linger on what Daisuke had unknowingly implied.

Caught off guard again. Ever since he had shielded himself as the Kaiser, ever since he had gained the Crest of Kindness, and ever since Daisuke had prodded him to join their team, a constant beacon that Ken had found impossible to shut out, as much as he'd tried -- Motomiya Daisuke had always bewildered him.

In a forest with two roads, Motomiya's influence left him unsure of which turn to take, both frustrated and drawn to the very source of that confusion.

And now, this.

Ken knew that Daisuke did not worry over what his best friend could do; rather, it was that Ken himself clearly remembered what he was capable of. His face turned reflective for a second, and Minomon gazed up at him, intuitively aware of Ken's sudden shift in mood. His small black eyes shone with worry, and Ken had to put a reassuring palm to Minomon's forehead to let him know that he was alright.

Moments passed by in a sieve.

"Ken? Hey, Ken." Ken looked back up to see Daisuke's face. "You okay?"

He nodded, but something in Daisuke's tone sounded vaguely hesitant, and Ken's sharp eyes caught that same uncertainty in his expression: like the timbre of his voice, it was bared open for all the world to see.

Ken wondered if that uncertainty was mirrored in his own face. After all, it was vulnerability that, as the Kaiser, he would have never dared shown. As the Kaiser, he would have taken advantage of that weakness in others and fit it to his own purposes.

He would have done a lot.

But despite that worry, the fragile determination and brash concern framing Daisuke's words were utterly different from the shroud of steely, selfish malice that had encased the Digimon Kaiser; utterly different from those belonging to the calculating monster he had once been.

Instead, they were genuine.

Somehow, Motomiya Daisuke had always been different like that.

"Ken," Daisuke repeated.

He wove a gloved hand in front of Ken's face. "We're unstoppable, right?" Daisuke's eyes were bright in the late afternoon chill, and Ken didn't know how to reply.

He was about to say something that would discourage him: not because he wanted to dampen Daisuke's spirit, but because all of this was indefinably strange. All of it, and particularly the idea that Daisuke believed in him.

An idea that couldn't even be defined as an 'expectation'; except for perhaps Wormmon, nobody else seemed to accept Ken for himself as readily as Daisuke did.

And therein lied the catch.

Daisuke's trust in him had always been like this, even when -- especially when -- he himself had been at his lowest.

Like everything else about Daisuke, Ken still couldn't completely understand why.

A retort hovered near the edge of his lips, something pragmatic that would force Daisuke's head out of the clouds and back down to reality.

But then he remembered another world, and their hearts, still beating together in time. All of what they'd been through: beneath the endless horizon of the Digital World, and this one.

And all of a sudden, none of it seemed to matter why, it just was.

Mouth quirking upwards, his gaze squarely met Daisuke's. "Yeah," he said softly.

Before he could think it over, he moved forward, almost on pure instinct. His knuckles brushed against Daisuke's, and in the moment that he realized what he'd done, he drew back a little. But instead of backing away from him, Daisuke slowly extended his own hand to his, fingers wide and flat against Ken's palm.

His touch was dry, but warm.

And unlike most knowledge that Ken had acquired throughout his lifetime, cold 'comforts' that had rationalized Osamu-niisan's death, his status as a prodigy, his own choices -- truths that had hollowed him older than his eleven years -- he felt strangely peaceful with this realization; at rest knowing that Motomiya-kun was not the sort of person that would abandon him.

That Motomiya-kun -- that Daisuke -- was his friend.

Somehow, Daisuke believes in me. If that's true, then maybe…maybe I can start to believe in myself again one day too.

"Anytime, right?" Daisuke continued, and that solid warmth was there again, more right and comfortable than anything that Ken had ever known.

"Yeah," Ken repeated, more confidently.

One day, he thought.

And smiled.