Hello, all! It's been a while (if you count a while as a three and a half year hiatus as "a while"), but I read Broken Angel01's Following the Footsteps of Destiny (all then 130ish chapters in one weekend… not a good idea when you have homework) and was immediately in love. Then, in the beginning of Jan. 08, I saw 27 Dresses, which had one especially meaty scene that I loved and was inspired by, so I kinda, sorta started to write again… and then, when I read chapter 143 (THE chapter), a.k.a. "The Dark Side of Ken", I was really inspired for the first time in a really long time, and this popped out.
Warning: if you have not read FtFoD, this will not make very much sense. It'll probably make more sense than the last chapter did without the story, if you place it under the idea that Ken's son doesn't know about the Digimon Emperor, and suddenly finds out, but FtFoD clears up any and all confusion (I'm pretty sure).
Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon, and I don't own FtFoD. This is my attempt at praising BA's work and bringing joy to any readers.
Background[not AU, meaning more in canon with FtFoD set right after the events of 143, picking up basically where the last chapter left off… After realizing Sam's frustration, Ken can't bring dredge up the courage to apologize to his son's waking face. Or so he thinks…
What the Heart Hides: With the Sunrise
Odaiba, Japan, Earth
Sam glanced around quickly, confused. The room was dark, and it didn't seem to be his bedroom, but he wasn't quite sure how or when he had entered the strange place. He was ready to explore the room when the Digimon Emperor had seemingly materialized out of thin air in front of Sam. He stood before Sam, a cocky grin plastered on his face. He let out a low snarl of disgust as the Emperor's mouth widened into a cruel smirk. Sam began to scream at the corrupted image of his father, his voice echoing strangely in the space.
At Sam's outburst, the Emperor did not flinch. However, in return the Emperor had merely laughed and asked: "Who do you think I am?"
Sam's eyes widened as he felt control over his motions dissipate.
"You're NOT my father! You're not! I won't believe it."
At his desperate, screamed words, Sam frantically jumped the Emperor. Beating his fists and tearing at the fabric covering the dictator's chest, Sam roared his disbelief. When he had finally torn off the façade, stumbled backwards in distress. The Digimon Emperor giggled maniacally, lying on the floor, propping himself up with one arm and staring up at Sam.
"You're right. So, so right, little Emperor," the Digimon Emperor snickered. Suddenly, his face became clear, unhindered by darkness.
Sam screamed as the figure of the Digimon Emperor laughed.
He was staring at his own face.
Sam jolted awake, doing his best not to shout out and awaken his snoozing partner. Despite the rhythmic breathing of the little digimon at his side, Sam had been unable to fall into a restful sleep. The clock next to his bed showed the time was quickly approaching 3:30 in the morning. Glimmermon had fallen asleep well over an hour ago, but Sam had been unable to find peaceful rest.
He had only begun to drift off to sleep when he had been met with the vision of the Digimon Emperor. Even though Sam had never seen an image of the dictator, the boy's subconscious mind had created something of a human-looking monster to represent the then-unknown Emperor. Sam's image had been a humanly shaped, but a demon in every other way. And the creature had held his own face.
Sam wanted to cry. Since the afternoon revelation, he had been able to destroy the image of a demon Digimon Emperor, but had unintentionally replaced it with a more distressing image of his father under the control of unseen dark forces. Unfortunately, even these images were fading out in favor of a portrayal of the tyrant as Sam himself. The corruption of the Digimon Emperor runs in my blood. I can't escape the darkness, no matter how hard I try…I want to hold my father in high regards, but the things he's done make him seem irredeemable. The Digimon Emperor is evil. He hurt all those digimon and enjoyed it… how can I forgive my father for his disloyalty to those he was supposed to protect?
It seemed like Sam would wrestle with these questions alone until dawn broke. As much as he wanted to, Sam was unwilling to shake Glimmermon awake to have a companion to talk to. Instead, he felt the need to engage these questions, and ensuing feelings, alone.
At least, it seemed so until he heard his bedroom door click open.
Padding quietly and closing the door even quieter, thirty-seven year old Ken Ichijouji snuck into his son's room, not noticing his son's wakeful state in his own distracted state. Sam quickly shut his eyes at his father's approach, hoping that the low light would allow him to avoid detection. Sam heard Ken approach the bed, his steps soft and light, seemingly barely brushing the ground. Sam heard the older man sigh softly and move away from the bed. Sam peaked out from under his closed eyelids to see his father seated in his desk chair, face buried within his hands.
Under the impression that his son was peacefully asleep, Ken Ichijouji began his soliloquy to the night with a short humorless laugh.
"You know, Wormmon would have been right. He probably wanted me to tell you everything from the beginning Sam. His greatest gift, and his greatest flaw: his trust in me and my abilities. Or maybe it was his undying love for me and unwillingness to see me suffer. But that sort of thing is what you get from a partner, and I know I'll love him everyday for the rest of my life for it. I think it's also something that comes along when you're a parent. I think… I think I didn't tell you the truth because I thought it would bring you pain and suffering. I thought that, by hiding the truth, I would be protecting you, loving you. But, well, obviously, it wasn't the right thing to do. Now you're hurt, and it is my fault. I guess the one thing I hadn't counted on was a digimon willingly surrendering the information.
"I just wanted to come in here to tell you that … I'm proud of you, I guess." Ken laughed. "Sam, if you were awake right now, you'd probably get a kick out of that. I'm proud of you. Well, at least, if you didn't try to tell me explicitly how and why you didn't care if I was proud of you, you'd ignore me… and, internally, be disgusted with yourself that the Digimon Emperor is proud to call you his son. I know I've told you before, but I'm not sure that I've told you enough, how happy it made me that you were protecting the Digital World. You have a great group of friends who would never let you fall to the darkness, and, though I worried, you were doing something good for both worlds.
"I never expected you six to come home late from school, as you had been doing lately toting digimon partners. I guess you remember my reaction: puking in the kitchen sink. It was all so abrupt and terrifying. I kept thinking to myself, 'Oh god, he knows. Oh god, he hates me, he's never going to forgive me.' But you didn't know. You were desperate to know, but still ignorant of my wrong doings. So I promised myself not to let you find out. I figured you'd be better off not knowing. There would be no heartache; there would be no hatred. I could live with you not knowing and tormenting me every day until I died, so long as you did not find out. Of course, from that day onwards, at least one of my friends sent a stare my way, as if asking if that day would be the day I told you six the truth. And you were desperate to know, and I was just as desperate to hide the truth."
Ken paused and reached a hand out to Sam's immobile figure. However, about half way to the boy's bed, the hand stuttered and stopped, falling gently back to Ken's side. Tears were beginning to cloud Sam's vision as he noted the tormented look on his father's face, but he refused to let them fall. He couldn't let his father know he was awake.
"You were right, Sam. I am a monster; nothing's going to change that. If not for the pain I caused the Digital World, then at least for keeping such a secret from you, especially when you deserved to know from the beginning. Davis and Yolei and the others have tried for so long to make me forgive myself and move on, but it's because of this that I couldn't. I knew I wouldn't be able to move on until you knew. I knew that since the day Miya was born, but I just couldn't bring myself to be honest. And it's not even like it makes sense that I wouldn't tell you, Matt and Tai were able to tell their children about how they had been so possessed that they hurt the team and their digimon. I should have had the courage to own up to my mistakes."
At his father's words, a little part of Sam boiled. His father was right, Ryoko and Kara knew what had happened to their parents, but Sam's quest for truth had been conveniently avoided by all the older Digidestined. Sam closed his eyes and pushed down his anger. At least his father was apologizing, even if it wasn't to Sam's waking face.
"During my time as the Digimon Emperor, I was so consumed by anger and arrogance. Nothing could ever be as good and perfect as I was. I wasn't a tyrant, I was bringing peace to a chaotic world. I only gave beatings to disobedient digimon and dark rings to suppress insurrection. The digimon were supposed to be glad I was there protecting them from evil digimon and corrupt people. Failure was inexcusable and weakness was the epitome of everything I wasn't. I don't know what Wormmon told you, but I was horrible to him. In my eyes, he failed me constantly and he was a weak, useless partner; he couldn't be the digimon that the gods had assigned to such a powerful person as me. And so, I'm ashamed to say I beat him. It was more than that, too. I didn't understand why he was so adamant to be constantly by my side. I threw insult after insult at him, and when I was in a bad mood, it was always his fault, so he was always the one to be beaten.
"I… I created a monster, a chimera. A creature made out of other digimon, who I thought matched my superiority and grandeur. And then I tried to cover him with the powers of darkness because I figured I could control him. I didn't realize exactly how much trouble and pain I was causing until…"
Ken's throat caught on his own throat. Sam almost sat up to ask what happened before he remembered that he was supposed to be asleep.What? What could be so bad that Dad wouldn't say out loud after everything else he's confessed? Sam wanted to comfort his father, but what comfort could a mere boy give to someone who was a monster? Sam flinched at his own train of thought. When had he begun to refer to his father as a monster? Yes, Ken Ichijouji had allowed himself to be consumed by darkness, but hadn't the older Digidestined and Gennai especially noted that the Digimon Emperor had redeemed himself by working extra hard later on to rid the world of darkness? Maybe… maybe Ken was destined to be a tortured soul, not a monster. Monster seems to be too cruel a term. After all, Dad has never attempted to discipline me, or Miya, or Nao. All he shows is kindness and gentleness. And it was true. The two older Ichijouji children had quickly learned that Ken was the parent who was less likely to get them into trouble, and Nao was quickly learning. Now, it made sense, Sam realized. Ken was going to be more lenient due to his own chaotic, trouble-making past.
Sam now heard a soft sob escape his father's throat. Despite the anger that had been coursing through Sam's body since the discovery of his father's past alter ego, Sam didn't feel right leaving someone in pain, emotional or physical. For a moment, he struggled within himself, debating whether or not he should get up to comfort his dad. Eventually, his compassionate side won out, and Sam opened his eyes, rolling his head to glance at his father, who held his face in his palms. Blinking slowly and sighing deeply, Sam rose from his bed, the warm sheets falling away.
Ken was startled out of his silence; he hadn't noticed his son's movement.
"What…" Ken's eyes widened at the sight of his sleepless, exhausted son standing before him. "Sam, you're awake… but I…"
"I've been awake for a while. I… haven't been able to sleep."
"You heard all that…" Ken snorted, stiffening a little. "Not like it matters, you know my sins, my transgressions. The details won't make you feel any different." Pain was evident in the way the older man held himself in respect to his son. Ken was slouched and hunched in the chair. To Sam, he just looked so old, which was strange. The older Ichijouji's body language was one of defeat and pleading for forgiveness, which, Sam wasn't sure he would give for a while. Still, Sam couldn't help but notice the desperation hidden under his father's slightly cold statements. His father seemed to be at a loss for words. He seemed to want to continue talking, but also seemed unable to talk to a conscious audience.
The two men stared at each other. What could be said between to two? Nothing, it seemed. Ken stood up, startling Sam slightly.
"You need to sleep," Ken turned toward Sam's door, starting to walk out, "You need to sleep, you have school tomorrow. Go to bed."
For a moment, Sam was taken aback at the harshness of his father's command. Ken was already turning the knob to Sam's door before the boy was able to move. Desperately, Sam reached out and grabbed his father's unoccupied arm.
"Dad?" Ken didn't turn, merely stopped moving.
"Dad? You didn't finish what you were saying. You hadn't realized that you were hurting digimon until what, Dad? What happened?"
Ken didn't answer. Sam was angry. Aren't there enough secrets right now anyway? He needs to just tell me already!
"What happened!" The outburst elicited a flinch from Ken, who, seemed to be shying away from his angry son. "Tell me, or do you want me to go find DarkAngelicmon and have him tell me what happened!?"
Ken whirled on his son, with a clear look of anguish, defeat, and anger drilling into his son, who had never seen such strong emotions in his father's eyes. He opened his mouth to reprimand his son.
Both Ichijoujis turned to the bed, where Glimmermon was awake, eyes filled with tears, his antennae bulb pulsing with emotion. The conversation had been getting progressively louder since Sam had revealed his wakeful state, eventually waking up Glimmermon.
"Don't tell lies like that, Sam, lies that would hurt everyone around you. You wouldn't go looking for DarkAngelicmon. He's trouble and you know that, Sam," Glimmermon tried to reason. "And Mr. Ichijouji, Sam's right. You really need to tell him. You've kept enough secrets from him, and the other Digidestined, don't you think?"
Both humans had the grace to look ashamed of their actions.
"Mr. Ichijouji, if you don't want me to be here, I can go," Glimmermon offered, but Ken shook his head.
"No, a digimon like you, that protects my son deserves to know the truth," Ken said. "As does my son."
Ken smiled and reached out to pat the little insect digimon on the head, but Glimmermon carefully shied away by bouncing off the bed and into Sam's arms.
"Oh," Ken breathed, "I guess you don't really want me to touch you. 'Cause I'm evil and all."
Glimmermon blushed at the truth in the accusation, muttering a quiet apology. Ken examined the hand in front of him, choosing his words meticulously.
"I never thought raising you would be such a difficult task, Sam. All I wanted was for you to not know and to grow up under a happy house," Ken sighed. "But of course, the gods had to throw a wrench in the works and make you Digidestined."
Sam started to speak, clearly only wanting to know what had ended his father's reign of terror.
"Don't start, Sam," Ken interrupted, "There's no need to keep this a secret from you any more, anyways. Just, please, don't think too badly of me when I'm done telling you." Ken looked at Glimmermon huddled in his partner's arms. "Kami, I wish Wormmon was here to help me through this."
Ken looked away from his son, out the window where he could barely glimpse a shadow of light brightening the dark blue night. He stared for a moment at his son, knowing Sam's desperation to know the truth, and took a deep breath.
"I finally realized how much I was hurting everyone when I ended up hurting Wormmon too much… and killing him."
Ken hung his head, visibly unwilling to face his mistake.
Silence enveloped the room. Wormmon? But Dad's partner is Wormmon. He tortured and killed his own partner?
When Sam regained his voice, the questions spilled out quickly: "But… Wormmon is your partner. Right? Was it a different Wormmon? Did you ever find him again? What does your Wormmon say about what you did?"
Ken shook his head. "The Wormmon I killed is my partner."
Sam felt his rage boil again, especially as he felt Glimmermon shudder in his arms. He thought about Embermon, Alopemon, Dovemon, Halomon and Celestimon. He knew his friends would be broken up, completely devastated if their digimon had been killed. However, he didn't think his friends would forgive even themselves if they had deleted their own partners. But his father had been forgiven.How could such a crime be forgivable?
"You are a monster, killing your own partner! Wormmon is a great digimon and all you did to thank you was kill him?! What kind of partner – no, what kind of person are you?!" Sam took satisfaction in his father's inability to answer. Ken seemed to shrink with Sam's angry words, his head bowed in shame.
"I thought I'd be able to forgive you for hurting the digimon, I really did! But your own partner, killing him? How can you live with yourself, knowing how badly you betrayed him?" Sam thought about how distraught he would be if Glowmon died … Had his father feltanything when Wormmon died, or had all his emotions been corrupted by the darkness that overtook his soul? "Dammit, Dad, did you at least feel sorry?"
Ken's head shot up frantically, finally allowing Sam to witness the tears streaked down his father's face.
"Every day, Sam. Every day I feel his death and I know I don't deserve the life I have now. Wormmon always tried to tell me that it was okay, and it was my fault he died, but I know otherwise. I know how much I hated him as he followed me and how much I wished he were dead so I could have a better, stronger partner. I know how much hatred my heart harbored and how misplaced it was. Wormmon is the perfect partner, and even though he believed my claims that he was worthless, there is no way I deserve to have him as my partner digimon. Sam, you must believe me when I tell you much I hate myself for what I've done. I never meant to hurt you by hiding the truth."
Sam was shocked into silence at his father's admission.
"The first time Davis asked me to join the group, I didn't want to. I figured I would solve the problems I created by myself. I wouldn't let someone else cover for my mistakes. I did everything I could to stay away from them. I didn't deserve the friendship of the very people I tried so hard to destroy. I was barely forgiving myself for Wormmon's death; why would they be so eager to let my past go? I'll be honest, Cody hated me for a long time. Even after he had accepted me into the group, I wasn't sure he had forgiven me. The first time I was fully aware of his acceptance of me was when I proposed to your mother. For weeks, Davis had been telling me to ask her to marry me, but it really was Cody who pushed me to. When I found out that he supported my decision, I was finally able to fully take my place as a Digidestined, because I really knew that he didn't hate me. And Wormmon was there with me the whole time. You have no idea how broken up I was when the Digital World closed. Wormmon had been one of the rocks in my life, and, suddenly, I couldn't reach him.
"The world seemed so much bigger, and more terrifying. I doubted myself a lot. Wormmon was gone, again, and I thought I hadn't told him enough how much I appreciated him. I was so worried that he didn't know how great of a partner he was. Honestly, the only thing that kept me going was you, Sam." Ken's eyes were filled with love and yearning as he looked at his son. It seemed as though Ken's only wish was to grab his son up in his arms in a strong hug and never let go. "The Gate closed a little while after you were born. I had wanted to give up on everything, but your birth gave me the strength to go on. I'd see Wormmon again someday, and I wanted to tell him that I had been a good dad, and you were a great kid that I was proud of."
This time, it was Sam who hung his head in shame. He couldn't bring himself to accuse his father of any more atrocities, even if he had committed them. Even now, Ken seemed to be begging his son, as if he were the eleven-year-old boy who became a tyrant, not as a thirty-seven-year-old man who had long earned his right to forgiveness. Ken moved towards his son, carefully placing his hands on the boy's shoulders, breathing a sigh of relief when he didn't shy away.
"I'm kind of glad that you found out. Now, I have no secrets left to hide. For so long, I wanted to tell you, but I just didn't know how. I was so afraid of the truth coming out that I didn't see how much it was hurting you. I think I wanted you to think that I was some kind of great guy, and ignore any flaws that I had." Ken laughed a little. "But now you know, even your father has faults. I hope you know how sorry I am that I hurt you."
"Dad," Sam looked up a bit, his face brightened by Glimmermon's light bulb, "are you still proud of me? After everything I said?"
Ken crouched at his son's side, softly whispering, "Yes, Sam, I'm proud of you, and I always will be. Well, now, I'm a little angry at what you've said and done, but that's to be expected. You're my son, I love you, and I'm never going to let anything change that."
At these words, Sam threw his pride aside, flinging an arm around his father's neck in the best hug he could give with Glimmermon securely in his other arm. "I'm so sorry dad. I never meant those things. I was just so angry because I didn't think you deserved the mercy. The Digimon Emperor hurt so many digimon, and I couldn't see past that." Sam seemed to realize something, taking his arm off his father. "Dad, I don't know if I can forgive you right now. I just… can't. I'm still so angry. I'm sorry, I just –"
Ken cut off his son, "It's okay, Sam. I understand completely." Ken glanced outside the window again, where the dark blue sky had long given way to a light blue, and was currently turning pink and gold with the coming sunrise. "Sam, you know, it really is late, and you really do need to get some sleep. How about this, you go to sleep now, and I'll tell Yolei that you're sick and you can't go to school later. I'll take a day off from work, and you and I can talk about anything you want."
"Promise?" Sam inquired. The truth was, he was really tired, but knowing that his father was willing to talk would let him finally relax.
"I promise, and I promise I won't break my promise."
Sam smiled, lifting Glimmermon onto his bed. Shyly, he wrapped his arms around his father's waist in a quick hug. "I love you, Dad."
"I love you, too, Sam," Ken responded, tucking the covers around his son, who wrapped a sleepy Glimmermon in his arms.
Ken walked out of the room, the door clicking shut as the clock ticked to 5:00 AM.
Sam slept peacefully, with the knowledge that, in the future, everything would eventually be all right.
All right guys, I hope that was a good read. The puking in the sink that Ken mentions is from chapter 76, "Answers and Questions". I think I had Sam a little more in-character this time, because he's a little more calmed down. I think I might continue writing in this AU… it'll probably end up being a four-shot because I don't really want to get inside the head of a seven-year-old (Nao) and pick apart his brains.
Hope you all enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it!