Choices I'm sorry about this stupidly long note-disclaimer thing, there are a few things I do have to say. This fic was sort of inspired by the fic "Darkness Descends", by Isamu Dyson, hope they don't mind. ^^;

The last ep I saw was when Gatomon digivolved for the first time, in the Myotismon saga. I HATE spoilers so I don't really know what happens next, and as such I don't want to include Kari in my fics in case I completely mess things up. In my mind (and in this fic), she stays in the real world with Gatomon after the battle with Myotismon to look out for dangers on Earth, while the other kids return to the digital world to fight more bad Digimon. I'm well aware this does not actually happen, but who really cares. I'll just say, sorry if I mess up anything if something different is revealed in a future ep I dunno about.

Oh, and in case someone misinterprets anything, I did *not* write this with any romance in mind or any romance intended. It's all just friendship.

Choices
by Leto

"I... think that's the last of the evil Digimon."

The kids all grinned tiredly at each other and their Digimon. Tai pumped one fist in the air.

"Alright! We rock!"

"Definitely!"

"You guys did great!"

"Now we can finally relax for once without worrying about being attacked!"

"But what happens now?" said Joe practically, "the reason we came to the digital world was to beat all the evil Digimon, wasn't it? And now we've done it."

Everyone paused, digesting that. The implications of what he was saying sunk in, and everyone's faces fell.

"Does that mean we hafta leave NOW?" said TK.

"Well, I certainly don't want to stay HERE forever," said Mimi, "but..."

They all knew what the 'but' was. Palmon.

"I'm sure there's some other way to get back to our world," said Matt, "like the gate in Myotismon's castle."

"But the castle and the gate collapsed," argued Joe, "we can't go that way!"

"There has to be another way," said Tai.

"But we should be able to get back to this world whenever we want, right?" That was Sora, sounding hopeful.

"I'm not sure if it works like that..."

"Does that mean we have to stay in one world or another?"

"I recommend we try to find Jennai, and perhaps uncover our next course of action," said Izzy.

They knew what he was thinking, because it was what they were all thinking. Maybe he'll tell us we can't go back - or we can't stay - and then there won't be this impossible choice.

--

"At this stage, it would really not be feasible to have constant travel between the two worlds. It would severely damage the boundaries between the two, and with the exception of you kids, Digimon and humans do not mix!"

"IS there a way to get back to our world?"

"There is one more gate. It is a one-way gate. You would have to leave your digivices and Digimon here so that they wouldn't interfere."

"But we took our digivices and Digimon into the human world before!"

"That was different. Myotismon would have caused a lot more damage to both worlds had you not gone after him. There were many technological disturbances around that time, but that could not be helped. Now it can."

"So we have to choose which world we want to stay in?"

"I'm afraid it does come down to that. You may remain in either world but at the moment, it has to be one or the other."

There was a long silence.

"If we're merely data in this world," said Izzy finally, "does that mean we won't age?"

"Remember that you have a link to the physical world, even if you are not physically there while you're here. You will age, but according to how much time has passed in your world. I came here five years ago, Izzy, five human years, but for me it seems as though I have been alive for many thousands. Yet I only appear to be five years older than I was when I arrived."

"Wow," said Matt, "so for us kids it's almost like immortality."

"There is one more thing you should know," said Jennai, "when you're making your choice, remember that Digimon, plantlife and the landscape itself are all representations of digital data. If someone stops transmitting that data in your world, those Digimon or other features will cease to exist. You must remember that a Digimon's life is not based on age but on whether the systems that transmit them are still in use. You may therefore live for a lot longer than your Digimon partners. Bear in mind how long in human years it takes for technology to become redundant."

The Digimon cringed. They didn't like being reminded of what they really were.

"There must be some way of finding out what data in our world corresponds to our Digimon," said Izzy, "do you know what it is, Jennai?"

"That I don't," he replied, "but it's something I have been trying to work on."

"Do we all have to choose NOW?"

"No, but it would be best. The world is just recovering from all the technological disturbances, so a few more would not disrupt it much. If you waited, it would have more impact. And those who wish to leave MUST do so at the same time. Waiting longer might make it more difficult to decide."

"What about Kari?" asked Tai.

"She is making her own decision back in your world. You must all choose, and choose well."

***

Immortality or imprisonment?

I want to hear what TK will say first, because basically I want to stick with him. But it really is my own choice, and I know what *I* want to do. I can't imagine it any other way, and I really hope TK will want the same I do.

I want to stay here.

The real world, who needs it? Nobody knows what's really important back there, and everyone's always acting pathetic. Worrying about their clothes, or gossiping, or judging people by how much money you have. I mean, I can't really put it into coherant words but I just think of the real world as a mess, where people act mean to each other and don't show their real selves.

I guess people might think that about me sometimes. But this isn't some act to impress people, it's the real me. Anyway, my friends here understand that, and me, and they're the only ones I really care about anyway.

Gabumon especially, and maybe some of the others will want to stay. I can tell Tai and Izzy would want to stick around, Mimi and Joe would get out of here. With Sora, it's hard to tell. Can I handle hanging out with Tai for thousands of years? I don't want to live forever, but living longer sounds good. Think of all the things you could do while staying young!

I can't work out what TK will choose either. He's a little kid, he might want to go home with Mom. Little kids need their parents... brothers just aren't a good enough substitute when it comes down to it. I've been trying, but...

I'll miss my parents, I guess, but there wasn't much of a home back home anyway. Everyone has to grow up some time. And maybe there'll be some way for me to get back anyway.

I'm not really a lone wolf but I like the great space you get here.

Gabumon, I want to stay here with you. I can only hope that TK wants to stay too...

***

For me, it really isn't a choice. Back in the real world, people have told my parents they should try to pry me away from the computer a lot.

And here, being a 'computer geek' is a really good career move. Tapping away at a keyboard can unlock amazing secrets here, it can influence things, and one can constantly learn a lot about each world. This is a world where no other humans have ventured before, and I have the chance to stick around and discover more.

Besides, this world may need my help yet. Nobody understands it as well as Jennai and I. I ought to stay and help my mentor in his investigations about the link between these worlds. The thought of making all these discoveries makes me excited already.

Some time, I can find a way for us to visit the real world, and for whoever chooses to go home, to come back. Maybe in merely one Earth day or something - if I stay, I have all the time in the world. Quite extraordinary.

Anyway, I must admit I want to stay with Tentomon and some of my other friends, in a world where my hobby is powerful. I will miss my parents, and whatever friends want to return, but I'm counting on the fact that I can learn a lot in this world and devise a way to get back somehow. I believe I am the only one who can do that anyway, and maybe it will help other people's decisions.

***

Stay in the digital world? Is he for real? I'm dying to get a good change of clothes and a nice hot bubble bath, not live out in this wilderness for years!

I guess comfort isn't the main priority. But after all this time, I still like the good life. I don't *want* to wander around lost all the time without food or water. I want to dye my clothes pink and eat my Mom's cooking attempts and catch a bus with my friends and walk down the street without worrying about some creepy monster attacking me.

My friends here are great, even though they're not like me at all. I mean, they could be a LOT more sensitive to my feelings, and try to understand that I really am not used to roughing it like this, but they've gotten better lately. (Or maybe I have?)

In the real world, I have a bunch of friends who are like me and parents who care about me. Here I have Palmon, who's the best friend I could hope for, but... I just can't stay here. I never even liked computers in the real world!

It's going to be very hard to say goodbye, but time passes a lot more slowly in the real world, so maybe while I'm there Jennai can do his homework and find out some way to bring us back in a week or something!

I have to get back where there are lots of people again. I'm trying not to be selfish now but I just don't think I could survive here!

***

This is going to be one of the toughest decisions of my life. It's almost a case of, who do I love more? Maybe I should wait to see how my friends are going to choose. I don't want to be split up from them for long.

But can I choose, when it's matters of the heart?

Biyomon, or Mom?

This is where I learnt my mother loved me. This is where I learnt that I really can care about people and help them. This is where I found my best friend ever, who hasn't left my side for the last year.

I do have friends back home... my soccer team'll be depending on me. And my mother's there...

The list tips in the favour of the digital world but sometimes things outweigh each other, and it really is a choice between two things.

Biyomon, or Mom?

How can I choose?

***

I know what I should do.

I should go back to our world and take the responsibility of telling people's families that their kids won't be coming back. That's the reliable thing to do. Then settle back into studying, living up to Dad's expectations, get into med school and spend the rest of my life in a steady job.

And that's what everyone expects me to do. I'm the one who's always complaining about this world and seeing the bad side of everything, after all.

I know I'm not hero material, I'm not cut out for this at all. I'm still afraid of heights. I don't like all the constant danger. I have a sea Digimon and I can't even swim.

But for once I'm not going to do the steady, predictable - reliable - thing. I can follow my heart too. Sometimes. And this is the biggest decision ever. This is the world where I made my first friend, and became friends with all the others. I sure hope they do stay.

I know just how it would be if I went back to my world. Hardly anyone would know about my adventures and everything. They wouldn't know about me climbing cliffs by myself in the middle of the night, or saving people's lives, or trekking through dangerous forests with monsters in hot pursuit. They'd just see the same geeky guy in glasses and make fun of me again.

Nobody cares about appearances here. Well, you can't, really, when there are restaurants run by giant eggs with legs and ships captained by living piles of green sludge...

Anyway, I'm staying here. I might just be a burden to the others but I know none of them actually dislike me. And there's no way I'm leaving Gomamon. He jokes around a lot but I think he understands me more than anyone else. Definitely more than my parents.

I can make myself useful in either world. So I'm staying here.

***

Wow, this is a really tough choice. I can't rush right into this one.

Think, Tai, think. Think, think. Something I'm not real great at. If I went back home, I'd have to do it a lot. Do homework every night, study hard for high school entrance exams.

I... think I could probably be happy enough in either world.

Do I really want to live forever? I've been told I'm the "live-for-the-moment" type. This world is more of an adventure, and you can act however you want. There's Agumon - who might suddenly disappear 'cos of some system shutdown in the real world, there's my parents, my sister. I think I know what decision she'd make. What'm I supposed to do, and will the other kids follow my lead? I'm the leader in this world, can I go back to being just another everyday kid back there?

See, my thoughts kind of crash off each other.

I know I gotta approach this like I approach everything else. From the gut. Thinking isn't helping except to make me confused.

***

I didn't really get everything the others were talking about, but I do know I'm supposed to choose whether I want to stay here or go home. I dunno know if I can. I mean, which is my home anyway? I'm starting to forget the real world anyway. It sorta feels like I've been here nearly as long as I was there.

I want my mom, but I like Patamon too.

Matt looks out for me here. So I think I might just do what he does.

***

There was a long silence with each child lost in their own thoughts. The Digimon stood off a little, each silently scared that they were going to be rejected. Some would get to stay with their friend and some wouldn't. But it wasn't their choice, so they stood aside and tried to let their friends decide.

"Well, children?" said Jennai finally, gently. "What do you want to do?"

"I want to go home," whispered Mimi. Palmon's face fell.

"I'd like to stay here," said Izzy, and Tentomon flew up into the air, giving him a high-five.

"I think I'll stay here too if that's okay," said Joe, and everyone stared at him in surprise. Nobody questioned him though. Gomamon brightened; he'd been staring glumly at the ground, convinced his friend would want to leave.

The group turned to Matt, looking for his decision. He replied by saying, "TK, what are you going to do?" Everyone understood that; for Matt, TK came first.

"What're you gonna do?" countered TK.

"I'll go with you, kiddo," said Matt, "it's your choice."

"I want you to choose," argued TK.

"No, TK, you should be allowed to make your own decision.

TK's chin trembled a little. "I don't wanna decide! Choose for me!"

Matt understood then; being a kid, TK did still need someone to look out for him and make choices for him sometimes.

"Well, I'd like to stay," said Matt, "if you're cool with it, bro."

"Sure!" said TK happily.

Gabumon and Patamon grinned at each other. Joe looked pleased too.

"How about you, Sora?" asked Tai, trying to postpone his own decision. Sora glanced at Biyomon and then the ground.

"It's so hard to decide," she said quietly, "I really want to stay with Biyomon. And all you guys. But..." - and now she realised her feelings as she put them into words - "I think I have to go home."

Biyomon started crying, and Sora bent down to hug her. The others turned to Tai.

"Well, man, I guess you're sticking around?" said Matt.

"I just don't know," said Tai.

"Well, you gotta make a decision like everyone else!"

"Don't you think I know that!"

"We're going to have to leave soon."

"Will you just shut up, Matt? This is a really hard choice!"

Tai wished that, like TK, someone could make the decision for him.

--

They all stood in front of an elevator standing out in the middle of nowhere. They had said their goodbyes to Jennai and now there was nothing left but to leave.

"This doesn't look much like a portal to another world," said Mimi dubiously.

"This is really it," said Sora softly.

"Tai, you'd better hurry up and make a decision, you know," said Joe, "there really isn't much time left."

"I know that," snapped Tai.

There was a long silence.

"Here, Izzy," said Mimi finally, pressing her digivice and crest into his hands. "Take care of Palmon for me, okay?"

"Of course," he said, a little surprised that she had given them to him. The crest of Sincerity sparkled.

"Here, Matt," said Sora, giving him her own digivice and crest, "you deserve these too. Please look after Biyomon for me."

"Sure," he said simply - like Izzy, a little surprised. His crest glowed to match that of the crest of Love's.

Sora turned away to hide her tears, and hugged Biyomon close to her chest. Mimi bent down to Palmon.

"Try not to worry too much," said Izzy reassuringly, "I'm sure Jennai and I will come up with a way for you guys to join each other again soon."

Just then, the elevator door opened and Gatomon tumbled out, carrying Kari's crest and digivice. She was crying.

"Kari wanted me to give these to you," she managed to say to TK, "somehow she knew you'd stay here." She passed on the crest of Light and digivice.

There was another silence, finally broken by Joe saying "the door's open."

They knew what this meant. Mimi and Sora took each other's hands, knowing that they would at least have each other back home. They turned to face their friends one last time.

"Bye, guys," said Mimi finally, voice wavering, "bye Palmon. I'll... really miss you all."

Sora didn't say anything, but she managed a smile, and everyone knew what she was feeling. The two took a few steps backwards and disappeared. The doors began to close. Then Tai made his decision.

"Stop the lift!" he shouted, and ran into the elevator, sticking his foot between the doors to stop them.

He pulled off his tag and threw the crest of Courage along with his digivice, to the surprised Joe.

"You're the right guy to have it," said Tai, and grinned.

"Thanks, Tai," said Joe, meaning it.

"Bye, man," said Matt, clasping Tai by the wrist. The two smiled at each other for a moment, fighting their own emotions.

Agumon looked at the ground. Tai had made him feel strong. Joe put a hand on his head - the same hand that held the crest of Courage - and Agumon felt a little of the same from the other boy.

Tai waved to his friends, and Agumon, and said "seeya!" in a flippant way that everyone knew wasn't really.

And then he left too.