He had never allowed himself to cry like that in front of someone before.

Certainly, he had cried when he was a kid and he had fallen off the monkey bars. The physical amount of pain he had felt was just too much for his little self back then.

Certainly, he had cried amidst the rain when he'd come so close to losing those dear to him. Shouting at his own weaknesses, his own desires to be stronger...

Certainly, he had cried in joy to see his fighting partner back with him both in body and spirit. That moment was short-lived and he had just laughed those tears off, calling them sweat from his heart.

He'd had another bout of the second situation, intensified by the number of years he had anticipated a different outcome.

Moments when he felt so powerless that it was as if the whole world was against him and he couldn't do anything about it...

But it wasn't. It was anything but...

This time, Tohma was there.

He still went to the Norstein mansion the next day to report in to DATS, and also to give back the suit that he had borrowed from Tohma. The operators Kurosaki and Shirakawa noticed the change in Masaru's attitude and asked if something had happened, but he couldn't find it within him to tell them the details yet.

It all felt so surreal, knowing that he no longer had his father to search for. He was finally fully-fledged back in DATS, but nothing felt the same as before.

Nothing felt the same, especially when Tohma came in and saw Masaru in the headquarters with the borrowed suit folded up in a bag.

Remembering the day before, Masaru sensed heat rising up his cheeks as he saw the familiar sight of the blond in his blue DATS uniform. Tohma looked back at him as he usually did, however... that unreadable expression.

" Thanks, Masaru. I'll go take that up now."

Masaru passed the bag over to him and then stood there, unsure of what to do next. Tohma paused and passed a quiet sigh.

" Come back in a few days. We'll be fine handling things here until then. I think we all need some more time to ourselves," he told the brunet.

Masaru could see the reasoning behind his suggestion, but he didn't feel he was so down anymore to need it. He was just... a little lost at that point. " Tohma, I..."

But Tohma had already left.

...What was that about?

' Ehhh?' he thought to himself. Just yesterday, Tohma was so eager to be by his side, but today he was doing a complete 180?

And what did he mean "we all?" As far as Masaru could tell, all of the older people like Captain Satsuma and the girls were completely ready to go about business as usual.

What the heck was that... that tonma thinking?! Masaru was tempted to just chase after the noble upstairs into the Norstein mansion.

Yoshino came up to him just then, thumping some papers on his raised shoulders. " Well, I won't ask why you need a mini-vacation since Tohma said he'd cover for your absence, but there's some paperwork you need to fill out before that."

" Ehhh," he said out loud this time. Even if he was objecting to Tohma's unnecessary concern, more paperwork was the last thing he wanted. " Can't I do it later?"

" No. It's time-sensitive material. I think. But seriously now... just take my sisterly advice and DO IT OR ELSE."

" Geh."

It sounded more like a death threat than sisterly advice, so he obediently went to sit down with Yoshino and the papers at their work desks. Lalamon floated over to rest on top of Yoshino's desk as she drank some tea, and Agumon came by as well. Glimpsing across the top of the papers, Masaru read the headline that said "Employment Data."

" Employment?" he said blankly.

" Well, do you intend to go back to school next semester? As a ninth grader, assuming they'll even let you go on, all you'd be doing is preparing for high school entrance exams anyway," Yoshino stated. " Captain Satsuma did some talking about your achievements for this Demon Lord incident and pleased the higher-ups, so the government's made an exception for you. You're a really special case, you know? Letting you skip a year of compulsory school..."

" So... basically with this, I don't have to go to school anymore?"

" Nope. I mean, come on, you're a savior of the world! Of both worlds! And apparently, it's what you're good at doing, so the government wants you to keep focusing on that. And wouldn't you rather be fighting Digimon instead of sleeping at school?"

" Hey, I'm not ALWAYS sleeping at school."

" But Aniki, didn't you say that there're tons of people to fight in school?" Agumon suddenly joined in the conversation.

" Sure, but..."

Agumon stared at him with his giant, yellow Digimon muzzle.

And that's when it came to him. Even with his father gone, in a way, he was still chasing after him by being with the Digimon. But now, no matter how much he chased, he wouldn't find his old man anymore. His father had moved on.

He wasn't ready to give this up, however.

As long as he still had his feet to run on and his fists to punch, he'd keep fighting. It wasn't just for his father. Masaru was fighting for all of THEM too.

Looking back, he felt a strange distancing from himself remembering how powerless he felt when he had learned of his father's death. He still felt regretful that he hadn't known about BanchouLeomon until it was too late, and for a while, he didn't understand why Daimon Suguru had decided to move on.

But now he understood, and now he felt like he could finally concede with his father's decision. His father was proud of him. Suguru had said that Masaru had proved himself plenty...

It was as if he'd been given permission to focus on goals beyond his old man. His other goals... His goals for the Digimon, his goals for himself.

And even then... it was probably what his father would have wanted him to do.

" There are plenty of guys to fight here too, Agumon. And I definitely like this place more than school. The fights are more interesting, and I've got you," he finished, cracking his partner a smile. He started filling out the papers.

" And Tohma too, right?"

Masaru froze his grip on the pen. Yoshino's eyebrows rose curiously in response to Agumon's statement.

" Hey, so did something happen between you two yet?" she asked Masaru, dripping with casualness in her tone. " Even someone like Agumon's caught on."

" What do you mean, 'Even someone like Agumon?' I only mentioned Tohma because yesterday-"

Masaru smacked a hand on the giant, frog-like face, muffling the rest of Agumon's words.

" Don't talk about other people's business like that!" he warned quickly, a little too frantic to quench Yoshino's curiosity. She raised her eyebrows again as Masaru turned to face her. " I'm still working on it, all right?"

" Working on it," she repeated.

" Yeah..."

" About your own feelings?"

" Err..." He flushed red again, but he stopped caring by then. " There're complications..."

" You said something like that last time too. You're still going on about that?"

" Mmmmmm..."

Yoshino suddenly leaned back on her seat, making a big shrug. " And this is exactly why I offered counseling, you know. Hmph, I should've known."

Masaru pouted shortly and then went back to filling out the papers.

" You know, it'll be really troublesome if we go back to everyone being here at the same time and you guys end up dodging around each other like magnets with the same charge."

" Hey, do you want me to fill these papers out or not?"

" Ah, sorry, sorry."

When Masaru finally finished the papers, he handed them to Yoshino with a bored frown.

" Thank you very much~" she said in similar fashion to his expression, taking the papers, " So I was thinking..."

Masaru stood up and hinted at leaving as he bundled up Agumon into his Digivice.

" Just give him a chance."

He stopped in his steps as he was heading towards the doorway. " Huh?"

" Why don't you just give him a chance and see what happens? Now that this whole crisis is over, isn't it a good time? You said yourself you wanted to get rid of the Demon Lords first or something before doing anything about it, didn't you?"

He turned to face her.

" Or is there something else really so complicated that's stopping you?"

" Err....." He gave it a long thought, mostly considering what had happened yesterday. Honestly, all he could remember was comforting his mother and Chika after telling them the news the night before, and sharing a few moments with Tohma...

He didn't want to dwindle on the time he was pathetically escaping the truth, so he didn't put a drip of effort into remembering some things about the day before. After he factored that out, along with other similar things...

" Maybe there isn't anything that complicated..." he muttered.

" That's just the thing with you boys, you don't even know what's going on yourselves," Yoshino said in an almost forfeiting voice. " Well, do what you want. It's up to you. Just remember my advice, okay? And I guess Tohma's advice to take a break, too. It'll give you time to think if you're up for it."

" Sure, whatever."

He wasn't too happy with Yoshino claiming that he didn't know what was going on, because he was pretty sure he knew by now...

But she was exactly right otherwise. It was up to him...

In the end, he did take Tohma's advice first and stayed home for a few more days to spend some more time with his family, keeping them company while they tried to gain peace of mind from the loss of Daimon Suguru. Masaru's mother had informed Captain Satsuma about the incident and left it to him to inform the rest of the DATS members.

During that time, Masaru thought about everything that had been going on around him, with a renewed sense of what he could do about it all.

It was almost August, and the excess of warm, sunny days truly helped keep their spirits lifted, he felt.

One of those days, when he was out doing shopping errands for the family at the local convenience store, he came across his old schoolmates. He started off with some awkward conversation with them, as they obviously had been wondering about his long disappearance after showing up on national television. He told them about how he had broken both of his legs during a mission, which made the others blink dumbfounded because they couldn't tell a difference, and he had recovered so quickly...

Eventually, he was able to tell them that he wouldn't be coming back the next semester, and he watched them as they nodded back in full understanding, much to his surprise. They even gave him pats on the back and all sorts of other cheer for him. " We won't forget you!" they said. " You'll always be Japan's number one fighter to us."

" We probably won't be able to hang out anymore and we'll grow farther apart, but no matter what happens, we'll still remember you. You'll be in our memories."

Memories. Even though they had used the word in such a casual and corny way, it touched him now more than he would have ever imagined before.

And then he gave them playful punches.

" Idiots, it's not like I'm moving away. Invite me when you go to the game center some time, got it?"

On the day he came back to DATS, Minervamon had finally come out of her room. She seemed to have come to her own resolution, as she came out carrying BanchouLeomon's unhatched Digiegg.

She was even willing to let the rest of the DATS members read her letter from BanchouLeomon. Inside, her friend had given her a request to seek out the other Olympian Gods and Mercurimon, since he was bound to be coming back some day.

In reality, she had been consciously avoiding the rest of the Olympian Gods because her personality in particular was unlike the rest of them. She had only managed to stay close to Mercurimon because of his exceptionally protective and kind nature, while she avoided anything to do with the others whenever she could.

She realized how lonely she was making herself by avoiding her fellow gods, and BanchouLeomon had given her a sign of hope by leading her to where she could find them. From there, she decided to take BanchouLeomon's Digiegg with her back to the Digital World, where she'd stay by his side and continue seeking her comrades.

Masaru and the others found it an admirable thing to do, and everyone at DATS wished her luck as they sent her back to the Digital World.

Before leaving, Minervamon confided a moment with Masaru, telling him that her hexagonal pin had been given to her sometime after Suguru had become a part of BanchouLeomon, and it wasn't just a coincidence that it was similar to Masaru's tag.

Even if there was the slimmest possibility of seeing his father's soul in the new Digimon to hatch, he would still be a lone Digimon bound to his own Digisoul, and no longer human, and his rightful place would remain in the Digital World.

Masaru was ready to move on too.

He had a lot going for him back in DATS. Although they had solved the crisis with the Demon Lords, Digimon were still drifting into the real world by accident and it was still up to their tactics squad to stop further crisis from occurring. Their location in the Norstein mansion had grown incredibly convenient for them, and Tohma had no qualms with them continuing their confidential operations there.

Satsuma called the crew in to congratulate Masaru in joining the squad as officially as could be. Thankfully, Yushima and Satsuma had recognized the negative effects from the publicity they had forced on their young members, so they revised their outlook where slowly, but surely they could work towards their goals of harmony between humans and Digimon. They would still have to pull through a lot of misunderstandings and mishaps, but they were more than ready to face them.

And Masaru knew he had to face his own...

Yoshino came over and gave her condolences to Masaru when they had the moment to themselves. It seemed she was feeling guilty about bringing up the subject of Tohma when she hadn't known what had happened to Masaru's father, but Masaru just gave her a smile and thanks in return.

" I'll get you some of that special manju sometime. I owe ya."

" Eh?"

Later on that day, Masaru went up to Tohma while he was in the area of the mansion that had been turned into a research lab.

" How are things going on the research?"

" Oh, Masaru," the blond turned around, slightly startled from the other's entrance. It was the familiar sight of Tohma in his lab coat, carrying a clipboard. " It's still a lot of trial-and-error testing at this point. The only thing I can do right now is wait for results, and it's a little frustrating, but things are looking good overall."

" Great. How long's it going to take?"

Tohma gave a mild grunt, not sounding all too pleased. " It's hard to say... It'll likely take years. Maybe even a full decade."

Masaru grunted as well, but his was of the haughty nature. " Then I'll say it'll take less than half of that."

After staring for a moment, Tohma just shrugged.

" Oh yeah, good timing. I've finished a new model of the communication device. Let me check to see if it fits."

From his back pouch, he brought out the brand new device and handed it over to Masaru. It fit just like the old one, much to his satisfaction.

" Wow... Thanks, man."

" Go ahead and take it with you. By the way, it's made out of special material this time, so even someone like Minervamon won't be able to break it so easily. Of course, that includes you too."

" Hey...!"

Tohma just gave a light chuckle as Masaru glowered at him. That smile...

" ...So you really are staying in DATS."

" What, did you think I'd leave?"

Tohma shook his head. " I suppose you wouldn't with Agumon still around."

Masaru made a significant pause before he said, " He's not the only reason..."

Tohma looked at him, mildly surprised.

But the brunet didn't let him say anything about it. " I'm not letting you guys get all the action here! Japan's still MY turf, after all."

" A-Ah..." With that subdued response, Tohma went back to his clipboard for a moment, but he only seemed to be paying casual attention to it. " We'll finally, really be working together again. It's so strange..."

Silence fell upon the two. Indeed, it was so strange...

Masaru idly played around with the communication device dangling on his ear. It was back to that old habit of Tohma... going out of his way to do things for him and not saying anything about it, but Masaru was clearly aware of the reason behind it now.

" You know, before all this happened, I thought everything would go back to how it used to be before Kurata showed up... but it didn't. Not at all," Masaru said, giving Tohma a firm gaze. " And even now, a lot of things are going to feel different... We've been through a lot."

It was an indirect question.

Things had happened between them that he still didn't have answers for, but for the longest time, he didn't even know what questions he wanted answered. Now that he knew, it was just a matter of addressing them...

Tohma stared back at him for a while.

" We've been through a lot... but 'because of all that, I've come out stronger than ever before!' is what you want to say, right?" he said with a smirk.

" Hell ya, of course I have! ...I mean, NO! Something else!" Masaru gave the blond a mild punch, which the other hardly reacted to. " What I was trying to say was... nevermind."

Of course he knew he was stronger. But that wasn't what he was trying to say at all...

He knew a lot more than that. That missing link he'd noticed between the two of them wasn't really there at all. They'd been connected the whole time... He just hadn't been acknowledging it. And... Tohma was probably doing the same thing. That was all there was to it in the end.

He felt the same as Tohma...

He didn't just want to give Tohma punches at that point. He wanted to...


He gave a long sigh through his nose as he remembered Yoshino's advice about giving the blond a chance... He didn't want to admit it out loud right there, but he knew he had to be the one to bring it up if they were ever to get anywhere, with the way things were. He just needed a way to make sure he didn't turn back.

No more turning back...

" Tohma, I was thinking we could finish up that sleepover from a long time ago. I'll let Agumon stay home to watch over the house. Are you free after dinner tonight?"

" ...Yeah."

" Then whaddaya say? I'll head back here on my bike."

The blond gave him a strange look, as if suspicious about something. " I suppose it's all right..."

" Sweet, I'll come back after dinner! See you then!"

" Ah..." It looked like Tohma wanted to say more to him, but it was Masaru's turn to have the last word. He had already left the research lab.

Even though he was the one who had asked, even though he knew Tohma would be fine with the sudden arrangement, why was he feeling so jittery inside?

There had been a rain shower earlier in the afternoon which had cooled off the rest of the sunny day, so Masaru put on one of his long sleeves and went to Tohma's place on his bike after dinner.

And when Tohma went to greet him at the door (and he really did answer instead of the usual butler), he pulled the nobleman out of the mansion, much to his confusion.

" We're going on a bike ride."

" Eh?"

" I'm gonna prove to you how well I recovered by riding us both up and down that blasted hill near the mansion. Just sit back and watch!"

" Huh? You've already... W-Wait, Masaru!" He didn't give Tohma much room to argue as he pushed him over onto the back seat of the bike and got in position, and soon they were both setting off to the gates where Masaru had just come in. Tohma had no choice but to hold onto Masaru's waist as they rode off.

The downhill ride was easy, naturally. Masaru just warned Tohma to brace for the speed as they cruised their way down the steep hill. The breeze felt nice and cool against them, relieving them for those few short moments.

There was one corner to turn a little after the hill. He continued on from there, sailing through the streets and breezing past random people who were walking along. He probably knew some of the people he passed by, but he just sped on, not even having to stop for traffic.

Eventually, he turned back before reaching the end of the long road, repeating the path and this time waving to those he had seen just moments earlier. Tohma just hung on as usual, watching the passerbies, watching Masaru...

Masaru stopped when he reached the bottom of the hill to look up at it, awing at the sunset that was visible behind it. Bright red and orange rays of light seared across the peak of the hill and reflected against their skin and clothes, giving everything a warm glow.

The rest of the street view was empty at that point, as people rarely came across the Norstein mansion on the outskirts of town.

" Just as selfish as ever, doing whatever you please..." Tohma said when the air finally got quiet around them, leaving aside the muted noise of the cicadae chattering in the background. " Quite the character as always."

" Hmph. I said I'd repay the favor to you that other day, didn't I?"

Tohma blinked. That day in Masaru's room... " So being selfish is a favor to someone now?"

Masaru shook his head. " Uh... that's not what I meant. Whatever!"

" Whatever..." Tohma repeated.

" Oh, just shut up," Masaru said, relinquishing defeat in his logic. " Say, is your father still at the mansion?"

" No, he went back to Austria the day after we came back from the Digital World."

" Oh..."

Silence fell over them. They hadn't brought up the subject of their families since that day in Masaru's room...

" It'll be August soon..."

" Yeah..." Tohma said quietly.

" That means festival time."

" Festivals..."

Masaru didn't know exactly when Tohma lost his mother in that accident, but with the way Tohma was responding, he knew it must've been around that time. Maybe it had something to do with the reason why Tohma didn't let anyone else know his birthday had just passed too...

" So in the end, you've never been to a festival, have you."

" ......"

" I'll take you to one next month. For Tanabata."

A familiar hollow throat noise came from Tohma as he slowly pulled back to relax his grip from Masaru's waist. " ...I appreciate the invitation, but..."

" And THAT's where it is."

" Huh?"

" You're always doing stuff on your own when it comes to other people, but when it comes to me doing something for you, you always turn me down if I don't punch it out of you first!"

" It's nothing against you, Masaru. It's just..."

" It is to me! Especially when you go off and... and..."

Masaru let the silence overcome them again, but this time it was to keep his own thoughts straight.

' Give him a chance.'

He knew by now he was blushing furiously, but he had to face up to it.

" Can't you just be more honest..."

Tohma blinked in confusion. " Honest? It's not like I've been lying to you, Masaru. I've told you once before that I trust you... So you don't trust me?"

Masaru grit his teeth. ' That tonma really did remember...'

" No, I do! But that's not what I'm talking about..." Trust... that was way back in ElDoradimon, those fleeting moments Tohma had asked the both of them to forget. It was TOHMA who asked, yet... " Not being honest with YOURSELF isn't being a man either."

Masaru turned around and Tohma was looking at him like he'd been accused of something. Which in essence, he was. " I don't care all that much if you lie to me, Tohma. Just don't... don't lie to yourself. I'M the one not getting trusted when you're not being honest to yourself around me."

Tohma was still silent, but it seemed that his mind had been jump-started at least.

Masaru just had to find it in himself to say it, to turn things around...

He took a deep breath.

" I gotta admit, I wasn't honest to myself for a while either..." Masaru started off slowly.

He looked straight into Tohma's eyes, slightly on the downward gaze since the bike was parked on the ascending angle. Tohma returned the gaze, intrigue reflecting off his subdued blue hue.

" But back then, when I read that letter from my dad... you stayed there for me. I wanted you to be there."

" I thought that was all my selfishness..."

" Part of it was," Masaru cut in. " But did you think I would've let you come with me if I didn't want you there?"

Another hollow sound came from Tohma.

Tohma's preoccupied expression...

Ah, an opening.

' Honest with myself... as a man...'

" It's fine, Tohma. You can... You can be a little more selfish with me. I want you to."

Leaning closer, Masaru gently rested his lips on Tohma's bangs. He didn't put in any pressure, but he stayed there long enough to show what he had been going for.

Tohma blinked hard. He continued to sit on the bike with one leg propped to keep the bike standing, yet the look of surprise on his face was as if he'd been sent tumbling through another galaxy by accident. It was followed by a late reaction in the form of a rare, deep blush.

" ...Am I that obvious?"

Masaru couldn't help but chuckle a little at Tohma's dumbfounded appearance, and he returned the blush. " Hell ya. It's old news even to a dull-head like me, pal. I had you figured out way back in rehab, but of course, it all started back in ElDoradimon."

Tohma frowned. " I thought we promised to forget-"

" I still can't! I still can't..." Masaru cut in again. He could feel the blush on his face getting worse. " I tried so hard to forget for a long time after that, but it just kept coming back... And obviously, you can't seem to forget it either."

" ......"

" I'm not going to bother trying to forget that anymore. Just think of it as another selfishness of mine, got it? Like... Like I said, you're free to repay the favor." Mostly to hide his ever-increasing embarrassment, he turned back around on the bike to face the slim glimpse of the sunset over the hill. " Show me what you've got."

Tohma didn't answer at first.

Neither of them said anything or moved from their seat on the bike for what felt like several minutes.

But slowly, the hands that had been loosely resting on Tohma's sides made their way back to Masaru. He simply embraced Masaru from behind on the bike, bringing his forehead to lean against the brunet's back.

He hugged so tightly, yet with so much care... Masaru could just feel the respect and gratitude pouring out of Tohma's grip, and it was overwhelming his senses.

" Masaru... If you're asking for it so much, then hurry back so I can show you how selfish I can be."

Overwhelmed... he couldn't stand still any longer.

That was the answer he'd been waiting for.

He nearly slammed his foot on the pedal to start their uphill climb. He hadn't even gotten much momentum to start with, but he didn't need it. The warmth surrounding him from behind was fueling him plenty. He gripped the bike handles with more friction and pushed forward, one step at a time, non-stop. Gravity worked against him more than ever before, but he refused to give in.

At the top, when he finally made it, he nearly collapsed with his whole body. But Tohma was still there, holding him in place. He was still there, supporting him.

Masaru couldn't steady his breath, however. He quickly recovered and started pedaling again, zooming back to the mansion. After an impatient bout of security checks at the gate, he dashed up to the building, parked his bike in a rush, and then scuttled straight inside the building. Tohma followed him not long after, and without another word, they raced each other up to Tohma's room. On the way, they ran past the butler and various maids who could only stare in bewilderment at their after-dust.

It seemed that they tied, for both of them reached out for the door handle at the same time. They took only faint notice as their hands made contact and they opened the door together. Tohma was panting slightly, but not nearly as much as Masaru, who wobbled onto the nobleman's plush carpet in exhaustion and let himself collapse onto it.

He laid there, collapsed for a while, just catching up with his breath as Tohma closed the door. Then he turned to face up at the ceiling, arms stretched out onto the thick, soft plush. He let out a long breath and closed his eyes. When he opened them, Tohma suddenly came into view overhead. Tohma was leaning over him.

And then Tohma leaned forward and sealed their lips. He'd come in so naturally that Masaru couldn't help but tilt his head in response, allowing the opportunity for the blond to press in more comfortably. It seemed Tohma had intended for the kiss to be a short one, as he tried to pull back... But Masaru dived forward and recaptured those lips, and their kiss continued.

Masaru's arms slowly made their way around Tohma's back. He could feel every bit of affection sweeping through Tohma's movements, and his senses were getting overwhelmed again. His eyesight fluttered and lost focus.

It was his first kiss, and already he could feel so many new emotions want to burst out of him. Even though his mind was swirling in a frenzy, it felt so right...

Tohma finally pulled himself up with his arms and the two stared at each other for a moment. It was almost unbelievable, somehow, yet Masaru knew there was no doubt about what had just happened.

" Sometimes, I'd think..." the blond muttered as he continued to contain himself. " The things I did when I was with Kurata were beyond redemption. Even when you said all those things to me, even when I told you to forget it all, it was more like I wanted to forget it all myself. But I couldn't stand myself like that..."

" Hmph, that's more than enough to set me off, you know? Whack you a good one to knock the senses back in ya."

" You knew, didn't you? Then why didn't you? You just went along..."

" W-Well, I had trouble figuring things back then too," Masaru muttered back, flushing in his own disgrace. " And besides, a lot of things were changing around us."

" Around us? How about between us," Tohma stated somberly.

" Bah... so what about those little details?" rolling his eyes quickly, Masaru tightened his grip around Tohma. " At least we're here like this now. Don't worry, man. I was just losing my own sense of mind when I said all those nasty things to you, and I've long forgiven all those things you did while playing the bad guy. Didn't that punch I gave you back then tell you enough?"

" In most aspects, yes," Tohma answered. " But Masaru, don't you ever wonder exactly WHY I went through with Kurata?"

" Whatever it was, it led to us being able to defeat him, didn't it?"

Tohma sighed at the blinking Masaru. " That hardly scratches the surface..."

Masaru gave him a look, intending to say "So what?" which the blond didn't seem to want to take silently in return.

" Part of it had to do with my family, but another big part of it had to do with protecting you guys."

" Protecting... oh, like you did with Ikuto when you dumped him in the sea?"

" Do you have to put it that way... but yes. Even going against you was to protect you. I had the intention to disable you from fighting one way or another back then... even if I had to do this."

Tohma brought his hands up against Masaru's face, pausing as he brushed the brunet's cheeks, then he wrapped them carefully, yet firmly around Masaru's neck.

The contact sent a chill down Masaru's back.

" I didn't want to do it, of course..."

That grip was so familiar... Masaru knew the blond was expecting him to flinch. He almost did... but instead, he brought his own hands over Tohma's before the blond could react.

" You were able to break out of that control... both times," Masaru said calmly. " I haven't forgotten. I haven't forgotten any of it."

" ......But when I was with Kurata, I was fully prepared to do this under my own volition. Even then..."

" That's your strength, Tohma... Me? I was the opposite. I gave into that control so easily... both times."

Control over his own upset emotions, the Demon Lords' control... they were one and the same.

" If it weren't for you... I wouldn't be here, Tohma. That's just why I'm glad to have you," Masaru continued. " My trust in you hasn't changed. It's only gotten stronger."

" ......"

" And besides... you know firsthand what happens if you try going too far with me. Quite literally." His grip on Tohma's hands tightened as his voice pitch lowered dangerously.

Tohma only stared down at him, eyes opened wide.

And then he smiled that natural, nostalgic smile.

" Of course."

Although he said it as if it were obvious, it seemed that finally at that moment, he realized the utter meaning behind Masaru's words and grip.

His own grip on Masaru's neck loosened and he raised his thumbs to press against the brunet's cheeks as he bent down for another kiss.

Again, the first one was relatively short, but with Masaru returning the passion, it seemed he couldn't help but go for another... and another, and another. Masaru was basking in the warmth within the flurry of kisses. Every time Tohma's lips parted from his, the cold would come and he'd seek them to come back, and Tohma's own body was slowly warming the rest of him up...

When they finally released each other long enough to find that they were both breathing rather heavily on each other, Tohma spoke.

" Love..." Tohma said almost inaudibly at first, his lips slightly quivering against Masaru's. His next words rang clearly. " I love you, Masaru."

Masaru had been ready to hear it. " Same here... I love you too, Tohma," came the slow, straightforward reply.

A wet drop hit Masaru's cheek. He nearly jerked at the sudden, pinging chill.

" Tohma...?"

The blond moved back and hurriedly wiped his palm over his eyes. " Huh? I'm not..." He didn't finish his sentence.

Masaru blinked. Mr. Perfect Genius was... crying? ...No, now wasn't the time to think like that. Just who was the one letting himself get carried away by that perfect genius...

Tohma swiftly brought his hand away, as if pretending that he hadn't wiped his eyes in the first place, although it'd been so obvious. His eyes were still watering up, but the moisture stayed contained within them. Masaru let out a short, voiceless "heh." No wonder...

Those tears... It was just sweat from Tohma's heart.

Masaru wiped the moisture off his own cheek and brought Tohma back down against him.

" Hey, weren't you going to show me how selfish you could be? What's with all the confessions now, huh?"

Tohma... he felt so warm, both physically and how connected he felt spiritually right now.

Tohma sniffled into Masaru's shoulder. " Mmph. You asked for it..."

" Good morning, Master..."

The next morning, Gaomon appeared before them in rather... unexpected attire.

Various maids were going about the hallway, doing business as usual with opening curtains and cleaning up areas, although they had suspiciously large smiles on their faces.

Masaru made a rather obvious snort and covered his mouth when he saw the Digimon, while Tohma stared in horror.

If it weren't for his bright blue fur and red gloves poking out, Gaomon might have blended in with the rest of the maids somehow... He was wearing a petit-sized maid outfit, covered head to toe with white and pink decorative lacings.

" Ah... I'm so sorry, Gaomon."

" Th-There's nothing you need to apologize for, Master..."

It seemed that Gaomon had been asked to sleep with the maids the night previous, and they had had their fun dressing him up... He was in so many tight dressings that he was unable to take any of it off on his own, especially with his gloves on.

" D-Did you at least get any sleep?"

" Yes, Master. They did this only a short while ago..."

" Here, let me take that off..."

Tohma took his time to take off all the dressings (but not before taking a picture without the Digimon's notice).

Masaru stood by and watched. " So Tohma... you had a birthday a short while ago, right?"

The blond blinked a few times as he continued undoing the lacing. " Yeah... what about it?"

" How old does that make you now?"

" Fifteen."

" Then that means I'm older than you."

" Yes, it does."

" Well, then..." Thoughts about the previous night ran through Masaru's head and he found himself blushing, unbeknownst to Tohma. " Since we're on pretty even grounds at DATS now, this makes me your Senpai in a way, so..."

Tohma raised an eyebrow, realizing what the other was getting at. " It's only a few months difference, and I've still got the upper hand when it comes to a lot of things, Masaru. Just keep leaving it to me from now on."

" Ah?" Just like that... " Things won't always be like that! I'm gonna get you one day, just watch!"

" Hmm, we'll see about that."

Gaomon just kept to himself as Tohma tended to him. As Tohma took off the numerous pieces, he made a blushing and grumbling Masaru hold them.

" It must've been hard to move around in all that clothes. There, you're all set."

" Thank you very much, Master."

Tohma called one of the smiling maids over to take the clothes back.

" So what's the schedule for today?" Masaru asked.

" Well, normally, I go to check my experiments after breakfast, then I report in to DATS until lunch if I have nothing else..."

" We don't have to be at the headquarters all the time, right? Why don't we go around town a bit?"

" You just got back, though... you should probably spend some more time in headquarters for the transition first. I bet Captain Satsuma's going to give some new motivational speech to us today."

" Muh..."

Tohma sighed and grinned. " We'll have plenty of other opportunities for dates later, Masaru."

" D...Da... I was thinking about going to the boxing gym or something, you..."

He was going to go off with some insults, but Tohma's smile stopped him again.

' Bastard...'

Gaomon looked up between the two boys. " Master, I have already eaten breakfast, so I'll head down to headquarters and prepare some tea for you if you'd like."

" Thanks Gaomon, if you would."

While the Digimon trotted off, Masaru gave Tohma a questioning look.

Tohma just indicated him to come over. " Come, breakfast is this way."

" So about Gaomon..."

Tohma seemed to be hiding his own blush, but it didn't work well as Masaru overstepped him for a closer look. The noble didn't need to say anything, and it was apparent that he KNEW he didn't have to say anything, yet that didn't stop Masaru from giving him a smug grin.

Tohma looked like he wanted to pout, but he wouldn't. So instead, he sighed, straightened his stance, and lightly took Masaru's arm as he led them towards the breakfast room.

In the end, Masaru made Tohma go to the boxing gym with him after DATS anyway. They shared a good multitude of revenge punches against each other and cleared out any of the other gym-goers who happened to come across them on the way, except for Hayase's ol' coach, who still remembered them.

" Hyaaa! It felt so nice to loosen up after all that time."

" I honestly wonder where you get all that energy sometimes, Masaru," Tohma told him when they had come back to the Norstein mansion afterwards. Masaru had ridden them to the gym, once again on his bike. " If a Digimon shows up later tonight..."

" Pure manly guts. If it comes, it comes. And YOU're one to talk, keeping up with me on all this. What about YOU?"

" I'm just maintaining my upper hand. I can't let the likes of you catch up to me, after all."

Masaru rolled his eyes.

" Say, since so much has been renovated in the mansion already, why don't you put a little boxing gym in there too? The old DATS headquarters had one, after all.

" Ah... I hadn't thought of that. That's a good idea."

" 'Course. All you think about these days is whatever's related to your research and me, isn't it."

Tohma just stood there on the front porch, shaded from the sun, unwilling to answer.

Ah... Masaru didn't mean to hit the bull's-eye with that. " Well, then this one's for you."

" Hmph, more like for the both of us..."

" All the better."

" ...Ah," Tohma agreed. There was a moment of pause in the empty lot in front of the Norstein mansion. " Thanks, Masaru."

" Nn? For what?" Masaru said nimbly.

" For being you."

He wasn't actually so surprised to hear it. Still, hearing it left an exhilarating tingling in his chest.

" Hey, same back to you. Or at least... thanks for being yourself when you're not being an asshole."

Tohma sighed. " The same back at you, for that."

Another silence, and they both started chuckling a little at the same time.

It truly was a good feeling, having Tohma with him like this. And to think it was just their beginning...

" I'll see you tomorrow. Have a good night."

With that, Tohma turned around and went up to the doorway, bidding farewell with his eyes.

Masaru blinked back.

" Sure... see you."

What, no goodbye kiss? It was just... no one else was around, so he thought it was a good opportunity... Of course, he wasn't going to admit to having such corny expectations. And not that he was really having those expectations in the first place.

He mentally laughed to himself. Of course not, it WAS just their beginning, after all...

He walked back to his bike on the pavement, ready to depart. Unlike the porch, the late-day sun was blaring upon him and the pavement, and it was a pretty hot day, so he kind of wanted to get going. He was just about to kick up the stand...

" Masaru."

Masaru turned around to suddenly see Tohma right up next to him, grabbing his arm and moving in closer... and all thoughts of the weather went straight out of his head.

A simple pressure against the lips, an abrupt display of longing.

The blond's other hand whisked up into Masaru's hair, touching the ponytail and then settling onto the brunet's neck for a brief moment until he pulled back.

Masaru couldn't take his eyes off the lingering affection in Tohma's stare.

But he didn't have to do it on his own, as Tohma just as quickly brought his hands back to his sides and said his real goodbye. Until the door shut behind the blond as he went inside, Masaru just stood there, one hand still gripping the handle on his bike.

There was nothing left but to head home for the day.

He'd see Tohma again tomorrow. Tomorrow, Tohma would probably be back to his usual cold, calculating self, and Masaru would have to chip away at the ice block to get anywhere with him again. But somehow, he didn't mind that one bit now. In fact, he looked forward to it. In a way, it was just more fighting to be done, more walls to smash down with his fist.

Because when all was set and ready, Tohma would be there to give him the warmth and support he needed to carry on, no matter how distant or intimate of form they came in. And how much Masaru treasured that...

A relieving breeze sped through him as he sailed downhill from the Norstein mansion, and he greeted some of the familiar faces on his way home.

When he turned the corner to his street, an unusual wind blew past him, and he braked when he realized the white noise of the cicadae had vanished momentarily with the wind. He stood there in wonder for a while, staring at and listening to the trees nearby, swaying with his ponytail... as if something or someone had passed by.

But then the wind calmed down, allowing the cicadae to start chattering again, the intensity of their song matching the heat of the air. The atmosphere was the same as it was in any summer there.

The slightest of smiles arose on Masaru's face, and he pushed the pedal once more to continue on his way.



Author blab

Yes I now claimz longest non-crossover Savers and ToMaTo fic!! w00t! Now if only there were challengers...! orz

Reminder that there are some sketches for certain scenes in the fic on tomato_pmsinfirm_org (change _ to periods), as well as the lyrics/song this is based off... as well as the proper formatting for this fic as a whole.

Tohma's "July" birthday... Completely fictional for this story! Don't take it as official.

So it's not a completely happy ending for Savers... yet... honestly closer to the ending I had been imagining for Savers as a whole (just the whole Suguru not coming back part). Of course, I knew Toei would go with some kind of happy-happy end as it did, but at the same time, I was still heavily contemplating this more bittersweet kind of happening as a possibility.

I can't resist, so I'm thinking about doing a one-shot sequel in Tohma's perspective to make up for all the irritation of not being able to do it in this fic. I haven't even started writing it though, so I have no idea when I'll actually get to it. I'm just pretty set on some of the events and that it's going to take place a year after this fic's ending.

Sorry if you were expecting the rest of the details of that one scene... xD I won't even let you know how far they went... yet. If people want it enough, I could avenge for it in the sequel? Lemon certainly won't be the main course for the sequel either, but it could make a nice dessert? LET ME KNOW PUREAZE...~

If you want to be all sneaky and ninja-like (but I do like it best hearing from you personally), I have a poll up on my ff.n profile. As long as you have an account, you can vote, and I won't know who voted, just the totals.

In the meanwhile... *hugs the pair* TwT Reviews are much loved.~