This is only the second time I've dipped my toes in the waters of the Digimon fandom, so... Hello to everyone, I guess. This one is set after the conclusion of Digimon Adventure 02 (called Season 02 here in the UK) with one flashback to the original series' conclusion. I didn't watch the original – I watched the dub, so those are the names I'm using here, if anyone gets a bit confused by name usage. Hope you enjoy it. Reviews are appreciated, as is constructive criticism.
"When you have completed 95 percent of your journey, you are only halfway there."
- Japanese Proverb.
Next Stop Odaiba.
Four Years Ago.
The carriage rattled quietly the whole time, even though there weren't any tracks. Or any ground beneath them at all, for that matter. Not for the first part of the journey.
There wasn't any scenery either. Nothing to look at except for the flowing gold of the Datastream. As the train travelled onwards, the world outside of the windows grew steadily darker until it was almost impossible to tell which world they were in. Not that it mattered, because he was here and Patamon was there.
TK was mostly aware only of the fact that his cheeks were dry and scratchy from all the crying he'd done, and that nobody was talking. Not even quietly. That Mimi had been scrunching up her hat so now it was all crushed and wrinkly. That on his left, Kari had her face buried into Tai's stomach and he wasn't complaining about her getting his shirt all drooly.
Izzy was sitting opposite, next to Sora, with his computer open on his lap. He wasn't using it though, just gazing sadly at the screen. A small part of TK's mind wondered what he was looking at, but that part was being squashed by the bigger, Patamon missing part. Besides, he didn't want to break the silence. He didn't want Sora to start crying again.
TK rested his head against the window, listening to the drumming noise in his ears, and imagined what the gateway between the worlds looked like. In his head, it was just like a big, open doorway, like the kind you saw in temples, with a thousand bright colours all over it and inside it and around it. He imagined the door closing and everything going dark.
None of this made much sense to TK. The worlds were safe. The Digimon were safe. They should be happy... A part of TK reminded him that they were happy in a lot of ways. They were going home, to their moms and dads and brothers and sisters and schools...
...Okay, so that last part isn't so good, but the rest of it...
'Attention all passengers, we will soon be arriving in Shibuya. All Digidestined must leave the train at this stop. Repeat all Digidestined please leave the train at Shibuya in two minutes."
It might be Gennai's voice coming through the radios, but that wouldn't make it any easier to hear. TK hadn't thought it was possible for a dead silence to get even quieter, but it just did. Izzy muttered something about the timeline and resetting their watches, but TK wasn't listening and didn't think he'd understand if he was. Maybe he was trying to talk to Tentomon, the way that they used to be able to when they were in the same world.
But they weren't in the same world anymore.
TK thought about how unfair that was. They had saved both worlds, but they were only allowed to stay in one of them.
Outside the window TK could see vague shapes cast in shadows and he blinked hard in the unexpected glare of street lamps. Very normal, human looking street lamps, followed by occasional, very normal raindrops dribbling down the glass. The sky above was dark and cloudy. 'Home safe and sound,' Tai muttered quietly. Kari curled her fingers tightly around Tai's wrist and let out a quiet, wistful sigh and TK realised he was clinging to Matt in the same way. He ruffles TK's hair.
'We are now arriving in Shibuya. Last stop Shibuya. Everybody off...
'...Good luck, kids.'
The unscheduled railway carriage without a driver arrived and left Shibuya Station unnoticed by everyone on earth except for its eight passengers.
Present Day, Present Time.
'...Next stop Odaibai District in fifteen minutes. Repeat, next stop Odaiba...'
TK remembers the last time he was on a train like this.
Well, not the last time, exactly, but the last time it had felt important. That train had ended up in Shibuya rather than Odaiba. It had been raining a little for the last part of that journey, and the window of the rear doorway had rattled in its frame. The radio announcer had sounded like Gennai. Maybe it had been Gennai. TK had been too upset to pay much attention.
On that journey, nobody had run through pouring rain to reach the platform before the train pulled away. Nobody had laughed like Yolei or lost a shoe like Cody or almost fallen on the tracks like Davis. Most importantly, they hadn't had their Digimon with them, tucked into book bags or hanging off their shoulders.
Patamon is snoozing on his lap with TK rubbing that spot between the digimon's ears that he knows he likes. He's asleep, but he knows very well when TK stops doing this because he shuffles and squirms until the petting starts again. TK is the only one in the group who isn't falling asleep where he's sitting. The last five minutes have provided him with the surprising bit of information that Cody snores louder than Davis does, Kari sleeps with her hands curled into light fists, and that Yolei doesn't much care who's shoulder she uses so long as it's comfortable, which kind of explains why she's leaning against Davis. There's nobody but them in the carriage.
TK's amazed that any of them can sleep. After all, they're going to meet Gennai. But they did save the world last week. TK knows first-hand just how much that kind of thing tuckers you out, not just physically but emotionally. The last time they faced VenomMyotismon, TK had woken up the next day with a dull sensation in his stomach and the feeling that he'd never laugh at anything again.
Patamon wriggles in his sleep, reminding TK that he's stopped petting. Really, the Digimon are the only notable thing about this journey. They're not heroes here. They're not special. They're just a bunch of perfectly normal thirteen year olds-and-their-Digimon, taking a train to Odaiba.
...And that could be a problem, actually. TK's not sure he knows how to be a normal thirteen year old.
The dark world rushes by outside the window as the busy streets of Tokyo fade into the not-so-busy streets outside of the city. It's only now; about ten minutes into the journey, that it dawns on TK that none of them have any idea how to be normal thirteen year olds. Ten, in Cody's case. Not that three years makes much difference when you've saved the world several times, watched people die, and had your inside thoughts made uncomfortably external (not to mention tangible) in ways that thoughts really aren't supposed to be, no matter how much you want them to.
The fact of the matter is that they'd Digidestined, Chosen Children, Crest Bearers, whatever-else-the-newspapers-are-calling-them-this-week and none of them were picked for that duty because they fulfilled the criteria of "ordinary". Davis does "normal" about as well as he cooks, Cody is far too serious for any ten year old, Kari is... Kari is Kari, Yolei is Yolei, TK is TK, and he's pretty sure that Ken was always peculiar, even before the Dark Spore.
Speaking of which, where is Ken? It's taken TK this long to notice that the chair besides Kari is no longer occupied, and yet he doesn't have any impression of Ken having left. Maybe he had dozed off...
Curious, TK lifts Patamon from his lap and places him carefully on the book bag in the seat beside him, the Digimon snuffles and curls into a ball, and TK sneaks past as quietly as he can. The carriage jerks beneath him, nearly sending him into Yolei, and he remembers their first return from the digital world. The rattling had been for atmosphere back then, apparently, because the train moved as smoothly as if it had been gliding on air. Which it basically had been.
The first thing he hears once inside the clattering corridor between carriages is a soft, muttering noise. He takes a moment to work out what it is. '...And they will Ken, I'm sure they will, and... And no more Spores, right? No more, ever again. No more Arukerimon and no scary, other, not-real worlds and I won't ever have to pretend to be stuffed in public anymore, will I?'
There's a chuckle that would probably be familiar to TK if it wasn't Ken's voice. 'No, Leafmon. No more pretending to be a plush toy.'
'And no more Dark Spores? Ever?'
'No more of that either, I don't think.'
There's a contented snuffling sound. 'And we can be friends, can't we? It'll be nice not to be the only one at home. He'll like it here, I'm sure he will. I think... Oh, TK! Guess what? You'll never guess what's happened!'
TK smiles, leaning against the carriage wall so he doesn't fall over. Ken is sitting on the seat usually reserved for people with bikes and Leafmon is buried into the mound of the knapsack on his lap. It's not weird, TK realises. Not for them. Sometimes, your Digimon just wants you all to themselves for a while. This is one of those times for Leafmon. 'So long as it's a good thing. For a second there I thought you were moping on us again.'
Ken holds up his cell phone. 'I just got an email. Mom has a Digimon.'
TK knows he probably shouldn't feel as surprised by this as he does. 'She does?'
'Mm. A Pafumon. Though it's eating us out of house and home even as we speak, so by the time I get back it'll probably be a Kyaromon.'
TK blinks. 'Wow... they're popping up everywhere. I thought it'd only be children who found partners.'
'A few older people have started getting them, too. I think they must have been potential Digidestined when they were younger, like...'
'Like Owikawa.' TK says. (And Owikawa's Digimon, with no partner to be with, nobody to Digivolve for, nobody to stay with for all time)... He tries to squelch down the thought of the baby Daterimon's confused, distressed face as its partner vanished into the ether, the same way he tries to squelch the thought of that happy family with two parents and a brother who was only two doors away from him, rather than half a city...
Whenever he tries to explain this event to people, he leaves out the part about the butterflies. It's too crazy.
The carriage continues to rattle onwards with the rain outside the window beating down in droplets now rather than just a faint drizzle. 'They're everywhere,' Ken mutters quietly. 'All over the world, TK. Maybe they were the whole time; we just couldn't see them.'
TK wonders what Ken means by that. Why he really came out here. Leafmon appears to be trying to climb his partner's shirt, so Ken picks the Digimon up and lets him scramble from his shoulder to the top of his head. It looks ridiculous. Ken Ichijoji has never looked ridiculous before, and the sight of it is simultaneously funny and confusing. If somebody walked past them in the carriage right now, they'd probably never think there was anything special about either of them.
'Don't you ever wonder, TK?'
'About the digital world. How old it is. How long it must've been there.' Ken pats Leafmon on the head. 'And how many Digidestined there could've been before we came along?'
TK hesitates, because honestly? No, he hasn't wondered. In the old days it was always just the seven of them. Then eight when Kari arrived. Not one of them had comprehended the massiveness of what they were involved in until that night between the worlds, with the lights of thousands of Digimon joining with their partners. 'You think there were more?'
'Many. Probably millions of people like Owikawa and Cody's father. But since we didn't have access to the Digital World back then, most of them probably died long before they ever met their Digimon.'
'Whoa... that's not the nicest thought.' TK bites on his lip and tries to imagine not knowing Patamon existed. It's not something he wants to think about too deeply.
But of course, thinking is Ichijoji's first line of defence, Dark Spore or no Dark Spore. The only thing that reassures TK right now is the fact that Ken is still smiling, and it's not the faint, darkened smile of a former tyrant so much as it is wryly ironic; almost comforting. 'And you're thinking it... because why?'
'Because of those kids,' Ken says. 'I think they knew it; they realised what Digimon are and what they're connected to.'
'Think about it. Can you imagine living without Patamon? For as long as you did before?'
No, he can't. Or rather, he doesn't want to. They both understand that much –they know what it's like to have your partner ripped away from you.
'Exactly. Because Patamon's a part of you. All Digimon are.' Ken rubs Leafmon's head and the Digimon purrs quietly. 'They're like parts of our souls, or something. Without them we break apart and become distant. That's what all of those kids who took the Dark Spore realised. Maybe it's why they felt so hopeless. Deep down inside they weren't really worried about not having partners. They knew that they should have them, but didn't know where they were. That was what was so unfair about it. The spores fed on that unfairness.' Like with me, he doesn't say. He doesn't have to anymore.
TK takes a moment to let this sink in, thinking again about a world without Patamon. 'But it's not like that anymore, Ken. They all found their partners; and the Spore is gone now.'
Ken looks at him firmly. Leafmon stops purring. TK swallows. '...Ken, it is gone, right?'
'Not... exactly. It'll always be there inside of us. But maybe it was there already. I think the Dark Spore doesn't do anything more than encourage bad feelings that are already there and give them room to grow. But when we have our Digimon, we know that we believe in ourselves enough not to let those thoughts take over.'
It's... interesting, to see Ken turning his rather substantial brainpower to more creative thinking. It makes it all the more obvious that this isn't quite the same Ken they dragged out of Malomyotismon's illusion a few days ago. This isn't the same guilt ridden boy who can only think of himself as a bitter child who used to be a monster. 'I see...'
'I think everyone will work that out, in time. Now Digimon are showing up everywhere because people don't have to pretend anymore. They don't have to be afraid.' Ken smiles again, and it's the new genuinely-amused Ken smile rather than the old I'm-not-sure-I-have-the-right-to-find-this-funny Ken smile, so TK doesn't feel bad about grinning back.
'Oooh, mister, you've got a Digimon!'
TK blinks and realises they have company. The little girl can't be older than six, and her Digimon is just a baby. A baby with a very big mouth. She pushes the Digimon up close to Ken's face and Leafmon falls off his head with a yelp.
'I... yes, I do. Um, he's a Leafmon.'
'I know that, silly!' The girl huffs indignantly. 'My friend Chiro has one! I only got mine two weeks ago, but at least now we don't have to hide them anymore. See! His name is Nyokimon and he's gonna Digivolve into a Yo... a Yori... Yom... Um...'
'Yokomon?' TK suggests, suddenly remembering where he's seen that little black creature before. It was the baby form of Biyomon.
'I knew that! He'll be a Yokomon and he'll be really pretty, because Yokomon have big flowers on their heads and they're pink and stuff.' The girl sits down on the carriage floor, and for a moment Ken just sits there, blinking in surprise and clearly trying to channel his Inner-Kari to work out how the heck he's supposed to talk to this small, loud individual with a Nyokimon on her lap.
TK tries not to laugh.
'Can yours Digivolve?' she asks. 'Mine can't, but he will soon because I take really good care of him and I don't let him eat too many snacks. That's not good for Digimon even though they like snacks an awful lot, just like people I guess. Does your Digimon like snacks? Nyokimon always eats way too many grapes, and then he goes all squidgy and makes funny noises. Your Digimon looks like he's got a leaf for a head, does he Digivolve into a Yokomon too?
Ken, for his part of this rather one sided conversation, just sits there giving the occasional nod or "yes" or "um, no." The kid won't let him get another word in edgeways.
'Heeeey do you know we were in the lights?! You must've been in the lights too, right?'
'The lights?' TK knows he probably shouldn't attract her attention for fear of having his ears talked off, but he can't help it.
'Don't you remember?' The girl stares at him in surprise. 'The lights in the sky last week! Nyokimon says the lights were going to the place where he lives; to the Digital World.' She whispers the words "Digital World" to them conspiringly, even though she doesn't have to. As if it's still a secret between them. 'See, I went outside...' she scrambles in her pocket, pulls out a yellow D3 and holds it up to TK's face. Her Nyokimon appears to be having some kind of conversation with Leafmon now, though TK doesn't have a clue what they're talking about. 'I held this up into the sky, and so did everyone else. There were thousands of us! It was the best thing that's ever happened to me, it was... it was really great!' She looks euphoric, TK thinks, which is quite a surprise, given how quickly most kids get used to thing like this. What's cool one week is so-so the next. But this kid seems just as thrilled by the light show they all experienced last week as he is. 'Were you in the lights too?'
TK and Ken exchange a look. 'I guess we were,' Ken says, and TK isn't sure if he's talking to the little girl, to TK, or to himself. 'It really was bright, wasn't it?'
'Uhuh. Do you know that Nyokimon can spit seeds at you if you upset him? And he can sing! Do you wanna hear him sing, sing for me, Nyokimon!'
'Suki? Suki, Stop bothering the other passengers, sweetie, we went through this at Hokkaido.'
'Aw, mo-o-om!' TK and Ken are saved from death-via-Nyokimon-Serenade by what is presumably the child's mother calling her from down the corridor. The kid turns and runs off, without so much as a bye or leave, with Nyokimon bouncing on her shoulder the whole way.
The two of them sit in silence for several seconds before they start sniggering. 'So how long do you think it'll be before they start setting down public rules about all this?' TK laughs.
'You mean things like "All passengers are reminded not to allow in-training Digimon to wander freely in the corridors. Children and Baby Digimon please use the transport seats provided."?' Ken grins – another thing which TK really has to get used to.
There are a lot of things he's going to get used to. And most of them aren't bad things. TK thinks about the old train ride back from the digital world, with the weight of Patamon's absence heavy in his stomach. 'This isn't like the last time we saved the Digital world,' he murmurs quietly. That time had been all about separation. But now they had been drawn, literally and figuratively, back to each other from across a divide that wasn't really a divide anymore.
He doesn't have to say any of this aloud. He can tell from the look on Ken's face that he understands. Maybe it's a Digidestined thing, or maybe it's an I-watched-my-partner-die-right-in-front-of-me-but-it's-okay-he-came-back-he'll-always-come-back thing. TK isn't sure.
Now that the little girl has gone and the laughter has drained away, the silence has returned between them. But their silences aren't awkward anymore, unless they're trying to get out of responding to one of Davis's more crazy suggestions. Just comfortable and quiet. Like the past between them has been cleared as easily as Owikawa washed away the damage to the digital world. As easily as the worlds came together after never truly knowing of each other's existence, just like it was always supposed to be.
Maybe Gennai knows that. Maybe that's exactly what he's calling all of them to say. Maybe it's just some big explanation about how things are going to be now and the ways that everything is going to change.
Though more than likely, it'll be another apocalypse looming...
Either way, they can handle it.
'So. Your mom has a Pafumon.'
'Yes. It's fluffy. And eats a lot. And keeps disappearing up the Central Heating Duct.'
'Hm. Sounds like the standard fare to me. Eating's practically all some of them think about.'
'We're growing Digimon,' Leafmon squeaks indignantly. 'We have healthy appetites.'
'You mean for anything with too much sugar in it.'
By the time they arrive in Odaiba, TK and Ken know a great deal more about each other than they did before the journey had begun.
It's starting to feel like enough.
'We are now arriving in Odaiba. Last stop Odaiba. All passengers please exit the train at this stop.