A/N: I'm using the Japanese names for the characters, because it bothers me for half the characters to have Japanese names and the other half to have English names. That never made sense to me in the English version of the show. Therefore JP is Junpei, Zoe is Izumi, and Tommy is Tomoki. Also, this may or may not turn into a set of loosely connected one-shots, but that will depend on if and when inspiration strikes me again. For now, this is a stand alone one-shot.
Disclaimer: I own nothing but my idea.
For the Sake of a Friend
Takuya grumbled as he quietly moved to another part of the campsite, trying not to let his own sleeplessness disturb his friends. He could see Tomoki practically curled into a ball next to Junpei and Izumi was a quiet form next to Kouji's controlled sprawl. Kouichi…
Takuya blinked. Where Kouichi had been when they all went to bed was now empty. The space on Kouji's other side no longer held the elder twin's sleeping form.
"Where'd he go?" he whispered quietly. He didn't fear Kouichi had betrayed them. Heck, Kouichi had risked getting fried by Cherubimon's Storm of Judgment attack instead of turning his back on his brother. But that still left Takuya with no idea where the other boy had gone.
Takuya slowly let his gaze sweep over the campsite once again, trying to find a hint of where Kouichi might have wandered to. He found it in the faint impression of a shoe print. The warrior of flame followed its general direction and rounded an outcropping of rock to see his friend sitting with his back resting against the rock, staring at the sky.
"Kouichi?" he asked. The other boy jerked in surprise and turned startled blue eyes on him.
"Takuya!" Kouichi gasped, one hand steadying himself on the rock. "I thought you were asleep. I didn't wake you up, did I?"
Takuya waved that concern away. "I couldn't sleep. Kept waking up. I just noticed you weren't in camp anymore. I got worried."
"I'm fine," the other boy said quietly. "You didn't have to come check on me."
"You're my friend, Kouichi, of course I did." Takuya frowned as a shadow crossed the other boy's face, and he turned away. "Kouichi? What's wrong?"
"…It's nothing, Takuya."
"I'm fine. You should try to get some more sleep."
Takuya scratched his head and sighed. He really didn't know how to interact with Kouichi. Kouji's twin was the quieter of the two, and Takuya was pretty sure he still felt uncomfortable around the other legendary warriors. Izumi seemed to have more luck in getting him to talk. Or Kouji, though the relationship between the two brothers was still finding its footing and was a little awkward. Takuya heaved a sigh and sat next to Kouichi instead of heading back to camp. The least he could do was try.
"You know, Kouichi, you can tell us if something's bothering you." There was no answer. Kouichi had returned his gaze to the sky and seemed to be ignoring Takuya. "If you're still worried about attacking us while you were Duskmon, don't. It wasn't your fault. Any of it. We don't blame you."
Kouichi's form tensed the slightest bit, but he said nothing. Takuya continued, thinking he had found the source of Kouichi's worry.
"Kouichi, come on. That wasn't you."
"Yes, it was, Takuya!"
Takuya blinked, startled. He'd not heard Kouichi voice anything above a normal speaking tone since he had gone head to head with Cherubimon the day before.
"You don't get it, Takuya. That was me. It was." Kouichi buried his head in his hands, hiding his face. Takuya shifted a bit, growing uncomfortable. Obviously Kouichi was still in turmoil over his actions, but how was Takuya supposed to get him to see he had been forgiven?
"You know…" Takuya started slowly, an idea forming. "I think Cherubimon did more than just twist the Spirits of Darkness. I think he also made sure that when he found someone who could handle them, they wouldn't be able to defy him."
"Cherubimon didn't lock me up or anything like that, Takuya."
"That's not what I was talking about. Duskmon…you freaked out when you saw Kouji in pain after you'd forced him to devolve." Kouichi winced. "Everything Duskmon had done up till that point…it shouldn't have mattered. But it did." Takuya's eyes lit up with excitement. "I think that was you, Kouichi, fighting back against whatever hold Cherubimon had over your real self."
"Takuya. That. Was. Me. Duskmon and I were the same person." Kouichi stood and strode a few paces away, tense all over. "You and Agunimon are the same, aren't you? It was no different with me."
"But it's not the same. The rest of us had detectors. We chose when we wanted to evolve. Cherubimon took advantage of you when you first got here and forced you into it."
"No! Just listen, Kouichi." Takuya stood and rushed around in front of the other boy. He held the startled blue eyes with his own intense brown. "Why did Duskmon hesitate, why did you hesitate, every time you got the upper hand against Kouji? Huh? Why? Why did you stop every time? Answer me that."
"I…I don't know." Kouichi stammered.
"Think, then! Think about what you were feeling when you saw Kouji in pain. When you freaked and the darkness spread all around because of it. Think, Kouichi."
"I…I…" Kouichi frowned. "I just remember seeing him there, and hearing you call his name. I thought…I thought, 'this isn't right, something's wrong.' Kouji meant something to me…"
"And? You recognized him, didn't you?"
"…No. I didn't. I just knew that the sight of Kouji in pain caused me pain. I didn't know he was my brother then. I…I didn't remember." Kouichi's eyes widened as he spoke. Takuya grinned in triumph.
"You see? Cherubimon did something! He blocked your memories somehow."
"But…how? And…wh…" Kouichi's eyes narrowed in sudden anger, and Takuya started slightly. With Kouichi glaring like that, his resemblance to Kouji was almost eerie. "He knew. He knew I wouldn't want to…and he twisted my memories…" Kouichi hissed a word that Takuya had never even imagined the quiet boy would even think.
"Kouichi…?" he asked tentatively. Kouichi turned away, his hands clenching into fists.
"After Kouji and I battled in Sakkakumon....I knew he was my brother. I knew and I was so confused…" Kouichi glared in the direction of the Rose Morning Star, seeming to Takuya to be attempting to incinerate the distant Celestial Digimon with his gaze alone. "'You can't expect me to fight my brother.' I told him that. I was confused. But I wasn't going to attack Kouji again." Kouichi's voice choked. "He showed me memories of my mom, ones where she was hurting, or sad…and made me believe it had been Kouji who had caused it."
Takuya gaped. He knew Cherubimon was evil, but still…that type of manipulation was low.
"Bastard," he said with feeling. "Using your memories against you like that."
Kouichi started slightly. He had forgotten Takuya was there, lost in his memories. Takuya stepped up to the other boy and placed a hand on his shoulder, smiling grimly.
"You see, it was Cherubimon who made you do those things. Once you remembered, you wanted to stop. Were going to. You don't have anything to be ashamed of."
Kouichi glanced away, his face still troubled. "But I let him use me, Takuya. I was weak. I let my anger and pain overwhelm me and-"
"You'd just lost your grandma, hadn't you?" Takuya said quietly. "And you'd just found out that you had a brother. You were probably still in shock or something. Even Kouji needed a while to get used to the idea. Heck, he's still getting used to it!"
Kouichi still wouldn't look at him. Takuya continued.
"But you know what bothered him more? It wasn't that he had never known about you. That his dad never told him he had a brother. It was the fact that Cherubimon was using you. Was manipulating you. That's what hurt him the most." Takuya could feel Kouichi's muscles relaxing the tiniest bit under his hand. Encouraged, he went on. "Kouji's been trying to figure out how he's supposed to act, just as much as you probably are. And maybe you should have fought back more, but that's not the point. You stood your ground when it mattered, against Cherubimon yesterday."
"You almost got fried just cause you were being loyal to your brother. That's some pretty strong evidence you're not Duskmon anymore. And you unlocked the Spirit's true power. You were meant to have the Spirits of Darkness, Kouichi. It just took longer for you because you had to fight through more to get them then me and the others did. I think that makes you stronger than any of us."
Kouichi's shoulders slumped. He didn't agree, but he didn't have the energy to argue with Takuya anymore.
"Come on, buddy. You've gotta be tired. The first time you evolve takes a lot out of you. Let's get some sleep."
Kouichi stood a moment longer, then shook his head slightly. "Alright," he said with a slight smile, "let's go back." Takuya grinned and led the way back to their camp.
As they both neared the camp again, Kouichi reached out and snagged Takuya's arm, stopping him.
"Yeah?" The brown-haired boy's eyes were curious and compassionate. Kouichi flushed lightly and looked away, mumbling to the ground.
"Thanks for coming to check on me."
Takuya grinned. He knew Kouichi was thanking him for more than that. Knew the other boy was thanking him for not allowing himself to be brushed off with a few words of false reassurance.
"That's what friends do, Kouichi," he said simply.