Date Started: September 4th, 2009
Date Finished: September 7th, 2009

Summary: A lone digimon known as Natsu is drawn towards Daisuke. Daisuke sets out to find her missing human partner, but isn't prepared for the other mysteries that surround this very human-like digimon.

Almost Human

Chapter 1 – First Emotions

The first thing Natsu noticed was that she had awakened in an unrecognisable world. Before her eyes were hundreds of unfamiliar faces walking the dimly lit streets; night had fallen upon this busy city. It was a startling sight. The blackness of the night sky was framed by illuminated street lamps and escaping lights from surrounding buildings. This was not the world she had expected to see. The vivid imagery that remained from her past life appeared as nothing more than a dull emptiness covered by a distorted haze. This world that specifically existed within her memories was a stark grey filled with a thick air and a voiceless sob that echoed near endlessly throughout the fallen ruins of a permanently deserted city. Despite being lit, the tall structures that emphasized the skyline were clearly not the ones she remembered. Even the cold, as familiar as it was, was not to the same degree she remembered it to be.

Her head cocked down one busy street, nearly colliding with a man talking into his phone. The man gave her an irritated look before moving on and returning his attention back to his conversation. With the man gone, she returned to her thoughts. Almost instantly, she felt the familiar presence nearby. She had called to him in a summer past. Now she felt him calling to her instead. She could no longer be bothered by the unfamiliarity of this startling new world.

Slowly, calmly, the digimon known as Natsu began her trek towards her new destination, towards Motomiya Daisuke, and towards familiarity. As long as he was here, the old world would remain unimportant.

It was an early Spring in Japan this year, and the student populous was currently experiencing their month-long break period before returning to full time studies the coming April. Daisuke, however, had graduated from high school a few mere weeks ago, and following that had fondly moved out of his parent's apartment. He had a part-time job at a local ramen shop, and as such had no intention of returning to study following the month's end. While it was customary for parents to only pay board for students studying away from home, Daisuke's family had still agreed to help pay for his expenses until his goal of running his own business finally took off.

He didn't consider being away from his family to be the same as living alone, though; not at all. After all, V-mon was with him. Their small single bedroom locale would only be a temporary fix until he could begin selling his own ramen noodles.

But Daisuke wasn't thinking about any of this now. While it happened to be the middle of March, it also happened to be the middle of the night as well. Both Chosen and Digimon lay in their futons, resting away the hardships of the previous day.

At least until a harsh knock woke them both from their slumber.

Daisuke let out a low groan as he turned to his side. He stared towards his alarm clock as his eyelids gradually opened. It was several hours past midnight and given another hour or two the sun would have risen. He shook his head to rid himself of this deprived state of sleep. He nudged V-mon's side as he got to his feet and sluggishly moved towards the door. He must have taken too long, because another round of knocking followed. The sound echoed along with his footsteps.

He opened the door and yawned loudly into the opening. He fully intended on showing off his irritation at the idea of entertaining guests at this hour.

"Motomiya Daisuke," the girl at the door spoke no sooner than she had appeared.

His brows ruffled in confusion at the newcomer. The girl in front of him was meek and slender, shorter than him by a full head. A woolen coat covered her features; it was loose, unbuttoned, and about one size too small. He could see the tawny shirt she wore underneath. She stared upwards at him, expectant of his reaction yet emotionless all the same, her brown eyes a mere shade or two lighter than the color of her hair. He took advantage of the silence and brought up an arm to rub the soreness from his eyes. He breathed in a few times, and then blinked a couple more as everything in his mind seemed to click into place. He didn't dare speak; not to say that he didn't try a few times, but with any moment that his mouth would try to open his voice would immediately cease.

"Nat-chan?" V-mon arrived and spoke for him.

The disbelief in Daisuke's eyes was all too evident. He looked her up and down, still trying to blink away the sleep that plagued him as he did so. His throat still refused to release any words. The summer of six years ago when he first met this girl was by now a distant memory, and he strained to recall all the details. He finally spoke, "Natsu… how did you get here?"

She shrugged helplessly and casually let herself inside. The woolen coat dropped to the floor behind her as she continued to walk right past the bewildered Chosen and his partner digimon. "I came to find you, Daisuke."

"Natsu," Daisuke said her full given name aloud again. He found himself unable to call her by the affectionate name Nat-chan at this time. He now clearly remembered that summer so long ago. He was able to recall that strange world she had pulled him into. And of course he remembered the eventual realization that she was in fact a digimon despite her very human appearance. "You look different."

His comment proved true. She had once been a young girl, looking no older than the twelve years old that he had been at the time of their first meeting. Now she looked to have aged by several years. He remembered her appearance clearly, for her tragic death was now gravely etched into his mind.

"Do I?" she commented offhandedly, "I don't feel any different."

Daisuke eyed her carefully. He remembered the bright smile she carried when he had first laid eyes on her all those years ago. At the time it seemed as if it had been engraved on her face. That smile was nowhere to be found. "Do you remember what happened the last time we met?" he asked.

She shrugged. "I remember you."

V-mon's brow ridges shot up in surprise. "What about me? Or Mimi? Or Wallace?"

She stared down at him for a full moment in silence, facing him in contemplation. She shook her head in response.

Daisuke frowned, rubbing at the back of his neck. He moved away from both Natsu and V-mon and continued to his desktop computer. He turned it on and spoke to the pair behind him as it booted. "The others are all probably asleep, but Mimi should still be awake. We should go see her in New York and see if Natsu can remember anything there."

"Koushiro will get mad at us for using the Digital World as a means of international travel," V-mon said, a deep frown of disapproval showing. While Koushiro wasn't the only one who disapproved of abusing the Digital Gate, he was definitely the one most vocal about it. All the Chosen expressed caution and concern with using the Gate for such originally unintended means.

"He'll get over it," Daisuke continued speaking as he worked on the computer. The system finished booting and the Digital Gate appeared on the screen. Daisuke spoke again, "Natsu, you just follow along with what V-mon and I do. We're going to enter the Digital World and then use it to get to New York."

Natsu nodded, and obediently watched as Daisuke raised his digivice to the computer monitor and vanished with a flash of light. V-mon moved towards the monitor next, and almost instantly following his partner into the Digital World. Natsu then followed suit for her own turn and took a few steps forward.

It was then that nothing happened.

She pressed forward, leaning towards the computer screen.

Nothing continued to happen.

She raised a hand and tapped against the glass.

The Digital World refused her entrance yet again.

The monitor finally flashed to life, bringing Daisuke and V-mon back beside her. Daisuke positioned himself at the computer desk, looking over at the Digital Gate. He frowned in confusion. "It's still open, so you should be able to get in. Give it another shot."

Natsu did, and once again the Digital World refused to let her pass.

"What a bother," V-mon complained.

"We can talk to Koushiro about this after," Daisuke said after a moment. He tried not to think about the possibilities that this could mean. "For now I'll give Mimi a call and have her come here."

He dug out his cell phone, and after a brief consideration on the cost of long distance calls, he opted to send a text message instead. Within a few short minutes the Digital Gate flashed to life and Mimi appeared in his living room. She gasped aloud at the sight she saw, and grinned brightly towards Natsu.

Mimi squealed. She pulled the other girl into a tight hug. "Nat-chan, I'm so happy to see you again!"

Natsu could only blink in confusion, at both the physical display and at the radiance the other girl carried. "Do I know you?"

Mimi broke the embrace, looked at the girl in front of her quizzically, and then finally turned to Daisuke for answers.

He frowned in response. "She doesn't seem to remember much."

Looking back at Natsu, Mimi smiled and tried again. "I can't stay for very long. We're having a family dinner in a few minutes. Tell me, Nat-chan, have you found your partner yet?"

"Partner?" Natsu voiced the word as if it carried a foreign meaning.

"We all thought her partner would be in New York." Daisuke mused. "I don't understand why she ended up here."

"I came here because you are here," Natsu said.

"How long have you been searching for me, Natsu?" Daisuke asked. "When did your digiegg hatch?"

fShe answered. "It hatched today."

Daisuke stumbled back in surprise. V-mon rushed towards him. "Daisuke, what should we do?"

"I think that part is pretty obvious," Mimi said. At the blank stares she received from the duo, she elaborated further. She nudged her hands towards Natsu's direction, "You two have to find her partner."

I believe that much emphasis has been put on my past life; certainly much more than necessary. The only constant I'm aware of between my past life and my current one is Motomiya Daisuke. Is that truly not enough?

The female Mimi appears to have known me. I am unsure why this fact is of consequence; I am also unsure why it unsettles me. There was a noticeable change in her features once she had realized she was little more to me than a stranger.

The meaning behind the expression in her eyes continues to elude me. I wish to know why that is so.

Natsu was left in the company of V-mon and Tentomon while Daisuke spoke with another human in a private room. They were guests visiting the residence of Daisuke's friend Izumi Koushiro. V-mon had taken the time to introduce her to Tentomon, and Tentomon had taken the time to give her a tour of the apartment.

There wasn't much to see, Natsu realized. It was a small living space, almost as small as Daisuke's, only slightly more organized. The living room and bedroom were uninteresting attractions, for Daisuke had them as well. What did interest her was the study, or rather, as Tentomon had referred to it, Koushiro's computer lab.

"Are you eager to find your partner, Nat-chan?" Tentomon broke into her thoughts.

"What is… a partner?" she asked at last.

V-mon answered. "A partner is the most wonderful thing in the world! They're a friend for life; they're always with you and would never leave you."

Natsu considered a moment. "Will I find someone like Daisuke?"

V-mon nodded. "Of course! This world is full of great humans!" he turned to the other digimon, "Isn't that right, Tentomon?"

She inched herself away from the pair, feeling uninterested in carrying further conversations with the other two digimon. She could hear the voices from the other room now, and they proved to be by far more attractive. She inched closer to listen in; they were speaking of the Digital Gate and the consequences of the female Mimi's arrival. It appeared that given the circumstances of Natsu's arrival, the action was deemed acceptable. After a few more exchanges it appeared that the two were in agreement that the female Mimi would be allowed to continue making visits. Natsu didn't quite know what to make of that, yet she certainly didn't seem bothered by the idea of seeing the other girl again.

"And you're certain she's a digimon?" the voice of the redhead interrupted her thoughts, "And that it's the same one from that summer?"

"I practically saw her die in my arms," Daisuke's voice broke in. She could feel the quiver in his tone. "It's definitely her. She even responds to the same name."

"It certainly is strange that she wasn't able to enter the Digital World."

"What do you think that means?" Daisuke asked.

There was a brief silence before Koushiro provided an answer. "It's very possible that while she may be made of data, that she isn't a digimon at all."

"So what is she?" Daisuke sounded tired.

"She might be code that developed along the same lines as Gennai," Koushiro said. "She might even be something so terrifying that the Digital World is doing whatever it can to make sure she stays out of it."

The sounds of Daisuke trying to laugh off the suggestion rang in her ears. "Now that's just silly."

"Daisuke-san," Koushiro spoke sternly, "You need to keep a close eye on her at all costs until we have a proper analysis. Right now, we do not know what she is."

She entered the room right then, revealing herself to the humans, and ignoring the calls to her from the two digimon behind her. Both Daisuke and Koushiro turned to face the intrusion; the latter flustered due to his recent words. She walked carefully and serenely towards Koushiro. Daisuke moved to step in between them, but before he had managed to even take a step, she came to a stop and began to speak.

"San," she wondered aloud. "Why did you call him so? What is Daisuke-san?" she placed extra emphasis on the last syllable.

Koushiro blinked with wide eyes, and swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. If Natsu was going to let herself be distracted from the topic of the Digital World by such a simple question, Koushiro surely wasn't going to be one to complain. He let out a dry cough as he formed his answer, "It – uh – it's a sign of respect to add san to a name."

"San is… respect for Daisuke?" she asked again.

Koushiro and Daisuke exchanged glances. Daisuke shrugged; Koushiro turned back to face her. He confirmed, "Yes. I respect Daisuke-san."

She nodded. "I, too, respect Daisuke-san."

Daisuke was at a loss. He didn't quite know what to do with his new houseguest. She had miraculously appeared at his doorstep a few nights ago, and had remained at his apartment ever since. He had a small TV with only a few basic channels, and she and V-mon would spend their days watching reruns of old romance dramas. All this was done while he was either contacting the other Chosen for help and advice, or working at his part-time job at the ramen shop. He was thankful that Mimi had offered to take care of Natsu's clothing and other more delicate needs.

Today she approached him as he returned home to the apartment. She stood, looking down at him from where he sat to take off his shoes. She spoke, "Daisuke-san, I wish to understand why we have made little progress towards finding me a suitable partner."

He blinked, looking up at her. The confusion on his face was most evident. Natsu didn't appear to be angry, or troubled, and she hadn't even let any hint out that she was eager to find a partner. A few days ago she hadn't even known what a partner was.

"I… I'm sorry?" he blabbered out. He couldn't understand what had brought this on.

"I did not request an apology." Natsu said.

Daisuke frowned. He stood up to full length and looked over the girl in front of him. Despite her attempts to remain calm and composed, he could tell there was a disappointment in her eyes. He nodded, "We'll find you a partner soon, I promise."

She nodded, and prepared to return back to her place beside V-mon in front of the television. Daisuke, however, wasn't quite done yet. He realized there had been a great error on his part these past few days. He had left Natsu alone and holed up in his apartment without a second thought. She and V-mon probably hadn't had a proper meal since her arrival. He recalled bringing home leftovers from the shop several times and little else beyond that.

It was time to slowly solve these problems. He smiled knowingly at his new determination. He stepped forward and grasped her arm within his to prevent her from fully turning around. He pointed to his dining table. "Have a seat right over there."

Natsu followed his gaze and moved to sit as requested, and Daisuke, still grinning, called towards his partner. "Enough lying around, V-mon; to the kitchen!"

The pair disappeared behind the walls, leaving Natsu waiting for their return. She patiently waited and over the sounds of boiling water, she could hear Daisuke's orders and V-mon's compliance.

"Flour," Daisuke would request, and V-mon would comply.

"Egg," Daisuke would request, and V-mon would comply yet again.

It occurred a few more times. Water; green pepper; onion; salt; celery; more flour! The better part of Natsu recognized this as cooking. Then curiosity got the better of her, and she stood from her seated position and began closing in towards the kitchen entrance.

She peeked inside, and saw Daisuke standing over the countertop. He expertly sliced the vegetables with a large cutting knife. He tossed them into a boiling pot, and then returned to slice the now-flat pile of dough as well.

"Hey now, no peeking," Daisuke grinned as he caught sight of her reflection against the blade of his knife. She immediately jumped backwards and returned to the table. She waited there, not so patiently this time, over the sounds of the kitchen activities.

Daisuke appeared from behind the curtain soon after. He carried with him a tray containing his newly prepared dish. Natsu watched with anticipation as he placed it down in front of her. V-mon took a seat next to her, holding a similar bowl with the same dish for himself.

"Give it a taste," Daisuke said, "And let me know what you think." His grin returned in full bloom. He announced spectacularly, "That's the Super Motomiya Ramen Soup Special. One day it'll be known as the best meal in all of Japan!"

"What's special about it?" Natsu wondered.

Daisuke raised a hand to cover his heart. "Nat-chan, I'm hurt. It's special in that I made it just for you. I wanted to cheer you up."

She casually took hold of the offered chop sticks, and gave the presented food a try. She felt her lips tingle at the sensation as she fully embraced the wonderful new taste.

Daisuke's brows rose eagerly in anticipation. "Well? How is it?" he asked.

Natsu smiled at him in return. "It is adequate."

I did not wish for Daisuke-san to help me find a partner. I am still uncertain as to why I had even requested it. All I knew was that I wished for Daisuke-san to spend more time with me; I suppose that could very likely be the reason for the act that I had put on. If we were to proceed with searching for my partner, we would have to be doing it together.

It was to my satisfaction that he agreed to my proposal. The nourishment he provided as a token of apology was also well documented as it certainly had a rather curious affect on me.

My cheeks had begun to ache. It was not an unwelcome feeling, but it was not something I had expected to occur. My lips felt as though they were thinning, and my cheekbones were rising to a level almost high enough to cover my eyes.

V-mon said I was smiling.

So this is what it feels like to experience happiness. I think I rather enjoy this sensation.

The search for Natsu's partner could not be done from behind closed doors. If they were to find her partner here in Japan, they would have to look past the boundaries of Daisuke's small and simple apartment. Crowded areas would probably be their best bet, and so on his day off Daisuke decided to take Natsu out into the city. It was time for her to explore the world beyond his four walls. V-mon sat like a child on his shoulders, and together the pair led Natsu throughout the busy downtown districts.

Natsu's smile remained in full as she gazed about her surroundings. She remembered little about her past life, but one of the few things she did recall were the images of an empty and distorted city covered in snowfall. It wasn't exceptionally warm here in Japan by any means, but it was without a doubt quite a few degrees above the world she remembered.

She grew fond of this new imagery: empty streets that were no longer empty, distorted buildings that proportionally shot straight up, snow that was either sparsely located or that had already begun to melt.

They were reaching a park now, and Natsu came to a stop as her eyes came to see a completely new image. There were tall trees of green, surrounded by vast fields of grass; children ran about playing and laughing. She vaguely remembered her own playful laughter with Daisuke in that other world, but the memory faded from her mind as soon as she had thought of it.

Daisuke and V-mon had continued moving. They were quite a few steps ahead, and hadn't yet noticed Natsu's pause in movement. She didn't think to rejoin them as she was met with an entirely new image all over again. She felt ensnared by the sight before her, and proceeded to take a few steps closer for a better view.

A man and a woman stood together at the outer edge of the greenery. The embrace they shared reminded Natsu of the one the female Mimi had once offered. The man had his arms around the woman, holding her close. She, in turn, rested her head and one of her palms against the flat of his chest. His arm briefly fell to her side, and then rose upwards as he cupped her chin with the free hand. She closed her eyes and welcomed him as he lowered his lips to hers.

Natsu stared at the couple as they shared their romantic moment. While she and V-mon had seen such acts on the television dramas, the full meaning behind such an expression still left her quite confused. Her smile had long left her; feeling uneasy, she turned away from the couple.

"Nat-chan!" Daisuke's voice carried over the crowd.

She hurried towards the sound of his voice. She clenched her eyes and ran, following Daisuke's words and at the same time trying to remove the couple from her mind. Her legs endured, yet still would not carry her towards Daisuke as fast as she pleaded them to. At last she came to a stop. She opened her eyes and raised them to where she knew Daisuke waited.

She saw Daisuke there, standing tall and confident. He had an arm slung over the shoulders of a companion female, holding her close. V-mon no longer sat on his shoulders. He was down by his partner's feet, talking with a fellow digimon. Daisuke smiled broadly at Natsu, and when he spoke the enthusiasm in his voice rang loudly in her ears.

"Nat-chan," Daisuke began, "I'd like you to meet Yagami Hikari."

Natsu met his gaze with a stoic expression. She found herself unable to coherently reply. Her lips briefly parted, yet no words were released.

Daisuke seemed to frown, almost disappointed in the reaction he was getting. He began to speak, "Nat-chan, Hikari is…"

He was cut off by a loud scream. The screeching of several halting cars followed immediately after it. Daisuke's face intensified as he scanned the now panicking crowd. The female, Hikari, looked down towards the two digimon at their feet. She beckoned, "Tailmon?"

The white feline nodded, and positioned into a battle stance. "It's without a doubt a rogue digimon. We'll need to send it back to the Digital World."

There was a loud clang from behind the group. Natsu turned towards the source as the creature in question emerged from the surrounding traffic. V-mon immediately sprung forth, "It's just a Kentarumon; we can take 'em."

Daisuke grunted. "I don't have a laptop with me."

Hikari frowned. "I'll find one we can use. Tailmon, you stay here and help Daisuke and V-mon."

"You can count on me, Hikari." Tailmon said. She turned to V-mon, "Let's keep him tamed until Hikari comes back."

Natsu stared, feeling left out, as the two digimon ran forth into battle. Daisuke raised his digivice towards his partner, and V-mon was engulfed in a brilliant white. When he emerged from the light, he had increased in both size and mass. And with the pair of wings at his back he took off into the sky.

Daisuke ran ahead to join the frenzy. "Let's go XV-mon!"

XV-mon circled in the air around the rogue digimon, while Tailmon kept him busy on the low ground. They would attack at times when the Kentarumon was occupied with the other. The cries of Neko Punch and X Laser could be heard echoing down along the streets.

At last Natsu could see the female Hikari returning with a portable computer in her hands. She could see the relief on both Daisuke and the female Hikari's faces as XV-mon flew downwards and lifted the Kentarumon off the ground. He carried the protesting digimon towards the laptop, and tossed him towards it.

For a brief moment Natsu could feel the joy rising up in her again at the thought of the large digimon falling on top of the female Hikari and flattening her against the ground. This feeling was quickly shot down at the sight of the large beast disappearing into the computer monitor. It was reminiscent of seeing Daisuke and V-mon fading into the Digital World.

Once the Kentarumon had vanished, Hikari clasped the laptop shut. She ran off to give the laptop back to a nearby bystander before once again returning to the scene.

Daisuke ran up to her eagerly. With a wide smile, he lifted her into the air by the waist and twirled her around before bringing her in for a hug. "We did it! We actually did it! Haven't fought off a digimon in three years now, but we've still got it!"

The female Hikari giggled in his embrace, "We sure do."

Natsu bit against her lip. The display in front of her was very much alike to that shown by the couple she had earlier witnessed. This time a different feeling had replaced her earlier uneasiness.

"Daisuke," Natsu spoke as she walked towards them, "I request a similar display of affection."

Daisuke blinked, releasing Hikari from his grasp as he turned to face her. "What do you mean, Nat-chan?"

"An embrace," Natsu told him. The emotionless expression never left her face. "Embrace me as you did the female Hikari."

XV-mon landed near Hikari and devolved. Tailmon soon joined them and the three watched as Daisuke stumbled a few steps forward. He stood in front of Natsu, fidgeting slightly as he pulled her inwards with an awkward hug.

Despite being held in Daisuke's arms, Natsu couldn't shake away the persistent feeling. The disgust in her voice was evident to her both discomfort and her displeasure at the current situation.

"Why?" she shouted in frustration. "Why am I not smiling? Why does this not make me happy?"

As soon as I found joy and happiness, it was just as swiftly taken from me. The male and female companions I had earlier encountered were happy – I was rather curious at that, for it was apparent this was a happiness that was very much different from the one I had earlier experienced. The calm, accepting face the female carried expressed her bliss and satisfaction with the act she was participating in.

I had seen similar performances with V-mon on the television. More often than not it usually resulted in what V-mon described as a 'happy ending.' This meant that everything the pair experienced after the end of their intimate performance would be happiness.

As I watched the human companions, I became aware of how much I wanted this happiness for myself. This awareness resulted in imagining myself being in that woman's position.

My reaction to such was difficult to explain. The beat in my chest chose to intensify and an internal heating began to form underneath the outline of my face. As a result my breathing became difficult and a strange moist substance began collecting over the palms of my hands.

It frightened me, and I immediately wished to return to Daisuke.

The female known as Hikari was an unexpected occurrence. My one want was to ask what this female was to Daisuke, but I was unable to express the question into words while she was still there. I will decide to ask V-mon about this at a later time.

As an aside, I would like to state that Daisuke had indeed provided an answer towards my inquiry as to why I was unable to smile. I am not fond of this revelation, but I will state it here: I have apparently learned the expression of anger. It is an unpleasant feeling and Daisuke has decided to remedy the situation immediately.

... I wish to one day find my own happy ending.

Chapter Notes:
- Natsu is a character introduced in the Digimon 02 Drama CD "Natsu e no Tobira," if you'd like to read more on Natsu's introduction I have a prose version of the Drama written which can be found on my author profile page titled "The Doorway to Summer."
- The Digital Gates are indeed capable of use for international travel. One could enter the Digital World from Japan and exit into New York, as shown when the Chosen sent Palmon to New York for Christmas.
- san and chan are honorifics commonly used in everyday Japanese speech.