Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon. Toei Animation does.
Ch. 27 How To Save A Life
The world of the waking wasn't kind to Tai. When he first came to his senses, he felt like his chest had been burned raw. Pain still lingered all over his body though it had dimmed to a numb dull. His forehead felt heavy and hot, even as cold gusts of wind whipped past his face. Tai willed his eyelids to open.
He found himself high in the air, feet dangling over a vast expanse of water below, the upper half of his body tucked firmly under a strong, muscular arm encased in silver armor.
He felt the fine spray of moisture hit his face and ran his tongue over dry lips, licking the salt off them. The ocean. He was flying above an ocean.
Tai groaned shutting his eyes again. "Why am I not dead?" he managed to croak out. His voice sounded funny—distant and muffled—as if he had cotton balls in his ears.
He shook his head trying to clear his mind into focus. He winced as a dull pounding ache burst across his forehead. Ok, bad idea.
The last thing he remembered was getting shot. In the chest. At close range. You didn't just survive things like that, he knew.
"Do not dare to pester me with questions on how your human anatomy works," BlackWarGreymon thundered. "I do not know nor do I care."
"You cared enough to rescue me," Tai ventured groggily.
"This is not a rescue. Consider thanking your friends for the situation you find yourself in." BlackWarGreymon sounded infuriated.
Tai couldn't help crack a grin at that even if his facial muscles screamed at him for doing so. "Gave you a rough time, did they?"
"They impeded me right when my destiny was within reach. I took it upon myself to show them it would be beneficial for them not to do so again if they value your life. I will not rest until vengeance is met. I will end it by own claws: this wretched existence of mine."
Tai struggled to ward off the spell of dizziness. His chest seared something terrible. From his fuzzy memories, he had almost fallen off a building, gotten shot at, and been branded a terrorist alien sympathizer by the mass population of Japan. And apparently been abducted a second time by a Digimon who insisted on continuously bemoaning the fates and being denied his destiny upon the ears of anyone who would listen—whether they wanted to or not.
"Fuck destiny," Tai said.
He felt BlackWarGreymon stiffen in surprise.
"No, really, it's over-rated. All that pondering over your place in the universe and for what greater purpose you were put here for—it's enough to drive anyone mad. And like, if you actually do figure out your destiny, you're just burdened down with all the responsibility that comes with it," Tai was aware he was babbling, but he figured he probably had a mild concussion of some kind. "You know you'd be a lot happier if you just enjoyed life as it comes. What you need is—"
"If you say 'friends' I will drop you into the water," BlackWarGreymon growled.
"Was gonna say vacation," Tai muttered. "Yeah, a nice, relaxing vacation lying in the warm sand on the beach in the sun sipping some fruit drink… ugh, I'm making myself colder." He shivered as the chilling wind blew past his clothes and dug into skin.
"What were you doing with Oikawa?" BlackWarGreymon demanded. "To what end did you hope to achieve siding with your enemy?"
"What, you didn't listen to any of our interview where we were trying to sway people's minds about Digimon being evil alien invaders before you decided to come crash the party and throw all our effort into the garbage?" Tai tsk-ed. Some far corner of his mind was telling him now was not the time to bring out his sarcasm, but Tai rather felt he was entitled to some lip after all the crap he'd been through recently. "What do you have against Oikawa anyway that would make you attack a news station to get to him?"
"That is my business, not yours," BlackWarGreymon rumbled, his grip around Tai's middle tightening involuntarily and Tai hissed as he felt the bruises form. "All you need to know is that your friends are going to help me find him. And then he will meet his own destiny by my claws."
"You know I'm all for finding Oikawa and dishing out some well-needed karma, but let's tone down the death threats," Tai said. "A couple of good punches to his face, that's all the back-stabbing creep needs." He fingered the Mega's armor on his forearm lightly. "You might want to take off your vambraces first so that it's fair though. Those claws on the end could poke someone's eye out."
"The man left you for dead on the beam and you do not desire revenge?" BlackWarGreymon scoffed. "This is why you children do not win your battles. You rather let your enemy live than crush them into dust."
"If everyone thought like that, the world would be a terrible place. I'm not going to stoop to Oikawa's level. Then I'd be no better than him," Tai proclaimed. His stomach gave a sickening lurch and he slumped over the Mega's arm with a miserable moan.
"What? What is it? Why is your skin color green like that?"
Tai would have laughed at how alarmed BlackWarGreymon sounded just then; at how he managed to get the Mega to falter mid-flight, but he could barely think straight past the waves of nausea that were overwhelming his senses.
BlackWarGreymon seemed to realize what was happening a split second before Tai felt the bile climbing the back of his throat. The world turned on its side as he found himself dangling upside-down by one leg that the Mega had a firm grip on, and put entirely new meaning behind the phrase "feeding the fishes".
Tai had to admit, he did feel immensely better after the queasiness had subsided, even with the sour taste lingering in his mouth and the blood rushing to his head from being strung upside-down like a ham bone left out to dry.
"You humans are repugnant!" BlackWarGreymon shouted, holding Tai out from him as far as his arm could reach. "To think you can attain a higher stench than what you already do…"
"You gonna throw me in the water?" Tai asked calmly.
"Don't think I'm not tempted!" BlackWarGreymon swore shaking him for good measure. "But your fragile human body wouldn't be able to handle it. You're no use to me dead."
"I'm touched," Tai said. "Maybe there's a less bumpier part of DarkBroodingmon that can carry me…?" He stared pointedly at the Mega's unprotected back, the portion where his shield split in half to form wings.
BlackWarGreymon's eyes narrowed into golden slits. Tai was sure he was going to be dunked in icy water at any second. The Mega raised his arm, bringing Tai up to his eye level. "Don't touch the horns," came the cool warning before he was abruptly swung over and dropped onto his back.
Limbs floundering, Tai grappled for a handhold—anything, not the horns though—and curled his fingers into the yellow tufts of BlackWarGreymon's mane that poked through his helmet. He tensed, waiting to be called out on his mistake, but no threats were issued, so perhaps this was alright.
Or the Mega was biding his time until they were on land to exact punishment.
Tai shivered, partly from the bitter cold, and sneezed, spraying droplets of mucus right over the back of BlackWarGreymon's helmet.
They flew in silence for several moments, until BlackWarGreymon shattered it.
"The amount of fluids you humans possess in your tiny bodies is frightening."
The moonlight spread its pale fingertips down, casting everything it touched in a misty shade of silver. Groves of trees, stretching their bare branches to the night sky, were illuminated in an ethereal glow. The lake rippled as a gust of wind skated across the surface, distorting the moon's reflection off its dark waters. In the distance, the slope of Mt. Fuji rose protectively over the frosted lands below. In the clearing, the small cabin sat quiet and still, with only a faintest flicker of light shining through its windows now and them to show that it was occupied.
"For the last time, don't swing those flashlights around so much. We don't want anybody to know we're here."
"How am I supposed to see otherwise?"
There was a loud crash followed shortly by Davis cursing as he fell over something in the dark.
"Sorry, my fault," Davis said out of breath. "I tripped."
"Yeah, on meeeee," came DemiVeemon's tired whine.
"Don't be running underfoot like that. What are you doing down there anywhere?"
"Dropped my sweet bean bun."
There was a soft squishing noise a few feet away. In the glow from a cell phone, a red tennis shoe with a gold star emblazoned on the heel was lifted up to reveal a sticky, red paste oozing from the sole. "Found it." Mimi's voice sounded slightly sickened.
"My sweet bun—noooo!"
A dull thunk was heard as a heavy object was placed on top of the small dining table. "Found the lantern," T.K. said as he flicked a switch on it, filling the room with harsh, white light.
"Too bright!" Matt hissed squinting.
The battery lantern dimmed as T.K. turned the dial to low. It still cast enough light to shed upon the incrimidating object lying next to it: a sleek, black gun.
As far as guns went, it didn't look like any of the ones used in action movies or police dramas. The grip was too long, the barrel too wide, and the muzzle square, not round. The trigger was not where it was supposed to be, not underneath, but above, right before the barrel elongated. There was a neon yellow patch on the middle part of the barrel that had the weapon type and manufacturer's name scratched off. All in all, it looked like some futuristic blaster that shot out laser beams; something that looked like it belonged in science-fiction, not real life.
The twin probes attached to conductive wires that trailed out of the cartridge were very real.
They had decided to make for the Ishida cabin in the mountains. It was vacant and secluded, and Izzy figured spending one night there would be alright. No more than that though. He wasn't sure how fast the government would be in tracking down the list of people who were daily associated with Tai, but better be safe than sorry.
The children had fallen into an opulent silence. No one tried to make conversation, each reflecting quietly the events that had just occurred and troubled ponderings on what tomorrow would bring.
Angemon shot up without warning, heaving giant, gasping breaths, staff at the ready and wings stretched taunt, his mind still locked in the final moments of his last memory before he had been knocked out. It was only when T.K. called out to him did he seem to realize his surroundings, only then did his posture relax and he lowered his staff.
It was only then did the children see what he held in his free hand: a weapon that was not a befitting image for an angel to bear.
A weapon whose twin probes he had plucked out of Taichi Kamiya's chest as he lay unmoving, unresponsive on the beam.
Kari hadn't uttered one syllable, her face oddly blank, as Angemon knelt before her on one knee, head bowed, wings trembling, and begged her forgiveness for not acting sooner.
It was only after, in the terrible silence that followed, did the sounds of her ragged wheezing, her soft sobs breaking through her choked efforts to breathe, seep into the empty spaces of Imperialdramon's shield, filling it with anguish.
And even all that still had not given enough cause for WarGreymon to break out of his trance-like state.
"Is it really alright to just leave him out there?"
Matt looked up. Ken was standing by the window looking outside. WarGreymon stood on the shore of the lake, where Imperialdramon had landed and deposited everyone, still as ever before. Frost had formed over his armor from the frigid temperature
Davis snorted. "You wanna try and drag him inside?"
They had only tried once before. Gabumon had reached out, intending to lay a comforting claw, speak some words of condolence, and attempt to convince him to come inside out of the cold. Before his claw made contact, before any words were spoken, WarGreymon had issued one order in a dangerous tone: "Don't."
His eyes had never opened once the entire time.
They had left him alone after that.
"Why hasn't he de-digivolved yet?" Izzy wondered out loud.
Matt glanced at Patamon who was curled up, dozing fitfully on a pillow in his dad's armchair; at DemiVeemon who was still crying about his squashed sweet bun; at the rest of the children's partners, all in their Rookie or lower stages, who were strewn out over the floor and furniture of the small cabin.
He was too tired to think too hard about it.
"He shot him." Yolei's eyes were wide and overly-bright in the dim light as she stared down at the gun on the table. "The bastard actually shot… why?"
It was Ken who replied. "Well, if we ever had made it to the roof in time or took it into our heads to capture Oikawa and get some answers, this certainly would provide an ample distraction, now wouldn't it?"
"Distraction?" Matt asked, hearing the cool fury in his voice. "Are you saying Tai was shot as a distraction?"
"Mmmm, perhaps." A mask had dropped over Ken's face. His hooded blue eyes were emotionless pools of ice. "It worked, didn't it? Now the military and government are hot on our heels and Oikawa can go about doing whatever it is he's planning without us interfering."
"They're looking for him too," Yolei pointed out.
"One man hiding in the shadows is harder to find than a dozen runaway kids with their monster friends," Ken said tonelessly.
Matt was beginning to hate these prolonged silences that occurred periodically. The anxiety weighed down heavily, making the tiny cabin feel even more suffocating than it already was.
"Grandfather and mother didn't know about Upamon," Cody said. The boy was sitting on the couch, spine straight and both feet on the ground—a picture perfect posture, hands around his partner in his lap. "They must be worried. I'm not supposed to stay out this late. Can I call them?"
The pitch of his voice was normal. He sounded calm. It was only his way his hands trembled that betrayed him.
God, Matt thought as realized. How old is he? Eight, nine?
Cody was much more mature than T.K. had been at his age, but he was still just a child, the youngest among them. And it had been a very daunting day.
"Sorry, but we can't call anyone," Izzy said. "The moment we do, the nearest cell phone tower will pick up our signal and notify anyone who's looking for us that we're in the vicinity." He threw down his cell phone in disgust. "These things are homing beacons, the same as Digivices. Don't use the D-Terminals either, just in case."
"So, what are we going to do?" Yolei asked.
"Get a good night's sleep," Matt said, because really there was nothing else to do. "We'll all have clearer heads in the morning."
T.K. had gotten the woodstove burning. The children camped around it, swaddled in blankets and sleeping bags pulled out from the small supply closet. The heat from the fire washed over everyone in a comforting wave of warmth, but it was a long time before anyone actually fell asleep.
His fingers had gone red with numbness. His ears and cheeks were burning and his nose felt raw. His body racking with non-stop shivers, Tai hunkered down as low as he could go on BlackWarGreymon's back and tried to shield himself from the blustery weather. The Mega's helmet did an adequate job of blocking most of the harsh wind, however Tai could not hide from all the elements.
They had been flying for a long time, at some point during which, it had begun to snow, first in fine mist of sleet, then in a thick, fluffy white cloud of snowflakes that brought with it a cold that burrowed into the very marrow of Tai's bones. His lungs burned every time he drew in the chilly air—he thought it might be possible to breathe out ice if he tried hard enough. Tai pressed his face into the frosty mane of BlackWarGreymon, seeking any warmth he could find.
He could feel their altitude dropping, the wind dying down, as the Mega began to descend. He felt their landing a few seconds later, but stayed in the same position, too tired and worn out to move.
"You may desist your trivial clinging on my part," BlackWarGreymon said
"T-think my f-fingers are f-frozen," Tai mumbled through chattering teeth, not bothering to lift his head.
He heard a scoffing noise and then felt himself being plucked by the back of his coat; his fingers that were tangled in the Mega's mane ripped away from their hold, causing BlackWarGreymon to release a grunt of discomfort.
"T-told y-you," Tai said.
BlackWarGreymon deposited him on the snowy ground non-too gently. Tai gathered his strength and tried to stand only to fall back down, his muscles weakened and too stiff to move. Eyes watering at the cold, Tai looked around, squinting through the snowfall.
Wherever they were, it wasn't anyplace near Tokyo. Rural countryside surrounded them, from the trees dotting the hillside they were on, to the snow-covered rice fields below, to the mountains in the distance.
"W-why'd we c-come here?" Tai asked.
"No reason. Just a suitable stopping point," BlackWarGreymon rumbled. "I intended to go further, but your frail human physique has obviously reached its limit."
Crossing his arms over his chest in both anger and for warmth, Tai mustered enough energy to raise his chin and glare watery at him. "For a g-guy who proc-claims it's adv-vent-tageous-s for me to s-stay alive, you could've p-picked a s-smarter place l-like one that has s-shelter from the c-cold!"
BlackWarGreymon cocked his head to one side, considering him for a moment. Then with a subtle flick of his right claw, a molten ball of red-hot fire ignited in it.
Tai scooted backwards in the snow, wondering if it was too late to say sorry.
BlackWarGreymon cupped his other claw around it—the fire ball flaring and pulsating wildly—and flung it outwards. It whizzed over Tai's head with a loud hum—he felt the intense heat as it passed, his mind vaguely noting that the Terra Destroyer was significantly smaller, about the size of a baseball.
A baseball that hit the frozen earth with the strength of a small meteorite. The ground exploded, snow went flying into the air, and the entire hillside quaked at the impact. A gaping crater, steam sizzling from the edges, lay dug out into the body of the land not twenty feet from where Tai sat.
Adrenalin coursing into his veins, Tai scrambled up and stood on shaky, weakened legs. "Dead or alive, make up your mind," he said warily, stumbling back from the Mega and his rapid mood swings.
BlackWarGreymon stalked silently towards him, the snow crunching heavily under his feet. Tai found himself pushed back at the edge of the crater. Tottering unsteadily on the rim, he chanced a glance backwards. The crater was wide but not too deep; the soil had been blackened by the blast and even now, the edges glowed faintly red.
He turned his head back to BlackWarGreymon to find one set of thick, sharp claws a hairsbreadth away from his chest. BlackWarGreymon smirked—a genuine smirk full of dark amusement—and pushed.
Tai let out an indignant shout as he toppled into the crater, rolling over and over until he slid to the bottom. He found himself sprawled out on his back and pushed himself upright, his elbows digging into the soft earth at his motion—the deliciously warm earth that had captured the heat from the Terra Destroyer's blast. The air at the base of the crater swirled pleasant and temperate around him. The frost on his clothes had already melted into beads of water.
He stared up at BlackWarGreymon who had landed before him, aware that his jaw was hanging open in shock.
"I recall having a mutual feeling of confusion when your Agumon aided me after I first passed through the gateway," BlackWarGreymon said. "He had some misguided notion that it was 'the right thing to do.'" The Mega's eyes flashed dangerously. "Don't be misled. I am doing this for my own benefit, not because of any conscience or petty emotion."
Tai could only nod, his mind completely void of any snippy quips at the moment.
BlackWarGreymon surveyed his handiwork. "Does it suit your needs? I would hate to be inconvenienced by you dying on me before dawn."
"What happens at dawn?" Tai hated asking, but he was curious.
"You make contact with your friends to let them know you are alive and well. I suspect they will be quite eager to have you remain that way."
"Let me guess: or you'll maul some body parts off me, right?" Tai asked dryly. "Ever consider just asking us for help? We have a bone to pick with Oikawa too, you know. How can you still think of us as your enemy when we share the same goal?"
"You children's goal and mine are completely different," BlackWarGreymon growled. "The fact that you are too blind-sided by your own naivety to see it merely proves all your extensions of comradery a futile effort."
A giant claw reached down and snagged him by the scruff of his coat, hoisting him up and dragging him over to the Mega's side. "So you don't get any ideas of fleeing," BlackWarGreymon said shoving him back down.
"Oh yeah, you read my mind," Tai muttered. "My brilliant escape plan is to run off into a blizzard with no food, no water, no protective gear, and freeze to death. Then I'll come back as a ghost and haunt you until I drive you insane."
"It is nice to know you have already prepared how to spend your immortality after your shell of flesh crumbles into dust. I suppose the reason all you humans are reckless in your decision-making is because you take your soul for granted."
Tai thought he might have just unwittingly stepped on a land mine.
"Uhhhh… is this about your not having a heart thing?" Tai asked. Honestly, he'd rather have the Mega attempt on his life again than where he thought this conversation was going.
BlackWarGreymon had his head turned upwards towards the night sky. The snow was falling more softly now, the tall evergreen trees lining the hillside gave them some respite from the flurries with their thick-needled branches.
"Do you know why I wish to find my destiny? So I can have some purpose, some reason for my existence. Because once I am gone, I am no more and never will be again." Golden eyes turned their gaze down on him and Tai thought he caught a glimpse of what might be sorrow before BlackWarGreymon hardened his expression. "Your Agumon was of the opinion there was no reason for anyone's existence if they were alone, that everyone's destiny was connected. Even when we last fought, he continued to pour his mad ramblings of some human's ill-conceived philosophy into my ear. 'Thinking is the talking of the soul' so surely I must have a heart."
Tai shut his eyes as a dead weight settled in his stomach. The fates really must hate him.
"Agumon… told you about Plato?" He asked slowly, stifling the urge to laugh hysterically.
"Do you know how aggravating it is to find your path to your goal obstructed by someone who proclaims vehemently he is not your enemy, yet he crosses claws with you anyway, and goes on to give you a full lecture on the three parts of the soul some long dead human defended that everyone possessed?"
Tai hated that he knew exactly which part of Plato's philosophy BlackWarGreymon was talking about. Plato's three elements of the psyche: the appetite representing bodily comforts and desires to be obtained; the spirited which was the part that loved challenges, victory, and embracing power; and the mind which guided and analyzed each decision a person made, trying to gauge the best option.
Tai could just imagine BlackWarGreymon's frustration if he had all that shoved in his face mid-battle. It was bad enough trying to memorize it for school.
"I can understand why you crashed through that window," he said flatly. He thought about doing that a lot in Literature class too.
"When we were on that mountain that time he ran away for your own safety so he claimed, he talked of this Plato there as well, about how souls go on even when the body dies. Then he fell asleep before he could finish so I can only assume he tried to make up on the topic more recently."
"He told you bed-time stories about Plato?" Tai was horrified. That would have been a nightmare. "I am so sorry."
"He seems adamant on convincing me that I possess a heart, a soul. Perhaps he thinks I believe thus I will mend my wild ways and become allies with you children," BlackWarGreymon sneered. "No doubt he has painted some wretched picture in his head of us all on a picnic eating lemon pies and singing nonsensically about friendship. It's probably what you children intend to do if you succeed in your mission of saving the world, of obtaining the reality of humans and Digimon co-existing in harmony. Is it really that simple for you children to find happiness? That you have left your mark on the world and people will remember you and what you did long after your time has passed?"
Tai was silent. He didn't think any of the Digidestined had thought that far or too deep on the subject. They were all going along in the motions, had been ever since that day at camp when they had been drawn into that tidal wave of rainbow light. They had done their duty without much question and been called saviors of the Digital World in the end. They hadn't done it to be remembered or to find purpose in their existence. They were kids, their mindset quite naïve and influenced by all modern culture's exuberance for heroes. They had been doing it in a large part exactly because, as Agumon put it, 'it was the right thing to do'.
Tai rubbed his chest absent-mindedly—it still stung—and wondered how much agonizing BlackWarGreymon did every day over destiny and his true purpose.
"Do you think killing Oikawa will make your existence meaningful? Do you really believe that's your destiny?" he asked quietly.
BlackWarGreymon raised one arm and flexed his claws staring hard as if imagining someone impaled and squirming on them. "If to no other end, it will at least bring me satisfaction," he said darkly.
Oikawa had created Mummymon and Arukenimon, Tai remembered. Arukenimon had created BlackWarGreymon from one hundred Control Spires. The Mega must have decided to hold Oikawa as his enemy.
Wizardmon chanting, charging Oikawa with fatal intent.
Oikawa and that flash of blue in his dark eyes that had seemed so empty and dead.
Tai dropped his head into his hands. He was so tired, he couldn't think straight.
"Sleep," BlackWarGreymon rumbled from somewhere above him. "You'll need your strength tomorrow."
Tai turned sideways and lay down in the soil without protest, its warmth creeping over him like a heavy blanket. "Don't be so hair-triggered and fire at the first thing that moves in the dark. It might be me taking a bathroom break," he mumbled, slowly succumbing to welcoming veil of slumber.
His last glimpse of BlackWarGreymon was of the Mega standing straight and tall against the snowy sky, a dark gargoyle of the night.
The darkness was brightening, becoming gray. At first he thought it was the slow rise of morning light. Then he blinked and suddenly there was color everywhere. The blue sky encompassed everything in its folds: the white clouds, the golden circle shedding down long rays of sunlight.
He lifted his face towards the brightness, basking in its warmth. He felt a soft breeze waft over him, then rush to play in the leaves of the branches that hung low over his basket. They swayed to and fro in the gentle wind, brushing their limbs invitingly across the top of his basket's brim.
He breathed in deeply, shivering in excitement. He could smell the rich soil of the earth and hear the hushed lapping of waves from the water outside. He wanted to see it all. He wanted to feel it. But the thought of leaving the warm, safe haven of his basket frightened him. The excitement ebbed from him slowly, doubt taking its place.
Why did he want to go out there anyway? He didn't know what was out there, not really. He would be swallowed up, swallowed up into the never-ending blueness of the sky. It was so big… and he was so small.
He hunkered down in his basket, scared, miserable and alone. So alone…
A faint humming drifted in the air. At first he thought it was the wind whistling through the trees, but no, there was a definite melody… and words…
"…become a happy butterfly… ride on the glittering wind…"
He strained his ears trying to hear, but it was so far away, he only caught bits and pieces.
"… I'll come to see you soon… it's best to forget unnecessary things…"
Footsteps trotted upon the ground outside. The words became clearer, sounding closer.
"I'll wonder if we'll reach the skies! Wow, wow, wow, wow!"
He trembled in his basket in fear of the unknown, half longing to cry out and add his voice to the song, and half of him wishing never to be discovered.
The footsteps were drawing away and with them the song was fading.
"I don't even know what my plans are…"
Soon they would be both gone, the song and its owner. And he would be alone again.
He opened his mouth without thinking. "C-c-come b-back!" His voice came out nothing more than a squeak. It sounded nothing like it should have, although he could not recall what it had sounded like before.
Another set of footsteps hurried over. These did not belong to the one who had sung the song—the gait was different. The first pair had been light with a skip between each step. These were heavier and more shuffled.
He edged towards the back of his basket, trying to blend his best into the darkness, the darkness that was so comforting like an old friend…
An orange, reptilian face popped over the side. Nostrils flared wildly in excitement and green eyes sparkled happily. "I found him! He's over here!"
The lighter pair of footsteps came closer and closer and then another head appeared next to the orange dinosaur's. That face, he knew that face, it was the same yet different, much more rounded with baby fat still clinging to his cheeks. The wild hair struck a familiar chord deep inside him, brushing against the edges of his memory, but it was as faint and fleeting as the wind itself when he tried to look closer. Brown eyes widened in delight as they gazed down at him. Try as he might, he could not place a name with the face. Only one word flashed across his mind: human.
"Hey, little guy," the human boy cooed, reaching small hands into his basket, into his safe haven. As alarming as that should have been, he didn't feel threatened at all, especially when those hands cupped around him so very gently and lifted him out from his cocoon of darkness and into the sunlight. "We've been looking for you a long time now!"
"We're so happy to have finally found you!" the orange dinosaur—an Agumon—said.
"Was I lost?" he heard himself ask. His voice sounded high-pitched and confused.
"So lost!" the human boy laughed.
"I don't remember getting lost," he said sullenly, not sure if he liked being laughed at.
"Don't worry, everyone gets a little lost one way or another," the Agumon told him.
"But it's ok. You're not alone anymore," the human boy said, running his fingertips across the top of his head soothingly. "You've got us now."
The hands brought him close to the human's chest and he cuddled against it instinctively, relaxing at the steady, rhythmic beating he could hear faintly within.
"What is that?" he murmured drowsily.
Something was lifted slightly above his head, something he hadn't noticed before: a strange contraption that had been hanging loosely around the boy's neck.
"These are my goggles. They're magic!" the human boy boasted as he tugged them up around his head where they settled in front of his eyes like two fine see-through clouds.
The Agumon snorted at the human's words and the boy puffed out his cheeks in a huff. "Well, they are! My dad says so and he's always right!"
"No, not those," he heard himself say impatiently, nuzzling closer to the boy's chest and that wondrous sound. "That. Thump-thump, thump-thump," he mimicked.
"That's just my heart, silly!" the human boy giggled.
"I want it."
"But it's mine."
"I want it."
It felt good here, safe like his basket and warm like the sun. The blue sky did not seem as wide or infinite as it had before. He thought he might like to see what lay out there after all. As long as he wouldn't be alone. As long as he could stay here like this.
"You won't leave, will you?" he asked.
"Never!" the human boy gasped. "I've been waiting for you. Why would I leave?"
"You've been waiting for me?" he echoed. "Why?"
"Because we're partners!" the boy chirped as if that explained everything.
The word made something splinter inside him, the last shreds of fear and doubt—they were driven out in a breathless rush and a wild, blazing joy was filling him to the core, even though he still did not quite understand.
"Partners," he said. "What is that?"
"Partners are always together," the Agumon explained. "And will be, forever."
"Forever," he whispered in awe. "That's big—like the sky."
He looked up at the human, his partner, who was beaming a wide gap-toothed smile from ear to ear, and snuggled back against the warmth of his chest, listening to the lullaby of the boy's heart, and made a quiet sound of contentment.
"We can share it if you want," the boy offered.
Everything was right in the world now. He was home.
BlackWarGreymon jolted into wakefulness.
Quite shaken, he looked around. It was early morning judging by the light grey sky casting everything in shades of silver. The snow had stopped falling sometime in the night and some had managed to float past the tree's protective foliage down into the crater, whose warmth had diminished greatly. A thin dusting of snow covered both his and the boy's forms.
The boy who somehow had ended up huddled against his side as if seeking shelter from the cold. The fog from his breath was visible in the crisp air as were the miniscule trembles of his body. He could feel every tiny shiver from this close proximity, felt the chill from the earth beneath them creeping out.
Reaching out one claw, he pressed it against the ground and shot a pulse of hot energy into the soil. He felt the warmth slowly return. The boy slumped against his side sighed in his sleep and relaxed.
BlackWarGreymon frowned. He was sitting down. He did not remember sitting down. He did not remember going to sleep. He didn't think it was possible for him.
What was that vision he had just seen?
"What are dreams?" he had asked the boy's Agumon not too long ago.
"Dreams are wonderful things. You can go anywhere, be anything you want."
Dreams were spiteful, cursed things for they made you yearn for something impossible, dug up something you had buried deep inside that you did not even know you desired and dangled it tauntingly in front of you forever out of reach, and then waking up was all that much crueler.
The Digidestined ate their breakfast in a somber silence. The Ishida cabin was only used in the summertime and thus didn't have much food supplies. But rummaging through the cupboards, they had found a small stash of instant ramen. There was no electricity, but T.K. had lugged the generator from the storage shed outside and hooked up the portable gas cooker. They had dumped the ramen packages in one big skillet and portioned it out in bowls, and when those had run out, they used cups.
Gabumon came through the front entrance, shaking the chill from his fur like a dog.
"How is he?" Kari asked, coming up to him.
"Still not talking," Gabumon said glancing over his shoulder. WarGreymon stood on the bank of the lake looking like a golden decorative statue that belonged in a shrine, his armor gleaming as the sun broke across the horizon. "I don't think he even heard me when I asked if he was hungry." He shut the door sadly.
Kari turned around to the others. "What are we going to do now?"
Izzy put down his cup of ramen. "Well, first we should leave here and soon. The police probably have already ascertained who Tai's close friends are and have discovered we didn't return home last night. They probably have footage of us from Aqua City's surveillance cameras and know we were at the tv station. They'll spread out their search to family members and establishments outside of Odaiba. Eventually, this place will come up on their list."
"Where will we go?" Cody asked. The boy didn't look like he had slept much the night before going by the dark shadows under his eyes.
"We're going to find Tai," Matt said firmly. He hadn't slept much either. Half of the night he had spent worrying on how his friend was faring—he had been shot after all. Even if it had been with a taser, he had basically been electrocuted with enough force to knock him unconscious, and that must have hurt.
"We don't even know where he is," Sora said, wearing a sympathetic expression.
"He should still have his D-Terminal, right?" Matt said, taking out his own. He caught Izzy''s skeptical eye. "If we're going to leave here anyway, then it doesn't matter if I use this to make contact."
"I think we should go back to Odaiba."
Matt's fingers paused over the keypad. He looked up at Ken who had spoken. The boy was sitting at the small dining table, his ramen cup untouched in front of him. Ken raised his head, a subtle kind of desperation hanging over his face.
"What do you mean by that?" Matt asked.
Ken clenched and unclenched his fingers—a telltale sign of nervousness. "I know… I know you're all worried about Tai. I am too. But… those kids… the Dark Spores… it's my fault. I can't just leave them there."
The Dark Spore children. Matt had completely forgotten all about them, and even now, he knew he should feel more concerned about them, but he didn't. There was only Tai at the front of his mind. Tai, who had never given up on him, even when he hadn't believed in himself; Tai who had been brave enough, reckless enough, to try and tell the world about Digimon at his own risk; Tai who had paid the price for the truth.
Matt wasn't going to abandon him no matter what the stakes were.
"We don't know how to help them at the moment anyway," Matt said. "Odaiba is crawling with police who are looking for us right now. Going back is not an option."
"I'm not asking everyone to come along," Ken sounded resigned as if he had already made up his mind. "I'll go by myself. Even if all I can do is watch them from afar… I can spot the signs if a Dark Spore acts up… I can try and warn them…"
"No one is separating from the group, alright," Matt said in sharp, unyielding tone. "Look what happened the last two times one of us went off alone."
"Yeah, Ken," Davis said. "Oily-kawa kidnapped you and Taichi-sempai both!"
"And he's still out there," Ken said, that familiar mask of ice sliding across his face. "There was a reason Oikawa made copies of my Dark Spore and dispersed them, and there was a reason for him using Tai as a distraction. And now he has effectively cut us off from those kids to ensure his plans of using them for whatever purpose comes to fruition."
"No good ever comes from this team separating," Matt said. He should know that best after all. "We'll go back to Odaiba after we find Tai."
Ken said nothing, only returned Matt's gaze with a hardened stare, looking about as stubborn as Matt sounded.
The tension waiting to clash was dissipated by Izzy's startled yelp as a figure rose up from his laptop, looking pale in the white robes he wore. He seemed to almost disappear in the bright sunlight streaming through the window, before he solidified into a familiar form.
"Gennai!" Yolei cried elated.
"Children," Gennai greeted them a nod, the corners of his mouth turning up with the barest hint of a smile that did not quite reach his eyes. "It's been a while."
"Why are you here?" the question fell from Matt's mouth more bitterly than he had intended.
"He's come to help us, of course!" Yolei said, beaming happily as if Gennai was the answer to their prayers.
Matt eyed Gennai warily. Perhaps it was the recent tide of events piling up one after the other, but his patience had been tested to its limit. Gennai enjoyed speaking cryptically, giving them parts of the whole, yet in the end they always had to figure how to solve a task on their own. Matt was in no mood for riddles today.
"You were so keen on giving us those Digi Cores to help us with enough power to close the portals around the world at Christmastime," Matt said, a dull anger rising within him. "We haven't seen you since they've popped up more frequently. Did you forget to tell us something or was this something the omnipotent Digital Sovereigns didn't foresee?"
"Matt!" T.K. hissed looking shocked.
"You only show up when the situation will benefit you and the Digital World," Matt said, the words flowing across his tongue from someplace dark inside him he hadn't even been aware of. "When Ken was kidnapped, when Oikawa put those Dark Spores in those children, you gave no advice. When the Digimon kept coming here from portals that keep opening no matter what we do, you said nothing. When people started whispering about Digimon being an alien invasion, we didn't hear from you at all. So why now, what makes this situation any different than the rest?"
If Gennai was startled in any way from Matt's outburst he did not show it. Clasping his hands together in the folds of his robe, he fixed them all with a somber stare. "I am here to remind you children not to forget your objective: the true enemy."
Matt resisted the urge to snort petulantly at that. Things had been so much clearer five years ago when villains were a clear-cut black and pure evil. Now everything was muddled in one giant mess made up of Destiny Stones, Control Spires, Digi Cores, and Dark Spores. The true enemy they had been warned so hard about still lurked elusive in the shadows, his agenda unknown.
"Is the true enemy Oikawa?"
Gennai's eyes darted to Ken who had risen from his seat, hands balled into fists at his side.
"Azulongmon said Mummymon and Arukenimon work for the true enemy. They're Oikawa's underlings. He put those Dark Spore copies in those children. Is he the true enemy?" Ken's eyes narrowed. "Do you know what he wants?"
Gennai opened his mouth. "Oikawa…" he paused, carefully choosing his words. "Oikawa wants the Digital World to merge with this one."
Matt noted to Gennai's tact that he never answered the former question.
"Merge?" Yolei repeated confused.
"Is that what's happening with portals?" Cody asked. "Is he causing it?"
"You seem to forget so easily, children." A puckered brow had appeared on Gennai's forehead. "The reason the portals are glitching sporadically is due to BlackWarGreymon's existence."
"Ahaha!" Davis cried remembering. "Azulongmon said the reason he was sealed away was because of the Control Spires."
"And BlackWarGreymon is made up of a hundred of them," Ken finished, his face filled with regret.
"And ever since Azulongmon gave us the Digi Cores, the defenses of the Digital World have been weakened," Yolei said, tapping one finger to her cheek in contemplation. "BlackWarGreymon coming to the real world only made the portals more unstable, didn't he?"
"Is that the reason you made contact with us?" Matt asked. "You want us to put an end to him finally?"
There was a quiet intake of breath around the room. As much as he had hindered them, had injured them, had stolen their friend away, BlackWarGreymon had also helped them, even if at times he did it for his own benefit. He was an anomaly, a wild card in their deck of allies. It wouldn't go easy on the children's moral conscience if they had to destroy him.
Gennai spread his hands out in an appeasing manner. "I am not issuing you children any orders, I am merely advising…" Blue eyes softened as an unreadable emotion flashed briefly across his face. "It would be wise to stay away from BlackWarGreymon."
"But he has Tai," Kari said.
"You children stand on the crossroads of decisions," Gennai said, his words vague as ever. "Do not lose sight of your goal by distraction."
That word again. Matt hated it.
"Tai is not a distraction," he said through gritted teeth. "We're going after him, unless you want to elaborate more in depth instead of guarding sacred secrets."
That finally seemed to put a crack in Gennai's impassive mask. There was a slight twitch under his eye, the sleeves of his robe twisting as he clenched the material in his hands.
"The Digital Sovereigns keeps many secrets for the good of the Digital World. Even I am not privy to all," Gennai said in a brusque tone. He inclined his head stiffly. "I have said my part. I will not obstruct your decision."
"Wait!" Gabumon cried when it looked as if Gennai was going to take his leave of them. "Can you tell us… what's wrong with WarGreymon?"
Something akin to pity drifted across Gennai's features. "There is nothing wrong with him. You need not worry."
"What he is doing, no good can come if it… only pain."
Then just as elusive as his words were, Gennai had stepped back and faded into the pale light emitting from the computer screen.
"Hey!" Davis cried staring where he had vanished. He cast a bewildered gaze at the older children. "Does he always pop in and out like that?"
There was a general consensus of weary nodding.
Ken caught Matt's eye. "I'll go with you to find Tai," he said. Gennai's brief appearance seemed to have changed his mind for some reason.
Matt didn't question his good fortune. He was just glad the argument ready to boil over had been avoided.
A loud knocking came at the front door without warning. The children glanced at each other startled.
"The police don't knock with search warrants, right?" Davis asked.
The knocking came again, vibrating the walls of the small cabin with its force. Gabumon leaned forward and sniffed deeply. Letting out a bark of happiness, he rushed over and threw open the door to reveal WarGreymon in a squatting position one claw raised prepared to knock again.
"If you want to find Tai," WarGreymon said lowering his claw, and speaking for the first time since yesterday, his green eyes unclouded and gleaming with impatient fervor. "I can show you the way."
"If this is some ill-conceived scheme on your part in which you are purposefully delaying your friends in an attempt to spare them—"
"For the last time, I told you, it's dead, alright!" Tai shouted, brandishing his D-Terminal in the air, showing the black screen. "You think I want to stay here alone with you, Mr. DarkBroodingmon?"
BlackWarGreymon stared down at him, his golden gaze filled with cynicism as well as a cool fury brewing under the surface, tension gathering in his limbs. It wasn't like he had an award for the greatest personality, but the Mega had been more tetchy than usual ever since Tai had woken up.
Tai barely had time to rub the sleep out of his eyes before BlackWarGreymon had been in his face ordering him to contact his friends, that he was tired of waiting, he wanted to find Oikawa now. So, of course, it was Tai's lucky lot in life that his D-Terminal had run out of power sometime in the night. And they were stranded in the middle of nowhere with no place to charge it.
Tai blamed the fates, personally.
And Plato. Just because.
Now BlackWarGreymon was glowering at him like he was internally debating which body part to rip off first.
"Just out of curiosity, what were you planning on doing once my friends arrived?" Tai asked. "I hope it was nothing cliché like the whole going for my throat thing and threatening to stab me full of holes unless they complied to your wishes."
BlackWarGreymon's glare only intensified as the silence stretched thin.
"What, seriously? I thought you'd be more creative than that!" Tai exclaimed in disappointment. "Ugh," he grimaced, pressing two fingers to his neck lightly. The bruises from LadyDevimon's attack had faded, but he could still feel the chain tightening, cutting off his air, when he dwelled too long on the encounter. "Why do you anti-hero types always go for the throat?"
Wide brown eyes met with startled golden.
"What… was that?" Tai asked, looking around. It seemed to have come out of nowhere.
The sound came again, louder this time.
It vaguely matched in Tai's memory of dinosaur rumblings, the kind Agumon would make when…
"Is that your stomach?" he asked, fighting back a grin that threatened to break across his face.
BlackWarGreymon placed one claw on his lower abdomen tentatively. "It has been emitting sharp pains since daybreak," he admitted, his brow furrowing. "And now it makes these noises. I believe I might have caught some contagious disease upon entering this world."
Tai began to laugh and couldn't stop. Clutching his ribs, he sagged to one side as the laughter bubbled over and tears sprung to his eyes from the hilarity of it all. "You're n-not—haha—s-sick—hahaha—you're j-just h-hungry—hahahaha! Ow, ow—hahahaha!" His muscles were seizing up—probably a side effect from yesterday's chaos—and laughing didn't exactly make for the most comfortable feeling.
BlackWarGreymon stared down at the boy in front of him who had his arms curled around himself as his body went into spasms, water flowing from his eyes, and an odd gurgling sound emitted from his mouth. "That looks like it hurts," he said.
"Then why do you do it?"
"Bec-cause it m-makes me hap-py, ow—hahahaha!"
"You humans are strange," BlackWarGreymon rumbled in confusion.
His stomach made that growling noise again. He did not understand why he should be hungry. The last time he had eaten had been on that mountain when the boy's Agumon had offered him that pizza. Even then, his stomach had not felt like this and he had not felt the urge to eat ever since. So why now all of a sudden? Why had he fallen prey to such human motions of sleeping and dreaming?
BlackWarGreymon jerked his head up sharply as a scent reached his nostrils. The shield on his back split in half to break out his wings as he leaped into the air, flying out of the crater towards it.
"H-hey!" Tai shouted after him, the laughter finally winding down. "Hey, where are you going? Don't just leave me here!"
Scrambling to his feet, he wobbled slightly the first few steps. His leg muscles felt heavy and stiff. Stamping them in place to get rid of the numb feeling, he then made a feeble attempt to climb out of the crater. It was no use. The earth's walls were too high over his head and provided no handholds. At least one end. Going over to where the crater was less steep, Tai grabbed a tree root protruding through the soil. Using it as leverage he pulled himself up and hoisted himself over the edge where he rolled over into the cold snow.
Sputtering, he sat up and squinted, trying to see past the blinding glare of the snow that blanketed the land around him. A flash of silver caught his eye and Tai saw BlackWarGreymon standing with his back to him several yards away on the white hillside.
Holding his arms tightly to his chest for warmth, Tai plodded ankle-deep in the snow over to Mega's side. "Hey!" he snapped at him. "You're not being a very good captor, you know! When you're holding someone for ransom, you don't just go off and leave them alone and exposed to elements! What is your prob—" he trailed off as he followed BlackWarGreymon's line of sight.
The Digidestined, WarGreymon at their back, stood only a few feet away staring at him in the same amounts of shock that was probably imprinted upon his countenance.
Tai lifted one hand in a shaky wave, a warm, giddy sensation sweeping over him. "Hey… guys," he said, finding it difficult to talk all of a sudden. "Pretty epic weekend get together, huh?"
Kari burst forth from the group too quickly for anyone to stop her. Running forward, she threw her arms around her brother with a small sob of relief.
Tai pushed her away hissing as a dull flame of pain ignited across his chest. Rubbing where it burned, he caught his sister's worried gaze. "Ah, it's nothing, just a bruise," he stammered for an explanation. "I tripped—"
"We know Oikawa shot you, Tai."
It was Matt he spoke, his expression dark. "It was a taser gun. You don't have to hide it. We know it must hurt."
Tai's hands dropped to his side. He could feel his face flush in embarrassment. Soon he would have to explain to everyone why he had trusted the man in the first place. "That guy's a jerk," was all he managed to muster sullenly.
He looked up at his friends' startled gazes at the sound.
"And this guy's hungry," he said pointing at BlackWarGreymon. "Anyone have any food?"
"I am having difficulty in believing what my eyes are seeing," Izzy said.
"Do you think it's Stockhlom Syndrome?" Joe mused out loud.
"I think it's some weird side effect of hypothermia," Matt said.
They all were sitting in seats the empty train station provided. A metal-plated roof overhead was all the protection they had against the wind, but the station did possess two vending machines with a wide variety of snacks and drinks. When Ken had pointed the station out in the distance, a good-ways down the hillside, barely visible from the snowfall the night before, there had been a brief moment's hesitation on everyone's part. Then BlackWarGreymon had snatched Tai up in one giant claw again and made towards it, and they had no choice but to follow.
And now… now they all had front-row seats to the weirdest spectacle they had ever witnessed.
"Okay, but you have to try this one—sesame seed green tea daifuku!" Tai said throwing the packaged sweet bean bun up to BlackWarGreymon.
"These are too sweet and they stick in my mouth," the Mega growled. The boy had made him try several others before—non to his liking, but he tore open the plastic and popped it in anyway, rolling it around in surprise at the flavor.
"See, not so bad, is it?" Tai laughed, rummaging through the snack pile the children had accumulated once they had finished raiding the vending machines. "Here, you haven't lived yet if you've never tried chocolate before," he held out a candy bar.
BlackWarGreymon, however, had found a snack of his own. "What are these?" he asked, a bag of wasabi-flavored chips already open in one claw.
"No, don't eat those!" Tai yelped too late.
An angry roar split the air, echoing over the countryside, as flames danced across BlackWarGreymon's tongue and his throat burned raw.
"Ah, a drink, drink, here!" Tai chanted, grabbing a clear bottle of what looked like water and twisting the top off. A familiar hiss leaked out as carbon bubbles were released into the air. "Ah, wait, don't!" he cried as the Mega seized it out of his hand and gulped it down.
Fizzy liquid was spewed out over Tai's face and hair as BlackWarGreymon choked on the lychee soda half-way through. Eyes watering, nostrils burning, BlackWargGreymon flung the misleading bottle away and rasped in a wheezing voice full of thundering rage, "How do you humans survive on this kind of sustenance?!"
Mimi clapped one hand over her mouth giggled. "This is kind of funny," she said.
Sora smiled as she looked on at her friend, relieved that he appeared in much better health than the last time they had all seen him. "I'm glad he's alright."
"Taichi-sempai's awesome!" Davis proclaimed, eyes aglow with hero-worship. "He made friends with BlackWarGreymon and that's no easy feat!"
Matt shared side-glances with Izzy and Joe and knew they all had the same thought running in their heads.
…it would be wise to stay away from BlackWarGreymon.
What had Gennai been trying to warn them about?
Footsteps approached as Tai made his way over to them, wiping the spray of soda off his face with one sleeve of his coat. Behind him, WarGreymon had stepped next to BlackWarGreymon, and the sight of the two Megas so close to each other did nothing to soothe the children's nerves considering the last time the two had gone face to face.
WarGreymon had kept his distance from BlackWarGreymon ever since they had landed. Even when they had reached the train station and BlackWarGreymon finally had put Tai down, who had immediately rushed over to greet his partner, WarGreymon had purposefully stayed in the background. Perhaps he had been doing so to avoid an aggressive confrontation such as before.
"Hey, is it alright for those two to be alone right now?" T.K. asked voicing everyone's mind.
"As long as they don't start talking about Plato," Tai said with a grim expression. "Seriously!" he called over his shoulder at WarGreymon. "No more spouting ancient philosophies! Let the dead rest in peace!" He turned back to his friends who looked quite baffled. "You don't want to know," he said wearily.
Joe stood up, Obsessive Doctor Mode fixed firmly on his face. "Let's take a look at what that taser did." He reached out a hand.
"No," Tai said backing away.
Joe frowned. "Do you know what a taser is, Tai? He has metal probes that sink into your skin so the electrodes can make contact and immobilize you. It can leave scarring and infection might set in if not treated. I need to see."
"No, I know, it's just…" Tai's eyes darted to where his sister and the rest of the female Digidestined sat and felt heat creep into his cheeks.
"Let's go for a walk," Sora said suddenly, standing up. "It'd be good for us to stretch our legs."
Tai watched the girls head off in an aimless wander, following the train tracks and felt a swell of gratitude.
He let Joe push him down in one of the station's seats and pull off his coat. His back-brace was tricky to unstrap, so Tai did that and pulled up his undershirt for Joe to examine his chest, shivering slightly as the cold hit his skin.
"Mmm," Joe said his finger hovering an inch away from the twin sunken abrasions. "It's not as deep as I feared. Your clothes must have stopped the full force of it. Still, we should put some antiseptic on it." He started fumbling through his medical bag.
"Is it gonna leave a scar?" Tai asked wondering how he felt about that. He looked at Davis. "Does Jun like guys with scars?"
"Ugh, Taichi-sempai, don't ask that," Davis said. The boy didn't turn as green as he should have. He looked sort of… sad.
"Has anyone spoken to their family at all?" Tai asked as the realization hit him.
His friends' expressions turned dour. Their eyes didn't quite meet his imploring gaze.
Tai swallowed. "I'm sorry, it's my fault," he said. "I thought it would be just my neck on the line going to the news station, but I should have known my actions would affect you guys too."
"You didn't have a way out."
Tai looked up at Matt who had spoken. Matt who had his arms crossed and was staving off a scowl as he stared disapprovingly down at him. Tai thought the expression was eerily similar to the one Hiroaki Ishida had worn while lecturing him on the wiles of the media.
"You went to the news station without telling us and didn't plan a way out because you braced yourself for the worst. You were going to let them just take you in after the interview, weren't you?" Matt pressed accusingly. "You went all noble."
Tai looked away.
"You're wrong," he replied. "I went in without contacting any of you, without having any plan for myself to escape, because I knew Oikawa had one, even if he didn't tell me beforehand. He would never put himself in the position to be captured without an exit strategy. He's always one step ahead of the game, and I took advantage of that. " Tai looked back at Matt wondering what his friend thought of him now. "I'm not as brave or courageous as you think."
The awkward silence that threatened to linger was interrupted by Joe. "There," he said patting the taped compress lightly over the two abrasions. "All done." He let Tai's undershirt fall back down and started helping his friend buckle the back-brace. "You should clean it twice a day until it starts to fade."
Tai tucked his legs up under him on the seat in an effort to keep warm. He had been outside in the cold far too long for his liking, but WarGreymon and BlackWarGreymon hadn't finished talking and didn't look like they would be done anytime soon. No one felt daring enough to barge in to their conversation. Besides, at any moment, BlackWarGreymon was sure to remember Tai was technically his hostage and start demanding they help him hunt down and kill Oikawa. He wasn't looking forward to that.
Tai threw his head back and sighed, glancing over to where Matt sat on his left, hunched over his D-Terminal, typing and retyping something in an almost trance-like manner.
"Whacha doing?" Tai questioned.
"Trying to write a new song… for Sora," Matt's ears had turned pink.
"Oho?" Tai said, sitting up and leaning over interestedly. "Lemme see."
Matt yanked the D-Terminal away from his prying stare. "Back off!" he snarled.
Tai had to laugh. Matt always was so over-protective and paranoid about his song lyrics in the early stages. "Come on," he said grinning. "Making up songs can't be that hard."
Matt shot him a glare.
"Take it from the Haiku God," Tai said thumping his chest proudly. "Songs are just words that rhyme. Have you tried English yet? How about 'Sora, I adore yaaaaaa!'"
"Shut up!" Matt hissed slapping him across the back of his head and casting worried eyes out to where the girls were building a snowman with the aid of their partners. They didn't seem to have heard. "Besides," Matt sat back forlornly. "I'm a failure as a boyfriend. I should have lied through my teeth and kept on eating her bento. I hurt her feelings."
"It's not your fault you have no poker face," Tai said putting his heads behind his head. "You should take lessons in lying from my dad. He's an expert on it. He tells my mom what a wonderful cook she is every single day and he actually eats her food. I think his taste-buds have all died though."
"The worst part is I can't even focus on writing her a proper forgiveness song," Matt said glancing down at the D-Terminal's screen. "I keep coming up with these weird lines that make no sense, and I can't get this dumb melody out of my head, argh!"
Matt took out a piece of paper and pen from his coat. "Always be prepared when inspiration hits," Tai remembered his friend saying. Tai watched as Matt began furiously scribbling out music notes across the sheet and started to hum the tune.
A tune that was oddly familiar to Tai though he couldn't recall where he had heard it before. He shouldn't know it at all if Matt was only now creating it.
But he knew it just the same and unbidden, the words to the song leaped to the front of his mind and he opened his mouth to let them flow out.
"I'll become a happy butterfly and ride on the glittering wind…"
Matt's pen had stopped his mad trail across the paper. His friend was looking at him in a mixture of amazement and confusion. "That line was literally in my head. Did you read my mind?"
Tai tried to shrug off the strange happening and forced a laugh. "Well, I always said you stole my creative genius, haha. Maybe it's a DNA Digivolving partners thing?"
Matt eyed him skeptically before returning his attention back to the paper. A few more scribbled music notes and the humming resumed.
Tai couldn't stop the words tumbling from his lips.
"I'll come to see you soon… it's best to forget unnecessary things, there's no more time to be fooling around…"
Matt sat up straight and stared at him in a kind of startled trepidation. He didn't ask for him to stop. He held out the D-Terminal slowly as Tai sang the last part.
"What do you mean, wow wow wow wow wow? I wonder if we'll reach the skies…"
Tai took the D-Terminal in his hands and stared knowing what he would find. The lyrics to the song he should not know the words to lay typed out across the screen.
To say that Tai was creeped out was an understatement. There was something heavy weighing down on his mind, something tight curling over his shoulders…
"Where did you hear those lyrics?" a dark voice rumbled dangerously behind him.
Tai jumped and turned around. BlackWarGreymon stood mere feet away, fire burning in his golden eyes.
In the days that followed, Tai wondered what would have happened if he had gone with his gut instinct and said, "Matt wrote them. I'm testing them out. What do you think?" But no. He had to go and tell the truth.
"Oh, haha, I had this really weird dream," Tai said, hoping this would clear up Matt's troubled expression as well. "I can't remember it all, but I think I was in Primary Village because of all those baskets—"
"WHAT BASKETS?" BlackWarGreymon's voice had reached an ear-drum shattering pitch. "WHAT IS THIS PRIMARY VILLAGE?"
The ferocity within it caused the other children to look up. Tai wondered why BlackWarGreymon was reacting this violently and if he should be worried, but he saw WarGreymon standing off to the sidelines, his body posture a picture of calmness, and decided if he wasn't alarmed by the Mega's outburst then he neither should he.
"Primary village," Tai explained. "It's where Digimon who have been deleted go to be reborn. Their data is reconfigured in eggs and the eggs appear in these tiny baskets…"
It started with a prickling along Tai's skin, the itchy, crawling sensation of a hundred tiny feet. The heavy pressure weighing on his mind doubled, the tight feeling curling around his shoulders squeezed ruthlessly.
Tai tried to fight it—this foreign, invasive, feeling that was not quite right, but there wasn't anything there for him to struggle with physically. Shaking his head, he swung his feet down and stood up from his seat sluggishly, trying to clear his mind. His ears were ringing. His vision wavered several times—he thought he might be hallucinating: he could swear golden glowing threads kept winking in and out of existence. They were thin, frail and looked like shining webs of cobweb caught in the wind. They reminded him of Nefertimon and Pegasusmon's Golden Noose.
Dazed, he lifted his hands and watched as the spindly strands spooling around his fingers unbraided and stretched out lazily through the air. Following their path, he noted dimly that one tendril, thicker and shining more brightly than the rest, connected to WarGreymon on the other end. The stray hair-like threads continued on past him though, crisscrossing, seeking, curling back around…
Tai blinked and they had vanished as if they were never there. Lifting his gaze, his eyes met his partners' and he opened his mouth—
Something pulled hard and wrenched.
It felt like the time his family had gone fishing. Kari had been a little too enthusiastic in her cast and reel, and the fishhook had caught fast in Tai's side. Just like that time multiplied by a hundred.
Agony ripped through his midsection. The question on his lips turned into a scream. Body convulsing, he arched backwards thrashing his arms wildly, trying to disentangle himself. His feet were rooted to the ground by a bed of invisible thorny vines. Sharp, jabbing, white-hot pin-pricks of electricity shot through him in wave after waves of pain any direction he tried to escape.
Now he was the worm on the hook being gutted on the inside out, a fly snared in a spider's web, a fish out of water flopping futilely for air, slowly dying…
WarGreymon knelt down beside him and rested an armored claw lightly upon his shoulder. The pain abruptly diminished though it still remained and Tai shivered as a sort of dull numbness washed over his senses, cooling the sore aches in his body. Leaning heavily against the Mega to steady himself, Tai reached up one shaking hand and grabbed at his partner's arm seeking comfort.
"Be calm. Do not struggle. He is doing that enough for all of us," WarGreymon said cryptically.
"W-w-what—" Tai asked disoriented.
But WarGreymon did not answer nor meet his eyes. He was looking over his head, beyond him…
Tai felt something warm and familiar, a connection that had been there for as long as he could remember—a connection he had simply never noticed before because had never realized it was there—a connection he could not fathom living without, detach itself from him. He groped blindly, desperately after it, but it spiraled away into the darkness and he was left alone.
Panic clawed at Tai's insides because for a few gut-wrenching moments he could not feel his partner at all. There was nothing, just a horrible, gaping void inside him growing wider and wider and wider threatening to devour him whole and the urge to scream again overwhelmed him because the devastating feeling of loneliness had never ached so cruelly before… but no, he was there, right in front him, so why…
"N-n-ooo…" Tai gasped, his voice coming out broken and pleading, "Ag-gumon… where… are you?"
"Don't fight it. This is how we will save him."
Tai stared up at WarGreymon, so close and yet so very far away, barely registering the words.
Something wrapped back around him, something warm and oh-so familiar and finally he was complete again and he nearly wept at the blessed relief at finding him—them—again…
Shock stretched through him internally like a zap of lightning.
He was theirs, they were his, they were together and it was going to be forever and ever and ever—
"What have you done?! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?! THE TWO OF YOU! YOU'VE POISONED ME!"
The words sliced into him like cold splinters of ice. A frigid wave of dark rage rolled over him like a tidal wave and Tai felt his breath snatched from him as if he were drowning in an icy sea of black oil. Tremors breaking out across his body, Tai lowered his forehead against WarGreymon's breastplate and shook his head as his vision slid in and out of focus again.
The ground beneath them shuddered as a towering, icy flame of darkness loomed menacingly closer. The bright, glowing threads shrunk away from this bonfire, this shadow, away from its discordance. He watched as the dark mass twisted and tore at them in a futile effort to disentangle itself; watched as the scalding brilliant strands braided into utter blackness.
A horrid howl erupted from the icy shadow, carrying such pain, such agony, such loneliness, it echoed the despair Tai had felt earlier. He clutched two shaking hands over his ears trying to block out the sounds. His knees buckled under him, and he felt a strong armored arm curl around his waist and draw him close as he started to fall.
"Please, friend," WarGreymon's voice pleaded. "Do not leave. Let us help—"
"YOU DO NOT WANT TO HELP ME! YOU WANT TO CONSUME ME!"
The furious roar pierced the air filled with confusion and oddly enough, betrayal.
"I WILL NOT BE CHAINED DOWN BY EITHER OF YOU, YOU HEAR?! I MAKE MY OWN DESTINY AND YOU CANNOT CHANGE IT! NOT WITH PRETTY WORDS, DECEITFUL DREAMS, OR THESE THRICE-ACCURSED THREADS OF YOURS!"
The icy shadow was expanding, the black flames swirling into a funnel of darkness that vibrated and thrummed like wire in a windstorm as it sped away.
Cradled against WarGreymon's chest, Tai slumped in his embrace, feeling as tangible as cloud, weightless, empty, and full of nothing. As his limbs gave way, Tai knew he had lost somehow, just what, he didn't know.
Angewomon's aim was straight and true. Kari did not even see her digivolve, did not even see her move. All she knew that one moment she was watching, completely helpless as her brother writhed and screamed in pain at something invisible—at BlackWarGreymon had joined his cries with his own, angry, fierce and throbbing before flying away half-crazed in anguish and the next—
Angewomon was striking WarGreymon across the face in a barely-contained fury that had the armored dinosaur's head whipping sharply to one side at the blunt force.
"How dare you!" Angewomon cried, her angelic features twisted in a snarl of revulsion. "He is your partner! How could you dare?!"
WarGreymon slowly turned his head and stared at her impassively. There was a small dent in his helmet on the left side under his eye where she had dealt her blow. "I did what was necessary," he spoke, his voice betraying no emotion, not one trace of guilt.
"What you just did was dangerous and selfish! And now I know how you managed to find this location with such ease!" Angewomon spat. Her gloved finger was out, pointing at her fellow Digimon in a judging manner looking every bit as a righteous angel out for justice in any painting. She looked halfway from summoning an Arrow of Light to strike him down where he stood. Probably the only thing that was stopping her was the limp bundle that WarGreymon held in his arms.
Kari swallowed hard, a shiver shooting down her spine. She hated not understanding and yet feared to find out. "What… what is—" her voice came out barely more than a whisper.
"You should never follow instructions left behind no matter how tempting unless you know the full extent of the side effects and consequences of what your actions will entail—least of all, those left by a Virus!" Angewomon shouted.
The weight of her words, the truth behind the spectacle they just had been witness to, cast a heavy spell of silence upon everyone. Kari looked around, certain everyone felt just as dumbfounded as she did, and was gratified to see equal expressions of shock imprinted on everyone's faces.
"A partner bonding is to be cherished and respected! It is not something to be unraveled so insignificantly to include outsiders as you have just done," Angewomon said, her tone taking on a somber note. "You have no idea what you have just unleashed, WarGreymon."
"According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves."
- Plato, the Symposium.
To Be Continued…
A/N: *clears throat* I did warn ya'll last time that the last chapter was nothing so…
Raise your hands if you thought the child in the dream was Tai. Raise your hands if you had a completely different theory. My beta and I each had our own version of who and what the dream entailed. I'll leave it up to you readers to decide for yourselves what you wanted that to be. The main purpose of that dream was to show that BlackWarGreymon is open to the idea of having a human-Digimon partner bond.
WarGreymon was only trying to help, poor misguided soul… as Tai would say, Fuck you, Plato.
Basically, WarGreymon took Plato's half of a soul theory to heart and "unwound" his and Tai's partner bond to include BlackWarGreymon into it. This is not something every Digimon should know. Virus types like Myotismon and the Virus inside DarkTyrannomon knew how to do this because of their need to "infect the host". And obviously Angewomon knows about this taboo subject because she was an underling of Myotismon for awhile.
I hoped I showed that WarGreymon isn't evil or possessed. The Virus is gone from him. He's just been a curious little dinosaur and reading bad information left behind in his head. He genuinely wants to save BlackWarGreymon, wants him to believe there is hope in the end, so he tried to fufill his desire of having a heart, a soul, in some fashion. And he did try his best not to let Tai feel any pain while doing this forced bonding, but BlackWarGreymon was putting up one hell of a fight. He was not used to having so many emotions thrust on him at once. It frightened him, that's why he accused them of trying to consume him. He was being swallowed up by their feelings and losing himself.
If anyone is confused at what Tai was seeing at the end, I tried to show that it wasn't on this earthly plane. He was seeing something on a different plane of existence. You know that theory the world has multiple layers, the whole space-rift thing where Ken, Kari and Yolei fell into another dimension in the Digital World. They could see Davis but he couldn't see them? It was sort of like that for Tai. What he was seeing was pure energy and the bonding threads that tied the children and their partners together.
It's always been my headcanon that Matt wrote the lyrics for Butterfly at some point in his life. :)
So this chap, I broke my beta. Fun times with Rainbow09, Ray: oh god that was a RIDE what was that ending HOLY SHIT! Me: I just wanted ppl to feel the raw emotions Tai was going thru. I just wanted to rip out ppl's hearts and stomp on them, shred their souls into tiny pieces… Ray: I thought this chapter would appease my anxiety after the last cliffhanger but apparently you like to torture your readers as much as Tai AND I DUNNO HOW TO FEEL
Does the title now make sense to everyone? Yes, you should all go listen to that song by the Fray and reread this chapter. It makes everything that much angstier.
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Please review and share your favorite scenes and thoughts. I loved hearing what you likes best and it's the only reward a fanfic author gets. I like knowing what my readers think and feel. Any questions, I'm over on tumblr to chat!