Yes, its a dreaded bunch of OCs. Yes, its a "Human Adopted by Digimon" plot. If you have problems with either of those things, sorry to say, this fic is not for you.
Oh – and this story is done. I'll be posting a chapter a week until all chapters are posted. Enjoy.
Synopsis: Sometimes protecting the world starts with protecting something small.
Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon. The OCs, however, are mine. Please do not use without first asking.
Chapter 1: Something Small
There were a lot of things Dukemon expected to find just outside the castle that was his keep. New recruits, offerings, gifts, flowers, flower seeds, gardening supplies – it was no secret he had a garden that boasted eighty percent of the Digital World's species of flora. The list of things he could expect seemed near endless.
Not on that list was a baby.
Yet there one was, right out in front of his keep's main door. Wailing loudly in protest of having nearly been tripped on by the guards who had come rushing to investigate the strange package. The guards in question were about as happy to find said baby as the baby was about being found.
Not realizing it was a baby at the time, Dukemon had stepped back into his keep's main hall through the otherwise unimpressive door that led to his garden, and demanded, "What is that noise? Its disturbing the lion-weeds; they're quite hard enough to work with when they're not bothered."
The Jewelbeemon that was his regent saluted first before replying. "Sir. It appears a baby has been left in front of the main gates."
Dukemon paused in washing the last bits of dirt off his hands. He'd had an equally unimpressive fountain put in next to the garden entrance for the express purpose of a quick clean up after a hard day's work of weeding. A few of those Digimon "in the know" had secretly laughed at it; Dukemon didn't care, so long as it was functional.
"A baby?" Dukemon repeated, drying his hands off on a bit of washcloth. Surely all that racket could not be coming from just a baby. "What level is it? Baby I or Baby II?"
Now, Dukemon was curious.
"Neither? Then what kind of baby is it?"
What Jewelbeemon said next was enough to floor him.
"A human female baby, sir."
Outrageous! Preposterous! Who in their right minds would leave such a thing at his keep! It should have been common knowledge at best, common sense at worst, that leaving a baby at a Royal Knights' keep would be disastrous! For the Knight, at any rate.
Coming on nearly fifty years since the Dark Ocean's Gate had been shut, and all the evil it spawned locked up within it, and there was still enough tension between the governments of the Digital World and Human World to trigger a war if things got pushy. The fact that the two worlds were now effectively merged, with access between the two now as easy as breathing, had helped settle the matters a fraction. The fact the Royal Knights were retired and staying out of politics for the most part also helped.
Really. It wasn't their fault they'd attacked human cities. The Dark Ocean did things. Honestly, it'd been a miracle that they'd been snapped out of it at all.
But really! Leaving a human baby at a Royal Knight's keep was bound to bring about trouble! There was no other way around it. He'd have to take it himself to the nearest human settlement and leave it to the proper authorities. There was nothing else he could do about the matter.
Just as Dukemon had settled his mind on the matter, he entered the room where the baby was being kept. Someone had had the sense to put the thing in a basket, like it should have been put, keeping it from getting tripped on again.
Dukemon gestured towards the infant. "I'll take care of the matter myself," he informed Jewelbeemon.
"Sir," Jewelbeemon bowed slightly. "I will prepare an escort for you."
"Humph. No need to be so drastic. Perhaps one or two of the youngsters. Besides, this won't take... very..."
Oh my. The little baby was so tiny. Dukemon himself was about nine feet in height, around three or so feet taller than the average human. He'd met humans before; worked with a few at points in time. Just because he was out of public service did not mean he'd stand by while a criminal ran free. Not if the criminal was in his territory. But he'd never known those brave humans had started out as something so small. So otherwise completely insignificant.
The little infant opened her eyes. Oh! So beautiful. Amber-gold, like the tufts of fluff some of his rarer lion-weeds had for manes. That toothless, grinning smile – just for him, he knew; a smile just for him – won him over.
His regent must have recognized his smile even as Dukemon did. He knew – knew – he wouldn't be able to let this little one go without knowing for sure what would happen to her. Even if that meant he had to keep her.
With an effort, Dukemon cleared his throat, regaining some composure. "Humph, yes," he managed. "If you feel an escort necessary, summon two juniors. Otherwise I leave at once."
Jewelbeemon came himself. At first, Dukemon considered it a ridiculous amount of overkill. Then again he wasn't paying much attention... All his concentration not needed for flight was focused on getting the little infant to smile at him again with her glittering smile.
He'd gotten quite a few giggles out of her by time they made it to the nearest human town's offices.
The officials there were surprised to see him. Even more so when he explained that there had been a … ah... situation at his keep.
"Oh my! Well, isn't she the cutest thing ever?" the sheriff cooed. The plump woman in her mid forties, her dark red hair cut short to match regulations while in uniform, bent over the basket. "Coochie coochie cooe," the sheriff laughed, wiggling her finger under the infant's chin.
An angry wail answered. Funny. Dukemon had done much the same – though, he would guess, with a hint more dignity – on their way over.
"Ah, I get it. George," she shouted over her shoulder at one of her deputies, "Go run over to Doc's store and get this lady some formula and a bottle." The sheriff paused for a moment before adding, "And diapers. Can't forget the diapers."
"Right away, sheriff!" The deputy slipped out the back.
"Now, while George is doing that," the sheriff lifted the infant out of the basket, "let's get this little missy fingerprinted and her DNA in the system. If she's missing from somewhere Over There, on Earth, gettin' her info in the databases will mean gettin' her home that much faster. Omph! I do wish she wouldn't kick so much."
Unable to watch the little one scream, and squirm, and kick quite so much – and putting herself in far too much danger of being dropped – Dukemon took matters into his own hands. Gently, and deliberately, he took the little one from the sheriff. The fussing died down almost instantly as soon as Dukemon cradled her so that the infant could see his face. Tiny little hands reached out from under the swaddling, reaching towards him, with tiny little fists gripping at air as if to pull him closer.
"Well I'll be," the sheriff laughed. "I'd say she has a liking for mirrors, but you're armor's not that shiny. Must just be you she likes, then."
It was supposed to be more of a joke then a complement. Still, Dukemon felt pride warm his Core. She liked him!
"What will happen to her?"
"Hum?" the sheriff asked, fidgeting with an ink pad and tiny hands, and later feet, that were not cooperating. Fortunately, getting DNA was marginally easier – the infant already had hair growing in, although it was too short to tell what color it was.
Managing to tear his gaze loose from her innocent amber-gold, Dukemon asked again, "What will happen to her?"
The sheriff, successful at getting prints, set the fingerprint paper to dry and handed the hair sample to another one of her deputies. Then, after gesturing Duekmon and his regent back towards the conference room, pulled up chairs for all three of them. This would have been a conversation for her office – but that wasn't quite big enough to fit Dukemon's bulk.
She waited for Dukemon and Jewelbeemon to make themselves comfortable before answering, "That depends."
"Depends," Jewlebeemon echoed, tone neutral. Which was question enough for anyone who knew the regent.
"Yeah. Depends." The sheriff sighed. "She could be lucky. Hell, I know I'd get my butt down to the nearest station the second I knew my kids were gone. I can only hope her parents did the same. Or they may not have done the same. Again, depends.
"If she's lucky, her parents or guardians would have reported her missin' and the locals Over There or – forgive my invocation – Yggdrasil forbid, Over Here – would have gotten her information right quick and put it in the system. That system was the damn smartest thing they ever put together when they realized kids were jumping Over Here, willingly or not, just as fast as they could go.
"If she's not so lucky, if her parents didn't report her, or don't want to be found... or her to be found..." The sheriff took a moment to breathe. "She'll go to foster care. Its for orphans," the sheriff explained, "for kids whose parents are dead, can't be found, or can't take care of 'em. The foster care system will pick her up, and she'll be put in a foster home. Eventually, with a heap load of luck, she'll get adopted... Or she won't. Now, don't get me wrong. I know a heap of kids who went through the foster care system and came out just fine. Happen to be married to one of them. But a bunch of kids... don't.
"Its hard, growing up thinking no one loves you."
Dukemon came frighteningly close to dropping the little one. Only her cry of protest at being ignored for so long, or hunger, or both, snapped him back to attention.
"Sheriff, got the stuff," George jumped in without bothering to knock. He must have been a rather junior deputy if he did not realize a closed door meant knock first! He continued, apparently oblivious to the tension in the room, "LeAnn is warming up the bottle. Figured we should get the little lady in a diaper and a jumper before she put a pile on our best forensic link to her folks."
"Good," the sheriff answered, getting up to take the items from George. "Make sure Laurence got started on the DNA run, then scan in the prints I got and get the system running for a match."
"Right. I'll have LeAnn swing by with an evidence bag." George handed over a suspiciously large shopping bag. "Sorry," he explained at his boss's look. "I took a rough guess at her size and picked a few more bigger and smaller than what I guessed. One of those ought to work."
"Get out of here, George."
Sighing, the sheriff closed the door after him, shaking her head at the antics of youth. Looking at her two guests, she then asked, "I don't suppose either of you have ever tried to put a sweater on a jumping bean before?"
Later – much later, as he was still in shock from hearing what fate might befall the little one – Dukemon found himself agreeing that trying to put a jumper on that little ball of energy was like trying to get a sweater on a jumping bean. To say nothing of trying to get the diaper on.
It was by far easier to bottle feed her.
"A lot of babies like their bottles warmed," Deputy LeAnn explained when Dukemon asked. Considering how much she squirmed when in the arms of anyone but him, Dukemon had been drafted to feed her. "It reminds them of their mama's milk. ...Oh please don't tell me I need to explain mammary glands...? You know, breasts?"
"Ah... no." Dukemon could look it up later; it would probably be less embarrassing to ask the library for a reference book on the subject then it would be to press LeAnn for details.
LeAnn notably relaxed. "Well, anyway, you always got to be careful when warming up a bottle. Too hot and it could burn 'em. I always check by puttin' a drop or two on the inside of my wrist, right here," she pointed to the spot. "That's one of the more sensitive spots. If it feels too hot there, I know its too hot for a little munchkin like the lady here."
"You're rather knowledgeable on the subject," Jewelbeemon noted.
"Aw, it ain't nothin'. I babysit for my brother's brood all the time. Oh!" She gently reached over to correct Dukemon's hold. "Best not to let her get too many air bubbles. And its important to burp her afterwords. She may not need to burp, but at that age, its hard for them to burp themselves, so its always good to check. She'll probably fall right off to sleep after getting a nice full belly of good warm formula. Be nice if we could get her some real milk, but she won't be able to handle that until she's older."
"What about milk flowers?" Dukemon asked.
The question caused LeAnn to pause. "You know, I don't know. Its good for Baby I and Baby II but I don't know if it'd be good for human babies. I'd have to ask Doc about that. But I do know one other thing you've always got to do: Watch their head. You see that spot right up there?" She gestured to a spot at the top of the little one's head. "That's the baby spot. The head bones for the skull ain't finished growing in yet, so right there, there's nothing to protect the brain. Brain damage is a bad thing. The rest of the skull's all grown in, but that spot's not. Oh, and they don't have the muscle strength to hold their own heads up just yet, so its good to not let their heads tilt too far back, or that might cause trouble."
Dukemon felt himself stiffen. "Perhaps...?" he suggested, nodding towards LeAnn. So tiny and frail was this creature, it might have been better if another human – a human who knew the risks – were to take her.
"Oh, no, you're doing just fine. A regular old natural at this." she laughed away his worries.
It was after LeAnn walked him through on how to burp babies – and by the Sovereigns if that had not been the most terrifying few moments of his life! Dukemon knew exactly how much strength he held and how easy it would be to crush her tiny little bones in an instant – that the sheriff returned. And she did not look happy.
"Well, I talked to the mayor. And some higher up law-enforcement types. And more muckety-mucks then I care to deal with ever again in my lifetime." The sheriff put down a thick stack of paperwork at least twenty pages long. "Told them you're the only one who got her to quiet down from a good roar even with her tummy runnin' on empty. Told 'em Royal Knight or not, Digimon or not, you've got a good head and and even better heart. Also told them they'd better either get me a name or get over it. Sign that," the sheriff gestured to the papers, "and they'll get over it right quick."
Dukemon blinked once. Then blinked a few times more.
The sheriff sighed.
"She's not in the system."
Dukemon felt, to borrow the expression, his heart sink to the bottom of his shoes.
"It'd be a drain on manpower to drag her over to one of the bigger cities and transfer her Over There. Since we already got a willing foster parent right here, I told them, "Well, let's keep her here!" And they agreed thank – " The sheriff cut herself off and took a deep, calming breath. "Sorry," she apologized. Throwing around, or almost throwing around, the God of the Digital World's name without significant reason was known to make a Royal Knight royally pissed.
"Sign that heap of paperwork – of which I advise you read through real careful, 'cause I looked through it myself, didn't find any bobby-traps, but still... Sign that heap, and you can foster her. Then twelve months from now, if her parents still haven't been found, there's really nothing left to stop you from adopting her."
"Adopt...?" Jewelbeemon started to whisper. Stopped. Took one good, long look at his lord's face, and sighed. He would need to restructure the discretionary funding budget. And order books. Lots of books. And set up meetings to keep the guards and their commanders in the loop. Ugh – and probably refurnish a room near Sir Dukemon's own quarters.
It would be a logistical nightmare. But if that blossoming smile on Sir Dukemon's face was anything to go by, it would all be worth it.
Please, Jewelbeemon prayed to that tiny little bundle, and to Yggdrasil and His Sovereigns, if they were listening. Please help our lord be happy again. Its been so long since he last, truly, smiled...
An odd stench was starting to fill the conference room.
The sheriff grimaced. "But first, I think we'd better teach you how to change a diaper."
Twelve months came. Twelve months passed. Dukemon and several of his guards came to be on first-name basis with the library and doctor's office staff.
And the sheriff's office. Especially when they were in need of a babysitter, or advice from a more seasoned parent. The connection between the Royal Knight's staff and the sheriff's office became tight enough that, when Deputies LeAnn and George married, the ceremony had to be held at Dukemon's keep to fit all the guests. The same went for their baby shower.
Dukemon's fellow Knights were somewhat thrown by the idea. After some time, they shrugged, resigning themselves to their fellow's eccentricities the same as they had to him raising Snapdragons of all things.
A year to the day, exactly, the sheriff came to Dukemon's keep with a basket full of paperwork. Chew toys, too, as it seemed the little one was starting to teethe. She found Dukemon coming out of his garden with the little one in a basket herself.
The sheriff laughed not unkindly. "Been digging in the dirt with your daddy, hum?" she asked, looking into the child's specially made basket. Little peals of laughter met her inquiry.
"Yes, indeed," Dukemon laughed, washing off the last bits of dirt. "She helped me plant a new Snapdragon seedling." After drying his hands Dukemon turned to ask, "Is there something I can help you with, Miranda? Ah, excuse me, Sheriff Miranda."
The sheriff waved away his formality, "I'm off duty. Miranda works just fine." She set down her basket of paperwork, taking out a set of oversized brightly colored rubber keys. "Here you go, sweetie. Something new to chew on, aside from your papa's things." The baby took the keys and began chewing at once.
"Ah, relief," Dukemon sighed with mock exaggeration. "I know at least MetalGrowlmon will be glad to know his tail is safe for the time being. But surely that is not the sole reason you came to visit us?"
Walking into the parlor, Miranda was offered a seat – which she accepted – and a cup of tea – which she declined. Heaving the basket full of paperwork up onto the main table, Miranda noted, "Its been twelve months to the day, you know. And everyone from here to Washington, DC, and even Tokyo, has looked for her folks. Haven't found 'em. Not likely, too, either."
Dukemon sat down, near to shock as the sheriff's words sunk in. "The paperwork...?" he managed to ask, gesturing ever so slightly to the basket full of the stuff.
"Legally air tight, couldn't be taken out with a nuke, and not a loophole in the lot. Its amazing how many lawyers you get to know when you start dealin' with politicians."
Dukemon stood and walked to the parlor's entrance. "Jewelbeemon," he called. The regent appeared at once. "Take Kaminari to her room, if you would, please. Its time for her nap."
"Sir," Jewelbeemon answered. The regent nodded to their guest, "Sheriff," sneaking a look at the paperwork before collecting the infant.
"Jewelbeemon," Miranda returned the nod with a smile. "Managed to pin her down with a name, hum?"
"She is named as she was found: A bolt of lightning from otherwise clear sky, whose thunder left everything changed," Jewelbeemon answered. He bowed slightly to his lord, picked up Kaminari's basket, and departed.
"So Kaminari means 'lightning'?"
"In essence." Dukemon stared at the pile of paperwork in front of him. "Although I have no idea how to spell it in English."
"Humph," answered the sheriff. "You've got fifteen pages out of fifty to figure it out."
Dukemon grimaced. The things you do for love...