"You came." The words were spoken emotionlessly, no surprise, rancor, or joy evident.
"It seemed the thing to do, after all the trouble you went to of getting the invitation off." The other shrugged. "We really should spend time together anyway."
"What makes you think it was any trouble to get you here?" he demanded.
"Uh-uh." He shook his head. "I've been to the Digiworld and back, remember? It's not difficult, but it's not just calling someone on the phone either."
He shrugged. "Maybe I didn't invite you."
"Then how did I get all the way up here without being attacked? Come on, Kenny, you can't fool me."
"Don't call me that," Ken said coldly. "I haven't gone by Kenny' since we last saw each other."
"Of course not. What shall I call you then? The Digimon Emperor?"
"I'd rather slit my own throat." It was said almost cheerfully. Then, seriously, "Why are you doing this, Ken? There's no reason to."
"What do you know?" Ken asked, avoiding his eyes. "Don't tell me what to do."
"Big brother's prerogative," he joked.
"Like you were ever a big brother to me," Ken muttered.
"Ken, that's not my fault. Our father never told us. What were we supposed to do, go up to him and say, By the by, Dad, did you have an affair with one of your patients? And did she put the child up for adoption because she was mentally unstable and you didn't want him? And that kid...is it my friend Ken Ichijouji?'"
"You could've," Ken replied, knowing yet unwilling to acknowledge the absurdity in the idea. "Why did you check that old place, anyway?" he asked, eager to change the subject.
He knew immediately to what was being referred. The old knothole in the oak tree at the elementary school. "I don't know," he admitted. "I was just walking past it and I saw it and for some reason, I checked for a message. I was pretty surprised to find one."
"No more surprised than I was to see you coming," Ken replied with a ghost of a grin.
"Why'd you put it in there?"
"I guess...to check and see if you still looked. I haven't forgotten...and I guess I wanted to talk to someone again," Ken said, surprised by his own honesty.
"You could talk to TK or Kari or Davis when they come."
Ken's face hardened. "Don't talk about them," he ordered, but it was almost a plea. "Please let's don't talk about them."
"All right. What did you want to talk about?"
"Just about anything else."
"Good. Then I'm going to ask again, why are you doing this? You know it's wrong."
"Why do you think I do?"
"Is it because of us?"
Ken burst out laughing. "You guys? You mean, is my family life--or lack of it--the reason I've become a power-hungry Digimon despot?"
"Something like that," was the dry reply. "But you had a family, a good one. Your parents loved you."
"They loved the idea of a child," Ken scoffed. "Their own little baby, but I wasn't their own, was I? And I should never forget that. But since they condescended to take me, I'd better repay them by being the very best. So what about when I decide I don't want to do that anymore? I might as well take up residence in the Digital World, because there's no way I'm welcome at home." Ken considered that. "Yes. I take the hurt and insecurity of this poor lost soul and transfer it into an uncaring, angry shield that I protect myself from the world with."
"Actually, that's probably the real reason. It's too bad that you won't see it."
"Haven't you learned yet? Mockery is my other shield."
"It must be traumatic to find out you're adopted like that--by running into the father that looks just like you. You should talk to Izzy, he could help you with your adoption issues," he added.
"Don't pull psychological crap on me."
"No psychological crap, Ken. Just musings of a doctor-to-be. But imagine, walking into a psychiatrist's office for a therapy session and finding out that--"
"Shut up, Joe!" Ken screamed.
Joe sat back, pleased. The real anger was coming out. Now he could learn the real reason for all of this.
"How can you dare say anything about it? You have no idea what it was like--finding out you're a bastard --" Ken spat the word out "--and that your mother was a nut case and your father was the doctor who treated her. You have no idea how it is to find out that you weren't wanted, from the moment of your conception, because even your adopted parents wanted you to be what you weren't." Ken felt the rage flow through him, but dismay overshadowed it as he realized he'd told Joe the secrets he'd kept locked away--and that Joe had manipulated him into it.
"Why do you say I have no idea what it was like to be unwanted? Just because I have the surname Kido'? Believe me, the only place Kido' is better than Ichijouji' is when filling out a job application."
"He didn't put you up for adoption," Ken said spitefully.
"Because my mother wouldn't let him. Because Jim was looking forward to a sibling. Because he would have had to face the world if he tried to get rid of me, and he could just ignore you."
"Like I said."
Joe held up a hand. "Let me finish. He could play the devoted father when the world was watching, but when it was us, alone? Ken, I didn't want to be a doctor. So I might as well have been a ghost for all the attention he paid me."
"And now? Now that you've conformed?"
Joe laughed out loud. "I haven't, exactly. I'm going to be a doctor of dental surgery."
Ken looked blank.
"A dentist," Joe elaborated. "Very shameful. If I wasn't going to follow in his footsteps, I was at least to be an M.D., like Jim." Joe shook his head. "I guess the joke's on him."
"You could do it, though. Be a psychiatrist. Make him proud. He'd acknowledge you then."
"What makes you think I want his acknowledgement?"
"What's to make me think you don't?"
"Point," Ken acknowledged.
"Our father...he doesn't like you?" Ken hated himself for asking, but he had to know.
"Our father wishes that his second son was someone else. I could be someone else, be the Joe Kido he'd like, but I won't. So you don't have to be the Ken Ichijouji that you think he'd like. Be the Ken Ichijouji you like."
"Well, that Ken enjoys taking over the Digiworld."
"Somehow I doubt that." Joe shook his head and sighed. "Sometimes I wish I didn't know."
"Know what?" Ken asked in confusion.
"One of two things. Either that you're my brother or that I'm a Digidestined."
Ken was nonplussed. "What do you mean?"
"If I didn't know you were my brother, I could fight you with a clean conscience. If I didn't know I was a Digidestined, I wouldn't have to fight you, period. Either way, I'd be happier."
"You don't want to fight me?" Get control, Ken! There's no reason to be blurting out your every thought.
"Of course not. You're my brother, my blood. But what you're doing is wrong. So, to use the cliché, I'm trapped between a rock and a hard place."
Ken shrugged. "If you want to, fight me."
"That's just it. I don't want to. In the slightest. I don't want to live with the knowledge that I helped destroy you."
Ken shrugged again. "Don't worry about it. You're right—all of you. What I'm doing is probably wrong. But I've picked my course, and you've picked yours. The die is cast and it's too late to change now."
"No! No, it's not. You could stop this."
Ken looked at his monitors. "I really don't think so. How would I explain it? Would you tell them?"
"That you're my brother? Gladly."
"You say that only because you know I won't take you up on it."
Joe clenched his teeth, then whirled around and forced open a window. "Ken Ichijouji is my brother!" he shouted at the top of his lungs. He then spun around and faced Ken. "You see, it's not me who's embarrassed by you."
Ken felt, to his shock and dismay, tears well up. He banished them with a few blinks and forced himself to be emotionless. "What if someone heard you?"
"That was the point, after all."
"But why did you do that?"
"To show you. I don't hate you and I'm not ashamed of you."
Ken swallowed hard. "Thank you," he finally said.
"You're welcome. But I haven't changed you mind about all of this, have I?"
"Not in the slightest."
"So nothing's settled."
"Everything's settled. Nothing's changed, that's all." Ken looked at the monitors again. "It's almost dawn in your world. You'd better get back."
Joe nodded and made his way across the room. "Will you think about it, Ken?"
"If it makes you feel better, Joe, I don't think I'll be able to not think about it," Ken replied, lifting his glasses and showing Joe eyes that were truly serious.
"Good. Remember, you can come back anytime." At Ken's raised eyebrow, he added, "And please don't make me prove it by shouting it out a window."
Ken grinned. "Okay. I believe you."
Joe smiled. "I don't suppose I can come back sometime?"
"Come back the next time your friends set out to destroy me," Ken suggested, but somehow it was lacking in spite.
"I mean on neutral ground; like this was."
Ken nodded. "Just leave a message."
"Good. I'll do that, then."
All right, anyone curious as to how on Earth this story came about? Well, I shall tell you. We were watching the new season and my brother walked in. "Hey," he said, looking at Davis, "Tai got a haircut."
"No, no, no, no, no," we all said. "That's Davis. He's the new leader."
So then we watched in peace until he saw TK. "MATT GOT A HAT?!?!?"
"No, no, no, no, no. That's TK."
Then he saw Ken.
"JOE'S THE EVIL ONE??????"
Then it hit me. Why do Joe and Ken look so alike? Could they beSECRET BROTHERS??
Eh, probably not. But I wrote this story anyway. So tell me what you think. Please?