Anyway, now that that's settled, on with the fic. I wrote some of the earlier parts without having seen some of the later episodes, but turns out I didn't write much that was in major conflict. I won't keep you any longer. I won't insult your intelligence; you know Digimon doesn't belong to me. If it did you'd see this on TV instead of humbly published on the 'net. :P
After the Storm
Part 1 - "This is the world we were missing?"
"I think if we could manage to stay friends and not rip each other's throats out when we were under a lot of stress and danger, then it's going to be easy to stay friends in the real world."
Sora said that, when they were on the journey of returning to their world but not quite there. All of them were shaken by losing their best friends, and unsure about what it would be like to adjust to real life again.
Everyone nodded and made affirmative sounds, but without much conviction - still, wanting to believe Sora's words. They were all so different, and the real world - and what it demanded of them - such a contrast.
And what it came down to was that in the digital world, pretenses didn't matter - they were dangerous, foolish, useless. There was no point and no benefit in pretending to be other than what you were; if you wanted to shout, you shouted, if you had to cry, you cried, if you felt like breaking down, you could, and know that your friends would help piece you back together. Because they all knew how it felt.
This wasn't usually the case in the real world. Parents, and classmates, and teachers, all wanting you to act a certain way - a lot of other people and other forces at work.
The trolley car began to disappear beneath their feet, and suddenly they were all standing on solid ground. The Highton View Terrace bridge. The last lights faded, the car was nothing, and it was a normal, slightly overcast day in the city.
"They rebuilt the city so fast!" exclaimed Mimi. Everyone stared in silence; it was true - the bridge was solid and complete, the streets around in a good state with lines striping down the centre. Not the rubble, torn-up bitumen and general state of ruin that had been the case last time they were there.
"I wonder what date it is," said Izzy.
"Maybe since we beat all the evil Digimon, the effects on the real world disappeared," said Kari doubtfully.
"I don't think we'd be so lucky," said Joe.
"Maybe we went back in time to before we went to the Digiworld," said Tai, "it's happened before."
"But we spent a few days in our world last time we came back," said Sora, "do you really think those days could just disappear? We know the digital world is real, even if we can't go there any more."
Matt hadn't said anything, just leaned over the railing, looking at the street below, the scene of the battle that for him was months ago. He narrowed his eyes, seeming to seek some detail.
"What're you looking at, Matt?" asked TK, touching his arm.
Matt straightened and pointed at a nearby building.
"See that?" he said, "the side of that building was smashed in the battle, right?"
"Yeah, so what?" asked Tai, "it looks okay now."
"To you, maybe. But look more closely. See that window there? And a bit further down, it looks like half the bricks have been repainted and half haven't."
The others looked rather blank, but Izzy snapped his fingers. "I think I catch your drift," he said, "I recommend we go into town where we fought Venomyotismon."
"We're still doing all this sort of thing?" complained Mimi, "I thought when we came home we'd be through with all this 'going to investigate'! I want to go home and have a nice bubble bath and change clothes and lie on the bed listening to some nice music!"
"You can go home if you want," said Izzy calmly, "but I think it's imperitive that at least one of us finds out what happened while we were gone - if we were gone at all."
"What do you mean 'if we were gone'?! If I wasn't gone, would my hair look like this? I mean, I didn't even have hairspray!"
The others rolled their eyes and grinned a bit, and began to move off, rather glad to have this new investigation to take their mind off the enormity of all that had happened that day - and leaving their Digimon.
Mimi squawked. "Hey you guys! Wait for me!"
"It seems you were right, Matt," said Izzy.
The group stood staring at the scene. A building that had once been there had disappeared altogether. A few temporary buildings - almost like large caravans - were set up here and there, and there was rennovation of another building happening, with tell-tale scaffolding and cranes in various positions around it. Some of the other buildings that had been damaged were fully repaired. There was no sign of rubble, and the streets themselves seemed in a solid condition.
"Well, at least we know the fight really did happen," said Tai, "we're not cracking up at least."
"I don't know about YOU, Tai," Matt couldn't help saying, "but yeah, guess it did happen."
"So how did they fix everything so fast?" asked Sora, repeating Mimi's earlier question, "time runs so much slower in the real world."
Izzy shrugged his laptop off his back and was soon booting up. After a moment, he was typing away as usual. He let out a cry of disbelief instead of his usual triumph.
"All the files I composed and downloaded in the digital world are GONE!"
"If it weren't for what we can see here, it would almost seem like we never went there at all," said Joe.
They walked on a little way - Izzy balancing his laptop on one arm and frantically trying to find something useful with the other - looking for some sign, some clue. People walked along the streets as though it were just a normal day.
There was a flurry, a sharp movement to their left, and everyone turned. From the crowd pushed a young lady, Mrs Takaishi - or Matt and TK's mother. Behind her came two other women - Mrs Takenouchi and Mrs Kamiya.
The kids stared, surprised at the coincidence, but only for a second. Mrs Takaishi had rushed to envelope TK, and Kari, Tai and Sora ran into their mothers' arms. Mrs Takaishi nudged one of her arms around Matt, pulling him closer to her, both her sons to her chest. Matt scowled, looking as though he would rather be somewhere else (or pretending he did?), yet he didn't attempt to disentangle himself.
For a few wonderful moments, before the inevitable flood of questions, some tears, and explanations, they all remembered the reason they had gone to the Digiworld, and the reason they had come back. Even Izzy suddenly wanted to get home to his own parents instead of staying to find out what happened.
And the explanations did come later. All of the children's parents - and Joe's older brother - met at the Takenouchi's house that night for dinner. After the meal, and clearing the dishes, everyone sat around in the living room, looking at each other, not sure where to start.
"I really have to ask," said Izzy, his curiousity beating the silence, "what happened when we were gone? We thought time moved differently in this world."
"Well, I don't know if it did," said Mr Izumi, "how long were you kids in the digital world for?"
The kids looked a bit uncertain, but Izzy instantly replied, "exactly one month, three and a half days."
"That is how long you spent away," said Mr Kido. He was an older version of Jim, but with narrower eyes and a little less hair on the top. He sat on one side of Joe, and his wife, a plump brunette, on the other, although neither of them were touching him.
"Wow," said Matt, summing it up pretty well.
"We managed to scrounge up some pairs of binoculars and a telescope," said Mrs Kamiya, "and looked into those strange rifts in the sky."
"The rifts only disappeared today," said Mrs Tachikawa, "what a relief! Every now and then some horrible monster would fly out!"
"The monsters always faded away pretty quickly, but they could do some real damage while they were out," said Mr Ishida.
"So is that why you were in the city, Mom?" asked Tai.
"Yes, we could see right into the digital world through the sky."
"It was all upside-down but sometimes we could see creatures in it."
"If you weren't under a lot of tree cover or under the sea, we even watched you!"
"Yes, we took it in turns after a while, because we didn't know when you were coming back and we had to work, but we didn't want to lose sight of you for too long."
"We're so glad you're back!"
"I was so worried about you!"
"I'm glad your Digimon protected you so well!"
"I was really worried when you were trying to escape from that terrible metal sea monster..."
"And when you stepped up to that huge machine monster..."
"We lost sight of you for a while, and then you popped up quite a way away from where you started!"
"And it was such a relief to see you beat that last monster!"
"When that happened, the rifts started flashing and shrinking..."
"Then the sky went back to normal."
"All through the weeks we were watching, and people on the streets thought we were weirdos when we said our kids were up there."
"Nobody else seemed to be able to see you, even with the telescope."
"They could see the Digimon though."
"It is very strange."
"I'm so proud of you!"
"You have missed rather a lot of cram sessions..."
"What happened after you beat the sea monster and disappeared under the tree cover?"
"Why did you all split up?"
"It was like watching half an adventure and trying to piece the missing pieces of puzzle together."
"Sometimes I wished so much I could hear what you were all saying."
"Or to know why you were chosen to begin with."
"And what happened before the battle in this city a couple of months ago."
"Construction workers have been crawling through town like ants over the last few weeks. They're finally making some worthwhile progress."
The adults were all trying to say things, to contribute to the story.
"Well, at least we have some idea of the other half of the story," said Izzy, "perhaps we ought to tell our own story from the beginning."
There was little more than a week of their summer vacation remaining, and so they threw themselves into relaxation, into cramming as much holiday time in as possible.
Mimi lounged around the house and went shopping with friends. Tai and Sora played soccer. TK played video games, Kari read, and sometimes they both went to the playground together. Joe studied, found that what usually suited him so well was suddenly a strain, and actually went to the beach for hours a day instead. Izzy was on the computer for quite a while, of course, but he too found he needed a break and spent a lot of time just lying thinking, or going for long walks.
Apart from a couple of occasions with Tai and Sora playing soccer, or TK and Kari meeting up, none of the children met up with, talked to or communicated with any of the others that week. After so long with no other people around, most of them were glad to get away from each other, at least for a little while.
Most of them also spent a lot of time talking to their parents. Mrs Takaishi was reluctant to let TK far out of her sight, and at a time when he seemed to be more distant than ever. It was perfectly obvious; he had grown up, without her even being around to see him, except for a few fleeting glimpses in the sky. He spoke more carefully, thought more clearly, and avoided many subjects. Although outwardly he was his usual cheerful self, being with older children for so long had its impact.
Joe found it difficult to spend a lot of time with his parents; they weren't much of a family for closeness. His mother never said very much, but she would sometimes peek into his room or into the living room to check that he was alright. Joe thought she seemed nervous of him. His father wasn't home often, but when he was, he occasionally enquired about Joe's study progress - less vehemently than he used to, as thought it were a side-thought - otherwise ignoring him. Joe spent more time with Jim, when he wasn't at med school.
He had been thinking a lot about what Jim had said a while ago; to be himself and do what he wanted to do. He wasn't sure what he wanted to do but he missed Gomamon; he didn't really have many friends in the real world apart from the other digidestined, who were at that stage taking pains to enjoy a break from each other. He had nightmares; nightmares he couldn't talk to anyone about, full of monsters and pain and death. He developed insomnia, afraid to go to sleep but hating how big and dark and empty his room seemed in the night with no other kids or Digimon around.
Tai became something of an action junkie; he took to doing risky things for no apparent reason, such as running between moving cars or climbing down from high balconies. In between these activities, he sat on his bed for long periods of time, kind of shellshocked, not sure why he did them. But it wasn't long before he was climbing along train lines or something similar. His parents didn't know about this.
Mimi's parents were worried about her; she had never been so quiet. She was hypersensitive to any sort of conflict; the slightest argument or even play-fighting upset her deeply, possibly because she thought that as the necessity of fighting for life was gone, nobody in the real world should bother with such a thing at all. She could never totally relax, although she pretended life was perfect - the way she had thought of it when she was in the digital world. Of all the other kids, she was the worst to get the feeling that something was watching her, but when she whirled to look there was nothing there.
Paranoia, Izzy called it, who rarely suffered it himself. Of the digidestined, he probably adjusted best to returning - as he had adjusted best to going to the digital world to begin with. The rift that had been between himself and his parents since he first overheard them talking about his adoption had slid away somehow. There were still things he wouldn't talk about to them though, memories of black wings and blood and dying screams. He surprised himself by looking forward to school again - not only to learn more, but make friends and be around a lot of people again.
Sora, although she missed Biyomon terribly, found some solace in a newfound relationship with her mother. As Mrs Takenouchi worked at home, the two could spend most of each day together, Sora sometimes helping with the flowers. Sometimes they talked endlessly, sometimes they said nothing for hours.
Kari wanted to be mothered. Mrs Kamiya was happy to oblige, the two making up for lost time. Kari smiled a little less now, but was usually happy enough. She was glad to have given her whistle away, to not have the memory hanging around her neck. Every time she thought of the digital world, horrible visions flashed through her mind, replaying scenes she wanted to forget, and leaving her terrified. She took to sleeping in her parents' room at night.
Matt seemed to shut down altogether. Having been on emotion overload for so long, he finally had the chance to stop thinking altogether. His father was worried and could barely make him eat, but had the sense to realise no doctor could help. The boy did little but stare at the wall, or at the ceiling if he was lying on his back, not speaking, and seeming not to think of anything at all. He slept little, and when he did his dreams were always very peaceful and uneventful, like delicately-painted landscapes in his mind. The only time he moved at all, apart from when he absolutely had to, was when he thought he saw Gabumon or TK and stretched out one arm towards them. Mr Ishida took as much of his work home as he could.
The day before school went back, Izzy suddenly thought of something, and was amazed it hadn't occured to him sooner. On his computer there was nothing to show that the digital world had ever existed - although he soon remedied that, by typing up what he could remember and keeping logs of many failed searches for more information. Of e-mails from Jennai there were thus no sign, but Izzy remembered his e-mail address!
Being so familiar with the internet, Izzy was soon dredging up everything about the address that he could. The URL brought up a blank white page, and there was surprisingly scanty information on the owner of the server. But after some time of searching, he had a name - simply M. Jennai, no first name given - and, of all things, an address. A location in the real world. On Highton View Terrace.
He copied the information and printed it out, nearly trembling with his excitement. A chance to investigate something real again! He was soon on the phone. Joe and Tai were out, so he left messages, but the others were home and willing to pursue the address. Some were eager to meet their friends again, others were hoping they could somehow find a way to meet their Digimon again, and some just didn't really have anything else to do.
There was one exception.
"Well, I'll try to get him to the phone for you, but I don't like your chances."
Mr Ishida had put down the phone before Izzy could ask why, and went to his son, who was staring vacantly at the TV - which was switched off.
"Matt," he said, nudging him, "Izzy's on the phone for you!"
Matt showed no sign of having heard.
"MATT!" shouted his father, losing patience and actually rather scared, "you listen to me when I speak to you! Your friend wants to talk to you!"
A faint shadow passed across Matt's face, but was gone before his father could be sure he had even seen it. It was the most emotion he had shown all week.
"Sorry, Izzy," said Mr Ishida, finally returning to the phone, "Matt hasn't been speaking at all since the night he came home."
"You're kidding!" Izzy was suddenly jolted from his bubbling enthusiasm for knowledge. "What happened?"
"I don't know! You probably have more idea than I do. He hasn't said a word or responded to a single thing I've said all week. He just sits there, or lies there, staring at nothing. Do you think... you or your friends could snap him out of it?"
"We can try," said Izzy firmly.
The group, including Tai and Joe who had received the messages, all stood inside the Ishida's apartment. Matt showed no indication that he had heard them come in, and his father moved discreetly to the other side of the room. TK looked from his father to his brother, worried at the changes he saw, and unsure what to do.
In their own ways, the children each tried to get some response from Matt.
"Hey, Matt," began Sora, kneeling down in front of him, "we came by to see how you were doing. Your dad's been worried about you. Do you want to tell me what's up?"
He looked at her impassively without seeing her.
"Don't worry, Matt," said Kari, putting her hand in one of his, "we're all safe now, and there are no monsters in the real world. We can just live a normal life again!"
"Yeah, Matt," said Joe, "you did a great job in the digital world! How about you get up and come with us for a little while? Is there something you're worried about? Your brother's safe, right here."
TK shrunk back involuntarily.
"Matt," said Izzy, "we've found out something most interesting! I seem to have found an address for Jennai in the real world. Don't you want to come along and find out who lives there?"
Mimi, thinking of Shogungekomon, thought a song might help.
"Do re mi fa so la ti doooo... I wanna sing a song, a song that'll wake you up..."
"He's not ASLEEP, Mimi!"
"Yeah, he's just turned into a vegetable! Come on, Matt, pull yourself together! You don't want everyone to think you're a wimp, do you? If you were in the digital world now you'd be dead! C'mon, get up!"
Matt trembled all over suddenly, although his expression didn't change.
"Nice going, Tai, you traumatised him."
"Well, I don't think he can get much worse than he already is!"
"Matt!" shouted TK suddenly, "Matt, wake up!"
The others fell silent and looked at him. Although they had all come to try, they all really felt that TK was probably the only one who could really get through to Matt.
"C'mon, Matt! I need you to wake up!"
At the words 'I need you', he stirred slightly.
"We all do, Matt," said Sora, "we're your friends."
"Yeah, we're a team," said Tai.
"Don't you want to start the new school year with the rest of us?" added Joe.
Matt blinked. "I wasn't asleep," he said slowly, as if trying to remember how to speak, "I just didn't feel like really being awake."
The others grinned at each other, confused but relieved. Matt's father started, then checked himself, just standing staring in surprise. These kids knew his son better than he did...
"I thought... I'd just take this week off... and then go back to school like a normal person."
"Normal person, huh? Well, I wouldn't go that far," teased Tai. Matt smirked and punched him on the shoulder.
"But it's weird, you know," said Matt, "I felt like I didn't have any energy to pull myself out of that slump until you said that about friends. I thought we'd stopped being friends when we came back."
"Maybe we all forgot about it a bit," said Mimi, "I suddenly felt a lot happier when I met up with everyone again! Even if you don't care about clothes and stuff like my other friends..."
"Sincerity," mused Izzy, "it's weird you two should say that... you've both been kind of unhappy without friendship and sincerity? I felt a lot better after I found out about Jennai's address, so I could go and uncover something new."
"Funny you should say that," agreed Joe, "I've been on edge for a while, and I haven't really been doing the things I usually do."
"I had a great week," said Sora quietly, "that's because I love my mom."
Tai didn't say anything.
"Do you think we're becoming dependent on what our crests were?" asked Joe, "I mean, we don't have our crests in the real world any more."
"Maybe not," said TK thoughtfully, "but they're sorta inside us anyway, aren't they?"
"Wow," said Kari, "you guys sure this is Jennai's house?"
"It's huge," said Tai, awed, "how'd he afford this?"
"Maybe adventuring in the digital world brings in a pretty impressive paycheck," suggested Joe.
"In that case, we should definitely be getting some big bucks soon," said Matt.
"Now just a minute," Izzy reminded them, "we're not sure this is Jennai's house, we're merely following up an interesting item of information."
"Why're we just standing around here?!" said Tai, "let's go check it out!"
He dashed up to the door and started pounding on it madly. The others sweatdropped a little and followed more sedately.
After a long pause, in which the children could hear scufflings, cursings and finally, footsteps, the door swung open. A young man - well, closer to middle-aged, but young in comparison to the Jennai they were expecting - stood in the doorway, looking a trifle irritated. He had long, metallic-silver hair pulled back in a ponytail and the same mysterious eyes that Joe and Izzy had.
When he saw them, his eyes widened a little.
"What are all you kids doing here? If you're collecting for something, I don't have any loose change on me at the moment."
"It's not Jennai at all," said Tai, disappointed.
"That's MR Jennai to you, young man, and how is it you know my name?"
"I tracked your e-mail address," said Izzy calmly, "e-mail had been sent from it to my own computer, which provides me with adequate reason to believe you are the Jennai from the digital world."
"Tracked my e-mail address?" the poor man sputtered, "are you kids are stalking me or something? It must have taken you an awful lot of effort to track down my address from my e-mail, the information was hardly in plain view. In fact, it's highly confidential. I hope your explanation is good."
The kids looked at each other uncertainly. Somehow, they didn't think that thinking he had been an old man who lived in a computer-generated world inhabited by numerous dangerous monsters was a very good explanation. But Izzy smiled.
"You know my curiousity can lead me anywhere," he said confidently, "you assisted in manufacturing a crest based on that. And I distinctly recall that in the digital world, you commented that you would possess an alternate appearance and form. I am sorry if we have intruded but I'm unable to understand why you are pretending not to know us."
The man stared at him for a moment, their eyes locking. The other kids looked at each other anxiously, wondering if Izzy knew what he was talking about. Then Jennai looked away and sighed. "I ought to have forseen this," he said, "but to answer your question, Koushirou, I was simply testing to see whether you would recognise me."
Izzy furrowed his eyebrows. "Why'd you call me Koushirou? Nobody calls me that except a couple of teachers."
"I can see there are several things I must explain," said Jennai, "I suppose you had all better come in."
"Very well, it is now time for me to tell you my own story. It began just over ten Earth years ago. I won't get into the mathematics of it all, but I found my own way into the digital world. Back then, it was more primitive than it now was, and time there moved slower. But as technology in this world speeded up, the digital world became faster - and as you know, by the time you kids got there initially, you were there for several months that was barely a minute in your own world.
I found that I could go in and out of the digital world, spending days at a time there and returning to find that only an hour or two had passed. You remember I told you I had a different form in both worlds - well, that was less true then, but nevertheless, I existed in both worlds at the same time.
This was true for you kids too - before Myotismon's attack on this world, before you returned to summer camp, your flesh-and-blood human selves, which you were linked to, were still in the real world behaving normally. As you were not gone for a very long time, this did not matter greatly. After you defeated Venommyotismon and returned to the digital world, things were so terribly corrupted there that the normal rules did not apply.
I enjoyed visiting the digital world, learning more about how it worked, relishing being the only human to know about it, and meeting many of the Digimon who lived there. However, I would not have exchanged it for my life in the real world for anything. I was a mathematics professor with many wonderful students... a wife... and a new baby son. Although it was sometimes nice to get away, I would never have voluntarily deserted my family or life.
However, after a particularly stressful week, I thought it would be nice to rest for a couple of days in the digital world. So I went there as usual, not realising how wrong it could all go. But while I was there that time, the flesh-and-blood me, who was still in the real world acting independantly of me, was in a car accident and actually passed away.
The human body I was linked to was gone, and now I was nothing but a little piece of data in the digital world, trapped there forever.
I did not learn this for some time, although I became increasingly anxious as my attempts to return to the real world as I had done successfully so many times before, failed time and time again.
However... do you remember when you were in Puppetmon's forest and Kari showed you how you were chosen? The same light that spoke through her told me that I could have a second chance if I would become the temporary guardian of the digital world while the balance of light and darkness were shaken. Once things were running smoothly again, I would be given a human body back.
I acted too fast, choosing eight adults who I thought could save the digital world. But adults could not work together and forget their vicious pettiness against each other. I had not been in the digital world long enough myself to satisfactorally guide them. They did more damage than they prevented.
I was more careful with my next decision, but the children I chose then could not help either. Their chosen characteristics were not strong enough inside them, and they too failed. I was on my own again, and for me, it was like thousands and thousands of years. I waited and looked for appropriate candidates in the human world.
Finally, you kids all came together and I'm really pleased with the way you worked together and with your Digimon. Your crests were made four human years - an eternity for me! - before you actually came to the digital world, and each of you grew up without losing the characteristic that had given your crest being.
When you left the digital world a week ago, I stayed for a short while to tie up some loose ends and then left myself. I suppose my body now is ten years older than it was when I first went into the digital world. I must say it's very nice to be rid of that awful ugly old man's body. I suppose when there I aged in reference to the time I spent there.
Well, children, that's my story in short. I suppose deep down I knew it would be you who would save both worlds, but I tried those two other groups to try to avoid that - I didn't want to see my own son place himself in such danger, after all."
"Son?" repeated Tai, the first of the children to speak in a while, "whaddya mean, 'son'?"
"He means me," said Izzy, very quietly.
"Wha?!" squawked the rest of the group, and Tai added, "how long've you two known this for?!"
"I only just figured it out," said Izzy, "but Jennai knew right from the beginning."
"What are you going to do now?" asked Sora.
"I think we should talk to my mom and dad," said Izzy.
"Agreed," said Jennai, "but first I have a proposition to make, suggested to me by your Digimon before I left the digital world. As I have just told you, it was possible for me to exist in both worlds at the same time, but in the world where I didn't really belong - the digital world - I was a shadow of myself. The only non-Digimon in a world full of them."
"What are you getting at?"
"I was thinking that no humans should be allowed into the digital world again - it upsets the balance and confuses data, even when you are the digidestined. However, provided that your Digimon stay in that world, their data will still be available in the world's computer network, and I may be able to bring them here."
"Bring our Digimon here?"
"Wow, that'd be so great!"
"You must understand the implications. I would have to reconfigure them a little so their appearance resembled humans - or hu-mon, get it? - in the digital world, and that when they came back to this world, they would look like normal people."
"I thought you had different forms in different worlds?"
"I did, but as I said, they were trifling differences, barely noticeable - eyes, slight features - most of the changes were influenced by the passage of time involved. You were only there for a short time. I don't think you even really noticed the changes in your forms? But then, the differences would have been less marked in digidestined, as your digivices and crests helped you fit into the world without disrupting it terribly."
"Back to the point you were making," said Matt, eagerly, "what were you saying about our Digimon and implications or whatever?"