Hi! I know I shouldn't be starting another story but this is me having fun with canon while I work through my other stories. It's unbetaed, and if someone wants to beta it that would be beautiful. And Toei honestly asked for this. This story takes place after the end of Xros Wars: Hunters though it won't really be obvious for a while. Enjoy!

Mutual Benefit

Chapter 1: Glass

"The human psyche is like glass. Press too hard in too many places and it breaks."

Mold. It was a scent he was well-familiar with on buildings, softening his steps to near-silence. He looked at each building, hearing the long-etched cries of battle that had once taken place here. Biting his lip, the boy walked on, suppressing the memories as well as he could. He hated that he could still feel the tingling rush of battle. He wanted to forget now, forget that he had tried to be something so beautiful and strong and things that he just wasn't. He couldn't shake the memories as much as he desired, blood on his hands and darkness seeping from his body. The sensations were trapped in his skin and had no urge to leave, just like the mold, a thing that made him think of rotten age.

The boy wondered who had called him here. Or maybe it was what had done so. He didn't want to consider it but… he was likely the perfect source of power. If that was the case… he was lucky he had come armed. The game was in its second phase and despite everything, he didn't want to play anymore. Shaking his head, he walked on, humming a song to himself in a troubling attempt to soothe the heartbeat that was pounding his eardrums. He wasn't excited. What was there to be enthusiastic over? The competition was over for him and his teammates likely weren't interested anymore.

Yet… he couldn't understand. Why did he have the strangest sensation… the sensation that something was wrong, that someone needed him? It was the closest thing to panic he had felt in a long while and made his feet move faster, making him run toward whatever this was. It was reckless, likely ridiculously dangerous, but it also was right.

The smell of fading smoke watered his eyes only a moment later, mixing with the scent of blood. It was thicker than the smoke somehow and made him cough painfully. The soothing plastic of the pill bottle made him relax a little bit as he covered his mouth, struggling to walk. A human… can't make this much blood… can they? Puddles caught his eye, their look sticky red and haunting… just like…

Those eyes…

-I have no use for him anymore.-

Pain coiled in his chest and he forced it down, following the trail to an open door where a soft green light was feebly trying to stay visible. The boy almost hesitated, the smell sickening him more, before he entered the room. He stepped forward.

"Who's there?" The words made him freeze and he shivered at the feeling of blood seeping into one of his boots.

"Ah…" He tried to force some confidence but he felt like he had walked into a butcher's workshop. "I…" The green light moved and brought the room into vivid clarity.

Ryouma couldn't help the fear that rose over his face. "Ta-Taiki-san…"

Kudo Taiki looked at him with helpless grey eyes, seemingly stuck in a half sitting position as he clutched an open wound on his side. "Help her…." He whispered, looking towards where the green light was focused on a still body, a pink rabbit staring at it with desperation. "Please Ryouma. I think my mom is dying."

They weren't supposed to be here.

He had felt that the second they had left the restaurant, the night sky aglow with Koto streetlights and the warbling of many voices unable to disguise the creeping feeling under the back of his neck. His mother was beaming, chattering about grades and her friends at work and how happy she was about that raise and-

"Kaa-san?" She had paused in her laid-back rattle of events that always made him eager to listen, sometimes gave him inspiration to write when he thought about it. Her face had darkened, orange hair falling in an almost droopy sort of way as she looked toward something he couldn't see in the shadows of the sidestreet.

"Fancy seeing you here!"

His blood ran cold and the teen stepped back. Him. Why was he here? Every time there was a second of peace for them to drop their guard and not have crazy things of the realistic and fantastical variety throw them a curve ball, he showed up. Couldn't he just let well enough alone? His mother's stony expression was followed by a step forward, blocking the teen from view or blow. His fingers curled toward his Xros Loader, where everything could be settled. Not that anything should be settled that way but this guy wasn't normal. No he was likely crazy and the best thing to do with true insanity if you couldn't fix it was get the heck away from it.

"Kaa-san," he hissed softly. "We need to go remember? Midotani-san is waiting for us." It was a lie, a lie through his teeth so terrible he ought to get shot for it."

His mother nodded distractedly. "Yes, it's been a while. However we're running a bit late. So you'll have to excuse us." The teen bit his tongue as his mother turned and hurried away; following her with only one backward glance. That one snippet made nausea rise in his stomach. He saw a gleaming smile of white and flickering eyes focused on him. No, not on him; on his Xros Loader.

They had to get out of here.

He wasn't sure where his mother was taking them but all too soon they had entered the colder parts of the city, the ones intending to be rebuilt at one point or another. Around that time, new sounds and… scents began to flare on his senses. It was strangely blurry, like he was nearly unconscious. Around his ears was growling and he felt the world seem to slow. Heavy footsteps behind him and he caught a glimpse of a red light-


Taiki turned slowly to face the nurse, her chocolate-brown eyes watching him with what had to be worry. Instantly the urge rose up to console her. He was fine, he wanted to say, but the words were stuck in his throat with the vivid image of the Emergency light a bright, horrifying red. Kaa-san…

He was definitely not okay.

"Kudou-san please let me look at your side," she requested with all the firmness that a professional had. He gave her a pleading stare with his eyes. Why were they worried about him? Why weren't they helping his mother? He was going to live. He was definitely going to…

-"Live for the future. If you don't seize it, it won't be yours."-

"Kudou-san I will have to move you myself if you won't comply." Still the woman insisted to a request. Now that he thought about it, it was a simple one. There was no real reason to deny her. She just wanted to do her job and help. He shouldn't be so childish. As he turned over on his left, he winced as she pulled the pajama top over the flesh. There was a faint, almost scared hitch of breath far from his ears. Taiki thought he knew who it was and a flash of envy tugged him. You get to be weak. The bitterness passed, returning to the guilt he was growing accustomed with all over again. Soft fingers pressed over bandages and the woman tsked. "The bleeding has stopped. However no one cleaned these bruises. I'll be right back Kudou-san. Please roll onto your stomach."

Taiki obediently rolled over, trying to avoid thinking about how lucky he was. Mom was… well the fact that she was in the emergency ward said it all. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught the quiet, worried eyes of Mogami Ryouma staring at him with something akin to tenderness. Well, at least it wasn't pity. He would get that from the others he knew. The younger boy looked away, teal gaze filling with something like guilt.

"Thank you." Ryouma visibly jumped like a startled cat before his eyes locked back onto the patient with reluctance and hope.

"Taiki-san… what did you just do?"

Taiki blinked slowly, clearly confused. "I… I thanked you."

"But you didn't say anything."

"Yes I di-… oh." He frowned at his pillow puzzledly. "Well that's new." Ryouma just stared at him before lowering his eyes. "Well… I guess this means I'll be able to talk to somebody. At least it's someone I know."

"You don't have to do that Taiki-san." Taiki peered up at him with confusion. "You don't have to pretend to be nice to me," Ryouma elaborated, small dark smile twisting at his lips. "I did something incredibly stupid… and besides… with what's going on… I'd think I would be the last person you'd want to be trying to be strong with." After those words left his lips, Ryouma felt his face heat up and ducked away. Usually he was in good control of himself but…

Perhaps tonight was just a bad night.

Taiki remained silent for a while before he spoke softly. "Thanks." Ryouma squeezed his eyes shut in a sorrowful feeling like anger. Why couldn't he be resented for a moment? Couldn't Taiki be angry with him? Couldn't he have someone attack him for once? Was that what heroes did: forgive everybody?

"For what?" He slowly looked up to see tears falling from the elder's face. "T-Taiki-san…"

"I don't have to be strong…" whispered the voice in his mind. "Do I?" Ryouma became vividly aware of a dark cloud of smog wrapped around his hero. Maybe it wasn't visible but something was choking him and if they weren't careful would kill him. Raising his head, Ryouma quietly dragged the stool over to the bed and sat on it. Recklessly, he rested a hand on the other boy's shoulder.

"No," he said decisively. "I don't think Taiki-san needs to be strong right now."

The elder's shoulders slumped and Taiki let himself cry for a moment. Ryouma watched and as a part of his mind, the predatory side of it, rose to strike, he squashed it. If he was forgiven for nearly killing someone, his hero could be forgiven for being human.

"Taiki-san... I'm sorry."

"...We both are." A few minutes passed and Taiki smiled weakly. "Hey... think we can be friends now?"

Ryouma stared at him before a dust of pink touched his cheeks. "I... I don't mind."

"...Great... then can you take care... of my Xros Loader?" Taiki's eyes closed and his head drooped, cheeks slightly puffy. "I can't let them have it."

"Um..." He nodded and took it from where it sat on the desk. "Who is them?" Quartzmon was gone... and so was Bagramon... so who...

"I don't know...but that's what I'm afraid of..." The voice eased into quiet and Ryouma sighed. He supposed he should be frightened. If a legendary hero was worried, he had every right to run. But watching the boy sleep, a strong urge welled up in his chest.

If he could get another chance, he wanted to use it to protect Taiki-san.

The sun found him semi-conscious on the other side of Taiki's bed, hidden from the door. Ryouma almost yawned and moved but the air was peaceful with sleep. So he kept himself still until a cheery yet sly voice poked in on his thoughts.

"Yo kid." He glanced toward a chair to see Shoutmon tipping it back on its hind legs. If anyone made him think of a king, it was this digimon. Scarred with battle, fierce harsh eyes that were loyal and determined to do what was right, and a wild feeling that made him instantly likeable. "He's still sleepin', don't worry."

Ryouma nodded. "His… his mom?"

The red dragon shook his head and shrugged solemnly. "Ain't tellin' me a thing. Seriously am I that scary?"

"… I… guess? You don't set horror into me if that helps." For a moment Shoutmon just stared at him and Ryouma reflected on why he had no friends. He wasn't a social butterfly. He glanced at Taiki and relaxed a little. That wasn't quite so true…

The red dragon abruptly smiled at him. "You remind me of Kiriha, except I didn't have to scream at you fifteen thousand times. I think we're gonna get along just fine."

"Glad to know I have the king's seal of approval," he heard himself deadpan. Shoutmon laughed.

"You're doing better than Tagiru at least," he commented before glancing out the window. "When are they supposed to get here?" Ryouma shrugged. He wasn't privy to their personal lives. Shoutmon let out a sigh. "Damn it…" The whisper was full of self-hate. "I can't believe I let this happen."

"What happened exactly?"

Shoutmon glanced at him and moved the chair back onto all fours. Taiki didn't stir. "They got attacked by Digimon in that building. He couldn't get any of us out before his mom got…" He winced. "Mauled."

"I didn't even know that was a human," Ryouma admitted quietly. "But how is… how Taiki-san in such a good condition?"

Shoutmon made an odd click with his tongue. "I dunno. I was in the Xros Loader. Wisemon said that at the time he had felt an immense human Digital Power surge."

"Digital Power?"

Shoutmon glanced at him with a frown. "That geezer didn't tell you guys anything," he surmised. "Sensible. Taiki avoided the topic too. Digipower, Digital Power, is something kind of like blood. It fuels our attacks, heals our data, and stuff like that. When it comes from humans, it gives us the power to evolve and to DigiXros. Except… We clearly didn't do that."

"It looked like someone had committed obscene amounts of murder in there when I got there," he mused. "So… what exactly happened?"

"I killed them."

Taiki's abrupt mental interjection into the conversation caused Shoutmon to flip the chair backwards and bruise his head. Scowling lightly, he flipped it back up to stare at his partner. "God damn," grumbled the dragon. "Learn to warn a guy…" Ryouma got up to sit on the stool again, staring at his idol with a mixture of wonder and dismay. He just kept getting farther and farther away…

Mentally Ryouma kicked himself. Now was not the time to make an ass out of himself and get jealous… or admire. Taiki looked at him, somehow guessing his thoughts. I'm… not sure how… but it was kind of like with Grademon." Shoutmon nodded, leaving Ryouma hopelessly confused. Taiki sat up and smiled a bit, a gesture that likely meant later. "I remember feeling like: I want them to leave me alone… to stop attacking my mom… I wanted to destroy them. Then… everything was on fire." He glanced at Ryouma again and smiled appreciatively, making the other look away too quickly. "That's all I remember until you found me."

"Sounds like something to do with the Code Crown," Shoutmon muttered. "Wonderful. We have no clue where the damn thing is."

Ryouma listened a little longer, hearing the shuffling of footsteps. Reluctantly, he left his seat and got up. "I think we need to go Shoutmon… the doctors are coming."

Shoutmon groaned. "Crap…" Reluctantly he returned to the Xros Loader Ryouma was holding. This felt so awkward… carrying his hero's Xros Loader like this.

He glanced back at Taiki. "Want me to get you anything…?"

Taiki smiled again, the expression sad and weak. Last night had not been forgotten. "Can you check on my mom?"

"Of course," he replied. "I'm not that bad of a person."

Taiki laughed in his mind and Ryouma paled. "You're not a bad person at all." Ryouma shook his head and hurried out of the room, cheeks burning. The further he got from the room, the more a smile tugged at his lips. He really was hopeless. Ren was going to kill him… or mock him to death. The quiet soothed and disturbed him. Then he coughed a little and sighed, brushing silver hair from his eyes.

"I hate being sick sometimes," he muttered to himself, pulling a pill from his pocket. He swallowed it dry and wiped spit from his mouth.

"Cold?" Wisemon's oh-so-innocent inquiry made him chuckle.

"Getting over one," he replied, swallowing again to rid himself of the taste of the pill. He could almost feel the sorcerer pout and shook his head. Digimon were such strange, beautiful creatures.

"You don't know how many times I've thought that same thing." Ryouma kept his composure, small smile tilting at his lips.

"Taiki-san, you're trying to give me a heart attack," he managed to say in his mind, doubting it would actually be heard. To his surprise (again damn him), there was a gentle laugh.

"Sorry, that was accidental."

Ryouma resisted the urge to laugh and groan at the same time, settling for a small pout. "I'm not sure whether to call this convenient or disturbing."

"Hmm… both? I'm still not sure what's going on… ahaha~"



"You're a horrible liar."

Taiki laughed weakly, the sound nearly coming out as a sob. "Only to you it seems like…"

Ryouma frowned but didn't ask, instead narrowly avoiding a passing doctor. Stopping at the door of the intensive care unit, he discreetly got the attention of one of the nurses. "Excuse me," he purred with a polite smile. "Can you give me the condition of Kudou Sayuki-san?"

The nurse smiled at him. "You were here yesterday weren't you?" she hummed. "It's nice to see companionship at your age."

He heard Taiki choke and held back a smirk. "You compliment me too highly."

"Ooh I doubt it," she chuckled before putting on a serious, pensive face. "Saiyuki-san is definitely not in the clear, but she's a lot better than a few hours ago. The blood flow is slowly returning to normal and the stitches are currently holding. She's not going into cardiac arrest either, a great relief to her son I'm sure."

"He'll be happy to hear that," Ryouma parroted as Taiki sighed in relief.

"You should also tell him she isn't waking up though," the woman commented worriedly. "And we aren't sure when she will either… We have an IV to inject nutrients into her body… but it's still wait and see."

"I think he'll be happy it's a little bit safer," Ryouma told her quietly, inwardly feeling panic rising up from a distance. Taiki just kept bouncing between emotions and the woman smiled at him again. Inwardly, Ryouma sighed. How was it so easy to say the right things around everyone else?

"You're a sweet boy…" Shoutmon suppressed a snort. "How is he? I'm sure Kudou-chan must be incredibly worried about her?"

"I'm… not sure," he told her, tilting his head slightly. "He hasn't said anything since he woke up in the hospital the first time." Not aloud anyway…

The nurse frowned and nodded decisively. "That happens sometimes with severe trauma…" She went behind what had to be her desk and pulled out a notepad and a few pens. "Here, if he needs something, have him write it here. Don't worry we have plenty of them."

"Thank you ma'am," he told her sweetly. "He'll be very grateful. I'll go take this to him." Bowing, he quickly left. "Hopefully this will make things easier… Taiki-san?" The odd silence made him quicken his steps.

"Get him out." The words were icy yet tinged with fear. "I don't want to see him."

"Don't want to see-?" He returned to the room to see a lanky man with black hair in the doorway. "Excuse me." He felt the rude words at the tip of his tongue and suppressed them, instead allowing green eyes to glower coldly at the back. The man turned to look at him and smiled. Ryouma held back a shudder. If this was what it felt like when he was being controlled, no wonder a good many people had been disturbed. But… he wasn't being controlled… he was just a strange person. Or crazy…

"Oh," the man began gently. "You're Taiki-kun's friend. Nice to meet you. I guess you're the one he was waiting for. I just stopped by to see if he was okay. He'll be in good hands for now." Reluctantly Ryouma let him pass. "See you later Taiki-kun." Ryouma watched until the man was out the door, keeping one eye on Taiki's still form on the bed.

"Taiki-san?" he questioned quietly, entering the room and shutting the door. The former General looked pale, grey eyes unsettled. "Who was he?" Taiki didn't reply right away, taking the notepad without a word and setting it on the table. He drew his knees up to his chest and shook his head.

Finally he spoke shakily, fearfully. "He's a scientist. And he knows about the Digimon Hunt."