Author's notes: *glomps Kimague* Thanks again for the wonderful beta job ^_^

Summary: After a near disastrous visit to the Digimon world, Ken and Matt have a conversation.

Measuring Moments.

He'd never cared much for rain. Be it an incessant drizzle that dampened only peoples spirits, or a storm that was dragged relentlessly across the sky by Zeus' chariots themselves. Rain was supposed to be the soul mate of the depressed, the true friend of one forgotten and forsaken.

To Ken, rain was just wet. As was the sole idiot who had chosen to stand out in it on the muggy evening.

A natural dye, the heavy droplets clung viciously to his hair, stealing away the purple hue and staining instead a deep black. The raven strands that were always so perfectly placed and positioned had become victims of the violent wind that was rumbling up the isolated beach, swirling them one moment over his right shoulder, the next lashing them against his face.

But still, it was only rain. As it had always been. Somehow, he had been expecting something different.

Insane. Insane to think that rain could provide answers. Insane to stand merciless to the black ink, even when it failed to provide those answers or comfort. Insane to think it possibly could this time, in the first place.

And wet. Very wet.

"That was a very stupid thing you did today."

He ignored the voice, the soft, reproving tenor that drifted over his left shoulder. Stiffened slightly, yes – he hadn't expected anyone to seek him out, and it was highly improbable that anyone would have stumbled across him accidentally. Not unless they also sought out the false calmness that the rain was supposed to offer.

He certainly hadn't expected Matt to be the one to do the seeking. Especially not down to the coast on a night such as this one.

He had always loved the way the ocean looked during a storm, however. Maybe that was why he had drifted down here unconsciously. Had he come unconsciously? He could never remember. There was much he couldn't remember, just not the things he wanted so desperately to forget.

Not that allowing himself to forget those things was essentially a good thing. He had forced his own damnation once before by trying to do so. There was very little of his soul to offer if he was to try and do so once more.

"Not that, technically, I'm not grateful."

The cursed wind dropped just low enough for the words to reach him, somehow beating out the roaring sounds of the waves crashing kamikaze onto the innocent beach, hungrily ripping away protesting sand already saturated by the rain as the dying waves returned to the ocean, safe in the knowledge that they would be reformed once again. Waves had endless chances. Endless crashes, endless redemption. Humans weren't as lucky. Or shouldn't be.

"But still. Stupid. Very."

He sighed this time, forcing eyes away from the violent clash of violet and midnight blue and turning them slowly to the older boy who had since moved to his side. Matt, who always seemed to be perfectly in control had become simply another victim of the rain and it's empty promises, spoiling his perfect hair and ruining what Ken was sure was an overly expensive silk shirt that hadn't been protected quite enough by the heavy jacket that Matt wore hazardously over his slim shoulders.

"You'll get a cold if you stay out in this weather," Ken replied calmly, not missing the incredulous way Matt raised one of his eyebrows before turning back to the ocean. The rain hadn't even allowed him his solitude, how could he have expected it to solve even the slightest of his problems?

"Ken …"

"I know. Very stupid. But grateful. Still stupid, however." He interrupted before Matt could continue with his mantra. "It's a very pretty verse, Matt. But repetitive. Perhaps someone else should work on the lyrics of this particular song."

"Like TK?" Ken hadn't expected that response. Hadn't expected any response – he'd certainly thought his own reply would have been enough to throw Matt. His lack of anticipation for the simple statement caused him to tense, and Matt, damn him, picked up on it far easier than he should of, especially in the dying light. "It may have taken me awhile, Ken, but I do tend to figure out things eventually." He didn't need to turn to the other boy to know that a wry smile played across his lips.

"You're wrong, Matt. This has nothing to do with TK." His voice, which had been stolen from him by, of all things, Matt's intelligence, returned, calmly denying what was being implied.

"Oh, TK certainly plays a part. But perhaps it just isn't quite as big as the one I do."

"I'm sorry, Matt, but you've lost me. Remind me again exactly what you are going on about?" Polite. Calm. Indifferent.

"How's your wrist, Ken?"

He'd never understand the Digi-destineds' obsession with picnics. It was almost as though they found it impossible to socialise with each other if there wasn't food readily available and forest clearings to ooh and ah over. Perhaps if these 'outings' didn't consist of every single person who had been to the Digital World always being invited he wouldn't feel so damn uncomfortable or wrong. He found it difficult enough to relax in the company of the team members his own age, doing so when everyone from Sora to Tai showed up was near impossible.

This was all Daisuke's fault. He never would have come if his friend hadn't practically dragged him along.

"We're going to grab some firewood so we can roast the marshmallows Daisuke brought along," TK spoke up with a smile as he walked over to where Ken had slightly distanced himself from the others. Faint humour touched TK's eyes; he obvious found Daisuke's inclusion of the sugary sweet as silly an addition to the daytime picnic as Ken did. "Matt and I thought you might want to help us."

Ken let his eyes flicker briefly between the two brothers, emotion clouding them before he forced them behind a wall of ambiguity.

"I promised Daisuke that I would help him keep the Digimon away from the food while everything was being set up." His lie washed easily over TK who laughed and wished him luck, but it was almost as if Matt picked up on the strained normality of his tone. The older boy frowned slightly, confusion tainting his features before he seemed to shrug whatever thoughts he was having off. It wasn't the first time lately that Ken had found himself on the receiving end of Matt's contemplation, and it was something that made him uneasy.

But then, most things made him uneasy these days. Just few things more than TK and his brother. Simply watching them …

Besides. Ken doubted either of them had cared if he had joined them on their search for firewood anyway. It was only a misguided sense of loyalty to Daisuke that caused any of them to tolerate him in the first place.

"My wrist is fine." His clipped response came too fast. Or too slow. The way his words echoed tauntingly in his own ears prevented him from being able to tell which. If he hadn't been Ken Ichijouji, there might have been a nervous hitch in his voice. But he was, for better or worse, Ken Ichijouji, and Ken Ichijouji was always far too controlled and calm to display such an obvious sign of weakness.

As he glanced down at the heavy bandage that was still wrapped tightly around his wrist, he conceded softly to himself that it wasn't Ken at all who was controlled or had an uncanny ability to force his emotions far away behind a barrier that none could breach.

No. That had been the Kaiser. He'd hidden behind the Kaiser façade for so long, he'd forgotten what it was like to simply be himself. Empty. Pathetic. Alone.

He let his eyes dart briefly to Matt, who was still watching him. Simply watching.

Very much alone.

It could have been worse, Ken tried to reason with himself, quietly keeping pace with Daisuke as the group tramped towards a nearby waterfall that Kari had stumbled across several weeks earlier with TK. Daisuke had been aggravated at first when he realised that the two had been going off together alone, but had quickly cheered up when told how perfect the place seemed to be for swimming. Lunch had been not exactly difficult, but it had crossed his mind on more than one occasion how lost he would have been if Daisuke hadn't been there. Daisuke had tried to convince him that the others did actually want him there, but it was difficult to make such a convincing argument when Cody refused to speak to him in anything other than glares and muted warnings, and the rest seemed to always be slightly guarded around him. At best. At worst …

Violet eyes drifted closed for just a moment. Long enough to imagine hatred flash red in unforgiving eyes, long enough to hear muted taunts spoken in silence. Long enough to realise that the dark towers weren't the only thing that had crumbled beneath the Digidestined. Long enough. But still, just a moment.

Time was as fucked up as he was.

It was the sound of cascading water that reached them first, alerting them all that they were nearing TK and Kari's precious waterfall. This time Ken let Daisuke run ahead alone, a small smile threatening to betray his mask of indifference. Stupid smile.

The waterfall itself was hardly anything special, Ken decided when he did reach it. Perhaps it was because the Digital World was home to so many vibrant and spectacular phenomena that he turned a disdained eye over the simple fall. Or maybe, he contemplated suddenly, eyes darkening, he had simply lost the ability to evaluate or feel beauty at all, anymore. He'd considered it so unimportant for so long, deemed it a mere waste …

"You're doing it again." Daisuke's voice floated over from where he was standing at the edge of the calm pool the waterfall ended in. Well, not really a pool in the true sense of the word. More a small lake.

"What?"

"Thinking." It was said lightly, teasingly. Ken was certain that he was the only one who picked up on the threat beneath the words, the promise that if he didn't stop sulking then he would be on the receiving end of either a Daisuke type prank or a Daisuke type fist.

How did Daisuke always seem to *know*? Ken couldn't read his friend anywhere near as well as Daisuke could him, something that always made Ken feel unworthy-

"Ken." This time the threat was obvious, and the wicked smile that accompanied it was enough for him to quickly banish any and all thoughts of pretty much anything. Kari glanced over at them in interest, but Ken merely shook his head slightly. No less confused, Kari turned her attention back to Cody, obviously coming to the conclusion that the rather strange conversation between the two of them wasn't something she needed to quite understand. Mimi didn't even look up from where she was paddling beneath the waterfall, and Sora didn't seemed to have noticed at all.

He didn't even spare a glance to the opposite shore where TK and Matt were resting with Tai.

"Idiot." Matt sighed the words to the winds, surely the winds. No one ever called Ken Ichijouji an idiot. Ken found himself too numb or just too uncaring to offer any resistance when Matt reached over and gently placed a hand under his left wrist, examining the soaked bandaging. "It's wet."

Utter brilliance. And Matt had called Ken an idiot.

"You're going to need to change the wrapping, the water isn't going to do the injury any good." A pause. "TK thought you hated him, you know." The sudden change in topic threw him. It was spoken in the same casual tone, and Matt didn't look up from his examination.

"Pardon?" Perhaps Matt hadn't said quite what he thought.

"TK. He thought you hated him. So did I for a while." This time Matt did raise his eyes, but maintained his gentle grip on Ken's injured wrist, cupping it in a way that protected it from the rain. "More than anyone else, you always seemed to avoid him. And then there was the strange way you would sometimes look at him …"

"The way I looked at him?" Ken asked faintly, looking away from Matt's serious gaze.

"Hooded," Matt replied. "Dark. It was only after today that I realised exactly what emotion lingered in your eyes when they followed after him. But then I realised that it wasn't just him that you avoided, that he wasn't the only one that you would sometimes glance at differently. You tended to do the same with me."

The Kaiser would have pulled away by now, mocking Matt for some reason or the other as he did so. But Ken could only wonder over the foreign gentleness with which Matt was speaking to him, the quiet seriousness. Only Daisuke had ever talked to him like that. And Osamu.

"It was a different look with me, however," Matt reflected. "More wounded than anything. I was convinced at one stage that you actually had a crush on me-" THAT startled Ken, and Matt smiled ruefully in response. "Yeah, that's the Ishida ego for you. Not that I would have blamed you of course, good taste and all." A dazzling smile that seemed so out of place. "That didn't quite explain your dislike for TK, however."

"I don't dislike TK," Ken quietly interjected. Doubted he would ever call the other boy a friend, but didn't dislike him. Not really.

"I know." Matt's reply was just as quiet. "You're jealous of him."

Ken hadn't joined the others in their various attempts of swimming. It wasn't that he wasn't a good swimmer; in fact, he had been rather brilliant at it once. That he was self-conscious about how much paler he was than the others and how ghastly he would look in comparison had a small amount to do with it, the vanity driven part of his mind admitted. It was his masochistic urge to simply watch which had really sidelined him, however. Although that was something he wasn't quite ready to concede, not yet. In fact, if he could deny the way he had found his eyes unwantingly drawn to where the Ishida brothers had been splashing around earlier, he would have found some way to. It was a painful betrayal that his eyes always tried to seek the two out, regardless of the situation.

"Come on, Matt. Everyone's ready to leave, stop showing off." Annoyance rang in TK's voice, impatience practically dripping from him now as water had earlier. It was only the older Ishida brother who remained in the lake now, lazily floating out near the middle on his back. Matt was obviously having a good time, and Ken shot TK a glance of disdain over his willingness to disrupt his brother's fun. He'd never understand the way TK could be so … demanding when it came to Matt. Surely he would want his brother to enjoy himself as much as possible, and just because TK wasn't a good enough swimmer to swim as far out as Matt didn't mean he had to cut short Matt's own fun. If it had been Osamu …

But, it wasn't. Wasn't. This time he did manage to rip his eyes away, allowing his lashes to catch the stray tears that threatened suddenly to fall.

"Matt!" Only for his head to snap back up when TK cried out once again for his brother, but this time his voice was laced with panic. Violet eyes widened in surprise as Matt gave a pained yelp as he begun struggling violently in the water, disappearing beneath the surface for the briefest of moments before somehow managing to break the surface. Time became corrupt once again, as Ken found himself somehow locking eyes with TK. Desperate, and deathly afraid TK.

- "Osamu!" his cry was ripped apart by the vicious screeching of metal as a scream that was not his own stole the wind -

There was nothing TK could do, nothing. And the other boy knew it.

- Hopeless wails rose, eyes widening in disbelief as he found his legs had traitorously stopped working, and all he could do was watch, watch as … -

No. NO. Not again. Never again.

- "OSAMU!" –

It was just a moment. Long enough to see himself in TK's eyes, long enough to relive a nightmare that he thought he had managed to banish to only his sleeping moments. Long enough for a fierce determination he didn't know he still had to take control. Long enough. But still, just a moment.

He had dived into the water before even he had realised what he was doing.

"He would have been my age, wouldn't he?" Again with the quiet tone, so unlike the Matt he was used to. He nodded once in reply, unable yet to look at the other boy. "I'm sorry, Ken."

"I don't want your pity." He growled the words, finally – finally! – ripping his hand out of Matt's grasp and spinning on his heels, facing away from Matt and the emotions the damned boy was forcing from him.

"Too bad." Matt's reply was blunt and much more typical. "What would you rather have? My apathy? My disdain? You lost your brother, Ken – what other emotion am I supposed to feel for you? You lived out something that has haunted me for years, and you expect anything else?"

Pity was for the pathetic, the weak. An excuse made for those who couldn't rise past their own shortcomings and faults to achieve something greater that deemed pity defunct. He'd been taught that years ago, although he couldn't remember by whom.

Osamu. Osamu had taught him that.

"Isn't Osamu worth my pity?"

The water was like death. The intellectual part of his mind scoffed at the idea, reminding him that he wasn't really being swallowed up by the black coldness of the water that muted everything from noise to time. But the intellectual part could not drown out the automatic notion, not when he had banished all thoughts of intelligence the moment he had dived into the now dangerous waters. A memory of a dark shadow lurking below Matt when he had first disappeared beneath the surface flickered across his mind. A digimon?

Perhaps his intelligence hadn't deserted him, after all.

It was panic though that started to take control, seeping even deeper than the water that now saturated the clothes he hadn't thought to at least partially cast off, when he reached the spot Matt should have been. SHOULD have been, damn it!

Time didn't stall. If it had, he might have taken the time to curse the fact they had left their sleepy Digimon back at the picnic area, he would most certainly have negatively reflected on the fact that the best swimmer among the group would just happen to be the one who had to get in trouble. Would it really have been that difficult for someone like Jyou, who could barely swim at all if his earlier attempt was true to form, to have been in Matt's situation, and Matt be in Ken's place?

No. Time didn't stall. Not this time. So all that was on Ken's mind as he breathed deeply before diving beneath the false calmness of the surface was how the deeper blue of the water was achingly similar to the colour of his brother's hair.

"Leave." It was a cold demand. What more could Matt possibly want? He'd saved the other boy's life, given him back to TK where he belonged. Why punish him with this emotional inquisition?

~ Isn't Osamu worth my pity? ~

How had Matt ever learnt about Osamu in the first place? Had Daisuke told him? But why? Why Daisuke, who was the only person Ken found he could trust?

~ He would have been my age, wouldn't he? ~

Oh god.

"You knew him. You knew Osamu." He spoke the words emotionlessly, somehow stripping from his empty tone the varied thoughts and feelings that possibility brought up. Osamu was but a memory to him, one that was corrupted by both youth and hero worship.

"By name only," Matt placed a gentle hand on his shoulder, but Ken refused to turn back around to face the other boy. "And only when Tai jogged my memory. He – Tai, went to the same soccer camp as Osamu. It may have taken him a while, but Tai eventually put two and two together. Got 72, originally. But then, his math has never really been that good."

"How long have you known?" Tai had known Osamu. Tai. He couldn't imagine two more different people.

"Since a couple of days after you returned from being the Kaiser." Over a month, then. And Daisuke hadn't told them. Hang on. "72?"

Matt chuckled, causing Ken to idly realise that it was almost rare for the other boy to. Strange, how he'd never noticed how reserved Matt could be until he wasn't.

"Believe me, you don't want to know. The less people know of Tai's weird theories, the better - they play twisted games with your sanity."

Sanity. Ken wasn't sure he still possessed any to be lost.

Blue seeped green. Funny, how he had somehow been expected black. What he had thought were originally random shadows towards the bottom of the lake began to merge together the deeper he got.

Brilliant. Whatever it was, it had to be large. Of course, he doubted a small digimon could have dragged Matt so far down …

Matt. His eyes widened as he made out the shape of the other boy, entangled in what appeared to be a long strand of seaweed. Appeared to be. Ken had learnt long ago not to trust his first, simplistic thoughts when dealing with the digital world.

Which was why he was able to dodge easily out of the way when a spiralled arm of seaweed came darting suddenly in his direction. Diving beneath the thick tendril, he kicked forcefully towards Matt, taking in the slightly startled look that flashed briefly across his face as Matt realised exactly who it was who had come to rescue him. Or try to. Die trying to, whispered a voice softly in his mind. If he had to. But then, if he did, Daisuke was sure to kill him once he returned above surface.

Wait. That didn't make any sense.

Oxygen depletion. He'd been under here too long.

Reaching Matt's tangled form at last – how long had they both been down here now? – he began to tug at the tightly wrapped seaweed, finding it stronger than it had seemed from a distance. It had to be, to keep Matt prisoner. The other boy was obviously starting to panic, any air that might have somehow stayed in his lungs up until now was being stolen from him by the tight bindings, gradually squeezing him as though it was a Python. Matt had been down here longer than Ken …

Another tug, this time one fuelled by desperation. Slim hands tore violently at the folds, folds that were hard to grip properly and seemed determined not to shift even the slightest. Matt, calm and controlled Matt, was now kicking and struggling with the viciousness of a man whose energy had deserted him yet was fighting on in denial of that fact.

He couldn't do it. He couldn't save Matt. The realisation seemed to strike both boys at the same time. Fear stained Matt's features for a moment, before an almost … calmness? seemed to drive it and the pain away for the moment. Matt was going to die, and the fault was all Ken's, once again.

Why was he never enough?

Osamu …

Osamu was gone. Fading photographs and tainted memories were his brother's only legacy. But Matt wasn't Osamu. Wasn't Osamu … Would never be Osamu, not to anyone but TK.

Not again. Never again.

He wasn't sure who was more surprised when his final tug managed to loosen the bindings – Matt or himself.

"You avoided the question, Ken."

~ Isn't Osamu worth my pity? ~

No. He hadn't avoided it. Not really. Chosen not to think about it, perhaps. That was hardly his own fault; Matt had never really given him time to think it over in the first place.

Liar. You just don't want to have to think about it.

Was Osamu worthy of someone else's pity? Intelligent, clever, talented Osamu, who was supposed have been many things, none of them dead? Did his brother deserve pity, when he hated the mere thought of it when he was alive? But then, Osamu had never been pitied before he – before. It had only ever been the rare pity that had been shown to Ken himself that had earned Osamu's scorn …

He banished the negative thought. Guilt over his brother's death disallowed him the ability to not think of Osamu as perfectly as everyone else seemed to. Not yet. It was easier to remember his perfection than the flawed person beneath it all -

Oh, Osamu. You had been wrong after all.

"Yes." It was a whisper, and for a moment he thought only the wind had heard it. "Yes, Osamu does deserve your pity." The Osamu that none knew, or were unwilling to remember. Even his own brother.

"And what about you, Ken?" Silence. "You would have pitied TK if he had lost me."

He didn't allow himself a response.

There was nothing elegant about the mad dash the pair made towards the surface. A deep fire had slowly begun a scorching trek through his lungs, and the practically dead weight that was Matt's near unconscious form was not helping matters. Only a few more meters …

A cry desperately tried to rip itself from his throat as something thin suddenly wound its way around his wrist, self-preservation the only thing keeping his lips clamped shut against the lake water. The stench of burnt flesh filtered through the haze of panic that accompanied the pain, and for a moment he allowed clouded eyes to gaze down in disbelief at the vine that was clinging – no *burning* itself into his skin. Desperately trying to free himself from the tangled grip with his free hand while maintaining his hold on Matt proved useless, and trying to unwind the slim tendril was only doing more damage to his other hand. If there was one of these things, there could be more …

Closing his eyes as though to brace himself against what he was planning to do, Ken wrapped his caught hand tightly around the vine, entangling himself further and setting a wave of pain up his entire arm that made his previous self-preservation nearly abandon him. But the tighter grip gave him more leverage, and as he kicked hard, powerfully towards the surface, he felt the vine shiver in tension briefly before finally snapping somewhere, allowing Ken, and with him, Matt to break the surface.

The hoarse scream that exploded from Ken's lungs the moment there was air to fill them didn't reach his own ears, but Daisuke would later tell him it was the most terrifying thing the shorter boy had ever heard. There was much Daisuke had to fill him in on, because Ken couldn't quite remember how he and Matt made it back to the shore. Dazed eyes took many moments to take in the fact that there was sand beneath his feet, and that he was leaning heavily against Daisuke. Daisuke, who was cursing softly as a gloved hand gently worked on unravelling the vine that seemed to have burned itself permanently into his wrist.

Ken Ichijouji did not whimper. Ken Ichijouji did not whimper. That said, whimpering was a damn sight more dignified than what he would have *liked* to have done. Swaying slightly, he let himself be guided down to the ground by Daisuke, his gaze settling on the scene just beyond his friend's right shoulder. Matt. The older boy was on his hands and knees, flanked on either side by Tai and TK, both of whom each had an arm around the coughing boy, steadying his shaking form.

"He's going to be fine, Ken. Just fine. TK really owes you one."

He couldn't find the words to say that the debt was not TK's to pay.

"Later, ask me later." Ken finally answered softly, surprising both of them. "When I've earned the right to give you the answer you're seeking."

Osamu may have deserved Matt's pity, but it was only contempt that clung to Ken. Miserable eyes glanced over the darkened ocean, wondering how long they had both been standing here for the sky to fade to the shade of dark blue it now was. He stiffened as cold arms wrapped themselves boldly around his waist, he'd become so unused to physical contact that Matt's touch felt completely foreign.

"You're not as horrible as you seem to think you are, Ken. Not even close."

He should have protested as Matt turned him around so they were facing each other. He should have avoided the other boy's eyes, pale blue that drenched blond streaks fluttered wildly in front of. He should have done so many things.

But, he was only eleven. A very lost, very alone, eleven year old. And even though Matt would never be Osamu, could never be Osamu, concern was clear in those eyes, a warm kind of concern that was real.

There were so few things that were real in his life, anymore.

This time the arms were strangely warm when they pulled him close. This time, Ken threw his arms almost desperately around Matt, smothered tears soaking silently into a leather clad shoulder. It was only a temporary fix, he knew. The security of the embrace and the dark emotions that had been driven away was not meant to last, but for now, he was more than content with the warmth and acceptance that was being offered.

Even if it was just for a moment.

Fini.

*