Takuyamon

-o-

Disclaimer: Digimon does not belong to me.

Warning: This story contains slightly more mature content, including fighting/violence, sexual themes, and swearing, which is why I rated it M just to be safe. Please read with discretion. Thank you.

Thank you The Keeper of Worlds, Swanhilde, ho hot, and the-ice-cold-alchemist for your reviews and your support! I can't tell you enough how much it encourages me and helps me to feel braver about writing and continuing my story! This chapter is dedicated to you because you took the time to tell me what you thought. Thank you!

-o-

Chapter Nine

-o-

If he had to spend one more minute like this, he knew. Something in him was going to snap. Every time he met her eyes, he felt a sharp, stabbing pain in his heart. When she smiled, he was nearly overcome with the desire to reach out and touch her. But when he did touch her, even just brushing past her by accident…

Takuya hid in the confines of the kitchen for the hundredth time, struggling to keep his heart rate down. What the hell is wrong with me? He thought desperately. Every time I touch her, I feel like I'm going to go insane! I just want to… his face blushed, and he covered it with his hand. I can't even think it, it's too embarrassing.

He hadn't even realized that the feeling had been growing in him, all this time, until just now. Sure, he'd felt an immediate joy just from seeing her face, but the magnitude of emotions that Zoe created in him was staggering. When she smiled, he felt like heaven had opened up and shone its face on him. When she cried, it tore him up, and he was instantly protective of her. When their eyes met, he couldn't even bear the idea of looking away. Without even realizing it, she had taken hold of his heart.

How had it happened so fast?

It wasn't that fast, really, he thought, regaining control of his urge to rush out there and grab her, kiss her, or touch her, anything to be close to her. In the digital world, I had slowly begun to like her, although I didn't think much of it at the time. She promised me and Kouji a date, too, if we managed to win… maybe I should cash in on that promise.

Although just the though of Zoe also giving Kouji a date made him suddenly feel angry and jealous. He didn't want her to go on a date with anyone except him!

Laughter from outside the kitchen startled him, and he remembered that he'd rushed in here to get Zoe's mother a glass of water—and also to try to calm down his thundered heart. It reminded him that the more he kept escaping like this, the more they would notice. I just need to hold out until Zoe and her parents leave. That's all, he thought.

Luckily, that didn't seem like it would be too long until they did. They had arrived shortly after they'd called her, insisting on leaving right that second, but Takuya's mom was not a host that they could easily resist. She had managed to pull them in, sit them down for dinner, and talk to them for the last hour and a half about their concerns. In the end, it had been the perfect solution to Zoe's parent's over-reactions.

Takuya sighed, filled up a glass, and came out of the kitchen as composed as normal, bringing the water with him. "Here you go," he said to Zoe's mom, smiling like nothing was wrong. "One glass of water, as ordered."

"You are such a sweet boy," Mrs. Orimoto smiled at him.

Takuya just grinned. As he retook his seat at the table, his eyes strayed to where Zoe was seated. Almost against his will, their eyes met, and his heart started beating like crazy again. Maybe if I just smile at her, she wont know that I'm going insane, he thought.

Zoe smiled back at him, as though she just couldn't keep herself from doing it. It may have been hours later that they finally looked away, and only because her parents were tapping her on the shoulder and telling her it was time to go. "Already?" Zoe asked, blinking like she was coming out of a daze.

"Yes, we've been here for two hours," her father said. "I think it's time to go home." He turned, bowing to Takuya's mom with a smile on his face. "Thank you for your hospitality, and for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. It's nice to know that we're not the only parents who have had this sprung on them like this."

"Well, you know kids," Takuya's mom laughed. "Sometimes they can be idiots. But that's what parents are here for, right?" she hugged Takuya, rubbing his head affectionately.

"Mom," Takuya groaned, pulling away.

"Takuya, why don't you walk the Orimotos to the door?" she suggested, and then bowed to her guests. "Thank you so much for staying! Let's have dinner again sometime, I've really enjoyed this."

"Me too," Zoe's mother said. She did seem much more relieved since dinner, especially since she had been able to talk to someone who was going through exactly the same thing as her. "We will definitely see each other again."

As Takuya showed them out and watched Mr. and Mrs. Orimoto get into their car, he was suddenly overcome by his feelings. Reaching out a hand, he stopped Zoe before she could leave at the last second.

She paused, turning to look up at him with a look of such longing, it snapped whatever resolve he'd managed to hold onto. He had to kiss her. Slowly he lifted his hand up to her neck, pulling her to him, and leaned his head to meet hers.

"Zoe, stop dawdling!" her mother called. "We need to get home!"

Zoe shuddered, irritation crossing her face, but she managed to turn away and get into the car. "I'm coming," she complained. Seating herself and closing the door with fumbling hands, she turned and looked out the window, raising a hand to wave at him. "Bye," she mouthed, a half-smile, half-grimace on her face.

Takuya tried to smile back. "Bye," he whispered. As the car drove away, he stood there like an idiot, staring at the road long after she was out of sight. It took great effort to pull himself from his stupor and stumble back into the house.

"She's a lovely girl," his mom said when he walked in. She was cleaning the dishes, humming happily to herself. "You could invite her over more often, you know."

Takuya laughed once, rubbing his face with his hand. Right now, he felt like if he saw Zoe one more time, his control would be gone. He'd be all over her before she had time to say his name.

"Takuya, are you alright?" his mom asked, pausing in her cleaning to study him. After a moment, she smirked and turned back. "Hmmm. I see."

Her words irked him for some reason. "You see what?" he snapped, throwing himself onto the couch.

"You like her," she teased. "Don't you?"

"Mom, this is really not a discussion I want to be having with you."

"Suit yourself," she shrugged. But he could tell….she was grinning to herself about it. Geez…why did moms have to be so annoying?

"Mom! Dad! Takuya!" the door opened rapidly, and Shinya hurried in with a serious expression. "I need to talk to you all, right now."

"Your father's not home yet," their mom said, coming quickly from the kitchen. "What is it? Where have you been? You missed dinner, and you didn't answer your cell…" her voice trailed off when she saw that he had a friend with him, and her gaze became an unspoken question.

Takuya had sat up abruptly, feeling overjoyed that his brother had finally come home. But when he saw the boy standing next to him, he felt like his heart stopped beating for a second. Eyes widening with disbelief and excitement, he came forward to the door. It can't be, he thought, staring at the boy that cowered behind his brother. No, that can't be Tommy… Can it?

"Mom, Takuya," Shinya said gravely. "This is Tomoki Himi…one of Takuya's friends from the digital world." He paused, and his eyes shifted to meet Takuya's questioning gaze. There was a guilty expression on his face. "I'm his Tamer."

At those words, Takuya's grin froze on his face. For a moment, he stood there not knowing whether to be ridiculously happy to see Tommy again, or incredibly disappointed that Shinya had turned around and gotten himself a different partner. Hadn't they agreed to at least wait until the end of the month? Why so suddenly partner up with someone else, even if it was Tommy?

When he managed to regain control of himself, he shoved aside his hurt feelings and grinned excitedly instead. "Tommy!" he said, coming forward and placing a hand on the boy's head. "It's been forever, buddy! How have you been?"

Tommy looked older, but still had the same brown hair, big eyes, and child-like expression. But the more Takuya looked at him, the more concerned he began to feel. Tommy was thin, almost malnourished, and there was a nervousness behind his expression that had never been there before. His energy, too, was different than it used to be. It almost felt vulnerable and faint, like a tiny flame that might get snuffed out. Where Kouji's and Zoe's had been vibrant, Tommy's felt almost frayed.

The smile began to fade from Takuya's face, especially when touching Tommy did not create the Burst Mode feeling that it had when he'd touched Kouji and Zoe. Something was definitely wrong!

"Hi Takuya," Tommy said, smiling at him. His face was distant, and he looked around him with the face of someone who thinks that they're dreaming. "What is this place? Is it your home?"

"Yeah, it's my home," Takuya said. He glanced back at Shinya, growing alarmed. This didn't seem normal at all.

"Can we sit down in the living room?" Shinya asked. He grimaced when he met Takuya's eyes. "There's kind of a lot to discuss."

Their mom went to action, pulling them into the living room and preparing some tea and snacks. As she directed them, she spoke kindly to Tommy, and made sure to give him plenty of food and tea. It was strange the way that he stared at what she brought him like he was afraid to touch it. "Okay then," she said, when everyone was situated. "Shinya, why don't you tell us everything?"

Shinya nodded, looking nervous, and glanced at Tommy warily. "Tommy needs a place to stay right now," he said slowly. "And he became my partner this afternoon. I was wondering if he could stay with us until Yamaki can get figure out…everything else."

"Of course he can stay here," their mother nodded. "It might be a good idea to let his parents know…"

"My parents are dead," Tommy spoke up. He continued to look around the house in amazement, admiring everything he could see. "But Yutaka is my guardian." At his own words, he paused and grew anxious, turning to look at Shinya in fear. "He's a liar," he said quietly. "Don't listen to him, even if he tells you it's alright."

His face contorting with helpless anger, Shinya placed a hand on Tommy's shoulder. "Snap out of it, Tommy! You're not dreaming, this is real. You never have to go back there again, okay? Look, it's my brother, Takuya! You remember him, right?"

Tommy's eyes widened, and he turned and looked at Takuya like he was seeing him for the first time. "Takuya!" he exclaimed. "It's you! It's really you! I never thought I'd see you again…"

Watching all of this take place, Takuya felt his alarm quickly growing into horror. What the hell happened? He thought furiously. Plastering on a happy smile for Tommy's sake, he came over and gave Tommy a hug, rubbing his head like he used to four years ago. "Course it's me," he said cheerfully. "I knew we'd run into each other again. We're the best Legendary Warriors ever, right?"

"Right," Tommy grinned. Tears streamed down his cheeks, but he didn't seem to notice they were there. "It would be great to see everyone else, too. I wonder what happened to them? Did Kouji get to meet his mom? Did Kouichi recover from the hospital? Oh, and did Zoe and JP ever start dating? He was always so crazy about her, remember that?" he laughed, holding his stomach. "There's so much to catch up on!"

"And now that you're here, we definitely can," Takuya promised. "Kouji and Kouichi go to my school. Pretty neat, huh? I met up with Zoe, too. In fact, her family was just over at my house for dinner. You just missed them! We haven't seen JP yet, but I'm sure that we'll find him."

"If you're sure, then we will," Tommy sighed. His eyes closed, and he leaned back against the couch involuntarily. "So happy…to see you…again. You always made me feel…so safe…"

"You are safe," Shinya pleaded with him. "Trust me, Tommy. Okay?"

Tommy nodded, smiling weakly. "I trust you," he murmured. "You're my partner. You promised…to…" his voice trailed off, and suddenly he was asleep.

The three Kanbaras sat around him, staring at him in silence, as though they didn't know what to do. Finally, Misaki lifted her head and looked at Shinya. "Tell me everything," she whispered, her eyes bright with tears.

Shinya nodded, clenching his hands into fists. "I met Tommy right after school," he said, keeping his voice quiet. "He ran up to me, looking like he'd just been running for his life, and begged me to become his Tamer. At that time, he didn't even know who I was, he was just desperate. Then he fell unconscious, so I decided to take him to HYPNOS to see if they could help. That was when I ran into Yutaka."

Takuya scowled, growing confused. "Yutaka," he murmured. "That name is familiar. I remember Tommy telling me about someone named Yutaka…I think it was his brother."

"It is his brother," Shinya growled, gritting his teeth. "Turns out, ever since Tommy's parents died in an accident, he's been experimenting on Tommy like he was some kind of lab rat! He's been capturing and controlling digimon, saying things like Tommy is a lesser creature, and that digimon exist to serve humans. Then he attacked us to try and take Tommy back, and even sent Daemon to kill us!"

Their mother gasped, covering her mouth with her hand in horror. Knowing her fiery attitude though, it was probably just her attempt to keep from screaming in rage, so that she wouldn't wake Tommy up.

"So I became Tommy's partner, so that I could give him the strength to fight back," Shinya sighed. "Then we went to HYPNOS and told Yamaki. Right now, Yamaki is taking care of the legal side of things so that Yutaka is no longer Tommy's guardian, but that still leaves him without a place to stay. I was hoping that you would let him stay with me for a while." He looked up at his mom. "Please mom, he's really scared. He just needs a place that feels safe, and I think our house is the best place for him. Takuya is here, after all, and he keeps saying that he feels safe around Takuya." He paused, turning his head to look at Tommy for a moment, before gripping his clenched hands in determination. "And I'm here," he added. "I'm his Tamer. He needs me."

"Of course he can stay here," Misaki nodded. "You did the right thing, Shinya. I'll call Yamaki in the morning, so for right now, let's just put Tommy in your room for the night." She stood, went to the sleeping twelve-year-old, and hesitated for a moment.

"Mom, let me," Takuya insisted. He came over and lifted Tommy into his arms, then carried him carefully up the stairs into Shinya's room. He couldn't believe how light he was, and how weak he felt. It wasn't right.

"Put him on the bed," Shinya ordered. "I'll sleep on the floor."

"Okay," Takuya nodded. Lowering him to the bed, Takuya pulled up the covers so that Tommy would not get cold, and stepped out of the room. Shinya followed him, his face conflicted. "Hey," Takuya said, turning to study his brother. "Shinya."

Shinya flinched, but he looked up and met Takuya's eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I know that I told you I wanted to be your partner. And that hasn't changed, I just…"

"Thank you," Takuya interrupted him.

Blinking, Shinya frowned. "What?" he asked.

Takuya placed his hands on Shinya's shoulders, overcome by his emotions. "Thank you, Shinya," he insisted. "Thank you for doing that, for protecting him and not even thinking about yourself. Tommy was always such a good kid…I really cared about him, you know? But I couldn't have done that for him—become his Tamer, I mean. If not for you, he might not have been able to get away from that horrible situation. Thank you….so much…"

"Hey there," Shinya sighed. He placed a hand on top of Takuya's hand, smirking awkwardly. "You're not going to cry, are you? Cuz I thought you were tougher than that…"

"I'm being serious," Takuya insisted. "And I wanted you to know that. I'm not upset that you became Tomnmy's Tamer. I'm proud of you."

Shinya nodded once, looking relieved. "I just couldn't stand it," he said quietly. "No one should have to go through that."

"He wont have to ever again," Takuya promised. "You and me, we'll look out for him."

"Yeah," Shinya chuckled. "We will."

Retreating to his own room, Takuya threw himself on his bed and stared at the ceiling, letting his feelings, thoughts and emotions rush through him in a jumbled mess. Rage, at hearing and seeing what had happened to Tommy—who had once been so happy and full of life; Sadness, because the one person that he'd been hoping for to have as his partner and Tamer had chosen someone else; Frustration, because he wanted Zoe in ways that he shouldn't want her, and couldn't do anything about. All of these things he felt with such intensity, it threatened to take over his mind.

"Get me out of here," he whispered, squeezing his eyes shut. But it wasn't that simple. No one could escape their own life just because they wanted to. At least for tonight, he could shove it all behind the curtain of sleep, and worry about it tomorrow.

But that just meant tomorrow would be a hell of a day.

-o-

The first thing that Shinya was aware of the next morning was his alarm blaring at him—which he ignored. But the second thing he noticed was a weird feeling that seemed to crawl up and down his skin, almost like an itch that couldn't be physically felt, but it still irritated him. Then suddenly, he knew what it was.

Someone was staring at him.

Jolting upright, he threw his covers off, looking around him in alarm. He was lying on a make-shift bed on the floor, and someone was lying on his bed, watching him.

"Good morning," Shinya groaned, standing up and slamming his hand on the alarm clock to shut it up. He glanced at Tommy, scowling a little bit when he got no response. Lying on his stomach with his chin resting on crossed arms, Tommy watched him with unblinking eyes, almost like a wary animal that wasn't sure whether to trust him or not. "Did you sleep ok?" he asked, trying to get some kind of response.

Slowly, Tommy sat up and slipped off the bed glancing at it with a blank expression. After a moment, he turned back. "This isn't a dream, is it?" he asked, sounding distant.

"No, it isn't," Shinya said.

"I can tell," Tommy continued. He glanced at his hands, frowning at them as though he wasn't used to seeing them. "It's that unnerving feeling—the unraveling—that I don't feel anymore. It used to be there all the time, buzzing under my skin like insects…" he shivered, dropping his hands. "That's not there anymore."

"And that's good, right?" Shinya asked, inwardly horrified. What the hell had this kid gone through? Swiftly, he grabbed his school uniform, jumped into the closet to change—for some reason he just felt weird changing in front of Tommy—and came out again to find his new partner standing in the same spot as before.

Tommy stared at him in silence, until he seemed to realize that he hadn't answered yet. "Yes," he said, a smile breaking out over his face. "Haha, yes it's a good thing."

"Okay…that's good," Shinya offered a half smile in return. He grabbed a clean pair of jeans and a t-shirt, handed them to Tommy, and shoved him toward the closet. "Get changed," he ordered. "We have to go to school."

"Am I allowed to go?" Tommy asked, looking surprised. He entered the closet, coming out shortly in Shinya's clothes. They were a little bit too big on him, only accentuating his thin frame even more.

"You're supposed to be going to school," Shinya scolded. "It's what kids our age do! Just come with me, and we'll talk to the superintendant. He'll get you set up in my class for now."

"Hahaha!" Tommy laughed, smiling easily.

For some reason, him laughing like that seemed like a really weird response, and without knowing how to respond, Shinya sighed and began to walk down the stairs. "Come on," he called, shaking his head. He was beginning to question what he was thinking, becoming the Tamer to a mentally traumatized kid like this. Was this going to be too much work? It's like I'm babysitting the crazy kid, he groaned inwardly. But what else can I do?

"Morning," Takuya said, coming upon them in the kitchen. He smiled cheerfully, but there was something in his eyes that hadn't been there the day before. Shinya could feel it, like an invisible wall, separating them.

"Morning Nii-san," Shinya said quietly. His stomach clenched up, and for the hundredth time since he'd taken Tommy as his partner, he asked himself if he had done the wrong thing. Takuya wont say it, but he's hurt by it. He's too nice to say it…

Tommy turned his head, watching Shinya with a curious look, and then turned to look up at Takuya. "Takuya," he said, smiling faintly. "Thank you."

Both brothers looked at him strangely, before exchanging clueless glances with each other. "You're welcome?" Takuya grinned. He rubbed Tommy's head, dismissing whatever weirdness he could. "You sleep ok? Nice to see a smile on your face. You figure out this isn't a dream yet?"

"Yeah," Tommy grinned back. "But I still kind of feel like I'm dreaming. I can't remember which side of me is the right side, you know?"

"You have two sides?" Takuya chuckled. "What, like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?"

"No…I just…mean…" Tommy frowned, struggling to think for a minute, before giving up and sighing. "Never mind. It's just harder now. Everything's harder. Or it was, until I met Shinya. I haven't felt this normal since the digital world." He paused, then laughed sheepishly. "Okay, even I know I'm not being normal. But I don't really know what normal is for me, anymore."

"You'll find it. You're a good kid, and I'm glad to see you can still smile," Takuya assured him. "That was your goal, right? To learn to keep smiling and stand up to your fears? Looks like you succeeded, even despite what you've been through."

"No, that wasn't it," Tommy's smile faded a little, and his eyes strayed, looking distant. "I said I wasn't going to be afraid anymore…that I wasn't going to cry anymore." He looked up again with a painful smile that hurt to look at. "I was stronger then."

"Let's…go to school," Shinya urged. "Normal life, remember? That's your new goal, so let's make it happen."

"Right," Tommy nodded, taking a deep breath. And though he still seemed frail and not quite right, he did seem much calmer than yesterday, like everything about him was a little more stable. He seemed to gain strength just by standing between Shinya and Takuya, and the worry began to fade from his face.

They walked out the door, taking their lunch and breakfast that Shinya's mom had made them, walking toward school in silence. They weren't really sure what to say to each other after that.

-o-

Renamon threw the rogue Garurumon to the ground, pulling her attack back at the last second. He was defeated, and two seconds from being turned into a digiegg like all the other digimon she'd been fighting through the night. But this one seemed more coherent than the others. "Talk to me," she ordered.

The digimon shuddered, struggling more against some unseen force than her own grip. It did not reply to her, but growled menacingly.

She was exhausted. All night, it had been one digimon after another, pouring into the city as though searching for something. They all seemed half-crazed, like they weren't even aware of what they were doing, except that they must search. If she had to keep doing this without rest, it was going to kill her! "Tell me!" she yelled. "What are you searching for?"

At those words, Garurumon thrashed wildly, until he had no more energy left. Before she could do anything, he began to destabilize and dissolve right in front of her. Only then did he seem to escape from the fog over his mind. "Find him," Garurumon growled, his eyes pleading with her as he died. "Bring him…back…."

"Who?" Renamon asked. "Find who, Garurumon? Who has done this to you? Tell me…"

"The Master," Garurumon closed his eyes. Then he was gone, dissolved into nothing, with not even a digiegg left behind.

Renamon turned away, overcome with grief and weariness. It was bad enough to reduce digimon to digieggs simply because they were being controlled by some unknown enemy. But for them to die completely like this…

"Renamon!" Rika called, running up to her from down the street. She was panting, worn down, and pale. "You were too fast…where did Garurumon go?"

Turning her head, Renamon indicated the spot on the ground where he had vanished, and bowed her head.

"No…" Rika whispered, covering her mouth with her hand. She walked forward, placing a hand on her partner's arm to lend her strength. "I'm sorry Renamon. I'm sure you did everything you could."

"He said something, before he died," Renamon said quietly. "I asked him what they are searching for, and he said 'Find him; Bring him back.' He was not himself, and I think that it was all he could say."

"Find who?" Rika asked, scowling darkly. "Bring who back? Who would be able to enslave all these digimon, and for what purpose?"

"I asked him," Renamon frowned. "He only said, 'The Master.'"

"The Master?" Rika hissed. "What kind of master is that? That's sick! We need to find this bastard and…"

"Rika…" Renamon pleaded. "I'm tired…"

Rika paused, concern striking her face. "Renamon I'm sorry," she murmured, stroking Renamon's yellow fur. "You're right, let's go home and rest, you've been fighting all night. I'll give Yamaki a call and have someone else take over."

"Thank you," Renamon nodded. They walked back toward home, and she tried to put aside her sadness for Garurumon without success. Ever since five years ago, when she and Rika had become Sakuyamon, she had felt a special love for all life, and held a strong desire to preserve and protect it whenever she could. For Garurumon to die because he was being controlled by a master who forced him to become so unstable that he could not live any longer…it made her feel heavy-hearted.

"We'll stop them," Rika assured her. "Whoever they are, they wont succeed."

"Yes," Renamon nodded. "I only hope that we can find this 'master' before any one else dies."

"And before he finds who he's looking for," Rika added, her face grave.

-o-

Kouji paused, a jolt of electricity rushing through him when he sensed Takuya's presence, and he struggled to keep himself from rushing at him. It really was unbelievable how affected he was! Why couldn't he keep control of himself? It just didn't make sense. He was Kouji—calm, collected, and skilled. Something like this shouldn't affect him, right?

But every time he came in contact with Takuya's energy, there was something there that just drove him over the edge. It was like a magnet of pure strength, an exhilarating connection that he shared with no one else, and a raw, inexplicable instinct to simply rush in and experience the fight, calling to him. He'd met and fought plenty of digimon, but none of them created this reaction in him. Even Kouichi, his brother and Tamer, whom he loved like he loved his own self, was a pale light in comparison.

Takuya was the ultimate goal, and fighting him created the most indescribable feelings Kouji had ever felt. It wasn't fair to force him not to!

Kouichi paused next to him, a slight smirk on his face as he placed a hand on his brother's shoulder. "Thank you," he said quietly.

Don't thank me yet, Kouji sighed, turning his eyes to glare in Takuya's direction. If that guy looks at me wrong, there's no telling what might happen.

But Takuya did not turn their way. He walked on, watching the ground with a conflicted expression on his face. He almost seemed depressed. It was so… abnormal.

"Do you think something happened?" Kouichi asked. "He texted us to say he couldn't hang out because he had to get home."

There should be a smile on his face, Kouji scowled, overcome with the inexplicable desire to see Takuya grinning like normal. He walked forward, aware of his twin keeping pace beside him, until he caught up with his friend. "Hey!" he yelled, reaching out to catch Takuya by the arm and stop him.

As if on instinct, Takuya leapt into the air and flipped, arching gracefully until he landed several feet away. It happened so fast, someone else might have missed it. But since Kouji could see and move at a must faster pace than anyone else, he had no trouble following the movement with his eyes. The leap was actually quite excellent. "Kouji," Takuya breathed, relaxing when he saw his friend's face. "I thought you were someone else."

For some reason, the comment irritated him. Kouji scowled, displeased, and turned away as though offended. "Someone else?" he scoffed. Does he not even recognize my energy? I can pick him out from a crowd a million people large, and he…

"I'm just kind of out of it," Takuya interrupted his thoughts. "You'll never guess what happened yesterday."

"You finally admitted that Kouji is better than Takuya," Kouji supplied. He smirked, amused.

"You wish," Takuya grinned. He seemed to be getting a little of his spirit back, which didn't do anything to help Kouji keep from flinging himself at him in a battle. "Actually it's kind of serious. See…Shinya is a Tamer, you know? And I thought he was going to be my Tamer, but then…" his voice trailed off, and he waited anxiously.

"But then?" Kouichi prompted, growing impatient as the bell rang, indicating they needed to split up and go to their classes.

Takuya's face twisted into a look that seemed too complex for just one emotion. Anger, worry, sadness, happiness…all of those mixed together into one weird, half-smile half-grimace. "He became Tommy's Tamer instead."

"Oh!" Kouichi blurted. He paused, then nodded in understanding. "Oh….Takuya…I'm sorry."

"No, it's fine…that's actually…it's a good thing," Takuya sighed. "You guys, Tommy's not okay. His data is really unstable—I can sense it, it's almost completely unraveled. Turns out, since getting back from the digital world, his parents died in a car accident, and his brother—and legal guardian—began experimenting on him."

"What?" Kouji blurted, rage filling him. How could a brother do something like that? A person who becomes so twisted that they experiment on a living being is horrible enough. But to do it to one's own brother? It made him feel sick. "Tommy…" he clenched his fists tighter, shaking his head. "He's just a kid…"

"That's horrible!" Kouichi whispered. "He's got to have some scars from that…"

"Yeah he's not all there," Takuya grimaced. "He clings to my brother like a lost puppy, and he looks and acts like he's broken. I just can't…can't watch that without feeling so angry I just want to…" Takuya squeezed his eyes shut, and an alarming spike of power began to build in him at a rapid pace.

Kouji stared at him, awed. Even without a Tamer, he could instantly push his power levels to ridiculous heights. How do I put it? He thought, frowning. It's like he's the Tamer and the digimon… but without the control that a Tamer would give him. What does that make him?

"Let's talk after class," Kouichi whispered. He hurried off, beckoning Kouji to follow him, and Takuya nodded and went to his own classroom. As Kouji caught up to his brother, Kouichi reached out and took hold of his shoulder for support. "It's just horrible," he said, shaking his head. "Poor Tommy…"

Kouji nodded, his face dark. And poor bastard who experimented on him, he thought, and rage boiled around inside him. When I find that guy, he's going to wish he was never born!

-o-

This one was more difficult to write, because it was a transition chapter. I hope it wasn't too sappy, or too obvious. Also, for those wondering why I chose these roles for these characters, (aka, Tommy being the tortured one, Takuya the main one, JP the mysterious character who hasn't entered yet, etc.) it's because I thought that it fit best for the story. But if you think something might have been better different, let me know. I always like to hear your thoughts and comments.

Anyway, please let me know what you think! You KNOW I am dying to hear!

~Rukatofan