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Meet Me at Atatakai Onsen

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Ken felt the coolness of his empty hands. He stared at them for a moment before pulling them back, determined he wouldn't sit there and look ridiculous, if nothing else. Not like this sort of news made it any time for Ken to be looking out for his dignity.

 

The dark-haired boy agreed, of course, that Daisuke made sense. Ken had been a little more involved in the plan to save their partners than the social implications of pissing off humanity. Sure, Ken was too cool to care about his image, but this went beyond that. People who he'd never even met would know him, and what he'd done-- and that could have ripple effects into his future career. It went beyond being liked, but that was Daisuke's raison d'etre, of course he'd thought of it first.

 

Daisuke was starting to sound more like Ken. Making plans for the worst, running away when it all got too much to handle...

 

"I've thought about what we're about to do." Ken finally piped up again, nodding and looking at the table. He remembered when it felt so warm in here, but now his fingertips were ice.

 

"I've thought, what if we really have to go all the way, what if we have to really close off the digital world from humanity. Close all the gates... it's happened naturally before, it could happen again. What if that's what it takes to make sure Veemon and Wormmon are all right? I would do it. Wormmon is my best friend, and there isn't any inconvenience I wouldn't put upon humanity to make sure he lived." If Daisuke didn't believe that Ken had made the only choice he could earlier, he would now. The resolve was pungent from Ken's mouth.

 

"But if we close that door, our one escape together would be gone. We wouldn't be a computer away from each other... we'd be planes away. Countries and languages away. Honest, Daisuke, are you even good at English!?" Ken gasped, but blushed immediately and muttered apologies. Could he take that last bit back...?

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Of course Ken had thought about it. Daisuke knew how much Wormmon meant to him--their digital partners were everything to their human counterparts. He even shared the sentiment--the entire world could rot before he would let his friend be turned into digi-dust. But they were on the edge--they were on the edge of actions that would sway their entire history.

 

And of course Ken was right. It's not like Daisuke didn't know the implications of moving. It's just he had put himself into that mindset when he figured the digital world was always going to be there. If the gates were closed, it wouldn't be so easy to see each other. They'd be an ocean away, their quickest connection being a fleeting thought about one another during a day. Maybe a text message. Even more rarely, a phone call. Their last minute picnics on File Island, where Ken always brought an extra bento for his unprepared friend. The games of soccer with the little ones in Primary Village. The real world visits--where they travelled by bullet train to Kyoto and Osaka, spending the night in small little hostels to enjoy the adventures within the cities on the following days. They'd be a thing of the past.

 

Daisuke wanted more of that. He wanted it more than anything. The young man that sat across from him now was a man that would forever hold his childhood. However, it was getting too hard to deal with the butterflies that whirled up hurricanes in his stomach whenever the were together.  The boy who had emotional and physical control over him in unprecedented ways--the type of control that brought his face to be radish red and his words to be jumbled together like a spilled jigsaw puzzle.

 

He knew how it felt now to be an ocean away. He had felt it but a couple of days before. It hurt, but he could survive. He would find a way. He was mister optimistic--mister extrovert.

 

Daisuke's eyes narrowed. His brain was trying to keep up with the conversation, both from having too much to drink and from being an emotional game of ping pong the entire night. Ken had always been critical--it was the over analyzer in him. He rightfully persuaded Daisuke from competing in a Battle of the Bands competition because "Daisuke, you can't tell your ass from a piano key". But this was different. This was an accessory to his dream, and Ken was once again using his condescending tone--or at least at that moment that's what it sounded like--to peel away his bundle of desires.

 

"Do you think I'm stupid or something? 'I speak English.'" He wasn't going to admit that it was somewhere around a four year old's understanding, but he figured he's learn more later. "But I guess I am stupid, because I thought you'd be more supportive, huh? Guess I was wrong." Daisuke slammed his fist on the table. "I've always been there for you, Ichijouji. I'm here with you to get out of this shitfest we fell into." He began to remove the jacket that Ken had brought him as he spoke, "But I'm doing this, and you can either support me or shut the fuck up." Balling up the jacket, he placed it roughly on the table and slid his way out of his seat. "This one is on you," He said, referring to the tab they had built up. "I'll see you tomorrow."

 

And with that, Daisuke was reunited with the cold fall air, his heart feeling a bit seasonally chill as well.

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"Good Morning! Gooood Morning Japan!"

 

Dawn of the first day. Ken was grateful for the TV makeup they'd pushed him into when he got here. It masked the bleariness in his eyes, covered the bags beneath them. He'd only slept marginally better last night than the one before, and only because he'd been more tired. If life didn't perk up fast, Ken was going to have a heart attack in the night from all his built-up stress.

 

He sat there with a mask-like smile, looking past the cameras to the crowd of school-age girls beyond. There were a few outliers, boys and men with their digimon in tow, mothers with their young ones with their own near-infant digital friends. Word hadn't spread fast enough about the guests to get any of their friends in the audience, though, something that was the ultimate relief to Ken. These were mostly people they'd pulled in off the streets in the morning with a flashy sign.

 

"Good morning, everyone." Ken spoke softly, but the microphone clipped to his crisp blazer wouldn't let him go silent. Of course, Daisuke was here in the studio too, and maybe everyone was hoping he would be the first one to speak, but the chosen children had a plan. Ken did all the smart talk, explained the plan-- Daisuke was there to clean up the social fallout with his unparalleled extroversion. They were still a team, even if their greetings had been fairly terse this morning.

 

"It's terrible to start the day off with bad news, but I won't delay... it came to our attention, on a recent visit to the Digital World, that there are many of its denizens who have suffered because of humans in the digital world. Much like the criminals who plague human society, similar ne'er-do-wells have made it their purpose to defile the digital world. I must remind you... that we are but ambassadors to this land." Ken swallowed hard. He was a detective, not a politician-- he didn't know exactly what would send the point home. But he kept trying.

 

"The discontent is strong among affected digimon. So, as representatives of the chosen children... it is our plan to close off many of the gates to the Digital World. I don't want to disrupt your partnerships with your digimon, and we understand totally what it is to love your partner. But I have to ask, for the good of the Digital World, that you all cease visiting the Digital World.

 

"I understand to never go back might be a bit much. So dense city centers will have their gates left open for modest travel... and perhaps this way, we can compromise and reduce the number of visitors who would do the Digital World harm."

 

Ken folded his hands, and stared around. Even the hostess seemed to be quite aghast at the news-- the digital world had been open for so long now that the idea it could be closed off was insane. Ken hoped that not slamming all the doors on the first go would leave him with some good graces, but then, no one out there knew that if this didn't work, the next step was to shut it all down. Ken desperately hoped they would listen while there was still some freedom left...

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Daisuke's head felt like it was being slowly squeezed by a vice, the alcohol from the night before still lingering in his system. The heat from the stage lights, and the pressure of being watched by thousands of people, made beads of sweat form and trail down his freshly shaven face. The bitter taste of makeup creeped in from the corner of his mouth. It took every bit of consciousness to not nervously jitter his legs or bite his lip. He had to sweep up the news with his charisma. Make it all sound like it wasn't a big deal. Bring them down easy, reminding them that the world used to be like this before.

 

The room was already filling with tension. A low hum of chatter gathered in the audience as it became clear that this wasn't a joke. That the two influential chosen weren't on air to share more stories about friendship, courage, and kindness to others. The handmade signs in the crowd, ones that had their names on it, decorated with stars and hearts and cute caricatures, started to lower.

 

"Are you saying that all human contact has been bad?" The host said. Daisuke for the life of him couldn't remember her name. "Surely, there has been more good than bad."

 

Daisuke tugged on the edges of his shorts. Even being on live television, he couldn't keep his energy and casual wardrobe from the eyes of many. His simple plaid button up shirt, goggles hanging around his neck, and orange boots were a stark contrast to Ken's sleek, tailored business suit. He breathed out of his nose and leaned back into his seat, folding his arms over his chest. "That's not what we're saying. What we're saying is that not everybody is as responsible as people like you and me." He made eye contact with the host, "Who's your partner?"

 

The host, her name was Akiko, lightly bent the notecards in her hand before she answered, "Chapmon."

 

"Ah, Chapmon. I've met many of them. Very kind and caring little mons they are." He genuinely smiled, remembering the time he met one that permanently evolved into a Elecmon. He was so happy to take on the role of being one of the few lucky caretakers of Primary Village. "We aren't doubting the bond you two share. My bond with Veemon goes deeper than anything." He plowed through his feelings, through the lies he was about to tell. "He's told me first hand of some of the unrest in the Digital World."

 

"Are things really that bad?" Akiko asked, her voice rising in concern.

 

"We all know about the rules and laws that govern the real world, the digital world, and the link between them. We all know that, as Ken said, there will always be bad guys. The difference is that this is involves living creatures. Our friends. Don't they deserve our protection?" He looked at the camera, "This is a conservation effort. If we don't stop now, the Digital World as we know it could be destroyed by the few. They deserve more than that, don't you think?"

 

His words were convincing even to him.

 

And it's not that there wasn't a truth to it. There had been exploitation in the past. The Digital World suffered from more than a few handfuls of abuse cases, though not as many as those with real life animals. For example, most cats can't shoot lasers from their eyes if threatened. On top of that, there were a few instances of digital mining, both literally and figuratively. Crooks and so-called-businessmen found their way into the Digital World and took resources to sell in the real world for exponential profit--often displacing digimon in the process. The newly budding United Nations effort to end these illegal actions were often handled by their fresh-out-of-college intern, Taichi Kamiya.

 

Needless to say, Taichi and friends were generally very good at their jobs.

 

Akiko nodded, the producer noting that their segment was up. "Well, Motomiya Daisuke, Ichijouji Ken," she bowed her head in the direction of both her guests, "It has been a pleasure having you on our show again." Daisuke had almost forgotten he'd been on Tokyo Now! before. "I'm sure we will hear more about these efforts in the following day?"

"Absolutely."

 

 

 

The pair made their way behind stage and unhooked themselves from the microphones. They made their way silently to the back entrance of the studio, only wishing well to others along the way. When the cool air of the outside world hit his face, Daisuke let out a giant sigh. Rubbing his hands across his face, he caught Ken's eyes. "What's up next, captain?"

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Ken stuffed his hands firmly into his pockets, and breathed out the studio to fill his lungs with autumn. The plastic smile had fallen off on his way out the door, and now he was just furtively glancing at Daisuke to see if they were still cool after last night.

 

They were.

 

"Well, uh..." Ken rubbed the back of his neck and pulled out his phone with his other hand. He flipped to the calendar on it to check his agenda, from a distance looking very red with meetings that Ken had chosen not to attend in favor of being media stars with Daisuke. Not like any of it was really his choice, of course.

 

"We've got another of these in just an hour... then an interview with a weekly magazine around noon. I'm waiting to hear back from an evening show, but I think as soon as they see us showing up on TV in the morning, they'll want to hear us too. The hosts will probably start to come up with smarter questions as the day goes on... which is good I suppose, everyone will want to talk to us." Ken was fully aware that they already felt like shit, and they'd just completed the easy round. People were sad and confused; they'd become belligerent if left to stew too long without good answers.

 

And of course, their skyrocketing media fame wasn't all wanted attention. Deep in his shoulder bag, Ken's D-Terminal gave a chipper buzz. Despite his better instincts, he dug it out to look at it. He just wanted to know who'd caught on first.

 

Hikari: Ken-chan, are you guys alright? I just saw you on TV talking crazy...

 

Ken swallowed hard, and stashed the D-Terminal away. Of all the people, Hikari. Among the other chosen children, she probably kept in contact second only to Daisuke. It had briefly been a source of tension for the two boys-- Hikari had never liked Ken romantically, of course, and neither had he, but they were good friends. They were similar enough people: both nice, reserved, with a love for justice and young digimon. Daisuke was as far from them as possible, and that clearly wasn't what she was into. Naturally, with nothing but harassment from Dai, she'd kept more to Ken in communication, which made Ken out to be the lady stealer. By now, of course, that ship had sailed; Hikari liked men like herself, Ken liked them different.

 

Regardless of old burns, Hikari posed a different problem. She was Taichi's sister. The one chosen that Ken had been hoping to avoid butting heads with for the longest time, and now it seemed they might not even make it a day. Go figure; modern media was a blessing and a curse for information transfer.

 

Rather than bring up impending crises, Ken sought to bury their most recent. "Listen, Daisuke..." Ken pushed his hair behind his ear like a fidgeting schoolgirl.

 

"I was thinking about last night. I shouldn't have been so emotional-- so selfish. If it's your dream to go to America, I'm behind you 100%. I'll even tutor your English, if you want me to." Ken blushed as he pushed a smile. Without the alcohol and emotion running strong, Ken's offer seemed a lot more reasonable and a lot less insulting. Honestly, he and Daisuke both knew that "I speak English" was one of maybe two phrases the child of courage really knew, and the other was "where's the toilet?"

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Even through his grogginess, intense stress, and irritability, a huge smile stretched across Daisuke's face. The five hours of sleep had done little for how rested he felt, but it had mitigated his anger toward his friend. This just made things quite a bit better. He threw his arms around his friend, drawing their body's so close that he could almost feel the comforting, pulsating connection of their hearts through their clothes. Daisuke held them together, perhaps a few seconds too long, finding it hard to leave the warmth and pleasantly woody smell of Ken's aftershave. Without thinking, he placed a kiss on the boy's cheek and added some space between them, his hands moving to hold Ken by the arms. "You're the man! I-I would love that!" He gently shook his friend, a blush rapidly appearing upon his cheeks as well. "I would love that..." Dropping his hands, Daisuke averted his gaze toward the ground, biting the inside of his mouth out of discontent. Way to make things awkward.

 

Having his friend's support did make a world of difference, but it didn't really change anything. It would just mean they'd hold onto the strands of their relationship just a little bit longer until they finally frayed too far apart. Then, everything would just be a memory.

 

How much was his dream worth to him, he wondered. How much of it consisted of running away?

 

"I guess we don't have much time to waste, huh?" 

 

 

 

After the third interview, they had started to get the hang of things. Their excuses had turned into arguments that were almost compelling. "We have control over this. This isn't a case of who owns what." Daisuke said on the local afternoon news. Ken was sitting next to him, one long lanky leg crossed over the other, hands clasped in his lap. As per usual, Ken had spoken first about the initial plan, adding in more details as the day progressed. Daisuke came in and swept up with sweet smiles and personal conversation. "As Ken said, nobody owns the Digital World, so do you really think we have any right to stomp around their yard whenever we want? Listen, it's simple fact--merging the worlds has caused physical and emotional damage--to the point of being irreparable.

 

"We are suggesting this 'slow burn' approach because we know how hard it is to say good bye... We know. But this is something we can do, this is something that should be done, and that's why we are here to spread the word."

 

The news caster shifted in his seat as he finished writing a few notes on his index card. "You two were an integral part of the world being the way it is now. The tenth year anniversary is coming up in a couple of months... Why now?"

 

Daisuke chuckled. "We've talked about this so many times! Haven't you read the papers?" He winked at the camera before continuing, "All we set out to do was to stabilize the worlds. Malomyotismon wanted to control everything." He paused, pain welling into his chest, waiting to be exposed on his words. "He controlled Ken. He controlled Oikawa. But we all defeated him--with the help of all the Chosen and our own digimon partners. Oikawa's final wish was to share the kind of relationship we have with our digimon with everyone in the world.

 

"A-and no... You see, what was given to us was a great gift. The days I've been able to spend with Veemon have been the best. It's given us all a single point of light to follow--a greater connection than 'hey, sure is nice out' or 'the Swallows sure are doing great this season, huh?'" Daisuke looked to his friend for a moment, allowing the silence to sink in. "It's given us friendships we've never known were possible.

 

"So it should be easy to see why we need to preserve this special part of our history. We've all lived longer without the Digital World than with it. We can all learn to do it again."

 

 

 

By the time they had left the studio, they had a small break before their evening interviews. Daisuke wiped off the third round of make-up from his face with the inside of his shirt. The pair were waiting at the bustling train station--rush hour approaching with the steady sea of bodies. Their heads were bowed in a naive attempt to avoid recognition; their arms touching in an attempt to ground themselves. Absently, he pulled out his phone from his pocket, realizing that it was the first time he had bothered to check it all day.

 

14 text messages.

 

A chill of fear ran from the top of his head to his tailbone. Reluctantly, he opened his inbox to see the senders. Sticking a thumbnail between his teeth, he read down the messages from the newest first.

 

Taichi: You need to stop immediately and talk to me. Don't make me come to you, Motomiya.

 

Taichi: Daisuke, where are you? Call me. Now.

 

Hikari: I heard from Taichi. He said you aren't responding to him either! Please answer us! We need to talk!

 

Iori: Is everything all right, Motomiya?

 

Taichi: Daisuke. I'm serious. Call me.

 

Yamato: Hey man, long time no talk. Saw you on TV. Dunno if I like what I saw. Hit me up.

 

Taichi: Hey, saw you another show. Can you please call? You can't do this.

 

Takeru: Daisuke?

 

Koushiro: Taichi sent me a stream of you on Tokyo Now! I am unsure if what you're proposing is even possible, nor do I necessarily agree with it. We should all meet and talk about the chances of the two of you perpetuating false information.

 

Taichi: Daisuke, what's up? Let me know.

 

Taichi: Saw you on TV. Is something wrong?

 

Hikari: Hi Dai. Sorry to bother you, but you and Ken are really scaring me. Please call me!

 

Ken: Ready?

 

Daisuke nudged Ken's arm to get his attention. He brought his lips close to Ken's ear in order to quell the noise around them. "We're in trouble. Big trouble." Bringing up the recent message from Taichi, he showed his phone screen to Ken with a frown.

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Ken was red from more than just the cold when Daisuke let him out of the hug. There was no reason to fight Daisuke, if he really wanted to leave, so ruining their friendship beforehand was a moot point. Ken didn't want to spend any time being distant from Dai-- why spend more than he had to?

 

Oh, and then the phone came out. Ken pulled some of his hair between his fingers, as if to distract from the gut punch he was about to receive. He basically knew what he was going to see before he looked, after all, he'd known they couldn't avoid the group forever.

 

"Taichi." Ken acknowledged the words on the screen. Don't make me come to you, Motomiya. Ken had witnessed Tai's rage before, the intensity with which he'd fought Diaboromon with Yamato. The strength he'd put up against him when he'd resurfaced. Oh, he was a force that Ken had always been proud to fight for, and thankful to be on the same side of. Of all the darkest foes they'd faced, Taichi was the one that filled him with the most dread. Perhaps, though, only because he did not want to oppose him.

 

"It is... a matter of time before he finds us as one of our scheduled locations." He'd check their homes first, of course-- but Daisuke would be staying with Ken, and Ken wasn't as easy to find. He didn't live with his parents anymore, and only Daisuke ever came to visit. But they needed to have bookings to get out in the media, and that much, Tai would find.

 

"Of course, I never thought we could run forever." If Tai never caught them, what would he do? Not sit back and let Ken and Daisuke mess with the world-- he'd give a counter message, he'd let the world know that they'd gone rogue. Ken and Daisuke couldn't have the team working against them, but he couldn't very well see them working for them.

 

So what was the pair of them to do? Ken thought of smearing the rest of the team's public image. If the world didn't trust those selfish, miscreant chosen children, they wouldn't listen when they came forward trying to refute that Ken and Daisuke were closing down the digital gates. Possibly effective... but that would create a permanent rift within the team that really would haunt them when this was all over. The other option was to challenge the rest of the group first, publicly-- get their lives so clogged with the paparazzi that had haunted them for some time now that they never had a moment of peace to track Ken and Daisuke down. Again, that seemed... cruel.

 

And Ken knew that he couldn't really do this while remaining kind to everyone. He'd already picked Wormmon and Veemon as the ultimate sink for his kindness. It couldn't be everyone.

 

It couldn't be everyone.

 

So he'd absorb as much pain onto himself as he could. He took the phone from Daisuke's fingers and started typing out his own reply to Taichi, sending it before Daisuke had the chance to yea or nay it. If he didn't like it, good... a little tension would add authenticity to the lie Ken was about to build up.

 

Kamiya, this is Ichijoji. Please stop messaging Motomiya. I'm trying to do the ultimate good for all our partners, and he is with me. Don't bother us unless you're on my side.

 

Ken showed Daisuke the phone, gave him a moment to read.

 

"Misdirection." Ken stated, and observing the look on Daisuke's face (sort of... glassy eyed and mouth-agape) he elaborated. "If they go after Etemon, we don't know what Etemon would do to our partners. If they get to think that I'm the bad guy and you're in the position that we both actually are in..." Ken let the pieces fall together. He explained most of the details fall into place as they walked back to his apartment so Daisuke could cook them dinner. So blissfully domestic, in a time of utter chaos.

 

Ken was to be the bad guy, and he'd dragged Daisuke in because of their closeness and Daisuke's social popularity. Ken had lept off the deep end over the last month after seeing some particularly traumatic abuses while de-stressing in the Digital World. Wormmon, endorsing Ken's crazy plan, had kidnapped Veemon and was holding him hostage in the Digital World. Ken had sent the text to show that he had eyes on Daisuke's communications devices-- Daisuke wasn't 100% on board, but more of a hostage himself. Beyond that, everything was the same... they had a goal to achieve and somebody was going to get hurt if they didn't achieve it.

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As if the situation couldn't get any worse, it somehow did. Daisuke cursed himself for not realizing sooner the conflict they were going to stir between their close friends. Everything about their situation was quickly teetering out of control, and Ken's suggested "cover-up" was just another wobble in the upset.

 

Taichi was the last person he wanted to butt heads with. Not only because the young man held one of the highest tiers of personal respect for Daisuke, but also because he was borderline terrifying in battle. Ken and Daisuke made a formidable team--by far one of the best--but put Taichi with Yamato... They didn't hold a candle to their elders. And even alone, Taichi could whip them up and down with his years of trained diplomacy and debating. Being a natural born leader made him a person you never wanted to cross.

 

And at this rate, they were alienating themselves from all their friends. They were becoming the enemy. And here was Ken, outright saying he was the enemy. That, somehow, he had snapped and revived a darkness within that was thought to have been eradicated long ago. No. He didn't like what was happening at all.

 

They finally arrived at Ken's. His apartment was a miniature version of a real apartment. Small kitchen, small table, small living space, small bedroom, small bathroom. It was quaint, and more importantly, it belonged to him. Although Daisuke's residence was more spacious, he always valued the weekends he spent at Ken's. His own personal futon was rolled into the corner of the living room, and there was even a towel and toothbrush that permanently resided in the washroom. As he did so many times before, he riffled through the refrigerator and cupboards, pulling ingredients for a simple and quick ramen--he would have done something more fancy if they didn't have a schedule to adhere to... Or just better circumstances to meet under.

 

"So explain to me again..." Daisuke started to ask. It had been the third time he had to ask about Ken's new plan. Just as before, he understood it, but he wasn't going to outright approve of it. If it was possible, this idea was even stupider. He started to chop some scallions as he continued, "You went bat-shit and decided the only course of action was to capture Veemon and hold him hostage. That way, I can help you go around spreading the holy word you believe in--which is to disconnect the worlds." He pouted his lips and nodded, his eyebrows furrowing slightly. "Yup. Yup, sounds good." Taking out a pot, he put it on the stove and poured a few cups of chicken stock into it. "Except for that whole part where you are essentially a psycho. Yeah. I don't like that part so much." He turned to Ken, who was seated at the two-person dinner table. "Ken..." Shaking his head, he continued prepping their meal.

 

Cooking was therapeutic for the goggle head. He was in his element among the fragrance of his ingredients and the heat of the stove. Ken was a great audience too--even if he made crap, the dark haired boy always choked the food down with a smile. Though when confronted for honest opinions, he always gave it. It allowed Daisuke to hone his recipes, one bowl at a time.

 

Placing the long, thin ramen noodles into the boiling broth, Daisuke stood back and leaned into the kitchen counter. He folded his arms and looked down at his sock covered feet. "I just don't like it." He admitted. "I don't like it when you do this to yourself. You do it more often than you think. You--"

 

There was a vibration in his pocket. Afraid that it might be Taichi, he removed his phone from his pocket and saw that he had one new message. At least it was only one, he supposed.

 

Tatum: Davis! You're on the news over here! What the hell are you and Ken talking about!?

 

His petname might as well have been blinking in giant red letters across his face. If there were any color in his skin, it seeped right out of him, melting into a pool around his feet.

 

It had been a couple of weeks since he had talked to Tatum. Their last conversation ended with Daisuke's excited, yet nervous, agreement to move to America. The two had a long history, almost as long as the one he had with Ken. She had been one of the American chosen that he met up with on Christmas Day at Rockefeller Center. They didn't start talking until several months after the Diaboromon incident, where she randomly contacted him over his D-Terminal, requesting they meet in the Digital World for a picnic. With golden hair and emerald eyes, she was a stark contrast to his previous girl crush, Hikari. But honestly, at that point, he had started to ween interest off of the child of light--especially as he unhappily perceived she had an interest in Ken.

 

Tatum always filled a certain hole in his life that he had long desired to fill. She offered a new perspective on life--both from living halfway across the globe, and by being the first girl he could call his. A few winters ago she invited him out in December, her broken attempts at Japanese only getting better as the years progressed. It was his first time back in the country since they day they saved the city together. They walked all the great tourist attractions--Central Park, Times Square, Statue of Liberty--before finally ending it at the park where they first met. Unabashed, she took his face between two mittened hands and kissed him until his ears tingled against the frosty air. "Merry Christmas, Davis," she said, kissing him again until he couldn't even remember his given name.

 

And as if Daisuke had been stuck with his proverbial hand in the proverbial cookie jar, he shoved the cellphone back into his pocket. Ken knew about Tatum--it was hard for him not to. Daisuke, however, never talked about just how involved he was with the American girl. And he certainly wasn't up for admitting at that point that she was the one who had convinced him to think about moving. Daisuke knew, of course, he couldn't blame everything on the poor girl. She had a hard time crossing his mind when he was with Ken--which was honestly, one of the biggest problems.

 

Judging from her text, their news castings must have found their way onto American morning news. And it was then that it hit him--Ken and Daisuke may have vastly underestimated just how much of and impact they really had. If they were already reaching headlines in places with such high population and influence...

 

Daisuke swallowed hard. "I-it was just Taichi again. Old man sure is crotchety." Daisuke laughed nervously as he poured some bowls and brought them over to the table. "But he won't be interrupting this." He smiled, as he took the seat opposite of his friend. Raising his chopsticks, he dug in and got a big wad of noodles and slurped them up, fishing for a reaction from his friend. For these moments, they were the ones that endangered their entire friendship. If they somehow survived this entire situation with any type of integrity, Daisuke certainly couldn't hold onto any for much longer. 

 

It was getting too hard for him to not see them together.

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Ken's head hung slightly as he waited for dinner. Of course, Daisuke had every right to scold him for his self-deprecating ideas. Ken had seen therapists in the past over his urges to absorb the word's darkness. He was too prepubescent to understand the damage done to him way back when they'd defeated Malomyotismon. It was only the beginning of accepting that he didn't need to blame himself for his former evils. Ken had never stopped trying to make good in the world at the expense of himself. He was composed enough that his therapy sessions had never lasted long: it was Daisuke who picked Ken up most often when he was hurting himself.

 

"I know, Daisuke, but what else--" Ken paused when he noticed Daisuke involved in reading his phone. What an unusual response: Ken was sure he'd just seen Daisuke blush, and then bleach the blush right off his face. What news could it be that they hadn't heard already? At worst, it must've been Taichi with some kind of threat. Right? Unless it was someone who hadn't messaged them before now...

 

Ken furrowed his brow as Daisuke hastily waved it off as Taichi. Which meant it definitely wasn't Taichi. Honestly, even if Ken weren't a genius, he was training as a detective. Daisuke's poker face just wasn't that good.

 

The question that stood was, why was Daisuke lying to him?

 

"Motomiya." Ken narrowed his eyes, and strung some ramen up in his chopsticks to let it cool briefly outside the broth. Tension pulled at the pair from the air around them, but Ken sucked down his noodles as a move to shatter it.

 

"This is delicious, as usual." Ken smiled. Maybe it wasn't worth disturbing dinner with suspicions. The whole world around them was begging for their attention, and Ken and Daisuke weren't going to get another moment together like this. Quiet. Just the two of them. Ken would rather choke on this ramen and die here than interrupt what could be his last peaceful moment with Dai.

 

So... why did he have to lie? Dammit. Ken's brain worked too hard to just glide on in silence. Who... not one of their mutual friends, most likely. They'd heard from them. Daisuke's friends? There were so many... but so few of them actually mattered. Ken tried to rank closeness, struggling briefly to acknowledge that he really was Daisuke's #1. Taichi was up there, but as a mentor figure, but then... the American? Ken knew Dai had spoken to her more recently than the last time he'd spoken to her, and Ken hadn't really asked much about her after that. How close could he be to someone who lived so far away, anyway?

 

Maybe not so distant...

 

Ken fished hopelessly for more noodles in his bowl. He wasn't still hungry-- Daisuke knew his stomach to the last grain of rice, he always made just the right amount-- but he didn't want to end the meal or worse, bring up why Daisuke was possibly hiding some American news from him.

 

Oh.

 

The American News. Maybe word had gotten that far already. It suddenly made all sorts of sense that Daisuke had gone ghostly. He drank his broth to restore a little heat to his body, and then looked over at Daisuke with a glum frown.

 

"Daisuke, that was from the American girl, wasn't it?" Ken nodded towards Daisuke's phone. "Are we on the American news?" Ken didn't want to be right anymore. He wanted to be stupid. He wanted to be that pigheaded brute back in the arms of Etemon's henchmen, struggling, screaming for justice with no other plan than to fight their way through. If Ken had even begun to realize how fast the world would hear his feeble message, he would have told Etemon to go fuck himself too.

 

"Why do so many people care..." Ken's voice wavered. "We were kids! We are kids! Why is anyone listening to us... let alone everyone." Ken put his head in his hands. He didn't understand these people at all-- Ken had thought maybe his following was because he was handsome, not some sort of eternal celebrity. His hero status had been vastly underestimated. Ken himself hardly felt like the world savior, he was just cleaning up a mess he'd helped make. All the chosen children... they hadn't chosen this path. They did what they had to do, because they'd been thrown in the bullet's path. Ken didn't know how to manage an international incident, and for the second time in his life, he felt as though he'd begun something truly insane and out of control.

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Daisuke choked on the last bit of his meal. Of course Ken would have been able to figure it out. Not that Daisuke was a particularly good liar, but was more so surprised that Ken had remembered there was even an American girl at all. He set his bowl down, coughing down some misplaced noodles, and fingered his chopsticks nervously. "Y-yeah. Looks like we are." If he could avoid it, he'd just rather leave her out of any future discussions with Ken. Forever. "If people didn't know about us before... Apparently they do now..."

 

Ken's stress started to saturate the room. Daisuke may have been the emotionally fiery one, but when it came to dark distress, Ken radiated energy. Carefully, Daisuke placed his hand on Ken's arm, coaxing the boy to reveal one side of his face. "Hey. I don't need you combusting on me now, Ichijouji. You know you're the brain of any operation. I can't do this without you." With Ken's arm flat on the table, Daisuke took his hand within his and squeezed it lightly. "We're... We're in a situation that really, really sucks. I had no idea that it would have gotten this bad. But we need to remember who we're doing this for. For Wormmon... And Veemon... The best we can do is keep them safe. They've saved our lives so many times, Ken." He clasped his other hand onto Ken's, bringing the boy closer to him from across the table. "You're crazy, but I know in there, you're three steps ahead of everybody. You're five steps ahead of me. I... I hate seeing you like this. I hate seeing you do this to yourself... I swear, when this is all over..." He drew their hands to his forehead and sighed.

 

He didn't know what else to say.

 

The cogs that had started to turn would forever blemish their names. If they backed down eventually from the stance, they'd look like a bunch of kooks. If they kept with it, they'd lose everything--their partners, their friends, possibly their credibility. Even if they eventually told the truth, they'd be looked at as cowards. Their personas were so much larger than they had thought--it was no wonder Etemon and his goons were so excited to get his hands on them.

 

"We aren't kids, you know." Daisuke said, releasing his grip. "So much of everything in our history together has been out of our control. This may have started out as a shitstorm, but we can take control. We can own this. Just don't ever believe what you're saying. We may be saying one to thing everybody else, but you aren't cruel or mean or hateful or controlling... You aren't the demons from your childhood, okay?" 

 

Daisuke slid out of his chair and took both of their bowls. "Just don't forget, okay?" He smiled and went to the kitchen to deposit the dishes. Glancing at the small analog clock on the counter, they had a little over an hour before they had to be at their evening news cast. The dread inside of him made his limbs feel heavy. All he wanted to do was to stay inside, here in Ken's space, where the world around them hadn't completely gone to shit yet.

 

"We have to get going soon..." Daisuke said, his words fading into the silence. A sense of deja vu overcame him, the emotional padding in the room reminding him of the earlier days of their relationship.

 

"Ken, get out from under there." Daisuke said, pulling on the covers of his friend's bed. He was standing on his friend's desk, leaning over the gap between it and the bunk bed. Ken was hibernating, the covers over his head, only answering in low mumbles and stiff groans. "Stop being a jerk! You said we could go to the arcade today! What the heck is your problem!" With a swift tug, he managed to remove the blanket from around his friend's head, leaving dark strands to stick on end from the static. "Keeeeeen."

 

Then he saw his eyes. They were puffy and wet, strands of his hair sticking to his damp cheeks, causing dramatic cracks across his pale skin. "W-what's... What's wrong, Ichijouji?" But he never got an answer. He never did get an answer. For several months, for years, Ken would just have "off days". Where he couldn't move, or eat, or even talk. Ken would always hide his face back into the bed, with a soft whimper, and Daisuke would know he just had to be there. Climbing down from the desk, he grabbed a comic from his backpack and sat in the sliding door window.

 

After his fourth re-read, Ken finally climbed down the bunk. They didn't say a word to each other as Ken came and sat next to Daisuke. They watched the sun raise to the high point in the sky, the rays of light slightly crisping Daisuke's darker skin. He read the comic three more times until Ken finally said a word.

 

And that was all right.

 

It took a long time for Ken to become the man he was now. Daisuke couldn't help but feel a bit responsible. Where even silent rooms spoke myriad of words between the two. Where a feeble lie couldn't get through the keen senses of kindness. Where neither would ever go to battle with an empty stomach. And lately, all Daisuke wanted to do when Ken was in pain was to wrap them both up in a blanket and hold him tight, softly wiping away tears with the back of a finger.

 

His heart swelled against his ribcage, the strain and stress of their entire situation causing him to near buckle in the knees. "I'm sorry, Ken. I'm sorry for being an asshole lately. I guess everything is just... Really... Getting to me." 

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Daisuke wasn't the only one recalling the protective blanket fortresses of yore. Ken's life had been a steady progression of learning to not run when he felt overwhelmed, of trusting himself and staying the course. His life had been haunted by the ghost of a young Ken who had been too headstrong to see the path he was on would lead to ruin. His life had been guided by the courage of his closest friend.

 

He willed himself to leave his agony in his empty bowl, but reached across the table and grasped Daisuke's hand tightly in his. He wasn't listening to him, of course. Not his words, anyway-- Daisuke was often too verbose for his own good, regurgitating words when it was useful or when it wasn't. Ken was listening to Daisuke's heart beat as his pulse drove through his palm. Ken took all the heat Daisuke radiated as sincerity and strength, felt his chef-skilled hands against his own soft digits with only a pencil callous to speak of. He clasped their hands together tight as he exhaled, and released as he took a breath in.

 

"Looking too far outside us won't do us any good." Ken nodded, Daisuke nodded. "Let's just live the lie and see where it leads us."

 

Had he absorbed a bit of Daisuke in that last breath? Ken was not one to fly by the seat of his pants, but to say he was going in unprepared was perhaps the wrong way of looking at it. Ken made plans as problems arose, fitting small problems into a grander solution. He was never going to be able to work from the big problem down. It was time to let go of their moment of quiet, and dive back into the maelstrom. Ken would rather have what peace he could salvage with Daisuke on the other side than the stressed hiatus they'd just endured.

 

Evening news rolled around, and Ken had his prettyboy face on. The world wouldn't know the nervous breakdowns the boys had just eaten their way through. Just as in the morning, Ken looked like the model citizen spreading some anti-smoking PSA.

 

Just that this time, Hikari and Miyako were sitting in the front row looking extremely concerned.

 

"It's come to our attention that some of our friends, our former teammates, don't understand the message we've been trying to spread. Make no mistake that we have all had differing experiences with the Digital World in our adult lives, and some of us have come closer to the abuses we've been talking about than others. To them, this comes out of nowhere just as much as it does with you, and I can only apologize that we've had to be so hasty in our action. It's only recently that we've both come to terms with the fact that years after the worlds were bridged, we still can't manage to go to the Digital World in peace. Letting the problem linger on a promise of a diplomatic solution any longer... is impossible."

 

Ken met Hikari's eyes. Taichi wasn't here, but his ears were. In the realm of his lie, Ken didn't even wish he could weaken the blow, calm Hikari's nerves and let her know he was acting. An inner sense of discomfort was all that separated the real Ken from this one. This Ken wanted Hikari to know he meant business, and make sure when he called out Taichi, he was received.

 

"Much more humane, I think, is to work on a foolproof gateway for humans to visit their digital partners in a safe, controlled way. When we've sorted out how humans can interact non-destructively with the Digital World, then we can truly live in harmony with it." Ken folded his hands. No one liked a hiatus on the digital world, but it was better than an eternal embargo. Ken and Daisuke had been honing their marketing all morning, and this seemed to be the statement that drew the fewest growls. He liked to see an audience leave sad, instead of livid. If they were sad, they were accepting that things would change. If they were angry, they'd try to stop them.

 

And two boys could only stop so many people.

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"We're going back to the idea of conservation." Daisuke said. The set for their evening casting was one of the larger ones they had been on during the day. Luckily, it was their second to last one. Unluckily, this also had an audience. Directly in front of them were Hikari and Miyako, the latter staring daggers into their foreheads. "There will clearly be details that will need to be worked out, but instating something like an entry fee, greater regulations, and so on will be necessary. But in order to set that up, we need to control the entry count so we can start the changes." He shook his head, playing up his remorse for the passing news. His friend's glares threatening to put him on tilt. "This is important, and we need your support. We'll continue to work out the courses of action, but guarantee it will be happening."

 

Their story was becoming less threatening, but was still running outside of the realm of what may have been within their right of handling. The presence of the children of light and love solidified the "wrong doing" they were pursuing. Daisuke's nerves were tense, expecting at any moment that Miyako would leap from her seat and unleash a passionate speech about how stupid the two boys were being.

 

But it never happened.

 

They finished their short interview without a hitch and proceeded off stage. Daisuke placed a hand on the small of Ken's back and guided him quickly past pages and make-up artists and general workers, passing with the quick excuse of having appointments to keep. Sorry, no, we can't sign that. No, we don't have time to explain the grand scheme of things. After descending several floors by elevator, they managed their way into the main entrance of the building. Daisuke grabbed a hold of Ken's upper arm and hurried toward the doors.

 

And there they were. Hikari and Miyako.

 

Hikari and Miyako were jogress partners, just like Daisuke and Ken. After their first jogress, they became close friends, to the point that Daisuke, in prepubescent boy dreams, suspected they may have even been "together". But those thoughts were dispelled when Hikari became good friends with Ken, and when Miyako brought her boyfriend to one of their Christmas parties. However, they were never afraid to hold their own together, hand in hand, shoulder to shoulder. Never afraid of how they may appear, because together, they were a storm. Because when you jogress, you forever leave a piece of yourself in the other person's heart..

 

Daisuke tried to move them toward an alternate exit, but the pair mirrored their movements, blocking their escape.

 

"We have another appointment!" Daisuke's voice was raised into a slight shrill over the bustle of the room. "W-we'll talk later!"

 

Miyako charged forward, dragging Hikari along by one hand. "Oh no you don't." She stopped short, only a few inches from Daisuke's face, "We talk now."

 

Daisuke hated fighting with Miyako. She was reliably stubborn and out of all the chosen children, probably the one he least enjoyed the presence of. "I said, we'll talk later." Daisuke's eyes narrowed, the grip on Ken's arm growing tighter as the tension grew between them.

 

"Hikari has tried to contact you both. We want to know what's up, right now." Her reaction was to also tighten her grip on Hikari's hand.

 

"Well," Daisuke started, stepping back, "That means you've seen the news. So, what else can we say? Now like I said, we have places to be." He started to guide them away until Hikari stopped him by placing a hand on his shoulder.

 

"Daisuke, if you don't talk us, my brother will be at your next stop." Hikari's voice was soft, barely above a whisper. He could see the tears in her eyes welling, her bottom lip barely quivering. She cared so much, it consumed her sometimes. Her sad eyes looking the pair up and down, until she finally muttered, "Ken, please. You can't... Just do all of this without us. Aren't we all friends?"

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If Daisuke and Miyako were going to have a grip-fight to determine dominance, Ken was sure his and Hikari's fingers would be severed in a matter of minutes. It wasn't really his thing, to barge in between two loudmouths. He was stoic as ever, eyes glancing between the sweat running cold down Daisuke's cheek and Hikari's tearful stare. As much as it hurt him to have to hurt her now... Daisuke came first. Wormmon and Veemon came first.

 

So, when Hikari finally got the moment of peace to pipe up, Ken knew his moment was also at hand.

 

"Hikari." Ken commanded so much attention with just a word. A name. It always seemed to be that way-- unlike a lot of quiet people, when Ken spoke, everyone listened. He wasn't sure if it was some conditioned response from when he was the center of this group's attention, but it was useful most times.

 

"I know what your brother wants. I knew when I came up with this... that none of you would like what we were doing. That you'd want to wait. To find better ways... But to wait for all of you to come to the same conclusion as me would be a waste of everyone's time, and a further burden on the Digital World." The condescension in Ken's voice built to a crescendo. It was usually just a slip-up on Ken's part when his ego showed-- calling out Daisuke's English last night, for example. Most of the time he didn't dwell on his gifted genius, but for a boy who was rarely ever egotistical, it did seem like his darkest feature. Such was the case with blessings from dark spores.

 

He was doing it intentionally, of course. Alienating the team with his intellectual superiority. Isolating him and Daisuke.

 

"If I thought for a second you would all trust me, like Daisuke, then maybe I could have included you. But that's never been the case. If you want to help us... just help us spread the message, Hikari." Ken's hand crept up to Daisuke's shoulder, holding him nearby in solidarity.

 

"We are friends, Hikari. And real friends would help us save the Digital World."

 

Hikari seemed more frightened than enlightened, and Miyako just looked disgusted.

 

"You've lost the last of your marbles, haven't you Ichijoji?" Miyako stared, baffled.

 

"Unlikely, but you wanted to know what was up. And now you know."

 

Hikari started to cry. Miyako at that point was more concerned with giving her jogress partner the comfort she needed than dealing with the two a-holes who were just on their way to another roadblock. Ken and Daisuke were obviously bonkers, and only Taichi would know what to say to them. Preferably with his fists. It wouldn't be the first time digital disputes had been settled physically.

 

Ken did move to make their escape, and Daisuke was eagerly at his side. The cool evening air didn't begin to be enough to refresh the embarrassed heat Ken was radiating. Somewhere by the end of this, he was going to feel like he deserved to be shot for how he was treating his friends. Maybe Daisuke's escape idea wasn't so bad after all. Ken's English was excellent, Asians had a pretty good reputation over in the American labor market, and he was well suited to merge into American forensics just as well as Japan's. He was sure his mother would support a move to somewhere as long as he finished school and ended up well paid... and he wouldn't have to deal with the reality of watching Daisuke leave him oceans away.

 

Perhaps he'd consult his bank account, when he finally got home. As they hurried now to the final venue, Ken's fingers were warmly interwoven with Daisuke's again.

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Every word that shot from Ken's mouth stung Daisuke just as much it did their companions. Ken some times had a way with words that wasn't the friendliest, but they were often due in part to his social skills. His intelligence forced him to be direct, which usually meant he was honestly. Sometimes, brutally so. But it was the tone. The emphasis. The spite trailing at the end of each word...

 

If only they could tell them what was really going on. Even though he was "over" Hikari by several years, he still hated seeing her broken. Even worse, by one of their best friends.

 

There was nothing else they could do, though. In order to cut them off their trail, they'd have to be harsh, and so Ken was. Hands held together tight, they hurried through the busy Tokyo evening to their next destination. If one wasn't dragging the other at any given time, they were simply enjoying the heightened pulses flowing between their hands. Much to Daisuke's surprise, even without their partners in sight, they still had the connection. He remembered, with a slight blush, the night after their first jogress... He wondered if Ken could feel it too?

 

Maybe that's why they refused to free their hands?

 

Maybe they...

 

"It's over here, Ichijouji!" Daisuke said, irritation on his voice. He caught the boy from going the wrong direction and dragged him across an intersection, shouldering passerbys with a quick apology. They had about a half hour until their next interview, and they had about five more blocks to make before reaching it. And worse, he knew what would be awaiting them. They'd be lucky if they made it in front of a camera at all for the remainder of the night.

 

After a few more blocks, they were stopped at a red light, and Daisuke let go of Ken's hand. He turned to him and held either side of his arms. "I'll handle Taichi. If it means you need to do the interview yourself, then that's what we have to do." He nodded and waited for Ken to affirm. They had to solidify their campaign--missing an interview could start rumors against their cause. Missing an interview could open somebody like Taichi to take to television sooner than expected. It was only a matter of time. "We should be home free after this, Ichijouji. Maybe we can even see them!" Though it was hard to keep his excitement down, he whispered the last sentence in case of being overheard.

 

They were at the corner of the intersection next to the station, and none of their friends seemed to be insight. Though a relief, Daisuke's heart was still racing. Could Hikari have lied to them? He doubted it. He doubted Taichi's own threats, as well.

 

And with good reason.

 

A hand landed heavily on Daisuke's shoulder, and abruptly spun him around. "HEY!" Daisuke shouted, stumbling over his own feet until he was righted by the clutches of his disruptor. It took a few seconds for the face to register in his brain. Of course. Of course.

 

"Kamiya."

 

It would figure he'd try to grab them away from the station. Taichi, although still technically an intern, was basically on the road to building his own career description and was already making a hefty salary. Ever since the merging of the worlds, Taichi was the man everybody went to. And it suited him. He was always kind and fair in his delegations, but he knew when to be strict. Protecting the Digital World was his number one task, and he had many eyes on him at all times. He had to keep a low profile. Any sort of dissection of the mess Daisuke and Ken were making had to be made in a very calculated manner. Appearing as a bully only made his case weaker. So there had to be other plans for them.

 

Taichi had grown into his features, his hair shorter and cut to a business style. His eyes were vibrant with life, even below the chocolately darkness. The lines at the corners of his mouth demanded the respect his elder status deserved. With a sly smile, Taichi responded. "Motomiya." He grabbed the boy's arm and started to escort him down the wrong direction of the station. It was then that he noticed that Taichi had brought some friends--nobody that he knew--but just two extra bodies he wasn't really expecting. Luckily, though, it seemed they were all digimon-less. However, one of them had Ken by the arm, and the last tailed them as they found a more secluded part of the street, fragrantly beside a dumpster. "I told you boys I'd come for you." He hissed.

 

"Always true to your word, huh?" Daisuke ripped his arm free and protectively pulled Ken away from his mystery captor and stood in front of him. "Pretty sure this could have waited, don't you think?"

 

Taichi gave a click of his tongue and shook his head. "Unfortunately, I gave you plenty of warning. Your little media tour has to be cut here. I have enough of a mess to clean up."

 

"It's not a mess to be cleaned up. What we're saying is the clean-up."

 

"Going out and saying to the entire world that you have plans to disrupt their entire lives, with absolutely no authority, is what you call a 'clean-up'?"

 

Daisuke just had to get him madder. Mad enough to hit him. "Well what you and your team of winners is doing doesn't seem to be working."

 

Taichi's eyes narrowed as he took a step closer to Daisuke. Daisuke could smell the young man's cologne, even over the smell of the trash. "What you're proposing isn't even possible, and isn't necessary."

 

"Mmmm... But it is."

 

With a laugh, Taichi said, "Really?"

 

"Yeah, because we've seen what's been happening, and well... We're just smarter than you. So we figured we'd just, you know, handle this situation too. Honestly, you're luckily we aren't cha---" Taichi grabbed the front of Daisuke's shirt and dragged him forward the last foot between them. Daisuke could feel his mentor's hot breath against his skin, his respiration heavy with anger. "Yo, you should probably let me go."

 

"Motomiya..."

 

"Just fuck off, Kamiya."

 

There it was. There had been too many times that he'd seen Taichi crack. He was quite a man, but insulting his team and insulting him would only be able to hold his composure for so long. Daisuke's teeth clicked an echo through his skull, the ripe pain of Taichi's fist to his jaw already forming a tender bruise. Taichi may have been taller, but Daisuke was more muscular in his older age, and grabbed his assailant while planting a sweet fist kiss on Taichi's cheek.

 

He just had to distract the lot of them long enough for Ken to do what he did best, and that was to invisibly slide away from the scene and finish their final interview.

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They truly were a match. Ken and his ability to emotionally wound those closest to him, Daisuke and his ability to make their faces hurt. Either was incapable of what the other could do, but both skills seemed so necessary to pull off this fantastic feat. Ken was instantly enamored of Daisuke's strength, watching the children of courage exchange their blows.

 

Honestly, Ken wanted to reach out and stop them. Daisuke was provoking Taichi, but he was going to be three on one very shortly. A back-alley dogfight wasn't what he wanted to leave Daisuke and Taichi to finish, and even though he knew they were friends who didn't want to murder each other, they were grown men now. Accidents happened. He didn't want a bludgeoned, bruised Daisuke to be their newest PR trick.

 

But he knew what he had to do for both of them, and unfortunately, it was more important than Daisuke's face.

 

Praying no accidents, of course.

 

Taichi's buddies had released Ken when Daisuke started to become a threat. Imbeciles. Only Taichi would have noticed Ken sneak away, but he was suddenly nursing a bloody nose.

 

The final destination was packed. Word had escaped like kittens from a shaken-up bag. He noticed Iori among a cluster of high school students, but none of the rest of his old posse. All for the best, really. It looked like it was standing room only up in the studio's seating.

 

"Good evening, sorry, I'm out of breath." Ken covered his microphone briefly to regulate his breathing, leaving the studio in an eerie, tense quiet.

 

"On our way here, a particular dissident of our message decided to show it with force." Ken rubbed his cheek, as if he'd been struck himself. "It was only thanks to Motomiya that I made it here to speak to all of you. He really has always had the best interests of the Digital World in his heart." Ken didn't have to fake the warm affection in his voice. He'd always had an unwavering affinity for that boy, and it was in these moments that he felt it most. Now, and jogress... though that was a different sort of closeness, the kind only sharing one body could replicate.

 

"You might wonder, who was such an assailant that they thought they couldn't come to you all in honesty, and convince you we were wrong? Who had to physically threaten us?" Ken left out the part about being provoked, though it was enough to say they'd been rather intimidating.

 

"Kamiya Taichi." He let the audience gasp. Oh yes, if they were concerned with matters of the Digital World, they would know about Kamiya. "You know him as the posterboy for benevolent relations between worlds. But in his pursuit of a career helping the bridge between our worlds, he has conflated compassion with filthy lucre. He does get paid, after all, to manage inter-world relationships. If they got a little strained... I suppose it helps his bottom line. Not much work for him when the worlds are getting along."

 

Ken's words sunk deep with the audience, and so did Ken's conscience. He was doing exactly what he'd tried not to, selling out their friends to sell their message. It was only one... only Taichi. He'd bounce back from this, wouldn't he? Ken knew, quietly, that what Taichi had was the right solution to inter-world problems, but that wasn't what was going to rescue Wormmon and Veemon.

 

Only this would.

 

"He has overlooked serious abuses and made a good salary doing it. And now he's tried to stop me from telling you all what we've been saying all day: The Digital World cannot be managed by humans; we are too greedy and power-hungry to visit another world without destroying it. I will not stand to see the realm I saved in my childhood go to ruin, and if you all value your partners and their freedom, you will stand with me." Ken pushed a hand to his heart. Usually so quiet, but not today. Usually so stoic, but tearing up. Was it the beauty of his message? Was he selling it?

 

Or was he just reflecting on how now, he and Daisuke might have their most beloved best friends safe from harm?

 

Ken stepped out of the studio, and his phone was immediately to his ear. Pick up... Daisuke, pick up...!

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Three minutes. It only took three minutes.

 

Thirty seconds in, Daisuke had provided enough of a distraction to let Ken slip free. It was when Taichi's nose began to run vibrant red was when his pals came to throw Daisuke off him. Like a dog, he lunged back at the older man, only to be shoved back by the two other guys, nearly causing him to fall to his ass. Nursing his bleeding nose with the back of his hand, that's when Taichi noticed that Ken had disappeared back to the main street. "Dammit! Ichijouji!" Without even having to command his wills, the two lackies made haste toward the bustling moving crowd of people near the television station.

 

One minute in, Daisuke made another move, Taichi missing it by a graze to arm, and landing a clean punch straight into Daisuke's side. This was returned with a shoulder shove to the chest and a sweep to the legs. Taichi didn't falter and stood strong, grabbing the younger boy by the collar of his shirt and running him to the alleyway's wall. With both arms cross against Daisuke's chest, he pinned the boy against the wall. The smaller one tried to squirm free, attempting to raise his hand to leverage off of the wall with a hearty kick. "Motomiya. STOP." Taichi's voice boomed, his body leaning into the pressure on Daisuke's chest. "Stop."

 

Two minutes in, their eyes latched, their years of history searching each other out in anticipation of the others next move. Daisuke had always been the inferior one--the younger one, the second leader, the more crass one, the less plan oriented, the less likely to succeed. Taichi was his role model--something to aspire to. Whatever he did was what to follow. They had been eye to eye before, thrown into arguments that lasted days or weeks, but both always emerged with deep respect and a stronger friendship. But something was off about this. There was an anger in Taichi's eye that Daisuke had only seen a couple of times before--akin to the time of Diaboromon. It scared him.

 

Two and a half minutes in, Daisuke felt the courage in his body slip out, and his heart beat so hard it was like a heavy bass in his eardrums. "I know you aren't like this, Motomiya. It was only a matter of time before Ichijiouji fucked up again. Don't let him take you down with him." Taichi leaned in more, causing Daisuke to whimper slightly, finding himself completely disarmed in the face of his mentor. "You idiots have no idea what kind of shit you've started." The blood from his nose had trailed to his chin, and a drop dripped onto Daisuke's shirt as Taichi finished his talk, "You won't win, and we'll figure out what you're both really planning to do."

 

Three minutes in, Taichi gave one final shove against the wall and stepped back. He righted his business suit and sniffed in deep as he cleared the blood off his face the best he could. With one last hateful glance, he pointed to the beloved accessory at Daisuke's neck and spat, "You don't deserve to wear those." And as best he could, he walked away as if nothing had even happened.

 

But it had. The last words hit Daisuke harder than any fist could. He tried to contain the bubble of emotion that croaked up to this throat as he grabbed his own chest in relief. If they only knew, he tried to tell himself. If they only knew why we were doing it... They wouldn't be so pissed off... Right? It was hard to think of the right way to go about this. It was an eroding sensation the entire day--as every minute passed their friendships were washing away. Every text message, every sad look, every painful glare was gnawing away at his pride and strength.

 

How could he continue without to essences that made him Motomiya Daisuke? After all, if he wasn't fighting for friendship and courage, than what was he fighting for?

 

Daisuke slunk to the ground, bringing his knees to his chest and one hand to his sore jaw. He fought back waves of anger and sadness and disappointment with clenched teeth. It hadn't even been twenty four hours and he was back into a sniveling pile of emotions--more broken now as the only person he truly had anymore was Ken.

 

Ken... 

 

Before Ichijouji fucked up again... Those words made Daisuke seethe with anger. It meant that Taichi never really did trust Ken. That for almost ten years, he was never able to forgive him or trust him. All those birthday presents and friendly smiles and games of soccer all seemed to be an elaborate lie now. Nothing Taichi gave Ken was ever authentic. What made him madder was that Taichi probably wasn't the only one. Yamato, Jo, Koushiro, Miyako... It wasn't any use to hold back the tears as he counted away his most trusted companions as being the least trustworthy.

 

They'd never see past Ken's history. They'd never bother to give him the benefit of the doubt. They were never there for the times Ken really needed them. They never bothered to try. And although Ken was openly taking the position of blame this time, it was clear that he didn't even have to. They were all going to assume anyway.

 

Moving thousands of miles away never seemed so appealing. He'd probably even offer the idea to Ken at this point.

 

The buzzing in his pocket snapped him back to reality. Fumbling through his pocket, he wiped the tears and snot from his face with his shirt as he brought the phone to ear. "K-Ken." He paused, trying to grab composure of his voice. Hearing Ken made his heart feel less broken. "No. I'm okay. Y-yeah. I gave him the run for his money. You finished the interview? ... Good. Good. Listen, I don't... I was thinking the same thing. But do me a favor and, I dunno... Take some back routes." Daisuke padded the corner of his eye as he stood up. "Okay. I'll see you soon."

 

 

 

Ken was already at his apartment when Daisuke arrived. Daisuke waited outside of the door impatiently after he had knocked, his brain electrified with too many emotions. The excitement in him to be in a safe place with his anchor was the only place he could think of he wanted to be. In the morning, they'd try to go back to the Digital World, but for now, they were going to try to wind down.

 

As Ken opened the door, Daisuke saw the drained smile across his friend's lips, his sad yet happy eyes looking back at him. Stepping inside the apartment and closing the door behind him, Daisuke allowed a smile to cross his face as well. It didn't take much for him to break his inhibitions. To know that even what he was about to do wouldn't ruin anything between them, because anything could be forgiven when it came to their friendship. With two gentle hands, he reached for Ken's face, pausing to get quietly lost in the oceans of color. It was clear now that he had to stop lying--that his countless blushes were for a reason. That his one night stands were just vessels for elaborate fantasies. That running away to America was just an risky plan to hide feelings he shouldn't have.

 

But it just didn't matter anymore. It didn't.

 

Daisuke pressed his lips to Ken's. Once. Then twice. Until finally he got a hesitant reaction that made Daisuke melt into Ken's body. Arms wrapped around the taller boy's waist now, he kissed away every frustrated night from the past year away.

 

Somewhere, on that haunted beach of his dreams, he watched as Ken's shadow finally looked back at him.

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Even to hear Daisuke's voice again was a comfort. Ken had shelled out for a taxi to get himself home from the studio, since it was the best protection he was going to get. Taichi wouldn't linger forever once he noticed he was missing, which meant so much as stepping out the back door could get him mauled. Like lions were out for his flesh, all because of some bad news.

 

Ken certainly wouldn't be resting easy in public for a while.

 

He put a kettle on for tea while waiting for Daisuke to join him. He wished he'd sent a taxi after him too, or called his mother with a car... much to late for that, really, as Daisuke ought to be at least three quarters of the way to his home. He'd thought of all possible side routes, trails less traveled by their old friends, and accounted for Daisuke running most of the way. Unless he'd been seriously hurt by Taichi? No... no, he would've mentioned. About five minutes out now...

 

Ken was still waiting for the whistle when the single most relieving knock on his door sounded off. He couldn't get to the door fast enough, couldn't stifle the charmed little smile that crept out at the sight of his best friend despite all the shit that had happened to them recently. Daisuke was here.

 

Daisuke was close. Kissing him.

 

Ken wasn't stunned, or shocked. Something about how emotionally draining life had been recently made it impossible for any basic response to alarm him. Or maybe Daisuke's lips were natural to him? His arms around his waist, the strength he held him with... they'd hugged like this a million times. Hell, after jogress, Ken didn't feel this was close enough to Daisuke. His arms ensnared the shorter boy to reciprocate the hug and he tilted his chin just a hint to the side to let their lips mesh. Bizarre, how his body made all the motions for him. It was his first kiss.

 

Not to say Ken's social awkwardness melted away to create some secret casanova. Daisuke kept kissing him and Ken felt he should be doing more. Hold his face? Ken tried, touching tentatively at first, then cupping Daisuke's cheek and pulling a little. Suddenly when Daisuke would break a kiss, Ken would nip forward to start another. Finally somewhere along the way he had Daisuke's tongue mingling around with his, and with a quiet mewl, he supposed he should ask why his best friend was suddenly kissing him so passionately.

 

You know, not that he minded.

 

"D... Dai..." Ken stuttered, and the whistle on the kettle sunk into the back of his mind. Had that been going off long? Ken blushed deeply and let his grip on Daisuke slip slowly, his hands running up his back, over his shoulders before he let him go.

 

"Would... you like tea...?" Ken brushed at his hair and made to turn off the heat on his stove. He poured two glasses and set some tea bags in to steep, his fingers shaking all the while. Was it nerves? It felt... just like that first night, after their first jogress.

 

Ken had never felt so close to another human being before. He'd been any combination of ignored or put on a pedestal by his parents, and even his brother he'd been jealous of before his untimely passing. A real, living human, their hearts beating in sync, their ideals shared and spirits as one... and even though Daisuke didn't come from as damaged a family as Ken's, he knew he'd felt all the same things Ken had. That night, after leaving the digital world, Ken and Daisuke had stayed up until the sun peaked out, furiously messaging each other on their D-terminals. Their new strength, the birth of a new strategy, renewed resolve, and finally, their infinitely strengthened bond. A paper-thin friendship forged on just one thing: that Daisuke had trusted him first, was suddenly ironclad. Laying in his own bed far away from Daisuke, he'd felt as if they were lying side by side. When he'd finally woken up the next day, he had an imprint of his D-terminal pushed against his cheek while he'd slept.

 

If he'd known any better, he would've called it love.

 

Ken returned to Daisuke with hot tea that he set down on the nearby table (though what wasn't nearby, in this little place?). Instead of holding his own tea, his fingers laced with Daisuke's for when he met his eyes.

 

"I... realize emotion's been a little high recently. What are you... I mean... is this really how you want me? Now? Or... has it been for a while...?" Ken blushed at the possibility he'd been too dense to notice his best friend was in love with him. He'd really, honestly thought that Daisuke only liked women. And his own preference had been so non-apparent that Ken never touched on the idea that he and Daisuke were everything but a couple. Add a few kisses and... voila.

 

Well, okay, more than a few kisses, if Ken was going to be honest about what he'd felt rubbing at hip level when that kiss got heated. It still didn't turn Ken off, just brought all his blood up to his cheeks. Daisuke was so hot-blooded and energetic, after all. He wondered... would that feel like jogress too?

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A small sense of relief overcame Daisuke as Ken broke their kiss. His biggest fear was not knowing when to stop, because with all the hormones and emotional stress dancing around inside him, there was at least a 110% chance that he'd have forced more of himself on his best friend. 

 

But he was so warm, and soft, and even though it was clear the poor kid has so little experience, at least Daisuke had the first hand account. So it wasn't so weird when a quiet groan escaped his throat, as Ken left him to grab them some tea... An even louder groan manifesting when he realized he was, uh, quite "excited".

 

With a heavy blush, he slunk into the chair at the dining table and placed one elbow on the table and used his other hand to try to cover his crotch. Daisuke nodded his head in appreciation for his drink, and was surprised when Ken took his hand. His cheeks felt like they were going to burn off at that point. How could he answer Ken's questions without sounding like a complete idiot?

 

Especially when it all seemed to be going so... Well?

 

"I well..." Daisuke choked a little, taking his hand from his lap and rubbing the sore spot on his jaw. "I dunno. I'm sorry. I mean..." Daisuke breathed out and closed his eyes. This was Ken. There was no use lying or failing to answer him. "Yes and yes?" He tightened his grip as he tried to explain his feelings--something he was never very eloquent at doing. "Maybe... I'm confused? I don't know. Friends don't do this, you know? But... You're so important to me, and even all the shit you do to just piss me off, I still can't hate you. Every moment with you is..." He glanced around the room, around the apartment that he could almost call theirs, and knew with Ken he always felt like he was home. "I-I'm not saying anything has to happen. It probably shouldn't. I don't even know if I want it to or if you want it to or..."

 

Daisuke's hand moved to the table and nervously began to drum. Why was this so hard? The first time he told Tatum he loved her it was much easier to say. That was years ago--now it just meant they would do what they could to help the other, not that they wanted to be together forever. But with Ken, for the past year, he did want forever, which is what made it so hard to come to terms with. The hurdle of sexuality was just another roadblock.

 

So for lack of better committal, he blurted out, "I'd like to keep kissing you, if you'll let me." The absurdity of his request instantly cracked him into a chuckle. As his amusement subsided, he finally took his first sip of tea, the smile still failing to leave his cheeks. It didn't matter, did it? Labels weren't needed when something felt right. Daisuke wanted Ken in body and mind, and if Ken wanted that too, then that's it. Right?

 

Taking Ken's hand, his other hand occupied with his cup of tea, Daisuke stood from his seat and dragged the boy into the small living space. There was a couch that was barely big enough to fit the two of them, and even worse, it had no armrests on either side. However, it had been a long, grueling, and taxing day and even a plank of wood would look restful to the goggle head. Flopping down and depositing his cup on the coffee table, he leaned back and cooly wrapped his arm around his friend. There was an awkwardness about it--just as one would expect when one starts to make out with their best friend for the first time--but the craving for closeness, one that he knew he may not see again for a quite sometime without jogress, was overwhelming. And boy, did he ever burst open that dam.

 

"So much has happened today, Ken. I'm sorry I threw this on top of everything." He looked at Ken, his eyes tracing every contour of the man's face--the fine straight nose, softly defined chin, the gentleness of his eyebrows, the kindness in his eyes. "You're... All I need, Ichijouji." Bringing the boy close, he wrapped his other arm for an embrace and left loving kisses across sharp cheekbones. "And believe it or not, it's kinda always been that way." He nuzzled Ken's ear and let out a soft sigh.

 

Every touch and kiss placed on Ken was proving to be an inner battle for Daisuke to not just fuck the kid out of his pants. The situation hardly felt suitable, though they had succeeded at at least surviving the day--and that in itself was a good cause for celebration. Being with Ken made it easier to forget the betrayal he felt from everybody else (just as they were all feeling about him). And it was so important that he only did what Ken wanted--Daisuke was (mostly) content with just sleeping in his friend's arms for the entire night.

 

Tilting Ken's face to meet his, he gave the boy another kiss, his hand finding its way underneath the button up shirt and caressing the silky skin beneath. The sensations, the everything, made him crazy with lust. Ken was a quick learner and was already proving the combined use of his lips and tongue. After every few kisses he'd have to bury his head in the nape of Ken's neck, his erection just failing to be hidden at all at this point. "S-Shit..." He stammered. Every one of his muscles was shaking, on edge to finally get what his entire body had yearned for for so long.

 

Pulling back, Daisuke sat forward and rested his elbows on his knees. It was too much. It was too much to ask for the both of them. Daisuke began to feel like it hadn't been the right time. His body wasn't ready to handle all of this at one time. Irrationally, he feared maybe he was just doing this because of the stress. More importantly, he didn't want to risk going too far and ruining the last great thing in his life.

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"Yeah? ...that's fine." Ken felt like a total moron. 'oh let me keep kissing you' 'sure hurr durr'. Was that how people responded to requests for affection? He felt like he was consenting to a dentist's exam, not embracing the romance blossoming between the boys. He decided abruptly that letting Daisuke take the lead for a little while was going to be best, because Ken was only going to disappoint him if he didn't observe right from wrong.

 

And he really didn't want to disappoint him.

 

He followed to the couch, and nestled his tea among a few science magazines, some green tea hand lotion, and a box of tissues (only out because of a recent cold!) on the coffee table. He listened, and his hand found Daisuke's neck, rubbing it softly. The lighting was picking up some bruises that had deepened over the hour, and Ken caressed around them with angelic grace. He let Daisuke take his lips, tilt his head, show him the tricks he'd picked up over time. It wasn't until he'd realized what he was missing that he could really start to feel jealous over those who'd had it.

 

As Daisuke took a breather, Ken gazed wide-eyed at his partner. So flustered, so anxious. Was he... holding back? Ken thought of all the experience Daisuke had picked up over the years while Ken had been thinking of figures in text books. Daisuke knew quite well that Ken didn't get out-- but what, was he afraid of spoiling his innocence? Ken didn't know nothing, though he supposed his knowledge of biology was fairly clinical. It didn't stop him from diagnosing Daisuke's problem immediately.

 

Maybe Daisuke was afraid of ravaging his friend. It was fine. Ken didn't mind being ravaged. He swept his bangs back into his hair with one hand, letting the strands fall back down in an alluring sort of askew.

 

Just as Daisuke seemed ready to bolt to the bathroom for some cold water, Ken pushed him down into his seat by the shoulders, and swung a leg over him. He straddled his best friend and sat crotch to crotch with Daisuke's biggest frustration... and let him know he wasn't alone. He swept up a deft little kiss that left a pretty little strand of saliva stringing them together so briefly as Ken pulled away.

 

"Motomiya, I'm a virgin, but I'm not thirteen. If you want me... I'm interested." Ken kissed tenderly along Daisuke's jaw, and let his words sink in.

 

"It's about time I let you be the teacher."

 

He might as well have opened floodgates, because he was on his back on the couch quicker than he could register a change in orientation. His legs were still around Daisuke, but the crazy-haired boy had him pinned between body and couch. Ken forgot how light he was sometimes, so easy to move a twig like him compared to his well-muscled friend. Heaven knew Daisuke had never let his soccer practice slide to cram for a test...

 

"Ah... mm~" Ken groaned at Daisuke rocking their bodies together, at the heat radiating from one to the other. Ken tugged up at Daisuke's shirt, a little stained from the roughhousing, and tugged it away from his red headded friend. The goggles, too. No one needed to think of Taichi now. Skin to skin, Ken wanted to feel what a human being felt like when they were enraptured with emotion, with lust, with affection... with love. Ken wanted to indulge his human side, for once. Nothing good had ever come from a lack of empathy.

 

Grinding sent flutters through Ken's abdomen like wildfire spreading in a dry forest. Daisuke had his lips locked onto his neck leaving a different sort of bruise on his parchment-white skin. Ken fought to articulate.

 

"Gh... nnn... take more... Motomiya... You're all I've ever needed, too."

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Daisuke had never felt so close to the idea of "Cloud Nine" as he was feeling now. His largest embarrassment now seemed to be that he had been so afraid of Ken. Afraid of what he'd say, afraid of what he'd do, afraid he wouldn't even care. Each fear building an intricate construction of lies and doubt and depression. And all along, he could have just been what he'd always been... Honest. It took bricks and bricks for it to strain and finally collapse. The catalyst was unexpected and grand, but the result was... The result was exactly as Daisuke had dreamed it would be. No! No. Better. So much better.

 

"You don't need to tell me that you're all grown up, Ichijouji," Daisuke purred into his friend's ear as he rocked his hips deeper. "But it's hard to imagine you with a sex drive." He placed gentle bites along the sensitive skin of Ken's neck, sucking lightly at times, biting hard at others. In the end, he didn't expect Ken to have the type of interest or energy he had, but the fact he was getting any response at all was almost orgasmically satisfying. "No offense." He smiled as he moved up to kissed the corner of Ken's lip, before biting down and pulling his bottom lip playfully.

 

Taking Ken's virginity was going to be the best thing that happened--maybe in the history of mankind. Too bad for all those fucks that missed out on this opportunity. Today was surely a day that would be remembered.

 

It flattered Daisuke that he would be teaching Ken something for once. He felt a little bit of shame for how much experience he actually did have--especially with how he chose to deal with his complicated realizations of wanting to bang his best friend for the past year. The first girl was special, and Daisuke would always love Tatum on a deep scale. But the girls whose faces he saw as blurs, whose numbers he never called back, who swooned over his very name... He barely had enough digits to count the moments that, in the end, meant so little. Something so special like sharing your body with somebody should mean the world. He kept doing it because it never did.

 

But he did learn, and he would show Ken tonight that even though all the shit they had been through, were going through, and would be through were special. That accepting his advances shouldn't be met with disappointment or regret--and hell, even if they were, at least that they'd be forgiven.

 

Daisuke kissed a light trail down Ken's chest, running his hands up and down the boy's sides, causing him to writhe against his hips. It wasn't hard to make the jump--Ken was so delightfully smooth, impossibly perfected, curiously hairless... The tousled locks across his face--he was the example of when femininity melded fluidly with masculinity.

 

As Daisuke reached Ken's hips, he pulled down the hem of the waist of his pants and ran a finger along the thin scar across his hip bone, placing a fine kiss on it. "I didn't know it scarred so bad," he said guiltily. It was a blemish caused by him years ago, when he accidentally fumbled a knife in the kitchen when Ken was a little too close. Three towels and five soaked gauze strips later, the bleeding had stopped, but Daisuke's apologies didn't. And even now, he found himself feeling bad, although he was pleased to remember such a moment in their relationship. Happy that he had the privilege to expose so an intimate detail.

 

Placing one knee between Ken's crotch and his other leg bracing off the side of the couch, he leaned over to the coffee table and grabbed the lotion bottle--a commodity that was always there, but never had such an important use until now. "How convenient," he smiled, squirting a handful into one hand and rubbing them together for quick lubrication. Daisuke wasn't feeling too into the idea of foreplay, but he wanted Ken to have a little tasting of everything--or for as long as Daisuke could control the dick in his own pants. With a quick flick of his wrist, Daisuke unlatched the button to Ken's pants and drew them down, with the boy's underwear, to reveal his satisfyingly erect member. Fighting back a blush--because after all, it was his first time with a boy--he removed the rest of the pieces of clothing until all that was left was a very nakedly vulnerable but insanely attractive man.

 

Steeling himself, Daisuke took Ken within his hand and pumped gently. Leaning over, he hungrily took Ken's mouth again, stroking in time with every little whimper and unrestrained thrust from his partner. They were lost within each other. He had no idea that even being chest to chest could feel so comforting--that it would spike his adrenaline to blinding levels. And his coos--they were delicious. Every change in rhythm, in pressure, in stroke length, prompted a new course of sounds from Ken. And just as he felt desperate claws scratch across his back, Daisuke dipped down--Ken's hands moving to be entangled in the mess of his hair--and took him into his mouth. Pinning the boy's hips down, he did the best he could to match the pace he had before, awkwardly trying to find the right appliance of lips and tongue necessary to get the same satisfying reaction. The young man's length was a bit hard to deal with as well--especially when Ken couldn't hold back a well placed thrust. And although the initial reaction was amazing, he realized quickly he wasn't as skilled as those that had done it to him in the past.

 

Sitting back up, he continue to stroke Ken as he looked down at his blissful companion. "S-sorry," he muttered. "We both still have things to learn." Letting Ken free, Daisuke slid himself up the length of the couch and took more kisses between mindless grinding. He wanted more than anything to fuck the boy raw, though he felt disgusted thinking such a primal desire for a situation that should have been so tender. "Ken..." Daisuke trailed, catching his lusty eyes, his heart swelling knowing that he put that look there. "Ken, I..." At this point, what was the point of not saying it? "I love you." It wasn't the first time he had said it, but the context had never been the same. It had a new layer to it now; at best, the final layer it may ever have to achieve. "And I want you to feel what it's like... How your dumb face makes me feel," he chuckled behind a kiss. "And I'm sure you want to know too... It will be like the first time all over again." Warmly, he placed a hand on Ken's heart, and he knew for sure he wasn't exaggerating.

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Ichijoji with a sex drive? Ken could only smirk-- of course it was a weird thought, it was pretty far from true. Unlike one of the boys in this room, Ken wasn't listening when his dick called to him. Didn't mean he couldn't hear it when he wanted to, though.

 

Like, when Daisuke's lips were wrapped around it.

 

Ken thought fingers on his member were the most mind-blowing sensation to date, but Daisuke proved him naive fairly quickly. Two plush lips encircling his cock, plunging it into a wet and warm world that cradled and pampered it. Daisuke moved his tongue not unlike how he kissed-- not necessarily the best translation of technique, but whatever-- and the wild motions that slithered around the tip made Ken arch his back and let out uncontrolled mewls. Just like a cat being pet in all the right ways, Ken was lithe and lean and elegant and couldn't help but purr for the one pleasuring him so.

 

He was even a little frowny when Daisuke decided to stop. "You could've fooled me, nn..." Ken bit his lip thoughtlessly, not knowing the needy look it painted on his face.

 

Daisuke's confession of love was in every way as corny and charming as his personality demanded. Ken was more than in love Daisuke; he was in love with how he said it, in love with everything he tried to share with Ken. Like when he'd first tried convincing Ken that he was going to be an amazing noodle chef-- he just, needed someone to try all his dishes. He'd apparently saturated his own family pretty early on with gummy noodles, sour broth, and poached eggs so raw the insides were still cold. Ken was the only one who'd kept tasting until Daisuke became the talented chef he knew today. Now, Ken wouldn't eat anyone's noodles but Daisuke's.

 

And he wouldn't be anyone's lover but Daisuke's, either.

 

"I love you too, Motomiya. I don't think I've loved a person in my life more than I love you." Ken spoke so softly, like his words would rip this tissue paper moment. Of course, nothing was so delicate, when Daisuke was involved. He sucked Ken's breath out in a kiss, and with fumbling fingers made for the lotion one more time. Ken helped him out, working Daisuke out of his pants to match his shirtless torso. As his fingers pushed away at Daisuke's belt line, they came back up via that eager, pounding thing between his legs. Ken couldn't begin to imagine how much agony this thing had caused his best friend, but he wouldn't let himself be the cause of it any longer. His long fingers wrapped around and stroked it, with skill unexpected for a boy who, aside from a few curious occasions of youth, never really touched himself. It wasn't particularly complicated, though.

 

Daisuke got to work with the lotion about as fast as he could, without his cock threatening to go on without him if he didn't hurry faster. Ken barely had time to shiver at the smooth lotion that had started coating the small star between his legs. He tried to part them a little extra for his friend, and in payment recieved one digit squigling deep inside of him.

 

"Oh!" Ken blushed and moaned. "Wow..."

 

It felt... damn fantastic. A pretty smile let Daisuke know he could press another finger in, then three. And at that point... Daisuke himself was next. As his dick hovered, pressed warmly against that little dimple in Ken's body, Ken hoped that whether it felt like the first time to Daisuke or not, it did feel like the time he would remember. Ken would, just as surely as he cataloged each day with Daisuke, just as surely as he remembered what he'd made for dinner a week ago. This... surely wouldn't be hard to remember too.

 

Daisuke pushed a pleasurable memory inside him, and Ken gasped.

 

It was just a little at first, the tip rocking in around his hole, covering about as much as Daisuke's lips had managed to cover on that blowjob for Ken. Each bit wriggled just a little bit further, filling some never-before-known void in Ken. A hole dug and occupied solely by Daisuke.

 

"Come on, I'm not delicate..." Ken gave a warm kiss to Daisuke's jawline and thrust his hips at him. The stick-slip of the repurposed moisturizer made him moan.

 

And it didn't take much convincing to get Daisuke to push a little harder, not when Ken could be so beautiful with his pleas. He didn't look like he could take a pounding, and Daisuke had been the protector far longer than the attacker. But seeing Ken made just a touch vulnerable under his motions did stroke Daisuke's fire. As if he had to come to Ken's rescue with more sex.

 

Soon the sweet aroma of green tea consumed them as the lotion heated between Daisuke's slick thrusts. He had Ken down on the couch, legs wrapped around his waist, moaning sweetly like Daisuke was the best fuck he'd ever had. Or... bad example. The best fuck in the world. It took a former Kaiser to know how to make Daisuke feel like a King.

 

And the exhaustion wouldn't set in. The day had been long, they'd gotten little sleep, and they'd endured some emotional hell that culminated in some bizzaro-world heaven they occupied now. By all accounts Daisuke should collapse onto Ken and wake up around noon, but he found nothing but heat and power to satisfy them both. Ken was enraptured with this physical love, and as Daisuke's abdomen rubbed with his, Ken finally burst between them. Fine pearls draped across his milky flesh, sticking to Daisuke as he dared too close to Ken and reminded him of his good work. And, thankfully for Ken's creaking couch, the ravenous humping had brought Daisuke at last to his climax as well. Ken felt a soft warmth ooze inside of him, a little bit of Daisuke to keep with him for now.

 

Now, perhaps, they could collapse.

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Daisuke had been right. It was better than the first time. It was better than the first time he had sex, and it was better than the first time they had jogressed. It was just the best thing. It was a history rewriter. It was a big deal. It was...

 

"Nnnnnn... gggaaahhhh." Daisuke groaned out, pushing himself deeper into his willing partner. The noises, the feelings, the emotions, the temperature, the closeness. Holy shit, it was mind blowing. Maddening. With Ken's legs wrapped around him and his face contorting into a wonderful picture book of pleasure, it wasn't hard to go hard. Especially when the pretty boy was practically demanding it. Bracing the edge of the couch with one hand and Ken's shoulder with the other, Daisuke not only realized that he picked an inconvenient location to have a wild fuck party on, but that harder and deeper he went, the more irresistible his partner became.

 

Yes, it was better than the first time he had sex. The first time was awkward and weird--a hastened fumbling for condoms and lotion and the ever terrible feeling of even fucking finding the right hole to stick his dick into. Not to say it was all bad--it was a very special moment without a doubt, a moment he'd never change. The tension of having to stay quiet when he had snuck into Tatum's room that night. The moment of distress when Tatum nearly cried out when he had first penetrated her. The complete lack of orgasms as they just seemed to flop on each other for an hour trying to even figure out how to move their hips at the right time. It was perfectly adolescent, the cornerstone to his advanced sexual life.

 

But this time was better.

 

It was better for several reasons. The obvious one was that he was more experienced now. He knew what he was doing, and he knew how to make it enjoyable. The actual first time, he knew it all in theory, but not at all in practice. But without a doubt, Ken was enjoying himself under the movements of his well trained hips. The second reason was pretty obvious as well--it was Ken. There had never been another human being he had ever felt so close to. Even though on the surface they looked completely incompatible, it had always been the little things that brought them together. Together, they balanced the other out--allowing shared interests that never caused conflicts. And that didn't even include the fact that he was the boy genius--stupid smart and crazy hot. A prize wanted by all, but only belonging to him.

 

The third was the feeling of completely losing himself.

 

Not in the sense of just going blind with rage humping, but in the sense of actually having a hard time figuring out who's pleasure he was actually feeling. Years of digitization--the passing and going between code and reality. The plethora of times they held hands tightly while fighting an enemy with Paildramon, their physical connection turning into an emotional one, their hearts combining on a plane so few others could say they experienced. Relief that even without their digital companions, the connection was still there, the heavy pounding of Ken's heart out pacing the sound of his own in his ears. Each whimper and ecstatic cry amplifying the feeling of his own pleasure three fold.

 

This was something everybody should feel. He thought, through a hazy mind, that when everything was all over, he'd have to suggest the other jogress teams should really try this out.

 

It didn't take long at all for Daisuke to follow Ken in orgasm. The very fact that he succeeded in making his friend burst, leaving the boy with the expression on his face that hung in limbo somewhere between pain and ecstasy. Pink lips ajar with quivering moans, eyebrows upturned as if he had finished asking a very profound question, his cheeks rosy with exhaustion... After releasing himself, Daisuke kept his hips moving mindlessly as he struggled to hold himself up. It was like everything had drained out of him and he was threatening to deflate into a thing that barely resembled a person. Shaking his head, he chanted in breathy quiet, "Holy shit holy shit holy shit... I love you I love you I love you..." Until finally he removed himself from the wonderful warmth of Ken's body and laid on top of his friend, lovingly wrapping his arms around the boy. He laid his head on his heaving chest, Ken's heart pounding against his smiling cheek.

 

And at that point, the entire day caught up to them. The sweetness of their closeness lulling them quickly into an exhausted slumber--not even allowing them so much as move to clean themselves up or to say any other words. It could all wait until the morning.

 

 

 

The sun peeked through the vertical blinds of the window, sectioning the living room into an incomplete grid. Daisuke's eyes slowly fluttered open, a heavy sigh escaping his dry lips. It took him a few moments to remember where he was, what had happened last night, and why he was naked. Looking up at his sleeping companion, he couldn't help but lean up and give his partner a wake-up kiss. He waited for the groggy response and for the sleep encrusted eyes to finally open before he finally said, "Morning, sexy. Wanna go to an onsen?"

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What a morning. Ken barely remembered falling asleep, and everything was exactly as he'd left it last night, save the lighting. A warm kiss had him fluttering the crust from his eyelashes, drawing his attention to the handsome boy who'd laid it on him. Mmm... Daisuke.

 

"I can hardly wait." Ken smiled softly and touched Daisuke's cheek. Of all the people who'd wanted him over the years, the countless women who'd been allured by his resume, it was only ever Daisuke he could say he could see himself with for his whole life. Now, this particular picture of being naked, sticky, and even a little sweaty from the body heat of sleeping together, was not in his vision, but it was a reality Ken could enjoy.

 

He gave Daisuke a moment to get off him and started peeling up off the couch. The eye-bugged gasp that popped onto Ken's features about as soon as he moved the lower half of his spine was a good measure of how last night had left him. He felt like he'd spent the entire day running, given the saturated soreness down his lower back, ass, and thighs. He choked down his whimpering and grabbed on to Daisuke's arm to get some help standing up.

 

"Hey... help me into the shower." Ken peeked up at Daisuke... and grinned suggestively. At least Dai didn't have to worry that breaking his pretty new boyfriend had dissuaded him at all.

 

Warm water sluiced over the pair of bodies, steaming up at the base of the shower stall. Thankfully the two of them didn't occupy too much space, being such fit young men, because the box in Ken's bite-sized apartment was not built for two. Ken shared his tea-scented soaps to help wash off the mess from last night, though Ken would admit that he liked Daisuke as more of a spice-scented boy. It was Ken who always fragranced himself with airy, fresh scents, more akin to a spring breeze than Daisuke's summer storm. Surprising he didn't already keep some of Daisuke's soaps over here... they'd fix that soon enough. Ken leaned down to steal a kiss as the thought of Daisuke staying close to him solidified in his mind. Always over, holding him close, getting those last shreds of time in Daisuke's life he spent finding pretty girls to spend his nights with. Ken sighed audibly, and rubbed his hands modestly over Daisuke's shoulders.

 

He wondered... what this would change about America?

 

Ken didn't bring it up.

 

Toweled dry, fully dressed, the pair huddled around Ken's desktop where the digital gate sat open as usual. That dark D-3 came out of Ken's pocket, its old evils hardly ever on Ken's mind when he used it now. If he hadn't digested some of his evils, he never would have gone back to the digital world at all. Using it today, though, he could only hope the work he'd put in over the last 24 hours had really helped anyone, or if he was just being used for evil one more time.

 

The onsen was deserted, now. The digimon at the front desk was still there, but the sounds of guest life around the property were gone. Ken couldn't be sure it was their advertising that scared them off-- he remembered all too well the modifications he'd made to the local hardware. He could only hope the zonking abilities of the onsen's new tower weren't what took care of the other guests. He could imagine more humans chained up in those sweltering underground chambers...

 

Maybe with Wormmon and Veemon.

 

Ken strode up to the Monzaemon at the desk, Daisuke at his side. His eyes were narrow daggers aimed at that digi-plush flesh.

 

"We did everything you asked for. Give us back our partners."

 

Monzaemon cocked his head to the side, blinking its harsh red eyes at them. "The inn is closed to humans, humans." He scratched his rotund belly, "If your 'partners' are here, I am sure they are enjoying their time without you. Go away."

 

"Let us speak to Etemon!" Ken huffed, his assertive side briefly showing itself after a long hibernation.

 

"Master Etemon is no longer here, and if he were, there is no way he would speak to humans." Monzaemon yawned. "He's going to the meat world, to show you humans what it's like. He caught a human girl with those little slave digimon of yours..."

 

Ken paled. That wasn't supposed to happen. Etemon was supposed to sit back and let them handle things, wait for them to get back... oh hell, had he really thought that he'd leave it all up to the enemy? Ken had done the only choice they had to hold on to their partners, but it was clear enough that Etemon had been buying time. There was still no way to know if he was bluffing about destroying their partners, but sitting passively while he ran rampant wasn't worth the risk. And he found... a human girl? Sure, he needed a human with a digivice to cross into the real world (nobody was worried an Etemon would become the next Diaboromon) but what girl would be that gullible when it wasn't even her mon on the line? Wormmon and Veemon were heroes, sure, but letting Etemon through just to save them would take someone deeply concerned for one or both...

 

...Not far from the onsen, Etemon led Tatum, his fuzzy paw clutched threateningly around her upper arm. If her sweetum Davis wasn't going to let her in on what the hell he was doing on the news, she was going to investigate it herself. She knew he'd been in the digital world right before going bonkers-- she'd tried to get a skype date arranged only to find out he'd be with Ken all weekend. She didn't speak with Davis nearly as often as she used to or would like, but seeing the name "Ken" get thrown around was not news to her. Now, the Digital World was often sparse for life, but not so sparse that looking for that pair of chosen children was hard. Rumors about that onsen, and rumors about them being there, had spread. She only had to get close enough before Etemon noticed her.

 

If only she'd known about the hostages. It made so much sense... and just like Ken, she'd been paralyzed to do anything but what would save Veemon. Being the reason Davis's partner got blasted to digi-dust was not a curse she'd carry on her shoulders.

 

Not that he'd appreciate it when he found out just who led Etemon and a band of cronies into the real world...!

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Tatum had always been an independent spirit. It might have had a lot to do with being an only child to a single mother. With so many nights spent alone with nothing but a flashlight and a good book to read, her mother absent due to late shifts at the hospital, the girl grew up with a fierce sense of self-reliance and a healthy dose of imagination to match. The day Botamon's egg appeared in her room, she didn't think much of it--her mother was prone to leaving her strange gifts before she left for work. Pine cones, yarn, slabs of bark... Although they didn't manage to see each other much during the day, they made gifts for each other to share silently in others absence.

 

But after a few weeks, the egg started to shake. And sometimes, though dismissed as the old house making noise, it peeped. Apparently, the dark colored egg was more than an accent for the centerpiece Tatum had created for their scarcely used dinner table.

 

The day Tatum returned home to the cracked egg, and the little bouncing fluff that called itself Botamon, was probably one of the best days of her life. It had been told to her several times she couldn't have a pet, but this strange little creature was apparently her partner. Totally different, she thought. Accompanied with an old styled digivice, she became one of the first American Chosen.

 

Luckily, it was easy to hide away her friend--the black pile of fuzz looked like a wad of pipe cleaners, making it easy to stick him in drawers of crafting supplies while Tatum was away at school. It was a long time before she finally entered the Digital World on her own, and even longer still before she came across another Chosen Child. It had been only a few months before the Japanese children's "Christmas Tour" when she happened across Michael in the Digital World. Her excitement to know there were others like her, along with the fact that they lived in the same state (though still three hundred or so miles apart), made her feel... Made her feel like she wasn't so alone!

 

So when ShogunGekomon showed up Niagara Falls, Tatum and Airdramon became a part of something bigger. They were part of a few very, very special group of individuals. A set of individuals that had a hand in making the world it was now. And it brought her out of a shell of isolation. Even though she and the other American Chosen didn't have as large of a part as the Japanese Chosen, they still had their time in the limelight. It forced her to blossom into a young woman, her and Betamon finding themselves on the local Buffalo news station with their own monthly segment about how to care for your Digimon. She began pouring her heart into art and fashion and eventually, Davis.

 

It took a lot of writing and rewriting before she finally sent her first message to Daisuke. Tatum was afraid he wouldn't even remember who she was--their meeting at Rockefeller Center was so fleeting--her arrival a bit later than the others. But he did! And he was so nice. And they liked the same things. And he was funny (even over their language boundaries). And confident. And cute. He was very cute. After their first lunch in the Digital World, it was clear they were going to be friends for a long time--their interests seemed to overlap nicely, their moral senses aligning perfectly, and every time they met, hours seemed to melt away from time.

 

Three years ago, she asked Daisuke out to New York for his birthday/Christmas. Combining their savings, they managed to get him a plane ticket to the states, and together they took the train to the city for a weekend to relive their first visit. That night, they had their first kiss. Two days later, back in Buffalo, they shared the same bed. For a year, they were a couple. For two years, they found themselves in a weird sort of relationship limbo. The distance was too much for them--their similarities, especially in big personalities, placed the final crack on the strained relationship.

 

But Tatum never stopped loving Daisuke, or Davis as she called him (because she could never get the "suke" right), they just couldn't be far away to make a relationship work. Since she moved to the city for college, she had a lot of time to focus on her studies, her aspirations focused on sequential art. She didn't have time for boys, or much of anything. Even Betamon would get upset with her. But her dreams were big, and her drive to fulfill them were unrelenting.

 

Oh, but she liked the idea of Davis coming to America.

 

He broke down and told her about a year ago that he wasn't sure he was going to be able to do what he wanted to. After hours of circling around the issue ("You can do it"; "No I can't"; "Yes you can!"), Tatum suggested that maybe he needed to look aboard. Expand his horizons. Maybe move somewhere with a market with the need? Like New York City?

 

She wasn't a manipulative person--what she said was in fact truth--but she would have been lying if she said she wasn't happy about the fact that he might entertain the idea of permanently being at her backdoor. She wasn't interested in sparking anything between them again for some time, but having the option was just... Comforting. And it sounded like it would be really beneficial for her friend.

 

Then he said he would do it.

 

With Betamon's eyes practically popping out of his head, Tatum held tightly onto her digital friend as Davis delivered the news. "That's awesome, Davis!"

 

"I... It good. Yes." Nodding over their conference call. He smiled toothily, Demiveemon bouncing on his lap, not too sure what he was actually excited for. "Need it, I think."

 

"You can stay with me for a bit before you get settled into your own place. My roommates and I would love to have you. Our couch is really comfy too! You and Demiveemon will do great here." She smiled back.

 

With a softly nervous laugh, Davis nodded, "Okay."

 

So it kind of pissed her off when she had sent the stupid goggle head seven messages over the course of 48 hours and received no answer. Seeing his face on the television, hearing it regurgitating the closest thing to garbage she could think of, was making her internal thermometer reach a boiling point. Luckily for her, Davis and Ken had their own sort of fanclubs--rumors were always abuzz of their locations (often using illegal means of pinging their digivices across the digitization process). A little onsen at the edge of forest?

 

Odd...

 

Leaving Betamon behind in her apartment, she found her way into the Digital World and at the quaint little onsen... Only to find that what was really going on was both exactly what she had suspected, but also not at all what she was prepared to handle on her own. Finding herself in the clutches of the orange ape, with the possession of her friend's digimon, and the threat of permanent extinction. Reluctantly, she opened the gate for the slew of digimon that wanted to bring the same sort of pain to the real world as humans had done to them...

 

 

-----------

 

 

What a shame, the morning had been going so well...

 

"Listen here," Daisuke's voice boomed in the reception hall. He had very little patience in continuing to play this game. "Where'd they go?"

 

Monzemon simply shook his head and shrugged with what little shoulders he had. "I don't know, and why do you think I'd tell you, human?"

 

Slamming his fist on the table, Daisuke had to hold back the urge to climb over the desk and rip the poor digimon's plush head off. "Give me a fucking direction! Outside?! To the left!? Second star to the right?!" He slammed his other fist on the table. "Tell me!" Staring down the big bear digimon with no reinforcement of his own was obviously not working. They were just two young men against a bear that could shoot lasers from his eyes. Of course they weren't going to get an answer.

 

Beep beep.

 

"Huh?"

 

Beep beep. Beep beep.

 

His D-3! Excitement shook his muscles so rapidly that he fumbled the device between his fingers several times before finally clutching it between both hands. "Ken!" His smile must have been contagious--both boys had big tooth grins across their face. Their partners were close, and Etemon was going to be sorry for even letting them have the things when they got back to their friends.

 

They followed the blips on the screens of their D-3s until they made it to a small clearing in the forest. The red dots on the small screens extinguished. Daisuke shook his device a few times before angrily spiking it to the ground. "DAMMIT." Throwing his head back, he looked up at the early morning sky, a pattern of leaf shaped shadows casting from the treetops. He let an aggravated groan deflate him to the ground, his head falling into this hands. "Where did they go? Why is this thing such a piece of shit? We were so close. This was going to be over..." Raising his head to look up at Ken, he double took at a tree across a clearing. There was... Somebody there?

"Hey..." Slapping Ken's leg lightly with the back of his hand, Daisuke pointed to the shadow next to the tree. Standing up, he gathered his courage and took the helm. Quietly, he strode over until he finally recognized who it was... Although her face wasn't showing in her curled up position, that fair skin combined with the funky haircut and color, were a justified cause for a second double take, "Tatum!?" 

The girl's head snapped up from her knees. "Davis!?" She kicked back into the tree she was leaning against, smacking her head on the back of it. Placing a hand on the sore spot, she crawled backward from her friend before she felt like she was a safe distance away.

 

"What... Ah. What do here?" His broken English was causing him a significant form of frustration and embarrassment at this particular moment. He tried to close the space between them, but she kept inching way. "What wrong?" 

 

Tatum hadn't been crying, but a tear fell after Daisuke's words hit her. She felt stupid. Unreliable. Isolated. "He took them... I'm sorry. I didn't know what else to do..."

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A few bleeps on the D-3 was more joy than that hunk of digi-plastic had ever brought him in his life. Somewhere, Veemon and Wormmon were far above their sweaty confinement, which meant there wasn't some two hundred feet of rock stopping them from busting out (having flying evolution forms had never seemed so useless). Ken and Daisuke were impossibly close to being somewhere that Daisuke maybe could settle this with his fists. And that comforted Ken.

 

It didn't take long before the usual hopelessness came back, though. Ken should've known not to get too excited too early, because the second the pings flashed away, there he was with a tear in his eye. He knew he should've worked harder on that program to geographically mark last ping, the D-3 screens were so inaccurate. His hand was in his hair, tugging the stupid out, when Daisuke smacked him to attention.

 

Tatum?

 

To say it hadn't crossed Ken's mind that she might be that "human girl" Monzaemon had mentioned would be to demean his intelligence. Reasonably, she was a candidate, especially after having pissed off most of the human females on their team. It was possible that Hikari had still wanted to help, or even Sora or Mimi had come to figure out what was wrong. But those two hadn't checked in-- they'd go to Taichi first. Hikari was probably being restrained by Miyako. Tatum had every reason to be here, because Ken knew Daisuke hadn't responded to his texts. Why, was he afraid of making Ken... jealous?

 

Before last night, Ken hadn't thought much of the girl. Daisuke had a lot of friends. This was a cute female he'd gone all the way to America to visit... sure. And if Ken had probable cause to use his detective's insight, Daisuke had definitely slept with Tatum while he was there. Before last night, Ken really wouldn't have cared. He was happy enough being the closest to Daisuke.

 

Now he was a part of a club with that girl, and he was afraid it was written all over his face. A blush sunk in.

 

He masked it by laughing lightly at Daisuke's English, and the way Tatum didn't even call him by his real name. Horribly inappropriately, he noticed, as Daisuke struggled to communicate and his fine damsel started to cry. He cleared his throat and slipped casually in front of Daisuke.

 

"So he has our partners, then? And back in the real world? Listen... you did what you had to, you made the same choices we did. And I'm sure what Daisuke is trying to say right now is how thankful he is that you made the right choice..." Ken peeked back at his friend, curious just how much English he understood, versus what he could say. Ken was a hell of a peacekeeper now, but not necessarily a faithful translator. Tatum had walked into the same trap Ken had last night: pinned in a spot with hostages on the line, surrender was obvious. But Daisuke wanted it settled before more lives were in danger, that much was obvious. And reasonable.

 

"I think Etemon's just made a huge mistake, don't you?" Ken spoke to Daisuke, eyeing the nearby gate that was still displaying the real world on the other side of it. "Downtown Tokyo... the population density is crazy, but he's not going to be subtle at all. Takeru and Iori ought to be close enough to give them the beating they deserve. A... assuming Takeru isn't stuck with Hikari, at least..." Ken swallowed down the regret of what he'd said to her. It wasn't that the rest of the team would just let Etemon run rampant because they hated Ken and Daisuke, but their particular freedom and vicinity made the difference between a dozen people getting hurt, or hundreds. He'd been young, but he still remember how Myotismon had overwhelmed the hospitals...

 

"If only we could just chase him down." Ken huffed, but he knew even if they recovered their partners, they'd need a lot of rest before they'd be ready to jogress, or even just evolve. "Where's your partner?" Ken directed at the American.

 

"At home... sorry."

 

Ken would have to apologize later, because he couldn't hide the look on his face that said how profoundly stupid he found her to be right now.

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