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Loki

X Adventure : 03

64 posts in this topic

It hadn't been so long ago that he'd been sitting in this same spot, gnawing the end of a pencil as he contemplated an ambiguously worded question on his college entrance exams. It was just as he'd intended, just as his parents wanted, that he was now for the first night relaxing into his bed on the University of Tokyo campus. His blue eyes bore up into the blankness of the ceiling as it occurred to him that he hadn't had a moment to relax like this in quite some time.

 

Ken fixed his brows and tried to remember it. When had he last caught a breath of fresh air? When had he had so little on his plate that he'd had the time to, well, think of when he'd last had time?

 

Maybe it was a bad time-- his roommate was sleeping, after all, and it was one in the morning. But Ken rolled off his bed anyway, working to put the final touches on unpacking his desktop computer. It was a frustratingly small room, but he wanted to be sure he had the computing power that a laptop couldn't provide. It wasn't for schoolwork, or anything like that...

 

Maybe it was even foolish, to everybody else. He hadn't spoken to Wormmon in... maybe a month, just catching up. While his roommate slumbered with a soft, blue blob of un-digivolved nubile digimon on his chest, Ken's own partner was looking out for digi ne'er-do-wells in the digital world. Most people had the advantage of digimon without their own jobs or agendas, they got to keep them as pets, as best friends who'd never need to leave their side. Most digimon lived with their humans in the human world because humans had lives. Ken's was especially busy. So was Wormmon's.

 

Still, he flipped on his monitor and listened to his roommate groan at the luminous glow. He had a little piece of software he'd coded to act like a communicator with Wormmon, working through his wireless antenna to pick up on the digivice's unique broadcast. It worked both ways, but since Ken was usually the one turning his computer on and off, he was the one initiating calls.

 

Not tonight, though.

 

About as soon as his computer was operating, he saw a log of missed calls from Wormmon. As the attempts stretched back a few hours-- hours he normally should've had his computer up and running-- suddenly the populating log was interrupted by yet another attempt.

 

"Ken!"

 

"Wormmon? What's up, buddy?" Ken looked nervously at his roommate, and the Chibomon that was starting to stir. He looked back at Wormmon even more unnerved.

 

"I really need you, Ken! Listen-- all around the digital world, we've been hearing that people can't find their digimon, and worse, they can't seem to get into the digital world to come look for them here!"

 

"What?" Ken didn't know why he was so shocked, given his experiences in the digital world, but peace had been strong and solid between the two worlds ever since Oikawa's death. That man had been sacrifice for everything the world was today-- and now it was in flux again?

 

"Please come, Ken! I know you're busy, but you're the only one I can ask!" Wormmon's fragile voice shivered, and the D-3 that had been gathering a thick coat of dust no matter where he put it, lit up its screen.

 

"The gate's open, then..." Ken picked it up with the familiarity of a bicycle. It was hard to forget his trips to the digital world, his trips especially. Well, he'd be back in no time... wouldn't he? He brushed off the digivice and held it to the screen.

 

"Alright... I'm coming to help!"

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It was hard to imagine a time before the world knew about its digital counterpart. It was certainly hard for Davis to imagine, let alone remember. As the little monster dug its face further into into his armpit, snorting softly as it rustled in its sleep, Davis smirked slightly. Without his experiences as a DigiDestined, he wouldn't have met Demiveemon. Nor would he have experienced the incredibly strong bond between his other destined friends. Even though he was to start college the next day, they had all remained in contact in some form or another. Sure, growing older meant more responsibilities. More homework. More soccer practices.

 

Girlfriends.

 

Davis breathed out of his nose and shifted his hips slightly. His bed made a low creaking noise, causing Demiveemon to mumble quietly in protest--something about rice balls and soy sauce.

 

Girlfriends. Kari. 

 

It had taken several years for Davis to get over Kari. Honestly, he wasn't even sure if he was over her yet. It was a childhood fascination with her kind spirit and dainty charms that always kept his heart fluttering. He tried several times to court her, almost successfully doing it sometime in sophomore year. But then he found out that she and T.K. were finally an item, and Davis did the only thing he could think to do. He avoided the both of them. As anyone could imagine, this was quite a task to accomplish. When all three of them went to the same high school, let alone them all being part of the same set of chosen children, he crammed his sophomore year full of sports and, surprisingly, schoolwork. That was also the one and only year he missed the Digi-Union--the anniversary the six DigiDestined celebrated around New Year's to commemorate the merge of the Real World and the Digital World. He regretted that, Davis remembered. Yolei told him over the phone the next day that "You shouldn't have missed it!" she exclaimed through uncontrollable giggles. "Ken was laughing so hard water came out of his nose!"

 

Ken.

 

Davis and Ken were best friends. Or at least they used to be. Ken was the only DigiDestined that lived away from the others, which already made it difficult for them to hang out on a regular basis. As time passed, and as the kids all started to grow up, it was obvious that Ken was the one that was taking life the most seriously. Ken's time with the rest of them certainly lightened up his personality, and he smiled more than he frowned these days. But it was still hard to see him; still hard to connect with him. Things like sitting down on a Saturday evening and eat some junk food while watching TV, or going outside on a summer afternoon to kick a soccer ball around. Things like that just didn't happen with Ken.

 

Davis leaned his head back to read the digital clock behind his head. 12:30. He had his first day of class in seven more hours. He tilted his head back down and rested his eyes, breathing out of his nose again, trying to air out his nervousness and unease.

 

Today marked a new day for Davis and all his friends. This was the biggest step they were all going to experience--the step that would drive a giant wedge between them all. College was going to make them all adults, and Davis was just not ready for it. There was a stone in his stomach, and he felt a tight ball form in his throat. Things were all going to change. He'd be going to sleep the next day and wake up as a different person.

 

He wasn't being fair, he thought. Ken was his best friend. Being best friends doesn't mean you talk every day on the phone or go to the arcade on the weekend. Best friends were best friends because they understood each other, and Davis understood Ken. Maybe even more than he understood himself.

 

He missed Ken...

 

An insistent beeping filled the tiny room. Davis shot up straight in bed, flinging Demiveemon's tiny body to tumble next to Davis' feet. Davis looked over at his roommate's empty bed. The was kid already getting a head start on the college party scene. Nothing was blinking or smoky or anything on that side of the room. The beeping continued.

 

"What is it, Davis?" Demiveemon asked, groggy but also strangely alert.

 

Davis looked around the dark room, blinking every time he heard the beep. Finally, his eyes rested on his desk. The laptop was wide open, but the screen was blank. The power light was blinking a flourescent blue. "I... Think its the computer." Davis carefully got out of bed and walked over to his computer desk. Pressing the "enter" key, the computer came to life. The screen was filled with dialog boxes, cascading diagonally down his screen like a waterfall. More and more appeared every time his computer beeped.

 

"What's going on?" The little monster asked again.

 

"I don't know... It just says 'help' over and over again." Davis tried to click out the windows, but new ones just appeared. "Kinda freaky." He pressed and held down the power button, but the computer failed to shut down.

 

"Do you think it's the Digital World, Davis?"

 

"It might be..." Davis trailed off as he opened a drawer in his desk to retrieve his D-3. Next to it, was the pair of goggles Tai had given him. He slipped them on his head and released the band with a sharp 'snap'. He could feel the adrenaline kicking up in him. It had been a few months since the two of them had returned to the Digital World. "You ready, buddy?" Demiveemon jumped off of the bed and scurried over next to Davis' leg, squeeking a noise of approval. "All right, then. DigiPort open!"

 

And with that, the room filled with a bright light, and the two of them were gone.

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It was truly astounding how something so inorganic could feel true and natural, even more real than the so-called "real" world. It amazed Ken to this day that there was a time he could have stepped foot into this world and thought it was all a sick game. It hadn't been all his fault, he supposed; the dark spore was a nasty virus. But it would always remind him how hard his closest friends had tried to destroy him and save him all at the same time-- Davis more so than any of them.

 

That felt the most unnatural. Even after all these years Ken wasn't sure he felt responsible enough to enter the digital world alone. Was he really the only DigiDestined to return? If Wormmon had sent a distress call, surely, he'd thought to reach out for Davis at least. Where would they be without Paildramon?

 

It was foolish for a genius-level intellect attending a top-level university to continue to harp on his former evils. Ken had stopped hating himself for them years ago, yet the worm under his skin continued to nag him that Davis was his digital partner, that without his team there was no point in coming here at all.

 

And the worm outside his skin seemed to be saying the same thing.

 

"Ken, I'm so glad you made it!" The green catterpillar-like digimon scuttled up Ken's legs with hearty relief. Ken smiled, glad to see the digital world working its usual wardrobe magic. If Wormmon hadn't sounded like the world was about to delete itself, Ken might've thought about how he'd been shirtless with a pair of pajama bottoms at the time he'd rolled out of bed. Rather than the old gray uniform, of course, he was sporting some black trousers, a gray shirt, and a soft black jacket with fuzz around the collar; oddly reminiscent of what Davis used to wear with a serious dial-down on the flaming flair.

 

"Hey, Wormmon." Ken tried to kneel down to hug him, but a strong wriggle from his partner reminded him again there was business at hand. They were just outside the lobby of a sort of digi-police office, where a group of dedicated digimon were taking count of just who had lost their digimon, and what kind of digimon it had been.

 

"This is just awful, Ken. It looks like most of the Betamon have gone totally missing, and Mushroomon are starting to vanish too. And then the most troubling thing... Demiveemon are disappearing especially in Japan!" Wormmon's eternally worried voice was more than appropriate here. Ken sucked in a hard breath, not expecting that to be the last thing Wormmon told him. Davis lost his Veemon would come out of his purple pincer mouth. Davis can't return to the digital world.

 

Just as Ken set his jaw against the worst, the brilliant apparition of another destined making his way into the digital world caught his eye. At first, it was just a distraction-- surely those who still had their digimon would come flooding in to try and protect them as the news got out. But then that spiky brown mess of hair became a little more clear, a little too unchanged after all these years. A lot like the pictures Ken saw of Davis on Facebook, since that was more often where he was seeing him face to face recently. And he never lost those goggles...

 

Ever the bashfully polite young man, but Ken couldn't hold back his stare as Davis really came into view. And there beside him, a happy Veemon.

 

"Davis..." Ken stepped breathless towards him. His arm half extended for a friendly hug, half retracted because he wasn't sure how to ask for one anymore. It had been too long. "I'm so glad you're alright! And you, Veemon."

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Davis' skin peeled back like lizard scales, each tiny piece of him spinning and exposing a new him--a digital version of Davis Motomiya.

 

The hyperactive pixels rushed down his body, like a sound wave through water. Davis touched his face, the stubble on his cheeks from too many stressful days was gone. His hair, he could already tell, was shorter and less shaggy than what it had grown into in the real world. His plain white sleeping shirt was replaced by a red long sleeved shirt, covered by a charcoal bubble vest with fur trim and blue flames that licked the bottom edges. His pajama bottoms were replaced by beige shorts, and his bare feet were covered in his old favorite Digital-World-Orange boots. His Digital World appearance remained similar, and resoundly boyish, except for the few pounds of muscle he had gained through the years. As the transformation completed, the ends of his body glowed brightly, then snuffed away instantaneously, as if something was turning off a light to the real him.

 

They had landed somewhere in a relatively urban area, at the intersection of two streets. The streets were barren except for a crowd of Digimon that had gathered on the sidewalk on the outside off one of the buildings. Davis looked down at Demiveemon, who had Digivoled into Veemon, to make sure his best friend was with him. "Welcome home, Veemon."

 

Veemon smiled back and opened his mouth to say something, but became distracted by his nose. With two giant sniffs, Veemon started to trot off down the street toward the group of Digimon.

 

"Hey! Where are you going!"

 

"Ken and Wormmon are here!" Veemon huffed, as his trot began to pick up into a run.

 

"Wait, what!?" Ken and Wormmon were here? Davis shook his head and began jogging alongside his DigiPartner. What were they doing here, he thought. He knew the two of them always had a strict dedication to the Digital World. Even after all these years, Ken felt some obligation to the denizens of the Digital World. Not that Davis didn't feel the same way about helping Digimon, but life got busy... And Veemon spent most of his time with him in the Real World. He didn't have much reason to go back to the Digital World very often.

 

Was the Digital World really in trouble?

 

Then he saw him. And then he heard him.

 

Davis barreled forward and threw his body into Ken, grabbing him tight for a quick, strong hug. He stepped back, one arm still around his friend's shoulder, and smiled a toothy grin. "What's up, my DNA-Digi-Partner-of-Awesomeness?" He pat Ken's back before giving the two men a bit of distance and kneeled down to pat Wormmon on the head. The bug Digimon mumbled contently.

 

"It's not good," Wormmon said. He explained again to the three of them what was going on. People's Digimon were disappearing all over the world. It could be a full blown crisis. People in the real world wouldn't be able to return to the Digital World. With enough missing Digimon, the Digital World could be wide open for attack--for destruction. The balance of both worlds could be destroyed.

 

"Did anybody try checking under the Digi-couch cushions?" Davis laughed nervously until Veemon stomped on his foot. Davis bit his bottom lip and glared down at Veemon. The two locked eyes in mock-anger.

 

"Demiveemons have been disappearing too, Davis." Wormmon said, solemnly.

 

"What?" Davis' tone had changed. He couldn't imagine losing Veemon. Clearly, this wasn't a time to joke around. "I... See. And these Digimon are all here to report those who are missing? Has anybody from our group gone missing? What should we be doing? Where do we start looking for something that can't be found?" Davis franticly rambled off these questions until he was interrupted by the bellowing trumpet of a Gekomon attempting to quite and grab the attention of the crowd.

 

The crowd of Digimon was quite. Davis looked over at Ken, who just simply shrugged in response. The Gekomon cleared its throat disruptively and finally croaked in its traditional lisp, "We have pinpointed the last known location of a kidnapping! It was a Dolphmon. That is all." The Gekomon turned from the crowd and re-entered the building, bring the crowd up Digimon into an uproar.

 

Davis began to walk toward the end of the street, the fingers of one hand rubbing the bottom of his chin in thought. He waited until he was far enough away from the bustle before he turned around and faced Ken, who had followed him. He looked up at Ken, grabbing the attention of those deep blue eyes--those eyes that almost caught him off kilter. With a swift movement of his hand, he gave Ken a thumbs up and a wink. "Looks like we're going to Coela Beach!"

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With all the seaworthy digimon getting snatched from the ocean deeps, the beach was a natural destination to start looking. It almost seemed too casual for such a dire issue-- they were going on a vacation to find lost digimon?-- but Ken had also missed out on much of the original scenic problem solving of the earlier DigiDestined. If not for his friends, Ken might not have any fond memories of the digital world at all.

 

Coela Beach was off the rocky shores of Server Continent and aways a bit, on File Island. With no Submarimon to ferry them across, flight was the next best option. It wasn't too far away, and though Ken wasn't sure about Veemon, Wormmon hadn't gotten to stretch his wings in some time. Being away from one's DigiDestined tended to stifle digivolution, after all. So did being outside the digital world (though all rules had their exceptions) so Ken was smiling as he took his black digivice in hand and held it towards Wormmon.

 

"Alright... digivolution!"

 

A great white light wrapped around Wormmon as data downloaded into his system, bulking up his body and giving him a cool set of sleek green and black armor. He stood a couple heads above Ken now, humanoid and strong, and going by the name Stingmon.

 

"Thanks, buddy." Ken remarked with a smile, hoping that the flight, albeit short, wasn't going to be too much for his rusty, champion-level digi-friend. Paildramon certainly had the chops to make the flight, and make it fast...

 

Well, Ken didn't want to come off as too eager to DNA digivolve with Davis so soon. Those were some brilliant times, even cruising across the world on the power of their own two digimon. Together they were absolutely unstoppable, a stirring confidence that made Ken ten times gladder to have Davis by his side. This whole mission would be wrapped up in no time, case closed, the digital world happy and sound.

 

Except... then he'd have to go back home. Back to his long days at university and skipping meals so he'd have the time to complete his work. Back to soccer being such a time-consuming activity that he wasn't even glad to play it anymore. Back to life being in his way of enjoying life, and no time to send Davis so much as a 'hey' over skype lest the conversation draw on too long. As long as the digital world was in peril, Ken's priorities were in the right place. He didn't get an excuse like this every day.

 

"Hey, Davis." Ken brushed off his thoughts like flies. "Isn't it sort of strange? All the digimon that have been disappearing so far... it's mostly sea digimon, except for the Demiveemon. They're much more terrestrial. I know this whole thing reeks of foul play already, but doesn't it seem like maybe, besides whatever is going on, they had a... side agenda? If the kids who have their digimon stolen can't return to the digital world, targeting the Demiveemon might mean they were targeting you."

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It was a possibility, Davis thought, grimly.

 

But who would be out to get him and him specifically? There was always going to be darkness in the Digital World as long as there was light. They've had several other minor crises since the day the worlds connected. None of them had directly involved the Digidestined personally. At least, not that Davis knew of.

 

"I don't know," Davis said. He looked down at Veemon, who had become increasingly nervous with discussion of his missing cousins. "I guess the correlation is there, but why?" Davis huffed, frustrated with having to think. He just wanted to go doDoing something made it easier to think. "Let's talk about it when we get to the beach. Veemon, you ready?" The little blue Digimon nodded as Davis pointed the D-3 at him. "Digivolve, my man!" As the words escaped his mouth, a bright light shrouded Veemon, just like with Wormmon. It morphed and pulsated, until finally it took form of a ten foot tall, muscular, blue, bipedal dragon.

 

"Exveemon at your service!" the Digimon said, his small white wings twitching with excitement.

 

"So how about it?" Davis propped a leg up on his partner's tail, ready to climb onto the monster's back. "We'll fly over and see what we can find for evidence before we jump to any wild conclusions." He had to admit, it sounded like pretty level-headed thinking, but he might also have been a little bit afraid that what Ken had suggested actually had some truth to it.

 

The two climbed onto their Digimon and started the short trip to Coela Beach. The trip was going to take longer than if they had DNA Digivolved into Palidramon, and significantly longer if they had Mega Digivoled into Imperialdramon, but it was better to conserve their partner's energy just in case they ran into any trouble. And in the Digital World, that was always a very real and significant possibility.

 

About an hour later, the four of them landed at Coela Beach. Davis slid down Exveemon's back like a children's slide. He hopped onto his feet, his boots sinking several inches into the soft sand. It sure was a beautiful day. If the situation wasn't so pressing, Davis thought, then he should have brought his swimming trunks. It occurred to him that he had never gone swimming with Ken before--not in a pool, not in a lake, and certainly not a digital ocean. He wondered if he was any good. But even Davis was pretty sure he was. The dark spore from long ago didn't enhance the boy's intelligence or abilities exponentially when he was the Emperor. Ken was an athletic, gifted genius from birth.

 

Davis looked over at his friend, who was currently trying to comb his wind-blown locks out of a knotted mess. The boy couldn't help but chuckle. "Don't worry, Ken," He walked over to his friend. "You look just fabulous." With both his hands, the red-haired boy scuffled the other's head vigorously, causing his hair to practically stand on end. The now Veemon and Wormmon laughed along with Davis, as Ken just grumbled about "getting to the matter at hand" while he tried to manage his hair back down. Davis saw that Ken was smiling, though, and really... That's all that ever mattered.

 

"Right, so," Davis said, clearing his throat. "I guess we should split up so we can cover the more ground. Shout if you guys find something." He waved Veemon on to follow him, and they both started off along the beach shore.

 

The sound of the rhythmic ocean calmed Davis' nerves down a bit. He was being a little overactive. But the ball of stress in his belly made him woozy. College. DigiWorld crisis. Seeing Ken again...

 

He honestly had no idea how much he missed seeing his friend.

 

He needed to make more of an effort to hang out. It was  two way street, and even if he was going to get rejected because of school every so often, at least he would be able to try. But Davis hated being rejected. Although he was a bull-headed, determined, and incredibly persistent individual, he hated being rejected. And even worse than that, he hated feeling like a burden. Often times with Ken, he felt... Small. It was hard to walk in the shadow of a giant. Ken was going to school to be a doctor or a computer scientist or... Heck, Davis didn't even know. It all probably involved words he couldn't understand. Point was, he was doing something smart. What was Davis wasting his time with? Going to school for business so he could open his stupid noodle cart.

 

Davis sighed. He didn't really think it was stupid, but it was certainly less impressing, and that's what made him so intimidated sometimes. How could Ken stand to be around him? Cracking jokes all the time. Talking about stupid things like video games and television. No wonder their communication had dwindled through the past few years.

 

It felt so good to see him smile, though.

 

"Hey, Davis!" Veemon said, breaking Davis from his thoughts. He had almost forgotten they were actually here to do something. Davis shook his head slightly, trying to rearrange his thoughts back into their proper puzzle places. "DAVIS." Veemon shouted.

 

"Hey, man, what? Calm down."

 

"What's that?" Veemon said, pointing to something on the beach.

 

"I dunno..." Davis trailed off. The pair strolled over to the object and kneeled before it. "It looks like a TV. Like the ones we use to enter the Digital World."

 

"It looks broken."

 

"Yeah..." Davis frowned. The digital televisions had a habit of breaking, but the Digital World worked on a very good immune system. Whenever one was destroyed, another one would take its place--replacing its digital matter pixel for pixel. But this one had been here for a long time. The broken tube screen held a few pounds of sand and salt water, along with a couple of small digital sealife. The antenna was skewed and a piece of kelp hung off of one rabbit ears like an earring. 

 

Then it turned on.

 

Davis and Veemon both tumbled backward. "What the hell..." Davis spat. Just then he realized that his ass was all wet. "Dammit." He sighed. What little bits of glass remained on the television played them a channel of snow. If the volume was working, the sound of the ocean was surely drowning it out. "I wonder... What it is..."

 

"Let's get Ken, Davis." Veemon insisted. Davis simply nodded and stood up. He wiped his pants, frustrated now that it looked like he had a rather embarrassing accident, and went off with his friend to find Ken.

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Davis messing with his hair wasn't any worse than the wind was doing to him, and the flight for sure had ruined his model-like blue-hued locks. Ken was astoundingly modest for what he was (that is, the complete package; a trifecta of brains, skills, and looks) but on days when he had too much to think about, there he was mussing with his hair like it had to be perfect. And of course Davis had to be the one to screw it all up again. Hah, jerk. Ken missed him.

 

He crept along the tree line upshore on the beach, letting Davis get his feet wet in the lapping of the tides. Tall palms swept up and hung over the sand, creating a lovely fringe of shadowed sand for the more fair-skinned like Ken. Davis could take a day baking on the sand and not even turn red, Ken would bet; he himself was a frequent user of sunscreen. There was a nice hypothesis to test, if he could get some time to just relax on the beach with Davis, and see if he couldn't draw some sunscreen goggles on his face and have them burn in by the end of the day. For now, of course, back to business...

 

The sand had a lot of black particulate up at the high tide line, but it was as fine as the sand, so it was hard to say if it was abnormal or any kind of digi-iron just like they had in the real world. Ken himself had never been out to File Island, though he'd always been well aware of it. He'd been well aware of every minute detail of the digital world in his attempts to conquer it.

 

"It feels way too normal out here." Wormmon worried. When you were expecting trouble, the last thing you wanted was nothing at all.

 

"Yeah..." Ken spoke too soon. Veemon grabbed their attention, and Davis grabbed his arm to tug him back towards the broken yet not-so-broken TV in the sand. The digital world was a land of illusions-- just because a TV that busted would never work in the real world, didn't mean a screen ever stopped being a screen in the digital world. And about as soon as the static pattern caught Ken's eye, the screen started playing what looked like an old image.

 

"I've got your Digimon."

 

"No, let me go!" A demiveemon's cry was distinct enough to make Davis's partner cringe. The other voice, coming from a figure in the shadows, seemed too familiar...

 

"I know he's not yours, Davis Motomiya, but he might as well be. You've always been so... sentimental about these things."

 

Purple glasses caught the glint of the camera, and by then it was totally obvious. The hum of the pubescent voice that was a blast from the past, cloaked in spikes of blue-hue hair...

 

"T-The Kaiser..." Ken stammered as if he weren't looking at himself. In a lot of ways, he wasn't. "Is this... an old recording?" Ken said it out loud, and it sounded even less true now that it had left his mouth. Ken would've remembered making it-- he remembered it all too vividly-- and it was too relevant.

 

Moreover, it was abundantly clear now why Ken and Davis were the only two DigiDestined to get called back. Someone posing as Ken was taking Digimon a lot like Davis's.

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Veemon's auburn eyes were glossy. He tugged lightly on Davis' shorts. The courageous Digimon was feeling anything but that at the moment. "It's okay, Veemon," Davis reassured. "Nobody's going to get ya. We're too badass for that, right?" He kneeled down next to his Digimon, and pat his head until he slowly started to see that trademark confidence come back into his friend's eyes.

 

Honestly, he was a little freaked out, too. The fact that the the TV turned itself off again made the already tense situation even more unnerving.

 

Davis turned his attention back to Ken. It was hard to remember how somebody sounded when they were younger, and the voice was definitely less, well, manly, than how Ken sounded now. But, without a doubt, it was Ken. The way the Emperor said his name... He would never forget how that sounded. "Was that... You?" Davis said softly, regretting it immediately, not wanting to accuse his friend. He knew it couldn't be. There was no way. Absolutely no way it was Ken. 

 

But it was Ken. What the hell was going on?

 

"We need to figure out where this is coming from. Is somebody impersonating the Kaiser?" Davis righted his wrongs by separating the terrible tyrant from his kind-hearted friend's identity. They might as well be separate people. Ken would never hurt anybody. "Why is this happening now? That was like," he threw his hands up in the air, "I dunno! Six years ago! Kinda late on getting on that gravy train. The Kaiser is old news. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt..." He looked over at Ken, producing a weak smile. It was hard trying to keep strong for the both of them. It was obvious that they were both scared.

 

Davis plopped back down in the sand, not caring how many articles of clothing got wet, or how wet they exactly got. He stared at the television, as if pleading to it to give him the answers. He brought his arms up and crossed them ontop of his knees and lulled his head down to rest on the back of his hands. The sound of the ocean seemed to exponentially grow, while the two DigiDestined and their partners remained silent. If this new threat was anything like The Emperor, anything at all, shit was going to be really, really bad. And worse, there seemed to be a reason now for why Davis could have been the target. He could lose Veemon. Ken could be right.

 

Davis let out a frustrated groan and lifted his head, the realities of the situation becoming overwhelming. "What the fuck do we do now?" He spat. "We can't just trace that or anything? Can we? There's no Digital call list or whatever. There's no TV station that just puts out maniac kidnapper messages, now is there? So what the HELL do we do!?" Davis' emotions were filling in his chest so big that he felt his muscles twitch. He shot up from the sand and held his arms out at his side. "This guy is after me, and I don't even know what I've done!" He was shouting now, his body physically shaking. Anger, fear, betrayal, confusion... It was all about to escape. "WHAT HAVE I DONE?" He shouted at the ocean, but received no answer. The group remained silent. Davis breathed heavily through his nose, glaring off at the horizon for several minutes until finally he let his head hang.

 

He didn't want to face this enemy again. He didn't want to think of all those innocent Digimon getting hurt, or all of his friends put in danger, or losing Veemon to a foe he couldn't defeat, or seeing Ken... Seeing Ken go through something like that again. The Kaiser was dead. Ken killed him. Why did this despicable memory coming crawling up through the dark cracks of Digital World again? Wasn't once enough?

 

Davis looked warily at Ken. His attempt at being strong, at applying his chosen symbol to his personality, was just not going to happen. "Wh... W-what do we do?"

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There never was rest from one's demons. The further he grew from his old self, his Emperor self, the more the darkness clawed back at him. He would always be vulnerable to it, sick with the memory that if he'd done it once, he could do it again. But always, always strong enough to overcome it. After all, he'd overcome it once, too. Maybe it was reflex that he faced Davis with a glare, despite his overall innocent question. He dropped his agitation as soon as it would shake from his face.

 

"That isn't me." Ken said it himself, letting the resoluteness of the words steel him against the truth. "Is" and "was" were two very different verbs. Ken wasn't the Kaiser now. But he used to be.

 

"So, someone... or something had to be impersonating me." Ken paused. "Impersonating the Kaiser." Ken grit his teeth. He remembered in not so blurry detail how Davis had refused to call him the Kaiser once he'd learned his real name. It robbed the Emperor of his strength, it was obvious verbal opposition to him, and at the same time, it made him all more human and less evil deity. As much as Ken had hated it then, he wanted to do the very same thing now. But the person behind the screen wasn't Ken Ichijoji.

 

"Calm down, okay?" Ken wanted to demand it, an angry coil seizing in his spine. For as guilty as he tended to feel about the past, anger was not something he usually stirred. This was frustration, this was a blinding need to know why his work wasn't done. This could have been a small problem, a not necessarily easy problem, but a ripple in a lake to say the least. This was a nail that had driven so far into his foot it was coming out his shoulder by now.

 

"Calm down!" Ken shouted-- but to whom? Wormmon jumped backwards, and Ken looked at him as he saw his face in worried insectoid eyes. He dropped onto his ass next to Davis in the sand.

 

"A world full of DigiDestined, and they come for us. Maybe it's my fault, I'm such an easy scar to pick at. The last thing I ever wanted was for you to get caught in my perpetuated mess." Ken hung his head in his hands. At least, with this situation, he didn't have to face the foe alone.

 

Challenging this enemy was going to take acceptances that neither of them wanted to make. As Ken sunk into his sand, even without wanting to, his mind curled around the idea of how they would find the Kaiser impostor. It was obvious to him; when the Kaiser wanted them closer, he'd make another move. He'd outright invite them to his front doorstep right when he was sure he had the power to destroy them. And he would show up a lot to toy with his food along the way. Ken knew all this because he had no trouble getting back into that old mindset, even if he could now view it from a distance. If this Kaiser really was just a replay of the old him... it might not be so hard to catch himself after all. The trouble with this plan was that Ken didn't want to say a word of it outloud. He didn't want to talk to Davis while he thought like the Emperor. Davis's ill-conceived question bounced around his brain and plagued him until his stomach turned over.

 

"Well... how did you face the Kaiser last time?" Ken sighed at the sand. If he wasn't helpful at finding himself, was he any better than his former self?

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Seeing Ken upset reminded Davis why he needed to get his shit together. This wasn't about him. They were both victims. The Emperor calling out his name was just as much of a threat to Ken as it was to him. Possibly even more so. A small blush crossed his cheeks, embarrassed that he was had been so weak. That he felt like Ken had reprimanded him.

 

Davis let his back hit the sand. He closed his eyes and breathed slowly out of his nose. How did they beat the boy before? It wasn't easy back then, and there had been a dozen children available to take him down. It was just the two of them now. Of course, calling the others was always a possibility, but the older kids were already graduated from college and had lives. It wasn't that simple anymore. They'd have to try to figure this out on their own the best they could for now. He knew they could; they were partners.

 

What would Izzy do? Tai? Matt? Kari? Even that twat T.J.--what would he do?

 

"Well... The best way we were able to track yo--" Davis caught himself. He shook his head and let out a disgruntled noise, annoyed with himself as he kept slipping up. Even after all these years... "The best way we tracked the Kaiser was by where he placed the Control Spires. Whenever a new one appeared, there was probably a good chance he had run through there. Sure, sometimes his slaves would construct them for him from afar, but he wasn't one that was very afraid of showing off, even if it meant we'd find him." He remembered all the times they persuaded only to get caught in a trap, or in a battle that resulted in freeing several enslaved Digimon. Or the time he replaced his friends with Bakemon and forced him to disregard his dignity in exchange for his friend's lived. "He was always prepared for that too." He said, his words trailing off into the ocean waves.

 

There weren't any Control Spires this time, though. All they had was the trail of missing Digimon, which was barely much they could go on. They only knew two things: that this enemy was taking seafairing Digimon and those of Veemon's family. Tomorrow, he could start taking forest Digimon. It wasn't really a pattern. Just a Digimon de jour. It was evident now that Demiveemon was a target, maybe the real target of all the kidnappings, but knowing that now, they couldn't rely on expecting this "Kaiser" to continue what he was doing. Especially if he somehow knew that they were onto his trail.

 

"I don't think we can expect him to keep stealing Digimon along the shore," Davis said. "We don't even know how close he's watching us or... What he even is. But it's obvious he's after me, so he could be grabbing anything at this point. We need to think of something else."

 

What could there be. Davis sat up again, squinting his eyes as he looked out at the ocean. He scanned his gaze left to right, until his eyes landed on the television. The television! Of course!

 

"Hey!" The google-head stood up and walked over to the television. "I bet these guys are mapped somewhere on our D-3s." He frowned slightly as he realized how much of a task this was going to be. There could be hundreds of these things in the Digital World. But if they came across any other broken ones, then that could be their pattern. "It's going to be a pain in the ass, but if they are all broken like this one, then we might be able to find him... Eventually."

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Ken mulled it over. That seemed like a good point-- these TVs were their access points to the real world, and the D-3 was the best liason they had between the worlds besides that. They were sort of the gate to their D-3 key, really, so the two devices ought to know where to find one another. Finally he smiled as he looked over at Davis, with an amused sort of smirk hinting at the corners of his mouth. Good job, dummy, you actually thought of a good plan. Well, he had to be the leader for some reason, eh?

 

It was a little amusing just how well the two of them got along. They couldn't have hated each other more when they met, as the two most opposed forces in the digital world. Even after Ken switched sides, he was much more a lone wolf than a team player. Ken had been the captain of every team he'd ever played on, anyway... so why did they meld together as a powerhouse couple?

 

In the mathematical meaning of couple, that was...

 

Ken pulled up his D-3 and stared at it a moment. There wasn't much of an interface, but he was well familiar with the workings of it by now. The black and grey device used to be the ultimate anti-digivice, inhibiting digivolution for Wormmon and, thanks to Ken, every Digimon a stone's throw from a Control Spire. Ken fidgeted with the buttons for a moment, but in the end he knew what would really make the device do what he wanted. The digivice channeled emotion, and the more Ken wanted to know where the other TV terminals were, the sooner his D-3 would tell him.

 

"There!" a holographic map projected up from the screen of his D-3. It was a little diorama of File Island, with red blinking dots where other terminals would be found. Surely this would work for the continent, too, but right now that was an ocean away.

 

"Let's hope you're right, Davis." Ken got to his feet and reached down, extending a hand to help Davis out of the sand.

 

 

It was a mix of good news and bad news. They headed for the nearest cluster of screens, and each new one they encountered was just as broken and mangled as the last. One had a vine growing up out of the screen, another was half-crushed in a rockslide. Each one played them back static when they got close, but there wasn't another message from the pseudo-Kaiser yet. It was certainly calming to know their first clues hadn't led them off course, but with each broken screen they encountered, Ken wondered if there were any whole ones. Was this part of the reason the kids with stolen Digimon couldn't make a connection to the Digital World?

 

A dull buzz hummed over the tree line, getting louder like an approaching lawnmower. Up in the sky, a Flymon held a TV in it's pincers, still (for the most part) totally whole. Not for long, though, as the bug Digimon released it high above a digital lake. It smashed to pieces on the surface, and sank miserably to the bottom without a scrap to save. The Flymon made an about-face, turning and buzzing back to wherever it had come from.

 

"If... if all the TVs are broken here, then I guess that means we're kind of stuck, aren't we?" Ken looked at Davis, his brows knit. Maybe they'd find one on the mainland, but what if they didn't? Sure, the TVs regenerated almost at random-- Ken had a theory it was related to kids connecting to the internet around the world-- but if whoever was doing this was taking them out fast enough, Ken and Davis would never find a way home except by random and serious luck.

 

"It's... hard to say that wasn't intentional." Flymon didn't just attack TVs. Wormmon wiggled over to the surface of the lake, as if looking for the broken TV inside would do them any good. A piece of glass washed up against him, remnants of the disaster. Or a disaster much like it-- come to think of it, how did something from that TV get all the way over here?

 

"Ken... I think the lake might be full of these!" Wormmon gasped, then put his head under the water. Sure enough, there was another ruined old screen not too far from shore. This time, the Kaiser's malicious laughter echoed out from under the placid water surface.

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After the fourth broken TV, Davis began fearing that this situation was going to be worse than they initially thought. He'd never seen a broken TV in the Digital World before now, let alone five of them. As if missing Digimon, some crazy impostor, and the threat of losing Veemon wasn't bad enough--they could actually end up stuck in the Digital World. He felt his stomach turn, his face scrunching up as if he had smelled something horrible. What a load of shit. At least they still had means of communication with the Real World through their D-Terminals. For now... But even that seemed to have a radically expiring timestamp on it. What else did this Kaiser have in store from them?

 

And as they watched the fifth TV drop into the lake and disappear under the surface, it was clear there was some sort of message they were to receive.

 

The group made its way to the lake shore. Besides the ripples reverberating on the surface from the disturbance, the scene was calm. Peaceful. It was just another beautiful day in the Digital World, under any other circumstances. Wormmon scuttled along the shore and found a piece of the TV. But not the TV. There were more? How many? How long had this been going on? More importantly, "Why?" Davis said aloud, not really expecting an answer.

 

There was a cackle--hoarse, commanding, degrading, and muffled. The Kaiser was online again, under the lake of decommissioned screens. They needed anything they could get at this point to get a lead. The TVs were a good start, but they were already starting to come to a dead end. Even if the Kaiser was going to be playing with them, at least they could be reeled into his game far enough to get on his trail, and then follow from a safe distance. They needed to know what was going on down there.

 

The realization hit him. They didn't have a means of getting underwater. Both their Digimon were terrestrial or avian. Gomamon, Submarimon, or heck, even Gabumon weren't here to help them out.

 

Then again, Davis could really go for a swim.

 

"Well, that settles it." Davis said. He undid his boots and slipped them off one at a time, removing his socks as well. He unzipped his vest and jerked his shoulders back, letting the piece of clothing fall to the ground. Grabbing the edges of his shirt, he peeled the clothing off, dancing around slightly as he pulled it up over his head and dropped it on top of his vest. He rubbed his tanned arms and then clapped his hands together. Taking his goggles by the rims, he slid them down over his eyes. To tell the truth, he didn't get many chances to actually use his goggles for what they were intended for, but he loved every second when he could. He grinned at Ken, his giddiness glowing on his face and his eyes distorted by the glass of the goggles, "Time for some underwater movies." With that, he darted toward the lake, taking several strides into the shallows before diving into the water.

 

Looking around the lake bottom, he was suddenly counting his lucky stars, or whatever people did when they got really, really, really lucky. The entire lake bed was covered in pieces of metal, broken glass, and various hardware and cables reaching hopelessly toward the surface. He swam a few more feet before he surfaced, orienting himself to shout back to shore. "There's tons of 'em down here, guys! TONS. I'm going back down to get a closer look..." Davis dove underwater, making a few powerful kicks to reach the lake bottom. He wasn't too far out, but it didn't look like the lake didn't get much deeper either. Honestly, he wondered if it was more of a pond than a lake. The water sure was clear too--bright blue like a Caribbean cove. A great temperature too. Too bad about the pollution...

 

"Hello," a particularly large shred of glass spoke out to Davis. It was muddled, especially hard to make out certain consonants, but comprehensible. "You fools never change." The Emperor spoke, cackling after his words. Davis swam closer, irritated that he knew he would need to return to the surface soon to refresh his breath. "I sure have missed you both," even underwater, Davis could tell he was... Cooing. "Good thing..." Davis couldn't hold his breath any longer. He kicked to the surface, his head breaching the water. He took several deep gasps, ignoring the calls from his friends on the beach as he dove under again. Returning to the TV, he caught the end of the transmission. The Kaiser was on the screen, his face close, though Davis could only see the top left and bottom right of his face. A ragged crag of open space separated the pieces of his face, warping his demeanor to into a demented, mysterious display.

 

"... Got you."

 

And then Davis felt something grab onto his leg, whirling him around once in the water, and suddenly he was ten feet in the air.

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Really? Davis was going to go swimming now? Surely they could go find some other nearby screen, or something, surely the emperor wanted them to hear it enough to make it... more convenient. Ken grimaced when he realized that was in no way true, and Davis deserved more of his respect for getting dirty to get their next clue. Even if he was just screwing around.

 

He was starting to think it wouldn't be a bad idea to join him, though one look at the shoreline told him he didn't want to go in that water barefoot. Had Davis cut himself getting in? Ken pulled his jacket off his shoulders and folded his shirt up inside of it as he put it down in the sand, then started wading shoes and pants into the water. It was remarkably nice, warm as it seeped right through to his skin. Though he was pale, the healthiness of his skin seemed to glisten in the digital sun, especially as he waded deeper and started to get it wet. He was just about to duck his head under, while up to his chest in the water, when Davis was flung far above it.

 

"Shit! Davis!" Ken gasped in a breath and dove headlong forward. What had tossed Davis up out of the water? It didn't take a genius intellect to tell you it wasn't a friend, no matter what it was. And given their situation? It was more likely a Digimon than anything else. It didn't make a lick of sense to pound the water in a furious butterfly stroke in order to get himself to Davis as fast as possible, only to be directly under him when he made it back to the water's surface. The goggle-headed boy crashed down on him and sent them both under the water, Ken's head swirling through the disorientation. There were eyes... and not looking up from the screens anymore. The tall red fins were a better giveaway-- the bottom of the lake was full of Betamon. Really aggressive Betamon.

 

Ken grabbed Davis by the waist and kicked furiously to the surface, making sure he pulled Davis's head up above the water before anything else. He probably wasn't hurt from that throw, but Ken didn't really know for sure, and all...

 

"Wormmon! Digivolve!" Ken gasped, holding his digivice up out of the water as he felt a Betamon claw off one of his shoes in a failed attempt at dragging him under again. The second time, Ken was sure he wouldn't be so lucky.

 

Immediately, Stingmon was swooping in over them, lending Ken a hand and the strength to drag them both up out of the water and back to shore.

 

"Are... are they being controlled?" Ken gasped, knowing these Betamon were very possibly the kidnapped ones, and the Digital World had a long history of control devices messing up perfectly good Digimon. It wasn't dark rings, Ken decided, but not because he wasn't sure he hadn't seen one. It was when one of the more ambitious Betamon digivolved into a Seadramon that things were looking darker for the DigiDestined pair.

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It took a moment for Davis to realize he was no longer swimming but was instead flying.

 

Eyes wide, he gasped in a deep breath of air, the wind having been knocked out of him when he had been attacked. Gravity began to take its hold again, and his stomach lurched up into this throat, pushing out a drawn out yelp, his arms and legs reeling as his back smacked into the water below him. The contact with the water again stole his breath, his vision going black, and bubbles escaping from his mouth and nose, rapidly depleting his air supply. There was a mess of limbs as Ken and Davis sunk toward the bottom of the lake, just narrowly avoiding becoming pin cushions to the blossoms of debris growing from the sandy bottoms.

 

As soon as the two boys surfaced, the dazed and breathless Davis sucked in all the air he could, his vision returning to normal. The commotion of the fight left him confused and disoriented, only noticing the slick flesh that was pressed against his and the red fins that were slicing through the surface of the water behind him. Swim. Davis thought. Fucking... Swim! Just as we was about to resume control of his body and remove his burden from Ken, Stingmon swooped down and plucked them out of the water, depositing them safely on the shoreline. Scrambling through his pockets, his head still feeling light, Davis pulled out his D-3 and croaked out, "Digivolve Veemon! Hurry!" He doubled over, coughing loudly, trying to expunge the water from his lungs. Exveemon appeared, running to the boys' side, thumping his large blue tail onto the sand and flew off to to join Stingmon in the battle.

 

Davis shook his head, droplets of water splattering on the ground around him. He tried hard to rearrange his thoughts, to try to get a grip on the events taking place. How could he have missed seeing all of those Betamon? The lake was clear and relatively undisturbed before the attack; it's like they appeared out of nowhere. There was at least a dozen of them, darting and jumping out of the water with almost feeble attempts at damaging their Digimon. It looked like Stingmon and Exveemon were attempting to bait them into going to the opposite shore, which appeared to be working, until one of the Betamon Digivolved into Seadramon. The leviathan towered above the lake, hissing loudly.

 

"Oh, come on," Davis growled causing another cough to escape from his lungs. "Give 'em all you got, Exveemon!"

 

The blue dragon flew up high and brought his limbs tight to his body. With an explosion of energy, Exveemon flung his body out and released an 'X' shaped beam of light from his chest at the Seadramon's head. "Vee-Laser!" The serpent cried out, its balance being knocked off as it sunk several feet into the lake. Clearly agitated, the Seadramon shook its head and retaliated with a Water Breath attack, an attack Exveemon barely avoided.

 

The battle continued for several minutes until it became clear that these Rookie and Champion level Digimon weren't going to give up as easily as the two boys had hoped. "Maybe they are being controlled," Davis said, daftly. Of course they were being controlled, but the question was by what? He couldn't see any dark rings or spirals on the Digimon. The older Chosen had talked about something called black gears, but he doubted it was that either. How strong was this new form of mind-control, and how could they stop it? "We have to DNA Digivolve, Ken." He looked at his friend, just now realizing that he too was shirtless and soaking wet. They looked like a couple of dogs left out in the rain. Ken nodded, his brows knit.

 

Davis felt his chest well up with intense, comforting warmth. His limbs felt like soft rubber, while the ends of his finger tips tingled, and his ears started to ring. Then, softly, through all the sounds of chaos around him, he could hear his heartbeat. It was beating fast, so fast he felt like in his heightened senses, he might be able to smell the adrenaline running through those veins. And then he heard another pulse start. It was off beat from his. Davis sucked a stream of air through his teeth and darted his eyes back to his friend.

 

It was Ken's.

 

He could feel everything. He could feel Ken's anger, his fear, his insecurities, his pain... Davis had almost forgotten how close this form of DigiVolution was. It had been almost a year since they had a threat big enough to warrant it. It... It was so... Intimate. He thought, for a moment, he could bathe in this warmth for the rest of his life...

 

"Paildramon..." The name come out as a whisper, afraid that if he murmured it any louder, the moment would disappear into the ether. They had done this so many times in the past. Why was it catching him off guard this time? He felt nauseatingly good. Deliciously irradiant. Ken's spirit playing alongside his gave him unsurpassed energy--unbending courage.

 

"Knock 'em out, Paildramon!" Their genetically combined Digimon continued the fight, as he heard his and Ken's hearts beat as one.

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The need to DNA digivolve was obvious-- only Paildramon could take down such a large number of digimon by himself. That didn't make it less any less imperative, and Ken didn't waste a second before his hand was wrapped securely around his D-3, and his eyes securely locked on Davis. Man, if the girls could see them now, maybe Davis would have had his shot with Kari...

 

Mmm, their heartbeats echoed inside him like two stones dropping in a lake. The cacophony that separated them drowned out, and the world was nothing more than Ken and Davis, together, and alone. All their ideals and desires were in sync, even their passion blazed at the same level. They were, in that moment, one complete being. His D-3, now slate blue with a green grip, throbbed like an external heart in his palm. A heart identical to Davis's.

 

Ken brushed his arm across his eyes, hiding it as a flourish as he called out. "Paildramon! You've got this!" His tears wicked away on his damp skin, and a fire lit his deep blue eyes as his confidence surged. All of Davis's boundless strength was his to share, and together they had always been invincible. Ken never felt more alive.

 

The blue and green Digimon hauled up the guns at his hips and rattled off a barrage of strikes at the large Seadramon. "Desperado Blaster! Why are you bothering us, you lousy mackerel?"

 

Another shot of water, and this time Paildramon was in the water. It would take more than that to fell an Ultimate, though. Paildramon extended the blades on the back of his hands and flew by, scratching the Seadramon's face. The lake resonated with a wailing roar, a painful cry from an unhappy Seadramon.

 

"Why don't you just lay down!" Paildramon insisted, but the whole team shared the reluctance to really hurting Seadramon. He, and all the Betamon, had somebody who really loved them... they weren't just evil constructs like the old Control Spire Digimon.

 

"I don't get it. How come one of these Digimon was able to digivolve without their partner? It takes ages for wild Digimon to grow into their champion form..." Ken knew a few, and they were old. Even Gatomon had really been around the block before growing naturally into her champion form. There was no question that that Seadramon had been prompted. "There's got to be a human behind this... and whoever it is, they can't be very far away. Not without control spires."

 

In the end, Paildramon ran the Betamon around enough to tire them out, and Seadramon wailed as it de-digivolved back into a Betamon like the rest. The question of what to do with all the newly exhausted Betamon before they got their strength back was a good one, but thankfully, the defeated Seadramon seemed to be answering that question for them. A tendril of static emerged from the Betamon's mouth as it floated around slack-jawed and weary. It floated towards the pair of DigiDestined, and on instinct, Ken held out his D-3.

 

The cloud of static picked up the pace, elongating and whipping in to the small screen with a little chime as the data was parsed. Ken grimaced a bit, and Paildramon finally disassociated back down into Veemon and Wormmon.

 

"Ugh, sick..." Ken frowned. The last thing Davis probably felt as the DNA Digivolution wore off was Ken's stomach turning from the dark download. "I think it's like a virus, or something. All these Digimon... they were stolen from the real world, weren't they? Maybe something corrupted them when they were downloaded..." Ken looked over to see the other eleven or so Betamon all spewing the same kind of toxic static. Well... maybe it wasn't pleasant, but they had to take care of the viruses somehow.

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Just like that, they had won the battle. As if a cool wind had blown by, Davis swayed forward, the feeling of Ken's presence flowing through his wet hair and sending his skin to tight goosebumps. The loss of connection made him feel heavier, sadder. The warmth in his chest, arms, hands, legs, face... Gone. He was an impressively emotional individual, it was no surprise that his feeling of loneliness weighed on him for moments, until he brought himself to snap back to reality.

 

"A virus...?" He breathed. Davis' voice was noticeably less animated. He tried to bring his attitude back up, but it was hard to do, especially when their one shitty situation kept turning even shittier. "Well, I guess at least we know what it is. Kinda. I guess that would explain, but not explain, why Betamon could digivolve." He walked over to the shore's edge and kneeled down, mindlessly moving some sand around with one hand. "And it looks like its beatable, but its definitely harder than targeting an object and having it be done." He rubbed wiped his hands off on his soaking shorts. "We really had to work these guys out. Is every battle going to be like this?" He sighed.

 

Veemon trotted over to his partner and jumped into his arms. "Don't worry Davis! Me and Wormmon will fight until the DigiWorld is safe!"

 

Davis couldn't help but smile--his mood restoring as he felt a swell of pride. Veemon had some sort of Davis-Emote-Detector or something. He always knew how to cheer up his friend. "You're one awesome Digimon, dude! How did we get to be so awesome!?" They both laughed and squeezed each other in a tight hug. His face beaming, he looked over at Ken and Wormmon, "And you guys too. We can do anything together. We're the god damn DigiDestined! Noting gets in our way when it comes to helping the Digital World!" He set Veemon down onto the sand and stood up. Gazing further down the shore, he noticed that one of the Betamon had drifted its way onto the shore. Its breathing was labored, but overall, doing just fine. "Hey, it's one of the Betamon. Maybe we can see if it can remember anything."

 

The group walked over to the injured Digimon. He sat down next to it, petting its scaly, damp skin. "Hey buddy. Are you all right?" Betamon just groaned in pain. The virus expelling seemed to have drained all energy out of the little Digimon. Davis was surprised he hadn't go back his In-Training form. "You'll get better. I'm sorry we had to wear you out so much, but now you can go see your partner again!"

 

The sound of that seemed to perk up the Digimon. "I..." It said, weakly, "I miss... Brad..." There was a toothy smile emerging from its wary mouth.

 

"I bet Brad's cool guy!" Davis said, continuing to soothe his new found friend. "Where does he live?"

 

"Davis..." Veemon urged.

 

"Chill out, Veemon. Hey, Betamon. This is my friend Veemon. He's kind of a jerk sometimes, but I guess he's all right." The Betamon let out a sickly giggle. Got 'em. "But hey, there's lots of others like you that are missing their humans too. I couldn't imagine being without Veemon, and I bet Ken couldn't imagine being without Wormmon... So is there anything you can tell us about what happened to you so we can go make things better?"

 

The Betamon tried to move its little clawed arms to and sit up, but it couldn't. It sighed, but continued to try, as it recounted its story, "He took us... He took us and... Locked us up... Ex... Exper... Experimented. Made us sick."

 

"Who's he? How did you get here?" Davis caught himself being a little bit too forceful, but they needed to know. It was for the good of, well, everybody.

 

"T-the Kaiser," it shuddered. So it really was the Emperor? "He..." It slumped down into the sand, the strength it took to continue was too much. It snored softly as it fell asleep.

 

Davis sighed. "Sleep well," he pat the Digimon's head and returned back to his friends. "I guess that explains one thing, but we're still dead in the water on everything else." The sun was going down, casting a golden red hue on all of them. He remembered that it must be four or five in the morning in his part of the Real World. The thought alone brought on his fatigue. "Shit, I'm tired... Maybe we should just call it quits for tonight. Maybe we can return tomorrow when these guys are feeling better. Hopefully all of them won't have gone back to the Real World by then." He let out an exasperated sigh, "And looks like I'll be missing my first day of school tomorrow too!" Truthfully, he was less upset about that, but it was still annoying.

 

Oh well. If he had to be playing hooky with somebody, at least it was with his best friends.

 

 

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Sunset? Wow, they'd chosen the best time to go for a swim. Ken struggled back into his shirt, which of course just picked up all the water off his torso. The jacket helped keep the wind off him, though.

 

"Head back?" Ken asked, letting a hint too much reluctance show. Yeah, if they could... then they better. This problem was only just starting to make sense, and they weren't going to be very useful if they were dead raisins on the digi-beach from staying here too long. The original Chosen had lived in the digital world for some time though, hadn't they?

 

Well, they'd also all been kids, and in the real world it had only been a week. Ken remembered with a groan that he had a speech to give tomorrow as a representative of the arriving class. And not only did he have to give it, now he was going to have no sleep.

 

"Great... yeah, you're probably right. I have a thing in the morning... I'll definitely be here after, though." Ken didn't need to go to class to ace his classes (albeit having the time to devote to reading some of the text would help) so playing hookie was a perfect plan. Hanging out with Davis instead? A chance like that didn't come around every day. Battling with their partners, battling together to save everything... it was just like the good old days. Even facing the Kaiser... well, some problems never fully went away. This was just the form the darkness had taken now, and it happened to be a familiar one to be all the more threatening.

 

"You should probably keep an eye on the Digital World tonight, buddy. You've been doing a great job." Ken knelt down and gave Wormmon a hug. It wasn't like Digimon weren't allowed in the dorms-- obviously, his roommate's Chibomon-- but so far, Wormmon's assistance on the other side had been invaluable. And then Ken didn't feel as bad for not having the time to spend with him in the real world.

 

"Let's take another look around for TVs, then. One of them's got to be working enough to get out of." He hadn't seen that Flymon come back, and there were still plenty of pings around the area. It only too a couple tries to find a whole screen. Ken had mixed feelings upon finding it.

 

"Yeah, we're golden. Let's try to get as much sleep as possible, okay?" Ken fiddled with his D-3, almost nervously. "I'll... see you tomorrow?" A touch of blush crossed Ken's cheeks. Wow, when was the last time he'd gotten to say that to Davis?

 

 

The transition back to the real world was like sliding into an old glove. Easy, practiced, but a little bit gross. His landing was graceful, and he was back in his pajamas, but it seemed his roommate had woken up anyway. Not necessarily because of Ken's return, though. Bouncing in his arms, a little hyperactive DemiVeemon had decided it was play time.

 

"Cool, you finally digivolved!" His roommate was so giddy he didn't even realize Ken was standing there. Ken stared at the young thing with a coil wrapping around his heart. Hopefully the new Kaiser had decided he was done stealing DemiVeemon for now.

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Davis had put his shirt back on, but carried his vest, dragging it along the ground like a child until they finally found a working TV. He didn't want to go back, but he was relieved that it was even still an option. Knowing the threat they were going against, he wasn't afraid of being blocked from getting back in. They were obviously the play toys of choice. But they needed rest, and who knows when the next time they'd get the chance to in their own beds?

 

"Yeah. I'll probably be back in a few hours. Just need a quick amount of beauty rest. It's not easy lookin' this good all the time," he laughed nervously. Was he blushing? "Ah... Errahh... Veemon, you should stay here with Wormmon. We'll be back soon, and with things the way they are..."

 

"Sure thing!"

 

The two fist pounded each other. "I'll see you all in a few hours. Sleep good, guys." The DigiPort opened and Davis was gone in a flash of light.

 

 

---

 

 

Six thirty in the morning. His roommate hadn't returned. He could hear some other students in the dorm starting to rustle around out in the hall. Davis curled up on his bed and shoved the pillow over his head and grumbled.

 

Who was he kidding? He couldn't sleep, there was too much going on. Too much to think about. And he hated thinking--especially when it got in the way of important things like sleeping or eating or... Well, a lot of things. If you want something to think about, how about you just do it instead. All this Emperor and virus and kidnapping stuff wasn't just going to go away by thinking about it real hard. It had only been a half hour since he returned, and it was already killing him that he wasn't just doing something about it.

 

Then why did he even suggest coming back? They could have stayed there, exhausted themselves so much to the point of collapse, then woken up and done it all over again. At least they would be in the danger. At least he didn't have to guess. At least he wouldn't have to think about it!

 

Groaning, Davis sat up and looked at his laptop. It was beckoning for him to come back to the Digital World, but he knew he couldn't. No. No, what he needed was a good walk. Yeah, a walk would help. He went to the door, slipped on his sandals, opened it a crack, and slid through, as if he was trying not to disturb somebody. He looked around the hallway timidly. There was one other student walking down the hall, already dressed and ready for the day, even though breakfast wasn't even ready for another couple of hours. The door clicked behind him and he scurried off to the front door.

 

The air was fresh, but it certainly felt different from the Digital World. It was... dirtier... for one. But the fall was coming, and it made everything smell crisp and alive, even though it was just nature's warning signal for aging and decay. Davis rounded the corner of the dorm and found an area next to the parking lot. It was on a slight slope, decorated with some well manicured trees and bushes. He skidded down the hill and sat down under a tree, trying to make sure he would be decently covered by a nearby bush. He didn't want to be in his dorm, but he didn't want to be caught for not going to class, either. He just wasn't up for that particular fight right now.

 

Davis leaned his head back against the tree. The shadows of the tree's leaves left vibrating patterns on his pajamas. The gentle breeze played with his thick hair. He closed his eyes.

 

Being with Ken again was exhilarating and depressing at the same time. Every time he looked into those rich, blue eyes, he could see their entire history together inscribed somewhere deep within them. He had given the boy a chance when nobody else would, and that was the linchpin to their successful relationship. If he hadn't believed in him, Ken wouldn't have found the light. The other Chosen wouldn't have given him a chance. They wouldn't be able to share each other's thoughts and hopes and feelings on a mental and physical level. It was amazing. Who else could say they could do that? Who else could say they had that type of relationship?

 

So why had it been so long since he had seen his friend?

 

It had been a few months since he saw Ken in the DigiWorld, and just about as many from there that he had seen him in person. Actually, the Digi-Union was the last time he had seen Ken. The last time he had actually gave him a real hug. They just never had time to connect? Some few sentences chats on instant messaging or social networks and it was over. Nothing more than "hey, how's it going, good, all right see ya." Nothing compared to the nights they'd spend sneaking into the Digital World to spend hours doing very much what they were doing now... Except they went to school the next day. Davis huffed.

 

He would admit he was a little prick during high school. He was preoccupied with sports and social pressure and chasing skirts. He knew part of the reason Ken and himself started to drifted, slowly like the continents, was because of him. It became more important for him to spend time with friends who were readily available. Friends who did stupid things. Friends who didn't give a fuck. He'd done some things he regretted now, but it helped him find his way again. He realized his true friends were those that would risk their lives for you and didn't judge you for who or what you were. Davis was afraid he might have been too late figuring that out.

 

Dealing with the hurt of being rejected by Kari didn't help much either. He chased her for far longer than he probably should have, investing so much of his intense emotion on wanting to be with her--wanting to be good for her. Even though her and T.K. only dated for a few months in sophomore year, he always felt strangely betrayed by that. He could never think of her in that light again, even though it still brought a pang to his heart. If she came to him today and said she'd be his forever, he wasn't sure if its even what he wanted anymore. Was it?

 

For the past few years, he'd been trying to figure out who he was again. He used to be so confident and fearless, but as the years kept tacking on, as everybody kept getting older, things weren't as peachy as he used to think. It sucked. Like, a lot.

 

Davis smiled, his eyes still closed, his body going limp against the tree. But he had a chance to fix things and to be that boy again--if he ever truly lost him. As terrible as it sounded, this conflict was good. It was reconnecting him to the Digital World. It was brining him back to Ken. All those years of miscommunication and distance were going to be mended. He'd show him in some way that he was sorry for being a shit to him. That if he'd done anything to bring them to where they were at now, he'd fix it. He just wanted to see that smile--he wanted to feel it. He wanted to be the cause of it. He wanted to...

 

He should probably just stop thinking.

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"Hey there, DemiVeemon." Ken slowly approached, intruding on his roommate's personal space. Well, wouldn't he have to do it eventually? Their beds were four feet apart. He offered the Digimon a kind, albeit tired, smile, and got back the usual warmth he expected from a Digimon just like Davis's. His roommate turned his head and laughed briefly.

 

"Hey Ichijoji, where'd you come from?" The door hadn't opened, but the computer was more on than when he'd gone to sleep.

 

"Oh, um, the Digital World, actually." Ken awkwardly tripped over his words. Even all these years later, it felt awkward to discuss it with non-DigiDestined. Or were they all DigiDestined now? The idea that all these people had Digimon now and knew them only as friends, never as comrades in the fight against the digital darkness, made Ken uneasy. They didn't view Digimon the same way. Even all the latecomers to the game that had helped them defeat foes like Oikawa, or that had helped Tai and Matt destroy Diaboromon, they didn't have the same connection that Ken had with, well, Davis. But... at the very least, it all wasn't a secret anymore.

 

"Really? Neat! DemiVeemon and I will have to visit some time. Isn't that right buddy? Ichijoji, you should show me how!"

 

Ken's eye twitched. Though he was still smiling, it seemed more glued on to his face than genuine. This stupid kid... the Digital World wasn't a resort! And where did he get off, having the time to visit like it was nothing? Didn't he have... Ugh, Ken didn't know, a life?

 

Little whelp. He doesn't even deserve that Digimon.

 

"Um, sorry, now's actually a pretty bad time to go in there. Looks like there's a virus latching on to certain things that get downloaded..." Ken brushed it away with excuses. Every kid with a digimon knew who the champions of the Digital World were, and knew unequivocally that Ken was one of them. The threat of the Emperor had never been public. Though his roommate just groaned at the news, Ken hauled himself into bed and rolled to face the wall. His eyes were wide, with a cold sweat beading up on his cheeks. Where had that malicious thought come from?

 

He felt like he'd been shot. His strength drained out of him and all that filled in the hole was a crushing dread. He remembered what had happened the last time he'd wished something, or someone, was gone. He'd been a stupid kid back then... hadn't he? He'd gotten better... hadn't he?

 

Ken clutched his chest, his knuckles white as he held the balled up fabric of his soft bed shirt. He didn't dare let out the screams he would have normally to reduce stress-- he didn't want his roommate to notice a thing out of order. Truth be told, he didn't want anyone to ever know he had these panic attacks from time to time. There was only one person in the world who would understand them, a person that Ken was so desperate for right now he wished he could be lying in the same bed.

 

Davis...!

 

 

Ken slept for about an hour and then gave his welcome speech with much of his usual dignity. From a distance the crowd wouldn't notice the dark circles under his eyes, which suited Ken just fine. As the assembly packed up, Ken walked right back into his dorm room and tossed off his tie and suit jacket. His roommate and the DemiVeemon were both off elsewhere.

 

"Digiport, open!" Ken had never been more relieved to say those words. He felt his body get lighter as he transformed into data, finally landing in the Digital World in his stylish adventuring duds. He was back on the soft sand of the lake full of Betamon, the lingering of whom seemed to be doing much better. Ken knelt down by the water's edge, smiling and rubbing one along its slick back skin.

 

"Hey little guys. Have you seen Davis or Wormmon this morning?"

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It was ten thirty when Davis finally woke up, though he had no idea. He sat up groggy, rubbing his eyes and face, a deep yawn roaring out from his bones. Grass stains left patchwork splashes of color on his pajamas, and his face felt hot from have been in the sun. He felt rested, though, and he managed to get some unwelcome thoughts out of his head in the process.

 

Davis made his way back to his dorm. That's when he realized how late it really was. "Aw shit. Ken's going to kiiiiillll me." He quickly grabbed a backpack and filled it with some snacks, a change of clothes, and some other essential stuff. He didn't want to be caught off guard by this new enemy. At least he's have his sports bars if he needed them.

 

But you know what? His first day of college was turning out to be all right after all...

 

---

 

This morning was the morning of graceful entrances. Sometimes opening a DigiPort had unpredictable results. This time, Davis had landed very comfortably on his head. He grumbled loudly, cursing under his breath as he righted himself up. He picked up his backpack, which had luckily made the trip with him, and brushed off his now totally clean and dry digital threads. Looked like he had landed where they had left off a few hours prior, though he did have a little bit of walking to do to get to the beach. Within fifteen minutes, he saw Ken standing along the familiar lake shore. It looked like Wormmon and Veemon had already met up with him. "Oh geez, I wonder how long he's been there," Davis thought aloud. He ran the rest of the way to meet up with his group.

 

"Ah! Sorry sorry sorry sorry," the goggle-boy bowed to his friend. "I wasn't tired and then I was and I slept under a tree and I'm pretty sure I have sunburn now," he poked his face. "Yeah. Yeah I do. So, basically, I'm sorry." Good job on starting the whole 'making things right' idea. It's the first day of your new life, try acting like it is. He smiled, showing his teeth, then realized he was being awkward and...

 

Dude, calm down.

 

"So have the Betamon remembered anything yet?" Davis asked, trying to refocus himself and his strange behavior. His mood swings in the past 24 hours had been confusing even to him. Ken nodded and told him that the Kaiser had sent them through some new kind of teleport--very advanced--and began to explain that it was possible given the Digital World's law of physics and that it would actually be very easy to do with enough programming knowledge and the correct hardware. Davis yawned, having only heard the part that he wanted or cared to hear about--that they had some idea of how a dozen Betamon appeared out of thin air. "So does that help us any? Like, can we track it?" The silence he received was not the answer he wanted to not hear. "Great... Well, looks like we're taking another hike. Maybe we can look for more broken TVs and hope we get attacked again by a bunch of jacked up Digimon." He rolled his eyes and shuffled off back where he had come from.

 

They spent most of the day traveling across File Island, finding many decommissioned TVs, but no other threats. Luckily, they found just as many live TVs, so staying the night in the Digital World wasn't looking like a possibility today either. Davis frowned, but wasn't quite sure why he felt disappointed. They even stopped a small village and tried to track more information from the denizens but came up blank. One Digimon said one of their Drimogemon friend's had gone missing, but admitted that he might have just got lost while drilling one of its many tunnels. It apparently happened a lot.

 

Finally, they came to a clearing in the woods, big pools of steaming fresh water speckled throughout. How cool! Some hot springs! "All right!" Davis spun and addressed his partners. "I'm making the executive decision that we're taking a lunch break. Here. Right now." He dropped his backpack on the ground and opened up the flap. He pulled out two large cases of snacks for Veemon and Wormmon, always the hungriest of the four, and some snack bars from himself and Ken. "Sorry it's nothing special," he said sheepishly, handing the processed junk to his friend. "We might as well enjoy the peace while we have it, right?"

 

Davis walked over to one of the springs, cracking open his snack bar and taking half of it into his mouth. He chewed loudly as he started to undress. Of course he was hitting this shit. He'd never actually been in a hot spring before--so why not? He shoved the rest of his food in his mouth as he took off the rest of his clothes, this time stripping down to his boxers. He had an extra pair, and he wasn't wasting his day with wet pants again. Easing his lower half into one of the springs, he was pleasantly surprised. He was afraid he might never want to leave.

 

"Come on in, guys! It's awesome! No saying no, because I'm the boss!"

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Peace in the Digital World was always such a mixed blessing. It meant Ken enjoyed his time a little more, but it meant he was wasting it. Hard to consider a moment wasted when it was spent here with Davis and their Digimon, though.

 

"You're the boss, huh?" Ken responded with a laugh, still just starting to peel open the snack bar Davis had handed him. Sorry it was nothing fancy? Ken was laughing about it still. What did Davis think he expected out of him, a hot bowl of freshly-made noodles at a whim? Yeah, you could sure fit that in a backpack. Even Ken had only packed a few blocks of instant ramen, figuring with Flamedramon available (or a book of matches) they would never be at a loss for hot water. Ken was right, apparently, but not for those reasons.

 

He took a bite out of the gooey snack, the whole taste of the processed sugar relaxing him. Wow, when was the last time he'd cared about himself so little-- when was the last time he'd had more concerning him than keeping up that pro-athlete body with boring, healthy foods? It felt like he never ate anything that wasn't green. About time he took a break for something... brown? Brownish-red? It sort of reminded him of Davis's hair.

 

The aforementioned DigiDestined didn't waste a second trying out those hot spring pools. Ken almost wanted there to be an agitated Digimon in there just to give him hell for his careless eagerness, but instead there was just his own smile as Davis was next to naked before his clothes hit the ground. Shameless, hm? That was Davis alright.

 

"I'm not sure about that, goggle-head, but I won't argue with you." Ken grinned and polished off the snack, tucking the trash in his jacket pocket before taking the whole jacket off. Then his shirt-- ah, this was feeling a lot like yesterday but with a lot less panic-- and finally, his shoes and pants. It was enough to make him sort of wish he had worn boxers, but Ken had always been more of a boxer-brief type. His hip-huggers were certainly more flattering, but more revealing as well. At least it was only Davis.

 

Ken slipped into the water with a sigh. Wow Davis had made the right call on climbing in here. Wormmon and Veemon found themselves a nice shallow pool for their swimming-impaired bodies, not so far away, but enough to leave Ken feeling like they had some, well, privacy. Was that the right word for it? It wasn't like they were some irresponsible teenage couple looking for their parents to leave.

 

"Good choice, boss." Ken smirked and splashed water lightly at Davis. "Maybe the Kaiser will show up at the hot springs too, and we can talk to him about playing nice." Ken laughed, but about as soon as he said it, his mind wandered. They finally had a break, couldn't they talk about something other than Digimon? Ken was well aware that it had become the only thing they had in common. Or, mostly, anyway.

 

"Hey, um, so do you still play soccer? Our varsity team has been on my back about joining the college team, but I don't know... I had to let it go for a while to focus on getting in at all, maybe I'm no good at it anymore." Ken, bad at soccer? Yeah, that was a laugh. Ken couldn't fight his perfection even when he wanted to.

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Davis watched the child of kindness as he quickly undressed down to his undergarments. It wasn't the first time they'd seen each other so naked but it had been quite a long time from the childhood sleepovers. He didn't care if Ken saw him like this--it wasn't a secret that Davis had a shame level somewhere in the negatives. Ken was lanky, to say the least, but defined. His skin was so very pale like porcelain, but soft and delicate. He was, uh, beautiful. Davis felt his breath catch, and a hot blush captured his cheeks. He sunk a little in the bath as ken joined him.

What the hell is wrong with you, Motomiya.

Davis returned fire at Ken's playful splashing. The warm water seeped into his thick red hair and dripped onto his hot cheeks. He remained toward the center of the spring, while Ken leaned against the rim, sitting on a jagged rock. The spring was shallow enough that Davis could comfortably stand and his shoulders could be exposed, but he decided to wade water to keep most of his body covered in the temperate pool.

Yes, small talk. That's good. More of that. Reconnecting. "Yeah, I still play. I've never stopped. Actually, the first practice is today, but I dunno if I have the right to go when I'm not even showing up to class. Anyway, this is more important." He wasn't sure if he was talking about saving the Digital World or being with Ken at that point. "I actually got Player of the Year last year," he bragged, realizing he hadn't told his friend that. He even went out and celebrated with some of the other chosen. What the hell?

Ken was smiling his natural good-natured smile. It perpetuated him to do more of what he was good at--talking about himself. "I still cook a lot too. I made some really good somen this summer. Even Jun liked it, and you know how much of a bitch she can be sometimes." He smiled. It had been awhile since he had cooked for them. Once Davis had expressed his interest in cooking for a living--particularly noodles--Ken stepped up and had been the most supportive guinea pig he could have asked for. He mastered his special ramen dish over one winter of concentrated Ken hangouts, critique and full bellies. "You know, I should cook some for you sometime soon. I'm sure you'll love it."

Davis moved toward Ken and leaned on the spring's edge with him. He expended some of his pent up energy by treading water for the past several minutes. He flung his arms back, his finger tips grazing Ken's bare shoulder, and rested them on the rocks behind them. A single butterfly fluttered in his stomach before he squashed it with a burp and a childish giggle.

"Oh my god," he remembered, "Do you remember when your parents caught us in a belching contest? Haha, they're little genius Ken, even a master burper. They were so mad at me, I'm surprised they even let me go back to your house." He made Ken do a lot of immature things in the past just for laughs. But it wasn't without some good influence from Ken either. "But even though you were so mad at me for getting you in trouble, you still helped me understand what the fuck Murphy's Law was for a test I had the next day. I guess anything can go wrong and it wouldn't matter..."

Suddenly he noticed he had been gliding his fingers gently against Ken's neck. His heart jumped into his throat. How long had he been doing that? It was no question that Ken had noticed it. He withdrew his hand quickly, making a hissing sound through his teeth, trying to play it off as if something injured him. Like what? A bug? A thorn? His own insufferable weirdness? He brought his hands down to his side and decided keeping them underwater would be safer. Yeah.

"I uh...um... so... yeah. What have you been up to?" He really wanted to leave now. Like, really badly.

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Ken should've tried this ages ago. Get Davis going, and he didn't need to worry about talking about himself for a good hour or so. Not that Ken wasn't interested in Davis' life that he'd missed out on, but it sure removed the burden of small talk to have Davis spew words.

 

"Player of the year? Congrats!" Ken interjected while Davis was mentally abusing himself for failing to get Ken at his party. Ken didn't think too much about it-- he probably couldn't have gone, and Davis was the one person he could count on to not count him out just because he was, well, better. Besides his many years of being a huge dick, his excellence at life had made him a class above the other kids. He had trouble making friends even today, since he'd been in the public eye so long most of his peers at least recognized "the boy genius." It made Davis all the more valuable to him.

 

The snack bar seemed insufficient when Davis started talking about cooking for him. Okay, fine, maybe he had been expecting a hot, fresh bowl of noodles. Only Davis could be the one to provide them, since Ken had since acquired a taste for everything Davis cooked. He'd gotten to that point where it was better than everything Ken could get nearby, so whenever he hungered for noodles, he just pined for Davis's instead of actually going out and getting some.

 

Davis didn't need Ken to respond to know that he was up for some food whenever Davis was game to make it. Which was good, because as he opened his mouth, Davis started talking about that inane belching contest. Ken folded a hand across his nose and mouth with an awkward groan. God, that kid was so embarrassing! And yet Ken would have missed out on his entire childhood if not for Davis.

 

"Yeah, you were so..." Davis was still talking, which was even better, because as Ken shook his head he finally noticed Davis's fingers at the back of his neck. Oh, woah, had he just left his hand there? Ken would've shifted away, but even after shaking his head, those fingers were still moving. Motomiya was stroking his neck.

 

Woah, weird, alright, probably just an accident. Davis's awkward save didn't make it any better, so Ken thought he would try to resuscitate the conversation while ignoring the hell out of whatever just happened. Was he blushing? Hmm, this water was warmer than he thought...

 

"Oh, yeah, well, I was in cram school for a while, you know, and now I'm at Tokyo U. I'm thinking maybe forensics, but um, computer science might be more lucrative..." Ken kicked under the water. His life story always sounded so boring compared to Davis's. He spent a lot of time doing well, but he never really... struggled. It took the flavor out of life sometimes, which was why he loved screwing around with Davis.

 

"I hooked up my computer so I could video chat with Wormmon. It's pretty simple, it just works with the gate-opening properties of the D-3. Maybe I should come visit and configure your-- oh, well, actually you live with Veemon most of the time, I forgot." Ken stopped and blushed. Oh, good job Ichijoji, inviting yourself over. He did miss helping Davis with his homework (which he had done frequently) and Davis had already offered to cook for him so... oh, yeah! He had!

 

"Maybe I'll just come over for noodles then." Ken smiled and set his hands down by his side. Only, he hadn't realized that Davis had shoved his hands down on the exact same surface, so Ken had laid his hand affectionately over Davis's before pulling it away with nary a flinch.

 

"So did you, um, ever find a girlfriend?" Smooth, was that really the best time to ask that question? "I've always been too busy for a new relationship, but you seemed like you really had it together... not that it ever helped you and Kari..." Ken had been around to clean up some of the fall-out when TK and Kari had started dating. Even if it never worked out (Some childhood friends would never be more than that, others had it made. How could you tell without trying?) the fact that it started had Davis out of sorts with the two of them for some time. He even missed him at that Digi-Union.

 

"Surely girls are begging to be with the Digital World's greatest hero, mm?" Ken moved to splashed Davis again, drifting from his spot at the side and gliding into the middle of the pool. Yeah, this conversation had gotten way too serious, and seriously awkward. What the hell? Ken sloshed a huge wave Davis's direction, this time insistent on starting a war. This would teach them not to fall out of touch again!

 

"No goggles, Motomiya! That's against the splash war rules." Ken chided with another wave and a dark giggle. Davis returned fire just like Ken expected, and baited him into the center of the pool. He ducked under the surface as Davis shot a tsunami in his direction, using it as cover to pop up in front of Davis and grab him by the shoulders. Maybe Ken was a skinny guy, but it didn't take much to shock the unsuspecting Davis into folding when Ken pulled them down together. Their knees bumped the bottom of the pool, and when they surfaced, Ken was hugging on to Davis and laughing brightly. He had months of laughter to catch up with.

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Davis tried to focus, but his embarrassment was too overwhelming. What the hell what the hell what the hell, he chanted in his head. Earth to Davis, this is your best friend. Stop being so... He stopped himself and nodded in response to Ken's computer video chat thing. He tried to stay up with the conversation, and was pleased even after the awkward moment, he still had some inkling of a chance of serving his friend a bowl of hot food in the future.

 

"I uh... I dunno. I never really got involved with anybody." Why wouldn't this blush go away? "I got close once," he mumbled. Second base to be exact. It was some girl from homeroom. She was half American and had the deepest blue eyes. They had made out a couple of times--the last time being behind closed doors at her house. Apparently he was a little too unprepared for that level of intimacy. He apologized greatly, as he give her her shirt back, telling her she was wonderful and beautiful but... He just couldn't. Trying to be the eternal badass, Davis replayed it a little differently to his friend. "But she couldn't handle this." He presented himself with his hands and wiggled his eyebrows. Of course, he knew that Ken would be able to see through the lie. That's probably why he started mocking him... And splashing him! It was war.

 

"Hey, fuck you, Ichijouji!" He splashed back, making sure to release a giant wave onto his friend's head. "And didn't you hear, I'm  the boss.  make the rules." Davis started to pull his goggles down until Ken surprise attacked him and brought the two of them down into the spring, warm bubbles flourishing around them. They resurfaced, Ken's arms wrapped tightly around him, laughing the most charming laugh. Even after all these years, after all the other laughs, after all the other smiles, it always felt like the first one. Davis was blushing hard--his whole body was probably blushing--but he didn't care. Everything in his body was electric, jittering, and alive. He wrapped his arms around his friend and laughed along. "Watch out, genius." He hooked his leg around the back of Ken's knee and forced them both underwater again, causing the taller boy to release his grip on him and he escaped to the edge of the spring.

 

Ken's head popped back up. Davis, predatorily waiting for his chance, pounced on the boy and pushed them both gently to the opposite side of the pool. He placed one hand on Ken's chest, and restrained one of his wrists with the other. Ken tried to protest, splashing the goggle-head with his free hand. "No. No! You started this. You get what you deserve!"

 

Under any normal circumstance, as if there could be one as they were two grown men in their underwear playing in a spring, one would expect the smaller boy to have ducked the other's head under water. Or perhaps unleashed a tirade of splashes into the other's face. But Davis didn't think. He didn't think about the consequences, he just did. Did it feel right? Did it feel good?

 

Davis' lips met with Ken's. His eyes fluttered shut, feeling his own chest against his friend's, their skin slick and smooth against each other. They had been close mentally, closer than anybody could and ever would be, but this was... This was the closest they'd ever, ever been physically. It felt... Good. Yes, it did feel good.

 

Davis gently kissed those lips again. They were sweet from the snack bar, and soft like rose petals. He remembered all the other girl's he had kissed, the one girl he had almost given everything to, and now this one spark of intimacy he was actively creating. Davis felt Ken's pulse pick up, his one hand still wrapped around his friend's wrist. It felt... Perfect. Yes.

 

Did it matter?

 

Prying himself from the intense safety he felt being so close to Ken, Davis looked into his friend's eyes. It took way too long for the events to register in his brain. Tick, tick, tick. Boom. "Oh my god..." Davis muttered. He scrambled away from his friend, tripping over his own feet and splashing loudly into the spring. He righted himself and swam to the opposite side. "Oh my god oh my god oh my god..." His eyes remained on Ken. What had he done? "I'm sorry. I don't... What... I... Why..." He looked around, as if searching for an escape ladder. Preferably one that was attached to a helicopter. Get me the hell out of here. Get me out of my head. He touched a hand to his lips. The worst part was he didn't regret the action, but he was probably going to regret the fallout of it.

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Ah... what? He felt like he'd been going a million miles a minute, screwing around in the water, until Davis got a hold on him. Or, it wasn't even just Davis grabbing him-- Ken was always the one who could restrain Davis, not the other way around-- but that all of a sudden, Davis stole his breath away. Literally, like he'd sucked it out through his lips. And as if it were entirely natural to just kiss whatever came along, Ken relaxed between his friend and the wall and just let it happen. Davis was deliciously hot, even more than the water around them, and even when he stole his second kiss Ken couldn't justify moving away. He'd never been kissed before...

 

Another kiss broken, and this time Davis and Ken were looking at each other at the end of it. Their chests were touching, and Ken's rapid-fire heartbeat was indistinguishable from Davis's. Even panicking, the two of them were in sync.

 

But still panicking.

 

"D-Don't worry about it! It's fine!" Ken stammered. Was it fine? No, it was the first thing out of his mouth. Unless it really was fine, but Ken wasn't sure he'd be freaking out if it was all fine. All he could think about was Davis insisting that his last girlfriend couldn't hand this, and for the love of god maybe Ken couldn't either. Not that he was supposed to be able to handle that. Friends didn't do that. Ken felt like the logical side of his brain was about to blow a gasket because he couldn't process this scenario. If only he could've hated it, maybe this would've been easier to deal with. That he could see playing out. The hell was that, Davis!? Don't touch me! That made sense. But it wasn't how he felt.

 

"We can just... forget it happened! Yeah..." Oh, that would work out. Ken had a feeling their hot spring adventure was over, and this feeling was reinforced when Wormmon and Veemon heard the two of them freaking out and apologizing.

 

"Did something happen, Ken?" Wormmon wriggled to the edge of the pool, and Ken sunk up to his nose in the water. Did Digimon understand the birds and the bees? It was like a child had asked him where babies came from. His response was hurried.

 

"Nothing!" Ken turned to haul himself out of the pool, his back to Davis as he crawled up shiny, half-naked, and wet. Ah, and suddenly he was feeling more self-conscious...

 

"I'm, uh, gonna go wring out my pants..." Ken took his clothes with him, vanishing into a bush so he could get dressed in real privacy. And all he could think about was Davis kissing him still, how tender it felt to be that close with him. It felt much like DNA Digivolution felt, which, maybe, was why he liked it so much. It was just flat-out natural for them to need to be close. Maybe it wasn't a bad thing.

 

Ken took off his boxer briefs to wring out as much water as he could from them. It wasn't too hard, there was less fabric than Davis would have to deal with, though Ken hadn't brought a change of clothes. He wriggled back into them-- damp, oh well, they'd dry-- and got his pants up to his knees before a television dropped from the sky and shattered right in front of him.

 

"Shit! What?" Ken shouted, officially giving the rest of the gang permission to come over to his changing bush. Ken struggled into his pants and had his shirt halfway on as a new message (go figure) played out for them from the Digimon Emperor.

 

"My my, caught you at an awkward time, have I?" Ken grimaced. How did he know?

 

"Well I just thought I'd let you know I've added one more to my DemiVeemon collection. And I have his human friend! That wasn't very kind of you, was it Ken? All he wanted was to see the Digital World, and now I've shown him." The Kaiser paused to let out a malicious laugh, and push his glasses up against his face.

 

"But he just keeps asking to go home. Maybe you were right, maybe gnats like him don't deserve the Digital World? Anyway, if you want to save him, best come to the top of the island. If you don't get here soon, well, I'll have all these new Veemon take care of him."

 

If there was anything that could shift focus from having been kissed by his best friend, this was it. Ken could only stare in horror as his whole worst-case scenario played out before him. His roommate's digimon had been stolen. His roommate had been stolen. And worst of all, the Kaiser seemed to know exactly how Ken had been thinking when he wished it would happen.

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