angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Nyaromon splutters slightly, dropping the whistle out of her mouth.

“Nyaaaaromon,” Tokomon whines, hopping over to her. “I want to play with it, too! I bet I can make a louder noise than you!”

“No, it’s mine,” Nyaromon says, wriggling across the ground as Tokomon scampers after her.

“We should wait for them to tire themselves out,” Tsunomon says. “There’s no stopping them once they get going.”

“Honestly,” Pyocomon adds, “they act like they’re still Fresh level.”

“I’m just glad they’re having fun,” Motimon says.

“Riii-iii-iiight?” Pukamon grins, floating over them. “You guys need to relax. Let Nyaromon blow her whistle.”

I’m glad the rain’s cleared up,” Tanemon says. “It’s no good for my leaves.”

“Then let’s find something to eat while it’s still bright!” Koromon says, hopping atop a tree stump. “Alright, ‘mons, I order you to bring us a feast!”

Motimon peers at him. “Where are we going to find a feast?”

“You never think these things through,” Tsunomon says, shaking his head -- or, well, his whole body. “Tanemon and Motimon can go ask Elecmon, and Pyocomon and I will go find out if Mojyamon has anything.”

“And Pukamon and I will go fishing!” Koromon grins. “Whoever gets the most food wins the day!”

“Well, when you put it like that …” Pukamon says, floating towards the lake.

“C’mon, Motimon, I’ll protect you on the way to Elecmon’s village,” Tanemon says, and hops off towards the forest.

Tsunomon waits patiently for Pyocomon, keeping a close eye on their surroundings as they head towards the tundra.

Over by the tree stump, Tokomon stops, gasping for breath, as Nyaromon dances around him.

“I can’t even play with it a little?

“No, ‘cause it’s mine,” Nyaromon says. “And I’m keeping it safe.”

“For who?”

“For -- I don’t know. But I’m keeping it safe anyway.”

Nyaaaromon!
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
It’s raining.

The torrential rain came from nowhere, the sky boiling with dark clouds as the summer heatwave broke into a storm, and Yamato and Sora -- the two of them wandering Odaiba, talking about anything that wasn’t what they were really thinking about -- had to take shelter.

They’ve been settled under a bus stop for ten minutes, with every attempt to leave hindered by the immediate, chilly realisation that by the time they get from where they’re standing to a habitable building, they’ll both be well on their way to a diagnosis of pneumonia.

They’re sitting silently in the rain when they hear it: A whistle, loud and sharp, splitting the air.


(Hikarigaoka. A green feathered parrot monster is advancing on an orange dinosaur, and Yamato watches through Takeru’s binoculars as a little girl, no more than five, Takeru’s age, blows feebly on a whistle until she’s coughing, and even he, an eight year old, knows it’s a stupid thing to do.

Then a boy with a mop of brown hair, dressed in his pyjamas, grabs the whistle from her, sucks in air, and blows, and the shrill noise is the loudest thing in the neighbourhood, louder than the television back in the Ishida household, louder than the Kido kid half a dozen windows along talking to the fire department on the phone, louder than the thudding stomps of the monster.

The dinosaur’s eyes snap open like it’s been hit with a million volts of electricity, and it rears up and releases a wave of white flame. Time hangs still for a moment, and in that strung out split second, Yamato feels a spot of cold against his chest, like a shard of ice buried under his skin.

Then the parrot and the dinosaur are gone, and there’s only the rubble, and next day his parents would be fighting again, and the news would be talking about a terrorist attack, and the memory of green feathers and a whistle would fade.)



Yamato’s breath catches in his throat, and he’s running into the rain before he can stop himself, and he half expects Sora to stop him, but she’s running as well, as madly as he is.


Diablomon teems.

There are more of him than Yamato can count. The squirming, black and orange bodies are crawling all over each other, a mass of glistening bodies, a great sphere surrounding everything, chanting over each other: “Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello …”

There’s MetalGarurumon and WarGreymon there, still and nearly lifeless, and Yamato and Taichi are falling towards them, even though they shouldn’t be here, there’s no way for them to be here.

“Listen,” Taichi says. “I don’t have a whistle to wake you, but I want you to know you’re not alone. I won’t let you fight alone. I’ll be here with you. I’ll be here with you.”

They stir, and Yamato feels his connection to Gabumon explode like a tree, until Taichi and Agumon are as close as Gabumon is, and then outwards further, branching across the world, drawing in more and more power until Omegamon is born.



There are more footsteps. Jyou and Mimi, Koushiro and Takeru, all running towards the source of the whistle, and then Taichi and Hikari as well, until they all reach where it was coming from.


Armagemon is dying, his body splitting into millions of Kuramon, all ready to reform again. It’s a nightmare that will never end.

Yamato doesn’t know where it comes from, but he hears the sharp noise of a whistle, and whether by the acoustics of the area or just the imagination, he hears the sound of the Digital World’s invisible train, and the clanking of the gears in the ancient ruins, and the rumbling noise of a digivice.

There’s a crowd raising their phones, and one by one, they capture every Kuramon, down to the last wriggling one of them. Just this once, when Gabumon and Agumon nearly died for them, the people can do something to help -- and they do, without questioning it. They save themselves.



There’s nothing there.

Yamato doesn’t know what he was expecting. It was just a whistle. Any kid could have blown it. There aren’t any Digimon there to greet them. It was nothing.

But they’re all there anyway. All eight of them, and now there’s no point pretending that they can just leave things as they are, not when there are eight idiots standing in the middle of the rain, chasing whistling noises.

“Taichi-san,” Koushiro starts.

“‘Someday,’ huh,” Taichi murmurs, and turns a smile up at the clouds. “If we keep waiting for ‘someday,’ we’ll have grown old before we know it.”

Yamato can’t help but smile. For the first time since this all started, he sees the Taichi Yagami he chose to follow: The idiot who sets his sights on whatever stupid goal he feels like, and lights the way for everyone else.

“Let’s go there,” Koushiro says. “Let’s go back to the Digital World.”

The sun breaks through the clouds, and for the first time all summer, Yamato can feel its warmth.
angry_friendship_wolf: (tri: Resolute)
It’s Takeru who reaches out to arrange a trip out of Tokyo, and while Yamato’s surprised, he doesn’t question it.

Still, he heads across Odaiba to where his brother and mother live, knocks on the door, and is able to at least be personable when his mother answers. While Yamato’s fairly sure they’ll never be close again, he has, at least, tentatively started talking to his mother every so often, when the occasion arises.

His mother insists on getting him something to drink while Takeru’s getting ready, and eventually he ends up with a glass of lemonade in his hand, while he and his mother awkwardly occupy the same space.

“Takeru told me some of what happened,” his mother says, eventually. “And that you’re not going back there to find them again.”

Yamato gives a quick nod, but doesn’t say anything.

He expects, quietly, that she’ll be somewhat relieved by that. Not happy, not at all, but relieved that he and Takeru aren’t in danger anymore. She had always been more protective than their father -- it was one of the reasons why, when the divorce happened, Yamato had insisted that his younger, more vulnerable brother should stay with her.

“I think that’s a mistake,” his mother says, eventually.

Yamato doesn’t look at her, instead gulping down his lemonade.

“I’ve spent a lot of the last six years wishing you hadn’t been taken away to that world. You were eleven, and Takeru was eight, and in what was a blink of an eye for us, you went to another world and fought wars, and came back -- different,” his mother says. “It wasn’t fair. You were children, and you’d been forced to fight.”

Yamato shuts his eyes, taking another gulp of his lemonade.

“But I know that if you’d been given the choice, all of you would’ve said yes, despite what we’d want,” his mother says. “You’d probably try to fight off rampaging Digimon with your bare hands if you didn’t have your partners. Patamon and Gabumon and the others are the same -- they’d never be able to let people suffer, even without you. They made that decision a long time before they met any of you.”

Yamato downs his lemonade, setting the glass down. “I’m going to check on Takeru.”

“Right,” his mother says, looking out the window. “Just -- I think Patamon and Gabumon would want you to go find them. I think if you gave them the choice to fight with you again, they’d say yes.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato’s calmer at band practice than he was a few weeks earlier, but that doesn’t seem to stop him from messing everything up.

His fingers fumble on chords he’d be able to do perfectly in his sleep, his voice cracks and shifts like he’s fourteen and it’s breaking again, and he’s so frustrated with himself that he can barely focus.

Every time he tries to concentrate, Koushiro’s idea starts churning about in his head again. Returning to the Digital World. Becoming Chosen again, except this time with the roles reversed: They’d know what they were getting themselves into, and the Digimon wouldn’t.

Would it have changed anything if I had known? Would I have chosen not to fight?

He grimaces a little, and his hand fumbles on a guitar string, because he already knows the answer. He knew it when Devimon called from Mount Infinity for the smallest child to die, and Yamato had to protect his brother. Hell, he’d known it from the moment Meramon had run down that mountain on the second day, leaving fire in his wake, with a village in his path and a Black Gear driving him mad in his back, and all of them powerless to do anything until Sora stepped up.

“Let’s take a break,” their drummer, Seiji, says, giving Yamato a slightly irritated look. “Back in twenty?”

There’s a general murmur of agreement, and the other band members disperse. Yamato scowls, but slides his guitar off his shoulder, setting it down in its case. He stays seated, rubbing his hands over his face.

“What’s your damage, anyway?” Seiji asks. “You’ve been weird for weeks, dude.”

“It’s nothing.”

“Bullshit,” Seiji says, cheerfully. “All summer, you’ve been acting like someone pissed in your cereal and killed your puppy, dude. And someone’s going to have to pay for that mirror you broke.”

“I’ll pay for it, okay?” Yamato snaps. Seiji seems entirely unperturbed.

“You know, you don’t have to be here,” Seiji says eventually. “Nobody’s forcing you, y’know, dude?”

“I know,” Yamato says. “But I’m not going to let you all down.”

“You’re letting us all down pretty hard right now, dude,” Seiji said. “This is your problem, Ishida. You spend so much time trying to make sure everyone else is okay. Also, you’re sort of controlling. And proud. Kinda short-tempered, if I’m being honest. Point is, how about you just do what you want, and trust that if we’re in trouble, we can decide for ourselves what we want to do about it.”

Yamato blinks at him for a moment. Then: “Fine, I’m going home.”

“Attaboy,” Seiji grins. “You’re like the Anti-Jyou Kido right now.”

[OOM]

Sep. 26th, 2017 11:06 pm
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato's room is more or less exactly how he left it, which in this case means 'slightly more disorganised than its usual strict neatness.'

He leads Quentin in, and quickly sets about doing just a little bit of tidying, enough that it's just a shade closer to how it usually is.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
It’s late in the week, when Yamato’s grief has become more blunted, easier to ignore, that Koushiro shows up at his apartment.

Yamato silently lets him in, makes him a drink, and busies himself doing -- nothing, really. Pretending to clean an already clean work surface in the kitchen.

“I want to go back to the Digital World,” Koushiro says, eventually. “Our Digimon will have been reborn by now. We could go see them again.”

Yamato’s shoulders tense, and for a few seconds his grip tightens on the cloth he’s using to rub down the work surface.

“What’d Taichi say?”

Koushiro makes a soft noise. “He doesn’t want to go. Neither did Mimi, when I asked her. Neither did Takeru.”

“There’s your answer, then.”

“You’re not going to try to change their minds?”

“They won’t remember us,” he says, eventually. “We’d be strangers to them.”

Koushiro doesn’t look at him, but when he talks, his voice is perfectly even. “Is that really going to stop you?” He asks. “They were strangers to us once, too.”

“-- If we go and find them, they’ll have to fight. They’ll . Gabumon’s spent years fighting for me,” Yamato says. “He’s got a fresh start now. He deserves to rest.”

Koushiro glances over at him. Then: “Shouldn’t that be his choice?”

He finishes his drink in several quick gulps, and stands. Yamato doesn’t meet his gaze, waiting quietly as the other boy lets himself out. It isn’t until he’s gone that Yamato balls up the cloth in his hand, tossing it as far as he can.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
When Yamato finally snaps, it happens without warning.

He’s all but sleepwalking through band practice when he remembers playing the harmonica for Gabumon, and he feels his throat and chest tighten, and his eyes sting. He grits his teeth, puts down his guitar mid-song, and stalks away to the bathroom, hoping that none of his bandmates follow him.

They don’t, but he knows better than to think they don’t notice his red, puffy eyes when he comes back, or his bleeding knuckles. Sooner or later, he knows someone’s going to notice the cracked mirror in the bathroom, too.

He makes it to the end of practice, even if he can’t play his guitar right, even if he keeps singing off-key. The others end practice early, and as they’re packing up, Yamato quietly reaches around his neck and unties the cord holding his Crest around his neck.

He doesn’t look at it as he drops it into the waste paper basket. All it is now is metal and glass.

The breakdowns happen more often after that. Not every hour, not even every day, but enough that Yamato hates his lack of control. He keeps himself secluded. He knows himself well enough to know that nobody should be near him when he’s like this. When the doorbell rings, towards the end of the week, (three times in quick succession, then a pause, then three times again -- Sora’s distinctive pattern), he ignores it.

Once he’s sure Sora is gone, he opens the door reluctantly. There’s a package on the doorstep, and it’s not until he sees it that he realises that his birthday came and went earlier in the week.

He takes it, puts it somewhere safe inside, but he doesn’t open it.

By the end of the week, the breakdowns are less intense, more blunted. More than anything, he just feels hollowed out and tired, like all he wants to do is sleep and watch television. So, that’s all he does.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Three months after defeating Apocalymon in 1999, the Chosen Children were called back to the Digital World as Homeostasis finished creating a new peacekeeper program in the form of Shakamon, an Ultimate-level Digimon programmed to preserve peace and prevent the rise of dark forces like Apocalymon.

Approximately eight minutes after awakening, Shakamon concluded that the most effective way to do this was to establish complete control over the Digital World. After absorbing both the Sovereigns and Homeostasis, it possessed Hikari Yagami's body and reformatted the Digital World into its perfect paradise.

Fleeing, the kids attempted to mount a resistance against Shakamon, with no success, until they eventually resorted to drawing on the power of the Dark Ocean, warping their digivices and altering their Digimon. Gabumon was transformed into Sangloupmon.

Six years on, they're wanted rebels in a Digital World that's utterly devoted to its new god, while Shakamon has assembled its own Chosen in the form of Daisuke Motomiya, Ken Ichijouji, Miyako Inoue, and Iori Hida.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
In a corner of the Village of Beginnings, there’s a cluster of eight eggs.

Elecmon, the village caretaker, has checked on them every day since they materialised. They’re warm, healthy, likely to hatch before long. The first thing he learned, on the very first day, was not to remove the old whistle draped around one of the eggs. The first time he did that, the eggs went very cold, very fast.

He’s preparing to sleep for the night when one of the eggs, the one patterned like a Greymon’s hide, shakes. Then shakes again. Then again. Next to it, the one patterned like a Garurumon gives the tiniest shake.

“Ready to hatch, are you?”

The Greymon-patterned egg shakes once more, then cracks, as a tiny, black-furred Botamon pokes its head up.

By the time morning comes, all eight of them have hatched.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
“Good morning!
Summer vacation begins with bustling resorts and amusement parks. Here in Odaiba, students and families have been pouring in since morning. There are blue skies across the nation, and the weather is warmer than usual, making for a refreshing day.”


The Bureau’s surveillance of the Digital World has always been poor, a matter of observing the world’s effect on the Analog World and surmising what they think could be happening in the other world.

Right now, all their study suggests that the Digital World rebooted successfully. Since the Reboot, there’s been no radio interference, no glitches that would be telltale signs of the Infection, and none of the disasters that would follow the Digital World being swallowed by the quantum sea.

“It’s been a week,” Maki says to Nishijima, as he sits on the other side of her desk. “The quantum sea hasn’t materialised in the Digital World yet. We can assume the Reboot was successful.”

“Is that so?” Nishijima replies. He sounds glum, but Maki supposes that’s to be expected. The last week was also the last week of school -- he would have spent it teaching half the Chosen, seeing them every day. “It’s one hell of a trade-off.”

Maki gives a small nod. “I know,” she says. “Those kids just have to move on. Move forward. It won’t take as long as you think.”

Nishijima looks up at her, and Maki can tell he doesn’t believe her. There’s a momentary pang of bitterness in her chest -- what has Nishijima ever known of loss? -- but she pushes it down. It’s unfair to feel like that.

“In six months, new buildings will be up, and Odaiba will be just like it was before,” she says, instead. “In a year, everyone will have forgotten what happened there. No-one in the world will even mention Digimon anymore.”

“Even those kids?”

“That’s just part of becoming an adult.”

---


A lot of that first week is a blur.

Yamato takes Takeru home, tells him that it wasn’t his fault (not that Takeru even hears him), and waits with him until he’s cried himself to sleep. Then he lopes back home, lets himself in, and heads to his own room.

He expects the grief to come crashing in, now that he’s alone. It doesn’t. He just feels numb. He stares at the ceiling of his room, thinking about what happened, but no matter how hard he thinks about it, none of it feels real.

That numbness is still there the next day, and the next, and the next. He all but sleepwalks through the last week of school, barely hearing anything anyone says, and when the last day of school ends, he realises he wasn’t even aware of how many days had passed.

On the first day of summer, he almost just stays in bed. Even moving his fingers feels like too much effort compared to staring at the ceiling and waiting to drift in and out of sleep. Eventually, the heat becomes uncomfortable, forcing him to move.

He visits Taichi. They walk, buy ice cream, sit near the edge of the sea. They talk, but nothing they talk about matters -- it’s all useless small talk, skirting around the issue of the Digimon, and eventually, Yamato just tunes it out.

He’s snapped back to reality by his ice cream, now melted, dropping onto the ground. There’s the briefest of moments where he thinks that this, the loss of half a cheap raspberry ice cream, is going to be the thing that pushes him that last millimeter over the edge.

It doesn’t. He leaves anyway.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Usually, Yamato only hears about a distortion appearing for an Infected Digimon to come through when Daigo or Maki texts him.

There’s no text this time.

Instead, Gabumon tips his head up sharply, as if hearing something Yamato can’t, then goes still, staring into the middle distance.

She’s here.

---


Maki steeples her fingers, watching the alerts appear on her computer screen, then picks up the phone to call Daigo. It’s barely started ringing when he picks up.

“Agent Nishijima,” she says, as soon as he answers. “We’ve detected a distortion at Tokyo Big Sight in Makuhari Messe, increasing in size and intensity at an exponential rate, creating significant radio interference and space-time oscillations.”

“Meicoomon?”

“Almost certainly.”

---


Meiko feels Meicoomon arrive, but even if she hadn’t, her digivice does, humming and sparking within the drawer she stuffed it in.

She pulls it out immediately, holding it up. It’s still black like a rotted tooth, the colour it turned just before Meicoomon lost her mind and killed Leomon, but the edges are sparking purple and the screen is flickering, a column of bars rising up and then dropping back down.

She sprints for the door, ignoring her mother calling her.

---


Yamato’s moped isn’t going to get them anywhere, not while the traffic is blocked, with the roads clogged with cars trapped in place by the disaster going on at Odaiba’s Eastern edge.

Garurumon is quicker, sprinting across the tops of cars without even scratching their paintjobs, as Yamato sits between the feathers on his back.

He arrives at Makuhari Messe to see a distortion flickering beneath the Tokyo Big Sight, and Meicoomon on the ground, with Greymon, Ikkakumon, Birdramon, and Togemon all pinning her there, and Meiko hurrying towards the battle.

“What’s she doing?” Garurumon asks. “Meicoomon’s her partner, if they’re near each other -- …”

From within the pile Greymon, Ikkakumon, Birdramon, and Togemon have formed, there is a sudden red and violet glow, twisting the air into funnels and eddies around it, followed by a burst of something that smells and feels vile and unclean.

“Meicoomon, super evolution.”

All four Digimon are thrown backwards. Ikkakumon, by far the heaviest of them and the closest to the blast, careens through the air like he’s made of crumpled up paper, and collides with a building, smashing through it.

Yamato flings himself off Garurumon and lands on his feet, sprinting towards Meiko, knocking her out of the way of the falling rubble. He lands on his elbows, scraping the skin off them as he shields Meiko with his back.

On the plaza, the glow dims, as something orange-furred like Meicoomon, but taller and wilder, with clawed black armour on its legs and arms, rises to its feet.

“Meicrackmon.”

Garurumon throws himself into the fray, just behind the other four as they shake off their damage and fling themselves back at Meicrackmon, and the five push against her, driving her back towards the distortion.

Yamato pulls himself off Meiko. “Are you okay?”

She’s on her feet immediately, sprinting back towards Meicrackmon, and Yamato has to grab her and pull her back.

Idiot. Do you want to die?”

“Let go of me,” Meiko says, in the sharpest and strongest voice Yamato’s ever heard from her. “I’ve got to stop Mei-chan.”

Yamato drags her back towards him. “Garurumon and the others are doing the best they can. You’re Meicoomon’s partner, if you get hurt in the crossfire, she could become more violent. Fall back.
Meiko seems to listen to that, enough that Yamato lets go of her arm and helps her back towards where Taichi and the others are.

They reach the others just in time for Takeru and Hikari to arrive, their partners in their arms. Tailmon gives Hikari a quick nod before jumping out of her arms and running towards the battle.

“Tailmon, super evolution! Angewomon.”

“I can fight, too!” Patamon says, but Takeru just grips him tighter, hugging him to his chest.

Angewomon swoops in, adding her strength to the other five’s, and together, bit by bit, foot by foot, they push Meicrackmon into the distortion, following her through.

Within the wide open space of the distortion, Meicrackmon quickly shakes them off, darting between each one, sometimes throwing them against each other, as she barrels back towards the real world.

Her head has just managed to poke through the portal when Greymon and Garurumon grab her by her back legs. They’re quickly joined by Ikkakumon, the three of them straining to pull her back in without any success.

“Takeru, let me go!” Patamon yells. “I need to help them! Takeru!

“If … If you go now, you’ll …” Takeru says, and clutches Patamon tighter to him.

Hikaru glances over at him in alarm. “... Takeru-kun …”

Don’t go, Patamon,” Takeru pleads, burying his face in Patamon’s fur.

“We have to do it,” Patamon says, nudging his nose against Takeru’s cheek. “We have to protect your world. It’s why we came here.”

Patamon.

“It’ll be okay. You’ll be okay without me,” Patamon says, wriggling loose from Takeru’s arms and fluttering up into the air. “Goodbye, Takeru.”

As Takeru yells, Patamon turns, flying towards the distortion.

“Patamon, evolution! Angemon.”

Angewomon is thrown out of the distortion first, nearly colliding with Angemon, followed by Meicrackmon leaping out into the real world again. Angemon swoops in from one side, and Angewomon from another, pushing Meicrackmon back, close enough for Greymon and Garurumon to grab her from behind.

---


“This base change,” Koushiro says, staring at the screens of his office computer. “I can’t even compare it to any of the other Infected Digimon. Why did it occur when Meicoomon appeared?”

Realisation dawns. He breathes in sharply, tilting his head back, taking in all of the data.

“What is it?” Tentomon asks.

“The distortions and the Infected Digimon only began appearing when Meiko-san and Meicoomon came to Odaiba,” Koushiro says. “Meicoomon didn’t get Infected. The Infection came from Meicoomon in the first place.”

“Meicoo-han? That can’t be possible.”

“I’m not completely certain of it,” Koushiro admits. “But it makes sense.”

Tentomon glances out the window, then back at Koushiro. “We need to go help.”

“Wait. I need to transfer this program to my laptop,” Koushiro says. “This is how I’m going to save all of you.”

---


Maki frowns at her computer.

Homeostasis should have triggered the reboot process by now. Any longer puts everything at risk.

Come on. You can’t wait any more.

---


It happens just as they’re driving Meicrackmon back into the distortion.

Angemon cries out, as his textures glitch, then turn a deep purple, the very edges of them fizzing and crackling. As Meicrackmon is dragged back in, he pursues, diving through the portal and immediately making a beeline for Angewomon, attacking her with a barrage of energy blasts.

“Angemon’s Infected?” Sora asks.

Yamato turns to stare at Takeru, because suddenly all the caginess and evasiveness makes sense. His brother had lost Patamon once before, and he must’ve known for weeks that he was going to lose him again.

As Angemon battles the others, Koushiro sprints up behind them, laptop under his arm. “Where’s Meicoomon?”

“The others are keeping her in the distortion,” Taichi says.

Koushiro nods, sitting down on the plaza and opening his laptop.

Within the distortion, Birdramon soars towards Meicrackmon, before suddenly seizing up, careening into a wide spiral as her orange feathers crackle and turn purple, and her eyes turn white. Togemon is next, curling in on herself as green turns to violet.

A split second later, Yamato feels a surge of pain unlike anything he’s ever felt from Garurumon. He just manages to keep his eyes open as Garurumon’s fur glitches, as his eyes turn white, and then suddenly the pain’s gone, their link too clouded for Yamato to feel anything from Garurumon.

As one, Garurumon, Birdramon, and Togemon turn their attention away from Meicrackmon, and move to attack their friends.

Ikkakumon is next, then Angewomon, each one screaming before going silent and turning on the others.

Meicrackmon starts to fly towards the portal again, only for Greymon to grab her by the leg, his body lighting up orange as a burst of heat rushes out from Taichi.

“Greymon, super evolution! MetalGreymon.”

With a violent throw, he tosses Meicrackmon deeper into the distortion.

Koushiro’s screen flickers, before a window opens on it, unbidden.

REBOOT
09:59.


“Reboot?” Mimi asks.

“What the hell is a reboot?” Takeru adds.

---


REBOOT
09:48.


Maki dismisses every agent working out of her office, and fixes her eyes on the countdown, praying that nothing happens to stop it.

---


“Even the Digimon’s memories will be lost?” Sora asks, once Koushiro and Taichi have explained the reboot.

“They’ll even forget us?” Jyou adds, not bothering to hide the touch of desperation in his voice.

“I have a counterplan,” Koushiro says, and Yamato just about catches the tremor in his voice. He starts typing furiously, transmitting reams and reams of code into the distortion.

Within it, the other Digimon converge on MetalGreymon, battering him about. For all of MetalGreymon’s power, Yamato knows that even he can’t stand up against a sustained assault from seven other Digimon, including Meicrackmon.

REBOOT
08:29.


Koushiro presses a key, and in the depths of the distortion, a glowing green cube appears, expanding until it’s the size of the house and floating sedately in place.

“I’ve created a backup field. If the Digimon enter that, I can save their data,” Koushiro says. “If I have everyone’s data, I should be able to filter out the Infection and restore them as they are now, with their memories intact.”

It’s the only flicker of hope Yamato’s had in a while, he realises.

“Tentomon, please cooperate with MetalGreymon to put everyone into the backup field. Once they’re inside, they shouldn’t be able to escape,” Koushiro says.

“Roger that!” Tentomon lifts off, flying towards the distortion. “Tentomon, evolution! Kabuterimon.

First they try to herd the other Digimon, pushing them around in an attempt to move them towards the field. When that doesn’t work, they settle next to the field, drawing the other Digimon to them before trying to throw them in.

But it’s like they know, even when Infected, and each one just narrowly avoids touching the field, curving around it.

Before MetalGreymon and Kabuterimon can make a third attempt, the Infected Digimon split up, with Meicrackmon driving MetalGreymon in one direction while Garurumon drives Kabuterimon in the other.

One by one, they attack Kabuterimon: Angemon first, then Angewomon, Togemon, Ikkakumon and Birdramon, before Garurumon delivers the finishing blow, a stream of blue fire that sends Kabuterimon flying backwards, glowing as he shrinks back down into Tentomon.

REBOOT
06:13.


MetalGreymon manages to grab Meicrackmon, holding her tight in his arms, preventing her from moving. Yamato’s heart soars again: It’s a long shot, but with his bulk and power, MetalGreymon might just about be able to knock the others into the backup field.

A ripple of purple spreads over MetalGreymon’s textures, and all of Yamato’s hope dies in his chest. His textures blur, crackle, then turn to the same deep purple as the other Infected Digimon, his eyes turning completely white.

Tentomon’s the only one left. One Child level Digimon against two Ultimates, six Adults, and Meicrackmon.

REBOOT
04:42.


“Tentomon!” Koushiro calls. “Enter the backup field! Even if you’re alone!”

“I can’t.”

Tentomon!

“I can’t,” Tentomon repeats. “MetalGreymon and the others did their best to stop Meicoo-han. It’s just me now. I can’t go into the field and just watch. I won’t let your world end.”

Koushiro’s hands shake at his keyboard. “Tentomon, I -- …”

“When we met, I didn’t know anything about you,” Tentomon says. “Getting to know you has been the greatest joy of my life. Always remember that knowing nothing is just the chance to learn something new. So, please, keep learning. Learn everything you can, and enjoy it.”

A flicker of purple glances across his textures. Tentomon laughs softly, shaking it off.

“Tentomon,” Koushiro says, softly.

“Forgive me for not saying this before,” Tentomon says, and flies towards the others. “Koushiro-han, farewell.”

REBOOT
03:47.


Tentomon, evolution! Kabuterimon.

Kabuterimon burns purple -- not the sickly purple of the Infection, but the rich, royal purple of the Crest of Knowledge -- as a sharp charge of static electricity crackles out from Koushiro.

Kabuterimon, super evolution! AtlurKabuterimon.”

As Meicrackmon flies towards the portal, AtlurKabuterimon overtakes her, closing a claw around her, trapping her in place.

“I won’t let you through,” he snarls. “I will never let you through.”

As he turns his back to the portal, the other seven Digimon stare down at him, ready to attack. MetalGreymon moves first, claw out as he rushes in.

A surge of power tears out of Koushiro, his digivice humming at an almost ear-shattering pitch, as AtlurKabuterimon explodes into violet lightning and white light.

“AtlurKabuterimon, ultimate evolution! HeraklesKabuterimon.”

REBOOT
02:18.


He keeps one claw tightly curled around Meicrackmon, and grabs MetalGreymon with his free hand. Angemon and Angewomon swoop in from either side and are caught by his remaining two claws.

With nothing to defend himself with, HeraklesKabuterimon finds himself buffeted between Ikkakumon and Togemon, before Garurumon and Birdramon land against his chest, driving him back towards the portal.

HeraklesKabuterimon crashes into the real world, tiles flying up as he skids across the plaza. As he keeps his grip on Meicrackmon, the others pile onto him, holding him in place to wait out those last few minutes before the reboot.

REBOOT
01:20.


“Is this what you want? Is this how you want to say goodbye?” HeraklesKabuterimon asks, pushing up against them. “You’ll make everyone sad.”

Yamato feels something flicker in his link with Garurumon. Just something tiny. He can see in everyone else’s faces that they feel the same, a momentary spark from their Digimon.

HeraklesKabuterimon pulls himself onto his feet, braces himself against the ground, and with a voice like thunder bellows: “Now, open your eyes!

He throws them off him, clutching Meicrackmon to his chest as the others land against the plaza.

Yamato feels that spark again, and slowly, just slowly, his link with Garurumon clears, just enough for him to feel the edge of his pain.

One by one, the purple fades from their Digimon’s textures -- MetalGreymon first, then the others. Their eyes are still clouded, but Yamato can feel Garurumon’s mind, however much in disarray it might be.

They move in, and embrace HeraklesKabuterimon, helping him hold Meicrackmon still.

HeraklesKabuterimon sighs softly, bowing his head.

“Thank you, my old friends.”

REBOOT
00:31.


He takes a slow step, pushing them with him, then another, then a third, back towards the portal.

REBOOT
00:19.


Another step, and another, and another. Meicrackmon screams.

REBOOT
00:08.


They start to pass through the portal, one by one, until only HeraklesKabuterimon is left, pushing them in.

REBOOT
00:03.


The last of HeraklesKabuterimon vanishes inside. The Digimon stay huddled together, embracing each other, struggling against the pull of the Infection.

REBOOT
00:02.

00:01.

00:00.


Yamato feels his link with Garurumon snap.

He just has time to see all of them dissolve, turning into motes of light and scattering, like every enemy they’d ever faced had, before the portal crackles and fades, space folding in on it.

REBOOT COMPLETE.


Then there’s just silence.

No, there isn’t. Not really. Mimi’s crying, and Takeru’s crying, saying that it’s all his fault, and that if he’d told them this wouldn’t have happened. Jyou is babbling that there has to be some kind of mistake.

It may as well be silence. To Yamato, it all feels like it’s happening to somebody else.

He wraps his brother in a hug, murmurs to him that it’s not his fault. Takeru doesn’t hear him, and that’s fine.

Yamato doesn’t know how long they’re there for, until nobody can muster the energy to cry or say anything. He keeps expecting Gabumon and the others to come back, to reveal that they got away from it somehow.

They don’t. He can’t feel Gabumon at all, just the emptiness of being alone with himself, in a way he hasn’t been since he was eleven. His digivice is silent. The Crest of Friendship, usually as cold as ice, is warm against his chest.

There’s nothing left for them. They lost.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Koushiro leans back, staring at his laptop screen.

“I see now. This is what’s causing the computer errors and electromagnetic interference.”

Tentomon hurries over, hovering up near Koushiro’s shoulder to look at his screen, at the patterns of code open on it. “What did you find?”

“Our digital systems all work in binary, or in other systems that are convertible to binary,” Koushiro says. “But look, it’s all been overwritten into an unknown numeration system. Computers across the world are getting bugs because on contact with the Infection, their code is overwritten into an unfamiliar one. It’s not binary, decimal, or even hexadecimal, it’s something more complex than anything I’ve seen before. No digital data in the world uses this numeration system.”

He settles his hands on his desk, on either side of the laptop, staring at the screen. “If I’d realised sooner, I could have made a plan, maybe analysed the data to find the cause of the Infection … “ Tentomon hears a note of panic enter Koushiro’s voice. “No, but if I don’t know the base number … I could compare the original data with the converted data, but processing the converted data might make my computer unusable. Even if I know the base, how do I change it back, how does that tell me anything about the Infection …”

Tentomon jumps as Koushiro slams his hands down on the desk, balling them up into fists. “I can’t do anything. I’m ignorant and incompetent, and staring at this shit is pointless, I can’t do anything, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t …

“Koushiro-han.”

Koushiro’s shoulders are still shaking as his gaze snaps over to Tentomon, now settled on the floor and watching him with big, green compound eyes.

“Is not knowing something really that shameful?”

“Of course it is,” Koushiro says, settling his weight onto the floor in front of his desk. “I can’t do anything if I’m ignorant.”

“So you give it your all,” Tentomon replies. “Isn’t that what you’ve been doing? Koushiro-han, you probably haven’t noticed, but when you’re doing research or learning something new, you truly look happy. You really enjoy it. But you’re -- different right now.”

“Of course I am. Think of our situation!” Koushiro protests.

Tentomon shakes his head. “I don’t want to see you like this. It hurts.”

“Tentomon …”

Tentomon reaches forward, touching a pincer to his arm lightly. “There’s only one thing to do.”

---


Koushiro blinks at him. “A reboot?”

“We’re already prepared for it,” Tentomon says. “All of us. You don’t have to kill yourself trying to find an answer.”

“It will get rid of the corrupted data?” Koushiro asks. He’s on his feet again in a flash, working at his laptop. “If that happens, if there’s hope, I can do something about it."

Koushiro doesn't even sit down, staring intently at his screen as his fingers blur across the keyboard, writing lines upon lines of code. "Hurry, hurry, hurry.

“Koushiro-han, you don’t have to -- …”

“I can do it,” Koushiro says. “If the Digital World’s going to reboot and purify itself, I can figure out what to do, I just have to be quick enough. I can make sure that all of you keep your memories.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
“Yamato, will you play the harmonica for me?”

Yamato cracks open an eye midway through strumming his guitar, giving Gabumon a quick, confused look. “Harmonica? I’m busy with practice right now.”

Gabumon says nothing, refusing to meet his gaze, staring instead at a scuff mark on the floor.

“Gabumon?” Yamato asks. “Is something wrong?”

“Oh! No, no, nothing’s wrong.”

“Gabumon?”

“You should keep practicing,” Gabumon says, giving him a broad, cheerful smile.

Yamato considers pushing the subject, trying to force the issue and find out exactly what’s really wrong -- but it’s not as if his recent track record on that is any good, and Gabumon is as stubborn as he is.

He half-heartedly strums a few more chords on his guitar before he has to stop again, crossing the small room to the leather couch by the door and setting his guitar down next to it.

“What’s wrong?” Gabumon asks. “Yamato?”

Yamato rummages in his bag until he finds his harmonica, the old Hohner Blues Harp that he carries everywhere with him, and sits down, staring at the wall.

“I just feel like a change of pace, that’s all,” he says, and lifts the harmonica, starting to play before Gabumon can protest.

It’s an old song, the first one he ever learned, the one he always returns to, the simple blues tune he’d play to put the other Chosen to sleep on their first trip to the Digital World. The last time Gabumon had asked him to play it, they’d been sat on a hill next to Dragon Eye Lake, in the hours after they and the others had defeated Apocalymon, with neither of them knowing if they’d see the other again, and neither of them wanting to say goodbye.

It hits him midway through the song that this is the same: One last memory for the road, an unspoken goodbye, or at least a ‘I’m not sure how much longer we have.’ He keeps playing. He even manages not to make any mistakes. This song, at least, is second nature to him now.

When he’s done, he holds his harmonica in his lap, turning it over silently.

It’s a few moments before Gabumon says anything.

“What’s wrong?”

“I wish I could go back to when we first met,” Yamato blurts out. He shuts his eyes. “That’s not really how I think, most of the time, but I wonder if that’ll change. If one day all of this is just going to be a memory. All of it. And then, sooner or later, maybe I’ll forget all about it, when I become an adult.”

“You won’t forget,” Gabumon says, a little sharply. Yamato looks up, looking him in the eye. Gabumon meets his stare evenly. Softly: “You won’t forget.”

Yamato breathes out, lifts his harmonica, and starts playing again.
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Hikari Yagami is leaving class when her phone rings, the screen flashing with an unknown caller ID. She peers at it for a moment, then flips it open, pressing it to her ear.

digicode


Then everything goes black.

---


“Agent Himekawa, the Digimon have left Koushiro Izumi’s office.”
“Let them be. I’ll keep an eye on them.”


It’s not difficult to find them.

The Digimon meet in the same place the humans always do, in the shade of the Ferry Futo bridge, gathering around in a huddle.

Maki sets herself up on the nearby hill, where she can see and hear them, but they can’t see her. She doesn’t approach yet. She can guess the conversation they’re about to have.

“Should we have told Koushiro where we’re going instead of sneaking out?” Piyomon asks.

“I don’t want to disturb him,” Tentomon replies, rubbing his pincers together anxiously. “We won’t be out here for long, right?”

Patamon doesn’t meet his gaze. “S-Sure. We don’t need to be out here for long. I just thought you all needed to know that I’m …” his voice catches in his throat, “I’m …”

“You’re Infected, right?” Gabumon asks, gently.

Maki feels a pang in her chest. She does her best to ignore it. She knew this was coming, sooner or later, had thoroughly detached herself from the concept, but hearing it said out loud rattles her more than she’d like to admit.

Patamon nods without looking up.

“Does Takeru know?” Gomamon asks.

“He found out just after the school festival,” Patamon says. “I bit him. I keep -- losing time, and when I wake up, I realise I’ve gone berserk, like the other Infected, just for a few minutes. He won’t let me fight because he worries that if I do, I’ll …”

Patamon looks up sharply. “I’m going to go somewhere else. That way I won’t be a danger to all of you. I won’t Infect you.”

Gabumon shakes his head. “You don’t need to do that,” he steps forward, pulling back the sleeve of the pelt he wears, showing a patch of skin flickering in red and violet shades of static. “I realised yesterday evening. I’m Infected as well.”

“It’s not just you two,” Tailmon says. “I think I blacked out for a few minutes this morning. Nobody was around for me to hurt, but -- I’m Infected, too.”

Tentomon reveals he’s Infected next, then Gomamon, Piyomon, Palmon, until only Agumon remains.

He shrugs. “I dunno! How would I tell? Does being Infected feel different?”

“I don’t really know,” Patamon says, ducking his head again. “I’m sorry. You must have all caught it from me.”

“There’s no way of proving that,” Tailmon says. “We could have been Infected by our contact with Meicoomon, or even in our fights against other Infected Digimon. We might even have been Infected before we ever came to this world.”

They sit in silence for several minutes more, and Maki wonders if they’re just going to go home, tell their human partners what’s happened, and if the Chosen would come to her for help if they did. Maybe she’d even give it to them. She’s not so sure, looking down at the Digimon, that she could keep herself detached if they asked her directly.

Gabumon curls an arm around Patamon, letting him rest against him, while Agumon digs into the snacks they brought.

Before any of them can talk again, the wind picks up. There shouldn’t be any wind, not this strong, not out of nowhere on a clear day. She can catch the smell of orchids, cherry blossoms, and roses on the air, even though she knows that there aren’t any growing nearby.

Her gaze alights on the figure walking towards the Digimon. Hikari Yagami, stumbling, dressed like she came straight from school -- except she’s suffused with white light, her eyes turned rainbow colours, and where she steps, grass and flowers start to burst through the concrete.

Maki shifts onto her back foot automatically, but she can’t wrench her gaze away, even as any sympathy she had melts into burning, nauseating anger.

“Listen,” the being says with Hikari’s voice, echoing unnaturally.

“That’s not Hikari,” Tailmon says.

Of course, Maki realises. The Digimon had seen this before.

“Listen,” the being repeats. “I am the one who desires stability. I am Homeostasis.”

The name hits Maki like a punch to the gut. She can’t help herself from taking steps down the hill, unsteady, holding onto the rail for safety.

Homeostasis, a security program of the Digital World. Formless, bodiless, unable to interact with the world save by willingly possessing a Chosen, or by commands to Gennai, its chosen servant.

Nine years ago, when two Digimon had battled in the residential district of Hikarigaoka, the last remnants of a war that had ended with no victors, Homeostasis had turned its gaze onto the district and seen eight children with abilities it couldn’t quantify or understand, and had named them its new Chosen Children, to replace five old, unwanted ones who had failed to fulfill their function.

“I have borrowed this body to speak with you,” Homeostasis says, “because the Digital World and the human world are in grave danger.”

Maki’s read the reports. She knows that twice previous Homeostasis had possessed Hikari, using her as a medium with which to wield her powers -- once to separate WarGreymon and MetalGarurumon from battle, and once to empower the Chosen to destroy a Dark Master. She knows that even if Hikari doesn’t remember it afterwards, Hikari must have consented to this.

That doesn’t make the display any easier to watch.

“A significant majority of the Digital World has been Infected now, with the percentage growing with each passing hour. Passing from Meicoomon to other Digimon to the fabric of the world itself, the Infection has now spread and mutated to the point where it will soon spread to the quantum sea itself.”

“I don’t -- quite understand,” Tentomon says.

“All worlds arise from the quantum sea, and all so return. Once the Infection reaches the quantum sea, it will spread to all worlds, eventually causing their collapse at the point where they have succumbed entirely to Infection.”

“You’re saying the world will end?” Tentomon asks.

“Yes. The Digital World will end first, and all Digimon will perish with it, initially depriving the human world of the usage of electronics. The human world will likely be Infected next, and other worlds will follow, until only the quantum sea is left, before it too will collapse, removing any further possibility for new worlds to be born from it.”

“Can’t we stop it?” Gabumon asks.

Maki shuts her eyes. She knows what Homeostasis is going to say next. To her surprise, Homeostasis is silent at first, staring straight ahead, calculating the answer to that question.

Then: “The Infection has spread to a degree such that there is only one way to avoid total annihilation.”

“What?” Agumon asks.

”A great sacrifice. At the point at which the Infection exceeds my capacity to contain, when the primary Infection vector, the Digimon designated Meicoomon, appears once again, the Digital World will be purged,” Homeostasis says. “And our time will end.”

Usually Homeostasis leaves gently, in Maki’s experience, but this time, the light fades in a split second, and Hikari’s body tumbles towards the ground.

Maki’s there in a heartbeat, catching her and laying her down onto the concrete, as gently as she can.

“Himekawa-san?” Piyomon asks.

“I’m not entirely sure what’s happening,” Maki lies. “But it seems like some other being possessed Hikari’s body. She’s unhurt, though.”

“Homeostasis,” Tailmon says. “We’ve encountered it before.”

“What did she mean by ‘a great sacrifice?’” Gabumon asks.

“I can’t be sure,” Maki says. “But most likely, she means a reboot.”

“A reboot?” Tailmon asks.

Maki thinks for a moment, debates whether or not to tell them the truth. It doesn’t take long for her to decide. If this is going to happen, if this has to happen, then they deserve to know as much as she can tell them.

“The Digital World exists as a shadow of sorts of this world,” Himekawa says. “So long as this world exists, it can be remade. That’s what rebooting is. The Infection didn’t originally exist in the Digital World: It can purge itself of all Infected data, including the Infected Digimon, and restore it all from back-up files.”

“Then why hasn’t Homeostasis done that yet?” Patamon asks.

“Understand that rebooting isn’t like the cycle of rebirth that already exists in the Digital World. Those Digimon restored wouldn’t have their memories of their previous lives. Every Infected Digimon would be starting over from a blank slate,” Maki says. “Including all of you.”

Gabumon frowns. “But still -- …”

“And it’s a last resort. The Digital World and the human world, and countless others, sit on a quantum sea. Rebooting brings with it the possibility that it might disturb that quantum sea, causing it to consume the Digital World, or worse,” Maki adds. “If Homeostasis is considering this, then it must be a desperate situation.”

Tailmon shuts her eyes. “Are we out of time?”

“Yes,” Maki says. There’s no sense varnishing that. “If nothing is done, every world will be destroyed, so Homeostasis will reboot soon, while it still has the chance.”

“And rebooting will save Yamato’s world?” Gabumon asks.

“It should, so long as no Infected Digimon are within the human world during the reboot,” Maki says. “If even a single Infected is here, it will escape the reboot, return to the Digital World, and begin the Infection again. All traces of Infection must be gone from this world before the reboot happens.”

“So, if Meicoomon comes back …” Gomamon starts.

“If Meicoomon returns, it’ll be down to you to force her back into the Digital World, before the reboot.”

Gabumon takes a step forward. “How do you know all this stuff?”

Maki gives him her best nonplussed look. “Because I’m a high-level person at the Bureau.”

“No,” Tailmon says, sharply. “How do you really know all this stuff?”

Maki can’t help but smile at that, but rather than answering, she scoops Hikari up, standing. “I’ll see Hikari back to school. We can’t just leave her here.”

“If everything is rebooted, we’ll lose all our memories, right?” Agumon asks.

“We won’t even know we lost them,” Tentomon says. “We won’t have any idea that we’ve forgotten them.”

Maki gives a quick nod. She’s good, now, at looking sympathetic but professional, she knows that, even if she can feel the muscles in her jaw twitching, and her eyes starting to sting.

“But,” Gomamon says, forcing a smile onto his face. “We’ll be saving this world. Saving it for Jyou and everyone else. We’ll make sure the sun rises tomorrow.”

“How long do we have left?” Piyomon asks.

Maki breathes out slowly, and hopes against hopes that she’s right, that this can be quick and easy for them. “Hours. Enough time to say your goodbyes.”

She starts to walk away, heading for the hill, and to her car on top of it. It’ll be a short drive to take Hikari back to Odaiba Middle School, and only a slightly longer one to return to her office, to wait the last few hours before the inevitable.

“I’m sorry, for you and for your partners,” she says, once she reaches the foot of the hill. “If it helps, in time I’m sure it’ll hurt less. Eventually, even the Chosen Children have to grow up.”
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yamato's room is actually less tidy than usual, today. Not by much, but he looks like he might not have made his bed this morning, there's a few items of clothes on the floor, a few boxes left out on the worktop, and various other small signs of clutter instead of it being as immaculately neat as it usually is.

"Er, sorry about the mess," Yamato says, quickly. "Won't take me long to freshen up, but if you want, I'm pretty sure there's lemonade in the fridge."
angry_friendship_wolf: (Default)
Yukidarumon -- a snowman the size of a truck, and a friend who had helped Yamato in the past -- drops from the sky, and lands in the middle of the road with a thud.

Yamato steps between him and Takeru, glancing quickly at his phone. There are a few quick, hurried texts reporting on what Digimon have appeared: Centalmon, Meramon, Unimon, Bakemon, and Ogremon.

Almost all of them allies and friends, and Yamato can’t help but wonder if that’s not the real attack, if there’s someone who knows them directing Infected Digimon that used to be their friends to attack them.

“Takeru, let go,” he hears Patamon say, but Takeru keeps a firm hold on him. “I need to fight …”

No,” Takeru says, a little sharply. “Just stay here.”

Yamato has no time to ask, because Yukidarumon lurches forward at that moment, the textures on his skin flickering violet, and Gabumon leaps forward to meet him.

---


There’s a flash of blue, and Garurumon skids across the road, ripping up tarmac where he lands, as another of Yukidarumon’s punches knocks him down.

“It’s like the Kuwagamon,” Garurumon says, pulling himself to his feet and shaking himself off. “The Infection’s made him stronger.”

Yamato sees a flicker of red on the horizon, and a familiar winged shape rise up over the island before curving back down again. Elsewhere, he sees more flashes, in more colours.

“Then we cheat,” he says, pressing one hand over his chest. His Crest starts to glow, pulsing with a gentle blue light. “Ready?”

“You sure about this?” Garurumon asks, turning his head to fix one eye on Yamato.

He gets a quick nod in return. “He wouldn’t want to hurt anybody. Better this than that.”

Garurumon breathes out. “Then I’m ready.”

Yamato shuts his eyes, and the temperature around them plummets, a thin layer of frost forming on the ground around him.

As Yukidarumon swings forward again, Garurumon explodes into blue light, twisting and reshaping itself.

“Garurumon, super evolution!” A furred hand emerges from the light, curling around Yukidarumon’s fist. “WereGarurumon.”

WereGarurumon sweeps a foot in an arc across the ground, taking a deep breath, and kicks upwards. For a moment, the world burns with yellow and blue light, and when Yamato’s blinked the spots out of his eyes, Yukidarumon is on his back, his outline blurring, his shape collapsing into cubes and then reforming again, again and again.

WereGarurumon backs off, glowing as he shrinks back down to Gabumon, and Yamato approaches Yukidarumon, crouching next to him.

Yukidarumon looks at him, but there’s no recognition in his gaze, nothing at all except sheer fury, and for what might be the first time Yamato feels a surge of sheer, ugly rage at whatever it was that did this -- stripped Yukidarumon of his kindness, Leomon of his discipline, Ogremon of his pride.

He holds out a hand, and Yukidarumon’s ridiculous snowy mitten hand snaps around it, squeezing so hard Yamato thinks the Digimon might crush the bones in his hand, and he’s fairly sure that’s the point.

“We’re here,” he says, keeping his voice steady. Gabumon approaches from Yukidarumon’s other side, putting a paw on his shoulder. Yamato lets Yukidarumon squeeze. “We won’t let you go alone.”

It must only be seconds passing, but it feels too long anyway, and eventually Yukidarumon starts to drift away, cubes of data flowing up from his feet, working their way up his body.

Yukidarumon opens his mouth and lets out a guttural scream, long and loud, until his throat goes hoarse and, for a moment as his face relaxes, he looks almost like the Digimon Yamato and Gabumon knew.

“Until next time,” Yamato murmurs, just before the hand around his scatters into data.

He thinks he sees a smile as Yukidarumon’s face vanishes. It’s probably a grimace.

With a rumble, a distortion opens in the sky, sucking the data into it. Yamato watches it as it goes.

“Look,” Gabumon says, pointing. Across Odaiba, four other streams of data are spiralling up into distortions.

“One left,” Yamato says. He breathes out, then pushes anything he’s feeling aside and turns. “Takeru, we need to -- …”

Takeru doesn’t reply. He’s already turned on his heel, walking back towards home, and as Yamato opens his mouth to call him, Gabumon tugs on his trouser leg. When he looks down, Gabumon just shakes his head.

“We need to go,” Yamato says to Gabumon.

---


The last one is Ogremon.

Yamato arrives as the others do, and sees Ogremon squaring off against Togemon and Ikkakumon.

Ogremon had been an enemy once, then a friend, then an ally. He’d fought against them with Devimon, and with them against MetalEtemon and Piemon. Whatever else he’d been, he’d never been -- this. This slavering, mindless monster, white-eyed and purple skinned, shrieking and throwing himself at his friends.

Togemon curls her arms in on herself, and green light engulfs her like the petals of a flower, before scattering to reveal Lilimon’s delicate, tiny form, dwarfed completely by Ogremon.

Yamato knows what Mimi’s trying to do. He knows in his gut it won’t work.

Lilimon curves about Ogremon, daisies and lilies trailing from her hand until they make a ring around Ogremon. He’d seen her do this before: A magical wreath of flowers to heal a Digimon of corruption, an ability unique to Lilimon.

Ogremon does go still, though. He stops screaming. He stares up at the sky in blank silence.

Then, with a snap, he breaks the wreath, turns, and swings for Lilimon with his club.

Mimi doesn’t say anything. From the set of her jaw, Yamato can tell she wasn’t expecting anything different.

The battle is short. A blast of green light from Lilimon and a volley of torpedoes from Ikkakumon, and when the smoke clears, Ogremon is on his knees as cubes of data flake off his back and float towards the heavens.

Mimi steps forward, throwing her arms around Ogremon’s shoulders, and while Yamato expects Ogremon to retaliate, like Yukidarumon did, he doesn’t. He remains still, head bowed, as Lilimon hovers down and embraces him from the other side.

After a few short moments, his form collapses altogether, and a distortion opens to suck up his data. Mimi sinks to her knees, tears streaming down her face, as Lilimon shrinks back down to Palmon.

Jyou speaks first, his voice hoarse. “Does Koushiro have a cure yet?”

Nobody else says anything. Jyou breathes out slowly, then pushes his glasses up his nose.
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It’s the evening, but still as bright as day, and although Odaiba is busy as usual, there’s something oddly peaceful about it.

As soon as his classes end, Yamato darts across town, catching Takeru as he leaves school (with a small gaggle of girls around him, Yamato notes somewhat grumpily) and offering to walk him to Koushiro’s office and then home.

This time, he’d get Takeru to talk about whatever it was that was bothering him.

By the time they reach Koushiro’s office, Takeru’s managed to deflect all of Yamato’s attempts to broach the subject. Every time Yamato is even about to ask about it, Takeru finds some way to distract him, or some pretext to distract himself so that he doesn’t have to pay attention to what Yamato is saying, and by the end of the twenty minute walk, Yamato can’t help but feel like he’s playing a game of conversational chess with a grandmaster.

When they reach Koushiro’s office, Tentomon lets them in, and for a moment, any thought of asking Takeru about anything vanishes from Yamato’s mind. Koushiro’s chic, stylish office is strewn with discarded bottles of Oolong tea, fast food wrappers, and dirty plates. Koushiro, working behind his computer, doesn’t even acknowledge that they’re there.

“... Didn’t Jyou come by yesterday to clean things up?” Takeru asks Yamato.

“He did,” Yamato replies. He glances over at Tentomon. “How’s the work going?”

“Ah, um. Koushiro-han hasn’t told me anything,” Tentomon says. “But I’m sure he’ll figure something out soon!”

“When’d he last eat?”

Tentomon rubs his pincers together nervously. “He had a WcDonalds burger earlier. I haven’t been able to convince him to have a proper meal.”

“Right.”

Yamato gives Takeru a nod, and the both of them set to work, tidying up the mess around the office. When Tentomon offers to help, Yamato orders him to relax, and the insect Digimon settles on one of the chairs, watching them nervously.

Once that’s all said and done, Yamato stops into the office’s kitchenette, puts together a sandwich of, at least, some nutritional value, and brings it out.

Koushiro doesn’t look up at all.

“Hey, Koushiro,” Yamato snaps, in his best commander voice. “Sandwich. Eat.”

“Huh?” Koushiro looks away from the screen for a moment, and Yamato sees that his face is pale and drawn, and that there are bags under his eyes. He grimaces slightly. Koushiro blinks at him for a moment, then down at the sandwich. “Oh.”

“Eat it,” Yamato repeats, and Koushiro reluctantly digs in. “And no Oolong tea until tomorrow, you’re going to give yourself indigestion.”

“It’s actually very cleansing, and -- …”

“I’ll ask Jyou and Sora to check on you later tonight,” Yamato says, ruffling Koushiro’s hair roughly and turning towards the digital playpen, giving Gabumon and Patamon a quick nod. It looks like all the others have already been picked up.

Gabumon bounds out immediately, closely followed by Patamon, who flies to Takeru’s arms. Out of the corner of his eye, Yamato sees Takeru smoothing over Patamon’s fur, as if checking for -- something.

He makes a mental note to bring that up.

They leave, and are halfway down the street when Yamato notices that Takeru isn’t letting go of Patamon, instead hugging him to his chest like he’s afraid he’s going to fly away. Even for Takeru, that’s oddly overprotective.

“... Hey,” Yamato starts, when he’s sure that Takeru’s too preoccupied to counter him before he even starts. “You know, if something’s bothering you, you can tell me. Or Sora, or Taichi, or even Mimi or Jyou.”

“Nothing’s wrong,” Takeru says, a little too quickly. “It’s just -- we watched Leomon die. I know Mimi and Jyou have seen him die before, but it was the first time for me. It just reminded me of when Patamon -- …”

Yamato can’t figure out if he’s telling the truth or deflecting again. He can read Takeru like a book, usually, but this time, there’s enough truth in what he’s saying to make it difficult to pick out if any part of it is a lie.

Takeru gives him a massive smile, and the weight in Yamato’s stomach intensifies. What aren’t you telling me?

Before he can say anything, or just demand to know what’s really going on, both their phones buzz. Takeru tugs his out immediately, and after a moment’s hesitation, Yamato pulls his out as well.

From: Maki Himekawa,
To: Taichi Yagami, Yamato Ishida, Sora Takenouchi, Koushiro Izumi, Mimi Tachikawa, Jyou Kido, Takeru Takaishi, Hikari Yagami.

Six distortions detected around Odaiba.


“Six?!” Yamato says, bewildered. “That’s more than we’ve ever -- …”

He doesn’t say anything more, because at that point the sky above them splits open.
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Yamato all but interrogates Koushiro before he takes Gabumon out of quarantine, but all the other boy has to say is that he’s run every scan he has several times and found no trace of Infection.

It’s night by the time Yamato beckons Gabumon out of the quarantine area. Gabumon tentatively steps through the monitor, materialising into the real world, then swings himself up onto Yamato’s shoulders.

Koushiro doesn’t even seem to notice them saying goodbye, but Tentomon sees them out.

Yamato immediately heads for the apartment that Takeru shares with their mother. It’s always -- odd visiting it, because even after all these years, seeing his mother still makes Yamato uncomfortable, still makes him want to be literally anywhere else. But something’s wrong with Takeru, that much is obvious, and he has to at least try to figure it out.

The lights are off when they get there. For a moment, Yamato thinks that nobody’s home, but he rings the doorbell anyway.

Takeru answers, with Patamon on his shoulder. He’s smiling, but there’s the faintest tinge of red puffiness around his eyes, as if he only recently stopped crying. Still, he welcomes Yamato and Gabumon in, pouring juice for each of them.

“What brings you here, anyway?” Takeru asks, avoiding meeting Yamato’s gaze. “Did you fight with Taichi again?”

“No -- …”

“Sora, then?”

“Why would I be fighting with Sora?”

“Jyou, then? Mimi?”

“Why would I be fighting with anyone?” Yamato asks irritably.

Takeru grins at him. “Isn’t that what you do?

“I kinda agree,” Gabumon says.

“You can shut up,” Yamato mutters. He turns his attention back to Takeru, putting his brother’s jibes aside for a moment. They’re meant to distract him, he knows that. “This isn’t about me. I want to know what’s wrong with you.”

Takeru’s smile fades. He stops moving, settling opposite Yamato, resting his forehead on his hands. “I’m worried …”

Yamato can practically feel Takeru trying to figure out how to spit it out, working through what he’s going to say in his head, finding the best words. He’s happy to let him take his time: Neither of them are good at talking about their feelings.

Then, at the moment when he’s about to just tell Yamato what’s wrong, Yamato sees him pull back behind his walls again, and suddenly he can’t read him anymore.

“I’m worried that you’re going to break up your band again,” Takeru lies, without even bothering to hide it, giving Yamato a huge, cheesy grin.

They joke back and forth for a few seconds, before Takeru’s phone rings, and any window of opportunity for getting him to talk vanishes. Takeru barely stops moving, and hardly stops talking, for the next five minutes, outright refusing to give Yamato any more opportunities to ask what’s wrong.

As soon as an opportunity presents itself, Takeru practically herds him out the door, says that he’ll see him tomorrow, and retreats back into his apartment.

“I’ll try talking to Patamon about it,” Gabumon reassures him. “And you can keep working on Takeru.”

“Yeah,” Yamato sighs. “Sure.”
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“You took Patamon out of quarantine?” Taichi asks.

They had all gathered at their usual spot, beneath the Chrome-Ariake Bridge -- or almost all of them had, at least. Koushiro had apparently decided not to leave his office or stop working for anything.

Yamato had expected the mission to just be taking stock of the situation, talking about whether Koushiro had made any progress, checking that Meiko was okay, seeing if Maki or Nishijima had talked to any of them. Instead, Takeru immediately announced that he had removed Patamon from quarantine.

Of everyone in the group, Yamato especially hadn’t expected that from Takeru. Mimi, maybe, possibly even Jyou, but Takeru had more reason than any of them to be concerned for Patamon’s safety. He’d already lost him once.

“Koushiro was mad,” Jyou adds.

“Patamon said he hates being without me,” Takeru replies, with just a touch of defensiveness.

A lie. An obvious lie. Their partners had spent centuries without them, and years between their trips without them -- if there was one thing none of them had, it was separation anxiety. Maybe they were bored, and maybe they missed them, but it had been barely a few days.

“They’re in quarantine for a reason,” Yamato says.

“It’s really fine!” Takeru protests, laughing nervously. “Koushiro’s not found any signs of Infection. If anything goes wrong, I’ll take him right back.”

That much, at least, is true. Yamato’s heard Jyou’s tales of Koushiro’s office looking like a bomb went off in a trash heap, with Koushiro at its center, pale and drawn, because he’d spent days on end neither sleeping nor consuming anything other than chocolate and oolong tea to keep himself awake -- and for all of Koushiro’s work, he’d found nothing. Not a single sign of Infection.

“Isn’t it unfair that Takeru’s the only one who gets to do this, though?” Mimi asks. “We all want to see our partners.”

“Well, er -- once Patamon left, they all started complaining that they want to be let out,” Jyou says. “So, Koushiro sent me here to ask for everyone’s opinion.”

‘Everyone,’ Yamato imagines, might be a strong word. He can’t imagine Tailmon, a trained soldier, complaining, nor Tentomon, who has the patience of a saint. Palmon, Agumon, and Biyomon would have certainly started complaining, and Gabumon and Gomamon wouldn’t be far behind.

“I do want to see Biyomon again,” Sora says.

“It’s risky,” Yamato points out. “If they were to become Infected, we’d have to defeat them.”

Takeru’s cheerful facade drops away immediately. “Defeat them? They’re our partners.

His vehemence surprises Yamato, but the moment his words hit, Yamato becomes aware of Meiko next to him. Meiko, whose partner was already Infected, and who had never fought or killed like the rest of them had.

“Sorry,” he mumbles.

“That’s why we shouldn’t take them out of quarantine, Takeru,” Taichi says, gently.

Takeru’s silent for several long moments. Then: “Patamon and the others will be fine. I just want to spend as much time with them as possible.”

His voice is quiet, and the sentence almost sounds like an admission of -- something, Yamato’s not sure what.

Takeru’s expression is cheerful again in a fraction of a second.

Yamato narrows his eyes, but Mimi’s quick to jump in, and before long, the group has enthusiastically decided that since the Digimon aren’t going to tolerate being in quarantine much longer, the only thing they can do is take them out and watch them for symptoms.
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Yamato really had meant to only sleep for two hours or so, but by the time he'd found appropriate sleeping clothes in the form of a t-shirt and a spare pair of boxers, had a glass of water to wash the taste of coffee out of his mouth, and settled down next to Quentin, the exhaustion had hit him like a freight train.

He ends up sleeping for nearly five hours instead, and waking up with his face halfway into the crook of Quentin's neck, far groggier than he thinks he has any right to be.
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