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Thread: Encryption (Digimon - WizGato)

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    Default Encryption (Digimon - WizGato)

    So I don't know if this was in response to Digimon Tri coming out, or if because I wanted to write a Digimon story for a long while and finally came up with an idea. Or maybe it's because there's just a bit of a lack of (new) Wizardmon/Gatomon stories on the web. Whatever the reason, here I am, and I seem a bit excited about it. It's a little weird, honestly, but if an idea really sticks with me and doesn't easily shake off after a while (usually within a week or two), then I go for it. Probably helps I was running off ideas on a couple of people, and they were all "Alright, cool," so yeah. I feel like the story's going to feel a little different from my previous stories, but I guess we'll see if my premonition's correct.

    Also keep in mind that even though Tri has been on my mind for a while now, to the point that this story basically is taking place in the exact same time-frame (2005), and its expected airdate is sometime in April (hopefully), this is not going to be my rendition of Tri whatsoever. Just want to get that out of the way. I have just as many speculations as the next Digimon fan, but they and the season have nothing to do with this story, so moving on.

    The story is posted under my lilpurplebird account.

    Got nothing else to say, sorry. I hope you enjoy, and I'll do my very best to keep the characters in character, as I feel that'll be my biggest challenge in this story.

    Disclaimer: Digimon © Toei Animation

    Rated R foroccasional language, violence, and sexual content

    *~*~*~*

    Encryption

    Digimon have been nothing more than programmed data taken form.
    Yet there were those who managed to defy and transcend it with their strong bonds.

    *~*~*~*


    *~*~*

    If there was ever a concept of Hell in the Digital World, Myotismon's castle was the foundation. Light and hope were snuffed out from its premises, never to be renewed. All kinds of evil were encouraged within the walls to strengthen the dark, leaving very little room for those few who latched onto their light to let it bloom. Many succumbed to the despair, giving themselves to the eternal servitude of the master, in which death was the only release. It was obvious no goodness and sanity could have survived, even if they put up a fight on the way out.

    In the never-ending maze of madness, one small chamber served as a safe haven from the outside world. Designed from the inside to block out the copious evils clawing at the door and the wails of the damned, two Digimon regularly found their temporary peace, a way to recuperate from the day. Anything they wanted out of their systems, they did it there, knowing the other was supportive.

    They were “friends”, so they say. In public, they put up a front in blending in with the rest of them, the concept of “friendship” unknown to them. In person, painful as it could be, they opened themselves up to each other, with varying degrees of success.

    Gatomon growled from the sting, her arm jerking sharply and knocking the bottle out of Wizardmon's hand. “Don't touch me with that stuff!” she hissed, glowering at him past her bleary vision.

    The Wizard Digimon picked it back up, frowning deeply at the crack on the lip. “Please don't break my medicine,” he sighed, setting it aside. “It's getting harder to come by.”

    “Whatever happened to your 'magic healing' powers?” she spat out, her eyes boring into his skull.

    He disparagingly glanced up, resuming his dressing of her wound. “It requires strength and good health from the healer,” he softly explained, scarcely moving his stitched lips. “Given how deep and numerous your wounds are, I am able to make them shallow before passing out.”

    She “tch”ed through her teeth, flexing her claws. “It's better than nothing.”

    Wizardmon pressed his thumbs on the bandage before gesturing for her to turn around. Gatomon did so, still shooting him a scowl and thumping her tail agitatedly along his torso. Clearing his throat in warning, he soaked a rag with medicine to clean the open cuts. The feline let out another brief yowl, her ears flattened against her cranium and fur bristled.

    “Damn him!” she cursed, pounding on the bed. “It's all his damn fault, and he knows it! Bastard's going to pay for it!”

    Shaking his head at her exclamations, the sorcerer peered at the wounds and clicked his tongue. “I'll have to seal that up.”

    The feline stood at attention, glancing over her shoulder. “What're you mumbling back there?”

    Excusing himself for a moment, Wizardmon picked up the only light source in the room and strolled over to his battered cabinet. After a quick skim along the shelves, he pulled out a small tube that he unscrewed between his fingers. “Straighten your back, Gatomon,” he commanded, kneeling back down. “And grab onto something for once.”

    Brows knitting, she reached behind to snatch his arms, jutting her chin out when he grimaced up at her. “You weren't specific,” she coolly retorted.

    Although growing impatient with her, he wasn't in the mood to argue. Shrugging back his shoulders, he guided her paws to them to allow her ballast, then laid a hand on her back, thumb and forefinger parallel to the wound. Gently squeezing out a clear, off-white gel, he began lightly applying it to the lesion, immediately biting back his own groans of pain from her clawing into his shoulders. She began to squirm and arch, forcing him to press his forehead between her shoulder blades to hold her still.

    “AHH! It still burns, Wizardmon!”

    “Suck it up for a minute,” he grunted, struggling to steady his hand as he began slowly pinching the wound closed.

    Gatomon writhed in discomfort, kicking and swearing in between gasps. Her tail swiped at him once before he caught it in his teeth to hold it still, which only made her move more in having two places on her body stinging. Pushing it slightly away allowed him to close his lips over the appendage, a little discomforted at it being caught in the stitches, but quickly overlooked it to refocus on her back.

    “I'm gonna kill him for this!” she snarled out, her arms trembling under her weight. “Batboy should be the one with these wounds, not me!”

    Wizardmon ignored the small snaps of static atop of his head, letting out a hum at the halfway point. By now her screams of agony were limited to angry moans, though she wasn't settling down and her back muscles kept twitching. He eyed the thick bloody rivulet trickling down and staining her fur, feeling his own anger rise up inside.

    He didn't know who to hate the most: Myotismon for his brutal methods in torturing her and savoring every moment of it; DemiDevimon for framing her to save his own skin over something he clearly caused (although he wasn't exempt from the punishment); or himself for eavesdropping, but was unable to step in before the whippings started. As temperamental as Gatomon could be at times, it was rare she ever deserved the punishment lashed out at her, and even then, it was still too inhumane to be justified. He had only been there for a few months, but oh, were those few months long and painful. All the cruelties of the world under one roof, and even more he couldn't have ever imagined, designed to break spirits and dash hopes—he couldn't believe she had endured it for as long as she did.

    The moment the wound was sealed, Wizardmon dropped the medicine and released her tail with a sigh, shivering as it skimmed along his lips. Her claws loosened their grip on him, but she remained rested on him, her voice reduced to soft pants and whimpers. After blindly searching for the bandages, he skillfully wrapped them around her, her figure quivering each time his fingers grazed her front. Once he secured it in the back, he carefully leaned away to catch her and cradle her, scanning his gaze over to find tears pricking at the corners of her eyes.

    Gingerly, Gatomon raised her limp hands to rest on his own, her head lolling over to lean against him. “Thanks, Wiz,” she mumbled, her eyelids fluttering shut. “Sorry for screaming like that, and making you mad.”

    He lightly shook his head. “I could never be mad at you,” he whispered, more noticeably weary than earlier. “I can get irritated, but it's not the same as being angry.”

    A frown creased her brows and lips. “Why do you put up with me?”

    “That's what friends are for. I'll be here for you.”

    Wizardmon drank in her deep eyes when she gazed up at him, adoring how they shone in the dim light. “Even when I'm at my nastiest?”

    “Of course. Sometimes, you just need to release some steam.” He gently gave a single headbutt. “It's not good for your health otherwise.”

    The tiniest of smiles was angelic in nature, and she bumped her nose to his cheek. “I'll make it up to you,” she breathed into his skin, “just give the word.”

    He lightly scratched under her chin, watching her tilt back as a quiet purr vibrated to life in her throat. “I'll let you know.”

    The flickering light of hope in their hearts rekindled, the two unlikeliest of friends remained in his room for the remainder of the night, not yet willing to let each other go like it was their last time.

    *~*~*

    As her sleep had been light, Gatomon's eyes blinked open to stare blankly at the bright sunlight still leaking through. A prickle running down her neck caused her to shiver, her claws snagging into the mattress before she quickly pulled off her gloves to pry them out. Grabbing the headboard, she pulled herself up, then covered her face when a wave of nausea hit her.

    “Another one,” she moaned, thinking back to her dream that still lingered in reach; no, it was a memory. Never before had she been afflicted with snippets of memories, coming one after the other. Because of its sporadic behavior, they were at first waved off as what Kari called “fever dreams”, as she had fallen sick that night she returned for her biweekly stay in the human world—they were suspecting it was a “flu”, whatever it was. But within a few days, it became perfectly clear (or as clear as her dizzy mind would allow) that these so-called “fever dreams” were too real, too nostalgic to be such things.

    Of course, when she had brought it up to her partner, Kari had a hard time believing the dreams and her sudden illness were one and the same. Not that she could blame her, since it seemed more like a coincidence than anything else. She didn't completely blow it off, though, so she had encouraged Gatomon to tell her in person, or at least write down any and all dreams she had that week. As she was currently at her school, the feline had to struggle to climb down the bed and onto the desk below where a notebook was laid open.

    It was hard to grip a pen when she was both sick and had her gloves off, but she didn't want to make that journey back. Her grasp on the human writing system was basic, but she hoped she was able to convey it on paper, and be able to at least get it across normally when read. Kari had helped with the previous dreams when she was here to hear them, something she was a little grateful for.

    Once she dropped the utensil, Gatomon sat back against the boards to close her eyes and breathe. “How bothersome,” she grumbled, rubbing her temples.

    Her breath hitched when there came a quiet rap at the door, and Kari's mother, Yuuko, poked her head in. “Oh, you're up,” she said, then frowned down at the family cat as it pushed its way in. “I'm heading out to the mart, is there anything I can get you?”

    Gatomon had always felt indifferent to the woman despite Kari saying she was considered part of the family. The existence of Digimon had been known to the public for the past couple of years, but it was still obvious the adults weren't used to them. Yuuko would at least smile in her direction to show she had no problems with having her visiting (more-so than with Agumon, anyway), but it was evident from the subtle leaning posture she wasn't quite as open to them.

    Wanting to be polite, she flashed a weak smile and shook her head. “I don't want to trouble you with that, Mrs. Kamiya.”

    A worried look was visible on her face before she sighed. “Well, if you insist, I'll leave out some medicine and water, then. I'll be back in about an hour or two.” She closed the door and several moments later, after listening to her arrange some items beyond the wood, Gatomon heard the front entrance snap shut, leaving her alone with the cat.

    Slowly breathing through her nose, she dropped her gaze to the orange and white feline, engaging in a silent staring contest. Miko seemed to act like she was a rival when it came to the family's attention, mainly Kari's, yet was wise to keep her distance. The Vaccine Digimon figured she was too different from real-world cats to be considered a “threat”, but it was rare for Miko to get within a couple meters.

    “I bet you don't ever have to put up with what I go through,” she muttered, a twinge of jealousy at the thought.

    Miko still continued to stare.

    Scoffing, Gatomon forced herself to climb off the desk, ears twitching when the cat let out a low, warning growl in her throat. Ignoring her, she plodded to the screen door, disappearing behind the curtain to gaze up at the sky. Not a cloud was in sight in the washed-out open space, and the glass when she rested her paw on it was very warm. So she slept in until the afternoon again, although she had a fuzzy recollection of Kari feeling her forehead.

    “Poor Gatomon,” was what she had said. And indeed, she felt sorry for herself.

    Waving her tail above her head, she watched the tail ring gleam with every movement. She had it for as long as she could remember, and yet it looked better off than she on a good day. Licking her paw, she smoothed out the lavender tuft, then peered at her reflection, noticing her drooping whiskers and sunken eyes when she pulled at her bottom eyelid. Her irises were dull, not a highlight to be seen even when tilting her head about. Turning to the side, she outlined her body shape, wondering if she was losing weight. Though as she thought on it more, that couldn't be true, a Digimon's appearance only changes with evolution or other circumstances. Even after being exposed to the real world for as long as she had been, not once had she gained or lost weight.

    Whatever she was stricken with was taking some toll on her, second only to what she went through as Myotismon's henchman.

    Gingerly making her way back, she frowned at Miko for laying in the chair and leapt up to the desk instead. Picking up the notebook, she flipped through the previous couple of pages to scan them, watching the scenes play out in her head clear as day. The more she read, the sicker she felt herself becoming, but couldn't stop.

    Why? she mused to herself. Why have these past dreams been nothing but memories?

    Looking at the calendar, she took notice of the month: September. A month prior was an anniversary they had reminisced on for years, though more for a different reason now than before. Anyone else would say it was coincidence, and she could believe them if it wasn't so distressing.

    No... it can't be because of that...

    Six years had passed, and yet it was now she has been bombarded with memories?

    Gatomon didn't know how to feel as she let the notebook slip from her grasp. How could something make so much sense while still leaving her with unanswered questions? It wasn't possible.

    Forcing herself to stand, she pulled her gloves through the railing and stumbled to the door, opening it with her tail. She thought about taking the medicine when she glanced up at the countertop, but with her insides churning as they were, she didn't want to bother. From behind, she heard Miko let out a quiet meow, in a language she never understood. Just as she touched the doorknob, she looked over her shoulder to watch the cat pause and sit on her haunches.

    “It must be nice to have no worries,” she muttered, half at the animal and half to herself, then slipped outside.

    The artificial noises of the city from the beep of a mobile to the distant honk from a car muddled with her thoughts as she made her way past crowds that rarely gave her a second look. It had to have been a mistake to go out for a walk on all fours in the late-summer heat, her large ears only did so much with her fever. She was a little grateful her being a Digimon meant she had no limits in staying cool like the real-world animals, only it didn't stop the sweat from getting in her eyes. Stopping in shade to constantly lap and rub herself clean never made it any better, and running was not an option in her condition.

    Her mind drifted to how Kari had always said the Odaiba district wasn't as large as it seemed, that they could cover it all by foot non-stop in a day, with less time by train. Aside from her illness slowing her down, Gatomon could believe her if her past experience in running around the district six years ago had been more pleasant. As much as there was a special charm to the island, it was still difficult to enjoy the scenery without having to worry about flashbacks.

    The short trip to the Fuji Television studios was like second nature to the Champion Digimon, she scarcely had to think on where to turn or cross the street. It overlooked the surrounding district, the metallic ball she was the most focused on blinding in the sun. The humans did a fantastic job repairing it, she had to admit. They were a rather unstoppable species, even if they were forgetful.

    Ducking her head, Gatomon slinked inside, keeping a lookout for security and other workers. Though she could get Hiroaki Ishida's blessing, she didn't know where his office was, and didn't want to interrupt his busy schedule for such a trivial matter. There was also that possibility he or someone else would chaperone her to the spherical office, which her inner pride wouldn't allow. Besides, she knew her way up without having to resort to a map.

    It was, in the meantime, easy to forget the television station was large with many floors. What was like a walk in the park quickly turned into running a marathon—despite speed-walking most of the time. It was tiresome to climb, her vertigo causing her to rest every other corridor in between sneaking past or hiding from the employees. Her mind screamed at her to find Ishida and get his help, but she persistently refused, wanting to approach this herself, and as soon as possible. She couldn't tell time at this point, slowly bringing herself to believe she had been there well into the afternoon. Yuuko was probably home by now, perhaps wondering about where she went, if she cared.

    Gatomon noticed her pacing picked up when she turned down a familiar hallway and saw the farthest wall had a slight curve to it. Past it, she knew she'd have to climb a staircase to get to the top office, where she hoped whomever was usually working in there would be out. They may have known the DigiDestineds visited every year, still, it was always on the third of August, not any other day where they didn't have leeway without permission. But far as she knew, they weren't fond of Digimon, if they knew of their existence. A bipedal, talking cat wasn't normal, after all.

    Silently cursing the lack of blinds as the sunlight burned the back of her neck, she reached the door at last, only to be discouraged to find it wouldn't open. “Damn... they're in there,” she murmured, leaning up against the wall. Sighing, she stared out at the windows, her vision slightly wavering. “It figures it wouldn't be that easy...”

    Her fur stood on end as the door instantly opened, shooting out her paws to catch it and hold it in place as two people walked out without a glance, mulling over documents. She slipped in while she caught her breath, sticking to the right wall as she made her way around to the far windows. It luckily wasn't a large room, and had enough objects for quick hiding places if she needed them. Annoyed she had to still put up with glaring, she briefly turned her back in the direction of the sun while keeping the landing within her sight. She noticed wilted flowers in a vase by the desk, immediately recognizing them as the roses Kari had brought.

    Somehow, it rubbed Gatomon the wrong way to see them in such a state. For one thing, they were for Wizardmon. The other shouldn't have been that surprising as it had been a month, but she couldn't understand how it was the roses were so off-color from their vibrant red despite being in water and constant sunlight. Nevertheless, they were Wizardmon's, not the office person's.

    Biting her lip and putting pressure to her temple, the feline leaned up against the glass, falling to her knees. The inside of her ear was heating up, but she had stopped caring about the sun by then and focused on steadying her breathing. Why was she letting such a little thing bother her? She didn't come here to lament over the roses, even though she kind of had expected them to be in the room, preferably untouched.

    But she couldn't blame the office workers. They probably didn't know the significance of the place they worked in. It was possible they took in the roses every year to find some use for them. Far as she knew, they were decent human beings, just oblivious.

    “It hurts,” she breathed out, brows furrowing tight enough for her scrunched eyes to twitch. “Why... why does it hurt? I don't understand...”

    Then a cloud rolled over the sun, and just like that, her aches were going away, and her muscles relaxing. She slowly lifted her head, able to gaze past her curled reflection out at the landing. Even after six years, she could still recall the scene down to the smallest of details, from Myotismon's wicked smirk as he shot his Grisly Wing at her and Kari to a horrified Tai calling for his sister. She remembered how her determination to protect Kari shattered to make room for her devastation at Wizardmon being torn apart before her eyes, and how the weight of his body reverberated through her feet and up into her core. His quiet rasp of a voice telling her he had no regrets for what he did broke her heart, him smiling through his tears only serving to hasten it.

    But what did her in was the realization he thought of her. She was the last he saw before his eyes closed forever, her name carried on his dying breath. He may not have known her all of his life, but he would be damned if it ended without her.

    Be that as it may, it was like he never left. And that hurt her more than watching him die.

    All of her tears for him had been shed over the years, and yet Gatomon felt she still had a few drops left for him. She couldn't physically weep on a whim, however, as she knew it would slow the healing process if she gave in. She came to accept he was gone, came to terms with letting him go.

    So why couldn't he?

    “Wizardmon,” she quietly started with his name, “if you're here... please listen.”

    It was a little odd to wait for a few moments, but within that time, the atmosphere changed. She couldn't put her claw on it if she could, though she could have sworn she felt the sensation someone, or something was intently listening. It was a peculiar notion she couldn't shake off.

    With an intake of breath, she continued, “It's been six years. Kari is entering high school soon, and Tai is about to leave home when he graduates, so I was told. Myotismon is gone, and all's right with the world. I'm a big digi-cat, I can take care of myself now. So please... cross over. I promise I won't forget you and all you've done, but I have—need to live on without you.”

    Gatomon had heard accounts of people feeling better after telling off their demons, anything from believing they could accomplish goals to a mind at peace. It was sometimes quick, other times a long process, but it was doable. She had always wondered what it would be like for her to be liberated from her past, to move forward in long, even strides instead of the gaits she currently had. Closing her eyes, she waited, counting to ten slowly in her head before opening them back up.

    Nothing changed. The only difference was her heart being weighed down, and that wasn't the good feeling she was looking for.

    Flexing her claws, she tried again, her voice tense, “Wizardmon, you can't be here forever. Please leave this world, and never look back.”

    Still nothing. Maybe she needed to see him, and tell him to his face?

    Hesitantly glancing over her shoulder was one of the most disappointing moments of her life, and her self-doubt gleefully chastised her for it. Just what did she expect? There was no reason for him to show himself to her even if he was in the room. One time didn't open any doors for her to see him whenever she wanted.

    Flashing a smirk, she dryly chuckled. “I'm such a fool.”

    It was then the people from before entered the room, startling her from her thoughts. Shit.

    “Hey, where'd that cat come from?!” one exclaimed, pointing at her, papers strewing everywhere.

    Gatomon bounded for the door on all fours, passing them as a blur. She sped down the stairs and out the way she came, no longer caring about being seen. The buzzing of a working environment soon droned with a furor of people shouting out there was a cat, and others stumbling in attempt to not step on her. If she caught the attention of Ishida in all the confusion, she wouldn't have known. Perhaps later if he ever approached her, or Matt brought it up in passing, she could laugh it off.

    Even after clearing the front doors, she kept on running into the crowd, darting between legs before scurrying up the first tree she saw. The people below looked up at her for a moment before continuing on towards their destination, and the bustling city went back to normal. Gatomon clawed nervously at the bark as the adrenaline made its way out of her system, feeling her fur lay down flat. Her eyes steadily refocused in the shade, although she continued to squint, watching a streetlight turn colors and hearing the low melody give its signal. Not wanting to wait for the next time, she hopped down, making a few humans jump back in the process, and jogged to join the crossing, still swerving between feet. Her ear twitched at a growing grumble of the throng and strangely loud pulsing hum of the lights above, but chose to ignore it to turn at a corner.

    The walk on the way home wasn't any different to the point it was irksome just how widespread it was. Somehow, everywhere she turned had someone complaining about their phone or laptop acting up, or a shopkeeper banging on their TV or radio. This wasn't the city noise she was used to, it was suspicious the more she encountered and thought on it. Typically, electronics went on the fritz each time a Digimon evolved, or was gathering energy. Yet she was the only other Digimon in the block, it was obvious she was interfering with everything—for some odd reason.

    Though she could've sworn as she passed by sets of televisions something flickered past the screens. She would've stayed longer to investigate had people not started murmuring and crowding around, making her nervous. Feeling a headache coming on, she kept her head down and picked up speed for the apartments.

    The moment she knew she was alone in front of the door, Gatomon stood up and swiped sweat off her brow, glancing out at the city as she entered the apartment. “That was spooky,” she muttered, resting in the doorway for a moment.

    Miko's hissing as she darted out of the room caught her attention first before she heard static, and she walked in to look at the television, blinking at how the little light and digital clock were flickering. Her ears swiveled to the air conditioner as it sputtered and clicked, then for the microwave as it hummed. As the moment sunk in, she let out a quiet gasp and stumbled into the computer room to look on in awe as the screen sparked to life, and scrambled messages scrolled into view.

    A chill ran up her spine, suddenly sensing a presence in the air. “A Digimon...”

    The muffled beeping of a D-Terminal sounded on the other side of the apartment, and without another thought the feline ran into Kari's room. Standing on tip-toe, she yanked open the top drawer and pulled it out, her brows furrowed in anxiety. “It better be from Tai, T.K., I'll even take Davis,” she muttered darkly, the fur on the back of her neck prickling. “Just be from someone I know.”

    Flipping up the cover, she pressed a couple of buttons, and then her eyes widened.

    Go to the World of Dreams.

    Gatomon nearly dropped it, shaking her head. “Not possible... it's been sealed off. I-I'm sure of it.” She searched for a name of the sender, the pangs of panic in her chest. “No way...”

    She let out a small yelp from another alert, but quickly opened up the new message.

    It's open in the Digital World.

    A lump caught in her throat. “This is a joke... It's not a hop, skip, and jump away, it's another world...” Going through the inbox, she looked for any previous messages Kari may have had that would answer everything. It was so unlike of her to play a prank on her; Tai, maybe, but not Kari. If it was any of the other DigiDestined, it was rather out-of-line.

    Gatomon contemplated on sending notes asking if they had received any strange e-mails, or even if any Digimon came through under their radars. It was as though she were at a loss for words, unsure how to approach it without being too suspicious. She could pass it off as her being delusional from her illness, it just seemed a bit too far-fetched, and no one would really believe it. (And upon reviewing it in her head, her friends not believing in her clearly-false delusions came off as odd.)

    Growling in frustration, she moved to drop the D-Terminal back into the drawer when Kari's D-3 turned on. Upon taking it out, her ear flicked from the unmistakeable beep of the Digi-Port booting up, and she involuntarily swallowed. Fighting against her hesitation, the feline made her way across the front room, devices in hand. The electronics were still acting up, making her grow more uneasy with every passing second. Something was just off about everything.

    Entering the computer room, she eyed the Digi-Port, noticing the coordinates had been set in. She couldn't recall which sector it was, as nothing looked remotely unique or even familiar about the canyon, yet she couldn't help thinking it suspicious the gate had been prepared. The longer she stared, the more apparent there was flickering, a sign that threw her off.

    “That can't be good...” Grasping the D-3 in her paw, she hopped up on the chair as though she was sizing up an opponent. Thrusting it close to the screen, she called out, “Digi-Port, open!”

    The message on the side blinked thrice before it turned green, and light streamed out as she was pulled inside. Flying through the data stream of runes and spheres of light, Gatomon felt her body quickly and painlessly go through a conversion in preparation for the Digital World. The transport was momentary, and any forms of physical weight were non-existent in the drift—except she knew there was another presence with her.

    The end of the line upon her, once she regained her balance, the feline gazed up at the tall canyon cliffs, and it suddenly hit her. She did recognize this place, although it had been years ago, and she had been too preoccupied in her desire to destroy MaloMyotismon to take in her surroundings at the time. Gatomon cast her eyes about in a search: a rift, rippling, discoloration, anything to tip her off to the World of Dreams. Likewise in the real world, it was afternoon where she was, the sun mercifully less bright here.

    Shivering from a downdraft, she moved forward just as a glow from her tail caught her eye. She gaped at her ring tilted in the breeze, watching it rhythmically pulse with white light. Mesmerized, she took another few steps and let out a gasp when it intensified. Glancing about in awe, the small cat decided to quickly backtrack as an experiment, and immediately was fascinated the moment it dimmed.

    “It has to be a coincidence,” she breathed out a chuckle.

    With her tail as her guide, Gatomon advanced on, Kari's devices clutched to her chest. Unsure what to look for, she let her mind wander and reflect on the past few minutes. She didn't know how to make heads or tails of it, and she had been through a number of bizarre events in her life—and she accounted it for both the digital and human worlds. Thinking on how it may have all started, she couldn't decide on her talking to Wizardmon like he was there, or her spontaneously leaving the house in her ill state. For all she knew, she was sleepwalking with an odd out-of-body experience. Or the sun fried her brain cells despite having been inside most of the week.

    It suddenly dawned on her her headache was gone, and yet she still shambled on in a dreamlike state. Perhaps she was cured when she entered the Digital World? If it was that easy all along, she wouldn't have been so miserable. Or what if she had carried around a virus and it manifested itself as thus according to the real world standards? But then where would she have picked it up, and why did it take a while to stricken her?

    And now her headache came back trying to piece it all together. She mentally gave herself a sarcastic pat on the back for such a feat.

    Without warning, the ring flashed a bright light, bringing out a startled cry from her as she shut her eyes and curled in on herself. A vibration on her chest and shrill electronic screech caused her to drop package, peeking out beneath her lashes to see the D-3 was the source, the screen a menacing red. Gatomon waited for any other reaction from the device or her tail ring, cautiously standing and glancing around when none came.

    Then she stepped around the items and the top half of her tail vanished.

    Immediately pulling it back, she waited until she caught her breath to stretch her hand out and raised it up, her claws disappearing before her eyes. Shooting one more look behind her, she scooped up the D-3 and jumped into the abstract world beyond her comprehension. It was exactly how she remembered it, and yet it was still very alien to her. Turning for another glance, she found she had entered through a pixelated hole, perhaps the same one from the battle three years ago.

    Grateful her ears would be spared, Gatomon noticed her ring had dulled back to normal, and she frowned. “Well... I guess I'm okay,” she assured herself, staring down at Kari's device. “Nothing bad's going to happen again, right?”

    Closing her eyes and taking in a breath, she carefully recited her words in her mind, not wanting to make any mistakes. “I don't know what's going on in the slightest,” she slowly started, casting her gaze up at the endless sea of blurring colors and clashing shapes. “I never thought I'd ever come back here... I guess even in my delusions, I couldn't ignore the cryptic messages I got today. It hurts to say it—well, again—but I speak from the heart.”

    Gatomon clutched the D-3 when it vibrated in her hold once more, bracing herself for it to go off again. “My dear friend, Wizardmon, can't linger in the human world any longer. I don't know how the real world's afterlife works, but he needs to cross over so he can find peace. And so can I.”

    No sooner had the words come out of her mouth did a beam of pink light shoot out of the screen. Speechless, she watched with wide eyes as what appeared to be a stream of static data pulled itself out of the device and circled around her. Then she tensed in place with a gasp, suddenly growing weak in the knees as a weight was lifted from her. Immediately she was hit with fatigue, and a wave of nausea swept her up. Vision wavering, she blearily struggled to keep with the data as the two streams winded together to combine and swooped outside of the World of Dreams. Getting to her feet, the feline staggered to the exit, leaning against the edge as she fought to lift her head.

    Some yards away, the pieces of data reconfigured from the feet-up, and upon peering through the fog obscuring her sight, she was able to tell the figure had its back facing her. The wind blowing through the canyon was able to flutter the tattered cloak even before it finished, the underside covered in white rune patterns. It being out of the way revealed a gloved hand clutching a crooked, wooden sun staff hanging on the side. A loose dirty-blonde ponytail came next when a large, purple hat to match obscured the rest of it.

    The whole time she watched, Gatomon was able to soak in the scene, and she felt her eyes lighten up as her jaw dropped. Her grip on the D-3 lessened enough for it to fall over the edge with a clatter, the light fading away. Throat tightening up, she choked down the rising lump enough for her to breathe out the first thing on her mind.

    “...Wizardmon?”
    Last edited by Kutie Pie; 7th April 2015 at 11:13 PM.
    Winner of Best Fic of 2014 in the Shipping Oscars
    Forsaken: Chapter 20 - 11/17/14 / Encryption: Chapter 3 - 4/14/15 / Handle with Care: Chapter 10 - 3/17/14

  2. #2
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    I seem to have a habit of writing more slice-of-life moments than just sticking to anything general. I don't know, guess I just liking writing dialogue, so I can't help myself. As I said before, my challenge for this story are the characters as it appears I'm combining both original and English dub personalities... which is weird. So even if the Digimon are fine, it's the humans I worry about at times. So here's to hoping I did Tai and Kari okay.

    Enjoy!

    *~*~*~*


    *~*~*

    “It can't be...”

    The wind came to a gentle stop, which went unnoticed to Gatomon while she tried to comprehend what she was seeing. Back still facing her, the Digimon looked himself over, stretching out an arm and flexing his fingers, and twirling the staff in a full circle where sparks of blue electricity came to life. Then lowering it, he turned his body towards her, locking gazes. Her heart threatening to squeeze out its life, the feline shakily propped herself over the edge of the two worlds, and held out her arms to aid in her balance. Timidly, she began her approach, refusing to break eye-contact from the familiar sea of green.

    “No... I don't understand...”

    The growing conflicted emotions fought for her utmost attention. With one step she was joyous, the next she became terrified, and then furious. It was a vicious cycle.

    “There's no way,” she continued to whisper, eyes stinging from budding tears. “You're... you're...”

    He, too, made his advances, his long strides almost smooth like he was walking on air. She could sense the newfound, enigmatic energy he was emitting even before she could had a good grasp of her current situation. The more he neared, the faster and harder her heart beat against her breast, and her lungs and voice threatened to give out on her.

    “Proof... I need proof...” Vainly trying to steady her arm, she reached out, only to jerk it back and freeze when he mimicked her movements. “No!” she suddenly shouted, her fear taking hold of her. “You're dead! I-It's just going to go through me!”

    Unaffected by her abruptness, Wizardmon came upon her, and released his staff to take her by the left paw, his green irises twinkling. “I am long overdue on my debt, my dear Gatomon.”

    She could no longer hold back. Gatomon grasped tighter as she threw herself into his chest to cry, still shaking her head. “W-Wizardmon... you big dope!”

    He laid his hand on her head, his gentle laughs rolling through her. “Let it all out, Gatomon. I'm here for you.”

    And she did, starting by pounding her fist on him as she cried harder, sobbing on her words. “Jerk! Y... You jerk!

    *~*~*

    “Kari, how come you're not eating?”

    Almost forcibly, the addressed brunette gave a small smile at the young man before her. “You worry too much, T.K.,” she said, then ate a small piece of sausage.

    Davis then cut in before T.K. could open his mouth again, holding out his paper bag. “I can trade you my lunch, if it'll make you feel better,” he offered, a hopeful grin on his face.

    His young dragon Digimon pouted, leaning over him in a vain attempt to reach it. “Hey, my share's in there!” DemiVeemon whined, stubs for hands flailing.

    Quickly glancing inside, Davis' face blanked out. “You ate over half of my lunch!”

    “Keep it down, our voices carry,” Yolei warned, her glasses gleaming over when she pushed them up her nose. Her Poromon only stared in disregard on her lap, nibbling at his portion.

    “You're too kind, Davis,” Kari told him, her smile unchanged.

    T.K. slightly rolled his eyes, shaking his head in amusement. “You're too nice, Kari,” he interjected as a joke. Patamon agreed with a nod where he perched on his shoulder.

    “Hey, kindness is a virtue!” Davis piped up, puffing out his chest and pounding his fist to it. “I worked real hard to be as kind and caring as I am now.” He then bopped DemiVeemon on the head before he could rummage through the bag.

    A breeze kicked up across the rooftop, and with a hand raised to hold back a lock of hair, Kari Kamiya turned her head. She focused her umber gaze past the fence and over the school grounds toward the edge of the city, squinting from the gleam of the spherical Fuji TV office. Her cheerful mask relaxed on her face as she became lost to her thoughts.

    Her friends immediately took notice, giving each other wary glances. It hadn't been the first time she was looking out to where the apartments were. “Are you sure you're okay?” T.K. quietly inquired, combing back his bangs.

    Dropping her eyes, still in a far-away look, she sighed. “I'm just a little worried, is all.”

    “Hey, cheer up,” the bespectacled girl encouraged, beaming. “I'm sure whatever Gatomon has will pass through her system soon.”

    “It's not just that she's sick.”

    “She can take care of herself,” the blonde boy stated, handing his Digimon another sandwich. “It's not like she'll get up and wander.”

    A shadow fell across her face. “Well...”

    The group slowly leaned in with bated breath. “She leaves the apartment?” Patamon spoke, his ears drooping.

    Kari nodded once. “Since Dad's on a business trip, and Mom doesn't check up on her regularly, we don't know when she does it. But it's obvious because she tracks in dirt and complains about the heat.”

    “Does she ever say where she goes?” Yolei questioned, arms tightening around a now-flailing Poromon.

    “Not really. Seems to be a different place each and every time, though.”

    “What kind of sickness causes people to get up and wander?” Davis noted, visibly puzzled. “What if it's just a regular cold, but it affects Digimon differently?”

    “Good question.” T.K. sat back to fold his arms. “Our colds and viruses do differ from that of the DigiWorld.”

    “She's been having fever dreams,” Kari added in a mutter.

    The lavender-locked girl scrunched her nose. “Ew, that can't be good.”

    “She's insisted otherwise, but I think those dreams in particular have been...,” the brunette paused for a moment to find a word, “...off.”

    Davis mimicked his best friend and rival's posture. “Well, duh, that's the point of fever dreams,” he spouted out. “They're bothersome, they make no sense, and when you wake up, you're just in a daze for a while. And hungry.”

    “Your experience is different, Davis,” Yolei said in a flat tone.

    Shaking her head, Kari gripped her bento lunch. “That's not it...”

    Much to the auburn-haired boy's disapproval, T.K. leaned in to pat the girl on the hand. “Don't worry about it right now, Kari,” he assured her, giving a nod and smile. “I'm sure Gatomon will get better soon.”

    In response, Kari mirrored his expression and looked at her friends. “Sure... let's hope.”

    “Hey, can I pat your hand, too, Kari?” Davis asked in a near plea. Though everyone else rolled their eyes and groaned, they were also unsurprised when she allowed him to as well.

    *~*~*

    “Sorry for calling you names, Wiz.”

    “It's fine. Although you've got quite a vocabulary.”

    Neither of them had kept track of time, their thoughts too preoccupied ever since the reunion. Sitting side-by-side on top of the canyon, the two Digimon were content in gazing up at the sky, although they would lock eyes when addressing one-another. Even after her cry and all of the hugs her strength would allow, Gatomon was still finding it hard to believe she was in the presence of her best friend again, talking and just playing catch-up. She made the effort to hide it from him, but she was very anxious the encounter was all a dream, and she was passed out at home, or even in the Digital World. He may have been as physical as can be, yet what was raising a flag in her mind was just how little he had changed.

    Not that she had expected Wizardmon to change in death, although it made her wonder if that was because she had grown. There were six years worth of memories she had made without him, and she didn't feel her attempts to close that gap were working. He may have been interested in her life up to that point, even so, she didn't feel that was the “catching up” she had in mind.

    Unsure where else to go from there, the cat made an awkward change of topic she was still confused about. “You... didn't wish to be here, did you?”

    He shook his head, not the least surprised or fazed by her question. “I agreed with you at the station.” His response still made her heart leap into her throat despite it being very much like him to say. “You see, the concept of time is meaningless when you're dead, it just passes you by if you so much as reflect on it. However, it felt like an eternity to the point of madness that I no longer wanted to be there. It was like a godsend when you came by and told me to go, as that was one of my worries holding me back. And yet...” His voice cutting off, Wizardmon sighed and shrugged.

    “You couldn't cross over,” Gatomon quietly finished for him.

    “It was as if I was rejected over and over again.”

    She frowned, watching his crestfallen expression as he skimmed a finger along the staff. Because of his cowl, it was subtle, albeit she knew him well-enough to catch it. “Could it be it's because you're not of the human world?”

    He lifted his eyes in thought. “Perhaps.”

    A suspicious question shortly nipped at her the moment her paw bumped into Kari's D-Terminal, and she couldn't help leaning in. “Hey, how'd you know about the World of Dreams?”

    He then teasingly averted his gaze, a thumb to his chin. It was a gesture she was both displeased and relieved to see.

    “Wizardmon, if you don't know, just say you don't know,” she said in as deadpanned a tone as she could muster.

    “I don't know.”

    His blunt reply nearly made her laugh. “Don't lie, you know something!”

    “I read your mind.”

    “How can you read minds as a ghost?” she immediately shot it down.

    “I picked it up from your conversations.” He was quick as always. She had always been told he could read her like a book despite her constantly waving it off. Whatever the reason may be, even if it was one trait of being a magician, it was like he knew the right words to say.

    His statement did bring her to pause and think on it otherwise. “Did we talk about it out loud over the years?” she curiously wondered.

    With a smile in his eyes, Wizardmon added, “Or did I learn of it through a possessed Oikawa?”

    She had almost forgotten about the man, yet it only brought out more questions. As much as she was having fun bouncing off of him, Gatomon was starting to feel a headache coming on. “You could've just said 'I'm magic', and I would've left it alone.”

    “No, you wouldn't.”

    She could only groan, briefly massaging her temple. “So how'd you get here, anyway?” she purposefully changed topics, ending their game.

    After having his fill in teasing her, the mage shifted to rest an arm on his knee. “Digivices are nifty gadgets. They can store data, did you know that?”

    Gatomon's ears flicked. “Oh, really? I knew the D-Terminal can store digi-eggs, but... wait...” The feline put a paw to her mouth in thought, quickly thinking back to the television station. “I didn't have either of Kari's D-3 or D-Terminal on me,” she muttered, giving him a suspicious glance.

    Wizardmon sheepishly looked away, rubbing at his neck. “Please don't take this the wrong way, Gatomon,” he began apologizing, “but I ended up... sharing space with you for a bit.”

    An abrupt, uncomfortable silence fell upon them. Gatomon started to wonder if she would've thought about something else had he now brought attention to his awkward wording, though the implications were making her squirm. Thinking back on any of the possible opportunities while at Fuji TV, she steadily came to the realization her walk back home wasn't as coincidental as she had thought. It didn't make her feel any less uneasy at the idea her best friend had pseudo-possessed her, however.

    “...you were inside me?” she whispered out, fighting back a shiver when she said it.

    He was modest in locking eyes with her. “I was a ghost, even if you couldn't see me. As it turns out, if both parties will it, a ghost can inhabit a body.”

    His hurried explanation still didn't calm the flush Gatomon could feel rise to her face. She contemplated using her ears to hide behind, if they were large enough to do so.

    “Are you alright, by the way?” he asked in worry, his voice slightly cracking.

    Her eyes darted back-and-forth nervously. “Wh-What makes you say that?”

    “When you came by earlier, you looked pale, and now your face is red.” He leaned in some, a movement that made her jump a little. “How long have you been ill?”

    She then remembered her sickness. “Since the start of this week—it came out of nowhere, too. It's been awful, I'm dizzy all the time, I have a fever that won't go down, and...”

    Gatomon paused the moment a familiar scene flashed in her mind, beginning to drift into a daze the more she lingered on it. She could feel her blood run cold, getting closer to remembering how it felt then to be held protectively in his arms, trying to forget all of that day. In the present, he was close enough that she could return to that moment of bliss, yet remained hesitant, not wanting to ruin the mood for such an intimate gesture.

    He just returned, she could sense her mind chastise. Making such a selfish request was inappropriate, and she knew it.

    “...and I've been having dreams,” she reluctantly finished, a flutter in her stomach.

    If Wizardmon had caught on, he didn't express it. “What kind of dreams?”

    “Memories.” She cautiously glanced up at him, watching his irises soften. “They were too real to be fever dreams like Kari said.”

    The longer he stared, the more Gatomon shivered and repeatedly avoided his gaze. “Have you dreamed of the past prior to this?” he queried.

    Six years was too long of a memory archive to go through and see if she had. She wouldn't have doubted it otherwise, even if she continually had dreamed of the past every day. “From what I can remember, I have, but it wasn't like this. When it came to this week, it was almost like with every dream I had, the worse I got.”

    Wizardmon slowly nodded, rubbing his chin through his cowl. “Fascinating...”

    Her look hardened; why did he have to find her so intriguing today? “You wouldn't happen to know anything about it?” she threw out a guess.

    “I do not.”

    It figured. He may be smart, but it wasn't like he knew everything. “It's still weird either way you look at it.”

    He shrugged as he used his staff to stand up and dusted himself off. “Well, since you're not feeling well, no use in us staying.”

    Agreeing, Gatomon grabbed Kari's devices and got to her feet. “Say, I didn't see any old electronics lying around when I got here.”

    “What do you need one for?”

    “That's usually how we go back and forth. I just have to point the D-3 at it, and it'll take us home.”

    Looking around, Wizardmon just scratched his head and Gatomon raised her brows. “How did you get here, then?” he asked.

    “Uh... I just came here.”

    “You just need one, right?” With a snap of his fingers, the wizard produced in a puff of light a small, old model television set.

    Smiling, the feline gestured for him to put it down, and she held the D-3 to the screen. “Gotta get in range, Wizardmon, or it'll miss you.”

    He crouched beside her just as static came to life. Turning the dial a few times until the computer room appeared, she pushed a button on the digivice and a glow surrounded them. They were pulled in together, and like during her arrival, Gatomon felt her body begin to turn more physical. It was a sensation she was used to, though she couldn't help wondering what Wizardmon thought of it as he studied his surroundings.

    The first sound that reached her ears when they landed was Miko's yowl, and the cat ran out of the room. Her scowl was brief until she looked up at her friend, who was scanning the room in intrigue. “Welcome home, Wiz,” she greeted him, spreading out her arms.

    A puzzled look was in his eyes. “It's not much, but at least these living quarters are bigger than back in Myotismon's castle.”

    She had spoken too soon. “It's just the computer room. C'mere.” Waving her paw, she led him out into the front room where she could just see Miko's tail twitching behind the couch. “Kari and Tai live here with their parents. Their rooms are over there.”

    Wizardmon appeared more pleased. “Much better, but I had expected it to be bigger.”

    “I'm not gonna bother,” she grumbled, crossing the apartment for Kari's room. She took one last look at the digivice and D-Terminal to make sure they were turned off before returning them to the desk.

    “Oh, is this the Kamiya pet?”

    “Uh oh...” Gatomon quickly back-tracked to where the mage was standing, staring at an arched Miko. “Um, Wizardmon, just come sit over here for now. Miko's not used to sudden company. And, er... she's been acting up since I left.”

    He complied, still casting his eyes about the place. “Do all humans live in these buildings, I wonder?”

    “Uh, I think in this district they do.” When he took his hat off at the table, she offered, “You hungry?”

    As if on cue, a loud growl came from his direction. They stared at each other in near-surprise before he eased up with a chuckle. “Now that you mention it, I actually am.”

    Smiling as well, she went to the refrigerator. “I think there's still some leftovers from last night that I can heat up if you like.”

    “It honestly doesn't matter,” he replied, still beaming as he laid his staff against the counter. “Anything sounds good at this point.”

    Shrugging in agreement, Gatomon noticed upon opening it there were a few items added she didn't recall seeing from last night. Then she remembered Yuuko from however-long-ago, and her countenance began to fall at the thought. She couldn't have been at Fuji TV for that long, so the woman had to have returned when she was in the Digital World. It made her wonder if she had looked in Kari's room to check up on her, or if she just left on another errand without a thought. Glancing over at the countertop to find the water and medicine were still there, it only further pricked at her mind.

    “I knew it,” she grumbled. “She doesn't care...”

    “Is something wrong, Gatomon?”

    Shaking her head, she pulled out plastic-wrapped sandwiches, briefly remembering they were Kari and Tai's lunches before shrugging it off. Joining the sage at the table, she unwrapped the food and split it between them only to sit back to watch. Wizardmon gawked at the sandwiches for an uncomfortable long period, a subtle crease in his brow as he loosened his cowl for it to hang around his neck, revealing his stitched frown. When he reached for a sandwich, his hand was noticeably shaking.

    “What's the matter, Wizardmon?” Gatomon asked, suddenly worried.

    He glanced up at her, shoulders tense. “It's nothing.” He hesitated for another moment. “I suppose I just have forgotten what it's like to have food.”

    Her ears lowered, staring at her share. “I can't imagine how that must feel...”

    Lifting her gaze up, she found his small smile emitted warmth, like it was magic. “It'll be okay, Gatomon,” he quietly assured her. “Give me a few days, and I'll bounce right back.”

    His positive response brought her out of doubt. “You always were resilient,” she recalled, lips curled in a teasing smirk.

    They snickered in unison, and Wizardmon was able to bite on his first morsel in years. In her own encouraging way, Gatomon started to eat as well, fighting back more tears of joy when his face lightened up. “Ah... what do you know? Human food is no different from that in the Digital World.”

    Remembering the drinks, she excused herself to get them. “Except it's leagues ahead of what we had at Myotismon's castle,” she corrected after swallowing, shaking a claw at him.

    He ducked his head to laugh. “I'm eating, Gatomon, don't remind me,” he chastised between breaths.

    Before long, it was as though Wizardmon had always been there as they joked and resumed their walk down memory lane. Gatomon took quick notice of his improved complexion, but chose not to bring it up, wanting to soak it in the more they talked. Freedom during their time in the Digital World was rare, so they never had a light-hearted, free conversation much like in their present state. Her friend had always acted self-conscious about his emotions even in private, so never had she dreamed he had such a personality behind his cloak. It could be because they were alone in the house, or the dread of Myotismon's influence was far behind them.

    Whatever was the reason, she came to like this sudden change, finding it a breath of fresh air from earlier. Wizardmon was still Wizardmon, of course, but now more out-going, and even charismatic with his words. The way his voice rose and fell on just the right notes captivated her enough she found herself not speaking as much. And she didn't mind at all.

    Then she blinked and realized they were just staring at each other, Wizardmon perched on his arm like she. His smile broadened the moment she became flustered. “What was on your mind there, Gatomon?” he inquired, a hint of a tease in his tone.

    “Er... stuff,” she could only mumble out, nervously averting her eyes.

    He hummed in interest. “You looked like you were into it. Mind giving me a hint?”

    Just when she opened her mouth to express her refusal in telling him, her ears perked up from the front door creaking open. “I'm home!” called in the voice of Tai Kamiya, bringing her eyes to widen and look at the clock.

    Swerving nervously off the chair, Gatomon hopped onto the countertop closest to the entrance as Wizardmon hastened on his collar and knocked over his hat in the process. Just as he ducked to grab it, the young man strolled around the corner, bag swung over his shoulder. “Welcome home, Tai!” she greeted, trying to calm her trembling. “You're early!”

    “Hey, you're looking better!” he noted with a grin, setting down package before ruffling her fur. She gave a small pout and gentle swipe, watching him walk around into the small kitchen. “You doing okay?”

    “Yeah, just slept all day.” She did a double-take over her shoulder when her friend sat back up, dusting off his hat.

    “Good, good.” Tai searched inside the cupboards to pull out a snack, then brought a finger to his lips turning with a wink. “Don't tell Mom I skimped out on lunch again. Hey, Wizardmon.”

    The two Champion Digimon were speechless as the former leader opened the fridge to pop open the milk carton to drink out of. He swallowed down two gulps before he choked on his drink with wide eyes, whipping his head around. His face blanched the moment he met the sorcerer's gaze.

    “W-Wizardmon?!” he sharply gasped, hands trembling when he set the carton down by the sink.

    Wizardmon gave a nod. “Welcome back, Tai Kamiya.” Gatomon only nervously laughed, tapping her claws together.

    Tai pointed back and forth between the two, even briefly at the dishes still on the table, before snagging at his wild hair. “Oh, the heat's getting to me,” he groaned out, quickly downing another gulp, neglecting his milk mustache. “I'm seeing things already.”

    “Um... maybe you need to lie down,” she suggested, standing up to gesture to the couch. “It's been a long day.”

    He shot a bemused glance her way, then walked over. “Gatomon, can we talk?”

    Her ears lowering, she looked to Wizardmon for guidance, although he only shrugged, just at much of a loss as she. Lips a thin line, she nodded and jumped down, walking into the nearest room with Tai. He nearly swung the door shut when he crouched to her level.

    “What's the deal here, Gatomon?” he inquired in a demanding tone. “What's going on?”

    “I... um... I'm just as confused as you are, Tai,” she carefully started out, rubbing under her nose to signal Tai to clean himself, which he caught onto. “I went to the World of Dreams, and—”

    He nearly fell back. “Huh?! I thought that was closed off after the fight with MaloMyotismon!”

    “No, it's still open. You just... kinda have to know where to step in.”

    While Tai had a brain under all of that hair, it was clear he was trying to make sense of it. “What did you do?” his voice lowered, almost to an accusatory level.

    Taking a breath, she looked him square in the eyes. “I... accidentally took his data there in the hopes I could get him to pass on. His ghost didn't belong here, and I wanted him to have peace. That was all I wanted, I didn't expect him to come back like he did. I mean... yeah, maybe he would've reconfigured at some point, and he'd be at Primary Village instead. But it's like he just bypassed the egg and other stages. And I don't know why.”

    It didn't look like Tai was buying it. “How do I know you didn't befriend another Wizardmon in the DigiWorld and invited him here?”

    She couldn't blame him for not believing her, but it was almost insulting he thought she was being a trickster. “He said your name.”

    “You could've told him that.”

    “It's not like you and I are that close, Tai. I'd have gushed on more about Kari than about you.”

    He lifted a finger to counter it, but then dropped his hand. “Touché. But that doesn't prove this is the same Wizardmon who died years ago.”

    Gatomon's insides grew cold when he said that word. “W-Well then, I won't prove it to you. I'll let Wizardmon do the talking.”

    Curtly nodding, Tai stood up and exited the room first. She hurried after him to jump into the nearest chair while he slipped into another, staring across at Wizardmon. He sat up straighter as though to make himself look more imposing. “Alright, Gatomon and I have had a long talk.”

    “I could tell.”

    “Being a smart-aleck, eh? Alright then, try this out for size.” He swept an arm over the table to clear space, and leaned over it with lowered brows. “Guess my age.”

    The feline felt the want to smack him that very moment.

    It was hard to tell if Wizardmon had caught on, even though he was strangely at attention. “You are three years older than Kari, although I never caught her age.”

    Tai narrowed his eyes. “How'd you know about my sister?”

    “Good grief,” Gatomon grumbled to herself behind her glove, vainly trying to keep from being upset.

    “I was the one who delivered Gatomon, and the tag and crest to her.” His fluid response was followed by an all-knowing gleam in his eye, a look Tai didn't seem to notice.

    “How did a normal Digimon like you learn about the crests?” the young man demanded, pointing a finger at him. “Where were you on the morn of the first of August, 1999, when seven children entered the Digital World?”

    “What kind of question is that?” she hissed through her claws, near-incredulous.

    “I do not know what this 'August' is,” Wizardmon answered, expression unchanged.

    Gatomon jumped when Tai smacked the tabletop with his palm. “Ah ha! Only a true Digimon would say that!”

    Her fur still on end, she shot daggers in his direction. “What the hell was the point of all this?!”

    Smirking, the boy cheekily winked. “All I know is he's a Wizardmon, but not the Wizardmon.”

    She came close to dropping face-first on the table in her frustration. “This is going nowhere. Why can't you be serious about this, Tai? Why don't you believe me?”

    “Ah, I don't blame Tai for not believing I am the same one from 1999,” Wizardmon relented, waving a hand. “I only did entrust to him Kari's digivice, but never talked to him after that. He was distrusting then, too, and I understand completely. He didn't know then his sister was the eighth child Myotismon had searched for, but he still came to her protection like a good older brother should.” He met Tai's intrigued gaze. “You were a brash, but still level-headed young man with the fate of two worlds on your shoulders. Even with the evil vanquished, you still can't trust everyone who enters your life, and my sacrifice still wouldn't have made a difference in that regard. But to see you in the group of DigiDestined who came to remember me was an honor.”

    The two were in reverent awe, faces softening as his words sank in. Tai leaned back with folded arms and in thought, while Gatomon, still in amazement, couldn't help but smile.

    The mage then gestured with a nod. “I see you gave up those goggles. But you still need a haircut.”

    Suddenly, the DigiDestined let out a laugh and threw his hands behind his head. “I'm convinced. You had me worried there for a moment, Gatomon.”

    “Oh, so now you believe me?!” she snapped, eyes sharpened and fangs bared.

    Wizardmon shook his head in amusement. “You haven't changed a bit, Tai Kamiya.”

    Grinning mischievously, Tai clasped his hands and sat forward. “So, the World of Dreams brought you back, eh?”

    “So it seems.”

    Gatomon sunk down in the chair, massaging her temples. “U-U-Ugh, my head hurts...”

    She gasped when the door opened, and Kari called in, “I'm home!”

    “Oh, she's back already? Hey, Kari, you won't believe this!” Tai immediately greeted, throwing his head back for a look, a big grin on his face.

    Oh no, I forgot! “No-no-no-Kari-wait!” the white cat squeaked out, hurriedly running over after purposefully smacking him with her tail.

    The girl blinked, frozen in the middle of pulling her shoes off. “Are you okay, Gatomon?” she inquired. “Shouldn't you be resting?”

    Waving her paws around, she nervously chuckled. “U-Um... is it okay if we talk outside very quick?”

    Kari frowned, putting her hands on her hips. “What did you do?” she jumped to an accusation.

    Like brother, like sister, Gatomon found herself comparing. Taking in a quick deep breath, she met her confused, but disappointed stare. “Erm... can you promise not to freak out, or faint, or whatnot?”

    “Why?”

    Beyond the counter came the scrape of a chair, and the Digimon tensed up, finding herself not ready for what was coming. Keeping her gaze on her partner the moment his presence came up, she watched the girl drop everything, from her bag to her jaw, as her eyes widened in shock. Tears welled up, her hands covered her mouth, her head shook in near-disbelief— it was exactly as Gatomon predicted. When she stepped forward, it was clunky, and she had to ballast herself on the wall.

    “Y-You... it's you?”

    The feline averted her gaze in shame once Wizardmon laid a hand on her shoulder. “You're looking well, Kari Kamiya.”

    A sob ripped out of her throat, and she stumbled in to throw her arms around him, even giving her Digimon a surprise squeeze. “Oh my God, it is!” she cried out, then smiled down at her partner. “Gatomon...! I'm so happy for you!”

    Her self-doubts melted away when she returned the hug, struggling to hold back tears.

    *~*~*

    Until Yuuko came home, the reunion mainly consisted of Wizardmon asking the children about what had happened three years prior, starting from his appearing to give his warning. Gatomon couldn't figure out how he was able to be so invested in their story (which was somewhat cluttered), though she convinced herself it was because they were the DigiDestined. He had for a long time been interested in them and their adventures, captivated at the thought of human children being responsible for the wellbeing of two worlds and yet were still able to live normal, happy lives. While disheartened the tags and crests were no longer tangible, he was allowed to analyze their digivices, a feat she figured would last all night if he was given the chance.

    “Has the concept of the digivice been around even before we came to the DigiWorld?” Kari asked after dinner, staring at her device when it was returned to her.

    Wizardmon's visit hadn't yet been revealed to Mrs. Kamiya for a number of factors, mainly him being a Digimon and an unprepared visitor. He at least was understanding and seemed fairly content to have time to himself for study, although Gatomon was against the idea. Tai and Kari, in the meantime, found it an opportunity to learn more about their devices.

    “In correspondence with the legend of the DigiDestined, yes.” He gently smiled down at his friend as she looked through his notes, visibly puzzled. “Though I don't recall anything of digivices changing design, I must say, it's an interesting parallel to digivolution.”

    “Mine and T.K.'s changed when we found our digi-eggs.”

    “The one in the D-Terminal?”

    Kari nodded. “It was for Armor Digivolution. We hadn't thought much of it then, but perhaps they changed to better accommodate the new evolution.”

    “Fascinating.”

    Gatomon didn't think it was, but she kept her mouth shut as she handed the notes to Tai.

    “Can all Digimon be affected by the digivice?”

    “In theory, yes,” Wizardmon said. “If it's a source of unlimited energy, it may have long-lasting effects to those with no partners. It may even allow for digivolution in a shorter amount of time.”

    “So wait, it's technically not needed, then?” Tai spoke up, looking at Gatomon when he did. “If Gatomon could naturally digivolve to her current stage without the need of a digivice, then so can Agumon?”

    She slightly pouted, not wanting to be in the spotlight. “I think we can agree my case was an exception.”

    “It's true regardless,” the mage responded, raising a brow. “Unless Agumon is exposed to a similar environment, his will take longer due to the amount of energy it takes to maintain a stage. It's why higher-leveled Digimon are harder to come by.”

    “Well, looks like we discovered why Agumon eats so much,” the young man joked, which earned him a roll of the eyes from his sister.

    A quiet rap at the door alerted Wizardmon to step behind it (even though Gatomon had pointed at the curtains), and Yuuko poked her head in. “You sure are talkative tonight,” she observed, casting her eyes about. “The bath's ready for you, Kari.”

    “Thanks, Mom. I'll just be a minute.”

    “And Tai, why aren't you studying? Don't you have mock exams coming up?”

    He ran a hand through his hair as he stood up to exit the room. “I already had them,” he said, face serious.

    “You look confident for someone who's always at soccer club,” Yuuko stated banteringly. Smiling at her daughter, she shot another glance around the room before closing the door.

    Sighing, Kari got up and headed for the balcony door. “It's clear out tonight. Want to stargaze later, Gatomon? Wizardmon?”

    The two Digimon took a look outside, though only Gatomon nodded at her. “I'd like to.”

    The girl moved to leave, but then knelt down to feel her forehead and ears. “Hmm... I think you should still take some medicine before bed,” she quietly suggested.

    Feeling her cheeks, the feline frowned. “Still that bad, huh?”

    “Not really.” With a nod for them to go ahead, she watched them step out, noticing Gatomon had a light skip to her before she hopped onto the wall. Shrugging it off, Kari set her D-3 on her desk, then eyed her D-Terminal, finding it was still on. “I got a message?” she mused, flipping the cover.

    Looking at her inbox, she did a double-take. While Davis' newest message was unopened, there were two blanks beneath his name. Brows knitting in suspicion, she clicked on them, and went back-and-forth in confusion.

    “Is this digicode?”

    With the moon positioned somewhere behind the apartment building, and the city lights in a soft glow, the cluster of stars winked down with little disruption. There was little wind, the voices of crickets carried over in its place for warmth. Gatomon swayed her tail in time to the tune, a tranquil resonance emitting from her tail ring.

    “I've never noticed how similar, yet so different the night sky is to ours.”

    She flicked an ear turning to gaze up at her friend. He was glued to the sky, carefully searching in what she recognized as a method of memorizing. Quietly resounding in her throat, she turned her attention to the cityscape. “Yeah, takes a while,” she breathed out, a smile twitching on her lips. “It's much better back in the DigiWorld, if you ask me.”

    “Do the humans have constellations?”

    “They do, but I only know of the Little and Big Dippers.”

    Wizardmon chuckled. “Interesting names.”

    She cracked a smirk as well, then cast her eyes to the stars for a scan. “Let's see... they're over there.” She pointed a claw between the two constellations, looking over. “Do you see them?”

    “What do they look like?”

    “Ladles.”

    He laughed some more. “Of course.”

    “One of them has what they call the North Star,” she stated, “but I can't remember which one.”

    “Let me guess: it's exactly north?”

    Gatomon shook in mirth, then sighed. “They say it'll lead you home if you ever get lost.”

    She shrunk back a little when Wizardmon leaned in, his cheek nearly touching hers. “Sounds like a reliable star,” he whispered, his eyes twinkling in enrapture.

    Wrinkling her nose and tilting her head opposite of his, she returned her gaze to the constellations. “I wish I had one when I first hatched...”

    She felt a gasp die in her throat the moment he rubbed her ear, shivering at his touch. “Of course you did, Gatomon,” he said, voice still quiet. “You just couldn't find her, because you didn't know where to look.”

    Her eyes scrunched shut, Gatomon rapidly shook her head to throw him off, her fur puffing up around her neck. Clearing her throat and smoothing down her ear, she muttered, “I guess.”

    She could sense his smile when he pulled away. “I'm glad the stars in your life have become bright. Even if one dims, others are there in its place.”

    A sudden jolt in her heart brought Gatomon to swerve for him just as he jumped to levitate. “Ah—hold on!”

    He turned to her, brows raised. “Yes?”

    Out of anxiety, she dropped her eyes and ears. “Um... I-I... I don't know how to say this,” she mumbled, trying to quickly think of how to piece words together.

    Wizardmon floated down to her level, but kept his distance. “No need to force yourself,” he said, his tone gentle. “If you need to think on it, I'm not going anywhere.”

    The feline fought down a shudder when she met his gaze. “No, erm...”

    Even with the mechanical drone of the city, it was as though silence fell upon them. The light of the apartments should have been distracting, yet they shone just right on his face, bringing out a more physical appearance to his already-mystical presence. It was still troublesome for her to comprehend what had happened that afternoon, at how a single moment led to the two presently chatting on a balcony and not seem out of place. It wasn't like anything grandiose had happened that brought them together that day when all they did was talk. There was no fighting evil, no searching, no misconceptions of any kind. It was just as if he had always been there.

    If anything, because of how smoothly things came and went, it was more like a dream. And like all dreams, it had to come to an end, although she hoped for there to be closure this time.

    “Wizardmon... I never got to tell you, but... erm...” Gatomon glanced away for a moment, still hesitant. “Six years ago... I want to thank you for all you did. You made it possible for... um, well, who knows if I would've learned Kari was my partner on my own. Who knows if she and everyone else would've lived long enough for that to happen, or...” Shaking her head to toss such “what-if” thoughts away, she lifted her eyes for an attentive stare as though it to be the last time she could see him. “You didn't have to. You were under no obligation to fight my battles, yet there you were. Because of you, I remembered my purpose and found courage to stand up to Myotismon. I got to break free, and live... I'm living a future I never knew I could have.”

    In a daring move, the feline Digimon reached out for him, not bothering to steady her trembling. When he returned the gesture, his fingers rested between the claws and gently squeezed. The pressure of his hand through their gloves was a sensation she couldn't recall ever feeling, yet missed dearly. It was oddly comforting.

    Rocking it to-and-fro, she gave a small smile. “So... thank you, Wizardmon.”

    A twinkle in his eye, Wizardmon repositioned his hand just as he bowed in. It was only for a moment, and though he was shielded behind his hat and the cowl was still in place, Gatomon felt the contours of his lips lay on the back of her paw before it was released. She touched the spot when he straightened up, and began to slowly ascend.

    “Tell Kari not to wait for me,” he said, a smile in his voice.

    “Where are you off to?”

    “Out for a night on the town.” Wizardmon winked. “I've been stuck in the same place for six years. I need some fresh air, and tonight's perfect for such an occasion.”

    Gatomon gaped up at him before her lips pursed and brows furrowed. “You're gonna get caught. People aren't used to Digimon yet.”

    He then gestured to himself, turning every which way and even shaking his staff. “Have you forgotten I'm a master of disguise?”

    “I haven't forgotten you're full of it.”

    Shaking his head as he laughed, the magician flew off north where the bipedal feline watched him vanish into the night, though not before throwing his cloak around himself. Sighing through her nose, Gatomon returned to staring at the stars, steadily losing herself in a daze.
    Last edited by Kutie Pie; 8th April 2015 at 3:27 AM.
    Winner of Best Fic of 2014 in the Shipping Oscars
    Forsaken: Chapter 20 - 11/17/14 / Encryption: Chapter 3 - 4/14/15 / Handle with Care: Chapter 10 - 3/17/14

  3. #3
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    I feel I got a little too carried away in this chapter, but the ideas just kept coming, and I was liking them and wanted to put them in as early as possible with the other ideas I already had planned. So sorry for the split post. But my biggest worry, as I've said before, are the characters, mainly the DigiDestined.

    Enjoy!

    *~*~*~*


    *~*~*

    Walking through the dark corridors, Gatomon kept her sharp eyes fixated before her as she passed Digimon, many of whom shrunk back to give her room. Having never made it an option to memorize every new recruit or veteran servant, her reputation in the castle made it easier for her to tell from a glance those who were afraid of her, and those who would return her sneer. Respect was hard to come by to begin with, although she had not once cared about others' opinions just as long as Myotismon was pleased.

    “Hey, who's the beauty?”

    “Don't look at her if you want to live.”

    Sniffing, she ignored the huddled Gazimon and Vegiemon (whoever spoke first must have been new), and hopped down the stairs. The mess hall was still filling up with henchman consisting of those either sneaked away or got off from duty for supper, and the smell accompanying them was unappealing, but far from ill-inducing. At the entranceway, Gatomon cast her stare about, studying whatever slop it was for that night. It wasn't looking any different from last night's, she noted.

    Strolling through the tables, knowing she was turning heads, she crossed an aisle for one near a wall. Leaning on an elbow, she ignored the glares its occupants were giving her. “How's it taste?” she asked the one Numemon, nodding at his tray.

    “Like always: shit.” He still gobbled it down, though the slug was looking purple around the eyes.

    “Why should you care?” a Gizamon grunted, giving her a cautious look. “You never eat here anymore. Not since that wizard pansy joined, anyway.”

    She shot over a leer, her fur slightly bristled. “You don't have to be rude about it,” she hissed.

    “What's so rude about telling the truth?”

    “I'll feed you to the DarkTyrannomon the next time you mouth off to me.” Sneering, she marched away, taking care to smack the Digimon with her tail.

    “You bitch!”

    Gatomon only huffed, straightening her stance and swinging her long appendage about. Chortles were making their rounds as she passed by, and through the clamor, she heard, “Do it, I dare you.”

    A mischievous (or stupid, it was hard to tell) Bakemon then pinched her backside, and she immediately spun on her heels. “LIGHTNING PAW!” she yowled, landing a punch to his face and throwing him past her direction. The table nearly snapped from the landing, the plates and food flying much to the vexation of the Digimon. In response to the scene and their expletive shouts, the room briefly grew alive with louder laughter and whistles, even though she silenced those nearby with a look and growl.

    Once the feline left the mess hall, she slipped for an outside exit to fume. Without consideration for what any of the higher-ups or Myotismon was going to think for destroying property, she kicked at the wall hard enough to push bricks in. “Pigs! All of them!” she snarled.

    “That's not very lady-mon-like of you.”

    She swerved her glare over, ears flattened against her cranium. “Can it, Wizardmon! They piss me off is all!”

    The Wizard Digimon stepped up to her, slowly shaking his head. “You shouldn't have to put up with all that harassment.”

    Gritting her teeth, Gatomon kicked the wall again. It had been scarcely half a year since his arrival, and it was like he was too naïve to catch on. “I'm used to it. I can take care of myself.”

    “I know, but I worry about you, Gatomon.”

    With one more punch for a good chip, she walked toward the grounds, Wizardmon following suit. “Don't be, it's the norm around here. Do you know of the names they call you?”

    He let out a scoff of acknowledgement, a response she imagined came with a roll of the eyes. “I know of them. Is that what this is all about?”

    It was half-true, though Gatomon didn't want to talk about the harassing again. “It's because you don't act like them,” she muttered. “Even DemiDevimon will make a comment about me every now and then, and he hates my guts.”

    “How do we know he's not the real pansy?”

    She paused in her tracks to think on it. Glancing up at her friend knowingly, she raised her brows. “Hmm. That's a good point.”

    Wizardmon gave his trademark gentle smile, hitting his quota for the day. As tired as he looked at times, with exception of the night he joined, she couldn't think of a day he had passed on it. “You tell me not to worry about you, and yet here you worry about me.”

    Her whiskers twitched when she wrinkled her nose, turning her head to avoid his gaze. “'S none of your business...” she mumbled, trying to fight back her chagrin.

    Her eat flitted when he knelt down, laying his hand on her head. Slowly but surely, he stroked her ear, a gesture that never failed to relax her. “...not out here,” was her quiet sigh, leaning against him. “We'll be seen.”

    “I say let them, unless you worry it'll affect your reputation.”

    Lifting her eyes, she noticed how close he had gotten, at how the shade of his hat fell upon her with a single tilt of the head. At this angle, Gatomon could just about see the corners of his mouth peeking out as a visible stitched beam. And peering closer, it appeared his emerald irises had a glow to them beneath his straw-colored bangs—

    “OH MY GOD!”

    An abrupt scream broke into her dream, and Gatomon quickly sat up, blearily staring over to find Yuuko pressed up against a wall, a broom clutched in hand. Wizardmon was sitting across staring at her in confusion, a book in his hands. “HOW DID YOU GET IN MY DAUGHTER'S ROOM?!”

    Now awake, she jumped onto the floor and stepped in between them just as Kari got up. “Mrs. Kamiya, wait! He's just a friend!”

    She didn't look convinced. “Thi-Th-This man's a friend?!”

    “Ah, Mom, it's okay! He's with Gatomon!” The girl climbed off over the railing to go up to her frightened mother. “He's a Digimon.”

    “There's more of them, you say?!”

    Wizardmon stood and took off his hat for a formal bow. “I apologize for the intrusion, I mean your daughter no harm.”

    Yuuko's skepticism made it clear she was having a hard time piecing things together. Upon shooting the two anxious glances where both of them nodded, her daughter coaxed her into lowering the broom. “Well... if Kari says it's okay... pardon me.” Deeply inhaling, she hurried out of the room.

    Gatomon let out a breath she had been holding, then turned to her friend. “How'd you get in?” she hissed, brows furrowed. “No, how long have you been here?”

    Fixing his hat, Wizardmon replied, “About a half-hour.”

    Kari sighed as well, giving them a defeated look. “Sorry, guys, forgot to mention Mom sometimes sweeps the balcony in the mornings when she waters the plants.”

    Tai suddenly barged into the room, his school uniform disheveled. “Kari, I heard Mom scream! Are you okay?” he panted out.

    “We're fine. But now we'll have to clear things up with her.” With a nervous laugh, she gestured to the mage.

    The young man looked over. “Oh, hey, I was wondering where you were. Were you in Kari's room all night?”

    “No, I arrived a little while ago.”

    “Alright, since I'm up now, I need to change.” After shooing her brother away, she moved for the glass door, noticing the secured lock. “Wizardmon, how did you come in?”

    “Don't bother, Kari, he's just going to say 'magic'.” Biting back a yawn, feline scratched at an ear until she did a double-take to what Wizardmon was holding. Eyes widening, she swiped it from his loose grip to quickly toss it inside the desk drawer.

    “Gatomon, what is it?” her partner asked.

    “Do not scold her, I was in the wrong to look at it.” Gatomon frowned at his defense.

    Kari pursed her lips upon noticing the notebook wasn't in its place. “Okay...” Unlocking it, she held it open for Wizardmon to step out, though she blinked when her Digimon left with him. Shrugging in neutrality, she closed it and fixed the curtains.

    Gatomon hopped onto the veranda wall to look out at the bay, shivering in the gentle breeze. She slowly breathed in attempt to clear her mind, finding herself relieved yesterday's memories were strong. Even on that positive note, she still didn't want to look at him when she muttered, “How much did you read?”

    His response sounded remorseful. “I only managed to translate the first page before Mrs. Kamiya came in.”

    She tried to recall the first dream she had Kari write down, knowing she had a few dreams from that time. After a few moments, flashes of herself frightfully clinging to an amused Wizardmon in mid-flight came to mind, the remembrance inducing a small smirk. “I'm sorry about that, I get kind of secretive about dreams. I forgot that we share memories.”

    To her surprise, he chuckled. “I imagine it's better now, but you have always had a rocky memory.” When she turned to him, the all-knowing gleam in his eye gave her slight heartache from her acting up. “I understand why you wanted to write them down.”

    Dropping her gaze, she half-heartedly shrugged. “They just bothered me that much, is all...”

    It was true, though she couldn't bring herself to admit it went deeper than that. Despite the oddity of them suddenly manifesting themselves so many years later, the nostalgia was enough for her to look forward to remembering more. She had never completely forgotten her time spent with Wizardmon all those years ago, but the details weren't strong until recently. From what she had heard about dreams, if they weren't archived memories or a way for the brain to amuse itself during the night, they were of desires.

    So what was it about the memories she desired? Was it a way to tell her to write them down so she wouldn't forget like he said? As much as she didn't want to remember her time at Myotismon's castle, it was true he had been her only light of hope in that digital hell. If he hadn't been there, her misery would've been through the roof if she never gave in to the darkness. Forgetting her worst memories of her life would mean forgetting how she found happiness.

    “I noticed reading the first one that it wasn't from your perspective.”

    Gatomon blinked up at him. “What do you mean by that?”

    He leaned up against the wall, briefly tapping his temple. “Memories are unique in that they differ from person to person,” he explained. “Even if the two were in the exact same place at the same time, you are going to get two different perspectives based on thought and emotion. There's also the chance one of the two, if not both, may end up twisting the experience to be something it never was.”

    The feline stared, trying to piece it together. “So what are you getting at? They're still my memories, right?”

    He briefly nodded. “You were there, after all. However, though you say these are your memories, you're looking at it through a different perspective. Reading that memory word-for-word was like I was the one reliving it.”

    As it sank in, Gatomon started to shake enough she had to sit and grip the edge of the wall. Her brows furrowed as she thought back to the dream—the memory—attempting to draw connections from how it manifested and why. Why that particular memory of her first flight with Wizardmon? She didn't have that much fun by the end of it, although she remembered he had a blast. What had led up to that moment was more-or-less random even with her throw-away line of wondering what it was like to “sit and ride on a cloud”. DemiDevimon and his goons took a good month to get their mockery of the incident out of their systems, and the flights (once her shock had worn off) since were done in secret, and were more pleasant.

    “So I'm curious, Gatomon.” She hesitated to look at him when he stepped next to her, and bowed in as he lowered his voice. “How did you know exactly what I was feeling at that particular moment?”

    It helped he wasn't demanding, but she couldn't bring herself to answer. They remained quiet, gazes intently locked blue-on-green where she found herself unable to look away. It was like she was caught under a spell and the only way it could break was if she spoke.

    No, that was an unfair assumption. Wizardmon would never manipulate her in such a way, so for all she knew, her pride was getting the best of her, or she was just stuck on an answer. How legit was the question, she wondered. Did he really expect her to have an answer, or was it just an observation? She couldn't seem to read his expression to know how to break the silence.

    Within that moment, he closed space to brush foreheads, and an unintentional gasp escaped her as she tensed. Her eyes scrunched shut as her lips pressed in a thin line, holding in a breath. It was a reaction she immediately began to regret, but not knowing why.

    “Your fever's breaking,” he announced in the same tone, although she could hear the hint of a smile.

    Gatomon finally turned her head, growing flustered. “R-Really?”

    He pulled away. “And you said you were sick all week. Fascinating...”

    The door opened before she could say anything else. “You guys in the mood for breakfast?”

    At the word, the feline's stomach growled, and she immediately jumped down. She was inwardly grateful for the interruption, now gaining an excuse to recover her composure. “Only if Tai's making it today,” she joked, her way of hiding her humiliation.

    Kari caught it, and laughed as she led them in.

    *~*~*

    Even after all of the clearing up, Yuuko still reeled during breakfast, hardly eating as Wizardmon gave his story. Tai and Kari found themselves impressed at how easily he swayed her, while Gatomon let the moment wash over her, knowing every word he spoke by heart. She allowed her mind to wander at the table, going anywhere from minutes ago on the balcony, to thinking about how worried the other Digimon were the past week, to wondering where Miko was.

    “Okay... it's starting to make sense now,” Mrs. Kamiya hesitantly sighed a few moments after the magician finished. Her head kept bobbing as she processed it all, looking between her children and the Digimon, lips a thin line. “Oh-kay, then. I...” She half-shrugged, half-threw her hands up. “I guess I owe you an apology, Mr. Wizard. Mon, mon, Wizardmon.”

    Tai ended up snorting in his rice. “Good work, Wizardmon. You got my mom to rap.”

    Wizardmon took the joke compliment a little too literal. “That's not a good sign, is it?”

    “No, you're fine,” Kari stepped in before her brother could say another word. “It's just been a while since Mom was last this... accepting.”

    “That's not true!” Yuuko blurted out, laying a hand on her chest. “I welcomed Gatomon and Agyuumon with open arms.”

    “Agumon.”

    “My bad. See, he doesn't come around much, but as much as he's endearing, he eats more than my son does,” she then calmly blabbed to the magician, who just politely sat there as he watched the poor woman look like she had a slight mental lapse. “And it's great and all, the more the merrier to eat my recipes, but I don't have enough room to make a banquet to keep that dino-belly of his full. And my husband's not happy to have him around anyway because then it means he gets less—”

    “Mom, calm down,” her eldest said, having gotten up to clasp her shoulders. “And thanks for the food, but Kari and I got to get going.” He gave an aside gesture toward the door, the signal Kari and Gatomon immediately jumped on.

    “Thanks for the food!” they quickly said in unison, and made their way to the exit.

    “Oh, Gatomon, you're coming?” Kari noted as she threw her bag over her shoulders. “Feeling better?”

    The feline nodded. “I don't want the others to keep worrying.”

    The girl smiled, glancing over at Wizardmon when he approached. “Well, unfortunately I can't fit the both of you into my bag. We're meeting at the park later this afternoon, you can join us there.”

    “Kari, do you have a lunch?” her mother spoke up, still sounding out of it.

    Perking up, she slipped around into the kitchen. Rolling her shoulders back and tail stiffening, Gatomon glanced up at her friend, visibly amused. “Thanks for not bringing up the whole 'death and rebirth' part,” she whispered out, rocking on her heels. “Made it more believable.”

    He sheepishly fiddled with his staff. “I'm currently reciting over how I'm to explain the hypnotism when it wears off,” he muttered. “Let's hope she doesn't talk to the neighbors today.”

    “...eh?”

    “Alright, you two, Tai says we can go on ahead,” Kari announced, skipping back into place to put her shoes on. “See you, Mom!”

    “Have a good day, all.”

    Gatomon shot Wizardmon a blank look as they left, moving to all fours at her partner's side. The “tsuku-tsuku” of cicadas accompanied them into the city, helping further accentuate the warm breeze and lazy clouds. With exception of a few small children turning their heads as they passed, people walked by like every other day. The ambience confused the feline more than it did to relax her.

    “Has September always been this... normal?” she slowly asked, swiveling her ears about each time they passed a tree.

    “It has been all week.” Kari then deeply frowned. “I knew you were leaving the apartment...”

    Ashamed, Gatomon hopped onto a wall to scamper ahead to the far corner. Whipping her tail about, she glanced over to the television station, fur steadily rising as she intently focused her attention on the observatory. She couldn't put her claw on it, but somehow looking at it made her uneasy for the first in a long time. Her eyes narrowed, she turned back to her friends as they approached.

    “Hey, Kari, can you not tell the others about Wizardmon?” she requested, her voice low.

    The girl tilted her gaze to the wizard, brows raised. “If that's alright with him.” Gatomon noticed from her current angle he barely reached her chest, his pointed hat making up for the difference. And suddenly she began to realize just how short in stature he was, something she had believed was normal as Myotismon was freakishly tall himself.

    Such a thought didn't seem to bother him as he made eye-contact. “If you feel it'll disturb everyone's studies, I agree.”

    The feline gave him a double-take once she took in what he said. “That's your biggest concern?”

    Kari smiled at the two, lifting a finger to her lips. “Okay then, I won't tell. And speaking of, we'll have to part here, T.K. and the others should be here soon.”

    After a quick glimpse behind, Gatomon said, “Just tell them I'm feeling better, so I'll be at the park.”

    Her partner nodded in agreement. “Sure. Stay out of trouble, you two.”

    A mischievous glint shone in Wizardmon's eye when he looked over. “Well, at least one of us will.”

    Flustered, she snapped, “Hey, what're you implying?!”

    Kari giggled, and with a wave, ran off around the corner. Gatomon watched her disappear into the crowd, even sweeping a look over in the off-chance she would spot the boy or Patamon. Turning back to her friend, she let out a calm breath.

    “We should get away from the crowds,” she suggested, sticking to the wall as they walked back the way they came.

    “Good plan. I saw a pathway we can take.”

    She decided to bound ahead to maintain a short distance from him, mainly in attempt to draw less attention to themselves—not that it helped as passing people still stole glances. Normally she wasn't bothered it, yet she couldn't help thinking about Wizardmon. Both times she looked at him, he didn't show any noticeable signs he was growing awkward, and she didn't want to bring it up to him. It was jumping to conclusions, of course, but she wasn't sure how used to crowds he was.

    “About this morning,” she carefully alluded to breakfast, “I don't blame you for the hypnotism. Mrs. Kamiya really hasn't... taken a liken to us that well.”

    “It's not permanent,” he reminded her. “It'll wear off soon, though by then, there won't be a need for me to return to the apartment.”

    Gatomon then blinked. “Where did you sleep last night, by the way?”

    “I didn't.” She didn't like that he smiled when he answered. “I roamed Odaiba as I said.”

    Even though she shouldn't have been surprised, it still rubbed her the wrong way just how calmly and openly he said it. It wasn't anything new of him be so engrossed into studying he forgot to sleep, a habit she had always known him to have, and traveling was the same way. She still recalled memories of him returning to the castle from successful reconnaissance or recruiting missions days ahead of schedule (one of few reasons why it was Myotismon had kept him around), and then always wondered how he had energy to work or even go out again. While she hadn't thought of it the first time, it became recurring enough and she eventually regularly escorted him, which was how she discovered it and disapproved of it.

    Regardless of how little her opinion changed, the image of him flying around the district brought her some content. “I guess after being dead, sleep's the last thing you want. It must be pretty... um...” Slowing, she raised a paw to her mouth and averted her eyes, realizing what she was saying.

    “Unnecessary? Odd? Frightening?”

    Shivering at how nonchalant the response was, she timidly shot her gaze back to him. “...I wasn't going to say any of that...”

    “I know.” His assurance didn't make her feel better. “It's a little jarring, but it's not drastic.”

    Frowning, she stood on two feet to look down on him. Her lieutenant years may have passed, but it was like second nature to be enforcing whenever she wanted to make herself clear. “Please promise you will tonight,” she obliged. “I don't want you collapsing on us.”

    He gave a deep nod that looked like a bow. “I shall once I find a place to sleep.”

    While still shaking off the odd feeling, she mentally face-palmed. “Oh, crap, I forgot about that...”

    He smiled. “To be frank, I have plans on returning to the Digital World, but if you want me to stay another night, I will do so.”

    Flexing her claws and tilting her head to the side, she sat back on her haunches. “Do what you want.”

    A line of small schoolchildren then rounded a corner ahead of them. At the sight of Wizardmon, they suddenly let out cheers and squeals, and scampered over to crowd him. Gatomon poised to swipe in warning as a child pushed nearer in, but they ignored her.

    “A magician, magician!” was their repeated chant, arms thrown in the air.

    A woman assumed to be their caretaker jogged up to them. “Children, come away and leave him be!” she scolded.

    To the feline's surprise, he just raised a hand. “No need to worry, it's part of my duty to entertain.”

    “Can you pull a rabbit out of your hat?” a rosy boy blurted out.

    Something sparked to life in Wizardmon's eyes at the request. “I can do better than a rabbit.” Taking off his hat, he flipped it about to show it was empty, then reached inside.

    Before Gatomon could yelp, she felt herself being pulled backward by her scruff into brief darkness, only to pop out dazed, centimeters away from the wide-eyed stares of the children. One reached out to jab his finger into her cheek, and she flailed about in the magician's hold with a yell. Then she was lightly flipped up, and he swept his hat over her as though to catch her, and instead found herself comically landing directly behind the caretaker as the children cheered.

    “May I have a volunteer from the crowd?” he announced, and hands shot up. The cat glared over at him, though he dismissed her with a subtle gesture with his fingers to hide. “You, young lady. This way, please.”

    With a huff, Gatomon hopped back onto the wall in time to watch a young girl with pigtails peeking out from under her helmet step forward, cheeks puffed in excitement. “What is your name, miss?”

    “Ami Yoshizawa.”

    Wizardmon then placed his hat over her, smiling at the giggles when it slipped over her eyes. “Leave it be,” he commanded when she moved to fix the hat. He gently tapped his staff on the skull, and the red eyes rolled around. The feline felt a chill run up her spine at the sight, bringing her to crouch and hook her claws into the bricks. “Now, Ami, I want you to think about your favorite toy,” he instructed soothingly. “Don't say it out loud, just imagine it in your mind's eye, and focus on it.”

    The child appeared to be holding her breath, and her figure was tensing. Her classmates leaned in with quiet gasps as Wizardmon watched intently, the wooden sun not once removed from where it hovered over her. His fingers began to slowly draw out shapes as it started to glow, catching the attention of the students.

    “Are you ready, Ami?” he asked, voice still soft, laying his free hand on the skull. “Don't move your head, just tell me.”

    “Ready!” she squeaked out, looking like she was struggling to be still.

    At the very moment the eyes froze, Gatomon flinched from a flash, and he whipped the hat off for a teddy bear to drop onto her head amidst tiny sparks. The girl caught it and let out a surprised yell, hopping in place as she hugged it. “It's my bear! Look, look, this is it!”

    The children let out collective gasps and astonished murmurs, a couple of the girls expressing their recognition of the toy with a unified “No way!”, and an added, “But it's at home!” Even the caretaker was impressed, her hands pressed to her chest.

    Ami held up the stuffed bear to turn it every which way, her eyes wide and sparkling. “So cool...” Gaping up at Wizardmon, she breathed out, “How'd you know?”

    Putting his hat back on, he gave a wink. “I didn't. It was all you.”

    Although she was in awe herself, Gatomon couldn't help shooting him an accusatory look.

    Snapping out of it, the woman then clapped twice for attention. “Alright, children, that was a nice performance, but we need to get going.” When they started to complain, her tone sharpened. “We're running late as it is. Thank the nice man and let's go.”

    After the groans passed, they shouted out a “Thank you, sir!” (though a couple of boys said “Mr. Wizard” instead) and walked off, clamoring about the magic trick. The caretaker gave a brief bow as she followed to herd the children in line, just barely missing the young girl who swerved around and scurried her way back. Shifting her bear in place to rummage through her knapsack, she pulled out a small coin purse and from it a 100 yen coin, which she held out without a word.

    Wizardmon hesitated to take it, at first glancing over to Gatomon as though she held an answer. Ami followed his gaze and gave her a bright smile, revealing she was missing a tooth, then took his hand to push it into his palm and hurried off. Once she blended in, the two Digimon stared at it as he flipped it about, his face lightening up.

    “Such a sweet gesture,” he mused.

    “At least she gave you something,” Gatomon said, scratching at an ear.

    “I didn't expect to get anything.” Shrugging, but still smiling, he tucked it inside his vest for safe-keeping.

    A quiet “hmm” in her throat, she turned to resume their walk. “I think you're a little too easy-going, Wiz. You didn't have to do that.”

    “True, but I didn't want to be rude.”

    Suddenly, the cat found herself being yanked back again, and a second later she came eye-to-eye with Wizardmon. A flush on her face, she shoved herself out of his hold with a growl, immediately separating space between them. “What the hell, Wizardmon?!” she finally choked out, wanting to throttle him.

    She hated he found it amusing enough to laugh at as he put his hat back on. “I apologize, Gatomon. It was too good an opportunity to pass up.”

    Gatomon shook her head vigorously. “No! You ask me first before you force me to be your assistant!”

    “Well, at least you aren't objected to it.” He stepped up to pet her between the ears.

    She swiped his hand away and returned to the wall, her tail ring clinking. “Another thing, Wizardmon.”

    His hand dropped as he straightened. “Something wrong?”

    Out of uncertainty, she carefully started off with, “About the petting and stuff—” and then her voice caught. Clearing her throat didn't make it better, and she was quickly losing her words.

    He appeared to have understood, his gaze softened as he solemnly bowed his head to obscure his face. “I see. I'm sorry, Gatomon, I didn't know you felt that way.”

    Deep down, she could feel guilt get into a confrontation with her pride. She didn't know how to approach the situation, in how to explain herself to get the misconception cleared up. “No, I liked it when we were friends—I mean, we are friends, but...” After stumbling over her words, she let out an exhale to start again. “It's been six years. Things are different now, and it's kinda weird... and awkward. I just...” She couldn't bring herself to finish her thoughts; already she began to wish he could read her mind.

    Luckily, Wizardmon was quick to catch on. “I understand. I won't lay a hand on you again if that's what you want.”

    “It doesn't mean I don't like it, Wizardmon,” she amended, picking at the wall. “I want us to get used to each other again.”

    “I agree.”

    They stared at each other for a long moment until Gatomon dropped her gaze. Passers-by continued to send quick glances their way, some out of confusion, others in annoyance because Wizardmon was in the middle of the sidewalk. Once he pressed himself up against the wall, she steadily continued on, but kept him in her peripheral vision.

    “So... I guess I'll only walk on the same side you hold your staff?” she muttered, almost as a suggestion.

    He willingly switched hands. “I'll try not to bop you with it.”

    Gatomon snorted on a laugh.

    *~*~*

    They spent their day walking around to take in sights and sounds of a bustling city, in no hurry to get to a destination if they had one in mind. Wizardmon had offered to fly further out if Gatomon was up for it, but the spur-of-the-moment suggestion made her hesitate. In its place, however, he was occasionally stopped by passing children or tourists who mistook him for a street performer, yet he obliged each time whether he got money or not. He never did the same trick twice, a feat that impressed the feline as she oversaw them. Not once did he ask her to be an assistant, which made her both relieved and regretful depending on what he did.

    As much as she enjoyed watching him perform, she couldn't help but feel odd about how calm he was. She recalled the day they had arrived with Myotismon and his army to the real world, and were ordered to scatter out and find the eighth child. Many of them had relied on stealth to get around, though a few like Wizardmon managed to blend into the crowd. She had never known what he did, though as she eyed him the entire day, it gave her a good guess.

    “I didn't get to check last night, but I'd like to make a quick stop someplace.”

    Tongue sticking out, Gatomon diverted her attention from the store window she was using to groom while they had a break. “Is it far?”

    “No, it's just a quick flight there.”

    Her face fell as she rolled her eyes. “Yeah, you're just making excuses to go out flying again.”

    He shrugged. “Believe what you want, then.” The Wizard Digimon threw his arm around her and shot up into the air, which startled a nearby couple.

    Gatomon could have snapped at him for laying a hand on her, but upon looking down at the speeding landscape, she didn't feel like dropping even with her soft landings. Slightly pouting, she held tight before closing her eyes and taking in deep breaths. Despite all those years of flying both with Wizardmon and as Angewomon, she still wasn't used to the exhilaration.

    He noticed very quickly. “I'm sorry for not letting you prepare yourself.”

    She shook her head (and almost regretted it). “It's not your fault,” she muttered, peering out of one eye. “So where are we going?”

    He pointed with his staff toward the approaching Rainbow Bridge. “On the battery island.”

    A shock of remembrance brought her to attention, suddenly not liking where it was going. “Why there?” she gasped.

    “Just out of curiosity.”

    She pinched her brows in slight irritation. She should've learned by now to not ask simple questions.

    Within the minute, they landed in a clearing enclosed with trees. Gatomon immediately pulled away with a small shudder, glancing around suspiciously. “It's daytime, but it still gives me the creeps.”

    Wizardmon thought differently. “I see the humans haven't done much to this place.”

    “Is that seriously the first thing you think about every time you see something you remember?”

    He raised a brow at her tone. “Is there a problem?”

    She tensed in place to rub an arm. “Well... no...” Her voice was barely above a whisper.

    He searched her face for a quiet moment before shrugging and walking off, tapping the blunt end of his staff along the grass. “It's just fascinating, is all.”

    With a slight sneer, she plodded after him. “You and your fascination with 'fascinating' can go be fascinated elsewhere,” she grouched. “I don't want to stay here any longer than we have to.”

    “Relax, Gatomon, there is no one nor nothing here anymore.”

    The cat sniffed. “I know that...”

    Reaching a thick patch, a dull “thunk” sounded. Looking like he had made the discovery of a lifetime, Wizardmon felt around and pulled on a rusted door, throwing his weight into it to open up a staircase. Gatomon's fur bristled from a sudden chill, backing away and fighting back a sneeze.

    He tilted his head as he briefly stretched. “If you're not comfortable coming in, you can stand guard,” he simply stated before entering, hovering over the steps. His staff began to softly illuminate as he descended into the shadows.

    She made a noise halfway between hissing and whimpering, then quickly leapt down the stairs to his side. “Just very quick, and then we leave,” she snarled once she stepped up her pacing, eyes sharpened.

    It was deathly quiet underground, the only other sounds echoing off the stone were her footsteps and breaths. Down at the bottom floor were the gates, the padlock and key rested aside, untouched for all these years. Her breath hitched at the sight, suspecting what was beyond the bars.

    Wizardmon took a few moments longer to notice, and a brief chuckle escaped him as he landed. “Has it really been six years?”

    She grumbled under her breath, “We're done, let's go.”

    He kept going, holding the wand further out. “By the gods, it's still there.” He then laughed, and jogged for the gates to push them open. “So he never returned here after that night.”

    Gatomon trembled at the glint of brass and black iron inside the chamber, and hesitantly approached the coffin. Wizardmon still examined it in interest, lightly rapping his knuckles on the lid and sides and looking gleeful. Although she was still uneasy about the hide-out, she found herself in awe at the discovery.

    “I don't believe it,” she rasped out, frowning deeply at the bat insignia.

    The mage then paused at the head to grasp the lid.

    “What are you doing?!”

    He looked at her in surprise as her ricocheted voice faded. Frozen in place, she kept darting her wide eyes between him and the coffin, her fur spiked out. “Gatomon, what has you so spooked?”

    “Y... Y-You don't know what's in there!” she choked out, pointing shakily at it.

    He dropped his hands from the coffin. “It sounded empty. I honestly doubt anything got into it.”

    “You don't know that! And what are you going to do, anyway?!” While she was usually more open to Wizardmon, she hoped the light wasn't as bright on her when she felt tears prick at her eyes.

    His expression fell to that of worry. “Why are you so concerned about this?” he softly asked. “Myotismon is long gone, as you said, there is nothing to fear. It is better us rummaging through his belongings than someone else who doesn't know what they're getting into.”

    She couldn't deny he had a point. It didn't make her feel any better, but it started to lay to rest some of her creeping anxieties. Unable to put together a coherent sentence, Gatomon yielded, though her wavering irises still shone. Stepping around for the other side, she laid her claws on the lid and gave a small, but curt nod. They slid it off together, and she quickly turned away with shut eyes.

    Wizardmon gave a tsk. “Such a shame.”

    Flicking an ear, the cat looked over to find the velvet layer was covered over in dust and cobwebs, complete with seams coming loose. She lightly coughed when he reached down to brush some of it off. Somehow, she half-expected something to start crawling out of the holes from the disturbance.

    “Well, that's that,” he sighed out, patting down his gloves. “Nothing to salvage here.”

    Gatomon sat back on her heels. “That's the reason you came down here?”

    “You never know, Gatomon,” he said with a shrug. “Myotismon always felt inclined to collect things, and keep them for himself.”

    She had forgotten about that. “What were you expecting, a personal computer?”

    Wizardmon laughed. “Jewelery, perhaps.”

    “Like from all those women he drained?” she recalled, raising a claw.

    At the thought, ran his hands along the edges and poked and prodded about. “Nothing.”

    The tiny Champion took notice of his expression as he straightened up. “You look so disappointed.”

    He didn't look like he disagreed when he blinked down at her. “Do I?”

    She wryly smiled. “Now that the excitement of breaking into an ex-boss' old hide-out has worn off, yeah, pretty much.”

    “You look better yourself. It's like you sucked out all of my energy.”

    “Like a vampire?”

    He wagged a finger at her, a gleam in his eye. “How long did you sit on that joke for?”

    “Many moons.”

    They burst out laughing, Wizardmon clapping her on the back. Still smirking, Gatomon smacked him upside the head with the pillow, though immediately regretted it when the cloud of dust puffed into her face. Through the coughs, he felt along to reach inside, and let out a sudden “Ah ha!” He pulled out, much to their surprise, the fake tag and crest, which glinted warmly in the light.

    “Hey, how'd that get in there?” the feline gasped, standing on tip-toe for a better look.

    He got a burst of remembrance, eyes lighting up. “Oh, this is the one I replaced for the real crest.”

    She almost did a double-take. “Why'd you do that?”

    Letting the necklace hang from his fingers, the sorcerer explained, “If we hadn't been caught, we could've gotten away with it, or at least for a little while.”

    “Because he would've known it was fake the moment he saw it?” she guessed, lightly touching her claw to the cover.

    “Exactly.” He dropped it into her awaiting paw. “There's a difference in power, and the real crest had a stronger release of energy.”

    “Whoa...” Taking a closer look, she noticed the crest had a slight pulse to it, a sign it was still active. “I didn't know that. I mean, all I knew was it would just react to Kari if it ever neared her, but that was it.”

    Her heart grew heavy the longer she stared at the pink symbol. Even after six years, the thought of how close she had come to killing Kari still haunted her. Her hunches were rarely ever wrong, and even rarer was her hesitating in acting out on said-hunches. She always dreaded that “what if”, unsure how things would've been different if this-or-that occurred, as she was not the type who romanticized the idea of alternate worlds. Fate had been kind to Kari, it always seemed.

    Not wanting to think on it any longer, she suddenly puffed out her chest and began to strut around. “What are you two doing in here?” she boasted in as deep a voice as she could manage. For good measure, she swept an arm before her like she threw a cape around herself. “Snooping as usual, I see.”

    Wizardmon played along, bowing in place to hide a smile. “It's nothing, Lord Myotismon, we were just on cleaning duty.”

    “I ordered you to find the Eighth Child, not to play house! Now get out. I need to make myself prim and proper for the slaughtering of innocents.” She then mimed applying lipstick and smoothing back hair.

    He seemed taken aback. “Good Lord, Gatomon, that's dark.”

    “You know that's what he would say,” she said in her normal voice.

    “Not necessarily.” The Wizard Digimon then stood straight himself and lazily held out an imaginary glass that he swirled about. “The night may be young, but this blood isn't. Fetch me the Eighth Child while he's still fresh, and I shall live for twice the moons.”

    Gatomon was snickering more at the voice than the mocking. “You got too direct there.”

    “I'm doing the best impression I can.”

    “You have the drawling right, you just have to be classy and play it serious as you talk about staining your lips with the blood of an innocent child.” Her voice had deepened again at the end.

    He only shook his head in amazement. “How in the world, Gatomon?”

    She was pleased she still got it. “You're just not being darkly sadistic and stuff.”

    Wizardmon just shrugged, chuckling under his breath. “Mimicking Myotismon was always your forte, after all.”

    “Now that I think about it, you think he got off to slasher films?” she then blurted out, tucking the tag and crest into a glove.

    Oh-kay, Gatomon, we need to get going.” He replaced the lid and waved her off toward the exit.

    “Come on, I'm just getting warmed up, which not even Myotismon could do.”

    He rolled his eyes, shaking his head.
    Last edited by Kutie Pie; 18th May 2015 at 5:54 AM. Reason: adding banner
    Winner of Best Fic of 2014 in the Shipping Oscars
    Forsaken: Chapter 20 - 11/17/14 / Encryption: Chapter 3 - 4/14/15 / Handle with Care: Chapter 10 - 3/17/14

  4. #4
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    *~*~*

    It was the late afternoon before the small group of six were all together at the park with their Digimon, sitting under the tree with their schoolbooks open and studying—those who made the effort to, anyway. The Digimon weren't interested and were lazing or running around with the soccer ball, now all in their Rookie forms. Davis had a hard time concentrating, constantly glancing back-and-forth enough times to make his friends dizzy watching him.

    “Why don't you just go home if you're going to get distracted,” Yolei stated matter-of-factly when he turned around for the umpteenth time.

    “I'm sorry, but whose soccer ball are they kicking around out there?” he retorted, more of an excuse than an actual reason.

    “I have one on hand if you need to go,” Ken said without looking up from his homework.

    After a small pout in the prodigy's direction, he threw his hands behind his head. “No, thanks, I don't mind that they're using it.”

    “I bet you wouldn't say that if I made the offer,” T.K. grinned, brows raised.

    “Yeah, right, you're more into basketball.”

    “It was only rhetorical.”

    “But it's not like they couldn't use the basketball,” Cody gave his insight, throwing back the soccer ball when it rolled up to him. Beside him, Armadillomon rolled over to doze off.

    Kari slightly shook her head when her D-Terminal beeped. Taking a peek, she announced, “Tai's on his way over, he had to wait for Izzy.”

    “I'm surprised Izzy's managed to keep himself available all this time,” Yolei sighed out, her eyes fixated on Ken's handwriting. “Wonder how he does it.”

    “Only six years, and he's still hard to crack,” the blonde boy chuckled, elbowing Kari knowingly. Davis' sharp stare was ignored. “I wouldn't be surprised if he goes overseas and still manages to be where we need him.”

    Cody looked over after watching Veemon accidentally headbutt the ball into Hawkmon's face. “By the way, Kari, how's Gatomon doing?”

    The brunette beamed. “She's fine now, thanks for asking. She promised she'd be here, but she's sure taking her sweet time.”

    “Must be taking a nap,” Davis guessed, his attention returned to the Digimon. “I'm glad she's feeling better, but I don't blame her for not coming.”

    With glasses gleaming, the lavender-haired girl snatched up his notebook to flip through, neither of the DigiDestined stopping her. Kari only let out a quiet sigh, her smile now lop-sided. “She doesn't like the idea of us worrying over her, but she might've only had the strength to see me off if that's the case."

    Only T.K. noticed there was slight fluctuation in her voice, though he didn't bring it to attention.

    Suddenly, the D-3s were set off, their combined screeches causing the children to fumble (Davis fell over instead) to turn them off—except Kari's, which she remembered she had left at home. The Digimon paused in their game or perked up to search the area, gathering around in protective stances.

    “A Digimon's here!” Ken exclaimed, jumping to his feet.

    Yolei checked the screen, spotting a flashing dot by their location. “It's on top of us!”

    They all glanced up at the sky, sweeping the buildings and treetops. Quickly ascending, Hawkmon spotted a shape first before Patamon, and pointed out, “It's coming in from the north-west!”

    Kari couldn't help but grin, and she backed away from the tree for a wave. “Over here, guys!”

    The other DigiDestined watched as two figures approached, one of them returning the gesture. T.K.'s jaw dropped as he hurried to his friend's side, looking at her like she had gone mad. “It can't be!” he stammered, running a hand through his hair. “Kari, you knew?!”

    She giggled. “Since yesterday. I wanted it to be a surprise.”

    “What're you talking about?” Davis butted in, though he watched as the Digimon landed, and Gatomon slipped out of its hold.

    Patamon let out a happy gasp and bolted down to hover above them. “Long time no see, Wizardmon!” he greeted.

    The mage tipped his hat, turning to the other Digimon as they ran up in near-awe. “You look familiar!” Veemon said, a crooked smile on his face.

    “I could say the same to you,” he replied back, giving a nod. “The name's Wizardmon, and you must be the Digimon of the new DigiDestined.”

    The addressed children began to crowd around in interest, though Ken remained near the back as Wormmon crawled onto his shoulder. Cody was the first to speak out, blinking repeatedly. “Is this the same Wizardmon we saw that time?”

    “He was the ghost who spoke to us!” Yolei recalled, pushing her glasses up her nose. “So he was reborn?”

    T.K. carefully stepped forward, keeping Kari in his reach. Glancing between Wizardmon and Gatomon, he breathed out, “It's really you?”

    “You look well, T.K. Takaishi.”

    The girl patted his arm in assurance, then faced the group. “Sorry I didn't tell you guys. I didn't think you'd believe me.”

    Gatomon seemed the most surprised by her words, but held her tongue. She moved a few steps to the other Digimon to give them smiles of her own, mutely letting them know she was fine. Veemon was the only one still entranced by Wizardmon's presence to notice, she had expected it as such.

    Davis couldn't stay silent another second, and stood up straight. “So you're Wizardmon? I'm Davis, Kari's boyfriend!”

    “He is not,” Kari immediately amended, smiling.

    He was crushed. “I'm working on it...”

    “I remember seeing you there,” Wizardmon said, expression unchanged as he swept his gaze along. “You have all grown up to be fine young people.” He paused on Ken, who slightly winced when they made eye-contact. His irises then gleamed knowingly. “And you must be Ken Ichijouji.”

    He became blustered, though was unable to turn away. “Yes, I am.”

    The Digimon's gaze softened in relief. “I'm glad you were saved from the darkness.”

    Ken's hand clenched into a fist at his side. “Who told you that?” he whispered.

    Gatomon lightly smacked her tail on her friend's shoulder, brows furrowed. “Wizardmon, what are you doing?”

    He shrugged her off, then bowed his head. “I apologize if it bothers you to bring up the past. Myotismon's psychological torture leaves that effect.”

    Glancing over at Wormmon, the young man slowly shook his head. “...no, it's fine. I'm just shocked you know, is all.”

    “It was Wizardmon who gave us the clue to save you,” Kari explained. “If it hadn't been for him, it could've taken us longer to help.”

    Davis looked like he was going to say something, then decided to drop it when Tai and Izzy called out to them. The two jogged up until the smaller boy nearly halted in place. “It can't be!” he panted out, blinking in disbelief. “Is that who I think it is?”

    “That's what we were all saying,” T.K. laughed.

    Tai clapped his friend on the shoulder with a sigh. “He's why I brought you over, Iz. I thought we'd have a reunion.”

    Wizardmon gave a nod, a gesture that brought a toothy smile to Izzy's face. It was an expression the DigiDestined were familiar with in that he had drawn to a conclusion. “Oh, I see! So you're the one Gennai called me about last night.”

    Everyone stared in slight surprise. “Gennai did?” Kari echoed.

    “He contacted me saying there was an unauthorized crossing between worlds yesterday afternoon, and he had tracked it down to the Kamiya house, but couldn't get through to them.” The children all tensed in place during the statement. “I thought nothing of it because I figured it was Gatomon or Agumon doing something with the Digi-Port. However, they're authorized to go back-and-forth.”

    The feline's ears drooped in embarrassment. “Oh... I forgot all about that...” She glanced up in apology.

    “It's okay, Gatomon.” Izzy smiled down at her. “Now that we know the Digimon in question is one we know, we shouldn't have to worry. That doesn't mean we should let our guard down, though. Since it's on our mind right now, let's go ahead and register Wizardmon so he can pass through without getting into trouble.” He unattached his laptop to boot it up, which elicited a few rolls of the eyes in the group.

    “Hey, hold on, how'd he get through in the first place?” Ken questioned, Cody and Yolei nodding in tandem.

    “Gatomon said she took his data with her,” Tai said.

    Kari was taken aback, realizing she had never asked about it. “Like a merging? Did she use my D-3?”

    Gatomon and Wizardmon awkwardly looked at each other. “Sort of...” she muttered, giving a slight shrug. “Sorry for causing trouble...” Her partner crouched to pet her between the ears, bringing her to loosen up.

    “Well, at least we were able to solve this mystery quickly and without any problems.” Izzy paused in his typing to allow the data to load, his lips pursed. “But how odd that Gennai was unable to identify Wizardmon...”

    “What do you mean, Izzy?” T.K. interjected, tilting his head.

    “Apparently data was missing, and he couldn't fill in the blanks.”

    “That's odd.”

    The two Champion Digimon gave each other wary glances.

    Tai then clapped his hands with a grin. “Well, now that we got that out of the way, how about a celebration for Wizardmon's return?”

    “That's very kind of you,” Wizardmon said, a chuckle on the tip of his tongue, “but I will have to say 'no' to that.”

    “It can be a small one, nothing big. It's not like we're announcing you to the entire world.”

    He still waved a hand in refusal. “I'm good, thank you.”

    Kari smiled. “I agree, Tai. Just having him here with us is good enough as it is.”

    “I second it,” Davis stepped in, absentmindedly rolling his soccer ball under his foot. “Hey, Wizardmon, know how to play soccer?” At the word, his Digimon's eyes gleamed and he jigged in place.

    He only took a single, questioning glance at the ball before responding, “I wouldn't mind spectating.”

    The boy let out a laugh, and started juggling with his knees. “Watch and learn! I'm not called 'Footloose Davis' for nothing!”

    “Oh, he has a 'foot loose', alright,” Ken called him out through a smirk.

    “Them's fighting words!”

    As the two began to butt heads, Wizardmon stole a glance at Gatomon, brows raised in slight bemusement. She shook her head as she sighed, but couldn't help a smile. “Welcome to the team, Wiz.”

    *~*~*

    Miko was waiting at the doorstep when they returned home that evening, though the sight of Gatomon and Wizardmon made her jumpy until Kari managed to coax her in. Silence and a darkening apartment met their greetings, a sign Yuuko wasn't home. Without hesitation after kicking off his shoes, Tai slumped over the couch with a groan.

    “I knew I should've done homework waiting on Izzy,” he lamented.

    “Or you could've done the next best thing and did your homework instead of playing soccer,” Kari corrected, dropping her backpack inside her room before picking up the phone for messages. “I'll never understand boys and their obsession with sports.”

    “It's not an obsession, it's a passion, get it right.”

    The Digimon chose to hover near the entranceway, unsure of but unwilling to give their own insights to the conversation. Glancing around, Gatomon spotted a hand-written note on the dining table just as her partner asked, “Tai, did Mom leave a note anywhere?”

    “Why?”

    “It looks like Dad had called. I think she's gone to meet him.”

    He lifted himself up with a sigh, rubbing his neck. “That soon, huh? Well, guess I gotta get to cooking.”

    “I'd like to do it tonight.”

    Everyone turned to look at Wizardmon in surprise, Gatomon more-so. Even though it was much like of him to say, she couldn't tell why he had spoken up about it. “Gee, thanks for the offer, Wizardmon, but you're a guest,” Tai politely declined, despite his smile.

    He took off his hat in a respectful gesture. “I insist as a way to thank you for letting me stay the night.”

    “You didn't sleep inside last night?” Kari inquired in worry. “Why didn't you say something?”

    Gatomon piped up, “I told you, Kari, that Wizardmon was out for the night.”

    Wizardmon gave an indifferent shrug. “I honestly prefer the outdoors anyway.”

    Smoothing back his hair, Tai said, “I'll give you my bed tonight, then. I'm going to be studying anyway, so it'd be easier to get a midnight snack from the front room.”

    “Knowing you, Tai,” his sister beamed, “it's going to be more snacking and less studying.”

    The tiny Champion let out a relieved sigh, her smile lopsided. “Thank you, Tai.”

    As he walked by into the kitchen, he reached down to ruffle her fur, much to her chagrin. “Not a problem. Now, what should we have tonight...”

    Handing her his hat, Wizardmon followed. “I still insist on fixing supper.”

    The boy turned to look at him, slightly amused. “Stubborn, aren't ya?”

    He just smiled over at his friend. “Learned from the best.”

    Gatomon flushed, lightly flicking the hat rim.

    “Is there anything specific you had in mind?” he then queried, returning to Tai.

    He pursed his lips in thought, though he looked more like he was straining for an answer. “Uh... Kari, how about you?”

    “It wasn't my turn tonight,” she said, at a loss as well.

    Wizardmon seemed to have expected the answer, taking off his gloves to tuck them inside his vest and rolling up his sleeves. “Well then, if you'll direct me to your ingredients, I'll whip something up.”

    Giving in, Tai showed the Digimon around the small kitchen. Gatomon joined Kari on the couch just when she picked up the remote, setting aside the hat on the arm. Her ears twitching, she nudged the girl.

    “Kari, are you sure it's okay for him to make it?” she asked in a hushed tone.

    “I think it's sweet of him to offer it.” Her brows rose. “Why? Should we be worried?”

    The feline dropped her gaze to the skull for a moment before swerving the hat to face it away. “Erm, no, not that I'm aware of. I mean, the few times I ate his cooking, I thought it was good, but then again, we were living at Myotismon's castle.” She couldn't emphasize it enough; it had always been tough transitioning between the two qualities every time she had left.

    Despite not knowing the details, Kari loosened up. “If all else fails, we can always heat up something, as long as the kitchen doesn't go up in flames.” They giggled to themselves, though Gatomon was a bit more hesitant.

    “Hey, I heard that!” Tai called out, popping his head up over the counter where the fridge was. “That was the one time, Kari!”

    She waved a hand at him nonchalantly, shaking her head in mirth and turning her attention to the television. The evening news was going on about the stock market, something that Gatomon couldn't make heads or tails of even as she listened and watched the screen. Money and economics was not something that crossed her mind often enough to care.

    As she flexed a paw, the object inside her glove made itself known. “Oh, Kari.”

    She looked down just as the feline pulled out the necklace, letting out a shocked gasp as it glowed that caught Wizardmon and Tai's attention. “My tag and crest! Oh, Gatomon!” She threw her arms around her, rubbing their cheeks together.

    Squirming a bit in her hold, she shook her head. “No, it's one of the fakes Myotismon made.”

    Kari's eyes then widened, getting up from her seat. “Is Myotismon here?!”

    Tai stood at attention. “Impossible, his soul's been completely destroyed.”

    Wizardmon gave an immediate response, glancing away briefly from the stove he was setting up. “We went into his old hide-out this afternoon, and discovered it in his coffin.”

    The DigiDestined relaxed, Tai letting out a nervous laugh. “Oh yeah, he had one, didn't he—the hide-out, I mean. We never found it.”

    “It's under one of the battery islands.”

    He smacked his forehead. “I never would have guessed that as a kid.”

    Gatomon patted her partner's hands, giving her a smile. “It may not be real, but think of it as a memento.”

    Kari nodded in agreement, pulling her in for another hug as the crest dimmed to dormancy.

    Wizardmon was soon left on his own, although Tai still supervised off to the side ready to jump in if needed. Gatomon looked over from the couch every now and then to observe, a little surprised he was doing it all by hand. While she could recall him fixing meals over an open fire during missions, not once had she ever seen him in a kitchen environment. She had it in her mind what he did outside was simple enough he didn't have to resort to magic; then again, she had only stepped in the kitchen at Myotismon's castle once and had refused to return, so he might've gone in on his own time.

    Nearly an hour had passed, though their parents still had of yet to walk in when he was finished. The three drooled over it, with Tai and Kari impressed at the display. “I hadn't really paid attention, you made doria?” the young man asked, pointing to the main dish.

    Wizardmon nodded in humility while still looking pleased with himself. “I hope Mrs. Kamiya doesn't mind I used the seafood ingredients.”

    “No, she'll totally understand when she sees this.” As though afraid he would ruin its appearance, Tai took care in serving it.

    With a chorus of “Thanks for the food!”, they all except Wizardmon had their first bite, and their eyes lit in elation.

    “It's like reliving a childhood memory!” Kari gushed.

    “It's like magic, but by hand!” Tai choked on his tears. “Oh man, Agumon's missing out!”

    “I... I don't know what to say,” Gatomon breathed out, a smile spreading on her lips.

    The mage turned a slight shade of pink. “Thank you, it was my first time trying out the recipe.”

    “First what?!” the DigiDestined cried out. Even the feline couldn't believe what she heard.

    He nearly stumbled on his words. “I've had it a few times in the Digital World, but I never made it for myself.”

    Still in shock, Tai ate a few more bites. “Man, you're something else, Wizardmon!”

    The Digimon dropped his gaze, an act that caught Gatomon's attention first before the other two. She could see his shyness falling over his eyes like a shadow, an emotion she hadn't seen in him in a long time. It was a jarring one-eighty compared to how he was the rest of the day, only hitting her when she watched him gently poke at his plate.

    “Are you going to join us, Wizardmon?” Kari asked, leaning closer in worry.

    He struggled to maintain eye-contact. “Er... I don't mind.”

    “Wizardmon...” Gatomon shot over a stern look. “Can you two promise not to stare?”

    The siblings were visibly confused and anxious, but gave their word. “Sure...”

    Turning back to her friend, the cat gave an encouraging nod once their visions crossed. Gingerly, Wizardmon loosened his cowl, still finding it easier to keep his eyes down. The sight of his stitched mouth in a straight line brought Gatomon to pat his hand in comfort.

    Kari and Tai gave each other a quick, saddened glimpse, unsure how to respond. “Uh... thanks for making dinner, Wizardmon,” she said to break the awkward silence. “You seriously didn't have to.”

    He slightly flinched at her voice, but made sure to look over before nodding. “Ah... I know, but I wanted to show my appreciation...” Still averting his gaze, he began to eat, only to laugh to himself. “Alas, wasn't even close to imitating the taste from those years ago.”

    Finally finding his voice, Tai praised him again, “It's still delicious, so please don't beat yourself up over it.”

    Wizardmon flushed and clasped Gatomon's paw, but his lips curled.

    “You have a lovely smile,” Kari noted, glancing between the two.

    “Thank you for your kind words.”

    Gatomon could just about see the walls he was building up crumble.

    *~*~*

    Yuuko didn't return with her husband, Susumu, for another hour, in which by then Tai had been preparing the couch and coffee table for himself while Kari assisted Gatomon and Wizardmon with the dishes. He took to the new visitor well, to no one's surprise but the mage's, until he ate his share of the dinner and made his wife jealous, much to everyone's then-rekindled astonishment as she went on a tirade similar to that morning's. Realizing her hypnotism hadn't yet worn off, Wizardmon had to step in and clear things up, something Gatomon felt didn't help in swaying her opinions.

    Kari was able to laugh it off once she readied herself for bed. “Poor Wizardmon, I hope that didn't rattle him too badly.”

    “He'll be okay. He's still getting used to... life again.” The feline couldn't tell if she had used poor choice of words.

    The girl didn't seem to notice. “I think Mom will come around eventually, especially since he's not staying with us.”

    “Are we still talking about Wizardmon or your father there?”

    “Oh, God...” Shaking her head with a giggle, Kari checked her alarm clock and D-Terminal one last time. “Gatomon, you've known him for years. Has he always been like this?”

    “Good question.” As her gloves were on the desk, she pawed absentmindedly at her cheek, staring off in thought. “I feel like this is who he really is deep down, as he had to put up a front when he was working for Myotismon. He only ever opened up some whenever he was away from the castle and everyone else, but it wasn't like he had a different personality or whatnot.”

    Her partner “hmm”ed in interest, shutting off the light before climbing in. “So he's kind of like you?”

    Gatomon blinked. “You mean in the way we act?”

    “Well, you two don't have the same personality at all, but I'm talking about your actions and how you determine how to go about your day performing said-actions.” Kari smiled as she stretched her arms above her head. “And like you both have your own way of thinking, but you're still on the same wave-length.”

    “Sounds like you and T.K.,” the feline smirked, half-joking.

    She still laughed. “Almost! But I'm like that with just about everyone I can get along with.”

    “I fail to see how you and Davis are on the same wave-length.”

    “You know what I mean!” Kari then sighed, holding up the tag and crest. “I dunno. I guess I'll just always remember Wizardmon as someone who was determined to bring you and I together, even though it ended up with him dying.”

    Looking away from the necklace for the closed blinds, Gatomon nervously began to knead on the blanket. “Let's just say you only got a taste of who he really is,” she muttered. “Give him time, I think you'll like him.”

    “Now do you mean Wizardmon or Davis there?”

    Scoffing to humor her, the Champion curled up where she sat, pushing her back into the girl's side. “By the way, is it still wrong of me to come visit like normal now that Wizardmon's back?”

    “I think that's something you should discuss with him, though I don't think he'd mind. He just can't stay like you can.”

    “Right, I got that...” Resting her chin on her paws, Gatomon mumbled a “'Night,” purring quietly when Kari scratched her behind the ears in reply.

    Although the girl managed to sleep in peace, the Digimon found herself drifting in and out of consciousness at random intervals, unable to will or force herself to stay asleep. It confounded her how she could sleep fine when she was ill, but the moment she got better, her mind refused rest. It had nothing to do with Tai snoring beyond the door, or of the day's events replaying both its good and bad moments. She could even argue Wizardmon being on her mind wasn't the case either.

    Peering at the clock, Gatomon was displeased to find it was only after midnight. With a huff, she rolled out of bed and left the room for the kitchen, staring blankly at a slouched over Tai the few minutes she was there. Taking in the empty wrappers of the snacks he had consumed, she shook her head.

    “College is gonna be hell for him,” she mumbled to herself, sipping on milk.

    And the longer she stared, the more she grew annoyed that he could sleep fine despite being in such an uncomfortable-looking position.

    In trudging back to Kari's room, she found herself pausing by Tai's room, her ears twitching from muffled sounds. Deciding to peek in, she carefully opened the door enough to slip inside, eyes on Wizardmon who was seated across at the desk, engrossed into whatever he was reading. In addition to moonlight, an orb hovered overhead, gently illuminating the desk and its contents.

    She quietly and slowly huffed, stepping into range far enough for him to see her. “Wizardmon, what're you still doing up?” she whispered, not trying to sound demanding.

    He sheepishly smiled behind his cowl, his gaze transitioning from the far-away look he just had. “I'm sorry, Gatomon. I saw these books and couldn't help myself.”

    She passed a glance at the bookshelf, and scowled. “You promised you would sleep tonight.”

    “And I will.” He closed the book (which she recognized to be one of Tai's schoolbooks he wasn't using) and rubbed his neck. “Translating is tedious enough to put me to sleep.”

    Her face fell. “That's not what I meant.”

    They stared at each other as the stack of books made their way back in their places. His eyes, while gentle, had a teasing look to them, and she could just imagine him asking her, “What are you still doing up?” in the same tone. Just thinking about it made her shift her weight about.

    Choosing to break eye-contact, Gatomon turned her attention to the night sky. “I forgot to ask, but how'd you like your sight-seeing?”

    Wizardmon mulled on his thoughts as he got out of the chair to put things back where they were. “It was nostalgic, but it took a bit to get used to the city's renovation.” He lightly hummed in place of a sigh. “It still feels like yesterday I walked those streets in search of the then-unknown eighth child.”

    She had to agree. “That must've been a good wake-up call.”

    He chuckled, snuffing out the orb. “You could say that.”

    Gatomon eyed him curiously as he unclasped the cloak and his vest to hang them on the bedpost where his hat was on-looking. The skull seemed like it glinted at her, a sensation she couldn't shake off. “Hey, where are you planning on going once you return to the Digital World?” she asked.

    As he sat on the bed to undo his boots, he just shrugged. “I have no plans. I just miss traveling.”

    She wasn't surprised that was his response. “Just so you know, Wizardmon, it's not the same Digital World.”

    “That's why I'm looking forward to it.”

    It had been a long time since he had last “looked forward” to something, she realized, and it was during a time she didn't take it for granted. Wizardmon, at least when he was a soldier, wasn't one to get excited about most things, and if he was, he had kept it to himself. What she saw reflected in his irises and smile wasn't something she could recall from memory, but it felt nostalgic.

    Softly, almost to herself, she giggled out, “You haven't changed a bit, Wizardmon.”

    “Is that good or bad?”

    “No, I'm just... relieved, is all.”

    The gloves were the last clothing article to be removed, and she couldn't help staring at his pale skin. It was rare she ever got to see his hands, they looked normal that she could tell. She started to raise a paw toward him, but paused at the sight of her scars. Why she hesitated, even she didn't know. He knew of her inflictions better than Kari did in the past few years, where she had seen them but knew not the stories behind them.

    “Is something wrong?”

    She shook her head, meeting his gaze. “It's getting late. I don't want you collapsing out in the middle of nowhere tomorrow.”

    “You make a valid argument.”

    Just as he was getting into the covers, Gatomon noticed the clock on the desk, and inwardly cringed. “Tai forgot about his alarm clock,” she pointed it out. “It goes off anywhere from six-thirty to seven, and it's... kind of loud.”

    He took a look at it before smiling. “Thanks for the warning, Gatomon.”

    She ended up scanning his figure, taking in his coveralls. “You're not going to be hot tonight, are you?” she inquired, gesturing to it.

    Wizardmon pinched loose fabric as though to show it was baggy. “I'll be alright.”

    “Tai snores, by the way.” She didn't have a reason for why she blurted it out.

    The gleam in his eye was a sign he was humoring her. “I can hear that.”

    “And Miko will scratch at the door sometimes, just ignore her,” she quickly added, almost as a mutter.

    “I thought you wanted me to sleep tonight.”

    “Ah...” Gatomon felt fur prickle on the back of her neck and heat rise to her cheeks. “S-Sorry. I just... well, um...” She hung her head in regret as she rubbed her paws, ears drooped and lips pursed.

    The movement was brief when he moved to lay his hand on her. She snapped her eyes up in time to back away, knowing exactly what his intentions were, but didn't feel like wanting his touch that moment. He apologetically dropped it on his lap in understanding.

    “Please don't worry yourself over me,” he assured her with a smile, her irises shimmering when her head tilted. “I'm not going anywhere.”

    She slowly nodded, a faint glower on her face before it faded. “I know, Wizardmon... I just can't help it.”

    “If you want to keep me company, Gatomon, you may.”

    It was meant to be a joke, it was clear as day in his voice. Somehow, it resulted in the feline freezing in place as a chill ran up her spine, and her face burned. She felt like she went into a spiral, unable to keep herself stable as she stiffly backed away and flailed her arms about before her. “N-N-No, it's not like that! I stayed long enough!”

    Swiftly side-stepping to the door on tip-toe, she roughly pulled it open without meaning to, nearly closing it shut before she stopped to locked eyes. She grew meek under his gaze as she struggled to calm down, letting her gaze drift about as she took in a small breath. “'Night, Wizardmon.”

    He bowed his head. “Good night, Gatomon.”

    A tiny smile on her face, she left him for the night, hesitantly releasing the knob to walk away.

    Alone with his thoughts, Wizardmon attempted to turn in and regain the need for sleep, but found himself growing uncomfortable. It wasn't pressure against his head from a lumpy pillow, nor the feel of pins on his back from the mattress, all sensations he was glad were finally out of his life, even if only temporary. There was nothing in the air that suggested a slow suffocation or an unwelcome visitor ready to pounce on him, although it still felt like he wasn't the only one in the room. If it was him being uncomfortable in his skin, he knew he'd get used to it eventually, but it felt it went deeper than that.

    Figuring it could be heat, he started to unzip his suit, and a lump he hadn't felt since his resurrection suddenly fell into his lap. Frowning, he reached inside to pull out a worn cloth bag, and nearly dropped it, his face blanching. Anything that could've counted towards him being tired were immediately chased out of the metaphorical window as he shakily pulled out what was inside.

    “How could I completely forget about this?” he wheezed out, unable to tear his eyes from it.

    Wizardmon knew the Book was taunting him as it silently welcomed him back into its pages.
    Winner of Best Fic of 2014 in the Shipping Oscars
    Forsaken: Chapter 20 - 11/17/14 / Encryption: Chapter 3 - 4/14/15 / Handle with Care: Chapter 10 - 3/17/14

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