Word Count: chapter: 4,686||story: 32,295
It was them again. He had no names to put to them, but he knew it was them anyway. He could hear them just as plainly as if he were sitting right next to them.
“Everything's going perfectly. Just like I told you. He's almost completely accepted it.”
“I still think you're underestimating them all. Especially him.” There was something that might have been a touch of fear in that voice, as if they didn't want to name whoever it was they really meant.
The other didn't answer for some time, and when they did, it was only in the brutal whack of flesh upon flesh. There was also a thunk, as of someone hitting a floor of some kind. Daisuke itched to know what was going on; whatever the problem was, he had to help get it fixed. Friends shouldn't treat each other like that. He and Ken never had, even in the darkest of times.
Wait, there it was again. A flicker of something that could not be. He tried to figure out what it meant, but before his mind could get a firm grip on it, it slid away again. Then the voices started up, distracting him in an entirely different direction.
“You're not going to doubt my word yet again, are you, Kondo?” Imperialness dripped off the words, and something deep inside Daisuke resonated to that, something he had no control over. It was the kind of voice that made people want to listen to it and obey whoever it was that was speaking. It dwarfed Ken's most commanding Kaiser tones by miles.
Kondo, the same voice that had expressed doubts and reluctance before, took a while in replying, and when she did, it sounded as if she were having problems speaking for some reason. “No, Mori, I'm not.” There was a pause. “But you don't have to knock me around to prove a point.”
“You're too slow to learn otherwise. Now turn up the drip there. He's getting a bit too close to being awake for my taste. I don't want him hearing us.”
“He may have already.” Kondo spoke quietly, as if she didn't want this to be said, but felt it had to be anyway. Daisuke likened her briefly to Hikari for that.
Mori snorted coldly, and Daisuke almost felt as if there were a hand on his forehead. “If he has, it's only as a dream to him. Nothing he can remember or really think about. I've told you before, I know what I'm doing. He'll forget it all.”
Almost as soon as the words were spoken, Daisuke could feel the whole situation slipping away, a gray fog stirring and twisting around his mind. He tried to cry out, to say or do something that would hold onto it, but nothing happened except the thick blanket that spread across his mind and wiped it clean.
Daisuke stared at the ceiling above his head for several moments before he realized just what it was he was looking at. He looked around quickly, his jaw dropping as the truth began to crash in on him. Or at least he hoped it was the truth. The way things had been going on in the last few hours, he wasn't certain of anything any more.
For the moment, though, he was staring around at his own bedroom. His D-3 and D-Terminal were laid neatly beside him on his pillow, as if arranged there by caring hands, and there was a mind-numbingly familiar presence that could only be Chibimon about halfway down his body.
I was with Ken. In the Digital World. The others were fighting... His hand flew up to his neck, and he sagged into the pillow briefly as his fingers touched the firm hoop of the collar. Am I going crazy?
“Daisuke?” Chibimon peered up at him, concern marked on his tiny face. “Are you all right? You haven't moved in so long...”
“I'm okay.” Daisuke had no idea on if he were lying or not. He felt like he was all right, but... “How long has it been?”
“Almost since we got back from the Digital World.” Chibimon snuggled in a little closer. “I thought maybe you were sleeping. We did have a rough day.”
Daisuke blinked slowly, starting to tighten in tension. “We did? What happened?”
“Don't you remember?” Chibimon raised his head again, then climbed onto his partner's chest, staring into Daisuke's eyes worriedly. “Are you sure you're all right?”
“I...I don't know anymore,” Daisuke confessed, his fingers clenching on the bed sheets. “The last thing I knew, I was in the Digital World. We all were. Ken was making the others fight each other, and I...” He shuddered in memory of that soulshattering moment when all he could think of to do was surrender to what Ken wanted.
Chibimon nuzzled his chin briefly. “We haven't seen Ken in days. We went to the Digital World, knocked down some of the towers, and came on back home. That's all.”
“You're sure?” Daisuke frowned; there'd been more than that, more than just the battle in the arena. He could've sworn he'd heard voices in his mind, something like the ones he'd heard before, when Koushirou had been trying to examine his collar. “That sounds so...dull.”
“Dull?” Chibimon just stared at him, then nuzzled again. “You must need some more sleep. You look all weird. Like you don't believe me.”
Daisuke reached down to gently rub between his partner's ears. “It's not that. I just had some really weird dreams. They were so real, I guess I just...” He couldn't bring himself to finish it. He'd never mistaken any of his dreams for reality before, and the thought it was happening again was a little on the stomach churning side.
Maybe I should go ask Ken. The fingers of his other hand clenched around the sheets at the very thought of it. But it made sense. If it had really been a dream, Ken wouldn't remember it anymore than any of the others would. But if it had been real, and somehow everyone else had just forgotten it, then...well, he wasn't entirely certain just what that would mean, except that Ken deserved a good solid hit to the jaw. Messing with people's heads wasn't something you just did for fun!
Besides, it was obvious Ken really was interested in him. The collar made it as plain as anything. He touched it again, a peculiar comfort in the motion. What had Ken said about it, in the dream? Memory? Or whatever it was. The collar was similar to the rings and spirals Ken used on helpless Digimon, but different somehow. What could that mean? Did he not control Daisuke's thoughts and action with it?
No, he knew that was wrong. Ken had brought him to heel quite a few times with it on. He tried to remember specifics, but nothing could really come to mind. At least nothing he could identify as being a real memory anymore. I don't like it when people mess with my mind. He frowned almost as soon as the thought formed itself. It wasn't as if people did that so often that he'd actually developed an opinion about the matter. No one enjoyed having their mind played with. That was a fact.
It also was a fact there was something different about the way he'd thought it. He tried to work his way back to just what it was, but whatever meaning hid behind the notion faded just as everything else seemed to be doing. He was really learning to hate that. At least he thought he was. That faded away too.
“Daisuke?” Chibimon stared up at him, prodding with tiny fingers. “What's going on? You look weird. Again.”
“I don't know, Chibimon.” Daisuke carefully moved his partner to the side of the bed and stood up. “But I really want to find out.”
First things were first. Find out if he was really home or if he were in Ken's fortress. The Kaiser had played with his perceptions about this once before, and Daisuke wouldn't put it past him to do it again. He seemed to get a real kick out of making Daisuke think one thing and then something entirely else was going on. The bastard.
It only took a few seconds for him to cross over to the door and yank it open. He ignored, with the practice that came of what seemed to be days, the nervousness twisting around in his insides over what he might see beyond here. Which turned out to be nothing more nor less than the hallway he was used to seeing whenever he opened his door. Part of the living room could be seen from where he was, and so could the door of Jun's bedroom, and a couple of other doors. Everything looked suspiciously normal.
I've got to stop being paranoid. A line from something, somewhere came back to him, and he couldn't help but laugh. Was it really paranoia when someone really was out to get you? He didn't think so.
He looked back at Chibimon. “Stay here for a second. I'll be right back.” His partner nodded, confusion written all over his tiny face. Daisuke knew exactly how he felt. The only difference was he knew why he was confused, and it had nothing to do with how weird he'd been acting. Just everything to do with how weird everything had been around him.
Nerving himself, he stepped over the threshold of his room and out into the hallway. Every step he took, he took with extreme care, keeping an eye out for any unusual changings of anything. Instead of comforting him when nothing had happened by the time he reached the living room, Daiuske was about ready to come out of his skin with nervousness.
Any second now. Any second now. He repeated it to himself over and over, expecting things to shift and change and to find himself beside the Kaiser, somewhere, anywhere. The fact it hadn't happened was more terrifying than anything else.
“What's wrong, squirt?” At the voice, he jumped, shrieked, and whirled around almost in the same second, staring behind himself. Jun looked back at him, blinking in confusion at his reaction. She stood in the doorway of her own room, one of the juice boxes she liked to keep in her room in case of a late night thirst in one hand. “Whoa, time to cut back on the caffeine, little brother!”
“J...Jun. It's you.” Daisuke tried his best to get his heartbeat down to a manageable level. “It's just you.”
“Just me?” She shot a look at him he'd seen a thousand times over, and had mentally named the Big Sister look. Most of the times he'd seen it, he'd panicked out of his skin, or laughed. This time, it didn't even send a chill down his spine. He'd seen a lot worse. “I think I'm going to be insulted. What's got you so upset?”
Daisuke shook his head. There was no way he could explain any of this. “Um, would you believe a bad dream?”
“Well, it was worth a shot.” He sighed and looked back at the apartment door. “Where are Mom and Dad?”
His sister came a little closer and touched his forehead lightly with the back of her hand before he could stop her. “Are you sure you're all right? You know Mom and Dad went to go see Grandma this afternoon. They'll be back next week.” She touched his forehead one more time and frowned. “You don't feel warm.”
Daisuke pushed himself away from her and started back to his room. “It's nothing, Jun. I just dozed off and I think I'm about half-asleep still. I think I'm going to finish the nap. Rough afternoon with the Computer Club, that kind of thing.” He shut his door before Jun could follow him, and quickly locked it. Hopefully she wouldn't be concerned enough to even think about trying to get the spare apartment keys and coming in to check on him.
Chibimon didn't say anything as he stared at his partner, but the worry was still written all over his face. Daisuke looked at him for a few moments as he leaned against the back of the door, then he sighed a little. There was only one thing that he could really think about doing to figure out what was going on. The thought was repulsive, but there was nothing else he could do.
His D-Terminal was right where he'd left it, and he picked it up with care. He had no idea how he knew just where to send the message, but his fingers put the address there anyway. Then came the rest of what he had to say. Just a few short lines, but they meant sanity, or at least the hope for some answers, to him.
I want to talk to you. Now. So either you come to my place or meet me in the Digital World or something. I have to know I'm not losing my mind, and you're probably the only one who'll know.
A quick punch at a button sent the e-mail off into the ether and he sat down beside Chibimon. This was going to be the rough part. “Chibimon, someone might be coming over. Or I might be going somewhere. I don't know which yet.”
“The Kaiser.” Chibimon snuggled into Daisuke's side, showing no hints of revulsion for what his partner was doing. The fact it went against all sanity didn't mean a thing to him. “You want to talk to him.”
“I don't want to.” That was the last thing Daisuke really wanted. Well, one of the last things. If he tried, he was really sure he could come up with a half a dozen other things he'd rather didn't happen. “But I think I have to.”
Daisuke closed his eyes, wondering if he just sat like this long enough, would something like the life he'd had before the previous night come back to him. It probably wouldn't. “Because he might know the truth. And if he doesn't, maybe I can just punch him or something.” There was something about the therapeutic value of knocking the daylights out of someone. Yamato had told him about it once. It helped if it was your best friend sometime. As weird as it was, there was really nothing like having someone you liked so well that you could beat each other to a pulp and they'd ask if you wanted to go play some soccer afterwards.
Maybe I should ask him if he wants to do that. The thought of playing soccer with Ken was quite definitely on the unnerving side. He frowned just a little, wondering if he were going to have yet another of those moments where he thought something completely wacko about Ken. Like remembering them playing soccer together or something like that, which could have never happened.
What he did have was the need to open his eyes and pick up the D-Terminal, as the familiar beep of having a message come in sounded. He hoped it would be Ken, and not one of the others. The incongruity of that didn't miss him, though it was debateable on if he would have called it that. Totally nuts probably would've been what he used if someone had asked his opinion.
The answer was there, in neat and somehow clipped tones. He closed his eyes for a moment once more, then went over to his computer and turned it on. A few seconds passed, and then there it was: a Digital Gate, somehow darker than what he was used to seeing on the computer in school. It opened up, a beam of light issuing forth, and then there he was. In Daisuke's own bedroom, invited by him, without any of the others knowing anything about it. Daisuke couldn't remember any single stupider act he'd ever pulled off in his life. Somewhere in the back of his mind was the certainty that Jun would've mentioned several, if she'd been asked.
“Well, quite a nice place you have here, Daisuke.” Ken wore the same pristine gray suit he'd almost always worn when the other boy had seen him on Earth before. He sat down in the single chair, that single act making it more like a throne than anything else. It had nothing to do with the shape of the chair itself. It was quite simply in the pure power Ken exuded by seating himself there.
“Yeah, I'm sure you haven't seen anything like it.” Daisuke wasn't really in the mood for a lot of banter. “Chibimon doesn't remember something I do, and I want to know if you do or not.”
One eyebrow lifted most elegantly. “You have such a polite way of asking as well, given our recent relationship.” One slender finger pointed directly towards the collar. “I'm not obliged to tell you anything, Daisuke. In point of fact, I'm not even obliged to be here.”
“Then why did you come?” Daisuke challenged, balling up his fists. He wasn't stupid enough to try and hit Ken, but it made him feel better to imagine it at least. And in his imagination, he knew he wouldn't be stopped halfway and brought down to his knees.
“Curiosity.” Ken leaned back in the chair and eyed the brunet calmly. “And I rather enjoy seeing what your little place looks like. You'd better enjoy it yourself while you can. You won't be here that much longer.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because it's the truth. I've told you before that I'm going to have you. That hasn't changed, no matter what. You are mine.” He announced it in the same calm, matter of fact way that most people announce they are going to have sushi for lunch or are planning on buying a pair of shoes.
Daisuke took a step closer, his instincts overriding everything else, but before a word could be said, Ken shook his head. “No, Daisuke, you're not going to lead me into a childish little game of “am not, am so”. It's not my fault you refuse facts. Now, let's move on to something a little more constructive. You want to know if the events of the arena were real or not, and if so, why you remember them and no one else seems to.”
Daisuke nodded abruptly, and Ken smirked. “How do you know if anyone else remembers? The only one you've asked is that pile of digital trash there.” Another headshake denied Daisuke the right to respond to that at all. “But to be simple, you and I are the only ones who remember. It was inconvenient for them to recall more than I want them to for now. When I feel the time is right, they'll know what they've done.”
“When's that going to be?”
“I said, when I feel it's right. You'll know.” Ken's smirk was cold and practical. “You'll be there, after all, Daisuke.” He dropped one hand beside the chair, the finger pointing to a spot that corresponded to where Daisuke tended to find himself when they were in the Digital World. The goggle-wearer sighed a little in resignation as he found himself kneeling there once more.
“You never get tired of this.” It was a statement, not a question.
“Why should I? You certainly don't.” Ken's hand hovered teasingly above Daisuke's head, ready to descend at any moment. Daisuke told himself repeatedly that whatever it was that made him slip away into a mindless daze was not going to happen here, not in the real world, not in his own bedroom, for goodness' sake! It just wouldn't. Couldn't.
He'd been proven wrong earlier, when his apartment hadn't contorted and twisted into the Kaiser's fortress. This time, he was proven wrong once more, as Ken's hand began to slip through his hair so easily. Almost at once he noticed that his goggles weren't there to impede the ungloved hand, just about the same time he noticed a few differences in the petting. Ken's hand was no less commanding when he was on Earth than it was in the Digital World, but it just felt different without the glove between them.
It felt...better. Nicer. More personal. He sighed softly, abandoning thought for a few seconds. There was really something quite nice about letting someone else do the thinking.
“Daisuke, are you sure you're all right?” The door rattled briefly, then swung open, revealing Jun. She blinked briefly at the sight, her eyes growing wider and wider with every single second. “Daisuke?”
Her brother grinned a little as Ken lifted his hand, feeling a rush of brain cells surging in. “Um...hi, Jun. Something I can do for you?”
“Explaining why you're kneeling beside Ichijouji Ken, who has been missing for months, and why he's in your bedroom, and how he got in here without me noticing would be a really good start.” Jun stared down at him, the very epitome of an extremely pissed off big sister.
Ken said nothing at all, leaving his hand off of Daisuke's head. However Daisuke got out of this, it was going to be on his own.
“Well?” Jun put her hands on her hips and stared down, her gaze no less terrifying than Ken's own could be. “I want some answers, Daisuke!”
He stared at her for a few seconds, then flashed his best grin. “Jun, I told you those hairspray fumes and all the rest of it were going to get to you sooner or later. What makes you think somebody like Ichijouji Ken would be in my room if he's run away? Not that he wouldn't be here if we knew each other, you know, cause who wouldn't want to visit me, but since we don't know each other, he's not here. You're just seeing things. Lots of things. Really weird things.”
There were few things more terrifying than being in the spotlight. Daisuke had found one of them. All he could hope for was that she'd buy his explanation. He wasn't exactly holding his breath on that one, either.
“I'm seeing things?” Jun's eyes flicked from one of them to the other. “I don't think so.” Daisuke's heart clenched up. If she figured out what was really going on, he was so screwed. He had no idea just what Ken might do to her, or him, but the odds were pretty good it wouldn't be anything all that pleasant. Mindless bliss was about the best he could hope for, and that wasn't anywhere nearly what it was cracked up to be.
She shook her head quite firmly and stepped back. “I'm not seeing things. I'm just dreaming. I took a nap after I did my homework, and I'm dreaming.”
“Very good, my dear.” Ken declared, motioning her farther out of the room. “You keep on believing that, and we'll all be much better off. Go finish your nap, and dream about that musician crush of yours, or something suitable. I was never here and you're not even going to remember this silly dream when you wake up.” He tossed something to her, smirking faintly when she caught it. “Just have a little nibble on that and you'll find everything is so much clearer.”
Daisuke watched as Jun left the room altogether, closing the door behind her, and then turned back to Ken. “What was that you gave her?”
“Just a little delight from the Digital World. You have nothing to worry about.” The Kaiser's hand came back down on Daisuke's hair, but didn't resume the petting. “But you haven't had to worry for a while now, have you? I've been taking care of all of that for you.”
“And I suppose you always will?” Daisuke got in what snark he could, while he could. “That's the sort of thing people like you tell someone they're screwing around with right now, isn't it?”
Ken chuckled softly, rubbing a few strands of Daisuke's hair between his fingers. The dark-haired boy shivered, clinging onto his brain cells with every ounce of his mental strength. Ken didn't seem all that interested in reducing him to mental mush at the moment, since he only caressed those few strands, and Daisuke's brains didn't show any signs of packing up and leaving. “You've really been reading too many silly novels, Daisuke. There won't be anything for you to worry about at all before too long. Everything is nearing completion.”
“Why can't I remember some things?” Daisuke seized hold of the chance to get some answers, or at least to ask the questions. “Why do I keep thinking you're my friend? Why am I remembering things that never happened? Why are you doing things like this? You never have! Never! What changed, Ken?”
When no answer seemed forthcoming, Daisuke started to jerk himself to his feet. Ken shook his head lightly, and Daisuke sank back down without even waiting to see if the collar would make him. He knew it would.
“I have no idea what you're talking about.” Ken said at last. “And you really have nothing to worry about. I've told you that enough times, and I won't tell it to you again. You're not an idiot, and you can certainly figure out when something is hopeless. Like trying to resist me.”
The words grated against some part of Daisuke that he hadn't even suspected existed until now. “That's not true. You know it's not true, and you do know what's going on, you're just not telling me!”
Ken's hand came down firmly on Daisuke's head, a little harder than it had any other time. “I've had enough of this, Daisuke. You're pushing me, and I don't enjoy that in you. If you keep it up, you'll regret it.”
Daisuke could hear the threat implied, and he didn't care. Those questions were going to get answers, and if Ken knew them, he'd deliver, or else! “Answer me and I won't push you, then! Just tell me you know and just aren't telling me!” He knew that was a lie. But he didn't care. Not after the last night and day he'd had.
“That's enough.” The words echoed around the room. There was no seeming to, that was precisely what they did. Daisuke flinched at the no longer just implied threat, then became more and more aware of the collar around his neck. He hadn't really thought about it too much, except to be aware of its presence or ability, for a while. Now it was just...there somehow, more than it had been. “I've put up with quite a bit from you, and I've really had enough of it. Now it's time for things to change, Daisuke.”
Daisuke squeaked in surprise as Ken's hand left his hair and seized his chin, yanking his head up so their eyes met. His startled noise faded away as Ken's nearly demonic gaze swept over him, pinning him in place with living amethyst fire.
“Definitely time for a change.” Ken hissed the words out from between clenched teeth, and his bedroom faded from Daisuke's awareness for the very last time.
To Be Continued