It never would have occurred to Takeru that Digimon would take to cell phones, of all the things the Real World had to offer. Food, yes -- every Chosen Child soon learned that Baby Digimon were bottomless pits, and even their Child forms were always on the lookout for new things to try. And things like video games, or sports. But phones were new, and, from what Patamon said, were mostly being used to talk to other 'mon.
As a case in point, right now, as Takeru was doing his homework, Patamon sat with the phone, texting someone. Takeru completed a particularly annoying math problem, then looked up at his friend. "Who are you talking to, anyway?"
"Gomamon," Patamon replied. "He's telling me about Jou."
"And you couldn't wait until tomorrow to talk to him in person?"
Patamon chuckled. "Takeru, you sound like your mom."
Takeru had to laugh. "You're right. I do. I'm sorry. But what's up with Jou-sempai? His university exams are done, so he should be able to relax." Jou-sempai was a lot less highly strung than when Takeru had first met him six years ago, but the last month or more had been a return to his old, bad habits. You'd think after saving two worlds multiple times, a little thing like getting into a good university wouldn't worry him, but sometimes people were funny like that.
"Oh, Gomamon says he just needs a distraction so he doesn't worry about when the results will come back. And I'm helping to think of one." Patamon bent over the phone in apparently heavy concentration, his brow furrowed and his wings splayed outward for balance.
Takeru looked at the next problem -- another awful one, by the looks, and decided he could use a distraction as well. He turned his desk chair to face Patamon, who was seated on the bed. "What have you got so far?"
"Gomamon says... hey, I can't repeat that. Gomamon says Jou needs a boyfriend."
Takeru paused. Jou-sempai hadn't expressed much interest in dating at all, unlike... well, most of the older Chosen Children. Takeru hadn't even known that Jou-sempai would be looking for a boyfriend and not a girlfriend. But Jou-sempai was also the type who took his studies seriously. And Gomamon was the type to know more about his partner's taste in romance than Jou-sempai himself did. "That's what Gomamon says?"
"Well, more or less," Patamon confirmed. "Do we know anyone that Jou might like?"
"Maybe you should get Jou-sempai to agree to a date with someone before you two start suggesting particulars," Takeru said. "He might not appreciate Gomamon playing matchmaker." Probably because, if Jou-sempai agreed once, Gomamon could well be ready with as many options as needed. Sometimes Takeru wondered how Jou-sempai ended up with such a social partner. But Gomamon had learned how to balance his own gregariousness with Jou-sempai's more introverted personality.
"I'll tell Gomamon that," Patamon started typing, the cell phone keyboard not much of a hassle for someone who had fewer fingers than a human in general. "But, do we know anyone that would like Jou?"
"You know, most of the older kids don't really talk about that kind of thing to me, Patamon." There was still a bit of a divide between him and the older Chosen -- not a strong one, and one that was weakening, but Takeru knew he was still considered 'the young one' almost unconsciously. It might make sense for someone like Taichi, since Takeru was the same as as his younger sister. But there was the same difference between him, and, say, Koushirou or Mimi, than between him and Iori. Granted, once anyone met Iori, people tended to assume he was an adult in a child's body. But that was neither here nor there.
"What kind of thing?" Patamon said. "Yamato told you about Sora. Um... right?" Digimon did have genders, but they didn't always see them the same way humans did, as Takeru was finding out as he got older. Maybe because their data was endlessly recycled into new eggs, rather than requiring reproduction.
"Yamato's my older brother; of course he told me," Takeru replied. "And him and Sora... that's different." Takeru had been one of the first to find out when his brother and Sora started dating, and one of the first to find out when the two broke up. But it wasn't something that any of the Chosen Children didn't know. It had been a mutual break-up, but Taichi, Gabumon and Piyomon -- and Mimi doing what she could from America -- were still trying to help by avoiding any awkward unexpected run-ins. It would be kind of funny if it wasn't his brother and a friend of his, and Takeru was sure eventually his brother would just tell them all to cut it out and let him and Sora work on shoring up their friendship. But, right now, Yamato was neck-deep in music, and he didn't exactly need his partner or his friend or his bandmates covering him.
"It is?" Patamon replied. "What's the difference?"
"Well, for one, most of us would notice if two of our friends were dating. Or not dating any more," Takeru said. "It's a bit more difficult to find someone they might like to date. And most guys prefer girls." He could go into more detail, but Takeru wasn't entirely sure he could answer all of Patamon's questions when half the time he couldn't answer his own questions. It was amazing how having a Digimon partner could make you wonder about things you had never noticed. Like having a small, fuzzy alien eating your food and borrowing your cell phone. "I can have oniisan ask his bandmates, though. If you make sure Gomamon clears it with Jou-sempai before I say anthing."
"Gomamon says Jou says it's all right!"
Takeru looked at the alarm. Seven twenty-three on a Sunday morning. "Patamon?" He threw the pillow, which was more of a sad flop. "It's too early. Go back to bed." At this point, he didn't even remember what his partner meant.
"Fine, fine. I'm going to eat breakfast first, all right?" Takeru sat up out of bed, rubbing his eyes until they started to focus. Yamato had showed him the basics of fixing breakfast, but his mother was already up and might have something ready.
He grabbed a plate of leftovers, and made one for Patamon. "So, what were you saying again?" Takeru asked as he poured tea for them both.
"Jou. Gomamon told me that he said we could find someone to go on a date with him." Patamon ignored the tea to sit on the table and start on the eggs.
"Oh. Right." Takeru said. Now he remembered. He took a sip of the tea -- he'd made it too strong again. "You know, it's not going to be easy."
"I don't get why," Patamon said. "You have lots of boys that are your friends."
"Jou-sempai wouldn't want to go out with someone my age," Takeru tried to explain. "He'd at least want another high-schooler, or even a college freshman. It's... it's a matter of maturity." Patamon should get that. "So Oniisan would be a better person to ask."
"He's a year younger than Jou," Patamon replied. "Is that mature enough?"
"A year is all right. Four years isn't -- not at our age." Takeru replied. He was starting to think he, Daisuke and Hikari should organize a Digimon TV Night on 'human dating'. Maybe Tailmon and V-mon were better about it.
"So, Yamato... Yamato's not dating anyone, is he?" Patamon said. "But he liked girls..." he picked up some rice, and Takeru quickly reached to grab the plate before it fell off the table. Human dinnerware was not the best for Child Digimon hands -- especially Patamon's tiny ones -- and stores had yet to embrace the market for Digimon-friendly tableware.
"Are you thinking about asking Oniisan?" Takeru asked.
"Well, he and Taichi and Koushirou are all boys we know who are older," Patamon answered. "But..."
Takeru paused, poking a bit of fish with his fork. "Well... Oniisan did tell Mom and Dad that he was bisexual -- that means he likes both boys and girls, Patamon."
"You don't need to explain everything to me," Patamon said. "Is that why he and Sora-?"
"No, not at all," Takeru said quickly. "They just decided they weren't that interested in dating. But, yeah, I guess we can ask Oniisan. But that might be weird -- I don't know if he wants to date another friend."
"I'll ask Gabumon!" Patamon cried, dropping off his chair to get the phone. "Maybe we can make it a blind date or something. And it'll help Yamato out to do something else after what happened with Sora."
"Hang on," Takeru said, rising from the table himself. Sometimes Digimon were nothing but trouble. At least their little army wasn't trying to mastermind his own love life. Yet.
Despite its dangers, the safer, settled parts of the Digital World were often used as a meeting place by Chosen Children. Though, more and more, 'Chosen Child' -- any kid with a Digimon partner -- was becoming redundant as most kids and teenagers received their own partners. Yamato had even seen a debate about what to call those adults with Digimon as they started working.
Right now, he and Gabumon were on a spot on the seaside, because Takeru -- though, to hear Takeru tell it, it was mostly Patamon's idea -- thought he should get out of the house and go on a date. Gabumon had pointed out that, other than school and trying to write songs for the band, Yamato hadn't done much in weeks, and that maybe just getting out for a bit would help with inspiration.
It couldn't hurt. The other band members were starting to get anxious. Most of them assumed he was still in a funk about Sora which was... well, more like he was just in a funk about everything. As much as he loved playing music, he wasn't certain if he wanted to just be a musician. Especially since most teen idols didn't age well, and usually ended up appearing on daytime gameshows. He was a bit envious of his friends -- Taichi's position as 'leader' of the Chosen Children meant that adults were already listening to him as an authority, and Koushirou and Jou had talents other than music. Even Sora had been starting to figure this stuff out.
"Yamato?" Gabumon said. "You are all right with this, right?"
"What?" Yamato asked, tearing his gaze away from the waves crashing below them on the boardwalk. A crowd of Geckomon passed behind them, talking loudly.
"This date thing."
"Yeah, I'm fine with it, Gabumon." Yamato said. "Seriously, I wouldn't have agreed to it if I wasn't. You were right about me needing to get out of the studio for once." He smiled. Gabumon always had the skill to tell when Yamato was down and was good at cheering him up.
"Well, I'm glad," Gabumon said.
"So, who did my little brother find for a date, anyway?" All he knew was that it was another Japanese Chosen Child and a guy, which... well, admitting to himself and his family that he noticed attractive guys as much as attractive girls was one thing, but actually going on a date with one was still a bit weird. It was why he had picked the Digital World as a location -- fewer curious stares, except for the ones Digimon gave all humans.
Takeru chose that moment to walk up, Patamon perched on his hat. Next to him... "Jou?"
"Yamato?" Jou seemed equally surprised, and both of them turned towards Takeru and Patamon.
Takeru shrugged. "This isn't a problem, is it?"
"You could have said something," Yamato said. "I didn't even know Jou-"
"Well, I've been too busy studying to mention much to anyone. Besides Gomamon, of course." Jou nodded to his own partner, who was looking far too smug. Yamato looked at Gabumon, who looked uncomfortable. Whether it was because of his own complicity, it was hard to say. "I didn't know about you, though," Jou continued. "Was this the reason Sora-"
"No." Yamato scowled. "That's a totally different matter."
"Fine," Yamato said. "Let's do this. Come on, Jou."
"I'll just go talk to Patamon and Takeru," Gabumon said. "If that's all right, Yamato."
Yamato nodded. "Yeah. I'll be fine. Thanks, Gabumon."
"Come on, Gomamon," Gabumon said, motioning the other Digimon onward.
"But what if Jou needs my coaching?" Gomamon protested. "No offense, but he's kind of-"
"He'll be fine," Gabumon said.
Takeru gathered up the Digimon, and waved as he walked off. "See you later, Oniisan, Jou-sempai. Have fun."
"Right." Yamato wondered what the odds were that a Monochromon would come along underground and make a sinkhole to swallow him up.
"I didn't mean to bring up the Sora thing," Jou said.
"No. It's fine. Honestly, I'd rather everyone stop tip-toeing around the subject." Yamato said. "We're still friends, so it wasn't like it was a screaming breakup or something. Everyone's acting like she broke my heart or something. Maybe they're doing the same thing for her, I don't know."
"I don't either. Honestly, I've kind of let the whole 'friends' things slide a bit. Hence, Gomamon playing matchmaker." Jou shrugged. "I'm just glad he put it off until after my exams."
"How'd those go?" Yamato said.
Jou shrugged. "I don't know. I always freak out a bit over tests, even after I've taken a million of them. I don't know how I survived getting into a good high school. And the licensing exam will be even worse, even if I get into a good university."
"You'll be fine." Yamato gave him a grin. "If you could face down all those monsters trying to kill us, a little test shouldn't scare you."
"Yeah, but with Vamdemon, failure just meant death, not busing tables at Digitamamon's restaurant for the rest of my life." Jou cracked a smile. "So Gabumon and takeru set you up with me because he thinks you're mourning your lost lady-love?"
Yamato snorted. "'Lady-love'? I think all the old classics you've been reading for tests are starting to get to you, Jou. But... I don't know what Gabumon thinks. He might be thinking it's Sora, but..."
"You don't really want to hear about my problems, do you?" Yamato said.
"Well, now I'm kind of curious. And you did put up with me complaining about my test scores, which I'm sure everyone is sick of by now. So go on, spill."
"Some date you are," Yamato said. "I'm not even getting dinner first."
"We... oh, right. We should probably do that." Jou said. "Can you tell I don't do this often?"
"Not at all."
Since Jou had mentioned him, Yamato was surprised that the place they found on the boardwalk wasn't run by Digitamamon. Maybe he still had the soup place they had last seen him at three years ago. Instead, it was a fish and chips stand, with a very perky HoneyBeemon ascashier, while a group of Toucanmon tended the fryers. Nevertheless, Yamato was careful to check that the Digimon took yen before he ordered.
He and Jou sat down under a brightly-colored umbrella, unneeded on this cloudy day. They were the only humans there, never mind the only humans without their partners. The old part of Yamato's brain, trained by being on the run from every evil Digimon and unable to escape into the Real World, reflected that it was a dumb idea for them to have sent Gabumon and Gomamon away. Realistically, though, the Digital World had been safe for years -- and certain regions were so well policed by the residents themselves that even an eight-year-old could walk around unescorted.
Jou poked the piece of breaded fish with his fork. "I can feel my arteries go 'clang' already."
"Aren't you a bit young to worry about your arteries?" Yamato took a fry off the tray and stuck it in his mouth. Not bad at all -- it tasted fresh. Of course, given this was the Digital World, it could well be that the HoneyBeemon tended a fry-tree in the back garden, rather than having to chop the potatoes.
"I read too many medical books," Jou said. "It's given me a strong stomach, but also the urge to live on rice and tea for the rest of my life."
"Well, it'll prepare you for the college years of living on little money," Yamato said.
"There goes my plan of being like my older brothers, and just coming home every weekend for Mom's cooking," Jou replied.
"I won't dissuade you from that." Yamato laughed. "Your mother would probably have words about me keeping you away."
"I'm just waiting for Shuu to tell her he's doing field work with Professor Takenouchi in China or something like that."
"I think they've been bitten by the Digital World bug," Yamato said. "From what Sora used to say, her dad was fascinated by how Digimon looked like all kinds of myths and legends. I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up with a Digimon partner to go with Shuu's."
Which brought the conversation back to Sora again, and he expected Jou to note that. So he wasn't surprised when Jou's next question was, "So what was it that has you so down that Gabumon felt like he needed to stage a social intervention? If it wasn't Sora, I mean?"
Yamato sighed. "It's just... you know, stuff. I'm going through a dry spell with the band. We need to get some new songs out, and normally I do the writing, but... well, everything I write sounds fake. I wonder why we have so many fans -- we're not producing anything that a thousand other bands couldn't do. Maybe I'm being too picky."
"What, besides your dashing good looks?"
"That's cold, Jou. I like to think we still have some artistic merit." Yamato frowned. It could be that Jou was right, and it was just a case of 'four attractive high-schoolers playing passably'. Well, four human high-schoolers and Gabumon, which at least made them stand out. Though sooner or later, someone was going to start importing some of the idols from the Digital World. Mimi had already mentioned that she'd heard about a Digimon-human duo that was touring the US.
"Sorry," Jou said, "I don't really know much about music, so I don't know what to tell you. Most days, I just have something instrumental in the background."
"I need to burn you a CD or something," Yamato said. "You're neglecting a part of your education."
"So it's just writer's block?"
"Kind of. When we made it big, I thought, 'hey, this could be the type of thing I could do for the rest of my life'," Yamato replied. He had one fry left and he pushed it about the plate. "Now... well, even if I do snap out of this funk, I wonder... how long will it really last? Not as many screaming teenaged fans in two decades. I mean, you're becoming a doctor, and Taichi's already advising politicians on the Digital World. So's Koushirou, if you exchange politicians for scientists. Even Sora was talking about all these books she got about design and architecture she had been reading. It was kind of nice to both be the creative ones, but..." Yamato shrugged. "People would hire an architect or a fashion designer or whatever, even if she's sixty."
"And I thought I was the pessimistic 'old man' of the group," Jou said. "You're stealing my job."
"You're only a year older than me," Yamato replied.
"And you were just telling me to quit worrying about my cholesterol and eat my fried fish," Jou said. "Speaking of, are you going to eat that fry?"
Yamato looked down. He shrugged and finished off his fries.
"But, you know what I mean," Jou said. "You remember how I was when we got to the Digital World. I was terrified of everything."
"Considering we spent the first day on the run from Kuwagamon, I don't blame you," Yamato said. "I was afraid something would happen to Takeru, and I wasn't sure Tsunomon and Tokomon would be much help. Man, those were the days."
"Getting chased by predatory bug Digimon when we had a bunch of Child Digimon and had no idea where we were or how to get home?"
Yamato chucked. "Well, when you put it like that... but, we really did a lot of good, you know? There's no way we would be sitting here eating without Gabumon and Gomamon and eating if the Dark Masters were still around. Or Vamdemon or Devimon or any of those goons. I want that feeling again."
Jou nodded, spearing the last bit of fish on a plastic fork. "If any other evil Digimon makes a bid to control both worlds, I'll give him your number. But, you know, you could probably find something self-sacrificing and heroic to do in the real world. Or else just become an adrenaline junkie and start jumping off bridges and climbing mountains, but then I'll be forced to quote the odds of getting killed by things like that at you."
Yamato chuckled. "Thanks, Jou. That does make me feel a bit better."
Jou grinned. "What are friends for? Though this wasn't much of a date, I guess."
"Actually, I had a lot of fun," Yamato said. "Maybe next time we can go to a concert. I was serious about the music thing."
"Sure, though Gomamon is never going to let me live it down that he was right," Jou said.
Yamato laughed. "I'm sure bringing him an extra order of fries will appease him."
As they were cleaning up the remains of the fish wrappers, Yamato noticed the first drops of rain starting to fall on the beach. Sunlight might be a bit more auspicious, he thought. But he didn't mind the rain -- bring it on. Things felt clearer, despite the worsening weather.