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a place in the dark sea

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Taiki, after years of practice, had figured out how to make time for himself. It took a miracle and numerous schedule rewriting but he was now able to sit comfortably at home and relax.

To be fair, he wasn't alone but when he ran into Ryouma and Ren at the supermarket, that had developed into just a casual, fun day with friends. Or former rivals. They had been more of Tagiru's rivals but he had been against them once. If he could bond with Kiriha via flying face punches and life-death scenarios, a harmless game of find the Cutemon was a piece of cake, really.

Well, mostly harmless. In comparison. Yes.

Ren cursed, creatively, from on the floor and Ryouma smirked at him, one of those affectionate looks that made Taiki's heart twist with guilt and even a bit of envy. He didn't have relationships like that. He had friends, he had close companions, he had Akari and Zenjirou and Kiriha and Nene, and even Yuu sometimes when he was out of his own head, but it wasn't the same. Those were relationships forged in fire, those were people who had in one way or another, had seen him die. It… It wasn't exactly the best way to forge anything intimate and personal.

(These kids hadn't seen him die, they had seen him get close, and that was enough.)

He had to wonder how military families did it.

His thoughts were cut off by Ren tackling Ryouma over on the floor. Then he yelped in pain and scrambled away. "Dude, that was your ring in my eye."

Ryouma made a face, trying to fix his hair as quickly as possible. "That would be a very good hint not to put your face by my hands, wouldn't it?"

Ren glared and Taiki took that moment to leave the bedroom. At least the only things really breakable and within reach were his desk lamp and the tv. He'd hidden his computer hours ago, mostly so his mom wouldn't try to use it again.

Never let it be said his mother wasn't great, but she was terrible with electronics that weren't from Apple. He did not know why.

"Sounds like they're having fun up there," his mother commented idly. "Do we need to invest in a new rug?"

Taiki laughed and waved his hand, smiling at her. "They're fine," he said. "Just lost a match."

His mother smiled back. "Is that right? Well, if you're sure it's fine."

"It should be." It wasn't real violence, not meant to harm, not to kill. It was fun. All it was was two friends who cared about each other. Tagiru and Yuu did it all the time. It was (probably) normal.

"You've gone from homework duty into babysitting duty," she said to him, stirring the rice now.

"Better than tactician duty." He settled in the chair and watched her.

His mother's smile dimmed a little, but not enough. Not enough to actually worry him, just… in acknowledgement. At least that was what he hoped.

"Is it over yet?" she asked him in that low voice she usually used when referring to his father coming home or when the bills could take an extra couple of extra days to pay.

His own smile lost the glint of teeth. "I don't know," he admitted. "Digimon are still running about all over the world."

It was part of what had kickstarted Nene's career good and proper. She could sing, sure but she was mainly a girl who could Hunt and be a hero who saved the world. There were small documentaries of her having saved people once or twice, with vague mentions of her past as a general, a war hero. Which meant, even briefly, the other generals had been dragged into the limelight.

Not the hunters, thank goodness, they wouldn't know what to do with it (and Yuu refused to let Tagiru near a camera), but even Akari and Zenjirou had had their moment. All of them in tandem had decided to despise it with every fiber of their being. But they had borne it and it was over now. And, in roughly five to ten years, Nene would be quitting.

"I'd like to not have a heart condition that's incurable by the time I'm thirty," she had jabbed him over the phone. He had laughed, and guilt had trilled in his gut. But he let it go. It had been the most necessary sacrifice he had ever made. And he'd do it again too. For Yuu, for his friends, for the future that Shoutmon had wanted to create, nothing seemed worth giving up.

His mother opened her mouth, possibly to change the subject, when his phone buzzed hard enough to shake the table a little. He tilted his head at the sight of the caller id. Tagiru never called him when he had friends over. It was like he had a sixth sense of when to actually call him. So he picked it up and slid the call on. "Hello?"

"Taiki-san!"

Taiki immediately pulled the phone away from his ear as Tagiru's voice filled the entire room as he shouted and babbled incomprehensible things into the void. THere was a higher edge to it than usual, leaving it as frantic peals until Taiki managed to catch him in a breath.

"Tagiru, I heard none of that." He kept his voice patient and slow because that ended up working with both of them. "What's going on?"

Tagiru was quiet for a few beats, a heartbeat too long. "Yuu is… he's hurt, he's… there's a lot of blood, Taiki-san what do I do?"

The last word rose in pitch to almost a high whine and Taiki pulled the phone away again, his own heart thumping with pain in his ears.

He glanced at his mother, who, face white, motioned to take the phone. Taiki handed it to her without a second thought, going to grab anything useful. His mother chattered at Tagiru with quick, business-like snaps of orders, and he ran up the stairs to find the Ren heading down them. He was slightly pale.

"Problem," Taiki told him, voice a little too curt. "Yuu. It's not sounding good."

Ren visibly flinched. Taiki paused, dancing on both feet. He needed his Xros Loader, but Ren's face… something was not right. "What happened?" Because he wouldn't care about Yuu, Ren had a very specific set of people that he thought about on a regular basis and Yuu was not one of them. If he was reacting at all beyond a sly comment or mild interest, this was not good.

"Ryouma's passed out," he said. "It's… there's a weird… thing on his hand. It just appeared when he hit the floor."

Taiki almost cursed on every deity he knew.

"We'll get him on my bed," he said, for lack of anything else to do considering his current lack of a phone. "Try to wake him up. Did he fall hard?"

"No."

That was one good thing today. Taiki finished climbing the stairs, the pain in his chest refusing to recede. He just needed his Xros Loader, and SHoutmon, and the others. And he needed to go back and resolve this immediately.

Before whatever happened to Yuu and Ryouma ended with them dead.

So much for this all coming to an end.