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equilibrium variable

Chapter Text

The dreams started young.

No, young was not the right word. Young implied age and experience would follow. Young asked for eventual age and wisdom and truth and that was never going to really happen. Time stopped for some people no matter how gray their hair was.

No, no. The dreams started in innocence. Yes that was correct. The dreams, the results of the dreams, took the innocence away.

Since their childhoods two people had dreamed the same dream.

Himekawa Maki and Yagami Hikari had dreamed of a fractured sea.

It was a constant endless blue, but it was due to their eyes' perception and their human minds. It might fade in time. No one could be quite sure. The one who lived in the sea could not put it to words. After all, sometimes it was black, sometimes it was all colors.

Hikari was there now, there and not there and for the first time she could see more.

She could see the dead. She could hear a voice-

-It's no use! I can't stop it!-

And there was a pain, blistering hot and the world beyond was beyond her and she thought for a moment she saw brown hair, short like hers, limbs slender and long yet inhuman and then each turning one at a time in an awful direction.

Hikari woke up screaming, startling Taichi and Miko and not able to quiet for so long it drew her mother and father into the room.

Himekawa Maki woke up with dried tears and an empty beer can on the floor. Hikari's screams rang in her ears and the sea frothed and washed over the taste of thick saliva and desperately swallowed espresso with whiskey. She waited for the ringing to stop, waited for the spinning to slow, ate a pretzel.

She did not shut her eyes. She let Hikari go on screaming from her safe apartment, surrounded by her parents and brother, hands scrabbling for a presence that was simply no longer there.

Maki laid back down on her couch, too boneless to go hunt down her bed, and shut her eyes again.

The Chosen Children would get over it.

She had.

She slept on, easy, unaware, or perhaps not caring, about the figure resting its wings on her balcony. They leaped off after the sound of her snores.

The week following the reboot crept past her. Hikari, unable to get a full night's rest, didn't realize it was a Sunday until it was, flashes of brown and purple behind her eyelids. Her mother had to push her gently back into bed and remind her when she slept through what was likely her alarm. Her brother was already gone, off to practice soccer alone, refusing to wait for her so maybe they could kick the ball like old times.

She doubted that. She could still barely kick a soccer ball and it showed. He didn't want to take the risk.

-Not true.-

She shut her mouth to bury the sound, mess of chocolate locks plastered to her face. The pin couldn't keep her bangs behaved now, nothing could keep the heat of summer from reaching into her and twisting. Tailmon's fur was always cool to the touch and it had been a comfort.

But Tailmon was gone now.

Hikari rolled over. What right did she have to complain? They would have had to kill Patamon. Everyone would have had to die since they were all infected. She had no right to complain, to be concerned. She just had to accept everything.

-Do you?-

Again. Again with the voices.

Anemic, Himekawa-san had said at the hospital. Anemic. The nurses had agreed. But how had she gotten there from school? What had she been doing?

For a moment, she remembered incandescent light, voices, blurry warnings-

Her head snapped up when she felt her arm moved without her volition. It dragged through the air arm rotating while her wide, horrified eyes and she saw her wrist glowed golden with the rest of her. Like ripping a curtain, she forced her other arm up and dragged the other down to the comforter again. Just doing so was visibly painful, face contorted as the hand paused. Then it fell, so natural Hikari almost forgot to move it.


She stopped and looked around. Her eyes sparked. Words. More words but also less like words. Voice, voiceless.

"Who… are you?" Her voice sounded hoarse and rough, like she had not spoken in days instead of during sleep.

-A fragment of stability. I believe.-

"You… believe?"

-Yes. I had an accident. I died. Now I am something else, something other.- A pause, and a rush of zeroes and ones like whispers. -Who are you?-

The voice was so familiar, somehow, not in the sound, but in inflection. It was the way of speaking that she had heard before, somewhere, with light, an ancient, old light.

Her phone rang and yet it sat silent, and Hikari could suddenly remember things she had never spoken before.

She could see the Digimon, huddled together like fugitives under their secret base bridge. Patamon looked so small as he spoke, so fragile and weak as he was pleading for the obvious thing, the natural thing.

Even back then, if she had known, she wouldn't have wanted to. She wouldn't want him to be another Wizarmon, dying for everyone's tomorrow, for everyone's safety. But the real world, she was starting to realize all over again, did not entirely care what you wanted, or even that you existed. It only turned and was not simple nor kind.

So she would have gone along with it, in the end. She would have hated it but had gone along. She usually did.

-You are kind, whoever you are.- The presence left her arm.

Hikari wanted to laugh because she wasn't kind. She was passive at best, a peacemaker at worse. She simply did not want to see people get hurt. She was just afraid.

-Fear and peacemaking are a foundation for courage and activity.-

She wanted to ask what that meant but then she thought of the story of SkullGreymon. She thought of a little boy standing up against a great, giant dragon. She thought of staring at Vamdemon with Tailmon, absolutely certain that she would die.

She had stood up anyway. Was that important?

-I think so. Destiny dictated you would have something great as it is. But to choose to decide what makes your destiny is more important than you know.-

Hikari paused. "I…. know you."

In an instant, she was eight years old again. She was eight years old and there was a sparkling shimmer of lights. There was a voice in the trees, showering snowflakes of light and making the cold forest feel so much warmer. In the clashes of fire and ice, of two brothers who saw the right thing to do and weren't sure if they were doing it, she was not afraid.

Now, all these years later, she had no idea how she could not have been.

"You're the one from back then," she continued. It would seem odd for her to speak to an empty room, but she had always been odd. For all her mother would know she was muttering a little loudly in her sleep. "You spoke… you spoke to everyone."

-Incorrect.- The response would have been too quick, too forced if not for the sudden rush of a feeling, like an etheral wind and a puzzled discontent. -I'm sorry, but you must be thinking of the other.-


-Yes. That one's name is Homeostasis. It is a concept, somewhat of a god. I have become acquainted with them, in my own world, but I have yet to ascend beyond myself and my home however. Lingering sentiment, as it were.- There was a giggle in her head, that made the room shimmer.

Hikari closed her eyes and exhaled. Connected, but not the same. For whatever reason, it was like having a Digimon partner.

Her heart swelled up to the size of a small melon. She pushed the thought aside and tried to recall, tried to make sense.

Back then, she had fainted and Himekawa-san had found her. Back then, she had been away from the school, in the hospital for anemia. Why there? Why not the school infirmary?

Then Tailmon had appeared… and then…

Hikari let out a sound like a sob, but it wasn't. It wasn't near strong enough, but it was heavy. Light… voices… The world began to press down on her, the air itself reaching to clutch her lungs and squeeze them until they popped. Voices, a legion of voices, all whispering at the same time.

"It is all for the sake of stability. You understand this, that is why a power is yours. You understand this-"

She understood. Yes, it was for the sake of the balance. It was for the sake of making everything all right, for the sake of the future. That was why the sacrifice was so necessary. Sometimes, the greater good-

A whistle shrieked through the air, snapping Hikari from her thoughts. As she replayed them all in her head, Hikari clenched her hands into the fabric of her sheets. What had she just been thinking of?

Their partners dying… how had it been necessary? Was the reboot really the only way to have saved everyone? To have stopped Meicoomon? How did she know, how did the Digimon know?

I told them.

Her, or using her as a mouthpiece, something had told them that. Someone had said it, or said enough that the reboot had seemed to be the only way of resolving things. But was it? Even the feelings in her head weren't sure.

-… I see.- The speaker's voice was almost welcome now, cutting off the jumbled thoughts and emotions until they were settled again. Well, as much as they could be. Her heart thudded loudly, matching the heartless mantra running through her ears.

It's my fault. This is all my fault.

-I would not give yourself that much credit, chosen child.- The voice seemed to take on a new cadence, almost disappointed, even as she herself shifted in place at the words 'chosen child'. -You were a medium, no more, no less. That is the other's way. It seems, however, you may be more than that, now. They have sunk their claws into you again, and this time, they will not let go.-

"Who are you then?" she demanded, before she could stop the words. "If you're not the one possessing me, then who are you to them?"

-My name is Mikagura Mirei, and they are the reason I am able to speak with you right now. Just like you, some of their power awoke my own. However, unlike me, you seem to be alive, for the moment.- Her last words turned fuzzy, buzzing at the end. -I suggest you… careful. Your journey … not … yet.-

And she was gone. Like the voice, the energy, had never been.

Hikari sat in her bed for a moment. Then, with a shake of her head, she got up, and went to get dressed.

Whether she was the medium or not, whether she was the one who had just told them about the possibility or not, she needed to do something about this. Even if it was to find out there was nothing she could do.

Talk to Koushiro-kun about what she heard. Yes, that would be what she would do. And then, about, as well… everything. Ichijouji-kun and the others… everything. Or what she thought was everything.

The whistle cried out again, this time, unheard.

The woman came back into herself, chest heaving for air, eyes fixed on the points of light of the lab around her. Its soothing music reached her ears and she settled back into her chair.

"What are you trying to tell me," she asked the walls. There was no answer, but she swore the music the laboratory tended to play had grown slightly louder. She chuckled. Well, at least the universe was paying attention to her. Being ignored as someone of her ability was something quite unwelcome, and the powers that be knew that as a matter of course.

She let out a heavy exhale recalling the voice, the speaker. It was almost like the previous world. She was still connected to the current, which was good. It was nice to be on old territory… old…

Mirei frowned as the memories, the ties of fate gave an insistent tug and the floodgates opened before she could deny them.

A small child on a large dragon's back, puzzled, even a little bit scared. It's her first day, she can't help it. "Koromon? Don't you want to play anymore? Neh, Koromon?"

"I've always been able to see them, but no one ever believed me." Still so small, but the burden of secrets is always heavy and she has a small shuffle in her steps.

"Are you a friend of Agumon's?" It's gone now, or she's hiding it.

"I'll leave the door open for you."

Ah, the similarities here are too hard to ignore, aren't they, Mikagura Mirei? She almost wanted to laugh.

Further, further. The sand whispered, monochrome and welcoming, inviting her as she would be, inviting her as only she could be, to ascend, to become-

Destinies were easy to fulfill and deny, she could remember. She remembered that above all else.

And then, and then-

"Come on, if we can still open the gate, we have to try."

"It's too late now."

"Everything might come to an end."

'That wasn't what happened.' The girl's voice filtered into her mind, a desperate memory, unaware that she had thought this, once upon a time. 'They're, they're going to be fine. Everything will be fine. We can make this work. I just… we just need a little more time.'

A great, powerful, orange cat, screaming in rage as it launched itself towards anything in its path-

"But adulthood comes quickly," Mirei said to herself, closing the connection. "And life is certain to end." She looked up at her monitors and waved a hand, tan fingers brushing the air until a face showed up on screen.

"Yagami Hikari-san," Mirei told the picture, a school photo with so much data beneath it. "Perhaps our connection is not so random. Perhaps I can assist you, too. But first you must be invited in." She gave a gentle tug on another thread about her fingers. "Oh? Oh my, what is this?" She giggled a little, excitement rushing through her veins like nothing else could compare. "It looks like abandoned destinies have their uses after all." She sat back down at her computer, flipping it open. Time to put some calculations together.

"Shiro? Kuro? I need your assistance with something." There was the nearly silent padding of paws and two annoyed meows in answer. "No my friends, it is not a food run." Mirei lowered her hands from the keyboard for a moment to pick them both up, one at a time. "Not yet anyway. We need to make a connection to Flowtier that I can access. Will you help me?" The twin cries made her smile. "Good, good. We must hurry, in case that little cat has decided to set up shop elsewhere."

Mirei recognized that cat from Yagami Hikari's mind, she was sure of it. She just had to understand what that meant.

Her coffee had gone cold.

Maki upturned the cup into the trash. She glanced at the computer and shook her head. Much as it would amuse her to destroy government property, she still needed this computer. She typed rapidly, opening another window on screen.

"Begin sweep," she murmured, almost to herself. However, a soft light flickered from a pocket of her bag in response.

The familiar world map appeared on the blank window. Clustered dots, then locations, then names. Four, as always, said unknown.

Maki sat back. "As always, no change." She shook her head, chuckled to herself. "Of course this can't be easy for us even now." She began to examine the signals again. Tracing them back was impossible with Earth technology, of course, but at this point, it was all that they could rely on without too many issues.

Maki glanced at her coffee cup again. Then, with the sigh of the truly sleep deprived, she rose to go and make some more. She paused, then went to turn off her computer. It would be best if Nishijima did not see everything on her screen. He didn't snoop often, but when he did… well. It was better to be safe than sorry.

The window clattered open and she barely hesitated before rolling under her desk. The panel beneath slid open at the touch of her fingers, dropping heavy metal and leather into her smaller palms. She almost smiled. Almost. Her free hand touched her cell phone, pressed the emergency button. She toed her heels off where she curled.

For a few moments, everything was quiet. Then, a solemn voice spoke. "You don't have to do that." Her voice was crystal and blank, somehow the smoothness of a pearl. "I will not harm you, Hime-san."

Maki did not relax, but she drew herself from her safe place. Her weapon remained visible, and she did not put it down. "Forgive me," she said, not really meaning it. "It has been years, hasn't it?"

The intruder was small, pale as the papers on her desk, feathered and batlike wings shrinking and dissolving into the air. Her white hair lifted in the oncoming breeze. Maki remembered wheat blonde and thin, quiet sharpness and wild blue. The blue was now scarlet red and the once smiling mouth a thin frown.

Once she had worn pretty clothes, things that were easily dirtied. Now it was merely armor, pink and black and grey. Unaged. Ten years had gone by and not a growth spurt in sight.

"It has been a decade, Hime-san," the girl replied. Maki cracked a smile.

"Ever so punctual."

The other dipped her head in acknowledgment. "One must be, Hime-san."

"And as formal as ever, too." Maki stepped forward, grip refusing to come loose. "Come on now, no first name basis?" Sweat dripped down from her brow. "I could call you by your first name if you wanted. You liked it when I said your name, when I looked at you."

"I was young."

"We still are." But not young enough, as I have been made well aware.

The girl shook her head. "You have grown up, Hime-san."

"Is that a bad thing?"

The girl shrugged. "I would tell you if I could grow up."

Indeed. Twist that knife. You've learned. That is adulthood too. "Indeed you would. I believe that much." Maki flipped the knife back. Her phone vibrated. She didn't glance at it. "Why are you here then?"

The girl regarded the room she had destroyed and then looked back up at her fellow speaker. "I do not wish for things to end this way again."

"Why are you so certain that hey will?" Maki licked her lips. She had a sudden taste for powdered sugar, kissed from a mouth.

"Why are you so certain that this will begin?"

"Nothing's certain anymore." Maki decided this as soon as she spoke the words. "After all, you are here speaking to me. I shouldn't be surprised, but here I am. Shocked beyond measure."

No flicker of expression, not even a hint of humor. It was the most awkward thing to be two stoic people in a conversation full of unused tears and unasked questions.

Maki broke the silence after the sirens did, after the delayed alarms and rapid footsteps. She had done that on purpose. "You've changed."

"We all do." The girl opened one palm and there sat two simple rings, false gold but golden all the same. Still pliable, still easy to break. She threw them. Before she could think, Maki reached for them with her free hand.

"Aren't you supposed to give me your button or something?"

"Mom would kill me, you know how obsessed she gets with my clothes. I can't wait to be on my own."

"Speak for yourself."

Maki regarded them for a moment more, then looked at the girl. "Kiba Shiori-chan." Her voice grew harsh, as much as it dared. "Are you a sign that I am taking the wrong path and should return now?"

Shiori closed her hand back into a fist and her wings formed, glowing with power. "I wish I could answer you Hime-san, but I am afraid I am as much of a scalpel as you are."

Something struck into her, past flesh, past clothes, right as far as it could go. Maki had the sudden urge to throw up. So she did. It was red. Her desk and the floor were red.

She spun and almost fell into it. Or maybe she did. Her senses spun from her grasp. Then she knew nothing, except cool fingers on her cheek.

A whisper echoed from a ghost's mouth.

Then the girl was gone, or Maki herself had simply gone instead.