Act II, Scene III
by Ajora Fravashi

*Disclaimer - I don't own Digimon. Toei/Bandai does. Guess what, I don't own a Sabotender ukelele either. Darn. I am also not in the cahoots with Square, Enix, or any other videogame company.
*Rather steamy lime warning. Yes, that's right: lime. As in suggestions of sexual things happening or things that will lead to that end.


It hurt. Every nerve in his body throbbed in pain, every tortured fiber made itself known. It hurt to breathe, it hurt to move, now it hurt even to think. Demon had tried over and over to beat Ken's whereabouts from his hide, but he had offered nothing other than jokes and snide comments. This of course got him beaten even more. After what had seemed like an eternity of torture that had been cut short when he passed out, the evil digimon had him thrown into a dungeon and stalked off. It was but a brief respite, he was sure, but he embraced it nonetheless.

There was the feeble hope that maybe he'd find a way out of here, but it didn't look likely. He couldn't find a loose stone or iron bar in the cell, nor was he able to goad one of the goblimon guards into either picking a fight with him or taking pity on him. And while the cell didn't stink as much as he expected it to, the odor of mold was still quite annoying. But the cot was somewhat clean, at least, and he could recall being in worse accommodations over his lifetime.

Ryo sighed as he carefully laid himself out on the surface of the hard little cot and stared up at the ceiling. Oh, he had tried poking around up there too, but nothing would give way. Admittedly, the task would have been easier if they didn't confiscate his Swiss Army knife along with his D-3. The Swiss Army knife was actually one of the more useful gifts his parents gave him. Such a pity it was gone now.

Such a pity he had been too tired to escape Mixcoatlmon's coils. Such a pity he couldn't help Ken at all while he was imprisoned in the heart of Demon's lair. Such a pity he was a miserable failure at everything he did. After all, even the people closest to him freely called him a 'poor idiot'. Funny that it didn't matter so much back then, but it depressed him now.

Why couldn't Demon have had the grace to give him something to do in the cell instead of fester amidst his own inner devils? Hell, a book would be wonderful to have in here. Even a piece of chalk would be nice, he could draw out concept plans for a new residence somewhere. But no, all he had were his Gennai-persona robes and his crest which his captors deemed useless since he wasn't bonded to any digimon.

One of the goblimon guards huffed to itself, drawing Ryo out of his misery. Of course, he always had his voice. It wasn't all that good a voice, really, and it hadn't been since it settled at about a mid-baritone range. He could still carry a tune regardless of the harshness in his singing voice, and maybe if he was lucky he could annoy the guards enough for them to want to come close enough for him to make a grab for the keys. It was worth a try.

It was a slow, balladic piece, something he had been listening to more than usual lately. The song demanded for a piano solo, but he was just going to have to bypass that. "Swing the heartache, feel it inside out... When the wind cries, I'll say goodbye... Tried to learn, tried to find, to reach out for eternity... Where's the answer? Is this forever?"

No response from them yet. Dammit. He'd have to be a little louder. "Like a river flowing to the sea... You'll be miles away, and I will know... I know I can deal with the pain. No reason to cry..."

Still nothing? What, were they deaf? He should be annoying them by now! "Crucify my love, if my love is blind... Crucify my love, if it sets me free... Never know, never trust, that 'love should see a color'... Crucify my love, if it should be that way..."

Ryo's voice trailed off as he heard several footsteps striding down the hallway. Curious as to who would be walking around in this area, the Tamer rose from the cot to get a better look at those who had stopped in front of his cell. There was sorcerymon, a bakumon that had probably been seduced over to the Demon Corps since a vaccine would rarely associate with virii at this level, and two veggiemon. They all gave what could be considered predatory grins as the cell door was opened at their command.


It had to be a nightmare. Everything had to be a nightmare, and he had finally woken up. Ryo uncurled himself from the fetal position he was sleeping in and stretched out on his back, soon made aware of the pajama pants he was wearing but nothing else was there. The bed was comfortable, soft, and warm. It seemed like it was always that way. Sunlight streamed through the filter of gauzy white curtains, unleashing a pale light into the room. His blue Apple laptop laid shut on a desk that was cluttered with post-it notes, books, game manuals, and other such paraphernalia. Somewhere under that pile he could barely see the plushy blue slime critter he had gotten back when he was a hardcore DragonQuest fan. Propped up against his bookshelf was that bizarre Sabotender ukelele Square released not very long ago and he bought it because it was just so weird that he had to have it.

He was home. Not that room in the cottage he built in the Digital World, but home. Everything was as he had left it, right down to the red sweater he had haphazardly tossed on top of his desk chair and was too lazy to pick it up later. He stared up at the ceiling and wondered what happened, why was he back home? Had it all been a really bad dream, or was this the dream?

Before his thoughts could go further, someone knocked at his bedroom door. That was odd, Mom usually came right in and complained that he needed to clean his room. His curiosity piqued, Ryo slipped out of bed and strode the short way across the room to open the door.

Standing before the door was a vision that left Ryo attempting to pick his jaw up off the floor. Ken stood before him, not the child he knew as his best friend, but a Ken that was about fourteen now. Dressed in a nothing but a simple, oversized white shirt. By the almighty Atari system, and he thought Ken at eleven was pretty. "Um. Ah... come in?"

Ken bowed his head in acknowledgement and stepped through, not looking back until he heard Ryo close and lock the door behind them. With a smile, the boy stopped to stand by the bedside and gestured for Ryo to take a seat.

Confounded at just what was going on and well aware of the decidedly sultry glances that Ken was shooting at him, Ryo did so. This was so bizarre, and there really wasn't a way he could think of describing the expression Ken wore in any way that wasn't crude. Were he in a secret on-line chatroom where he could be as frank as he damn well pleased, however, he would best define it as the "fuck me into the ground" look. Right now he was very much tempted to do so, too. But this was Ken, and he would never take advantage of his best friend like that. Right?

While his mind was still in a whirlwind of emotions, surging hormones, and morals, Ken leaned down to brush slender fingers against his cheek and across lips that had gone dry in nervousness. Before he could so much as do anything about the direction things were going, his friend tilted his chin up and Ken brushed lips against his. Ryo's body began to ache with the need for further contact, something more. He'd been waiting so long now that his willpower crumbled.

Just as he gathered the strength enough to play along with whatever Ken's game was and close what little distance was left between them, the other boy lightly pulled away. This left Ryo even more confused than he had been.

"I got lost, Ryo," Ken murmured, seemingly oblivious to the turmoil he was putting Ryo through.

Blinking at the unexpected statement, the Tamer paused for a bit before the words fully registered in his mind. "Lost?"

A single slender finger slipped slowly down the Tamer's chest, so light was its progress that he almost didn't feel it. But the further it went, the more aware he was of it. "I was playing with Wormmon and got lost, so I can't find my way back. Where was Sanctuary again?" It finally stopped just a couple of centimeters below his navel, eliciting from him a small, almost inaudible whine. Why was Ken teasing him like this?

"Y- you always knew where it was," he stammered, baffled that Ken of all people was asking something like that, and at this moment. Ken should be able to find the lake with no problem.

Ken sighed, looking as if Ryo had just grievously insulted him. Before Ryo could say anything, though, Ken settled on the Tamer's lap and laid his head on Ryo's shoulder. "I forgot. You know the Dark Seed has that effect on me..."

Tentatively Ryo wrapped his arms around the boy on his lap, all too aware of how... strange this all was. While the Ken he knew as a child would crawl into his lap when tired or when they were playing a multiplayer game like Gauntlet, there had been an innocence about the action that was obviously missing this time. Of course, back then the boy wasn't trying to seduce him and didn't know that rubbing up against him in the place Ken was now would get the attention of certain rebellious parts of his body that refused to heed logic. It was so odd. "But it's ingrained in you, you'll always know even with the Dark Seed's interference."

His teeth gritted as he felt kisses on the sensitive flesh of his neck, which combined with the fact that Ken was rubbing up even more against his growing heat only worked to heighten his arousal. And yet somehow he couldn't bring himself to return the favor in kind.

"All you have to do is tell me," the boy whispered as he paused in his kisses only to exhale hotly against the Tamer's ear. "Just tell me where Sanctuary Lake is and I'm all yours. Body, heart, and soul."

Somewhere in the back of the mush that his mind had become at Ken's attentions, his conscience screamed at him. It sounded like Savali's voice, oddly enough. Everything was so wrong. Ken would never do anything like this to him. He couldn't bring himself to take advantage of the situation. Having sex with Ken, as pleasant as the mental image was, would be too much like screwing the little brother he never had. It would ruin everything.

Then, slowly, everything became clear. Ken would never ask him for the location of Sanctuary Lake, it had been ingrained into the boy the day he began training Ken as a Tamer. Every Tamer had been trained to gravitate to Gennai's house like homing pigeons in times of need, it was for the best in case something happened that would affect their memories. Ken would never try to seduce the answer from him, all the boy would do was ask. This was not and never had been the little child who became his Jogress partner.

With a sense of peace he hadn't felt since he developed a crush on his Jogress partner, Ryo pushed the boy away with gentle hands, only to plant a small kiss on the imposter's lips. "If you don't know then I can't tell you. Nice attempt, but you're not Ken."

The imposer pulled away, touching those pale lips with fingers that now looked a little too thin. Dread rose in the creature's eyes as the imposter reverted into a bakemon and the illusion fell away. The ghost digimon barely glanced back at Demon before it was destroyed in a swipe of Demon's clawed hand.

Despite the sheer fury in Demon's eyes at the fact that the plot hadn't worked, Ryo laughed more lightheartedly than he had in a very long time. "Man, striking at my weakest point. I didn't think you went that low, Demon. Hell, most slimeballs I know wouldn't even think about it. Congratulations."

Demon's eyes narrowed as he lashed out in a grab for Ryo's neck. The Tamer just barely ducked out of the way and rolled off to the side. He pulled himself up off the ground but settled into a position that would allow him to escape again at any minute. "Before you go ripping my spine out, can we just talk for a bit? You haven't really given me much choice to do so."

With a growl, Demon's eyes turned into mere slits. "You are trying my patience, human. Where is the Dark Seed?"

"Wait. First, I'm assuming you want it to take out the Holy Beasts, right? I trust you have a back-up plan since there are four of them and one of you," Ryo got out in a rush, hoping against all odds that he could stall his own death as much as possible. "Even with the additional power of the Dark Seed you'd still be outmatched."

"Fool, my first goal is the elimination of Zhuqiaomon. With the final mega-level virus out of the way, the other Holy Beasts would have no choice but to accept me in his place. Then it wouldn't be too hard to take them out one by one, now would it?" Ryo's mind reeled at the revelation. Zhuqiaomon was a virus? Why hadn't anyone ever told him? But then it did make sense, all the data types of the Digital World were probably represented among the Holy Beasts. Well, it explained Zhuqiaomon's attitude around him, anyway.

Before the Tamer could get out of the way, Demon's clawed hand lashed out again, wrapping around his throat before his mind even registered what was going on. "It is a pity that the Holy Beasts' little lap dog won't be around to tell them of my plans. As entertaining as this has been, I'm sure Mixcoatlmon will find the boy with the true Dark Seed with or without your help. Just know this, Tamer: you had your chance to tell me everything and live, and you threw it away. I am through with you." With that, Demon's grip tightened.

Somewhere beneath the pain of being strangled by someone significantly larger and stronger than him, beneath the frustration of having his weaknesses exploited as Demon had done, beneath the glaring reminder of his solitude, a moment of clarity bubbled up from the murky depths of his mind. He was not laying down his life in hopes that Ken would fill the gaping ache that had been left behind with the deaths of Osamu and Kageko. He was not doing so out of obligation to repair his past mistakes. He was not doing so out of any pretentious ideals that he was the only one who could. He was doing it out of loyalty to Ken.

Somewhere in the darkness that cloaked the fortress of the Demon Corps, a single crest that had not been activated in years began to glow once again.


Many things annoyed the tsukaimon, but nothing was as annoying or as offensive to his pride as drudge work. It was all he did within the ranks of the Demon Corps, and it was all for the sake of listening in on potentially revealing conversations. After all, servants overheard more than any other spy could manage.

To add insult to injury, he had also recently heard that Demon's pet snake dragged in a Tamer. This news brought much excitement to the janitorial staff and in turn made Savali sick with worry. There was only one Tamer left, it had to be Ryo. This was what he considered insulting: that he had gotten so attached to the Tamer that he was so worked up about the news. He had even turned to pacing as a way to smooth out his nerves. He considered himself better than that! Only pathetic little bonded digimon got attached to a human like that, and the idea that he had bonded to Ryo was preposterous. Completely and utterly preposterous. He was just doing spy work and playing messenger for Ryo because it was fun and he liked it. Right?

Savali stopped midstride as he realized that he was echoing Ryo's mannerisms too. Ryo always paced in circles when distressed. With a grunt of disgust, the tsukaimon forced himself out of the pattern and tossed aside the dustrag he had been working with before hearing the news from a hyperactive gazimon. There had to be something he could do to get the Tamer out of here.

Without a word to the supervisor, the purple digimon fluttered out of the room he had been ordered to clean. Everywhere he could, he asked discreet questions of the human and what had been done to Ryo. As far as he could tell, the Tamer sat through several interrogation sessions and spent them answering questions with jokes and confusing riddles. This made Demon very angry, and Demon began a torture session that had been cut short when the Tamer fainted in exhaustion, despite all that was being done to him. Then they threw the human into a cell while Demon was said to have figured out a much more devious way to extract what information he needed and employed the help of a strayed bakumon and one of the more intelligent bakemon. Savali could gather nothing else other than the location of the Tamer's items. Ryo would want those back, he was sure.

Pleased with himself as usual, the tsukaimon darted down shadowed halls in search of the room that held Ryo's belongings. Somewhere along the way he began to feel an unusual tingling sensation. Far beyond him, something glowed and was infusing him with energy of the likes which he had never felt before. It carried with it a sense of danger. His human was in very big trouble, and the knowledge of just what was happening finally crashed down upon him. He had to protect Ryo. He had to save his human. And despite Ryo's warning that he was not to evolve past champion level, the tsukaimon embraced the energy surging through him and went through his evolution sequences faster than he had ever done before.

He was a tsukaimon no longer, nor was he an igamon or tekkamon. A childish giggle escaped his wooden mouth as he stretched out his equally wooden limbs and inspected the white gloves gracing his hands. He was a pinocchimon, the first one seen since the fall of the Dark Masters. Pinocchimon... no, he still liked the sound of his name much better. After all, the person he had been named for was a messenger and spy too. Ryo had given him that name. Besides, people might confuse him with the Dark Master Pinocchimon and that would likely lead to unpleasant encounters. But then again, he did still have to get back at the boys that made his human sad the last time he had seen Ryo.

Cackling with sheer joy at his newfound powers, Savali flew even faster towards the first chamber. He gleefully knocked out Demon's pet snake with his mallet, grabbed the Tamer's D-3 out of the bag, and tied the bag to the handle of his mallet. This was going to be fun!

Savali had no problem at all with shoving hapless digimon out of the way, most of whom didn't see what hit them. He also had no problem playing whack-a-mole with anyone who dared challenged him. He was a mega, after all, the first mega virus ever seen in the Demon Corps who wasn't named Demon. The champions and ultimates were nothing to him.

Pounding into the place where Demon held his human by the neck wasn't any problem either. His attack was too fast, and Demon barely turned before Savali stunned the other mega with a heavy whack of the mallet that had all his strength behind it. Dazed, Demon let Ryo fall, which was just enough for the pinocchimon to fly out and grab his human. As he sped out of the room, Savali tossed back the words "No one plays with my toys but me!"

Within a few minutes the pinocchimon burst his way into a security room that had many convenient monitors for his perusal. Ryo may be unconscious now, but Savali knew enough of how to work a digivice. Smiling pleasantly at the scene he expected to see once he dragged his human back to Sanctuary Lake, the pinocchimon opened up a digital gate and began the long process of hopping between worlds in hopes of losing anyone who would dare follow him.


Takeru gave a content sigh as he stretched out his legs for a moment before curling them back up again, his head cushioned in Ken's lap and watching the videogame Ken was playing with only slight interest. He hadn't known Ken was into most videogames before, but it was something to do and he had no problems with it. After all, he was comfortably curled up with his head in Ken's lap and enjoying the proximity, wasn't he?

The game wasn't all that interesting as something he'd want to play, it was too complicated and its emphasis was more on battle strategy and tactics than anything else. Well, it definitely had "Tactics" somewhere in the title. Right now Ken's troops were doing a good job of wiping the battlefield with the opponents. It was interesting to watch how fast Ken issued orders and efficiently wiped out the enemy troops. Even if, eventually, Ken's ruthlessness on the battlefield ended up sending his character's charisma and alignment plummeting.

Although he would never voice these thoughts, Takeru now realized just how Ken managed to take over the Digital World as he did. This game was so similar, and Ken did say something about Ryo introducing him to it when he was nine years of age. The boy had taken to it like a fish to water, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. But all in all, this was infinitely preferable to the conquest of the Digital World. Ken seemed to be happy when he was lost in this game and this in turn made Takeru very happy.

At that moment, a noise that wasn't caused by the videogame in front of them resounded from the front door. With an annoyed grumble at whomever decided to disturb their peace, the blond rose from Ken's lap and strode over to answer the door. Wasn't this place supposed to be used only when the Chosen had to go into hiding? Who would be knocking on the door of a hidden sanctuary? It couldn't be Akiyama and that pest of a tsukaimon, they would come and go as they pleased.

The minute Takeru opened the door and recognized the face of the intruder, all color drained from his face. Terror began to well within and paralyze him as the memory of where he had last seen that face came to the fore. It had been years ago, but he still remembered as clearly as if it had happened the day before. Pinocchimon wearing that same crazed grin while toying with him...

Ken peeled his eyes from the virtual battlefield when he noticed that Takeru was taking longer than the boy should have, and that all had gone quiet. Their digimon partners were still in the kitchen devouring everything they could get their paws on, so nothing dangerous had to be happening. He paused the game and rose from the folded futon to see just what was holding up Takeru.

A pinocchimon stood grinning fiendishly in front of them, dragging behind him a very battered-looking Ryo. Pinocchimon, that was Savali's mega form, wasn't it? Hadn't Ryo forbidden Savali from achieving the mega level to prevent any confusion between Savali and the Dark Master? What would trigger Savali's evolution to this? Unless...

The pinocchimon began giggling at them, then focused his attention on Takeru. Innocent the words may have been, but there was nothing innocent about their intent. "Hi, Takeru! Wanna play?"

Panic rose within the Child of Hope as the pinocchimon's words registered in his mind. It was happening again, he had to get out of here. But not without Ken, he simply was not going to leave his friend here with that... that thing. As he stepped back, he lashed out to grab Ken's wrist in an attempt to run off with the other boy in tow. Despite his wish to be as far away from the marionette digimon as possible, Ken stayed still long enough to excuse them from the digimon's presence and then allowed himself to be dragged off to one of the furthest rooms in the house.

Takeru began to shudder as Ken pulled the boy into his embrace. He wasn't sure exactly why Savali was triggering this kind of reaction from Takeru, but- Oh, damn, why didn't he remember until now? The first time he and Takeru actually got around to having a genuine conversation, the blond told him everything about the Dark Masters, particularly those who had taken special interest in tormenting the youngest of the group. After mentally kicking himself for not figuring it out beforehand, Ken hugged his friend reassuringly.

"It's just Savali in his mega form, not the Dark Master," Ken murmured as he rubbed his friend's back in as comforting a manner as he could manage. "He may be a jerk, but he'll never hurt you. Ryo won't allow for it."

As Ken continued in his attempt to soothe his friend, Takeru's shaking ever so slowly tapered off into nothingness. Despite this, Takeru still clung to him as if never wanting to let go. This he did not mind at all. It was nice being the one to comfort someone else for once, and he did so enjoy having Takeru in his arms regardless of the situation.

Once the blond was calm enough to drag himself from Ken's arms, he rearranged his hat and straightened out his shirt in embarrassment. "Sorry about that."

"Don't be, I'd probably do the same thing too," the Child of Kindness responded as he reached out and took Takeru's hand in his. "I'm going to check on Ryo, would you prefer to stay here until Savali goes back to his tsukaimon form?"

Takeru shook his head, resolving not to let the memory torment him any more at the moment. "I'll go with you."

Hand in hand the boys strode back into the common room. The door was now closed and Piccolomon, back from doing a patrol of the grounds, was now fussing around like he owned the place. Considering that Piccolomon was the first digimon to form a temporary bond to the original Gennai, that description probably wouldn't be very far off the mark. Leafmon and Tokomon huddled together off to the side, watching on in mild curiosity. They looked as if they had eaten a little too much and were likely to drift off into a nap at any minute. Savali, now back in his tsukaimon form, hovered over the unconscious form of the last true Tamer and looked to be positively bored now that his prank on Takeru was over with.

Ryo had been laid out on the now-unfolded futon, looking for all the world like he had literally been through one of the hells of any given mythology. Yet somehow, under the bruises and scrapes, something was significantly different. The robes looked too large now and Ryo looked several years younger. But how could this be possible?

"Ken, Takeru! Now that you're back, we'll just have to wait for Ryo to recover for a bit before we head off to the final destinationppi," Piccolomon squeaked, waving his spear around a bit in emphasis as he did so.

The blond would have asked just where they were going, but Ken soon pulled away to kneel at his first Jogress partner's side to brush the stray lock of hair out of the way. "Savali, what happened and how did this age-reversal come about?"

Savali took his own sweet time to make himself comfortable at Ryo's side before he deigned to answer the boy. "He got caught by Demon's pet snake and dragged to the Demon Corps. It's a shame Mixcoatlmon is practically useless for anything except biting others and hunting you down. Oh, he looks dangerous enough, but there's a lot of talk going around that he's only favored by Demon because of his hunting skills. Anyway, from what I could tell, they interrogated Ryo and did something or another that involved illusions since Demon was said to be using a bakumon and one of the more intelligent bakemon. I'm assuming it didn't work, since Ryo's crest glowed and I found him being strangled by Demon."

Ken blinked, surprised at the revelation. Ryo's crest hadn't glowed since before Kageko's death. What could have triggered it now? And now that it did, that must have been why Savali was able to access his mega form. This had to mean that a temporary bond had formed between the Tamer and his messenger. Still, it didn't quite answer why Ryo now looked to be in his mid-teens.

Piccolomon too seemed to be as stumped as he was. The pink creature leaned over Ryo to get a better look. "Perhaps the crest activation caused this too? How old was he when the crest ceased working, pi?"

"Fourteen, I think," Ken offered as he pulled the crest and its tag out from under the now oversized black turtleneck. It was no longer dark as it had been, and he was beginning to wonder what had darkened it in the first place. Come to think of it, how had he lost his own crest in the desert? "It was about the time of the D-1 Tournament, if not shortly afterwards."

A hissing breath escaped Piccolomon as he stated this. Before Ken could ask why he got that kind of reaction, the little pink digimon yanked himself away from the futon and began to stride out to the door. "I'm going back on patrol. Be good, pi!"

Silence settled over the room as the pink ball of a digimon wandered off and left them with more questions than answers. Takeru just looked confused about what had transpired, and Ken's mind reeled in an attempt to find out just what had happened. Was the crest's darkening something that accelerated Ryo's aging process? If that was the case, then its glowing probably reset Ryo's age back to the way it was before it became tarnished. If so, did Ryo still remember everything that happened after the crest darkened? Was it just his age that had been reset or was it his memory as well?

What did Piccolomon know about this, and just what happened after D-1? With a sigh at the number of questions he wanted answers for, Ken rose from his friend's side. He was indeed worried about Ryo, but there just wasn't anything he could do at this moment until Ryo woke up. And, as was usual for him now, he was beginning to feel so tired. Soon enough the pain in the back of his neck started again, feeling as if someone was hammering a nail between his vertebrae. It was only getting worse until he passed out once again.


Ajora: Despite Ryo's attempts at being annoying, X Japan's "Crucify My Love" is a really pretty piece and very suitable giving what he's been going through so far in the fic. And believe it or not, Ryo's voice really is suitable for this song given that X Japan's main singer has a somewhat harsh voice too ^^.

I apologize for the Kenryo. That scene was bugging me for over a month now. Sorry to anyone who might have been offended by it.

Final note: Piccolomon is better known as Piximon in the dub, but I am much more used to him and his usage of 'ppi' at the end of every other sentence in the Japanese version of the anime and Tag Tamers than I am with the dub, so please just grin and bear it ^^.


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