This fic closely follows Ryoís timeline in the game and the show. Yes, everything he says is canon, or a modification of canon.
Coincidentally, this fic is where my various Tamers timelines diverge from. So Iíve tried to keep the continuity good.
As always Henryís names will be different from fic to fic. Donít sweat it. ^^ Itís partly to help me hear character voices. That, and itís not uncommon for Hong Kong Chinese to adopt English names.
Spoilers up to episode 49 ("The D-Reaperís Feast"), though thereís only a couple of major ones that I can spot. Still, thatís the third to last episode, so read at your own risk.
He was the last person Henry expected to see, despite it all. All the other kids were taking time off with their families. It was true Henry was still in Shinjuku proper, at the Wild Bunchís makeshift HQ, but he was with his dad too.
Henry actually jumped, nearly dislodging Terriermon from his already wobbly perch. "Momantai, itís just Ryo."
Yes, it was. There was the same garishly orange sweater which concealed his solid physique. The startling blue eyes that took him in, head to toe. "Why are you still here, Jen?"
"What does it look like weíre doing, huh? Weíre saving the world!" Of course between Ryo and Terriermon it was impossible to get a word in edgewise. Henry glared at his digimon for the comment, and was met with his usual unrepentant smirk.
"I was about to ask you the same thing...." Henry looked over at Mizuno-san, who was watching them with interest.
A warm hand pressed on his shoulder. Henry was still not used to looking up to talk to Ryo. "You havenít slept."
Ryo knowingly glanced at Terriermon. Henry sighed; naturally the digimon would give him the lie. "Címon, letís get out of here."
"But I was helping Mizuno-san..."
With an odd twinkle in his eye, Mizuno-san shook his head. "You kids go ahead! You need a little fun anyway, right?" He laughed, deeply and heartily. Henry had agreed with Terriermon when heíd commented (loudly) that the creator of the Blue Cards had a screw loose. Still, the man was frighteningly perceptive. He already knew Ryo and Henry were seeing each other, when his father hadnít been told yet.
Henry was unusually determined to tell his father and mother of their relationship. It would probably upset them both, and likely earn odd looks from Rinchei-niisan and Jaarin-neesan. After the battle was over, he would tell them. Ryo had understood immediately. No matter what kind of trouble it brought them, it was a promise. The battle would end. And both he and Ryo would be alive to speak to it.
"Iíll go see what Lopmon and Suzie are doing," Terriermon declared after another glance from Ryo. Honestly, he had to figure out how to escape their mutual plotting. Though it really wasnít necessarily against him. Henry nodded, feeling Terriermonís weight launch off his shoulder; he watched the small digimon trot off to the family area.
He followed Ryo through the twisting corridors of the office building. After a few turns Henry didnít know where he was. Reluctantly he admitted to himself that he was zoning out. He didnít even notice when the older boy took his hand. Ryo always seemed to know where he was going anyway. It was a trait Henry envied a bit. "...hey, Jen. You really havenít been sleeping. You have bags under your eyes."
"Aa. Iíll be all right."
Inexplicably Ryo smiled. The thing with Akiyama Ryoís smiles was that they were usually unexpected and always stunned Henry to the core. His chin tilted up in an almost-smirk but his expression was open and bright. Smiling in the midst of despair. If heíd gone through a fraction of what Ryo had, heíd--- "--burn out, Jen."
Ryo laughed, the sound echoing down the hallway. "Címere, you!" Simultaneously he hugged Henry and pulled him down onto a plush couch.
Henry leaned on his soft sweater. "I still donít get why youíre here."
"What, you look like someone from Night of the Living Dead and you donít know why?"
Henry smiled tiredly, enjoying the slow backrub Ryo was giving him. "I thought you were with your dad."
Ryo shrugged. "He knows Iím gonna come home. And if thereís one thing he doesnít cut corners on, itís keeping my priorities straight." He hugged him tighter.
Priorities.... A dull warmth spread through Henry. He nestled in despite himself. "...where are we, anyway?"
"Oh, some conference room. Facing Fuji." Away from the D-Reaper, of course. "Uh uh, donít think so hard. I see you." Strong arms tucked him closer, and at last Henry began to feel the hours of fatigue. "Rest, Jen."
It was a tone of voice which brooked no argument. Besides, it was easy to let his eyes get heavy and to slip into sleep in the circle of Ryoís embrace.
"... I told him to push the big red button again but he wanted to Bit Knuckle through the elevator shaft!"
"I did not!"
"Guys, Henryís sleeping..."
Henry chuckled softly. "Not anymore." He blinked over at the digimon. Monodramon was now trying to turn a rolling chair upside down while Terriermon tried to push him on it, not under it. It was kind of funny to watch Terriermon get as exasperated with the other digimon as Henry got with him.
Ryoís voice was next to his ear. "Sleep well?"
Henry blinked, finally realizing that he was now comfortably sprawled between Ryo and the couch back. The other boy was reclining, legs up on the cushions and one arm around Henry. "Yeah, I think so," Henry said, feeling his cheeks heat up.
Ryo smiled again, his eyes lidding. That calm gaze made Henry want to relax too. He glanced over at Terriermon, who had managed to direct Monodramon on top of the chair back. His friend understood immediately, and with a giggle and a wave he pushed the office chair around the room and out the door, Monodramon hooting all the way.
"Be careful, guys!" Ryo called. "Theyíll probably give some poor programmer a heart attack."
"Theyíve been fighting almost non-stop since this started. They should have a little fun." Henry shifted, realizing that as Cyberdramon, Ryoís digimon had probably been fighting for months. It was an existence Henry still couldnít comprehend.
"Yeah, well we humans need a break from the fighting too." Ryo ran his hand through Henryís hair, sighing as each tuft brushed his fingers. Sleepy warmth diffused the weird-but-good feeling Henry was growing more familiar with. He noticed it was nearly dusk, probably time for the impromptu meal at the main room. It was the only time any of the Wild Bunch or the former Hypnos members left their computers, besides to sleep and wash. He should probably go see his dad, Henry thought. Only, he didnít really want to leave yet...
"Youíre thinking too hard again." Ryo grinned, though he let Henry sit up. "I took care of dinner."
"You sure do prepare for everything, Ryo." Henry got up and stretched. Shedding his jacket, he automatically went through a simple form to center his breathing as Ryo laid out the rice cakes and dumplings. Only towards the end did he notice how he was distracting Ryo. Another weird-but-good feeling.
Ryo pulled up a chair, splitting the disposable chopsticks and laying them next to Henryís plate, on the left side. "I do a lot of preparing for the unexpected. The expectedís not so hard."
They ate in silence for a while. It was nice, Henry had to admit. They were far enough away from the rest of the group to have some privacy. Henry and Terriermon were the last "experimental sample" in the vicinity, so their attention was almost constantly needed. Henry missed being able to blend into a room full of adults, observing instead of acting. It was the only environment where he really could blend in completely. He sighed at that. Those days were probably gone; everyone would recognize him now.
On the other hand it was odd to have the attention of his family. There had always been Rinchei and Jaarin, and then Shuichon to compete with. His older brother and sister excelled at sports and school, and left the computer stuff to their father and little brother. He was so different at home, sometimes. He interrupted, he argued, he teased and butted in. You just had to be loud to be heard at all. Now when he spoke, a hush would fall over the table. Riní and Jarrie had visited a couple of times since the programming team had relocated to the building. Henry could still feel the weight of their gazes, so full of respect and awe. It was just weird. He wasnít sure if it was good... but he didnít think it was going to change anytime soon.
He looked up to see Ryo watching him. This was definitely a good feeling. Ryo winked at him, lips twisting up fondly. It occurred to Henry that he should apologize for being so quiet, after heíd gone through all the trouble to get this time away. Ryo wouldnít accept it, though. It was definitely odd to think that someone would be so focused on him that even long silences were worth observing.
"Two yen for your thoughts?"
Henry shrugged. "Selfish stuff... how things have changed in my family." Ryo raised a brow at Ďselfishí, but it was true. Ryo had hardly any family to get attention from, and his dad barely tolerated Monodramon. On the streets, he was mobbed by dozens of anonymous people who wanted to get a piece of the legendary tamer. "And how nice it is to get away for a while."
"I knew youíd come around."
Henry laughed. "Yeah, my mom always said Iím as stubborn as my dad. Really, itís nice. Thanks."
Ryo studied him for a moment. "But?"
He blinked. "Ah..."
Ryo gently dislodged his hand from his D-Arc. Henry hadnít noticed how hard he was gripping it. "Itís getting harder and harder to sit around without fighting, isnít it."
Henry sighed, nodding. Ryo was speaking for himself too. On the other side of the building, and all over the world, the bubble of chaos was spreading. It was already doing horrible things to the digital world. "It must have been hard to see all that destruction on Graniís recording."
Ryo turned his face. For a moment Henry thought heíd said the wrong thing. "Iíve seen it on the edge a lot of times," Ryo said quietly. "But never so decimated, like this."
"...Ryo? You downloaded all the recordings, didnít you."
He turned back to Henry, a little sheepish. "Yeah, I did."
Henry touched Ryoís sleeve. "You really got to love that place."
"In a way." Ryo twined his fingers with Henryís, his eyes unusually distant. "It was lonely and unfeeling, at times. And constantly holding Cyberdramon back was pretty draining. But Iím kind of its protector."
Something in his pensive gaze piqued Henryís curiosity. Not I acted as its protector. Ryo had said I am its protector. "Youíre... supposed to be? Or you chose to be?"
Ryo pushed his plate away, scooting his chair closer. "Jen, you watched the TV shows, didnít you?"
"A little. Mostly I got into the games."
There was a flash in Ryoís eyes. Wild hope? Fear? "Do you remember much about them?"
"Not really. It was a long time ago, and I havenít played them in a long time. Where are you going with this, Ryo?"
"... do you believe in destiny?"
It was the last thing Henry expected to hear. "Destiny? I guess... in a way. I donít think people are destined to be good or evil. But I do think weíve all got a certain path to walk. How we do it is up to us." A hundred thoughts raced through his mind, and were put to rest as he waited for Ryo to explain.
Ryoís hand was very warm, and starting to moisten. But the blue eyes that looked up at Henry were anything but nervous. "The place where Iím from, digimon are different. They are destined to have a human partner."
"Itís kind of like us, isnít it? There was something Shibumi, I mean, Mizuno-san said. Maybe I was created for Terriermon instead of the other way around." Henry stopped. His hand gripped Ryoís tight, his grey eyes widening. "What do you mean, Ďwhere youíre fromí?"
Ryo took a deep breath. "Thisíll sound like a bad movie, but Iím not from this dimension."
"You... but... you have digimon where you are?" It was something to latch on to. It was something that made sense. Nothing else was.
"Yeah, there were digimon there. In fact, they had them in games, just like here. And I got sucked into one. At least, thatís what Gennai told me. I donít really remember."
Henry was up like a shot. The rolling chair he was on bumped the table and slid across the floor. "Youíre crazy! Gennaiís not real!" Henry shook his head, turning away. Great, I just insulted him. That hadnít even made any sense; just a few months ago, digimon hadnít been real.
Yet there was no trace of hurt in Ryoís voice. "No, heís not. Not in this world. Heís just a character, here." Softer, "He was like a grandfather to me."
Henry stared at the floor. "So... what does that make you?"
"Same person I always was. Akiyama Ryo, legendary digimon tamer. Thereís just a lot more legend behind it than whatís commonly known." Hesitantly, Ryo rose and stood close to Henry. "When I first got here, I found there was this memory block about events of the television shows and the games. Even on the Internet, where there are pictures of me when I was ten or eleven." My age. This is crazy! "No one seems to be able to connect it back to me. I havenít even changed my name, if what these websites and Gennai said are true."
Henry tried to clear his breathing again. Ryo was a warm, silent presence at his back. Henry really wasnít sure why he was so bothered by the news. Heíd heard stranger rumors about the Ďlegendary tamerí. By now it had to be par for the course. And there was no reason for Ryo to lie about this. "You donít remember either?"
"Not really." Ryo pulled at his hand, and Henry let him take it. "I remember people and digimon, sort of. Enough to know what Gennai said wasnít a false memory. I donít remember my real parents or my home, though I do know itís in Sapporo."
That sent pangs through Henryís heart. He turned and wrapped his arms around Ryo. "But not this Sapporo?"
"I, uh, actually donít know. Iím not sure if this is the same place where I started. Even then Iíve been gone so long and aged so little, and my parents probably think Iím dead."
Henry found his rhythm again, pressed close to Ryo. The room fell silent except for their breaths. Belatedly Henry realized that Ryo made the silences comfortable; he waited until Henryís thoughts were gathered and he was ready to speak. In the field, in a fight, Ryo always had something to say. It was one of those strange concessions which seemed out of place for the rambunctious young man.
As for Henryís thoughts, they were in a jumble. How could a boy grow up without a family? Without memories of his family? Did he belong in their universe? If he didnít, why was he here? And will he stay?
"Destinyís not just a word to you, is it."
Ryo relaxed. Henry hadnít noticed how tense and expectant heíd been till then. "Itís the reason for my existence, Jen. You know, even in the world Iím from, I donít have a real digimon partner. Cyberdramon is... close to it, but not quite. I only have what I do, and thatís to protect the digital world."
Henry looked up at him. "Is that why you were able to biomerge, even without Dobermonís gift? And how you found your way to the digital world?"
"... I think so. Cyberdramon actually remembers a lot more than me, so we figured all that out together. It doesnít bother me anymore when I take exception to reality."
"Are you?" Henry sat down again, pulling his feet up.
"Am I what?" After a moment, Ryo hopped up on the conference table and pulled Henryís chair over so he could be closer.
"Are you an exception to reality?" Do you belong here? Tell me you do. Tell me youíll stay. We promised each other.
Ryoís hand was tousling his hair again. He liked to play with it a lot. "Realityís a shifty thing. I mean, look at Guilmon. Takato dreamed him up and some wish gnomes made him real. Who knows, maybe weíre all a game or a show or a book someplace. I donít think itís for us to know. Youíre right about that... just gotta make do with the destiny you have." He sighed as Henry leaned his head on his lap. "Mine happens to be more fluid than most. But that doesnít matter. Wherever I was, I made it my home. And Iím here now."
Here to fight. Again. Nerves of steel indeed, your soul must be armor-plated by now. At least I was able to change my destiny. I did not want to become a killer. But thatís the path you are on. That must be so lonely. Henry slowly unfolded his legs, curling an arm around Ryoís dangling ankle. His eyes were lidding when he said, "You like to touch my hair."
Ryo paused. It almost seemed like heíd been caught at something, though heíd been attracted to Henryís spiky mop from the start. "Yeah, Jen."
Henry tilted his head and looked at him sidewise. "What is it?"
To his surprise, the older boy blushed. "Uh, well, I didnít forget everyone I met in the other dimensions."
Ryo sighed. "Thereís not much to tell. I was friends with this kid and his little brother. They were both really smart, and they were into games as much as I am. I think... but Iím not sure... that I was in love with him. And, well," he smiled wryly. "He had the biggest mess of indigo hair. It was spiky and it stuck up all over the place. Donít worry, yours is much nicer."
Henry laughed softly.
"Itís kinda sad, though... I think the kid died. I donít remember what happened, but I know it was a terrible, sudden thing. It feels like a hammerblow to my chest, when I think about him." Ryo gazed down at the grey eyes now looking up with deep compassion. "It kinda itches at me that I canít remember his name. I know it begins with an ĎOí... Otaru, Osamu, Osano, something like that. But I do remember his little brother-- Ken. Sweet little guy. I remember that he saved my life somehow, at his own expense. But I never did find out what happened to him. I think I had to leave again."
Slowly Henry pulled himself up. Leaning on the table, he pressed close to Ryo, hands on either side of him. His brow was creased and the line of his mouth was quite serious. "Youíre not going to leave again, are you?"
Ryo met his gaze evenly. "I canít promise that. But Iíll only leave if I know I can get back. And whatever happens, I wonít forget you."
"Hai. Of course." Henry kissed his lips. "Because weíre coming back from this battle."
"Yes, we are," Ryo said firmly. He slid off the table and they pressed close to each other, Ryo taller and broad-shouldered, Henry thin and sinewy. "Thereís a time for everything. Weíll have our time for peace, I promise you, Jen."
"Weíd better. I want you to know what itís like to not fight all the time."
Ryo hugged him tight. "I had a few months when I first got to this world, yíknow."
"But we werenít together, then." Henry pulled back a little to look at Ryo. "...hey. Wait a minute. Ryo, how old are you exactly?"
"Ah... Iím not sure," he admitted.
Henry nudged him and did his best to look annoyed. "I do remember something about the TV show and how the passage of timeís not the same. I thought you said you were fourteen!"
Ryo scratched his head. "Physically I am fourteen. But itís probably a little more than that, subjectively. Maa, donít be mad, Jen."
Henry shook his head, chuckling. "Iím not. Just wondering if you have a habit of robbing the cradle."
"Hey, thatís not fair," Ryo laughed.
Maybe the touchiness was catching. With a grin, Henry sneaked down and tickled for all he was worth. A guffaw exploded out of Ryo, for a moment breathtakingly childlike, his head thrown back and his hands fending off. The retaliation took only a second to materialize; Ryo tackled Henry on the couch, where the two wrestled for ticklish spots.
It was a joy to grapple and laugh, free of shadows and war, unafraid of hurting each other. Henry might have been smaller, but he was quicker. And Ryo was just as creative as ever, if sillier than usual.
Three inexhaustible giggling fits later, they were a jumble of arms and limbs. Henry was still grinning. A few chuckles escaped Ryo now and then.
They would have to get up in less than an hour for the bedtime rollcall at the family area. Ryo would probably leave early the next morning for the drive to one of the last safe airports in the city. When next they met, if they met again, it might well be for the final battle.
But now was not the time for that.
At last, a silence they could share. A deep, heartfelt kiss. Unexpected and good, like most everything else that night.
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