1. Prologue - The Lovers
2. The Hanged Man
4. The Devil
Disclaimer: Ha! As if! Don't be ridiculous! You think I'd have written that 02 epilogue!? Please!
Better Angels of Our Nature
Ten Years Earlier
Ken's hand pressed gently against the top of the duffle bag hanging over his shoulder. He was unable to stop himself from smiling at Leafmon's quiet exhalations juxtaposed against Chibomon's raucous snores. Both digimon had fallen asleep shortly after leaving Koushiro's apartment, no doubt due in equal parts to the cold temperatures, their warm nest and the fact that their bellies were over-full with the usual convenience store rubbish Miyako invariably brought to all of the digidestined meetings.
"Ken?" Daisuke had been walking a few feet ahead of Ken but stopped when he realized the older boy was no longer at his heels, "I can carry them for a while," he offered, holding out a hand. But Ken only shook his head.
"What's wrong?" Daisuke asked, pausing only a second before continuing, "Is that Chibomon?" Daisuke shook his head as if he had never heard such snoring before, "Jeeze!" he teased, "How can they sleep through that?" Despite the horrified tone, Daisuke was smiling. Ken offered him a small smile in return.
"It's not that bad," Ken chided, his hand resting against the duffle bag in what he hoped was a reassuring way. It had not been his intention to respond, to engage. Not really, anyway. The last thing Ken wanted to do was to encourage more of Daisuke's silly antics, because then he would never stop, but something about the way Daisuke kept miming shocked disapproval at his digimon's thunderous snores had amused Ken. Amused him, and for the barest of seconds, brought him out of his own head and into the present, much to Ken's annoyance.
Ken was trying to think and the red-headed boy always seemed to make that so damn difficult.
"Not that bad?" Daisuke demanded in return, "Not that bad? Are we hearing the same digimon?" Daisuke shook his head in mock exasperation.
Ken shrugged resigned to letting Daisuke's pretend pique play out, "I've heard worse," he admitted, shooting Daisuke a knowing look—one it did not take the curly-headed boy long to understand.
"Me?" Daisuke's hand clutched at his heart as if he could not believe what Ken was suggesting. The younger boy stumbled back like he had been struck, one had reaching out to a nearby bench even as the other stayed fisted at his chest, "Could this be true?" he asked, voice rough, his body bent in mock pain.
A quick glance back to Ken confirmed that the dark-haired boy did not seem particularly concerned about Daisuke's theatrically hurt feelings. In fact, he did not seem to be paying much attention to Daisuke at all, his eyes and, and perhaps more importantly, his mind focusing somewhere far beyond Daisuke.
"Ahh!" Daisuke exclaimed, suddenly developing a full-blown case of the vapors, "Alas!" He fell back onto the waiting bench, him arm falling dramatically across his face even as he forcibly declared towards the sky, "Forsooth!"
That was it. Despite his original intentions, Ken heard himself chuckle. He shook his head at Daisuke who, for all his heart-felt faint, seemed to be stealing surreptitious peeks at Ken from underneath his own arm.
"Fine, fine," Ken relented, "I take it back." That proved to be all the tonic Daisuke needed. The younger man rebounded immediately from his pout, bouncing back to offer Ken a glowing grin.
"You really shouldn't lie like that," Daisuke scolded, his tone mocking. Ken had to fight the urge to roll his eyes. The red-headed boy sat up, scooting to one side to provide room even as patted the bench, motioning Ken over.
Ken ignored the gentle summons, "Come on, let's go," he answered instead, gesturing in the general direction of the train station with his head, "It's getting cold out here."
The park was more than just cold. In fact, the heavy grey overcast skies were threatening snow at any moment, most everyone else having already left in preparation for the predicted storm. But inclement weather rarely bothered Daisuke, especially when he was already out in it. Daisuke reached out, easily catching the strap of Ken's duffle bag and using it to pull Ken in closer.
"Nope," Daisuke answered with his usual nonchalance, grabbing Ken's wrists and using them to hold the older boy in place, "We're not going anywhere." Daisuke grinned at his bound friend, "Not 'till you tell me what's bothering you."
Ken growled in annoyance, but did not move to tug himself free or push Daisuke away, though Daisuke had no doubt that he certainly could have, and with force, had he wanted to.
There was no mistaking an innate violence held tenuously in check just below the surface in Ken. It was a truth, easily seen, that seemed to alternately strengthen and terrify the dark-haired boy—almost as if it were his biggest pride and yet, not entirely within his own control. Still, even on those rare occasions when Daisuke would allow himself to consider that part of Ken with more than fleeting interest, something, somehow told him that he had nothing to fear.
Not truly anyway.
It was that duality of Ken, the power inherent, purposefully subdued, that Daisuke had always found intriguing, even in the Kaiser.
"Let's go," Ken urged. He tugged at his wrists held firm by Daisuke, albeit only half-heartedly. He was unwilling to disturb their still sleeping digimon, or so Ken chose to tell himself, "I don't want to miss my train," he insisted. Daisuke did not move.
"It's cold," Ken tried again. But still, there was no response. In fact, the younger boy had taken to feigning unmasked boredom. Ken let out a frustrated sigh at the poorly acted pretense.
"Nothing's bothering me," Ken claimed, finally acknowledging what it was Daisuke wanted from him even as he found himself frowning at the hint of pleading that had seeped into his tone. Why did Daisuke always insist that everything be debated and discussed? Couldn't he see that something were better just left to wither and die of their own accord?
This time it was Daisuke's turn to sigh. His eyes flickered to the bag hanging over Ken's shoulder before returning to Ken's face, "You really shouldn't lie like that," Daisuke repeated, his voice soft, barely above a whisper. They were the very same words he had used before and yet, this time, what had been nothing more than childish teasing seemed to cut Ken to the bone.
Ken felt his spine stiffen, felt himself pull away, even as Daisuke's grip on his wrist tightened, pulling him in closer.
"Let me go." The words were harsh, spoken low, barely more than a growl, but Daisuke had long since resolved to never to let fear of Ken keep him from pursuing the would-be Kaiser.
Daisuke could see the anger in Ken's eyes. He could feel the anger pulsing through Ken's body. He knew that what Ken really wanted in that moment was to hurt him, to hurt Daisuke in the way that he'd been hurt, to hurt Daisuke worse than he had been hurt.
But Daisuke also knew that the taller boy was afraid. Afraid of what he wanted to do to Daisuke, afraid that he might actually do it, and afraid that Daisuke would abandon him if he did.
Afraid that Daisuke would abandon him, even if he didn't.
If for no other reason than that, Daisuke would never let go of Ken. Instead, he drew the taller boy in closer still, releasing Ken's wrists only to wrap his arms around his narrow waist, oversized duffle bag and all, pulling Ken into a tight embrace, Daisuke's face pressing against Ken's chest. Daisuke couldn't help his small smile when he realized he could now hear Ken's pounding heart beat in addition to Chibomon's raucous snores. It was an oddly comforting combination.
It took several long minutes, but finally, Daisuke felt Ken's mood turn. The tension drained from Ken's body, his anger falling away even more quickly than it had arrived. Seconds later, Daisuke felt one of Ken's hands patting awkwardly, but affectionately, at the top of his head.
"Let me go." Ken's voice was kind, if somewhat muffled with embarrassment even as the hand in question fell away again. Daisuke only shook his head, squeezing his eyes shut as he continued to hold Ken tight.
"Come on," Ken insisted, pushing gently now at Daisuke's shoulders, "Someone's going to see."
Daisuke opened his eyes, but only long enough to sneak a quick peak around the empty park. "There's no one here," he informed Ken before resuming his tight hug. Ken just shook his head, sighing at Daisuke's naivety.
"It's Tokyo," Ken reminded him, pushing at his shoulders yet again, a bit more forcefully this time, "There's always someone here." Still, Ken couldn't stop his small smile at the disappointed noise Daisuke made. Finally though, the red-headed boy pulled away, letting his arms drop away from Ken's waist, but not before giving the taller boy one last squeeze.
"Sorry," Daisuke's apology was as short as it was unexpected, "I didn't mean to upset you." He leaned back against the bench, looking up at Ken with a small, pained smile. Ken shook his head.
"I wasn't upset," he promised. It was a blatant lie, but neither boy bothered to acknowledge it. As if offering his own apology, Ken slipped the duffle bag off of his shoulder, setting it gently on the ground beside the bench before sitting down next to Daisuke. Daisuke smiled in return.
Daisuke's eyes traced the path of a single snowflake, making its erratic decent towards the ground. Ken was right. It was cold and the storm would be upon them soon. Still, Daisuke could not bring himself to just leave things as they were.
"You're thinking about what Koushiro said." Daisuke was surprised at just how worried he sounded. It wasn't that he had been purposefully trying to put the older digidestined's words out of mind, well not really, anyway, but he had not actually stopped to consider them, either.
After all, there would be time enough for that later. Preferably after Ken or Koushiro had already solved the problem and there wasn't anything left to worry about.
Ken frowned, his lips forming a hard line. "You mean, am wondering if we are 'perverting the natural course of the Digital World'?" he quoted the older digidestined, his tone bitter.
Daisuke flinched at the way Ken said the word perverting. Somehow, it sounded even worse than when Koushiro had said it the first time. For Koushiro, his use of the word had been purely clinical.
But with Ken, Daisuke could almost taste the self-loathing.
Daisuke glanced at the bag sitting at his and Ken's feet. Without thinking, Ken had managed to place it where it would be most protected from the worst of the winter wind, its zipper open just enough to allow their sleeping digimon fresh air without risking a chill-inducing draft.
It was not fair that the Digital World was putting them in this position, not after everything it had already taken from them.
Certainly not after everything it had taken from Ken.
Daisuke glanced up at the former-Kaiser. The winter wind had managed to drudge up some small semblance of color on Ken's nose and cheeks, but there was little else to suggest life in his otherwise frozen expression. Even Ken's eyes seemed faded and grey. Daisuke found himself wishing, for what must have been the one thousandth time, that he could somehow see behind those eyes to what was really going on in Ken's head.
The Digital World was pulling away. That was the long and the short of it. It was pulling away and leaving the very children it had drafted to save itself behind.
Behind and alone.
It was no secret that their digimon partners could no longer maintain their rookie or in-training forms while in the human world, not even Wormmon or Gatomon. Daisuke could not remember the last time he had even seen Chibimon. And while on one level he understood that Chibimon and Chibomon were one and the same, Daisuke found he still missed the tiny blue dragon-like digimon who had once been his only confidant and closest friend. Add to that that there was no longer any guarantee that the digital gate would open, even when called up by the second generation digidestined and it was understandable that all the digidestined found themselves on edge.
Sure, Koushiro might believe that he could explain it all with varying dimensions, time flow, invariance, covariance, entanglement and equilibration, all things to which Daisuke willingly admitted to having no real concept. But none of that made what was happening any less terrible.
None of it made what the Digital World was taking away from them any less important.
It was starting to snow in earnest now and neither boy had bothered to bring an umbrella. If they did not leave soon, they would both find themselves cold and wet. Daisuke did not mind much. His parents' apartment was a five minute jog away. But Ken would have to ride the train all the way back to Tamachi. There wasn't any reason to make his trip more unpleasant than necessary.
Daisuke stood up from the bench, grabbing the duffle bag with their digimon and balancing it carefully over one shoulder before offering a hand to Ken. "Come on, it's cold," he told the older digidestined.
Ken shook his head at the familiar words, rising to his feet easily and without Daisuke's aid. Daisuke only laughed. He was far too used to Ken's innate stubbornness to bother taking offense.
They wound their way through the remainder of the quiet park. Despite what Ken had to say on the matter, Daisuke had yet to see so much as another soul and for just a moment, it seemed as if the two of them might truly be alone in the world.
Daisuke was not going to think about why that idea made him so very happy.
Soon though, the noise of cars and buses and people and life began to intrude on Daisuke's little reverie. He could see the gate marking the park's front entrance and, beyond that, traffic moving along the bustling street. It would be only seconds before he and Ken stepped out of the park and into the flow of people.
Rush hour must have started early as people left work, hurrying home in hopes of beating the worst of the weather. Upon immediately exiting the park, the boys found themselves returned, once again, to the real world and the sounds and sights and movement that it brought with it. Daisuke found it painfully disappointing.
Despite what Ken would invariably think, it had not been a premeditated idea. Not really. When they had been walking through the park, Daisuke had truly had every intention of staying with Ken only until their usual corner, at which point he would rouse Chibomon, they would say their goodbyes and then each go their separate ways, he to his parents' apartment and Ken to the train station.
Much as they had done a hundred different times before.
But this time, Daisuke made no move to wake his sleeping digimon. Instead, he found himself reaching out to grab Ken's hand, offering no explanation, but pulling the older boy with him in the direction of his own home.
"Daisuke?" It was easy to hear the confusion in Ken's voice, "Wait," he asked, "Stop."
Ken tugged at his captured hand, "I'm going to miss my train," he reminded Daisuke, twisting, pulling against Daisuke's grip even as he was led down the street and away from the train station, but Daisuke refused to let go.
Daisuke could feel Ken's anxiety starting to build, his palm growing slick with sweat even as his voice dropped, falling to a panicked whisper.
"People are staring at us."
Something about Ken's pained tone made Daisuke stop. He led Ken out of the flow of pedestrians and over to the relative dryness of a coffee shop awning, releasing his hand as requested. Daisuke sighed, watching as Ken began rubbing the hand like it had been injured.
"Were do you think you were going?" Ken finally asked, taking out a handkerchief and using it to wipe his hands. Ken had spoken softly, even kindly, but Daisuke could tell he was angry. Daisuke frowned, shrugging his shoulders.
"I was taking you home with me," Daisuke admitted, offering a small smile in penitence. Ken sighed, looking away.
"Daisuke..." he hedged, his eyes falling closed even as he leaned his head back against the brick wall of the coffee shop. He almost seemed to be praying for patience, "I can't," he told the younger Digidestined, explaining, "There's school, my parents..."
Daisuke shrugged again in response. Of course he had not thought about these things. He had not really thought about anything at all. All Daisuke knew was something, buried deep within his gut, had warned him against leaving the ex-Kaiser alone. And Daisuke was the sort to trust his gut, even over reason.
"Daisuke?" Chibomon's tiny voice drew Daisuke's attention back to the duffle bag still hanging over his shoulder. He pulled the bag around, opening the zipper the rest of the way and lifting the flap. Two sets of digimon eyes were staring up at him nervously, expectantly.
Daisuke put a finger to his lips to shush the inevitable barrage of questions before they had a chance to start. He tucked the flap back into place, then peeked over at Ken, who, rather than paying attention, was frowning at his wristwatch.
"Ken?" Daisuke asked, his voice uncertain.
Ken glanced up. It was easy to see that he was turning Daisuke's unspoken request over in his mind even as he looked away again, his eyes flitting back and forth with the movement of pedestrians along the sidewalk. After a long minute, he finally sighed, looking to Daisuke again before admitting, "It is getting busy."
Daisuke had to bite back his grin at Ken's simple statement of fact. The dark-haired boy had all but asked to be persuaded which meant that, really, he had already made up his mind. Knowing that was enough to make Daisuke want to whoop out loud.
"There's no one home tonight," Daisuke told him, taking care to modulate his tone into one less cocky and therefore less likely to annoy Ken, "My parents are up in Sapporo and Jun's staying with a friend." Ken frowned.
"I can get us up in time for you to take the early train back to Tamachi," Daisuke swore, unable to keep the hopeful lilt out of his voice entirely. But Ken only shrugged, not entirely convinced.
"I'll call your mom," Daisuke offered, "I know she'll say yes," he promised, before tacking on a, "She likes me," with a knowing look and a self-confident grin.
Ken let out a short, "Hn," but otherwise did not bother to argue with the younger boy's assessment of Ichijouji Rika's marked partiality. It would have been pointless anyway. They both knew the truth.
Daisuke waited, watching Ken, even as Ken watched the snow falling heavily now around their little safe haven. Finally, Ken pushed away from the wall he had been leaning against, shaking his head as he pulled his coat tight around himself.
"Aright, fine," was all Ken said.
Daisuke smiled at Ken's simple assent, quickly re-zipping the bag that contained their digimon and adjusting it so it hung across his shoulder before motioning for Ken to follow him home.
He did his best not to dwell on the fact that the emotion he was left feeling was not that of happiness, as he had expected, but rather, one of open, burning relief.
It was enough that Daisuke knew he had been given a reprieve. He would not insist on knowing from what.
Yamato's jaw ached. It always seemed to ache. It was one of the more conspicuous consequences of him grinding his teeth, something he tended to do when he was stressed.
And lately, he was always stressed.
"We've put him in B-6."
Yamato frowned at the files open on the desk in front of him, but offered his fellow officer a nod of acknowledgement. He did not ask who. After all, he'd given the order to go and pick Daisuke up himself.
What Yamato did find himself wanting to ask was how the other keeper of friendship had reacted when he realized that the officers had come, this time, for him. Had he seemed worried? Confused? Annoyed?
What had he been thinking was they led him away? Had the younger man understood immediately what the officers, Yamato, had really hoped to achieve? Did he suspect that he wasn't Yamato's true target? That he never really had been? Did he know that it had only been the dark haired man that Yamato had hoped to rattle, to hurt?
And if he did, Yamato wondered if Daisuke would, could ever be talked into forgiving him after all of this came to its awful, increasingly inevitable conclusion. Would Yamato ever have the courage to accept it if he did? Or worse, if he didn't?
Yamato sighed. There was no point on dwelling on any of that now. Doing so certainly would not change the future. Besides, Yamato knew that this wasn't a fight he was capable of winning approached it only half-heartedly.
He gathered together the images he had spread across his work area, tucking them neatly into their case file before standing and walking over to the steel grey cabinet standing against the far wall. Without even thinking, he pulled open the top drawer and began thumbing through its contents removing first one file, then another and another, stacking each, in turn, on top of the cabinet.
It was only when he got to Ichijouji Rika's file that he found himself hesitating. He pulled the file part of the way out before shaking his head and returning it to the cabinet. Some things were better left unsaid. Especially if he had any hope of getting Daisuke to talk to him.
Finished removing files, Yamato did a quick count to assure himself that he had them all, then tucked them under one arm and headed out of the glorified conference room that was doubling as their make-shift base of operations and began his trek from the annex to the main building.
Of course, Yamato found himself thinking sarcastically, they would have to have put Daisuke in an interrogation room located all the way across the large police campus. Never mind, that was where all the interrogation rooms were situated. Yamato did his best to ignore the sweat trickling down his back has he strode across the concrete courtyard in the muggy June heat. The truth was that Yamato was glad there would not be any reasonable excuses for one of the OSM officers to just happen by the room in question.
Not with what he was considering doing, anyway.
Yamato pulled open the door, biting back his sigh of relief when he was hit by the blast of escaping air-conditioning. He shot a smile and a nod towards the young woman working the front desk, unable to hide his amusement when she ducked her head, bushing. Despite what Taichi might have to say on the matter, the old Ishida charm was not completely dead and still very, very useful. She buzzed him into the back without even asking to see his ID.
Thankfully, the interrogation rooms were set close to the front of the building, the thinking being that less was more when it came to dragging potentially unwilling and usually unhappy interviewees through the maze of interlocking offices, conference rooms and halls that made up the main NPA building. Yamato added his stack of case files, growing heavier by the minute, to the list of reasons he was happy for this particularly insightful bit of architectural preplanning. Thankfully, he was able to find the room labeled B-6 with ease.
It was only when he was face to face with the door to the interrogation room that he once again found himself thinking about Daisuke. Yamato shook his head, unable to stop himself from grinding his teeth even as he tried to reassure himself that he had done the right thing in bringing Daisuke here. Yamato shook his head, reminding himself that what was done, was done and there would be not changing it now. With that thought still ringing in his head, Yamato pushed the door open and strode into the room.
Daisuke was sitting on the far side of the table, his forehead resting against folded arms. He did not bother to look up when Yamato opened the door but spoke, "I don't care what you say or do. I don't know anything."
Yamato held back a chuckle at Daisuke's show of bravado, unable, for a moment, to differentiate between the 24 year old man sitting before him and the 11 year old kid in his memories. Yamato let the stack of case files he was holding fall to the table with a thud, unable to keep from frowning when Daisuke flinched.
"Don't worry," Yamato assured him, "I don't intend to beat a confession out of you." Yamato smiled when Daisuke's eyes flashed up his own, surprised, it seemed, to discover that it was the blonde digidestined with him in the interrogation room rather than the officers from earlier. But the moment was fleeting. Daisuke quickly hid his face again, refusing to answer or even further acknowledge Yamato's presence.
Yamato frowned when he realized how much the younger man's dismissal stung.
"Hell," Yamato continued, trying to lighten the dark mood, "Even if I wanted to, they really frown on that kind of stuff nowadays," he shook his head, explaining off-handedly, "You know, politics." At least that made Daisuke look up again, but it was only to glare at Yamato's nonchalance. Yamato shrugged, choosing to answer his silence with silence.
Yamato found himself strangely proud of Daisuke's resolve. There was a maturity to Daisuke that had aged him beyond his years. Certainly, Yamato thought, beyond that of his own brother Takeru and the younger blond's seeming urge to revel in all things egocentric.
Had it been Ken's influence? Had it been Ken's fault? Yamato found himself strangely unsettled by the thought.
Yamato took a couple of folding chairs from where they stood leaning against the far wall, shaking them out and placing one near Daisuke and the other about a half meter behind him before sitting in the first and propping his feet up on the second. Daisuke watched it all, without comment, even when Yamato leaned back and closed his eyes, feigning sleep, determined to wait the younger man out.
Yamato really was almost asleep by the time Daisuke finally spoke up.
"What do you think you trying to prove?" Daisuke asked. The question was not nearly as accusatory as Yamato had expected. In fact, more than anything, Daisuke sounded exhausted.
Yamato fought to keep his face relaxed, neutral, to keep Daisuke from knowing just how deeply the simple question had affected him. He waited until he was certain he could trust his voice before answering as lightly as he could, "Don't you know?" Yamato opened his eyes only long enough to judge Daisuke's response, being careful to shut them again before he found himself sucked into Daisuke's obvious pain. He let the younger man sit quietly, thinking without interruption for as long as he needed. It was a long time before Daisuke answered.
"You don't have to do this," he whispered.
Yamato barely caught the muted words, and yet, they managed to almost destroy him.
Still, Yamato pushed the pain aside, focusing instead on the tiny opening Daisuke had inadvertently offered him.
Yamato sat up, angling his body so that he now faced Daisuke before taking the top folder off of the stack of case files and placing it between them both. He pulled out a photograph of the victim, studying it for a few moments before turning it and sliding it closer to Daisuke.
"Tsukada Nao," Yamato informed the younger man. Daisuke's eyes flashed to the photograph before darting back away. Yamato immediately grabbed the second case file, tossing the first on the chair where his feet had been resting.
"Nawabe Ryoko," he said, pulling out a second photograph and sliding it over towards Daisuke, one hand already reaching for the third case file even as the other moved this one aside.
"Katsushika Eri," Yamato stated as he removed the third woman's picture. This time though, he did not immediately push it towards Daisuke. Instead, he seemed to be studying it himself as he explained, "I was actually going over her file when Minamoto came in to tell me you'd arrived." Yamato frowned, remembering.
"We don't really have a lot of background on her," he admitted, finally handing the photograph to Daisuke who held it awkwardly for a second before setting it down with the others. "We couldn't find anything in the way of living family. No one's even come forward to claim her ashes. She lived alone, well, just her and her cat," Yamato continued, saying, "Pretty thing—the cat I mean, and sweet. It was adopted by one of the girls in the typing pool. Anyway," Yamato shook his head as he remembered, "Katsushika worked in an office downtown, but all her coworkers could really tell us was that she was a very private person."
Daisuke was refusing to look at the photograph, but something told Yamato that his words were not falling on to deaf ears.
"It was her supervisor that actually reported her missing," Yamato explained, "It was apparently the first time she'd ever missed work and wasn't picking up her phone. He thought something was wrong and called the local station."
"Good thing, I guess," Yamato admitted, shrugging, "Otherwise, I don't know when she'd been found."
Daisuke sighed, looking pointedly away. Still, Yamato could not help but notice the way Daisuke's middle finger kept tap-tap-tapping against the edge of Katsushika's photograph. Clearly the younger man was thinking about what he had heard.
Yamato leaned forward, gathering the three photographs and sliding each back into the relative safety of their respective case files, allowing the room to lapse into another heavy silence.
Again, it was Daisuke who finally broke it. "I want to ask you a question."
Daisuke's subdued statement nearly made Yamato jump. He set the three case files he'd been holding back on the chair before looking up at Daisuke, nodding.
"Why are you so sure it's him?" Daisuke did not bother with clarifying who the 'him' was in this case. There wasn't any point, "I mean, it can't just be Mrs. Ichijouji, right?" Daisuke looked to Yamato, his eyes oddly hopeful even has his lips remained pursed tight.
Yamato sighed. He knew he was sailing through dangerous territory. It wasn't that he was necessarily opposed to tipping his hand to Daisuke. On the contrary, he had had Daisuke brought in with precisely this in mind. Still, now that the time had come, Yamato found himself hesitating.
There was no doubt that Daisuke's loyalties still lay with Ken. And somehow Yamato knew intuitively that no amount of explaining would ever or could ever change that. So was it really that smart of an idea to spread the entirety of his case out before Daisuke, knowing as he did that the younger man would never willingly give him what it was that he really wanted? What he needed?
Of course not.
But then Yamato understood that this might also be his only chance to actually make even moderate headway with the younger digidestined. If nothing else, putting a little doubt into Daisuke's mind might be all it took to push Ken into making a mistake. And that's all Yamato really needed.
Just one little mistake.
And then it would not matter what Daisuke was or was not willing to offer him.
His mind made up, Yamato began thumbing through the stack of case files still sitting on the table, finally settling on the file detailing Handa Narumi's murder. He opened it, flipping past the stock photo of Handa and then the crime scene photographs before coming to a series that had been taken from grainy surveillance camera footage. Yamato considered each of the surveillance camera photographs in turn before finally picking one and passing it over to Daisuke.
Daisuke looked the photograph in front of him carefully. "Wha—" he started to ask, but Yamato silenced him with a single finger held aloft. The blond was already digging through his stack of case files again.
This time, Yamato pulled out the file for the fifth victim, again flipping past multiple photos before removing a single black and white shot. This one had been at an intersection and the angle suggested the camera stood high above the sidewalk. He passed it to Daisuke before reaching for Tsukada Nao's file on the chair, flipping though its contents before removing a third, similar photograph and handing it, too, to Daisuke.
Daisuke studied the three photographs carefully. Each showed a similar figure, tall, thin, dark haired. In two of the three, the man appeared to be carrying something but the low resolution made it impossible to clearly identify the object. Nevertheless, Daisuke found himself swallowing dryly.
Daisuke shook his head, pushing the photos back towards Yamato, "What's this supposed to be?" he asked. When Yamato did not answer, Daisuke heard himself continue, "That could be any of a hundred or even a thousand different people. I can't even tell if they're all the same person."
Still, despite the strident words, Daisuke found himself reaching out to pull the photos close once more, unable to keep himself from looking at the central figure in each again and again and again.
Yamato ignored Daisuke's statement, asking instead, "What does he take?" Daisuke glanced up at the blond keeper of friendship, his eyes inquisitive. Yamato tapped on one of the two photographs where the figure could been seen carrying something. Daisuke set the one he had been looking at down and picked up the photograph Yamato had indicated, studying it closely.
"Here," Yamato continued, opening Tsukada's file for a third time. He pulled out one of the police photos, sliding it towards Daisuke who only glanced at it briefly before looking away, his normally tanned face pinched and colorless. Yamato frowned when he realized the majority of the photo was taken up by the woman's dead and exposed body. He had long since grown inured to even the most graphic of images, but, clearly, Daisuke possessed no such experience.
"Here," Yamato stated again, this time using a flipped over surveillance photograph to cover the worst of the police photo before indicating where he wanted Daisuke to look. Daisuke's fingers reached out, tracing the circular indentation in the woman's carpet once before pulling back, his eyes turning away, pained.
"Something was sitting there," Yamato stated the obvious, "We asked some of her friends, family, but no one could think of what it could be." Daisuke only nodded in answer.
"It wasn't small," Yamato explained, "But it wasn't really large either." When Daisuke only nodded again, Yamato continued, "Twelve, maybe fifteen centimeters," he guessed, "It would had to have been relatively heavy. It had been at least two days when she was found and the place where whatever it was had set was still clearly visible."
Daisuke closed his eyes, fighting back the boiling waves of nausea that were threatening to overcome him. He knew what had caused that mark. He knew it without a doubt, almost as soon as he had seen the image. His mind has immediately flitted back to that morning and Ken's glib, even humored remark.
The image of Ken, lovingly tending to his would-be garden, his face fixed in that ever-present small smile, exploded behind Daisuke's closed eyes even as his mind spun, trying to control his outward response. If nothing else, Daisuke was grateful that Yamato seemed to be interpreting his heartfelt revulsion as distress over the poor woman's dead body, rather than the truth.
In honesty, Daisuke had felt the dread pooling almost as soon as he glanced at the very first surveillance photo. There was something in them, something that was quintessentially Ken, and it declared itself, even in the dark, grainy images. Maybe it was the way he held his head. Maybe it was the purposefulness of his frozen stride. Whatever the reason, Daisuke had recognized the dark-haired genius almost immediately.
"I don't know," Daisuke heard his voice answer. At least his head seemed to be capable of working. Even if his heart was in the process of shattering, "I mean, that could be anything, a thousand different anythings." Then for good measure, "Were any of the, you know, others missing something?"
Yamato frowned, trying to find the words to explain how he was certain something had been taken from every victim, that that was usually the way these things worked, when he had nothing, no proof of anything going missing from the other homes. Not even one
Sure, Hira Chinami's sister had sworn that the little hothouse plant that usually set on her dining room table had disappeared, but really, judging by the shape of the peace lily the woman had kept in her front entryway, the damn thing had probably died and been tossed out with the combustibles months earlier. Besides, what could the killer have possibly wanted with a half dead plant?
Still, Yamato knew it was there. Something he had overlooked. Something the families had over looked. If for no other reason than because, after having watched hundreds of hours of surveillance video taken from dozens of different cameras stationed near where each of the murders occurred, he had managed to find the same man, a man that could very possibly be Ichijouji Ken, three times over, twice clearly carrying something, God only knew what, through Odaiba's all too familiar streets.
Yamato sighed. There was little point in trying to win Daisuke over with conjecture, of that, he was certain. The only things that Yamato could hope to use to win over the red-headed man at this point were facts. And they seemed to be in a perpetually short supply.
Yamato's phone chose that moment to chime. He pulled it out and flipping it open, scanned the brief text message, unable, despite his training, to completely hide his little smirk of bemusement. That had been quicker than he had even bothered to hope. He slipped the phone back into his pocket, focusing once again on Daisuke.
"Do you remember what you were doing four nights ago?" Yamato asked, switching gears even as he gathered up the photographs that had been lying on the table and slipped each, in turn, into is correct case file.
"Four nights ago?" Daisuke confirmed, thrown by the sudden change in conversation. "I don't know," he hedged, trying to remember, "Working, I guess."
"Working?" Yamato echoed, waiting for Daisuke's nod before continuing, "Do you remember when you got home?"
Daisuke frowned, trying hard to separate that day in his mind from the vague slurry of similar days that had come before it. "It was a little before 11:00," he finally answered.
"At night?" Yamato questioned again. When Daisuke only nodded for a second time, Yamato pressed him further, "Walk me through your evening."
Daisuke closed his eyes, trying to picture that evening. The problem was, it wasn't all that different from most of his evenings, he and Ken having long since settled in to their own version of a homey routine.
"I worked a double that day," Daisuke remembered, frowning. He had been working as many extra shifts as he could get his hands on as of late. Things had gotten tight after Ken had quit working, really tight, and sometimes Daisuke even feared that they wouldn't be able to make the payments on their apartment. And he could not bear the thought of moving. Not now. Not after all of this.
Daisuke found himself wondering, and not for the first time, when the police would give the go-ahead to release Ken's inheritance, which, in turn, left him feeling oddly guilty.
"I came home," Daisuke continued, shaking off his guilt, "Fixed us both something to eat, watched a little TV and then we went to bed." Daisuke could not help tacking on one last, "Like always."
"And Ken was at the apartment when you got home," Yamato confirmed. Daisuke did not directly answer but the ugly look he shot Yamato spoke the truth of his thoughts.
"So you came home," Yamato reiterated, only to be interrupted by a second chime from his phone. This time, when he stopped to read the message he only shook his head. He sent whoever was on the other end a quick answer before putting the phone back into his pocket with a sigh. Then he offered Daisuke a small smile of apology, returning to the topic at hand, "Do you remember what you had for dinner?"
"Whaa—I don't know," Daisuke rolled his eyes at Yamato's overly detailed line of questioning, "Something simple probably. I don't remember. I was tired. It was late."
Yamato nodded, "And Ken ate with you?" he asked, reminding Daisuke, "You said it was late. You're sure he hadn't made something, maybe eaten earlier?"
At least Daisuke seemed to find that last bit funny, "Ken doesn't cook," he informed the blond man, his voice dry, "Seriously. You don't want to even try to eat something Ken cooked. It's deadly." Daisuke smiled a little, thinking of the dark haired man and his general ineptness when it came to anything in the kitchen, before remembering both his words and where he was with a frown.
"No," Daisuke confirmed, his voice curt, "Ken ate with me." Daisuke's eyes all but demanded that Yamato make mention of his little slip. But Yamato only nodded, opting not to press Daisuke on the obviously sore point.
"So Ken was there in the apartment with you all night?" Something about the way Daisuke pursed his lips, expelling his heavy breath in a way not unsimilar to a growl told Yamato that his question had somehow managed to hit upon a tender nerve yet again.
"Of course Ken was in the apartment with me," Daisuke answered tersely, "Ken hasn't left the apartment in over 3 months," he grumbled, "Except, of course, when you drag him in here." There was no mistaking the underlying scorn. Yamato let it, too, pass without comment.
"Alright," Yamato smiled, hoping to ease the younger man into something at least approaching his earlier calm, "So you came home about 11:00, fixed dinner, ate, watched a little TV," Yamato waited for Daisuke's nod before continuing, "Anything else?"
Daisuke picked at the edge of the interrogation room table, thinking hard about that night. It really had been like any other. He had been exhausted, that's what he remembered more than anything else; so exhausted that he had actually considered stopping by the convenience store near the train station and picking up a couple of cheap bento boxes. But in the end, it wasn't worth the money or the time and, so, he'd just gone back to the apartment he shared with Ken. After all, Daisuke could barely get Ken to eat his food. He would never have been able to get him to eat something that had been sitting on a 7-Eleven shelf for who knows how many hours.
Daisuke tried to remember Ken that night. Had he been any different? Not in any way that Daisuke could pin-point. Ken had seemed happy to have Daisuke home. He had even made a half-hearted attempt to pretend to want the yakisoba Daisuke had thrown together. Daisuke smiled as he finally remembered what it was he had made for their dinner. Ken had stood at the counter, watching Daisuke with a warm look in his eyes. Afterwards, he hadn't even really complained when Daisuke switched on the television and started watching some late night something or other.
Ken had been the first to get up and go to their bed, but, then, that wasn't strange either. He had already been asleep when Daisuke joined him a half hour, maybe 45 minutes later. Daisuke remembered thinking it was the good kind of sleep, the deep, calm sleep that Ken seemed so rarely to get these days. Daisuke had been so very careful not to wake Ken as he slipped under the covers in the midnight-dark room, snuggling in as closely as he dared.
Daisuke must have been asleep within minutes, maybe even seconds.
The rest of the night remained obliterated by the heavy shadows left only by exhausted sleep.
"Do you remember anything else?" Yamato's repeated question instantly brought Daisuke back into the present. He frowned, shaking his head no even as Yamato's cell phone chimed for a third time. This time Yamato chose to ignore it.
"Alright then," Yamato stood up, stretching, "Come on. I'll get you out of here," he promised. Daisuke's head shot up with ill-disguised surprise.
"You're letting me go?" he asked, "Already?" Yamato was unable to contain his short laugh.
"Hey," Yamato teased, for an instant, almost feeling like they were once again just a couple of kids doing their best to figure out just what it was that the world expected of them, "You didn't really think I would try to beat a confession out of you, did you?"
Daisuke frowned, oddly annoyed by what he heard as Yamato's taunting tone.
"Besides," Yamato continued, fighting to urge to reach out and ruffle Daisuke's wild hair for what something warned him might just be the very last time, "There's someone out front who, apparently, has been demanding your immediate return." Yamato paused has his phone chimed for a forth and then, almost instantly, a fifth time. Yamato pulled out the phone and scrolled through the messages before allowing himself an annoyed hum. Putting the phone away yet again, he opined, “I think we should probably go and put them out of the misery before things get any worse."
The implication hit Daisuke forcefully.
"Who?" he demanded, "Jun?" Could she have already heard what had happened? Would she have dropped everything just to come to his aid? As crazy as she could be when they were kids, would grown-up Jun really risk making trouble at a police station?
Yamato's first response to Daisuke's questions was to smile, a compassionate smile, but something about the set of the older digidestined's mouth left Daisuke feeling strangely cold, especially when Yamato turned away before answering him.
"No," Yamato explained shortly, gathering together his case files before walking towards the door, "It would seem that, this time, your would-be rescuer is Ken." Yamato opened the door, motioning with his head for Daisuke to exit, "Apparently, a very irate Ken," he continued, "A very demanding Ken. A very forceful Ken." There was no denying the small twang of self-satisfaction underlying Yamato's words, "And he has made it very clear that he would like his Daisuke returned. Immediately."
And for not the first time that morning, Daisuke found himself wanting to run.