1. Prologue - The Lovers
2. The Hanged Man
Disclaimer: Ha! As if! Don't be ridiculous! You think I'd have written that 02 epilogue!? Please!
Better Angels of Our Nature
Daisuke pursed his lips as he read the text scrolling along the bottom of the muted television. It was hard to see the smallish characters from where he stood, just inside the kitchen, guarding the coffee percolating on the stove. Still, he refused to turn the volume up, not with Ken pretending to sleep in the room just down the hall.
The television flipped to commercial just as Daisuke reached over to remove the coffee from the stove's heating element, setting the tall carafe on the nearby trivet. He pulled a mug out of the overhead cabinet, adding it to the waiting tray that already contained white rice and a banana. Daisuke considered frying up an egg before shaking his head. Ken had not been willing to even consider eating eggs since that first day at the station and Daisuke was tired of throwing perfectly good food away.
The excessively perky newscaster was back on by the time Daisuke had finished pouring up the coffee. He continued reading, squinting, as he carefully stirred the single spoonful of sugar into the otherwise unadulterated cup, only to find himself suddenly overcome by an almost inexplicable anger. Daisuke threw the spoon he had been using into the sink with unwarranted force, grabbing the television remote from where it sat on the nearby counter and turning the television off, disgusted.
It was about to start all over, yet again.
Well, the truth was, it had never really stopped. But, somehow, the quiet of the previous two months had made Daisuke hope against hope that maybe, just maybe, things had finally started to calm down. That maybe the police had found something, anything, that would point them in a new direction.
It had been a little over five months since the last murder, or rather, murders, had rocked the morning news. Things had been crazy at first, a veritable feeding frenzy as news of the double homicide broke, with each network fighting to secure the best "experts" money could buy, all of whom began tripping over themselves to expound on the killer's possible motives and what to expect now that he/she/it seemed to be escalating.
But then… nothing. The murders that had been flashing across the morning news with startling regularity every two months suddenly stopped. And despite the heightened sense of awareness, the feeling, all throughout Tokyo, of waiting for the other shoe to drop, nothing happened.
It wasn't until the four month anniversary of the double murder had come and gone, however, that the craziest of the theories really began to fly about the daily talk shows.
Maybe, some posited, the murderer was finished, that whatever task he'd been driven to complete was now done.
Still others suggested that maybe the police had already caught the guy, or, at the very least, knew who had been doing the murders and the closer scrutiny made it impossible for him to continue his rampage.
Of course, there were those who believed that the murderer must have died or, perhaps, even better yet, been killed, possibly by one of their own intended victims, forever taking the secrets of their crimes to their grave.
Still though, no one really knew.
The internet was just as bad, if not more terrible, swirling with rumors about the son of a high ranking government official who had suddenly been shipped overseas for no apparent reason or, worse still, claims of proof that the murders had continued, but that the police had started covering this fact up.
But whatever the reason might be for the murders having stopped, by the time the five month anniversary had approached, most people had already started to forget that they had even ever occurred, their own lives taking precedence over vaguely remembered tragedies suffered by unknown strangers months and months earlier.
Sure, the occasional young woman might reference the murders when trying to finagle an escort home from a cute coworker, or vice versa, but the fear that had been almost ubiquitous five or even three months earlier had already begun to dissipate.
But now this. When things were finally starting to truly calm down. When the police had all-but quit hounding Ken. When Yamato had finally seemed to have taken the hint. When Daisuke had finally started to hope that maybe, just maybe, things would start getting back to normal, or, at the very least, what would reasonably pass for normal.
A second double homicide.
Daisuke found himself wondering if the police would hold a press conference like they had after the first double homicide. If so, what would they say? What could they say?
An image of Yamato standing with the other officers as cameras flashed and reporters hurled questions at the NPA Director months earlier ghosted before Daisuke's eyes. The older digi-destined had looked years older than Daisuke knew him to be, his close cropped blond hair appearing almost silver in the glare of the lights. Yamato did not appear to have slept in days and for a moment, Daisuke had almost felt his anger towards the older man about the way Ken had been treated start to mellow.
But then there had been that pounding knock at the apartment door.
Daisuke shook his head at the memory, picking up the tray from the kitchen counter and balancing it carefully over one arm even as he ducked under the small blue curtain hanging in the doorway. He made his way back to the bedroom he and Ken shared, doing his best to wipe the evidence of his previous thoughts off of his face, determined not to burden the dark-haired man.
"Hmmm?" The softly questioning noise was all the warning Daisuke gave before walking over to where Ken lay, only the top of his blue-black head sticking out from underneath the covers. Daisuke paused to rebalance the tray on one arm again before reaching down to grab a fistful of comforter, jerking both it and the lemon colored sheets down to the foot of the bed in one swift motion.
"Ah!" he teased, "There's a man in my bed!" When Ken failed to immediately respond, he continued in his best falsetto, "What ever will I do!?"
It worked. Ken rolled over, opening his eyes as he reached his hands above his head, stretching, even offering Daisuke a small smile.
"Come on, sit up," Daisuke prodded, "breakfast's getting cold." He grinned as Ken did as he had been told, scooting up so that Daisuke could place the tray over his lap.
"Coffee," Daisuke answered Ken's vaguely curious look, "White rice, a banana." He smiled when Ken picked up the pair of chopsticks lying on the tray only to have to bite back a scowl when they just hovered over the bowl of rice hesitantly.
"If you want something else..." Daisuke offered after a few long seconds, but Ken just shook his head.
"You spoil me too much," Ken scolded, taking a deep breath even as he seemed to be steeling himself in preparation of some odious chore. The chopsticks finally descended, taking small pinch of rice off the top of the mound and conveying it to Ken's mouth, delicate and graceful in the mundane, as only Ken could be.
"It's not that much trouble," Daisuke muttered, crawling into the bed and burrowing in close to Ken with a sigh, "I'd be happy to make whatever."
Ken set the chopsticks down as he chewed then reached for the cup of coffee. He brought it close to his nose, inhaling deeply. If there was one thing Daisuke could count on Ken enjoying, it was his morning cup of coffee. The dark haired man blew softly across the top of the mug before taking a careful sip.
"Where's yours?" Ken asked after setting the cup back on the tray. Daisuke looked up from where he had snuggled in tight next to Ken's side with his best Cheshire-cat grin.
"I already ate earlier." It was a lie. He hadn't. But the morning's news had destroyed whatever appetite he might have had and it wouldn't do for him to admit to the very same thing he was always nagging Ken about. Ken just nodded, accepting.
"Are you working today?"
"No. I have the day off." A second lie. He was supposed to go in to work. In fact, he would need to call them soon and let them know he did not plan to show. Still, Daisuke knew he couldn't risk leaving Ken here alone, not when Daisuke expected the police to be beating on their door at any moment.
"Eat," Daisuke chided a minute later, poking at Ken's ribs in a way that Daisuke knew drove the ticklish man insane, "I'll be back in a bit," he promised, pushing himself up from the bed with a grunt before dragging the wicker basket full of their dirty clothes out of the closet and heading towards the laundry room. It would be easier to call work without Ken hearing with their ancient washing machine running.
When Daisuke came back down the hall 15 minutes later, Ken and his breakfast tray were gone from the bedroom. Daisuke tossed the now empty wicker basket back in the closet before straightening up the bed, taking special care to fluff and then refluff Ken's flattened pillow. That chore finished, Daisuke wandered back out into the hallway and towards the front of the apartment, looking for Ken.
"Ken?" there was no answer, but Daisuke did find the breakfast tray, perched precariously by the edge of the kitchen sink. He sighed, setting the empty coffee cup in the sink to be washed before grabbing the only half eaten banana and the barely touched bowl of rice and turning to dump them in the kitchen trash. It was only when he finally looked up, arm reaching only half consciously to place the now empty rice bowl in the sink, that he noticed someone, Ken, had turned the television back on.
The television was still muted, the newsfeed scrolling continuously across the bottom of the screen even as the reporter, this time a young man in a suit and tie, mouthed soundless words. Daisuke let his eyes blink shut for a long second, willing himself to remain calm, undisturbed, even as he tried his best not to curse fate for deciding that today was the day that Ken, notorious in his dislike for all things "television", would suddenly take up TV watching.
"Ken?" Despite his best intentions, Daisuke could hear the worry in his voice. He walked over to the television, turning it off for the second time that morning before calling yet again, "Ken!"
"Yes?" Ken stuck his head around the edge of the patio door. He had smoothed out the worst of his bed head, but had not bothered to change out of his pajamas. Daisuke shook his head. If only the rest of the world really knew what an utter scatterbrain Ichijouji Ken could be, he thought to himself, unwilling to acknowledge that what he really loved was the fact that they did not. Ichijouji Ken, the real Ichijouji Ken, belonged only to him, with Ken's natural rectitude providing the buffer between reality and public image.
"What are you doing?" Daisuke asked as he walked over and leaned out onto the tiny patio, though he already had a pretty good idea. Ken did not bother with an answer, instead holding up his small tin watering can by way of explanation. Daisuke watched as Ken set the can down and reached up to brush gently at the leaves of the closest plant, almost as if he were petting it.
Ken's interest in horticulture was a relatively new one, though, if pressed, Daisuke would have had difficulty saying when, exactly, it had started. All Daisuke knew what that the first plant had shown up, seemingly out of the blue, on his kitchen counter one morning. When he had asked Ken about it, the dark haired man had only shrugged.
When Daisuke had asked him not to keep it where he cooked, Ken willingly complied, setting up a small plant shelf on their patio that very afternoon.
The next time he happened to notice, Daisuke wasn't sure how much later it had been, the original plant had been joined by two others.
Now their patio was a veritable jungle. Not that it bothered Daisuke. Ken had been careful to leave room for Daisuke's laundry rack and the only time he had requested Daisuke's help in caring for the plants was when he was hanging the plastic sheeting he used to protect them during the rougher storms that sometimes hit.
Ken moved on to the next plant, oblivious to the way Daisuke was watching his fixed routine. First, the plant in question was offered a bit of water, then Ken would brush at its leaves softly. Through it all, Daisuke could almost swear he heard a soft hum, a murmur that seemed to flow from Ken's lips and into the leaves of the plant.
There was a new one, or, at least, Daisuke thought it was new. He couldn't remember having seen it before, though the pot it was planted in looked as if it had weathered more than a few years' life. Unlike any of the others, this one still held on to its little plastic spike inscribed with care instructions. Daisuke reached forward and pulled it free, flipping it over so he could read what was written.
"Golden Pothos," he read aloud, his tongue struggling to sound out the foreign sounding words. Ken looked up at him with a smile.
"It's also called Devil's Ivy," Ken informed him. Daisuke frowned at the name, leaning over to put the tiny stake back into the plant's soil. Somehow, it did not seem fair to call such a beautiful thing devilish. Daisuke found himself reaching out to run a finger along one of the large, waxy, green and yellow leaves, tracing its gentle heart-like shape.
Daisuke's eyes moved to the plant sitting one shelf higher than the ivy. This one, too, had the same heart shaped leaves, only its leaves were small, a deeper green and almost fuzzy. Another placed nearby sported foliage that was olive green with cream colored veins running throughout, and it, too, had the same heart-shape to its leaves.
Then there was one that was sending out long curling vines covered in bright green leaves. It took Daisuke a minute to realize that it was the original plant, so much had it grown and spread. All in all, Daisuke counted ten plants, most of them ivies, all of them sporting heart shaped leaves. Daisuke watched as Ken reached out, gently petting yet another of his plants and he could not help but wonder if Ken's sudden, surprising interest in horticulture stemmed from some unfulfilled longing for his digimon partner, Leafmon.
Truth was, Ken refused to talk about Leafmon or Wormon or any variation of their digimon partners and had for years. It had worried Daisuke at first, Ken's seeming refusal to even acknowledge the past. It had worried him and it had hurt him because Daisuke wanted to remember his partner. He had wanted to reminisce about the times that they had had together, the fun and the not-so-fun, with someone who would genuinely understand.
Only every time Daisuke had tried to bring their digimon up, Ken had shut down.
Soon, Daisuke had learned that whatever pleasure there may have been in talking about Chibimon or Veemon or their adventures in the Digital World, it was far outweighed by the pain of having Ken purposefully shut him out. So Daisuke had quit trying.
But looking at Ken's garden of Leafmon-like plants, Daisuke found himself wondering if that had been the right path to take. Maybe, what he should have done was push Ken harder, force the dark haired man to accept the hurt of what had been taken away from them when they were barely old enough to understand its importance. Force him to acknowledge their pain...
Daisuke was broken from his thoughts by Ken's quite sigh. His eyes immediately went to Ken's face, and then over the patio railing to where a police car had just pulled up next to their building.
"Go get dressed." Daisuke's voice was low, but filled with an unmistakable anger. Ken looked down at his pajamas with a self-depreciating smile before nodding his head and disappearing back into the apartment they shared. Daisuke remained at the patio railing, watching the car, daring, if only in his mind, a blond man to step out.
After several long minutes, two officers did step out of the car, but neither of them were Yamato, or, at least, what looked to be Yamato from this distance. Daisuke fought back a sigh of his own as he watched them walk along the sidewalk towards the front of the building. Daisuke followed their movement until they were lost around the far corner. Only then, did he allow himself to go back into the apartment, sliding the patio door closed with a gentle rap.
Ken had already managed to dress and was sitting, waiting on the couch, the picture of calm, though Daisuke could easily suss out the truth of Ken's mood in the hard line of his shoulders.
Daisuke frowned at Ken's choice of a long-sleeved dress shirt, given how warm the June day was expected to become, but he knew it would be utterly futile to try and talk the taller man into changing.
It was utterly futile to try and talk Ken into anything.
"Don't argue with them." For the shortest second, Daisuke almost thought it was the Kaiser, himself, who had spoken, so forceful and commanding, was the simple statement. But no, it was Ken, turned now, to stare at Daisuke, who was still standing by the patio door, fists clinched. "No matter what," Ken insisted, "Just stay calm." He smiled a little at Daisuke, "They can't hurt me," he promised.
"Bullshit," Daisuke wanted to say, "Bullshit." He wanted to hit something. He wanted to harm something. He wanted to destroy something. And he would, too, if he thought that there was any chance that doing so would protect Ken. Because, despite what Ken might have to say on the matter, it was Daisuke who had been the one to take a silent and unresponsive Ken home after that first interview. In fact, it had been Daisuke who was tasked with putting the pieces back together after each and every one of Ken's interviews, interrogations, whatever they were. But Daisuke knew that no good could come out of his pointing as much out, so, in the end, as always, he bit his tongue.
There was a sharp, all too familiar knock on the apartment door. Ken stood up from the couch, but was stopped by Daisuke's hand on his shoulder.
"Sit," Daisuke's voice was low, almost a whisper, but the hand that pressed down on Ken's shoulder was firm, resolute. Ken did as he had been asked without argument, watching as Daisuke made his way over to their small entry way, bending slightly to slip his feet into waiting shoes before glancing back to where Ken was sitting, perched alertly on the edge of their couch, with a small smile.
There came a second knock, harder, more insistent, and Daisuke had to bite back the urge to growl even as his attention turned once again to the door. Daisuke shuffled the few feet forward, unlocking the double deadbolt before slinging the door open, eyeing the two officers ugly.
For a moment, it almost seemed as if the door flying open had confused the officers. One still stood with his fist raised to knock. Daisuke caught the other sizing up the flowers growing in his neighbor's window box.
"Can I help you?" Daisuke's voice was cold.
"Motomiya Daisuke?" the first officer asked, his still clinched fist falling to his side awkwardly.
Daisuke nodded his head, his eyes darting, almost subconsciously, over his shoulder in Ken's general direction. He failed to notice the quick look that passed between the two officers.
Daisuke's eyes swung back around to the two police officers when the first cleared his throat roughly.
"Motomiya Daisuke?" the officer asked yet again.
"Yes." He answered, his annoyance rising even further. It took every ounce of his will-power not to shove the man away when he reached up, gripping Daisuke's arm roughly.
"Can you step out of the apartment, please," the second officer asked, though his tone implied the distinct lack of any question, "We're going to need you to come with us." His partner only nodded, but his grip tightened, drawing Daisuke closer.
The only thing Daisuke remembered hearing as he was pulled, forcibly, from the apartment's tiny foyer, and over to the waiting elevator was Ken's anguished howl.