Episode 20: Friend or Foe

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“Would you just lis-“

“No! Fuck’s sake! You should have talked to the rest of us!”

“I didn-“

“Piper! This wasn’t a decision for just you to make. This involves all of us.” Tom interjected Reyez’s rant towards the blonde.

She sat on a wooden chair in Excellent Bean, surrounded by Eva, Tom, Reyez and Frankie nursing a now cold hot chocolate. She had picked a public area to meet with everyone to keep the risk of anyone flying off the handle to a minimum, and to hopefully keep voices to a low tone. She had explained in briefest detail about the discussion she had with Hunter days before. That he had offered his assistance to their cause, no longer agreeing with the methods of his mother or sister. She was not surprised at the doubts and dubiousness of the others that were thrown out immediately. In fact she’d been prepared for it.

Just not this amount of negativity.

“I know it wasn’t just my decision, but you don’t understand.” Piper paused pushing her fingers roughly through her hair. She rubbed her face with one hand and sighed loudly. “Since we got back from the Digital World I feel like... like we’re not the same. Like we’re – I don’t know – broken, somehow.”

“How do you mean, sweetie?” Frankie, who sat closest to Piper nudged her. It was the first time Frankie had been out socially for some time, she was still not 100%, but this was a positive step as far as everyone was concerned.

“We’re not the same.” Piper tried again. “Since we got back its been one thing after another. What, with Mrs. Lynn, Irbimon’s evolution, not to mention personal trauma. I mean – has anyone seen or spoken to James lately?”

Silence.

Tom and Reyez exchanged slow glances that the others missed. They had not mentioned the incident that had occurred some weeks ago where James had left them bloody and bruised.

“That’s my point.” Piper said finally, as if making some closing conclusion to a research paper she was presenting. “We aren’t as close knit as we were. We’ve all had things to deal with, we’re not strong. I think that Ryudamon’s training backfired somehow. We’re more apart than we ever were before.” Piper paused, “Besides... Hunter helped me.”

Eva sat back in her chair. “Helped you?”

“At the museum. He helped me when I really needed it. He didn’t turn on me.”

Tom sighed and rubbed the space between his eyebrows. “One good deed doesn’t excuse the fact he sent us to the Digital World in the first place.” He looked at the blonde from beneath his eyebrows. “Have you considered the idea this might be a ploy?”

“Of course I have.” Piper snapped. “Stop treating me like I’m a naive idiot, I-“

“You’re not doing much to convince otherwise.” Reyez muttered from the sofa where he was sprawled out. He gave Piper a sidelong glance and shrugged down into the leather fabric. Piper breathed out in a rush and stuffed her cardigan into her satchel.

“Forget it. I knew telling you was pointless. I should have just let him appear and help out, then you could have seen for yourselves.” Piper was gathering her things together, two ring binders full of notes.

“Piper...” Frankie murmured, watching as the blonde checked that she hadn’t left anything. “No one thinks you’re naive.”

Piper rolled her eyes. “Sure you don’t. That’s why you’re talking to me like I’m four years old. I know a kiss off when I hear one. I’ll leave you guys to bitch about me behind my back, I have a class to get to.” She had disappeared from the warm coffee house into the brisk morning a few moments later, leaving the group in something of a stunned silence. Piper was not one to snap, or get angry so easily. So an outburst, however small, was something that took them by surprise.

“She’s just annoyed we don’t agree with her stupid idea.” Reyez commented.


“You could have been a little more constructive… and act your age.” Frankie chided. She fiddled with an earring and crossed one leg over the other. “She has a point though.”

Tom and Eva looked to her, Eva interjected. “We have been growing apart. But we all have things to deal with personally…it’s almost natural y’know?”

“Still,” Frankie pursed her lips. “I think Piper’s just trying to help.”

“No excuse.” Tom said, wrapping an arm around the back of the love seat he and Eva occupied and leaving his hand on her shoulder. “She should have asked us first. He’s part of the reason we were sent to the Digital World in the first place. Just because he helped out once doesn’t mean he’s changed sides. Leopards can’t change their spots.” He shrugged and took a long drink from his mug.

“That’s the long and short of it.” Reyez added, swinging around on the sofa and sitting up straight. He stretched and eyed the others lazily. “Unless there’s an ulterior motive.”

“Meaning?”

“Piper could be a turncoat.” He said nonchalantly.

Eva shook her head. “Don’t say that. She wouldn’t. I hope none of us would.”

Reyez cocked an eyebrow. “You said it yourself, we’ve all been preoccupied with other things. Maybe the thing she’s been preoccupied with is... Hunter?”

“You’re poisonous.” Eva hissed. “Only you would think like that.”

Reyez shrugged again. “It’s something worth considering. That’s all I’m saying.”

“Moving on.” Tom said deliberately. “Has anyone actually heard from James? I’m... a little worried.” He looked at Frankie who shook her head slowly.

“Not really. He’s come over a couple of times, and I’ve talked to him on the phone. But he’s been... distracted lately. I’ve asked him about it, but it’s all the same stuff, family business.” Frankie paused and glanced to the screen of her D-Touch as if expecting a message to come through from the brunette just by talking about him. Eva gently patted her hand, and gained a weak smile in return. “He said the three of you had a run in with Taranimon?” Frankie looked at both Reyez and Tom.

“Oh. Right.” Tom smiled awkwardly. “Yeah, that night where it rained really hard.”

“Nothing much to report.” Reyez said lazily. “Just a run in, proving we sucked. James was out of it.”
“How so?” Frankie’s tone changed a bit, narrowing her eyes.

“Just... weird.” Reyez replied. “Weirder than usual. Like he had something on his mind.” He left out the other information about their exchanged punches and how they had both left bloodied and bruised, James the worse off. No one else needed to know about that. “Guess he’s had stuff to deal with too.”

“Mmm…guess so.” Frankie shifted her position and turned to glance at the barista. “Who’s up for a refill?”

-----------------------------

Hatimon watched from the carpeted floor as Rose threw paint at the canvas in front of her. Her expression was nothing but pure rage, and she had decided that the canvas was her enemy; throwing colors on at all angles with little care for where they went or if the colors ran together. Underneath the canvas was a white sheet to keep the floor clean, littered with spatters of paint, along with Rose’s white overalls and her face in places. Her black hair was tied back into a messy bun. Her eyes watered with rage-induced tears, and she was breathing hard.

This was the most unkempt Hatimon had seen her partner for some time.

“Stupid, stupid, STUPID!” Rose yelled at the canvas, throwing her wooden palette at the board and knocking it back a few feet as it struggled to stay upright. Hatimon was ready to run to try and catch it if possible. It would only upset Rose if her furniture became covered in paint too.

However, the easel stayed on its three legs. Only the palette dropped to the floor, falling face down and staining the white protective sheet. Rose had her paint covered fingers covering her face, digging into her temple and rubbing at the sides of her head with her finger tips. She was breathing hard and fast; Hatimon could sense the emotions ebbing off her in waves. The young woman dropped to the floor, sitting with her legs crossed Indian style.

Hatimon crept out from her place and slowly made her way over to her partner, carefully avoiding splotches of wet paint. She sat at Rose’s side for a moment, looking patiently at her. Rose rarely lost her composure like this, and never in the company of anyone else other than Hatimon. Rose felt showing this side of herself was a weakness, that she had to be like her mother. Cool, collected and detached. Totally unapproachable and untouchable.

In truth, Rose wasn’t as much like Bella as she liked to believe, but Hatimon never mentioned it. Rose wouldn’t believe it from her, unless she saw it for herself.


“You can’t stay like this.” Hatimon said softly, nudging Rose’s arm with her nose. Rose flinched and ran her fingers back through her tied up hair, pulling strands from the loose up-do she had rushed in to. Her hair was becoming coated with dark red paint, her face was already smeared, almost like she had dried blood there.

“He’s a traitor.” Rose spat harshly. “Nothing but a disgusting traitor. Siding with those inferior…beings. After everything – everything mother and I have done for him.” She spoke as if Hatimon wasn’t there, that she was talking to the hair. “I’ll make him pay.”

“What are you going to do?” Hatimon asked, backing up a few steps as Rose breathed deeply and got to her feet, steadying herself with a hand on the wall.

“I’ll make them all pay.” Rose growled, her teeth clenched, stepping over Hatimon and made a quick turn down the corridor to the bathroom.

The bright bathroom light flooded the white tiled wet-room. Rose turned on the shower full blast. She stared at her reflection in the full length mirror as the water heated.

“Rose!” Hatimon yelped, standing in the door way.

Rose examined her reflection, turning her head this way and that, examining where the paint had smeared across her nose and cheeks, the speckles that littered her hands and the clumps of dried paint that had become embedded in the roots of her hair where she had been gripping. The mirror was heated, steaming up from the warm flood of water from the shower head. Rose turned slightly and eyed Hatimon.

“What are you planning?”

“Revenge.” Rose replied simply. She had lost the anger from her voice, but it was still there, festering beneath her calm exterior. Hatimon knew her partner well enough to know that holding it in would only make whatever it was she was planning all the more dramatic and therefore sweeter when she unleashed it all. “He will rue the day he ever crossed me.”

“What about Bella?”

“What about her?!” Rose rounded on the wolf Digimon. Hatimon stood her ground. “Mother doesn’t need to know.”

“I think she does.” Hatimon replied firmly, “I think I know what you’re planning and it won’t go well if you lose.”

Rose sneered, but bent and gently patted Hatimon on the head between her ears. “Have a little faith, Hatimon.” Rose said, her voice little more than a coo. “I have something they do not, the ace up my sleeve if you will.” Without a further word, Rose ushered Hatimon out of the room and closed the door. Hatimon stared at the closed form in front of her for a moment before turning and returning to her place in the living room. She sighed, flopping down onto her belly.

She had a bad feeling.

-----------------------------

No one was in a especially good mood as they trekked from the coffee house in relative silence. Conversation had moved as easily as possible from one topic to another, but everyone was aware of the elephants crowding the room.

How was Frankie dealing?

Had Eva gotten over the SkullSkadimon incident?

Where was James?

Why was Hunter taking an unnatural interest in them?

Was everything Piper had said about them drifting apart true?

Everyone felt it, but no one else dared to confront or admit just how apart the group had grown since returning from the Digital World; an experience which now felt like it had taken place eons ago, when in reality it had been barely a few months. There, they had almost been forced to deal with each other, and bond more closely than they had before. And now all that work, all the time they had spent together so close knit and under one-another’s feet seemed like it meant nothing at all.

Things had changed, and not for the better. No one was the same any more. It affected them all differently; and none of the changes were positive.

“Where did Piper say this place was?” Tom spoke up, breaking the uneasy silence hovering over the group.

Reyez glanced back. “She sent the message to all of us.”

“It’s that park – y’know, the one were Odocomon evolved that first time.” Frankie explained. “It’s been under construction since. It was pretty wrecked.”

“Random place to want to meet and talk.” Eva commented.

Ailurmon’s voice echoed from Reyez’s D-Touch. “You’re walking into a tra~ap.”

“No one asked you.” Siberimon’s voice commented from Frankie’s phone.

Frankie rolled her eyes. “I’m sure Piper just wants to apologize.”

“I don’t know about that.” Eva murmured, she ran her hand back over her hair and tugged lightly at the tips of her pony tail. “I mean, she seemed awfully pissed.”

Tom sighed. “Maybe we should just wait and see what she wants to talk to us about.”

Silence again.

The message being referred to was one that had arrived at each D-Touch simultaneously from Piper. Just a location, and the comment she wanted to talk to everyone. No other details except that; not even her typical Piper-esque sign off. It had been a bit odd, but given the circumstances of her leaving, no one was especially surprised by the curtness of the message.

So they’d left and started the walk across town. By now they were nearing the park.

As they had walked, mostly watching their feet and D-Touches, they had not noticed the people retreating, running the opposite way, and cars stopped with a screech. They had all been in their own minds, in a stupor, ignoring each other and focusing on themselves. It was only when Reyez looked up and noticed a car careering into a fire hydrant that he paid attention.

“Well, shit.” He muttered, pulling a cigarette from behind his ear. Tom, Eva and Frankie all stopped beside him.

The construction poles were all but destroyed as was any work that had been done on the playground and the surrounding area, it might as well not have been done. It was demolished now. The ground was a litter of smoldering embers and trails of ice and water; the air filled with roars, yelps and howls of attacks from all sides.

The familiar sound of crackling made Tom flinch.

“Move!” He pulled Eva out of the way as streak of lightning shot past.

Taranimon’s body built itself up just behind the small group, laughing as he looked down on them. His eyes scanned the area noticing Frankie from the other three. He kneeled down, bring his face closest to hers, “Hello.” He said in a very polite and gentlemanly manner.

Frankie waved cheerfully. “Long time no see!”

“Are you doing well? Is everything… ok?” The Digimon asked casually.

“Oh, you know, I’m making it.” Frankie smiled, her hands behind her back.

“Exquisite.” Taranimon turned to the others, “Electric Field!” He attacked. Frankie shrieked from his sudden roar as he zipped away from her. Siberimon emerged from her purse. 

Tom, Eva and Reyez quickly parted in three ways, lights from their D-Touches shot into the air.

“Siberimon, Over-Clock Evolve to… Hurakamon!”

“Poemon, Over-Clock Evolve to… Valramon!”

“Ailurmon, Over-Clock Evolve to… Bambusmon!”

While he had not digivolved, Irbimon stood his ground amongst the champions.

“I’m so glad you could join us!” Rose shouted from afar, throwing Hunter to the ground with a grimace. He was up on his feet a few seconds later, grabbing Piper out of the way from an on-coming lightning strike.

Piper sat up, looking at the others and quickly regained her composure, getting to her feet. “Guys!” She had little time for anything else as Hurakamon charged by her.

Hurakamon charged, “Wind Wrecker!”

Taranimon grabbed Hurakamon in mid-tornado form and threw him towards the far end of the park. The champion crashed into Aureliumon from behind, knocking them both to the ground.

“Mystic Tremor!” Bondyemon’s voice echoed.

Aureliumon grunted in pain, feeling himself lift from the ground. His limbs twisted, and suddenly he was thrown into the steel construction rods piled on the side of the park.

Piper gasped, running in the direction after her Digimon.

“Volcanic Pillar!” Terasumon howled, racing towards Bondyemon who laughed manically.

“Winter’s Blade!!” Tsukuyomon jumped into Terasumon’s path, her katana in the grip of her muzzle. Terasumon barely dodged the sudden attack--

“Blazing Mirage!” He split himself into three different forms, attacking both Tsukuyomon and Bondyemon.


Aureliumon regained his stance and re-joined the battle, striking Bondyemon with his short sword. The two Digimon clashed, swinging and throwing attacks at each other but also missing. Aureliumon growled, grabbing Bondyemon by his bright green hair and slamming his shield into the Digimon’s face.

Valramon kept herself distant above Taranimon but attacked him like an annoying small fly.

“Grand Cannon!” Bambusmon shouted, attacking the metal bindings around Taranimon’s legs.

Taranimon roared, sweeping his hand across the ground and swatting Bambusmon away. Bambusmon caught herself, flipping to her feet and skidding the ground just a little.

“Incoming!!!” Aureliumon shouted.

Bambusmon looked at the ground as a bigger shadow was forming over her. Quickly looking up, Bondyemon’s body was falling in her direction. The amazon leapt back in time just as he hit the ground.

She smirked, “Foliage Domination!”

Before it could make contact with Bondyemon, it was cut short by a beam of light. Bambusmon yelped in surprise.

“Amethyst Chains!”

Bambusmon was slightly relieved by the sound of the attack, but it was short lived. She felt something tighten around her body, yanking her to the ground with tremendous force. 

Gasps took over the battlefield, the tamers and Digimon alike stood silent.

Rusdramon stepped from the shadows, her head slightly low with a blank stare in her eyes. James stood beside her, his eyebrows furrowing slightly.

Rose laughed, “It’s nice of you to join the party!”

James and Rusdramon exchanged glances, he nodded to her before stepping back. Rusdramon looked as if she took a deep sigh, she reared back and charged into battle.

“I’m really hoping you were off on that attac---” Bambusmon was hit dead on by the antlers of the other champion.

“Rusdramon!” Hurakamon growled.

Rusdramon stopped and turned to him, “…Grand Cross!”

“Gale Mediation!”

Both attacks clashed. Rusdramon leaped above the attacks, using her antlers once again for melee.
Hurakamon leaped out of the way, but Irbimon was caught by the attack.

“You know Eva, now would be a good time to, ya‘know, have Irbimon digivolve!” Frankie said, in a midst of panicking.

Eva held her D-Touch close, “I…” She frowned, lowering her head in defeat.

Irbimon rounded on her. “Come on Eva! I can do it! You have to trust me!”

“What if you become SkullSkadimon again?!” Eva yelled. She clenched her fingers around her D-Touch. “No! I won’t let you.”

Frankie frowned, turning her attention back to the battlefield. Her D-Touch started to glow, along with Reyez’s. Hurakamon and Bambusmon reacted accordingly, digivolving to their new forms in mere flashes of light.

“Night Strike!” Valramon swooped from above. Bondyemon leaped out of the way, only to be caught by an array of vines covered in thorns.

Valramon swooped back, “Duskbane!” She released her murder of smaller ravens.

Bondyemon grunted, trying to break free from both attacks but felt himself badly damaged. He lashed his claws at Mistresmon who dodged gracefully. She brought her leg up, kicking him in between the legs before flipping forward, bringing her heel down onto the top of his head. Bondyemon face planted the ground.

Byakkomon clashed swords with Tsukuyomon; both attempting to push the other off balance. Tsukuyomon growled as ice started to take over the tiger’s sword, clinging to Byakkomon, almost freezing him in place. Byakkomon grunted as he tried to move but his body had succumbed to the cold vapors.

“Volcanic Pillar!”

Tsukuyomon was suddenly shot into the air an eruption of fire. The warmth of the fire melted the ice from Byakkomon who only nodded in gratitude.

Aureliumon grabbed Irbimon in his palm, pulling his arm back and tossing the rookie towards Taranimon and Rusdramon.

“Frost Strike!” Irbimon attacked.

Rusdramon leaped in front, “Grand Cross!”

“Ocean Massacre!”

The water orb created by Aureliumon chased after Irbimon. Irbimon’s attack hit Rusdramon head on, followed by the orb that absorbed her and slammed into Taranimon.

Taranimon flew back, almost crashing into the other Digimon.

Rose grunted, snapping her fingers. “This is getting old!” She leaped on Tsukuyomon’s back who ran off into the dawn setting.

The other Digimon disappeared quickly, and James too, not without a short glance back at the others over his shoulder. He almost looked remorseful, but it was impossible to tell considering how quickly Rusdramon cantered away with him on her back. Frankie dropped to her knees; Byakkomon growled softly beside her, as Valramon came and landed with the soft fluttering of feathers close by. Tom slipped off her back and crossed the grass to Eva and Irbimon.

There was intense, uneasy silence in the group, disturbed only by the noises of burning around them. The people who had been foolish enough to stop and watch the fight had scattered when the other Digimon had charged from the area; for now it was just them and their Digimon.

In a flood of light, Mistresmon devolved, and reappeared in the form of a flopped over Ailurmon. Caesarmon took Aureliumon’s place, and Siberimon appeared in the place of Byakkomon. The only one who didn’t return to their rookie stage was Terasumon, who loomed over them, close to Hunter like a protective orange shield.

“Well...” Ailurmon huffed from the ground. She sat up briskly and stared for a minute up at the underside of Terasumon’s chin.

“Yeah.” Reyez agreed with her unsaid comment; unable to find any sharp or snide comments to make. The fact Hunter had helped out cowered in comparison to the fact James had turned on them. Reyez exhaled a long breath of smoke, creating a bluish-grey cloud in front of him. “I... am actually speechless.”

“Stop the presses.” Siberimon muttered.

Hunter shifted awkwardly and nudged Piper with his elbow. “You guys have a lot to think about. I should probably...” he made a small inclination with his head.

“Hell no.” Tom barked, rounding on the taller boy. “You must have known about this!”

Hunter backed up a step. “Whoa. I was just helping you guys out.”

“Yes.” Tom snapped. “Rather convenient. You deciding to suddenly help us out when James decides to become one of you. You must have known, or this is some kind of sick plan. Don’t you think we’ve had enough to handle?”

“Hey-“

“Tom, enough.” Piper’s voice sounded like a stone hitting the ground. “Hunter’s not at fault here. If you’re angry be angry at James, not him.”

“It’s okay, Blondie.”

“No, it’s not.” Eva said quietly from where she kneeled on the floor, shunned by Irbimon, still angry. “It’s not okay, of course it’s not okay. How is any of this okay?!”

“Getting hysterical isn’t going to help!” Ailurmon grunted. “Geez, everyone flips their lids over such stupid shit. Am I the only one not surprised by this turn of events?”


“Shut up.” Reyez nudged the panda with the tip of his boot. Frankie observed the exchange with a knowing look and glanced between Reyez – who had his jaw gritted – and the Digimon. She arched an eyebrow.

“No, Ailurmon, what were you going to say?”

Ailurmon shrugged. “You guys don’t talk, do you? Rey and James had a bust up a few weeks back. James got off the worst of it though. Honestly, I’m surprised this didn’t come sooner.” Reyez grimaced and ran his hand down his face, knocking his cigarette from his mouth to the ground. He quickly drew another from the packet in his back pocket and lit it with some urgency.

Frankie had risen to her feet, and cradled Siberimon in her arms like some kind of necessary confidence booster. “What does she mean, ‘bust up’, Reyez?”

Reyez growled under his breath, something inaudible that sounded like a series of curse words. “It was a bust up, we exchanged heated words, a couple of punches were thrown. Nothing. James just can’t take it.”

“Define ‘a couple’?”

“I really should-,” Hunter trailed, catching a startling glare from the black haired girl. He was obviously going to have to stick around, they weren’t done with him yet. He sighed and resigned himself to the fact.

“It was a few punches. Nothing major. Fuck, Frankie, get off my case.” He took a long drag of his cigarette and paused, Frankie still glared daggers into him. Anyone else and he would have shrugged it off, ignored it totally and carried on as if nothing had happened. She just had this way of looking that made him unable to do that. Tom shifted uneasily beside Eva, disliking the atmosphere and how Reyez skirted around the truth. He rubbed his hands back through his hair.

“Rey, we might as well come clean.”

Eva turned her head to eye Tom in the face, her eyes open a little wider. “You... helped?”

“No! No.” Tom shook his head vehemently. “I didn’t hurt James. But I didn’t exactly... stop Reyez, either.”

“Ciera la boca…” Reyez rolled his eyes with a slight groan

Tom argued, “We should have just said something to begin with. This probably could have been avoided.”

Hunter shrugged and slipped his hands into his pockets. “Probably not.” All eyes on him again. He moved his weight from one foot to the other, and glanced briefly at Piper who was standing in a line with Eva and Frankie. Tom had shuffled away from Eva for the moment, so it was now himself, Tom and Reyez in a small cluster under the judging eyes of the girls, and each other.

“Out with it.” Frankie ordered, “and I want the whole truth. From all of you.” Her voice was level and firm. She was not in the mood to be lied to or toyed with.

So Tom explained as best as he could with Reyez making off comments throughout his explanation. How James had seemed out of it when they had met Taranimon that night; and how his attitude had put them all in danger. How Reyez had not handled it well and how James had left bloodied. Throughout, Frankie’s expression remained flat and unreadable, her arms folded across her chest. Eva and Piper stood on either side of her, each one a little more aghast than the other. And then, when Frankie had heard enough, she turned to Hunter.

“And what’s your story?”

“I wanted to help.”

“I get that.” Frankie said sharply. “Why? What did you mean ‘probably not’ earlier? Did you have something to do with James turning?”

“Why does this bother you so much?” Reyez grumbled.

Frankie narrowed her eyes at him. “Okay -  first of all, El Fists of Fucking Fury, he’s my boyfriend. I’m trying to decide what to do regarding that status. Secondly, I think you need to have a fucking seat somewhere because you and your unnecessary ass comments are pissing me off.”

Hunter interjected before Reyez could retaliate. “That day he came to Bella’s office. I was in the dark about why he was there as he was. I was just told to be there. Rose and my mother had cooked up some stupid scheme. He works for Atlas Corp, she offered him stuff. A new house, cash, all the things he wants but can’t afford.” Hunter struggled a little, rubbing the back of his neck under his ponytail. “Look, I didn’t know what she was planning, but she offered it to him on the proviso that he turned. That was the last I knew of it, I didn’t know he’d actually agreed.

“Well, that makes more sense.” Eva commented after a long, uncomfortable silence.

“How do you mean?” Caesarmon asked.

Ailurmon added. “How does that make any sense?”

“There was more to it. Loyalty kind of pales in comparison to having all your problems solved in one go.” Eva explained slowly.

“It’s not right though.” Siberimon huffed. He turned to Frankie, “I hope this means you put an end to this fraternization.”

“Not now.” Frankie hissed. “We need to get him back on our side... I don’t think he actually wanted to attack us. Did you see how hesitant he was? And Rusdramon too. He’s not... happy.”

“No kidding. Working for my mother, no one is ever happy.”

Tom rubbed his stubble thoughtfully. “I think... we should go and talk to him. Get the facts.”

“Yes.” Irbimon agreed. “Only we keep Reyez away from him this time.”

“Funny.”

“It’s not a bad idea.” Eva added, “I just think it needs one adjustment.”

“Which is?” Frankie turned to her.

“That just Tom, Reyez and Hunter should go.”

"Why should I go?" Argued Hunter, "I had nothing to do with this. Blondie: tell them." He looked to Piper with a pleading expression marring his face. Piper blinked, chewing her lip uneasily before looking down in a defeat.

"I... think you should go, actually."

"What? Why?"

"It'll give you, Tom and Reyez some time together." Piper turned her attention on the two other men. "In case they have any more doubts."

Reyez sucked his teeth. "Great. Male bonding."

“Oh Jesus Christ shut up, Rey.” Frankie huffed.

-----------------------------

Having Hunter along proved at least a little useful. He knew where the new Atlas Corp homes had been erected and was able to lead the way straight there; and Skollmon had been able to find James’ house by tracking Odocomon’s scent. The new houses were top of the range, purpose built, Eco-friendly, most of the walls were entirely glass, with a few being solid. The front garden was tidy, neatly cut and on walking up the front path splashing could be heard from the back garden.

"A pool?" Reyez commented. "Shit, this place plus a pool, I'd have turned too."

"All of Bella Divine's backing and he keeps his crappy old truck." Tom muttered, spotting the cab of the vehicle poking out of the garage.

Hunter rang the door bell and stepped to one side. He had been almost totally silent the entire trip except when giving directions. Skollmon had done his talking for him. He supposed this was an idea of Piper's an attempt to get him to know the others better, and another scheme to show he was trustworthy.

The door was opened by a relatively young woman with strawberry blonde hair. Hunter recognized her from photos as James's mother. She eyed the three of them warily.

Tom stepped forward. "Uh... hi. Is James in?"

She nodded, leaving them standing at the door for a few seconds until James was guarding the threshold, Odocomon at his side. He held a stony and severe expression, but his skin looked practically grey. He gripped the door frame tightly with one hand, probably to keep from shaking.

Tom glanced at his other companions. Hunter looked a little lost while Reyez's expression was almost indifferent. Tom decided to get the ball rolling, he opened his mouth to speak.


James beat him to it. "I know why you're here." He said slowly, "and there’s nothing you guys can say I haven't already said to myself about this decision."

"So, you're okay with being a coward?" Reyez leaned back, his hands in his pockets almost amused.

"Fuck you, Reyez." James snapped. "Offered everything and anything you wanted, even you wouldn't turn it down."

Tom stepped in. "We're not here to fight."

"I beg to differ." Reyez interjected.

Tom glared at him. "We're not." He said firmly, and turned back to James. "We just want to know why."

James tilted his head to one side, ruffling a hand back through his hair. "It wasn't an easy decision to make. In fact I struggled with it for weeks." He paused."I didn't want it to come to this. In fact I almost said no because I didn't want to let you all down."

"But..." Prompted Tom.

"But... this wasn't just about me.” James stopped again and leaned his head back, looking at the ceiling in the hallway. Tom took the opportunity to glimpse Odocomon who had been uncharacteristically quiet. Her eyes were downcast, her ears had dropped. She looked smaller, for some reason.

Tom heard James inhale, and looked back to the brunette. “The woman who answered the door? That’s my mother, Summer. Bella found her. My sister is going to a better school, so are Noah and Elliott. My dad’s getting all the professional help he needs. I don't even have to work anymore. Ultimately, I care more about my family... than my loyalty to you guys." James paused to glance at Hunter who had remained completely silent. "Besides, looks like you've already found my replacement."

"Don't get me involved." Hunter snapped. "This is your issue."

"What about Frankie?" Reyez demanded. "You stop to think about how she would feel?"

"Frankie," James said wearily, "would understand why I'm doing this. She knows how tough it is for me and my family.” James paused, drawing himself up to his full height. “In my shoes, all of you would do the same, I'm sure of it."

"W-What about you, Odocomon?" Poemon chimed in from Tom's side, hopping forward. Odocomon looked shocked at being addressed, "How do you feel?"

"I..." Odocomon struggled, for once without words, "I..." She looked up at James for some kind of support. He wasn't looking at her, her ears drooped further, and she chanced a tiny glance at the raven. "My job is to protect James. I can't turn on him."

"But you don't agree?" pressed Poemon, her voice filling with a bit of authority.

Odocomon struggled again. "N-No."

"Enough." Reyez huffed. "Do what you want. To be honest, it’s not that even big of a deal, man.” He turned, throwing his hands in the air and to casually scrolled off.

"Rey-" Tom called after him.

"What?!" He snapped, rounding on them all. "He's made his choice, for fucks sake he won't even listen to his own damn Digimon, so of course he's not going to listen to us. We're wasting our time."

“Bu-”

“Tom, dude, leave it be.” Reyez cut him off. “He’s right, we’d all do it if we were in his shoes. I’m just done with this bullshit completely. If Frankie wants answers, she can call him. This isn’t like some type of movie where our kind words will move him and persuade him to join ‘our side’ when we barely even know who is good and who is evil anymore. Estoy cans ado de esta, yo me quiero ir para la casa.” Reyez walked towards his car, lighting up yet another cigarette.

Hunter turned to look at James and Tom before slowly making his way towards the car as well. Tom sighed, and his shoulders sank. He turned to James, trying to think of any last words he could say.

His mouth opened, he paused. Defeated.

Tom placed his hands in his khaki pockets and turned away, Poemon by his side.

James slowly shut the door, watching them walk towards the car.


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