Hi there, and welcome to my newest story! This actually got started last year, but then a bunch of story and real-life projects popped up and it got put on the backburner. But we made it! Finally!

This also knocks out quite a few challenges I've been meaning to deal with for awhile: Digimon non-Flash Bingo prompt "adopted", The In-Wonderland challenge 1 - write about a char long gone, and The Knights on the Board challenge, prompt "repeat".

Also, this is done in first POV present with Ryo.

Well, here we go!

Disclaimer: If I owned Digimon, there would be more Ryo. And, well, more Tamers in general. More Digimon anything in general, really :P

Pierce the Veil

"One of the oldest human needs is having someone wonder where you are when you don't come home at night." -Margaret Mead

Data File 1: The Unspeakable and the Melting Snow

I…am suspicious of something, but I keep quiet. Instead I casually gaze out of the windows, watching the Digital World growing more distant every second. Another mission done, another adventure gathered to memory like collectible cards. My friends chat away. Maybe I'll join in, when I get tired of the digital haze hiding the outside even now.

"As your vessel, it is my duty to bring the heroes home," says the Valkyrie in its quiet yet noble voice. Built from the same program as the long-gone Grani, it was originally going to be named Grani 2 and be its copy. But early in development it was clear that it was not going to be another Grani, and we realized the idea of cloning Grani was disrespectful, even sacrilegious. So we let it choose its own name. From there, it fashioned itself after its namesake.

Though Digimon and digital beings have no gender, they can favor masculinity or femininity. Valkyrie, perhaps because it named itself after winged women who took heroes to paradise, leaned toward the latter, though I could never consider it strictly female. Its design was sleek and birdlike instead of stout and dragonesque like Grani's final form, its colors silver and purple instead of white and red.

"You don't have to be so serious," says Terriermon, resting on Henry's head like a fuzzy living hat. "Lighten up! We took care of that rogue Digimon no problem!"

"And now I shall take you home," replies Valkyrie, seeming unaffected by the dog-bunny's suggestion.

I sigh and shake my head. Perhaps it was because it is still a recent creation, but Valkyrie doesn't seem to quite have that…"spark" most Digimon had. I mean, it's intelligent, and it can learn and understand, but things such as beauty and emotion are still beyond it. Though it's devised a random joke generator that's pretty funny…Sort of.

"Why did the tube and the rice ball go into the furnace?" asks Valkyrie.

"Why?" asked Guilmon, suddenly sitting up in excitement. Everyone else exchanges dubious looks.

"Because they wanted to be burning up on the floor of the dance."

Everyone laughs, if for the wrong reason.

Except for Guilmon, who thought all of Valkyrie's jokes were hilarious. "Ooo, ooo, tell us another one!"

"So a blind tomato walked up to a falcon walking his plaid cat…"

I shake my head again. How do you explain humor to anyone, much less a ship? Well, at least she's trying. Perhaps one day it'll be more than just a stumbling imitation of others.

"We will be home in five minutes," Valkyrie announces.

Home…Yeah, I want to go home.

…There it goes, that suspicion scratching at my mind again. But it's best to keep it to myself. Don't want to cause panic over phantoms that might be only shadows.

IIIIII

I'm home now.

Dad's there to greet me, and we talk (and complain) about our jobs. Dad complains about Monodramon eating the whole pizza he left on the table the other night. I shrug and say that he should have known better than to leave the pizza so exposed, which Dad refuses to admit.

We watch the news. We watch some game shows and laugh at the morons. We watch Ninja Warrior and Dad says for a bazillionth time that I should go on once I'm old enough. I remind him again that most of my stunts are done when I'm fused with a Digimon, and BioMerging on the show would probably be cheating. Dad huffs and says they would accept me anyway. It would be great publicity, having a world-saving Tamer there. It would draw way more crowds than those Digimon card tournaments I used to play in.

Speculation about my stardom in Ninja Warrior turns into a sprint down memory lane, as Dad goes on about when he first got me Digimon cards, how we used to go camping and fishing all the time, and how I loved it. How a few times I ran off and camped on my own without telling him, or just ran off in general, and managed to give him several dozen gray hairs in the process. Funny, I don't see any of those gray hairs he's talking about.

I smile and laugh along to these golden memories I don't remember. But Dad doesn't need to know that, and after a while he goes off to bed. I go to bed too, carefully moving around Monodramon, whose curled up at his personal reserved space the end of the bed. I lie down but don't go to sleep, instead staring up at the fake glowing stars plastered to my ceiling. I don't know how long those stars have been up there. I know nearly nothing about the objects collected in this room.

I want to go home.

But I am home. Even if I can't remember anything before my first trip to the Digital World, this is where I always come back to, right? This is where Dad is, and I love Dad, and my friends, and I love protecting this world and everything in it. And I'm loved back, even if sometimes it's tough love from the likes of Dad and Rika and my partner. If that's doesn't make a home, then what does?

Yet I find myself wandering the Digital World constantly. For hours, days, sometimes for weeks. Would probably consider going there now, except I really don't want to run into the mystery plasma thing by myself. Sometimes, the Digital World almost feels like home. Almost. Then I suddenly feel heart-sick and scuttle back to the real world.

I want to go home, I think, and go back to the real world. I want to go home, I think, and I go to the Digital World. I want to go home. Back to the real world. I want to go home. Back to the Digital. I want to go home.

And on and on. I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to…

I keep gazing up to the fake stars above me, and that suspicion nibbles at me. That suspicion I don't want to voice. That suspicion I don't want anyone to answer, or even consider. Yet it has only grown, ever since I first came back from the Digital World and didn't recognize my own house.

Wish upon a star…most of the DigiGnomes, the wish-granters, are gone now. One alone could grant someone a D-Arc. In massive groups they helped all Digimon digivolve to Mega in preparation for the D-Reaper. But even a small group could hold incredible power…and all are extremely sensitive to emotions and desires…and because anything can happen in the Digital World if you believe…

The disappearance of Ryo Akiyama was a huge thing. He was a big star in the Digimon Card scene, being known as the Digimon King. Fans and a father that wanted him found. Fans and a father who wished that he would be found. And in the Digital World, Digimon who cried for a Tamer. And, later in the Digital World, stranded children who wished for another ally on their quest, and perhaps another human among all the monsters. All those wishes at once, and they all coalesced to…

Me.

I'm made from the wishes of many. I don't remember my past because it isn't mine. I'm a digital being, but I was made to be like a human. I can't choose between worlds because both created me. I'm everyone's adopted dream.

…There. The suspicion has chewed its way out of me like a trapped rat.

It's…a relief, actually.

I'm not ashamed of being a digital being born of wishes. I was born because I was needed and wanted. My different nature and instincts help me be a better Tamer and hero at once.

So why do I keep quiet? I haven't even said this to Monodramon.

Honestly, I know my friends won't mind much after the initial shock. If they accept Digimon as equals, they won't have any trouble accepting me. Well, Rika might hold it against me for awhile, but that's Rika for you. I wonder if she'll actually like me someday. But even she'll come back around eventually, if only as a friend.

Yamaki might be tougher. He respects the Digimon and Digital World, but he's still not terribly fond of it. Might want to do some tests on me or something. Monster Makers shouldn't be too bad. Probably will want to examine the hell out of me, but who wouldn't? Shibumi's been going on about finding other digital life forms for awhile, so he'll probably be stalking me for months…

Dad. Hoo boy. I don't know how I'll ever explain it to him. He doesn't really know the Digital World and Digimon that well. He'll probably be pissed, asking me where his real son is.

…Which is a good question, actually. From what I heard, I…that Ryo was kinda a brat sometimes. Ran off a few times when he was mad, and sometimes he didn't come back for awhile. He could be anywhere. I might run into him at one of my old haunts. Or one of my friends might. Then there would be a hell of a lot of explaining to do. ..

But I guess even then it wouldn't be too bad. If I'm modeled after the other Ryo, then we must be similar personality-wise. If I were him, which I am, sort of, then I would be freaked at first, but I'd get over it pretty quickly. Having a twin would be cool, actually. We could hang out and switch places to mess with people and everything. And I would finally have someone else to play videogames with. That would be awesome.

…But I guess if he's really pissed about me living his old life for him, which I could see happening too, then I'll just back out and let him have his old life back. I've got my friends. I've got the Digital World. I might miss my old life some, but I can just make another one. I'm a survivor, if nothing else. I just hope my dad talks to me again eventually.

…So there. I've got it sorted out. If it comes up, I'll fess up. If not, I won't worry about it. It might just be all in my head anyway.

IIIII

It's a fun and peaceful camping trip in the mountains we've been meaning to do for months. It's been a long winter this year, and it's finally thawing into spring. Everyone is here: Rika, Takato, Henry, Suzie, Kazu, Kenta, Jeri, their partners, their parents, my dad, even Yamaki and Riley.

Me and Rika are exploring the steep side of the mountain, seeing what treasures we can scare up. We're finding everything from broken bottles to lost camping gear to even badly-weathered Digimon cards. With our real-life Digimon with us, we have no fear of slipping and falling. Compared to our regular treks through the Digital World, which often involve things like climbing through upside-down houses or bouncing through a sea of green blobs, this is nothing. Oh, and no hostile Digimon. That's always a plus.

Monodramon is coming down the mountain after briefly investigating the forest on his own. It's not unusual for him to wander off, and honestly I don't like it when he does that. He has a perplexed look on his face, and slinks over to me like he's afraid of making noise.

"What is it?" I ask.

The little purple dragon pointed up the mountainside. "There's another you sleeping there," he whispered.

I tense up despite myself, but I smile anyway. "You gotta be kidding me," I answer in an equally quiet voice.

"Yes, that's preposterous," Renamon says, suddenly materializing beside me. "All humans are different. They are not copies of each other like many Digimon are."

…Damn Renamon and her ninja hearing skills.

"What's going on?" asks Rika, walking up to us. She's found some extra goodies in the form of a dented silver thermos.

"Monodramon says he's found another Ryo," Renamon replies promptly.

Double damn Renamon. If that's really the real Ryo dozing up there, I'd rather encounter him alone first.

Rika raises an eyebrow. "As if we need another Ryo around. One's bad enough."

Ouch.

"I-I swear it's true!" says Monodramon. "I'll show you!…Be quiet though. He's sleeping."

…Well, that pretty much ends any plan for privacy. Boy, this is going to be awkward with Rika here. Not that it wasn't going to be awkward anyway, but…Well really, I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. I've been in denial of so many things.

Monodramon leads us up the mountain. This trek is taking too long. Then again, I kinda want it to be longer at the same time. I wish I was more prepared. Though I dunno if you can prepare for something like this, even if you plan for it. This Ryo…I wonder what he'll be like. I wonder what Rika will think.

We're led to a sheer cliff face going almost straight up. I remember this place because of the twisted tree branches I see poking from the edge. They belong to a gnarled tree I was fooling around with earlier, and I nearly slipped and fell on the slick rocks. I can thank Rika for grabbing my arm and yanking me back, though either of our Digimon could have rescued me just as easily. We can thank gravity and the laws of motion for me landing awkwardly on her, and the equally uncomfortable stares from Takato and Henry as they came running to investigate. Kinda surprised Rika still hung out with me after that particular incident, actually.

"He's sleeping here?" asks Rika, and I agree with her confusion. The ground is almost liquefied from the rapidly melting snow, with some dirty piles remaining as a last testament of winter's power. You couldn't pick a worse camping spot. I don't even see a tent. Why would…

I stare at the repeat of myself, lying on the ground. There's no doubt that he's the real Ryo, because we have the same face, the same hair, even the same camping clothes. We would be twins, if he wasn't so pale. So quiet. So still. So frozen, blanketed only with melting snow and fallen leaves.

I cannot move. I cannot even think. I'm only aware of the corpse in front of me, and the stench of neglected disaster that reeks from it. I'm vaguely aware of Rika jerking away and retching somewhere behind me. I don't blame her. If only I could purge the growing sickness inside me so easily.

Monodramon stares at me in puzzlement. "Yeah, he smells bad. I guess he's been camping out here for awhile? I know humans get stinky if they don't take baths. Should we tell him to take a bath once he wakes up? Or would that be too rude? I mean-"

"Monodramon." It's Renamon who speaks, her tone carefully controlled. I'm grateful, because I cannot speak at all. "This human isn't sleeping. This human is dead."

My partner gapes at the fox in horror. "D-Dead? B-But he can't be d-d-dead. H-He would've turned into particles by now if he was."

Oh Monodramon. I've never explained the mechanics of the real world to you, have I? That flesh bodies don't dissolve away like digital ones do. I've sheltered you too much in this world.

"…Why does he look like you?"

I turn to Rika, who is almost as pale as the corpse. Makes me wonder what I must look like. Her violet eyes are locked ahead, unbelieving.

I open and close my mouth, but I'm still saying nothing. Like a fish stranded in muck, like the muck that clings to my boots and my clothes. Fish out of water, stranded, far from home.

I want to go home.

"Ryo," Rika says again, her tone torn between demanding and pleading. "What's going on?"

I cannot lift my eyes from the muck. "I…I don't…"

Monodramon, desperate to prove everything wrong, tries to shake him awake. Only then does he realize how terribly wrong the body is, and backs off with a jolt and a stifled squeak. He runs to me and hugs my legs like a scared child. In my dazed state, it's enough to make me lose my balance. We both fall, slipping down the hill on the slick mud until we crash into a tree.

"Ryo!" Rika shouts, as she and Renamon hurry down to us. The mud doesn't seem to affect them.

"…We're okay," I answer, holding frightened Monodramon close. The poor guy's sputtering apologies constantly as he clings to me. "It's okay buddy. It's okay. It's okay…" My heart tightens, and I tighten my grip too. "It's okay, it's okay, it's okay…" And now I'm the one who's endlessly looping, as my body shakes, as my voice cracks. Not good. Not good.

I feel a hand on my shoulder. "Ryo."

I glance over to Rika, swallow my uselessly repeating words, and try to muster a grin. It must not work, because Rika still looks really worried. Somehow that makes me feel worse. My lack of roots in either world, my lack of memories, what we just found at the foot of the cliffs…the cliffs I nearly fell off of myself earlier…

My next words slip out like sludge. "So, I'm not the real one after all."

IIIIII

So yeah, an option Ryo hadn't considered at all...So, what do you guys think? Does this sound plausible?

Btw, does anyone know what the title means?