Something was laughing.
Kenta frowned to himself, not quite awake yet. There were a few things wrong with the laughter he was hearing. One would be the fact that it sounded like it was coming from nearby - and no one should be in his room at that hour. After all, it was a school night, and his friends weren't allowed over. And that did not sound like a person laughing - more like a Digimon, actually…
Then it stopped.
"Wah… huh?" Kenta reached out blindly to grab his glasses off the bedside table, but for some reason the bedside table wasn't where it was supposed to be. He opened his eyes a bit to try and find it, and blinked.
Since when can I see this well without them?
He wasn't in his room, either… Actually, he was sleeping on an old-fashioned mat on the floor, in an equally old-fashioned room that looked like it belonged in a very expensive house.
Oh great… But maybe his Digimon had come with him to wherever it was he'd been transported in this crazy dream-world. "M-MarineAngemon?" he called out tentatively, sitting up - and did a double take, slapping one hand over his mouth.
That is not my voice! There is no way my voice sounds like that!
What the hell was going on!?
The air over in a corner of the room suddenly blurred, and a yellow fox-shape appeared out of nowhere, looking directly at him. "Ruki."
"GAH!" Kenta fell back against the mat, his thoughts in a jumbled mess. "Wh-What the - !?"
"What's the matter, Ruki?"
"I am not Ruki!" Kenta righted himself, glancing around wildly. There was a mirror on one side of the room. "Oh my god!" He stared at the image reflected back at him in horror. Long red hair, cold purple-blue eyes… "I'm Ruki!"
"Ruki…?" Renamon was clearly becoming worried.
"I'm not supposed to be Ruki!" Kenta moaned, burying his face in his hands. He did not want to see the reflection the mirror was showing him. "I can't believe this is happening! I'm Ruki! Why am I Ruki!?"
Renamon did not move toward him - thankfully. "Who were you expecting to be?"
"Kenta! I'm Kenta! I'm short! I can't see right! I'm geeky-looking! I'm a boy! Gah!" He tried to curl up into a ball. Ruki's body felt different. "This is a dream, right? A nightmare. I'm still asleep. I'm dreaming. I'll wake up any second now… any second…"
"This is not the time for hysterics." Renamon's voice was typically cool. "If you aren't Ruki, then where is she?"
Kenta tried to slow his breathing to the point where he wasn't hyperventilating. "I-I don't know," he managed to whimper - then a truly frightening thought struck him. "Oh no! What if she's in my body?" She'd be able to go through his things, mess around with his friends… she'd have to see him - "Oh my god!" He buried his face in his hands again, panic striking. "I'm going to have to see Ruki naked!"
Renamon let out a frustrated sigh. "You need to try and think this through more rationally," she told him. "We won't get anywhere until you do."
"I'm in a girl's body! How the hell do you expect me to be rational at a time like this!? I'm a boy! A boy!" Kenta wrapped his hands around his upper arms and squeezed his eyes shut, hoping he could block everything out.
It wouldn't work, though… even blocking out the world, he couldn’t block out the body he was in.
"There must be someone who can fix this," the Digimon beside him mused.
"Someone… Hirokazu!" Kenta uncurled and jumped up, quickly. "He'll know what to do - he'll have some sort of plan… Where's Ruki's phone?"
"Not exactly who I had in mind," Renamon murmured, but she led the way into the rest of the house all the same.
"Good morning, Ruki!" a sort of older lady greeted him - her? - as the two of them moved past her to get to the phone. "Renamon," she added, smiling.
"Morning - uh…" Who was she, anyway?
"Grandma," Renamon prompted him, quietly.
"Grandma," Kenta repeated, dutifully.
Ruki's grandmother didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary. "The bathroom's free for you," she said cheerfully. "So you can take your shower any time."
Kenta felt queasy.
"There," Renamon pointed out, when they neared the phone.
"Thanks!" He rushed over, picked up the receiver, and immediately dialed in the familiar number, trying to keep himself from flying out of control. "Pick up, pick up… Hello!" Thank god! "Is Hirokazu there?"
"Just a minute, please."
A suspiciously long time later, Hirokazu's voice came onto the line. "Hello?" It had a peculiarly flat tone to it that was not at all like him.
At the moment, though, Kenta's nerves were too frazzled for this to matter. "Hirokazu! I know it doesn't sound like me, but it's me! You won't believe this, but I'm stuck in Ruki's body! I don't know what happened and I don't know what to - "
"Who is this?" his best friend's voice demanded, in a tone that was definitely not his. "And how the hell did you get into my body?"
Kenta took in a sharp breath. "Hirokazu…?"
"It's Ruki, you moron!" the voice snapped. "Who are you?"
"Ruki…" This was unbelievable! He was in Ruki's body, and Ruki was in Hirokazu's… At the last second, he remembered that she'd just asked a question - and Ruki wasn't known for her patience. "This is Kenta. Do you know what - ?"
"I don't know what happened." It was really odd to hear Hirokazu talk like that. The voice sighed impatiently. "All right - this is what we're going to do. We're going to call the others, and find out who's been effected. We can't tell anyone else, because they'll think we're going bananas, so we're going to have to go through today pretending to be whoever we woke up as."
"But…" Kenta did not like that plan at all. He didn't want to be a girl for a day! Especially not Ruki. How was he supposed to fake Ruki's attitude? "I-I don't know my way around your school, or what your schedule is…"
"Renamon will help you," she said, in an even tone that suggested she was keeping herself under tight control. "Tell whoever you call to be at the swing set in the park at lunch time today. And try to make sure everyone has the right schedules. I don't have Hirokazu's - if you find him, I'd appreciate if you got that for me."
"But - "
"Don’t whine at me about your troubles!" she snapped at him, clearly not in the greatest mood. "You think I want to be stuck in this birdbrain's body? Listen. You can call Takato, Jenrya, and yourself. I'll call Juri and Ryo. If there's anyone outside of our group who's in on this, write down their name. Call me back when you're done and let me know what you found out. Okay?"
Kenta swallowed hard. He didn't like this… but there wasn't anything he could say about it. "Okay," he agreed, miserably.
"Good. Talk to you later." She hung up.
Renamon was watching him as he hung up the phone. "Well?"
"Ruki's in Hirokazu's body," he reported, gloomily. "She told me to call some of the others. Do you know where Ruki keeps her phone book? I don't know Jenrya's phone number."
"I'll get it," she told him, and vanished.
Kenta picked up the phone again. "That's really creepy…" he muttered, dialing in Takato's home phone number. It was picked up on the second ring. "Hi. Uh… can I talk to Takato, please?"
"May I tell him who's calling?" Takato's mother asked pleasantly.
"Ke - uh, Ruki."
"Just a moment, please."
Compared to when he'd called Hirokazu's, the period of waiting time before someone picked up the phone was relatively short. "Just how often do you call Takato at seven o'clock in the morning, anyway?" the familiar voice asked, without bothering to say hello first.
Kenta let out a long breath. No mistake here. "Hirokazu?"
A moment of silence answered him - then, "How the hell did you know that?"
"This isn't Ruki," he answered, feeling a little better now that he had his best friend on the line. "It's Kenta."
"Oh man!" Hirokazu groaned. "Rotten luck there, pal! Any idea what's going on with all this? Who else is messed up? And how are we supposed to fix it, anyway?"
"I don't know - I wish I did!" Ruki's voice was squeaking; Kenta couldn't help it. "I'm stuck in a girl's body! What am I supposed to do? Her grandmother wants me to take a shower!"
"Dude, I feel for you - I really do. Ruki's going to murder you, whatever you do."
For whatever reason, that helped. Kenta took in a few deep breaths. "We're meeting at the park at lunch," he said, calming down somewhat. "I need to call my house and Jenrya's. Do you know Takato's schedule?"
"Yeah, I'm good. I'm more worried that his big red doofus ate his homework or something - that thing's not that bright, you know." That did not sound right in Takato's voice. "Did you call my house yet?"
"I called." Kenta sighed, feeling gloomy again. "That's where I got my orders. You're not going to like this," he warned, "but Ruki's the one in your body."
"Are you kidding!?" Hirokazu squawked. "Do you have any idea what she could do to my life? This is the worst thing that could possibly happen to me!"
"At least you're not in a girl's body," Kenta reminded him, accusingly.
"I've got a girl in my body!" Hirokazu groaned again. "That's almost as bad. I'm gonna have to go back in there when she's done with it, you know!"
"I really hope we can get this fixed at lunch today." The queasy feeling was coming back again. "I'm going to have enough nightmares as it is." He swallowed, and went on. "I'll tell Ruki your schedule, but I can't keep an eye on her because I have to go to her school."
"This really stinks!" Hirokazu growled out.
Kenta looked down at Ruki's pajama-clad body miserably. "Tell me about it."
"Hey, I'll call your house, all right?" There was at least some sympathy in his best friend's voice. "Just call Jenrya, and I'll phone you back when I'm done. Cool?"
"Okay." At least he didn't have to go through this completely alone. "Talk to you later."
"Finished?" Renamon was already waiting with Ruki's phone book when he hung up.
"I guess so. Thanks." Fortunately for him, Ruki seemed to be good at keeping her contact information organized. He found Jenrya's phone number quickly, and dialed it in.
It was picked up halfway through the second ring. "Hello?" a hesitant-sounding voice answered.
Still a familiar voice, though. "Hi… Jenrya?"
"Ruki!" Abruptly, the inevitable string of desperate babbling followed. "You have to help me! I don't know what's going on, but I woke up this morning and I was trapped in Jen's body! And Terriormon's not helping at all - he just keeps calling me 'Jen' and acting like I'm joking - but you gotta believe me, I'm not - "
"I believe you," Kenta interrupted, running a hand over his face. "Because this isn't Ruki. It's Kenta."
Silence from the other end. Whoever it was let out a long, shaky breath. "So it's not just me, then."
"No," Kenta agreed. "Who is this?"
"Oh." He'd gotten off easy, then. "Hirokazu's in your body, by the way."
"He is?" Takato seemed surprised. "Then where's Jen?"
"I don't know yet," Kenta admitted, feeling a headache coming on. This was really surreal. "Ruki said she'd call Ryo and Juri, and I still don't know who's in my body. Hirokazu's calling my house."
He grimaced - even just thinking it, it was bad. "In Hirokazu."
"Oh, wow." That was not a good 'wow'. "That's a disaster waiting to happen."
"Yeah," Kenta agreed, wholeheartedly. "Uh… anyway… I'm supposed to find out if you need Jenrya's schedule and tell you we're meeting in the park at lunch."
"I… I think I'll be okay." Takato still sounded a bit overwhelmed. "I'm pretty sure I can remember everything. But… uh… remind Hirokazu to feed Guilmon on the way to school, will you? He eats a lot, and my parents get too busy to go out there sometimes."
"Okay." If he concentrated really hard, he could almost pretend this was normal… "Talk to you later," he said, and waiting for Takato's goodbye before hanging up.
"Have you found out what you needed to?" Renamon asked him.
Kenta rubbed at his - Ruki's - face again. "Not really," he muttered - but didn't get a chance to elaborate, because the phone rang and he had to pick it up. "Hello?"
"Ryo's in your body," Hirokazu reported - again without saying hello. "I gave him your schedule. He's having trouble with MarineAngemon - he can't understand what it says, and it's going kind of crazy. You got time to stop there before you go to school?"
"Great…" Kenta leaned his head against the wall and groaned again. "Yeah, I guess. I'll skip out on giving Ruki a shower - hopefully it won't matter for one day. Takato wants you to feed Guilmon on the way to school, by the way."
"And how am I supposed to do that without losing an arm? Or maybe a leg…"
Kenta actually laughed. It was high-pitched, funny-sounding laughter - but it was laughter all the same. "Stand back and throw the food from a distance?" he suggested, burying his fingers in hair that seemed way too long.
"I might just have to." Hirokazu snorted. "Talk to you later, man."
He hung up - then picked up the phone again. There was still Ruki to call back, after all.
"It's about time," she said when he got her back on the line. It was hard on his nerves, hearing Hirokazu's voice with that tone. "Everyone I called is set for this morning - we'll talk later today. Did you find Hirokazu at all? I still need his schedule."
"I found him." Kenta leaned against the wall, feeling drained despite the fact that he'd just woken up a few minutes ago. "He's in Takato's body." He dutifully told her his best friend's schedule.
"Good," Ruki said, when he'd finished. Her voice - well, Hirokazu's voice - was still short and irritated, a sign of her own reaction to this situation. "Juri is in Ryo's body," she added, "and Jenrya is in Juri's. Just so you know."
At least he wasn't the only guy stuck in a girl's body… Kenta wasn't entirely sure who had it worse - him or Jenrya. "Ryo's in my body," he told her, somehow keeping his voice steady. "Takato's in Jenrya's. Does Renamon have your schedule?"
"I have it written down. She knows where it is." Ruki hesitated for a moment. "I can live without a shower this morning, by the way - so don't try it. I'll see you at the park."
Then she was gone, and Kenta was left with the dial tone, a creepy Digimon, and the unpleasant prospect of dressing Ruki for the day.
This was not good.
"This bites. Bites and chews. Grinding its teeth as it does."
A few people were giving him funny looks. Hirokazu was used to that, and really couldn't care less what they found wrong with him. Some of those looks, though, came from the fact that those people who actually knew him thought he was Takato - and Takato didn't act like this.
"What are you looking at?" he demanded, scowling at a gawping 8th grader - who immediately turned her face away, trying not to make eye-contact. What's with these people? You'd think they'd never seen a 14-year-old walking through the park talking to himself!
"Okay. That's too weird," 'Jenrya' greeted him, when he reached the swing set. "It's me - but it's not me."
"Tell me about it," 'Juri' said wryly, from where she was leaning against the swing set in an un-Juri-like position.
Hirokazu looked at her. "So whose mind are you?"
"Nice." He whistled. At least he wasn't in that mess… "You're almost as unlucky as Kenta."
That was not a good thought. Hirokazu frowned. He'd been working toward something a little less 'friendly' and a little more… well, 'friendly'… with Kenta, and this threw him off. How were they supposed to get on with things with Ruki's less-than-appealing - at least to him - body in the way?
Not to mention Takato's… It wouldn't be such a great idea to get cuddly with Kenta even if Ruki's body weren't an issue, because the last thing he wanted was for Kenta to get all attracted to Takato. And who could help it, if his own personality was present to give the normally 'blah' guy an extra spark?
It was a problem, that was for sure.
"Where's Kenta?" Jenrya asked.
Takato took that one. "Ruki." He said that in the same tone he might've used to say 'the elevator to hell'.
What an understatement.
Jenrya shook his - well, Juri's - head. "He's a dead man."
Hirokazu snickered. Who could help it? "Never heard Juri say that before."
"Don't expect me to play this up for you," Jenrya warned him. He grimaced - the expression looked kind of creepy and definitely abnormal on Juri's face. "If I'm still in here after lunch, I think she's going to somehow get sick by the time school's over - cheerleader practice, you know."
Hirokazu shuddered. There were some fates that were worse than death.
"Sorry I'm late," Kenta's voice called out calmly - not the same way Kenta himself would've said it. Ryo joined them, looking around. "Where are the others? And while I'm at it, who's who here?"
"Not here yet, and Hirokazu."
Ryo nodded. "I talked with Kenta already when he stopped by this morning, and he told me Juri was in my body." He said this in an unnaturally level voice, as if he was so used to switching bodies with everyone and their dog that it hardly bothered him any more. "That means Ruki's in Hirokazu's, right?"
That wasn't something Hirokazu wanted to think about. Who knew what she might be doing to his poor, defenseless body? "Why are your clothes like that?" he asked instead, irritably. "Kenta doesn't look like that, you know."
Ryo looked down at himself - at Kenta - and shrugged. He was wearing the regular school uniform, but without the tie, with his shirt untucked, and with his sleeves rolled up just below his elbows. And it was easy to see all that because his jacket was slung over one arm instead of on him like it was supposed to be.
Hirokazu had to admit, he looked good - but then again, he was Kenta.
"I couldn't get used to it, that's all," Ryo admitted. "I didn't find it all that comfortable."
"You think I'm comfortable?" Jenrya asked him, raising an eyebrow. The guy made a good point - it was hard to see how anyone could be comfortable in a short, pleated skirt.
Girls were just crazy.
"Hey guys." That didn't even sound like Ruki's real voice. Kenta walked into the clearing, his shoulders slumped a bit and his expression discontent. Ruki's hair had been pulled up into a sloppy ponytail. "Did you figure anything out yet?"
Ryo shook his head. "I don't know how anyone could think it was Ruki in there."
"We're still getting used to this," Takato answered.
"Do we have to?" Kenta was definitely not happy with his situation. And who would be? "I really want to be me again. I don't like being Ruki."
Hirokazu snorted. "Yeah, who would?"
"I heard that - and I know who's in that body." Takato had been right - it was just plain weird, seeing yourself walk around without you. The expression Ruki had twisted his face into wasn't too nice, either. "Don't piss me off while I'm in here."
Fear was suddenly stronger than pride. "All right, all right, I'm sorry!"
She scowled at him. "Why do your teachers all hate you? One of them gave me a lecture after the last class for no reason at all today!"
He shrugged. "Hey, if you're not getting me into trouble, they're going to get kinda worried."
"Oh brother." She rolled her eyes - well, his eyes. "Where's Juri?"
"Here! I'm here!" Ryo's body suddenly ran up - not the same way Ryo normally ran - and stopped beside Ruki, looking a bit breathless. "I almost forgot how to get to the park from that school!" Ryo's voice said cheerfully, giggling a bit.
Out of the corner of his eye, Hirokazu noticed Kenta's body cringe a bit. Well, at least the girl in my body can kick ass, he thought to himself.
Checking out other people's misery was a good way to make him feel better, anyway.
"Well, now that we're all here, what are we going to do?" Takato asked, looking around at everyone.
"Good question," Ryo answered, with a half-smile.
"I was kind of hoping you guys would have some ideas," Jenrya added.
"Well, this is just great!" Hirokazu threw his hands in the air, exasperated. "What are we supposed to do - stay like this? There's no way I'm being Takato for the rest of my life! No offense, man," he added, glancing at his friend.
"None taken - I think."
Kenta slouched even more. "I swear I heard someone laughing at me when I woke up this morning," he said, mournfully. "Must be some kind of big joke or something…"
"Did you really?" Jenrya looked at him curiously. "Because I heard something laughing when I woke up, too."
"Me too!" Takato chimed in.
"It sounded like a Digimon - not a person," Ryo said, thoughtfully.
Hirokazu shook his head. "And here I thought I was just going nuts."
"Going?" Ruki raised an eyebrow at him, then nodded. "I heard it, too - but I didn't think anything of it at the time."
"I was a little too shocked," Juri agreed, clasping her hands together absently. She did not even remotely begin to pass for Ryo. "It's not every day you wake up in someone else's body."
"You think?" Jenrya half-smiled.
"We all heard it, then," Ruki concluded, frowning a bit. "And we were all in different bodies afterward. So whatever we heard was probably what caused this."
"Why do you think it was just us?" Takato asked. "I mean, if it's a Digimon, it probably had something to do with the fact that we're all Tamers - but I'm pretty sure that was really Shuichon who was putting bows on Lopmon's ears this morning."
Jenrya looked thoughtful. "Shuichon keeps her D-arc in a chest with her toys when she goes to bed," he commented, "but I always leave mine on my desk - right out in the open. Do you think that might have something to do with it?"
Kenta nodded. "Mine's always out, too."
"Mine too," Takato agreed.
"Sounds like we've got the 'what' and 'why us' parts down," Ryo commented. "Anyone got a clue about 'how'? Or 'why' in general?"
"Or 'what do we do to fix it'?" Hirokazu added, making a face.
"We probably should've brought our Digimon, huh?" Takato mused.
"I don't even know where Renamon went," Kenta admitted, looking gloomy. "She disappeared before I left for school - where does she go when she does that, anyway?"
Ruki didn't seem concerned. "Renamon's not a pet - she can come and go as she likes. And she knows what she's doing - she'll be there if I need her."
"That's convenient," Hirokazu commented.
"That's dependable. Can we get back on track here?"
"Okay." Takato looked thoughtful. "So we know it's a Digimon causing this, but we don't know which Digimon, or why it switched us around."
"We did hear it laugh," Jenrya reminded him. "Maybe this is all just a joke."
"Yeah, very funny," Hirokazu said, sarcastically. "See me laughing?"
"Sounds like we're going to have to track this thing down," Ryo pointed out. "And figure out how to make it change us back."
"How can we do that, if we don't even know what it looks like?" Juri asked, biting her - Ryo's - lip. "We could walk right by it and not even know."
"We'll use the D-arcs," Ruki said, glancing sideways at the other girl. "We can track down any Digimon who happens to be in the area, and figure out if it's what we want after we've got it under control."
"How are we supposed to do that?" Kenta asked curiously.
"Ruki and I can figure something out." Ryo looked over at her. "People will expect you and I to be together most of the time anyway, so we'll be able to spend a lot of time working our way through this." He grinned - a not very Kenta-like grin. "What do you say?"
She nodded. "Much as I hate to admit it, you know more about Digimon than just about anyone else. We're probably the best two to figure this out." Her eyes - well, Hirokazu's eyes - glanced quickly around at the others. "Everyone else, just try to lay low and be available in case we need you."
"You mean we're going to have to stay like this?" Kenta squeaked, shoulders drooping even more. "For more than a day?"
There was silence.
"Hey, we're Tamers, aren't we?" Ryo shouldn't have a right to be that optimistic. "We've gone through worse things - so handling something like this for a few days should be a piece of cake, right?"
"No!" Kenta, Hirokazu, Jenrya, and Takato all answered at once.
"I'm in a girl's body!" Kenta protested. "I can't live like this!"
"You can't? What about me?" Jenrya looked almost ill. "Cheerleader practice? I can't even come close to passing for a cheerleader!"
"She is going to destroy my life!" Hirokazu moaned. "I just know it! Do you realize what a few days without making fun of anyone will do to my reputation?"
"It says on Jen's calender that I'm supposed to tutor some kid on using computer systems!" Takato looked a bit panicky. "I don't know anything about computer systems! What am I supposed to tell him?"
Jenrya slapped a hand to Juri's face. "I totally forgot about that…"
"Reschedule," Ruki said firmly, not looking impressed with any of this. "Give us a week to sort this out. Jenrya, pretend to sprain your ankle. I've got some crutches Kenta can lend you for tomorrow - just fake an accident some time before practice." She let out an impatient sigh. "Hirokazu, you can give me a list of wisecracks and I'll work them in whenever I can. Kenta…" That earned a hesitation, and a narrowing of Hirokazu's eyes. "Keep your eyes shut when you shower, or I'll weld them closed."
Kenta looked queasy. "Okay," he agreed, miserably.
"Don't you go sneaking any peeks either!" Hirokazu added, scowling at her.
"Please. Like I'd want to."
"And you think Kenta would?"
"Don't spend anyone else's money, either," Ryo said, frowning a bit. "I don't know about you guys, but I've got other plans for mine."
Hirokazu shrugged. "I don't even have any right now. I was gonna do some chores after school today."
"Don't spend mine!" Juri said in a worried tone. "I want to get a mini-theater set for my Drama class presentation."
"What about homework?" Takato asked, anxiously.
"Why don't we take a lot of notes in class, and pass those and the homework on to whoever's supposed to be doing it?" Jenrya suggested. He looked kind of worried, too. "I don't know about tests, though…"
"Fake it." Ryo shrugged. "Anyone got anything major coming up before next week?"
"There's a game we're supposed to do our new cheerleader routine at on Tuesday," Juri said, biting Ryo's lip again. "I don't know how good I'll be without practicing, and they need me in there."
"That gives us a deadline." Ruki nodded at her. "We'll try to get this all sorted out before Tuesday, then. It won't help with the practicing, but at least you can do whatever it is you do at your game. Anyone else?"
Ryo coughed. "Well… I'm supposed to give a demonstration at a Digimon card battle tournament this afternoon, but I think you should just cancel out of that," he told Juri, looking pained. "Tell them you have too much homework or something."
"Okay!" She looked much happier now that the problem of the game might be solved.
"One more thing." Jenrya looked at Juri with more than a little concern. "You don’t… get… you know… one of those - uh - 'girl' things. Do you?"
She blinked. "Oh! No, I just had it… so you're probably okay. Unless this lasts until next month," she added, almost cheerfully.
Jenrya's shoulders sagged with relief. "Thank god!"
Kenta glanced at Ruki hopefully.
She shook her head. "You have three days. Enjoy them while they last."
Hirokazu had to flinch at that. Oh man… that's harsh.
Kenta looked over at him, mournfully. "Kill me," was all he said.
If only the gods were so merciful.