Kari lay awake in bed, looking up at the dark ceiling. Gatomon was curled up in the crook of her arm, whiskers twitching in her sleep. The house was very quiet, and for once she did not have the disquieting feeling that she should be out fighting. There was no worry about the safety of her family and friends, and of the digital world. MaloMyotismon was defeated at last, and the digidestined of the world united with their Digimon. There was peace.
So why couldn't she just relax and get to sleep? Tai and Agumon were sleeping just fine - their loud snoring from the next room was testament to that - and Gatomon seemed to be sleeping very heavily.
No, for once Kari wasn't worried or afraid. There was no cause for worry, but there was a nagging feeling. She was sure there was something she was overlooking. Something unresolved. But what?
Surely there were no other evil Digimon causing trouble. All the digidestined were happy, and the Digimon could go public. Many children around the world had received their own digivices and partners, and proof that they could use them well, so the digital world would have plenty of protection. None of the digidestined were mad at each other. She hadn't said anything wrong lately that she hadn't resolved. Her parents were happy to have Gatomon and Agumon living with them. They had all done their jobs well and the worlds were safe.
So what was wrong?
Gatomon, lying beside her, seemed to be sleeping peacefully, despite an occasional whisker twitch. In fact, she was having an intense dream. She had been working for Myotismon and a shadow was following her around. She walked for a long time and then sat down by a fire, but just out of the corner of her eye, the shadow flickered. She had a vague feeling that she was not supposed to be alone at the fire, but tried to ignore it.
There was a thick, dark atmosphere of evil all around. Something sad, and clammy, confining, frightening. She tried to brush it off. After all, she had been a Mega Digimon. She had withstood years with Myotismon. She had defeated LadyDevimon and destroyed many control spires. Nothing could hurt *this* kitty. But she was still afraid.
"Come out!" said Gatomon, and now she was in the human world. The shadow flickered and came into full view.
While this was going on in Gatomon's subconscious, Kari finally, and suddenly, fell asleep.
Gatomon realised that she was now on the roof near the television studio. The same place as where... as where... the shadow stood up, a dark silhouette against the backdrop of the city. Parts of the shadow flickered, and Gatomon could pick up brief, dim flashes of features - part of a hat, a green eye, a bit of glove - and she knew that it was Wizardmon.
Kari had now entered the dream, although at the time, she did not realise she was sharing Gatomon's dream. She could see Gatomon talking to a shadow - Wizardmon, she realised with a sudden shock - and crept closer to hear. Neither of the Digimon seemed to notice her.
"My old friend," Gatomon was saying, with a pained sound in her voice. "Have you been here all this time?"
"I haven't been able to get free," said Wizardmon sadly, "when Myotismon destroyed me in this world, my body wasn't able to return to the digital world to be reborn."
Kari's heart hurt as she heard Wizardmon speak. So that was why she had been feeling uneasy. There was still her friend here who hadn't had a happy ending. And if one of her friends was unhappy, there was no way she could be happy. Maybe it was because of her crest, but she could almost feel the pain of Digimon.
Gatomon looked sad and reached out a paw to touch the dim, flickering Wizardmon. Her paw passed through - no, into - him, and felt very cold even beneath her glove. She pulled her arm back very quickly, and it was numb.
"It must be very lonely like this," she said quietly, "did you call me here for the company, or was there something you wanted to tell me?"
He sighed, and his 'body' rippled. "I shouldn't ask this of you, Gatomon..."
"No, tell me. Anything! Is there something I can do to help you?"
"I don't want you to do it, Gatomon... you mustn't do it..."
Gatomon was near tears by this stage. Wizardmon was her first friend and she had never forgotten him. It had been some years since his death but it never quite stopped hurting. "Tell me right now!"
"There is... a way to set me free..."
"There is?! Out with it!"
Wizardmon was silent for a long moment and then spoke.
"It... it can't be done from where you are. You would have to come to where I am. And you can't do it alone. You need Kari and the power of light."
Gatomon got a determined look on her face. Her friend was trapped between death and the chance to be reborn. She and Kari had faced enemies before. If she could save him, she had to try. "Okay, Wizardmon. How can we get to where you are? Where are you?"
Wizardmon took longer to reply than last time, and when he spoke it was in a very low voice that Kari had to strain to hear.
Kari understood and felt very sick suddenly, but Gatomon was frowning in confusion. "I know you're dead, but what does that... you're not saying we have to die to save you, are you?"
The dim light flickering through Wizardmon's 'body' rested on his eyes for a moment, and they looked very tired and very pained. The years he had spent trapped showed in them, as did his unhappiness at what he was telling them.
"If you die, because of the crest of Light that you both represent, you could return to life and restore those trapped in limbo in the process. But it is risky. If you failed..."
"We've never failed," snapped Gatomon, trying to reassure but mostly conveying her inner confusion.
"I'm sorry. I should have never told you... you mustn't risk it..."
Gatomon hung her head. "Wizardmon. I would do anything for you but endanger Kari. I just couldn't ask her to do something like that."
On hearing that, Kari couldn't keep her distance any longer. She ran up to the two and crouched beside Gatomon, looking between the two Digimon.
"Gatomon, you don't have to ask me to do anything. If we can help Wizardmon, we have to do it."
"But Kari, you could... you could die."
Kari frowned. "I'm not a digidestined for nothing. If one of our friends is in trouble, I can't just sit around knowing that and not doing a thing about it. I'd never be able to sleep at night."
Wizardmon sounded distinctly uncomfortable. "You two are too important to risk your lives to save me."
"If we're afraid to take risks, our power isn't worth anything," said Kari in a decided way. "Now tell us what we have to do."
"All you would have to do... is die at the same time in the human world, in the place where I am now." Wizardmon's shadow was standing in the same place where he had been killed, on the roof of a building near the television station. "After that, your light would guide you."
Kari and Gatomon looked at each other and nodded - and then the dream was gone.
Kari lay in bed, staring up at the ceiling once more. Her heart was beating quickly and it hurt. She looked down at Gatomon, who was no longer sleeping, but lying with very wide eyes. The quilt beneath her had long claw marks scratched into it.
The partners looked at each other very quietly for several moments.
"Did you just have a dream?" asked Gatomon finally, already knowing the answer.
"Yes, I did. Oh Gatomon, it was just awful. Did you see how sad Wizardmon looked? Imagine being trapped in a world of death for almost five whole years."
Gatomon dropped her gaze. "Kari, I don't like this one little bit."
"We have to do it, though. It's our fault Wizardmon was killed in the first place."
"It was Myotismon's fault," argued Gatomon, frowning. She knew that Kari had felt very guilty for the way the city had been trashed five years ago when the Digimon had been searching for the eighth child. It was obvious she still felt guilty, and that wasn't right. She hated Myotismon. He was still causing pain, all these years after his death.
"But it's the least we can do for him."
"It's the most we can do for anyone."
"I thought you felt the same way I did."
The uneasy feeling Kari had been experiencing before the dream had intensified now that she knew its cause. She didn't think she could ever feel happy knowing that she was living comfortably while Wizardmon was... well, her heart still hurt and she couldn't see any way around it. She knew that being a digidestined came with sacrifices, and there had been many bad times resulting from having her crest, but she was the only one who could help.
Sometimes Kari wished she was someone else.
"Of course I really want to help Wizardmon, Kari. But you're my partner. I have to protect you. It's not fair to ask you to give up your life."
"But I already gave up my life when I became a digidestined."
Kari said that in a resigned, uncomplaining way, and Gatomon felt angry. Didn't Kari understand how important she was to everybody?
"Kari, don't you realise how much everyone would miss you if you were gone? Everyone here loves you! I need you, Kari. You can't die."
Kari closed her eyes. Her body felt heavy, like there were too many strong emotions in it. "You heard what Wizardmon said. We only die if we fail."
Gatomon opened her mouth to argue but she suddenly realised that Kari would never change her mind. "Kari, if it's what you want, I'm with you to the end. And don't worry, we won't fail. After all, I've got eight other lives!"
Kari smiled, but they were both afraid. It was 2am.
Neither of them managed to fall asleep again. Gatomon was rubbing her paws together, but the hand she had put into Wizardmon still had no feeling in it. Is that was being dead felt like? That cold, dark, numb feeling?
When the sun rose and they could finally get up without disturbing the Kamiya family's sleep, they were both glad to start the day.
"You have to tell someone," said Gatomon as Kari began pulling her gloves on.
Kari sighed. "I know. I've been trying to decide who I should tell. I'm trying to figure out who would understand. Tai and Davis would freak out. TK would try to stop me. Cody would be worried and tell everybody before we could go through with it."
Gatomon didn't say anything. She was in front of the mirror, brushing her fur and frowning slightly.
"I guess there's no point in putting it off," said Kari, and took the d-terminal from her desk. She opened it and began typing.
"Who are you writing to?" asked Gatomon.
"Matt," she said, "I'm asking him to meet me before school."
"You'd better tell him it's an emergency," said Gatomon, "Matt would never get up so early otherwise!"
Kari smiled and pressed 'send'. She got along well with Matt, who was like a second older brother but not as hot headed or close to her as her real brother. She thought maybe she could make him understand. Right now she just wanted to go and get it over with.
An hour later, she was standing, shivering with the cold, at the bus stop where they had arranged to meet. A couple of minutes later, a bus pulled up and Matt came off, yawning and rubbing at his face to better wake up.
"Morning, Kari," he mumbled, "what'dja wanna talk to me about?"
She opened her mouth to tell him - and she couldn't do it. Suddenly she realised that it would be unfair to only tell Matt; it might even leave him feeling guilty.
"Umm... I..." She looked to Gatomon for help. The cat shrugged. What reason could she have for wanting to talk to Matt so suddenly? She blurted out the first thing she could think of. "Do you think TK likes me?"
She could hear Gatomon make a slight snickering purring noise, and mentally hit herself. Of all the stupid, stupid questions...
Matt grinned. "Ahh, I get it! You're in love with my brother, right? TK is going to be so thrilled when I tell him this."
He was? Kari tried not to think about that. "No, don't tell him! I... I have to go now!"
She was too embarassed to stand there with Matt smirking at her. She took off down the street, Gatomon running after her.
"Very smooth, Juliet," she said.
"Ohhh," she said, "I can't believe that TK likes me."
"Is that going to change your decision?" asked Gatomon, almost hopefully.
"Of course not. Come on, let's go right away. I just couldn't face a whole day of school today. Digi-armour, energise!"
"Gatomon armour digivolve to Nefertimon!"
People in the streets turned to look as Gatomon digivolved in a spectacular display of pink light.
"Wow, it's one of those Digimon things!"
"That must be the girl who saved the world last week!"
"Oh, it's so beautiful!"
Kari ignored the attention, climbing onto Nefertimon's back. The Digimon flapped her wings and took off into the air, toward the television studio and their destination. Nefertimon descended and dedigivolved into Gatomon.
The two looked at each other. Kari was shaking, and the cold of the morning seemed to fill her whole body. She pulled the d-terminal out from under her coat and opened it again.
"I had better explain to everyone," she said, "I, I don't want them to... do anything with my body before I get the chance to come back..."
Gatomon patted Kari's knee with her good paw. She could tell that Kari was on the edge of tears.
"It's not too late..." she ventured, although she knew that it was.
Kari sent the message, forwarding it to all the Japanese digidestined. After she pressed 'send,' she straightened up and walked over to the place where Wizardmon died. Gatomon followed her, reluctantly and Kari picked her up, hugging her to her chest.
"Let's do it."
After receiving Kari's message, TK arrived on the scene within minutes - followed by every other digidestined - but it was too late. Kari was dead, and Gatomon was nowhere to be seen. They sat around in the winter morning weather together, trying to believe in her. It seemed so hard to believe that her light was shining somewhere, when her face was so still.
Her friends waited for her, but Kari did not come back.