Random Japanese translations:

-kun - used for someone of lower rank than you (employer toward employee) or to a boy of your age/younger.
-san - Mr./Ms., a respectful term for someone of a higher rank.
-sensei - term used for doctor/teacher.
-chan - term of endearment for young children/girls up until about high school age.
Itadekimasu - lit. 'I am about to partake' - said before eating a meal.

There are reasons behind each suffix employed in this fic. For example, Hitomi addresses all of her friends by -chan, regardless of gender, because she's a cheerful/happy little kid, while Osamu addresses Tori, a girl, by -kun because she acts so boyish. I'm not sure who ranks higher out of Koushirou and Professor Takenouchi - Koushirou emplys the Prof, but Professor Takenouchi is an educator, which is the profession held in the highest regard in Japanese society...^_^;;

Disclaimer: I don't own Digimon. That happy job belongs to Toei. I do own a frying pan. You can all watch as my frying pan repeatedly thwaps the people in charge of making that #@$$#^$%$@# plothole-filled ending. (I'm really not upset that Miyako and Ken got together! I'm not! I'm not...okay, I am, but can someone explain to me while almost all of their kids are exact clones of their parents?)

Kirai ni Narenai ~ I Can't Hate You
Part One
by Rb

Izumi Koushirou learned back, stretched his arms beyond his head, and cracked his knuckles.

"Having fun, Izumi-san?" smiled Professor Takenouchi.

"Hai, Takenouchi-sensei," he answered solemnly. "The new data you gave me is very intriguing. Just a few more tests and I should be able to figure out -- "

"Uh-uh," said Professor Takenouchi, wagging a finger in Koushirou's direction, a twinkle in his eye. "It's time to leave."

"But, Takenouchi-sensei!"

"You shouldn't have to work eighty hours a week. You do have a family, you know."

Koushirou laughed nervously. "But -- "

"No buts. Turn off the computer."

"Fine," Koushirou sighed, half-upset at the interruption to his work. Just a little bit longer, and...the Professor was right, he had his daughter to come home to. He shouldn't stay so late.

He turned off the holographic display and blinked for a moment, readjusting his eyes.

"It's nice to see you're still so enthusiastic about your work, even after all these years," Professor Takenouchi smiled. "But, Izumi-san, isn't there anything you do outside of work?"

"Um...well..." Koushirou sweatdropped.

"You're such a workaholic, Izumi-san. That's not always a good thing." There was no benign twinkle in his eye now. "Take it from me. Relax a little. Take some time off."

"Time...off?" Koushirou squeaked.

"Time off. That's the technical term for 'time spent away from work.'"

Koushirou's face went blank. "Um. Fine."

"Izumi-san, do you even remember what the inside of your home looks like?"

"Yes," Koushirou replied stiffly, gathering what shreds of dignity that remained.

"Care to paint a mental picture?"

"No."

"Izumi-san, take the rest of the week off. Spend time with your daughter -- what's her name again?"

"Hitomi." Despite himself, Koushirou felt his mouth and eyes soften at the thought of his daughter. "But, it's such a critical time -- "

"Then it'll be a critical time when you get back. It's not like you're in need of the money! Come on, Izumi-san!"

"Fine, fine..."

Koushirou let himself get pushed out the door.

---

Koushirou unlocked the door to his house and stepped in.

"Daddy!" Hitomi cried, and rushed into his arms.

He picked her up and hugged her, because she was a five-year-old girl and at the perfect size for hugging. Then he tickled her, and she giggled madly.

"Daddy, how are you?" she asked when he let her go.

"I'm fine, honey. How was school today?"

"It was fun!" Hitomi said importantly. "Tori-chan and I played with the blocks, and then Osamu-chan joined in. School's fun!"

"I hope you're still saying that in five years," he said ruefully. Tori was Sora and Yamato's daughter, and Osamu was Miyako's and Ken's older son. All of the Japanese Chosen sent their children to the same prestigious private school, because it was the first school to allow Digimon to enter. Koushirou picked up his daughter again and hugged her.

"Eh, Daddy?"

"Nothing." He put Hitomi down again. "So, when's dinner?"

"I just finished eating," Hitomi informed him.

Koushirou sweatdropped. "Oh."

"There's more dinner, if you want," said a new voice. Koushirou looked up to see his mother smiling at the scene in front of her. He'd urged his mother to move in shortly after his father had died nearly a year ago, officially to help with Hitomi, who had gone through three governesses already, privately because he wanted to keep his mother close to him in the time she had left.

"Mmm, I do," he said, licking his lips, "especially if you made it." He smiled down at his daughter. "Hitomi, honey, why don't you run off and play with Motimon for a while. When I'm finished eating, I'll find you and read you both a story."

"Okay!" Hitomi smiled and kissed her father on the nose before running down the hall at a breathless pace. Koushirou watched anxiously as she disappeared into another room, and listened for her giggles before entering the kitchen where, true to his mother's word, some dinner awaited him.

"She looks just like you," his mother said as they sat down. "Even though she was..."

"Adopted," Koushirou finished. "Yes, odd, huh? Especially because she has a Motimon...well, that's why I picked her. Tentomon approved."

"I'd imagine he would. Where is Tentomon, anyway?"

"He's off gathering information for the latest project in the digital world." Koushirou drank some water.

"Mmm."

"Mother, are you all right?"

"Yes, it's just..." A patient smile creased her face into patterns of wrinkles, wrinkles that seemed to multiply every day. "I never imagined that I'd have such a wonderful grandchild."

Koushirou knew that his mother had always longed for children and grandchildren, had been bitterly upset when her first baby boy had died in complications following his birth, that she herself had been unable to get pregnant again after adopting him. That he, Koushirou, was a disappointment to his mother in that he'd never even looked at a girl after his first and last girlfriend. His mother'd always wanted to be surrounded by children...

Well, he'd done his best. Hitomi was in danger of being spoiled rotten -- but he'd love her anyway.

After all, it wasn't his fault that the only girl he'd ever loved had married someone else. Or maybe it was. Maybe if he'd been more outgoing, less reticent, more eager...maybe he wouldn't have lost her before he'd even started.

Maybe.

---

"Hitomi just fell asleep," Koushirou reported to his mother some time later that night. "I watched."

"There's always something magical about watching your child sleep," his mother replied with a misty look in her eyes.

Koushirou agreed with a smile. "Hitomi doesn't have school tomorrow. I thought we might so something -- go to the park, perhaps."

"Don't you have work?" his mother inquired innocently.

"I...have an injunction to take a break. Well, I'm off to bed myself," he yawned.

"Sweet dreams, dear," said his mother, obviously also about to fall asleep

Koushirou trudged to his room. It was large and very neat, looking as if it was barely lived-in at all.

Koushirou was neat by habit and by nature. Whenever he worked on his computer, all of his files were neatly labeled -- never was there any confusion over what file was what. His bed was always neatly made in the morning. No clothing was ever left on the floor.

He undressed, putting his old clothing in the hamper and putting on a fresh t-shirt and boxers for sleeping in. After quickly checking his e-mail -- old habits died hard -- he got underneath the covers and fluffed up the pillow underneath his head. He closed his eyes but did not sleep.

The time before sleeping was a time that he treasured. It was a time that he was able to think without interruptions from anyone. It was a time where his thoughts would drift freely, and not even he could decipher their trail.

Right now, he thought about loneliness. He'd adopted Hitomi because he was very lonely. He'd been almost forty, wildly successful, made regular donations to charities, never married...

He'd felt as though he was lacking in some way, so he adopted Hitomi, and never regretted it. Although Hitomi hadn't been old enough to remember times before Koushirou had adopted her, he'd never hidden the truth from her. He remembered his own traumatic experience with finding out he was adopted vividly. He wanted to avoid the same experience with Hitomi.

Yet...

There was still something missing, something important. While he loved Hitomi with all of his heart, it wasn't enough.

He wanted to love someone, not as a father, not as a son, not as a friend, but as a person loves his partner. The depth of his desire frightened him, because Koushirou had never been one for emotions. He'd always looked for reasons, not feelings. He was rational.

Is there any bigger enemy to rationality than love? Is there anything that's more of a challenge? He doubted it. Love was some sort of...of force that he never understood, and while he was building the wall bigger and bigger with which to hold it back, it kept threatening to burst forth and flood him.

His problem? He was in love with the wrong person.

She was married, of course, had been for over fifteen years. And it was his own fault; if he'd told her how he'd felt, if he'd bothered to explain to her how much she really meant, if he'd been able to express how he felt, then she wouldn't have left him after their final flaming row, then she wouldn't have stopped answering his e-mails and phone calls, she wouldn't have married Ichijouji Ken...

Koushirou finally realized what love meant to him. He finally was able to understand love, understand its power and passion and all the things that truly make up a relationship. He understood it...but only as a third-party observer, because there was no one to help him experience love first-hand, touch it, believe in it with all of his heart.

Izumi Koushirou finally realized the true power of love at the wedding reception of Inoue Miyako, the girl he'd crushed on and finally loved since he was thirteen, and Ichijouji Ken. Koushirou had been on good terms with Ken before the wedding, but hadn't been able to look him -- either of them -- in the eye for several years afterwards. Even now, it was difficult to be around them, although he was able to be civil.

It was hard to hate them. They were so mushily in love, just recently celebrating the birth of their third child. He'd been invited to the christening, and had held Hitomi's hand tightly, as if it was a talisman, until she'd squirmed away. He didn't hate them. He really didn't. He envied their good fortune. He envied them to such an extent that it surprised himself.

If...but, no, there would never be a chance for him and (Ichijouji) Miyako, no matter how much he wished for it.

Nevertheless, he'd vowed to teach Hitomi about the value of love, somehow. He didn't want her to repeat his sad mistakes.

Koushirou finally fell into a restless sleep, and dreamed. His dreams were almost happy. His life was almost happy. He had plenty to be happy about -- but he never had anything to make him truly happy.

---

The next day Koushirou rose later than he was accustomed to, luxuriating in the extra hours of sleep. He took a long hot shower and dressed in casual clothing before sauntering downstairs.

His mother was cooking breakfast, and the delicious smells wafted their way up Koushirou's nose, making his stomach growl and his mouth water. Hitomi was sitting at the table already. She gave Koushirou a hug and kiss and then sat back down. Motimon burbed something indistinct to Hitomi, who smiled back at her partner.

Koushirou wondered at the bond between the digimon and his daughter. True, all of the original Chosen had strong bonds with their digimon, but they'd been fighting together, had to live together, had to survive with each other.

Hitomi had never been in a fight, and Motimon had never shown any sign of wanting to evolve into an older level. Yet Hitomi and Motimon were linked at a very fundamental level. Even their moods were linked.

All the digimon were linked, really. Their attitudes and opinions almost always closely resembled their human partner's, a perfect completion.

Digimon might just be programs, Koushirou thought fondly, but they were alive. He knew, more than anyone, how Digimon were put together, how they were created -- he'd been studying them longer than any other human, for most of his life.

And yet, we're just programs, when it comes down to it. Our programs are in our DNA, their programs in a computer, that's all the difference. They're still alive, just like us.

Watching his daughter laugh with her digimon, Koushirou made a mental note to call Tentomon back from wherever he was researching soon. He missed his friend.

"Hitomi, where do you want to go today?" he asked her. "I'm free all day."

Hitomi considered. "Where d'you wanna go?"

"I was asking you, Hitomi."

"I don't care." Hitomi smiled beatifically. "I just wanna be with Daddy."

His heart melted.

"Umm...but Motimon can come, too, right?" Hitomi added cautiously.

He laughed. "Of course. Do you want to go to the park, Hitomi?"

"Sure!" Hitomi chirped. "I can show you where Sora brings Tori-chan and Touma-chan and me!"

"Sora?" Koushirou asked, his brow furrowing. "Don't you mean 'Mrs. Ishida'?"

Hitomi blinked. "Sora says to call her Sora. She doesn't want to be called Mrs. Ishida. She says it makes her feel old. Anyway, she's Ms. Takenouchi now."

Koushirou wondered how he'd feel if a five-year-old were to address him by 'Koushirou'. A bit on edge, he supposed. Fairly weirded out. He didn't think he'd like it.

But then again, Koushirou was extraordinarily polite, always had been.

"Huh," was all he said.

His mother came in just then, holding three steaming plates. "Breakfast, anyone?"

"Yes! Yes! FOOD!" yelped Hitomi and Motimon at the same time. "Itadekimasu! Let's eat!"

Koushirou watched his daughter and her digimon inhale the food, and starting eating at a rather more sedate pace.

He'd take her to the park, and maybe on a walk, and just relax. With his family.

"Mother, do you want to come with us?"

"Of course!"

"Good."

They were his family, after all. His mother, his daughter...neither directly related to him, perhaps, none of them sharing the same genes, but they were a family nonetheless. A family of the heart -- that was what was important, anyway.

---

Koushirou didn't check his mail that day. Normally, it was one of the first things he'd do in the morning and the last thing he'd do at night. But he really wanted to relax.

Maybe, if he had checked his mail, his whole future would have changed. But he didn't.

---

Late that afternoon, Koushirou received a phone call, while sitting on a bench in the park. He fished his pocket vid-phone out of his pocket and put it on, swinging the headset and microphone in front of his head and lips in a practiced gesture. He held the tiny vid screen in his hand. As the static cleared, he saw Hida Iori's worried face.

"Iori, what's wrong? Are you all right?"

"Where have you been, Koushirou-san?" Iori snapped.

Koushirou was considerably taken aback by the anger in the normally level-headed younger man's voice. "I'm in the park with my daughter. I took a day off."

"You? A day off?" Iori sounded surprised, which irritated Koushirou. "Anyway, have you been checking your e-mail at all?"

"No," said Koushirou, annoyed. "Why should I?"

He could see Iori trying to phrase the next sentence kindly, and his stomach turned cold. Something was very, very wrong.

"Koushirou-san...Ken-san was in a car accident."

Koushirou swallowed. "Ichijouji Ken?"

"Yes," Iori affirmed solemnly.

"How bad was it?"

"His funeral is in two days."

Koushirou's jaw dropped. "Ken-san's dead?"

"Hai," repeated Iori. Koushirou, looking closely, could see how depressed Iori looked, and knew instantly that his friend was holding back tears. "Wormmon died, too. The second that Ken-san's heart stopped, he just...dissolved into nothingness, like he'd lost the will to live." Iori gulped and went on. "I sent you e-mails, but you never responded."

"I'm...sorry. When did they die?"

"An hour ago."

An hour ago, Koushirou had been pushing Hitomi on the swings and thinking that there is no greater joy in life than this.

"I..."

"Just be at the funeral, Koushirou-san." Iori said, sounding very tired and very old. "Miyako-san's very upset," he warned. "Not at you, but...she's talking with my wife at the moment, and Sora-san and Hikari-san." Even though Iori had been married for ten years, he still couldn't control a faint blush of pride at "my wife." Lucky, thought Koushirou.

"I'm sorry, Iori. Pass on my condolence to Miyako-san."

"I will. See you soon." Iori turned off his end, and after a brief, stunned moment, Koushirou removed the headset and turned off the vid phone.

Ken-san dead? It didn't make sense...

Putting a facade to mask his true feelings, he walked back to his family and suggested they go home. His mother looked at him worriedly, but Hitomi skipped and laughed and talked for the rest of the way home.

As soon as they got home, Koushirou went directly into his private study. It was the only room that was truly private, attached only to his bedroom. Originally (when he'd purchased the house), the bedroom was the private room. Koushirou has rightly reckoned that with a young child in the house, his sleeping space would be invaded frequently, but his workspace should not.

He kept the only key on a chain around his neck.

His study, like the rest of his rooms, was incredibly neat - but bare. The cabinets all had locks on them, but were all unlocked and empty. Perhaps the most important thing in the room was the computer. It was a hacker's dream come true, one of the most powerful computers in all of Japan -- and, probably, the world.

Koushirou used it to check his e-mail. Iori had sent him tons of e-mail. The first one was a very general, very condensed e-mail written to most of the Chosen Children and various friends of Miyako's and Ken's, stating the facts but no speculation -- Iori had a degree in Journalism, which showed. Iori had sent hourly updates of Ken's condition (declining rapidly) and frequent letters to Koushirou, desperately asking where he was.

"You were requested," Iori wrote coldly in one e-mail, sent fairly late in the day. "Where are you? What's holding you up?"

Then there was another, final, briefly worded message:

"Ichijouji Ken and Wormmon. Time of death -- 4:18 PM."

At that point, Iori must have given up and called him.

The light from the computer played over Koushirou's still features for quite some time.

---

Inoue Miyako never thought she would ever have to sleep alone again after marrying Ichijouji Ken.

Well, there were times, when Ken was on business trips or working late shifts, that she did sleep alone. But even then, it wasn't really sleeping alone -- it was simply a lapse in the time that he spent beside her.

Miyako always wanted to be protected. As long as there was a presence with her -- and Ken certainly had a presence -- she felt safe. Ken was tall, much taller than her, and strong, and muscled, and very, very, protective.

Even after all these years, she was still amazed that Ken had picked her to be his bride. Although she'd had a crush on him in her early teens, she'd quickly dropped her feelings for him in favor of any number of first loves and boyfriends. Then there had been that relationship with Koushirou...she turned the memory aside.

Miyako and Ken had bounced together, almost by accident -- Miyako had wanted someone to talk to, and Ken was in one of his (what Miyako privately called) flamboyant attitudes. They'd renewed their friendship and became close.

Miyako liked being friends with Ken because she felt like she didn't have to impress him. She was 99 percent positively sure that he was 'involved' with Daisuke -- which was a relaxing idea, after she'd become resigned to it. Here was a guy that she didn't have to impress. Here was a guy that she didn't have to flirt with. Here was a guy that she could be friends and not worry is he interpreting this the right way? Am I sending the wrong signals?

So it was the biggest surprise to Miyako that Ken had proposed to her. And of course, she accepted...maybe Hikari and Hawkmon were right, maybe she didn't have to be someone else, maybe a guy could love her for who she was...

Despite her doubts, despite her private misgivings, she had been happy, happy, happy. Finally, a man who would protect her and cherish her and help her through out everything...a man who would always support her.

The night after he died was the hardest night she'd ever spent. Alone in the bed they'd always shared, with his scent fast-becoming nothing but a memory, she wept for what had been and what could never be.

---

Now, let's take a break from the current drama and look at some of the children of the digidestined. They aren't carbon copies of their parents, and they're all a lot smarter than their parents think.

Ichijouji Mikomi is twelve, going on thirteen.

When her mother was twelve years old, she'd been saving the digital world. When her father was twelve, he'd been the heartless Digimon Kaizer.

Mikomi is a perfectly balanced mix of her mother and father. She has her father's dark blue hair and her mother's light brown eyes. She is rapidly approaching her father's height, and she wears a pair of glasses like her mother's. Mikomi has the awkwardness that's rather common among pre-teenaged girls. She's smart but feels dumb, pretty but not pretty enough, tired of being underestimated but unable to see how she can stop.

Mikomi has her mother's passion and enthusiasm combined with her father's cynicism. Neither will let the other fully control her life, which makes Mikomi into one of those souls that is eternally conflicted.

Ichijouji Mikomi is twelve, going on thirteen. That really says it all.

Ichijouji Osamu, her younger brother, is nearly five. He looks almost exactly like Ken did at that age (except for the purple hair), and acts like Ken did.

His parents are aware of this, and try their hardest to encourage Osamu's gentle tendacies. Osamu is the true test on whether what you become is inheirited or enviromental.

Osamu is one of those people best described as 'simple'. It's not that he's stupid, but it's already clear that he is the type of person that will step over cracks until he's fourteen as not to break his mother's back -- and, when he does, will always say a private prayer of health for Mommy.

As of yet, it's unclear which way he'll go. Would a gentle person ever survive? Would a cruel person survive too well?

Ichijouji Ari is the baby, barely six months old. In Japanese, Ari means 'ant'. In Hebrew, Ari means 'lion'. He could be either. He could be neither. He had blue hair and violet eyes and always looks unhappy -- probably because he is.

Izumi Hitomi is a cheerful munchkin of five years. She's like light, always happy, very loving and affectionate, doted on by her grandmother and father. She was adopted, but she's too secure to let that shake her -- yet, anyway. It would be a crime to harm her in any way.

Takenouchi Tori, at five, looks like a boy, acts like a boy, and wishes she was a boy, so that she could live with her father and little brother. Ishida Touma is her younger brother by two years, too young to remember a time when their parents weren't seperated. If Sora and Yamato don't get their acts together soon, their children are going to be as screwed up as they were.

Hida Himeko is Iori's daughter. Himeko means 'princess', which is exactly what she is -- the spoiled, petted princess. Utterly brilliant, at ten she's already in the sixth grade. She's also talented in music, acting, kendo, and at making everyone else really annoyed at her perfection. Oddly enough, she's also completely oblivious to how she sets everyone's teeth on edge.

Daichi Motomiya, one of the two American children of the twelve original Chosen, was named so as a joke. Daisuke had gotten so sick of being called 'Daichi', as if he were no more than a Taichi clone, that he dubbed his son by that name. Apparently, Daichi's mother had disagreed, and later ran off. Daisuke had never been too affected by that, and his son has inheirited much of his father's happy-go-lucky attitude and charm. Oddly enough, to most of the world he was 'Dai', a nickname he was rather pleased with.

Daichi is closest to Shawn, Mimi's young son who was also American, and Shuten, Jyou's son and Shawn's elder half-brother. Shawn was rather sullen around most of the other children and rarely spoke, probably because he didn't speak Japanese very well. Shuten, older, bossier, and nerdier, translated much of what went on for his younger brother.

Yagami Kakeru is Hikari's son. Twelve years old, he's very quiet when not around his best friend Takaishi Mori, Takeru's son, who is cheerful enough to bring the more reserved Kakeru out of his shell. Kakeru's younger cousin is six-year-old Yagami Yuuki, Taichi's son.

Even this isn't a good enough look at the children. But for now, it will suffice.

---

Koushirou hated funerals.

He hated, hated, hated funerals.

Even he, who was normally oblivious to strong emotions, could pick up on the aura of sadness that dominated the room. Around him were dozens of men in dark suits and kimonos, women in dark blue and greys, looking oddly mismatched.

He held Hitomi's hand. Hitomi was wearing a navy blue dress with yellow flowers embroidered. It wasn't very appropriate, but she didn't have any black. He let his eyes wander as the priest spoke in a nasal tone. He saw all of the other Chosen and their digimon -- even Daisuke and Mimi.

Yamato and Sora were standing closer together than they normally would, each holding their childrens' hands. Taichi was talking to Takeru in a low voice, their faces solemn. Jyou and Iori had their faces set as they watched, not a tear dropping.

Hikari was patting Daisuke on the shoulder. Daisuke, whose eyes were red-rimmed, who looked as though he might loose it at any moment. Mimi had tear tracks down her face as she attempted to comfort Miyako.

Miyako was the center of attention today (well, she and the casket which held Ken's body), but for once she wasn't trying to revel in it. Clutching little Ari to her chest, she wore a practical black dress and had a black hat with a veil obscuring her features. The hat was so much like the one his mother had worn at his father's funeral that for a brief, giddy second he wondered whether it was one and the same, whether there was some secret society between all those widows...

Her daughter Mikomi stood beside her. She obviously couldn't find a black dress; hers was a deep purple, and oddly pretty. On her other side was Osamu, in a suit so new the creases were still evident.

The priest stopped chanting and nodded, the time for people who wanted to make speeches to come up and talk. Much to Koushirou's surprise, Iori walked up the the front of the crowded funeral room as if he was a puppet, with stiff, jerky steps and started to speak.

"For a long time, Ichijouji Ken-san and I were...enemies. We despised each other. I couldn't understand him, and I suppose he couldn't understand me." Iori took a breath and went on. "Ken-san taught me a lot. He taught me to not judge someone by their first impression. He taught me to redefine my standards of 'good' and 'evil'...and that even people who appear to be villains can change."

Iori swallowed. "For that, Ken-san...I thank you." He jerked his chin up and fixed his eyes to the ceiling. "I'll help protect Miyako-san and her children now that you're not able to. Thank you, everyone." He stepped down and rejoined his daughter and wife.

Daisuke was next. His voice was ragged, his face tear-stricken, but he still managed to smile. "Ken, I...Ken's been my best friend for years. He probably knows -- knew -- knows me better than I know myself. I'll..." His smile was painful to watch. "You've always been there for me, Ken. I just wish...I wish I could have stopped you from falling this last time."

It was at this point that Ichijouji Mikomi stalked out, and at this point that Izumi Koushirou, dropping Hitomi's hand, followed her. Hitomi looked at her father's retreating back, shrugged, clutched Motimon tighter, and waited for her father to come back.

---

He found her pacing down the hall, making noises that could have been sobs; however, when she turned to face him, her eyes were dry.

"What?" she demanded.

Koushirou found out that he'd frozen solid. Her stance, her voice, even the indignant flash in her bespectacled eyes was so much like Miyako that it stopped him in his tracks.

He'd never paid much attention to Miyako when he'd first met her; she'd been an underclassmen, just another girl in the Computer Club whose work was all right at best and whose voice had a way of piercing through his innermost analyzations. He'd been surprised when she became a Chosen, but accepted that the Fates worked in mysterious ways and welcomed her to the team.

After they'd worked together for a while, he found that he was inexplicably drawn to the girl. Maybe it was because Miyako was so emotional, as opposed to his own cool rationality. Maybe it was her strange, magnetic warmth that just emanated from her -- after spending just a little time in her presence, you couldn't help but be drawn out.

Maybe it was just love, pure and simple. But computer geniuses didn't just fall in love, it would be like not testing your HTML coding before uploading it onto a website.

"What, mister?" snapped Mikomi, and Koushirou felt his mind unfreeze. Miyako had never addressed him by 'mister' -- it had always been 'Izumi-sempai' in their elementary school days, a warmer 'Koushirou' while they had been dating, and now a distant 'Koushirou-san.'

"I wanted to know if you were all right," Koushirou explained lamely. "You ran out so quickly, I wondered if something was the matter."

Mikomi rolled her eyes -- eyes that, he could see, were a light brown (like Miyako's) with a hard gleam to them (like Ken's.) "No, nothing's the matter," she threw back at him, "except my father dying, duh. What do you think is wrong with me?!"

"I'm sorry," Koushirou said instantly. "Is there anything I can do to help?"

"Help?" she echoed. "Help? Tell that to the guy who..." Mikomi swiftly removed her glasses with one hand and covered her eyes with the other. Koushirou felt helpless as she suffered through her misery in short, jolting sobs.

He patted her on the shoulder awkwardly. She took her hand away from her eyes -- Koushirou noticed the wetness on her hand -- and glared at him.

"Why are they making this into a public spectacle?" she demanded. "Some emotions should be kept inside!"

Yet another difference from Miyako, Koushirou thought. Miyako never thought anything should be kept inside. Miyako always wanted everything out in the open.

Miyako never realized when anything should be hidden, even for her own good.

"It's how some people mourn," Koushirou said, not removing his hand. "Some people need to have their emotions out in the open. It's how they exist. It's how they mourn."

"It's too public," declared Mikomi, "it makes me sick."

"That's your prerogative."

She peered at him oddly. "Did my mother send you?"

"No!" Koushirou lifted his hands in a placating gesture. "I came because you looked sad, and I wanted to know if I could be of service to you in some way. I'm not really one for strong emotions, but I can listen."

Mikomi glanced up and down at him, with a look so much like Miyako's that it took his breath away. "You're Izumi Koushirou, right?"

"Yes."

"My mother used to date you." Her voice was clinical, probing.

"That was a long time ago," he responded.

"Yes." She blinked. "You want me to talk?"

"Yes."

"Okay." She took in a breath, and spoke in a high-pitched chatter about what she felt, her sincerity dripping from every phrase. Koushirou's ears took in her voice and made sense of her words. At the end, tears were running down her face.

"Ken-san meant a lot to you, didn't he?" Koushirou asked gently. Mikomi nodded. "You were close?" Another nod. "You have the advantage over me, then," Koushirou said. "My parents died when I was a baby, I never knew them."

"How horrible!" said Mikomi. "But surely, you heard stories..."

"I didn't know I was adopted until I was older. My finding out was...pretty traumatic."

"I can imagine."

"I want to avoid that with my own daughter," he added.

"Oh? Was she adopted?"

"Yes."

"But aren't you married?"

He smiled. "No. Confirmed bachelor for life, I'm afraid."

"Oh."

"But...you have the advantage of me, as I said before. You know what your father would want of you. You know what he believes, what he feels, how he feels."

"So..I could dedicate my life to him, and be the best I can for his honor."

"That's a decision you'll have to make for yourself," he said.

Mikomi mulled over her passionate words. They had appeal, but... "But...then where is room for being myself?"

"There's the problem with dedicating yourself to being someone for someone -- anyone else. You lose yourself on the way, and anything you wanted to be."

"Then how am I supposed to do anything for my father?" Mikomi cried out. "I can't mourn like they did..."

"Well, when Ken needed to mourn," Koushirou said, his black eyes gazing off into the distance, "he was able to confess."

Mikomi blinked. "In his digimon?"

"No, to someone even closer to his heart."

"Who?"

Koushirou shook his head. "That's not important. What is important, Mikomi, is: do you have any friends that you can tell your heart to?"

Mikomi bit her lip. "I...I don't know."

"I'd advise you get some." An enigmatic smile flitted across Koushirou's face. "They're closer to you than you think. Now, we should go in, your mother will be worried." He offered out his arm, and, puzzled, Mikomi took it.

"Hey...Izumi-san?" she asked right before they entered.

"Yes?"

"How come...how come you never got married?" Mikomi asked timidly. "I mean, you aren't ugly, and you are pretty rich, so...why?"

He smiled down at her. "I never got over your mother," he joked. It sounded like a joke, his tone was light enough, his mouth was smiling. Nevertheless, Mikomi saw the flash of pain in his onyx eyes and knew instantly that he was not kidding, that he still was not over her mother, that he still loved her.

How? wondered Mikomi. More to the point, why? And that question occupied her for the rest of the funeral...and a good deal while longer.

---

And thus ends the first part. ^_^ I'm so thrilled to finally be uploading this...I know this part seems a little cliched, and I apologize to any Ken fans who want to kill me -- I do like him, but...with the plot idea I was given, it was either him dying or running off to Tahiti with Daisuke...which just isn't in-character with him, while it's in-character for him to...uh...die...um. I'll have to think about this. ^_^;; Don't worry, though. Ken's presence makes itself known, especially in the last few parts.

Now! Review! C'mon, you're so close to the review box...I know you want to...or, you can not use the review box and e-mail me directly at Rbooks5678@aol.com! The next part will be uploaded soon, I promise! ^_^