DISCLAIMER: I don't own Digimon, but I do own the original characters introduced in this story and my other stories (except where stated).

Thanks to Crazyeight for beta-reading.

A/N: As a little (and very late) Christmas present, I decided to give you a tale of two Christmases, of misery and of happiness, of love and loss, and of course, of blondes and brunettes. Enjoy!

BEFORE READING THIS, ENSURE YOU HAVE READ BOOKS 1-6 (EXCLUDING THE EPILOGUE OF BOOK SIX), AND ALL OF THE OTHER EXTRA DIMENSIONS STORIES, OR YOU WILL ENCOUNTER SOME MAJOR SPOILERS.


DIMENSIONS

STORY SEVEN

Christmases

By Blazing Chaos


SATURDAY, 25TH DECEMBER 2010


A thousand cards bear the image of snow fallen upon Britain on Christmas Day, a mix of real and drawn images being the staple of the less humorous end of greetings cards sold up and down the country, from Clintons to Birthdays, from remote tourist gift shops in the Lake District to newsagents in the bustling heart of London. All are similar: a slate wall, a lovely cottage, hills or a vale, tinsel and trees seen through panelled windows, and a lovely dusting of snow upon the land, broken only by the treading of footsteps and the warm fires in homes.

All are also lies. England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, even the Republic, never get snow on Christmas Day, at least, not away from the distant Highland villages and the high hills of Snowdonia in Wales. For the Mancunian terraces, the cottages of the West Country (perhaps the ones most matching the picturesque image) and the comfortable houses in the Home Counties, for Brighton Pier, the Houses of Parliament and the Angel of the North, there is only likely to be one kind of precipitation on the twenty-fifth, and it is usually rather wetter than would be hoped.

But, this Christmas, thankfully, stayed dry, if freezing and dominated by mood-dampening overcast skies. Of course, even the total cloud cover could do little to ruin the days of a million ecstatic children up and down the two islands (and many smaller ones dotted around them). Waking up early to open stockings and promptly being told to go back to bed by some tired parents (some of whom had yet to complete the `Christmas Ritual'), sitting around the tree in pyjamas and sometimes needing to be restrained whilst a parent fetched the camera, and, of course, beaming widely at their presents once opened, it was truly a magical day for them.

Age, however, has a nasty habit of stealing the oblivious happiness. All children realise eventually, be it by an opened closet, an over-eager look down the hallway when hearing footsteps, a number of older children `spilling the beans', the onset of logic and maturity, or, in some unfortunate cases, the sound of a parent falling down the stairs. But, until then, Christmas is a day held in such high regard by them (and dreaded by parents). Even those who are older, however, cannot fail to see the sense of magic on a day which always seems to be different to every other.

For some though, and one girl in particular, this day held a bitter edge to it.

A purple blind was whipped up into its holder quickly; the operator greatly eager to see whether this Christmas would be white, wet, or simply grey. A slight frown appeared on her lips as she realised that the latter was to be the truth this year. She shrugged; it wasn't a big loss, although at least a white Christmas could take her mind off something that was.

She turned, glancing in her mirror at herself. An irritated noise escaped her lips as she began to straighten out her bed hair, her iconic blonde lengths ruffled up into a highly irritating shape. She stared in the mirror for a short while, inspecting her complexion whilst listening to the silence of the house about her. Her parents were evidently still asleep, and after probably having spent the first dozen or so Christmases of her life bothering them by waking up early the girl couldn't help but feel they were entitled to the privilege. Besides, it gave her a chance to break from tradition and take a shower. Sure, it would mean the pale pink pyjama top and bottoms gracing her form would need to be replaced by day clothes which would certainly make a difference compared to years gone by when it came to opening presents. But, nonetheless, such was what happened with age.

Her eyes drifted into the mirror, taking in how the reasonably large room appeared backwards. A computer in one corner on a small desk looked rather masculine and out of place in a largely feminine room; a few CDs in a rack below the PC and the computer tower itself on the other side below; a wardrobe closed up in another corner; a largish purple-sheeted bed in the middle; a slim television on one wall, and a few other assorted items of furniture scattered around along with a few discarded clothes, ones unlikely to be tidied for a few days given how busy their lives would be.

Lunamon slept soundly on the corner of her bed, the concept of waking her not even crossing the girl's mind. The sunrise shone through the window and made the use of a lamp pointless, the darkness reminding the girl both of the dark tiring mornings lately and of school that was the reason for them. And, of course, that simply reminded her of homework, the upcoming mock exams, and, inevitably, him.

She took a sigh, looking down at the feather on the table below the mirror, sitting in a small empty glass and still looking as clean and warm as it did on the day she found it. Its fiery orange and red hairs were soft and gentle as she stroked her hand through it, an action done many a time before and rather comforting given the connotations it had. She looked upwards, contemplating about what he was going through now. Was he still alive? Would she ever see him again? What was he doing to celebrate Christmas this year?

She sighed again, returning the item to its familiar place. Her parents had accepted the item for what it was and hadn't asked any questions, clearly appreciating the sentimental value it held for the girl. Looking at it carefully, she gave a small smile.

"Merry Christmas Ryder," she said softly to it, before wandering towards the door, and the warm shower that would follow shortly after. The door handle was cold to the touch, and the girl let out a short shiver. She paused, looking at the handle and frowning lightly. It was normally where she would find her stocking, but she knew she had grown out of it. Christmas now felt far more appropriate as a family time; not that she would object to presents of course, although having not made a list this year she knew she couldn't be certain what she would get.

One thing was certain, however: it was going to be an unusual Christmas.


Warmth. Safety. Comfort. Cosiness. Perhaps the foundations for a small fort. Such perfection came from a simple quilt on a simple bed.

Light, however, threatened to tear the boy from his dosing stupor under the quilt, light which came from a quickly rising sun over the land of, ironically, the Rising Sun. Tokyo was slowly coming to life, but, in an amazingly rare occurrence, for once it was not bustling with traffic, with pedestrians, with subway trains. For this single time each year, the snow-capped Mount Fuji looked down upon a relatively silent city, apart from the happy cries of plenty a child as they burst open their new toys, many rather advanced thanks to the country's technological edge, and others far more low tech like simple Digimon cards and clothes.

The boy moaned, pulling the plain pale blue quilt further over his head and plotting to get retribution on the light by staying in bed all day. Even without a need for retribution, his tired mind could think of little need to get up.

The bed shook, a loud thump sounding as something landed on the end, its movements rather energetic and enthusiastic. The boy froze up, blinking his creased eyes open wide and weighing up his options. Pull off the quilt and find out whatever it was that was interrupting him, or hope that it would go away on its own so he could sleep for longer.

Once upon a time, he would've done the latter without a second thought, but a year of taming his Digimon partner had taught him to be aware and prepared, and, so, reluctantly, he gripped the quilt, sat up and did the former.

Mari beamed widely; kneeling on his bed with her face not far from his and her palms planted either side of him. As his vision cleared, he looked over her form, garbed in a loosely-fitted pale blue pyjama top and bottoms, a line of midriff shining through, something which he couldn't deny was a pleasing sight in the morning even if sleep right now seemed like a far more pleasing prospect. Her hair was ruffled, but she evidently didn't care, the nature of the day striking a great sense of happiness into her. "Merry Christmas Ryder," she said, the boy giving her a bewildered look from underneath his brown mop of bed head before glancing to the time on the alarm clock on his bedside table. 08:03 its red figures proclaimed, Mari's expression beginning to drop as Ryder looked back to her.

"Uh, Merry Christmas!" he replied, merely repeating back to her what she had said (and prompting a roll of the eyes) while his mind tried to get a grasp on the situation. Events finally clicked, bringing a frown with them. "…so…this is my first Christmas away from home…hmm…"

She reached out a hand, stroking his cheek gently and giving a smile. "Cheer up, it's Christmas," he said, still remarkably cheerful for the time of the morning. "Don't be a Scrooge," she teased.

Ryder gave a light smile, deciding to go back to an age old argument between the pair thanks to their differing nationalities. "Dickens, another English author."

Mari once again rolled her eyes, sighing contently. "Well, I'll let you know this'll be an American Christmas because I haven't the slightest clue how you guys or these guys handle it. I don't know if they have the same kind of Santa Claus we have but I managed to find the hats easily enough," she said, still cheerful.

"Well, we call him Father Christmas more…"

"Call him what you want," Mari quickly interrupted, tiring of Ryder's pedantic nature. He smiled, somehow amused by the girl beginning to lose her temper at him. "All I care is that this is a great Christmas for both of us."

Ryder's face quickly fell into a frown as his mind recalled why this Christmas was notable for both of us.

For him, it was the first Christmas he had ever had away from his family, away from his home. Japan and this world was so different, and, as much as he wanted to just try and move on with his life for now, he couldn't help but pang for those days, the days of creeping down the hallway to open stockings and sitting around the tree opening presents. Sure, it had lost its sparkle in recent years but he couldn't deny he enjoyed the festival.

But, for Mari, he knew it was even more notable, perhaps for a more positive reason. This was the first Christmas she was with someone in three years, getting on for four. Sure, she might have shared Christmas with Jeff or one of her other fellow SDCO employees once or twice, but given that the event was mainly a family time he doubted that was the case. "Lonely on Christmas," he thought, his hand going out to gently be placed on her bare forearm. "Yeah," he replied, smiling warmly. "We deserve it."

"Yeah," she replied, nodding unreservedly in agreement and continuing to beam down at him where she kneeled over him on the bed, albeit on the other side of the covers.

"Let me just go back to sleep for a few more…" he began, giving a cheeky grin and beginning to lift the quilt back over him. Mari quickly pushed it down again, leaning forward right over him and grabbing him by the shoulders as at the same she tried to prevent herself toppling over, her knees stretched out wide to avoid crushing him with her weight.

Seeing her stumble, he placed his hands on her sides, staring up at her with a fake expression of irritation. She chuckled, nodding in gratitude for his help before putting on a firm stare. "Ryder, you are getting up. If I let you go back to bed, you'll be in there forever."

"Guilty as charged," he said with a light sigh.

"See, I just know you too well."

"Looks like you two are getting to know each other even better too," interrupted a voice from the side, having watched recent proceedings with an amused expression. Ryder was sat up in bed, his form a lump under the sheets, while Mari kneeled with her legs either side of his hips with her hands on his shoulders as she stared down at his face, both grinning.

Both heads turned quickly to look across the room at the being which had interrupted them, a small bat sitting on the head of a black Kitsune. The fox looked up with a dismissive expression at her fellow Digimon's joke, despite secretly also wanting to know why her Tamer was in a pose she had only seen before on the television and which was, as far as she was aware, to do with the oddly taboo thing humans had called `sexual intercourse'.

Silly or not, once they became aware of the pose they were in, the pair of humans blushed, and looked down at each other, silently agreeing that the point of views they were currently experiencing weren't for ones of their age. Recalling a certain redhead and her dreamy brunette boyfriend, they appreciated the irony before Mari finally took action to end their difficulty.

Running her hands along his arms, she grabbed his hands and gave him no chance to object as she yanked him upwards, appreciating the startled look on his face as she finally succeeded in getting him out of his quilt. He promptly fell onto his own knees, scrambling to steady himself. She simply grinned at the display, glad that he was finally on his way to standing up and actually doing something rather than lying in bed for the whole day, something she didn't hesitate to vocalise.

"That's better."


Bare feet touched down upon a plush cream carpet, the fabric comforting and soft to the touch. Above was a simple pink skirt and white top, the effort not being worthwhile to put on anything more elaborate. Ivy wandered across the room to the inviting sight of a green tree in the conservatory opposite, a number of presents plopped around below, obviously the silent work of a certain father only a few hours earlier. Once, as a child, she would've rushed over and opened them, eager to find out if Father Christmas had brought what she wanted, but right now, she was content to simply wander over and wait for her family to wake up.

Stepping into the wood and glass conservatory attached to the back of her home, she was given a rather nice panoramic view of the autumnal world. Few trees had leaves on them, and the garden looked dead apart from the cold dew on the grass. Despite this, thanks to the tree and the knowledge it was Christmas, somehow it felt warm, and personal, something she greatly appreciated as she sat down on one of the two sofas to be found in the room.

She stared at the tree, packed to the brim with tinsel, baubles, tiny stars and presents, and at the top a star made out of reeds of wood. All the familiar decorations; all comforting to see given the current turmoil in her heart. "Ryder's parents must be devastated today," she contemplated, the sad idea occurring to her of parents having to live through such a child-centric time with one of their children missing - no worse - dead, at least in their eyes.

Later, she would be meeting up with the other three remaining Tamers, taking a moment out of their busy Christmases about midday to get together for an hour or so to remember the boy, probably at his gravestone, a sombre change from the usual happiness of Christmas. She wondered if it'd be worth going to visit Ryder's parents to give them some comfort at this sad time, a time when no doubt they would be missing him greatly.

"I bet he's missing them too," she contemplated, looking skywards to the grey sky through the top of the conservatory. "I know I'm missing him," she thought sadly, staring through at the blurred vision of the world.


Paper tore from present, Ryder kneeling on the floor in his dark blue pyjamas as Mari eagerly awaited his reaction, staring over at him from where she herself knelt nearby. Despite there not being that many presents around the plastic tree (the chore of clearing up needles something they had already decided against enrolling themselves in), somehow it looked full and packed, and besides, given their age, lack of any income besides the support from Hypnos and Mari's rather secret `fund' from SDCO, and the fact it was just the two of them this Christmas, they had done a remarkable job.

Tinsel leapt across a few of the walls, whilst baubles sparkled in the light pouring through the pane glass windows, a small crack in the corner remaining from where a bullet had hit them scarcely months before. White lights were hung around the tree and coloured ones ran around the living room and kitchen, advantage taken from the lack of parents to tell them it was "over the top" or "garish". On the top of the tree, a gold star sat, preventing MiniDonmon from making it his perch as he had done back when they had originally set it up.

DarkRenamon stood, watching her Tamer and his boyfriend about the tree, unable to resist smiling as she felt something oddly magical about the plant, somehow bringing an array of life to what she would otherwise have identified as a dull, dead winter day. Seeing Mari happy also lifted her spirits, the girl watching as Ryder ripped back the final piece of wrapping paper and saw what the present was she had gotten him.

A chuckle escaped his lips and a smile burst onto hers as he looked round in her direction and shook his head in disbelief, holding up a large DVD box set. Across the top, the words DOCTOR WHO blazed out for all to see, with the subtitle of Season 47 below, all in a rather deep blue colour in a mock-up phone box design, albeit shaped rather flatter like most DVD compilations.

"Well, given how much you talk about wanting to find out how the series runs over in this universe without being cancelled, I thought, may as well."

"I see, and this is nothing to do with that whole UK versus USA conversation we keep having?"

"No. It does have a lot to do with the USA versus UK one though," Mari said, sticking out her tongue as the boy laughed. He looked curiously over the box and adding it mentally to his list of things to compare with home.

"Very funny. Your turn," he said, gesturing across specifically to a box that lay near her knees. She gave him a suspicious look, noticing how he had chosen a specific present to suggest she opened and lifting it up with care.

"Hmm…" she mumbled, shaking it a bit and hearing it rattle inside. Finally, she could bear it no longer, beginning to tear into the wrapping (albeit far more carefully than his rather random `tear wherever possible' method). She paused once she had made enough progress to see the name on the box, before giving an exasperated look to her boyfriend. "Oh ha-ha," she said, ripping off the remaining wrapping to reveal another DVD box set, this one a mix of dark greens and blacks with the words [Spooks] splashed across the front in white writing.

"I thought I'd give you some decent drama."

"If I wanted drama, I'd just watch my own life," she quipped, half serious and half joking.

"Heh, true. Don't worry; they're not all joke presents."

"Not all?" Mari asked, raising an eyebrow and giving an exasperated smile. His look turned rather nervous and fearful, which prompted a chuckle to her throat and a smirk to her lips. "Shame, because all of yours are."

Ryder simply gulped jokily, whilst Mari simply smirked more. DarkRenamon and MiniDonmon merely watched, both rather bewildered by the in-jokes of the back and forth between their Tamers but neither wanting to ask lest they appear intrusive or ignorant. The taller of the two, however, did know something for certain.

"This Christmas thing is strange."


A pile of gifts were strewn in Ivy's arms as she struggled to avoid dropping the mismatch of sizes and shapes onto the floor below. She kicked her foot into the door behind her before letting the collection of DVDs, clothes and of course those little gifts which act as punctuation in the Christmas Day festivities collapse onto the bed. She looked down at them periodically, her mind taking in each gift. Less than in previous years, but that was barely a surprise. As always, there was the most important gift in everything, a digital camera which she had taken particularly special care with, taking it out of her pocket and placing it on the side table. It came to a stop near the feather, which vibrated a bit and turned around in its glass slightly.

Ivy wanted to start watching the films, trying the clothes, toying around with those little gifts and taking random pictures the whole time, but she knew that, despite her urge to just enjoy herself right now and relax for once, she had other commitments.

She wandered over to the computer, taking a seat and tapping the button to turn it on. While it loaded, she wandered back to the camera, picking it up and its cable and making a mental note to set it up soon so she could use it later in the day. Of course, it was unlikely to be more than group shots and the occasional picture of a flower at the side of where they would visit: it was not a happy occasion despite being a day that was meant to be so.

Returning to the computer, she glanced to the mobile phone left alongside it, its screen lit up with news of a text message. She opened it up, giving a slight smile as she read the message.

Mel here merry xmas Ivy! U got all u wntd? R we meeting up there at 1 or wat? Hope u r nt 2 sad ly lots xxx

Ivy frowned, going to reply before noticing the computer had started up, the screen awaiting a password beneath the name, Ryder Stevens. She pulled a piece of paper from under the speaker, the password not yet ingrained in her memory, and tapped in the combination of letters and numbers before hitting the enter button.

A grim smile reached her face as the system accepted it with no gripes, before she returned to her mobile, typing out a reply.

Merry xmas 2 u 2. Yeah its 1. I got camera and stuff so yeah. A bit sad yeah. Cant stop thinking of him. On PC now if want chat. Ly lots too xxx

She turned back to the computer, glancing over the screen as Lunamon wandered up and leapt onto her head from the bed. "Are you okay Ivy?" she asked, her tone deeply concerned as she wondered how the girl could be so sad on what was supposedly a very happy human holiday.

"Yeah, just…remembering."

"Aw," Lunamon gently stroked her partner's face with an ear, Ivy giving a slight smile and nodding as the messenger program whirred into life. The blonde's fingers tapped away at the keyboard as she chatted away to one of her fellow Tamers, Melissa, albeit neither kept themselves to their normal names when choosing those for the messenger program.

MellyLala: Merry Christmas!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Same to you too.

MellyLala: Hows you?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: As usual, sad.

MellyLala: Aw *hugs*

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Thanks.

MellyLala: Cheer up though. We'll all be there later on to chat.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Yeah, I'm looking forward to it.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Kinda

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Dunno why, but this feels worse than Ryder's birthday.

MellyLala: You shouldn't have gotten him that card.

MellyLala: You know you could never send it.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Yeah, true.

MellyLala: Don't worry, we'll cheer you up today.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Thanks, but it's just weird, and unusual.

MellyLala: Yeah, but you didn't know him that well last Christmas so it can't be that different.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: He had such a big impact on me this year though.

MellyLala: Aw.

MellyLala: As adorable as hearing you talk about him lovingly is, you know you have got to move on Ivy.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Yeah, I know that.

MellyLala: I'm sure he's celebrating Christmas in a better place now.

MellyLala: That's if they celebrate it up there.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Maybe.

MellyLala: I know you don't really believe in that stuff, sorry.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: No need to be sorry.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I just think he could still be out there somewhere.

MellyLala: I know, but wouldn't he have tried to contact us by now?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Yeah, but what if he can't?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Why did we give up searching?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: We're meant to be his friends.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: We just gave up on him!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: They never found a body.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: He could still be alive!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: We owe it to him.

Ivy paused, frowning as she stopped in her hurried typing, Lunamon echoing her expression as she cautiously went to stroke her Tamer's face again.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Sorry.

MellyLala: No, I'm sorry.

MellyLala: There's no reason to feel sad for being so emotional about it.

MellyLala: We all want to find out what happened to him.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Maybe some day we will.

MellyLala: I hope so.

MellyLala: I hate seeing you this sad.

MellyLala: I'm meant to be the sad one, remember?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Lol.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: We can both be happy you know.

MellyLala: Yeah.

MellyLala: At least you have a reason to be sad, I just make problems for myself.

MellyLala: Anyway, this is depressing talking about this on Christmas morning.

MellyLala: Remember to come today in the clothes you got for Xmas.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: But I never told you about the clothes.

MellyLala: You just did.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Oh.

MellyLala: Lol.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Lol.

MellyLala: Family calls. I've got to go, see you later.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: See you.

MellyLala: Love you lots, and cheer up bunny.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Bunny?

MellyLala: You have a rabbit for a partner and you're adorable even when you're sad, so I called you `bunny'.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Oh.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Thanks then Seed-thing.

MellyLala: Lalamon just said "HEY!"

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Hehe, I'm sorry.

MellyLala: Now she says "that's better."

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Lol.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Love you lots too.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: xxx

MellyLala: xxx

MellyLala has gone offline.

Ivy chuckled to herself, gladly cheered up by her best friend and the only other female in their (admittedly small) group of Tamers. The loss of Ryder had pulled them together after threatening to blow them all apart, and they had learnt to function better as a group to make up for his absence. Without the prospect of any other Tamers to help them out, they had to work together well to target what was coming. Such was clear even before Ryder's departure, and no doubt he had already acknowledged that that was the case.

She sighed, the memory of his departure now back in her mind and threatening to tip her once again into depression. Deciding she had later in the day to be miserable, with her friends there to help and comfort her, she stood up, wandering over to a dress lying on the bed and picking it up with a grin on her face. She looked into the mirror, posing with it and a grin as she readied herself for trying on each of her new clothes, labels still attached ready to be returned if necessary.

"Now for the fun part."


The wind rustled through the dead and holed remains of a tree, its stump still stuck in the ground nearby and refusing to move. In both, the scars of battle remained; a chip here, a gash there, the mark of many battles but mostly of one. One with no foreign enemy, only an enemy within the protectorates own ranks.

Ryder frowned as he looked towards it, gripping onto Mari's hand next to him more tightly as a frown crept over his face. Despite it being a cheery day and a fantastic idea to take a walk after the morning's festivities, unfortunately it was through the nearest natural place, which, of course, was Shinjuku Park, the site of their battle with the Second Demon only a pair of months earlier.

The brunette looked back to him, a saddened frown creeping onto her expression as she pulled him close and gently stroked his hand with her fingers. "We'll avoid there," she comforted, something which in any other time he would've said to have been a case of her reading his mind. He sighed, pulling her to his shoulder as his hand moved to be round hers.

"Thanks," he uttered, trying to avoid looking at the fallen trees, slightly cracked paving tiles and rutted earth that dotted the park, the repair works not extending to the trees which didn't block paths and the tiles that had only minor cracks in them by looking to the people who had to use the park they had damaged so badly as a group. Evidently, they weren't the only ones with the idea of a walk on their mind, passing plenty of other couples as well as families and even people alone (either happily heading to a party or sadly contemplating loneliness by the looks of it). Mari's face softened up when she saw them, being able to sympathise having been just like them in the years before. Central Park was larger than Shinjuku Park and only served to exacerbate her loneliness, whereas here, despite the destruction and the bustle, somehow felt far more homely and friendly to her.

"I'm looking forward to going to Rika's later."

"Heh, yeah. It'll be strange though, with only us, them and Takato's family there. Not exactly the usual huge packed parties."

"Everyone else is busy though. Christmas is a family time after all."

"Yeah," Ryder said, a frown creeping onto both of their faces as they looked forward at a large group gradually approaching them further along the path. "Shame we don't have any," he muttered with a sigh, Mari nodding before both of their eyes narrowed. MiniDonmon, on Ryder's head, looked bewildered as he tipped himself over to look in his Tamer's eyes.

"What's up Ryder?"

"I recognise them," he said, Mari nodding before a smile graced her face regarding where she recognised the group of six from, a smile gratified when she recognised a pair of long eared creatures on two of the figure's heads.

"Henry! Suzie!" Mari called out, DarkRenamon blurring into vision next to her as she decided to engage in the social festivities rather than watch from afar. That seemed to be the Christmas tradition, after all.

The Third Angel and his sister paused in surprise, prompting their family to do likewise as they looked along at the couple with their two Digimon. Suzie grinned, breaking into a run towards the pair with a smile on her face, Lopmon hanging on for dear life to her ever-energetic Tamer.

"Hey Ryder, hey Mari!" she called, drawing up on them quickly and bringing smiles to their faces. "Happy Christmas!"

"Merry Christmas to you both," Lopmon echoed, ever-politely, from her head.

"Merry Christmas!" replied the pair of humans and Digimon, tilting their heads up from the ten year old to look at her family. The most familiar to them, of course, were the tall, older blue haired man, Janyuu Wong, and his son, almost as tall as him (and beating him if one were to count the dog-bunny on his head, also extremely familiar to them) and with the same tone of hair. Along with them were the remainder of their family: Mayumi Wong, shorter than her husband with pale brown hair and dressed warmly in a thick jumper; their eldest son, Rinchei, the tallest in the family and aged about twenty (and in his final year at university); and finally their eldest daughter, Jaarin, aged eighteen and only just having started her first year of university. All smiled, all one big happy family glad to be together on Christmas Day. And, of course, this simply reminded both Mari and Ryder that this was something they unfortunately lacked.

"Merry Christmas," greeted the remainder of the family.

"What a surprise meeting you two here in the park today," Jaarin commented, smiling at the pair.

"Then again, given the amount of people who are out here, it's not that much of a surprise," Rinchei explained, looking around at congestion no-one would expect on Christmas Day, albeit congestion rather unlike that which the city was used to, even if its pavements usually were bustling with people going to and fro.

"Still, it's great to see loads of people and families out of the house on Christmas rather than staying in and playing with toys," Janyuu commented, his voice low as always and having a rather professional edge to it even if his words were rather conflicting with the thoughts of some of his children.

"But Lopmon's new dress won't put itself on," Suzie complained, her childish traits not entirely vanished with age and the oncoming of puberty.

"I'm glad to be out in the outdoors too," Lopmon commented, her reasons for saying so going over Suzie's head but being acknowledged by her family and friends about her. Terriermon gave his fellow rabbit a sympathetic look, recalling those past (and indeed, present, sometimes at least) days of being dressed up as `Princess Pwetty Pants'. Whatever pants had to do with being pretty was completely lost on the dog-bunny even after all this time.

"It's a bit chilly though," Mayumi complained, giving a slight shiver as Janyuu tightened his arm around his wife for warmth, he notably having rather less layers on than her.

"Heh, when you've worked in so many server banks as me with all the air conditioning you get used to this kind of brisk cold," he chuckled. "So, kids, are you enjoying your Christmas?"

Ryder gave a concerned eye to his Third counterpart, the boy oddly silent and wrapped up in his own thoughts, before replying. "Yeah, it's nice. We managed to do a great job in setting everything up and we sat there this morning opening our presents. A bit like being a kid again," he laughed.

"Yeah, although I bet you'd be up at five o'clock when you were a kid rather than trying to sleep in until god knows when," Mari complained. "I had to wake him up," she laughed to the family in front of them, deciding to keep the exact manner in which she had tried to wake him up under wraps, given that even she herself hadn't noticed the rather disturbing connotations of it until a certain bat had pointed it out.

"Well, if you'd like to continue your perfect Christmas, we'd be happy to have you over for Christmas dinner at ours," Mayumi suggested, glancing to her husband who nodded in agreement, a smile on his face.

"It's tempting but, we're already going to the Nonaka's for dinner, sorry," Mari apologised. Janyuu shook his head, smiling still.

"No need to apologise at all. Perhaps you and some of the other Tamers could come over for New Years? I'm sure Suzie and Henry would love that."

"Yeah, sounds great!" Suzie cheered as she caught her father's gaze.

"Sure. Do you want to do that Ryder?" she asked. After not getting a reply straight away, she looked to one side where her boyfriend stood, raising an eyebrow.

Right now, Ryder's attention was diverted elsewhere, as he continued to be plagued by the sight of Henry simply staring off into space. "Henry…Henry…" he called, barely noticing his girlfriend's calls as he worried for his friend.

Mari turned to look at Henry, her irritation at her boyfriend evaporating quite quickly once she realised why he hadn't heard her. She was not alone in her worried gaze, joined in it by the boy's family and, indeed, Henry's partner, Terriermon.

"Henry!" Ryder called louder as he waved a hand across the boy's vision, the boy finally snapping out of his trance and back to reality thanks to the much louder call.

"Sorry, what?"

"You were miles away Henry," Terriermon explained rather bluntly. "Geez, you complain about me being antisocial."

Henry sighed sadly, before saying the obligatory words, albeit without his usual confidence that one day they would work. "Terriermon."

"Momentai!"

"What's wrong?" Ryder asked, his voice loud enough to be audible but quiet enough that their conversation wouldn't be easily overheard by all (although the fact they had three Digimon nearby with heightened senses of hearing threw a spanner in that works).

"Nothing, never mind," the blue haired boy replied, shrugging as Mari gave him an even more inquisitive look. Ryder looked back to her, only to receive a rather forceful and ordering look from her of his own. He turned back, gripping Henry's arm and pulling him gently aside periodically to talk.

"Listen, what's up?" he whispered, well aware that the boy's family was watching him. Henry frowned, not wanting to make eye contact with his fellow Angel and failing to reply. "Listen Henry, I'm the leader of us Angels, it's my job to make sure all of us are okay, so please, let me help you if something's bothering you."

"It's that that's bothering me."

"Huh? Me being the leader?"

"No, not that," Henry quickly corrected, shaking his head. "It's me being an Angel and all."

"What, you don't want to be one?"

"No, I do but…I don't feel like I am one."

"Huh?"

Henry decided finally to explain more of what had been bugging him over this past few days, even if it felt rather uncomfortable for him to do so. "Both you and Mari, you had those awakening dreams, right?"

"Yeah, can barely forget mine, all those voices."

"But that's the thing. Rey forced me awake, I never had one. And it's not like I have any powers either, well, not specific ones. I understand other languages, and I have this digivice," he explained, raising his arm. "But that's it."

"Momentai Henry," the rabbit on his head tried to comfort, but his words did little to reassure the boy.

"It might take time Henry, but you are an Angel, trust me on that," Ryder replied, closing his eyes periodically as he brought the ever-present feeling of the other Angels and their awakening states to the fore of his mind. "I can feel it, you're awake, and Mari feels the same way too. And Rey would've said something if this wasn't meant to be the way, so don't worry about this not being what was meant to happen either. You weren't awoken in the normal way, but that doesn't matter. Soon enough, you'll learn your purpose in our group, I promise you that."

"You sure? Right now, I don't feel like I have any purpose with you guys at all."

"You will do. Now come on," he said, patting his friend on the shoulder with a smile as he took a step back towards the boy's family. "It's Christmas - no-one needs to feel sad today."


Ivy frowned deeply, the same old sadness permeating through her heart as she stepped through the grass of the cemetery, the plants still damp from that morning's frost, and the earth hard enough to crunch under her feet. The cemetery stretched off up a very slight hill, and to the side ran down to a small wood at the bottom. Headstones were laid out, mostly in straight lines, and the bleakness was aided by the leafless trees strewn about. The place was empty, unlikely to get too much attendance on what was meant to be a happy day. Nonetheless, Ivy knew that they still had to take some time on a day known for great gains to remember something, or rather, someone they had lost.

This place, as associated with loss and death as it was, held a rather fond memory for the girl, albeit one still tinged with sadness.

A slim smile graced her face as Ivy fondly rubbed her lips, perfectly remembering that magical moment. Describing it as such wasn't an embellishment either; Ivy felt that it was a rather supernatural moment, one that she doubted she could ever truly explain (although she did have a rather general, and haunting idea thanks in part to Ryder's words on that fateful day).

"Heh, good kisser," she thought, before cursing herself for such thoughts. Now wasn't the time - she was here to mourn him, and after all, he wasn't exactly available any more. "Even if I did stupidly call myself his "love interest" at the funeral."

But that day could never be a bad one despite anything she had said wrong, because it was the day he appeared to her, comforted her, and even kissed her. He had told her that he wasn't in heaven, he'd told her he was in another world, and he'd made her realise that she knew so little about him. So very little, and so, with only a tinge of guilt, she had asked if she could have his computer.

That was when she had learnt the truth.

Sighing, she remembered those days, days of trying to set up the useless machine and deal with its foibles that surely must've sent the boy to insanity. Even finding out the password had been a challenge, and his parents had become rather concerned about a girl rooting around in his room and in his clothes drawers. A faint blush came to her cheeks at the memory, pulling out the drawer and quickly realising the scale of the task she had put herself to. She had been looking through a person's life: Ryder's life. Once she had found a copy of the password written down for safe keeping, she had access to the PC, from where accessing his surfing history, his files, everything, had been easy, helped by how many browsers would save their user's passwords to the memory. She was glad he had taken such a big security risk, else she could never have learnt so much about him, things ranging from the amusing to the disturbing. A lifetime of photos, of homework, even of several attempts at diaries which had fallen flat on their face after a single entry, usually either complaining about how depressed he was with his love life and his crush or talking about how over the moon he was with it and his life.

Part of her felt guilty for doing what she had. It was his life, his belonging, and he had never given her permission to do so. But…he had asked her to do so many other things, so many things which she could barely imagine having to do….


"Look…there's something I want you to do…"

"What is it? I'll do anything!"

"Forget me…"

"Huh?"

"Please…I may never come back, and I don't want to ruin your life by doing that. Okay, maybe I don't want you to forget me but…please…live a wonderful life without me…find someone, fall in love and grow old and happy together…fight battles in my name and lead the Tamers to victory…just be fantastic in everything you do…okay?"


He wanted so much for her. He wanted her to better her life even with his loss, to move on, to fall in love, to become the leader of their group. She felt even more guilty that she simply couldn't do so, that she had clung to the past and that tiny speck of hope for dear life. Knowing that someone had loved you but was now gone, knowing what could've been but never happened all thanks to his fear. Was she that imposing? Was it that difficult for him to tell her? Was she open enough with him back then?

The thing was, that tiny speck of hope, the infinitesimal speck of hope for her, was given by him.


"The coordinates are twenty-nine repeated nine times…"


Sure, if the hope had been based on nothing, or based on something that an unknowing friend had said, she might have followed along with it, but it was said by him. He knew there was a chance; he knew that somehow he could save her from it all; he could give her something to aspire to even if he himself didn't know how she could do it.

And so, she hadn't given up. She hadn't moved on, she hadn't entirely accepted her new role as leader, and she certainly hadn't been looking for anyone else. She had persisted in her searches, using the feather, using the computer, using her D-Vice, using everything at her disposal, just looking for how it had happened, just looking for how on earth he had found his way to another universe entirely.

And finally, she found it.

"Every time it works for longer and longer but every time it hurts my head more. What is going on? Am I doing it wrong? I just want to see him again, is that so bad?"

"Ivy, are you okay?" Lunamon asked from the top of her head. Ivy frowned, nodding sadly and sighing deeply.

"Yeah, I'm fine."

"Ivy!" called a voice from nearby, a slim smile coming to the girl's face as she looked up to see her three fellow Tamers about the gravesite, all dressed in fairly sombre clothes but none making too much effort to wear formal, all black clothes. Ivy was herself now wearing a black jacket zipped up over a red top, a pair of jeans below. Her hair, as usual, hung lose as it framed her face and ran down her back.

"Hey Melissa," she said, a saddened tone to her voice as she came to a stop, Lunamon waving gently from her head to her fellow Digimon. Her eyes panned about, looking over the two boys, Douglas and Marvin, before looking down to the gravestone. A lump quickly formed in her throat, one which grew as she read the words she had selected all those months ago.

Ryder Stevens

1993-

Partner, Lover, Friend

May we never forget him, wherever he may be.

Please come home, or rest in peace.

She stared for a while, before an arm wrapped about her shoulder, her short dull red hair now longer than before, running down to her shoulders and being rather frizzy in its style. Melissa gave her a comforting look, as both of the boys gazed at the pair.

"Sorry," Ivy sighed, frowning deeply. "I know it's Christmas and all."

"Don't worry Bunny, you can feel sad," Melissa said, a slim smile on her face as she brought up the nickname, and in the process brought a short-lived smile to the blonde's face as well. The other blonde there, Douglas, raised an eyebrow at this, but Marvin let it pass, giving a reassuring smile of his own to the girl.

"Yeah, we all miss him," the shortest boy, and indeed, shortest of all of their Tamers, comforted. His light brown hair flowed slightly down the side of his head, framing his smile.

"Thanks guys," Ivy said, her voice but a saddened whisper.

Douglas chuckled, gazing down at the gravestone with a slim smile, one that to anyone else would've looked rather callous given the circumstances. He spoke, his words hushed but still audible to the people around in the deadened silence of the cemetery, only the wind there to accompany them. "I really can't believe you're gone mate. No-one to contend with any more over anything," he complained, before sighing as his smile fell. "You and I kept this group in check and I made sure your head was screwed on when you were up in the clouds. And yeah, I may have been as cocky as you at times, but that's how I've always been and I know you must've appreciated that deep down. And hell, you turned me a bit mad too, given I'm now talking to myself," he said, flashing a smile to his friends of amusement. "Still, I know we'd all give anything to have you back."

"Aw, that's so…I want to say lovely, but…" Melissa said, a smile on her face as she wandered over to the boy and the stone. "I don't really think that's the word."

"I can do emotional stuff too you know."

"It's nice to see you softening up," Marvin said with a slim smile. Douglas cocked an eyebrow in irritation, before rolling his eyes.

"Quiet midget."

Melissa sighed, shaking her head in disbelief before bending down by the stone herself, staring at the name with a slim smile. "Listen, I know you may have found me a bit strange at times and I had a bit of a temper with you, but I also knew you saw me as a close friend and someone to rely on in all of our battles. Hell, I know that we can all rely on each other to pull through, even when we have nothing else left. It's that sort of bullshit that you would always trumpet but I could never really believe it until the end, and until your death," she said, pausing as she said the terrible word. A smile brushed across her face as she tapped her hand against the gravestone. "Anyhow, I'm sure you're having fun up there in heaven, arguing with Him about everything under the sun. We'll all see you again one day, I know we will."

A slim smile crossed the faces of those watching, even those who were unsure or non-believers. Melissa took a step back, looking aside to the others who had gathered about the stone and waiting for another to come forth.

Marvin took up the baton of speaking words to their `dead' friend, a faint smile on his face as he looked over the stone. "It's strange, I always knew you were rather intellectual, if a bit strange, but when we began to debate, and face off against each other and all, I guess it showed you were an intellectual equal. It was great having you as a team leader, even when you got so obsessed with it being meant to be like the TV series and all that you forgot it was real life. The arguments sucked but, you did know when to fight for a cause, even one that we all thought was hopeless," he noted, glancing over at Ivy who gave a slight look of surprise. "I know that even if you hadn't died you'd still have at least tried to get us together today. You were a bit of a dramatist and I did wonder sometimes if you could cope with real life, but still, you were a great friend and both Leormon and I really miss you. We all do."

The boy looked down to his partner, who gave a nod whilst retaining a look of contemplation on his admittedly childish, or rather, baby lion-ish features. Marvin looked back to Ivy, taking a step aside as they awaited what she would say, the one who seemed most affected by his death. She out of all of them was still furthest from coming to terms with it all, and she still seemed insistent that they would find him and that he was still alive when all of them had given up hope. It was half-inspiring, half-saddening to see.

Ivy wandered forward, Lunamon leaping aside to talk to her fellow Digimon who the absence of school had made her communication with irritatingly brief. Gaomon, Leormon and Lalamon turned to face her, half-wanting to talk and half-wanting to watch her Tamer as she stopped by the stone.

Her blonde hair shook as she knelt down, the earth hard but thankfully not muddy, and thus left her clothes intact. Ivy doubted she would care until a lot later even if they had been damaged.

"I don't really know what I can say that I haven't said before. You know how I feel Ryder…you really do. I love you…I love you so much and I wish you'd come up with the courage to tell me before you were taken from us. But…still, I don't blame you. I always had a feeling that you felt that way about me but I didn't want to say anything either, it's hard to take that risk of wrecking a relationship just for a silly crush. I sometimes wonder if I'd have such strong feelings if I hadn't lost you, but I've learnt that wondering like that just depresses me," she sighed, rubbing her hand across the corner of the gravestone. "I know you are out there somewhere, you have to be, and one day I know we'll see each other again," she said, frowning as the same hand reached down into her pocket, her voice quietening so much it was inaudible to all but Lunamon, who had the benefit of large ears. Within her pocket, she gently fingered the feather, his feather, the feather which she knew would one day come in useful. "One day I'm going to find you, and I'm going to find a way to bring you back so I can be with you. Everyone here misses you so much. Your Tamers, your parents, but most of all me, because thanks to you I got such a huge insight on another life that I never took the chance to really find out about until it was over. I'll never forget you, and I'll never give up on trying to save you. There are people here who love you, people here who need you, and people here who miss you," she sighed, standing back to her feet again. "I'll see you again soon," she said, frowning deeply as she turned, only for Melissa to pull her in a hug.

"It's okay Ivy," she comforted, a sigh going up amongst the boys at the depression of the current situation. As important as it was to mourn their lost friend, it was Christmas, a time for happiness.

"I just want to go home," Douglas mused, putting his hands in his pockets as he uncomfortably looked towards the gate, so far away from where they were.

"Listen, listen," Ivy began, calling their attention as she shook off the prevailing urge to simply do nothing and lie about, depressed, which was definitely not the best thing to do in a cemetery, not least on Christmas Day. She still had a long day ahead of her, and, whilst the prospect of sleep appealed greatly to her, she knew she was still far from its embrace. "I think we should go to see his parents today."

Melissa quickly nodded in agreement, a sad smile on her face. "Yeah, they must really be hit hard without him on Christmas of all days."

"We can go and comfort them," Lalamon agreed, tipping herself forward and backward in a nod.

"I think it's a stupid idea," interrupted Douglas and promptly Lalamon to unsteadily drop down in the air somewhat out of surprise. Melissa shot a harsh look in his direction, threatening that some tactless remark about "wanting to go home and have fun" would not be taken well.

"Why is that?" Gaomon asked his Tamer, his fur gently ruffled in the soft wind of the cemetery as he looked up to the boy's thick black jacket over a rusty orange shirt.

"The last thing his parents want right now is a reminder of why they lost him. I mean, come on, the only thing truly unique about him was his status as a Tamer, and with all the crap that happens as a result of Digimon I bet they're blaming Donmon's involvement for his death right now."

"But Donmon was a member of their family!" Leormon complained, shocked by the harsh judgement the now-tallest member of their group was making.

"Ryder was their son, and they lost him. I mean, come on, you see all those appeals from parents who've lost children on the telly. They always blame someone or something for the disappearance."

"That doesn't mean they wouldn't want us there to comfort them. We were Ryder's best friends, we worked as a team and we mopped up for each other as a team," Melissa complained. "I don't care what crap you're spouting about his disappearance and its causes, it doesn't change the cause."

"It changes everything Melissa! And how can you say anything about the cause of his disappearance? You're the only one here who really thinks he's dead!"

"Exactly, so I think we should comfort the family he left behind."

"In a death in his own bedroom with no body left behind and nothing in the Digital World to tell us what happened to him?"

"Come on guys, I don't think this is the place," Marvin protested, putting up his hands in objection to the arguments.

"Shut up. I'm so sick of everyone being blind to the truth here. Ryder is gone, and he's not coming back. He's not dead, he's not in heaven and he's not out there missing us. He's probably found somewhere better than this god-forsaken rock anyhow," the mid-blonde boy argued, tapping his foot against the cold earth below in bitterness. "Bloody wish I could, there must be somewhere a lot more optimistic than here."

"We're not side-stepping anything here, we know that he's gone," Melissa argued back. "And this world isn't that bad."

"Yeah, and personally, I can't just give up the hope that he'll come back. He came back the last time he got lost in the Digital World. He's always been resourceful even if his ideas can be a bit stupid at times," Marvin added.

"Ugh, this is absolutely insane," Douglas sighed, putting his hands behind his back in frustration.

"You know what, let's just let our team leader decide," Marvin suggested, looking to Ivy who had been silent thus far in the arguing.

"Yeah, that's what we'd have done in the past if we were stuck like this," Leormon agreed with his Tamer, the blonde-haired girl looking rather surprised and worried by how she had suddenly been brought back into the conversation with a sudden weight on her back to make a decision here.

"Hold up, that's another thing I'm pretty pissed off about. When did we make Ivy our team leader?" Douglas asked, still angered and crossing his arms in annoyance. "I don't remember ever being asked."

"That's just because you want to be leader," Melissa spat, still shocked by the nonsense she continued to hear spewing from the boy's mouth.

"Hey, I have no problems with Ivy being leader but I thought, as Ryder would say, we're a team, and so we make decisions together. Or are we no longer listening to the Gospel according to Ryder anymore?" he asked, glaring down at the girl and throwing in a religious comment which he knew would strike a chord with her.

"Low blow Douglas," she hissed, glaring back at him. "I don't care if you think I'm a religious nut job or whatever, but I do care if you just start…"

"No, seriously, how can you insist that Ryder was a great leader and then turn around and ignore what he taught?" Douglas quickly interrupted as he saw her diverting the topic.

"To be fair Douglas, we never really had an official leader anyhow. Ryder just pulled us together as a group and that's why we all followed him, and he kept uniting us even at the worst of times," Marvin began, trying to inject some reason into an argument which had become little more than a string of insults and bitter cries.

Ivy had by now descended into a state of simply staring down at the cold earth, hearing her friends argue about her as she felt helpless. What use was she as a leader anyway? Sure, Ryder had actually appointed her as his new leader in his strange appearance, but what difference did that make? She couldn't just tell them that he had said that, they'd think she was completely insane, perhaps with good reason too. Besides, the team needed the best leader, not just the one who got handed the title, and right now, standing here and watching as her friends tore into each other without even contributing a single word herself, she knew she wasn't the best by far.

Douglas, whilst being a bit rough in his language and harsh in his emotions, definitely had the mental and physical toughness and steadfast nature both in and out of battle to take up such a role.

Melissa was passionate and caring, and could hold a point well as she was proving right now, but in the heat of the battle she would be unlikely to make the right decisions and could become overwhelmed by the scale of things.

Marvin was intellectual and smart but he lacked the presence of a leader, as the fact he was overall being mainly ignored by the other two rather proved. In battle, he could ignore the emotional side of things and end up with a tunnel-vision of proceedings, not the best move when his friends could be hurt as a result.

But all, she felt, were better than her. She was Ivy, the caring but overall too emotional girl who would be too busy mourning over the lost boy who had a crush on her to even think about battle, and leadership. No-one would listen to her.

Would they?

She clutched the feather in her pocket, dearly hoping for answers from its still-perfect form. Was it her job to take over as leader? Could she handle the responsibility? What if things went wrong? The prospect of being blamed for a battle gone badly, an enemy on the loose or, worst of all, deaths, was simply not one she wanted to shoulder.

Looking out however, she saw her friends bickering, none wanting to back down and none being able to stem the tide of the argument regardless. None could pull the group together right now, and that made it clear to Ivy that she simply didn't have a choice. As Marvin had put it, Ryder had pulled them together as a group. That was what made him a good leader: they listened to and followed him.

Ivy decided to leave it up to this one moment of intervention, this one moment of finding out whether they would listen to her calls to stop and her act of taking charge or whether they would disregard her entirely.

She took a deep breath, before looking up and opening her eyes, a sharp look piercing straight through them as she glared at each of her comrades…and spoke…

"Right, here's the thing guys," she began, barely pausing to give them a chance to look surprised as she looked between them, holding their attention tightly and not letting go. "We are going to see Ryder's parents, and that's final. Why? Because I know that if I were one of them, right now I'd be sad, miserable and lonely. Hell, even if we can't help them, we can at least show them we care. And Douglas, I know that you think that Ryder's loss is the end of it all, but it really isn't. Marvin is right; there is still a chance he's out there, because as you said yourself they didn't find a body. Until we get resolution to this, I don't want any of you giving up on him. Finally, Melissa, you have got to stop arguing with him. I know you don't see eye to eye on everything, but he does have a point. Ryder may still be alive and your heavenly approach to proceedings isn't helping, even if you do mean well. Now, all of you, I know we've had our differences and everything, but as we've seen in the past both with and without Ryder together we're a lot stronger than we are apart. And I know I wasn't appointed as leader, but Marvin, as you said, the leader is the one who can pull everyone together at the worst of times. Still, Douglas is right; we have to also agree as a team on things so…everyone who wants me to be leader raise their hand."

Douglas, Marvin, Melissa and their Digimon glanced amongst each other, hands beginning to rise. First Marvin, then Leormon raised a paw. Lalamon floated up slightly onto Melissa's raised hand. Gaomon raised his glove in agreement, and Douglas nodded, admittedly impressed by the girl's speech enough to agree.

Ivy looked round, smiling to see Lunamon raising her own ear alongside her. She was the best leader, and all it had taken was a bit of bravery to prove it. A sigh of relief burst from her lips.


The keys slammed into the counter, skidding across before promptly falling straight down the other side onto the kitchen floor. Quietly cursing, Ryder rushed round, awkwardly laughing an apology as Mari stood there watching with her arms crossed, the keys a major bugbear of hers. She kicked the door closed behind her, relishing the mish-mash of guilt and embarrassment on the boy's face.

"Better," she confirmed, nodding at the keys.

"Heh."

"So, what do you feel like doing now?" Mari asked, putting her hands in her pockets as she looked about the decorated apartment, a smile returning to her face as she pulled off her jacket and threw it over a hook, turning round to show off her new top, black with the words Rock Chick printed across the chest in stylistic white writing, the red and orange edges of flames rising around the slightly cropped bottom. Realising that her hair had been made a total mess by her jacket during the walk, she put her hands up to adjust it while Ryder checked his watch, or rather, his D-Vice.

"Well, it's half one. We said we'd be at Rika's just after three, which gives us an hour and a half to burn."

Mari nodded, already well aware of that fact and rather peeved. "Exactly, that's why I asked. So what do you want to do? We could play with our new toys, watch a DVD…"

Ryder felt his eyelids dragged down as he remembered one thing he had been rather deprived of that morning that seemed very tempting right now. "…catch up on some sleep?" he said, yawning.

"No."

"Fine," he sighed, looking over to the television as an idea occurred to him. "You know, one thing I always hated about Christmases at home was missing out on all the stuff they had on the television especially for it because we'd always have a party, and recording it isn't really the same."

"Yeah, but this is Japan. We can't even watch the news here without laughing endlessly, remember?" Mari said, a grin on both of their faces as they recalled that particular incident soon after they had arrived in their new country.

"Thank `Tarrant on TV' for that. Still, even with that, I feel like watching some god awful Christmas television," Ryder said, clasping his hands together and grinning widely. "Let's watch some crap!"


The streets of Wimbledon, a suburb of the bustling city known as London were perhaps their quietest for a whole year, 4x4s sitting idle, pavements barely touched by the pounding of feet and never a horn to be heard upon the wind. Sure, there were people heading to Christmas parties, and those who either didn't celebrate Christmas or were forced to work on this most celebrated of days, but it was nothing compared to the normal congestion (albeit, which in itself was nothing compared to that of the infamous centre of Tokyo). Walking through this most silent of days were four teenagers, two girls, two boys, two blondes, two brunettes, and with them a great variety of creatures called Digimon.

"Hey, guys, I don't want you to get at me for complaining again but I can't be here too long since I've got to get back for my family's Christmas party," Douglas said, breaking the silence as the familiar house came into view along the road. A dark, almost military green ring skirted the screen of the watch-like D-Vice on his wrist.

"Same," Marvin agreed, noting the wariness in his friend's voice to reopen that hellish hornet's nest again. He had a very thick grey jumper on along with some thick black trousers, the former being sort of thing which no-one would be seen dead if they had a choice. Well, perhaps at least, since Marvin himself seemed to be wearing it with no problems even if normally he would resort to something far less old man-ish. A rusty orange ring was embedded into his digivice on his arm.

"I know it's nice to be together as friends today, but I've got to get home too," Melissa agreed, her thick grey coat over a red top and a black skirt and tights fluttering in the wind lightly along with her somewhat frizzy hair. Her D-Vice featured an indigo ring about its screen.

"Yeah, I've got to go home soon too, so we won't stay here too long," Ivy said to her team, unsure of whether to smile or to frown on what was quickly developing into a depressing day thanks to arguments, fall-outs and, of course, the weather. As the house drew closer, a house holding a mix of happy and sad memories for the girl with a silver ring on her digivice, she broke into a frown.

The building, like all the others in the side-street, was detached from its neighbours, the area of Wimbledon they were in consisting mostly of late 1980s-era brick-built homes that owed thanks for their existence to the endless expansion of London's population and suburbs. A garage was attached to the two-storey home with a gate to the back at the side, and a family car sat on the drive.

Ivy decided against pausing to take in the sight of the home once again, and progressed straight across to the door, a small white doorbell button housed in a black casing attached to one side. As she pressed it, she could hear it ring behind the brown front door, her friends quickly coming to stand behind her. "Here goes nothing," she mused to herself, a figure walking up to the door seen through the frosted glass in it near the top.

"Merry Christmas," the group chorused as the door was opened, smiles appearing on their faces in the hope that they would be contagious. And to Ivy's relief, those smiles were promptly returned by a pair of thankful parents.


"See, that's what I just don't get about anime," Ryder began to rant, as the Christmas special of some random anime they had never seen before and certainly had no real interest in watching beyond being a medium of passing the time began on the screen. "How do they get half of this stuff on the air?"

"What do you mean?" MiniDonmon asked, fluttering down to a stop on his partner's head.

"I mean, you hear people always complaining about how this stuff all gets censored when it airs in the west, if it does at all, even if it doesn't have any sexual content or really explosive battles or anything."

"Who are these people?" Mari asked, raising an eyebrow in bewilderment.

"Uh…well…most of Digital Watch really."

"Oh, yeah," the girl replied, shaking her head as she recalled one of the less family-friendly forums of that site. At some point that place was going to need some control else it would probably run riot, but given the age of those using it, the vulgar humour and jokes of its forum were not completely unexpected.

"Anyway, what I mean is that it's weird how over here the stuff that would cause an outrage where we come from is completely normal and run-of-the-mill, even on a kids show. At the same time, using your mobile on a train is a serious taboo. I am so glad for this Babel-fish thing because I couldn't imagine having to learn the language and get all the formality stuff right too."

"Yeah, I do know what you mean. I'm always afraid over here that you and I are going to hug or something in public and we'll get arrested for indecency. I mean, sure public acts of affection may be a bit off-putting in any country, but it's strange how over here that sort of thing is seen as kinda wrong while at the same time there are shows on the television for kids which defy belief."

"Heh, we've been here for months and yet it still feels like a foreign country."

"Different universe more like," MiniDonmon quipped, waving a hand in the air as Ryder chuckled.

"For us maybe."

Mari frowned, mentally sighing as she went to change the subject. She didn't want to end up discussing Ivy again - it was Christmas after all. By now, of course, she knew that was exactly where this conversation would end up. "So…" she began, before being interrupted by a clattering noise from the doorway.

"Huh?" Ryder mumbled, cocking an eyebrow as he got to his feet. "Post on Christmas Day? Maybe this really is a different universe," he said, before freezing up as he realised what this meant. The white envelope sitting on the doormat could only be from one person, and, as a result, Ryder's lips quickly ran dry.


Ivy, for the second time that day, found herself at a front door, only this one was even more familiar than the last because it was her own front door, and this time round merely Lunamon accompanied her. A frown hung on her face, the good feeling from helping out Ryder's family and being together as a group of Tamers not being enough to counter the sorrow she had felt in that household. As expected, they hadn't been there long, not only because she and her Tamers had Christmas parties to get to but also because Ryder's parents themselves had a Christmas party to get to, one where no doubt they would continue to be comforted by relatives, and probably depressed by the sight of nieces and nephews too.

The blonde sighed, reaching down into her pocket and pulling forth a house key from alongside the feather which gently stroked her hand as she did so. She glanced back at the large number of extra cars on the drive and parked along the street, knowing that she was about to go headfirst into the middle of the festivities of the party. She hoped it would cheer her up somewhat, since right now she certainly didn't feel in a festive spirit.

Inhaling deeply, she stepped forward and opened the door, quickly faking a smile as one of her younger relatives rushed up to her.

"Hey!"


Mari stood up and glanced to DarkRenamon, quickly materialising within the apartment, before gesturing over to the doorway. The Kitsune nodded, quickly and relatively silently making her way over and picking up the card. As she walked back, she looked over the name, a look of concern on her face as she held out the white envelope to Ryder.

The brunette didn't take the card straight away, casting a nervous look over to Mari who looked rather impatient, if agitated. He took the card from the fox, and looked over the writing on the front with a frown. "No surprises there then."

He promptly ripped open the envelope, wasting no time in lifting out the card inside. On its cover, a nice drawing picture of a cottage in England somewhere, all cosy with nice blankets of snow lying about and a traditional Christmas tree seen through the window.

"Peh, it's never really like that," he commented to Mari, stalling for time as he worried what was inside.

"Just open it," Mari said quickly, knowing that this could only mean ill. This was far too familiar, after all, and all signs pointed to only one sender. "Can't she give me one decent day with him without interrupting us. Ugh, if we ever do start having s...uh, I don't think I'll finish that thought," she mused, a slight shudder running up her spine as she gently pressed her shaking fingers against the bare skin on her hip.

Ryder quickly did as she said, his eyes scanning over the message for a name before he began to read.

Love from Ivy

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

"Hmm…" he thought, knowing that alone would lead to problems with Mari. With a mental sigh, he pushed his eyes to the top, and began to read.


"I still can't believe you're real. No offense intended of course."

"It's so amazing to think our granddaughter and you saved the world."

"You're so adorable!" cried a small girl as she stared at Lunamon, who had already begun to feel nervous under the pressure of Ivy's family's attention. Most of them had never actually met the rabbit before, indeed, few had even seen a Digimon in reality before. As a result, the party was already very tiring on the bunny, but Ivy doubted she could intervene and make a difference right now.

Shaking her head and rolling her eyes in disbelief as the normally-quiet Digimon continued to be questioned by a barrage of relatives, she wanted over to the table of snacks laid out to tide people over until Christmas Dinner later on. The blonde had already changed out of her outdoor clothes into something more appropriate for a party: her favourite outfit of a white knee-length dress about her form with a black belt around her hips. She picked up a cut of a French bread stick, chewing on it as she turned back to look at the room. Some relatives sat around the dinner table, chatting, while others sat in the living room looking at and interrogating Lunamon. The room was busy, the mood was happy, and Christmas songs piped over the stereo system in the corner while her mother rushed in with dishes and plates, ignoring offers from relatives of helping.

Ivy breathed in deeply, frowning sadly as she wished she could take some of that happy mood for herself. Maybe going out to see his parents wasn't such a good idea after all, as nice as it had felt to help them out. Indeed, perhaps even making a special thing of remembering him today was a mistake. She had plenty of other days to feel miserable on, why had she purposefully made herself feel so on Christmas?

She looked to the door, something she had forgotten occurring to her as she first wandered over to her partner, giving a brief respite for the bunny. "Lunamon, I'm just popping upstairs," she said, before promptly turning and heading for the exit.


Dear Ryder,

I'm so sorry I can't be with you this Christmas. I really hope you're having a nice one after all that's happened. I went to visit your parents today with the others, and they're sad about it all but they were really glad to see us. They've gone off to a party with relatives now, so don't worry about them. They miss you so much, and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from them too. In fact, I want to wish you a…

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR

from all of us, because we all really miss you so much. But, it's Christmas, so I don't think I should be depressing either of us any more with all of this `who's missing you' stuff. I hope you're having fun with Mari, and can you wish her a Merry Christmas from me too (although she's probably already reading this). Thanks. Oh, and wish a Merry Christmas to Donmon, DarkRenamon and all the others too.

Love from Ivy

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

P.S. Sorry about the lack of a present, but it's rather difficult to send anything from here. Blame the Royal Mail for that.

P.S.2. Tell Mari that I think her new top is cool too, and sounds very `attractive' also. Nice move Ryder.

Mari looked up to Ryder, a mix of continued astonishment and irritation on her face as the boy awaited the usual complaint, as well as hoped she hadn't read the footnotes. She looked ready to argue back, but then she stopped, simply exhaling deeply.

"You know what; I just don't care anymore."

"Huh?"

Mari put her hands up in a resigning pose. "I really don't care now, because it doesn't matter what I think. She's just going to keep on sending this sort of stuff to you, and there's nothing I can do about it either. "Now can we just get ready for going to Rika's already?"

Ryder blinked, hesitating and glancing down at the card. He was completely unsure whether to feel glad there hadn't been an argument or sad that Mari had gotten to the point where she had just given up on the whole situation. "Uh, okay."

"Ugh, I'm going to have another shower before we go, I feel crap," she groaned, wandering across to the bathroom door as she ran a hand through her hair in exasperation. DarkRenamon glanced at her with a frown before taking a look at Ryder, the boy with a rather troubled expression on his face as he finally remembered to reply.

"Right."

"Maybe I'm being too hard on him," pondered Mari as she stopped by the door, a frown on his face. "Then again…I really do hate him for all this and wish he'd realise what he's doing…but…I love him too…and it's not really his fault. And, it's Christmas - I can't just leave us all miserable and everything…but…I do really worry…what would happen if Ivy gets back? He must think one of us is more attractive…surely? I know I would if I were him…at least, I think I would…has he just settled for me or what?" she thought, pausing with a hand on the door. "Am I just being silly?" A sly grin came to her face as she realised a way she could both get some confidence in the matter and leave them both in a better mood than they already were in.

Unknowing of Mari's inner turmoil and the plan she was forming, Ryder headed over towards a number of cards set up along the side in the kitchen area. There weren't really that many since, after all, they didn't have many people who could send them ones. At least they didn't have to worry about getting a Christmas card from some distant long-ago friend and then feeling guilty of not having sent their own.

However, Ryder failed to reach the kitchen before something else interrupted him, something he had been dreading greatly ever since he had read the footnote in Ivy's card.

"Ryder," called a voice across the room. Ryder froze up, before uncomfortably turning to face her.

"Yeah?"

Mari had now turned to face him with a raised eyebrow, her expression now less sad and instead more a mix of curiosity and irritation. Her hands were on her hips with her thumbs outwards, pressing into the bare skin just below where her black Rock Chick top ended. "So…you got me this because you thought I'd look hot in it?" she asked with an annoyed tone, posing somewhat to ensure that the situation was as uncomfortable for him as possible.

Rather expectedly, Ryder froze up in horror, his words jammed in his throat by the sudden and awkward question. "Okay, wonderful, another leading question. Now, let's see, if I say yes, I'm a pervert and I only got her the top for my own benefit. But, if I say no, I'm saying my girlfriend is unattractive. Why is my life always like this?"

"Ryder," Mari pressed, a stern look on her face.

"Uh…yeah, you do look attractive in it," he stammered, trying to cover his bases with a lengthened reply. He crossed his fingers tightly behind his back when done, hoping he hadn't just made a very bad mistake.

Mari paused, closing her eyes, chuckling and shaking her head in disbelief, whilst inwardly feeling a lot happier. "Thanks Ryder, and, for the record, I don't mind you finding me attractive. I am your girlfriend, after all," she said with a smirk.

"Uh…noted."

"Good," she replied, relishing the opportunity to screw with his mind just that little bit more. She grinned widely, lifting her thumbs, already pressed against the bare skin on her hips, and taking the bottom of her top with her.

Ryder's mouth fell ajar, not sure whether she was trying to make his mind explode with the stress and insanity already that day so far. Did someone up there truly have a big grudge against him? He was silently thankful that, despite being the subject of an anime, this world didn't in reality have anime physics, else he knew he would be trying to stem a nosebleed right now.

Mari continued to pull her top up and off, giving a completely natural expression afterwards as she held back the urge to burst into laughter at the sight of Ryder, gobsmacked, staring on at her in her white bra with extremely widened eyes. Part of her felt like scolding him for looking and teasing him that way, but instead she decided to continue with the remarkable innocence and obliviousness she had been portraying so far in doing so, which, of course, was a far more subversive manner of sending him for a loop. Besides, she had already proven to herself what she had needed to for her own confidence's sake, and there was no need to sink the current apprehensive mood in the room by saying anything.

Even MiniDonmon, perched on the end of the sofa, looked surprised, albeit more out of the fact Mari had suddenly pulled her top off, something he'd never seen anyone do before (besides his partner of course but then again, that came as a given when one lived with a Tamer), let alone a human female, than because of knowing its connotations. DarkRenamon, from the shadows, herself not entirely aware of what it meant, still couldn't help but silently laugh at Ryder's shocked expression.

To finish off her teasing, with a completely straight face, Mari flung the top straight at him, it fluttering through the air towards him while he struggled to come to terms with exactly what was happening any more. Fortunately, his last second reactions, a result of being a Tamer and an Angel, just kicked in at the last second and allowed him to catch it between his arms.

"Could you pop that on my bed? I want to wear it later and if I take it in here with me I just know it's going to get soaking," she continued innocently, trying desperately not to laugh at his dumbstruck face as he held the black top in his hands, trying at the same time to hold onto the card which he still had yet to put down. "Thanks," she said, turning and heading into the bathroom before kicking the door closed behind her.

Speechlessly, Ryder simply glanced between staring at the top in his hands and the bathroom door, whilst MiniDonmon flapped across and landed on his shoulder with an oblivious gaze. "What's up Ryder?"

"Uh…uh…never mind," Ryder replied, shaking his head in total disbelief at what had just happened. She sighed, wandering over and putting Ivy's card down on the side, suddenly feeling like it wasn't the most notable thing that day. He turned around, taking a step back towards the sofa before something occurred to me. "Was that what she was trying to do?" he wondered, furrowing his brow. Was she trying to give something more notable to today, to claim it back for herself? "Hmm…"


A drawer slid back with a rumbling noise before a hand quickly pulled out a Christmas card, a lovely picture of a cottage in rural England with snow fallen over all presented nice and quaintly on the front. The hand's owner quickly swung round, pressing into a computer's power button with her other hand before reaching for a pen.

"Right, hmm…" Ivy mused, pushing the keyboard aside and planting the card down open on the desk as she began to ponder what to write in it. Deciding to do what she usually did and let it flow naturally, she pressed her pen against the card and began to write.

Dear Ryder,

I'm so sorry I can't be with you this Christmas. I really hope you're having a nice one after all that's happened. I went to visit your parents today with the others, and they're sad about it all but they were really glad to see us.

Seeing the screen change, her fingers ran to the keyboard and logged in.

They've gone off to a party with relatives now, so don't worry about them. They miss you so much, and I want to wish you a Merry Christmas from them too. In fact, I want to wish you a…

She paused, skipping past the large printed letters in the middle saying MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

from all of us, because we all really miss you so much. But, it's Christmas, so I don't think I should be depressing either of us any more with all of this `who's missing you' stuff. I hope you're having fun with Mari, and can you wish her a Merry Christmas from me too (although she's probably already reading this). Thanks. Oh, and wish a Merry Christmas to Donmon, DarkRenamon and all the others too.

Love from Ivy

XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

She frowned, glancing over the message and leaving the card on the desk in case she thought of anything else to add. She looked up to the screen, beginning to check on the usual websites and be wished a Merry Christmas by one of her school friends. Her fingers blitzed across the keyboard, her typing skills increased massively since she began to use the computer on a regular basis at home. At one point, she paused, a thought occurring to her as she glanced to the presents on the bed.

P.S. Sorry about the lack of a present, but it's rather difficult to send anything from here. Blame the Royal Mail for that, she wrote, a slim smile on her face. She looked back to the screen, her fingers endlessly tapping away as she responded to emails, chatted to those friends who were online, and generally got away from the stress of that day, before something else occurred to her, a larger smile rapidly appearing on her face. She reached for the pen again.

P.S.2. Tell Mari that I think her new top is cool too, and sounds very `attractive' also. Nice move Ryder.

"Ivy?" asked a voice from behind. The girl spun about on her chair to see her mother poking her head through the door. A slight embarrassed blush appeared on Ivy's cheeks at what she was caught doing even if she knew her mother hadn't a clue what she was actually writing. "Dinner's ready," she told her daughter.

"Okay…" Ivy replied, glancing down to the card. "I'll be down in a sec."

"Don't be too long," her mother insisted, before leaving. Ivy stood up, glancing at the feather across the room periodically. It sat there, motionless as ever, a red herring in her life that she had yet to completely understand the point of. Card in hand she wandered across to the door and along the hallway, passing the sound of the festivities below.

Continuing, she reached the office, a mess of papers and shelves with a desk and another computer in the middle. She wandered over to one shelf, a scanner planted on it. Glancing at the card to check it was all alright she lifted up the top, and planted it down onto the glass inside.

"Hope this works this time," she thought. Anything was better than suffering the sharp headaches of that other method, even if it did seem like her only way of ever reaching him. Sighing, she turned the scanner on, and quickly got to work.


The familiar gate creaked open by a gloved hand, the sky just beginning to go dark and the day very cold. Two pairs of shoes and two paws stepped across the path towards the front door of the household, traditional in its style. Lights burst through its translucent panes from behind, a Christmas party beginning inside.

"Finally. I'm bloody freezing," Ryder noted, shivering despite wearing a jumper and a coat over his t-shirt and jeans. Mari, similarly wrapped up warm, gave him a sly grin.

"Yeah, now I can get inside and take my top off," she said, her voice once again very deadpan and lacking any recognition of what she was saying.

Ryder gave her a surprised look, a satisfied smile slithering onto her face as she gently pushed him in the arm and a chuckle.

"You are so easy," she laughed, rolling her eyes at him while continuing to smirk. "God, I wish I had a camera earlier."

"Oh, yeah, that'd be wonderful," Ryder said sarcastically, rolling his eyes and pressing the doorbell as a chime rang through the household behind.

"Most guys would be over the moon seeing what you saw," Mari said, putting on an insulted tone. Ryder sighed, beginning to grumble.

"Ugh, I just don't get it. Do you want me to be modest and a good guy or an idiot who's endlessly gawping over your…hello Kristy!" he said, his tone changing dramatically as the door opened to reveal a beaming ten year-old. Mari did likewise, a smile appearing on their faces as both stifled the urge to chuckle at Ryder's bad timing and choice of subject matter.

"Merry Christmas!" Kristy cheered loudly.

"Merry Christmas!" Mari replied, the inside of the home decorated from corner to corner with tinsel, holly, ivy and mistletoe. A cheery attitude emanated from within, as Kristy beckoned for both to cross the threshold.


With a cautious ear, the bunny tapped the product which had been deposited in front of her. She looked up to Ivy, the girl glancing down curiously from the seat next to her partner. "What's wrong?" she asked, the dinner table a bustle of voices, chinking plates and a jovial atmosphere.

"Uh…what is this meat thing?"

"That's turkey."

"What's a turkey?"

"I'll show you a picture later online, okay?"

"Uh…yeah, but…I think I'll pass right now. I don't really like the smell."

"Shame, because it tastes delicious," Ivy replied, eating some of the meat herself. Lunamon nodded warily, frowning deeply as she pushed the product aside on her plate. Ivy looked down again, raising an eyebrow. "How did meeting the relatives go?" she asked in a hushed voice.

Lunamon looked up, her galled face telling Ivy all she needed to know. The blonde nodded, giving an apologetic look.

"I guess it could've been worse. How did what you did go?"

"He should be opening the card now if he hasn't already."

"I see," Lunamon replied, not sure whether to raise her next issue. "Uh…what about Mari?"

"What about her?"

"Well…every time you do it, you say she gets annoyed at you."

"Lunamon, it's Christmas, I can't not send him a card. Besides, I am Ryder's friend, and she's just going to have to get used to that."

"Hmm…"


A whole universe away, a similar setting (albeit on a lower table and with slightly different food) took place: a family along with a few friends settled around for Christmas dinner. It wasn't only the current Nonaka family either, since along with Seiko (and her partner, DarkBiyomon) and Rumiko as the adults at the table were Mie and Takehiro Matsuki, Takato's parents and future grandparents of Rey. Rey herself was absent, her intention to skip ahead a long way evidently a deeply held one, but her parents, Takato and Rika sat up one end of the table. The latter was now nearly 30 weeks pregnant, and hence was rather irritable, although right now her emotions were more of a saddened nature. Near her sat Mari and Ryder, along with her sister Kristy, ever-overjoyed but sharing a similar pain to Rika. About them, their Digimon partners sat, at varying distances from the dinner table and eating various quantities of food.

"I'm sure he'll try to contact you again someday," Mari reassured, Rumiko feeling anxious given the topic of the conversation.

"If you ever really want to find him we will try but I can't guarantee anything I'm afraid," Seiko said, giving a concerned smile to her granddaughters as even Kristy's spirit was pulled down somewhat.

"He last sent a card to us three years ago," Rika sighed, resting her head on her hand which rested on the table as she absently played with some of the food.

"It's like he's completely forgotten us," Kristy sighed, frowning herself despite knowing that she and Rika had never seen their father together. Indeed, they may as well have been talking about different people were it not for the fact that the two Kiyoyuki Nonaka's were likely to have been merged in mind and personality in the cataclysm.

"I mean, he doesn't even know he has a grandkid on the way."

"Perhaps we should change the subject?" Seiko suggested, noting how anxious and uncomfortable their guests had become given the subject, not least Rumiko. "It is Christmas after all. Ryder, Mari, it must be strange celebrating a Christmas on a whole different continent."

"Well, this year Mari came up with the idea of celebrating a really traditional Western Christmas so we haven't really taken in all of the Japanese versions of stuff," Ryder noted, pondering through their day.

"But it's still been great fun," Mari added in agreement.

"I've always loved Christmas. There was this one Christmas when Takato was three and he was so eager to get a guitar so we got him a toy guitar. He rushed around the house in his pants all day pretending he was a rock star. So adorable."

"Mum…" Takato groaned, turning bright red feeling rather anxious about the chosen subject matter as his friends grinned at him.

Even Rika cheered up, giving a sly smile to her fiancé. "Any pictures?" she quipped, grinning widely to the boy as he sank in his seat to the sound of awkward laughter.


The window, that morning used to look out upon a grey Christmas, was now a pitch black, the room lit by both the soft light of the bedside lamp and the glow of the PC screen. The finger tapping had slowed, and even though it wasn't even that late yet, the girl doing so felt absolutely exhausted from her long day. She gently massaged the side of her head, giving a quiet groan which made Lunamon look up from where she had been dozing off.

"Tired?" the bunny asked whilst yawning.

"Yeah," Ivy sighed, pausing periodically and leaning back against the back of the seat. Downstairs, the party had already come to an end, her relatives departed and the house now far quieter, to Lunamon's relief of course. The internet was beginning to buzz with friends in a similar situation, a slim smile appearing on the girl's face as some of them appeared.

MellyLala has logged in.

MellyLala: Hey bunny!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I'm never going to lose that nickname now, am I?

MellyLala: Is it a bad nickname then?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Never mind.

MellyLala: Lol

MellyLala: How did your Christmas party go?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Fairly well.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Lunamon hated all the attention she got though.

MellyLala: Aw.

MellyLala: Poor thing.

MellyLala: You feeling better now?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: A bit.

MellyLala: Aw. *hugs*

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: It's been a very long day.

MellyLala: Yeah.

MellyLala: Sorry for arguing with Douglas earlier.

MellyLala: You really caught us all by surprise earlier when you spoke up.

MellyLala: We were right to make you our leader.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Really?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: The idea has begun to really scare me.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I know I've been our leader for months but I've never really felt like the leader.

MellyLala: You'll be a great leader Ivy.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I'll crack under the pressure.

MellyLala: So did Ryder. It just made him stronger in the end, and it'll do the same for you.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: `spose so.

MellyLala: We'll all support you. You may be our leader, but we work together as a team and decide things together.

MellyLala: You make the final decision when we're arguing over things.

MellyLala: And cheer us up when we're feeling sad, if you didn't already.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Okay.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Thanks.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: But you seem to be doing all the cheering up right now.

MellyLala: Yeah, but could you imagine me trying to cheer up Douglas?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Fair point.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Aw, I'm so tired now.

MellyLala: Then go to bed.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: But it's Christmas.

MellyLala: So? I'm going to bed at the first yawn.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Lol.

MellyLala: Go to bed bunny!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: You know, I just had a worrying feeling there of feeling like Terriermon.

MellyLala: Making me Suzie then?

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Yeah.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Only, you're a lot older.

MellyLala: Well, Princess Pwetty Pants, you need your beauty sleep so you can rule over your Kingdom well tomorrow.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Wouldn't I need to be the Queen to rule?

MellyLala: Peh, technicalities.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: And Pwetty Pants?

MellyLala: No, I don't know where Suzie got that from either.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: It's an American dub. They mean trousers.

MellyLala: Oh, yeah.

MellyLala: I just realised that you thought I meant you have pretty knickers.

MellyLala: That must've sounded weird.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Frankly, I didn't have a clue what you were talking about.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I'm too tired.

MellyLala: Then go to bed.

MellyLala: Now.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Yes mother.

MellyLala: Go. To. Bed. Now.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: *sticks out tongue*

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I'm too busy working.

MellyLala: You're doing homework?!

MellyLala: What is wrong with you?!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: No, I'm not doing homework.

MellyLala: Then go to bed already!

MellyLala: Whatever internet rubbish you're wasting your time with can wait.

MellyLala: Don't tell me you've taken up drawing on DeviantART.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Are you kidding? I can't draw anything.

MellyLala: Thank god.

MellyLala: I was getting worried about the idea.

MellyLala: Whatever it is, I don't care.

MellyLala: Just go to bed already!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Fine.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I'm going.

MellyLala: Good.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Merry Christmas!

MellyLala: Merry Christmas!

MellyLala: Love you lots!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: Love you too!

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: xxx

MellyLala: xxx

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever has gone offline.

Breathing a deep sigh which quickly turned into a yawn, Ivy shut down the computer and spun round on her seat, before rather unceremoniously falling forward face-first onto the bed with a groan of tiredness. "Long day…" she mumbled, clutching the purple sheets tiredly as she buried her head in them and considered going straight to sleep there and then. If it weren't for the small blinking light of consciousness in her mind telling her that she had to get up and prepare before lying in her bed the proper way, she probably would've done so.

With another groan, she sat up, rubbing her hand through her messed-up hair and getting to her feet again.

"Time for bed," she mumbled down to her partner, wandering over to her wardrobe and pulling out a pair of thick pale pink and white pyjamas, the perfect thing for a chilly night like this. Not caring about the fact Lunamon was there (since, after all, they were partners, and Lunamon was modest and respectful enough not to watch anyway), she undid her belt and removed her white dress, before progressing through taking off the remainder of her outfit and then pulling on the top and bottoms of the pyjamas. She reached to her wrist, gently undoing the strap of her silver-ringed D-Vice and depositing it on her desk.

She turned, flicking off the monitor of the screen, now simply showing an orange light, and wandered over to the door in a zombie-like manner, yawning as she did so.

"So…tired…"


The DVD drive whirred close as the player accepted the disc into it. With a spinning noise, the data began to be scanned by a laser, the signal rushing along a wire to be displayed on a screen as an image above by a number of liquid crystals.

None of which mattered whatsoever to those watching it at that moment, both due to tiredness and indifference. Ryder settled down alongside his girlfriend alongside the sofa, while MiniDonmon settled down on the back of the seat.

Regardless of tiredness however, neither wanted to go to bed yet, it being considered akin to surrendering by the pair. They would see this whole Christmas through, be dammed to sleep.

The irony, of course, that sleep had been ever so tempting earlier that day had yet to occur to their sleep-addled minds. Mari looked down to Ryder, a curious expression on her face as she watched the menu for Spooks appear on the screen. "Okay then, so what's this series about?"

"Well…it's your basic secret service set-up revolving around the UK's MI5. And, that's about it."

"Ugh, not another 24."

"Of course not. This one's set in the UK."

Mari simply groaned, leaning down into the boy's shoulder and settling down to watch whatever this program was about to throw at them.

"Oh god, it's not going to make us Americans seem like the bad guys, is it?"

"Heh."


The silence of the bedroom was interrupted by a sudden beeping, and a rather loud one too. The soft, gentle breathing of the teenage girl gave way to erratic exhaling as her eyes blinked open, the particular tone she was hearing far too familiar to her. With it, came memories of battles which were dreaded, and which lived up to their predictions too. Battles against horrible foes, ones who threatened to destroy their entire world.

Right now, this wasn't what she wanted. It was past midnight, but it was still Christmas in her mind - couldn't the world just give her a break for once?

She went to close her eyes again, the prospect of once again sleeping only too tempting for her. But, whoever had designed the D-Vice had evidently done a good job, since she found herself completely unable to do so. Her hair was splayed out across her pillow, messed up more and more every time she turned her head with a groan.

Finally, her hand reached down to her other arm, searching for the device before rushing her hand across to the side table. Right now, turning it off was her main concern, so she could finally get back to sleeping. Unfortunately for her, it wasn't there, and if her memory was serving her correctly, she knew exactly where it was: the side table.

"Ugh…stupid, stupid, stupid Bunny…I mean, Ivy…ugh, now it's stuck, wonderful," she groaned, pulling her knees up and pressing her head into the pillow before reluctantly stretching out again, exhaling before yawning once again. At long last, she forced herself to sit on the side of the bed, her pyjamas ruffled only slightly less than her hair which was splayed across her shoulders and ruffled greatly as she reached out and switched on the lamp.

Her eyes were half closed as she pushed herself to her feet, staggering across the room and trying to avoid the urge to just fall back on the bed and pull the quilt up around her. The house was cold, very cold, and the prospect of going outside was not an appealing one.

"Ivy," groaned Lunamon, herself just awaking from her content sleep. "What's going on?"

The blonde reached the desk, holding on for dear life as she picked up her D-Vice and attached it to her wrist. Staring through narrowly-opened eyes, she stared on and read the time. "Ugh, half past midnight," she groaned. "Why can't the Digital World just sleep?"

"Ivy…I'm worried…this feels like a big one."

"Ugh, great. I don't want to do this," she sighed, frowning deeply as her mind took the annoying step of reminding her she was the leader of her group, and meant to set a good example. "I guess I have to."

"And quick too, because this feels like a really really scarily big one."

"Let's go then," Ivy said with a yawn, wandering over to her wardrobe and opening it up. Her clothes were barely visible in the dull light, certainly not easy to put on, and it was clear from Lunamon's words that she didn't have the luxury of much time, or, indeed, any time at all. "Great, I'm going to be freezing too. I can't go out in my Pyjamas, I'm not Takato!"

"Ivy's, it's…horrible!" Lunamon complained, shuddering.

"Great, no choice either," she complained, reaching out and grabbing her thickest black jacket she could see through her blurred vision. Without a care for fashion sense, she tightened it up over her pink pyjamas, before she reached in for some socks, pulling them onto her feet. Finally noticing that they didn't match, one pink and one white, she sighed, deciding that it didn't matter right now. She reached to the desk for her keys, before finally rushing out the door. "This better not be too big!"


With an ending like a photo negative, the episode came to a close, a yawn promptly sounded from its viewers. Mari sat up in Ryder's arms, pleasantly impressed by both the quality of the show and her ability to stay awake during it all. Seeing that he was rather close to nodding off, despite his desperate attempts to stay awake and watch the show, she patted his leg with a slim smile. "Come on; let's go to bed before we fall asleep on the sofa," she said, standing up and heading across to the television.

Ryder sat up, groaning as he pushed his hand up through his fringe and tried to hold off the urge to sleep long enough for him to at least prepare for bed first. He blinked repeatedly, hoping that somehow the tiredness would clear from his eyes that way.

Mari popped the disc into the box, before switching off both the television and DVD player. As she put the disc down on the table, she glanced over to the tree and decorations in the corner, before looking back to the boy. "So, do you think we managed to make a good Christmas in the end?"

"Yeah, it's been good," he yawned, stretching his arms out as he took to his feet.

The girl gave a slim smile, raising her brow slightly. "I'm sure it has been," she said, her smile becoming sly and knowing as she put her hands on her hips.

"Um…"

Mari broke from her pose, smiling more naturally as she shook her head, this time at herself. She took a few steps closer towards him, a sincere and rather apologetic look on her face. "Listen, Ryder, you know that I don't really mean anything mean what I say or do when I'm teasing you. It's just for fun."

"Yeah, I know," he replied, his words rather lacking true confidence to back them up. The girl came to a stop in front of him, gently grasping his right hand from his side.

"Besides…I'm sure it wasn't the worst way anyone's ever teased you."

"True, true," Ryder replied. As her fingers gently stroked his hand, his mind racked back all the way to that bizarre event, one he had been left with a vast sea of confusion about. But, one thing in particular he remembered being curious about, and wanting answers for. "Mari, did you do that because you were worried we'd remember this Christmas just for Ivy otherwise?"

Mari's eyes widened in surprise, it being her turn to be thrown completely for a loop. "Huh?"

"Well…I was wondering if you did it because, you know, if you hadn't done so, we'd otherwise always remember this Christmas for Ivy's letter only."

"Hmm…" Mari replied, frowning deeply. "Yeah, I guess so. I just…worry so much about all this, and probably really selfishly too."

"Mari, trust me, if you were from another universe and I was competing with some ex from your past, I'd be doing exactly the same thing."

"Yeah, but if you took your top off I'd probably just tell you to stop being weird."

"Whereas if I did that you'd just call me ungrateful."

"True, true," Mari replied, chuckling as she stared up into his eyes, taking his other hand in hers. "I'm really glad for this Christmas going so well."

"Well?"

"Yeah. Could you imagine how much worse it could've been?"

Ryder chuckled, staring into middle distance as his mind set off on that particular tangent. "The Christmas tree ending up on fire."

"Realising that we didn't have anything for breakfast or lunch when all the shops are closed."

"A Digimon bioemerging."

Mari gave a smile, nodding in agreement that that particular eventuality was definitely better avoided. "Rika having a major mood swing."

"You forgetting to put a bra on this morning," Ryder said, looking down from his stare with a grin at her.

Mari simply rolled her eyes at his joke. "Goodnight Ryder," she said, putting an exasperated tone in her voice as she let go of his hands, turned and quickly walked away from him.

"Merry Christmas," he called after her, his grin unceasing as she paused at her bedroom door and turned to face him, a smile on her face.

"Merry Christmas pervert," she quipped, before vanishing into the room.


"God I hope no-one sees me like this," Ivy thought, her pyjamas making running along the pavement of the Wimbledon street a lot more difficult than it should've been. Indeed, as she turned into a main road and had to pause to check no traffic was passing, she silently counted her blessings that none of her friends had seen her yet, although doubtless if they had responded to the same call they would soon. She wished she had put on some form of trousers, even if over her pyjama bottoms, since she found her legs to be completely freezing whilst her top, thanks to the jacket, was relatively warm.

She hurried across the dual carriageway by the crossing, glancing to her D-Vice upon reaching the other side and wondering where on earth this bioemergence would be, or, even more troublingly, what it would be. Her eyes scanned around, looking for some sign of a Digital Field, but to her annoyance she had yet to see any. This, however, did not make Lunamon on her head any less nervous, and, indeed, she only became more and more agitated with every step her Tamer took.

"This thing feels so powerful and horrible."

"Wonderful, the worst Digimon in ages and I'm caught napping, and in my pyjamas too. I can't even think properly right now, how am I going to deal with an ultimate? Or a mega?! God that would be petrifying," she thought, the idea sticking in her mind and only agitating her more as she glanced at her D-Vice again and made a turn, heading down a more minor road for only a few steps before she stopped in her tracks.

There, in front of her, was a Digital Field, a large cloud of mist hanging in the centre of the street and emanating a dim glow from its innards. Ivy paused and stared at it periodically, before forcing herself to take a step forward, and another, and another, every one more tiring and more worrying.

She finally reached the field and came to a stop as she looked up and over it, the swarming mists preventing her from seeing within. "We're going to have to be well prepared Ivy," Lunamon advised.

Ivy looked down to her pink pyjamas, her black jacket, her white and pink mismatched socks, her white trainers, and her D-Vice, whilst she felt the downward pull of her keys in per pocket. "Well prepared? I don't even have my cards on me, let alone sunglasses to protect my eyes. We're going to have to biomerge if things get rough, but what if being this tired I just hold Lunamon back?"

Just then, the memory of a conversation she had held earlier that day rushed through her head at full force.


MellyLala: You'll be a great leader Ivy.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: I'll crack under the pressure.

MellyLala: So did Ryder. It just made him stronger in the end, and it'll do the same for you.

Ivy Loves Ryder Forever: `spose so.


She nodded to reassure herself, Lunamon gripping on tightly. This was simply part of the pressure that Melissa had talked about, and she could survive it. Hopefully.

Ivy took a step forward with her eyes closed, breaking through the outermost shell of the Digital Field which otherwise would've dazed her rather badly. The Digital Field on the inside was warmer than outside in the cold night, but was far from being oven-like. It was also fairly dark as she reopened her eyes, albeit a dim light from an unknown source making it at least possible to see her way.

Step after step she took, her tensions rising along with a lump in her throat as she walked further and further forward, a beat of sweat working down her brow as she saw a large silhouette in the centre of the vast Digital Field, one that was definitely one of the largest she had ever encountered. "This is it," she thought, Lunamon tracking her eyes in on their foe, seemingly with his or her back to them. All they could see was a large flowing robe, albeit one that had some odd shapes coming out from it.

"Maybe wings?" Lunamon pondered, training her eyes in closely as they stayed as silent as they could. Surprise could be their only advantage.

Ivy raised her D-Vice, looking cautiously over the screen as she waited for the data on the Digimon they were seeing to appear. What was his or her level? How powerful would they be? Would they need help? Where was everyone else anyway? She could've sworn that Marvin lived closer to the bioemergence site than he did.

Raising her worries to a new point, a low, deep and thoroughly dark voice emanated through the field, making her D-Vice redundant.

"My name is Daemon, child," he spoke, his tone giving impressions of knowledge but also a sense of evil which made Ivy shudder and come to a shocked stop. This couldn't be the Digimon she was thinking of, surely.

"Don't you do anything!" she called out, trying to act brave. "I'm warning you. We've beaten worse than you in the past!"

"I am a viral Demon Lord of the mega level, and I have destroyed so many Digimon and humans in my time that your deaths would be a mere statistic."

"We'll stop you."

"We? You and your little data bunny partner. Your comrades are absent right now. They will not be coming either, I have formed this place entirely for you, my dear Ivy Louise Winters, but I must comment that you appear distinctly…unprepared - if rather beautiful - in the light of this fantastical field."

"Shut up you…how do you know my name?!"

"Do not be scared, my dear. I am here to…make a deal. You see, of all the people I have seen in this, strange new world, you seem to be rather unique. You hold such…deep knowledge."

"What do you want from me?!" Ivy said, jumping straight to the point as her voice stuttered greatly.

Daemon ignored her. "You know something that you shouldn't, and so you go through every day in such…worry. Poor thing," he said mockingly.

"I said, what do you want from me?!"

The Demon Lord chuckled deeply. "Bah. You already know who I am and that you cannot trust me, so perhaps I am wasting my time offering what I have to offer," he began, going to turn.

"Wait…" Ivy called, her voice changing from one of anxious threats to one of curiosity. "What is this offer?"

Daemon turned back to face her, a smirk on his face. "Oh, it is nothing bad for you my dear, I promise you that. We will both gain from it…as you humans once said long ago…quid pro pro."

"Ivy, what are you doing?" Lunamon whispered down to Ivy, wondering why they hadn't attacked yet. She knew all too well this Digimon was very dangerous, both from the show and from worrying own knowledge as well.

"Oh, but Lunamon, you have something to gain from this too. The happiness of your partner, safe in the arms of her beloved."

"What?" Ivy asked, raising an eyebrow in true bewilderment.

"A great displeasure occurred to me rather recently, a great wrongdoing which should never have happened!" Daemon complained, genuine deep-seated anger in his voice. "But you know what it was, don't you Ivy?"

"The Cataclysm," she said, biting her lip in worry.

"Is that what they call it, the abomination that almost destroyed me?! It is barely even a fraction of the way to describing the true disgrace of that…thing."

"It almost destroyed you? But…"

"Oh, but I escaped. Do you really believe that such a powerful Digimon as me would simply be destroyed by such a thing? No…I escaped, even if not of my own choice. Hurtled through time and space and across the dimensions to this dammed (Dammed? Or Damned? ^) place. The sheer power of that abomination was enough to not only shatter the dimensional barriers of that world, but also to weaken those around it, and the one to this world in particular. So much so, one might say, that something could rather easily pass the other way."

"Wait…you don't mean…"

"Your dear friend. Upon learning of your…tragic story, I have given it much thought, and it makes such perfect sense. Those who attempted to murder me wielded such force, such godly powers that even I struggled to defeat them. Their irresponsibility and disregard for the rise of my empire affected every universe, and I was like a cannonball, breaking through into this world. But…I have been given so much opportunity as well."

"Opportunity? For what?" Ivy asked, concern in her tone.

"Don't worry; I have no plans to harm you or any of your friends any longer, particularly not after having learnt so much about your truly touching life. I simply want to regain my place. So many other dark forces have taken up my throne, and I will not let that happen. Light needs its darkness, after all, and it is better the demon you know than the one you don't."

"So what do you want from Ivy then?" Lunamon asked, sick of how this Digimon seemed to be playing with her Tamer's mind.

"I simply want her assistance, and in return I will give her what she wants. The barriers of this universe are weakened, and with the right guidance I could breach them. It has become so clear you know more than I do about all this. If you do this thing, I will not only return you to the one you love, but also ensure you face no competition."

"Don't you dare harm Mari either!"

"I needn't have to. All I would simply need is to bring him back to this universe, and erase that annoying portion of his memory of her. I could even erase their memories too if you wish. You would gain what you wanted, and with no pain for them either."

"But…we can't do that…they're their memories!"

"Hmph…I am a Digimon, when I am destroyed, I leave nothing. Only the work I do gets remembered. My body itself becomes little more than data. Memories are the same, they needn't feel any pain, and neither must you. I could wipe your memory of it all too if you wished."

"Hmm…"

"Ivy, you can't be taking him seriously, can you?" Lunamon asked, horrified by how her Tamer seemed to be seriously considering such a thing.

"Why should she not Lunamon?"

"Because…you're evil!"

"Plenty of good Digimon have turned evil. In one of your television series, one of my fellow Demon Lords turned evil and threatened the whole Digital World. Is the reverse never possible in your narrow philosophy?"

"I…I don't know."

"Daemon…I don't think I can trust you."

"I don't ask you to trust me, I ask nothing of you but what will accomplish both of our goals. If I wanted to rule a world, I would've killed you and all of your kind already."

"I…I…I just want to see him again," Ivy stammered, not sure what to say. Could she side with someone so evil just to get such a selfish result? Ryder was her friend, she couldn't do that to him.

But, at the same time, did she have to always sacrifice everything of her own for everyone else's happiness? Ryder had so much more joy than her now, and she had received none of it. He was a universe away, and she missed him so greatly, but with Mari at his side he couldn't possibly return those feelings to the same extent.

Her mind still clashing with itself, she took an unsteady step forward.

"Yes, good my dear. Now, come closer," Daemon called, his voice almost hypnotising for the blonde. Lunamon panicked, staring on at her partner and leaping aside as she rushed towards Daemon.

"LEAVE MY TAMER ALONE!" she cried, leaping into the air and head butting the beast in an attempt to throw him off. He merely gripped her by the neck, before placing the shocked bunny gently on the ground alongside Ivy, who came to a stop.

"Lunamon!" she cried, rushing over to her partner and falling to her knees to embrace her. She looked up in anger, a growl in her voice. "Daemon, did you hypnotise me?"

Daemon's pose turned to an offended one. "Of course not. I want to breed trust with you. If I had you hypnotised, I would have killed Lunamon, but she is merely misguided. You are entirely under your own mind, because if I were controlling you, you wouldn't have had the freedom to run to your partner like that," he explained, before taking a step forward as Lunamon looked worried. Ivy seemed almost understanding of what Daemon meant, her tensions barely rising as the beast came closer.

"I see."

"Now…" Daemon began, coming closer and closer before stopping near who he hoped would be his new allies. He put out a white hand. "Do we have a deal?" he asked, Ivy looking worriedly at it and back up to him as she fidgeted with her own.

"I…I…I know it's wrong but…I know I can handle myself too…the second he starts pissing around with me. I'm not falling for the same tricks everyone else does," she thought, reaching out a hand and meeting his, it feeling slightly cold to the touch, an off-putting feeling for the Tamer.

Daemon laughed, before his laugh quickly turned to one of surprise, and then of anger. "What?!" he growled deeply, pulling his hand away and looking at it suspiciously as both Ivy and Lunamon stared on, scared and bewildered by his sudden change in behaviour. He scowled, gritting his unseen teeth in anger. "It appears you have already signed a deal with another devil," he complained, before raising a hand in a wave. "I shall be going now," he added, turning and taking a step away.

"Wait, what?!" Ivy called, taking a step after him. "What do you mean, I've signed a deal with another devil?! I've never done that."

"You are also delusional then my dear. I am sure a qualified psychiatrist can help you in that respect," he added. "Good night," he finished, walking further away from her across the Digital Field and leaving the girl to her shocked and confused gaze, her partner mirroring her but unlike her still being able to speak.

"Ivy? What did he mean?"

"I…I haven't a clue," Ivy said, blinking in disbelief as she looked out at him again. "Come back!" she called, but he didn't listen, as her shoulders sank in disappointment. She fell to her knees, Lunamon looking ever more worried with every action that passed. "It doesn't matter anyway," she moaned, sinking her head to press on the floor. "I put everyone's lives at risk, what was I thinking? I was so selfish!" she cried, tears coming to her eyes. "How can I even be their team leader when I almost signed a deal with Daemon?!" she asked, looking up to Lunamon.

"I…I…" Lunamon replied, the words not coming to her mouth at all. She was still shocked at what Ivy had almost done, indeed, what she still would've done were it not for Daemon's last second discovery.

"I give up," she sighed, settling her hands down at her sides. "I just don't care anymore…Mari's better for Ryder anyway. I'm a useless, horrid, pathetic, weak-minded girl who can't even stand up to an obvious evil without falling for his tricks!" she cried, deeply angry at herself as she pressed her head back down into the concrete of the road, part of her dearly hoping the Digital Field would vanish and a car would come along at that very moment to put her out of her misery. Of course, even the fact she dared make such a thought made her fall even further into the pit of her sorrow, something with Daemon perhaps would've savoured if he were not busy leaving her and recalculating his plans as he did so, searching for some way he could still get his wish.

"Ivy…" Lunamon mumbled, stroking her ear against the girls arm.

"If Mari were here, she wouldn't have even talked to that freak. She would've beaten him down with all her might, and she can't even biomerge yet! God, what the hell is wrong with me?" Ivy grumbled, her sadness replaced with self-hatred and anger. "He said the words I wanted to hear…cheap promises…argh..." she complained, clutching a fist at herself. "That's not me! I don't want to be that person, the weakling who sits around and does nothing when everything is wrong."

Ivy climbed to her feet, Lunamon staring up in shock as flames burned ferociously in the girls eyes. She clutched a fist in front of her, gritting her teeth as she glared at the shadow quickly getting away from him.

"And I'm not that person. I've spent so much time searching for Ryder, so much of my mind and heart put into it. I am stronger than that," she said to herself, staring down at her fist before it fell open, self-doubt flooding her mind before she made a realisation. "No…it's not just strength, heart and brains. Ryder knew that: if he wanted someone with only firepower, he'd have given the feather to Douglas, if he wanted someone with brains, he'd have given it to Marvin, and if he wanted someone with heart, he'd have gone to Melissa. He went to me…because he knew that he could trust me to do something. He wants me to find him again, even if he knows he can't be with me, and I want that too!"

Ivy glared back up to the robed shadow, a deep anger filling her eyes as she took a defiant step forward towards the beast. He had dared turn her love for Ryder into something he could take advantage of, he had dared to threaten taking away the happiness of both her friends and those she barely knew simply to get his own way, and he had dared dismiss her afterwards with such ease. She wasn't a tool, and she wasn't going to listen to his crap attempt at brainwashing. Figment of the TV series or no figment, he was going to pay.

"DAEMON!" she hollered, the Demon Lord turning about when he heard the roar of anger. A curious expression filled his features as he looked on at the girl, fist out and her eyes burning with passion. "For everyone you have ever hurt: this is for them! Biomerge Digivolution Activate!"

Lunamon looked up, feeling the rush of energy expand from her Tamer and enshroud her, pulling her inwards as words flashed up on the girl's silver D-Vice.

B-I-O-M-E-R-G-E

D-I-G-I-V-O-L-U-T-I-O-N

Lunamon, Biomerge Digivolve to…

Ivy, her mish-mash of clothes quickly stripped away leaving nothing but bare skin behind, was hit by cackles of data and electricity as she fell back onto her partner, their forms binding together in a flash of light.

The blur of light took on an eerie glow of moonlight, as it expanded upwards, rushing through her champion and ultimate forms of Lekismon and Crescemon before forming a tall, bipedal shape. The moonlight amassed in her booted feet, rushing up her slim blue legs before solidifying into a pair of large moon-shaped and faced objects, rather like leg guards and called the `Goodnight Sisters'. From them white armour rose up her blue form, forming a white metallic skirt over her purple hips and top of legs, before continuing around her breasts and up around her face and then down her arms. When it reached her hands, it formed white gloves which had two small blades, one white, one black, poking out the top of them, as well as a yellow wristband at the gloves' end. From her hands, a large blue and white pole shot out, joining the pair before rushing even further apart and forming a pair of pick-like blades, reflecting silver in her light of evolution as a moon-like emblem pressed into the middle of each pick. From her shoulder blades, a pair of blue pincer-like ornaments arose, before from her mid-back, on either side, three metallic poles flew out and formed wings. Two large sharp blue ears rose straight upwards from her top of her head, and as she span about a pair of very pink ribbons tied around her neck, a nock in their ends. They settled down the sides of her form, before from within, Ivy looked out upon her form, and together she and her partner announced their new name.

Dianamon!

Daemon simply snorted and chuckled at the newly formed Digimon, dismissing her straight away. "One of the Olympus Twelve, I see. Well, given what I have heard of Merukimon in this world, they do not exactly have a good track record for power."

"I don't care what you say any more. I am sick of evil creatures like you taking advantage of people and causing pain," Dianamon said, in Ivy's voice. She then clutched her fist outwards and spoke in both voices, Tamer and Digimon combined as she declared a damming verdict on the beast in front of her. "Daemon, this will be your end!"

"Great words for such a timid creature, my dear. Almost like…a bunny, do you not think rabbit? I'm sure Ryder would find you just as adorable as your friend Melly does," the Demon Lord suggested, chuckling to himself as Dianamon furrowed her brow, glaring through icy blue eyes at the Digimon which had yet to truly realise how much of a threat the angered Olympian posed. "Still, he has Mari beside him to find even more attractive. Unless, of course, I take one of them out of the picture. Would you like that, Bunny?" he teased, pushing every button he knew to wind up his foe even further, something he found immensely amusing and comedic.

"My name is not Bunny!" Ivy cried. "My name is Ivy Louise Winters, and I will never let anyone harm them, not Ryder, not Mari, not their partners, none of them, regardless of whether I love them, hate them, or whatever! I am their Guardian Angel!" she decreed, before returning to her dual voice. "It is time, Daemon, that you face punishment for your crimes!" she called, stabbing her blade into the concrete.

"If you want to die, my dear, then I'd be happy to fulfil your request," Daemon replied, his teasing tone giving way to a deep and dark angered tone as he raised his hands.

"ARROW OF ARTEMIS!" Dianamon cried, a flash of moonlight shooting up the six blades of the wings on her back and forming large ice arrows in the four gaps. They shone as they were launched forward, leaving a streak of moonlight as they hurtled at their foe.

"EVIL INFERNO!" Daemon roared, a great blast of flames ripping forth from his hands and burning the arrows back to nothing. Dianamon gritted her teeth at the sight.

"I knew this wouldn't be easy," Ivy said to her partner from where her bare form floated within a silver sphere, specks of blue, yellow and pink light joining the silver on occasion.

"Keep your guard, he's extremely powerful even if he's not very fast," Lunamon replied.

"Then we'll use our speed against him!" Ivy said, Dianamon grabbing her blade and taking a big leap in the air. Her skeletal wings, breaking the laws of physics, began to flap, allowing her to fly.

Daemon looked up, impressed by neither the Olympian's jumping ability nor her capacity for flight. However high she jumped, he could simply make himself physically larger, and however high she flew, he could simply fly after and follow. He stood, awaiting her next move without a sliver of a worry.

Dianamon stretched her legs out, the `Goodnight Sisters' glowing with moonlight as power stored up in them. "CRESCENT HARKEN!" she cried, large crescents launching from each of them and hurtling towards Daemon. He simply stood, his arms crossed across his chest, and took the attack. Dust whipped up into the air, and Dianamon stared on from where she floated, doubting that a single attack could've won so easily.

She, of course, was right, but she didn't realise exactly how right.

Bursting through the smoke, robes now disintegrated and form now far more beast-like and horrifying Daemon swooped towards the female warrior. She cried out in pain and fear as a huge pale purple hand with large red finger nails grabbed her and threw her straight down to the ground, before laughing.

"That's better. Dispensed with the pleasantries and subtleties of robes and talking," he growled, moth-bitten wings spread wide. Without his robes, the full terror of his demonic form became visible. Goat-like horns extended from a purple face with sharp snarling teeth, an unnerving grin spread across it. Black ape-like hair ran over his head and down his back, whilst dark red fur graced his body, broken at the breast by a patch of purple skin with orange markings. About his midsection and twice along each arm, belts of bones were wrapped, a buckle in the middle of the one about his midsection with Daemon's symbol of Pride on it. About his left leg, a black electronic ring was the only sign of any modernity to him, and altogether his form looked like a beast of ancient fable, a yellow pentagram on his shoulder. "This is my most beastly of modes: this is my Creepy Mode."

"Creepy Mode?" Lunamon asked, before letting Ivy continue.

"Makes you almost sound cute and kid-like," she teased in an attempt to unnerve the beast floating above them, even though both her and Lunamon were still groaning in pain from where they were embedded in the concrete.

"Hmph…" Daemon huffed, putting his beastly hands out in front of him as orange-yellow energy shot out from either, amassing in a ball of superhot flame in front of him. "CHAOS FLARE!" she roared, the flame shooting forward like an arrow straight towards the ground where Dianamon lay.

Wanting to scream in agony as she tried to move, Dianamon pushed herself to her knees. She quickly swung her pick, the momentum launching her across the road and barely out of the range of the attack as it hit the concrete with an almighty crash; one that the Olympian doubted even the Digital Field could keep in.

"Christ that was loud," Ivy cried, Dianamon rolling over and looking up towards her foe who floated above, his grin unbroken as ever he floated with his arms crossed. "Don't you think you'll get too much attention by making a noise like that?" she called up to Daemon, noting how the Digital Field was already starting to fade about them. "My friends will find us," she added, a defiant smile on her face despite the pain in her limbs.

Daemon's smile faltered, before he continued unabated. "Pah…measly children, I could defeat them with ease."

Ivy's expression within her sphere quickly changed to shock, replaying that reaction through in her mind. "Lunamon, did you see that?"

"It's something I thought I'd never see but…he looked…scared."

"But why? He's one of the most powerful Digimon around…he could destroy us all like…unless…" Ivy said, her eyes widening even further and a grin materialising on both her and Dianamon's faces as she spoke her thoughts out loud to the beast. "You're still damaged from the Cataclysm."

Daemon's expression faltered once again, his crossed arms falling further apart. "What?"

Dianamon smirked, standing fully upright as she grasped her weapon into both hands once again. "Attacked by all the Tamers fighting together, devastated by the power of Chaos and Harmony and thrown across the universe to a place so far away that you can't even use the power of your precious Dark Ocean to heal yourself. Daemon, you're weak!"

The Demon Lord's expression fell into one of anger, as his horrid hands tightened into fists and a guttural growl escaped his lips. "HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST SUCH A THING?!" he roared, before swooping down towards their foe with claws outstretched. "EVIL FLAPPING!" he roared, swiping his claws above.

Dianamon stepped aside, slamming her pick into the Demon Lord's back and sending him scraping through the concrete in a trench. As she stood over him, she spoke in Lunamon's voice. "Daemon, you trade on fear of your power and without that you are pathetic."

Daemon had given up on words, simply growling as he rolled over, slashing his claws at his foe with hellish amounts of anger. Dianamon tried to dodge, but screamed out in pain as she felt a slash across her waist. She fell to her knees as the beast got to his feet, towering over her as she cradled her wound and stared up in horror.

"Even with but a fraction of my power you are not a match for me," he roared, once again sending his claws at the Olympian. She winced as she pushed her head down where she crouched and made herself unstable enough to roll forward, the nails barely missing the top of her head. Taking her chance, she flipped over and threw a knee up into his groin from where she now lay between his legs, but Daemon simply laughed and kicked her sharply aside before staring down on her with disdain. "Pah, Digimon have no gender. There is nothing down there to hit, unlike on the male version of you pathetic humans."

"Ivy, he left that world before the patch!" Lunamon explained. Ivy cursed herself for forgetting as Dianamon got to her legs again, and sorely hated the pain that continued to wrack through her.

"You know, most blokes would find having nothing there to be a hit to her pride."

"But all blokes, as you so strangely put it, are pathetic, so pride is hardly a thing for them to have. Of all Digimon I know that, and as I am a Digimon, and I will not be compared to you pathetic humans. Still, I doubt that even a female like you would incur no damage from a strong enough attack in that region, am I not right?"

"Bite me."

"Is that an instruction or a curse?"

"Go to hell," she called, reaching for her weapon once again.

"My dear, you are turning into such a violent girl. No matter, I shall resort to my usual EVIL INFERNO!" he roared with a hearty laugh. Dianamon crossed the last inch to her weapon, leapt up into the air with it and swooped away from the long burst of flame which scorched the ground where she had once stood.

Daemon, inwardly mocking his foe for taking flight and forgetting he could do likewise, followed her, throwing his claws at her. She swung about her pick, countering them but being pulled aside due to her loss of strength and the momentum of the heavy blades. Daemon chuckled, slamming the side of his arm into her. Not wanting to keep taking more pain, she swooped backwards, her wings once again glowing as she tried to strike him closely and quickly. "ARROW OF ARTEMIS!"

"EVIL INFERNO!" he roared once again, raising his hands and scorching away the arrows. She decided quickly to take a different tactic, raising the pole of her weapon across her as her shoulder `pincers' glowed with moonlight inside their arcs.

"CRESCENT HOOK!" she cried, the immediate area around her quickly flooded by bright moonlight expanding from her shoulder `pincers'. Daemon quickly shielded his eyes against the light as they tried to cope with the change in conditions, before he looked out again, seeing a shadow in amongst the light.

Flapping his wings, he advanced forth, nails prepared as he advanced towards his foe. The shadow became more and more shaped like Dianamon as he grew in closer. "EVIL FLAPPING!" he roared, sending his claws towards the shadow.

His eyes widened in shock as they simply went straight through the illusion. He grasped the air periodically before screaming in pain as a spinning pair of picks rapidly slashed through his wings and made them far more mothbitten. As he went to turn over, Dianamon slammed a foot into his back, both stabbing him with the end of her `Goodnight Sister' and sending him hurtling down to the ground below, his wings now far less effective.

With a loud crash, he hit the concrete, the female warrior feeling an odd sense of role reversal. She didn't let herself pause, instead putting everything into her attacks as arrows appeared between her `wings' and her crescents glowed once again.

"ARROW OF ARTEMIS!" Ivy cried.

"CRESCENT HARKEN!" Lunamon said simultaneously, ice arrows with moonlight trails and crescents of light launched from her at her foe. Daemon stood up, but was too late to do anything more than raise an arm as he saw the blasts careening towards him. With a roar of energy, both attacks hit their target.

Dianamon frowned as she heard Daemon's roar of pain and agony, knowing that even that wouldn't have been enough to defeat him. Sure enough, she was proven right, but at the same time, it was also clear he couldn't just feign that no damage had been caused. The bone belts about his arms and mid-section broke apart, the pride-emblem belt buckle clattering to the ground. Daemon bent down, picking it up before roaring in anger. "THAT'S IT!" he shrieked, raising his hands as a humongous ball of energy formed. "CHAOS FLARE!" he called, feeding more and more energy into it and growing it to an enormous size which Dianamon knew she wouldn't be able to escape from.

Ivy, within her sphere, looked horrified as she clutched her hands across her chest in horror, pulled her legs up slightly, and braced herself for the sheer pain which was to come. "Lunamon, what do we do?!" she cried.

"I…I don't know…"

"Crap, we're going to die and I never got to see Ryder again. I never got to even talk properly to Mari, and neither of them will ever know what really happened to me. I'll never get to lead my team, I'll never get to fall in love with someone else and move on with my life like Ryder wanted. I'll never even be able to do all those things I always wanted to do. Work, sex, friends, life…even things like swimming with dolphins or going to Australia…"

Ivy suddenly broke from her horror, her hands falling loose from her breast and her legs straightening out, as her eyes widened and she froze up. Thanks to that one word, that one simple name of a faraway country, an idea flew into her mind. She moved quickly, her moves mirroring those of Dianamon as she gripped the end of her weapon. She paused, staring on into the heat and sheer energy of the Chaos Flare that was being prepared, continually being fed more power by Daemon as he prepared to get revenge on a being who dared to strip his pride from him.

"I bloody hope this works," Ivy said, wishing for all the luck in the world as Dianamon launched the weapon. She promptly retreated as fast as she could, swooping towards the edge of the Digital Field and knowing that she still wouldn't be able to escape the oncoming explosion.

As sure as she had hoped, the weapon spun off-balance, arcing around the side of the energy ball and continuing on towards Daemon like a boomerang. The beast looked up, hearing the swish of metal through the air, but being far too late to block as it hit him from the side, stabbing him hard in his Pentagram and knocking him to the floor.

The energy feed stopped.

And all hell broke loose.


Dianamon closed her eyes tightly, both she and Ivy clutching themselves tightly and bracing themselves for the destruction which was to come within the Digital Field. Her eyes still looked through mist, and as she heard a distant roar of pain, she realised time was up.

The energy ball, having lost its creator who now lay on the ground, writhing in agony and having lost all his pride, could do nothing but explode as intended. The blast grew, filling the Digital Field and vaporising not only its master, but also its master's data as well. It continued rapidly, shrieking towards Dianamon and expanding outwards as she forced herself to fly onwards, knowing that putting her hands over her ears to shield from the roaring cacophony of sound would only bring more pain in the end.

Finally, she could resist it no more, throwing her hands to her ears, clutching her eyes closed and awaiting the end.

"Sorry…Ryder…"

The next few seconds for Ivy were a daze, the loudness of the roar and the sheer power of it all overwhelming her system and giving her pain beyond anything she had ever experienced. When she next became aware of anything, she found herself in the cold air, lying on her back on something very hard and rough. The soft skin on the back of her hands touched it; making it clear to her she was no longer in her ultimate form. She strained her eyes open, looking up to the starry sky, the moon glinting away above her with stars about it in a rare gap in the clouds, one that outside of her present daze she would probably have accounted for as being because of her mega form. She pushed her arms down into the concrete, sitting up in her ruffled pyjamas, jacket, mismatched socks and trainers to stare at the Digital Field, or, at least, what was left of it as a large fireball collapsed in on itself and took the misty object with it. Finally, the Wimbledon street was left free of the unnatural, other than a number of potholes and trenches in the street, not entirely unknown for streets in the city but rather larger than those which could simply be blamed on Boris Johnson as normally would be done.

Ivy breathed deeply, savouring the air of survival as she tried to feel which parts of her body were hurting, both by simply moving them and also by placing her hands on them. Her left side, her right leg, her chest, both feet, and a general feeling of pain over her. Lifting her top slightly to check her side, and cursing the cold which quickly swarmed underneath, she noted the absence of any visible wounds, something to be thankful for. Recalling that being biomerged usually left no physical wounds quickly reminded her of her partner, she looked about frantically, breathing as sigh of relief to see the bunny sitting nearby and checking herself over in a similar way. Ivy stood up, wincing in pain slightly as she realised she had done so too quickly, before wandering over to her partner.

"Are you okay?"

"As okay as I could be after all that," Lunamon said with a frown as her Tamer picked her up in her arms. "Are you okay?"

Ivy looked out into the battle zone, a few people coming out into the street from their houses in their dressing gowns to see what the commotion they had heard was, and evidently not having heard the previous sounds of battle. Daemon had constructed a strong Digital Field for himself, that much was clear.

The girl breathed deeply, simply wanting to cry as she recalled what the beast had tried to do. He had used her emotions, her love for Ryder, how much she missed him, to exploit her, to use her in order to get himself back to his world where he could once again rise and terrorise all. She had almost put the whole universe at threat, and she couldn't help but hate herself sorely for that.

The worst thing was, she couldn't even be sure if anything he had said was true. At the time, she had treated it like Gospel, a fantastic revelation of the truth to her, rather fitting given the day that had only just left them, but now…now it was in as much doubt as what had happened her would be for the local residents driving across the trenches in the road the next day. Could she believe anything he had said?

Ivy stood there, in the street, her arms clutching to her chest and her mind fraught with horror and worry, and simply shivered as tears dripped down her face. Lunamon gently tried to whisper to her to stop crying, but it was to no avail as the girl sank back to her knees, every drop of pain wracking through her form being yet another reminder of what had happened.

She was never going to get answers.

She was never going to get resolution.

She had been taken simply for a fool, and she knew that was simply because she was one.

Finally, perhaps thanks to Lunamon's whisperings, perhaps simply because of the shivers of cold running up her spine, she got her feet and beginning the long and painful trudge home. The worst thing was, she knew that she couldn't tell anyone, not because they wouldn't believe her but simply because she couldn't tell her greatest secret.

A tear hit the ground as she staggered along, Lunamon still in her arms, and contemplated the horror that the last twenty four hours had brought.

"Some Christmas this was…"

THE END


A/N: I am very sorry for how late I managed to finish this but that was both due to it being exceedingly long and the holiday season being very busy for me. The epilogue to Book Six will be along in a week or two, owing both to how busy I'm going to be with college and the unavailability of my beta reader.

Regardless, I'm sure this story proved enjoyable to read in the end, particularly with the rather unexpected ending. For me, it was a fantastic thing to write, if a bit long and hard work. I always intended to simply provide glimpses of the Christmas rather than a long detailed thing, and I think I've done rather well, concentrating detail on areas which progressed the plot rather than giving unnecessary scenes which, whilst naturally seeming to `fit' in the plot, actually would've given no real extra detail while adding a huge amount more workload for me in terms of character description and location elaboration which would've simply pushed back the release even further. What was also good was being able to fully concentrate on getting some more character development for Ryder and Mari and an enormous amount more for Ivy and her fellow Tamers, and to be able to show the contrast between the Christmases without feeling I was taking time out of the regular story flow to devote it entirely to my OCs.

By the way, on DeviantART, you might want to do a search for 'Mari Flynn', since a fantastic artist called BlueIke has done a ton of good artwork for Dimensions, and currently it appears as the first result on that search. I've also done a piece of my own which is the second result. If you go to my user page, select 'Faves' and choose the 'Dimensions Art' selection on the left, you'll see the others, both sketches and actual drawings, and both of Dimensions on its own and with other fanfics and comics he has done art for. There are fantastic images for Ryder, Mari, Rey and Ivy (the last one at the time of writing only in sketch form, yet still looking amazingly good), and they are well worth a look. There are some slight inaccuracies in design, which I've noted in my comments for each image, but the images overall are fantastic.

Oh, and for anyone basing speculation off of this story, remember that I move in very strange ways, and something which may seem to be a revelation may simply be a huge pulling of the leg. After all, I did make a scene featuring Ryder and Ivy as boyfriend and girlfriend only to denounce it soon after. Who knows though, this might also all be perfectly true without any attempts at confusion. Or it could be a mix of the two, so just, and, a lot of your will curse me for saying this, but…

Wait and see.

Until next time…

B.C.