There was no denying that Christmas was an event. There was no getting away from it - the storefronts downtown had been sporting lights and tinsel before October was over, and every other commercial on television seemed to be touting their products as the perfect gift or stocking- stuffer. Children in shopping malls were beginning to point out to their parents what they wanted and being extra-good at home, in hopes of earning that one special present. As the big day crept closer, the radios began to change their tune, singing of goodwill and love for all. That was supposed to be what it was all about, but for Lee Jenrya, Christmas had never been such a big event, nor had the message behind it hit home quite so hard.
It had started innocently enough. Jenrya had come home from a shopping trip, his arms loaded down with bags of goodies and his partner Terriermon perched on his shoulder. He'd spent a large portion of his shopping money on this expedition, but he felt it had been worth it. He had gifts for all of his friends, now, and for most of his family as well. As his parents looked up to note his entrance, he quickly hid the bags behind his back.
"No peeking!" he cautioned. "I've got your gifts in here, y'know."
"All the more reason to peek, then," answered his father with a good-natured smile. "So, got everything picked out?"
"Almost," Jenrya replied. "I got gifts for you guys, and for all my best friends... I think the only really important person I'm missing now is Shuichon's."
"I wouldn't think that would be so hard," his mother replied. "It's so easy to make her happy. Any doll in the store would thrill her."
"I know," said Jenrya. "That's just the problem. She can get a doll any day of the week, but we only get one Christmas a year. I don't want to just grab her any old thing. I want to get her something special. I wandered around in that toy store almost an hour trying to find just the right gift, but nothing looked right."
"Well, I'm sure you'll come up with something," his father replied. "You'd better hurry, though. You haven't got much longer to decide."
"I know," the boy sighed. He shifted his grip on his bags - he'd been carrying them all afternoon, and they were starting to make his fingers go numb. Terriermon, concentrating on keeping up his stuffed animal act, had let his grip slip, and the unexpected movement sent him tumbling to the floor. He had no choice but to allow himself to fall face-first into the carpet. Mrs. Lee bent over to retrieve him.
"Are you still carrying this thing around?" she asked. "I would have thought you were getting a little old for stuffed animals, Jenrya."
The boy shrugged and tried to look casual. "I like Terriermon. He's not your everyday stuffed animal. Think of him as... sort of a collector's item."
"You mean that little furry thing is valuable?" asked Mr. Lee.
"Sure, dad. He's one of a kind - priceless," Jenrya answered.
"It certainly is good workmanship," Mrs. Lee remarked, studying one of Terriermon's ears. "I can't even see the stitches. He almost looks real."
"He sure does," her son agreed. "Um, can I have him back now?"
"Oh, all right," she answered. She propped the little dog back on Jenrya's shoulder and looked at both of them critically. "I still think you're old enough that you shouldn't have to carry him around everywhere."
"Maybe," was Jenrya's ambiguous reply. "Anyway, I'm going to go put my bags away, okay? And nobody goes into my room until after Christmas! These presents are going to stay secret this year!"
"Presents?" said one of his oldest sister, breezing into the room. "Who has presents? Did you bring me something?"
"Wait and find out!" he answered, and scooted off to his room... only to find himself faced by his youngest sibling.
"You're home!" she squealed, throwing her arms around his legs. "Did you get my present? Did you?"
Jenrya laughed. "Not yet. Real soon, though. Is there anything special you want?"
The little girl thought a while, then shook her head.
"Anything you get me is good," she said. "I've already got the bestest toy in the whole wide world! Don't I, Terriermon?"
She jumped up and latched on to one of his ears, slinging him to the floor again. She hugged him, holding him upside down, and Jenrya got a glimpse of the 'mon's pained expression. He had to fight to hide a grin.
"Yeah, Terriermon's the best," he agreed.
"Can I play with him?" Shuichon asked. "Pweeeeeze?"
Jenrya evaluated his partner's face; Terriermon was wearing a resigned look.
"All right," he said. "Just not too long, okay? It'll be time for dinner in a few minutes. Besides," he added, with a conspirational grin, "he's got to help me wrap the Christmas presents."
"Okay!" Shuichon agreed, giggling. "C'mon, Terriermon! We're gonna make you alllll pretty!"
She scampered off, still carrying the hapless Digimon upside-down, occasionally treading on his ears. He went to deposit his bags and parcels in his room, carefully hiding them away in his closet and under his bed, in a vain hope that his various siblings wouldn't get into them in the next three days. It wasn't likely, but he continued to hope. Once he had everything stored away, he made his way back to the main room of the house. On his way there, he passed his little sister's room and peeked inside. As he'd suspected, Shuichon had all her doll clothes spread out on the floor, and she was busily dressing Terriermon in festive red and green. He tried to suppress a smile and failed. Poor little Terriermon! Even from the living room, the family could hear her chattering happily as she picked out his clothes.
"Sounds like someone's having fun," Mr. Lee remarked.
"Oh, I loaned her Terriermon for the evening," answered Jenrya, plopping onto the sofa and searching for the remote control. "Great, I want to watch TV and the sofa's eaten the remote again."
"She certainly does love that little stuffed animal," Mrs. Lee said. "She plays with him more than she does any of her other toys."
"What can I say? I have good taste in toys," answered Jenrya flippantly.
"She plays with him more than you do," his mother continued. "All you really do is carry him around. She's the one who really enjoys him."
"Hey, I like Terriermon," Jenrya answered defensively. "Just because I don't dress him up in stupid doll clothes doesn't mean I can't have fun with him."
"I know," she answered, "but what I'm trying to say is, you really are too old for toys like that, and Shuichon loves him so much, and you do need a Christmas present for her..."
"Wait a minute," answered Jenrya. "Are you trying to tell me I ought to give Terriermon to her?"
"Why not?" his mother asked. "It wouldn't be as if you'd be losing him. He'd still be right here in the house, and I'm sure she wouldn't mind you borrowing him."
Jenrya glared at the floor. "It wouldn't be the same. Besides, I told you, Terriermon is special. I can't just give him away."
"Oh, honestly," said Mrs. Lee. "You're acting like this thing is - is - alive or something. It's only a toy. Honestly, I can't believe you'd be so selfish."
"I can't believe you're telling me what I should and shouldn't give my own little sister for Christmas," answered Jenrya.
"I don't like this attitude of yours," she answered. "Give me one good reason why you can't take my suggestion."
"Well, because... I told you, he's a collector's item. You can't give a collector's item to such a little kid! She'll get him all messed up."
"I don't think so. She never does anything but play dress-up with him... and if he does get dirty, we'll just throw him in the wash."
Jenrya got a sudden flash of what would happen if Terriermon was sent through the spin cycle and winced. Naturally, his mother misunderstood the expression.
"You're being very childish," she said. "I think it would be good for you to give up that toy of yours. It's not good for you to be so attached to a stuffed animal. I speak as your mother."
Jenrya sighed; it looked like he wasn't going to get out of this one. "Oh, all right, if it'll make you happy. Shuichon can have Terriermon."
He spoke the words without meaning them. He knew he could never give his partner away; they were meant to be together, but there was no way he could explain that to his mother without revealing that the fuzzy little animal they were discussing was far more special than his mother realized. He would come up with some other Christmas present and deal with his mother's annoyance later, when the day was over and there was nothing left she could do about it. That was his intention, but it only took a very small thing to throw intentions off track... and right now, one particular small thing was standing in the hallway, listening to the conversation with her eyes growing wider and wider. Laughing breathlessly, Shuichon scampered off to her room again.
"Whee!" she squealed, scooping Terriermon out of the pile of doll clothes she'd tossed him into and hugging him tightly. "Guess what, Terriermon? Guess what, guess what, guess what? Jenrya's gonna give you to me! You're gonna be my Christmas present! Isn't that great?"
*What?* thought Terriermon wildly. *No way! It can't be! He wouldn't!*
"I heard him talking to Mama," Shuichon continued happily. "She was telling him you ought to be my present, and he said yes! Oh, I'm so happy! This is gonna be the bestest Christmas ever!"
Terriermon bit back a moan, reminding himself fiercely that he had to be a stuffed animal as long as someone was looking. It looked like that was one great idea that had just crashed and burned! Was he going to be expected to be stuffed into a box and wrapped in ribbons now? He would go through a lot for Jen's sake, but not that. His partner wouldn't do that to him, would he? No, of course not. Shuichon was imagining things, that was all...
"Aw, poor Terriermon," said Shuichon, holding him up to look into his black-button eyes. "You look tired. Do you wanna go home now?"
Terriermon tried to find a way to look soulful without changing his expression.
"I think you are," she said, studying him seriously. "Okay! We'll go find Jen and show him how cute you are."
Terriermon allowed himself to hang limply in Shuichon's grasp as she lugged him back to Jen's room. They found him busy playing with his computer, but he stopped his game when they arrived.
"Looky!" Shuichon said, holding up Terriermon for her brother's approval. "Isn't he pretty?"
"Just great," Jen replied, surveying the assembly of ribbons and bows that festooned his partner. It looked as if there were more ribbons there than there was Digimon. His eyes peeked soulfully out from beneath the frills.
"I'm so glad you like him!" Shuichon squealed. She hugged Terriermon one last time before handing him back to his partner. "Hey, guess what, guess what!"
"What?" he asked.
"I heard you talking to mom."
"Oh," he replied. "Is that important?"
"Uh-huh!" she said. She dropped her voice to a whisper. "I heard you telling her what my Christmas present's gonna be!"
"Oh," he repeated. "Well, um..."
"You're gonna give me Terriermon!" she squealed, excitement overwhelming her sense of secrecy.
"Yeah, I guess that's what I said," Jenrya replied, looking decidedly uncomfortable, "but, well..."
"It's okay, I'll pretend to be surprised," she answered happily. She hugged him. "Thanks, Jenrya! You're the bestest brother in the world!"
She bounced out of the room laughing, leaving behind a befuddled Jenrya and a very annoyed Terriermon.
"Well, that's the end of that problem, for now," said Jen. "Here, let's see if we can get some of these bows untied."
"I'll do it myself, thanks," said Terriermon, jumping out of his partner's lap.
"What's your problem?" Jen asked.
"What's my problem?" Terriermon repeated. "You sold out on me, that's my problem!"
"What, you mean that Christmas present thing?" asked Jen.
"Score one for the genius," Terriermon snapped, ripping off the frilly bonnet he was wearing and throwing it at the floor.
"Come on, Terriermon, don't be like that," Jen pleaded. "You know I didn't mean it!"
"If you didn't mean it, then why did you say it?" asked Terriermon.
"Because - because I didn't have any other choice," Jenrya replied.
"No choice, huh?" Terriemon retorted. "You ever hear of saying no?"
"How could I say no? Mom wouldn't leave me alone until I agreed. There wasn't any way out of it."
"You could have said no to your sister," said Terriermon stubbornly, struggling with a slipper that seemed to be tied firmly to his paw.
"Yeah, I guess," said Jen, leaning tiredly into his chair. "All right, all right. I'll tell Shuichon I made a mistake or something. We'll work it out. I have to, after all - there's no way I could really give you away, not even to her."
"You mean it?" asked Terriermon, looking at Jen speculatively.
"Of course I mean it!" Jen replied. "You're my best friend! You don't just go giving your friends away."
Terriermon thought about that one a while, and finally decided his friend deserved forgiveness.
"I thought so," he said. "I was just making sure... So, are you gonna help me here or what? A guy'd have to be Harry Houdini to get out of this getup."
Jen laughed. "Okay, okay. Come here, and I'll see what I can do."
Terriermon hopped across the floor as best he could, hindered as he was by the lacy dress he was wearing. Jen knelt on the floor and began trying to undo all the ties, snaps, and buttons, marveling at his sister's dexterity and wondering if perhaps he should think about getting her a model-building kit instead of a doll. He had a notion anything she built would never come apart.
As if reading his partner's thoughts, Terriermon asked, "So, what are you going to get her for Christmas?"
"I don't know yet," he answered honestly. "It's going to have to be something extra-good, to make up for losing you."
Terriermon drew himself up proudly. "Well, I am one-of-a-kind. You are gonna hafta do something special, now."
"I know," Jen sighed. "Man, how do I get myself into these messes?"
"Natural talent, I guess," answered Terriermon. "Don't worry, Jen. You'll figure something out. I'll be helping you, after all."
"Thanks," answered Jen gratefully. "Now, hold still! This is tricky."
He set about wrestling loose a particularly stubborn knot, already starting to feel better. He and Terriermon would figure something out. Terriermon was clever, after all - it was one of the reasons Jen had chosen him as a partner in the first place - and Jen himself was not without a a few brain cells. Between the two of them, they were bound to think of something, and whatever it was, it would be perfect. Jen just wished he had an idea right now what it would be.
"How about that one?"
"Nah, too plain."
"Then what about that one?"
"Too small. We wanted something special, remember?"
"Okay, okay. What about that one? It's fancy enough."
Jen shook his head. "Too expensive. I already spent most of my money on the rest of the family. I don't have a whole lot left."
"So how do you think you're going to get something special if you can't afford anything?" whispered Terriermon, irritated.
The two of them were back in the toy store, looking over the rows of dolls and stuffed animals, trying once again to find something suitable for Shuichon's gift. It had been hard enough when they were just trying to find an ordinary Christmas present, but now that the stakes were raised, it looked downright impossible.
"Well, excuse me for not being made out of money," Jen muttered. "I wasn't planning on getting into this mess, you know."
"Moumantai!" Terriermon chirped. "Just take it easy. It's just one Christmas, after all. Couple of years from now, she won't even remember what you got her, anyway."
"I guess," said Jen, without conviction. "But I'll remember - especially if she spends all of Christmas crying because I let her down."
Terriermon winced; with his ears, hearing Shuichon crying was more annoying to him than to anyone else.
"Well, when you put it that way..." he said.
Jen shrugged a bit and looked around, surveying the rows of doll boxes with a critical eye, hoping that he would see something he had missed before. He felt rather out of place, standing amidst the all-pervasive pink of the girl's toys section. He found it a bit embarrassing, standing there staring at dolls for such long periods of time, imagining what the other people in the shop were thinking about him. In his mind, he knew that nobody was thinking anything of him because they were all too busy looking for gifts for their own sisters or brothers or children or friends, and even if they were noticing him, it didn't matter. Even so, he found his eyes straying to other, less frilly parts of the store. His gaze fell on a bin in the very back, full of fluffy stuffed animals, and a lightbulb went on in the back of his head.
"I think I've got it," he said.
"Think you've got what? The money to pay for this stuff?" asked Terriermon.
"No, silly! I've got an idea."
"Can it. You told me you were going to be helpful."
"Right. Sorry. So, what's your idea?"
"Well," said Jen, moving with relief toward the bin of animals, "I was just thinking, we're doing this wrong. You're not a doll, so we can't replace you with a doll. You're not even a Digimon, to her. Shuichon thinks you're a stuffed animal, so the best thing to replace you with is another stuffed animal."
"That makes sense," said Terriermon, looking at his friend with a glint of respect in his bright black eyes. "Okay. Which one, then?"
"I don't know. Let's have a look."
Together, the two of them went picking through the bin, looking at the selections it had to offer. There wasn't a lot left, not with only two days until Christmas, but what was left was good enough. They eventually picked out a largish pink dog with long floppy ears and shoe-button eyes that gave it a passing resemblance to Terriermon. It yapped when you squeezed it - an advantage, Jen decided. After all, it was part of Terriermon's imaginary job description to protect his young sister from all the make-believe frights of childhood. If this replacement could bark to scare off intruders, so much the better. With a feeling of confidence, Jen handed over the last of his pocket money and carried home the pink dog, carefully wrapped in several plastic bags and partially hidden under one of Terriermon's large ears.
Peering through the front door of his apartment, Jen was pleased to see that the rest of the family had taken themselves elsewhere; his mother was in the kitchen with her back towards the door, his father was still at work, and the rest of his siblings seemed to either be hiding in their rooms or out taking care of their own shopping. Grinning with victory, he scampered for his room and shut his door. He was in such a hurry that he shut it a little too hard, and the sound caught a pair of listening ears. Just as he was shoving the pink dog into the last hidden cranny of his closet, there was a knock on the door. He quickly closed the closet door, shutting Terriermon inside.
"Come in!" he called.
The door swung open, and Shuichon danced in.
"You're back!" she squealed, hugging her brother around the knees. "Where did you go?"
"Just out," he said. "I was doing a little last-minute shopping, that's all."
"Really? What did you buy? Can you tell me?" she asked eagerly, bouncing in place with excitement.
Jen smiled a little. "Sorry, can't tell you. It's your present, and it would spoil the surprise."
"For me?" asked Shuichon, looking puzzled. "But you've already got my present, right? You said you were giving me Terriermon. I don't need anything else."
Jen got down on one knee so he could look his sister in the eye, setting his hands on her shoulders. Sensing his mood, Shuichon became still and quiet, watching him with concern in her eyes.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"No, nothing's wrong," he answered. "I've just got something I want to tell you, and I want you to understand, so listen close, okay?"
Shuichon nodded. "Okay."
Jen took a deep breath. "All right. Shuichon, I've been thinking really hard about this, and I've decided there's just no way around it. I can't give you Terriermon."
"What?" she cried. "But you promised!"
"Because Mom made me. I didn't get any choice but to say I'd do it, but I can't. There are some things that are... more than things. Things that are so special that you can't give them up, not ever. Terriermon's like that to me. Giving him up... well, it would be kind of like trying to give you away. He's just not the kind of thing I can give."
"But you already said you'd give him to me!"
"I know, and I'm sorry. I did the wrong thing. I'm trying to fix that now. I've already gotten you something else, something just as good."
Shuichon shook her head angrily. "No! Nothing else is as good! You promised me Terriermon! You made a promise, and now you're breaking it!"
"Look, I'm sorry-"
"Sorry's not good enough!" Shuichon yelled. Tears were streaming down her face. "You lied to me! You're just trying to keep him all to yourself!"
"It's not like that!"
"Yes it is! You don't love me," she accused.
Jen felt like he'd been punched in the stomach. "Shuichon, you know that's not true..."
"It is true! If you loved me, you wouldn't lie to me! You'd keep your promises!"
"You don't care about me. You're so selfish! You don't love me at all!" Sobbing wildly, Shuichon ran out of the room, leaving Jen standing and staring. While he was still gawping, the closet door opened itself, and Terriermon hopped out, shaking the wrinkles from his ears.
"Well, I'm glad that's over," he said.
"You're glad that's over," Jen repeated. "How can you be so blase after seeing that? I just broke my little sister's heart, and you're standing there like nothing happened."
"What am I supposed to do, cry?" answered Terriermon. "She was being a brat! If I were Santa Claus, I wouldn't give her anything for Christmas, much less me."
"She's only seven years old! She doesn't know any better!"
"Well, it's about time she learned!"
"I can't believe you," said Jen. "I know you didn't want to be given to Shuichon as a Christmas present, but you're acting like you don't even care about her at all!"
"Yes!" Jen snapped. "And if you were a real friend, you would."
"Don't go 'huh' at me. Shuichon's my sister. I love her. I'm not going to put up with anyone being mean to her. That includes you - and me, too." He slumped into his chair. "I shouldn't have said any of that."
"I accept your apology," said Terriermon.
"I wasn't talking about that," Jen replied. "I meant what I said to Shuichon. She's right. I shouldn't go breaking my promises to her, even if it was a promise I hadn't meant to make."
"What?" Terriermon yelped. "I've gotta have something in my ears. Are you saying you really think we ought to go through with this crazy thing? You're really thinking of giving me away?"
"Not completely," said Jen. "Mom was right. It really won't be much different than the way things have always been. This will be - just a formality, that's all."
"Call it what you want, you're still giving me away," said Terriermon.
"If that's what you want to call it, then fine. I'm not even going to fight about it any more," Jenrya snapped. "This is just the way things have to be. Come on. I'm going to apologize to Shuichon."
"I'm not going any- hey! What are you doing?"
Jen had grabbed his partner around the middle and was now resolutely carrying him out into the hallway. Terriermon struggled for a while before finally realizing he wasn't going anywhere, and he slumped into a limp, dejected bundle. Jen ignored him, marching in stony silence up to the door to Shuichon's room. She was sitting in the middle of the floor, trying to put a dress on one of her dolls and sniffling to herself.
"Shuichon?" he called.
"I'm sorry. I wanted to apologize," he said. "I shouldn't have tried to break my promise. I said I was going to give you Terriermon, so I will."
"Really?" she asked, looking up with interest in her eyes.
"Really. Come Christmas morning, he's all yours," answered Jen. "Just... let me borrow him when I need him, okay?"
"Okay!" Shuichon squealed. "Can I play with him now? Please?"
"Sure," said Jen magnanimously.
"Thanks, Jen! I knew you wouldn't really lie to me!" She ran to grab Terriermon from her brother's arms, not seeing the bitter look that the dog-creature flashed at Jen. Jen ignored the look. He was feeling irritated with the 'mon's behavior and felt he deserved some kind of punishment.
"Have fun," he called. "I'm going to play some video games. See you later. Bye!"
He walked back to his room to suit action to words, trying to lose his worries within the complexity of his computer programs. Deep down inside, he felt guilty for what he'd just done - but he knew he'd feel equally guilty if he hadn't done it. Things were better this way. Terriermon would realize, eventually, that this really wasn't so bad. Terriermon would get over it...
Jen banged his fist on the desk, watching without interest as his video-game proxy fell to its doom.
"Who am I trying to kid?" he muttered. "I just gave away my best friend."
The day before Christmas should have been a happy day. There should have been singing and cookie-baking and story telling - and there was, but Jen took no part in it. He lurked in his room, wrapping packages in miserable silence while Terriermon watched him with a baleful glare, silently daring him to even bring a ribbon close to him. Jenrya made a few attempts to talk to him, to try to make him see that there was no getting out of the situation, but he was met with nothing but cold anger. He finally gave it up and spent the rest of the day in silence, avoiding Terriermon's eyes as best he could in the small space of his room. He couldn't go out, not without his family seeing the grief on his face and asking about it. The season of sharing it may have been, but he had to suffer his pain in privacy. It was a very long day.
Christmas dinner, at least, was an animated affair. There was no getting around a lot of noise and commotion with such a large family, complete with several children and a laughing father scrambling for the cakes, and no one noticed that the normally quiet Jenrya was being even quieter than usual. Afterwards, he lingered, helping his mother clear the table and wash the dishes.
"Trying to score some last-minute points with Santa?" asked Mr. Lee, grinning.
"Yeah, sure," Jen agreed. It sounded better than saying he was trying to avoid going back to his room, and to Terriermon.
"I wanna help clean, too," said Shuichon. She stood on a chair to reach across the table, to where a plate still held a few small cakes.
"You've cleaned your plate well enough," her mother said, whisking the plate away. "The last thing you need is a stomachache on Christmas Eve."
"I guess," she said.
"This is going to take a while," said Mrs. Lee, looking over the array of dishes. "Why don't you go play a while?"
"Okay!" said Shuichon. She hopped down off the chair and padded over to Jenrya's side, tugging at his shirt. "Hey, Jen?"
"Did you really mean it? What you said yesterday?" She dropped her voice to a whisper, so her mother couldn't hear. "You're still giving him to me, right?"
He managed to force a smile. "Of course. I want everyone to know how much I love my little sister."
"Yay!" she cheered. "Can I play with Terriermon now? I want him to sleep over with me tonight. Please? Pleeeeze?"
"Sure," said Jen, thinking, *That'll save me the trouble of trying to gift wrap him. That'll keep him from trying to run away... and it saves me from having him stare at me like I'm an executioner.*
"Thanks, Jen, you're the best!" she squealed, and scampered away. Jen sighed tiredly. She might think so, but he knew someone who had other ideas.
Ever so slowly, the day dragged to a close. The last of the brightly wrapped boxes were piled under the tree, and the stockings were hung across the wall. A plate of cookies was set out for Santa Claus. Jen followed Shuichon to her room and read her The Velveteen Rabbit. Trying to force some semblance of cheerfulness in his voice, his wished her a good night and tucked her in, looking at the peaceful expression on her face as she hugged Terriermon close to her, and he wondered if he was doing the right thing. At last, he was able to shuffle back to his room and put himself to bed.
Christmas Eve had never been an easy night for falling asleep, but this night was a hundred times worse. Jen tossed and turned, unable to settle his mind. Tomorrow was the day, the day he'd be giving his best friend away - not just for a few hours or days, but maybe forever. Without even meaning to, he'd managed to hurt Terriermon's feelings so deeply, he wasn't sure they'd ever heal again. Terriermon might never forgive him for this. He would leave, go to find some other Tamer who wouldn't have such divided loyalties. Even if he stayed, nothing would ever be quite the same. A wave of loneliness rocked Jenrya, and, in the midst of this quiet, peaceful night, he buried his head on his pillow and sobbed.
Most of the Lee family was sleeping. The mother and father had already slipped into the living room to oversee the delivery of Santa's gifts, and were now trying to get what rest they could before the squeals of their excited progeny woke them the next morning. Most of the children were asleep, too, dreaming of what they might find when they awoke. But Shuichon was not asleep. She was too excited to close her eyes, so she lay awake, very still in her bed, nearly trembling with pent-up energy.
Terriermon wasn't asleep, either. He had way too much on his mind to sleep. Not only that, but his sensitive ears were telling him exactly what was going on in the room down the hall, and he couldn't fight back a twinge of guilt.
*He doesn't want to do this any more than I do,* he thought. *I guess I should have known that all along. Now its my fault he's crying - I don't think I've ever heard him cry like this. He's just trying to be a good big brother, and I was giving him a hard time about it. I guess I went a little overboard... Maybe someday I am going to have to learn that tact stuff he talks about.* He stifled the urge to sigh, knowing Shuichon would notice if he did. *It's not like she's a bad kid. I don't mind playing with her - well, maybe just a little - but she's still a pretty good kid. I just thought if Jen was giving me away, he must not care much about me. Guess I was wrong. I'm sorry, Jen. I wish I could tell you I'm sorry...*
A shaft of moonlight slid through Shuichon's window, falling across Terriermon's face, highlighting a single tear that he couldn't suppress... and Shuichon stared. Her stuffed animal was crying! She thought about the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, the stuffed toy who had come to life because he'd been loved so much. Now, in the dark and silence, she watched the silent tear trickle down Terriermon's face, and listened to the muffled sobs coming from down the hall.
*Jen is crying, just like Terriermon,* she realized. *They must miss each other... but tomorrow is Christmas! That will cheer them up, right?*
Shuichon thought of her gift for Jen, a small collection of the Digimon cards he liked so much, carefully wrapped into a neat little packet. They had seemed like the perfect gift when she'd picked them out, but now they seemed like nothing next to what Jen was giving her. She closed her eyes a moment and thought about what he'd said to her.
"I want everyone to know how much I love my little sister."
"There are some things that are... more than things. Things that are so special that you can't give them up, not ever... it would be kind of like trying to give you away."
*Jen loves Terriermon,* she realized. *And Terriermon loves him, too, just like in the story.*
She opened her eyes again, sitting up suddenly as an idea came to her.
"Come on, Terriermon," she said. "We're gonna make everything right."
"Wake up, wake up, wake up!"
Jen moaned as a little voice shouted in his ear, while a pair of hands shook his shoulder hard enough to make his teeth rattle.
"Come on, wake up!" Shuichon urged. "It's Christmas!"
*Oh, yeah, right,* thought Jen, sitting up and yawning hugely. He felt like he'd only gotten about five minutes of sleep. *Funny, I don't feel very excited.*
"Come on!" persisted Shuichon. "You've gotta get up and see your present!"
Jen rubbed his eyes and stared at the clock. It was just barely past six.
"It's early," he complained. "Can't I sleep a little longer? Nobody else is going to be up for another hour, at least."
"No," said Shuichon firmly. "You have to come now. I have something special, just for you."
Feeling too tired and beaten to protest, Jenrya allowed himself to be dragged into the living room. The Christmas tree was brilliantly alight against the early morning darkness, making the piles of gifts beneath it sparkle magically. There were a good deal more now than there had been the night before, which was no surprise, but there was one addition to the heap that was completely unexpected. At the front of the pile of gifts sat Terriermon, once again liberally bedecked in red and green ribbons, and (Jen thought it had to be a trick of the light) looking oddly pleased with himself. There was a tag tied to his ear, one that appeared to have been hastily made from torn notebook paper, with a pair of crooked crayoned words on it: TO JEN.
"What the...?" said Jenrya in amazement.
"That's your Christmas present," Shuichon explained. "I'm giving him back."
"But... but I thought you wanted him..."
"I saw something last night," she said. "It was magic, Jen! He came to life, just like the rabbit in the story! He was crying. He missed you."
"Really?" Jen asked.
Shuichon nodded. "You believe me, don't you?"
"One hundred percent," answered Jen.
"Good," said Shuichon. "I can still play with him sometimes, though, can't I?"
"All you want," answered Jen, still dazed. "But what about your Christmas present? I wanted to give you something special. I thought you said Terriermon was the only present you wanted."
"I changed my mind. Terriermon's my friend, but he belongs with you," said Shuichon. "The best present is having you for my brother."
"Thanks, Shuichon," he said, blinking back a tear. "Thank you very, very much."
He scooped up Terriermon, setting him on his accustomed place on his shoulder, and then leaned over to hug Shuichon. He heard Terriermon whisper into his ear, "She's right. You do make a pretty good present. Merry Christmas, Tamer."
"Merry Christmas," Jenrya answered.
And in the still of early Christmas morning, the room was filled with the warm laughter of people who, against all odds, had gotten exactly what they wanted for Christmas.