Title: The Barter System

Fandom: Digimon Tamers

Author: Nietzsche's Itch

Character(s): Juri, Mrs. Katou (Shizue)

Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Family

Rating: T

Status: Oneshot, Complete

Note: Also posted to LJ under CobraRenenutet

Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon

Summary: It's been all take and no give so far, and Juri wants to change that.

Definition: The barter system was a method of payment used before the invention of currency. You would trade something you owned to buy something of equal value.

For Kaito Lune, I hope I've done Juri justice for you.

Juri hadn't been exaggerating when she had told Takato that she wasn't nice. Or at least where her stepmother was concerned, and the tangible reminder that her real mother was never coming back and had been replaced post haste brought out the very worst in her.

Looking back, it had been all give and take. Shizue gave, and Juri took, before throwing it back in her face. She'd had everything taken from her; it was only fair that this interloper endured the same misery.

It hadn't been the woman's fault that her mother had died, her father had moved on less than a year after her death, that he had thought the best way to minimise the grief of loss for himself and his daughter was to hide all traces of her memory, and certainly not that Juri herself took it so hard.

It had continued like this for years, and eventually her new 'mother' stopped trying to forge any kind of relationship with her whatsoever. They stayed out of each other's way, never encroached on the others space in the home, and her father became the only common ground they had. He was enraged by the distance Juri insisted at keeping Shizue at, but she refused to yield on the matter. It was the only way she could keep her mother alive, when she was physically absent and visibly missing, all trace of her consigned to the photographs she kept hidden in the box with her sock puppets, which no one ventured into.

He couldn't force Juri to accept Shizue as her mother, when she'd already had one. She might breathe no longer, but it was the memories that counted. If he had talked to her, shared his own grief and not simply shut her out, she might not have reacted to the news of their impending marriage as violently as she did. As it was, he caused the situation they now found themselves in, by not acknowledging that his child was suffering as much as he, and dealing with it in a different way.

She needed to talk, and he needed to forget. She didn't get what she wanted. If she had, she wouldn't have viewed the arrival of her stepmother was such abhorrence, wouldn't have turned her into the intruder in their lives.

Her brother's birth diffused some of the tension, though not much. He might have been her child, but they had the same father, and she allowed herself to call him her brother without too much internal conflict.

The D-Reaper put her life into perspective like nothing else could have done, when the feelings that had previously only ruled her and her alone, now fuelled the hate of the rogue monstrosity in its campaign against humanity and digital life alike. She might have gained some satisfaction at seeing her father break down at long last, the poker face cracking under the strain of not showing his emotions if she had been slightly more petty and a lot less cognizant of the damage the entity was wreaking. Her hatred was to be the death of everyone.

If she could have taken it all back, she would have given Shizue a chance. Her hope dissolved along with Beelzemon's body, when she realised she had nothing left to give. She was a shell, a useless tamer without a partner, and until her digivice shone one last time, that was the only thing she believed in.

She had another chance, and this time she wouldn't waste it. She would spare her revulsion for those more worthy of it than the woman who Juri now saw had been trying just as hard as she had.

"More tea kaasan?"

"Arigato Juri-chan" Shizue murmured, feeling thoroughly out of her depth as her formerly distant stepdaughter served her tea, and for once didn't treat the action like a chore.

"You're welcome, and I do mean that" Juri replied quietly. Shizue nodded uncertainly, watching as Juri poured herself a second cup before inhaling in such a way that it was obvious she was gearing up to say something profound.

'Start as you mean to go on' she thought. "I want to apologise for the way I've treated you since you married tousan" she said sternly, the ripples in the teacup created by the shaking spoon she gripped the only evidence that she was feeling less than confident about Shizue's response.

She hadn't seen that one coming, and it hardly seemed appropriate to give the perfunctory reply of 'Apology accepted' to that kind of bombshell. Instead she answered with a question.

"Why?" she asked decisively, needing to know what exactly it was that Juri was apologising for. It was far too late in the game for misunderstandings, it was make or break time, and she wanted them both to be on the same page, lest they reopen the sluggishly healing wound that was the past.

"You mean, am I saying this now because I want to, or because I'm tired of all the fighting?" Juri clarified. Shizue nodded.

"Both, but because I want to. The D-Reaper may have done nothing else worthwhile but it did make me see that hating you isn't going to bring my birth mother back, and you aren't to blame for how tousan dealt with her death" she said bravely. Shizue sighed heavily, feeling that Juri was giving her too credit in the circumstances, she had given up on her after all, when she should have persevered.

"I'm not an angel in this either. I didn't try hard enough. You made the distance, but I kept it that way" she said grimly. Juri frowned.

"You tried at first though. I would have given up on me" she said softly. Shizue cautiously extended a hand across the low table and lightly gripped Juri's hand, relieved when she didn't protest the contact, and even reciprocated the touch.

"I don't want you to feel the way you did again, the way that allowed that-that thing to use you" she said fiercely, and Juri's hand jerked in hers, but didn't pull away.

"I didn't know you knew what it did to me" she muttered, almost embarrassedly. And she didn't know, really, just the basis of it that it was feeding off of her negative emotions. She knew none of the specifics, and what she did not know had been laboriously extracted from a Hypnos technician that had been far too concerned with confidentiality regulations for Shizue's liking. Her husband had been having the breakdown that had been creeping up on him for years and someone had to make them cough up on the details.

"Very little, but enough" she replied, watching Juri's expression flatten. She hastened to halt what she now recognised as she signs of the plunge into depression.

"I don't want you to feel that way again, and I'm going to apologise too" she said, her voice brooking no argument. Juri looked at her unhappily, feeling as though she were being cheated out of the absolution of the guilt.

"I'll accept that, if you accept mine" she said, doggedly determined to have her original purpose fulfilled. Shizue snorted inelegantly. Juri stared.

"You're less stubborn than I thought you would be" she commented.

"You're more" Juri quipped. And with that, they dissolved into giggles. By the time their mirth had retreated for good and the last hiccup had escaped them, the tea had been sitting idly by for quite some time. Shizue grimaced as she took a sip.

"Tea's cold"

"I'll put the kettle on"

The barter system, when defined was the exchange of goods and services for goods and services of comparable value. They just bartered with love instead.

If anyone's wondering the definition in the last line is cobbled together from many internet definitions, and the one before the story from my own memory of being taught about it.

Kaasan – Mother

Tousan – Father

Arigato – Thank you