A Crumb's Worth

Chapter 6

Lend Me Strength

Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon.

Sleep was not easy for Jeri.  She was reliving every terrifying, horrible, sad moment as she lay in her bed.  She couldn't run away, even in her sleep.  Sweat, cold, icy sweat beaded across her forehead, dampening her hair and on her arms.  Jeri tossed and turned, shaking her head as she mumbled in her sleep.

"No, Mommy, don't leave me!" she said.  "Daddy, don't me mad at me!  Leomon, where are you?  You, quit talking in my voice!  Stop! No!"

*****

Jeri was inside the D-reaper with Calumon.  She wanted to choke herself with her puppet and when she tried, Calumon stopped her. 

"Don't do it, Jeri!" he shouted.

Before Jeri could offer her thanks, the D-Reaper's cables bound him down and pulled him away from her.

"Calumon!" she shouted.  "No!  Leave him alone!"

 Cables grabbed her arms and legs, binding her to the wall.  She called for Takato as if she thought he could hear her.  But it's been a week until they tried saving her.  What if they given up?  Jeri believed she was on her own now. 

"I wish Leomon were here," she said pathetically.  "Then we'd have a better chance against the D-Reaper."

"You have no chance," ADR1--the J-Reaper-said, appearing in front of Jeri.  Jeri gasped.  The J-Reaper was like an evil clone of Jeri. She had her color hair but it was spiky, as if she put her finger in a light socket and even had the pigtail to the side.  It was talking in her voice.  "You're weak!  The only thing you're good for the energy you're giving the D-Reaper.  Jeri Katou, you are weak."

"You're wrong!" Jeri felt her mouth curve into a sneer.  "Stop talking in my voice!" She felt something burn inside her; all the bad feelings she carried around were rising to the top.  "You stole my hair and my voice! You may talk like me and you might even look a little like me, but you're not me and you never will me!  My friends will come for me!"

"Oh, but your friends are gone!"

"They'll be back!" Jeri shouted, wiggling in the cables.  "They won't give up!  I won't give up!"

 She felt a sudden urge to fight back and she never felt that way, even in the Digiworld when she needed to fight back.  She hated fighting, maybe because she didn't like the violence or maybe because she believed she was weak or it could've been both.  Now she didn't have Leomon to protect her and all her cards were to go to waste.  Her friends may be on their way but Jeri didn't want to wait for them.  She had to do this on her own.

"I'm going to make you pay for taking over my body and fooling all my friends!" Jeri hissed, ripping her arm out of the cables and her brown eyes had anger in them. Eyes, so full of hate, so full of rage, eyes that Takato had when he made Guilmon digivolve into Megidramon.  It had scared Jeri to see them that way, but now she understood why.  Even though the digivolution was wrong, Takato wanted to make Beezlemon hurt. He wanted to make him pay. He had to fight back.  He had to defend himself and the others, even though the way he did it was probably wrong. Jeri now felt everything he did.  She wanted to make the D-Reaper pay for choosing her, choosing her for she was weak.

"You won't be able to stop us."

"Try me," Jeri muttered. "You call me weak? You're the one who has to possess a human just to evolve! I'll show you!"

"Resistance is futile, Jeri Katou."

"The name's LIONHEART!" Jeri broke free and attacked the J-Reaper.

****

Jeri sat up in bed and put her hand to her forehead. "What a weird dream," she whispered, "I was fighting that--that thing that was talking in my voice.  It didn't end that way, I waited for the others to come and get me. I never was strong enough to fight back I wasn't even strong enough to begin weak.  I am weak."  She sighed, "Still, maybe I should've stood up to the D-Reaper.  Why did I have to be so afraid?  I wish I fought back.  This will all be just a dream."

She pushed the covers away and got out.  "So this is the day," she whispered.  "The hearing is after school and it's the same time as the dance. I've got to make sure I won't make it to the hearing.  I can't fail. It's my last chance."

Throughout the day, Jeri wondered about the perfect way to commit suicide. It had to be flawless and she had to make sure nothing would stop her.  She couldn't have any interruptions.  Takato tried stopping her in the halls when he got a chance, but she walked by him as if he weren't even there.  She was concentrating. It wasn't until she came home when she came up with an idea.  

"Dad?" she asked.

The place was empty.  He probably was already at the courthouse.  Jeri walked in the kitchen and she saw the knives in the knife holder on the counter. 

"I know," she said, taking one.  "I'll cut myself." She turned to kitchen sink and held out her left wrist, while trying to keep a good hold on the knife.  "I've got to be sure I do this right."  She brought the knife to the end of her wrist and bit her lip as she pressed down. Her hand holding the knife slowly moved to the right and it cut her flesh. Jeri winced in pain but would not stop, pressing harder as she continued to pull.  The knife stopped half way and Jeri couldn't move it anymore.

"What's going on?" she wondered out loud.  "The knife won't move!" She tried to pull it, tried to push down.  But the knife was stuck in place.  It was like a spirit took over her body and wouldn't let her arm move.  Her left hand pulled away from the knife and the knife fell out of her hand and clanged on the sink.  "Hey!"

"No, Jeriiii," said a soft voice in the air.  "Don't do it."

"Who said that?" Jeri asked, looking around.  "My wrist…" she put her palm over her bleeding wrist.  "Oh…"  She grabbed a napkin and pressed it onto the cut.  She wasn't able to understand why she couldn't finish the job. What was it that stopped her? And who spoke to her?  Jeri went to the bathroom to clean out her cut.

"It hurts," she said, "why did I do this?"  She put some gauze on her wrist and taped it with bandaging tape. "How could I be so, so crazy?" She shook her head.  "I guess I'll just have to go to the hearing and bear it."

She heard someone walk in and her dad call.  "Jeri, are you here?"

"Yes, Dad."

"Get ready.  We'll be leaving for the hearing soon."

"Okay," she stepped out of the bathroom and walked to her room to get dressed.  She pulled out her blouse and slacks from her closet. While she undressed and got dressed in her finer attire, she wondered who was speaking to her earlier.  She could've sworn someone said her name when she slit her wrist.  The day didn't even seem real to her. When she finished getting dressed, she joined her father in the living room, already dressed for the hearing.

"I'm ready, Dad." She said, pulling on her left sleeve so he wouldn't notice the gauze.

"Good, now let's go."

*****

Takato sat in his room, looking out his window. He refused to come down for dinner and his mother left some cream puffs at his door for him, thinking it would make him feel better. He wore a blue shirt and khakis and his mind was on Jeri.

"He hasn't come out since he came back from school," she said to her husband.

"The Katous' divorce hearing is today," he said.  "That's probably why he's upset." 

The clouds got dark and it began to rain.  Takato walked up to the window and looked out. 

"Rain on a day like this," he mumbled, "it's just going to make Jeri's day even worse."  Takato didn't know what to do.  He didn't want Jeri to be alone tonight but after talking to her yesterday, she made it clear that she wanted to be alone.  Takato was certain that she didn't really mean it.  She needed a friend.  His mind recalled Kazu's words.

"Someone's got to get her to open up and I think it should be you."

Takato knew Kazu was right and he usually wasn't right about most things.  He had to be the one to get Jeri to open up, even if he were to get slapped in the face in the process. He didn't care. Jeri needed him. 

"I'm coming, Jeri," Takato said and opened the door about to step on the cream puffs.  He picked them up and went down the stairs.

"Takato, where are you going?" Takato's mother demanded.

"Courthouse," he replied, putting plastic wrap around the plate, "Jeri needs me.  Thanks for making the cream puffs Mom.  Jeri loves these."

"But Takato, it's raining out there!" she exclaimed.

"It's going to take more than a couple of raindrops to keep me away from Jeri," Takato said as he put on his jacket and he went out of the door.

She looked to where her husband was standing and he too was gone.  "Honey?"
As Takato ran to the courthouse, he heard a car beeping at him.  Thinking that he was in the way, he got farther onto the sidewalk and ran faster.  The car flashed his lights and slowed down at him.

"Takato!"

"Dad?" Takato turned and his father stopped the car.

"Takato, get in."

"But Dad, I'm not going back home," Takato said, coming to the passenger side of the car.  "I said I'm going to the courthouse.  Jeri's losing her family today and she needs me there."

Takato's father grinned.  "I'm not taking you back home son.  I'm taking you to the courthouse.  You'll get there faster that way.   Besides, you know how yucky the cream puffs get when they're wet.  You don't want Jeri's day to get any worse with soggy cream puffs, do you?"

With a mouth full of water, Takato smiled and opened the door.  His dad always trusted him with his decisions.  When he told them he was leaving to go to the digital world and his mother wsa dead against it, he let him go.  He let him go take Jeri home.  He knew that Takato was becoming a man.

"Thanks, Dad," Takato said.

"I'm really proud of you, Takato," Mr. Matsuki said.  "You really care about your friends."

"Jeri's…more than just a friend to me, Dad." Takato said.

"I know."

They rode the rest of the way in silence and Takato dropped him off in front of the courthouse.  Takato was about to get out when his father decided to give him some fatherly advice.

"Takato, listen." He said, cutting off the engine. "A man becomes a man by not being strong for just himself, but for others that need it.  Now, Jeri is going through some hard, very hard times and I know she's thinking she could be strong on her own.  You've got to be strong for her now, like I'm strong for your mother."

Takato nodded, "Thanks Dad.  I'll be sure to let Jeri know."  He smiled and got out of the car, waved as he drove by and ran up the stairs and opened the double doors.  He saw Jeri sitting in the lobby.  "Jeri."

Jeri turned, "Takato? What are you doing here?" she demanded. "You shouldn't be here."

"Yes I should."  Takato insisted, coming to her side.  "Here's some cream puffs."

"You came just to give me cream puffs?" she demanded, "thanks Takato, but really, you need to go.  There's a dance tonight and--"

"I'd rather be here with you than at some lousy dance with someone else," Takato said firmly. 

"But you wanted me to go with you."

"Yes, Jeri, you. But it doesn't matter where we are.  I just wanted to be with you tonight.  I don't care if it's at the dance or at this courthouse, but I want to be with you. It's where I need to be.  Jeri, listen to me.  You don't have to go through this alone.  I'm here with you."

"Not now, Takato…" she said, getting up and walking away, "the hearing is about to start.  My parents are talking to their attorneys now."

"Jeri," Takato grabbed her by her left wrist. He felt the gauze and she let out a wince.  "What?"

Jeri took her hand away and pulled her cuff down so he wouldn't see it.  Takato felt something wasn't right.  Takato grabbed for her wrist again and pushed her cuff back.  "Jeri, what's this?"

"Nothing."  She mumbled.

"Nothing?" he questioned, pulling back the gauze and he found the cut. "You've cut yourself, Jeri."

"It was an accident," she lied, looking away.

"You're lying to me," Takato said.  "You cut yourself on purpose, didn't you?  Jeri, why?"

"Okay, so I tried to kill myself, okay?  I've tried every day this week but nothing seemed to work!" she shouted.   "Monday after I took a bath, I tried hanging myself with my bathrobe but the belt unraveled. Tuesday, I tried overdosing on aspirin but then someone knocked on the door. When I came back, the bottle must've tipped over and all the pills went down the sink.  On Wednesday, oh, you'll love this, I tried jumping in front of a jeep but then Rika grabbed me and asked me to go shopping with her.  Shopping with Rika, can you believe it?  Yesterday, just before you came to the restaurant, I was going to poison myself.  And today, I slit my wrist but the knife wouldn't move and I couldn't finish the job.  I guess I'm cursed.  I can't die.  I have to live with all the guilt and pain."

"Jeri, you're supposed to live," Takato insisted, "because there's people who need you. I understand why you tried this, you lost your mother and Leomon…but remember, a part of them will still be with you.  Masahiko and you're step mon will be a part of you."

"Stop saying that!" she shouted.  "I get sick of hearing that.  My father, the doctors…they told me a part of my mother would always be with me--but I never found her! I went looking for her and I'm still looking for her.  I want my mother now, by my side and I'll never, ever see her again.  Leomon told me that he'd be here with me but he's not here. No, he's not here.  I need someone to be physically here with me. Not just a part. I need someone by my side but everyone keeps disappearing!"

"You have someone, Jeri!" Takato exclaimed, grabbing her by the shoulders. "You do have someone here with you. I'm here, aren't I?  I'll always be with you!"

"Oh, really? But some day you might disappear too."

"No, I'm not ever going to leave you alone, Jeri.  You need me, day or night, come to me and I'll be there. You're welcome to the bakery whenever you want.  I left you alone when Leomon went away.  I left you alone when Beezlemon killed him.  I left you alone when we couldn't fight the D-Reaper, but that wasn't my choice, Jeri.  I wanted to stay with you and I did come back for you. I'm never going to leave you again, Jeri. I swear it!"

"Takato, I appreciate what you're saying," she said.  "But I should be left alone."

"No you don't!  You're afraid and confused.  You don't know what you want, but I do.  You need someone to be there for you, to take care of you and that's me, Jeri.  I'll always be there for you, no matter what! You're strong, Jeri."

"Strong, I've tried, Takato.  I've tried but I can't be strong all the time.  I can't."  She groaned.  "I had a dream last night.  I dreamt that I stood up to the D-Reaper. I probably should've done that but I was too scared and weak too.  I'm not strong, Takato.  I wasn't then and I'm not now. Being strong will only be just a dream."

Takato smiled, remembering what his father just told him. "Be strong when you can, Jeri.  But when you can't," he said, cupping her face.  "I guess I'll just have to be strong for you."

"You, you mean that?"

"With all my heart. I love you, Jeri."

Jeri smiled and put her hand over her mouth. Her eyes filled up with tears and she felt very weak.  "Oh, Takato!" she fell down to her knees and sobbed.  Takato sank wit her and pulled her into her arms.  He stroked her hair and rocked her.

"You just let it out, Jeri," he said, "I'm here. I'll always be here."

"Be strong for me now, Takato," she whispered between sobs, tightening her hands around his jacket.  "And forever.  At least...until I can be strong again."
"Of course," he said, kissing her forehead.  I'll always be here.  Always."

*****

Rika was dancing with her date Henry Wong.  Though the decorations were pretty and she was with the one boy she really liked, her mind was on other matters and Henry noticed. 

"Rika, are you okay?" he asked.

"Huh?  Did you say something?"

"What's the matter?"

"I was just thinking of Jeri," Rika explained.  "She's losing her family today and I can remember when my parents were divorced. I know what's she's going through Henry and I don't like it all.  I became very cold and withdrawn after my parents were divorced.  I wanted nothing to do with others.  Jeri may become the same way. I don't want her to become with me.  I think we should go to the courthouse and be with her."

"I bet Takato's with her."

"Me too," Rika said, "but it's not enough.  Henry, I was alone when my parents got divorced. I had no friends.  I wish I had friends to be with me.  I want that for Jeri.  I want to give her that chance.  She's just a good person and I don't want her to feel lonely, like I did.  We should let her know we care."

Henry smiled, "Rika, you can be so cold one minute and so caring the next."

"Well," Rika blushed, "some people can bring that out in me.  You don't have to come if you don't want to but I really feel like I'm needed there."

"I'll come," Henry said, "My feet are beginning to hurt anyway."

"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanding.  "I haven't stepped on them!"

Henry chuckled and kissed her on the forehead, "I was only joking.  Let's go."  He tugged on her hand and they began to leave.

"Where are you two going?" Kazu asked, who was dancing with Nikki.

{AN: Nikki's the girl Jeri was talking to when Jeri asked Takato if digimon was all they ever talk about.  She said something like, "Come on, Nikki, let's go do something more important"}

"To the courthouse," Rika replied.  "I want to be with Jeri."

"You can stay here if you want to but we're going to be with Jeri," Henry said.

"Hey, no way, if Jeri sees that I haven't come too," Kazu said, "I might get slapped again!"

Nikki laughed, "well, I guess I'm with you, Kazu."

They left the floor and Kenta was being a wallflower.

"Would you rather stay here and be a wallflower, Kenta?" Kazu asked, "or go see a friend in need?"

"Huh?" Kenta asked.

"We're going to see Jeri." Rika explained.  "She needs us."

Kenta nodded, "sounds like a plan."

A girl screamed and the others looked in the direction of the sound.  They saw Ryo approaching them with a punch stain on his tux.  "I can tame a digimon that wants to fight all the time," he said, "but I can't tame women."

Rika laughed, "ain't that the truth."

Ryo stared.

"Well, ace," Kazu said, "we're going to the courthouse to see Jeri. Bye."

"Are you sure you can do that?" he asked.  "You can't just enter a court session."

"Oh no?" Rika demanded. "Come on, Henry." She tugged on his arm and a pack of angry girls came up behind Ryo.

"There he is! Get him!"

Ryo gasped and ran after the others, "hey wait!  Jeri's my friend too!  Guys, wait!"

*****

Takato sat right at Jeri's side the whole time, holding her hand.  Jeri gave him a squeeze every so often and when she was called to the stand to witness, Takato squeezed her hand, stood up and hugged her.

"It'll be okay, Jeri," he said, whispering into her ear.  "I'm here."

Jeri nodded and went up to the stand.  As she sat down, seven young adults, a bit wet from the rain, walked in.  Jeri stared as they came up and sat in the row behind Takato. Takato turned and nodded to them.  Jeri felt her eyes tear up.  Her friends came.  She didn't expect them to but they came.  They knew she needed them and though they could be having fun at a dance, they came in her moment in need.  Jeri couldn't ask for better friends. She answered the questions the attorneys asked her calmly and before the attorneys said they had no further questions, Jeri asked to say something and the judge let her. Jeri turned to the judge.

"Your honor, these eight young people that are here today are my friends.  They're probably not supposed to be here but they came anyway.  I didn't have an easy life and I bet it's not going to be so easy as I mature."  Jeri nodded to her friends, "but I still have my friends.  Your honor, my mother died when I was a child and I never recovered from it. I miss my birth mother very much.  My second mother was very good to me but I wouldn't get close to her because I was afraid she'd take my mother's place.  Now, God took my mother away and you can take my stepmother and half brother away, but no one's going to take my friends away from me.  I need them.  I can't afford to lose any more people."

Reliving the moments of her parent's divorce hearing, Rika bit her lip, shed a few tears and squeezed hard on Henry's hand.  Nikki did the same to Kazu.  Kazu wanted to stand up and applaud Jeri for her speech.  Ryo nodded at Jeri. Kenta was wiping tears away from behind his glasses and Takato looked as if he couldn't be more proud of Jeri.  Jeri stepped down and said a quick hello to her friends as she sat next to Takato.  After a few more testimonies, the session was over.  Jeri jumped up.

"I can't believe you're all here!" Jeri exclaimed in a whisper.  "Thank you so much for coming.  It was easier having you here."

"I just wanted to give you the chance that I never got," Rika said, standing up.

"It was your idea?" Jeri asked.

"Sure was," Henry answered for her.

"Rika, thank you!" Jeri cried and embraced Rika.  "This means a lot."

Rika patted her friend's back.  "You're welcome, Jeri."

Jeri went down hugging all her friends and she kissed Kazu on the cheek, as a way for apologizing.  "I'm surprised to see you here."

"Hey, you think getting slapped is going to keep me away when my friend needs me?" Kazu asked with a grin.  "Come on!"

"Since you couldn't come to the dance we thought we'd bring it to you," Ryo winked.

Jeri laughed, "had some trouble with the punch bowl?" she pointed on the stain on his tux, which he tried to hide. 

Jeri's step mother stood up and walked to her.  "It's time for me to go now.  But I--"

"I know," Jeri said, "you're still be a part of me…Mom." 

She gasped.  Jeri had never called her stepmother 'Mom.'  Jeri hugged her quickly and looked at Masahiko. "Take care, Masahiko."

"You too, Jeri," Masahiko said.

The siblings hugged each other and her step mom and half brother left.  Jeri could've cried but she didn't.  She had her friends with her and that were all that mattered.

"Jeri, you okay?" Takato asked.

"I'm going to be fine, Takato," she said, nodding.  "Thanks."
*****

Two months later Jeri was having her sixteenth birthday party.  The last two months without her stepmother and half brother was of course difficult, but she was able to get through it with her friends.  Rika wasn't one to like shopping and Jeri wasn't really either, but it was something they did together almost every weekend with either Rika's grandmother, Mariko or both.  Rika was there for Jeri and Jeri was also there for Rika since they both had divorced parents.  Rika asked her mother for her father's address and Jeri helped her mail the letter.  She and Kazu talked a lot in study hall and she sometimes even helped him with his homework. 

But the one friend that helped her most of all, was Takato.  He became an employee at her family's restaurant as sometimes a cook and busboy and waiter.  Sometimes Jeri took up on his offer and visited him in the middle of the night.  He kept the window open after the third night she came to him so that instead of tossing rocks at his window or calling him, she could just climb up the tree and straight into his room.  Most of the time Takato would be expecting her and he'd already be awake sitting at the edge of the bed or standing by the window, ready to help her in.  Takato remembered the first time she came to him.

"Jeri, what are you doing here?" he asked her.

"You said I could come anytime," she said. 

"Anything wrong?"

"No, not really.  I just want to thank you for everything you've done," she told him with a smile.  "Takato, you've been nothing but wonderful to me.  I could kiss you…I think I will."  Then she stepped forward, cupped his face and kissed him on the lips. He smiled, blushed and kissed her back. 

"I'll always be here, Jeri," he promised as he held her in her arms.  "You can count on that."

"Kazu, I can't dance anymore," Jeri insisted as she was dancing with Kazu to a fast song.  She fell against him and he propped her up.

"Oh please, Jeri, just one more!"

"Come on, Kazu," Henry said, "Takato might get jealous when he gets here."

"Where is Takato anyway?" Jeri asked with a frown.  "I thought he'd be here."

"He told me he'd be here," Kazu said, "Just had a little errand to run first."  He looked passed Jeri, "well, there he is.  You're late, chumly!"

"Takato!" Jeri ran to him and threw her arms around him, "I was afraid you wouldn't come."

"I wouldn't miss your sweet sixteenth birthday, Jeri," Takato said.  "I brought someone to see you." He stepped to the side and behind him was her stepmother and half brother.

"Mom! Masahiko!" she exclaimed, "You made it!" she hugged them and hugged Takato. "Oh thank you, Takato!"

"You're welcome," he said and a slow song came on the stereo. "May I have this dance with the birthday girl?"

"You bet," Jeri replied and took his hand.  They began dancing and Takato glanced at her left wrist.  There was a small scar from the knife.

"Hard to believe you're having a party after all this, isn't it?" Takato asked.

"No, not really," she said.  "I mean, it seemed that way then but it doesn't now.  Takato, you remember when you came to see me at the courthouse? And you saw this?" she showed him her wrist.

"Yes."

"And I said I'll never find my mother?"

He nodded. "I remember."

"I think I've found her," she said, "my mom has been a part of me since she died, I just didn't know she was there.  I heard her speak to me after I cut myself.  I think she stopped me from cutting myself anymore and I bet it was her that kept me from hanging myself.  I have found her. She was my guardian angel.  I found Leomon too. He said a part of him would be with me and he did come for me.  Beezlemon had his data and used his attack to save me…so…Leomon lives in him."  Jeri smiled, "I'm not as alone as I thought I was.  I'm so happy.  I've never felt so happy, Takato.  You and everyone lent me your strength and I'm strong now. Strong because of you."

Takato kissed her quickly on the lips and she leaned against him as he held her.  "And I'm strong because of you, Jeri. Thanks to you, I know what it means to be strong."

Jeri held on him tighter.  As long as she had her friends, especially Takato, she wouldn't have to worry about loneliness again.

The End. This fanfic is dedicated to someone who lost a parent, with divorced parents or complicated suicide.  I have thought about suicide myself, but did not act upon it.  I hope this story has touched your heart, because it touched mine.  I'm with you.