A/N: This morbid little thing was born partially out of the interesting pacing of the last few episodes regarding Impmon. Immediately after he is near fatally injured from his botched rescue attempt, the Tamers are forced to retreat. Then, it cuts to "one week later", where they're all still at a standstil with the D-Reaper, and the group has since cleared out of the Tokyo Opera House for a new location, with the gang splitting off for an episode of self-discovery followed by them regrouping to attack to the D-Reaper and rescue Jeri for the last time. Sometime in episode 50, though, it shows Impmon with Ai and Mako in the back of a van being driven off...and Impmon is still as weak and beaten up as he was immediately after his failed attempt to save Jeri! His dialogue in both versions, the pain he was in, and the implied time that he had to have been in an injured state suggested to me that he may not have expected to survive, and perhaps was dying right there. I mean, those would have had to be some hella terrible injuries to carry down to the Impmon form and keep him that way for a whole week.

In addition to that, there is a very wonderful warmth with which Mari Devon, Renamon's voice actress, delivers her line to Impmon when he reappears with his Tamers in the final episode. It was so sweet, and it kind of started the plot bunny that maybe she hadn't expected to see him again. And honestly, I guess I was kind of looking for an excuse to write them together. They are a lot of fun to have in a scene, and I think their friendship is very interesting. I also really wanted to do at least once scene with Mr. Kato and Impmon having a conversation, because I'm evil that way. However, this thing is a little sloppier than I would have liked, but I hope you enjoy! :D

Stare Into The Sun (c) DeskRage

She could see Takato, staring into forever with fists loosely clenched. His eyes were shiny with tears of frustration, red rimmed with the effort of keeping them back and fatigue. Henry leaned against the side of the elevator wall, arms folded, staring at the ground with a battered Terriermon flopped on his head like a dejected hat. She wondered if she looked the same—her own eyes felt tight and dry and hot, but her train of thought derailed when she looked again at Impmon, curled pathetically against Renamon's fluffy chest, eyes half open and dull.

Henry noticed and met her eye. She sighed, resisting the urge to bite her lip.

Hang in there.

The elevator ground to a halt and opened to reveal Yamaki, Mr. Wong and surprisingly enough, her Grandma. Grandma was pushing a tea trolley that had been converted into a tiny gurney—a heap of soft looking dark green hand towels (doubtless filched from the cabinets in the fancy bathrooms), handkerchiefs and a rescue blanket folded in half made up the top layer.

"Welcome back," Mr. Wong began. "You all did admirably today. You achieved more than anyone else in the world in this fight, so I'm asking you to not torture yourselves over the outcome."

"I know you don't want to hear this, but it's time for you guys to take a rest, and let us do what we can do." Yamaki added.

Rika could at least appreciate what he was trying to do on an intellectual level. Yamaki started to lead them into the main room, but none of them moved.

"But what about Impmon? He's hurt pretty badly." Takato asked, glancing back at the Digimon in Renamon's arms.

"We've prepared for this since you informed us. Don't worry. Now, follow me," He gestured at the makeshift gurney, cleared his throat and softened his tone, "Your parents are all anxious to see you."

The Tamers and their Digimon stepped forward reluctantly, with the exception of Rika and Renamon, who hung back. Takato glanced over his shoulder.


"Aren't you coming?" Henry asked with a slight frown.

Rika shook her head. "I'm going to help with Impmon. I'll be right there."

"Her fingers are smaller than mine and her eyes are better. I could use the help," Grandma added with a small, neutral smile at Mr. Wong's expression. "Don't worry, I won't keep her too long."

Rika nodded and attempted a small, encouraging smile. Henry frowned a little, but silently aquiested.

"Just…don't push yourself too hard, okay?"

They wheeled Impmon into a small office adjacent to the "headquarters". Most of the furniture had been jammed into the corner, save for the big desk—still shiny and smelling like lemon from a recent wipe down—with a bright lamp perched on the edge. A little jug of water and some rags had already been placed in a container on the edge.

Rika must have looked surprised, because her Grandmother spoke, "As soon as Takato informed us about your friend, we started setting up."

"Where's the—" before Rika could finish asking about the first aid kit, the door thundered. Rika could feel Renamon tense beside her at the sound. She turned. A small gasp threatened to escape, but she clamped down on it before it could.

Mr. Kato loomed in the doorway, gripping the first aid kit like he expected it to try and escape. His knuckles were whitening and the skin around his eyes was tense. Rika had never thought of Mr. Kato as the first-aid type, but before she could give the matter anymore thought, Impmon chose this moment to wake up. Sort of.

"Where am I?" Rika winced inwardly at the sound. It was as though he'd swallowed a cheese grater.

"Safe," Renamon assured him. Of course he tried to sit up. He didn't get far, slapping his tail feebly in an effort to rise up onto his elbows, but Renamon placed her paw on his chest, "Don't move. You'll only aggravate your injuries."

"We're in the Tokyo Opera House," Rika said. She was going to add, the others are safe, but that was absolutely the worst thing to say to Impmon right now, because everyone knew it wasn't all true.

"The others?"

"Impmon—your name is Impmon, right? I understand that you must be very worried, but I'm going to ask that you please try not to talk. Rest. Mr. Kato and I are going to treat your injuries now."

Rika and Renamon might have exchanged a glance. Rika's stomach plummeted

Impmon's eyes, unfocused and dull with pain, flicked to Mr. Kato, who was pulling on the gloves. "Mr. Kato…? Like…" he slumped visibly against the table, as though his muscles had turned to water. Rika started forward instinctively. "Figures…" the last word trailed off into incoherence as the little Digimon's eyes fluttered shut.

"What did he mean by that?" Mr. Kato asked quietly.

"No idea," Rika lied as she watched Mr. Kato open up the first aid-kit.

Mr. Kato grunted in acknowledgement and rolled up his sleeves. She was close enough to spot numerous, faded little scars along his powerfully corded arms. When he started to put on the latex gloves, she noticed something at the base of his wrist—a tiny tattoo of three red blossoms—that vanished under the gloves.

She looked away, hoping he hadn't seen her gaze. Now she knew why Mr. Kato had been asked to treat Impmon. She never would have guessed before.

"This is the one that tried to save her." It was not so much a question as it was a statement. He had turned Impmon over onto his side in order to examine the wounds along his spine. Rika clenched her fists. Digimon rarely took wounds sustained in higher levels down to their default form unless they were really, really bad. Impmon was still losing blood, and his breathing was shallow and painful looking.

"Yes." Renamon said. She had perched on the pile of furniture off to the side. "He was struck down by the D-Reaper after breaking the kernel."

Mr. Kato took the thinner roll of the gauze and started to cut long strips from it as Grandma worked on dabbing at the wounds with antiseptic. "He and I have at least one thing in common, then," he grunted. He frowned, as he proceeded to bind the gauze around Impmon's middle. "I never asked. It hadn't even occurred to me," he sighed heavily, "All you kids have these…partners. Is this Jeri's?"

"No," Rika said, almost a little too quickly. She suddenly felt cold.

"Jeri…doesn't have a partner." Renamon added, shifting her gaze to the floor.

Mr. Kato nodded. "I see."

Rika didn't believe him. His jaw was set, his mouth grim and straight but for the edges turned down almost imperceptibly. She wasn't a parent. She couldn't imagine being one right now—but some part of her, something deep and beating inside her understood that this Mr. Kato didn't see. If his daughter didn't have a partner, how had she been caught up in all this? Why her? He wanted to know.

He probably had a right to know. But standing here, in a stuffy room that smelled lightly of disinfectant in the aftermath of the botched rescue, with the deeply repentant root of Jeri's plight clinging to life under his scarred hand—

Rika couldn't bring herself to do it. It wasn't her confession to make, or even her story to tell. But it still made her feel like dirt.

She didn't have anything to distract herself with either, as between Mr. Kato and her Grandma, there was very little hands-on help that Rika could give. However, they did occasionally ask questions. Some of them were about Rika and the other kids, some were about the Digimon, but he was definitely fishing for information on Impmon—as he was not really included in any of the stories she had told about her and the others. At least, not in any kind of way she wanted to talk to Mr. Kato about.

Impmon would occasionally twitch of moan when they would move him, but he never woke. By the time Mr. Kato was done, he reminded Rika of those cat mummies she'd seen when they'd covered Ancient Egypt in fifth grade—bandaged up and ready for death—but he was breathing, and it was horrible: like someone had taken a file to his lungs.

"Is he…going to be okay?" Renamon's voice was soft.

Mr. Kato was stripping off the gloves.

"He is very weak. I've done everything I can for now."

For now? Adults only said things like that when they were hiding something. She clenched her fists.

"We'll keep checking on him, don't you worry, Rika," Grandma added.

"Is there anything I can do?"

"Rest. The both of you. But if you really want to, here," Grandma handed Rika a bottle of saline and a little bag of cotton squares, "You can use these to get some of the blood and mess off his face."

"If he soaks through the bandages, let me know," Mr. Kato said, putting away the last of the first aid kit and heading for the door. "I'll be back to check on him soon."

"Wait," Rika said, straightening up. He glanced at her over his shoulder. Rika bobbed him as dignified a bow as she could with both her hands full, "Thank you for taking care of him."

"It is the least I could do. Excuse me."

The fifty-fourth floor felt like an airport at three in the morning. Florescent light buzzed bright and sterile inside, which made the cold purple-black of the darkened city below them especially stark and cold. The atmosphere was exhaustion mixed with dissipated cigarette smoke and sweat, lazy fans hummed in corners and rattled loose sheets of paper and half-empty Styrofoam cups of tea balanced or leaning around the computer keyboards and monitors. The little tables and benches though, looked as though they had been wiped clean—no doubt the handiwork of the parents who couldn't assist directly distracted themselves by doing whatever they could. Agitated typing and low muttering filled the room, with the occasional scraping of chairs or bending to unplug something from the CPU. Everyone was exhausted, but no one was sleepy.

Each of the Tamers had been given a blanket and a cup of hot soup apiece and were huddled in a little group by the stairs, trying to find a comfortable way to sit on the wires that crisscrossed the room. They had been told to go to sleep and get some real rest, there was very little they had left to do, but Rika couldn't imagine sleeping. Her bones felt like they were made of pig iron and her hands were trembling, but she felt like she had pure caffeine in her veins.

"How are you holding up?" Takato's voice surprised her. He looked like he was really trying to make an effort, a small smile on his face as he hugged his knees to look at her.

"I'm fine. Don't worry about me, Takato." Takato glanced a the empty spot beside her. Renamon had excused herself not too long ago. She hadn't elaborated, but there was only one other place her partner could be.

She glanced at the door leading to the office-turned-sickbay. After becoming Sakuyamon with her, she liked to think that she had come to know Renamon better than anyone in the whole world—and it was probably true. But Sakuyamon was a recent development. A few months ago, she almost never gave thought to what Renamon might be up to when they weren't together. She knew that she and Impmon had a weird connection that seemed to draw them together, but she started to really wonder how far back she and Impmon really went.

"How is he?"

Rika regarded him. He was making and admirable effort, he really was, but the skin around and under his eyes was red and puffy.

"It looked pretty bad," Henry murmured from where he was sitting. "Is he going to be okay?"

"He's fine right now," Rika said, nursing her soup, trying to think of something to say.

"Momentai," Terriermon said from his place in Henry's lap, "This is Impmon we're talking about. He's way too stubborn to let this take him down. I mean, look at all the other crazy stuff he's survived. This is nothing."

"He was stabbed down his whole back. How is that nothing?" Guilmon asked.

"Seriously, stop worrying," Rika told them. "He'll be fine." She gripped the edges of her bowl. Renamon could tell her when she got back.

The conversation eventually lulled into a beaten silence. Originally, they had wanted to stay up to brainstorm and talk to the adults about how to get Jeri out, and come up with theories on the D-Reaper and its horrible new form. Now, all three of them found themselves staring into space, too tired to really think, and too awake to sleep.

Rika even found herself nodding off at one point, only for Takato's shifting to catch her eye. He wasn't looking at any of them, not even Guilmon. He was the only person in the room whose face was leaned against the chilly window, eyes wide open, tight with emotion and exhaustion and frustration.

"We're just waiting here," he said quietly. "And Jeri, she's…" he leaned his forehead against the glass. "There has to be something we can do."

She could feel a headache blooming in her temples.

"Like what?"

"Pray," Henry murmured, half to himself.

Everything hurt.

There was an intense pressure, digging into the little spaces along his spine, stabbing upwards as though it was trying to get to his lungs. His eyelids flew open. He was lying sideways on a pile of towels or something. It was dark, and he was alone.

Was it cold in here, or was that just him? He shivered. Immediately, he wished he hadn't—the involuntary movement send a horrible clacking wave of pain juddering up his spine and shooting through his body to the tips of his claws. Even gritting his teeth it felt like he'd been punched in the mouth.

He must have made a sound, because as it did turn out, there was someone in here. Or at least, someone had just entered.

"You're awake."

Instinctively, he turned bleary eyes suddenly wide. He didn't relax when he saw who it was.

Mr. Kato had appeared. "I'm not going to hurt you," he said. His voice was matter of fact. "I'm just here to look at your bandages again."

There was no animosity, no, anger, just…he just kind of sounded tired. This led Impmon to conclude that the man had no idea what Impmon's relationship to Jeri really was. In a way, in a weaker moment, he might have preferred that someone had told him, so that the truth wasn't hanging over his head like a naked sword.

"I guess I should thank you," he said, trying to get himself to relax.

Mr. Kato sighed through his nose. "I should be thanking you. You came closer to saving her than anyone." With that, he bent to examining the bandages. He wasn't bleeding anymore, apparently—he'd been bleeding? Or at least, he wasn't bleeding much. However, he was having trouble moving, and breathing hurt. A lot. He also couldn't smell well, like his nose was stuffed and scabbed up.

Mr. Kato asked him to describe what he was feeling. Impmon was hesitant at first—he was a Digimon, and a tough one at that, he'd never been asked how he felt about anything, let alone something as mundanel as pain—but after hemming and hawing for a minute, Mr. Kato decided he wasn't going to have any of that. The look on his face was encouragement enough to ensure cooperation.

It was weird, because Impmon had never been asked to describe pain before, at least in a serious sense. It was also humiliating, because it was one thing to be weak in front of Renamon and Rika—even the other kid Tamers by extension, but this guy was a stranger, and even worse it was Jeri's father.

Now Impmon wasn't exactly a savant when it came to human relationships, but he did known enough to understand what father entailed, and just how freaking sick it was that this guy of all people was treating him.

"I've got one more question for you," Mr. Kato said as he packed up. "You risked your life to save my daughter. I thank you for that. But I want to know: who is she to you?"

Impmon flinched. He guessed it only made sense he'd want to know—after all, the Tamers were all established as Jeri's friends, and Mr. Kato probably at least knew their names. He was probably thinking that by extension, this applied to their Digimon as well. Impmon, in his eyes, seemed unattached.

"I…" he swallowed, tasting blood in the back of his throat. He hated himself for it, but he couldn't do it. The admission was trapped in his belly, fluttering and fighting, but trying to bring up the word was like trying to force himself to throw up. The shame burned in his face. But he did settle on a truth, "She saved my life once."

Mr. Kato's blinked. "She saved you?" It was phrased a like a statement, but the surprise was there. Impmon felt his gaze and suddenly felt very small and exposed. He was probably wondering how a little girl could possibly stand between Beelzemon and any kind of threat.

If only he knew. He couldn't help but think of Leomon's dying words, immediately followed by Jeri's intercession. "Yeah…" he said, "She…she has a lion's heart."

The first aid kit clicked shut.

Later that evening—Impmon lost all track of time, trying to encourage sleep, but if anything, he was feeling worse than he had when Sakuyamon carried him off the battlefield—the kids surprised him pushing the door open and tumbling into the room with grins and smelling like food. Their hair was sticking up in weird places, they were sticky with the dried sweat of the horrible day and their eyes were red and smoky looking, but they all seemed happy to see him.

Rika even brought him a bowl of rice porridge. The bowl was uncomfortably heavy, but the warmth felt good when he held it against his chest.

"You know, it'll do you more good if you eat it," Terriermon suggested, clambering onto the bottom rung of the tea trolley, jolting it.

"Maybe I could eat it if you weren't trying to shake me to bits," Impmon retorted. In the end, after as much flailing and protests as his condition could manage, Rika had to help him sit up in order to drink the porridge. At first it was incredibly awkward, since the kids first contented themselves with hovering close by as if they thought he was going to disintegrate into ashes on the spot and asking him questions as to how he was feeling.

"I'm getting mixed signals from you! How's a guy supposed get some R n' R with a bunch of dorks throwing questions while he's tryin' to eat? Do you know how incredibly weird this is?"

Guilmon blinked. "Would it make you feel better if we were eating, too?"

Impmon had buried his nose into his bowl, falling into banter without thinking and not really listening. "Yeah, maybe!"


After a brief sojourn into the headquarters, both Takato and Guilmon returned with armfuls of yesterday's bread and cold leftovers from dinner. It was probably some godawful hour of the night, and it seemed like at least most of the adults had gone to sleep, but Impmon didn't really care, because even thought there was only one lamp turned on in here, the room seemed brighter and warmer, and the muffled silence replaced with childish conversation, favorite foods and stupid awful jokes.

Over the course of the evening, Impmon became aware of a growing heat under his fur and an encroaching chill in the room. Even propped up against the pillows he could feel pain crystalizing, making every movement including breathing punishment, but at the moment, even those tangible elements seemed intangible and unimportant. Impmon first convinced himself he was humoring these guys, but it wasn't until two of the mothers (Impmon guessed) came in to drag them off, saying that this had gotten out of hand and if they wanted to be useful they had to get at least three hours of sleep, that he realized his error.

"Can't we sleep in here?" Takato protested. Mrs. Matsuki glanced at Impmon who frowned. What was she looking at?

God, he had a bad headache.

In the end, the mothers insisted that at the very least, Impmon would never get any rest because they'd be up all night whispering to each other. The kids were protesting as they were frog marched out of the room (not without saying good night, hope you feel better, Impmon!).

Before one of the mothers closed the door on him, she asked if there was anything she could do. For a second he wanted to know if he could sleep in the same room as everyone else, but was too embarrassed to ask.

She could tell by his breathing that he was awake, labored, too quick and shallow to be true sleep.

She didn't know what was wrong, but there was a fiery tingling on the edge of her nose, an electric warning buzz teasing the sensitive hair around her muzzle and ears that finally concentrated in the center of her forehead. The instinct was there—whatever was the matter with him was foreign, and that which is foreign is potentially dangerous.

But Renamon's instincts hadn't been the first thing she trusted in a while now. She's seen the plea in his eyes and in the middle of the night entered the sick bay.

"Who's there?" he rasped.

"It's me."

She approached him. She could feel the heat coming off his body in waves, and his eyes had a strange bright, watery look. Renamon's eyes narrowed. Sickness was something unique to the human condition, or so she'd thought, or at least, these bodies. She'd never encountered a sick Digimon. This seemed wrong.

For one, he wasn't asking why she was there.

"Is there any water in here?" his voice was weak. She blinked, glancing over to the edge of the desk. There was a little pitcher of water, and a bowl will some more towels crumpled up inside. There weren't any cups. Renamon took one of the towels as gingerly as she could and dipped it in the water. She had no idea what she was doing.

She wrung it out as lightly as she could manage and dripped it over Impmon's face. To her surprise, he grabbed the towel and tugged it weakly out of her hands to drape it wetly over his head—covering his scalp and eyes. He was shaking, gritting his teeth to keep them from chattering. Water ran down his face and dripped from his eyes.

It was horrible to watch, and yet, she could not tear her eyes away. She had no idea what to do, who to wake up if she had to wake someone. Something kicked her inside—a callback to her conversation with Rika on that barren upper plain in the Digital World: "So many people need our help, it's a little overwhelming."

But every wave begins with a single drop of water.

She'd rarely felt more helpless in her life, looking at him now.

He didn't even have his words to defend himself now.

"What's the matter?" she asked.

"It hurts. There's something in my back."

Mr. Kato had said he had not seen any evidence of splinters—nothing but the surgically brutal incisions made by the D-Reaper. She looked at his back—the bandaged were spotty with old blood, but the wounds clearly hadn't bled in a while.

"It's hot in here."

But he was shaking, as if he was cold. That was a bad sign. Her tail twitched. This time she went to the kitchen and grabbed a cup, knocking over another one in the process and sending it to shatter on the floor.

She helped Impmon drink some more water and tried to get him to lie down. It was the most she could do, so it was time to implement another plan. She was just about to walk out the door, when Impmon's voice stopped her.

"Renamon?" He didn't ask her to stay. In that she breathed a sigh of relief—he at least had the presence of mind to remember some of his stubborn pride. "What's happening to me?"

"I don't know."

"I don't want to be alone. But Jeri's…"

"Jeri has Calumon with her. You need to rest."

He looked at her. Even through the haze of whatever was the matter with him, they both knew. He was afraid to go to sleep, in case he didn't wake up.

"You're right," he rasped. A low, hacking chuckle escaped him. "Mako got sick kinda like this once. But somehow I don't think it's really the same. Humans are tough like that."

He was terrified, and he was hoping she didn't realize it.

She walked back to his tea trolley, sat down and leaned against the desk. There was an unspoken promise there—nothing more needed to be said.

She stayed that way until his body finally submitted to sleep.

As soon as his breathing settled, she stood up. She would be right back.

Renamon roamed the hallways. They were heavy with a thick, uncomfortable silence that pressed down on the walls so had she could practically hear them creak with strain. Just the air in here made her heart beat just a little faster, stirred the fur along her spine.

She had expected to search for wherever the adult humans were sleeping, but to her surprise she heard the scrape of a chair along the ground and agitated typing. Bluish-white light spilled through a crack in the door.

She pushed it open.

Shibumi looked up from his work. He had been cobbling together a machine of some kind.

The man's eyes almost gave her pause. They were sleepy-looking in a strange way, yet bright and lucid in a way she had not seen in other human adults—something vaguely childish and dreamy, yet communicating at the same time an age that she wasn't quite sure she understood.


"You were expecting me?"

"As a matter of fact, I was. I heard you enter the room where your friend is being kept. But more to the point, Mr. Kato told me about what he saw. I went in a while ago to see for myself. The little guy was sleeping, so there wasn't much I could do except observe."

"What is wrong with him?"

"Well, I have a guess. Did he say anything?"

Renamon told him about what Impmon had reported about the pain he was feeling, in addition to the strange convulsions and complaints about heat. Shibumu leaned back in his chair, stroking his chin and frowning lightly.

"Mr. Kato mentioned what he suspected was internal bleeding. The convulsions and complaints about being too hot and cold are fever-normally a mundane element of sickness, but in this case...you say he's feeling a pressure in his back, as if there was something still in there, but there isn't anything. The D-Reaper doesn't like organic matter, but you Digimon, despite being data, still have bodies that at least function like organic matter while in the real world." He started to go back to building his machine. "I think his body is confused. The D-Reaper's attack probably should have been fatal, but it wasn't. At least, not immediately.

The D-Reaper's attack is attacking his data. It withered away his mega form, but it didn't finish the job when Beelzemon turned back into Impmon. But based on what you're telling me, I don't think it's quite done."

Renamon blinked, and then found her eyes narrowing as her stomach clenched. "What are you saying?"

"I think that part of the D-Reaper's attack is still there, eating away at Impmon's data from the inside. Since you guys are made of data that is at least functioning like an organic body, and the data is being attacked as we speak, it's showing itself like an infection in humans, with fever-like symptoms to parallel the infection analogy. The blunt trauma part is manifesting itself like internal bleeding might. But it's just a theory…"

He didn't sound nearly as concerned as Renamon hoped he actually was—as if he was talking about something particularly interesting but not terribly important. It was like the man was behind a glass, and it was through that that he interacted with other people.

"Is there anything that can be done?" her voice was cold, but weaker than she would have liked.

"I've been preparing a temporary solution. I built a jamming program out of some of MarineAngemon's data that might hopefully work like an antibody. If nothing else, it may help slow down the infection to the point where Impmon's own data might start to fight back on its own. But there's no guarantee it will work. If I had more time and more access to different equipment, there might be a better chance, but…" he looked up at her. Yes, there was human regret in those strange brown eyes. "…we could be looking at the end of the world."

There was little more Renamon could do.

Shibumi finished his device. It looked like of like the scanner they had hooked Terriermon up to, earlier. She helped him carry it into the sickbay, but aside from that, all she could do was thank him, and be there when Impmon woke up just before dawn, wondering what all these wires were for.

Impmon's fever broke three days later. For one glorious moment he realized he wasn't freezing to death and his blood wasn't boiling anymore—but the moment he tried to sit up, there was a sharp sense of breathlessness, a reeling where his heart seemed to shutter and flicker, like the lights in a building whose power's about to go out.

The pain was still there, pressing sharply against his lungs now. It probably wasn't too far from his heart, come to think of it.

A sudden heaviness descended on his shoulders and gut like a lead blanket. The corner of his mouth twitched.

Sun was breaking in through the curtains, tracing a thin line of gold through the carpet and gleaming on the shiny surfaces of the empty pitcher and metal parts of the tea trolley.

He'd felt those sensations before. And both times, he'd been about to die.

He thought of Jeri, and the other Tamers.

"Renamon? I just…" he shook his head. The motion nearly made him pass out. "I wish it hadn't turned out this way."

He wanted a bunch of things right then. He wanted to know he'd survive. He wanted to spend at least a little more time with this thing called friendship, laughing and making stupid jokes and not having to deal with the loneliness and bitter spite that had gnawed at his guts for so long. He wanted to be forgiven. He wanted to not be a failure in his last hours.

He didn't want to go.

"It's not—" he couldn't even bring himself to finish the thought. It wasn't true.

Renamon placed her hand on his shoulder.

Janyu had observed the whole debacle unfold at as much a distance as he could allow himself. He was already neck deep in the search for anything—anything that might help them (no, the kids, because the most they could do was provide backup and as much information as possible, dammit) against the D-Reaper and trying to figure out how to rescue that poor little girl, Jeri. But he couldn't help himself, both curiosity and the perhaps vain hope that he might be able to do something to mitigate the situation regarding the little Digimon prompted him to ask Shibumi and Mr. Kato about what they'd found, as soon as they'd finished moving all the equipment and had at least partially settled into their new location.

What they told him only added to the taste of bitterness blooming in his mouth.

"Wait," he'd spluttered after a moment of furious thinking, "Does he have a Tamer?" he recalled the incident where Jeri had healed her partner with the power of a Digivice, and Henry had told him this was one of the ways that the things were essential to being a Tamer.

Shibumi shook his head. "I know where you're going. He says he says they don't have a Digivice."

"Then, is there anything we can do?"

Shibumi sighed. "Realistically?"

Any other time, Janyu might have expected Yamaki to grumble. After all, there were probably hundreds of Terada Ais and Makotos amongst the evacuees of Shinjuku—how could he possibly be expected to divert time from literally saving the world?

But Yamaki didn't grumble, or even say much.

Three hours later, he came up with a list.

It didn't turn out to matter much. Mr. Matsuki burst into the room breathlessly, red faced and wide eyed, blurting out that two four year olds calling themselves Terada Ai and Mako had wandered up to the building, looking for Impmon.

"They think you're going to get better."

"Good. They shouldn't waste time worrying about me. You can concentrate on saving Jeri."

They both knew better.

He gripped the edge of the blanket, looking down at the backs of his hands. He wanted his gloves back. He felt naked and incomplete without them. If he was going to keel over at any minute now he might as well have them back, it—it—

His heart was beating faster now, and even that was hurting, too. He clutched his chest, willing it to stop. Now, more so even than when he first biomerged on this earth, he was aware of just how heavy this heart was, how hard the blood was beating in his veins, of the acute pains in his spine, the stiffness of his body...the taste of blood in his mouth.

"It's just ironic, you know," a humorless chuckle heaved its way out of his lungs, "I've loaded all this data. And now I'm gonna die and disappear in a puff like I was never there, and it won't be of any use to anyone." His voice cracked a little on the word 'die'. "Maybe you should load me, Renamon."

"Is that what you want?" he looked up, startled. Her voice was low and flat, her warrior's voice, all candid, cool, and dead, dead serious. Her eyes were gleaming with the light from the lamp, like a sunset. Her arms were folded, and she was leaning against the wall.

Impmon swallowed. He looked at her, solemn-eyed, relaxed power, leaning against the wall, but she was primed and tense and powerful. He knew that right now, she could probably crush the life out him with one hand. She could use it, too.


Ai and Mako. He'd—he'd never gone home. After what happened with Jeri. He gripped the edge of the blankets and shut his eyes.

"No," he said. "It's not."

The others had said their goodbyes. Impmon had done his level best to be cantankerous and energetic—he would not have their last impression of him be of him looking like death even if he felt like it. He'd done enough damage, and if he dragged them down now, he'd never…well.

Ai and Mako were downstairs, waiting. One of the parents was probably going to help him down. There was a strange lightness, now, and even though it hurt to breathe, Impmon felt strangely calm. He was okay with this. He was. Really.

Renamon was the last one.

"You still here fox face?"

"I just wanted to tell you that your honor is intact. Your efforts will not be in vain. And…" She paused. For the first time since he'd known her, it was as though she wasn't sure what to say.

"I will miss you."

Oh, dammit, not now.

"Yeah, well," he tried not to sniffle. His eyes suddenly hurt. He wanted to look away, but this was probably the last time he'd ever see her, and he wanted to remember if for what remained of his life. "You…you weren't so bad yourself."

"Goodbye, my friend."

"…Goodbye. Friend."

He could barely move, and when he was delivered into Ai and Mako's arms to be driven back to wherever—didn't matter anymore—he was so aware of everything that made him alive. His pain, their smell of baby wipes and graham crackers, the feel of their little-kid skin on his fur…

The door to the van closed.

And then, there was light.

"It's good to see you."

He smiled, a little timidly. The warmth in her voice was unlike anything he'd ever heard before, and of everyone there, they were the only two who could hear it.