A/N: Hey there! My brain is so fried right now that I needed something to write that I wasn't already doing. So I started this as an entry to Bayweather's challenge. I hope it works for it. It's many facets of a gem, all of them surrounding the time before and after one, single incident. This one is desensitization. It's also the foundation for something, but it's something I cannot talk about at the moment. :) There should only be about six or seven of these oneshots at most. :)
Warnings: fan theory, mild OOC, alternate character interpretation, character death. Also, season crossover, mildly done of course, until the end.
Theory: Hikari's power did not leave her after she released her crest, but it had nowhere else to go either. Tied to the Digital World as it was, it had no choice but to go inward. I believe it was tied to the world because it awoke the energy to evolve and it takes time for that energy to appear naturally. Plenty of people wanted that power. They have wanted it before. They will want it again, whoever and whatever may have it.
It started with her body.
Once vivacious, it was slowing now, listening to some otherworldly tune. It made her tired when she wanted to run; made her falter when she took a step. She took to walking slowly. She took to playing fewer games. Yet the sound continued to falter.
Tears would prick at her eyes every time the fear rose. She would ignore them. If she cried, they might fall apart. To cry was a sin to the world, to smile was her folly alone.
It was her promise to bear.
She raised a thin hand and giggled shrilly. It was so small.
She was so small.
Hadn't she always been?
Once she had saved the world.
Once she had been surrounded by people.
That was a long time ago now. Now she was just a girl, a kind-hearted one, but just like everyone else. She could be forgotten. She could be free. She was too. She was completely alone now. She was always alone... when it began.
It made her chest ache.
Further and further, she walked behind them. Their voices were buoyant things and they crashed loudly in her ears. Whenever they turned to her though, she did smile. It was okay. They were full of life and wonder. It was okay that they were loud. Once in a while, her mind thought to grab their sleeves, to tell them to wait for her.
She never did, choosing instead to smile at their backs.
It was okay. She could be satisfied with that.
She really could.
She woke up that morning and couldn't walk.
Her fingers could barely twitch and her eyes were a burden to keep open. Her whole body hurt with a sticky, clenching mess.
She was just tired.
Her mother called it a bad flu, typical of the wintertime. Her brother hemmed and hawwed but ultimately let it alone. That was true; she was always sick during the winter. Yet… while this didn't feel wrong; it wasn't right either.
She thought and she thought and then a rueful smile brushed her lips.
Even if I want to… everyone is just getting so far away…
"What am I going to do with this?"
I can stay behind… until they need me. I love them all. I can do that.
I don't have to grow up yet. Maybe not at all.
One day, she found her chest aching. Every breeze made her fingers tremble, her feet miss the ground. She still smiled at their voices, but even their words sounded fuzzy. They sometimes missed her entirely. She would laugh a little at this and everything would be okay.
Until one day, when they walked right past her.
She wiped away the tears with her fingers and looked at her reflection inside them. She saw her pale face and washed out eyes. She saw the greyness of her skin and the starkness of her clothes.
She giggled shyly to no one. "My colors are going away."
Like everyone else had gone away. Like she always went away.
When you're forgotten, you'll disappear. So do not waste these precious days… they are more than you have ever had.
Her body was changing again.
She couldn't remember why.
Was it because of something she had said?
Was it because of something she had done?
Was it because of her choices?
Those were all very nice reasons, but they could not explain why she could now run again. Those ideas could not explain why she was drifting away from her friends. She could not explain why she looked at them and it tore up her heart. They were laughing together, chatting without any cares in the world. Meanwhile she… she was…
When the voice called her name, she turned away from them with a smile. She hid her tears, hid the heaviness of her steps, and went to her classmates. She could feel their gazes on her back, their confusion. It wasn't really fair… but she was doing wrong by them anyway.
If she was going to disappear anyway, why would she stay so close? If her destiny was always the same, then wouldn't it be best to spare them from being caught in it?
That was selfish.
It was best to stay away.
It was the voices of the girls around her that made her stop and think for the first time, about being pretty. She had never really thought about anything like that. She liked sports after all; a good fight always got her blood spiking. Even now that her body was still tired a lot of the time, the idea made her heart race again. It was why-
"Hikari-chan, you should come out with us!"
She was taken utterly by surprise.
Mariko giggled at this, at her face turning a pale pink. "You are so cute." When the hand touched at her messy hair, she blinked slowly, confused. "Wow, your hair is naturally this fuzzy?" The girl babbled on before she could even shake her head and despite herself she found herself smiling, the expression wider than it had been in such a long time.
Perhaps this was okay.
"I haven't seen you in a long time, Hikari-chan."
She looked to her right. "Gennai-san." Her young, pale face brightened at the sight of him. "I suppose it has been a while... it's becoming harder and harder to tell these days." She adjusted her hood, cool, forced detachment in her line of a smile. She could be good at this; she would. It was the only way to keep them safe, the only way to let them be happy.
The man sighed and for a moment, Hikari thought she could see the age in his old form. "I'm sorry to have met you under such negative circumstances. However... the situation the worlds are in at the moment troubles me... and I would like to speak to you about it."
"Why not the others?" When Gennai did anything, and it didn't include everyone, it was only to Koushirou-san. He could distribute the information in a way everyone would understand. It was only natural. What had Hikari be noticed? What had- oh. "You know then," she stated. It was pointless to do so, but he nodded anyway, guilt in his eyes. Why was he guilty?
"I discovered it not too long ago," he admitted, facing her openly now. "I went to speak to your brother of it recently, however..."
Hikari shrugged, long since accustomed to the way things were going. "He barely knew my name, is that not right?" The clipped tone gave her away and the man saw her mentally scold herself. Inwardly, he winced. Those were the traits of light: kind, loyal, forgiving, pure, faithful... everything that was a crest.
Light was not a Crest. It was an ideal. It was a symbol. She was the bearer of a symbol, of a power.
"They do not need the light you give off anymore."
She shook her head, having not flinched. He admired this in her, in the way that she had changed from the innocent who had stood up without thinking, to the girl who trembled and hesitated, to the unflinching, remarkable way she had chosen her fate and to wear it. This girl had grown, and she had had no tests to coerce her. "They haven't needed me in a long, long time. They have twin suns."
"Even though the suns give off light?"
Hikari only smiled. "Do not be so romantic Gennai. It doesn't always work that way. You know that better than me."
"They work in our world. And you know that. Perhaps you know that better than I do. Do not forget it."
She gave him a piercing stare and sighed. "Should I dream that all will be well?"
"Everything is well." Anger did not flash onto her face, as he wished it would. If she were angry, that would be less sacrificial. She was the only one who had accepted her destiny so wholeheartedly, so willingly. There were so few who did that... himself not included. "You will still exist, if on the fringes of it. When they need you, they will see you again. They will know of you. The light does not simply vanish from the world, ceasing to exist. If it did, well, we are certain of many other sets of problems."
"Like being dead?" she asked, a bit of acid in her voice.
Gennai smiled, the expression almost a smirk. "Perhaps. I would like to think more symbolically as Homeostasis advises me." Her head tilted and he chuckled. "Oh you'll meet them soon, or rather, unite with them. I believe if the light ceased to exist, the reason for good would cease. The reason for love would no longer be. Light is warmth and sometimes it burns. Sometimes it scours. Sometimes the darkness soothes and protects. But the darkness could not do either of those things without a light to invite it."
This was a mistake.
He howled this at her, in dreams now more than she ever had heard his siren song. He was enraged, this creature. He was hateful, envious, burning with these traits and making his water boil. She did not blame him. Cut off from everything, forced to break before being able to heal. It was a rather ruinous existence, one she had once thought reserved for storybook tales fit for the purest of heroes.
This was a mistake.
It was a mantra he repeated to her like a wind up toy. She ignored it. She remembered now, and so she ignored it. Only a few years ago, she may have listened. Only a few years ago, she would have succumb to the voice and given it what it wanted. However, that was not an option now. She remembered what she had not been meant to look at, or to recall, or to become. That would change. It would have to. She wouldn't let anything else happen.
She would break this cycle and start a new one.
It was a promise.
Where had her brilliance disappeared to?
She had given it to the wind.
Even as it blew her half to the ground, she laughed with it, hearing their voices over the slowing thumping in her chest. She could hear them clearly again and even if their eyes left hers and she was practically transparent, well, that was okay. Her time was being occupied, even as it dwindled. Even as she laughed, tears choked her lungs hard enough to burn.
Her hood blew up into her back and she found herself stopped. She found her legs frozen to the brick road. Eyes. Their eyes were upon her. Her eyes looked down at them. Wrong. This was somehow wrong. She didn't belong. She could not belong. With a smile, she hurried away, bowing in that apologetic manner she had become accustomed to.
Once, she had never had to apologize for being where she belonged.
But that was once.
"Hikari-chan!" Their expressions flickered, their gazes suddenly bubbled with recognition. Her heart clenched, but at that moment, she knew better. Mariko ran to grab her by the wrist. "Come on!"
With fear and joy, she was led away. Once again, she locked her thoughts away.
"Are you fully aware of what will happen to you soon?"
"... I have an idea."
The same words she had given Vamdemon. It was no coincidence. Gennai looked at her eyes, at her stance. they were so wilted, so close to invisible. But that was the issue. Light was unseen until it was given something to shine on, shine with. "Not enough, I'm afraid. You will lose all physical sentience with the world. Even I would have to struggle to call you here, to call your power, even. You will be forgotten until the worlds see fit to remember."
"Gennai-san." She sounded amused, not even exasperated. "I know."
"Are you aware you could forget yourself?"
Hikari winced. She had known, but the benefits outweighed the cons. "I could forget them and myself, becoming only a power to be used, a thing to be siphoned from." Well, that wasn't precisely a new thing for her, if unintentional. "It's too late to back out now. If i don't do this, I will hurt them. People will become aware of things they aren't meant to become aware of."
By god, she had never heard the guardian be so darn non-omnipotent in her life. "Only seven years ago I thought we could make a world where humans and Digimon coexisted in my lifetime. We aren't ready, if the light is so easily dismissed." She winced at the harshness of her tone, but continued. "It's bad enough that as many people know as they know now. If they can forget by the loss of me, even for a while, then we are fine for a time, until we have a better way of working with it."
"We?"Hikari saw the man's shoulder's tense and smiled, a knowing little smile that had once agitated her big brother on the rare occasions she used it.
"Yes, 'we'. I will lower the veil and I bet you will hold it down."
He sighed. She had figured him out already. When the light faded, the clarity people had about things would cease, literally and figuratively. It was inevitable. It was a shame she was disappearing. She grasped these concepts with less fuss than Koushirou did. "Very well." The words were long-suffering and wistful. "I will miss you, even if we were not friends."
"You are one of the few who will."
She didn't feel the ground that morning.
Hikari didn't feel the clothes on her back or her bedsheets being ruffled. It was... not as terrifying as she thought it would have been. Instead, it was quite dull. Like: Oh, so this is what it is like. Nothing special or remarkable. Then again, she wasn't much of that these days. An ordinary, vanishing, eighteen year old girl. Yep, that summed her up well. She grabbed a snoozing Tailmon and looked solemnly at her brother's computer. This was the end. There was no need for fanfare.
I'm okay with having no colors now. I gave them away to everyone. As long as she smiled until the very end, she wasn't lying.
"You can't… I don't want to forget you… None of us do." The tears dripped down, splashing onto her cold face. It tingled, she noticed, her soft breaths even audible over the rush of trees. "We all need you… we all love you…"
She couldn't let the tears move her. There was no time for that. What mattered was that Tailmon knew, that her person would not be gone forever. Just for a while... until the next one came. Just until then.
Her fingers reached, transparent and glowing with the sunset, and wiped the tears away. "Don't cry… I'm not going away forever… just... a bit of time... until you guys need something to believe in again." She laughed. "I'm not really going anywhere."
She smiled. "Only if you stop believing." She reached to stroke white fur, pristine and cleaner than the clothes she wore. "Tailmon... once more... just once more... whistle for everyone..." The big blue eyes watered further, so weak, so broken. She was sorry. She had dragged this out. The girl had thought it was better this way. If they gradually grew to lose her, it would only end with a murmur. There would be so little fanfare, so little screaming and tears.
Instead, the most important person is in pain.
Tailmon would never forget, would she? She would be cursed to remember what the others forgot, what they had no longer believed in or needed. They would never understand what she remained for, why she betrayed her master. The girl continued to stroke her partner's fur.
"I'm sorry Tailmon. I'm sorry."
Hikari heard no answer and for that matter, she thought Tailmon hadn't either. She hadn't registered her muscles stretching, her bones swishing. She didn't even notice her hand was falling. It dropped uselessly to the ground, landing and passing through the earth.
Oh. Oh no.
For the first time she acknowledged her fears. She was scared. She did not want to go. She had no choice. That, however, did not make it right. Promises don't make everything okay after all.
None of them understood however. Not even Gennai understood. He couldn't. He couldn't know what had happened in those days. If he did, he would have done everything in his power to stop her from letting things take their course. This, as far as he was aware, would not truly affect the Digital World, not like if she had died as Oikawa had. It wasn't dying, not really.
That was small comfort to her partner, and no words of hers could say otherwise.
"Tailmon..."she whispered, the idea of strength leaving her voice as soon as it began. "Tailmon, please. You have to protect me, now more than ever."
"I'm going to forget you." The cat spoke these words in a brittle voice, the brittle voice that had spoken at a distance when she was eight years old. Well, they had been friends for ten years and there was no way she was going to let her dear partner and friend lose everything for her. There was more than that, more to the world. Tailmon was also too strong for that.
"You won't. Now listen." It was one of the few times Hikari had commanded her to do anything, and thus, she obeyed. "I'm going to disappear. Everyone will forget. You can't. No matter how much your mind says to, you cannot. Because I will be back. I might forget; we might now recognize each other." Her voice was growing softer, and with the noise, more unfamiliarity took its place. Why should she trust this speaker? Who were they-
They were the most important existence to her world and she would not lose it. Not again. Not to Vamdemon, not to reality, not to anyone.
"Protect me, like you always have," she heard her partner whisper. "Only you can do it. You can help me finish this."
Hikari smiled, bliss in her closing eyes. "Breaking free."
Then, her small form, almost shriveled away, vanished. It didn't become the sparkling butterflies of the wishing world, or vivid sparks of power. She was just there one second and gone the next.
Tailmon wailed as she had not for Wizarmon. Her reason for living was gone. She could not clutch her in her paws, scold her with a feral tongue. She could not hiss at intruders for something with no form. No, she had to wait like a cat in the sun and hope the girl was right.
She had to just keep believing, and keep waiting. It was all she had left, if she could not live.