In the Shadow of the Valley

02 Interlude

"Miyako. You told me not to let you scratch it." Poromon pleaded with her, turning those large watery blue eyes up at her.

"I know, I know…" Miyako sighed, forcing her hand away from the bandages. She didn't know why she bothered to keep it wrapped up. There was no real wound anymore, just some dark bruises that wouldn't go away. But it itched. She grabbed a pencil instead, chewing on the end of her eraser as she tried to focus on the math problems that were due tomorrow. She tried…but she just couldn't focus. She hadn't been able to focus for days. She was so tired.

At least with the winter holidays approaching, she'd get a break from school for a while. Unfortunately, some of her classes were with teachers who believed that education took no vacations, and would probably assign her work anyway.

Still. Some time away from school would be good. Away from the others. It was hard passing Hikari in the hallways at school. Ever since they'd had their adventure in the Dark World, and Sylphimon had evolved for the first time, she'd felt like they had a connection of sorts. And it…hurt to see her like this. A pale ghost of herself, drifting from class to class. At least she had Takeru. She never saw her without him, nowadays.

Miyako didn't have classes with those three, and the computer room was empty after school. Even Professor Fujiyama had come to her, wondering if something had happened to the computer club—she was the president after all.

Just a break, Professor. She'd told him, Everyone is busy with exams and the upcoming holidays.

And he believed her. Why wouldn't he? She looked stressed enough.

"What's wrong?" Poromon squwaked as she suddenly picked him up from where he'd been preening on the desk, his little wings buzzing for a moment with confusion. She just held him, the tip of his feather tickling her nose.

She…didn't want to go back.

Murderers!

Her own words made her flinch as they echoed through her mind.

If she hadn't driven them away…

Maybe…it would have been different. Maybe Tailmon wouldn't have…

But then, Arukenimon would have still evolved. Instead of Angewomon, they might have been facing Anyamon…or Flamedramon.

Or Shurimon.

She shuddered as she remembered her nightmares. The nightmares that dogged her every sleeping moment. The nightmares that made her curl up in bed, shaking, but unwilling to sleep.

She felt dizzy. The world was swaying. She tightened her hold on Poromon, leading the small digimon to cry out that it was too tight. But she didn't hear it.

She couldn't talk to anyone. Hikari had her own problems. Both Daisuke and Takeru were focused on her. And she didn't feel comfortable going to Ken. Normally she would go to Iori. They lived so close afterall, and he was such a quiet boy. Patient and willing to listen as the words spilled out of her. He would always have some insightful comment or observation to impart after it all—one that just made everything make sense…

But she couldn't.

Iori's mother wouldn't let him go to school, much less hang out with her. Not after she'd brought him back only half aware, the lingering effects of Ang—Arukenimon's poison still churning in his system. They hadn't drugged him, but his mother didn't believe that.

She'd even asked if he could come visit, or if she could visit him, their apartments were only a floor apart, but she'd been told not to call back any time soon.

Iori was one of her oldest friends. She would never hurt him.

Never.

Never.

The world swam, and Miyako hardly noticed it as the floor rushed up to meet her.

x-x-x

Poromon struggled free of his partner's hold. What happened? He didn't know. One moment she'd been doing work, the next holding him so tight he could hardly breathe, tiny drops of moisture falling onto his head…

And then…and then…she'd fallen. She'd fallen, and now she wasn't getting up.

"Miyako?" He fluttered nervously. Any moment she'd get up. Any moment now and she'd laugh and rub her head, joking about how much of a clutz she was. And moment now she'd grope for the glasses that had tumbled from her face, nearly blind as a bat without them.

Any moment now…

"Miyako?" He nudged her with his beak. She didn't stir.

Something red was trickling down the side of her face, where her head had hit her desk on the way down. He'd seen it before. It had come out of her finger, when she'd cut herself instead of the wires as she'd been fiddling with an old radio.

"This?" She'd asked in response to his question, rooting through her desk drawers for a bandage. She showed it to him, and he'd watched, fascinated as the red liquid welled into tiny droplets, threatening with every second to trickle down her finger, "It's called blood. It's a human thing. It means we are hurt. This little bit is nothing to worry about, though."

But this time it didn't disappear behind a bandaid. It stood out even in amongst her hair, bright and red.

"It means we are hurt."

Miyako was hurt.

She wasn't moving.

Poromon didn't know what to do.

He was vaguely aware of the door to the apartment clicking; her parents finished closing up the convenience store. Her mother would walk passed Miyako's closed door, to her room. To change. Her dad would start dinner. They wouldn't think to check on Miyako until dinner was done.

Miyako wasn't moving.

He could hear her mother moving down the hall.

"You mustn't let them see you!" Miyako had always been adamant about that. "If they don't think you are a stuffed animal they will take you away!"

He didn't want to be taken away. He didn't want to leave Miyako. His partner.

But his partner was hurt.

Sometimes…you just had to sacrifice secrets in order to help someone. Just as Lowemon had done.

His wings buzzed furiously as he flew at the door, throwing his small body against the wooden door, yelling as loud as he could, "Heeeeeeelp!"

Again and again. He couldn't open it, not with it pressed securely in its frame. He didn't have hands.

His wings hurt, his face bruised. The door was his enemy. It was stopping him from getting help. He had to defeat it.

"Miyako! What's wrong—"

The door flung open just as Poromon went to ram it again. He ended up tumbling in the air, smashing into Miyako's surprised mother. He caught himself, fluttering frantically in a circle around her, "Miyako's hurt! Miyako's hurt!"

"What are you—" Any surprise and fear at his appearance was thrown out the moment she looked beyond him, to see her daughter sprawled on the floor, bleeding from the head. She gave Poromon a quick, heavy glance, taking a deep breath to compose herself, "We are going to need to talk later." He drooped, but nodded. Then she whirled around, yelling down the hall, "Honey! Call the ambulance!"

x-x-x

Iori stood on the balcony, looking down at the street. He still felt weak. His mother hadn't let him go to school. Honestly, he was getting bored. He couldn't go visit Miyako—he couldn't even practice his kendo with his Grandfather. He'd just been stuck in his room, with comics and homework that his mother would bring him—stopping by the school on her way home from work.

No matter what he did, he couldn't appease her. He was fine, honestly. He just wanted to go back to school. But he knew how protective she was. He just had to wait it out, as boring and frustrating as it was.

At least he had Upamon. Not that Upamon wasn't as bored as he was. Reading some of the comics to the digimon helped a bit. Iori had read them long ago, but Upamon was interested.

Upamon was out with him on the balcony now, balancing on the metal railing. There was an ambulance sitting out front of the apartment building—it had been the sirens that had drawn Iori away from his comics. The flashing lights whirled in the night, turning Upamon red momentarily with each pass.

Sirens were something decently common, living in such a dense city. But it wasn't every day one stopped here, at his building.

"Hey!" Upamon was leaning really far over the edge; so far Iori had to tell him to be careful, "Isn't that Poromon?"

Suddenly, Iori found himself emulating his digimon, small hands pushing him up so he could peer over the edge, eyes straining to pierce the night. Upamon's sight was better, but even Iori managed to pick out the small pink ball being held in the arms of an older woman, who was standing around uncomfortably as the paramedics loaded the gurney into the ambulance.

That was Miyako's mom! If Poromon was there…

He whirled around, snatching Upamon from the railing. He ran to the door, ignoring his shortness of breath. It didn't matter. His shoes were right where he'd left them in the entry way, and he slipped them on.

"Where do you think you are going?"

His mom stood in the hall, her disapproving gaze damning. He flinched as she crossed her arms.

"Miyako's hurt." He explained, hoping she would let him go. The response was just the opposite, her eyes narrowing, becoming more stubborn. Why? His mom liked Miyako. She liked that Iori was hanging out with such a social person, considering he was so quiet and serious.

"I'm sure she will be fine. Go back to your room."

He bit his lip, hesitating.

And then he turned.

"Don't you dare leave!"

He said nothing, the door slamming behind him. He ran, almost tripping on untied laces. Miyako's mother was with the ambulance—it had been pulling away when he'd left the balcony. Her father or siblings may still be home. He could find out what happened, and where he needed to go.

x-x-x

Shiori paced back and forth. Waiting. Waiting. The ball of…something warm in her arms. She wasn't exactly sure why she'd brought her daughter's…stuffed animal along. A stuffed animal that had been flying, had beat himself up to get her attention, feathers displaced and bent after smashing into the door.

A…stuffed animal that had told her what happened, so she could relay it to the paramedics.

A stuffed animal that her daughter never went anywhere without.

A stuffed animal that felt so alive. That looked just as worried and afraid as she had as the paramedics had carefully checked Miyako over, before carefully transporting her down to the ambulance. Now here they were, waiting.

The door slammed opened.

"Uh, I'm sorry to disturb you, Ms. Inoue, but he claims to be a friend of your daughter…?" A nurse hovered worriedly over the shoulder of a small boy. Shiori managed a weak smile, "It's fine, come on in, Iori."

The nurse shrugged, leaving the boy puffing in the doorway. He was pale, shaking, clutching a small yellow…stuffed animal in his own arms. This one had feathered ears, of sorts, rather than wings. She waved him toward the plastic chairs, "You look like you are about to collapse. Did you run all the way here?"

He shook his head, but he breathing was still coming in harsh gasps. She kept a careful eye on the yellow thing in his arms. He was stiff, nothing more than a stuffed animal. But now that she was looking…she could see the eyes move slightly, flickering between her daughters's pink one and her face.

"Is…huff…Miyako okay?" the boy refused to sit, not until Shiori freed up one of her hands and nearly pushed the boy into one of those chairs.

"Just breathe, Iori. Miyako wouldn't want you to hurt yourself on her account." The boy shut up and did what he was told. Closing his eyes, in and out. In and out. It was obviously a well practiced exercise. She knew he practiced kendo—he could have picked a meditation from it.

"Miyako fainted, and hit her head on her desk." His breathing hitched, small body flinching, but she just sat down next to him, putting a comforting hand on his shoulder, "They said she should be fine…but she needs a couple stitches. That's what they are doing now."

"…why did she faint?" Iori hugged the yellow thing. Like this, it really did look like nothing more than a little boy's toy.

And…Shiori couldn't explain it. She didn't know. She wouldn't have even known her own daughter was knocked out on the floor if it weren't for…

"She hasn't been sleeping…" The tiny whisper drifted up from her arms, drawing three sets of startled looks toward the little pink ball.

"Poromon!" The yellow thing hissed, causing Iori to automatically clamp his hand over the thing's mouth. He then glanced up at Shiori, surprised that she wasn't. "You…know?"

"I didn't know his name, but yes." The pink thing—Poromon?—shifted sheepishly. They'd been able to talk a little while waiting for the paramedics, but neither of them had been up for much more other than 'What are you to my daughter?' Friend. Partner. Confidant. Gaurdian…

And Shiori could do nothing but believe it. Since the beginning of the school year, Miyako wouldn't ever be seen without her little stuffed animal. She had wondered about it, thinking her daughter was a little old for such tendencies, but work always kept her tired and busy, and she never really asked.

They talked quietly as they waited, Poromon, Iori, and—Upamon?—explaining a little about the little creatures known as digimon. Some of what they spoke of nagged at her, as if recalling a dream she could barely remember. Three years ago, when the fog rolled in off the bay…

"Ms. Inoue?"

Poromon and Upamon immediately stiffened when the doctor came into the room. His grave face froze her heart. He seemed to realize this, and attempted to reassure her with a smile.

"Your daughter is fine. The stitches are settling, and once she wakes up, she should be good to check out. I'd suggest keeping an eye on her tonight, and the nurse will provide you with information on concussions and warning signs. However…there is something strange we noticed. Are you aware that your daughter has a bandage on her left arm?"

Shiori frowned, shaking her head. Miyako had been wearing nothing but long sleeves for a while now…but as the seasons changed it was getting colder, so it was only natural. "No. Is she okay?"

After a moment's thought, he nodded slowly. "The nurse noticed it as she was being checked over—we suspected perhaps a prior injury and a fall like that could potentially open up already healing wounds. First off, the cloth was tied too tight, and may be adversely affecting the circulation in her arm. I recommend you speak to her about this, poor circulation can lead to more severe problems down the line."

"Of course. Anything else?" There had to be something else. She'd expected a nurse to be the one to give her all this information.

"I had…hoped you would have an idea as to what caused the injury. It is very strange. It appears to be bite marks, but there are no signs of the skin being broken. They aren't bruises however…"

She turned her attention to Iori once the doctor left, to Poromon. Neither of them would meet her eyes. Only Upamon seemed oblivious, looking between them in confusion.

"Was Miyako hurt before this?"

Poromon shuddered, and Iori was silent. She knew he wouldn't lie, but his omission was answer enough.

x-x-x

A/N: Just a peek at what's going on with Miyako and Iori—basically more repercussions of that mission. I think I've covered everyone except Takeru. I don't have plans to really, not in any depth. I'll see if I can come up with something for next week's chapter. As it is… next week's chapter is really small… I mean, it does what I had planned for the mini-chapter, but I feel guilty now that they are only coming once a week. At least after that we'll be back to regular length chapters for a while.

I couldn't find a name for Miyako's mom, and Shiori popped into my head. It's probably because the last "Mom" character I wrote was Kurama's mother…oh well.

Her finding out just kind of…happened. I don't quite know what the consequences are yet. I suppose we'll find out together, eh?

Whelp. My convention is this weekend, and we're looking at 6 inches or more of snow. Joy. At least photos will be pretty.

Next week's chapter is titled Mummymon's Sorrow. I did say Oikawa would still be doing his thing. LordKnightmon's schemes may have shaken up the 02 canon, but some things still happen. We'll see a bit of that next week. Hope you guys enjoy the chapter, I'll see you next time!