[Disclaimer: The following work of fiction is for entertainment purposes only. I do not own Digimon or any of its characters. Likewise, this story makes use of the lyrical structure created for the country music song "If You're Reading This" as performed by Tim McGraw and written by Brett Warren (what a great first name that is), Brad Warren, and Tim McGraw. Again, no ownership by me is expressed or implied, and no infringement is intended. I was largely after tempo and sentiment.]

[AN: Think of this as a companion follow-up to the story I wrote here 12 years ago titled "She Misses Him." Enjoy! – BMillsWrites]

If You're Reading This

A quiet evening unfolded in the Hida family apartment. It was just after dinner, and while most Hida nights were thoughtfully spent, this particular silence was more thought-filled. There hadn't been anything wrong with the dinner. Mom's meatloaf was great, and the accompanying potatoes were that much better for being twice-baked. It had all been well-received, gratefully eaten, and neatly dealt with - all in keeping with the Hida way. Yet, there was an unintentional heaviness in tonight's lull that pressed the family's normally formal intimacy inadvertently apart, and all three generations honestly knew the cause. This onus began when nine year-old Cody had come home from his after-school computer club, and truthfully admitted to avoiding a class-offered camping trip that would mostly pair fathers and sons.

Minako Hida wanted Cody to go on that trip. He had options. He could go along with Grandpa Hida or one of the several older boys the computer club had as members. However, Cody would not risk his grandfather's safety or being taken less seriously by his older friends. He'd done the dutifully obedient thing, of course, and told her he would go if she wanted him to. Seeing how even the gentlest discussion brought tears to Cody's big green eyes, the mother told him she wouldn't make him go as long as he thought he was sure. As promised, the youngster was giving his certainty about not making the trip more thought. In truth though, Cody's intense and absorbing thought process on the matter was only part of what was turning him inward tonight.

Yes, he had been stung by the reminder of how badly he missed Dad and wanted him. Still, he was aware - more than Minako Hida realized - that she missed Dad too ... and she missed something else, though Cody retained no idea that he could embody it for her. The matter-of-fact was that his Mom was sad now, and Cody Hida believed he'd made her feel that way from the moment he'd walked in the apartment door this afternoon. In ways that only a stubborn and obedient nine year-old mind could fathom, Cody Hida mentally consigned himself to the task of making his Mom happy again without having to make the sponsored trip - and all before bedtime on a school night. This was the ponderous cloud laying over the post-dinner Hida mood. So far, nothing had lifted young Cody's burden: not Upamon's joyful antics that surrounded his post-snack/pre-dinner nap (or was that the post-dinner/ pre-snack nap that came before bedtime?), or the shift in focus it took just to get through afternoon kendo lesson, even though Sensei had benignly not said anything about his student's poor concentration. That's when Cody knew that the sadness he caused had enveloped Grandpa too.

The elder Hida was only trying to carefully honor his daughter-in-law's intention to let Cody make a personal decision, but Cody's sensitivity during the lesson alarmed the older man much more than his distracted practice. Cody knew every mistake he was making. There really wasn't any need to say anything about them. However, at this lesson Cody expected criticism - his eyes nearly begged for it. Grandpa Hida knew if they talked about anything much, they'd have to talk about all in detail, so he remained stoic - and Cody only more imagined displeasing his Sensei while giving unhappiness to his old Grandpa. Since the politeness of dinner followed kendo practice, discussing these concerns about Cody with Minako had to wait for a mannerly interval afterward - but Grandpa Hida did so as quickly as it could properly get done.

It did not take Minako Hida long to decide what to to do. She had known this time would come, but she thought she'd have at least one more year - as many as four more - before it did. She had no right to be surprised at an earlier timeframe, though. Cody had often shown his early readiness for things. Seriousness and death had been correlated for him much too soon. Now she had something to give him, a little sooner than expected, because he needed it. A quick discussion with her father-in-law found him in complete agreement, and settled arrangements on presenting the item in question to Cody. The boy immediately responded when his elders summoned him to the living room. They were standing to meet him, which made Cody a little uneasy about the seriousness of this instruction, but he was prepared to accept and deserve it. When they returned his respectful bow and smiled down reassuringly, he had to ask, "Mom? ... Grandpa? Do one of you need anything? Would that make you happy? ... I mean I'm happy to help, of course."

"Grandpa and I know that we can rely on the help you give us Cody," Minako doted, "Right now though we have something to give you. We both hope it will help with everything you've had to think so hard about lately."

Grandpa Hida followed quickly, so his grandson could not phrase an objection in his own considered unworthiness, "Cody, before you can understand what your mother is offering you, it is likely - even desirable - that you have proof of it. Therefore, take a look at the two signatures on this piece of paper. You know both the handwritings by sight, don't you?"

"Yes, Grandpa." Cody answered simply, reviewing the sheet the oldest Hida gave him. The top one is Mom's and the other one is yours."

"Good. Now, can you read the name signed on the envelope that your mother will hand you?" Grandpa Hida asked.

Mom's hands gently slipped just an ordinary white envelope into Cody's small palms. Written in plain 10-pack blue ink was his own name. "It's mine, but not my writing ... or either of yours."

"Cody, that's Hiroki's handwriting. You will just have to trust me enough to believe that. According to your mother, that envelope contains a message directly for you from your father just in case something happened to him while you were still very young. You have to trust her on that too."

"I've had it all this time, Cody. I decided it was for your tenth birthday at the earliest," Minako Hida explained.

"Grandpa ... Mom, I trust both of you, I promise!" To prove his faithful determination, the small boy tried to offer up the sealed document in his hands back to his Mom. The glistening way he looked at it as he reverently extended it left no doubt he knew it was from Dad. "Thank you for telling me about this. ... It means he thought about me, doesn't it? I mean the me that I am now." Cody was very careful not to phrase his next words as a question, "Maybe he'd like to do stuff with me now. I really will know more when I'm ten, so I'll be do my best when I read it. Thanks!" Cody bowed, and waited to be excused, but Mom just shook her head sideways and would not take the honored note back.

"Cody, that's a patiently unselfish thought, but I've decided that you should go ahead and read whatever Dad wanted to tell you. Read it tonight before bedtime," Minako Hida allowed.

The boy looked up at her, innocently amazed, "I can read it right here and right now, really?"

"Well, not just right here Cody, take it to your room and read it in private, but you can certainly do that now," his Mom suggested.

"Don't you and Grandpa want to hear it too?" the youngest Hida offered.

Minako Hida bent down to her son's eye level - noting with some wistful satisfaction that it did not take as much bending as it used to (but still more than Cody thought it should). "Cody, your Dad wrote three notes like that. Mine was just for me. The one to Grandpa was only for him, and this one is yours. Once you've read it, Grandpa and I will be out here to sit and talk with you about it as long as you want to stay awake, but the first time is just for you. OK?"

Cody nodded, "OK Mom." His Mom stood up, gently turned him toward the hallway, and even more gently set him in motion back toward his bedroom.

Cody spent a few minutes considering whether to wake Upamon and share the reading of Dad's note with him. The small boy decided against it, He didn't get truly private moments with his Dad unless he was dreaming. Upamon would not begrudge him one. The youngster spent another few minutes choosing a location. His study table would not do, this was not an academic exercise. The bed was comfortable, but using the reading light meant laying down - that was too much like going to sleep. Cody decided he'd sit up on the bed with the room's overhead light on. He was about to spend more few minutes on advance details when Cody realized he was just actually putting off reading the note itself. The nine year-old positioned himself bedside. Small fingers broke the envelope's long-held seal, and Cody neatly took out the folded stationary, less formally scribbled with "Cody". The boy took in a steadying breath before opening the folds and finding the place to begin -

*If you're reading this, then your Mom has shared
A message that means you're growing up without me there.
To keep most safe, it's true that some may die.
I'm sorry how you had to know, but Hidas hate to lie.

I'm still on my duty, son, as long as there's a you,
I'll be loving you and Mom, and watching over both of you.

So don't be down,
Promise me a hope each day that spins around,
And spread your soul
As far as me and Mom dreamed that it could go.
If you're reading this, in your heart I'm home.

If you're reading this, it would make me glad
that you forgive me enough to learn manhood from my Dad.
I know you think like him, I know you believe like me.
Try your best, do right things – keep being that Cody.

I'm still on my duty, son, as long as there's a you,
Tell Grandpa how I'm grateful that he's now your job to do.

So don't be down,
Promise me a hope each day that spins around,
And spread your soul
As far as me and Mom dreamed that it could go.
If you're reading this, in your heart I'm home.

If you're reading this, know the blessing that I had
To live and love well enough to hear you call me Dad.
I'd love the same for you, Cody just seek life's place.
Then I'll meet you with a hug and compare notes face to face.

So don't be down,
Promise me a hope each day that spins around,
And spread your soul
As far as me and Mom dreamed that it could go.
If you're reading this,
Son, if you're reading this,
In your heart I'm home.*

The wait in the Hida living room was a long one, and it felt even longer. Knowing Cody, the adult Hidas realized he'd take time to arrange the experience - but they also knew he might read, and re-read the note until every word etched into him too. When the door of the youngster's room finally opened again, his Mom and Grandpa stood from their seats. When he emerged from the shadow of the hallway with his face tear-streaked and quivering they hurried to him. His mother embraced him a comforting hug. "Cody, it's OK son let it out. There's nothing to be ashamed of."

"I know Mom," Cody offered shakily to convince himself. "I miss him - every day - but sometimes I'm so mad at him too. He had you and me to think about, and if he'd had a safer job he could be here for us now. Mom, I didn't lie about that class wilderness trip. A lot of why I haven't wanted to go is that it bothers me to see fathers with sons at my age doing stuff together. The more I think about it though, the more I think there's another reason. I think part of me is punishing Dad for not being here. If I don't do that kind of stuff, then he can't do that kind of stuff through me. I don't want to feel that way about Dad, not ever - but sometimes its really hard not to. I'm sorry."

Grandpa Hida clasped Cody's shoulder and spoke supportively, "Grandson, do not regret your sentiments. They are honest, natural, and long-delayed by your devotion to your father's memory. Let me offer you this advice - mind you this is not a quick fix, only a guide to begin sorting out the complex emotions you feel right now. It's true that if Hiroki had chosen a different profession, he might still be living today. However, my son's profession was a pure extension of who he was as a person. If he had chosen differently, Hiroki Hida would have become a completely different man than the world knew. Perhaps that Hiroki Hida would not have been so worthy of the wife that stands before me as a daughter tonight; or to be the father of the dutiful grandchild I have in you. He would not have been who he was, and you would not be as you are - if at all. You wouldn't want that Cody."

"No Grandpa, of course not." The boy affirmed.

Minako Hida gestured to three adjacent living room seats, "It sounds like all three of us have a lot to talk about now. Cody, how do you think we should start?"

Cody thought on a particular matter one last time, deciding, "Like this ... Grandpa would you like to go on class wilderness trip with me, or should I ask my friend Joe-san?"

"Cody, you want to go? You're sure about that?" Minako Hida questioned hopefully

The nine year-old nodded deliberately "Very sure, Mom."

She hugged him again, warm and tightly. "You've made me very happy Cody."

His whispers were easy to hear because they were never that much lower, "Good. I think Dad's happy about it too."