"Mom," he choked out, seeing her nearby, running into her arms. She held him close to herself, gently, rocking her son. A chair appeared behind her and she sank down in it with him. She waited, ever patient, for him to speak, not pushing him, just holding him.
"Mom..." he said again, and words failed him. He just sniffled, and tried to wipe his eyes. She laughed gently, but not in a way to make him feel foolish, and took his glasses off his face, wiping his eyes herself with maternal tenderness. For the first time in days, he felt safe.
"Mom... it was awful... I was lost, and... nobody else cared, and... there were monsters..."
She didn't laugh, or scoff, or tell him that there were no such things as monsters, or that he shouldn't be a coward. She just nodded slightly, still saying nothing. In her warm arms, he felt himself begin to relax, and he was just starting to feel almost happy when her body jolted, and he was thrown onto the floor.
"Mom!" he called, not understanding. He fumbled for his glasses, but they were already back on his nose somehow, and she was up from her chair, stumbling back, her face full of fear. Unimon appeared behind her, eyes glowing evilly, his body full of black gears.
The monster ran at the mother, kicking her with a powerful leg, hurting her terribly. She cried out and held her side in pain. He ran to her side, and she looked at him pleadingly.
"Please," she said, desperately, "you have the power to beat him, please, save me, please, save me!"
He stared, terrified and transfixed to the spot, not knowing what to do. I don't have the power, he thought, I'm weak, I can't do anything...
The monster rose into the air and fired an aerial attack, and it hit his mother, and she disintegrated into thousands of pieces, each of them begging her son to do something...
Joe woke up, terrified. His heart was pounding madly and he only just managed to prevent himself from crying out. It was dark, just like the dream - it was a dream, right? of course, of course... - and something was touching his arm.
He jumped, trying to get away from whatever was near him. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness he recognised Izzy by his side, staring at him in surprise.
"Calm down, it's just me," whispered Izzy, "it's your turn to stand guard, Joe."
"Right," gasped Joe, still panicked, "right, guard duty... be right there... thanks, Izzy."
Izzy nodded, and smiled slightly, and turned away. If he saw Joe's wet cheeks, he didn't say anything.
Joe held his elbows with tightly clenched fingers, trying to stop his arms from shaking. Gomamon, curled up with Palmon and Biyomon, looked so peaceful that he didn't like to disturb him, although he desperately wanted someone comforting to sit with. He shook his head. Think brave, Joe. There's nothing to be scared of...
He walked, stumblingly, towards the spot they had picked to keep watch from. It was a cold night and he was pleased to see that the fire had not quite died down; he poked at it to try to revive it, forgetting his fear of fire in his craving for warmth.
It had been warm in the dream, he thought, staring blankly into the embers, in his mother's arms. But his mother wasn't here, and he didn't know if he'd ever see her again. Instead, there was just this dark and scary world with nothing familiar in it...
He shrugged his bag off his shoulder and fingered the digivice on it. When that had lit up... he'd almost felt strong, but... he couldn't take responsibility for people's lives, could he? Nobody ever relied on him for anything more than handing out the books at school... and rightly so; he'd just mess it up... but his mother had said... he could help her.
But I *didn't* help her, he reminded himself, and looked around himself carefully, hoping to see no monsters or shadowy enemies sneaking up on them.
He remembered his mother's face, trying to hold the picture in his mind, wishing for the hundredth time that day that he could go home.
The flames were crackling, the sticks gradually turning black, and the smoke was wafting around him. Suddenly he was aware of something behind him and he stiffened.
"Some guard you are!" came a voice, a male voice, teasing, quiet over the sound of the fire.
It hadn't been meant unkindly but something just collapsed inside Joe and he couldn't stop the tears from coming again. He turned slightly to see who was there, and on seeing the dark jeans and brown gloves, cringed and looked away. Matt. The last person he would want to see him crying.
He took a breath to try to steady himself, but to his great embarassment it came out as a sob and he just gave up covering up and hugged his legs to his chest, touching his forehead to his knees.
Matt looked at the profile of the older boy in some surprise. Frequently insomniatic, he had gotten up to get a drink and see who was on guard duty. He knew he wasn't the most friendly guy around but he'd never reduced anyone to tears with a simple statement like that.
Uncomfortable, he would have much preferred to just go back to camp... this sort of thing didn't come naturally... but instead he forced himself to go and sit next to Joe.
"Uh..." he began, awkwardly, "you alright?"
Joe turned his head away, angry at himself. "Fine," he snapped.
"Yeah right," said Matt.
Joe looked up at him, his face flickering with orange reflected from the fire. Matt was surprised for a moment, because he couldn't tell what Joe was thinking. So even Joe has things he hides, he thought, even as the other boy was letting him see him cry.
"Go back to sleep," said Joe, his voice tired. He sniffled and blinked quickly a few times, but tears still streaked down his face. Matt unconsciously moved his gloved hand to his face and wiped them away.
"What's the problem?" he asked, in a steady voice. Joe narrowed his eyes. That gesture, the same as the one his mother had used... he'd thought Matt didn't like him... that cold contempt, but... his eyes, although guarded as always, seemed kind enough.
Looking right into those eyes made Joe think, suddenly, how stupid it was to bother hiding anything, in the situation they were in.
"I miss my mom," he blurted out, and immediately felt stupid.
But Matt didn't laugh at him or call him a momma's boy; actually, he wasn't thinking anything like that at all. He was thinking that the sudden openness of Joe's expression was comparable to TK's, and wondered at how love could transform someone's features.
Joe turned to look back into the fire but Matt felt that he expected an answer, so he sort of shrugged and said, "you'll see her again so quit worrying."
Joe went red and Matt mentally kicked himself. Nice one, Mr Sensitive. That had come out wrong... But he soon realised Joe hadn't taken it as an insult.
"And you?" asked Joe, rubbing at his eyes with the back of one hand.
"And me what?" asked Matt, uncertainly.
"What's your 'problem'?"
"My problem?!" demanded Matt, "what's that supposed to mean?! I wasn't the one crying!"
Joe shrugged self-consciously and didn't elaborate. Matt looked at him curiously. Why had he asked that, what could he see...?
"Well," said Matt, a little nervously, not looking at him, "things'll work out fine, you'll see. I think we've... all got the power to help each other. Gomamon's looking out for you. It was really cool how he just learned to digivolve! It's... good to have friends, isn't it, Joe?"
For a brief moment, they were both feeling the same thing.
"Yeah," said Joe, smiling a little, "yeah, it is."