Ch 12

Well, here's the next chapter. A full five months late. Yikes. (sorry. I guess real life got in the way…) Anyways, thanks for popping in to read even though I'm being impossibly slow about this. :sigh: but first, important things you should know;

Important note: Matt's disease isn't real. I made it up for this purpose. Both of my parentes are doctors, so I know enough about diseases, and what I don't know, I can ask.

Second important note: I know all about parental consent laws. Yes. Reading this, you'd be surprised that I'd make Matt's parents not know about his disease, or the medical treatments they might've already run on him. Two things will explain this; 1, this story evolved from a dream, and this was the most non-abstract vision I could get out of it. #2, Parental consent is in American law. They're in Japan, remember? And from what I can pull up online, Japan doesn't necisarily have those laws. (they might, but if they do they don't put much emphasis on it.) these are the only two reasons I think I can get away with Matt's 'problem'.

And yes, I know it's a stretch.

Lastly, Sorry for taking so long on the update. I'm trying to ease into this. Of course, my brain's all scrambled with my upcoming graduation and I haven't even looked at colleges… (I'm really behind, ok?) so it's not like I don't have an excuse. Even so, I'll try harder to update on a more frequent basis.

By the way, just to brag, I really, really like the title I chose for this chapter. Wanna know why? it points to what I want the focus of the chapter to be on.

First read, and then T h i n k about it.

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Note!: There is no such thing as Digimon and therefore it is impossible that I, or anyone else for that matter, can own it/them! OKAY? I don't own Digimon!

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Ch. 12

Growing Closer

There's almost nothing worse than waiting for a punishment. It's like hanging from your death on a fraying rope that looks like it's going to break any minute, and yet you've been sitting there for hours in suspense, having had your life flash by your eyes at least eight times by now, wondering why the hell doesn't the rope just break already?

That was the thought that was running through Matt's mind as he stood at the top of the stairs, not really wanting to go downstairs and meet the angry face of his father. Of course, his life was flashing before his eyes for the twelfth time already—maybe it didn't count, since his life wasn't as long as, say… Allen's was at the moment. Matt was only eleven, after all. If he switched places with Allen, maybe Allen's life would've passed… maybe once or twice by now.

That thought really didn't humor him, only succeeding in making Matt's tension worse. His friends were behind him, a few asking questions that he hadn't heard, some insisting they go down and fix things. Others just fell silent, shocked. Tai, strangely, was among the latter.

Slightly worried, Matt turned to look him straight in the eye. Before he could ask any questions, Sora interrupted. "You have to go down there, Matt," she insisted.

Yamato looked away. "I don't want to." He said evenly.

"You have to. He's your dad and deserves an explanation," Sora pressed.

"It isn't going to end well." Matt asserted calmly, for all the good that it did. His emotions were anything but calm.

Izzy threw his arms up in the air at that moment, exasperated. He was on Sora's side, apparently. "Matt, honestly," he scolded in that way that made him sound more like a parent than a kid. "We've faced evil digimon, creatures that were trying to rip us apart, and apocolyptmon, who was trying to destroy the world! Compared to that, this is cake!"

Matt turned away. "No, it's not."

"How? How can it be different?" Izzy asked.

A strange look passed over Matt's face. "Because if I lose, I have to live with it."

He had him there.

Tk stepped up beside his brother, worry showing on his face. "You do know that if you don't go down there, he'll come up here, right Matt?"

Of the three arguments, this one was probably the most effective. Matt looked up, instinctively starting down the staircase. "Good point." He said, but stopped at the sight of the stairs. Light was pouring upwards, and he could hear the adults waiting below.

Sora saw him hesitate, and she put a hand on his shoulder. "Is it really that hard to face them?" she asked.

Matt searched her face for a moment with his eyes. He opened his mouth, his voice a whisper. "They're angry, Sora. They're so angry at me." His voice was even, but his eyes were not. In them flashed fear, apprehension. "How am I supposed to deal with that?"

Sora stopped, not knowing what to say. It was true, she could tell that Richard Ishida was nothing short of furious with his son. But she knew—oh, she just knew—that Matt's father was only angry because he was worried. That's how love worked. And, as the guardian of love, she would know. "He's not half as angry at you as he is worried," she informed her crush.

He didn't answer. How could he? Those blue eyes of his showed her that he understood, that his father was upset and worried. But she still hadn't answered his question.

"We'll be right here behind you," Tk cut in, reassuring his brother. "It's not like dad's gonna hit you or nothing!"

"Anything," Matt corrected. "He's not going to hit me or anyth…" he stopped short of his correction.

Sora glanced at his face, which had now taken on a slightly shocked look. With it, mixed a sort of reassurance. Somehow, in saying it out loud, he believed it. The minor relief spread over his face.

She gave his shoulder a reassuring squeeze, and he looked at her. "It'll be all right," she said.

Matt looked into her dark eyes. "I know," he said finally.

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Still, it took some major persuasion to get Matt completely down the stairs. Once he set foot down on the last flight of stairs, he might've turned around and fled back upstairs when he saw his father's stern face; the only reason he didn't do so was because his friends blocked the way.

Warily, the blonde shuffled over to where Allen and his parents stood, waiting for him. The other adults were there, too, but stayed back from the group. It was obvious that they'd also heard the conversation.

Matt paused, eyeing his father, then his mother, then Allen. Finally he turned back to Richard. "Uh… you called…?"

"About ten minutes ago," Richard replied, making Matt blush slightly red. There was a second of silence before he spoke again. "Your friend and I had a talk," he said, motioning over to Allen. "He claims to be your… doctor."

"That's right," Matt said after a second, looking over to the nearest door. Maybe he could escape before the yelling started…?

Richard studied his son. "And he also says that you are ill." He waited for a response from Matt, who didn't give one. "Well? is it true?" he pressed when his son said nothing.

"Uh…" Matt paused, looking at the ground. "Uh… n… n… nnnn-yes…" he managed to say after glancing at Allen. "Yes it's true."

Richard paused, thinking for a moment. "So you're ill." He repeated.

"Uh, yes."

His father tapped his foot, crossing his arms. He seemed to be considering something. "And he added that you have been ill for about five or six years." He said finally, not sure what else to say.

Matt could only nod. His father stared him down. "I don't… you never mentioned this to me," he said finally.

"You were always gone, or busy, or something." Matt tried to explain.

Richard raised an eyebrow. "It's not like I was gone all the time, you could've said something," he contradicted.

"But I…" Matt paused. "Maybe."

"Maybe?" Richard asked, his voice rising. "You think that you could've maybe let me know that you were fatally ill?"

Matt felt an unreasonable anger start to rise up in his mind. As it started to replace his fear, he tried to suppress it; he knew it wasn't fair to be angry at his father, because clearly he'd kept the illness a secret from him. But it rose up all the same, no matter what Matt reasoned.

"So I didn't tell you, big deal," Matt said, clenching his fists. He tried to hold himself back, but he couldn't. "I managed it by myself up until now!"

"But we're your parents," Nancy, his mother, jumped into the conversation. She gave Matt a look, one that looked worried and at the same time offended. "You're… our child. If you're sick, we should know!"

Her presence only seemed to make Matt angrier. Matt crossed his arms on his chest, looking down, as his father started to speak again. "She has a point, Matt! If you were to fall sick when I was gone, what would happen? I could've stayed home for your treatments, help you figure out why you were sick and help you get better!" Matt glared at him through blue eyes. "I would have!" he insisted.

"Right." Matt said, looking away. "You probably would have. But you know now, what's the difference if I didn't tell you?"

"It would've been nice to know if you were going to die!" Richard said, his voice wavering when he spoke. He ran his fingers through his hair. "Believe it or not, I really do care what happens to you!"

"So do I," Nancy said, looking him over. "You don't think that you could've told me? After all, I wasn't always gone," she said.

Matt, who seemed to be calming down slightly when his father talked, got angry. "You wouldn't understand," he said quietly.

Richard threw his hands up in the air. "Then explain it to us!" he exclaimed, frustrated. "Explain it to us, so that we can understand! Why?!" Richard demanded his son. "Why? Why hide something like this? Why didn't you just tell us?"

"Because…" the child trembled in fury. It was useless to try to hold his anger back any more.

He exploded.

"Because I shouldn't have to!" he screamed, making both Nancy and Richard take a step back. Matt clenched his teeth, glaring at them through his cold blue eyes. "You… you guys are my parents. You're supposed to notice these things. Not be wrapped up in your own selfishness! But no, this whole thing just erupted around the time when you got a divorce, where you both were so concentrated at making each other miserable that you didn't notice anything was WRONG WITH ME!"

Nancy and Richard exchanged surprised looks. "Around the divorce?" she asked, looking down in guilt.

"Yes!" he snapped back. "And after the divorce? Dad goes on a business trip. What am I supposed to do? Call you from wherever you were? I was six!" Matt grabbed a fistful of his blonde hair in frustration, not even trying to calm down. "You never let me get a word in! And by the time I actually get you alone for a few hours, I can't bring myself to even mention it! Do you know how often you're home, dad? Never. You're NEVER home!"

"You could've… you could've caught me as I walked out the door! There were hundreds of times! Just because we didn't spend hours together doesn't mean we didn't see each other! Why didn't you try then?" Richard protested.

"I did." The blonde spat.

"What?"

Matt again clenched his fists. "I DID! I did tell you once! You were busy reading the paper and getting out the door, and I came to you and I said "I'm sick.' And you know what you said? Do you remember?! I guess you were busy and weren't listening, because all you said was "That's nice, son." wow, THAT was great. Tell me, how exactly do you expect me to compete with work for your attention?!" Matt scoffed. Suddenly his jaw trembled. "It wasn't my fault. I'm always thinking, 'some other time, when it's better, some other time… when he's not so busy…'. You're always busy! I just put it off, and put it off, until now, when I have to tell you. You have no right to yell at me!"

Nancy looked at her son, about to protest. The boy caught this and rounded on her. "Don't you start, don't you EVEN!" he ordered her. "YOU weren't much better. YOU didn't want to come in contact with Dad. YOU didn't want to see him again. YOU knew he always worked late, and was never home on time… and you didn't even give me a way to contact you. I knew it would've been easier to tell you, but how could I? and by the time I was old enough to figure it out, you seemed to be no longer part of my life." He accused. "It's not all dad's fault, it's yours too! So DON'T! YOU! START!"

There was a very long silence as Matt caught his breath. He seemed to be tired after that rant. A thought occurred to Nancy. "But if Allen was there, why didn't you let him contact us?"

The comment threw the blonde back into a rage. "He tried! It's not like I was holding him back! But then I realized how much things would change if one of you knew, and I ripped up the letters and deleted the phone calls he made to the answering machine. Not like you cared to look anyways!" he yelled bitterly.

"Why did you do that, then? I would've gotten the messages sooner or later!"

Matt balled up his fist. "You're so predictable. I knew you'd yell at me, or something, or not believe them, and I didn't know what to do! What if I needed surgery like I do now, and you found out and denied that I was sick? My only hope was that you didn't know and it wouldn't come to that! Plus, you were always growing away from me, so distant, and I didn't feel like you were my father… I felt you were a stranger judging me. Just like other strangers, I didn't want you to see me weak, and on top of it all, I didn't want you to see how scaredI …"

Matt's voice died in his throat, his face draining of color as he realized what he'd just said. He hid his head in his hands, taking in a deep, uneven breath. Allen, worried, set a hand on the shaking eleven year old. Matt jerked away from his touch. "I am not scared! I'm not going to let this stupid… thing beat me!" he yelled. "And you'd better not forget that!" he shouted, and then buried his face in Allen's coat.

Richard Ishida stood, dumbfounded. Everyone in the room was in shock, and no one said a word. The only sound everyone heard was Matt trying to keep from crying on his overly large friend. Gabumon, who was watching in the group by the other digidestined, came over to his partner. He stood next to the child, nuzzling Matt carefully. The boy looked down to see what was going on, and the group saw a single tear sliding down his face. Matt swatted it away angrily, kneeling to be eye level with his digimon. He hugged the doglike creature, burying his face in the digimon's soft fur coat. "Gabumon…" he whispered. "My Gabumon…"

Slowly, Matt regained his composure. He started breathing evenly and stopped trembling. When his father came and knelt beside him, Matt was able to look up calmly.

"Sorry…" the boy whispered to his father.

Richard shook his head. "No, you're right. I'm sorry. I don't have a right to yell. But Matt…" the man put a hand on his son's arm. "I want you to understand that you can tell me anything. You're family. We don't disown each other, and we don't kill each other, and we try to be understanding."

Matt wiped his eyes to make sure he wasn't crying. "It's still weird."

"I know it's weird. It's probably going to take a while for you to consider us family… but we are family." Richard smiled. "Whether you like it or not."

Nancy also knelt on one knee next to him. "Yes… whether ANY of us like it or not." She glanced at her ex-husband.

Tk poked his head out behind Allen. "Don't forget me!" he cried. "I'm family too!" he came up, taking his hat off. "Aren't I?"

For the first time in what seemed to be forever, Matt grinned. He mussed his younger brother's hair. "Of course." He agreed. Turning serious, he looked at his dad. "Well, say something. Can I have…" he flinched. "Can I have the surgery or not?"

Nancy and Richard exchanged glances. "We don't know. We… we need the details before making a decision." Nancy sighed, craning her neck to look up to Allen's face. "Can we talk?"

"Certainly." Allen said, kindness in his voice. He helped Matt's parents stand, and Matt brushed away Allen's hand and stood up himself. The blonde quickly checked he wasn't crying again before turning and watching his parents and Allen go to the kitchen.

The door swung shut behind them, and Matt sighed, relieved. "I want to go to bed…" he moaned to Gabumon.

"That sounds nice." Gabumon agreed.

Sora came up to stand behind Matt. "See? That… wasn't… so bad…" she stammered.

"Wasn't it?" Matt raised an eyebrow. It was obvious Sora was lying to make him feel better. "I thought I lost my temper. I didn't think I had any temper left…" the boy scanned the room, noticing that his friends looked a bit scared of him. They seemed all right.

"Yeah me neither. You with a temper? Doesn't seem right, somehow…" she trailed off when she saw her friend frown in confusion. "Something wrong, Matt?"

Yamato glanced around the room quickly, then in a full circle. "Where's Tai?" he asked.

Izzy blinked, remembering something. "Oh, he… he said he needed to go out…" the boy told Matt, frowning himself. Tai had mumbled something to that effect, right before the argument had started… Izzy had thought that it was weird that Tai had left right before Yamato's confrontation, but their leader had looked so pale that Izzy thought it was better just to let the guardian of courage leave the room.

"Did he really say that?" Matt asked, looking down to Agumon, who stood with the other digidestined, alone without his human partner. In a flash, a memory from earlier that day came to Yamato's mind; the picture of Tai's face right before he'd talked to his parents. Suddenly he understood. He closed his eyes and sighed, shaking his head. "Oh no… I'd better go after him."

Sora grabbed his arm, stopping him. "But why?"

Matt hesitated, looking towards the door and then to the kitchen. Finally he sighed. "It's a thing I have to do. An important thing, Sora."

Knowing she wouldn't get a better answer than that, Sora sighed and released him. "Just be careful. And wear a coat, it's raining outside!" she demanded.

"What are you, my mother? Gennai already took that position." he said playfully, though his eyes were worried.

Sora stuck her chin out stubbornly. "Sure. Let's go with that."

Matt laughed, and walked to the storage closet where he'd left his coat. "Sure. I'll be back in a few…" he said, and with one last glance towards the kitchen, he disappeared into the dark rainstorm to find his friend.

As he'd predicted, Matt found his friend Tai outside. The bushy-haired boy was sitting on a cluster of rocks that were quite a ways away from Gennai's castle, where they were staying. Matt recognized the rocks from when he went on a walk with Sora earlier.

As Yamato approached, he slowed his pace, noticing that Tai had his back turned to him. It was impossible to read his face and tell what the younger boy was thinking. Somehow, though, Matt felt he knew what was going through Tai's mind.

The light rain fell around them as Matt stepped forward, flattening his and his companion's hair. No thunder rolled, no lightning flashed; it was a simple spring shower. There was no danger of being struck by a lightning bolt. All the same, he didn't want Tai sitting out here… he couldn't let his friend catch a cold, could he?

"Are you trying to make yourself sick?" Matt asked Tai, making the boy jump. Tai's chocolate-brown eyes turned to glare at Matt momentarily, as the blonde sat down beside him. "You're really asking for it, coming out here without a coat."

Tai didn't answer. When he said nothing, Matt looked at him steadily. "Tai?"

In response, Tai turned away from him, until they were sitting back-to-back. The action was greeted with a sigh on Matt's part.

"Am I really that hard to look at?" he asked, hanging his head.

Tai stiffened, turning abruptly to look Matt in the eye. "That's not what I meant! Not at all! I don't want you to ever think that!" he exclaimed. "It's not your illness. You're the same person you always were!"

Matt sighed, rubbing his neck. "Then what's the problem?" he asked, starting to feel cold from the rain. "Why are you upset?"

Tai hesitated, then turned away once more. "It's not you," he insisted.

"Ok… It's not me," Matt repeated slowly, hoping to get Tai to say the problem. When nothing happened, the guardian of friendship couldn't help but sigh. "It's kinda hard to believe you when you don't say anything," he pointed out.

He sat back, turning his face upwards to the rain. With his own back pressed against his friend's, Matt could feel the boy stiffen and relax alternately, shifting in his spot. The brown-haired child seemed to be struggling with something, as if he didn't know what to say.

Yamato sighed, wishing his friend would quit worrying about whatever he was worried about. "My parents took it better than I thought they would," he said quietly, when Tai remained silent. He leaned back, supporting himself on Tai. Tai did the same, starting to let go of whatever was worrying him. They sat, back-to-back, staring up to the falling rain. "I could've sworn they were going to at least ground me, for keeping this a secret. Maybe they didn't say anything because I made them feel guilty—I should try that more often. Offence is the best defense, after all." He said, looking to the side.

Rain shimmered around them, plinking against the ground. Beyond that, there was a stillness in the air, one that couldn't seem to be broken easily. Even the conversation that Matt had attempted didn't hang in the air. It floated away, bringing them back to the original problem.

A sigh escaped the blonde's throat as the silence stretched. He couldn't help but feel that Tai's worry was his fault, and that Tai wasn't going to say anything for a while. Instead of speaking, he closed his eyes, listening to the rain falling. It tapped his skin, falling to the ground, soaking their seats and nourishing the grass below. The shower was innocent, childlike, seeming to wash away any blackness that the earth held…

"I didn't notice," Tai whispered, out of the quietness.

Matt blinked. "Didn't notice… that I was sick?" he asked.

He nodded, with a sigh. "We must've been in the digital world for half a year, Matt… getting up together, walking around together, fighting along side one another… how could I not have noticed?" he pressed, his voice cracking. "How? You're my friend, Matt, I might even go as far as to say that you are my best friend, and… and I'm supposed to notice these things!"

The sound of his friend's voice cracking made Matt turn around and grab Tai by the shoulders. "What are you talking about? Of course you didn't notice—I was hiding it from you, from everyone! Not to mention that it didn't give me problems while I was there, besides making me more tired than I should have been…" he trailed off, looking into Tai's eyes. It was clear that his friend didn't believe him.

The rain fell silently around them as they stopped, studying each other. It was as if they were frozen in place, both of them waiting for the other to say something. "It's not your fault," Matt repeated when Tai didn't speak.

Tai just blinked at him, then looked down. "Isn't it?" he asked quietly. "I didn't notice. You can't ignore that."

Matt sighed. "Fine! So what if you didn't notice?" he pressed. "I didn't want you to notice—it was just too much for me to tell you. I didn't want you to think of me as some helpless, sickly little child. Because I'm not! I'm a digidestined, just like you." He asserted, with a frown. "I don't care if you didn't notice."

Tai studied him for a second. "Matt, if I was in danger, you'd jump in and help me if you could, right?" he asked, seeming to stray from the topic.

The boy paused. "Of course I would," Yamato answered slowly. "That's what friends do."

"And you're the guardian of friendship, so you should know," Tai agreed. He stopped for a second. "But you've been in danger this whole time, haven't you?"

Suddenly, the blonde saw what his friend was getting at. "Oh, Tai, don't even go there." He begged. "This is completely different."

"No." he said shortly in return. "No it's not. With that illness, you could've gotten injured and wouldn't have healed as well, or you could've gotten hurt easier than the rest of us. That illness puts you in danger, and… and I didn't notice, much less help you with it." His lip quivered. "What kind of friend am I, that I don't notice something like this? I must be a horribly bad friend," he sighed.

Matt blinked. "Bad friend?" he repeated, confused.

Tai nodded, wondering why the blonde was looking at him like that.

"I don't understand," Yamato said slowly, struggling with the concept. "a 'bad' friend? How can someone be a 'bad' friend? You're either a friend or you're not a friend—there's nothing 'bad' about it." He said quietly, looking at Tai. "And I know you're my friend, Tai."

The boy didn't look convinced yet, so Matt tried again. "Look," Matt sighed. "Let's say, supposedly, a giant evil digimon just appeared here all the sudden and abducted you. Neither Agumon or Gabumon are here, and everyone's too far away to do anything. We'd be helpless. But if that digimon abducted you and not me, and I couldn't do anything about it, would that make me a 'bad friend'?"

Tai thought about it. "No, I guess not…" he admitted.

"Exactly!" Matt exclaimed. "And this illness of mine… it's kinda like the 'evil digimon' that's trying to 'abduct' me. You can't have done anything about it. I had it before I even knew you." He pressed. "This isn't your fault. You can't feel bad about it."

Tai paused. "So, you're not angry at me for not noticing…?" he asked slowly. "We're still friends?"

"Of course we are!" came his reply.

Again, the bushy-haired child paused. "Is… is it okay if I feel upset that you're sick, then?" he asked cautiously.

Matt blinked, thinking. "Yeah," he said finally. "Yeah, as long as you don't blame yourself or anything."

"Good," The chocolate-eyed boy said back, looking down. "Because I really feel upset that you're ill." He paused, then looked into his friend's blue eyes. "Are you going to be ok, Matt?" he asked.

"I… I… think so." Matt sighed heavily. "Allen says I will, anyway. And even if I'm not…" he looked into his companion's eyes.

"We'll always be friends, Tai."

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It wasn't long before the children stumbled back inside Gennai's castle, out of the pouring spring rain. Sora immediately panicked and attacked them with towels, trying to dry them off before they started shivering from the cold. "Took a little longer than I thought," Matt admitted in a mumble, rubbing his hair with the towel. When he pulled the cloth off his head, Tai had to bite his lip to keep from laughing.

"I don't think I've ever seen your hair so bushy," he commented, chuckling a bit.

Yamato, now aware of his ruined hairdo, blushed and his hands shot upwards to straighten out the mess. "And I don't think I've ever seen your hair so tame," he said back, making Tai panic as well.

"My hair?" he felt upwards to find that his messy brown hair was lying flat to his head, soaked. "Gah! What the heck!" he quickly snatched a towel from Sora and rubbed his head with vigor, and when he pulled it away, his hair was almost back to normal. "Geez, that was weird—it was like I cut my hair there for a second."

"Have you ever set foot inside a barbers' shop, Tai?" Matt asked in curiosity, combing his hair with his fingers.

"Never," the chocolate-eyed boy stuck his chin out stubbornly. "And I'm proud of that fact."

"Yeah, well… if you ever..." Matt began, but his comment died in his throat as he looked behind Tai. There was a small smile on his face, but his eyes looked sad. Slowly, the others turned to see what he was looking at; it was Allen. The big man had come out of the kitchen where he and Matt's parents had been talking. Now the adult looked at the blonde, unsure of what to say.

"Matt," he said finally, quietly. "Matt, would you come here a second?"

Yamato looked down, and shed the towel that was around his shoulders. He set it on the nearby coat rack, following Allen into the kitchen. Tai glanced over to Sora. "What's going on?"

"Allen was talking to Matt's parents about getting the surgery," Sora explained, looking at the place where her blonde friend had disappeared into.

Tai looked at her, then at the door, then back to Sora. "Well, why are we standing out here, then? I want to hear!" he said, sneaking towards the kitchen door. It was obvious he was nervous; his voice was a little quieter than usual and his hands shook slightly as he cracked open the door and peered inside.

Reluctantly, Sora followed, not sure of whether or not they should be spying on Matt. She felt better in a second, though, as the other Digidestined followed Tai's lead and snuck over to the door. She noticed, with some surprise, that a few adults also crept over to look over the kids' heads into the kitchen.

Even though it was crowded, she could see Matt clearly. He was standing, with his back to them, facing Allen. Allen was quietly talking to him, using his hands as he did so to make certain gestures. The big man stopped for a moment, and he looked at Yamato. "Is that okay?" he asked. They were in the middle of their conversation.

Matt paused, clenching and unclenching his gloved hands. Finally, his voice came out, slightly higher pitch than normal. "Y-yeah, I figured as much," he said weakly. "So they said…?"

"They said yes, Matt. You knew they would." Allen paused, frowning. "Are you all right?"

"I…" The boy's face blanched slowly. It was clear that Matt was struggling with the news. "I… I need to sit…" he managed, sinking down into a chair. Allen came over and put his hand on the boy's shoulder, and Matt put his head down.

"What's up with that?" Tai whispered angrily. "Didn't you guys give him the green light for the surgery?" he hissed in Nancy's ear.

"Of course we did!" Nancy shot back, also whispering so her son wouldn't hear. "I don't understand his reaction any more than you do!"

"You'd think he'd be happy, after that rant he made." Izzy said, deep in thought.

An idea rose in Sora's mind as she watched Matt… an idea she didn't like. "Hey, what if… what if…" she fumbled, the words already sounding bitter in her mouth. "Don't you remember, that night after the earthquake? He said that he was afraid of hospitals."

Everyone turned to look at her. "You seriously think that's what this is about?" Tk asked.

"You think that's why Matt's freaking out?" Joe asked.

"Seems logical…" Izzy muttered.

Mimi looked over to Sora, then frowned. "So he's got to have a surgery and he's afraid of hospitals?" she summed up their problem.

"Man, that's harsh." Tai agreed. Everyone looked back into the kitchen, where Matt seemed to be lost in thought. "That must be part of the reason he was so upset… why he didn't tell his family or friends he was sick. Because he didn't want the surgery."

"No one wants surgery, Tai." Sora pointed out.

There was a long silence as everyone watched Matt. "It's going to be hard for him. We knew that much when he said he needed surgery. But… now we know it's going to be even more difficult." Tai sighed. Carefully, he shut the door and turned to his friends. "We need to be there for him. Me, Sora, Joe, Mimi, Tk, Izzy, Kari…" he looked down. "We all need to be there for him as friends."

Everyone in the group nodded. That was the one thing no one could deny.


A/N: Yup! So, who here likes cliffies? :raises hand: ...what? am I the only one? :sigh: Anyway...
Yeah, I'm gonna have to lighten things up next chapter so that I can beat this 'drama' when we come to the climax. ne? I will try to get it up before graduation in May... but with the golf season running, I don't know how well I can keep that promise. BTW, I'm looking for a good Sorato story to get me back into this fandom--anyone know of a good one? I was looking for something humerous, less than 10,000 words, and complete, so I can read it in my off time. If you got any suggestions, please tell me! (I'm dying from writers block in this area of the fandom, here... XP)