-1A/N: Now for Sora, a character I can really relate to. It's among the worst feelings in the world to feel unwanted under your own roof, by the person who's supposed to love you. Nothing else has driven me to such despair. Time for catharsis. I hereby pour all my sentiments into fan fiction. That's why it's much longer than I originally intended. Whew. Now that's a load off my shoulders.

Sora

Darkness. When I submitted to its safety, its comfort, I needed nothing else.

Darkness. It was constant. Stable. Unwavering in the security it provided. When I turned in for the night, physically and emotionally drained, there it was. Darkness was the blankets that wrapped around me like a protective cocoon, the air of the room that solidly held me in, kept the door shut, soothing me to sleep. Like the caressing hands, the enveloping arms, soft and black as a raven's wing, of a mother.

My mother. From birth you are predisposed to draw relief from none other than your mother, who is supposed to be as close to a stone pillar as a human being can be, yet soft as skin can be, as protective, reliable, a million different things, as a person can be. In all the words in our language, none other carries as much weight as that of "mother."

A mother was supposed to care. A mother was supposed to accept. To understand. To love. To carry the key that unlocks the hatch of my internal prison, to open the cage - my rib cage - to release the bird - my heart - to let it spread its wings.

A mother was not supposed to hold the key that locked me in.

A mother was not supposed to clip my wings to keep me from flying.

A mother was not supposed to drive me to seek refuge in darkness.

When we fought, words became spears pointed at both ends - they hurt both of us. Voices rose, tears fell, the bird in me flapped its wings frantically, desperately, until its wings bruised and it collapsed in a breathless heap, drained. As if my heart had been drained of all that was supposed to keep it pulsating. My life was drained of all that was supposed to make it worth living.

If not her, then who? I thought. If she, of all people, doesn't love me, who will? Who can?

I didn't have her any more than I had my father, who I saw sporadically - once a year at most. And we lived under the same roof. She tended to her flowers and at most provided me with food to eat and a place to sleep. She tended to her flowers with more love than I'd ever seen her show. With tenderness, with nurture - water, sunshine, fertilizer - and they flourished. Whereas I felt held in no higher regard than a thorn in her side. She cut all the thorns off her roses.

Me, with my love of sports, dirt and grass stains on my jeans, I was just an unruly child, a source of disorder in the neat, organized life she had with her flowers.

I hated them. I felt more hatred and jealousy for those flowers than I could ever feel for another human being. They stood upright, blooming all healthy and vibrant. When she watered them, drops lingered on the ends of their petals, and shafts of sunlight shone through and made them twinkle, as though mocking, scornful of me. They basked in her love, whereas I never could.

After our daily arguments, I'd lock myself in my room and turn out the lights. That's when I caught my breath, my head cleared, and the bird regained its strength. Darkness had a healing effect. Darkness was for me what sunshine was for the flowers.

But I was afraid of it. Darkness soothed me, but it also scared me. What if, someday, nothing else existed for me? I was above that. Darkness was nothing. It was endless, and it was nothing. Not like the sky, clear blue with pure white clouds. The sky is endless, and the sky's the limit.

Darkness wasn't all there was. And it wasn't all I was about. I loved darkness at the end of the day, when I was tired. There was more to life than sleeping. There was life in me; I had energy just begging to be exerted. I couldn't live my life with wings folded.

I took flight. Instead of withdrawing entirely into myself, I spread my wings and flew. I became outgoing. I craved friends. I craved people. Smiling faces, encouraging words, shared interests. What was better than friends? It was in them that I found the key to my heart and all the things it contained.

Tai was my best friend. I loved everything about him - the energy he simmered with, his vivacity, his wild hair and funky goggles. I felt as though he embodied everything good in me, everything that my mother locked inside. It was a breath of fresh air to find someone who shared my love of soccer.

Then there came Matt. He was Tai's best friend, but they were different as could be. I couldn't talk to him. He was friendly enough, polite enough. He liked soccer too, but preferred to watch from the sidelines. When I tried to have a conversation with him, shrugged, mumbled, or just gave me the cold shoulder. When he got moody, Tai tried to reason with him, whereas I said, "Just give him some room." And that worked - he always came around once we gave him room.

Before we got sucked into the Digital World, I made sure never to spare him too much thought. I didn't want to waste time trying to figure him out. Life was too short, and I wanted to celebrate it with the enthusiasm that Tai possessed.

I was more like him that I cared to believe. I had become adept in seeing darkness in others. I saw it in him - it was in his eyes, his sky-blue eyes with a layer of frost over them; it was in his heart, inescapable. I'd been able to fly away from it. Matt couldn't, or wouldn't. Darkness claimed him. And in this sense, I found him intimidating. He was ruled by darkness, and only I could see it. What was I supposed to do about it? I kept my distance.

Then came summer camp. I found a very diverse new set of friends. That took everything to a whole new level.

I saw a whole different side to Matt. Terse, brooding Matt, who kept everyone at arm's length, lit up like a light bulb at the sight of his little brother. And so did I. I wasn't used to little kids - there weren't many of them in my neighborhood - but I clicked with TK. He was adorable - so cheerful and innocent, the complete opposite of Matt. Finally I became closer to Matt; he let down his protective shields for me to get to know him better. Tai and I connected over soccer. Matt and I connected over TK.

We were both protective of him. I asked myself, Why? It was Matt's brother, so of course he was protective. Why was I? Well, how could I not be? TK was fragile. He saw the world through innocent eyes. He cried when he fell and got a bruise - and all it took was a Band-Aid and a hug to make it all better. He was beautiful in his innocence.

Matt and I could appreciate that kind of innocence. We knew darkness. We knew the comfort it provided but also the pain it inflicted. We knew how seductive it was. TK was so vulnerable. The thought of him falling victim to darkness was frightening.

When we, the Digidestined, fought our battles in both worlds, everything lurking beneath the surface eventually came to light. We were in a whole different world, with dangers we couldn't fathom, being attacked left and right by a variety of bizarre beings. And suddenly, to me, all the friends that had become dear to me became even more important to me. And more fragile. What I saw in TK I saw in all of them.

And in Biyomon. She was such a child. When I met her, I knew instinctively that I was sent to the Digital World to protect her. How could she possibly survive in that world, her being so little in a world of gigantic beasts?

They only saw the external threats and risks - the enemy Digimon, the black gears. I feared for their lives, but also for their conditions, mental and emotional. In the Digital World, life became little more than mere survival. I feared for all of them submitting to darkness. Like I almost did once. They longed for their homes, for the safety of their daily routines. But during all that time spent in the Digital World, our previous lives of security and ordinance felt like an illusion, a dream we once had that we couldn't return to.

I felt like I had a firmer grip on the situation than anyone else. They took it all so lightly, making jokes, wisecracks, underestimating the glaringly obvious danger. My perspective on Tai, my best friend, changed drastically. How could he be so careless? How could he put the whole groups' lives at stake for cheap thrills? How couldn't I have realized before how immature and reckless he was? I had to take it upon myself to look after them. If not me, then who?

Matt became my confidant. We exchanged relatively few words, but we didn't need to. Sometimes, when we were asleep around the campfire, and we were the only ones awake, we had our own conversations. Beforehand I never knew two people could say so much without speaking. We'd both looked at TK, sleeping peacefully, snuggled with Patamon, then look at each other. Our gazed would lock, and we'd know we had an understanding. We were both inclined to shield the idealists in this world laced with darkness.

The Digital World had expectations for us. It demanded the best of us, and we struggled to realize it. I knew that when I discovered the secret of the crests. They embodied qualities that we had to live up to. Tai had no problem living up to his Crest of Courage. Matt was the best friend anyone could have - he wasn't much of a talker, but he was a great listener, and he'd risk life and limb for us. Izzy had enough knowledge for all seven of us. Joe could pull through in a crisis, Mimi always spoke her mind, and TK never gave up hope.

Love? It wasn't a foreign concept to me. I had love. Friendship was a form of love. I knew I loved my friends, and they loved me. But I didn't have enough love in my life to make the crest glow. When I was told my crest would never glow, all the hurt and anxiety I'd pushed to the back of my mind gripped my soul in its talons, and I was suffocated as the cage to my heart locked tight. I believed it.

I kept my distance for a while because I couldn't face my friends. What good would I be to them with a crest that didn't glow? But I considered confronting them, at least so I could speak to Matt. His parents were divorced, I reminded myself. Talk to him. He'd understand.

Tai tried to reason with me, to convince me DemiDevimon was lying. Tai complimented me - the Crest of Love was perfect for me, I was always thinking of everyone else, I was a loving person and a good friend. And how did I think him? I blew up. I told him I didn't care about him or anyone else, he knew nothing about me, he didn't know what he was talking about…

And the look on his face burned me with shame. How could I say that to him? This was how I treated my friends. He said, "Don't listen to DemiDevimon! He's just a creep who's trying to hurt you!" And to that I cried. I cried out of shame, humiliation. I didn't deserve a friend like Tai.

Matt kept his distance, and for once, I was grateful.

But when fear was struck into my heart for Biyomon, I acted upon Love. Not the Friendship form of Love - I acted upon maternal love, the Love that called for me to put my foot down. For once in my life, I was in the position my mother was in. And I felt what she felt - and I knew then what had been true all along. I was loved. Under the roof of the house I lived in, I was loved. Despite all the pain and tears and quarrels and heartaches, I was loved. All that pain was simply part of love.

When I realized that, I took flight. I flew in Garudamon's massive hands. I took flight. My soul soared. The sky's the limit, and I was free to savor it. Biyomon was the bird contained in my chest, and she was free to fly, to grow. To become Garudamon, thriving on Love.

It was simply easier to take refuge in darkness than it was to take refuge in love. Love came in so many forms. But so did darkness.

I thought that I was ultimately rid of darkness. But the Dark Masters would not let it go.

A hole opened up in the ground beneath my feet, forsaking the solidity I'd found, plunging me into darkness once again. I curled up, huddling into myself, wanting to disappear, dissolve, into nothingness, until my wings withered and I forget what it was like to fly.

Darkness was nothing. I was nothing.

I could not hear Biyomon, or Joe, or anyone else. I could not hear them calling me come back. The one voice that reached me…the only extended hand I could grasp, the only one who was able to delve into that territory of void, who could reach, pull me out, open the cage, release me, help me spread my wings….

Matt.

Matt had not been rid of darkness as easily as I was. But ultimately he shed the burden, and ultimately we healed together.

With my struggles with darkness came clarity brighter than any light. With darkness came the realization that I loved Matt. Not just as a friend. I'm in love with Matt.

For we are fundamentally alike. Friendship is a form of Love. Love is a form of Friendship.

For we were once both, and forever are, touched by darkness.