I own them not.

"Everyone hears what you say. Friends listen to what you say. Best friends listen to what you don't say." - Anon

School. Chad had never been afraid of it before. As a kindergartener, he was one of the only ones not crying on the first day. That was the day he met Troy. Afterwards, when they came back from summer vacation, Chad was usually eager to go to school. Not for learning, but for the friends that he seemed to make so easily there. Being social came as easily to Chad as breathing, and he had the added bonus of having a sense of humor.

Today was different though. They were almost to November, the leaves on the trees that could live in Arizona heat changing to a dark, musky brown that made the air seem alive with its scent. Autumn had always been Chad's favorite time of year. Now he just wished he could stay home.

Pulling a bandana over his bald head, Chad tried to remember the argument with his parents earlier in the week. They had wanted him to stay home. He was still not 100 from the drugs they had given him at the hospital and his parents saw no reason in going to school in such a condition. Chad had argued with them for almost an hour, eager to go back.

But for what reason? As Chad closed the door to his bedroom, he thought he knew. He wanted to act like a normal teenage. Having leukemia wasn't normal. Going to school was.

Chad tried to smile at his mother as she handed him a piece of toast and eggs. She looked tired. She had looked like this since she'd gotten the news. He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. She smiled slightly, handing him two pills. He might not be on poison yet, but these would keep him alive. Supposedly.

Swallowing both the pills and the breakfast in less than two minutes, Chad grabbed his backpack and headed for the door, reaching it the same time as his father. "Hey Chad." The man said quietly, opening the door. They both headed down the front walk.

"Listen, son. If you feel any pain, you come right home, you hear me? School is not worth you dying over."

Chad almost laughed. His parents had always professed that school was the only way to get anywhere in life. This whole situation had made school seem like a joke, with nothing seeming real other than the cancer and the drugs and hospitals.

Chad pulled his backpack the rest of the way on as he started walking. He tried to imagine that he wasn't feeling the pain that started in his back, even when it slowly began creeping up his spine. He was okay. Really. He was normal.

Walking into Troy's house, Chad felt more at peace than he had been in a long time. This was where he belonged, with Troy and Taylor and Gabriella (who were all sitting around Troy's table, as if waiting for him).

No one mentioned cancer or leukemia or anything that they wouldn't have talked about a month ago. Gabriella, who was still in the play after Troy had dropped it, told them how Sharpay had blown up at Ryan once again, only this time he got back at her. By hitting her with blue paint.

Chad laughed, his arm snaking around Taylor's shoulders. This was where he belonged. In between Troy (who was on his other side) and Taylor, with Gabriella and Zeke flanking them. Maybe the six of them could get over this. Why wouldn't they? They had already been through so much. Cancer, and especially high school, shouldn't be a problem.

Troy smiled at Chad. He had been so happy when he heard that his best friend was coming back to school. He could almost forget why he had left it in the first place. And seeing him smile and laugh with the girls should have fortified his conviction that his friend was completely healed. Except that he still saw the pain in Chad's eyes, and the pain wasn't going away.

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