A/N: I'm so, so busy. Moving back into our house after the fire has been so stressful! But Somehow I managed to get this out. Please Review. Please.

Warnings: I can't seem to write anything more than 3,000 words without making someone throw up. All my long stories have somebody puking in them. You have been warned, tummy troubled readers.

A Last Ditch Effort

After dinner, Matt had gone outside with his guitar and, after a few minutes of looking up at the darkening sky, he began to play. The music filtered into the house, adding a quiet soundtrack to their nightly activities. Tai smiled to himself, relieved to hear Matt playing. While Matt had taken care to pack the guitar and bring it along with them, he had not yet made a move to play it on the trip. It was a good sign. More than once that evening, Tai saw TK had a similar smile as he glanced towards the back patio. Everything is really going to be OK, Tai thought with a widening grin.


They were supposed to be leaving early in the morning. They were supposed to be. But Izzy's alarm, for some reason, didn't go off, Matt had turned his off and then accidentally fallen back to sleep, TK slept through all noises and Tai didn't think to set any kind of alarm at all. When Izzy finally did wake up, he realized the sun was shining through the window at the completely wrong angle for it to still be early morning. Soon there were four boys franticly running around, sleepily accusing each other for the predicament, and hastily packing the car. There were arguments over showers, hair brushes and the location of shoes. All the rushing around, coupled with the fact that none of them were really morning people, put all of them in a less than pleasant mood.

"I'm hungry," Tai complained as he started the car.

"We're getting a late start. We'll eat on the way," Matt replied, closing his eyes and leaning his forehead against the passenger window.

"Which way am I going? Left?" Tai asked as he approached the main road.

"Right," Matt said with a sigh.

"Wait, left is right or turn right?"

"Turn right."

"Are you sure? It feels more like left is right and right is wrong."

"Oh, damn it, Tai. Turn right. That way!" Matt motioned to his right with irritation.

"Right, got it." Tai allowed a smirk to creep over his face. Annoying people always did put him in a better mood.


After picking up breakfast, they had continued driving in a southern direction. They drove for a few hours, when suddenly Izzy jerked his head up from looking at the map.

"This isn't right. We are supposed to be in the Fukushima prefecture…"

"We are in the Fukushima prefecture." Tai stated, glancing in his rearview mirror to study Izzy.

"Yes, but we are supposed to be hitting Iwaki and the coast. That last sign said we were approaching Shirakawa. We're supposed to be taking the route by the coast. This isn't right at all."

"But Shirakawa is in the Fukushima prefecture, right?" Matt asked.

"Yes, but if we go past it, we'll be in the Tochigi prefecture. We're not going towards the coast we're going right down the middle of the country. We must be on route 294. We were supposed to be on route 288."

"I was wondering why there were mountains." Tai said, "Why didn't you say something before, Izzy? You've had the map for nearly thirty minutes."

"I had not yet realized we had taken the wrong route. Matt told you to take 288, Tai."

Tai whipped his head around, which made Matt make a grab at the wheel to keep the car from swerving. "I thought we were on 288!" Tai whined. "Why didn't you notice?" Tai asked turning to Matt.

"I thought Izzy would be able to tell if we were really far off. That's why I gave him the map to look at," Matt said with a shrug removing his own hands from the wheel once Tai was looking at the road again.

"So you knew we were lost and you didn't say anything?" Tai sounded scandalized.

"I had a feeling we were going the wrong way when we failed to find the ocean, yeah," Matt quipped. TK had suddenly started tapping the back of Matt's seat with one hand. Nobody noticed. Tai groaned and rubbed at his face with one hand.

"You should have told me you thought we were lost…" Tai whined.

"We're not lost. We can still get home just fine. We're just not going to the beach."

"I wanted to go to the beach again!" Tai complained loudly. Matt was about to answer when he felt TK's hand shaking his shoulder. Matt turned around to see his brother looking at him in desperation. TK looked so pale suddenly like he was about to… Matt then realized he was being an idiot. Mountains, winding roads, TK in the backseat… not saying a word for the past twenty five minutes.

"Pull over, Tai." Matt ordered. TK gave a very slight nod and then clamped a hand over his mouth. Tai had opened his mouth to protest, but Matt cut him off. "Tai! Pull over! Pull over!" Matt was unbuckling his own seatbelt and Tai, confused and a little afraid, thought for a second that his friend was going to jump from the vehicle. Matt was reaching into the back seat to undo TK's seatbelt for him, while Tai did as he was told and brought the car to a stop on the side of the road. The car was only just barely stopped when TK launched himself from his seat and out the door. He took about four quick steps, doubled over and then vomited onto the dirt. Matt had matched his speed and actions and was at his younger brother's side the entire time.

Tai briefly recalled Matt saying that TK sometimes got car sick. He realized that this was information he probably shouldn't have discarded so quickly. After all, TK had almost just puked in the car. That would have been awful.

TK continued heaving while Matt rubbed his back and occasionally brushed the younger boy's hair off of his sweating forehead. "You're alright, you're alright." Matt whispered. It wasn't clear if that was meant to be comfort or a quiet plead. Izzy and Tai sat in the car very still, unsure of what to do. Suddenly Izzy spoke in a slightly choked sounding voice.

"Tai, sometimes when I see people get sick… I feel as though I might…"

"Get out of the car, Izzy." Tai opened his door and stepped out, then he turned and opened Izzy's door as well. Izzy climbed out with a nod of thanks. He faced the road, away from the sight of TK choking and retching. Izzy took a couple of deep breaths with his eyes closed. Tai stood quietly beside him, trying to keep an eye on everyone at once.

Soon, TK was taking uneven breaths and spitting, trying to rid his mouth of the awful taste.

"I got your shoe," TK said shakily. Matt shuffled his feet in the dirt.

"Don't worry. They're Tai's."

Tai whipped his head around to glare at Matt.

"What?" He exclaimed, trying to peer over the top of the car to see Matt's feet.

"Just a joke, Tai." Matt flashed him a small smile and then his face went back to being completely serious as he turned back to TK. "You'll feel better if you ride in the front seat from now on, I think." Matt said quietly. TK nodded, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Are you going to be sick or what?" Tai asked Izzy bluntly. Izzy slowly shook his head.

"Nausea is subsiding," Izzy took another deep breath and opened his eyes. Tai nodded and then began to rummage under his car seat. He had some unopened bottles of water in there somewhere. They would be warm, but they might help a bit. He handed a bottle to Izzy and Izzy thanked him. He tossed the second bottle to Matt. Had Matt not lunged to catch it, the bottle would have landed in a bush by the road.

"You throw like a girl, Tai."

"Oh sorry, did I make you break a nail, Matt?" Tai grinned. Matt returned the smile and handed the now open bottle to TK to drink. "Little sips, Teek." TK nodded his thanks.


They stopped briefly in Shirakawa to pick up more water and some food. TK was only eating crackers at that point, but Tai was sure to buy enough snacks for him if he felt hungry later.

Thirty-five minutes later, TK had fallen asleep in the front seat while the other three boys watched the scenery change slightly. The mountains that surrounded their route before now opened up and they found themselves descending into a valley. The road was far from flat, however. They found themselves climbing and descending small hills. The ride was actually very peaceful… until it wasn't. Upon the ascent of one particular hill, the car made the oddest clunk-tok sort of noise. Tai was jerked from his daydreaming and Matt sat up straighter in the backseat as Izzy stretched to get a better view of the front of the vehicle. What happened next was not expected. White smoke began billowing out from under the hood of the vehicle and Tai might have let out a girly shriek, followed by a variety of swear words. Before anyone could even say the words, Don't panic, Tai turned the wheel sharply to the side of the road. They had begun to descend from this particular hill. Maybe that was the reason for the extra speed. Matt would later say it was Tai being an idiot and nothing else. The facts were, however, they were going faster than necessary, the smoke hindered visibility, Tai panicked and there was a shallow ditch that ran alongside route 294.

Izzy, for all his cleverness, couldn't grasp what was happening until after it was over. The car gave an awful lurch and he was thrown forward in his seat as the car came to a very abrupt stop. The angle he found himself in a moment later seemed to suggest the front of the car was lower than the back and the pain in his shoulder from the seatbelt suggested they had been going too fast and he was going to have a large bruise. The windshield wasn't completely broken, but it had been cracked badly. Tai's father's car was an older model. Which meant no air bags. He was trying to decide if that was good or bad. Frontal airbags deployed with too much force could cause injury, but they were also accredited for saving many, many lives. Newer cars now deploy with less force than older models, which reduces the risk of injury in low-speed crashes. But the car was old and they hadn't been going too fast… but through the haze TK seemed to be sitting so still with his safety restraint digging into his shoulder like that. Izzy's thoughts whirled on and if his mind hadn't been racing around he would have noticed Matt struggling with his seatbelt sooner.

Matt couldn't seem to take in a breath properly. Perhaps the seatbelt had forced the wind out of him or, perhaps, he was having a panic attack. Maybe a little of both. Izzy didn't think he had ever seen him so frantic. Without thinking about it, Izzy reached over and released Matt's seatbelt himself. Matt fell forward and immediately grabbed TK's shoulders.

"I'm alright, Matt." TK whispered. "I'm not hurt." Not hurt, just in a state of shock then, Izzy thought.

The briefest relief flashed across Matt's face before he reached over and shook Tai's shoulder as well. Tai, Izzy was just noticing, was being much too quiet. He also still had one hand gripping the wheel while the other was holding the left side of his head. Matt managed to wedge his upper body between the two front seats and he had his full attention on Tai.

"Tai," was all Matt said at first. Tai shook his head in response. "Let me see." Matt grabbed his friend's face and turned it towards him.

"It's fine, I just hit my head against the damn window," Tai murmured. "Shit, my dad's car," Tai added with a groan. Matt ignored him and inspected the bump that was forming near Tai's hairline. He wasn't bleeding, probably wasn't anything to worry about. It could probably use some ice though. Matt nodded and then turned back to TK who was beginning to struggle with his own seatbelt.

"Hang on, I'll get out and help you with that." Matt then turned and glanced at Izzy. Normally, Matt would have kept moving, but something in Izzy's face made him stop. Izzy had been cataloging in his head and deciding what the next best course of action was. "Are you alright? Are you still with us, Izzy?" Matt asked. Izzy nodded, realizing he must have looked odd; sitting completely still, leaning forward due to the angle of the car and staring at the back of Tai's headrest. He nodded again and moved to release his own safety restraint. He was alright. No matter what thoughts ran through his mind, the possibilities, calculations, observations and the fact that he had no clue what to do next, he kept coming back to the fact that he really was alright. They were really alright.


"No signal," Matt reported as he stood in the middle of the road with his cell held aloft, hoping the heavens would open and bless his efforts with a couple of blue signal bars.

"We are screwed," Tai sighed as he stared at the mess that was his father's car.

"How far is it to Nasushiobara, Izzy?" Matt asked as he stared down the road at nothing.

"Approximately 10 miles," Izzy stated patiently. They had already been through this.

"How long would it take us to walk there?"

"On average it would take us an hour to walk 3.5 miles. At that speed, it would take 2 hours and 51 and a half minutes to walk 10 miles. However, with the walk being up and down hills, plus with Tai complaining and everyone suffering from fatigue and shock it would take longer. It could be nearly one hour longer."

"And at what point is it going to be too dark to really see?"

"There are no lights from the city out here…. So approximately 3 hours."

"Maybe that's what we should do then. Just walk until a car comes along or we reach the city or at least until I can get a signal to call someone," Matt muttered, fidgeting with his phone. Tai turned away from the car at that statement.

"Excuse me? You want to do what?" Tai started towards Matt in the middle of the road. "It's getting dark and you want to walk along a deserted highway in search of help? I've seen this movie. We all get killed by psychotic mutants."

"Well, what's your great plan, then?" Matt demanded.

"We can stay with the car until someone drives by! No walking around in the dark." Tai waved his arms around in the air frantically. Matt shook his head.

"No cars are coming by. Our best bet would be to move and hope to get a signal."

"Well, then I guess I could just stay with the car," Tai crossed his arms.

"I don't want us to split up," TK piped up suddenly. Tai took one glance at TK, saw the slight insecurity in his eyes and changed his mind immediately.

"Fine, we walk until we get a signal."

They quickly gathered a few items from the destroyed vehicle (Matt insisted on bringing his guitar, he would not leave it behind. Similarly, Izzy would not leave his laptop behind) and then all four of them set off down the road with their phones out, hoping they could get a signal before the mutants came to claim them.


Despite the onset of evening quickly approaching, it was summer and it was still uncomfortably warm out. The water they brought with them was half gone within the first hour. They didn't really talk as they walked. Once in a while Tai would complain about the heat or a rock in his shoe, but they didn't say much else. The frightening thing, something Matt hadn't really thought about, was that there wasn't any turning back. They had to keep going and find help. Going back just meant possibly having to sleep in a ruined car at an uncomfortable angle all night. Matt was just beginning to think that they were really, very incredibly screwed, when Izzy suddenly held up his phone.

"I have a bar."

Matt sighed in relief. "Great, call your parents, Izzy."

Izzy suddenly got an uncomfortable look on his face. "You want me to call my parents? Shouldn't you call your dad? Or Tai should call his dad and tell him about the car?" Tai had walked up from behind them and snorted with a laugh.

"I am not calling my dad to tell him about the car. He's liable to just leave us out here to die."

"Why don't you want to call your parents, Izzy?" Matt asked in frustration.

"I… I just don't want to tell them about this," Izzy looked at the ground nervously. "They're going to be upset."

Matt bit his bottom lip in irritation. He glanced at Tai and saw that Tai was looking at Izzy with understanding. Then it occurred to Matt; Izzy didn't get in trouble very often, of course he would want to avoid it now. Even with the sky beginning to darken and them being stranded in the middle of nowhere, Izzy only ever wanted his parent's approval and he couldn't stand disappointing them.

Matt could be a disappointment, he had been before. He took the phone carefully from Izzy and began dialing the number. Work number, he would be at work, Matt thought as he hit the appropriate digits. The phone rang. Once. Twice. On the third ring Matt considered hanging up, but he didn't. Fourth ring. Fifth and then there was a click and a familiar voice. Matt cleared his throat and tried to speak, but found for a moment he didn't know what to say. We've had an accident? We're stranded? We need help? Stupid, stupid, stupid. Matt's mouth twitched as the voice on the line spoke again. Matt made a sort of choking sound in his throat. Then…

"Matt? Is that you?" He knew. And Matt felt small and too young for the first time in a very long time. He couldn't remember a time when he wanted his father with him more than he did right at that moment.

"Dad," Matt finally spoke.

"Matt, what is it? Has something happened? Are you hurt? Is your brother alright?" His father was talking too fast. Matt was scaring him. He didn't want to scare him.

"We're not hurt. But… Dad, can you come get us?"

TBC…

A/N: This was not supposed to be as serious as it was. It just got completely away from me. Wow, I really torture these poor boys. Also, I do research Japan highways and cities, but the exact location of things is probably a bit off. I don't live there and I've never visited, so bear with me. Thanks for reading everyone! More soon. Hopefully.