Disclaimer: I do not own Digimon.


Eli sat in the pale glow of the nightlight that was plugged in beside him. The hospital was a lonely place. Especially at this time of the year. Tera was asleep, fighting a fever with a breathing mask over her face. He held her hand in his. Why was this happening?

"Eli?" A voice asked. It was Gennai, but Eli didn't look up. "Eli, do you want to get something to eat?"


"It wasn't a question, Elijah. Go get something to eat."

"Yes, sir." Eli turned his chair around and wheeled himself out quickly. If he stopped to think, he wouldn't leave. He drove his chair down the hall, trying hard to fight his fears. Sure, Tera pulled through every time, she got hit with the same thing every year, but it still hurt her and it still terrified him. He pushed himself harder, trying not to think again. The hall was overly bright, and made his eyes hurt. The overly clean smell sent pain in his nostril. He hated this place.

He stopped at another room that had become familiar. He hadn't gone to it, more out of wanting to avoid confrontation than anything else. He wheeled himself into the dark room anyway.

Music played softly from a cassette player on the wheeled tray table by the bed. The room seemed lonely with the haunting music, dim lights, and lack of life coming from the patient in the bed.

He pushed himself over to the bed. "Hey," he greeted.

The blonde boy looked up from the window to his side. He looked tired and beaten, his face drained of all color, body slackened with exhaustion, and bags under his nearly shut eyes. "Hey," he whispered back with as much enthusiasm as a man waiting to die. But his body perked as he fully opened his eyes. "What are you doing here? Don't you have Christmas activities to participate it?"

Elijah laughed sourly. "This is the only Christmas tradition I need to uphold. Has been for the last four years. Besides," he shrugged, "Christmas sucks."

"Pleasant," TK muttered sarcastically. "Is that undisguised bitterness there for a reason, or are you just idolizing the teachings of Scrooge?"

"Got paralyzed on Christmas." Eli shrugged. TK's eyes glazed over, getting uncomfortable. "Don't get uneasy, I'm not going to spill my life story to you in a shower of tears. I came in here to see what you were up to, not to shed my deepest darkest secrets." He shook his head. "Tera's got bacterial pneumonia. That's why I'm here."

"Oh, sorry." TK fluffed his golden hair in an attempt to make himself look half alive. It was a vain attempt because he still looked dead. "You seem to be handling it well."

"If you're asking if I'm scared stupid about her being here, then yes, I am. But it doesn't hurt to see her like this. Just like she's learned to cope, I've learned to become numb. It's gotten easier to see her like that." He paused and looked at TK. "Ya know?"

"Yeah," TK muttered. "But you're talking to a kid dealing with cancer. I have coping and numbness down to second nature. I've got it all first hand."

"Oh," Eli grunted feeling like an idiot. TK just stared at him. He moved his eyes, trying to look away from the eyes hounding him. But there was nothing else for his eyes to meet. The room was empty and impersonal. "Isn't your brother supposed to be here with you?"

"Yeah, he is," TK answered bitterly. "He went to grab some dinner with Taylor." Her growled at the name, causing Eli to tense. He did not like people talking bad about Taylor. "Gennai brought her earlier," TK continued. "And left her with Matt. She was freaking out over Tera, so he was hoping Matt and her could hang out. Keep her preoccupied. So Matt's doing that."

"You sound hurt," Eli commented.

TK bolted upright in the bed, his icy blue eyes and his eyebrows furrowed in anger. "I'm not. Matt's an ass. I couldn't care less."

Elijah rolled his eyes. "Whatever. You need to work on your lying, because it sucks!"

TK froze. Then, slowly, he grinned. "That's what I've always been told."

"Hey Elijah." The pair looked up to see Matt and Taylor in the doorway. Matt looked confused at Eli being in the room. Eli, on the other hand, glared at the elder look alike of the boy in the bed. And this glare was aimed for one reason.

Matt's hand was wrapped tightly around Taylor's.

Taylor took notice of Eli's glare and quickly released Matt's hand. Eli didn't like Matt, nor did he like the fact that Taylor spent as much time with him as she did, but he had to admit, the boy did wonders for her. She talked, oh lord, she talked. In an entire three years he hadn't accomplished the feat of making her talk.

Taylor left Matt's side and, while Eli suppressed a triumphant grin, she walked over to him. "Elijah," she whispered. "I wanna go see Tera."

Eli got an uneasy feeling in his stomach. "Taylor, it's not the best time. She's asleep-"

"I don't care," Taylor replied stubbornly. "I won't make a sound. I promise not to wake her up. I just wanna see Tera. Please Eli."

"Alright." Elijah turned his chair. "Later TK." He pushed past Matt, clipping Matt with his shoulder. Taylor gave Matt an apologetic look before following Eli out.

"What was Elijah doing in here?" Matt asked, his eyes staring after Elijah and Taylor.

"He just dropped in to see me," TK replied shortly, annoyed with his brother's sudden appearance.

"Sounds like a load of shit to me."


"Elijah acting civilized," Matt grumbled turning his ocean blue eyes to his little brother.

TK's anger flared up inside of him. Elijah was a nice guy. "Shut up, Matt! You're just an asshole."

Matt's mouth dropped open. "What?"

"You're the one who's uncivilized. Eli's a nice guy! The only reason he doesn't like you is because you're a complete and total jerk to everyone! Eli wasn't being an ass when he met you, he was being smart!"

Matt gaped at TK. "What do you mean?"

"Come on Matt! Not even you could ignore how idiotic you are!"

"Yeah, I know I'm an idiot, an ass, a bitch, a jerk, and an insensitive bastard. I've been called it all. But why are you pissed off at me?"

"Because you're all of those things, and you don't seem to care!" TK exploded. "How many times are you gonna promise to be here for me before you're actually here?! I asked you to come down here and keep me company. You hung out with Taylor. I asked you to come to my basketball games. You got drunk. I asked to you support me and help me in Japan. You were never home!" TK picked up the radio on the tray and threw it at Matt. Matt blocked the attack and after it hit him, it fell to the floor, cracking and breaking apart. "You left that to keep me company! What the hell is wrong with you?!"

The noise coming from the room attracted a nurse, who appeared in the doorway. "What's going on here? It's after visiting hours, boys, and the other patients are trying to get some sleep."

"Shut up!" TK spat. The nurse looked taken aback.

Gennai appeared behind her. "What's going on?" He asked authoritatively.

"Are these your boys, sir?" The nurse asked.

"Yes, is there a problem?" Gennai asked without skipping a beat.

"Well, yes, they're yelling and we're getting complaints from other patients."

Gennai forced back a grin. "I'm really sorry," he replied sincerely. "I will deal with them."

"Thank you." The nurse walked off muttering, "A real father should know how to deal with his boys…not have them so disrespectful…in my day…"

Gennai turned to face the pair "You two wanna tell me what's going on?"

"It was me Gennai," TK replied sourly. "I'm just annoyed."

Gennai looked to Matt. "Matt, you now have two choices. You can go sit in the waiting room or you can go to Tera's room, your call."

"What?" Matt began to argue.

"Go!" With a grumble Matt turned and left the room. Gennai turned his attention back to TK. "What's wrong TK? I know all this medication and chemo and everything has got you on a short fuse, but its not like you to blow up at Matt."

"What do you know what's like me or not?" TK snapped bitterly.

"Actually, I probably know more about you than your parents. But what's all this about?"

"Matt... he just pisses me off so much. He's just full of so much crap and doesn't keep his word and-agh! I'm so mad I can't even think." TK sighed and met Gennai's eyes. "I just don't know sometimes. I miss my old brother, the one that pissed me off because he was so over protective. But now... he doesn't give a damn. But then out of nowhere, he's there promising to help me and stand by me and then he never does. I wish he just hated me, because then he wouldn't jerk me around so much."

"No you don't," Gennai replied simply. "Because if you wanted him to hate you, it wouldn't hurt you so badly when you fight." TK stared at Gennai, not wanting to admit he was right. Instead he shrugged. "TK, Matt's dealing with a lot of stuff too. And I realize it doesn't give him a right to be so...flaky, but you gotta give him some credit. He's trying."

"Trying isn't good enough anymore."

"I know, TK, I know. It gets frustrating because you can't get through to him. But you will, you just have to have faith, you will. Faith is all you can live on." Gennai reached out affectionately and ruffled TK's hair. "Get some rest. Tomorrow I'll take you home and you can make an attempt at having a normal Christmas day."

"Right Gennai. Normal." Gennai smiled slightly before leaving the room. TK watched him leave. Gennai was right. He didn't want Matt to hate him. All he wanted was his brother.

'Why do you have to be so far away Matt... ' TK thought as a sob over took him, racking his body painfully.

"I've got another one Matt," he muttered nasally. His blonde brother appeared over the white tissue pressed against his nose.

"TK, if you wouldn't pick your nose, you wouldn't have nose bleeds all the time," Matt taunted.

"I wasn't picking my nose!" TK snapped, exasperated.

"Geez, I was just joking!" Matt laughed. TK felt a hand on his chin and one on the back of his neck. The one on his chin tipped his head back. "Just keep your head tilted. Eventually it will stop." He shrugged. "Or all your blood will run out into the tissue and you'll never get a nose bleed again."

"That's not funny!" TK sulked. Matt just laughed. "I'm gonna tell dad that you won't stop making fun of me."

"You're such a wuss. Ya daddies boy." Matt punched him hard in the arm. He cried out in pain. "DAD!" Matt screamed through the apartment.

"I'M ON THE PHONE!" His dad yelled.



Matt just laughed. "Dad's gonna kill you," TK laughed in a singsong voice.

"I'll hide behind you," Matt countered. There were footsteps echoing from the hall and their father, gruff and unshaven, appeared in the doorway. He was smoking a cigarette, his face scrunched up like it was pained. "Dad?" Matt asked, worried.

"Boys sit down," Malcolm Ishida ordered softly. Matt guided TK over to his bed and sat him down. "Your nose still bleeding?" TK nodded. "I just got a call from your mother."

"Something wrong?" Matt asked.

"Yeah," Malcolm nodded.

"Oh-no, you and mom aren't getting divorced, are you?!" Matt joked, his voice thick with fake panic. TK snickered.

"This is serious Matt. TK, your mother met with your doctor today. She uh...TK, you have leukemia." The statement was blunt; what else was there to say?

"What?!" The tissue fell away from TK's face, suddenly forgotten as he felt all his strength escape his body.

"You've got cancer TK."

TK snapped awake. He sat up, trying to control his shaking, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He covered his face with his hands as a low dull pain spurred in his chest. Heartache. Did that sound too cliché? His chest hurt every time he dreamt of Japan. Of his life when cancer happened to no one he knew, but and he only heard about it in sad, made for TV movies. What he wouldn't give to be at home again at his dad, watching one of those badly dubbed into Japanese, American movies and eating take out. Or at his mom's place, doing the same.

With a heavy sob of defeat, he cried out the rest of his strength.

When the tears ran dry, he was too tired to even sleep, so he curled up onto his side in a fetal position. His attention was turned to a body curled up in a seat beside his bed. His eyes widened in disbelief.

Matt sat curled up in the most uncomfortable position ever in a chair beside his bed.

'Matt... ' He shook his head and closed his eyes. "Goodnight Matt."

Though his strength had not returned in the morning, the hospital was quick to place a bill in Gennai's hand and rush them out the doors to parking lot. Now he sat in his room alone, with the exception of Tai who sat in a similar pessimistic funk.

"Takeru?" A voice said confused from downstairs. TK looked up and stood up from his bed. He staggered on shaky legs, still weak from complete submission into chemo, and made his way to the hall. An arm wrapped around his waist and, taken aback, he whipped his head around to find Tai helping him into the hall. "Um...could you hold on?" Natalie stood at the foot of the stairs, cordless phone in hand. She glanced up at the pair. "One of you wouldn't happen to be Takeru, would you?"

TK raised his hand. "That would be me."

Natalie laughed as she climbed the stairs. "Sorry. Not great with names." She handed him the phone. "You're just TK."

TK laughed. "I'll take that as a compliment." He held the phone to his ear. "Hold on a second please." He looked to Tai. "Help me back?" Tai nodded and they got back to his room. Tai dropped him on Matt's bed. "Thanks."

"No problem." Tai turned and sat down on his bed again.

TK put the phone to his ear. "Hello?"


TK closed his eyes and breathed a sigh. "Hi mom."

"Hi TK."

TK's eyes snapped open. "Dad?!"

"Your father and I are using three-waying call to speak to you. And hopefully your brother afterwards. Is he home?"

"Yeah, he's here." Somewhere… "Wait, you and dad are sharing the same phone call? How are you going to stand each other that long?"

"TK," his father murmured in a warning like tone.

"Takeru, at this moment your father and I are adult enough to put aside our differences to be able to speak to you boys."

'At this moment…' TK rolled his eyes. "So, why are you calling?"

"Well, it being Christmas we just wanted to tell you merry Christmas and see how you're doing."

"Just fine, considering I'm slowly killing myself with chemicals and radiation. Oh wait, not me, doctors."

"TK! We don't appreciate that tone," his father snapped.

"Fine, I don't care!" He yelled into the phone. "I really don't care! I don't want to be talking to you, especially now, today! I just came home from the hospital! I'm tired, I can't stand for longer then two minutes and I'm surrounded by delinquents, suicidals and drug addicts on one of the most important holidays of the year. And all I can think while you're sitting here prattling on about how you can put your differences aside is that I hate you. Merry Christmas, mom and dad. That's for the gift of a life!" He threw the phone at Tai who had been sitting there watching him in shock. "Find Matt and give him the phone please." TK lay back onto Matt's pillow and closed his eyes.

Tai stood up and began to leave the room. "Hello? Mr. Ishida, Ms. Takaishi, it's Taichi Yagami."

"Tai? It's good to hear your voice, but uh-why are you on the line, son?" Malcolm Ishida asked almost nervously.

"TK threw the phone at me and told me to give it to Matt. That's gonna take a minute though, I have absolutely no idea where Matt is."

"That's fine."

Tai bounded down the stairs and paused. Music came from living room. Tai walked in to find Matt on the floor playing with his guitar. Taylor was on the couch with Natalie talking, Taylor more pale then usual. Sora sat on the floor, in Matt's lap to be exact. Tai paused trying to figure out what the hell they were doing. Matt's arms wrapped around her. He was holding her hands to the guitar and directing them up and down. Kari sat on the love seat, reading.

"Matt," Tai called.

Matt looked up and jumped away from Sora. "I wasn't doing anything. She asked how to play 'I'll Be Home For Christmas'. I never or I would never-"

Tai held out the phone and shook his head. "Shut the hell up!" He ordered lightheartedly.

Matt took the phone, eyeing Tai suspiciously. "You're not going to kick my ass?"

Tai shrugged. "Maybe later, since I was too cheap to get you a Christmas present."

Matt held the phone to his ear. "Hello?"



His eyes got wide. "Mom? Dad?! What are you doing? On the same line for that matter." He took a seat on the love seat, where Kari had been sitting. Kari had gotten up at left when Tai had entered.

"We were just calling to wish you a merry Christmas. We also sent some gifts to you by mail. There's some stuff in there from Miyako, Iori, Daisuke, Ken, Jyou, Mimi, and Koushiro. There's stuff in there for all you guys. It's a huge bundle to say the least," his mother rattled on.

"Oh wow. Um…how are all those guys?"

"Good. Well, we really haven't spoke to them. Gennai emailed them about paying shipping and handling on all the stuff and they just dropped it off at our houses because we said we'd handle it. But they're good and they miss you a lot," his father answered.

"You've spoken with Gennai?"

"Yeah, we've have. A lot actually," Nancy Takaishi answered.

"We try to check in, make sure you're doing well in your studies and keeping out of trouble. You seem to be doing unusually well," Malcolm joked. Matt laughed slightly. "No really Matt, from what I've heard from Gennai, I'm very proud of you. You really turned yourself around."

"Thanks dad."

"Merry Christmas, son."

"You too dad. Same to you mom."

"Yamato, I love you!" Nancy shouted into the phone. Matt had to hold it away from his ear.

"I love you too mom," Matt replied. Tai was chuckling at him, but he really didn't care.

"So how are things with the ladies, Matt?" His father started, curious.

Matt chuckled. "Well, there is one…" He glanced over at Taylor. She was sitting with Natalie, talking in her whispery voice.

"A new girlfriend?"

"Not quite, dad. She's just a girl."

"Atta boy, Matt. What a ladies man!" His father joked.

"Right dad, you're insane," Matt sniggered.

"Well Matt, we better go. It's very late here in Japan, we stayed up to make sure we called you at a decent time."

"Alright dad. Bye."

"Bye son."

"Goodbye Yamato. Thank you for staying out of trouble. And for putting up with Takeru," Nancy said.

"Oh you talked to TK?"

"Yeah," Nancy whispered. "Maybe Gennai's wasn't the best placement for him. It is for you, obviously. But he just…seems worse."

"He's mad," Matt explained. "At me. We got into a fight and he's really mad. He'll be okay. Usually he's not so bad."

"Alright, I'll take your word for it. Merry Christmas Yamato."

With that, his parents hung up and Matt clicked off the phone. He looked up at Tai, who was now sitting with Sora, who was playing his guitar. Tai reached out and touched her hand. "Tai, don't touch my guitar." Tai snapped his hand back. "Was my brother really that bad when he talked to our parents?"

"Worse," Tai answered.

Matt rolled his eyes. "Figures."

Kari paused at her door. The second Tai had entered the room; she had quickly escaped upstairs, needing not to be in the same room with her brother. But, technically, she wasn't allowed to be alone anymore. Gennai had her on very strict probation after last night's fiasco.

Instead, she turned and walked into the boy's room, knowing TK was in there. It was safer; he was, somehow, safer…

She stepped into the room and the board under her foot creaked. "Go away whoever you are. Even if this is your room," TK called out.

Her eyes found him lying with his eyes closed on the bottom bed of the left bunk. "TK, can I come in?"

He snapped up, hitting his head on the bunk above him. "Fuck!" He cried, holding his forehead.

She moved to his side, dropping her book, and pulled his hands from his head. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." She rubbed the knot growing on his forehead.

He grabbed her wrist to stop her, causing her to wince. There was an odd feeling under his finger. He turned her left wrist over to reveal three long lines of stitches running down her wrists. "What-"

She snapped her arm away and he shut up. "I came in here to hide out."

"Hide out?" He asked, eyebrow arched.

"I'm not allowed to be alone, unless A) Taking a Shower or B) Going to the bathroom. Gennai's got me on probation. So I can't go to my room because everyone's downstairs. And I don't want to be downstairs because Tai's down there and-" She stopped, "I'm boring you huh?"

He woke up from a slight trance he had on her. He shook his head, wide eyes, "No, no. Don't worry."

"Sorry, I've kinda started this habit of babbling when I'm uncomfortable and-" She stopped. "I'm starting to do it again. Sorry, TK."

He shook his head. "It's okay, really. But why have you started babbling so bad?"

She sighed. "It's a kind of not quite drug withdrawal, but a need to feel not like me and-" She stopped again and sighed. "I said more then I meant to."

"Maybe I should just stop asking questions," he suggested.

She nodded with a small grin. "That would be great." She glanced around. "So, can I hang out here? Just to stay out of trouble. You know, I won't bother you."

TK shook his head, the only movement he seemed to be doing. "No, its fine. Go ahead." He gestured for her to sit on Tai's bed. She picked up her book and thanked him. He watched her as she lay down, on her stomach, on the opposite bed from him and he laid back on his own, scolding himself for staring at her.

He closed his eyes and, unfortunately, felt his mind slip to memories of Japan. Memories he still chided himself for. Every time he saw her.

He had been sitting in a wheel chair that day, staring out the hospital window. She had come in, looking lost. In those days she always looked lost, and lonely, and scared and well, she looked pretty bad. And there he had gone promising her he'd be there, no matter.

But then again, he was very much an ass hole, and had betrayed her. He yelled at her, told her he wanted nothing to do with her. All for what? He pitied himself because he had leukemia. He was a pathetic asshole.

He sat up, careful to avoid the throbbing bump on his forehead from hitting the top bunk. She was laying on the other bed reading still, her shirt riding up to reveal her stomach, and the stitches visible on her arm.


She looked up, letting the book close and cocked her head to the side. "Yeah TK?"

"When you and I broke up-"

"TK," she interrupted. He met her brown eyes, which squinted slightly in pain. "I've wasted a lot of time, money, drugs, and blood forgetting that day. Don't apologize. It's been too long; I don't need to pick at that scab. So, please?"

He nodded and glanced away. "Right. I can do that." He met her eyes again; she was still looking at him. "What?"

"Why are you talking to me like that?" She asked.

"Like what?"

"Like a person. You've been snapping at everyone and been just pissed off since well…" She trailed off.

"Since I was re-diagnosed, right?" She nodded. "I dunno why," he shrugged. "I'm in one of those good, not quite that good type mood."

She nodded. "I understand."



"Merry Christmas." With that said he turned on his side, away from her and smiled to himself.

It was two days after Christmas, and Tera had finally been released from the hospital. She wasn't any better. But the hospital needed the room and decided she could leave. After Gennai paid the hefty bill, of course.

Elijah sat in his room, music playing softly, as he tried to concentrate on a math book in his lap. It may have been Christmas break, but school didn't give seniors a break, ever. Not that he could concentrate; Tera's coughing would pull him from whatever he was trying to focus on. With a grumble of incoherent words, he threw the thick book to the floor in frustration.

"Can't concentrate?" A voice asked. He looked up to see Natalie poke her head in and he pushed himself away from his desk. Her face was etched with worry, but she smiled as she stepped into his room.

"Hey," he greeted with a nod of his head. He gestured her over. "I think I'm in need of some extra practise for my making out class. Do you think you could help me with my homework?"

She laughed and walked over to him, sitting down in his lap. "You wanna say that louder?"

"Why?" He asked.

She pulled the cordless phone from behind her back. "Your mom's on the phone," she laughed.

He groaned and grabbed the phone. "I hate you so much!" He held the phone to his ear. "Hello?" Natalie got off his lap and sat down on the bed. Tera was asleep, curled up under the thick blankets of Elijah's bed.

"Well, Elijah, I didn't know you felt that way about your dear old mom," a female voice came from the phone.

Eli chuckled unnervingly. "No mom, I didn't mean you. I was talking to Natalie."

"Your girlfriend?" Came the startled voice of his mother.

"That came out wrong." Natalie, meanwhile, sat on his bed laughing at what she could imagine was being said. The sound brought Tera from sleep. Eli glared at Natalie for waking Tera up. "How are you doing mom? How was your Christmas?"

"Just fine, Elijah. With your stepfather in Iraq, I ended up flying home to spend Christmas with your brother and my mom."

"How's grandma and everyone?" He asked as he watched Natalie. She was sitting with her back against the headboard with Tera's head in her lap. She stroked Tera's hair softly as she cooed her back to sleep.

"Everyone's just fine. Cedric is working at a practice here in Oregon. He's building up patients before he opens his own practice." Eli groaned to himself. His mother could go on forever about his "perfect" brother.

"That's great for him mom," Eli interjected before she could continue.

"Silly me, what have you been up to?"

"I got some letters from colleges." Natalie looked up. This was the first she had heard of college letters.


"I got accepted to U of A." Natalie cocked her head in confusion; Eli never had planned on going to the U of A.

"Oh Elijah, why are you going to that school so far from home?" She sounded disappointed. "Did you send for Harvard or any school at all? I mean University of Arizona?"

"It's a good school," Eli argued.

"It's that Natalie girl, isn't it? She's keeping you there. I knew she was no good-"

"It has nothing to do with Natalie!" Elijah snapped, cutting her off. "I wanna go to U of A! That's where I wanna go!" Natalie stared at him and bit her lip. Eli was getting shit because of her. "Listen mom, I'm not in the mood to argue with you. So we can continue this in a civilized way or you can hang up. But I don't need or want grief because of the choice I made or because of my girlfriend." His voice raised and Tera lifted her head from Natalie's lap.

She looked up, drowsily, at Natalie. "What's wrong?" She whispered. "Why's Eli yelling?"

Natalie stroked her hair softly. "Don't worry about it." Tera nodded and rested her head again.

"I'm sorry, Eli," his mother apologized. "I'm just surprised. And I didn't mean what I said about Natalie."

"It's fine."

"How was your Christmas? Gennai said Tera got sick."

"You talked to Gennai?" He asked, surprised.


"Oh well my Christmas was fine. I spent it in the hospital though. We just got back from the hospital this morning."

"Is Tera doing any better?"

"No, no not really," Elijah answered.

"Can I speak to her?"

Elijah pulled the phone from his ear and covered the receiver. He looked at his partially wake sister. "You wanna talk to my mom?" She shook her head and he put the phone to his ear again. "Tera's asleep mom, she'll have to talk to you later."

"That's alright. Let her sleep. She just needs to rest. Well, Elijah, I better let you go, my phone card is almost out of minutes. I just wanted to hear about your Christmas and let you know that your brother is coming down-"

"WHAT?!" Eli interrupted.

"Your brother has got some time off and he's flying down to see you. That's why I spoke to Gennai, to let him know."

"When's he coming?"

"In a couple days."

'Shit!' He sighed. "Great. Thanks mom."

"I don't know why you don't like your brother so much. I-" The line went dead. He clicked the phone off.

"Did you just hang up on your mom?" Natalie asked, shocked.

"No, her phone card ran out and it cut her off." Natalie laughed. He just stared at the phone.

"What's wrong?" She asked as she motioned him over. He pushed his wheelchair over to her side, but he didn't answer. "What's wrong?" She insisted as she leaned over and kissed him.

He glanced down at Tera, once again asleep in Natalie's lap, lost in her unconscious world as an aftereffect of the medications. "My brother's coming for a visit."

"So all hell's breakin' loose?" She replied. He couldn't tell if she was joking or not.

"Close, very close."

"Eli." He looked up at her. "Since when did you decide to go to U of A?"

"Not you too," he grumbled with a shake of his head.

"Eli, I'm not yelling at you, I just want to know. When did U of A become an option? You always wanted to go back to Oregon. What happened?"

He shook his head. "Things change."

"Is this about me? Is it about Cedric? What?" She pressed.

"No!" He snapped, raising his voice and slamming his fist down on the arm of his chair. Natalie flinched. "It hasn't got anything to do with you or Cedric!"

"Then what?" He didn't answer. "Elijah."

"It's Tera, alright?" He exploded. "I haven't said anything because Tera would know I'm staying because of her. But I can't leave. Not with how sick she's been. Not with how bad it's been."

Natalie ran a hand over Tera's face. "I know. She's been getting worse. But Eli, you can't base college on Tera. She wouldn't want you to."

"Well I have."

"Elijah-" The phone rang cutting her off.

Eli quickly answered it. "Hello...Oh yeah, she's here... may I ask whose calling...kay, hold on." He pulled the phone from his ear and held it out to her. "It's your mom."

She grimaced and took the phone. "Hello?"

"Natalie is that you?" Came the familiar southern drawl of her mother's voice.

She grimaced again. "Yes mother." Elijah gave her a sympathetic look.

"Where have you been Natalie?" Her mother demanded. "I've called everyday since Christmas and there's either no answer or I'm told you're not home."

"Well, I've been at the hospital," she answered. "Mostly."

"Why? What have you done now?" Her mother's voice was so cold and condemning.

"It's not me. One of the new girls that came to live here had to get stitches on her arm. So Christmas Eve was spent with her. And then Tera got sick so then I've been spending time with her."

"The slut, eh?"

"Excuse me?!" Her voice got high as she controlled her anger.

"The girl with AIDS. The little slut probably whored herself out too many times." Natalie bit her tongue to keep from speaking. "You better not pick up any of her nasty little habits. Or, actually you should probably just stay away from the pest all together. You wouldn't want to catch anything off her."

"You can't catch AIDS from touching, mother." Eli watched her intently, speculating the conversation they could be having. Why about AIDS, or Tera? Natalie kept her eyes away.

"Are you contradicting me?"


"How's your weight darling? Last time I saw you, you looked like you gained some weight."

"I'm at 114. Gennai said I have to maintain a weight of at least 115. So I'm a little underweight."

"Awful man, if you ask me. Doesn't know a thing about beauty. I want you down to 110 the next time I see you. I am not having a fat daughter, and you are fat." Bile and disgust with herself rose up in Natalie's throat, making breathing difficult. "How are your grades?"

"Fine, I got four A's and two B's," Natalie replied somewhat proudly. She had never been one to get good grades, but she was passing all her classes without too much frustration. Here was some dignity her mom couldn't crush.

"Why don't you have straight A's?"

Or maybe not. "I'm trying as hard as I can."

"Well, that isn't good enough! Really, why can't you just do something right? Is it so hard?" The berating ate at her, until she just wanted to break down into tears. "Did you get on pep squad?"

"I don't want to be a cheerleader."

"Are you still going out with that-that... negro?" Her mother inquired distastefully. Natalie froze. "Well? Don't tell me you're still seeing that boy? No daughter of mine will date someone of that race. Natalie, really, don't you see this is all for the good of you? Now, are you still seeing him?"

"No... " she whispered into the receiver.

"I want to hear you say it. Say you broke up with him, out loud."

"I-I-" Natalie finally looked up at Eli. He just looked at her questioningly, but sincerely and softly.


"I broke up with him... we're not going out anymore." She didn't look at Elijah.

"Good. That's reassuring. Well, good bye Natalie, I have to go. Your weight had better be down next time we talk." A soft click signalled that her mother was gone. Natalie clicked off the phone and just sat there. She didn't look at Eli, she was too ashamed. He made no attempt to speak to her; he was hurt, although he felt he shouldn't be. He knew how bitchy her mother was, but he still felt hurt. So they sat in silence and she fought the urge to cry, to throw up, and to kill herself.

Finally, "Natalie."

She shook her head as the tears finally spilled. "Don't speak. Just don't." He remained quiet after that. "I'm sorry Eli. I just... I can't." She stood up, unwittingly knocking Tera off her lap and nearly ran out of the room. Eli just watched her go. And he continued staring after her until he heard the sound that made his stomach turn and his heart sink.

She was throwing up.

He wheeled himself out of his room and came to a stop outside the bathroom. He knocked. "Elijah, go away!" she screamed at him.

"No!" He refused. He heard the toilet flush and he entered. She was sitting on the floor with her back against the tub, her knees to her chest and her face buried in her hands as she wept. "Why'd you do it Natalie?" She just continued to sob. "Natalie-"

"Why are you with me, Elijah? How can you stand to be around me?" She cried at him.

"Because I-I...Natalie, why?" He countered, unsteadily. He wasn't completely sure how to answer her questions.

"I'm just not good enough."

He wheeled himself over and then moved from the chair to the tub and finally slid down to sit next to her. Being disabled was a real bitch sometimes. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and stared up at the ceiling. "Natalie, you're so much more than 'good enough'. God Natalie, you are the most beautiful girl I have ever met. I know that you don't see that, but what you need to see is that you are worth something and that you are so important. And it disgusts me, yes, when you do this," he gestured to the toilet, "and it hurts when you have to say that we're not together. But what you need to realize is that your mother is a powerless, self absorbed, life sucking bitch." Though he was trying to be completely serious, Natalie began to laugh. "She feeds her self esteem through you, cutting you down makes her feel good."

"But Eli, all the stuff she says " she met his eyes and they were as pained as hers. "It's all true. Look at me, I'm fat and I'm stupid. I can never do anything right!"

"As long as I've known you, you've done everything right. And if you're fat, I look like that four hundred pound guy you saw on that stupid talk show yesterday. You're not stupid, hey you're smart enough to be a tutor."

"I've tutored you and Taylor. That's not really that great."

"Let me compliment you!" She giggled at his frustration.

He began to run his hand through her silk-like hair. "Should I tell Gennai about this slip up?"

She sank down, resting her head on her knees. After a few minutes she whispered, "No, I will."

"Good," he kissed the top of her head and she cried, letting out all her frustrations.

Well, what did you all think? I know I didn't have Tera's dad or Sora's folks call, but I will have them eventually. Guess, I have the entire last chapter written up. I got bored and I had all these idea, so that's all done. Its good, very very very good. Later days.

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