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01

His wife slept on, uninterrupted. A time came and went where he could hardly remember her name. Fiona, he thought, staring out at the city. How fittingly Irish.

The flames crackled louder now; he strode to the bed. Toby, unperturbed, poked his wife. "Fiona," he said, the Irish brogue stronger now. "Fiona, wake up." But she was cold, and when the raven-haired man shoved her a bit to wake her up, her creamy white skin was freezing, and she remained unresponsive. He rolled her over, and was shocked when her shamrock-green eyes glared lifelessly at him. Red hair streamed over the pillow where she had rested her head the night before. And somehow, Toby didn't feel anything. Who was this woman? Who had he been sharing a bed with, making love to, been married to these years he had been trapped in the Bubble?

He couldn't remember a single thing he had thought about her while in the Bubble, nor outside; though now he could remember all the things that they had done. Memories slowly began to come back to him, as if the information had always been there, but had hidden itself. In the middle of his bed, sitting with his dead wife, Toby remembered a very helpful thing - Fire was bad, and the flames had reached his window. Toby realized that life-preservation was higher on his list than a dead woman, and fled through an apartment he had hardly known, nor cared to remember. He reached the door just as the plants that Fiona had mindlessly cultivated caught aflame.

The door handle was hot, though he was desensitized to the feeling - not having felt it for so long, he no longer remembered what pain was. He tore it open and dashed straight into a wall of thick, choking black smoke. Feeling his way to the stairs, tears streaming from his eyes, Toby kicked heavy things out of his way, tripped over them; it was only after he stumbled and laid his hand over a mottled face did he realize he was walking on human bodies. Finding the stairs he had been seeking, he promptly fell down them and tumbled to the bottom. The door was ablaze, but with a powerful kick it swung outward and Toby ran into the street gasping and coughing. The sight he saw was one of destruction that he had oft dreamed about. The grey-eyed man stood, speechless, in his white t-shirt and boxers, watching the town burn.

A body thudded to the ground next to his feet, splattering blood upwards. His previously white clothes were streaked with soot and a stranger's blood. The first tendrils of panic tickled his mind, and he dropped to the ground retching.

What came out of his throat was not to be expected. A rush of computer chips and oil spewed out; a sharp pain in his left temple pushed him over the brink of unconsciousness and he fell sideways into the welcoming darkness.

---

Fiona was above him, her red hair making a curtain around them. Their flat in Dublin wasn't bourgeosie nor upper-end, yet it was home. She giggled and pressed her lips to his. "Welcome home, baby," she said. "I'm so glad you're back." She pushed her hair aside, and Toby smiled against her lips as they laid on the bed.

Then they were getting married, her ring glinting in the July sun. "Do you, Tobias, take Fiona, to be your lawfully wedded wife, in sickness and in health, in - "

"Ah, bugger the ceremony and kiss 'er already! I'm gettin' bored back here!" shouted a voice from the back of the rows of chairs. The remark was greeted with laughter and some reproving glances. "Is that all you think of, Tomas? At a church no less!" grinned Toby. His best friend smirked back from where he was sitting, blonde hair spiked into a wilting mohawk.

Two summers later, her stomach was swollen with child; it was born without breath and lived not even two minutes outside the womb. Fiona never had a chance to properly grieve, because the epidemic had begun marching its way through Belfast, and they caught the last flight to New York.

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