A/N: Well, here it is: the end. I'm sure I should have something dramatic to say about what a great journey it's been, but I don't. Severe editing will happen, so keep an eye out for a revised version if you're curious, and the sequel. I'm planning a trilogy. Oh, yeah.
Thanks to this chapter's reviewers: KagamiNoRyukuKai, Super Secret Music Mission, and Faydiablo.
Also, a big thanks to everyone who reviewed throughout the story. Your reviews kept me going and were invariably a great help. Hey, look at that. Looks like I get to be sentimental after all.
Hope you enjoy the last chapter! Thanks for reading!
Krys met Colin outside of a coffee shop near their school the next day. He smiled at her from inside, and came out, handing her a warm cup.
"Got one for you," he said.
"Mmm," she replied, taking it and sipping. "Hot chocolate?" she asked.
Colin shrugged. "Coffee stunts your growth," he replied.
Krys laughed. "No it doesn't!"
"It does!" he insisted. "It really does!"
She shoved him gently, still laughing. "You are so full of it!" she exclaimed.
"Ma-a-ybe," he replied, drawing out the word and grinning. "But you like me anyway."
Krys sighed. "Yeah," she grumbled. "Unfortunately." He just laughed again and put his arm around her, gesturing with the hand that was holding his cup.
"Shall we?" he asked. It was the morning of Christmas Eve, and they were meeting at the coffee shop before meeting their friends and family at a party in a park not far from where they were.
"We shall," Krys answered.
They walked in silence for a while. Krys pressed herself closer to him, trying to find the words for what she had to say. She had planned a whole speech the night before, after her friends went home and she curled up safe and warm in her bed.
But somehow, all of the words just disappeared when she was standing next to Colin. In stories, that was always what happened when people were in love.
Colin seemed to notice something, and he tightened his arm around her. "You okay?" he asked.
"Sort of," Krys replied. She sighed. "Colin, I have to tell you something."
He looked at her, concern in his blue eyes. "What?"
They stopped walking now, facing each other on the cold, icy sidewalk. Krys looked up at the sky and saw dark clouds spanning from horizon to horizon. Snow was on the way.
"Do you remember," she asked, "last month, when I went to the hospital with a brain tumor?"
Colin's eyes flickered away from her and then back. "Yeah," was all he said.
"It wasn't a brain tumor."
There. She had said just enough that he'd never let her just not finish, told him exactly what she needed to be at the point of no return. No going back now.
"What are you talking about?" Colin questioned. "You had the surgery, I saw you right after."
"I had the surgery," Krys agreed. "But, Colin, it wasn't a tumor that they found. It was some sort of… cube. Thing."
He just looked at her, not saying anything. She couldn't read his expression, and she wasn't sure that she wanted to. She looked away before saying the next words.
"After my surgery, the day after you visited, they took me away in a helicopter. But it got, well, hijacked, sort of. By these four people. And they told me that the cube, it was just there to make me be human."
Krys looked back now, and Colin was staring at her, his eyebrows pressed together, his face a perfect mask of confusion. "Human?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yeah," she said, in a choked voice. "Turns out, I'm an alien."
Colin looked at her with that horrible, confused look for what felt like hours. Then he laughed.
"God, Krys, how do you do that?" he wanted to know.
But Colin just waved his free hand at her, still laughing. "I mean, it's crazy! There's no way that I could have done that entire speech with a totally straight face." He put his arm around her again and started walking. "You're amazing," he told her. "You should be an actress, I'm serious. I have no idea how you do that."
Point of no return? Apparently not, Krys thought, but she sighed anyway and pulled away from him.
"I wasn't kidding," she told him.
Colin just rolled his eyes. "Okay, it only works one time, Krys. Fool me once, all that stuff. Now come on, we're going to be late for the party."
Krys took a step back, shaking her head. "No, Colin, I'm not joking. I'm an alien."
He just stared at her, his expression unreadable.
"Look, I'm sorry I've been lying to you for so long," she continued, desperate for something to say. "But, I mean, I just freaked when I found out. I didn't know how you'd react."
"Oh my God," Colin said.
Krys nodded, not looking at him. "Yeah, that's pretty much what I said."
But Colin was giving her a look that was entirely readable. "Oh, my God," he repeated. "You actually believe this, don't you?"
She started to reach up to put a hand through her hair, an automatic motion, but rubbed the back of her hat instead. "Yeah," she muttered. "Colin, it's real. All of that stuff you think is just science fiction, it's real."
"God," he said again. "Krys, you are either super gullible or, like, schizophrenic or something."
"Neither," Krys insisted. "Colin." She took a step forward, holding out her hands in front of her. "Colin, I'm an alien. And I'm not the only one! Marco, that new boy at our school? He's an alien, too. And a man who owns a bookstore downtown, he just moved here. Aliens are attracted to Danesbrook, it's a meeting place, sort of. We…"
Colin shook his head again, stepping away from her. "You're insane," he said. "I mean, seriously, Krys? What the hell is wrong with you? Aliens, conspiracies… You need help."
"I mean it, you need serious medication or something."
"I don't need medication," Krys retorted. "Look, I know it's a little hard to believe, but I'm an alien."
"There's no such thing as aliens," was all Colin said.
Krys took another step towards him, grabbing his arm. "No, Colin, there is. Really."
But Colin just jerked away, stepping to the side. "Don't touch me," he snapped. "Jesus, Krys, if I had known you were such a freak when we started dating…"
Abruptly, Krys turned around and started walking in the other direction. "Forget it," she called over her shoulder. "Just forget it."
She wished that she could.
Colin was standing between her and the nearest bus home, and her parents were at the party, anyway. So, with nothing else to do, Krys went there.
There was a festive mood in the park. Everyone was dressed warmly. Inside the building was decorated with snowflakes and snowmen, and outside uniformed police officers presided over the roasting of marshmallows over open fires.
Krys didn't go inside, instead wandering through the maze of fires and happy people listlessly.
It began to snow, and she finished the hot chocolate Colin had offered her, throwing it in a garbage dispenser near a tree.
She saw Zane first through the crowd of people. The tall, green-haired teenager stood out in any group.
As Krys got closer, she saw that Peter and her parents were with him, gathered around a fire. She was almost standing close enough to feel the fire's heat before she spotted tiny Lexi, huddled up against Zane for warmth.
Peter spotted her first and waved. The others all turned around, smiling as they saw her. Krys smiled back.
"Where's Colin?" Stacy asked as Krys stopped near them.
She just shook her head. "He's not coming."
"Well," a voice behind her said, "That sucks."
Krys turned around to see Marco standing at her shoulder. He attempted a smile and handed her something wrapped in parchment paper. "Fudge?" he asked. "It'll make you feel better."
With a watery smile, Krys took it. "Comfort food," she commented. "Thanks, Marco."
He grinned back at her. "Polo."
"We're making s'mores," Zane informed her. "So, you know, on the comfort food track…" he trailed off and shrugged.
"We can have a pity party!" Lexi suggested. "Watch weird old TV shows and rant about how much boys suck."
"Hey!" Zane and Marco exclaimed in unison.
Krys just laughed. "Guess we'd better wait a few days," she said. "We don't have a TV, anyway."
And so she ate the fudge, and roasted marshmallows with her friends. They didn't say anything about aliens for a long time, which Krys found to be a supreme relief.
Of course she couldn't forget about aliens or anything like that entirely. She could still sense Peter and Marco. But it was still a warm, happy feeling, like being surrounded by friends.
Which, Krys supposed, was probably because she was.
"What are you going to do now?" Stacy asked her after a long time.
Krys sighed. "Oh, you know. Break up with Colin and tell everyone at school that I was joking. Fun stuff like that."
"No, I mean…" Stacy stopped for a moment, then continued. "About all of the things you were going to do, find aliens and all that. Does this change any of your plans?"
Krys looked into the fire. "No, not really," she replied. "I mean, much as I'd like to sulk around and whine about how my life's been ruined, well, that'd probably get boring after a while."
She noticed that the others were all watching her now, pretending not to listen.
"Besides," she added, to all of them. "It's not like everyone I know is all freaked out about the whole alien thing. That'd just be depressing. But I have all you guys. And, hey, I bet we're going to figure out what's up with this whole alien thing before long.
"So, you know, friends, family, probably eventually going to have some sort of idea what's going on. I'm good. Oh, and Lexi?"
"Yeah?" the other girl didn't seem at all surprised at being singled out while Krys was talking about the people she loved.
"Your marshmallow's on fire," Krys told her.